Benjamin, Walter - Language as Such and Language of Man.pdf

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  alter SELECTED WRITINGS VOLUME 1913 1926 Edited y Marcus Bullock and Michael W Jennings THE BELKN P PRESS OF H RV RD UNIV RSITY PRESS Cambridge Massachusetts London  England .  Copyright © 1996 by the President and Fellows of Harv ard College All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America Second printing, 1997 This work is a tran slati on of se l ec ti ons from Walter Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften, ,mter Mitwirkung von Theodor \\ 1 Ad orno und Gershom Scholem, heraltSgegeben von Rolf Tiedemann lind Hermann Schweppenhiiu ser copyright © 1972, 1974, 1977, 1982, 1985, 1989 by Suhrk amp Verlag. The Task of rhe T ransl ator srcinally appeared in English in W al ter Benjami n, Illumination s edit ed by Hannah Are nd t, En glish translation copyright © 1968 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, I nc. On Language as Such a nd the Language of Man, Fate and Char ac ter, Critique of Violen ,?; Naples, and One-Way Street srcinally appeared in English in Walter Benjamin, Refl ec tions, English translation copyright © 1978 by Harcoun Brace Jovanovich, Inc . Published by arrangement with Ha rc ourt Brace Jovanovich, I nc. One-Way Street also appeared i.n Walter Benjamin, O ne-Way Street and Other Writin gs (London: NLBNerso, 1979, 1985). Socrates a nd O n t he Program of the Coming Philosophy srcinally appeared in E ngli sh in The Philosophi ca l Forum 15, nos. 1-2 (1983 -19 84). Publica tion of this boo k has been aided by a grant from Inter Natio nes, Bonn. Frontispiece: Walter Benjamin, Pa ri s, 1 927. PholO by Germaine Krull. Collection Gary Smith, Berlin. Library of Congress Catalogjng-jn-Pub/jcatjon Data Benjamin, Walter, 18 92- 1940 . [Selections. English. 1996] Selected writings / Walter Benjamin; edited by Mar cus Bullock and Mi chael W. Jen ni ngs. p. cm. T his work is a translation of se le ctions from Walter Benjamin, Gesammelre Schriften copyright 1972 by Suhrkamp Ve rlag - T.p. verso. Includes index. Contents: v 1. 1913 -192 6. ISBN 0-674-94585-9 (v. 1: alk. p ape r) I Bullock, Marcus Paul, 1 944- . Jennings, Micha el William. III Title. PT2603.E455A26 1 996 838' . 91209  dc20 96 -2302 7 Designed by Gwen Frankfeldt   n Language as Such and on th nguage of an Every expression of human mental life can be understood as a kind of language, and this understanding, in the manner of a true method, every- where raises new questions. t is possible to talk about a language of music and of sculpture, about a language of justice that has nothing directly to do with those in which German or English legal judgments are couched, about a language of technology that is not the specialized language of technicians. Language in such contexts means the tendency inherent in the subjects concerned-technology, art, justice, or religion-toward the communication of the contents of the mind. To sum up: all communication of the contents of the mind is language, communication in words being only a particular case of human language and of the justice, poetry, or whatever underlying it or founded on it. The existence of language, however, is coextensive not only with all the areas of human mental expression in which language is always in one sense or another inherent, but with absolutely everything. There is no event or thing in either animate or inanimate nature that does not in some way partake of language, for it is in the nature of each one to communicate its mental contents. This use of the word language is in no way metaphorical. For to think that we cannot imagine anything that does not communicate its mental nature in its expression is entirely meaningful; consciousness is apparently (or really) bound to such communication to varying degrees, but this cannot alter the fact that we cannot imagine a total absence of language in anything. An existence entirely without relationship to language is an idea; but this idea can bear no fruit even within that realm of Ideas whose circumference defines the idea of God. All that is asserted here is that all expression, insofar as it is a communi  On Language as Such 63 cation of contents of the mind, s to be classed as language. And expression, by its whole innermost nature, s certainly to be understood only as lan-guage On the other hand, to understand a linguistic entity, it s always necessary to ask of which mental entity it s the direct expression. That s to say: the German language, for example, s by no means the expression of everything that we could-theoretically-express through it, but is the direct expression of that which communicates itself in it. This itself is a mental entity. It s therefore obvious at once that the mental entity that communicates itself in language s not language itself but something to be distinguished from it. The view that the mental essence of a thing consists precisely in its language-this view, taken as a hypothesis, s the great abyss into which all linguistic theory threatens to fall,l and to survive suspended precisely over this abyss s its task. The distinction between a mental entity and the linguistic entity in which it communicates s the first stage of any study of linguistic theory; and this distinction seems so unquestionable that it is, rather, the frequently asserted identity between mental and linguistic being that constitutes a deep and incomprehensible paradox, the expression of which s found in the ambiguity of the word logos. Nevertheless, this paradox has a place, as a solution, at the center of linguistic theory, but remains a paradox, and insoluble, if placed at the beginning. What does language communicate? It communicates the mental being corresponding to it. It s fundamental that this mental being communicates itself in language and not through language. Languages, therefore, have no speaker, if this means someone who communicates through these languages. Mental being communicates itself in, not through, a language, which means that it s not outwardly identical with linguistic being. Mental being s identical with linguistic being only insofar as it s capable of communication. What s communicable in a mental entity s its linguistic entity. Language therefore communicates the particular linguistic being of things, but their mental being only insofar as this s directly included in their linguistic being, insofar as it s capable of being communicated. Language communicates the linguistic being of things. The clearest mani festation of this being, however, s language itself. The answer to the ques-tion What does language communicate? s therefore All language com municates itself. The language of this lamp, for example, communicates not the lamp (for the mental being of the lamp, insofar as it s communica- ble s by no means the lamp itself) but the language-lamp, the lamp in communication, the lamp in expression. For in language the situation s this: the linguistic being of all things is their language The understanding of linguistic theory depends on giving this proposition a clarity that annihilates even the a ppearance of tautology. This proposition s untautological, for it means, That which in a mental entity s communicable is its language. On this is (equivalent to is immediately ) everything depends.-Not that
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