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Hannah Arendt, 1906 -1975
• • • Hannah Arendt was born in 1906 in Hanover and died in New York in 1975. In 1924, she went to Marburg University to study with Martin Heidegger, with whom she had a brief but intense love-affair. After a year of study in Marburg, she moved to Freiburg University. In the spring of 1926 she went to Heidelberg University to study with Karl Jaspers. She completed her doctoral dissertation, entitled Der Liebesbegriff bei Augustin under Jaspers's supervision in 1929. She was forced to flee Germany, and after a brief stay in Prague and Geneva she moved to Paris where for six years (1933– 39) she worked for a number of Jewish refugee organizations. In 1936 she separated from her first husband, Günther Stern, and started to live with Heinrich Blücher, whom she married in 1940. ). In 1941 she was forced to leave France and moved to New York with her husband mother. Taught at Princeton, Berkeley and Chicago, but was most closely associated with the New School for Social Research, where she was a professor of political philosophy until her death in 1975. • Origins of Totalitarianism (1951) • The Human Condition (1958) • Eichmann in Jerusalem (1961) • On Revolution 1961) • Between Past and Future (1972) • Men in Dark Times (1975) • The Life of the Mind (Thinking; Willing) 1975 (
Arendt: Basic Concepts • Recall the cave in Plato – Appearance is bad or lesser • Arendt wants to contest this – Redeem appearance and action – What is the experience of the political like • Cf introductory lecture • We are conditioned
What are the basic concepts of human life? The Human Condition • 1. Labor: Humanity as animal laborans – Unfree; realm of necessity • 2. Work: Humanity as homo faber – The making of our world • 3. Action: Humanity as zoon politikon – The realm of beginning; the realm of freedom
• A manifestation of action is speech – 'Action is the public disclosure of the agent in the speech deed'. (cf remarks about Eichmann and speech)
reminder • The political and politics (recall first class) – Political is what is a simultaneous answer to the questions “What am I? ” and “What are we? ” • Not economics, religion, psychology, love • Not a necessarily permanent part of the human condition (? )
– For HA FREEDOM is exclusively located it he political realm • THE RISE OF THE SOCIAL – The tendency to think of the public realm as a large household that need to be taken care of. • Rule by nobody (bureaucracy) – rise of statistics as kind of equality » different form of equality in modern world • WHAT THEN DOES PUBLIC MEAN – Everything that appears in public can be seen and heard – The world is in common (shared by all and separating each from each • Have something in common (ordinary, vulgar and together) – for something to be in common it must transcend one generation (must be immortal » this means a multiplication of perspectives: THE ONLY WAY FOR ME TO GET OUTISDE OF MY PERSPECTIVE IS FOR ME TO SHARE YOURS *(EXTENDED SELF) • what then does private mean – PROPERTY • Mastery over necessities is consequence of having property and the private—privacy is here the precondition for there being a public (
Truth and Politics • “Political thought is representative. I form an opinion by considering a given issue from different viewpoints, by making present to my mind the standpoints of those who are absent; that is I represent them. This process of representation does not blindly adopt the actual views of those who stand somewhere else, and hence look upon the world from a different perspective; this is a question neither of empathy, as though I tried to be or to feel like somebody else, nor of counting noses and joining a majority but of being and thinking in my own identity where actually I am not. The more people’s standpoints I have present in my mind… the stronger will be my capacity for representative thinking. “ (PHA 556)
Eichmann in Jerusalem • Background of the case – Details of the Final Solution; cooperation of some of the leaders of various Jewish ghettoes (313 ff) • Eichmann – Not particularly anti-semitic – Showed no evidence of remorse as he was doing his job. HA: "He did his duty. . . ; he not only obeyed orders, he also obeyed the law. "
Arendt has the judges say • “Just as you supported and carried out a policy of not wanting to share the earth with the Jewish people and the people of a number of other nations, as though you and your superiors had any rights to determine who should and should not inhabit the world, we find that no one, that is, no member of the human race, can be expected to want to share the earth with you. This is the reason and the only reason that you must hang. ” (375)
Why? • Eichmann repudiates an essential fact of human life: “men not Man live on the earth and inhabit the world. ” (Human Condition, p. 7) – Only in the presence of others do human beings exist as human and not as animate things. – This is because humans can ACT, i. e. bring new things of states of affairs into the world. • For acts to be real, others must acknowledge and remember them.
• Thus the Nazis threaten the possibility condition of human beings. – When are “featherless bipeds” [Plato] not human?
BUT… • Is Arendt not saying the same thing (“no one will want to share the earth with you”) to Eichmann as she says he was doing? – The counter cannot be that Eichmann did something wrong • Arendt asserts that Eichmann did what he did out of respect for the law of his land. As did many others.
In some sense he was un lucky • “You told your story in terms of a hard-luck story, and knowing the circumstances, we are, up to a point, willing to grant you that under more favorable circumstances it is highly unlikely that you would have ever come before us or before any criminal court. It was nothing more than misfortune that made you a willing instrument in the organization of mass murder. ” (375)
Her response • Eichmann’s crime was formal – An attempt to destroy the space between people – An attempt to control who will see what they did. • Interfere with the past and future – Orwell: “he who controls the present, controls the past; he who controls the past, controls the future” – Arendt relates a conversation held by French premier Clemenceau after World War I
“WE” think that intention is important and reject the claim that • “A great crime offends nature, so that the very earth cries out for vengeance; that evil violates a natural harmony which only retribution can restore; that a wronged collectivity owes a duty to the moral order to punish the criminal. ” (373) – She criticizes the Israeli court for assuming that “the law expresses only what every man’s conscience would tell him anyway. ”
• But were these not the grounds on which Eichmann was brought to trial and condemned?
– NB: we are echoing Schmitt on law and that which is not law • By “nature” Arendt means only the formal conditions that make human life possible. • Who then is the victim? – Not primarily the Jews (or Communists, or Poles, or gypsies, or homosexuals, or mentally retarded – The victim is “mankind in its entirely. ” • The court ignores this
• Eichmann thus kills not individuals beings, but the Being that is human. • IF the crime is formal, why is Eichmann responsible – Standard notions of responsibility – Eichmann DID something • She reminds the judges of Sodom and Gomorrah (374) • Eichmann “transcends the realm of human affairs”
In passing • She notes that Karl Jaspers said it should have been an international tribunal (366 -368) – Arendt: technical issues make this difficult but the Israel court could have waived its right to carry out the sentence.
Problem remains • For what is he punished? – She rejects: that his death can relieve anyone of the consequences of his actions – That it would take away the pain of those who died and the trauma of those who survived – That it would be a warning to anti-Semites – That it is a history lesson or a reminder of the existence of anti-Semitism – That is is a demonstration of Jewish/Israeli might – That it might relieve the guilt of the German people
Thus • His death is not a punishment – Which is what we do to human beings – His death does not restore his humanity • The limit of the law? • Are there implications for capital punishment?
To her critics • “I do not love a collective” (e. g. “The Jewish people”) (392) • Radical evil vs banality of evil – Modernity (396) • Neither depth nor demonic