Thursday, 31 May 2012

David Jones on Blog Communication

Avant la lettre. Jones in the 'Preface' to his London annotated poem The Anathemata, quoted from today's Isola di Rifiuti [here]:

‘What I have written has no plan, or at least is not planned. If it has a shape it is chiefly that it returns to its beginning. It has themes and a theme even if it wanders far. If it has a unity it is that what goes before conditions what comes after and vice versa. Rather as in a longish conversation between two friends, where one thing leads to another; but should a third party hear fragments of it, he might not know how the talk had passed from the cultivation of cabbages to Melchizedek, king of Salem. Though indeed he might guess.’
incantatory Thames scholar
A nice overlap between my present involvement with ideas of existential communication and my former immersion in Iain Sinclair's aesthetic in the Jones tradition. There is a transcendental 'unity', a truth, but no writer knows how he or she is going there. The 'weird, magnificent, unapproved narrative of the city wriggled and twisted, determined to remain beyond the reach of salaried explainers', Sinclair wrote here. I hope to continue to describe Jaspers' theory of existential communication, of conversation aiming at absent founding truth, in my next post. 

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Hamann and Jaspers, part 2

Freeing Human Transcendence from Law

Thornhill’s comparison of the two philosophers also traces ‘key distinctions’ between them. He begins by noting that Hamann’s thinking constituted an attempt to supplant Kantian epistemology with what W. M. Alexander called a ‘theological epistemology’, which relied on what Thornhill calls ‘Hamann’s conception of the linguistic cipher as pure divine disclosure’. ‘For Hamann’s pantheist hermeneutics, the relation to God (and therefore to human transcendence itself) is positively cast as an unalterable and dogmatic fact of history: as revelation.’ Viewed from Jaspers’ position, here Hamann – Thornhill stresses – ‘follows a logic of false objectivization […] which crudely encloses transcendence in material forms’. Whereas Hamann suggests that the ciphers of transcendence reveal (in Thornhill’s words) ‘the positive divinity of humanity’, Jaspers maintains that such ciphers indicate, as Thornhill puts it, ‘only the possible transcendence of humanity’. Jaspers’ critique of any false objectivization of transcendence, and refusal of positivizing religion, Thornhill sees, is grounded in Kant’s assertion of the limitedness of all knowledge. Thus as Thornhill writes, ‘even when he seeks to derive from Hamann a corrective to Kant’, Jaspers remains a Kantian when he argues that ‘revelation can never disclose in stable terms the potential transcendence of humanity, and truthful communication is rendered impossible wherever it assumes itself to be objectively in possession of truth’.

Jaspers’ agreement with Hamann’s attempts ‘both to give experiential substance to Kant’s subject, and to interpret transcendence as a full possible experience of humanity in history’, Thornhill importantly sees, means that – like Kierkegaard, Heidegger and Rosenzweig – Jaspers adopts from Hamann’s thinking ‘an epistemological structure which opposes experiential revelation to transcendental subjectivity’. Yet Jaspers also maintains – contra Hamann – that the revelation of transcendence is never, as Thornhill puts it, ‘tenable as a source of cognitive authority’. Whilst holding with Hamann to ‘the concept of revelation as a hermeneutic of possible transcendence’, and whilst he ‘draws heavily on the anti-idealist, anti-metaphysical and hermeneutical components of revelation theology (especially in its figuring by Hamann)’, Jaspers, Thornhill clarifies, argues that revelation ‘must ultimately be understood as an appearance of human historical relativity and limitation, not as the all-constituting axis of history’. This is because Jaspers ‘rejects the christological attempt (of which Hamann’s work is an example) to propose Jesus Christ himself as the unifying and sense-giving centre of human history, disclosed through the occurrence of revelation’. Jaspers’ position on revelation is also determined by his nature as a Kantian thinker, and by the grounding of his thinking in Kantian epistemology. As Thornhill emphasizes, ‘the foundation of Jaspers’ theological position might be viewed as a dialectical reading of Kant and Hamann’; Jaspers’ ‘theological reflections are […] premised in an implicit endeavour to effect a productive fusion of Hamann’s hermeneutics and Kant’s epistemology’:

‘Running through his entire debate with theology is a simultaneous attempt both to salvage the historical presence of transcendence in his theory of ciphers (influenced by Hamann’s linguistic theology), and yet also to understand this presence as a mere index of a possible non-realized unity of thought (influenced by Kant’s idealism). […] Hamann’s hermeneutics (for Jaspers) can indicate the transcending limit of human-being in a manner which is simply not possible for Kant’s formal epistemology. Despite this, however, Hamann cannot truly interpret this transcending limit as a limit, for his religious hermeneutics has no critical means for reflecting on where the ends of human reason are located.’

