Johann Georg Hamann and the Enlightenment Project

Robert Alan Sparling

© 2010

Johann Georg Hamann (1730-1788) was a German philosopher who offered in his writings a radical critique of the Enlightenment's reverence for reason. A pivotal figure in the Sturm und Drang movement, his thought influenced such writers as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Johann Gottfried Herder. As a friend of Immanuel Kant, Hamann was the first writer to comment on the Critique of Pure Reason, and his work foreshadows the linguistic turn in philosophy as well as numerous elements of twentieth century hermeneutics and existentialism.

Johann Georg Hamann and the Enlightenment Project addresses Hamann's oeuvre from the perspective of political philosophy, focusing on his views concerning the public use of reason, social contract theory, autonomy, aesthetic morality and the politics of 'taste,' and the technocratic ideal of enlightened despotism. Robert Alan Sparling situates Hamann's work historically, elucidates his somewhat difficult writing, and argues for his relevance in the ongoing culture wars over the merits of the Enlightenment project.

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  • Page Count: 368 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.3in x 1.0in x 9.3in
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Quick Overview

Johann Georg Hamann and the Enlightenment Project addresses Hamann's oeuvre from the perspective of political philosophy, focusing on his views concerning the public use of reason, social contract theory, autonomy, aesthetic morality and the politics of 'taste,' and the technocratic ideal of enlightened despotism.

Johann Georg Hamann and the Enlightenment Project

Robert Alan Sparling

© 2010

Johann Georg Hamann (1730-1788) was a German philosopher who offered in his writings a radical critique of the Enlightenment's reverence for reason. A pivotal figure in the Sturm und Drang movement, his thought influenced such writers as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Johann Gottfried Herder. As a friend of Immanuel Kant, Hamann was the first writer to comment on the Critique of Pure Reason, and his work foreshadows the linguistic turn in philosophy as well as numerous elements of twentieth century hermeneutics and existentialism.

Johann Georg Hamann and the Enlightenment Project addresses Hamann's oeuvre from the perspective of political philosophy, focusing on his views concerning the public use of reason, social contract theory, autonomy, aesthetic morality and the politics of 'taste,' and the technocratic ideal of enlightened despotism. Robert Alan Sparling situates Hamann's work historically, elucidates his somewhat difficult writing, and argues for his relevance in the ongoing culture wars over the merits of the Enlightenment project.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 368 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.3in x 1.0in x 9.3in
  • Reviews

    ‘This book is a fine piece of scholarship and will undoubtedly contribute to the continued interest in Hamann in years to come’
    F. Corey Roberts
    German Quarterly; Spring 2012

    'Full of verve, clarity, and immediacy, Johann Georg Hamann and the Enlightenment Project expounds and defends Hamann's counter-Enlightenment views against those of Enlightenment paragons Kant and Mendelssohn. Robert Alan Sparling's extremely engaging, first rate scholarship embodies a scholarly-spiritual position that is unusual enough to be revealing of important matters. This book will certainly appeal to those seeking new, refreshing ideas about a highly interesting thinker.'
    Ian Hunter, Centre for the History of European Discourses, University of Queensland

    'A vital contribution to contemporary debates on the meaning and legacy of the Enlightenment, Johann Georg Hamann and the Enlightenment Project is an impressive work of scholarship. Robert Alan Sparling convincingly shows how and why political philosophy stands to benefit from careful expositions of work by Hamann, the eighteenth century German thinker whose work has previously received little attention. Sparling himself engages with Hamann's writings in multiple and complex ways, proving his attunement with his subject's method of relaying arguments, ideas, and perceptions.'
    Ingrid Makus, Department of Political Science, Brock University
  • Author Information

    Robert Alan Sparling is a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Political Studies at McGill University.

  • Table of contents

    Note on Citation
    Acknowledgements
    Preface

    PART I : Enlightenment and Hamann’s Reaction

    1. Introduction: The Enlightenment as a Historical Movement and Political Project
      • Enlightenment as a Contested Concept
      • Hamann and His Age
    2. Transfiguring the Enlightenment: Hamann and the Problem of Public Reason
      • Public, Private, and the Unmündige: The Closed and the Open in ‘Public Reason’
      • Bon Sens and the Impersonal Public in Public Reason
      • The Personal and Its Relationship to Poetry, Myth, and ‘Metaschematism'
      • Poetry, Philosophy, and Public Discourse: Aufklärung oder Verklärung

    PART II : The Politics of Metacritique: Hamann contra Kant

    1. Critique and Metacritique: Kant and Hamann
      • Metakritik über den Purismum der Vernunft: Exegesis
    2. Varieties of Copernican Turn
      • Did Hamann Miss His Mark?
      • The a Priori and Language
    3. The Ideas of God and the Person
      • The Divine Idea
      • The Soul and the Person
      • The Soul in Community: Dignity, Autonomy
      • Conclusion

    PART III : Language and the City in Modern Natural Law: Hamann’s Controversy with Mendelssohn

    1. Leviathan and Jerusalem: Rights and ‘the Laws of Wisdom and Goodness’
      • Leviathan and Jerusalem
      • Hamann and Natural Rights
      • Divine Law, Property, and Justice
      • Conclusion: Rights, Community and Leviathan
    2. Faith, Inside and Out: Convictions versus Actions, Eternity versus History
      • The Externals
      • Hamann on History and Eternity, External and Internal
      • Liberal Peace and Illiberal Tension: Tolerance versus Tolerance
    3. Language and Society
      • Mendelssohn on the Limits of Language
      • Hamann on the Priority of Language
      • Appendix: Hamann and Judaism

    PART IV : Practical Reflections of an Impractical Man: Hamann contra Frederick II

    1. The Language of Enlightenment and the Practice of Despotism: J.G. Hamann’s Polemics against Frederick the Great
      • Enlightened Despotism
      • Frederick and the Politics of Enlightenment: Manufacturing Prussians
      • Hamann’s Relationship with Royal Power
      • Theory and Practice
      • What Is to Be Done?

    PART V : Aesthetics: Hamann’s Anti-Artistic Aestheticism

    1. Aesthetic, All Too Aesthetic: Hamann on the Battle between Poetry and Philosophy
      • Being and Becoming: Hamann’s Ambiguous Relationship to Platonism
      • Passions, Sexuality, and the Body
      • Creativity and Genius
      • Poetic Reception: Hamann on Enlightenment Taste
      • ‘Only a God Can Save Us’
      • Neither Art Nor Philosophy: Assessing Hamann’s Foundational Aesthetics
      • Conclusion
    2. Conclusion

    Bibliography

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