Walter Benjamin’s Philosophy of Language (Online Group Video Session)

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At the turn of the 20th century, the philosophy of language had exploded into a huge academic discipline. A generation of authors, scientists and philosophers all began to delve into philological questions in earnest. Names like Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein may spring to mind as the towering figures of this period.
In this session, we will look at a figure who never weighed in on this field – Walter Benjamin. By exploring Benjamin’s unpublished and difficult essay “On Language as Such and on the Language of Man”, we may find creative solutions to some big philosophical questions. In this bizarre essay on language, Benjamin arms himself with mystical theology to wrestle against Bertrand Russell’s famous analytical paradox. In a search to recover the Divine Word after man’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Benjamin believes that even lamps and chairs speak to us. He argues that it is the philosophical task of humans to translate the mystical languages of lamps and chairs into the languages of man.
The aim of this meetup will be to make sense of Benjamin’s multifaceted philosophy of language. We will look at the significance of biblical stories, like the Tower of Babel and the Expulsion from Eden, for considering philological questions. We will ask what Benjamin means by the Divine Word and the Language of Lamps. We will ask why translation is so important for Benjamin? But most importantly, we will ask if this essay makes sense and whether it could be useful for an empathetic politics.
If you are mad enough to attempt the original text, it is attached to this post. However, a nice summary article can be read here: https://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/walter-benjamin-language-translation/
Look forward to seeing you there.
This session will be run as part of the Exploding Appendix Avant-garde Art Practice and Research Group’s fortnightly meetup, which, in the event of the current lockdown, will be taking place online via Zoom (https://zoom.us/meeting/88057601950). This session will be ran by Harvey Barrett and take place on the 2nd June from 19:30 – 22:30 (British Summer Time). If you would like to join us for the session, or have any questions please message me at explodingappendix@gmail.com