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Wrestling with the AngelExperiments in Symbolic Life$
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Tracy McNulty

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231161190

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231161190.001.0001

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The Commandment Against the Law

The Commandment Against the Law

Writing and Divine Justice in Walter Benjamin’s “Critique of Violence” and Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Judgment

Chapter:
(p.205) 6 The Commandment Against the Law
Source:
Wrestling with the Angel
Author(s):

Tracy McNulty

Publisher:
Columbia University Press
DOI:10.7312/columbia/9780231161190.003.0006

This chapter examines the notions of writing and divine justice in Walter Benjamin's “Critique of Violence” and Immanuel Kant's Critique of Judgment. Benjamin's “Critique of Violence” offers a critique of the violence perpetrated in the name of law and argues for its annihilation through anarchy. However, Benjamin manages to advance an analysis of law and a critique of its mediating function that not only refuses the familiar terms of the Pauline dialectic, but subverts its most fundamental presuppositions. Central to the novelty of Benjamin's approach is a profound appreciation of the structural function of the written law—and more generally of what he calls the “symbolic side of language”—as an alternative both to the lawmaking violence of dictatorship and to the decadence and ineffectualness of parliamentary democracy. Benjamin and Kant both distinguish the precepts and norms of positive law from the commandment form.

Keywords:   writing, divine justice, Walter Benjamin, Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, Critique of Violence, violence, written law, commandment, symbolic

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