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Cognition is a relation.1 In this relation, something is apprehended and it is apprehended in its cognizability.2 Cognizability, for its part, is not an object but the medium in which cognition relates to what is apprehended and in which the two are together constituted—the one as cognition, the other as cognized. Cognizability is neither a subject’s capacity to cognize, given as a transcendental structure independent of any object to be cognized, nor a property of objects, a capacity to be known that awaits the opportunity to actualize itself in cognition. Cognizability is not an atemporal, and in that sense transcendental, condition of cognition. Equally, it does not present itself belatedly as a tie between an already constituted subject and a pre-given object. Much more, it is that in which cognition grasps an object and is thus for the first time cognition, and that in which an object imparts itself to a cognition and is thereby cognized. Cognizability is impartibility: the medium common to cognition and the cognized; the medium thanks to which they are able to be what they are; the medium in which they touch, affect, and impart themselves to one another. But if cognizability is the go-between—the medium—through which cognition and cognized impart or convey one another, then the essence of cognition itself is imparting. It is, in an as-yet indeterminately broad sense of “language,” linguistically constituted. Whoever would present
1 [Translator’s note: This translation has benefited immensely from the close attention of Julia Ng as well as from Werner Hamacher’s suggestions and corrections. Its failings are, empirically and concretely, my own.] 2 Walter Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften, eds. Rolf Tiedemann and Hermann Schweppenhäuser [Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1974–1989] VI: 46 (hereafter cited parenthetically in the text as GS).
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“the linguistic essence of cognition” (GS II: 168) must do as Benjamin does, basing the possibility of cognition, cognizability, in language as the medium of impartibility. This means, however, that the subjectobject relation is secondary for cognition and that it is a distorting derivative of that relation that precedes every propositional cognition of things and every imparting of cognitions between subjects, and that precedes them, to be precise, as the immediacy of mediality. Hence, in “On the Program for the Coming Philosophy,” Benjamin’s critique of Kant and of neo-Kantianism concentrates itself first of all on the insufficiency of “the notion of cognition as a relationship between some subjects and objects or some subject and object,” and, further, on the reduction of “cognition and experience to an empirical human consciousness.” He writes:
These two problems are closely connected, and even where Kant and the neo-Kantians see beyond the object-nature of the thing in itself as cause of sensations, the subject-nature of a cognizing consciousness remains still to be eliminated. [. . .] It is, indeed, not to be doubted that some idea—however sublimated—of an individual, corporeal-spiritual I plays a great role in the Kantian concept of cognition, with such an I receiving impressions through the senses and on this basis constructing its ideas (GS II: 161).
This “epistemological mythology” of subjectivism and of a closely bound psychologism, as Benjamin has it in the “Program,” is to be dispelled by a theory of “pure cognition-theoretical (transcendental) consciousness, so long as this term remains useable once stripped of all characteristics of a subject” (162–63). Such a theory of pure transcendental consciousness may be thought, still imprecisely but less unclearly, as a theory of pure transcendental language, the contours of which are to be found in Benjamin’s treatise “On Language as Such and on the Language of Man.” Such a theory can no longer address a relation between “any and all subjects and objects,” and just as little a relation between empirical human subjects or between merely human languages and objects. Rather, it must begin from relationships within languages and from relationships between languages, including those of things themselves: that is, relationships of impartibility and translatability. In the view of a theory of pure transcendental language, languages—human and nonhuman alike; enunciated and silent; artistically, technologically, or institutionally constructed; idioms and the languages of nations—all relate first and foremost not to one another, but to their translatability, their impartibility, their linguisticality. That is, this theory never considers languages as relating solely in the way that subjects orient
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themselves to objects, but rather addresses each language’s relation to its own medial [medialen] character and thus to that which Benjamin names its “essence.” Only in their linguisticality do the scope and structure of a cognition and an experience that are not impoverished in the subject-object relation, not immobilized in the transcendental subject, reveal themselves. The dynamics and horizon of a language open up only when grasped in their mediality and thus impartibility, which precedes every communicated meaning; language is not an instrumental mark and cannot be manipulated by a non-linguistic consciousness. Just as the essence of cognition is language, so the essence of language is impartibility. Benjamin’s introduction to his rendering of Baudelaire, “The Task of the Translator,” sets out to demonstrate that and how, in translation, one language relates to another. This text, which complements and extends his earlier theory of pure transcendental language and offers up the theory of experience that took root in those earlier writings, presents the relation between languages as itself the essence of language: its mediality, impartibility, and translatability. Just as thinking in terms of speakers and addressees is insufficient—since speakers and their audiences occur only because of language, and as its functional extreme—so, too, must we move beyond the propositional content of a language. For what is decisive about translations—their carrying over3 into another language—arises independently of the intentions and semantic determinations of the texts to which they relate. Translation must follow a single law: that of the purely formal relation between languages, which is eminently material only by dint of its formalism. This law is dictated by the original’s pure translatability, which remains unconstrained by any human failings. Benjamin writes:
Translation is a form. In order to grasp it as such, it is necessary to return to the original, in which the law governing the translation lies: as its very translatability. The question concerning the translatability of a work has a dual sense; it can question whether among the totality of a work’s readers an adequate translator is to be found, or, and more properly, whether a work in its essence allows of translation and accordingly—such is the meaning of this form—requires it. At bottom, the first question can be decided only problematically, the second apodictically (GS IV: 9–10).
3 [Translator’s note: I have rendered übertragen quite literally here as “carry over,” though it is also often “transmit” or “convey,” and the reader should note that—in German as in English—the verb in question is usually transitive. Man überträgt etwas, just as “one carries something over”; that Hamacher does not here offer an etwas, a something, is crucial to the motion of the thought. Translations themselves carry over as translation, languages as language.]
The answer to the question of whether a work will find an adequate translator is problematic, is in Kant’s sense of the term dependent on empirical factors and thus not necessarily even possible; it is also, in principle at least, irrelevant. The real question concerns the purely formal structure of language as it presents itself in a translatability that is a matter of principle, and therefore independently of its actualization in any particular translation. By contrast, then, the question of whether the translation of a work or a language is possible and thereby also necessary is to be answered apodictically, that is, on the grounds of a priori reason, in the affirmative. Moreover, this affirmation is to be offered on the condition that the translatability of a language comprises its very structure and is independent from the anthropologically limited capabilities of potential translators. Benjamin insists that “certain relational concepts”—and that of translatability may be taken as the concept of linguistic relation par excellence—retain appropriate significance, and perhaps gain it in the first place, “when they are not from the outset exclusively oriented toward humans.” And he continues:
Thus, we could speak of an unforgettable life or moment, even should all human beings have forgotten it. That is, if its essence demands that it not be forgotten, then this predicate would be not false, but instead simply a demand that humans are not heeding, and at the same time also a scolding reminder of a realm in which they would heed it: in a remembrance of god (GS VI: 10).4
Like unforgettability, translatability is for Benjamin not an empirical predicate functioning on condition that it be realizable and consequently also that it fulfill a possibility in the actuality of finite reason. Quite the contrary, translatability and unforgettability are essential predicates of a language or a life, in principle indifferent to the capacities of any given subject to fulfill them. They are thus demands irrespective of the horizon of finite experience and operative within this horizon as calls back to the ground of experience itself, to a realm of speech and action ecstatically removed from understanding as a structure of judgment and correspondence. Languages remain translatable—or impartible—even when they will never be translated, even when they never could be translated—or imparted—by finite beings.
4 [Translator’s note: Rather than render Gott here “God,” thus bringing Benjamin further into Christianity than he himself ventured, or “G-d,” thus according his Judaism an essentiality that is at least arguable, I have opted for a lower-case, generalist “god” that will not, I hope, seem less present for that.]
in Gesammelte Schriften. absoluteness. be it of intuition or of concept. This is the experience of the demand for an experience and thus of the experience in particular that would disclose—in excess of every possible material experience—another experience. Just as intuition and concept must accord with one another in order to fulfill the formal conditions for experience and make the possible actual. Kant develops only this latter possibility in the postulate of empirical thought. it is always still only such an experience—and thereby also such a cognition—that is possible: one in which intuitions correspond with concepts with never an excess or a deficit.”5 For Kant. for Kant these formal conditions for experience must also be actual in a way that prevents them from overtaxing themselves.M L N 489 The possibility that the concept of translatability bespeaks is not to be limited by propositional cognition. Kritik der reinen Vernunft. What remains unthinkable for him—or merely thinkable.) A218/B265 (hereafter cited as KdrV). and. with it. Benjamin conceives of the linguisticality of language not as the appropriateness of its concepts for possible intuitions. Possibility is for him always the possibility of a possible actuality. Deutsche] Akademie der Wissenschaften (Berlin: Reimer [later. the possibility of such experience no longer belongs under the postulate of empirical thinking. ed. or that would offer up concepts with which no appearances accorded. 1900. What is unthinkable is precisely the experience that must precede the correspondence of every experience: the experience of the demand for its correspondence. history. that is. such that possibility is thinkable from a theoretical perspective only in correspondence with this actuality. in this sense. . This postulate’s stipulations are relieved of empirical conditions for fulfillment. Königliche preußische [later. but not properly cognizable—is an experience that would present appearances not in accord with concepts. nor is this a possibility that must be converted into the actuality of experience. but as a demand—and an excessive demand—made on intuitions by the concept of freedom. as an excessive demand on the 5 Immanuel Kant. “That which accords with the formal conditions of experience (intuitions and concepts) is possible. when he writes. because they raise the demands for freedom. For Kant. the impossibility of experience. the experience of a non-conceptual or imperceptible other and. but rather under the categorical imperative and the postulate of practical reason. and thus with never any transgressing of the boundaries of the subject principally regulated by their accord. bounded by a correspondence between concept and intuition. de Gruyter].
the possibility of imparting—and thus of translation—is in principle independent of every actuality that could be presented as a material accord between intuition and concept in the sense-impression of the subject of cognition. Because translatability structurally exceeds the delimitations of finite subjectivity. translatability has. but instead bounded by mere imparting alone—by freedom. If this is so.490 Werner Hamacher concept made by the intuition of something non-conceptual. and there must thus be—with a postulative “must” that goes beyond every empirically verifiable cognition—god. this is only because it is based in cognizability as the common medium of cognition and cognized. Translation. as the history of translation. as impartibility and translatability—is not to be defined as a possible actuality and thereby as the relation to the object of a propositional act. furthermore. imparting. by god. because it is a possibility with which no concrete actuality must necessarily correspond—for these reasons. infinitude. as Benjamin emphasizes repeatedly. these must occur independently of the conditions of their actualization as the empirical cognition of things. and. is the event of language: no longer within the limits of empirical object-determination and the transmission of meaning. linguisticality— and that means mediality—is linguistic historicality [Sprachgeschichtlichkeit]. however. Benjamin’s meditations start from a language that is not structured according to the schema of correspondence between intuition and concept. Should there be cognition. Should history exist. but instead exclusively a practical possibility. in which it can find fulfillment. like the unforgettable moment or the unforgettable life. language: these are structured as excessive demand and hyperbolic reference. For Benjamin. transcending every given actuality. Hence. then it does so only as the postulate of a god. the character of a demand . and thus not structured according to the schema of the judgment. theogizing [theogen]. then history must be present as impartibility’s realm of operation and fulfillment. Translatability is translatability in history. The possibility of this language—language as such. its truth cannot be the truth that would be limited by the schema of correspondence or adequation. theological event. Should language exist. Since this does not reach its end in any empirical occurrence. Should there be cognizability and therein impartibility. then it does so only as essentially historical. it operates to mark a metaempirical. and thus as historizing [historiogen] and. It is for this reason that translatability manifests as an infinite demand and for this reason that it initiates the event that. translatability is for him not an empirical or epistemological-theoretical.
This is essence as the overtaxing [Überforderung] of any and every subjectivity. and when he terms translatability the law of translation.M L N 491 that. When Benjamin opens his clarification of this concept with the question of “whether a work in its essence allows of translation and accordingly—such is the meaning of this form—requires it”. . Something’s essence defines it—indefines it and infinitizes it—as a demand infinitely in excess of every propositional actuality. the possibility of—and demand for—untranslatability. then in each case he speaks of essence as a demand [Forderung] that passes beyond the horizon of a subjectively limited actuality. is not structured according to the conditions of its actualization but rather. this is termed “a remembrance of god”. it might be called messianic translation. but that does not thereby destroy its every application. Only because it is impossible—impossible even beyond categorical impossibility—does translatability open the possibility of realization independently of categorical limitations. when he writes of the unforgettable that its “essence demands that it not be forgotten” (GS IV: 10). on a work or an utterance. its translatability. its possibility of translation. Only therein does translatability contain the scolding reminder of the realm to which its demand corresponds: with respect to the unforgettable. for its part. moreover. but is rather a demand of the essence of every work and. and possibility as an excess over and above the possibility that is actualizable for subjects. then it must also be the possibility of—and demand for—an impossibility of translation. In so appearing. and can thus appear only in the mode of withdrawal—and perhaps in the withdrawal of every categorical modality. translatability shows only that it demands the impossible actuality. Benjamin posits the essence of language—its translatability—and the essence of a life— its unforgettability—as resting in essence’s absolute surplus over any propositional content that could be attributed to it. in which it is constituted. The essence of language. Pure translatability—the law of language—can never manifest itself without simultaneously withdrawing itself. as “extrapossibility” [Übermöglichkeit] and the possibility of an impossibility. determinate as ever. Translatability is not a demand made by some subject. of language itself. analogous to the moral law in Kant. first enables the very thinking of such conditions. defines it as a possibility beyond all possibilities. with respect to the translatability of languages. Translatability must thus be a possibility and a demand which absolutely never applies to itself. and if as such a possibility it oversteps every possible actuality. But if translatability is the possibility of and demand for the essence of a work.
a sign because it is without signs. What is unforgettable is the incommemorable. which imparts itself prior to all commemoration and its signs as simple. without memorial and without memento. but because it is not an object at all and thus cannot be accessed by any judgment. it points to something in the essence of the unforgettable itself. four years before setting down his thoughts on translation. but this unforgettability occurs. “perhaps without witness” and hence without a sign. whereby it is unforgettable (GS II: 239). every statement that can be uttered of it stands under the condition of a “perhaps.492 Werner Hamacher It is in this sense that we should read Benjamin’s essay “Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot”. unsigned. the unforgettable life is perhaps without witness not because it would be the object of a fallible empirical judgment. perhaps without even witness. must be unforgotten. the editorial comments in GS II: 977). and thus insofar as they put behind them every restrictive. . comprehended actuality of the subject: they are translatable solely as untranslatable. Because it is the unobjectifiable and therefore absolutely immemorial that is presented in every remembrance and for that reason captured by none. And in this sense ‘unforgettable’ says more than that we cannot forget it. judgmentless speech. Decisive in both is the idea of an essential demand that transcends every possible realization. in their essence or their structure—realize their translation in a sense that must still be made more precise. still this life remains imperishable.6 Unforgettability is a sign of the undyingness [Unsterblichkeit] of a life. so the translatability of a language overtaxes every translation. it also means that languages already—in themselves. written in 1917. This proximity. It is thus a sign of signlessness. Languages are translatable beyond the boundaries of every subjective capacity. indeed. Just as the unforgettability of a life overtaxes every remembrance. as Benjamin sees it. Benjamin writes of the undying life and unforgettability of Prince Myshkin: The undying life is unforgettable—that is the sign by which we know it. an unsigned sign: “without memorial and without memento. 6 This piece.” For Benjamin. Language is that which. was first published in 1921—in immediate temporal proximity to the writing of the essay on translation (cf. where language is such only in being translatable over and above every limit on cognition. It is that life which. can only be one of the motives that explains Benjamin’s return to the thought of unforgettability in the later text. Without form or vessel. there. Rather. in itself. It cannot be forgotten.” without addressee or referent. however. This does not mean only that they are languages solely by fulfilling the criterion of absolute translatability. Kantian.
