Benjamin’s theory of language and knowledge is connected with a messianic theory of music. The basis of language, the “name”, as monadic idea, is reached not by the communication of a content and by knowledge as nexus of a knowing subject and a known object, but by the structure of language itself, as movement, form and expression (pure language) “that communicates itself in itself”, in a way that proceeds from the lament of nature to the redemption of music. In two short essays written in 1916 that anticipate themes of his 1925 dissertation, The Origin of the German Mourning Play, Walter Benjamin began to elaborate a messianic conception of music: in the essaysTrauerspiel and Tragedy (1916) and The Meaning of Language in Trauerspiel and Tragedy (1916), together with the 1922 essay Goethe’s Elective Affinities, music is a central theme, related to a Jewish-Messianic conception of nature, language and history. In the context of redemption, the temporality of music approaches messianic temporality: the pure feeling (sentiment, Gefühl) achieved in music is a vehicle of redemption through the expression of mourning for nature (as Creation and creature) through the lament (Klage). The mystery of music in the moment of performance achieves redemption in a supersensible excess of mourning. This essay considers Benjamin’s philosophy of music in terms of his messianic vision, indicating a strong nexus with Scholemʼs theory of lament and cabbalistic studies and a possible one with Hermann Cohen’s theories of music and messianism (in Cohen’s Aesthetics of Pure Feeling, 1912).
Tagliacozzo, T. (2020). Messianismo, linguaggio e musica in Walter Benjamin (1916-1925). RIVISTA ITALIANA DI FILOSOFIA DEL LINGUAGGIO, 14, n. 1: 155-171(1), 155-171 [10.4396/202018].