Walter Benjamin

Walter Benjamin : A Philosophical Portrait

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Walter Benjamin is often viewed as a cultural critic who produced a vast array of brilliant and idiosyncratic pieces of writing with little more to unify them than the feeling that they all bear the stamp of his "unclassifiable" genius. Eli Friedlander argues that Walter Benjamin's corpus of writings must be recognized as a unique configuration of philosophy with an overarching coherence and a deep-seated commitment to engage the philosophical tradition.

Friedlander finds in Benjamin's early works initial formulations of the different dimensions of his philosophical thinking. He leads through them to Benjamin's views on the dialectical image, the nature of language, the relation of beauty and truth, embodiment, dream and historical awakening, myth and history, as well as the afterlife and realization of meaning. Those notions are articulated both in themselves and in relation to central figures of the philosophical tradition. They are further viewed as leading to and coming together in The Arcades Project. Friedlander takes that incomplete work to be the central theater where these earlier philosophical preoccupations were to be played out. Benjamin envisaged in it the possibility of the highest order of thought taking the form of writing whose contents are the concrete time-bound particularities of human experience. Addressing the question of the possibility of such a presentation of philosophical truth provides the guiding thread for constellating the disparate moments of Benjamin's writings.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 304 pages
  • 156 x 235 x 24.64mm | 630.49g
  • Cambridge, Mass, United States
  • English
  • 0674061691
  • 9780674061699
  • 763,767

Review quote

Friedlander believes the tendency to fetishize Benjamin's style has become an obstacle to grasping his philosophical rigor. In Walter Benjamin: A Philosophical Portrait, Friedlander attempts to remedy this misreading, portraying him not as a lone literary genius, but as part of a canon of post-Kantian philosophers...If this book loses touch with the ways in which Benjamin wasn't always rational or clear-cut, then it makes up for that by illuminating his thought in a new scholarly light. -- David Winters Bookforum 20120501 This highly original study by Friedlander is a rare attempt to expose the philosophical infrastructure of the thought of Walter Benjamin. Rather than a collection of disjointed observations on culture, the Benjaminian corpus turns, on Friedlander's reading, into a singular testimony to the fragile and liminal possibility of philosophy that refuses to assimilate the singular under the umbrella of universal abstraction...Friedlander pays special attention to Benjamin's relation to Immanuel Kant and Karl Marx, accentuating the problems of temporality, historicity, and a philosophically robust materialism. A laudable achievement, this volume is an exquisite dialogue between philosophy and its others, between totality and constellation, and between the universal and the singular. -- M. V. Marder Choice 20120701 Benjamin is not, for Friedlander, just a writer or a thinker, he is a philosopher of world-historical significance, and his work is a vessel of the highest truth. -- Brian Hanrahan Los Angeles Review of Books 20120726
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About Eli Friedlander

Eli Friedlander is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Tel Aviv University.
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