Knowledge and temptation: an account of Benjamin’s approach to language
AbstractBenjamin’s notions of naming and overnaming lean on his reading of the Biblical relation of the Fall. This reading has often been labelled as Talmudic, even by Benjamin himself, attending his undeniable interest in his own religious and Scriptural tradition, but also due to the influence Gershom Scholem wielded on Benjamin’s thought and writing, in spite of his more Marxist-biased peers. Moreover, in On language as such, Benjamin quotes Hamann and Kierkegaard not only as Biblical commentators but as language theorists which, at least when it comes to Kierkegaard, seems to be an unexpected turn. The weight of the impact of these two authors on Benjamin’s work is still to be pondered. Kierkegaard’s religious views themselves contain traces of Hamann’s pietism – Fear and Trembling starts quoting Hamann-, and Benjamin’s approach of the Kantian project –as stated in his Program of the Coming Philosophy- is Hamannian itself: [the] «great transformation and correction which must be performed upon the concept of experience, oriented so one-sidedly along mathematical-mechanical lines, can be attained only by relating knowledge to language, as was attempted by Hamann during Kant's lifetime”, Benjamin affirms. I will then approach Benjamin’s account of language in a Kierkegaardian- Hamannian framing, in order to bring together language and history as a single theologicalcategory that defines the borders of Benjamin’s notion of knowledge both as temptation and Revelation.
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