Hamann: Writings on Philosophy and Language

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Kenneth Haynes
Cambridge University Press, 2007 M09 6 - 252 pages
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Johann Georg Hamann (1730–88) is a major figure not only in German philosophy but also in literature and religious history. In his own time he wrote penetrating criticisms of Herder, Kant, Mendelssohn, and other Enlightenment thinkers; after his death he was an important figure for Goethe, Hegel, Kierkegaard, and others. It was only in the twentieth century, however, that the full and radical extent of his 'linguistic' critique of philosophy was recognized. This volume presents a translation of a wide selection of his essays, including both famous and lesser-known works. Hamann's enigmatic prose-style was deliberately at odds with Enlightenment assumptions about language, and a full apparatus of annotation explains the numerous allusions in his essays. The volume is completed by a historical and philosophical introduction and suggestions for further reading.

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Just finished plowing my way through this, and now retracting steps before it's due back at the library. At least the tome returns with a few thumb prints on otherwise snow-white pages. Hamann truly is amazing. Like Joyce, he forces the reader to have an experience of their own. There is a sense of the modern individual psychology here, but obviously well in advance of Freud, and enriched by the classic ideology.
And, like Joyce is often recommended, all language lovers should read this book. I began this study after a Thomist librarian said I might like it because Hamann appears to have had an influence on Kierkegaard.

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About the author (2007)

Kenneth Haynes is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, Brown University, Rhode Island.

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