or “law” (literally. the law of language as such lies in the a priori reference to another language. places or posits) stems from setzen. Werner Hamacher. place. The linguisticality of a language is defined not by what that language means. the unfulfillable demand on translation is for both. das. Premises: Essays on Philosophy and Literature from Kant to Celan. Benjamin calls Dostoyevsky’s Myshkin unapproachable. The essence of a language lies in its translatability—in this. its own self-overcoming. the trans-law. of language as such. above.” Cf. beyond. but by the other language toward which it points the way. “Übersetzbarkeit ist das Über-Gesetz. the verb setzen (posit. Since. and the reader would do well to pay special attention to these as they occur in Fenves’ translation.] . trans)—by which übersetzen is formed—are both ubiquitous and importantly networked in German. in turn. however. its status as translatable. In particular. and only with respect to the language of the translation does the language of the original become language. one ought really to read Peter Fenves’ translation of Hamacher’s Entferntes Verstehen (as Premises) alongside this essay. following Benjamin’s formulation.M L N 493 posits itself over and beyond itself. translatability may be thought as “transplaceability” or “transpositability. and speaks of his “solitude” as “ripe for disappearance” [bis zum Verschwinden reifen Einsamkeit] (238)—a mere. Translatability is the high law. Accordingly. However. as elsewhere. a language is itself only in being other than every self operating or positioning itself [sich feststellende] in propositional cognitions. “translate” (literally. does a text become an original. as Fenves sometimes sacrifices fluidity in English for a precision that. rather than opting for a precision that might rob Hamacher’s language of its fluidity. the trans-placing or trans-positing of language as such” (keeping in mind that the prefix trans. as this essay suggests. 1996). Peter Fenves (Stanford.” as does übersetzen. translatability is not one among the many laws of language. Hence. in the above. “to posit. sit venia verbo.works to figure both a sense of motion-between and a sense of motion-beyond). trans. it imparts not its contents but rather its impartibility to another language. Only with respect to its translation. though more technical in feel than the original. solitary language that disappears before itself might also be called unapproachable.” a term that here finds different emphasis as “living on. is crucial in exploring further ramifications of key terms. Such a language alone could be called language as such. and translatability is thus the categorical imperative of language: the structural demand through 7 [Translator’s note: It has unfortunately not been possible to present Hamacher’s continual play on words in this regard with due attention to its spirit: here. or position.” which is in turn “the trans-placed or trans-posited. I have been driven into an English that reproduces a certain feel and that remains loosely idiomatic. ‘Übersetz’ der Sprache überhaupt. and is still less an asset that can belong to or be missing from language. “place over” or “trans-posit”). past.” Gesetz. so to speak. “the placed” or “the posited” as this. CA: Stanford University Press. Here. but is rather its law par excellence.7 In this key principle of Benjamin’s theory of language. place) and the prefix über (over. law signifies both structure and demand. as also to his rendering of überleben as “out-living.
and designates it indeed as being among the significant works. Every single language thus has reference to another as its very essence: a language is only language insofar as it is a language for another language. In the leap [Sprung] by which it translates into another language.] signify something for the original [. “expresses” itself in its translatability. in the other language that it signifies—the language of the translation— a language no longer signifies and is itself no longer signified.e. language’s laying claim to another language. the language of the demand for another language.” writes Benjamin. this is because their chosen translator is never to be found in the period . and is an expression of its life “without signifying anything for it” (10). . he continues in three clarifications. i. This relation of one language to another is absolute in the twofold sense that what is essential for every language (GS IV: 9) is constituted through and through by the relation and that this relation is itself non-reflexive and irreversible. It is original and thus originary [ursprünglich] only because it is leaping [auf dem Sprung] into its translation. can “never [. in this law of immediate self-overcoming and becoming-other [Veranderung]. so the translation proceeds from the original.. is in fact the decisive operation for the essence of language and thus for its translatability. however. is original solely because in originally gesturing beyond itself. but the translation.494 Werner Hamacher which alone language is language. the gesture toward another language. the language of the original leaves behind its signification. For if translation comes later than the original. that language’s linguisticality consists. for its part and thus only in part. signifies nothing more” for it. Accordingly. “A certain significance dwelling in the original. . it had already abandoned itself. The original.]. But in that. This indicates. but only as its transition toward another—but rather that it lives on or survives [überlebt]. even should the claim never be honored so much as a single time by a single language. That is. and that relative to its “own” life and distanced a priori from itself. it lives forth or goes on living [fortlebt]. It is in this law of languages’ laying claim to (and on) one another. it must be said of the language of the original that it does not live [nicht lebt] in the translation—already in the original it did not live as itself. the interlingual signifying function of a language expires in the realm of its translation. it proceeds not so much from its own life as from its “living on” [Überleben]. . not in its place but in the face of it. without meaning anything to her. one after another. Translation is the a priori form of a language’s living on and living forth in another: Just as the expressions of life are most intimately connected to the one who lives. . that signifying.
as Benjamin writes. insofar as it is realized. Translation is the form of language’s history. the language of translation. the reader should note that “living on” here is complementary—neither apposite nor opposite—to Fenves’ rendering. In translation. If the language of the original signifies and demands another language.” Again. then it signifies and demands this other. Translation is language’s living on.”] .” because it is not simply a living that goes on beyond or outlasts life and thus also death. signification arrives for it only via immediate selfovercoming. a “living on” that is only linguistic and yet that still means living on. translation.M L N 495 of their emergence. as language as such.” no longer signifying only its own life in the life of another. Language first speaks or languages in its “living on. too. historical existence. of Überleben as “outliving” (following Kaufmann’s translation of Nietzsche). this phrase—Überleben im Zitat—is “outliving in citation. As living on. One will have to understand this formulation of an a priori afterlife [Nachleben] as indicating that a significant work is one that signifies its own afterlife. Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future. Jenseits von Gut und Böse: Vorspiel einer Philosophie der Zukunft (Stuttgart: Reklam. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Random House. 1988). in which language qua language realizes itself.8 This is living on in citation and thus no living on at all. towards which it was drawn from the beginning and without which it would not be language. 1966) 211. Language makes a life for itself only in the medium of its “living on”.” speaking itself and no longer of something and to someone. Since language itself is the signified in all languages. [Translator’s note: There. it is.” see my essay. which has also made its way into English as a “living on. trans. in words: in the phrase “living on. and that this Benjaminian “living on” or “outliving” is to be distinguished. there is no positing [Setzung] without translation [Übersetzung]. it “deploys” [einsetzt] not in its natural or its immediate but in its mediate. in either event. from a Derridean survivre. and translation signifies the stage of their living forth [ihres Fortlebens] (10–11). Nietzsche—in aphorism 262 of Beyond Good and Evil—places living on quite intentionally in quotation marks. Cf. On the motif of “living on in citation. in Premises. translation is the singular element—the medium—in which language and nothing but language occurs. and only as history is translation coextensive with language’s essence. Language first lives in “living on. 143–80. but is rather a living on that is realized. “living on. its existence in translation. “‘Disgregation of the Will’: Nietzsche on the Individual and Individuality” in Premises: Essays on Philosophy and Literature from Kant to Celan.” for instance. Living on—as also translation—is in every instance living on in quotation marks. Friedrich Nietzsche. Just as there is no life without living on. can for its part no longer 8 Like Benjamin. so. the language of the original transposes [setzt über] itself as language as such.
is called renown. per Benjamin. as realized by translations. if history is the very occurring of language—its essence or having-been [Wesen]. but rather as history. . that language qua language appears openly without further intentions. [. latest and most comprehensive unfolding (GS IV: 11). translatability is the law of history irrespective of whether or not it can be accomplished by finite subjects. Translations. rather. Translation is the history of language. an act. in which these relate to something other than themselves. or a language. Just as language’s mediality is immediately its own—and this immediability of mediability is characterized by Benjamin in his essay on language as intensity and as the fundamental problem of the theory of language—so the historicity of linguistic entities. They are.] The history of great works of art recognizes their evolution from sources. . . Hence. which are realized in interpretation and critique. by virtue of their fundamentally historical structure in translations. and this history its apocalypse. For it is not in. and in which they “live on” in one another and are in that measure historical. For the ambit of life is to be determined [. where it manifests. .] in the end according to history. arise when in living forth [Fortleben] a work has arrived at the era of its renown. Translatability is the law of language. the philosopher has the task of understanding all natural life from the more comprehensive life of history. upon which outwardly historical changes would play out as semantic redefinitions. [. Languages’ capacity to “have” history is founded in their intensive historicity. this means that it is texts and languages themselves. and it means that these should by no means be taken as lifeless objects. Hence. . Benjamin writes: Only when life is accorded to all that from which history emerges and that is not merely its stage will its concept be given its due. Just as the a priori translatability of languages is the law of translation. . and without addressees. At the same time. their composition in the era of the artist. not the stage of history. not to nature. without reference.] In them. which are more than mediations. This latter. verbally understood—then this is a history without significance. insofar as they are linguistic. the life of the original arrives at its continually renewed. it is that law in a fact. . For Benjamin. Only as translatable does one language enter into relation with another and only in this relation with another language can it itself be language. it is from them that history comes to be (one could also say: languages exist only insofar as they are a priori exposed to their history).496 Werner Hamacher signify. is immanent. translatability is the law of history. and the period of their fundamentally eternal living forth [Fortlebens] with subsequent generations.
but rather presents itself in always singular expositions. because it is in every instance the singular manner in which languages expose themselves as languages for other languages and. the life of the original arrives at its continually renewed. he writes. Translatability is historicity. but irreducible minimum. since it emerged in its basic comprehensibility from the very beginning only for another. hence. translation is the only. In each. but because in each one another language has already been accomplished and with it the latest phase in the history of the original. that which is understood presents itself in its becoming-other [Ver anderung]. existence of languages. “[h]istorical ‘understanding’ is fundamentally to be grasped as the afterlife [Nachleben] of that which is understood. precisely its interpretation and historical cognition. he takes them up again in the epistemological notes to The Arcades Project and sees sketched in them “the very basis of history as such. too. and hence what is cognized in analyzing the ‘afterlife of works’ as ‘renown’ [as this is discussed in “The Task of the Translator”] is to be regarded as the very basis of history as such” (GS V: 574 –75). in which its meanings might endlessly grow and accumulate. Each translation is final and each is an integral translation of the original— not because there can be no others that would be more correct or more plastic. a hermeneutic subject does not represent the utterance of another as limited by its own historical determinants. is a category of the a priori historical becoming-other of language. therewith. latest and most comprehensive unfolding” (GS IV: 11). “fundamentally eternal living forth” realizes itself. and the historical. Comprehensibility. since from the beginning of its life it “lived on” beyond itself and was in its implicit afterlife already with others. may we understand Benjamin’s pronouncement that “[i]n them [translations]. a time that is no longer . In understanding. Historical cognition. So. the manner in which they expose themselves to their history. more than twenty years later. its origin. Every language is only distanced from its end by an absolute. Every translation is an eschaton of the language of the original.M L N 497 These thoughts were so important to Benjamin that. of which none is comparable with another and each is an unsurpassable extreme. is to be grasped as the expression of an afterlife belonging to that which is itself cognized therein. like translatability. is touched—and. Cognitions can only belong to the cognized as its historical unfolding. so must one understand this note. Benjamin is able to term this living forth fundamentally eternal because in it the ground of language itself.” Specifically. Its historical “living on” does not play out in the homogenous continuum of a progressive development. rather.
498 Werner Hamacher trapped within the horizon of subjective modes of intuition or. An event is historical if in it a time originates that is singular to it. and originate in such a manner that they touch their ends already in their leap into being [Sprung]. the original determines itself essentially as its own historical. readings. or critique. because in this respect they each appear for the only time and thus each time for the last time. and language is historical to the extent that it is translatable. never be the fixed. It is the original. and hence unlinguistic. Languages are fundamentally eternal in their historical unfolding. And because its life dates back only to its living forth. Since the original is not similar . A language can. Every historical instant is as instant of translation an instant of origin [des Ursprungs]. or translations. that transforms itself: not its conceptions. then here it can be demonstrated that no translation would be possible if it were to strive in its ultimate essence for likeness to the original. is language for another language. and compares an analysis of the “impossibility of a theory of reproduction” with the conclusion that the affinity between languages cannot rest in their similarity: If it is shown there that in cognition there could be neither objectivity nor so much as a claim to it if this were to consist of images of the actual. interpretations. which could not be called such if it were not change and renewal of the living. Translations—like all other intralinguistic and interlinguistic transformations—do not perform themselves in a time or history already playing out independently of them. be it contemporaneous or later. For in its living forth [Fortleben]. but rather plays out openly. Translation is origin or leap into being [Ursprung]. which might serve as their stage. so Benjamin. the original transforms itself” (GS IV: 12). natural succession. Thus. but it itself in its living forth in translations. to the contrary. indefinitely and infinitely in its own incommensurable movement. interpretation. and in that respect singular and thus—in and not beyond its historicity—fundamentally eternal. whether arranged logically or temporally. dialect or national language. and thereby allows history to originate. can produce its image and become like unto it. Benjamin leaves no doubt that any language that could be the object of reproduction would be unhistorical. time and history first originate [entspringen] in translation. untranslatable. no translation into another language. historicizing self-transformation. and usages. lifeless object of transmission. is the language of an immediate and in each case singular becoming-other. so long as it speaks and pronounces itself as the claim to another language. They belong to a different order than that of the succession of substitutables. more naïvely.
allows. a translation can strive for similarity to it all the less. Put more rigorously. While subjectivity may well be the “ground” of linguistic transformation. but rather grasped as nothing other than one of the expressions of the translational motion [Übertragungsbewegung] of language itself. and conducts every change to their meaning and sense. would be to confuse the grounds with the essence of the thing. not as subjective addition or some individual arbitrariness. Thus. one of the most powerful moments. History as Benjamin understands it. of this transformation. it would mean denying one of the most extraordinary and fruitful historical processes out of weakness of intellect (13). or in the equally ongoing transformations of sense. Benjamin writes: To seek what is essential in such transformations. but rather it presents between them their relations to one another as a singular sort of form. its essence must lie in the afterlife of languages themselves. there is nonetheless a relation between them that is not that “between some subjects and objects” (GS II: 161).M L N 499 to itself. Benjamin names this with a concept that is important for him well beyond the essay on translation: “affinity” [Verwandtschaft]. indeed. It is in this way that Benjamin thinks about translation: not as another language that appears to the others and increases their number. The language of translation is not an idiolect that would operate outside of all languages already given or still to come. renders the interdiction on images [Bilderverbot] superfluous: it is the impossibility of fixed images [starrer Bilder] and reproductions [Abbilder] that would be similar to them. Cognition can only be objective. since only their structural historicity. which emerge as their very history. as foreign as languages are to one another. not as a metalanguage that signifies all other languages. Moreover. but rather as a language that exposes their signification. in fidelity to his programmatic critique of the Kantian subject-object schema. even allowing for the crudest of psychologisms. the a priori of auto-alteration. in the subjectivity of successors rather than in the ownmost life of language and its works—this. and it is none of these languages themselves. Benjamin insists that this moment of cognition in the historical process of the transformation of languages must not be misunderstood as a form of transcendental subjectivity. and . One can think this as an a priori relation between the foreignnesses of languages in the medium of their own transcendental-historical objectivity—if objectivity can still be spoken of where subjectivity has become one of its historicizing functions. when its object is grasped as historically self-transforming and the cognition itself recognized as only a moment. their a priori alteration. their intimation of still others. or at least lay claim thereto. demands.
