Who is Johann Georg Hamann?June 25, 2021
Hamann was a German philosopher who lived from 1730 to 1788.
Hamann, who defended the unity of faith, reason and experiment against the rational thought of the Enlightenment philosophy, was born on August 27, 1730 in Königsberg (today Kaliningrad in Russia) and died on June 21, 1788 in Münster.
Hamann, who studied theology, law and philosophy in Königsberg, made a living as a teacher for a while after finishing his studies. Later, he went to London in 1758 to run the business of a friend and after a bohemian life there he devoted himself to religion. Returning to Königsberg, in 1763 he became a clerk in a government office that oversees the earthworks. He worked in the newspaper Königsberger Zeitung in 1764, and in 1767 he worked as a secretary in the tax office, which he entered through his friend Kant. The following year he became manager of the Prussian customs warehouses. He settled in Münster shortly before his death.
Hamann, a close friend of Kant, did not publish his criticisms of his views in his lifetime. From his correspondence with Kant, it is understood that his philosophy is largely based on Mysticism. Hamann, who uses a sarcastic language in his works, is also defined as the “North Knower” especially because of his interpretations based on the astronomical data of the century.
Because of some of his views, Hamann was found interesting by thinkers such as Kant, Hegel, Goethe. However, it is very difficult to reach the essence of his thought, especially because of his language. Although he was friends with the well-known enlightened thinkers of the period, he did not hesitate to direct his sharpest criticisms to them. His opposition to the Enlightenment philosophy is due to the certainty of this philosophy and its indisputable rationality. According to him, when reason is abstracted, it cannot be the only way to reach the truth. However, if it is considered together with the experience based on beliefs and sensations, reason gains meaning. Therefore, it is wrong to talk about the power of “pure reason”, as Kant did. Man’s own existence and the existence of other objects cannot be proved by reason or pure reason that evaluates purely experimental data. These are matters of faith. Since belief is not the product of reason, it is independent of it and is not affected by its provisions.
According to Hamann, God showed himself in nature, in man and in the Bible, and in this way he introduced himself to his creations. It is the only true subject of our desires and thoughts, for all is divine. Reason must have been given to man to declare his ignorance. Hamann also opposes the idea of natural religion and defends Christianity. Hamann, who was seen to have a skeptical attitude similar to Hume’s, was also influenced by the identity principle of Giordano Bruno. According to him, the enlightened philosophers separate the beings that nature unites. However, if belief, reason, experience are considered at a high level, it is understood that they are intended to comprehend the whole. Hamann, who also criticizes his friend Herder’s views on language, defends the existence of mysterious elements in language, apart from the invention of man.
Hamann’s reaction against the rationalism of his age had an impact on Kierkegaard and generally on existentialism. This can also be understood as the revival of Pietism in the face of the Enlightenment.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook