linked to above image:
In a letter to Karl Jaspers, dated March 4, 1951, Hannah Arendt wrote the following on “radical evil”:
What radical evil is I don’t know, but it seems to me it somehow has to do with the following phenomenon: making human beings as human beings superfluous (not using them as a means to an end, which leaves their essences as humans untouched and impinges only on their human dignity; rather making them superfluous as human beings). This happens as soon as all unpredictability- which, in human beings, is the equivalent of spontaneity- is eliminated.
Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it. – Hannah Arendt
Johanna “Hannah” Arendt (/ˈɛərənt/ or /ˈɑrənt/; German: [ˈaːʀənt]; 14 October 1906 – 4 December 1975) was a German-born political theorist. Though often described as a philosopher, she rejected that label on the grounds that philosophy is concerned with “man in the singular” and instead described herself as a political theorist because her work centers on the fact that “men, not Man, live on the earth and inhabit the world.” As an assimilated Jew, she escaped Europe during the Holocaust and became an American citizen. Her works deal with the nature of power, and the subjects of politics, direct democracy, authority, and totalitarianism. The Hannah Arendt Prize is named in her honor.
In her reporting of the Eichmann trial for The New Yorker, which evolved into Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963), she coined the phrase
the banality of evil
to describe Eichmann. She raised the question of whether evil is radical or simply a function of thoughtlessness, a tendency of ordinary people to obey orders and conform to mass opinion without a critical evaluation of the consequences of their actions and inaction.
from eichmann banility of evil (wikipedia):
The banality of evil
Arendt’s book introduced the expression and concept “the banality of evil”. Her thesis is that Eichmann was not a fanatic or sociopath, but an extremely average person who relied on clichéd defenses rather than thinking for himself and was motivated by professional promotion rather than ideology. Banality, in this sense, is not that Eichmann’s actions were ordinary, or that there is a potential Eichmann in all of us, but that his actions were motivated by a sort of stupidity which was wholly unexceptional. She never denied that Eichmann was an anti-semite, nor that he was fully responsible for his actions, but argued that these characteristics were secondary to his stupidity.
This concept has been frequently misunderstood. In his 2010 history of the Second World War, Moral Combat, British historian Michael Burleigh calls the expression a “cliché” and gives many documented examples of gratuitous acts of cruelty by those involved in the Holocaust, including Eichmann. Arendt certainly did not disagree about the fact of gratuitous cruelty, but “banality of evil” is unrelated to this question. Similarly, the first attempted rebuttal of Arendt’s thesis relied on a misreading of this phrase, claiming Arendt meant that there was nothing exceptional about the Holocaust.
via director Margarethe von Trotta in nyt article
But if there’s a message in this film, it’s that you should
think for yourself,
don’t follow an ideology or a fashion. Hannah called this ‘thinking without banisters.’
via Larry Ferlazzo:
Here’s what I described the connection in my first book on teaching ELLs — English Language Learners: Teaching Strategies That Work:
Organizers often cite the work of philosopher Hannah Arendt when they talk about the importance of reflection. Arendt wrote a book after she observed the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Holocaust. She shared that she had expected to see a monster. Instead, she was shocked to see a man who was mechanical, bureaucratic, and thoughtless. She began thinking that evil was more the result of the absence of thinking and reflection, which she described in a famous phrase as the “banality of evil.”
Though Eichmann is obviously an extreme case, this point is important for those of us who are not perpetrating evil, too. If we don’t think and reflect, we can be mechanical and live our lives by a formula. We can fail to calculate the consequences of what we do, and we can make the same mistakes over and over again that can lead to personal and, sometimes, social destructiveness. We can learn the facts, but miss the opportunity to develop an understanding.
from talk to students at end of movie:
greatest evil.. was committed by nobodies.. men with no motives.. only obeying orders
i hold no defense of eichmann
trying to understand is not the same of forgiveness…
my responsibility to understand… since socrates and plato – thinking to be engaged in silent dialogue between me and myself…in refusing to be a person eichmann surrendered single most defining human quality.. being able to think… so no longer capable to make judgments ,,this inability to think creates possibility for many ordinary men to create evil deeds on a gigantic scale..
manifestation is not knowledge.. but ability to tell right from wrong beautiful from ugly.. … and i hope thinking gives people the strength to prevent catastrophes in these rare moments when the chips are down…
– – –
more from her wikipedia page:
Arendt’s essay, “On Violence”, distinguishes between violence and power. She maintains that, although theorists of both the Left and Right regard violence as an extreme manifestation of power, the two concepts are, in fact, antithetical. Power comes from the collective will and does not need violence to achieve any of its goals, since voluntary compliance takes its place. As governments start losing their legitimacy, violence becomes an artificial means toward the same end and is therefore, found only in the absence of power. Bureaucracies then become the ideal birthplaces of violence since they are defined as the “rule by no one” against whom to argue and therefore, recreate the missing links with the people they rule over.
