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Miracles and Redemptive Aspirations: Theology in the Thought of Carl Schmitt and Walter Benjamin

Saccomanno, Hilary

This paper explores the return of the miraculous in twentieth century thought, specifically in the thought of Carl Schmitt and Walter Benjamin. After enlightenment thinkers like Baruch Spinoza and David Hume challenged the validity of the Biblical miracle, it lost viability in public belief and legitimacy in empirical and rational thought. The miracle reappeared in the philosophical systems of Schmitt and Benjamin; they envisioned it as and act of redemption, which salvaged man's past and an aspect of his identity lost in modernity. For Schmitt, the miracle was a decision of the sovereign, who redeemed the state's true identity by transcending the legal order and reuniting the political form, reconciling the identity of the ruler and the ruled. Benjamin imagined different redemptive powers for the miracle; he argued that the miracle was a socially realizable total art form, which gave man the ability to reconcile with his past and determine meaning. This paper traces the interrelated, yet divergent, arguments of Schmitt and Benjamin as they endeavored to reinvent the miracle and enable its reappearance in the twentieth century.

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History
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B.A., Columbia University
Published Here
May 12, 2010

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Senior thesis.

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