The Task of the Philosopher: In Place of an Introduction

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The concept of the task appears as an ideal starting point for the subsequent remarks, which aim to frame a collection of essays on Benjamin’s philosophy – a philosophy that is often hidden between the lines of his diverse, seemingly un- or even anti-systematic writings. As editors we take it that this publication marks a timely intervention into the current state of Benjamin-reception. After all, attempts to foreground Benjamin’s philosophy have remained relatively few and far between, especially when compared with the steadily growing number of publications concerned to cast him in a variety of other roles: from Weimar broadcaster to “Marxist Rabbi”, as Andrew Benjamin has put it. It is our conceit, however, that it is – above all – the philosophical character of Benjamin’s work, which holds together its seemingly disparate strands. One way in which extant studies have sought to highlight this ostensible coherence has been by comparing different concepts from Benjamin’s philosophical household on the basis of their general function, outlining a meta-theoretical schema for philosophical thought as it develops between his early writings and his later works. On this basis, it became possible to scrutinize the many references to the history of philosophy that run through Benjamin’s work – from Plato to Leibniz, Kant, Nietzsche, Cohen and Husserl (to name only a few central players). However, whilst the immeasurable philological and intellectual-historical merit of such works is beyond dispute, the aim of this introduction (and the collection it serves to frame) is a different one: to begin to define what, for Benjamin, was not simply a task of philosophy, but the task of the philosopher.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
JournalAnthropology & Materialism
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


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