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Johann Georg Hamann - Metaphysics of Language and Vision of History


Larry Vaughan

This study discusses how J.G. Hamann, the Magus of the North, who stood godfather to Goethe's generation, delved into language and history. His view of language was mediated by the depths and power of the Kabbalah; his treatment of history was activated by the suffering and endurance of the Jews. Language embodied a people's deeper history for Hamann and as such unified his perspective. His concrete approach, directed towards the creative word, went against the grain of received opinion and stirred Benjamin's speculations in the twentieth century. In Hamann's conversion vision, Cain slew Abel: as fratricide would end German Kultur.

«In this important and lucidly argued study Larry Vaughan treats a subject often neglected or scanted by other commentators. He has shown that Hamann's thought, which, as recent scholarship has demonstrated, has much in common with that of the Enlightenment, roots nevertheless to a considerable extent in Jewish mysticism.» (James C. O'Flaherty, Professor Emeritus of German, Wake Forest University)
«Larry Vaughan's original work on the eighteenth-century German philosopher Johann Georg Hamann shows for the first time how the roots of Hamann's philosophy of language are in the Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition. In addition, Vaughan points out how Hamann's indebtedness to Jewish mysticism was related to his prophetic views of the place of the Jews in German culture.» (David Biale, Koret Associate Professor of Jewish History, Director, Center for Jewish Studies, Author, Gershom Scholem: Kabbalah and Counter-History) «Voici un livre très intéressant sur Hamann, la métaphysique de la langue et la vision de l'histoire. ... Livre bien enlevé et convaincant.» (D. Bourel, Dix-Huitième Siècle)
«The brevity of this excellently written study could be misleading, for Vaughan has managed to deal in a limited space with a number of central themes in Hamann's thought in an informative and stimulating way. ... The book is a valuable and welcome contribution to present Hamann-discourse and should stimulate debate on an important topic.» (James C. O'Flaherty, Seminar)