Benjamin 's Philosophy Of Language Essay

2397 Words Sep 29th, 2016 10 Pages
Benjamin’s Philosophy of Language
Walter Benjamin’s (1892-1940) thoughts and philosophy about language and translation are reflected in his magna opera: On Language as Such and on the Language of Man (1916) and The Task of the Translator (1923). The former essay deals directly with the linguistic theory; the latter is concerned with the translation theory as a form of art. The latter is also an extension of the former inasmuch as he provides a new theory of translation based on the relation between languages itself and their essence. Basically, in both essays, Benjamin addresses the relationships not only between languages but also between language and human beings (Smerick 48). Thus, this essay examines both works with much more emphasis on the latter one. Benjamin’s inspiration comes from Kabbalah, the Jewish Mystical tradition. Benjamin finds a great source of information about Kabbalah in developing his linguistic and translation theories from his close friend Gershom Scholem (1897–1982). Benjamin, in turn, inspired his friend Scholem to switch his interest from mathematics to languages.
Benjamin’s On Language as Such and on the Language of Man introduces a theological theory of language. He claims, “Every expression of human mental life can be understood as a kind of language” (Benjamin 62). This implies that everything has language. Every natural thing takes part of a language because it communicates mental meanings of a sort. Unlike ‘bourgeois’ theories of language,…

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