Anthropology & Materialism
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Open Access journal
ISSN (Online) 2364-0480
Published by Revues.org [400 journals]
- The Task of the Philosopher
Authors: Jan Sieber; Sebastian Truskolaski
Abstract: Whenever the concept of a task appears in Benjamin’s writings, readers can be sure that the author is referring to a particular task – a task which, we will find, determines his project in a fundamental way. The most prominent elucidation hereof can be found in “The Task of the Translator” (1921-23), Benjamin’s famous preface to his translation of Baudelaire’s Tableaux Parisiens. There he argues that “[i]t is the task of the translator to release in his own language that pure language which is exiled among alien tongues.” As so often, Benjamin’s enigmatic phrasing echoes his own earlier formulations: “the task of students”, in his early reflections on “The Life of Students” (1914-15); “the poetic task”, in a piece from the same year, titled “Two Poems by Friedrich Hölderlin” (1914-15); “the task […] of naming things”, in his celebrated language-philosophical tract, “On Language as such and the Language of Man” (1916); “the task of the coming philosophy”, in his essay “On the Program...
- The World of Striving
Authors: Andrew Benjamin
Abstract: There are clear affinities between the project that can be identified in Walter Benjamin’s short text “Notes to a Study on the Category of Justice” and the philosophy of Kant. The aim of this paper is to show that despite possible affinities there is a fundamental divide concerning how the ‘world’ is thought. Both link justice to the world and yet the world as it appears in each instance is radically distinct. It is in terms of this distinction that the specific philosophical force of Benjamin's work emerges.
- Die Willkür der Zeichen
Authors: Irving Wohlfarth
Abstract: Dem Andenken von Pierre Missac I. Benjamins und die konventionalistische Sprachtheorie “daß von meinem sehr besonderen sprachphilosophischen Standort aus es zur Betrachtungsweise des dialektischen Materialismus eine – wenn auch noch so gespannte und problematische – Vermittlung gibt. Zur Saturiertheil der bürgerlichen Wissenschaft aber gar keine“.
Benjamin an Rychner, 1931 “Es ist gleich tödlich für den Geist”, schreibt Friedrich Schlegel im Athenäum, “ein System zu haben und keins zu haben. Er wird sich also wohl entschließen müssen, beides zu verbinden”. Daß diese Sätze, die der junge Benjamin in seiner Dissertation zitiert, auch für sein eigenes Denken gelten, ist mit jedem neuen Band der Gesammelten Schriften zunehmend deutlich geworden. “Immer radikal, niemals konsequent”, ging er nach seiner eigenen Formel zeitlebens vor und war dabei alles andere als inkonsequent. Sosehr der ungebrochene “Systembegriff des XIX. Jahrhunderts”, der dem “geile[n] Drang aufs große Ganze” entsprang, ...
- Benjamin, Negativity, and De-vitalized Life
Authors: Jonathan Short
Abstract: This paper contends that Walter Benjamin’s image of life as ‘de-vitalized’ allows history to be thought negatively, as open and without promises or guarantees. This negative conception of history provides a valuable counterpoint to the prevalent variants of neo-vitalist thought that continue to think human being in terms of an abstract (vital) property to be realized historically. By refusing an image of redeemed humanity, Benjamin, like the early Marx, shows that the concept of history is necessary for thinking humanity non-essentially, and that, if it is to avoid becoming an abstract essence, historical time must be thought negatively.
- A Crystal of Time
Authors: Nassima Sahraoui
Abstract: The following article deconstructs certain figures of Benjamin’s thoughts on history and on epistemology – such as image, trace, crystal, standstill, the ‘Now’, and the ‘subject of historical knowledge’ – and relates them to the political dimension of his “Critique of Violence”, and to his remarks on the linguistic structure of political writing. Thereby it centres on the following questions: in what way could Benjamin’s characterisation of the singular moment, as well as his analysis of temporality provide insights into historical dynamics? Furthermore, it aims at investigating if and to what extent historico-political action is related to a certain understanding of time and power: can such action be seen as a crystallised emanation of the ‘Now’, of Jetztzeit?
