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Biographical Facts
Walter Benjamin <ul><li>(Berlin Jul-15-1892/Portbou Sep-27-1940) </li></ul><ul><li>Born to a high-class assimilated jewish...
Works <ul><li>Critique of Violence  (1921),  Goethe’s Elective Affinities  (1922),  Origin of the German Tragic Drama  (19...
 
Key ‘Benjaminian’ Terms
Allegory (Cowan) <ul><li>A kind of experience:  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Goes beyond intellectual (tension ideal-physical) </...
Allegory (Cowan) <ul><li>Antinomic structure, non-dialectical </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ The obscurity, fragmentariness, and ...
Experience (Masuzawa) <ul><li>Erlebnis  –  Erfahrung </li></ul><ul><li>“ In short, experience for Benjamin is something by...
Correspondances (Wollin) <ul><li>experience which seeks to establish itself in crisis- proof form </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ ...
Past (Zsondi&Mendelsohn) <ul><li>“ the future is precisely what Benjamin seeks in the past. (…) Benjamin listens for the f...
This is Benjamin… <ul><li>“ This is the Benjamin who refrained from comporting himself one-sidedly as either a Marxist or ...
 
On the Concept of History  (Theses on the Philosophy of History)
Background <ul><li>Written after outbreak of WWII - On the fly </li></ul><ul><li>Historical setting: bleak times  </li></u...
Structure of the Text  <ul><li>Allegorical </li></ul><ul><li>Turkish Puppet & Angelus Novus </li></ul><ul><li>XIX thesis &...
Aim <ul><li>Revision of Historical Materialism </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Include theology to amplify its scope </li></ul></ul>...
Historical Materialism <ul><li>What is Historical Materialism? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Historical Materialism is the applica...
Turkish ‘automaton’ <ul><li>“ It   can do this with no further ado against any opponent,  so long as it employs the   serv...
Angelus Novus  <ul><li>“…  the  angel of history .  His face is towards the past . (…)  one catastrophe,which keeps piling...
This is how it goes: <ul><li>Need of the service of theology (I).  </li></ul><ul><li>The secret pact with the past: our ‘w...
This is how it goes… <ul><li>Vs. Socialdemocrats: “We fight for the past” -there lies the strength (XII). </li></ul><ul><l...
What do we make of it? <ul><li>Our responsibility is with the past. </li></ul><ul><li>Vs. Historicism/empty-time/Progress/...
 
Why Bother with Theology? <ul><li>“ por teolog ía n o  parece entender un tratado sobre Dios, sino un determinado uso del ...
Aftermath <ul><li>Need for a deeper ontological and anthropological understanding. </li></ul><ul><li>A whole restatement o...
Questions  <ul><li>‘ Jewish messianism’? ‘Western utopism’? ‘Something else’? </li></ul><ul><li>Is it a social project or ...
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Theses on the Philosophy of History

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Theses on the Philosophy of History

