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Walter Benjamin’s First Philosophy: Towards a Constellational Definition of Experience

Authors
  • Ross, Nathan1
  • 1 Adelphi University, United States of America , (United States)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Open Philosophy
Publisher
De Gruyter
Publication Date
Feb 20, 2020
Volume
3
Issue
1
Pages
81–101
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1515/opphil-2020-0006
Source
De Gruyter
Keywords
License
Green

Abstract

This essay argues for the philosophical standing of Walter Benjamin’s early work and posits a deeper continuity between this early work as a philosopher and the subsequent development of his work as a writer. When these fragments are read in proper relation to each other, they reveal for the first time many of the key innovations of Benjamin as a philosopher, as well as his points of influence on Horkheimer and Adorno. His early ‘Program’ critiques the Enlightenment conception of experience as a means for gaining empirical knowledge, and announces the need for a new concept of experience. Benjamin follows through on this program with a method of philosophical enquiry that is by turns fragmentary and constellational, developing a series of provisional notions of experience, which form a constellation with one another: perception, mimesis, language as a medium of experience, observation and memory.

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