March 31, April 1 | Perception in Benjamin’s Philosophy


Perception is reading


As is well known, Benjamin’s thought is characterised by a micrological attention to neglected details.In its intensive scrutiny of the phenomenal world, it always sought to measure itself againstthe concreteness of experience–albeit not of the empiricist or positivist kind. This is confirmed by what is perhaps Benjamin’smost important methodological stipulation, according to which philosophy’s principaltask is to be understood asadouble movement that involves a“presentation of ideas” as much asa“saving of phenomena” (GS I.1, 214). Sinceit plays a decisive role in this saving of phenomena, perception (aisthesis) nolongerappearsas an impedimentthat could be overcome or sublated, but rather as an uncircumventable horizonfor philosophical thought. Certainly, Benjamin’s concept of perception is, like those of knowledge and experience, nota simple outcome of the history of ideas. In his writings –especially in his confrontation with Kant’s transcendental philosophy –these concepts are transformed througharecasting of the relation between thought and perception. On the one hand, this recasting consists of an examination of Wahrnehmungto language, which provides the basis for the later investigation of the historical metamorphoses of the concept of perception.On the otherhand, Benjamin’s engagement with the concept of perceptionattemptstodismantlethe longstanding tendency of the Western metaphysical tradition to subject aisthesisto the dominion ofreason(logos). Perhaps it isexactlythis attempt to liberate the potential of perception from its oppression by the logosout of whichBenjamin’s critique of modern subjectivity unfolds.

In our two-day workshop,we will trace the constellation of problemsthat evolves from Benjamin’s concept of PERCEPTION. The following questions will be at the centre of the discussion: To what extent can Benjamin’s thought be designated as an attempt to recast the conceptof perception? What is the position of perception in the elaboration of a theory of experience? How does Benjamin understand perception in his early writings on colours and fantasy? How did he critically appropriate the phenomenological concept of perception? How do perception and language relate to one another? What does it mean to understand perception as an act of reading?

This workshop is the fourth in a series of events that deal –directly or indirectly –with Benjamin’s concept of actuality (Aktualität). Because the workshop revolves around intensive reading sessions, a precise knowledge of the relevant texts is expected. In order to facilitate the discussion, the numberof participantsfor this workshopis limited.

If you are interested to participate, please send a message to the organisers before 5 March 2017 with a brief biographical note.

Organisation: Stefano Marchesoni,Nassima Sahraoui,Tom Vandeputte


In collaboration with the Critical Studies department of the Sandberg Institute, Amsterdam, the Philosophical Colloquium/ Frankfurter Benjamin Lectures (Dr. Thomas Regehly),and the Walter Benjamin Archive, Academy of Arts, Berlin.