Showcase: Walter Benjamin

Walter Benjamin (15 July 1892 – 26 September 1940) was a German philosopher, and a cultural critic, combining elements of German Idealism, Romanticism, Marxism, and Kabbalah. He was associated with the Frankfurt School.

Benjamin was early on keen on art. He saw in photography a democratic form of art. He considered that the photographic reproduction of an artwork (a poster or a postcard for example) was of higher social value than the original (only viewed in a gallery) because the artwork in question could be possessed and enjoyed (very democratically) by the art lover in a time and place that suits them. He sensed that a copy was of higher social significance on postmodern thought and has influenced (in one way or other) a number of late-20th-century art movements, including Pop art and Conceptual art.

Whereas high art needed the intervention of an art expert or critic to explain its true meaning, Benjamin was an admirer of Hollywood cinema because the sound film could be enjoyed collectively by the public without the need for a critic to explain its meaning: “the greater the decrease in the social significance of an art form,” he said of the Hollywood film, “the sharper the distinction between criticism and enjoyment by the public.”

In the same frame of thought, Benjamin helped explain urbanization in terms of an historical and ideological shift from a culture of production to a culture of consumption and commodification.

Four books by Friedrich Nietzsche you should read

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a German philosopher and one of the most influential of all times. He is considered as one of the first existentialists philosophers and his books are still widely read and discussed. Let’s take a look at his most important works, highly recommended to be read:

Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Very much inspired by Jesus’s parables like way of speaking, this book is the most representative of Nietzsche’s philosophy and vision. In it, one would find  the issue of the death of God and Superhuman appearance.

On the Genealogy of Morality

Nietzsche discusses various concepts of ethics, morality and religion. His idea is to reject the “slave morality” and adopt the Superhuman way of thinking.

Ecce homo

It is the autobiography of Nietzsche, written little before he became ill. He examines his life and his work, an intimate intake on his conceptual and beliefs system.

The Birth of Tragedy

Nietzsche describes life as tragic and music is the correlation of the existential tragedy and aesthetics. This book is a profound essay on art as intertwined with life.

A Tribute to Schopenhauer “The World is my Idea”

“The World is My Idea” this is a truth which holds good for everything that lives and knows To Schopenhauer’s masterpiece the world as will and idea Schopenhauer is more closer to me than my father Schopenhauer is the essence of my soul I read and re-read his first page of the volume world as […]

A Tribute to Schopenhauer “The World is my Idea”

Nietzsche and Eastern Philosophy (Buddhism)

There are some good reasons to believe that Nietzsche was interested in Eastern philosophy during his lifetime. In the Antichrist he states: “Buddhism, I repeat, is a hundred times more austere, more honest, more objective. It no longer has to justify its pains, its susceptibility to suffering, by interpreting these things in terms of sin—it […]

Nietzsche and Eastern Philosophy (Buddhism)

Peculiarly inspiring quotes!

“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid”. Epictetus

“Sometimes even to live is an act of courage”. Seneca

“We have art in order not to die from the truth”. F. Nietzsche

“Religion is to mysticism what popularization is to science”. H. Bergson

“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live”. Marcus Aurelius

“Free election of masters does not abolish the masters of the slaves”. Herbert Marcuse

“Love is a serious mental illness”. Plato

“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors”. Plato

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit”. Aristotle

Marx’s view of history compared to Hegel and Kant

Marx’s Version of History Compared to Hegel and Kant   German philosophy is crowded with ideas about History. The three thinkers Hegel, Kant and Marx have many overlapping ideas. In particular these three all develop ideas for the point and purpose of history and which way it should go. In comparison they seem to overlap […]

Marx’s view of history compared to Hegel and Kant

Walter Benjamin on mass distraction!

Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) was a German philosopher who committed suicide for not being able to escape under sieged France. The text was below was taken from his books The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1936), an essay on cultural criticism on mass reproduction that undervalues the uniqueness of art.

“The mass is a matrix from which all traditional behavior toward works of art issues today in a new form. Quantity has been transmuted into quality. The greatly increased mass of participants has produced a change in the mode of participation. The fact that the new mode of participation first appeared in a disreputable form must not confuse the spectator. Yet some people have launched spirited attacks against precisely this superficial aspect. Among these, Duhamel has expressed himself in the most radical manner. What he objects to most is the kind of participation which the movie elicits from the masses. Duhamel calls the movie “a pastime for helots, a diversion for uneducated, wretched, worn-out creatures who are consumed by their worries a spectacle which requires no concentration and presupposes no intelligence which kindles no light in the heart and awakens no hope other than the ridiculous one of someday becoming a ‘star’ in Los Angeles.” Clearly, this is at bottom the same ancient lament that the masses seek distraction whereas art demands concentration from the spectator. That is a commonplace.

Distraction and concentration form polar opposites which may be stated as follows: A man who concentrates before a work of art is absorbed by it. He enters into this work of art the way legend tells of the Chinese painter when he viewed his finished painting. In contrast, the distracted mass absorbs the work of art. This is most obvious with regard to buildings. Architecture has always represented the prototype of a work of art the reception of which is consummated by a collectivity in a state of distraction. The laws of its reception are most instructive.

The distracted person, too, can form habits. More, the ability to master certain tasks in a state of distraction proves that their solution has become a matter of habit

Reception in a state of distraction, which is increasing noticeably in all fields of art and is symptomatic of profound changes in apperception, finds in the film its true means of exercise”.