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PHL323 social and cutural theory - Essay Example

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PHL323 social and cutural theory

One can infer from the writings of Benjamin, the idea of language from his point of view. Language was perceived as one of the forms of communication and the idea represented by that language was in no way identifiable with the language itself. To make it simpler, language was considered to be just a medium of communication. It was not a stand-alone system of knowledge as such, but rather a set of symbols that aid in representation of reality. A language was needed to possess inherent meaning. Language, then, became an entity, which existed only if it had a function, in his point of view. One arguable point here was the cases where there were possibilities that a language with grammar, syntax and vocabulary could exist without the function of a desire to communicate. Computer generated poetry and languages were the instances; the question arises whether they can be taken under Benjamin's definition of language without the function of communication or creativity. Computer languages had the requisite grammar, syntax and vocabulary and they were used as a set of instructions that were seemingly understood by the computer. Here, there is the case where a live, organic mind communicates with a non-organic entity. Further, the non-organic entity, besides being capable of understanding, was also able to generate the language understandable by an organic entity. Thus, the computer, which was just a box, was able to generate language to communicate. Computers can also communicate with each other, which had been made possible through the advancements in technology. This led to the case where two non-organic entities were able to communicate. In such cases, the meaning and the language were separable. There is also the instance where an organic entity is capable of generating a language without the purpose of communication. It is the uncommunicative language of a mentally ill person. Even though Benjamin clearly stated that language and what was described using a language were not identifiable, it also remained that he believed that language always should communicate something. If something was made, it should have a function and a meaning. If not, it really cannot exist. While considering the circumstance where one language did not make any sense to a person who does not know that language, the purpose of the language to communicate was lost. The language, even though possessed a grammar, syntax and vocabulary, did not mean anything to that person except being conceived as incoherent noise. Language in such cases negotiated with meaninglessness. Benjamin's idea of language extended to include inanimate objects such as lamps too. His idea of language of such objects was their linguistic being, but it was man who could name something other than him. In this context, man was the only entity that possessed the universal language. Thus, man's linguistic being was to name things. But, a language as such did not end with just naming. It was a tool that enabled creation and possession but it in itself was not so. Benjamin finally resorted to the theological ideas such as that of God being the true possessor and so on to arrive at the higher function of language. Many also conceived theology as a means of escape opted by Benjamin when he was not able to go beyond a certain limit about his conception of such mystical thoughts. In one of his works, "On Language as Such and the ...Show more


Walter Benjamin, a German philosopher and critic, was one of the most formidable and influential scholars of the twentieth century, in spite of the fact that he left behind many unfinished pieces of work. His works ranged over various inter-related fields like language, literature, the arts, society and technology…
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PHL323 social and cutural theory essay example
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