Thornhill also describes Jaspers' implicit fusion of Hamannian hermeneutics and Kantian epistemology by referring once more to Jaspers’ view of revelation or transcendence as mere ‘appearance’:

‘The hermeneutic of revelation […] has its profound validity in its ability to signal that the ideal limits of cognition do not reflect the absolute limits of being itself. Nonetheless, with Kant, Jaspers also argues that transcendence can only be knowable as a mere appearance of the possible unity of knowledge: true transcendence, thus, is inevitably beyond the limits of human thought.’

Ciphers, for example, though also decisive ‘moments of experience, embedded and disclosed in human historical life’, are for Jaspers (as Thornhill puts it) ‘only the fleeting appearance of guiding ideas – akin to Kant’s transcendental ideas – which give shape to, but do not encompass, the ultimate underlying unity of human life and knowledge’. For Jaspers a truthful hermeneutic of ciphers ‘always also requires a critical-epistemological approach’ – Thornhill emphasizes – which with Kant and against Hamann, posits God as ‘an “idea”, which illuminates the limits of human consciousness, but which is never the realized experience of human transcendence’. Thornhill sees that for Jaspers, it is indeed ‘only because the idea of God is not the experience [but the] appearance of transcendence that it is interpretable as transcendence’. You could say that mere appearance lends the quality of definition (or decision) to Jaspers’ visionary hermeneutics – in Thornhill’s words, ‘it is the (epistemological) recognition of the limits of human knowledge which makes the (hermeneutical) disclosure of transcendence, in ciphers, so radical and truthful’.

Thornhill usefully redescribes Hamann’s opposition of experiential revelation to transcendental subjectivity, as an opposition of ‘theological hermeneutics to transcendental epistemology’ which represented ‘the key theological debate at the heart of the German Enlightenment’, and which ‘is also at the heart of Jaspers’ work’. Thornhill thus identifies Jaspers sustaining a ‘balance’ between Hamann and Kant, and occupying ‘an unresolved and uncertain dialectic’ between the two ‘conceptions of human being-in-the-world’:

‘The hermeneutical approach has no truth without epistemology, and epistemology has no truth without hermeneutics. Both epistemology and hermeneutics forfeit their truth, however, when they consider themselves in possession of it: either as the disclosed law of revelation or the formal law of cognition.’

Thornhill thus sees more to Jaspers than a relativization of the truths of hermeneutics and epistemology. For, Thornhill argues, in that he can be seen to ‘turn simultaneously against both Hamann and Kant’, Jaspers shows that both earlier thinkers ultimately falsify metaphysics – and in doing so falsify humanity.

Hamann sought to objectively manifest the truth of metaphysics by interpreting God as a fact of worldly existence and certainty, whilst Kant sought both to ideally manifest the truth of metaphysics by transposing metaphysical ideas into elements of human consciousness and praxis, and to limit the truth of metaphysics by formally limiting such idealist human elements against metaphysics. In contrast to these ‘formal-ideal and objectivizing responses to metaphysics proposed by Kant and Hamann’, Thornhill writes, Jaspers’ thinking suggests that all attempts ‘either objectively or ideally to manifest or limit the truth of metaphysics can only ever be false truths’. Thornhill clarifies that both Kant’s formal-ideal and Hamann’s objectivizing reactions to the metaphysical legacy, are ‘in one respect paradoxically identical: both examine the human relation to transcendence as a juridical form’. The options are merely that human consciousness ‘either legally determines its inclusion of, and difference from, metaphysics (Kant), or accepts the objective disclosure of God’s will (Hamann)’. By positing an ultimately juridical human relation to transcendence in these ways however, Thornhill observes, both epistemology and hermeneutics falsify the truths of both metaphysics and humanity. It is the juridical human relation to transcendence which we can find Jaspers contesting. ‘The truth of metaphysics and humanity, for Jaspers however, is only in the ongoing and relative (self-)interpretation of humanity as metaphysical.’ Jaspers’ concept of philosophical belief is thus distinguished by the fact that, precisely whilst it fuses epistemology and hermeneutics (or philosophy and revelation), ‘it also seeks to disclose human truths in a manner which neither hermeneutics nor epistemology alone can accomplish’.       

