Introduction : the course of the argument -- Substance poem versus function poem : two poems of Friedrich Hölderlin -- Entering the phenomenological school and discovering the color of shame -- Existence toward space : two "Rainbows" from around 1916 -- The problem of historical time : conversing with Scholem, criticizing Heidegger in 1916 -- Meaning in the proper sense of the word : "On language as such and on human language" and related logico-linguistic studies -- Pure knowledge and the (...) continuity of experience : "On the program of the coming philosophy" and its supplements -- The political counterpart to pure practical reason : from Kant's doctrine of right to Benjamin's category of justice -- Conclusion : the shape of time. (shrink)
_The Messianic Reduction_ is a groundbreaking study of Walter Benjamin's thought. Fenves places Benjamin's early writings in the context of contemporaneous philosophy, with particular attention to the work of Bergson, Cohen, Husserl, Frege, and Heidegger. By concentrating on a neglected dimension of Benjamin's friendship with Gershom Scholem, who was a student of mathematics before he became a scholar of Jewish mysticism, Fenves shows how mathematical research informs Benjamin's reflections on the problem of historical time. In order to capture the character (...) of Benjamin's "entrance" into the phenomenological school, the book includes a thorough analysis of two early texts he wrote under the title of "The Rainbow," translated here for the first time. In its final chapters, the book works out Benjamin's deep and abiding engagement with Kantian critique, including Benjamin's discovery of the political counterpart to the categorical imperative in the idea of "pure violence.". (shrink)
Immanuel Kant spent many of his younger years working on what are generally considered his masterpieces: the three _Critiques_. But his work did not stop there: in later life he began to reconsider subjects such as anthropology, and topics including colonialism, race and peace. In _Late Kant_, Peter Fenves becomes one of the first to thoroughly explore Kant's later writings and give them the detailed scholarly attention they deserve. In his opening chapters, Fenves examines in detail the various essays in (...) which Kant invents, formulates and complicates the thesis of 'radical evil' - a thesis which serves as the point of departure for all his later writings. _Late Kant_ then turns towards the counter-thesis of 'radical mean-ness', which states that human beings exist on earth for the sake of another species or race of human beings. The consequences of this startling thesis are that human beings cannot claim possession of the earth, but must rather prepare the earth for its rightful owners. _Late Kant _is the first book to develop the 'geo-ethics' of Kant's thought, and the idea that human beings must be prepared to concede their space for another kind of human. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the later works of Immanuel Kant. (shrink)
With this short and highly readable book, Julian Young has performed a much-needed service for a wide range of readers. Not only will scholars of Heidegger's work profit from its incisive analyses; so, too, will other students of the German philosophical tradition—and indeed anyone seriously interested in the history of aesthetics and the philosophy of art. Studies of Heidegger's treatment of poets and artists often succumb to one of two temptations: either they pay little attention to the works of art (...) on which Heidegger elucidates and concentrate, instead, on making sense of his reflections; or, conversely, they align themselves with the poets and artists whom Heidegger discusses and attempt to show the depth and extent of the philosopher's errors. In either case, the tension between the direction of Heidegger's thought and the pull exerted by the artworks in question is missed. Heidegger's Philosophy of Art, by contrast, makes this tension palpable. (shrink)
Beginning with an analysis of an early satire of Kant 's doctrine of marital law, this essay draws on Walter Benjamin's condensed exposition of this doctrine in order to ask whether Kant 's notoriously unsentimental representation of marriage is, in fact, from the perspective of his own idea of law, overly sentimental. Whereas Kant ridicules the idea of a "law of war" in his program for perpetual peace, he accepts the possibility of legally sanctioned intercourse, in which people use others (...) and themselves. Between marital law and martial law lies maritime law, which concerns a surface that can be used but not mastered. (shrink)
"Poetry does not impose, it exposes itself," wrote Paul Celan. Werner Hamacher's investigations into crucial texts of philosophical and literary modernity show that Celan's apothegm is also valid for the structure of understanding and for language in general. In _Premises_ Hamacher demonstrates that the promise of a subject position is not only unavoidable—and thus operates as a structural imperative—but is also unattainable and therefore by necessity open to possibilities other than that defined as "position," to redefinitions and unexpected transformations of (...) the merely thetical act. Proceeding along the lines of both philosophical argument and critical reading, Hamacher presents the fullest account of the vast disruption in the theories and ethics of positional and propositional acts—a disruption first exposed by Kant's analysis of the minimal requirements for linguistic and practical action. Focusing on the double trait of every premise—that it is promised but never attained—Hamacher analyzes nine decisive themes, topics, and texts of modernity: the hermeneutic circle in Schleiermacher and Heidegger, the structure of ethical commands in Kant, Nietzsche's genealogy of moral terms and his exploration of the aporias of singularity, the irony of reading in de Man, the parabasis of positing acts in Fichte and Schlegel, Kleist's disruption of narrative representation, the gesture of naming in Benjamin and Kafka, and the incisive caesura that Paul Celan inserts into temporal and linguistic reversals. There is no book that so fully brings the issues of both critical philosophy and critical literature into reach. _Reviews_ "Werner Hamacher's _Premises_ is the heir and successor to the most important theoretical and critical work done in American departments of comparative literature from the 1960s through the 1980s. Yet, _Premises_ is no more a work of literary scholarship than one of philosophical submission to philosophy. With the gesture that is genuinely called post-structural, which is the suspicion and suspension of every code, the book's act of freedom is freedom to read and write language _tout court_." —Timothy Bahti, University of Michigan "Hamacher's project can be described as the retracing of the epistemological ground upon which the modern conception of the literary was erected. It is quite clear to me that there is nothing presently available to rival this book." —Wlad Godzich, University of Geneva. (shrink)