more insight via stanford encyclopedia of philosophy
notes/highlights from the promise of politics:
Political judgment is not a matter of knowledge, pseudoknowledge, or speculative thought. It does not eliminate risk but affirms human freedom and the world that free people share with one another. Or rather, it establishes the reality of human freedom in a common world.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 74-75). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Arendt says quite explicitly that thinking did not always require judgment to affect the world. That it does now is itself a judgment of our world, and one so consequential that she would think us foolhardy if we were to let it pass unremarked.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 259-261). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Human spontaneity, politically speaking, means that we do not know the ends of our actions when we act, and if we did we would not be free. When these categories are confused, especially today, politics ceases to make sense.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 319-320). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
The tragedy of Socrates’ death rests on a misunderstanding: what the polis did not understand was that Socrates did not claim to be a sophos, a wise man. Because he doubted that wisdom is for mortals, he saw the irony in the Delphic oracle that said he was the wisest of all men: the man who knows that men cannot be wise is the wisest of them all. The polis did not believe him, and demanded that he admit that he, like all sophoi, was politically a good-for-nothing. But as a philosopher he truly had nothing to teach his fellow citizens.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 542-546). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
For Aristotle, friendship is higher than justice, because justice is no longer necessary between friends.‡
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 629-630). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Socrates seems to have believed that the political function of the philosopher was to help establish this kind of common world, built on the understanding of friendship, in which no rulership is needed.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 639-640). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
On this level, the Socratic “I know that I do not know” means no more than: I know that I do not have the truth for everybody; I cannot know the other fellow’s truth except by asking him and thereby learning his doxa, which reveals itself to him in distinction from all others.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 648-650). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Only someone who has had the experience of talking with himself is capable of being a friend, of acquiring another self.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Location 661). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
The philosopher who, trying to escape the human condition of plurality, takes his flight into absolute solitude, is more radically delivered to this plurality inherent in every human being than anyone else, since it is companionship with others that, calling me out of the dialogue of thought, makes me one again—one single, unique human being speaking with but one voice and recognizable as such by all others.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 672-674). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
No man can keep his conscience intact who cannot actualize the dialogue with himself, that is, who lacks the solitude required for all forms of thinking.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 728-729). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
The wonder which man endures or which befalls him cannot be related in words because it is too general for words.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 838-839). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Socrates’ statement “I know that I do not know” expresses in terms of knowledge this lack of scientific answers. But in a state of wonder, this statement loses its dry negativity, for the result left behind in the mind of the person who has endured the pathos of wonder can only be expressed as: Now I know what it means not to know; now I know that I do not know.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 850-852). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
The philosopher, who, so to speak, is an expert in wondering and in asking those questions which arise out of wondering—and when Nietzsche says that the philosopher is the man about whom extraordinary things happen all the time, he alludes to the same matter—finds himself in a twofold conflict with the polis. Since his ultimate experience is one of speechlessness, he has put himself outside the political realm in which the highest faculty of man is, precisely, speech—
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 867-870). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
And since his own experience of speechlessness expresses itself only in the raising of unanswerable questions, he has indeed one decisive disadvantage the moment he returns to the political realm. He is the only one who does not know, ..
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 877-883). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
For what is true for this wonder, with which all philosophy begins, is not true for the ensuing solitary dialogue itself. Solitude, or the thinking dialogue of the two-in-one, is an integral part of being and living together with others, and in this solitude the philosopher too cannot help but form opinions—he too arrives at his own doxa. His distinction from his fellow citizens is not that he possesses any special truth from which the multitude is excluded, but that he remains always ready to endure the pathos of wonder and thereby avoids the dogmatism of mere opinion holders.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 888-892). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
What Montesquieu feared is that only customs were left as stabilizing factors in eighteenth-century society, and that the laws which, according to him, “govern the actions of the citizen,” thereby stabilizing the body politic as customs stabilize society, had lost their validity. Not quite thirty years later, Goethe writes to Lavater in a similar mood: “Like a big city, our moral and political world is undermined with subterranean roads, cellars, and sewers, about whose connection and dwelling conditions nobody seems to reflect or think; but those who know something of this will find it much more understandable if here or there, now or then, the earth crumbles away, smoke rises out of a crack, and strange voices are heard.”
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 960-965). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
It lies in the nature of a tradition to be accepted and absorbed, as it were, by common sense, which fits the particular and idiosyncratic data of our other senses into a world we inhabit together and share in common. In this general understanding, common sense indicates that in the human condition of plurality men check and control their particular sense data against the common data of others
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 969-971). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
The concept of rule, as we find it in Plato and as it became authoritative for the tradition of political thought, has two distinct sources in private experience. One is the experience which Plato shared with other Greeks, according to which rule was primarily rule over slaves and expressed itself in the master-servant relationship of command and obedience. The other was the “utopian” need of the philosopher to become the city’s ruler, that is,..
to enforce in the city those “ideas” which can be perceived only in solitude. They cannot be imparted to the multitude in the conventional manner of persuasion, the specifically Greek way of winning prominence and predominance, because their revelation and perception are not communicable in speech at all, ..
and least of all in the manner of speech that characterizes persuasion.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1124-1127). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Plato, to be sure, when he remarked that the origin of philosophy is the pathos of wonder at everything that is, was not aware that tradition, whose chief function it is to give answers to all questions by channeling them into predetermined categories, could ever threaten the very existence of philosophy. But this threat is implicit in the modern philosophers Leibniz and Schelling, and explicit in Heidegger, when they declare that the origin of philosophy resides in the unanswerable question: Why is there anything at all and not rather nothing? Plato’s violent treatment of Homer, who at the time had been considered the “educator of all Hellas” for centuries, is for us still the most magnificent sign of a culture aware of its past without any sense of the binding authority of tradition.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1150-1153). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
forgiving attempts the seemingly impossible, to undo what has been done, and that it succeeds in making a new beginning where beginnings seemed to have become no longer possible.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1193-1194). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
forgiving is an action that guarantees the continuity of the capacity for action, for beginning anew, in every single human being. .
..who, without forgiving and being forgiven, would resemble the man in the fairy tale who is granted one wish and then forever punished with that wish’s fulfillment.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1208-1210). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Administration was supposed to be no-rule, but it actually can only be rule by nobody, that is, bureaucracy, a form of government in which nobody takes responsibility. Bureaucracy is a form of government from which the personal element of ruler-ship has disappeared, and it is also true that such a government may rule in the interest of no class. But this no-man-rule, the fact that in an authentic bureaucracy nobody occupies the empty chair of the ruler, does not mean that the conditions of rule have disappeared. .. There are many people in a bureaucracy who may demand an account, but there is nobody to give it, because “nobody” cannot be held responsible.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1447-1449). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
As far as the ruled are concerned, the net of the patterns in which they are caught is by far more dangerous and more deadly than mere arbitrary tyranny.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1456-1457). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
The rule of nobody—not anarchy, or disappearance of rule, or oppression—is the ever-present danger of any society based on universal equality. The concept of universal equality within the tradition of political thought means nothing other than that no man is free.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1459-1460). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Marx was the first to define man as an animal laborans, as a laboring creature. He subsumes under this definition everything tradition passed down as the distinguishing marks of humanity: labor is the principle of rationality and its laws, which in the development of productive forces determine history, make history comprehensible to reason. Labor is the principle of productivity; it produces the truly human world on earth.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1471-1474). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Neither Marx nor the introduction of machinery was able to undo the fact that man is forced to labor in order to live, that labor is therefore not a free and productive activity but is inextricably bound up with what compels us: the necessities that come with simply being alive. It was Marx’s great achievement to have made labor the center of his theory, because labor was exactly what all political philosophy, once it no longer dared to justify slavery, had averted its gaze from. But for all that, we are still left without an answer to the political question posed by the necessity of labor in human life and by the paramount role it plays in the modern world.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1487-1491). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Plato’s contempt for politics, his conviction that “the affairs and actions of men (ta tön anthröpön pragmata) are not worthy of great seriousness” and that the only reason why the philosopher needs to concern himself with them is the unfortunate fact that philosophy—or, as Aristotle somewhat later would say, a life devoted to it, the bios theôrëtikos—is materially impossible without a halfway reasonable arrangement of all affairs that concern men insofar as they live together.
At the beginning of the tradition, politics exists because men are alive and mortal, while philosophy concerns those matters which are eternal, like the universe. Insofar as the philosopher is also a mortal man, he too is concerned with politics. But this concern has only a negative relationship to his being a philosopher: he is afraid, as Plato so abundantly made clear, that through bad management of political affairs he will not be able to pursue philosophy. Scholë, like the Latin otium, is not leisure as such but only leisure from political duty, nonparticipation in politics, and therefore the freedom of the mind for its concern with the eternal (the aei on), which is possible only if the needs and necessities of mortal life have been taken care of.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1499-1502). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
As Cicero, in his futile attempt to disavow Greek philosophy on this one point—its attitude to politics— ironically pointed out, if only “all that is essential to our wants and comforts were supplied by some magic wand, as in the legends, then every man of first-rate ability could drop all other responsibility and devote himself exclusively to knowledge and science.”* In brief, when the philosophers began to concern themselves with politics in a systematic way, politics at once became for them a necessary evil.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1511-1515). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
getting politics back to that.. for the common good.. what perhaps, networked individualism can do for us today. if not.. why did we work so hard for the efficiency/connectedness if not for it to be useful..? no?
in secular terms.. in the melancholy reflection of James Madison, that government surely is nothing but a reflection on human nature, which would not be necessary if men were angels; now in the angry words of Nietzsche, that no government can be good about which the subjects have to worry at all.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1549-1550). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
What matters, in addition to the inherent degradation of this whole realm of life through philosophy, is the radical separation of those matters that men can reach and attain only through living and acting together from those that are perceived and cared about by man in his singularity and solitude.
What matters is the unbridgeable abyss that opened and has never been closed, not between the so-called individual and the so-called community (which is a late and phony way of stating an authentic ancient problem), but between being in solitude and living together.
Compared with this perplexity, even the equally ancient and vexing problem of the relationship, or rather nonrelationship, between action and thought is secondary in importance. Neither the radical separation between politics and contemplation, between living together and living in solitude as two distinct modes of life, nor their hierarchical structure, was ever doubted after Plato had established both.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1556-1564). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Class rule is directly realized in political government, and therefore the state retains a reality that by far outweighs the merely ideological function of laws. State power is the expression of class antagonism, and without this weight of actual physical power, expressed in the possession of the means of violence and represented for Marx chiefly by the army and the police, his claim for a dictatorship of the proletariat as the last stage of rule and oppression would make no sense. To Marx, ..
the political realm has been completely dominated by the division between ruling and being ruled, between oppressing and being oppressed, which in turn is based on the division between exploiting and being exploited.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1586-1587). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Politics deals with the coexistence and association of different men. Men organize themselves politically according to certain essential commonalities found within or abstracted from an absolute chaos of differences.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1661-1662). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
.. in practical, political terms, the family acquires its deep-rooted importance from the fact that the world is organized in such a way that there is no place within it for the individual, and that means for anyone who is different. Families are founded as shelters and mighty fortresses in an inhospitable, alien world, into which we want to introduce kinship.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1669-1675). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
There are two good reasons why philosophy has never found a place where politics can take shape. The first is the assumption that there is something political in man that belongs to his essence. This simply is not so; man is apolitical. Politics arises between men, and so quite outside of man. There is therefore no real political substance. Politics arises in what lies between men and is established as relationships. Hobbes understood this.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1678-1682). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
It is so difficult to comprehend that there is a realm in which we can be truly free, that is, neither driven by ourselves nor dependent on the givens of material existence.
..Freedom exists only in the unique intermediary space of politics.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1690-1695). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Underlying our prejudices against politics today are hope and fear: the fear that humanity could destroy itself through politics and through the means of force now at its disposal, and, linked with this fear, the hope that humanity will come to its senses and rid the world, not of humankind, but of politics.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1709-1711). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
There really is no social structure which is not based more or less on prejudices that include certain people while excluding others. The freer a person is of prejudices of any kind, the less suitable he will be for the purely social realm.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1760-1762). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
The danger of prejudice lies in the very fact that it is always anchored in the past—so uncommonly well-anchored that it not only anticipates and blocks judgment, but also makes both judgment and a genuine experience of the present impossible.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1768-1769). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
The failure of standards in the modern world—
..the impossibility of judging anew what has happened and daily happens, on the basis of firm standards recognized by everyone,
..and of subsuming those events as cases of some well-known general principle, .. All such interpretations tacitly assume that human beings can be expected to render judgments only if they possess standards, that the faculty of judgment is thus nothing more than the ability to assign individual cases to their correct and proper places within the general principles which are applicable to them and about which everyone is in agreement.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1797-1801). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
prejudice decreases as discrimination increases … Ellen
and perhaps we do that by noticing the unlikely .. Ellen
And we can no more change a world by changing the people in it—quite apart from the practical impossibility of such an enterprise—than we can change an organization or a club by attempting to influence its members in one way or another. If we want to change an institution, an organization, some public body existing within the world, we can only revise its constitution, its laws, its statutes, and hope that all the rest will take care of itself. This is so because wherever human beings come together—be it in private or socially, be it in public or politically—a space is generated that simultaneously gathers them into it and separates them from one another. Every such space has its own structure that changes over time and reveals itself in a private context as custom, in a social context as convention, and in a public context as laws, constitutions, statutes, and the like. Wherever people come together, the world thrusts itself between them, and it is in this in-between space that all human affairs are conducted.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1832-1833). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
is she talking the need for synchronicity here…? Jane ness.. mechanism in place..?
man; if they prove inadequate, must we not then change the nature of man before we can think about changing the world?
