Fatalities: truth and tragedy in texts of Heidegger and Benjamin


The following thesis explores the notion of truth as developed in the work of Martin Heidegger and Walter Benjamin. Contrary to the position adopted by many commentators, who seek to drive a wedge between Heidegger's unorthodox phenomenology and the resolutely non -phenomenological Benjamin, I shall want to show how both begin with a rigorously Husserlian conception of truth as an intuition of essence in order, finally, to deviate from it. I argue that, for neither one, can truth be merely one problem or issue taken up by a thinking secure in itself. Rather, from its most classical determination in, for example, the Metaphysics as έπιστήμη της άληθείας, the way in which truth has been determined has itself determined the very project of philosophy. Yet whilst the trajectory of both Heidegger and Benjamin's work can thus be determined in large measure by the question of truth, both are also concerned to re-orient that question in a direction that renders problematic Aristotle's implicit connection of truth to knowledge and knowledge to intuition and presence. I argue that their respective challenges to the location of truth in the act of knowing -a challenge made each time by way of an analytical regression from a propositional understanding of truth to intuitive truth to, finally, its more original character as disclosedness - remain thoroughly phenomenological before showing how it is in the work of art, and in tragedy in particular, that each one finds the resources for a still more radical understanding of truth. Not in the cognitivist sense that art makes truth claims about the world, but in the sense that it is with the work of art that the historical act of disclosure and world -constitution that Benjamin and Heidegger call truth is most emphatically made



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Simon Sparks
Oglethorpe University

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Book Review. [REVIEW]Bat-ami Bar On - 1992 - Ethics 102 (3):673-675.

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