'Chatter' cannot always be taken lightly, for its insignificance and insubstantiality challenge the very notions of substance and significance through which rational discourses seek justification. This book shows that in 'chatter' Kierkegaard uncovered a specifically linguistic mode of negativity. The author examines in detail those writings of Kierkegaard in which he undertook complex negotiations with the threat - and also the promise - of 'chatter', which cuts across the distinctions in which the relation of language to reality - and above (...) all, the reality of 'existence' - is stabilized, and it therefore releases historical understanding from its established conventions. Chatter situates as well as takes the measure of the seminal importance of Kierkegaard for many of today's unresolved debates about the relation of language and philosophy to history. (shrink)
The revival of interest in Walter Benjamin's writings, many of which are now appearing in English for the first time, has generated a fairly large body of scholarship devoted to the question: How does Benjamin stand with respect to philosophy? Since Benjamin rarely engages in anything resembling traditional philosophical argumentation, this question has received a bewildering variety of responses, many of which have reflected the principal concerns of the commentators as much as Benjamin's own. This is particularly true of the (...) response given by Theodor Adorno, who made the first attempt to develop something like a philosophical position from Benjamin's writings. Adorno criticized some of Benjamin's later work for its lack of mediation, which, in essence, meant its failure to come to terms with Hegelian dialectics as Adorno conceived it. Howard Caygill rarely mentions Adorno in his recent book, but the overall trajectory of his interpretation of Benjamin's converges with that of Adorno: in both cases Benjamin's antipathy to Hegel serves as a defining feature of his thought. (shrink)
The slogan “eternal peace” can be announced only under the sign of its failure because the term “eternity” does not belong either to the diplomatic vocabulary of politics or to a properly criticized lexicon of philosophy. Speaking of anything as “eternal,” including peace, demands that one take leave of both diplomacy and critical philosophy, each of which takes its point of departure from a certain abandonment of eternity in for of time, timing, temporality, and temporizing - so much so that (...) critical philosophy makes this abandonment systematic by representing time as the universal condition of experience. No use of the term “eternity” henceforth goes without saying, and as long as the success of words is measured by their ability to designate univocal concepts, the phrase “eternal peace,” if not eternal peace itself, is doomed to failure. One of the expressions of this failure is the translation of ewig by “perpetual,” but this - almost inevitable - failure of translation is already prepared in the German word ewig, for, as Kant writes in the opening article of the treatise, the qualification of the term “peace” by this adjective is “suspicious”: those who qualify “peace” in any manner arouse the suspicion that when they speak of peace, they mean something very different, namely clandestine preparation for war. The word “eternal” is not only doomed to ambiguity, it cannot escape a certain figurality, and no announcement of “eternal peace” can, in turn, mean exactly what it says. (shrink)
The brief paper discusses the final sections of Miguel Vatter’s with particular attention to its use of popular science. Taking its point of departure from Vatter’s contention that Benjamin’s image of two counteracting forces in the so-called “Theological-Political Fragment” refers to Einstein’s inclusion of a cosmological constant in the equations of general relativity, the paper shows that this suggestion, while intriguing, is improbable. By contrasting Benjamin’s and Nietzsche’s use of popular science with Vatter’s, the paper concludes by asking whether the (...) proposed concept of eternal life is as compatible with “the most rigorous materialism” as Vatter contends. (shrink)
Speech act theory has taught us 'how to do things with words'. Arresting Language turns its attention in the opposite direction - toward the surprising things that language can undo and leave undone. In the eight essays of this volume, arresting language is seen as language at rest, words no longer in service to the project of establishing conventions or instituting legal regimes. Concentrating on both widely-known and seldom-read texts from a variety of philosophers, writers, and critics - from Leibniz (...) and Mendelssohn, through Kleist and Hebel, to Benjamin and Irigaray - the book analyzes the genesis and structure of interruption, a topic of growing interest to contemporary literary studies, continental philosophy, legal studies, and theological reflection. Arresting Language identifies critical moments in philosophical and literary texts during which language itself - without any identifiable speaker - arrests otherwise continuous processes and procedures, including the process of representation and procedures for its legitimization. (shrink)
Coming to terms with Heidegger’s “poetics” is a difficult task. On the one hand, there is a tendency to read Heidegger’s “elucidations” or “discussions” of poems and poetic fragments as if they were independent philosophical reflections. The works of Sophocles and Hölderlin— to name only the most important poets for Heidegger—are then treated as if they were no different from the philosophical texts Heidegger elsewhere interprets. On the one hand, there is a countertendency to protect the poetic texts, as it (...) were, from Heidegger’s elucidations, to show that he does philological violence to the integrity of these texts or makes them say something quite different from what they mean to say. The problem with the first tendency is obvious: the poetic character of the poems under discussion is lost. The problem with the second tendency is more subtle: despite its polemical thrust, attacking Heidegger for misrepresenting the poems he discusses cannot be considered critical in any genuine sense, for Heidegger never denies that his elucidations depart from the rules of philology and run counter to the hermeneutic practices through which the meaning of poetic texts is established. Few commentators on Heidegger’s poetological writings have successfully avoided both of these tendencies. One of them is Froment-Meurice, who, in That Is To Say, makes an important contribution to the study of not only Heidegger’s elucidations of poetic texts and his reflections on language but also his project as a whole. (shrink)
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