CONCEPTUAL ANALYSIS

Report
TWENTIETH CENTURY
PHILOSOPHY:
Intellectual Heroes and Key Themes
LECTURES
I.
II.
III.
IV.
V.
VI.
The pariah as rebel.
The hope of the hopeless.
Message in a bottle.
Absolute free.
Genealogy as critique.
Human flourishing.
THE PARIAH AS REBEL
1.THINKING WITHOUT A BANISTER
What about philosophy?
2.THE BANALITY OF EVIL
How to conceive totalitarianism?
3. THE RIGHT TO HAVE RIGHTS
Is cosmopolitan law necessary to overcome
statelessness?
1.
THINKING WITHOUT A
BANISTER
HANNAH ARENDT
BIOGRAPHICAL DATA:
 1906: Born October 26, in Hannover.
 1909: Emigration to Königsberg.
 1913: Death of her father.
 1924-1928: Studies philosophy, theology and Greek in
Marburg, Freiburg and Heidelberg.
 1929: Marriage to Günther Stern (Anders).
 1933: Imprisoned by the Gestapo and escape to Paris.
 1940: Marriage to Heinrich Blücher and detention in
the concentration camp Gurs.
 1941: Emigration to the United States.
 1941-1944: Editor of the journal ‘Aufbau’.
 1953-1956: Professor at Brooklyn College (New
York).
 1963-1967: Professor at University of Chicago.
 1967-1975: Professor at the New School of Social
Research (New York).
 1975: Died December 4, in New York.
MAJOR WORKS
Liebesbegriff bei Augustin (1929).
Rahel Varnhagen: Lebensgeschichte einer
deutschen Jüdin aus der Romantik (1939).
The Jew as Pariah: A Hidden Tradition (1944).
The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951).
The Human Condition (1958).
Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality
of Evil (1963).
On Revolution (1963).
On Violence (1970).
The Life of the Mind (1975).
INTENTIONS
 The philosophy of Arendt is a reflection about the vita
activa (especially in The Human Condition) and the vita
contemplativa (especially in The Life of the Mind).
 Features of the vita activa > labour, work and action.
 Features of the vita contemplativa > thinking, willing and
judging.
 The intentions to study both:
- to reconstruct the kind of action and thinking that resulted
in National Socialism and Stalinism.
- to do justice to the intrinsic value of political action in
comparison to labour and work.
- to sketch the path from the zoon politikon to the animal
laborans.
- to analyze the political crisis of the modern age.
ANTI-FOUNDATIONALISM
 According to Arendt philosophy is not about
epistemology, but about politics.
 Since Plato many philosophers impose their standards of
truth upon politics.
 This totalitarian way of thinking can’t do justice to the
plurality of lifestyles and cultures.
 Thinking without a banister (Denken ohne Geländer) >
there is not a fixed foundation upon which to base
thinking.
 Critique of the logocentric tradition in philosophy,
because it suppresses plurality.
 Arendt criticizes grand narratives that presuppose
historical necessity and neglect contingency.
PHILOSOPHICAL STYLE
Arendt insists that her philosophy was grounded
in “personal experiences”.
She never perceived herself as a professional
philosopher: “I do not belong to the circle of
philosophers.”
Personal experiences of political events as point
of departure of reflection.
A mixture of a narrative and an analytical style.
The integration of different kind of discourses
(literature, history, philosophy, etc.).
HEURISTIC VALUE
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
History (Goldhagen amongst others).
Post-structuralism (Kristeva amongst others ).
Post-marxism (Mouffe amongst others).
Critical theory (Habermas amongst others).
Queer theory (Butler amongst others).
Sociology (Sennett amongst others).
Feminism (Benhabib amongst others).
2.
THE BANALITY OF EVIL
PHILOSOPHY AFTER AUSCHWITZ
 Auschwitz – imprinted as the name for all concentration
camps - is for philosophers like Arendt and Adorno a
breaking point in history.