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1857-1858). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
The answer to the question of the meaning of politics is so simple and so conclusive that one might think all other answers are utterly beside the point. The answer is: The meaning of politics is freedom.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1861-1862). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Perhaps things have changed so much since classical times, when politics and freedom were deemed identical, that now, under modern conditions, they must be definitely separated.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1873-1874). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
politics threatens the very thing that, according to modern opinion, provides its ultimate justification—that is, the basic possibility of life for all of humanity. If it is true that politics is nothing more than a necessary evil for sustaining the life of humanity, then politics has indeed begun to banish itself from the world and to transform its meaning into meaninglessness. .. The meaninglessness in which politics finds itself is evident from the fact that all individual political questions now end in an impasse.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1892-1898). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
It is clear from these examples that whenever something new occurs, it bursts into the context of predictable processes as something unexpected, unpredictable, and ultimately causally inexplicable—just like a miracle. In other words every new beginning is by nature a miracle when seen and experienced from the standpoint of the processes it necessarily interrupts. …This, of course, is merely an example to help explain that what we call real is already a web which is woven of earthly, organic, and human realities, but which has come into existence through the addition of infinite improbabilities.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1911-1917). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
For the processes that we are dealing with here are, as we’ve said, of a historical nature, which means they do not proceed according to the pattern of natural developments but are sequences of events whose structure is so frequently interspersed with infinite improbabilities that any talk of miracles seems odd to us. But that is simply because the process of history has arisen out of human initiatives and is constantly interrupted by new initiatives.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1918-1921). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
The idea that freedom is identical with beginning or, again to use a Kantian term, with spontaneity, seems strange to us because, according to our tradition of conceptual thought and its categories, freedom is equated with freedom of the will, and we understand freedom of the will to be a choice between givens or, to put it crudely, between good and evil.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1931-1935). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
If the meaning of politics is freedom, that means that in this realm—and in no other—we do indeed have the right to expect miracles. Not because we superstitiously believe in miracles, but because human beings, whether or not they know it, as long as they can act, are capable of achieving, and constantly do achieve, the improbable and unpredictable.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1944-1947). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
..almost all the definitions in our tradition are essentially justifications.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1953-1954). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
..as Madison once remarked, since our concern is the communal life of men and not angels, provisions for human existence can be achieved only by the state, which holds a monopoly on brute force and prevents the war of all against all.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1963-1964). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
whoa. wrong on that. no?
Man must first be liberated or liberate himself in order to enjoy freedom, and being liberated from domination by life’s necessities was the true meaning of the Greek word scholl or the Latin otium—what we cal today leisure. This liberation, in contrast to freedom, was an end that could, and had to, be achieved by certain means. This crucial means was slavery, the brute force by which one man compelled others to relieve him of the cares of daily life.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Location 1982). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Without those who are my equals, there is no freedom, which is why the man who rules over others—and for that very reason is different from them on principle—is indeed a happier and more enviable man than those over whom he rules, but he is not one whit freer.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 1996-1997). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
This freedom consists of what we call spontaneity, which, according to Kant, is based on the ability of every human being to initiate a sequence, to forge a new chain.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 2107-2109). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
regimes have not been content simply to squelch freedom of opinion, but have also set about on principle to destroy human spontaneity in all spheres. This in turn is inevitable wherever the historical-political process is defined in deterministic terms as something that is preordained from the outset to follow its own laws and is therefore fully knowable. But what stands in opposition to all possible predetermination and knowledge of the future is the fact that the world is daily renewed through birth and is constantly dragged into what is unpredictably new by the spontaneity of each new arrival. Only if we rob the newborn of their spontaneity, their right to begin something new, can the course of the world be defined deterministically and predicted.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 2118-2119). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
all political freedom would forfeit its best and deepest meaning without this freedom of spontaneity,
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Location 2133). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
coercion and brute force are always means for protecting or establishing or expanding political space, but in and of themselves are definitely not political. They are phenomena peripheral to politics and therefore not politics itself.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 2162-2164). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Plato, the father of political philosophy in the West, attempted in various ways to oppose the polis and what it understood by freedom by positing a political theory in which political standards were derived not from politics but from philosophy, by developing a detailed constitution whose laws correspond to ideas accessible only to the philosopher, and ultimately by influencing a ruler whom he hoped would realize such legislation—an attempt that nearly cost him his freedom and his life. Founding the Academy was another such attempt. This act stood in opposition to the polis because it set the Academy apart from the political arena, but at the same it was also done in the spirit of this specifically Greco-Athenian political space—that is, insofar as its substance lay in men speaking with one another.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 2174-2179). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
so a new space now – coming to reality..? where speaking isn’t the one substance.. ie: words aren’t the only means… no longer limiting us..
