Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Stillborn God

The Stillborn God by Mark Lilla was just reviewed in this week's New York Times Book Review. It's the 2nd piece I've read this week questioning whether the Enlightenment actually sent us on the right track, but from completely different perspectives.

The first was an essay in Pro Ecclesia by John Betz, Hamann before Kierkegaard: A Systematic Theological Oversight . It's really an amazing essay, very convincing. Basically, the argument runs that Hamann is a better road to take than Hegel, but Hamann has largely been the road not taken. Kierkegaard systematized and popularized the direction Hamann wanted to take us, but with too existential and docetic emphasis.

Lilla's book, on the other hand, argues that the Enlightenment dividing of church and state is not like the copernican revolution. It need not have happened, because the political universe isn't necessarily as clearly non-religious as some would like to make it.

I commend both articles for their clarity, and I'm going to try and read Lilla's book.

Now, if somebody would just publish a good book on Hamann (or translate more of him into English...)


  1. Anonymous7:57 PM

    Hamann is a delight. I first discovered him through another fine article from John Betz entitled 'Hamann's London Writings: The Hermeneutics of Trinitarian Condescension,' and found in the Spring 2005 Pro Ecclesia. You can also find a fine collection of his writings, along with extensive introductions and commentaries, in Gwen Griffith-Dickson's Johan Georg Hamann's Relational Metacriticism. It's both excellent and way, way expensive. So, if $216 seems like a lot (I received it as a gift), then you might try Hamann: Writings on Philosophy and Language, edited by Kenneth Haynes. I haven't seen it yet, but it contains all the important texts. The great Lutheran theologian Oswald Bayer has written extensively on Hamann; in English, the forthcoming translation Freedom as Response is likely to include some good reflection on Hamann, as well as much that is influenced by him. As for books about Hamann, J O'Flaherty was the main authority on the Magus, and his little book Johan Georg Hamann remains the standard. Betz was O'Flaherty's student, and these fine articles are, if memory serves, stages toward a larger study of Hamann some time in the future.

    Hope that helps.

    Thomas, Endlessly Rocking

  2. Ah, the Enlightenment, getting a lot of renewed interest in the last few years.

    Have you read what Sowell and Burleigh have written about the Enlightment?


  3. Hey, thanks for the great Hamann references! Looks like the Kenneth Haynes volume is being published on Halloween of this year, according to Amazon. I don't think I'll drop big money into the other book. A good friend of mine from St. Olaf, Greg Walter, has also written some on Hamann, I think in the International Hamann bulletin, but I don't receive that journal...