Johann Georg Hamann und Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 20 (2):370-371 (1966)
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Abstract

This is a complicated and ingenious study of one of the famous friendships of German intellectual history. Miss Knoll's aim is not so much to analyze philosophical ideas as to find the major structural elements of this highly emotional literary friendship between Hamann and Jacobi. The book begins with a short review of Hegel's and Dilthey's treatment of the "subject," Hamann-Jacobi. The author objects to these treatments which, like practically all other students of the question viewed the letters from an exclusively philosophical and speculative viewpoint, and never tackled the deeply personal structure of this metaphysical-religious correspondence. This is exactly what the present author attempts to do. The analysis of Hamann's highly complex reactions to Jacobi's famous book on Lessing's Spinozism reveals to us how strongly and on how many levels the "magician of the North" criticized Jacobi—and through him any attempt to combat the Enlightenment which does not reject it in integro. On the other hand Hamann continuously sent his manuscripts to Jacobi to be read and criticized, and, in this way, he sought to help the latter to grow by making him contribute to works of a dimension and depth completely alien to his own thought But the destiny of Hamann was to be misunderstood by Jacobi, and this misunderstanding was recognized and corrected only by Schelling. Though H. Fuhrmans has already forcefully pointed out what Schelling owed to Hamann, the present book is the first to do justice to Schelling's Hamann-interpretation, until now entirely overshadowed by that of Hegel.—M. J. V.

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