Das Denken der Lehre : Walter Benjamin, Franz Joseph Molitor and the Jewish tradition
This thesis is a dialectical exploration of the importance of the Jewish tradition and theology in the work of Walter Benjamin, primarily through his reading of Franz Joseph Molitor's Philosophie der Geschichte oder über die Tradition, and secondarily through his close friendship with Gershom Scholem. It also argues that the influence of the Jewish tradition is a constant factor in Benjamin's work, transcending the conventional division between his 'metaphysical' Frühwerk and his 'Marxist' Spätwerk. The first chapter presents a historical-philosophical overview of the form and content of the Jewish tradition, with particular emphasis on the seminal importance of language as the medium of tradition. The second chapter offers both an exhaustive philological investigation of Benjamin's contacts with Molitor's book, on the basis of new information gathered from both Benjamin's and Scholem's diaries and correspondence, as well as a selection and discussion of some of the most salient and relevant aspects of Philosophie der Geschichte. The third and final chapter assesses the impact of the foregoing as it culminates in the work of Walter Benjamin. Firstly, it focuses on the early essays Über Sprache überhaupt und über die Sprache des Menschen and Über das Programm der kommenden Philosophie, drawing parallels between their conception of language as a medium and Jewish concepts of language and tradition as they are presented by Molitor and Scholem. Secondly, it turns to the Protokolle zu Drogenversuchen and to Benjamin's unfinished magnum opus, Das Passagen-Werk, to illustrate the continuity of his thoughts on language and tradition in the concept of profane Erleuchtung. After each chapter, a short interlude focuses on different forms of Judaism in Benjamin's work, notably the Jewish concept of commentary in the essays on Kafka, the concept of the understated apocalypse and the name of God.