The free space of the Academy was intended as a fully valid substitute for the marketplace, the agora, the central space for freedom in the polis. In order for their institution to succeed, the few had to demand that their activity, their speech with one another, be relieved of the activities of the polis in the same way the citizens of Athens were relieved of all activities that dealt with earning their daily bread.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 2185-2191). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
whoa. and now.. similar to us getting more tech to free us up and we’re working more hours.. free space of academy is costing us so much we have become slaves to debt, et al.
For the household (and the tasks performed in it to sustain life) was never justified as a means to an end—as if, to put it in Aristotelian terms, “life” per se is a means to the “good life” possible only in the polis. This was neither possible nor necessary, because the means/ends category has no application whatever within the realm of life per se. The purpose of life, and all activities of labor bound up with it, is obviously the sustaining of life itself, and the impulse behind the labor to sustain life does not lie outside of life, but is included in the life process, which forces us to labor just as it forces us to eat. If we want to understand the connection between household and polis in terms of ends and means, then life sustained within the household is not a means to the higher purpose of political freedom, but rather, control over the necessities of life and over slave labor within the household is the means by which a man is liberated to engage in politics. And in fact, just such a liberation by domination—the liberation of the few, who enjoy the freedom to philosophize by ruling over the many—is what Plato proposed in the form of the philosopher-king, but his proposal has never been taken up by any philosopher after him and has never had any political impact.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 2197-2204). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
The few, wherever they have isolated themselves from the many—be it in the form of academic indifference or oligarchic rule—have manifestly ended up depending upon the many, particularly in all those matters of communal life requiring concrete action. ….. Politics becomes on the one hand a necessity that stands in opposition to freedom, and yet on the other hand is the prerequisite for freedom.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 2216-2221). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Freedom as the end purpose of politics establishes limits to the realm of politics; the criterion for action within that realm is no longer freedom but competence and efficiency in securing life’s necessities.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 2234-2235). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
In other words, its political impact has always been limited to those few for whom the authentic philosophical experience, in all its overwhelming urgency, has been the overriding issue—an experience that ..
..by its very nature leads us away from the political realm of living and speaking with one another.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 2239-2240). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
next section.. is it relating to this..
how somehow in the combining of – do it for all – mixed in with the govt we now have… means stifle. stifle spontaneity ness. thus stifle human ness..?
makes me think of formalizing informal learning. and the change of the observed. can they dance together..? or rather.. perhaps.. does the dance beg that every aspect lives in spontaneity.. perpetual beta.. undefined ness..? meaning.. that kind of politics/govt would be fine.. but it’s far from what we have.. because it’s decided new everyday.. like Yaacov’s defn of democratic ed.
At first glance it may appear as if early Christianity simply demanded that this same, as it were, academic freedom from politics that the classical schools had claimed for themselves be applicable to everyone.
Arendt, Hannah (2009-01-16). The Promise of Politics (Kindle Locations 2244-2246). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
it has to do its work in hiding, because to be seen and heard inevitably takes on the glow of appearance in which all holiness – no matter how hard it tries not to – instantly becomes hypocrisy.
..purpose of govt, … is to protect the free productivity of the society and the security of the individual in his private life.
what the modern era expected of its state, and what this state indeed achieved to a large extent, was the release of men to develop their socially productive energies, to produce in common the good they required for a ‘happy ” life.
ever since rise of nation-state.. duty of govt is to defend a society’s freedom against internal and external enemies, with force if necessary.
