Philologia: Philosophy from Faith to Faith

Hamann as a Constructive Thinker: The “Philologian”
  • W. M. Alexander


Not only calling himself the “Metacritic” and the Socratic thinker, Hamann also referred to himself as the “Philologian”.


Human Race Jewish People Christian Faith Italic Mine Distinct Idea 
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  1. 1.
    Writing an anonymous review of his own book, Crusades of the Philologian(!), Hamann refers cryptically to three of its reviewers: “He who caused the clouds to go up from the ends of the earth, Who makes the lightning in the rain, and causes the wind to come out of secret places (Jer. 10: 13), answers Job out of the storm and condemns him not when He judges him (Ps. 37: 33); but His wrath is aroused over the Temanite [Eliphas], the orthodox, and over the theodicy of his two friends. It is irritating to me also[!] that the Philologian writes foolishness, and that his ideas are not clever. Yet I am irritated more by his three critics, that they find no answer and condemn the Philologian” (II, 244).Google Scholar
  2. 1.
    Cf. Hamann to Johann Gottlieb Steudel (4 May 1788): “Without an individual providence God can be neither ruler of the universe nor judge of man and spirits. I am convinced of this truth a priori through the given word of revelation and a posteriori through my every day experience and that of others.”Google Scholar
  3. 1.
    Cf. “A head which thinks on its own expense will always interfere with language” (II, 126).Google Scholar
  4. 1.
    Cf. the letter to Herder of 10 May 1781: “The true philosophers’ stone [is] in our Paternoster: ‘Thy will be done’!”Google Scholar
  5. 2.
    J. G. Hamanns Stellung in der Philosophie des 18 Jahrhunderts, p. 1.Google Scholar
  6. 3.
    Erwin Metzke, p. 67.Google Scholar
  7. 1.
    “To tell the truth, I view that philosopher with sympathy who first demands of me a proof that he has a body and that there is a material world! To expend time and wit on such truths and proofs is as tragic as it is ridiculous.” (To Jacobi, 16 Jan. 1785).Google Scholar
  8. 2.
    Cf. Hamann to Jacobi, 6–10 Dec. 1787 (G V, 590): Things and their nature do not depend upon us, but the other way around. “Our reason must wait and hope — it wants to be servant, not lawgiver of nature.” (To Jacobi, 14 Nov. 1784).Google Scholar
  9. 3.
    The Doubts and Ideas About a Miscellaneous Review in the ‘Allgemeine deutsche Bibliothek’ (1776) is dedicated to “Cousin Nabal”. Nabal = “Fool” (see I Sam. 25: 25). According to Nadler (VI, 397) this is Nicolai, the editor of the above-mentioned journal.Google Scholar
  10. 3.
    Cf. III, 177 lines 29, 30.Google Scholar
  11. 1.
    If truth is a clear and distinct idea, the logical consequence of the clear and distinct idea of immortality would be suicide! (To J. G. Lindner, 1 June 1759; ZH I, 336). Cf. also II, 73 note 36.Google Scholar
  12. 2.
    Gildemeister (V, 684) says: Socrates.Google Scholar
  13. 1.
    “The present instant is only a dead torso which lacks head and feet; it always remains in the same place where it lies. The past must be revealed to us just as the future is” (I, 125).Google Scholar
  14. 1.
    Jerusalem II, 25.Google Scholar
  15. 2.
    Cf. Isa. 28: 16; I Pet. 2: 6; Eph. 2: 20; Ps. 118: 22; Isa. 8: 14; Rms. 9: 33; I Pet. 2: 8. Quotation marks mine.Google Scholar
  16. 1.
    Figur und Geschichte; Johann Georg Hamann’s “Biblische Betrachtungen” als Ansatz einer Geschichtsphilosophie (Freiburg/Munich: Verlag Karl Alber, 1958).Google Scholar
  17. 2.
    Cf. Gründer, pp. 134-143 passim.Google Scholar
  18. 3.
    “The Spirit of prophecy is the witness of Jesus. Rev. 19: 10. This rule serves in the entire Holy Scriptures as the cornerstone and must be the touchstone of every interpreter.”Google Scholar
  19. 1.
    The universe represents God (i.e. reflects His glory) just as the Messiah in His own Person represents all Israel, and ironically, just as the monarch’s religion is the religion of the country.Google Scholar
  20. 1.
    See Jerusalem, II, 20.Google Scholar
  21. 2.
    Cf. the Fragments, where Hamann is commenting on the story of the feeding of the multitude: “The visible world may be ever so like a desert in the eye of a soul created for heaven, the bread which God furnishes us here may appear ever so inconsiderable and miserable, the fishes may be ever so small. But they are blessed, and we likewise by an almighty and mysterious God, a Doer of wonders, whom we Christians name as our own because He has revealed Himself in the greatest humility and love. … Isn’t it a miracle of our souls themselves, to change the poverty of the senses into such riches, the enlargement of which must astound us.” (I, 299).Google Scholar
  22. 1.
    This same patience is true of Him who is the Truth: “He had nowhere to lay His head. He came to His own and His subjects received Him not. How must it have been for the spirit of a man of His innocent, pure character under such a people — under the army of High Priests and the moralistic generation of vipers among the Pharisees!. What kind of a divine self-denial is here, to subject itself to the raw ideas of twelve messengers … to suppress their inclination to political twaddle and to correct their great misunderstanding of a heavenly kingdom.” (To Johann Gottlieb Steudel, 4 May 1788).Google Scholar
  23. 2.
    Hamann to Jacobi, 1–2 Mar. 1786: “You should wait and learn silence: this is philosophy and not cackling about eggs one has laid.” Hamann saw patience as also the key to friendship: “I do not know myself, not to speak of you, my own Fritz Jonathan. Patience is the divine element in friendship, generosity, and charity” (To Jacobi, 22–24 May 1788).Google Scholar
  24. 1.
    “Existential”, in present-day jargon.Google Scholar
  25. 1.
    To Jacobi, 25 Apr. 1786: “History is the best and unique philosophy.”Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1966

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. M. Alexander
    • 1
  1. 1.St. Andrews CollegeCanada

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