By contrast. he writes: All purposive forms of life. Of itself. Indeed.. is purposive for the expression of the innermost relation of languages to one another. rather. like purposiveness itself. anticipatory.e. can scarce produce it. an entirely individual mode of presentation such as may hardly be met with in the realm of non-linguistic life. the “presentation of a signified”—that is. as they are not placed .e. but insofar as it realizes that relation germinally or intensively. The full significance of this formulation. Without being the disclosure or production of the innermost relation of languages—since this relation. writes Benjamin. this presentation of a signified is through that effort. it can scarce reveal this buried relation. anticipatory. In the end.. remains incomprehensible so long as the strict interrelation between the concepts intensity.500 Werner Hamacher thereby also their allegorical intention. an effort that is the germ of its production. is first defined by history. production] of a material through a determinate process to which others are to be submitted” (GS I: 109). the organizing metaphor of the germ and of a “germinal realization” should not be mistaken for a suggestion that the relation of languages is to be understood by analogy with the life of nature. languages are not foreign to one another. he understood presentation “in the sense of chemistry.” Now. as Benjamin has already forcefully emphasized that “the ambit of life.e. remains buried [verborgen]—translation is “intensive.” including nature. Benjamin did not always differentiate between presentation and production. In this. allusive realization” of this relation. In a passage that is perhaps the decisive one for the essay on translation. but rather for the expression of its essence. as the creation [i. i. allusive realization. Accordingly. are in the end not purposive for life. as “the germ of its production. related to one another in that which they wish to say (GS IV: 11–12). anticipation. but rather are. innermost relation of languages is that of a singular convergence. too. the presentation of the “innermost relation of languages to one another”—is understood as effort. the intended. and that this is defined by the translatability of languages. i. the presentation of its meaning. that is. this equivalence of presentation with production does not hold. In the essay on translation. In his book on art criticism. and realization is not developed.. translation. in which the law of translation finds expression. For this [realm of non-linguistic life] finds in analogies and signs other modes of suggestion than intensive. it can. So long. germ is to be read here as the a priori of translatability and hence as every language’s transcendental-structural anticipation of its relation—and this anticipation itself as relation—with all others. a priori and apart from all historical conditions.
and recognizes an “intensive interpretation” and an “intensive infinitude. etc. following the axioms of intuition. a precept must be operative in every intuition. anticipatory. which is concerned with the necessary conditions of possibility for objects of experience—and not.10 It was via this latter dimension that Benjamin hoped to make inroads into a linguistic-theoretical consideration of mathematics. Gesammelte Briefe.) II: 390–94 (hereafter cited parenthetically in the text as GB).). of the principle of the anticipations of perception and its founding concepts: intensity.” can also shed a certain light on its use in other writings of the early Benjamin. 1995. and of the letter of December 9.e. of the essay “On Language as Such .9 The citation of Kant implicit in the formulation intensive. ed. . . Together. 1916 (GB I: 343–44). of “language complete with regard to universality and intensity” . dictating the conditions under which 9 Clarifying the concept of intensity in this particular text. allusive realization helps elucidate the proximity and distance of Benjamin’s linguistic theory to mathematical theories of intensive quantities. And all this must be considered in light of Benjamin’s project for a critical transformation of Kantian transcendentalism. in which he emphasized that “especially the linguistic-theoretical consideration of mathematics [is] of quite fundamental significance for the theory of language as such. One thinks especially of the Hölderlin study (in which he speaks of the “intensity of communion of apparent and spiritual elements” [GS II: 108]. the principle of the anticipations of perception stands in the second position. these two comprise what Kant termed the mathematical section of the principles of synthetic judgment. characterizes “the law of identity” as “intensive penetration” of its elements . 10 Letter of November 11..” (which speaks of the “intensive totality of language” . “The Task of the Translator. with the contingent conditions of their existence [Dasein] (KdrV A160/B199). as in the case of the “dynamic” principles. which contains the rules for the objective use of the categories. along with one possible motive for the letter Benjamin sent to Gerhard Scholem in 1916 in accompaniment to his essay on language.” That the title “Mathematics and Language” had for him to do not only with the relation between mathematics and thinking but just as much with that between mathematics and Zion suggests both an epistemological and an historical-philosophical-eschatological dimension. Christoph Gödde and Henri Lonitz (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. and reality. emphasizes a “plastic-intensive orientation” . in The Critique of Pure Reason. and so forth).M L N 501 in relation to Kant’s formulation.” Cf. In the table of the principles of synthetic a priori judgments. anticipation. i. . According to these principles. 1923. Walter Benjamin. to Christian Rang (which identifies the essential bond between works of art as intensive.
While the principle of the extension of intuition takes account of the necessity of a successive ordering of a multiplicity of phenomena in time and space—and thereby raises the problem of the antinomies of pure reason—it cannot account for the necessity that possible phenomena be substantial [sachhaltig].] . while the principle of perception produces the relation to the material of intuition and to the specific materiality of this material. The principle of extension produces a relation to the form of intuition. it is via the principle of perception that this same intuition relates itself to the substantiality of possible experience. in order to be perception and 11 [Translator’s note: It bears mention that the standard translation for Kant’s Gröβe is “magnitude. as Kant translates this. appearing all throughout workaday German. Rather. it should be noted. with regard to intuition. to its thingness [Sachheit] (A143/ B192. A574/B602). Apart from this. and in that fashion successively makes all phenomena into aggregates of given parts (A163/B204). in their successive ordering in the concept of a quantity [Gröβe].” I have sought to convey a sense both technical and everyday.502 Werner Hamacher given phenomena may become objects of cognition. in the principle of the anticipations of perception. By using the term “quantity. the sort of feel that contributes to philosophy’s appearing more esoteric or rarefied than it intrinsically must be. Kant’s terms of art are generally rendered here in the usual fashion. however. proceeds from the notion of parts to the notion of a whole comprised of these parts. “magnitude” has in English a specialist feel.11 “All intuitions are extensive quantities” (B202)—so goes the principle of the synthesis of intuition—because they produce the extensions of the pure forms of intuition. This substantiality [Sachhaltigkeit]—and. to its reality or. this occurs in their synthesis of a multiplicity of given phenomena. while at the same time producing the extensions of determinate manifestations of time and space in the phenomenon. and apart from “phenomena” for Erscheinungen (which I think better captures the dual character of Erscheinungen’s rootedness in the Schein—both that which seems and that which shines. not the actual being—of phenomena is incorporated by Kant.” Where the term Gröβe operates in a wide variety of capacities. “anticipations of perception” signifies the a priori of perception: that. The title “anticipations of perception” thus by no means indicates that perception is the agent of anticipations that reach beyond one or another already given perception or beyond the borders of perception as such. time and space. That is. while the principle of extensivity simply prescribes the necessary form of intuition in the production of time and space. making possible all seeming—than does the standard “appearances”). which is simultaneously the coordination of pure intuitions with empirical intuitions and the coordination of a multiplicity of possible empirical intuitions. For the axioms of intuition. The synthesis of intuition.
what that would lose here is the sense of Möglichkeit or possibility that is being developed. whereby it can encounter and stand opposite a something.] . as material. the principle of anticipations reads. a degree” (B207). a degree. Only by way of this transcendental structural principle can cognition extend out to the “material of perception. The problem that Kant seeks to solve by introducing the principle of anticipations is that of the empossibilizing12 of reality or of the thingness of objects of experience as such. in given phenomena. “In all phenomena. Intuition posits this ground with the principle of anticipations of a something. but does not entail the relation to the material that would be necessary for the fullness of this intuition. that is. grasping out a priori beyond the immanence of mere analytical statements and toward the real. in this anticipation. the material for object cognition. It must posit in itself the ground for what Kant termed intensive quantities. reality. has intensive quantity. Fundamentally anticipatory. which is an object of sensation. immediately and without the intervention (theoretical or empirical) of any agent. relate itself a priori to more than formal extensions in time and space (since these are empty). in Kant’s formulation. Hence. synthetic cognition is structured as the grasping in advance of its own material. itself already material. Perception is not anticipated. a “what. Under discussion is not the “enabling” of reality. as though some external agent would make it possible—whether that external agent be thought as a principle or a principal—but rather quite precisely the “empossibilizing” of reality: the conditions of and immanent to reality whereby it. With this tenet [Grundsatz]—with this tenintent [Grundvorsatz]—and as such. independently of these extensions.” being essentially nothing other than the anticipation of this material and. it must in itself be structured as the anticipatory grasping of the reality of a sensation that offers up. It can now be understood of every “sense impression qua sense impression (without any particular impression being given)” (A167/B209) that it entails a quantity that is not a temporal-spatial extension and hence not the extension of a presentation of an object. that is. 12 [Translator’s note: The standard translation of Ermöglichung would be “enabling. While formal consciousness places itself in relation with extensive quantities—and is in this relation itself extensive. is possible as such. the material is admitted into cognition itself.M L N 503 thus empirical consciousness at all. intensive quantum. Pure intuition produces merely a formal consciousness a priori of multiplicities in space and time. it is anticipation. the real.” a real. It must posit in itself the ground.” While adequate in many situations. with a principle in which intuition relates itself to an inextensive. successively displaced—this same consciousness must. that is.
If perception occurs. The anticipation of the material of perception is immanent to every perception and is thus transcendental. 13 [Translator’s note: It is worth noting that the standard translation of Kant’s erfüllen and Erfüllung in the first Critique—as “to fill. and that Hamacher’s reading of Kant should alert us to this fact.13 As intensive fulfillment. then it occurs only as that of sensation.504 Werner Hamacher but is rather the unextended quantity of something as such. the character of the reality of sensory material—is not only the experiential correlate anticipated in the concept of the understanding. insofar as it is simply perception and without needing to be the perception of some determinate sensation. that its becoming full is the fulfillment of its structural promise and demand for itself. available for filling. especially when Hamacher is citing.” or “performing” in an effort to keep those latter senses alive in the text—for it is surely the case that time in the Critique is accomplished only in being filled. however. The principle of the anticipations of perception is the principle of the transcendental material of sensation. and “fulfillment. that is. since time is a pure apprehension of the form of intuition and may therefore be filled by sense-impressions.” “filling. a whole that swells out beyond itself. which themselves occur at a second formal-logical level. is there linguistic access—for the category is nothing if not essentially linguistic—to the world of phenomenal reality. before every particular sense impression. as Kant writes. this fulfilling has in every instant the tendency—since intensio means gain. then. which empirical consciousness cannot present to itself but as the intensity of the realitas noumenon. increase—to pass over into a higher one: it is filling [Erfüllung] in the leap toward overflowing [Überfüllung].” “accomplishing. as the perception of the material of objects as such and as perception of this “transcendental material” (A143/B182) in its always singular intensity. Only through the structure of the category of reality.] . in each case fills “only an instant” and immediately grasps a whole (A167/B209)—anticipation of the material is in each case precisely a singular instant filling time through an intensive real. I have moved between the tradition of “filling” Kant’s time. Though Kant does not draw this consequence. While this is to an extent appropriate. Because the anticipation of the material of perception is therefore not subordinated to extension in time and space and does not present a successive synthesis—but rather. in both Pluhar and Guyer and Wood. it can be said that intensity—that is. Hence.” etc. and only through this category is the performance or fulfillment of the form of intuition that is time possible. that is. it does obscure the sense in which Erfüllung marks the “fulfillment” of conditions or “accomplishment” or “performance” of a demanded end or state. It is to this intensive quantity of sensory material as such that perception is related a priori. though with the caveat in Pluhar that “occupies” is also possible—treats time as already in a sense extant. but has also for its part the structure of anticipation.
even if concealed. ed. In his later conception of the “critical instant. is nowhere in Kant’s work explicitly delineated. it comes to them as autonomous essentialities. For Benjamin. always already a linguistic relation.” Benjamin was able to follow up on precisely this thought. the categories pre-form a realm of possible phenomena from which all autonomy is stripped. 1968). because they are encountered only as that which is given for the subject of a categorical and.” collected in Zwei Grundprobleme der scholastischen Naturphilosophie (Rom: Edizioni di storia e letteratura. these phenomena themselves have a linguistic character. As Kant has it. granted. 14 The concept of intensive quantities in Scholasticism is presented in Anneliese Maier’s 1939 “The Problem of Intensive Quantities. and Benjamin. furthermore.14 Kant starts his construction of the a priori synthesis of the categories from the types of utterance that he conceives as pure forms of judgment. in his essay on a program for a coming philosophy. and their language is not imputed to them by concepts of the understanding. then not only is an extensive and intensive reality within language. has good Kantian and not merely Hamannian reason for his demand that “the linguistic essence” of pure transcendental consciousness be reclaimed as the foundation for a new concept of experience (GS II: 168). namely. Irreconcilable with this perspective (which. Heidrun Friese (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. there remains indeed the privilege of a singular language that rules over the entire Kantian construction of experience: that of the judgment and of the categories construed as forms of judgment. If the relation to objects in time and space and the relation to their materiality are anticipated in the pure concepts of the understanding as well as the principles for their application. but rather that one language relates itself to another and. by contrast. and in the final instance a transcendental subject. principles of judgment. but reality is also prefigured therein as essentially linguistic—in the sense that the “pre-” there has. like the “ante-” of anticipation. rather. The relation to possible objects of experience is thus for Kant. but is everywhere hinted at). in every other. propositional cognition. 2001) 161–96. . Regarding the structure of the “critical instant” and Benjamin’s later concept of history. to its own linguistic essence—to the possibility.” in The Moment: Time and Rupture in Modern Thought. I would point the reader to my essay “‘NOW’: Walter Benjamin on Historical Time.M L N 505 It is an outer limit that seeks to shoot out beyond its own superlative. It is not that a subject of cognition encounters a multiplicity of possible objects. not a chronological but rather an exclusively structural-implicative significance. which the Kantian construction preserved from Scholastic philosophy.
in some connections. between a priori and a posteriori cognition. arguing that “[t]he so-called ‘material of sensation’ arose as an expression of the separation of the forms of intuition from the categories. between content of apprehension and form of time. Benjamin reaches back toward that one among the Kantian principles of a priori synthesis that must. It is here alone that the distance between categorical language and sensuality. Hence the privileging of the concept of intensity in Benjamin’s essays on Hölderlin. In this alone does Kant seek to think a relation between category and material of intuition in which the relata are not external to one another. for an answer to the question of what form would bind the various languages to one another—to language as such—and in which language the relationship of the various languages to one another would present itself. however. For Benjamin. Benjamin protests against the Kantian restriction of the concept of experience. not characterized by relations of quantity. language.” There.506 Werner Hamacher of being not only the vehicle of impartings. by the succession of extensiva. however. intensive quantities. In order to make clear how this linguistic relationship. bearing the title “On Perception. contracts to a minimum. Translation is. it is translation that offers the answer to this question. “fundamentally oriented toward the innermost relationship of languages to one another” (GS IV: 12). the principle of the anticipations of perception exhibits the greatest affinity to Benjamin’s project for a new. the totality of language and ultimately “language as such” (16). artificially. too. held at a distance from the animating center . The density of their relation finds its pregnant formulation in that scholastic expression used by Kant. “comes to expression” in translation. or by purely formal relations of perception or causal relationships: a relation for which the perceptual forms time and space are not empty but materially filled in every instant. count as decisive: the principle of the anticipations of perception. Hence. The anti-instrumental turn that Benjamin’s philosophy of language seeks to effect presses here. but rather of imparting itself in its impartibility. he writes. which later takes on a central theoretic-strategic function in the texts of the neo-Kantians. language-philosophical foundation for the metaphysics of experience. Among all the synthetic a priori principles intended to secure the structural conditions for objective experience. and translation. so to speak. the critical reference—the only one to address a relatively clearly circumscribed lesson from Kantian philosophy: the principle of the anticipations of perception from the Transcendental Analytic—to the material of sensation in a 1916 introduction to the “Program” essay.
