J.G. Hamann (1730-88) was a solitary and idiosyncratic thinker who lived a life of poverty and neglect. He was admired by Herder, Goethe, and later by Kierkegaard, and Berlin's account shows how original Hamann's thinking was and how important it is to our times. He was the first opponent of the Enlightenment, the father of modern irrationalism, and a crucial forerunner to romanticism and, much later, existentialism. In this book, Berlin demonstrates the power of Hamann's insights into human knowledge, the relationship between language and thought, God and man, and creative genius.
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Isaiah Berlin is regarded by many as the greatest living historian of ideas. In 'The Magus of the North' he unearths with grace and elegance the radical counter-Enlightenment figure J. G. Hamann, the forgotten source of a movement that in the end engulfed the whole of European culture. Born in 1730, Hamman was a solitary and idiosyncratic thinker who lived a life of poverty and neglect in Königsberg in the north of East Prussia. Despite being admired by Herder, Goethe and Kant, he has remained largely unknown outside Germany.
Berlin, with his astonishing capacity to enter the minds of past thinkers, rescues from obscurity this self-styled oracular sage – 'the Magus of the North', as Hamman liked to be called. Hamman, Berlin argues, was profoundly original: the first secular opponent of the Enlightenment, the father of modern European irrationalism, and a crucial forerunner of romanticism and existentialism. Like all Berlin's works, 'The Magus of the North' is enlightening, quizzical, passionate and, above all, convincing.
"'[The Magus of the North]' offers us yet another remarkably vivid portrait of an important thinker, in an essay form which Berlin has perfected."
MARK LILLA, 'London Review of Books'
"Isiah Berlin is one of the most lucid and profound thinkers of our time. Whom he chooses to write about, and why, is no less interesting than what he actually writes."
ELON SALMON, 'Yorkshire Post'
"'The Magus of the North' is a delightful surprise… The prose flows powerfully, at times torrentially, richly saturated in information and ideas."
MICHAEL ROSEN, 'Times Literary Supplement'
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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers, 1994. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110006863191