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John Holbo - Editor
Scott Eric Kaufman - Editor
Aaron Bady
Adam Roberts
Amardeep Singh
Andrew Seal
Bill Benzon
Daniel Green
Jonathan Goodwin
Joseph Kugelmass
Lawrence LaRiviere White
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Miriam Burstein
Ray Davis
Rohan Maitzen
Sean McCann
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Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

Event Archive

cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

Event Archive

cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

Event Archive

cover of the book How Novels Think

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cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

Event Archive

cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

Event Archive

cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

Event Archive

The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

I’m All about Hamann

Posted by Jonathan Goodwin on 04/19/05 at 04:06 PM

As the kids say, and you should be too:

Johann Georg Hamann (1730-88) is, by any measure, an obscure figure, little known outside the exclusive circles of a certain very rarefied kind of scholarship, hardly read at all even in his native Germany, and perhaps truly understood by next to no one. And yet it would be difficult to exaggerate not only the immensity of his influence upon all the great European intellectual and cultural movements of his age, but his continued significance for philosophers and theologians. A friend (and antagonist) of Kant’s, an inspiration to Herder and Jacobi, read and admired by the likes of Goethe, Schelling, Jean Paul, and indeed Kierkegaard, he is the only figure to whom Hegel felt it necessary to devote a long monograph. Today, however, his importance is scarcely a rumor even to the very literate, and the best known book about him in English is a ghastly, feeble, and imbecile squib by one of the twentieth century’s most indefatigably fraudulent intellectuals, Isaiah Berlin. The young, gifted scholar John R. Betz, of Loyola College in Baltimore, is due soon to produce what promises to be the definitive appreciation of Hamann in English, which may go some small way towards reviving interest in this miraculous man; but, at present, he remains all but forgotten.

From this review of Thomas C. Oden’s The Humor of Kierkegaard by David B. Hart.


Comments

I always tell my students that they should aspire to be “an obscure figure, little known outside the exclusive circles of a certain very rarified kind of scholarship, hardly read at all....” Then I tell them to open Richter to “The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious or Reason since Freud.” (I kid, I kid.)

If oblivion seems beyond them, I sit them down, stare into their obtrusive little eyes and assure them that there’s still a chance they’ll end up “the twenty-first century’s most indefatigably fraudulent intellectuals” if they work hard, chew their Flintstones twenty times before swallowing and lay off the blow.

By A. Cephalous on 04/19/05 at 08:29 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Isaiah Berlin an “indefatigably fraudulent intellectual”? I’m no major fan of Berlin--he got Herder at least as wrong as he got Hamman--but he was anything but fraudulent. A serious philosopher, no. A serious historian of ideas, yes. A serious political theorist...somewhere in between.

I’ll be interested to read Betz’s book on Hamman, anyway.

By Russell Arben Fox on 04/19/05 at 09:56 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I’m looking forward to John Betz’s study on Johann Georg Hamann.  I agree with Kierkegaard, that Hamann is easily the greatest thinker we’ve had since Socrates.  This is why Isaiah Berlin was unable to understand him.  This says nothing against Berlin, it just means that Berlin only said what he was capable of saying.  (Our brains fit into a baseball cap.) When approaching a person as great as Hamann it is always best for us to mistrust our first reactions.  Hamann uses irony freely.  I think that the exclusive dependence on human reason (without any higher lights) is what makes us prejudiced and close-minded.

By on 05/18/09 at 09:41 PM | Permanent link to this comment

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