and therewith the material of a possible world and thus the conditions for objective experience. translation does not anticipate a language other than that of the original—since it already speaks this other language—but rather anticipates the “innermost relation of languages to one another” (GS IV: 12) and therein the language of languages. reality as intensivum. anticipation of the material of language. for the other. 15 Benjamin’s thoughts here might also be related to the beginning of the chapter on the Transcendental Aesthetic. Translatability is the transcendental of languages. just as the linguistic categories and hence transcendental language anticipate the intensivum of sensory material. the intensity of sense-impressions as such.M L N 507 of the categorical interrelationship by the forms of intuition. it is beyond doubt that it attests to Benjamin’s concentrated interest in the category of sensory material. then in fact they do so just as the category of reality. With Benjamin. anticipation of the material of the senses. For Kant. the ground for all experience. translation is transcendental language with just this mediating function—for which Benjamin can admittedly no longer simply use the concept of synthesis—that Kant had assigned to the schematized categories. is for Kant as for Benjamin anticipation: for the one. Marked in this argument. is his opposition to the interruption of the continuum of experience by the lifeless forms of intuition. without already designating a particular sense-impression. where a definitive distinction between the material of sensation and form of appearance is drawn (A20/B34). in which it was incompletely absorbed” (GS VI: 34). . too. leaving unexplained only the relation to the “animating center of the categorical interrelationship”—which emerges organically from the chapters devoted to the synthetic principles. finds the material of perception as an intensive quantity in sensation. What the essay on the translator protests five years later goes a decisive step further in the direction of this critique. too. that is. so. does translatability anticipate a language and translation. this quasi-synthesis. language as such. the Kantian subject-object relation was transformed into an interlinguistic and. If translation is the paradigmatic form in which languages find access to other languages and. concretely speaking.15 While the aptness of the argument in this precise moment may be doubtful. the category of reality anticipates. his preference for the unrestricted operativity of irreducibly linguistic categories as guarantors of an expanded experience—and thereby also his insistence on the linguistic essence of cognition. thereby mediated. moreover. to their linguisticality. For Benjamin. an intralinguistic relation. This mediation. in the transcendental consciousness. That is.
has 16 [Translator’s note: for Benjamin’s purposes. though silent. prevents anyone from proffering the words which otherwise would be at their disposal. attempts. which he may have come to know from Kant’s principle of anticipations and to which Cohen works to give pride of place in the logic of cognition (cf. lack the supreme language: because thinking is like writing without instruments. in its purity. as Cohen would have it. 1999). has been transformed and now denotes the tentative assumption of something to come. the immortal word. .] elle-meme matériellement la vérité.” that is.508 Werner Hamacher For Benjamin. purely logical. The transcendental language of translation no longer determines the conditions under which experience is possible. as he indicates in citing from Mallarmé’s Crise de vers: “penser étant écrire [.] tacite encore l’immortelle parole. hints at. in such a manner that it reaches out beyond itself toward an other that it is not and that it cannot present other than through its own striving. . . cannot be precipitated.” from which the relevant passage is this: “Languages. . . but it is precisely in that respect that it is materially the truth. that the significance of the concept “anticipation. but rather searches. is implicit in the essentially linguistic category. however.”16 That he speaks of a tone of feeling [Gefühlston] (17) in the determination of the connection between what is meant and the mode of meaning offered by a language might. insisting still on the production of sensory material through pure thought in the category (cf. .” which for Kant is as strong as a priori implication. “thinking being writing [. and realizes the grounds of possibility of experience only “germinally or intensively. Benjamin’s critique of Kant is at the same time a critique of Cohen. Cf. since the reality of language as such. . Rosemary Lloyd. This is most evident in the epistemological preface to the book on Trauerspiel. it cannot hold for Benjamin. Benjamin develops the elements of differentiation between the logical and the historical from the structure of the infinitesimal principle. 1977] 28–9 and 58–9). not a whispering but still keeping silent.] 17 In this regard.17 As such. but rather can only be presented. be understood as reminiscent of Kant’s sense-impression. it cannot be produced as an object. Indeed. in which he writes. this. Hermann Cohen is a strict Kantian. too. Logik der reinen Erkenntnis [Hildesheim: Olms. in this respect. . This means. [. the diversity of idioms on earth. this language is also material. each uniquely minted and in themselves revealing the material truth” (230). in anticipation. as Benjamin emphasizes. in effort.] silent still immortal speech [. for Kant a transcendental form that determinatively contained the data of the senses. But the principle of the anticipations of perception is thought by Kant as a principle of the precipitation of reality in the category. which are imperfect in so far as they are many.] would itself materialize truth. but rather historical” (GS I: 226). Mallarmé: The Poet and His Circle (Ithaca: Cornell University Press. The category. .” As an appendix to her excellent treatise on Mallarmé Rosemary Lloyd offers a translation of “Crisis of Verse. Logik der reinen Erkenntnis 32–6). “The category of the origin [des Ursprungs] is thus not.
in the principle of extension. “signifies a higher language than it itself is” (15). but cannot be thought as a linear succession. a historical relation. homogenous series. This means that languages do not signify one another and successively fill one another out toward totality as merely formal and thus empty degrees of time and space in accordance with the principle of extensivity. no longer defining what can possibly be present [das mögliche Vorliegende]. For languages live and live on in their relationship to one another. Translation. He replaces the characteristic of extension—and thereby of quantity—with that of qualitative. not only that of cognition. languages would remain alien to one another. The concept of history that Benjamin seeks to work out through his notion of translation eliminates all characteristics of a formal. it is nothing other than translation. But as little as the relation between languages can be a relation of producing an external object. History proceeds in translations. so for Benjamin—and herein lies a further decisive difference between his thought and Kant’s—it is just as little a relation of mere cognition. but rather signifying what lies historically ahead [das geschichtlich Vorausliegend] as an indefinable other. if they are to be languages at all. and as much as it must be an intensive relation of presentation. which the concept of history had taken on under pressure from the idea of progress in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. that which as historical other exceeds its capacity to determine and must remain unreachable for it. so history must be structured . Translation is that principle of linguistic relation in which all individual languages must be inscribed. must indeed for that reason be comprehended as historical. and the linguistic essence of history. has become allegorical. that binds them with one another prior to and in every epistemic relation. without reality and hence without internal relation to their own linguisticality. insufficient for expressing the relationship of languages to each other. nor as a relation of production. writes Benjamin. The presentation that translation offers. The category has become historical. in principle.M L N 509 opened itself to that which. prior to every cognitive-propositional function. it has become an ‘allocategory’ [Allokategorie]. Just as this language is intensive anticipation. The principle of extension and thus the principle of a successive progression of multiple languages toward a single true one is. and thus it is essentially a relation of occurring. it can absolutely never include. of the relationship of one language to another and thus of language as such. intensive fulfillment [Erfüllung]. in itself. plays its part in the language of translation.
not a mere process of becoming. while he was working on the early essay on language—he dismissed it as nonsense (letter to Scholem of November 11. 1916.18 In the idiom of the essay on the trans18 Benjamin writes in “The Concept of Art Criticism in German Romanticism” that “[t]he temporal infinitude in which this process [of unfolding and enhancement] takes places is likewise medial and qualitative. with whom Benjamin studied in Freiburg. and lessons from Hölderlin’s commentaries on Pindar. like the entire life of humanity. in GB II: 344. 1976–2011) I. though not without grotesquely conflating “quality” with “value. Benjamin writes of the temporal infinitude of the historical process—and the same holds for the process of languages in translation—that it is “medial and qualitative.” Benjamin uses the formula “Romantic messianism” twice in immediate proximity to these sentences (GS I: 92). still it maintains its force in the delapidated as well—so long as it easily apprehends the foreign in its own finely honed acuity” (Friedrich Hölderlin. 1919 that he wrote to Ernst Schoen after completing the rough draft of his dissertation (GB II: 23. The concept of a qualitative historical time stands at the center of Heidegger’s lecture Der Zeitbegriff in der Geschichtswissenschaften [The Concept of Time in the Historical Sciences]. The idea that the time of history is to be grasped as qualitative had been worked out in preliminary fashion by Heinrich Rickert. Heinrich Rickert. Despite this derisive judgment. progressibility [Progredibilität] is absolutely not that which is understood under the modern expression “progress” [Fortschritt. Die Grenzen der naturwissenschaftlichen Begriffsbildung—Eine logische Einleitung in die historischen Wissenschaften (Tübingen: Mohr. from the theorist of mediable imparting. in his book on The Limits of Concept Formation in the Natural Sciences: A Logical Introduction to the Historical Sciences. not a certain relation of cultural levels to one another that is only relative. Frühe Schriften. quantitatively determinable character” of time. lit.and historical-philosophical theory of pure mediality so central for him: lessons from Kierkegaard. the immediacy of all spiritual imparting” (GS II: 142). which he would take up again and sharpen years later in the theses on history. It is. In his dissertation on the concept of art criticism in German romanticism. its intensity. an infinite process of fulfillment. Benjamin names—albeit without designating them as such—two entry-points to the language. which precedes the essay on the translator by two years. history must be the intensive “synthesis” of an instant with one to come that cannot be produced through history. “forth-step”]. note 3). it was just that Heidegger’s advocacy of the qualitative character of historical time led nowhere further than the communis opinio of the neo-Kantians and left it in a fruitless opposition with the quantitative time of the natural sciences. In the same letter in which the verdict concerning Heidegger’s “horrible work” is to be found. that is.” but in which Hölderlin claims: “Should understanding be practiced intensively. Martin Heidegger. Messianism was designated by Benjamin the “center of Romanticism” in a letter from April 7. Benjamin was about to bring his language essay to a close and already in possession of an argument with which he could think the qualitative time of history more precisely as a “medial” one. since he had already conceived of the quality of language. . note 3).” Cf. Accordingly. ed. that is. 1913 ). By contrast.” He ties these thoughts on what he terms Romantic messianism together with an initial critique of the “modern” concept of progress. in which it is not only explained that “strict mediability is the law. there can be no doubt that already at this time. Indeed.510 Werner Hamacher as anticipation. as the “medial. Benjamin could not in principle have been at odds with Heidegger’s critique of the “homogenous. Friedrich-Wilhelm von Hermann (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klosterman. which was partially directed at Rickert and which Benjamin read shortly after its publication in 1916. Cf.
which draws this anticipation to completion. linguistic time.. such is. For translation is not the synthesis of already given languages. This time is a process of fulfillment in the formulation of the work on art criticism. Anticipation is as little for Kant as “anticipatory [ . is the a priori of temporalization or time-ing [Zeitigung]. Translation between two languages is thus always also the translation of languages into the one language as such that is not yet given and never given at all. in Benjamin’s understanding. epochs. 1975–2008]. Heidegger 1976–2011. and in that fashion—ana-chronistically. Only the integral relation of all languages in the completeness of their historical unfolding would constitute language in general and language as such in the first place. this means. ] realization” is for Benjamin an anticipation in time regarded as the empty form of perception. Sattler [Frankfurt am Main: Stroemfeld Verlag. . This relationship.M L N 511 lator and in accordance with Kantian terminology. like Heidegger before him (cf. It is language’s anticipatory grasping of language itself. the consequences from the criterion of quality and would orient his critique of the dominant historical ideologies against the homogenous continuum of quantities that they supposed. its intensive realization in anticipation of itself and thus the basic structure of language and history as such. indeed. from which languages can first emerge at all as languages and. presents itself in allusive realization through translation and. E. or stages of history. it is a moment’s anticipation of any other moment. achronically—at once the constitution of historical time and of language. i. In its translation of the language of the original into its own. again following Kant. historical time is qualitative and intensive. . by D. XV: 291. intensive in the idiom of the translator essay. as languages of the one language. it transforms this language and its relation to the former. Like translation. 424 and 431). Translation. Translation is as little a belated connection between two given languages as history is the relation between two already completed times.e. translation is protosynthesis. the time of language. hence. As such. that it is the reality of something “so long as it fills time” (A143/B183). which does not exist as a positive fact. Several years would pass before Benjamin would draw. 293). the genesis of language as of history. rather. and projects a relation between languages in general that works toward their integral totality. . history is the leap that leads from one instant to another that is not given and that only emerges from this leap in the first place. and which is nonetheless registered within every language as a transcendental demand. and in both cases anticipatory. a language’s anticipation of another language. in the manner of anticipaSämtliche Werke. ed.
and the how of their meaning makes of each an intensive. and thereby of language as such. in Kantian fashion: experiences are only possible when. the various languages’ manners of meaning complement one another to make up “the meant”: For individual languages that are not complementing one another. never as anticipation of something already existing elsewhere. but rather of something first given through this very anticipation. not in their particular utterances but in the manner of their meaning. but how they speak that is significant in languages. and that it is the organon of prealization [Vorwirklichung] of language. The intention to language in general lies in the always singular manner of intention of the individual languages. but rather grasped in constant flux. Benjamin writes. But when these swell up in this manner to the messianic end of their history. within the structure of the various media of experience. Kant was not the first to think of anticipation as the foundational figure of the understanding. The messianic semiotics of the integration of specific linguistic intentions into a single intended within them may be formulated profanely. however. Language itself is only given to us in its a priori anticipation or pre-empting [Vorwegnahme]—that is. it remains buried [verborgen] in languages. He himself justifies the introduction of . More specifically. the one thing signified in them is already anticipated. makes of translation a messianic project: in translation. until through the harmony of all those manners of meaning it steps forward as pure language. It is not what is uttered in them. how present it might become in the knowledge of this distance (GS IV: 14). then it is for translation. Until then.]. In translation qua transcendental anticipation of the end of languages and their—and every—history. translation attains to the degree of intensity of language as such. to make always a fresh trial of that sacred growth of languages: at what distance what is buried there lies from revelation. . their “meant” [which is. surpassing the individual languages but itself no longer surpassable. instantly fulfilled—but in this fulfillment still self-transcending—medium of language in general.512 Werner Hamacher tion. . language and history realize themselves. As the language of linguistic relations. language is messianic—messianic a priori—as its own “what lies ahead [ihr eigenes Voraus]. Translation is the messianic medium for the messianic end of history in pure language. pure language] is never met with in relative independence [. Languages are messianically anticipatory and intensive. which kindles itself in the eternal living forth [Fortleben] of works and the endless coming to life [Aufleben] of languages. The fact that translation is the organon of language’s reality [Wirklichkeit] in the anticipation of language.
