The Problem of Popularization in Benjamin, Schrödinger, and Heidegger circa 1935

Peter D Fenves*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The essay seeks to show how Benjamin and Heidegger addressed the problem of popularization in the mid-1930s. Locating the source of their respective responses to the problem in Kant's distinction between “scholastic” and “popular” language, the essay analyzes congruent passages in the writings of Benjamin and Heidegger where the problem transcends any simple solution, according to which popularization occurs whenever experts find illustrations capable of communicating their concepts to non-experts with a corresponding loss of precision. After showing how Benjamin's reception of Arthur Eddington reaches into his theory of the aura, the essay suggests certain affinities between his formulation of this theory in 1935 and a contemporaneous paper of Erwin Schrödinger. It concludes with an analysis of certain passages in Heidegger's 1935 lecture, Einführung in die Metaphysik, especially a passage where he, like Schrödinger, he captures an image of a “space” that recedes from illustration through the term “Verschränkung.”

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)112-125
Number of pages14
JournalGermanic Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2 2016


  • Benjamin
  • Eddington
  • entanglement
  • Heidegger
  • Kant
  • metaphysics
  • popular science
  • popularization
  • Schrödinger

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory

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