Monday, 21 May 2012

Hamann and Jaspers

Possibilities of Human Transcendence

In my next posts I want to present a summary of Chris Thornhill’s account, in his Karl Jaspers, of the relation between the thinking of Hamann and that of Jaspers. Thornhill’s analysis identifies ‘deep symmetries’ between the two thinkers. ‘Hamann’s philosophy anticipates both Jaspers’ partial theological critique of Kant, and even certain features of his theory of communication and his transcendental hermeneutics.’

Thornhill observes that scant attention has been paid to ‘Hamann’s prefiguring of the critique of Kant which underpins existential philosophy’; which is unfortunate, because Hamann’s argument that (in Thornhill’s words) ‘the claims of reason cannot be separated from historical and linguistic horizons’ anticipates ‘the reflections on Kant set out by Jaspers, Heidegger and other thinkers in the existential line’. Because Hamann, like Heidegger, indicated that ‘cognition does not occur independently of existing practical relations, and that it is at all times pre-structured by language’, Hamann’s ‘attack on Kant’s epistemological abstraction […] represents a proto-Heideggerian assault on the conception of the thinking subject as an isolated being’. As Thornhill puts it later in his book, ‘Both Heidegger and Jaspers follow Hamann in conceiving of language as a non-formalized mode of cognitive agency, which counteracts the epistemological stasis of Kant’s transcendental reason.’ Unique to his anticipation of Jaspers, however – Thornhill notes – is Hamann’s conception of communication. Whilst ‘certainly foreshadowing both Heidegger and Rosenzweig’, Thornhill writes, ‘Hamann’s reflections on language alter the Kantian concept of the transcendental subject in a manner which equally strongly resembles Jaspers’ linguistic and hermeneutical theory’.

Hamann, Thornhill sees, supplants ‘the isolation of the Kantian subject’ with ‘a relational theology of language, in which human communication always involves a hermeneutical disclosure, or revelation, of the possibility of human transcendence’:

‘Like Jaspers after him, he argues that human reason interprets its own truthful possibilities in linguistic processes which confront reason with vital, practical, sensory and transcendent modes of experience. In language, thus, reason is able to conceive of its transcendence as a linguistic experience of, and a participation in, its own unifying origin, which is divine creation. In these reflections, Hamann prefigures the existential-communicative conception of being developed by Jaspers.’

As Thornhill observes, Jaspers’ theory of language is ‘an important corrective to Heidegger’s practical-linguistic critique of Kant’. Whilst Heidegger argued that language (in Thornhill’s words) ‘defines and constitutes the practically disclosed horizon of the world’, and thus ‘expressly excludes all ideal components from experience’, Jaspers by contrast maintained that language ‘always positions human consciousness in a relation (albeit existentially uncertain) to its primary ideal unity (its transcendence), and it thus permits an ideal/practical disclosure of this unity’. Like Hamann, Jaspers indicates that (as Thornhill writes) ‘language, and the written documents of language, always illuminate a primary unity of practical, sensory and transcendental experience to human life’.

Hamann’s thinking thus anticipated Jaspers’ transcendental hermeneutics by evolving a conception of language in terms of what Thornhill calls a ‘unifying originary hermeneutic’. ‘Indeed, Hamann’s attempt to undermine Kant’s (allegedly) false purification of reason by presenting language as a unifying originary hermeneutic, points most evidently in the direction of Jaspers’ attempt to refigure metaphysics and idealism as hermeneutics.’ Jaspers’ thinking proposes a hermeneutical renewal of metaphysics, or what Thornhill elsewhere [here] describes as a ‘hermeneutical transformation of idealism into a metaphysics of symbolic interpretation’. This is a move anticipated by Hamann, as Thornhill observes when he notes that Hamann suggested that (as Thornhill puts it), ‘In the images (Bilder) of language, […] documents of transcendence are preserved which always await interpretation’. ‘Like Jaspers after him, Hamann re-orders metaphysics as an immanent, yet transcendent process of communication and interpretation.’