Prolepsis and anticipation are thus synonymous for Cicero and Kant insofar as both designate the anticipatory grasping.M L N 513 this concept with a reference to Epicurus. Opere. Letter to Menoeceus 124). .e. For Epicurus.” and where Cicero introduces his use by ascribing it to this sense of Epicurus’s prolepsis. this structure is translation as prolepsis of language—and only on that account also of languages—to language: in it. (Turin: Einaudi.. but into language. Teubner. into language as translation.” it transposes languages into translation. 1973). the πρόληψις. Marcus Tullius Cicero. translation trans-poses [setzt über] languages into languages not only that are in each case other. Only as anticipation is this realization possible. not as revelation or as production—translation. “intensive. When Benjamin writes of a realization of language that is “germinal or intensive” and. “[o]ne can call all cognition an anticipation—whereby I can know and determine a priori that which belongs to empirical cognition—and it is without question that such was the sense in which Epicurus used his expression πρόληψις” (A166–67/B208). is prolepsis for Benjamin the presentation—indeed. a seed or germ (Letter to Herodotus 39. and consequently of a language that precedes those of the categories and empossibilizes them. anticipatory” (GS 4:12). i. But since the linguisticality of language is given in no other way and is in 19 Presumably. The internal generative structure of language is translation as prolepsis. they come to language. can “impossibly reveal. In translation. however. impossibly produce” (GS IV: 12) the buried relation of languages—but only as the anticipation or preliminary design of a linguistic material that. so. in which πρῶτον ἐννόημα is at work. Kant was familiar with the concept of prolepsis from Cicero’s De natura deorum (I. into pure language as pure prolepsis. is additionally a σπέρμα.e. 1968). As prolepsis. in it. Graziano Arrighetti. languages prove themselves to belong to language. again. where it is translated with the Latin concepts “praenotio” (i. De natura deorum (Stuttgart: B. in which the thought of λόγος σπερματιχός lived forth [fortlebte] from the Stoic tradition. pre-cept. since translation itself is the “innermost relation of languages” to one another and thus implicitly to language itself.43). is not to be found as a temporal or spatial existent. but only as this anticipation and design of prolepsis itself.G. of language itself. “germinally or intensively realized. Epicuro. one must perhaps read in this combination of germ and anticipation less an immediate reminiscence of Epicurus than a reference to the germ and seed cult of the Romantics. the only possible presentation—of the relation between languages.19 Now if this prolepsis is for Kant the form in which the transcendental language (of the categories) engenders possible empirical objects.. they first realize their linguistic essence. too. or anticipation that allows access to the things meant therein. for its part. in it. cf. language realizes itself as anticipation of itself. writing. Indeed. 2nd ed. anticipation) and “anticipatio. Benjamin writes. it poses them in relation to one another and.
prolepsis as the a prioricization of language. With the generalization of prolepsis into the mode of realization of language as such. and since it is only in this a prioricizing prolepsis that the individual languages communicate with one another. indeed. the generative structure—of language as such. In translation. since it is only in this projection [Vorsprung] that languages speak at all. of the name (GS II: 144). they are “language as such. the proto. however. as the category before all categories. Prolepsis is thus less the founding principle of every possible experience than the proposition [Satz]—the leap [Sprung]—in which alone a basis for experience emerges. and no longer only the structure of categoriality. Anticipation. they do not impart to one another in translation a something and they do not impart some empirical or even transcendent agency. language realizes itself as absolute presupposition [Voraus-setzung] and only thus as the empossibilizing of judgingly intentional languages in that which Benjamin calls language as such. And since this absolute. non-aggregative manner in translation. with that. they impart instead only their impartibility and. unapproachably .and anacategory under which alone language as language is possible and intensively real. And since it is only in this intention [Vorsatz] of language. translation is the intensive realization of language. but rather the structure— indeed. attains with Benjamin a simply limitless prerogative: it no longer marks merely the manner of operation of one among several categories. its totality” in a non-extensive. their pre-supposition in language. language—and all that can be said in it—becomes endless prolepsis: far beyond reach ahead of itself. language for another language and for the otherness of language: “language of language” and hence. historicizing “what lies ahead” is the a priori of prolepsis. without however ever being fixed as availably given or as produced. they impart themselves as the unconditional presupposition of every predicative and judging imparting. which for Kant belongs in the category of quality and furthermore of reality. the category of linguistic realization as such and. in which every individual language transcends itself and language itself is its own transcendence in language. As projection that is absolute and in every case singular. unconditional “what lies ahead” [voraussetzungslosen Voraus]. it is. The intensity of languages is the a priori “what lies ahead” of translation in them. thus designating their transcendental status. in every individual instant.514 Werner Hamacher no other way presentable—and is not producible at all—it consists in nothing other than this absolute. language itself is intensive. Prolepsis or anticipation designates the manner in which language realizes itself. as the early essay on language puts it. accordingly.
it speaks only in efforts. opens itself to being affected through phenomena. firstly. . therefore. is never given in anything other than a continuum of degrees and.] It follows that all phenomena as such are continuous quantities: extensive when considered in terms of their intuition and intensive when considered in terms of simple perception (sensation and consequently reality) (A169–70/B 211–2). that there is no part in which it has its end and thus that it is infinite in terms of both extension and intensity. and again unlike for Kant. “intensive” means. degrees. Space and time are quanta continua. In the world of phenomena there is no place at which it would cease to be reality. what is given to it in sense- . anticipatory. all languages are proleptic and all are intensive languages.M L N 515 behind itself. as the self in its role as the pronoun of emphasis indicates. Experience is only possible insofar as its subject itself. it opens itself to such affection inasmuch as it arrogates to appearances the character of a something. Intensive. Language itself: this is their self-relation and. not posited. it is not simply positive. that “from experience there can never be drawn a proof of empty space or of an empty time” (A172/B214). and hence in such a manner that this part itself is still again a space or a time. their thingness as well as their extension in the phenomenon. it also means allusive [andeutend] (not signifying [bedeutend]). that is. a positive determination. this indicates. anticipatory. To the extent that their intention and their intensity are directed toward language in general and thus toward bare. it is such as pure intensity. as a presupposition. [. Kant insists that the real of phenomena. so Kant concludes. because no part of them can be given save as included within boundaries (points and instants). in mathematical determinations of quantity: The property of quantities by which no part of them is the smallest possible (by which no part is simple) is called continuity. allusive realization of the innermost relation of languages: in Benjamin’s definition of translation. It posits anticipatorily. That there is no smallest part of a continuum means. unlike for Kant. . intensities—each of which is grasped in its escalation and is hence the “latest and most comprehensive” (GS IV: 11)—as infinite finitude. In his commentary on the principle of anticipations. as for Kant. Since prolepsis is the minimal juncture binding languages with language in general and manifesting their belonging to language itself. a thingly nature. pure language—which is exposed by impartings—they orient themselves toward their own mediality. in the concepts by which it is grasped.
transcendentally material. a degree. a real. . and attains access in this presupposition to an uninterrupted series of realities. in an endless gradation that is each time singular. The principle of anticipations thus includes a further principle— Kant calls it a regulative idea of pure reason—through which an unarticulated connection.516 Werner Hamacher impression. when there always lies between an arbitrarily small quantity of sense-impression and the next-smaller an interval that is smaller than that separating the first from zero. Degree—or intensity—thus means unexposed [unausgesetzte] positive determination in an infinite continuum. the so-called infinitesimal. and hence the continuum suggests not only a connection—and even a fluid connection: Kant expressly refers to Newton’s “fluentes” when he speaks of flowing quantities (A170/B210)—but rather. In stepping through the infinitesimal degrees within selfsameness. the uninterrupted and hence infinite presence of a thing as such. “by means merely of the sense impression. in this dense connection of infinitely differentiated quantities. thus every “here and now” is. . but an intensive rather than an extensive one. something as such.” writes Kant. there are always only ever more degrees to be encountered. Regardless of whether it is the determination of a merely possible or of an actual intuition. In this principle. When no number can be the smallest. this thingness fulfills [erfüllt] each instant of time in such a manner that every “here and now” can be the “here and now” of a sense impression or experience. then with their reality. it always also suggests a structure for the identical: a quantity as such. is buried within it: the principle of anticipations must be based in the principle of continuity. but also infinitely real gradations. becomes thinkable. when any given quantity of perception can yet be endlessly reduced before disappearing. the mathematical formulation of which first becomes possible via Leibniz’s introduction of arbitrarily small quantities. fills only an instant [. The schema of reality that operates in the anticipations of perception is thus the schema of an unarticulated and infinitely singular fulfilling of time: “Apprehension. The continuum guarantees the ongoing presence of something as something at all in infinitely differentiated. if not quite with the actuality of objects.]” . thingness in the inseparable chain of singularities. then the succession of these infinitesimal degrees constitutes a “continuous connection” of degrees (A168/B210) and this continuity itself must shelter within it the irreducible reality-character of these degrees.
he speaks of a “schema of reality as the quantity of something insofar as it fills time” (A143/B183). Editio VII [Hildesheim: Olms. what corresponds to its absence. altera positiva. Reality is thus the filling of time. and the third. Berlin 1930. if not immediately from the Scholastic tradition or from the texts of Leibniz. This makes of the Kantian conception of filling time a paradox: as fully filled as it may be. which if true is reality. 23 “Quae determinando ponuntur in aliquo.20 Every experience thus refers. or a negative determination. and signifies 20 Accordingly.” which has to do with the content of time.21 Kant derived the concept of reality. negation. also means of course that in each individual reality both the second category from the categorical group of quality. Reality in the continuum is only ever possible as limn and hence as further determinable. contrary to negation = 0. which if true is negation. independently of whether this thing is actual or merely logically possible. its essence or quidditas. that which corresponds to sense-impressions as such. to the thingness of objects as to that irreducible position of quantities that are in each case singular. would only present something the very concept of which includes being. Metaphysica. . The concept of being that Kant uses is also to be understood in this sense of reality as positive determination: “the real. altera negativa. it can always be more fully filled. negatio (Verneinungen [negations])” (Alexander Baumgarten. Kant translates this formal definition of realitas as determinatio into the terminology of the critique when he writes: “Now. according to Kant. then from Baumgarten’s Metaphysica. 1982 [1779)] 11). et affirmativa. in which the empty intuitionform of time fulfills itself as in instants. to the real. the category of limitation.22 There. (notae et praedicata) sunt determinationes (Bestimmungen [determinations]). In the chapter on the Schematism. Baumgarten offers in §36 the following definition: “What is posited in something through determination is either a positive or affirmative determination. Kant writes of “infinitely differentiated gradations with which space or time would be filled” (A173/B214). and that they are organized in a continuum. every real not merely something as such but rather the “here and now” of a something in the continuum that is distinct and fills in a distinct fashion.” 22 Treating the history of the concept of realitas. are operative: there is absolutely no reality that would not be accompanied by a negation and constrained in such a way that there can no more be a last negation or a final limit than there can be a final reality. quae si vere sit. and explicitly ascribes to this schema of reality the form of “determination of time.”23 As positive determination—as position or as positing—reality is thus the counterconcept of negation. 21 That realities and hence intensities only ever occur in plural. reprinted in Zwei Untersuchungen zur nachscholastischen Philosophie). negation = 0” (A167/B209). designating that which constitutes the character of a thing as thing. Anneliese Maier’s “Kant’s Categories of Quality” discusses these different possibilities with sophistication (Issue 65 of Kantstudien. Precisely this paradox constitutes the content of the term “intensity. quae si vere sit. that which in the empirical intuition corresponds to the sense-impression is reality (realitas phaenomenon).M L N 517 (A167/B209). est realitas.
Hence. “correlate [entsprechen]. As concept “in itself. that they have a degree. so for both it is. 1900. On the basis of the unexposed [unausgesetzten] continuum of the real and thus of the irreducible position of a quantity as such. Deutsche] Akademie der Wissenschaften (Berlin: Reimer [later. strengthening in intensity” (Metaphysica 74). This immediately schematizing movement of concepts. Metaphysica. Staffel [a step.” correlate in infinitesimal differences and. and intensities. “in themselves. as though the source would be quite naturally known. he translates intenditur as “accumulating. 73). gradations. and thus in such a manner as to present itself only in quantitative determinations of difference. “[d]egree is the quantity of quality (or the quantity of capacity [des Vermögens]). allows itself to be anticipated a priori. that is. for its part. posited as the determination of quality only in degrees. once more in keeping with the language of the Scholastics and of Leibniz. Königliche preußische [later. Negation. “sense”: they schematize themselves. Prolegomena zu einer jeden künftigen Metaphysik.). in the paragraph following the one from which Kant quotes. a self-affection that he calls a “sense-impression as such” that opens up the possibility of an empirical. The problem of “correspondence” is thus resolved for Kant via a sui-correspondence of the concept of the understanding. in his illustration of the structure of intensity. in that manner. as Baumgarten writes in §246 of his Metaphysica. “Correlations [Entsprechungen]” or “correspondences [Korrespondenzen]” between concepts and beings occur because the concepts themselves. Moreover. translating intensio with “the higher. therefore. ed. 25 “Quantitas qualitatis est gradus (eine Stuffe. In §26 of his Prolegomena (A 95). all else remains abandoned to experience” (A176/B218). and Kant consistently speaks for that reason of the schema also as a “sensual concept” (A146/B186). . which means however their immediate mediability. which are in every case distinct. but that of all qualities (the real of phenomena) we can know nothing further a priori than this intensive quantity itself.”25 and Kant refines this definition with regard to quantities a priori: “It is noteworthy that of quantities as such we can know only a single quality a priori. objective sense-impression with which it must. and on this basis alone. in Gesammelte Schriften.” the simple concept (nota) is a determination and therefore a signal of the intratemporal being of a something. Immanuel Kant. de Gruyter]. the intensive quantity of realities in the continuum between 0 and 1. All anticipa24 Accordingly.” For Kant. Kant quotes this definition of Baumgarten’s without citation.518 Werner Hamacher nothing but synthesis in an empirical consciousness as such” (A175/ B217). a relay]) (quantitas virtutis)” (Baumgarten. he writes in the Schematism chapter while more precisely defining this being as a being in time: “Reality is that which in the pure concept of the understanding corresponds to a sense-impression as such. and thus that whose concept in itself designates a being (in time). Baumgarten defines the multitude of degrees that collect themselves in a degree as intensio. appears nowhere more forcefully in Kant’s presentation than in his characterization of the concept and the schema of reality and. in individual steps. that whose concept presents a not-being [Nichtsein] (in time)” (A143/B182). namely continuity.” and uses the formulation qualitas intenditur to characterize the increase of degrees.24 Just as reality is for Baumgarten and for Kant the affirmative positing of a material content [eines Sachgehalts].
and only as such is it in the strong sense of the word propositional and does it proleptically constitute a presentation [Vorstellung]. it follows the schema of number (A142/B182). The plurality of possible perceptions is irreducible because reality as such can never be abstracted from its character as quantity: as positing. is positing—determinando ponuntur. For finite reason it is absolutely essential that its phenomena be “given”. and that means it is always already posited in the category of quantity itself. Only in the framework that affords positive determination. of intensive quantities. but must grasp the given in synthetic judgments. and which.” are pre-suppositions [Voraus-Setzungen] of the real. empirical sense-impression is thus posited in relation to the concept of a positing as such: a concept that “in itself includes a being” (A175/B217). without this “autothesis” there would be no synthesis a priori with phenomena and no objective sense-impression. can an intuition relate to phenomena and become the cognition of an object. it cannot analytically weave a world out of its concepts. which “makes every reality presentable as a quantum” (A143/B183).” Their synthetic anticipation is an anticipation of the concept of number. The mathematical logic of the position is inscribed in the entire structure of cognition—including what Kant calls its dynamic part—and regu- . as sense-impression as such” (A167/ B209). subsumes reality under the pure concepts of mathematics. What is anticipated in the anticipations of perceptions is the endless multiplicity of points of time and space that are posited and therefore fulfilled as things [sachlich erfüllt]. as an “application of mathematics (mathesis intensorum)” in the Prolegomena (A 92). the positing of its “what lies ahead. It is the position of material content in the sense-impression in itself. according to Kant. and without this position. the positing of a thing as such as irreducible quantum or as number. even if mediated. as Baumgarten defines it. no experience. while the empirical sense-impression is posited in relation to what Kant calls “sense-impression in itself” (B208). Kant can hence describe the anticipations of the real. only ever given to finite reason in relation to the positing of this given—it is a given-to-positing [ein der Setzung Gegebenes]—and objective reality is posited exclusively in relation to the concept of a reality as such. of “being (in time). the multiplicity of possible experiences is an always already mathematically schematized multiplicity of degrees. and with it quality. Anticipations of the real. continuum and intensity. which is operative in “every sense-impression. Reality.M L N 519 tion is anticipation of that which is posited in the concept [Begriff] as preconception [Vorbegriff] and anticipatory grasping [Vorgriff]. For Kant. But a given is.
