Awakening Benjamin

ElifriedlanderRichard Marshall interviews Eli Friedlander in 3 AM Magazine:

3:AM: Your philosophical interests seem to track a prevailing sense of existential crisis. Is this to do with your personality? When did you start recognising that you were interested in philosophical questions, and that these were the questions you wanted to pursue?

Eli Friedlander: Even though I wrote on the relation of philosophy and autobiography, or maybe because I wrote on that issue, I wouldn’t wish to move too directly from philosophical preoccupations to the space of life and personality. Without denying the personal dimension of my attachment to philosophical themes and even a degree of identification with the philosophers that concern me in my writing, I think that making that relation as oblique or roundabout as can be, is actually a virtue. The longer it takes to make the way from philosophy to life, the more significant their correlation becomes.

What most characterized my philosophical education is that I could not decide which were the questions that I wanted to pursue. I studied for my PhD at Harvard and at some point realized that I would not write the required one-topic dissertation. I availed myself of the option of writing three papers instead: on the relation of feeling and communication in Kant’s aesthetics, on personal exemplification in Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origins of Inequalities and on the limits of language in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus.

I have things to say, to myself and to others, about the connection between the three papers; for instance that they were various ways of developing a problematic of showing versus saying.