Posted by: Rajesh Shukla | July 29, 2012

lluminations on Benjamin’s Language as such-2


All theory is gray and green is the golden tree of life–Goethe

Benjamin’s Point 2- Mental Being is identical with linguistic being…what is communicable in mental entity is its linguistic entity. Language therefore communicates the particular linguistic being of things, but their mental being only insofar as this is directly included in their linguistic being, insofar as it is capable of being communicated. LANGUAGE COMMUNICATES THE LINGUISTIC BEING OF THINGS. The clearest manifestation of this being, however, is language itself. [….] The linguistic being of all things is their language. The understanding of linguistic theory depends on giving this proposition a clarity that annihilates even the appearance of tautology. The proposition is untutological, for it means “that which in a mental entity is communicable is its language”  on this “is” everything depends—not that which appears most clearly in its language is communicable in a mental entity, as was just said by way of transition, but this capacity for communication is language itself. Or: the language of a mental entity is directly that which is communicable in it. Whatever is communicable of a mental entity, in this it communicates itself.  This signifies that all language communicates itself. Or, more precisely that all language communicates itself in itself; it is in the purest sense the “medium” of the communication. Mediation, which is the immediacy of all mental communication, is the fundamental problem of linguistic theory and if one chooses to call this immediacy magic, then the primary problem of language is its magic. At the same time notion of magic of language points to something else: its infiniteness. This is conditional on immediacy. For precisely nothing is communicated through language, what is communicated in language can not be externally limited or measured and therefore all language contains its own incommensurable, uniquely constituted infinity. Its linguistic being, not their verbal content defines its frontier.
My illumination:  As in first illumination I have pointed out that Benjamin considers two entities mental entity and linguistic entity and tries to unite it in process of communication. Precisely he distinguishes between communicating through human language and communicating in language itself. He thought that nothing is communicated through language. That is, nothing like content is communicated through human language. But in the process of language, something is communicated. Linguistic entity can communicate itself to mental entity only if it is already their, already its part. As for example, in the case of object ‘cow’ he would consider its linguistic being as its name ‘cow’ this is already in mental being. Mental being is identical of linguistic being of thing. That means, language itself in its purest sense is that which neither word nor name can represents, it is something magical. Interestingly Benjamin’s “contents of the mind” , it is like thought or consciousness, which is communicated in language and which is sometimes language itself and sometimes not.  There is nothing more to language than the mental entity which language communicates. Another remarkable words that he says is that “The linguistic being of all things is their language.” As in case of cow, her linguistic being is ‘name cow’. It will be clearer to you in later illuminations as he would say that ‘Name’ is language of language. “Name cow” which communicates itself to mental entity “IS” already present.  Benjamin tries to evolve a kind of unitary theory of language here in which everything would exist “in” mental being of man but he is not very clear in his exposition.  If we do consider mental entity as formed entity in immediacy, that is in immediate cognition, because only after having cognized it is communicable then theory of unity crashes out.  On this hypothesis he can not say that mental entity and linguistic entity of thing is one and is already present in it.  However other way round he thought as follows: Linguistic entity of thing ‘cow’ is cognized by man forming his mental entity and becomes communicable and then it is communicated in language but since this communicable word “cow” and its potentiality is mental entity already present even if one cognizes it later and it formed after cognition, therefore, he would emphatically say “that which in a mental entity is communicable is its language”.  It is this “is-ness” as he says all depends on this “is” which appears in language.  It is something that can be a point of detailed discussion.

Second important thing to note is his emphasis on “immediacy of all mental communication” which is magical in nature perhaps because of immediate encounter and cognition of one’s own mental entity via linguistic entity of things. In immediate perception perhaps there is something intuitive and points to us: its infiniteness.  Mental entity in which the linguistic being directly cognized through mediation is qualified by word which is there in mental entity therefore even if one cognizes cow outside, it is mental entity which communicates itself to itself. Hence, he would say later in passages that it is language itself and all linguistic expressions are its expression. One communicates contents of mind.  It is pretty much clear from above analysis rather short that it is consciousness itself. We should read it from Hegelian linguistic point of view in which it is non other than reason (pure and singularly universal). Benjamin had his own reading of Hegel’s phenomenology and his essay seems to be rooted in it.  Not only from reason/thought/ consciousness point of view but also from the “name” point of view as Hegel have already shed sufficient light on it and his logic itself is an exposition of ‘name’.  Hegel thought that self-consciousness that comes through language *in name* is universal because language says things, but it also says the “I” which speaks and it establishes communication among diverse “I”s, it is the instrument of mutual recognition. Self-consciousness is universal, my “I” becomes everyone’s “I” because this “I” is universal and originary. “I” is originary because it is language itself and it realized in language not through language.  It is name in which Hegel’s phenomenology begins for it designates pure subject without concept and its discourse is universal. Discourse in its true form and force is universal, it is transcendental by nature whether it realizes it or not. Interestingly Benjamin’s mental being it not other than Hegel’s mental being (discourse of self-consciousness) and for both it is name and language itself. 
In this essay as a whole “ the mental being of man is language itself” should be considered the key phrase because . Advaita point of view will be put forward in remaining illuminations but one should keep it in mind that Vedanta’s “अहं ब्रह्मास्मि” is none other than this realization of originary language. Indian linguistics have said that it is in discourse that knowledge, knower and known all there are united “in it lies freedom and it is the way  सत्तर्क एव साक्षात् तत्र उपायः “ Pure reason and pure logic is the way to grasp the word of god.  Those who are more accomplished in linguistics can do more reading on it, I am leaving this passage hear by saying that Benjamin had in his mind Hegel’s notion of experience of language of things in which at particular point of realization one speaks to himself that there is something more as in Goethe “All theory is gray and green is the golden tree of life’. I do not agree with professors and commentators on his texts who think that Benjamin was a materialist.  He renounced Marxian materialism the day he took metaphysical turn as both are antagonistic to each other, especially concerning Marxian ontology of materialist being.  I would like to remind my blog readers that various notions which are speculative and vague will be clear gradually in remaining illuminations as I will proceed further into essay. It is 2 of 26 illuminations. Enjoy the discourse on name and don’t forget to remember Tulsi Baba too in this discourse of name who have said everything in bhasha :
“समुझत सरिस नाम अरू नामी। प्रीत परसपर प्रभु अनुरागी।
नाम रूप दुई ईस उपाधी । अकथअनादि सुसामुझि साधी।।॰

In general perception and understanding name and form are one but in both there is a mutual affection like master and devotee. (As when name is called subject is called upon) Name and form both are God’s upadhi and are indescribable and eternal; its true nature can be known only through pure intelligence.

(Note: “limiting adjunct” is not correct translation for “upadhi” therefore I prefer to use it as it is in my translation as Tulsi Das uses it in Advaita term of Maya…माया ईश्वर की दुरत्य त्रिगुणात्मक उपाधि है जैसा कि कृष्ण जी ने कहा “मम माया दुरत्यया” “Durtaya” means that which is tough to be transgressed easily but its another poetic meaning is easy to understand-
अमी हलाहल मद भरे श्वेत श्याम रतनार।
जियत मरत झुकि झुकि परत जेहि चितवत इकबार।
It is like a damsel whose rati is difficult to be deceived as another reading of the word goes “du-ratya-ya vz. du- difficult to be deceived, ratya- rati, ya- whose–  that is “whose rati is difficult to be deceived and transgressed.” Many of such terms can not be translated for example “Prana” is not just breathe, air or élan vital as it has been translated in English.)

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