the Kant of the 26 [Translator’s note: Here.). it is not only the various disciplinary distinctions between mathematics and religion that must fall away. though no longer subjective. or intensity. always means for Kant the intensity of a positing and hence posited intensity. This logical empossibilizing of concrete as well as religious experience. Benjamin did not subject Kantian transcendentalism to critique because it was insufficiently empirical. for its part and following the principle of the “linguistic essence of cognition” (168). in which Benjamin hopes to “find the sphere of total neutrality as regards the concepts object and subject” (ibid. this consciousness must itself immanently step out beyond its own experiences—and can for this reason still be called transcendental.520 Werner Hamacher lates the being of the real no less than the filling of time and space in the “here and now” of the continuum. With the exclusive foundation of experience in a transcendental language. much less materialist. per Benjamin. as ever.26 In his “Program for a Coming Philosophy” and in the early philosophical studies of language and art in the midst of which it stands. is to be founded in a pure transcendental consciousness that is not formal-logical but is instead solely linguistic. so long as this term remains useable once stripped of all characteristics of a subject” (GS II: 162–3). “All authentic experience refers to the pure cognition-theoretical (transcendental) consciousness. posited being. and no longer mathematically schematized. The pure transcendental consciousness. the reader should recall the multiple valences of setzen. make of transcendental consciousness the exclusive ground of experience: “Thus the task of the coming philosophy is construed as the discovery or creation of that concept of cognition that. the concept of the transcendental.” “gesetzte Intensität.” especially the way it forms “the law. too. logically empossibilizes not only mechanical but also religious experience” (164). then experience can. which with Kant (namely. only be a linguistic experience and an experience of language.” is always also regulated or legislated intensity and being. is for him not to be an agency that would stand opposite [gegenüberstehen] a realm of sensual data. “Posited intensity. “The great transmutation and remediation of the one-sidedly mathematical-mechanical concept of cognition that is to be undertaken” (168) must. If this concept of experience is to be meaningful. “to posit or place. however. and thus intensity. Being in the continuum of the real. gesetztes Sein. rather.] . inasmuch as it at once relates the concept of understanding exclusively to the transcendental consciousness.” das Gesetz. posited being. but because it was not transcendental enough. however.
however. that is. since this remains bound to the subject-position of consciousness and imputes to experience the premises of a naturally developing subjectivity and thereby a mythology.” that the “whole” is a thoroughly metaphysical rudiment in the theory of cognition [. but can only relate itself to it if this object is still not objective [objektiver]—not a thing standing opposite [gegenständlicher]—but rather only the subject’s affecting of itself. An initial consequence of Benjamin’s transformation of the Kantian system concerns the concept of the sense-impression. Thus Benjamin discards sense-impression as the criterion of the objectivity of an experience. in connection with his critical commentary on “human empirical consciousness” and its “subject nature. for the most part) translated as “object” or “thing. . following Benjamin. he connects its concept 27 [Translator’s note: It is useful to keep in mind that Gegenstand. plays the greatest role. would move through and beyond. This conception.” This notion of the object as a preconstituted external thing standing opposite a subject entails still a Cartesian epistemology that Hamacher.]. is mythology. which is for Kant “the material of perception” (A167/B209) but as “senseimpression in itself is absolutely not objective presentation” (B208). The sense-impression relates to the real as to the “object [Gegenstand] of sense-impression” (B207). if there should be an empirical consciousness—and.M L N 521 first Critique) still stood entirely under the law of mathematics and mechanics. and as far as its truth content goes. but he strikes at its underlying model of presentation when he objects in the “Program” essay.” through whose senses sense-impressions would be received and who would on their basis form its ideas. In his account.] . the real. now no longer in the “Program” but in the essay on the translator. and it can only be “synthesis of a sense-impression’s production of quantity” (B208). transforms itself.27 Sense-impression can thus only be an a priori synthesis if it is sensual self-impression and as such both sense-impression and its material. it is equivalent to any other mythology of cognition (GS II: 161). strictly speaking. there is for Kant no other—then it is the auto-empirical consciousness of the subject in its transcendental apperception. when it originally produces itself as quantity in its auto-affection. With equal vigor. corporeal-spiritual “I. the production or positing of an intensity. That is. it is absolutely not to be doubted that within Kant’s concept of cognition the presentation—however sublimated—of an individual. Hence. he discards sensation as the criterion of life when. though typically (and here. Benjamin avoids these complications within Kant’s concept of sensation.” decompositionally translates as “stand-against” or “stand-opposed. .
and mythology—which Benjamin’s re-founding of the concept of experience in a transcendental philosophy of language seeks to eliminate—stands positing. [. subjectivity.” and in particular for an exposition of that which Benjamin calls “deposing” [Entsetzung]. 29 For clarification of the relations of violence and positing in “Toward the Critique of Violence. . Christiaan Nibbrig. which can only incidentally distinguish it. and with it the concept of being. There are good reasons for assuming that Benjamin was familiar with both texts. nature. of prolonging its domination by the feeble scepter of the soul. . but rather above all implies critique of the philosophy of 28 Fechner’s justification of psycho-physical parallelism is given thorough critical attention in Hermann Cohen’s The Principal of the Infinitesimal Method and Its History and in Bergson’s Essay on the Immediate Givens of Consciousness. never mind that life could be defined by the even less decisive moments of the animalistic. What is mythical for Benjamin. not by nature and still less by such fickle matters as sense-impressions and the soul.522 Werner Hamacher with that of the animalistic and. Das Prinzip der Infinitesimalmethode und seine Geschichte: Ein Kapitel zur Grundlegung der Erkenntniskritik (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. which regulates the entire Kantian system and whose further development by Fichte into the notion of self-positing Benjamin had contended with in his dissertation on art critcism. . as his essay “On the Critique of Violence” most forcefully makes clear. Sense-impression.” he writes there. nature. In the center of each stands the concept of intensity. 1994) 340-371 [translated as “Afformative. Streik” in Was heiβt “Darstellen. 1948 ).” ed. Henri Bergson. as Fechner attempts to do.29 In the center of that configuration of sense-impression. with the concept of nature: “But it cannot be a matter. Strike” in Cardozo Law Review 13:1133]. of a real and actual. as with the talk of subject-nature. 1968). the violence of positing [Setzung] as manifestation and as means (GS II: 197–9). Hermann Cohen. is the violence of law-giving [Rechtsetzung] and the positioning of power [Machtsetzung]. The radicalization of transcendentalism means for Benjamin not only the erasure or redemption [Tilgung] of its empirical and naturalistic residues. (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. that the ambit of life is to be determined (GS IV: 11). Cf. subjectivity. Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. see my essay “Afformativ. and mythology thus stand for Benjamin in a configuration that could only remain decisive for the “metaphysical” concept of experience from Kant on to Fechner28 and the neo-Kantians because they did not determine the horizon of life in terms of history—and hence of “living on”—and of language—and hence of translation. as also by sense-impression.] For it is by history.
but while for all these—with the problematic exception of Leibniz—the barrier between subject and object remains decisive for all experience. . [. unknown to Kant. This transpires. And after he has pointed. in connection with Leibniz. . That which speaks or “languages” [spricht]. Thus Benjamin opposes the “reduction of all experience to the scientific” and pleads emphatically for a “continuity of experience” and for the necessity of establishing a “pure. the intuition and sense-impression into concepts of the understanding. is there termed the name. The second consequence to emerge from Benjamin’s discarding of the subject-object model of experience concerns the principle of continuity. the sensual into the intelligible. however. the name is the “translation of the language of things into that of man” (150). on the one hand (as already in his study of Hölderlin). he defines experience apodictically as “the unified and continuous multiplicity of cognition” (168).M L N 523 subjectivity and the transformation of every doctrine of positing and self-positing that defines its horizon. without question.” and. systematic continuum of experience” in metaphysics (164). translation is the transcendence of languages in one another and. Consequently. Benjamin had already realized in outline his program for a philosophy in which language would be regarded as a transcendental-empirical continuum of experience and thus not merely as a form. but is rather metaphysical” (167). and in fact received in language: it is the “conception of the nameless in the name. . the “language of language” (144). Benjamin’s concept of continuity must put aside precisely this barrier and with it the barrier between natural science or mathematics and religion. which he tries to capture with the concept of the continuum. on the other. and it is in ideas [Ideen] that the ground must be shown for the unity and continuity of every experience that is not vulgar and not only scientific.” As much spontaneous as receptive. and above all Cohen (but also Bergson.] continuity is only second in importance to unity. but just as much the very material of empiricism. since it is in part given and in part received. As early as the language essay of 1916. Translation is thus for Benjamin the word for the crossover of the nameless into names. to the “concept of identity. The conduit between spontaneity and receptivity. and Cassirer). Rickert. It stands in the middle of his reflections on the coming philosophy and on the theory of language. Indeed. and since for him their dualistically opposed spheres are languages. to the Kantian concept of the idea in which the unity of experience consists. he proceeds: “For the deepened concept of experience. Kant. as such. translates.
Kant writes: “datur continuum formarum. which are laid out in Kant’s first Critique for the regulative use of ideas of reason—most especially the idea of purposiveness. he says. which mediates between the principles of unity and of specification. nature itself has a linguistic character. without which there would be no crossovers or transformations. . Benjamin must retreat from the Kantian distinction between 30 Benjamin traces the theme of affinity in the 1919 sketch entitled “Analogy and Affinity” (GS VI: 43–5) and works it out more fully in the essay on Goethe’s Elective Affinities [Wahlverwandtschaften]. all variations of species border on one another and allow no transition to one another via a leap. insofar as he speaks on the one hand of a “continuum of transformations” (GS II: 151) and.]” (A659/B687). moreover. but as a determinate degree of a thoroughly linguistic actuality relates itself to another. related in that which he had previously termed translation’s purposiveness for expression of the relations between languages (GS IV: 12). Continua of transformation. and that of continuity binding the first two.” hence. of the “affinity [Verwandtschaft] of languages. With this interpretation of translation—and hence of language as such—Benjamin is in fact closer to the Kant he later criticized than he would wish to concede. . it relates to language not as a phenomenon to a concept. In his understanding of the continuum of language. on the other. that is. as a law of the “affinity [Affinität] of all concepts” (A657/B685) and of the “affinity [Verwandtschaft] of nature’s members” (A661/B689). If Kant characterizes this law of continuity. then. but instead only through all those smaller degrees of difference by which one can arrive from one species at another [. in the essay on the translator. too. by contrast.30 The transcendental law of affinity or continuity (lex continui in natura). that languages are “a priori related [verwandt] to one another in that which they wish to say. in which the merely logical law of forms is based. for he follows here the principles of homogeneity and specification. higher degree. however. represents for Kant only a regulative idea “for which a congruent object in experience certainly cannot be shown” (A661/B689). . this decisive Kantian constraint must be dropped entirely because. for him. cross-sect translation” (151). here. Benjamin defines it as follows: “Translation is the crossover [Überführung] of one language into another through a continuum of transformations.524 Werner Hamacher it translates from one language into another in the medium of translatability and therewith in language itself as the continuum. For Benjamin. There. Benjamin follows him. not abstract circuits of equivalence and similarity.
and instead characterize the relation of languages to one another with express reference to the Scholastic doctrine of levels of existence [Existenzstufen]. which is to be found within spiritual essence itself [des geistigen Wesens selbst]. And this being is in every case given only in a continuum of degrees or intensities. They gradually differentiate themselves. only as media crossing over into one another in a continuum. in a continuum of degrees of existence and intensities of language that “does not allow of comprehension via any overarching category” and whose scope is not limited by any higher agency. which differentiate themselves by their density. as was already customary for Scholasticism with respect to the spiritual (Ibid. which in turn determines itself as a continuous multiplicity of being. with a continuous multiplicity of languages. the ontotheological proposition of god as a supermajority of being. and in particular for the mathematical and theological sounding of that domain. falls to the side precisely in the manner that Benjamin programmatically requires. albeit at the .e. as that “of media. however. The absolutization of the continuum injects an ambiguity into its structure that brings with it consequences for the entire domain of linguistic being. between mere reality and actual existence. gradually” (GS II: 146). proceeds in a gradation of all spiritual being [geistigen Seins] into levels of degree. the opposition between mathematical and dynamic categories. With the extrication of the continuity principle from the order of the categories. and ultimately also the opposition between the domains of mathematically based cognition and religious experience. the identification of spiritual with linguistic essence [des geistigen mit dem sprachlichen Wesen].M L N 525 concept and intuition. i. This gradation. Being for him is being from language. and between cognition and existence [Existenz]. Benjamin expresses this straightforwardly enough: For the metaphysics of language.” or god. “I think. The thrust of Benjamin’s early writings is to prove not only the linguistic essence of cognition and of history. the consummately uttered and the absolutely revealed. in the essay on language. whether called idea. in releasing the continuum from all restrictions and conceiving of it as a dense infinity of degrees of existence. The “continuous multiplicity of cognition” with which the “Program” essay is concerned thus corresponds. becomes possible. so to speak. does not allow of comprehension via any overarching category and for that reason leads to the gradation of all spiritual and linguistic essence into degrees of existence [Existenzgraden] and degrees of being [Seinsgraden]. however. On the one hand.). linguistic being.. which knows only gradual differences. but just as much the linguistic essence of being.
god would be the unutterable. translatability. that which is never uttered but only ever addressed in all languages. for its part. the essence of language. When Benjamin founds cognition in translatability and hence in the continuum conceived as the essence of language. language and hence being would be unutterable in their infinite utterability. in irreducible multiplicity. “the highest spiritual realm” is also described as “addressed in the name. and so forth ad infinitum. The paradoxes of the continuum are the paradoxes of its infiniteness.526 Werner Hamacher greatest conceivable distance from Kant—Benjamin characterizes the “highest spiritual realm of religion” as one that “knows no unutterable” (147). The continuum cannot be presented in the continuum without at the same time being affirmed and interrupted: affirmed through its extension.” and the word of revelation is characterized by its untouchability (146–7). it can—no more than it abandons the realm of the revealed. as there are only infinite continua of degrees of existence and revelation.. and thus also a highest spiritual realm of religion. i. it is at least implied that a superior being. and there burst asunder. literally is not. On the other hand. linguistic being is unutterable in principle and thereby neither language nor being. only imperfectly—and moreover such that the intensity of its having been uttered appends to the utterable a further degree. if the absolutely utterable is to be uttered. the argument for the immanent reversal in the principle of the continuum of media and presentation reads as follows: that which presents itself can never be the object of presentation. of self-presenting in minima—never be absolutely determined in a single presentation and also never in the infinite and thus unfulfillable totality of presentations: on the grounds of its limitless continuity. since as object it could no longer present itself but would rather be the victim of a restrictive exhibition. If linguistic being presents itself in an infinite continuum of intensities. And. which for its part must be uttered in the medium of another intensity. in being from language and in being in language. not despite but precisely because of his utterability (since this is infinite. interrupted through its presentation as continuum. and makes cognition into something that. in turn. In other words. Accordingly. this can only be in each case in one among infinitely many intensities—hence. too. but in its infiniteness inexhaustible): paradoxically. but relieves this continuum of all restrictive positions—first of which is the transcendental subject-position—he makes the continuum. So. infinities of intensities among which none can be the highest or lowest. cannot possibly appear or be revealed or be uttered .e. They reach their critical point in language and in being.
