Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy

Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy

Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy

Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy

Synopsis

This volume constitutes the largest collection of writings by the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben hitherto published in any language, and all but one apear in English for the first time. The essays consider figures in the history of philosophy.

Excerpt

Among the notes and sketches for Walter Benjamin's last work, the "Theses on the Philosophy of History," we find the following statement: "Historical method is philological method, a method that has as its foundation the book of life. 'To read what was never written,' is what Hofmannsthal calls it. The reader referred to here is the true historian." Giorgio Agamben is perhaps the only contemporary thinker to have assumed as a philosophical problem the task that Benjamin, in these words, sets for historical and philological "method." What does it mean to confront history as a reader, "to read what was never written"? And what is it that "was never written" in the "book of life"? The question concerns the event that Benjamin throughout his works calls "redemption." The essays collected in this volume can be said to elaborate a philosophy of language and history adequate to the concept of this event. A single matter, truly something like the "thing itself" of which Agamben writes in his essay on Plato's Seventh Letter, animates the works gathered together here. Whether the subject is Aristotle or Spinoza, Heidegger or Benjamin, what is at issue is always a messianic moment of thinking, in which the practice of the "historian" and the practice of the "philologist," the experience of tradition and the experience of language, cannot be told apart. It is in this moment that the past is saved, not in being returned to what once existed but, instead, precisely in being transformed into something that never was: in being read, in the words of Hofmannsthal, as what was never written.

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