After Enlightenment: The Post-Secular Vision of J.G. Hamann

After Enlightenment: The Post-Secular Vision of J.G. Hamann

After Enlightenment: The Post-Secular Vision of J.G. Hamann

After Enlightenment: The Post-Secular Vision of J.G. Hamann

Synopsis

After Enlightenment: Hamann as Post-Secular Visionary is a comprehensive introduction to the life and works of eighteenth-century German philosopher, J. G. Hamann, the founding father of what has come to be known as Radical Orthodoxy.
  • Provides a long-overdue, comprehensive introduction to Haman's fascinating life and controversial works, including his role as a friend and critic of Kant and some of the most renowned German intellectuals of the age
  • Features substantial new translations of the most important passages from across Hamann's writings, some of which have never been translated into English
  • Examines Hamann's highly original views on a range of topics, including faith, reason, revelation, Christianity, biblical exegesis, Socrates, theological aesthetics, language, sexuality, religion, politics, and the relationship between Judaism and Christianity
  • Presents Hamann as the 'founding father' of a distinctly post-modern, post-secular theology and, as such, as an alternative to the 'postmodern triumvirate' of Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Derrida
  • Considers Hamann's work as a touchtone of modern Jewish-Christian dialogue, in view of debates with his friend Moses Mendelssohn
  • Explores Hamann's role as the visionary founder of a 'metacritical' movement that radically calls into question the basic principles of modern secular reason, and thus reprises the debate between those defending Hamann's views and those labeling him the bête noir of the Enlightenment

Excerpt

The purpose of this book is twofold. On the one hand, it seeks to illuminate the life and writings of a notoriously obscure figure, Johann Georg Hamann (1730– 88), who was widely influential in his own day – even revered as the “Magus of the North” – but tends to be known today, if it all, only indirectly by way of association with his protégé Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803), the Counter-Enlightenment, and the literary movement known as the Sturm und Drang. In short, it seeks to recover an important but neglected figure – also in the hope of correcting a common miscon- ception of Hamann, namely, that he was an “irrationalist,” or even (as some have suggested) the founder of modern irrationalism. On the other hand, more constructively, it seeks to draw out the implications of Hamann’s “metacritical” engagement with his friends and contemporaries, who included some of the leading lights of the German Enlightenment, such as Kant, Lessing, and Mendelssohn. Specifically, it seeks to show that his arguments against the Enlighteners (the Aufklärer), while delivered in an intentionally obscure form, are nevertheless, upon closer examination, lucid, penetrating, and ultimately so prescient as to anticipate (from a decidedly Christian perspective) postmodern readings and deconstructions of the Enlightenment. Indeed, inasmuch as Hamann prophesied the end of the Enlightenment, foreseeing what Frederick Beiser has called the “fate of reason,” this book presents him as a kind of postmodern prophet, i.e., as someone who was already, however anachronistically, in conversation with postmodernity. And herein especially, it is argued, lies his uncanny, prophetic relevance beyond his time to our own.

To the extent that this book places Hamann in conversation with postmodernity (which shares Hamann’s lack of confidence in the power of autonomous reason, divorced from tradition, to determine an ultimate meaning or even the nature of reason itself), it in some respects represents a continuation of the author’s dissertation. Aside from this thematic similarity, however, the present book is an entirely new and different work. It was conceived out of a sense that what was needed, given the peculiar and (arguably) unparalleled hermeneutical challenges posed by Hamann’s allusive, enigmatic style, was a comprehensive introduction to his life and works as the sine qua non for understanding him; and that no work on Hamann that would hope to make him comprehensible to readers today – or hope to provide anything more than a loose collection of quotations and aphorisms – can dispense with a sustained treatment of his writings and the particular circumstances that occasioned them.

Therefore, in an attempt to present, as far as possible, the whole of Hamann – both the man and his work – the author has taken an approach similar to that of Gwen Griffith-Dickson’s groundbreaking translation-commentary, Hamann’s Relational Metacriticism (1995), which provides detailed exposition and insightful analysis of some of Hamann’s most important writings. The main difference between this study and that of Griffith-Dickson, aside from the expressly post- secular theme and having more explicitly theological concerns, is that the present book is more comprehensive . . .

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