…politics is a means and freedom its highest end.
so fitting.. as politics as a means to free us to our energy/art.. has now stifled us.. evidence for a shrewd/systemic pruning.. no? since we now can organize for ongoing self-organizing.. ie: everyone has something else to do – spontaneously and synchronously…
on force (phenomenon of individual or few) vs power (possible only among the many) .. and then on freedom (for women and workers) from working via force to working via necessity.
the crisis lies in the fact that the political arena now threatens precisely what once appeared to be its sole justification. in this situation, the question about the meaning of politics is itself alters.
on prejudices.. as a reflection of things we automatically share with one another but no longer make judgments about because we no longer … experience them…. no one can live w/o them (prejudices) because a life completely free of prejudice would demand a superhuman alertness.. a constant readiness of real word each moment.. as if every day were the first day or last day of creation.
exactly. let’s do that now. everyday ness. prejudice decreases as discrimination (awakeness in the now) decreases…
and perhaps that happens when we truly free art\ists..
[with capabilities we have today to automate much of menial work, to innovate much of undesirable work – ie: peepoople ness making current sanitation irrelevant…et al]
since atomic bomb our mistrust has been based on .. fear.. that politics and the means of force available to it may well destroy humanity.
the crucial point is that the law – although it defines the space in which men live with one another without using force – has something violent about it in terms of both its origins and its nature.
because most of our experience with politics has been gained on the battlefield of brute force, it is only natural that we understand political action in the categories of coercion and being coerced, of ruling and being ruled, since it is in those categories that the true meaning of all violence is revealed.
Both psychology, the discipline of adjusting human life to the desert, and totalitarian movements, the sandstorms in which false or pseudo-action suddenly bursts forth from deathlike quiet, present imminent danger to the two human faculties that patiently enable us to transform the desert rather than ourselves, the conjoined faculties of passion and action. It is true that when caught up in totalitarian movements or the adjustments of modern psychology we suffer less; we lose the faculty of suffering and with it the virtue of endurance. Only those who can endure the passion of living under desert conditions can be trusted to summon up in themselves the courage that lies at the root of action, of becoming an active being.
The lack of endurance, the failure to recognize and endure doubt as one of the fundamental conditions of modern life
when the in-between, the world, goes up in flames, as in love. (politics as the inbetween people)
we ruin the life-giving oases when we go to them for the purpose of escaping,
in its need for beginners that it may be begun anew
dec 2015 – via Maria:
on Time, Space, and Where Our Thinking Ego Resides
no thinker has addressed how the disorienting nature of time shapes the human experience with more captivating lucidity than Hannah Arendt
In one of the most stimulating portions of the *book, Arendt argues that thinking is our rebellion against the tyranny of time and a hedge against the terror of our finitude.
*book – the life of the mind.. – recommended on overdrive
thinking invariably forces us to recollect and anticipate, voyaging into the past and the future, thus creating the mental spacetime continuum through which our thought-trains travel. From this arises our sense of the sequential nature of time and its essential ongoingness.
Without [the thinker], there would be no difference between past and future, but only everlasting change
In this gap between past and future, we find our place in time when we think, that is, when we are sufficiently removed from past and future to be relied on to find out their meaning, to assume the position of “umpire,” of arbiter and judge over the manifold, never-ending affairs of human existence in the world, never arriving at a final solution to their riddles but ready with ever-new answers to the question of what it may be all about.
2014 – via Maria
the life of the mind – thinking vs knowing.. diff between truth and meaning..
when philosophy had become the handmaiden of theology, thinking became meditation, and meditation again ended in contemplation, a kind of blessed state of the soul where the mind was no longer stretching out to know the truth but, in anticipation of a future state, received it temporarily in intuition… With the rise of the modern age, thinking became chiefly the handmaiden of science, of organized knowledge; and even though thinking then grew extremely active, following modernity’s crucial conviction that I can know only what I myself make, it was Mathematics, the non-empirical science par excellence, *wherein the mind appears to play only with itself, that turned out to be the Science of sciences, delivering the key to those laws of nature and the universe that are concealed by appearances.
* sans embodiment ness..
of math and men
The disciplines called metaphysics or philosophy, Arendt notes, came to inhabit the world beyond sense-perceptions and appearances, while science claimed the world of common-sense reasoning and perceptions validated by empirical means. The latter is plagued by “the scandal of reason” — the idea that “our mind is not capable of certain and verifiable knowledge regarding matters and questions that it nevertheless cannot help thinking about.” (Four decades later, Sam Harris would capture this beautifully: “There is more to understanding the human condition than science and secular culture generally admit.”) But Arendt is most intensely concerned with the world we inhabit when we surrender to thought:
What are we “doing” when we do nothing but think? Where are we when we, normally always surrounded by our fellow-men, are together with no one but ourselves?
