Johann Georg Hamann  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Johann Georg Hamann (August 27, 1730, Königsberg - June 21, 1788, Münster) was an important philosopher of the German (Counter-)Enlightenment and a main proponent of the Sturm und Drang movement. He was Pietist Lutheran, and a friend (while being an intellectual opponent) of the philosopher Immanuel Kant. He was also a lutenist, having studied this instrument with Timofey Belogradsky (a student of Sylvius Leopold Weiss), a Ukrainian virtuoso then living in Königsberg.

His distrust of reason and the Enlightenment ("I look upon logical proofs the way a well-bred girl looks upon a love letter" was one of his many bon mots) led him to conclude that faith in God was the only solution to the vexing problems of philosophy. Hamann was greatly influenced by Hume's writings, and he famously used the image of Socrates, who often proclaimed to know nothing, in his Socratic Memorabilia, an essay in which Hamann is critical of the Enlightenment's dependence on reason. Also known by the epithet Magus im Norden ("Magus of the North"), he was one of the precipitating forces for the counter-enlightenment. He was, moreover, a mentor to Herder and an admired influence on Goethe, Jacobi, Hegel and Kierkegaard. Hans Urs von Balthasar devoted a chapter to Hamann in his volume, Studies in Theological Styles: Lay Styles (Volume III in the English language translation of The Glory of the Lord series).

His writings were known to be allusive, extremely difficult and heavily involved. For example, his work Golgatha and Scheblimini! By a Preacher in the Wilderness (1784) was directed against Moses Mendelssohn's Jerusalem, or on Religious Might and Judaism (1782). Brevity and responsive writing to others' works colored the pamphletary form of all his writings.

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