This book provides a study of Walter Benjamin’s first philosophy in two senses: it focuses on his early philosophy as a source of insight into his later works, and it explores his thinking about the nature of truth, method, experience, the relation of body and mind, and the limits of human knowledge.
While most attention is paid to Benjamin’s later works, his writings from roughly 1914-1925 explore philosophical themes and develop a critical method. This book argues that this early work founds a series of original and lasting questions and insights. Benjamin understands experience as a broken continuum of diverse forms of spiritual expression, each of which is ephemeral. This leads Benjamin to a series of thought figures: the notion of language as a medium of experience; a philosophy of perception based in the natural history of the human body; an emphasis on mimesis as a faculty of creative assimilation; and a discovery of memory as a power for excavation of meaning in past experience. This book demonstrates that the need for a new understanding of the metaphysical structure of experience, as well as a new conception of truth, play a special role in shaping Benjamin’s subsequent work.
Walter Benjamin’s First Philosophy will be of interest to scholars and advanced students working on the thought of Walter Benjamin, 20th-century Continental philosophy, comparative literature, and modern German thought.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Benjamin’s Practice of Philosophy 1
1 Benjamin’s Questions 19
2 Benjamin’s Experience 36
3 Benjamin’s Body 61
4 Benjamin’s Truth 80
Conclusion: From First Philosophy to Critique 105
Nathan Ross is Assistant Director of the Faculty Center for Professional Excellence at Adelphi University in New York. Prior to this he was Professor of Philosophy at Oklahoma City University. His last book, The Philosophy and Politics of Aesthetic Experience, was published in 2017. In addition he has published in journals such as Philosophy Today and The Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal, as well as edited volumes examining the philosophies of Benjamin and Adorno.