  1. 3. Biographical Facts
  2. 4. Walter Benjamin <ul><li>(Berlin Jul-15-1892/Portbou Sep-27-1940) </li></ul><ul><li>Born to a high-class assimilated jewish family </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Between Mysticism and Marxism </li></ul></ul><ul><li>‘ Buckliger’: indefense- H. Arendt </li></ul><ul><li>OGT: not getting a chair at Heidelberg </li></ul><ul><li>Translator - literary critic - Cultural Critic. </li></ul><ul><li>Strong links to the Frankfurt School </li></ul><ul><li>Friend of Brecht </li></ul><ul><li>Paris. </li></ul>
  3. 5. Works <ul><li>Critique of Violence (1921), Goethe’s Elective Affinities (1922), Origin of the German Tragic Drama (1928), One Way Street (1928), The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1936), Berlin Childhood around 1900 (1940, last book) </li></ul><ul><li>On the Concept of History (1942, 1945, 1950), The Arcades Project (1927-1940) </li></ul><ul><li>Illuminations - ed. Hannah Arendt </li></ul>
  4. 7. Key ‘Benjaminian’ Terms
  5. 8. Allegory (Cowan) <ul><li>A kind of experience: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Goes beyond intellectual (tension ideal-physical) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ passing out of being’, ‘decay’ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Transforming things into signs is both what allegory does - its technique - and what it is about - its content.” (110) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Points at truth, shows its absence </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Truth is the form: Representation for its process. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>express unavailability (of being or truth) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ In allegory, objects seem to reenact Christ's path along the via dolorosa, suffering all natural dignity to be painfully stripped away from them, anticipating the conferring of an infinitely more glorious dignity from above.” </li></ul></ul>
  6. 9. Allegory (Cowan) <ul><li>Antinomic structure, non-dialectical </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ The obscurity, fragmentariness, and arbitrariness of allegory all signify the absence of a fulfilling event; this absence, in turn, serves to invoke that event with a greater urgency and a desperate faith.” (119) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Paradox is the last word. Unfaithful leap, discontinuity - absence of causality </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Capitalism: decay of the inner life </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Baudelaire </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ The death and decay of inner life are emblematized not in the corpse but in the souvenir. &quot;The relic comes from the corpse; the souvenir, from experience that has died out.” (121) </li></ul></ul>
  7. 10. Experience (Masuzawa) <ul><li>Erlebnis – Erfahrung </li></ul><ul><li>“ In short, experience for Benjamin is something by nature in need of retrospective discovery, while each &quot;moment of experience&quot; is always on the verge of becoming lost in its own depthless immediacy.” (518) </li></ul><ul><li>Memory: true locus of experience </li></ul><ul><li>contents of the individual past combine with materials of the collective past </li></ul>
  8. 11. Correspondances (Wollin) <ul><li>experience which seeks to establish itself in crisis- proof form </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ The correspondances do not merely evoke random images of past life. Rather, they are specifically concerned with recreating an animistic relation to nature. Nature thereby ceases to be viewed as mere fodder for technical exploitation and is instead regarded as in itself ensouled.” (34) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Aura: “Experience of the aura thus rests on the transposition of a response common to human relationships to the relationship between the inanimate or natural object and man. The person we look at, or who feels he is being looked at, looks at us in turn. To perceive the aura of an object means to invest it with the ability to look at us in return.” (35) (Benjamin, Baudelaire ) </li></ul></ul>
  9. 12. Past (Zsondi&Mendelsohn) <ul><li>“ the future is precisely what Benjamin seeks in the past. (…) Benjamin listens for the first notes of a future which has meanwhile become the past. Unlike Proust, Benjamin does not want to free himself from temporality; he does not wish to see things in their ahistorical essence. He strives instead for historical experience and knowledge. Nevertheless, he is sent back into the past, a past, however, which is open, not completed, and which promises the future. Benjamin's tense is not the perfect, but the future perfect in the fullness of its paradox: being future and past at the same time.” (499) </li></ul>
  10. 13. This is Benjamin… <ul><li>“ This is the Benjamin who refrained from comporting himself one-sidedly as either a Marxist or metaphysical thinker per se, whose thought instead can be located at the forbidden crossroads of these two theoretical poles. This is the Benjamin who conceived of himself as a redeemer of historical Jetztzeiten or now-times, those uncommon images of redeemed life whose traces occasionally grace the continuum of history.” R. Wollin (39) </li></ul>
  11. 15. On the Concept of History (Theses on the Philosophy of History)
  12. 16. Background <ul><li>Written after outbreak of WWII - On the fly </li></ul><ul><li>Historical setting: bleak times </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Influenced style and thoughts </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Methodological basis for the Arcades Project </li></ul><ul><li>Published by T.W. Adorno ( post-mortem ) </li></ul>
  13. 17. Structure of the Text <ul><li>Allegorical </li></ul><ul><li>Turkish Puppet & Angelus Novus </li></ul><ul><li>XIX thesis & two fragments </li></ul><ul><li>Incomplete </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Assembled from his notes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Didn’t want it published </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Problem of translation </li></ul>
  14. 18. Aim <ul><li>Revision of Historical Materialism </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Include theology to amplify its scope </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Scientific truth & ‘the rest’ of the truth (life, divine) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>‘ Redemption’ of the past </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Benjamin's redemption here characteristically takes the form of memory and mimesis. A past is to be recognized and recovered; redemption refers to this recovery, or rather dis-covery for the first time, of the sense of distance and depth of time, which properly belongs to experience in the true sense of the word.” T. Masuzawa (518) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Redemptive Criticism - J. Habermas </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Devastating Criticism of ‘Progress’ (through time) </li></ul>