 When Arendt heard for the first time about Auschwitz,
about Nazis who systematically exterminate innocent people
in death camps, she couldn’t believe it: “That was in 1943.
And at first we didn’t believe it (…) And then a half-year
later we believed it after all, because we had the proof. (..) It
was really as if an abyss had opened… This ought not to
have happened. And I don’t mean just the number of
victims. I mean the method, the fabrication of corpses and
so on. (…) Something happened there to which we cannot
reconcile ourselves. None of us ever can.”
 For Arendt the concentration camps were “the most
consequential institution of totalitarian rule.”
THE JEWISH QUESTION
 In many works Arendt reflects on the so-called Jewish
question
 The Jewish question
- refers to designate a whole series of shifting,
loosely related, historical, cultural, religious,
economic, political, and social issues;
- is an expression initially gained popularity in the
writings of anti-semites;
- is related to an underlying anxiety about the fate of
the Jewish people in the modern age.
 Arendt: “I have refused to abandon the Jewish question as
the focal point of my historical and political thinking.”
OUTLAWS
Outlaws > Jewish parvenu and the Jewish pariah.
Rahel Varnhagen: despite her parvenu tendencies
and aspirations, she finally affirms herself as a
rebel, i.e. a pariah.
There is a hidden tradition of the Jew as a pariah.
Schlemihl > lord of dreams (a Traumweltherscher
as, for example, Heinrich Heine).
Conscious pariah > a political response to the
situation (for example Bernard Lazare or women
who refuse to accept or assimilate to prevailing
social relationships).
TOTALITARIANISM
Totalitarianism > the totalitarian consciousness
and the totalitarian rule are intertwined and
penetrate the whole state.
Arendt is interested in the origins of
totalitarianism.
Two types of origins:
1. The socio-psychological constellation >
anti-Semitism.
2. The socio-cultural constellation >
imperialism.
ANTI-SEMITISM
Arendt criticizes clichés about anti-Semitism > the
expression of an increased nationalism and Jews as a
scapegoat.
Anti-Semitism increases just at the nation-states in
Europe becomes weaker and there is an emergence
of ethnic pan-Slavic and pan-German movements.
The Jew is at first place seen as a pariah and not that
much as a scapegoat.
The totalitarian disaster starts with the decline of the
republican nation-state.
IMPERIALISM
 Imperialism > a mechanism characterized by “expansion for
the sake of expansion”, that is related to power and capital.
 Power is imperialistic because it is uncoupled from the
nationstate and directed to a worldwide expansion.
 Capital is imperialistic because its accumulation will
conquer all the pre-capitalist domains in the world.
 Colonialism is the experimental garden for 1) racist
ideologies and 2) bureaucratic forms of domination.
 Driven by ideologies as pan-Slavism and pan-Germanism
totalitarian regimes made out of racism and bureaucracy a
destructive force.
EVIL
War criminal Adolf Eichmann – who hide
himself in Argentina – was in 1960 kidnapped
by the secret service of Israel.
Arendt wrote a report about the Eichmann
trial.
Central thesis > evil is not absolute, but banal.
Eichmann was an average citizens for whom
it was honourable to do what his leaders
asked him to do (“Befehl ist Befehl!).
3. THE RIGHT TO HAVE RIGHTS
THEORY AND PRACTICE
 ‘The Origins of Totalitarianism’ > to show that National
Socialism and Stalinism is mainly the product and AntiSemitism and Imperialism.
 ‘The Human Condition’ > what kind of action and thinking
led to National Socialism and Stalinism?
 Vita contemplativa > theory.
 Vita activa > praxis.
 The philosophical opposition between theory and praxis
makes people blind for a more differentiated view on
human action.
 Theory and praxis are intertwined > one should study the
vita contemplativa and the vita activa.
A POLITICAL ANIMAL
Arendt argues that the separation of the private
sphere and the public sphere is a precondition for
a modern democracy.
Zoon politikon (Aristoteles) > political animal.