- Where the Past Was, There History Shall Be
Authors: Sami Khatib
Abstract: As the proverb has it, ‘tradition is not to preserve the ashes but to pass on the flame’. Taking this image as a starting point, this paper is interested in non-conservative concepts of tradition and (dis)continuity. If the concept of tradition is normally associated with continuity, the concept of tradition poses the question of transmittability. Is there a continuous medium in which narrations, customs, rites or other material practices can be handed down from the past to the present? If the transmittability of tradition is not a given, a commodified object, but subject to historical change, the question of tradition and inheritance is inextricably linked to social and political struggles. The concept of tradition, however, has mostly been theorized by conservative thinkers. In this vein, traditional historical materialism viewed tradition as a counter-progressive retarding force. Walter Benjamin (1940), however, proposed a different concept of historical time and tradition. Histo...
- Towards a Benjaminian Critique of Hermann Cohen’s Logical Idealism
Authors: Phillip Homburg
Abstract: This article aims to examine the relationship between Walter Benjamin and neo-Kantianism, particularly Herman Cohen’s logical idealism. I divide the article into two major sections: first, I examine the development of Cohen’s philosophy and its relationship to Hermann von Helmholtz and Friedrich Albert Lange’s early neo-Kantianism; second, I examine Benjamin’s critique of Cohen. I focus specifically on two of Benjamin’s early philosophical works — the fragment “On Perception” and the text “On the Program of the Coming Philosophy”. Further, I aim to show how Benjamin attempts to disentangle neo-Kantianism from Kant’s own philosophy. In doing so, Benjamin points to an alternative from within the tradition of Kantian and post-Kantian philosophy.
- Critique is a Philosophy of the Spirit
Authors: Elise Derroitte
Abstract: This article is primarily concerned with the question of critique in Benjamin’s philosophy with reference to his theory of experience. I seek to show that Benjamin’s theories of literary criticism and aesthetic critique exceed the boundaries of commentary and contain the seeds of a political programme. I argue that Benjamin’s conception of critique is deeply influenced by Fichte’s conception of self-activity (Tathandlung) developed in his On the Spirit and the Letter in Philosophy, A Series of Letters, 1795. In fact, Benjamin’s obsession with history and experience has roots in German Idealist philosophy, the aim of which is to construct the conditions of possibility of experience within a concrete history. Benjamin inherits this view of the political function of philosophy, which he appropriates and modifies in his writings on the notion of critique. I aim to demonstrate that Benjamin and Fichte’s views concerning the affective relation that the philosopher entertains with her obje...
- Eccentric Bodies
Authors: Léa Barbisan
Abstract: In the late 1910s and early 1920s, Walter Benjamin writes a set of fragments providing an original insight into bodily awareness and embodiment. Rejecting the natural-scientific conception of the body as organism, Benjamin implicitly resorts to the phenomenological method to grasp this elusive ‘object’, which pertains to the ego (as ‘lived body’ - Leib) and to the world (as ‘thing-body’ - Körper). Yet, contrary to Max Scheler and Edmund Husserl, Benjamin does not try to bridge the gap between the objective and subjective modes of appearance of the body. He instead exploits the rift that the philosophical splitting of the body opens in the individual in order to overcome the boundaries on which the concept of identity is grounded. This early phenomenology of embodiment sheds light on Benjamin's distinctive reception of Marxism, notably on the utopia of a revolutionary collective physis sketched in the late 1920s and in the 1930s.
- The Pure Act of Recollection
Authors: Yanik Avila
Abstract: The article seeks to delineate a correspondence between Walter Benjamin and Maurice Blanchot’s accounts of subjectivity through the prism of their respective readings of Marcel Proust. While Benjamin focuses on the peculiar artificiality of experience produced in Proust’s Recherche, Blanchot gives an account of the transformation of the narrator, which produces a ‘pure narrative’ and thus turns subjective interiority outward into writing. By relating their approaches to the problem of totality, Benjamin and Blanchot both indicate a concept of history, and of historical cognition, which is linked to the problem of writing, of fiction or narration and to a specific understanding of the literary work.