تازه های تحقیق
The early writings of Walter Benjamin look like a corpus of hazy ideas and programs which are usually left unfinished and, for the most part, waver undecidedly between youthful aspirations and esoteric temptations. While this has led some interpreters to simply dismiss these writings as idealistic attempts which are to be corrected by the so-called ‘materialism’ of the later Benjamin, in the recent decades there has been another interpretive strategy which emphasizes the importance of Benjamin’s early work and its effect on the development of his mature philosophy. Following the general lines of this newborn strategy, the present article tries to focus on the concept of experience, and show how Benjamin’s early grappling with different conceptions of experience – first and foremost, with the conceptions that are formed by Kant and the Neo-Kantian thinkers – can result in a different notion of knowledge which lies totally beyond the common dualisms such as subject/object or idealism/materialism.
The article is divided into two main sections.In the first one, our aim is to outline the general characteristics of the concept of experience in the Neo-Kantian school. After a brief discussion about the famous Trendelenburg-Fischer debate, we will concentrate on the work of Hermann Cohen, and will trace the unusual and somewhat tortuous path that takes him from defending the rigidity of Kantian experience as a new foundation for scientific knowledge to the later ‘fact of science’ and its reliance on an originary experience whose indications can be found not only in Kant, but also in Plato and Leibniz.
In the second section, we turn to Benjamin, and examine his assessment of the potentialities of Neo-Kantian thought. In the work of Neo-Kantians, Benjamin finds a line of argument which seems to be in perfect harmony with his own ‘coming philosophy’: as is typified by Cohen’s relentless efforts to bridge the gap between ‘transcendental aesthetic’ and ‘transcendental logic’ of the first critique, there is a potential tendency in Neo-Kantianism to remove the sensory limitations of Kantian experience and reach a kind of originary experience which is sought by the young Benjamin too. All the same, such tendency, Benjamin argues, is far from being realized in Neo-Kantianism: the Neo-Kantians’ emphasis on the central role of science – again typified by the Cohenian ‘fact of science’ – is what keeps them within the limits of the Kantian system and prevents them from realizing their own potentialities.
The main conclusion that is to be drawn from this briefly sketched argument is that neither of the two sides of Benjamin’s relation with Neo-Kantianism negates the other. True, Benjamin never showed any specific interest in the actuality of Neo-Kantianism as a whole and, especially in his later writings, he seems to directly associate it with positivism. Nonetheless, the originary experience whose possibility was introduced, among others, by the Neo-Kantians to him formed one of the central themes of his mature philosophy; even in the celebrated Arcades Project, as a project which is directed toward writing the pre-history of modernity, one can easily hear the echoes of Cohen’s longing for a modern or ‘post-Kantian’ origin of knowledge and experience.
- Benjamin, Walter (1994) The Correspondence of Walter Benjamin, ed. Gershom Scholem and Theodor Adorno, tr. Manfred R. Jacobson and Evelyn M. Jacobson, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
- Benjamin, Walter (2011) Early Writings: 1910-1917, tr. Howard Eiland and Others, Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
- Bird, Graham (2006) “The Neglected Alternative: Trendelenburg, Fischer, and Kant”, in A Companion to Kant, ed. Graham Bird, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
- Charles, Matthew (2009) Speculative Experience and History: Walter Benjamin’s Goethean Kantianism, PhD Thesis, Middlesex University.
- Caygill, Howard (2005) Walter Benjamin: The Colour of Experience, London: Routledge.
- Fenves, Peter (2011) The Messianic Reduction: Walter Benjamin and the Shape of Time, Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
- Gardner, Sebastian (1999) Kant and the Critique of Pure Reason, London & New York: Routledge.
- Kant, Immanuel (1998) The Critique of Pure Reason, tr. Paul Gayer & Allen W. Wood, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Poma, Andrea (1997) The Critical Philosophy of Hermann Cohen, tr. John Denton, Albany: State University of New York Press.
عنوان مقاله [English]
The concept of experience which had been formed in Kant’s epistemological system, despite its importance as one of the fundamental keystones of the critical system, ironically remained neglected in the decades following his death. The rediscovery and re-establishment of Kant’s concept of experience is due to the efforts of thinkers who are generally associated with “the Neo-Kantian school”. Focusing on the work of one of the prominent figures of Neo-Kantian school, Hermann Cohen, this paper sets out to show how the Kantian experience can transcend the standard conception which is based on subject/object duality, and can reach the origin of knowledge. Following that, we will see how this originary experience motivates “the coming philosophy” which has been outlined by Walter Benjamin in his early writings in the 1910s. However, this would never mean that Benjamin simply follows the path of Neo-Kantians: As we shall see, in order to reach the origin of knowledge, Benjamin uses a historio-theological “battle plan” which is markedly different from the one used by the Neo-Kantians – and Kant himself.