is just as much absolute untranslatability—namely. the immediability [Unmittelbarkeit] of all spiritual imparting. because it is true GB I: 349. Language is.] to true language [wahren Sprache]. that is. as the translator essay insists. It is in this dual sense that the emphasis on suffixes in the early essay on language is to be understood. the untranslatability of just this translatability. note 3. of imparting. the suffix of possibility reveals its adjectival sense and denotes: barring/ open to [bar] every possibility of cognition. which never bind together in a unity.32 For Benjamin. as in the sentences: “Spiritual being is identical with linguistic being only insofar as it is impartable [mitteilbar]”. language as language. decisive”. impartible. or “The medial. see my text “Maser: Bemerkungen im Hinblick auf die Bilder von Hinrich Weidemann.” Berlin: Galerie Max Hetzler. thus languages [spricht] only in its disintegration into the multiplicity of languages. and language is in its revealability itself unutterable. Cognizable. It is precisely there. of translation. in a word—though a disintegrating one—translatable. (For further reflections on the structure of bar. . “over and above all imparting something final.) 31 32 . but also for freedom (it constitutes one of the centers of the essay on the translator) and for purity—especially that of “pure language. Precisely because it consists of nothing but mere speaking [Sprechen]. the text is “absolutely translatable” where it “belongs immediately [.31 If impartibility is the essence of language. .” of which Benjamin speaks in a letter to his friend Herbert Blumenthal shortly after composing the essay on language. every propositional statement must fail it. 1998. and to doctrine [Lehre]” (21). . that it is incapable of any further translation and. bar is not only the word for truth or revealability.M L N 527 as such in the continuum. . This is the “crisis” at the “heart of language. which empossibilizes and directs the movements and becoming of languages toward “language as a whole” (16). “This impartable [Mitteilbare] is immediately language itself”. then there remains. which Benjamin uses at critical moments in his argumentation. speaking in and of it can only ever occur in a multiplicity of languages [Sprachen] and statements [Aussagen]. translatable [-bar]—in these transcendentalist concepts. to truth [Wahrheit]. or in a language. in a translation.” of the mere. is the fundamental problem of linguistic theory [. And because it is mere language or speech [Sprache]. Here. And pure language itself speaks [spricht] only in failing itself. however. presentation is itself unpresentable. Its continuum is essentially discontinuous. of that free from all imparting [Mitteilung]. Pure language. Revelation cannot be the object [Gegenstand] of revelation. there remains in imparting “a non-impartible” that divides it from itself (GS IV: 19). Absolute translatability.]” (GS II: 142). The movement of translation is itself untranslatable.
e. It is realized intensively. . which is common to all.] realization. but also translation’s own discontinuity with language. and thus the intensive. irreducible fact. anticipatorily. language in the mere fact of its occurring. . and without expressly saying so. i. the anticipation of translation does not refer to an ever higher degree in the continuum of communications—in this.e.33 In practice. the linguisticality of language. or idiomatically distinct.” he writes: “One can thus abstract entirely from the extensive quantity of the phenomenon and conceive of simple sense-impression in a moment as a synthesis of the uniform increases from 0 up to the given empirical consciousness” (A176/B218). it is thus not a phenomenon within a continuum. and that the intensity of the real remains unaccounted for as a singular. but rather the mere fact of uttering itself [das bloße Sprechen selbst]. This allows the continuity between languages in translation to become apparent. it must present itself from the perspective of the continuum itself as the continuum’s discontinuation.528 Werner Hamacher [wahr]. spatially. anticipatory [. Kant had noted that. In the Kantianizing formula of intensive.. as the sole marker of the real. because its accomplished actuality in any finite language is held back by its semantic load. Kant abstracts from the continuum itself in order to retain the instant or the moment. cannot appear within the continuum and can neither be semantically signified nor technically produced nor arbitrarily revealed within it. i. their “withheld domain of reconciliation and fulfillment” (15). . . In translation. it is barred from/open to [bar] every translation. Though for Kant the intensive is capable of infinite increases and diminutions. and thus extensively determinable language is indicated there. it would reach only one among the virtual infinitude of languages—but rather concerns their “buried relation” (GS IV: 12). that is. as Benjamin understands it. that this realizes the language of language. however. again.. but rather essentially the phenomenon of continuity and therewith of 33 Thus. transcendingly. one can abstract from its extension in time and space. and anticipatorily because no temporally. This bar in its dual sense is the index of a crisis in the transcendental continuum of language and of linguistic being. on the basis of the continuum’s infinitude.] harbored without tension and self-silently [therein]” (16). in the “proof” of the “Anticipations of Perception. Since the continuity of the continuum. . this load is lightened to a minimum. but functions rather as one of the “last secrets [. And it is only intensively.
since bringing a presentation of the imagination into concepts is to expose it. from sense” (GS IV: 18).M L N 529 phenomenality itself—of the “sense-impression as sense-impression as such” (A167/B209)—and. Deutsche] Akademie der Wissenschaften (Berlin: Reimer [later. ed. What translation abstains from is thus judging predication and the intention that guides it.” making ready presentations “for which no expression is to be found” (315–6). 1900. As Kant writes elsewhere (§49). Königliche preußische [later. the aesthetic idea can be termed an inexposable presentation of the same (in its free play)” (342). For Benjamin. for Kant. Kritik der Urtheilskraft. does a relation between phenomenality and the concept begin to take shape. checkmating the truth of correspondence. . IV: 19. nearly a discontinuous phenomenon. and therewith from the aim itself. . is too near to the Benjaminian expressionless [Ausdruckslosen] (GS II: 130.34 But even this very intensity. But in pure language. as such. as the expressionless and creative word.] allows itself to be embraced within a determinate linguistic expression. in very large part. Of course. this inexpressibility. as Benjamin had defined it. while for Benjamin what is expressionless is pure. but rather is. from the aim of imparting something.” is thought by Kant as synthesis and thus as judgment. . from purpose and its positing in the subject. through which the cognizing subject imparts a phenomenon to itself as object [Gegenstand]. true language itself. Translation. Kant here shies away from drawing this consequence because it would trouble his correspondence theory of truth: phenomenality cannot itself simply be a phenomenon anymore. . I: 181) for one not to suppose it to be one of the catalysts for Benjamin’s concept. Kant speaks of the aesthetic idea as an “inexposable presentation of the imagination” because it is an intuition of the imagination “for which an adequate concept can never be found” (342). translation arrives at a realm in which it “no longer means and no longer expresses. a phenomenon is inexposable for a linguistic expression of the cognizing subject. the structure of which is fundamentally regulated by the intention toward meaning. Inexposable thus means presentable or expressible in no concept. aesthetic ideas give the imagination an impetus “to consider [. de Gruyter]. a phenomenon that only ever fills an instant.] more thereby than [. He remarks of this designation: “Now. Immanuel Kant. and hence it cannot correspond with any possible concept. the inexposable that bursts the continuum of concepts and their intention regarding the object. in which this relation realizes itself. in Gesammelte Schriften. in the first note on the “dissolution of the antinomy of taste” (§57).) (hereafter cited as KdU). is ultimately “purposive for expression of the innermost relation of languages to one another” (12). translation as Benjamin idiosyncratically defines it “abstains. language is intensively realized in translation in another sense. There. . with the principle of the inadequation of cognition and aesthetic ideas. This overtaxing of linguistic expression by the imagination and thus by the simple phenomenality of a phenomenon. in the transition from inexposable to expressionless the perspective has changed. In contrast to the synthesis of judgment. which as mere sense-impression or self-sensation is relieved of all succession and realizes itself “in a moment” or “in an instant. Only in the third Critique. that which is meant in all 34 As with many of his best insights.
but rather its saying: these are the aims of translation. as pure continuity. according to his study of Hölderlin or in the expressionless according to the translator essay and a little later in the piece on elective affinities. Benjamin. In translation—for every language. as language for or at another. . who was familiar not only with the Kantian antinomies and the paradoxes of Kierkegaard. and offers up no utterances concerning objects. is in principle already language in the course of translation—all languages have in principle a share in language itself. The continuum can only proceed in an aporia that allows no continuity between continuity and non-continuity. Geschichte und Auflösung (New York: Garland Publisher. the expressionless and the caesura offer foundations for the dissolution and the solution. Alexander Rüstow. its means and its end. and it absolves itself [spricht sich los] of all the inhibitions of an imparting that does not impart itself. bursts the continuum. Their intention orients them. but also with those of Russell’s mathematical philosophy. is cited (59). This saying. it is the expression of the expressionless. since the continuum. Der Lügner: Theorie. and “The Paradox of the Cretan. is itself not included in the continuum. in which all is included. But this “having a share” [Teilhabe] occurs for something that cannot 35 Cf. passes no judgment. The language of language—that is. The radicalization of the theorem of language’s thoroughgoing continuity thus does more than allow the ambiguity of this continuity to come to light. Not the significance of an utterance. The Liar’s Paradox. it is at once only continuum and no continuum at all. which speaks alongside [mitspricht] in all expression. the continuity of its occurring—does not mean. reveal the fact that it is stripped of the conditions of presentation but for that very reason of presentation as well. toward which translation and with it what is essential in every language is directed.530 Werner Hamacher languages” (19). is itself what is sayable in no expression: language speaks or languages [die Sprache spricht] only from out of the expressionless and into it.” the “Effort to Solve Russell’s Paradox” (GS VI: 9–11). towards that which is itself intentionless and thus towards that which. The radicalization of the theorem is at the same time its explosion. finally. Where no ground can be found in the continuum.35 concludes from the aporia of the linguistic continuum that the continuum of language is to be founded in the caesura. It says [sagt] nothing because it merely speaks [spricht]. Cf. not the said of a language.” where Alexander Rüstow’s tract following Russell. that is.“The Judgment of Designation. 1987 ). That is. the deliverance of the continuum in its discontinuity. but rather that it belongs to a language. and can for that reason attest to itself only in its own breaking off.
It is thus not only “for humans” that linguistic constructs are “up to a certain degree” untranslatable (10). it extends the continuum of languages. inaccessible. . The silent discontinuity of languages. has the gravest of consequences for the concepts of anticipation and positing. and unutterable for languages and the language of relation that is translation is language as being silent [Schweigen]. rather. translate this other in advance into language itself. as Benjamin moots in the introduction to his essay. The expressionless. true language is for Benjamin—thoroughly logically and in no wise mystifyingly—the place at which the “secrets after which all thinking strives [. its “what lies ahead” is its own actuality. Translations and everything in languages that is oriented toward translation—“what is essential in them” (19)—are untranslatable because they are. Language is translation. This is why Benjamin can describe the “essential kernel” of translation as “that which in itself is not. When Benjamin speaks of translation’s anticipation of language as such. however. and thus because they are the element of absolute translatability. every translation is the interruption of the continuum of languages in the expressionless: translation extends it [setzt es fort] by exposing it [indem sie es aussetzt] and allowing languages to fall mute. however. as translation. Since it is the anticipation of language and since this language realizes itself only in anticipation. language itself. as the realization of language translation is itself already language’s (intensive) actuality. this is not only to say that translation anticipates the actuality of this language. they are so in principle and by virtue of the constitution of language itself. cannot be the content [Inhalt] of a cognition.] are silently harbored” (GS IV: 16). this language itself has the structure of anticipation and does not exist other than as prolepsis or as project. Translation is language itself in the movement of its a priori positing of what lies ahead [Voraus-setzung]. . much more. and cannot be the object [Gegenstand] of a concept.” It does not so much translate into another language as. and in every translation language itself is already speaking. translatable” (15). but also that such anticipation alone realizes it: its realization lies in just this anticipation. but since the continuum itself cannot be expressed as a whole in any singular instance. Since. Insofar as translation brings one language into another. . which for Kant designate the final structural elements of the synthetic relation between category and phenomenon.M L N 531 become a possible possession [Habe]. in turn. What remains buried. Translation realizes language because there is no realization besides its “anticipatory realization. it is essentially translation in(to) translation. in every essential kernel.
” the gesture of its continuation and transcendence. does “realization [Verwirklichung]” mean.532 Werner Hamacher Languages are untranslatable because they themselves move already in the medium of translation. is a grasping [Griff] that goes into languages’ void—into the intentionless. its essential gesture and the gesture that makes of translation what is essential in language. then. But. But what. which lays out the basic dimensions of Fechner’s argument with Scholasticism regarding the concepts of reality and intensity and also brings in Leibniz’s and Wolff’s definitions of degree as “quantitas qualitatis” and “Intensitas sive Intensio” as reference texts for the Kantian construction. Kant says of the difference between the possible and the actual: 36 Both Anneliese Maier (“Kant’s Categories of Quality. after all. allusive realization.36 “Being [Sein] is obviously no real predicate”—Kant’s famous statement from the first Critique. and moreover much more likely to have been familiar to Benjamin. here 165–66). it is the position of those modal determinations that distinguish it as possible. The that of this being is. that it does not represent the answer to the question of what something is. i. of the affirmative determination of the possibility of an object of experience. with greater emphasis. anticipatory. “merely the position of a thing. but rather of whether it is. . intensive. is Hermann Cohen’s 1883 presentation in The Principle of the Infinitesimal Method (1968. is “merely the position of a thing” on the horizon of the originarily unifying. As whatness (quidditas). into impartibility. The anticipation [Vorgriff] of translation. is its breaking off..” In §76 of the third Critique. 158). Its “what lies ahead. to bear in thoroughly distinguishing between reality [Realität] and actuality [Wirklichkeit]. Being [Sein]. actual. into mere language. in contrast to the positive determination of thingness as Kant proceeds in his definition.e. More substantive. note 12) and then. or necessary being. which could hardly have been unfamiliar to Benjamin. and this is the medium of language. and what. that “infinitudo est realitas” (§261). Heidegger (Die Frage nach dem Ding. or of certain determinations in themselves” (A598/B626)—indeed. understood as being-there [Dasein]. the expressionless. transcendental apperception of an “I think. “intensive”? In the formulation. of thingness. but rather for that constitution that an object must have if it is to be an object of experience at all. [Tübingen: M. Intensity was for Kant the character of reality.” 1930. Niemeyer. Cohen does not bring Baumgarten’s position in the Metaphysica. though he himself cites it. once more. the concept of “realization” jumps out most clearly from the Kantian context of the train of thought. have pointed to the difference between reality [Realität] and actuality [Wirklichkeit] as decisive for Kant’s construction of the principles of experience as well as to Kant’s adoption of Baumgarten’s concept of realitas. 1962] 160–74. purports that being is no reality. reality [Realität] stands for Kant not for actuality [Wirklichkeit] or current being [aktuelles Sein].
writing: “The categories of modality have the distinction that. “the language of metaphysics also says existence [Existenz]. 1976] 475). As much as the positing of a thing in itself may occur apart from our concept and the capacity to think. and hence the objectivity of the object. is posited via its relationship to the unity of the subject. 11. they do not in the least enlarge the concept to which they are attached as predicate.” being as the position. Metaphysica (note 13). however. To apprehend in sistere.M L N 533 Now. As this positing. our entire distinction of the merely possible from the actual rests in the fact that the former means only the position [Position] of the presentation [Vorstellung] of a thing with respect to our concept and the capacity to think as such.]” (Wegmarken [Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann. it suffices to recall this word.’” Heidegger writes. contemporaneous or actual being is the position of object-sensation relative to the subject of transcendental apperception. proposition. actual-being. Kant clarifies being’s relationship to the capacity for cognition in his explanation of the category of modalities. but rather express only the relation to the capacity for cognition” (A219/B266). Furthermore. For Kant. note 2). . see the chapter “Premises” in Werner Hamacher. ponitur extra statum possibilitatis [. . Being as being-actual [Wirklichsein] is thus a position in “relation to the capacity for cognition. it must nonetheless occur with respect to our capacity for cognition. On position in Kant. Heidegger works out the decisive movements of Kant’s theory of position most substantively in “Kant’s Thesis Concerning Being. the connection with ponere and position. while the latter means the positing [Setzung] of the thing in itself (apart from this concept) (KdU 402). however. . is directed so much toward the position-character of the concept of mediality—possible-being. the existentia is the actus.” where he also delineates its connection with the dominant tradition of metaphysics: “Rather than ‘Dasein. the positing. . necessary-being—that he overlooks this same character entirely in Kant’s concept of reality. and relation of transcendental subjectivity itself. which for its part was never thought by Kant and his predecessors as anything other than positing—Baumgarten had offered an unambiguous definition in his Metaphysica: “quae determinando ponuntur [. Heidegger’s attention.”37 37 Baumgarten. . as the determination of the object.” but thereby a position in relation to experience and hence to the perception of sensation.] est realitas. Premises (esp. it is a transcendental predicate—not a real one—in which the actuality of the be-ing [des Seienden]. quo res sistitur. actuality completes the realitas of the category of quality. actuality is positional being and only for that reason propositional (judged) being: being posited with a view to the “originally synthetic unity of apperception. in which the ontothesiological constitution of metaphysics since Kant is treated.