Social life > is dominated by biological needs.
Political life > is of a higher order than the social
life.
Liberty > manifests itself rather in political life
than in social life.
Political virtue > to participate as an active
citizen in the public sphere.
A CLASSICAL DICHOTOMY
PUBLIC SPHERE
PRIVATE SPHERE
Polis (political activity)
Oikos (domestic life)
Governmental authority
(state)
Self-regulation (market,
family)
Transparent (open)
Not transparent (closed)
THREE FORMS OF HUMAN
ACTIVITY
In order to clarify the specific character of the
public sphere, Arendt reflects on human activity.
Vita activa comprehends three forms of activity:
1. Labour (ponos; Arbeiten) > biological
reproduction.
2. Work (poiesis, technê; Herstellen) > the
production of tools and things.
3. Action (praxis; Handeln) > showing your
uniqueness via deliberation.
ANIMAL LABORANS
 Labour is the activity that concerns the human condition
of life.
 Central question: does labour fulfils the biological needs
of mankind?
 In order to secure the maintenance of life labour is a
never-ending story.
 Labour is a kind of bondage, because it is induced by
necessity.
 It refers to consumption and depolitization.
 Labour belongs to the private sphere, i.e. the oikos.
HOMO FABER
 Work is the activity that concerns the human condition of
worldliness.
 Central question: does work creates a world that is useful
for mankind?
 It is “the activity which corresponds to the unnaturalness
of human existence, which is not embedded in, and whose
mortality is not compensated by, the species’ everrecurring life-cycle.”
 Work is the creation of artefacts, i.e. things that are not
given in nature.
 It refers to the establishment of a secunda natura.
ZOON POLITICON
 Action is the activity that refers to the human condition of
plurality.
 Central question: does an action recognizes the plurality of
perspectives and the struggle for freedom?
 Plurality is a question of identity and difference, “because
we are all the same, that is, human, in such a way that
nobody is ever the same as anyone else who ever lived,
lives, or will live.”
 It presumes the recognition that people judge an act from
different perspectives.
 Via an action mankind realizes its freedom.
NATALITY
Freedom is the ability to make a new start.
It is rooted in natality > by virtue of being born
every individual introduces something that is new
in the world.
Although labour and work are also related to
natality, action implies re-enacting the new
beginning of the birth of an individual: “the new
beginning inherent in birth can make itself felt in
the world only because the newcomer possesses
the capacity of beginning something anew, that is
of acting.”
THE MODERN AGE
 The modern age is characterized by a political crisis
caused by the oppression of action.
 The ‘animal laborans’ dominates the ‘zoon politicon’ >
instrumental reason undermines public deliberation.
 The oikos becomes more important than the polis.
 The current reconfiguration of the relation between the
public realm and the private realm implies a
depolitization.
 World alienation > the loss of an intersubjectively
constituted world of public action that is helpful to
figure out what is (for the moment) the truth, what’s one
identity and what has to be done.
 Earth alienation > the attempt of people to escape via
modern technology from their earth-bound condition.
THE RIGHTS OF STATELESS
MIGRANTS
 The experience of being an illegal migrant (displaced
person or so-called illegal immigrants) is important for the
Arendt. The experience of statelessness.
 The tension between inclusive human rights and the
demand for territorial national sovereignty.
 Human rights were understood to be inalienable,
ahistorical universal rights which were to be upheld even
against the sovereignty of the state.
 Problem: how can human rights be guaranteed and
protected?
 Arendt > the most basic right is “the right to have rights
(and that means to live in a framework where one is
judged by one’s actions and opinions) and a right to
belong to some kind of organized community.”
“That the soft water in movement
In time will winn from the mighty
hard stone
You know, the hard will lose.”
Bertold Brecht
RECOMMENDED
1. The Human Condition (1958) [translations
in several languages].
2. The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951)
[translations in several languages].
3. Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, Hannah Arendt.
For Love of the World (1982) [translations
in several languages].

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