Pushing the monstrous to the edge of the world; shaking the nightmare off the chest: Hans Blumenberg and Walter Benjamin’s philosophies of myth

James Kent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


This paper explores the philosophies of myth of Walter Benjamin and Hans Blumenberg. It defends the thesis that both approaches to myth, despite their differences, bring the longer, more ambiguous, legacy of the history of the human species into relation with the more familiar history of logos (a history of thinking). They do this by maintaining a distinction between myth as it probably first emerged, namely as a way of controlling human anxieties and vulnerabilities that arose as a consequence of the pragmatic, material conditions of the pre-historical world, and myth as the vast array of orally transmitted traditions left to history. In the case of both thinkers, this dichotomy illuminates myth, not as one category of human expression, but as a representation of the deeper vulnerabilities experienced by human beings, and the concerted, collective (largely failed) attempts to overcome them. Philosophy’s task in the face of a longer, darker history of the species, is a vigilant negotiation with the human frailties that might see its work undone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-377
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Philosophical Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2017


  • Hans Blumenberg
  • myth
  • philosophical anthropology
  • Walter Benjamin

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