The Adventurer and the Hunter. Simmel and Benjamin on Critique and Experience


  • Vincenzo Mele



Simmel, Benjamin, critique, experience, relational, redemptive criticism Erkenntnistheorie


A significant step in trying to understand the different philosophical and political orientations of Simmel and Benjamin consists in analysing the very concept of “critique” and “criticism” that is implicit in their thought and its relationship with the concept of experience. Even if Simmel and Benjamin share a common neo-Kantian background and they were both influenced by German romantic culture, the development of their thought follows very different paths. While Simmel moves from a reflection onthe principle of “form”, which belongs to Kant, to the principle of “life” that is typical of Goethe, Benjamin – coming from a similar neo-Kantian background – moves toward a very eclectic form of “redemptive criticism” (rettende Kritik). A fruitful comparison therefore should consider that Simmel and Benjamin are unified by a common reference to the concept of experience and the theory of knowledge (Erkenntnistheorie) in relationship with the philosophy of history, or, to express it in Benjamin’s words, with the concept of history. This conceptual basis allows us to better perceive their fundamentally different philosophical and sociological approaches to modernity and their different judgement on the destiny of individuality in the modern context.


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