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After Enlightenment: The Post-Secular Vision of J. G. Hamann

ISBN: 978-0-470-67492-5
372 pages
March 2012, Wiley-Blackwell
After Enlightenment: The Post-Secular Vision of J. G. Hamann (047067492X) cover image
After Enlightenment: Hamann as Post-Secular Visionary is a comprehensive introduction to the life and works of eighteenth-century German philosopher, J. G. Hamann, the founding father of what has come to be known as Radical Orthodoxy.
  • Provides a long-overdue, comprehensive introduction to Haman's fascinating life and controversial works, including his role as a friend and critic of Kant and some of the most renowned German intellectuals of the age
  • Features substantial new translations of the most important passages from across Hamann's writings, some of which have never been translated into English
  • Examines Hamann's highly original views on a range of topics, including faith, reason, revelation, Christianity, biblical exegesis, Socrates, theological aesthetics, language, sexuality, religion, politics, and the relationship between Judaism and Christianity
  • Presents Hamann as the 'founding father' of a distinctly post-modern, post-secular theology and, as such, as an alternative to the 'postmodern triumvirate' of Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Derrida
  • Considers Hamann's work as a touchtone of modern Jewish-Christian dialogue, in view of debates with his friend Moses Mendelssohn
  • Explores Hamann's role as the visionary founder of a 'metacritical' movement that radically calls into question the basic principles of modern secular reason, and thus reprises the debate between those defending Hamann's views and those labeling him the bête noir of the Enlightenment
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Preface xi

Acknowledgments xiv

Abbreviations xvi

Introduction 1

Notorious Darkness: Reading Sibylline Leaves 8

A Brief History of Scholarship 13

Hamann and Modern Theology 18

Aim and Overview 19

Part I The Making of a Christian Socrates 23

1 Life and Writings 1730–1788 25

The Making of a Philologist 26

Hamann's Conversion 29

Hamann's Falling Out with Berens 32

Hamann's Relationship with Kant 34

2 The London Writings: On the Glory of Trinitarian Condescension 38

Night Thoughts: On the Interpretation of Scripture 39

Glory in the "Rags" of Scripture 43

Biblical Meditations 45

"Reflections on church hymns" 53

"Fragments" and "Prophecies" 55

3 A Typological Re-reading of Socrates: On Faith, Reason, and History 63

The Prophet and the Idol 65

From Socratic Irony to Christian Humor 68

Toward a Philosophy of History 71

A Propaedeutic to Real Enlightenment 76

Converting Hume: Knowledge "By Faith Alone" 82

Kant, Hamann, and the So-called "Kinderphysik Fiasco" 84

Part II Crusades of the Philologist 89

4 Life and Writings 1760–1774 91

Against the Purification of Language 91

The Magi and "The Knight of Faith" 93

Crusades of the Philologist 96

On "Solomon of Prussia" and High School Drama 103

The Hamann–Herder Connection 104

A Satirical Masterpiece and Other Writings 109

5 Toward a Christological Poetics: A New Aesthetics of Scripture and Creation 113

Cloverleaf of Hellenistic Letters: On the Style of Scripture 117

Aesthetica in nuce: On the Language of Creation 123

The Dithyrambs of a Christian Dionysus 128

Seeing All Things in Christ 133

Toward a Christological Poetics 136

6 Correcting a Disciple: Hamann and Herder on the Origin of Language 141

Hamann's Review of Herder's Preisschrift 144

The Return of Aristobulus 147

Philological Ideas and Doubts 149

The Crusading Knight's Last Will and Testament 158

The Mystery of Language: The Alpha and Omega 163

Part III Masks and Mystery Writings 165

7 Life and Writings 1775–1780 167

Hierophantic Letters 167

Family Life: Portrait of a Christian Sensualist 170

Two Mites: On the Tabernacle of Language 173

8 The Sibyl Speaks: On the Protological and Eschatological Mystery of Marriage 178

The Mystery of Marriage: A verum signaculum Creatoris 179

Essay of a Sibyl on Marriage 182

"Aprons of fig leaves": On Reason’s Inveterate Shame 184

9 Fragments of an Apocryphal Sibyl: On Rational and Apocalyptic Religion 189

Doubts (about Reason) and Ideas (about the Mystical Body of Christ) 191

Konxompax: An Apocryphal Letter to Lessing 197

Part IV Metacritique: of Reason, Natural Religion, and Secular Politics 217

10 Life and Writings 1780–1784 219

Hamann's "Twins" of 1784 220

Hamann and Jacobi 222

Divestment and Transfiguration 222

"Metacritical tubs"? 228

11 Hamann’s Metacritique of Kant: Deconstructing the Transcendental Dream 230

Transcendental "Mystique": The First Review of the Critique of Pure Reason 234

The Metacritique: A Brief History of the Purisms of Reason 242

The "Genealogical Priority" of Language 248

Language as a Sacrament 253

12 Metacritical Politics: On Mendelssohn’s Jerusalem and the Modern Secular State 258

A Synopsis of Mendelssohn's Jerusalem 262

Golgotha and Scheblimini: By a Preacher in the Desert 270

Built upon Sand: The Babel of Modern Natural Rights 273

Defending Judaism against Secular Reason, or the Real Content of the Real Jerusalem 280

