Ethics of Historicity: Reflections on Walter Benjamin

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Date(s) - 18/05/2017
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm


Research Seminar

Most contemporary philosophical reflections on morality conduct their investigation from one of four perspectives: virtue ethics, duty ethics, consequence ethics, or phenomenological ethics. However, only to some extent do these perspectives factor in the weight and marks of history. Given the brutal events of the 20th century, we need to consider a fifth kind of ethics that takes historical experience into account as the decisive factor. This paper formulates the basics of an ethics of historicity by investigating the relationship between catastrophe, experience, responsibility, and repair.

In this investigation, the work of 20th century German-Jewish philosopher and critic Walter Benjamin will play an important part, as his reflections on history and catastrophe have had a significant impact on present-day philosophy of history. Focusing on the yet largely unnoticed ethical perspectives of Walter Benjamin’s account of history as a destructive force of discontinuity, the paper will consider the ‘ought’ shaped by such negative historicity.

Casper Løwenstein is a PhD fellow in ethics and philosophy of religion at University of Copenhagen with the research project “Historicity, Hope, and Phenomenological Ethics in Light of Walter Benjamin’s ‘Rescuing Critique’”.

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