language itself—is not positing [Setzung]. indeed. The organ of this transformation is his theory of translation. equally . it must first be thought without reference to subjects. While Kant speaks of the phenomenon of objective reality [Realität] and of actuality [Wirklichkeit] as a position with respect to the capacity for cognition.534 Werner Hamacher Thus. In taking his leave of transcendental subjectivity. form of intuition. sheer impartibility—and this. for Benjamin. or as the productive faculty of imagination. . is called language. With the “transmutation and remediation” of the philosophy of subjectivity (GS II: 168). whether these be termed producers or recipients. as solely the athetic realization of language. In order that there might be being as position. in whose medium positing moves and toward whose revelation it works.] realization of language in translation. ontothesiology comes together in his theory of language. whether this be thought as understanding. but speaks nevertheless of the intensive [. there must already be being as trans-position and an appositive given in advance. of which it must remain open whether it can in some sense become an object of the predications of existence that accord or withdraw being to and from it. it is no longer the position of an object and no longer the result of a propositional act in which an “I think” relates to the objects of its experience. not only consideration of an empirical subject. the critical transformation of something that might be called the Kantian. but also. the concept of realization [Verwirklichung] is to be thought still in terms of actuality [Wirklichkeit] and—in accordance with the essay on language—in terms of being: being-actual [Wirklichsein] or becoming actual [Wirklichwerden]. . there must already be the possibility of translation. and not only Kantian. Benjamin withdraws language and its being from being as position. In order that there might be positing. and trans-poses transcendently over every possible signification and its basis in the forms of intuition and self-relation. In order that a self might relate itself to itself. if Benjamin maintains a distance from precisely this subjectivity in his program for a coming philosophy. Translation [Übersetzung] does not posit [setzen]. Because translation cannot be an agency of a subject. it transposes or places over [setzt über] . Benjamin excludes every such consideration beginning with the very first sentence of his “The Task of the Translator”—and. But this being is no longer a being posited in relation to the subject of transcendental apperception. there must already be translation and the unposited. Translation [Übersetzung]—what is essential in language. language. . . It is that which must precede every positing and even every capacity for positing.
as antecedent mediability.M L N 535 emphatically. but the very concept of an “ideal” receiver is detrimental in all art-theoretical discussions. The disregard for the position of subjectivity ascribed here to works of art and art forms holds a fortiori for languages and for the language that emerges in their translations. Not subjectivity. but rather alterity. which is one of positing within the horizon of transcendental subjectivity. of continuity. that is. furthermore. since these are put forward solely in order to postulate the being-there and essence of humans as such. because. Insofar as translation translates from the plurality of languages into language. The relation of languages to one another is one of affinity and. it exposes from out of the continuum of languages a single language. “Never. only presupposing that the objectivity [Gegenständlichkeit] of the given is firmly established along with its connection with . it is not determined by a subject’s position. which is not countable—not even as one—and does not form a continuum. even if “ideal” or transcendental. not this positing itself. The principle of continuity holds only under the precondition that being is absolute position. It is bad enough that every reference to a particular public or its representatives misleads. Only for this reason is the hope and the “original danger of all translation this: that the gates of a language broadened and pervaded in this way might fall to and shut the translator in silence” (21). and no symphony for the listenership” (GS IV: 9).” he writes: does consideration of those receiving it prove fruitful for the cognition of a work of art or art form. but rather exposure [Aussetzung]. In translation. is what is essential in it. And he concludes this passage with the justly famous formula: “no poem is for the reader. any consideration of an “ideal” subject of cognition. Benjamin thinks it as the eviction [Hinaussetzung] of positing languages [der setzenden Sprachen] out into the domain of their neither positional nor propositional speaking and thus as the exposition and exposure [Aussetzung] of languages in a linguistic event that each of them harbors a priori in silence. no picture for the viewer. but mean language itself as that which means nothing [das Nicht-Meinende]. every language exposes itself to another and is nothing other than this self-exposure and hence this becoming-other: not the object of a positing or production. but language itself—its essence—is not subject to the criterion of continuity. Language cannot do other than disregard the subject. not positing. but rather mere exposition [Aussetzung] in a domain in which languages no longer mean something or somebody. In thinking the realization of language as translation [Übersetzung].
then it emerges that cognitions can never simply have the character of synthetic and thereby thetic acts. the mathematical continuum and mathematically understood intensity are just as much dismantled by language as they were empossibilized through it in the first place. fourth category. Benjamin’s further remark. The mathematical category of quantity as well as of the quantity of quality—intensity—forfeits its synthetic function where being is no longer thought as position and thus no longer as presentation within the horizon of subjectivity. language affords the continuum of languages its exposing. In the apositional occurring of language. in its own horizon: as a language that no longer lies under the restrictions of the pure form of intuition and thus of number. the concept of a certain not-synthesis of two concepts in another will become of great systemic importance. In it. In translation. as an actual object [Gegenstand]. moving proleptically in intentionless language. Since translation reaches out in each case beyond the fixed status of languages and the intentions operative within them. language interrupts the intention that still determines the direction of anticipation. presupposition [Voraussetzung]: a priori prolepsis of propositional language in a domain in which it is “harbored without tension and self-silently” (GS IV: 16). since outside of synthesis another relation between thesis and antithesis remains possible” (GS II: 166). no longer under the limitations of thesis and mathesis. that is. If this thought of a certain not-synthesis is extended to the original synthetic unity of transcendental apperception. There. not as a further. but rather only as the movement of this ex-posure [Aus-setzung] and de-posing [Ent-setzung] of positing [Setzung].” makes it likely that he thought of this not as an equally ranked addendum to these categories. language exposes positing itself and being as the position of another being—or of another as being—which for its part presents itself not positively. of the concept and the judgment. but rather . that this not-synthesis could “hardly lead to a quartering of the categories of relation.536 Werner Hamacher regard to the original unity of subjectivity. Translation is the exposition of languages in language: in translation. the being that realizes itself in translation is. Benjamin’s thoughts on translation as an athetic movement of language interface with a consideration he brings to bear in the “Program” for the modification of the table of categories. but rather as that which presents itself as itself in advance of all positing. new and unconstrained in its otherness. he writes: “But beyond the concept of synthesis. unlike Kant’s pure positing [Setzung]. as Benjamin’s critique of the subjectivism of Kant’s theory of experience suggests.
not-intentional language. in a sense comparative. makes of its being an essentially historical one—makes of it. that is. That translation. hold. antithesis. obtains or is applicable as the being-in-force of the verb gelten. that it “lives on” before and in its life. that the term endgültig is itself already paradoxically provisional. Something is gültig as an end. and an ultimate end would be the end of standards—hence.” But something can only count relative to some standards. in each case just a single time. the abyss [Abgrund]—of all the others: namely. preliminary and yet final and thus exposed and orphaned between the multiplicity of languages and their “ideal” unity. a discontinuum of proleptic expositions that are in each case singular and that cannot be drawn together beneath any greater unity. counts or is valid as an end—something is taken as final. be applicable. and as a not-synthesis that can never allow for the unlimited accomplishment of these three. translating language detains and suspends every language of positing. Like notsynthesis for every thesis. and synthesis can emerge in the first place. hold for somebody. in a manner that English translations like “final” or “ultimate” are not. but could only count as an end. that endgültiger is a comparative—“more final. Transplanting [Verpflanzung] and transposing [Versetzung] are the concepts with which Benjamin characterizes the motion of this exposition of languages. that further defines itself in the structure of translation as the a priori anticipatory grasping of a not-propositional.M L N 537 as the basis—actually.” “more ultimate”—but also. exposes before and in every positing. An ultimate end that is not absolute would be no ultimate end at all. as Hamacher makes quite explicit. is not ultimate but is rather—“ironically”—more ultimate. and perhaps especially. although a further transposition and thus a homogenous continuum of transpositions is ruled out.38 If the transplanting of the original into a different linguistic domain. “to count. It is this structure of the not-synthesis. no counting—an end of a situation—hence. and of the not-thesis buried within it. and with it language. but can only be raised within it. the transposing of one language into another. would not be ultimate or final but rather endgültig. no holding.] . Between the multiplicity of languages and their unity dwells transla- 38 [Translator’s note: It is worth noting here not only. no applicability—and an end of persons—hence. be applicable in some situation. as a not-synthesis thanks to which thesis. Every translation severs the connection between languages in precisely that movement by which it implies such a connection. an “end.” for an end. He writes: “Translation thus transplants the original into a linguistic domain that is more ultimate at least insofar—ironically—as the original is not to be transposed away from it by any conveyance. what is thereby said is that each transposing is unsurpassably penultimate. always anew and at different points” (GS IV: 15).
withheld realm of the reconciliation and fulfillment of languages” (15) makes of it a sort of negative mysticism of pure language. suspended—but suspended there with translation dwells language itself. in which every moment is an end and at the same time not an end. in Benjamin’s words. Like history. because in it every moment marks a non-coincidence with itself. ] the predetermined. characterizes a life. Benjamin reiterates that the “living on” of language in translation— which is ironic—is also always a living in advance of itself [Sich-VorausLeben] and a pre-life [Vor-Leben]. Thus the intentionless moves into intention and makes intensity—piercing. belonging to both and yet to neither. signifying a language that refuses to surrender to the signifying. It is the language of no one language. increase. the conclusion that what Benjamin termed language itself cannot be comprehended under the concept of linguistic unity. The pre [Vor] and “what lies ahead” [Voraus] that every intensio bears down upon is. an intention toward that which refuses to be intended. that would be instantaneous and ultimate. which is essentially “living on. This form of time must be called ironic. or is in any event not to be sought out directly (14). as concerns . determinable content—can be uttered. If translation’s provisionality and anticipation of language itself comprise the sole manner in which this language realizes itself. then. A resolution of this foreignness that would be other than temporal and provisional. once again intensive—anticipation of that which is accessible to no anticipation. as a language of and through which nothing—not something. language is essentially ironic. the time of language—messianic time—is that of an ending without end. however. escalation—which is bound together with every intention. Just as the end. From this observation follows. but only an infinite. as promise [Versprechen]. no determinate thing. remains withheld from mankind. It also follows from this. . that the historical dimension of language implied in the phrase more ultimate is that of an absolute between-time [Zwischenzeit]. and speaks or “languages” in promising [spricht im Versprechen] once more solely as withheld.538 Werner Hamacher tion.e. into an intensity of the intentionless. In accordance with the absolute comparative of the more ultimate.” so the language of translation—and language as such—is characterized by irony. rigorously enough. pressure. stressing: that all translation is only a somewhat provisional manner of grappling with the foreignness of languages. that is. That translation. . which is none.. a wonderfully haunting—i. “suggests in a wonderfully haunting manner [ . then language realizes itself solely as pre-language [Vor-Sprache].
They were arranged following the logic of possible phenomena. the theories of cognition and philosophies of history with which Benjamin was confronted in his work were. indetermines. When Benjamin turns his attention to translation as the irreducible structure of language. semantic. Concerning the “language of truth. the quantitas qualitatis. and ex-poses every positing as such. withheld. it is historical—oriented toward a historical distance—but. Benjamin’s philosophy of language is an aphenomenology. it is the pre as decisive determination of the category of quality. There could be no predetermined domain of language that was not withheld and did not take from predetermination both its “pre” and its “determination. to this extent. Benjamin writes: “precisely this.” which could only be language in its integral totality at the “messianic end of its history” (14)—concerning this true language. in turn. For this reason. The philosophies of language.” The promising [Versprechen] of language is always this: that there will not emerge a pre or a language. the domain of that which could not become phenomenon or contribute to it had to be suspect or else remain buried for them. or rhetorical phenomenon. to this extent. he turns to it as a form that is without doubt a linguistic phenomenon. in whose divination and description lies the sole perfection for . not as given but as becoming. Translation expresses that which is not yet there. The language of translation is not a language among others. In the domain of languages. there is prima facie nothing that could not qualify as a phenomenon— as a morphological. their laws and constraints.M L N 539 language itself. all phenomenologies. but rather the phenomenon of something still and perhaps indefinitely buried. as phenomenologies. but rather a language between others. the pre of a language that refuses positioning in any time-series. but that expresses this relation. Only herein lies the power of this promising: that it places itself beyond itself. As minimally empirically as they might have proceeded. it is also not a simple phenomenon. And the same holds for the concept of intensity as well. and it thereby disqualifies. Only herein lies the intensity of language: that it is the intensity of its extinguishing. and aphenomenal: language as a whole and as such. syntactical. but that as language presents a liminal phenomenon between languages. it holds for a dimension that does not enter into appearance and a law that designates not the constraints on possible appearance but rather structural buriedness [Verborgenheit]. encompassing no independent content. whether programmatically recognized under this title or not. an intermediary language [Zwischensprache] that expresses nothing other than the relation of languages.
is buried intensively in translation” (16). it might maintain only very loose contact with that sense—then this must be that translations are in excited tension with what is buried in them—true language—and that they tend toward the buried and themselves strive to enter into this buried. of the intentionless. If the formulation is to have some sense to it—granted. it is a sigetics or doctrine of silence. anticipatory. the heart of his philosophy of language..”40 then translation tends. Buried intensively: that hardly means—since the discussion is here of true language—that it is buried as intensivum. and the comparative more ultimate domain of language knows no superlative. toward silence. the term intensive thus does not signify a degree. In Benjamin’s formulation. i. for the sake of the language of truth. It is in precisely this sense that Benjamin formulates the language-philosophical program he presents to Martin Buber in a letter of July 1916: “Only the intensive orientation of words toward the kernel of innermost falling mute [Verstummens] attains to true operativity.540 Werner Hamacher which the philosopher can hope. . note 3. then language is the language of silence and its intensity is that. the tendency of language to enter into silence as true language.”39 If language thus tends. If this true language is buried intensively in translations. Ibid. but rather of language’s aphanasis. once more. and springs discontinuously into language: into a being other than that which 39 40 GB I: 327. . allusive realization of language. relative to a language with which no relation can be produced. If Benjamin speaks of “final secrets” that are “harbored” in the language of truth “without tension and self-silently” in immediate connection with this formulation. still less the highest degree. is not a logic of linguistic phenomena. then its intensive [. then what intensive buriedness or the intention toward buriedness signifies is a tension in that which lacks tension.e. that it is buried in translations only up to a certain degree but is otherwise manifest. rather. in a continuum of languages—the continuum has no maximum. . intensive here means relative to the interruption or breaking off of the continuum. where translation is the intensive. Intensity is only accorded translation insofar as it leaps out of the continuum of languages.] realization is none other than the realization of buriedness. toward “that which is barred the word. in contrast to the linguistic usage of the philosophical and mathematical tradition. for the sake of its immanent political substance. Benjamin’s theory of translation. leaps over the degrees of existence or degrees of being (GS II: 146) of linguistic being-there.
as Benjamin’s study of art criticism shows.” the living on beyond themselves of works. Translated by Ira Allen with Steven Tester . the anticipation and the projecting of intensity. one by which alone intensities determine and measure themselves. In the leap of intensity. a linguistic being is revealed that allows neither of production and determination nor of positing.M L N 541 could be measured according to intensities. pause. Cognition is in this wise relation—but it is relation with a something that is essentially relationless. What is demolished. stoppage. and it is thus paradoxical because the concept of intensity. shatters itself in this event. nor. and into a being other than that of position. the “paradoxical attempt” to “continue building on a structure even through demolition” (87). in order to present in its demolition the language that precedes all empiricism and all mathematical idealities. It is intensive because language realizes itself only in and as this leap of the continuum into the discontinuous. then this is because translation designates the state of “living on. singularization. however. in the origin. It is—ironically—the utmost intensity in that it is already intensity no more. while irony. It is being as ex-position: orphaning. as formal irony and as an objective moment in the work. is the continuum of empirical languages. externalization. designates “the living on of the work” (GS I: 86) and represents. If Benjamin ties the realization of language together with the concept of irony. of transposing or recomposing. The intensity that languages attain in their translation and in their “living on” is the intensity of the break in the series of intensities. within the paradigm of positing.
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