Walter Benjamin’s distinction of truth from knowledge in his “Epistemo-Critical Prologue” marks a fundamental break with the truth claims of the empirical sciences, as well as those of any system of philosophy—phenomenological, neo-Kantian, or otherwise—that would be based on conscious cognition. Instead he renders the truth of philosophy as a question of presentation, beginning with one of the most famous propositions of his oeuvre: “It is proper to philosophical writing to stand, with every turn, before the question of presentation anew.” Many commentators have cited this passage, yet few pursue the way Benjamin situates philosophical writing before the question of presentation, thereby suggesting that this question cannot be asked. In this essay, I elaborate the epistemological and ontological consequences of the displacements Benjamin stages between presentation and writing, through an attentive reading to the idioms of his own writerly presentation.

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