Prospect for Jewish–Christian Dialogue 290

Part V A Final Journey: Hamann's Last Will and Testament 291

13 Life and Writings 1785–1788 293

The Münster Circle 294

The "Dictators of Pure Reason" 296

Portrait of a Christian: Greatness in Knechtsgestalt 297

Una Sancta Ecclesia 300

A Cryptic Final Testament 301

The Journey Home 308

Conclusion. After Postmodernity: Hamann before the Postmodern Triumvirate 312

Hamann and Postmodernity 313

Hamann before Nietzsche 319

Hamann before Heidegger 326

Hamann before Derrida 331

A Concluding Postscript to Postmodernity 337

Biblical Index 341

Index 343

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John R. Betz is Associate Professor of Systematic and Philosophical Theology at the University of Notre Dame, having previously taught theology at Loyola University Maryland. He has published several articles on Hamann, including Hamann's London Writings and on his significance to Kierkegaard.
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  • Provides a long-overdue, comprehensive introduction to Haman’s fascinating life and controversial works, including his role as a friend and critic of Kant and some of the most renowned German intellectuals of the age
  • Features substantial new translations of the most important passages from across Hamann’s writings, some of which have never been translated into English
  • Examines Hamann’s highly original views on a range of topics, including faith, reason, revelation, Christianity, biblical exegesis, Socrates, theological aesthetics, language, sexuality, religion, politics, and the relationship between Judaism and Christianity
  • Presents Hamann as the 'founding father’ of a distinctly post-modern, post-secular theology and, as such, as an alternative to the ‘postmodern triumvirate’ of Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Derrida
  • Considers Hamann’s work as a touchtone of modern Jewish-Christian dialogue, in view of debates with his friend Moses Mendelssohn
  • Explores Hamann’s role as the visionary founder of a ‘metacritical’ movement that radically calls into question the basic principles of modern secular reason, and thus reprises the debate between those defending Hamann’s views and those labeling him the bête noir of the Enlightenment
See More
"This is a scholar's book, breaking new ground in the study of eighteenth-century philosophy, and those responsible for teaching modern philosophy and theology should be warned: on picking up this book, you risk having to revise substantial portions of your lectures. This is the sort of book that ought to change the way we think about Europe's so-called Enlightenment, and the intellectual paths that we have walked ever since." (Anglican Theological Review, 2012)

"Simply put, Betz’s accomplishment is superb. He comprehensively introduces the entire span of Hamann’s work in its theological and philosophical significance … though much remains to be done in thinking with Hamann, Betz’s work is a major accomplishment that deserves wide readership.” —Lutheran Quarterly

“This is an important book for at least two reasons. On the one hand, it is a complete, reliable, and agreeably written introduction to Johann Georg Hamann’s life, work and world. On the other hand, it contributes substantially to the ongoing discussion in contemporary theology and philosophy about the seemingly ineradicable tension between modernity and Christianity.” —Modern Theology

“After Enlightenment has much to offer those who are familiar with Hamann, as well as those who are not. The way Betz handles Hamann’s difficult writings and communicates his thought is a clear and precise manner is praiseworthy … The comprehensiveness of the study is enhanced by the ease of Betz’s prose, offering a tremendous tool for understanding the enigmatic yet fruitful ‘Magus of the North’.” —Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

“[Betz] has produced the best and fullest survey of the life and writings of Johann Georg Hamann in a generation, helpfully including many passages from Hamann’s letters and publications and commenting intelligently on the style, theology, philosophy, and (to a lesser extent) historical context of Hamann’s notoriously obscure oeuvre; second, he has written an intellectual history covering Hamann’s relation to the major figures of his time as well as his subsequent influence on and reception by philosophers and theologians down to our own day.” —Church History

“John Betz’ book is arguably the single best work on Hamann in the English speaking world and the most informed recent work on Hamann in any language. Hamann is as profound as he is obscure; hence a comprehensive interpretation of Hamann in relationship to the philosophers, theologians, and literati of his own time with an eye constantly upon our own intellectual context, is a rare achievement. I warmly commend After Enlightenment to a wide readership.”
Reinhard Huetter, Duke University

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