As Thornhill sees, Jaspers does not follow Hamann in maintaining ‘an expressly theological argument’ on the transcendentally symbolic content of language. Yet the very fact that Hamann posits such content means that he prefigures the basis of Jaspers’ theory of the ‘ciphers of transcendence’. Jaspers proposed ciphers of transcendence (Chiffren der Transzendenz) as uncertain, yet decisive, symbolic forms – as opposed to reified doctrinal or scientific proof-forms – in which (Thornhill writes) ‘the possibility for transcendent self-realization is reflected to human thinking in fleeting moments of (self-)interpretation’. There is a ‘cipher of God’, but natural life and historical, cultural, mythological and philosophical artefacts also supply ciphers of transcendence. As Thornhill notes, ‘These ciphers, although not giving finally valid form to transcendence, remain as ephemeral presences, on the ground of which the most truthful existence occurs, and in which humanity experientially interprets itself as meta-physical.’ Our interpretation of such ephemeral presences is a necessarily unstable, uncertain hermeneutical process, which is attended by a ‘relative process of communication’ (Thornhill). Precisely the fraughtness of this existential, hermeneutic-communicative forcefield generates its force, its certainty. ‘Philosophical belief’, for Jaspers (Thornhill writes), ‘has its only hold in the ciphers of transcendence: yet the interpretation of these ciphers is only existentially binding because they do not stabilize transcendence as certainty, but merely refer humanity to its own possibilities, and thus invite communication on these’. Moreover, in this way the ‘false [reified] truths of theology, Jaspers thus intimates, become true again in the secular-existential praxis of our communicating about them’.

To be continued.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Irregular Language, part 4

Hamannian Origins of Existentialism

‘In the early stages of its evolution, […] existentialism might be described as a theoretical stance which: a) moved philosophical discourse away from Kantian formalism and emphasized the belief that the content of thought must reside in particular experiences and decisions; b) followed Kierkegaard in defining philosophy as a passionate and deeply engaged activity, in which the integrity and the authenticity of the human being are decisively implicated; c) sought to overcome the antinomies (reason/ experience; theory/ praxis; transcendence/ immanence; pure reason/ practical reason) which determine the classical metaphysical tradition by incorporating all aspects (cognitive, practical and sensory) of human life in an encompassing account of rational and experiential existence.’
-Thornhill, ‘Karl Jaspers’ [here]

In After Enlightenment Betz notes that Hamann did not understand ‘passions’ in terms of ‘the various vices or sins (like lust or pride) of a fallen world by which man is enslaved’; instead, he thought of passions in terms of ‘profound feelings, like fear, grief, love, and joy’. Hamann was already developing a Kierkegaardian and existentialist emphasis on suffering interiority unrelated to the dogmatic moral demands of organized Christianity. In a letter to Kant which was described by Josef Nadler as a ‘historical moment’ in the intellectual life of the eighteenth century, Hamann wrote of having exposed Kant ‘to the danger of coming so close to a man [Hamann] invested by the sickness of his passions with a power to think and to feel that a healthy person does not possess’: for Hamann passions related to a proto-existentialist complex fusing pathology, suffering and emotional-cognitive ‘power’.

Hamann also saw that the ‘sickness of his passions’ influenced his linguistic expression, as when he wrote in his Cloverleaf of Hellenistic Letters that ‘Every manner of thought that begins to be somewhat fashionable, every unnoticeable transition in one’s passions, affects the expression of one’s concepts’. Here the rĂ´le played by passions recalls Hamann’s stammerer’s insight that (as Betz puts it) ‘there is no such thing as purely spontaneous language’: prior to communication, language is filtered through an experiential matrix of unnoticeable psychic transitions, reminiscent of the ‘fleeting, spiritual, arbitrary, and incidental determinations and circumstances’ of Aesthetica in nuce. When quoting the following lines from that text and noting that, for Hamann, within ‘the senses and the passions […], and not in a misguided form of pagan asceticism, lies the wellspring of human creativity’, Betz is referring to a level of passionate spiritual life through which language passes on its way to expression:

‘A philosopher like Saul sets up monastic laws (1 Sam. 14: 24) - - Passion alone gives to abstractions and hypotheses hands, feet, wings; - to images and signs, spirit, life, and tongue - - Where can you find more rapid inferences? Whence is the rolling thunder of eloquence engendered, and its companion – monosyllabic lightning.’

