Kierkegaard’s reception of Hamann: language, selfhood and reflection
Martz, Steven David
This thesis investigates Søren Kierkegaard’s (1813-1855) reception of the writings of Johann Georg Hamann (1730-1788). I focus on four specific topics. In chapter one I examine Kierkegaard’s early reception of Hamann which I argue provides the basis for Kierkegaard’s conception of his own authorial task. In particular, I examine concepts of humour and systematicity and the centrality of the figure of Socrates. Central to my argument is a contrast between Kierkegaard’s reception of Hamann and that of Hegel’s review. In chapter two I show that Kierkegaard develops an argument against speculative philosophy and its claims to have achieved the absolute beginning. I argue that Kierkegaard appeals to Hamann’s critique of Kant which centres around the possibility of a priori cognition and the dependency of reason on language. I contend that Kierkegaard takes up Hamann’s critique in order to show that the absolute beginning which speculative philosophy claims to have achieved in the form of pure thinking is unachievable because of the dependency of thought on language. Chapter three examines the conception of selfhood in Hamann and Kierkegaard. I address their views of the self as unified and their critique of alternative conceptions of selfhood which undermine this unity. I show that Kierkegaard’s arguments in relation to despair and forgetfulness share important similarities with Hamann. Chapter four explores Kierkegaard’s critique and repair of post-Kantian reflection theory. I demonstrate that Kierkegaard proceeds to provide a minimal view of the self achieved through reflection which finally encounters its own limits in its own self-knowledge. I propose that Kierkegaard presents this as Socratic ignorance and that his model for outlining the limits of self-knowledge stems from Hamann. I develop my argument by arguing that for Hamann and Kierkegaard self-knowledge is only available through divine revelation.