  15. 19. Historical Materialism <ul><li>What is Historical Materialism? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Historical Materialism is the application of Marxist science to historical development. The fundamental proposition of historical materialism can be summed up in a sentence: &quot;&quot;it is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence that determines their consciousness.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>(Marx, in the “Preface” to A Contribution to the Critique of PoliticalEconomy .) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Consciousness is determined by your being.Thought is limited by the range of experience of the species. http://www. marxist . com/History-old/historicalMaterialism . htm </li></ul></ul>
  16. 20. Turkish ‘automaton’ <ul><li>“ It can do this with no further ado against any opponent, so long as it employs the services of theology , which as everyone knows is small and ugly and must be kept out of sight.” </li></ul><ul><li>Integrate Historical Materialism & Messianism to build something truly revolutionary. </li></ul><ul><li>Reference to a famous hoax. </li></ul>
  17. 21. Angelus Novus <ul><li>“… the angel of history . His face is towards the past . (…) one catastrophe,which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage hurling it before his feet . …” </li></ul><ul><li>Angel: link to theology. </li></ul><ul><li>Servant of ‘the divine’ </li></ul><ul><li>Struggling position </li></ul><ul><li>Moment of ‘danger’ </li></ul>
  18. 22. This is how it goes: <ul><li>Need of the service of theology (I). </li></ul><ul><li>The secret pact with the past: our ‘weak’ messianic power for Redemption (II). </li></ul><ul><li>Redeemed past is the key for the moment of discontinuity (III). </li></ul><ul><li>Revaluation of ‘spiritual goods’ in class struggle (IV). </li></ul><ul><li>Past as ‘memoire involuntaire’ to be redeemed. Historicism vs. HM (V). </li></ul><ul><li>Disjunctive of ‘danger’; revive Tradition (VI). </li></ul><ul><li>Brush history against the grain. Vs. Commodification, empathy with the past (VII). </li></ul><ul><li>Create a real ‘state of emergency’ (VIII). </li></ul><ul><li>Allegory of the ‘historical materialist’ in the moment of ‘danger’ (IX). </li></ul><ul><li>End the complicity with ‘Progress’ (X). </li></ul><ul><li>Work according to Marx; new relation to nature (being man a ‘natural being’)- correspondance (XI). </li></ul>
  19. 23. This is how it goes… <ul><li>Vs. Socialdemocrats: “We fight for the past” -there lies the strength (XII). </li></ul><ul><li>Historical time over empty-homogeneous time (XIII). </li></ul><ul><li>Now time- discontinuum : Redemp-Revolution (XIV). </li></ul><ul><li>Historical time vs. Empty Time (XV). </li></ul><ul><li>Jetszeit - standstill; he remains owner of his own strength (XVI). </li></ul><ul><li>Constructive principle - detention for messianic power (XVII). </li></ul><ul><li>Each moment, a specific opportunity for revolutionary action (XVIIa)*. </li></ul><ul><li>Now time: “Todos los siglos son este presente” -the moment of kiss (Ankersmit) (XVIII). </li></ul><ul><li>Appendix: </li></ul><ul><li>Constellation not cause: chips of messianic time (A). </li></ul><ul><li>Future through past (B). </li></ul>
  20. 24. What do we make of it? <ul><li>Our responsibility is with the past. </li></ul><ul><li>Vs. Historicism/empty-time/Progress/Fascism </li></ul><ul><li>For. H.M./Tradition/Now-Time/Communism </li></ul><ul><li>Allegorical, non-dialectical (not purely) </li></ul><ul><li>Strong criticism of Social Democrats for blindly supporting the logic of Progress (of which Fascism is the last consequence). </li></ul><ul><li>Hope in the possibilities of the past to explode the continuum of Progress. </li></ul>
  21. 26. Why Bother with Theology? <ul><li>“ por teolog ía n o parece entender un tratado sobre Dios, sino un determinado uso del discurso que persigue una explicaci ón racional de los aconteceres del mundo; un uso que no requiere partir de la anulaci ón del azar, sino que, por el contrario, reconoce en él el fundamento contingente de la necesidad y el orden que son su horizonte de inteligibilidad. Un uso del discurso racional que es capaz de reconocer a lo otro como sujeto; de no vaciarlo y empobrecerlo reduci én d olo a mero objeto (naturaleza), a mero c úm u lo de recursos naturales siempre renovables que est án ah í 'gratis', a disposici ón del hombre, el sujeto por excelencia, que parte del 'misticismo materialista' propio de un trabajo humano 'que no explota a la Naturaleza sino que es capaz de despertar en ella las creaciones que dormitan en su seno' - como el trabajo del escultor, que s ól o 'saca' del bloque de piedra la figura que ya estaba escondida en él . Un uso del discurso racional que es capaz de incluir una noci ón profana, no religiosa o eclesial, de 'lo milagroso' o 'lo divino', y seg ún el cual es sentido de la obra humana se funda en la concordancia e identificaci ón entre la expresividad espont án e a de lo otro y la expresividad propiamente humana. ” (30-31) </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Bol í var Echeverr ía, “Benjamin, la condición judía y la política” </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  22. 27. Aftermath <ul><li>Need for a deeper ontological and anthropological understanding. </li></ul><ul><li>A whole restatement of Historical Materialism. </li></ul><ul><li>A revision of Dialetics (not causal, allegorical). </li></ul><ul><li>Other possibilities of being revolutionary (in a conservative way…) </li></ul>
  23. 28. Questions <ul><li>‘ Jewish messianism’? ‘Western utopism’? ‘Something else’? </li></ul><ul><li>Is it a social project or an individual project? </li></ul><ul><li>Is it just historiography or a revolutionary strategy? </li></ul><ul><li>How should we think of dialectics? Hiper-dialectics? </li></ul><ul><li>How should H.M.’s power be implemented? </li></ul><ul><li>Being an aesthetic phenomena, what does it say of truth and ‘valid knowledge’? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the relation between Benjamin’s allegorical ‘messianic moment’ and Anskermit’s ‘sublime experience’? </li></ul>

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