Betz helpfully observes that Hamann footnoted these arguments with a reference to these lines in A Midsummer Night’s Dream :

‘Brief as lightning in the collied night,
That (in a spleen) unfolds heav’n and earth
And ere a man has power to say: Behold!
The jaws of darkness do devour it up’

Carl Gustav Carus, 'Mondnacht im Schilf' (c. 1834)

In the next line Shakespeare wrote of ‘quick bright things’; Hamann’s style obviously itself reproduces the ‘collied night’ of passionate spiritual life which he thought enabled such flashes of language. Betz compares Nietzsche’s vital style to Hamann’s: they shared ‘a style that is meant not to inform, but to effect something, to bring about some form of awakening, to help people – for both of them always “the few” – to see something new’. As Betz also notes, Hamann’s style generative of ‘monosyllabic lightning’ – jolting language flashes unfolded by the ‘spleen’ of fleeting spirito-experiential determinations – itself reflected his intrinsically irregular mode of production. The suggestion of producing a complete edition of his writings ‘struck Hamann as vain and fundamentally incongruous with the pseudonymous, occasional, and self-denying nature of everything he wrote’, Betz observes; yet Hamann’s writing was occasional also in that it responded to specific occasions in his life, and so was experiential and proto-existentialist even as it was self-denying. As he wrote to Johann George Scheffner:

‘It has truly been an Herculean labour for me to go through what I wrote between [17]59 and [17]83, since everything refers to the actual situation of my life, to moments, to mistaken, cockeyed, withered impressions that I am no longer able to renew.’  

Hamann’s foregrounding of contingent ‘moments’ also characterized his proto-existentialist conception of reason as something which, in Betz’s words, ‘is never pure, as Kant alleges is possible, but always situated within a given tradition to which it reponds’. Betz provides a quotation from Hamann’s Metacritique of the Purism of Reason, in which he refers to an ‘occasion’ when Hume recognized the influence of Berkeley’s thinking on his own:

‘It seems to me, first of all, that the new scepticism owes the old idealism infinitely more than this fortuitous and particular occasion would give us to understand in passing, and that, without Berkeley, Hume would hardly have become the great philosopher that the Critique [of Pure Reason], from a position of similar indebtedness, alleges him to be.’  

Betz convincingly suggests that Hamann’s very emphasis on the contingent moment in these lines, underlines the importance for him of existential life as a determinant of philosophical activity – even as he downplays the status of Hume’s ‘fortuitous’ recognition. As Betz puts it, Hamann’s ‘“fortuitous,” “particular,” “occasional,” [sic] “in passing,” are all meant to highlight the contrast between his understanding of the life of the intellect (as a function of the historical contingencies of our Sitz im Leben)’, and ‘Kant’s understanding of intellectual activity (as something conducted in the ether of pure, necessary, universal concepts)’. Betz notes that Hamann’s invocation of Francis Bacon, in Aesthetica in nuce, signals Hamann’s ‘stand with the British empiricist tradition against the Cartesianism and Stoicism of the modern Continental tradition, for which nature, the senses and passions, rather than being sources of knowledge and creativity, are always already deceptive and problematic’.

Hamann’s use of the image of Pilate washing his hands of Christ, in the same text, directs us, for Betz, to ‘the Christological basis of Hamann’s critique of the abstract rationalism of the age – the fact that in Christ the divine is at one with the human, the spiritual is at one with the sensible and material’. Betz adds that, ‘as von Balthasar points out, Hamann’s entire aesthetics is centred upon the fleshliness of God in Christ and the wonder that it is precisely through the flesh that the spirit is saved’. This emphasis on the value of existence beyond abstract cognition clearly situates Hamann as a Christian existentialist; as Betz records, the first study of Hamann in English was Walter Lowrie’s Johann Georg Hamann: An Existentialist, which was published by the Princeton Theological Seminary Press in 1950. Noting that Kierkegaard drew on Hamann’s thought, Betz calls Hamann ‘arguably the original source of the “existential turn” in the history of German philosophy’. Betz cites the remarks in Hamann’s Doubts and Ideas that ‘our existence is older than our reason’ , and that ‘the ground of religion lies in our whole existence and outside the sphere of our cognitive powers, all of which taken together constitute the most arbitrary and abstract mode of our existence’.    

Despite his self-alignment with Baconian empiricism, however, Hamann was – in Betz’s words, following Bayer’s analysis – ‘no strict empiricist’. As Hamann wrote to Jacobi,

‘Is knowledge possible apart from rational principles? – just as little as sensus sine intellectu. Composite beings are not capable of simple sensation[s], and still less simple [i.e., immediate, intuitive] knowledge. In human nature, sensibility can as little be separated from reason, as reason can be separated from sensibility.’

