Johann Georg Hamann and the Enlightenment Project by Robert Alan Sparling

By Robert Alan Sparling

Johann Georg Hamann (1730-1788) was once a German thinker who provided in his writings a thorough critique of the Enlightenment's reverence for cause. A pivotal determine within the Sturm und Drang stream, his inspiration inspired such writers as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Johann Gottfried Herder. As a chum of Immanuel Kant, Hamann was once the 1st author to touch upon the Critique of natural cause, and his paintings foreshadows the linguistic flip in philosophy in addition to a variety of parts of 20th century hermeneutics and existentialism.

Johann Georg Hamann and the Enlightenment venture addresses Hamann's oeuvre from the point of view of political philosophy, concentrating on his perspectives in regards to the public use of cause, social agreement conception, autonomy, aesthetic morality and the politics of 'taste,' and the technocratic excellent of enlightened despotism. Robert Alan Sparling situates Hamann's paintings traditionally, elucidates his a little bit tough writing, and argues for his relevance within the ongoing tradition wars over the advantages of the Enlightenment undertaking.

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The goal is not to observe matter and infer laws, but to interpret a message. Where Kant saw the pedagogical goal of propagating useful and rationally compelling information, Hamann saw the goal as the awakening of the child to a divine message. Where Kant saw the method as discipline whereby the child’s passions are curbed, Hamann thought he should appeal to the passions. Where Kant championed the maturity of the philosophic reasoner, assessing arguments dispassionately, Hamann prioritized the mind’s less disciplined faculties and looked upon all claims to dispassionate objectivity with suspicion.

Kant was a somewhat authoritarian man, but his intellectual project, largely shared by the bulk of the century’s writers, entailed a radical revolution in thought: monarchs and priests take note! ’33 If Kant could defend God and Helvétius could mock him, they both were of the same non-partisan party. If there is no room here to line up the endless eighteenth-century professions of this sort, we can draw solace from the fact that the late Introduction 13 Robert Wokler, a man possessed of greater historical scruple than I, shared Kant and Condorcet’s views that there was an Enlightenment project: ‘As I understand them, the philosophes of the age of Enlightenment were public moralists, the engagés volontaires of reason and truth, determined not only to interpret the world but to change it.

Attending to Hamann’s counter-Enlightenment writings helps us see the contours of a religious response to the problems presented by the rule of reason. It is a response that is in some ways novel to our ears, and in others extremely old. It is a constellation of ideas that appear odd to the main partisans of both Enlightenment and its opposite, a constellation of ideas that are entirely incoherent without a God. Rights give way to duties, dignity is based on grace, difference is elevated and only reconciled with a divine mystery, history, contingency, and particularity have universal implications, willing and projecting are replaced by receiving, and, while we speak language, language in a sense speaks us.

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