Hamann’s sense of the inseparability of the empirical and the rational, of experience and reason, was grounded in what Betz describes as his ‘spiritual understanding of language as involving a mysterious coincidentia oppositorum of the sensible and the intelligible’. Betz quotes from Hegel’s 1828 review of the first edition of his writings: ‘Hamann places himself in the middle of the problem of reason and proposes its solution; and he conceives it in terms of language.’ For Hegel, ‘in Hamann the concrete Idea ferments and turns itself against the divisions of reflection’. Betz continues,

‘In other words, whereas Kant’s philosophy divided the phenomenal from the noumenal, the sensible from the intelligible, and subsequent to “this unnatural and unholy divorce” (in Hamann’s phrase) could offer only a tenuous connection by means of synthetic judgments a priori, Hamann repeatedly points out that the actual living unity of these elements, which reason subsequently sunders, is already given in language.’    

In this connection Betz also quotes from Katie Terezakis’ The Immanent Word :

‘The strength of Hamann’s linguistic “metacritique” of Kant lies in his reckoning with the unreservedly immanent character of language, as the genetically prior, shared root of sensibility and understanding, and thus as the ideal and real boundary of subjective consciousness.’

Terezakis’ underlining of Hamann’s understanding of language as the boundary of subjective consciousness, helps us to understand that we should not overemphasize the subjectivism of Hamann’s oeuvre – a radical subjectivism to which Betz draws attention when he writes of Hamann’s ‘collection of writings that to this day are not only sui generis but doubtless some of the oddest and most fantastic in all of western literature’. For Hamann, as Beiser noted in some observations in The Fate of Reason which are quoted by Betz, subjective creative freedom is in a sense bounded by being itself an imitation of nature:

‘If we were to sum up Aesthetica in nuce, then we would have to single out two doctrines: that art ought to imitate nature and reveal the word of God; and that art ought to express the innermost personality of the artist. What is central to Hamann’s aesthetics, however, is precisely the combination or intersection of these doctrines. It is a seemingly paradoxical fusion of an extreme subjectivism, which insists that the artist express his innermost desires and feelings, and an extreme objectivism, which demands that the artist strictly imitate nature and surrender to its effects upon him.’

As Betz writes, ‘the resolution of this apparent paradox between subjective freedom and objective imitation is to be found in Hamann’s understanding of the human being as the imago Dei’. Because he believed that human poetic freedom is a reflection of God’s creative freedom, for Hamann (in Betz’s words) ‘the maximum of human freedom and creativity, rather than being an instance of pure subjectivism, is simultaneously the maximum of God’s self-revelation’. For Hamann, Betz continues, ‘human poesis’ is ‘always already a participation in the expressive language of creation’.         

Such ideas contributed to Hamann’s early existentialist thinking of language as a dialogical religious phenomenon. As we have seen, in some beautiful lines inThe Knight of the Rose-Cross, Hamann conveyed his view that the original natural creation constituted – just as language constitutes still – a communication between the human and the divine:

‘Every phenomenon of nature was a word – the sign, symbol, and pledge of a new, secret, inexpressible, but at the same time all the more intimate union, communication, and communion of divine energies and ideas. In the beginning everything that the man [Adam] heard, saw with his eyes, looked upon, and touched with his hands was a living word; for God was the Word.’

For Hamann in The Knight of the Rose-Cross, the ‘communicatio of the divine and human idiomatum is a fundamental law and the master key of all our knowledge and the entire visible economy’; for him, therefore, language is not only the boundary of subjective consciousness but also the medium of intersubjectivity. As Betz observes, ‘for Hamann the origin of language is not to be conceived in monological but in dialogical terms (anticipating the thought of Martin Buber and Ferdinand Ebner)’. Hamannian communicative intersubjectivity derives this existentialist or religiously dialogical quality from its relation to his theology of human freedom as response, imitation and surrender – a theology which, Betz notes, anticipates Bayer’s contemporary Lutheran ‘theology of human freedom as Verantwortung’, developed ‘largely along Hamannian lines’ in Bayer’s Freiheit als Antwort [Freedom in Response]. For Hamann, Betz underlines, ‘human freedom is properly understood not as an absolute freedom, i.e., as an autonomous self-positing, but rather as the freedom of a creature to respond, having previously been addressed by another’. Unable to claim the absolute freedom of personal fluency, Hamann theorized a revelational intersubjectivity which twinned language’s creative capacity with human incapacity: for Hamann, without surrender there can be no ‘participation in the expressive language of creation’.      

Next post: Thornhill on Hamann and Jaspers

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Precious Artifacts

You can support the publication of Precious Artifacts, the imminent Philip K. Dick pictorial bibliography compiled by Henri Wintz and David Hyde, with a donation here.