The great obstacle that reason (Vernunft) puts in its own way arises from the side of the intellect (Verstand) and the entirely justified criteria it has established for its own purposes, that is, for quenching our thirst, and meeting our need, for knowledge and cognition… The need of reason is not inspired by the quest for truth but by the quest for meaning. And truth and meaning are not the same. The basic fallacy, taking precedence over all specific metaphysical fallacies, is to interpret meaning on the model of truth.
This vital distinction between truth and meaning is also found in the fault line between science and common sense. Arendt considers how science’s over-reliance on Verstand might give rise to the very reductionism that becomes science’s greatest obstacle to tussling with the unknowable
The end is cognition or knowledge, which, having been obtained, clearly belongs to the world of appearances; once established as truth, it becomes part and parcel of the world. Cognition and the thirst for knowledge never leave the world of appearances altogether; if the scientists withdraw from it in order to “think,” it is only in order to find better, more promising approaches, called methods, toward it. Science in this respect is but an enormously refined prolongation of common-sense reasoning in which sense illusions are constantly dissipated just as errors in science are corrected. The criterion in both cases is evidence, which as such is inherent in a world of appearances. And since it is in the very nature of appearances to reveal and to conceal, every correction and every dis-illusion “is the loss of one evidence only because it is the acquisition of another evidence, in the words of Merleau-Ponty. Nothing, even in science’s own understanding of the scientific enterprise, guarantees that the new evidence will prove to be more reliable than the discarded evidence.
And therein lies the paradox of science — the idea that its aim is to dispel ignorance with knowledge, but it is also, at its best, driven wholly by ignorance.
It was thinking that enabled men to penetrate the appearances and unmask them as semblances, albeit authentic ones; common-sense reasoning would never have dared to upset so radically all the plausibilities of our sensory apparatus… Thinking, no doubt, plays an enormous role in every scientific enterprise, but it is the role of a means to an end; the end is determined by a decision about what is worthwhile knowing, and this decision cannot be scientific.
By posing the unanswerable questions of meaning, men establish themselves as question-asking beings. Behind all the cognitive questions for which men find answers, there lurk the unanswerable ones that seem entirely idle and have always been denounced as such. It is more than likely that men, if they were ever to lose the appetite for meaning we call thinking and cease to ask unanswerable questions, would lose not only the ability to produce those thought-things that we call works of art but also the capacity to ask all the answerable questions upon which every civilization is founded… While our thirst for knowledge may be unquenchable because of the immensity of the unknown, the activity itself leaves behind a growing treasure of knowledge that is retained and kept in store by every civilization as part and parcel of its world. The loss of this accumulation and of the technical expertise required to conserve and increase it inevitably spells the end of this particular world.
2013 – Richard Bernstein on the Film “Hannah Arendt” | The New School
this is not a documentary … 75% of dialogue is authentic
he goes on to tell parts that were true and parts that were hollywood… and more of her story/life
28 min – she said something people don’t want to hear.. that perfectly ordinary people can get caught up in horrendous deeds…
30 min – evil is not radical but it’s extreme.. she meant.. scary thing is it doesn’t have to be deep rooted.. it just spreads on the surface..
Hannah Arendt, writing decades ago and timelier than ever, on being vs. appearing and our impulse for self-display brainpickings.org/2015/10/14/han
In this world which we enter, appearing from a nowhere, and from which we disappear into a nowhere, Being and Appearing coincide… Nothing and nobody exists in this world whose very being does not presuppose a spectator. In other words, nothing that is, insofar as it appears, exists in the singular; everything that is is meant to be perceived by somebody… Plurality is the law of the earth.
every creature born into it arrives well equipped to deal with a world in which Being and Appearing coincide;
the lived experience of the length of a year changes radically throughout our life. A year that to a five-year-old constitutes a full fifth of his existence must seem much longer than when it will constitute a mere twentieth or thirtieth of his time on earth. We all know how the years revolve quicker and quicker as we get older, until, with the approach of old age, they slow down again because we begin to measure them against the psychologically and somatically anticipated date of our departure.
via Maria– love letters written by Martin Heidegger to Hannah:
When she was a 19-year-old university student, Arendt fell in love with her 36-year-old married professor, Martin Heidegger(September 26, 1889–May 26, 1976).
Jennifer Sertl #a3r (@JenniferSertl) tweeted at 10:29 AM – 31 Jan 2017 :
“The less we are free to decide who we are or to live as we like,the more we try to pump up a front,to hide the facts,to play roles.” #a3r https://t.co/NmPB7oy15T (http://twitter.com/JenniferSertl/status/826482614940876801?s=17)
since society has discovered discrimination as the great social weapon by which one may kill men without any bloodshed; since passports or birth certificates, and sometimes even income tax receipts, are no longer formal papers but matters of social distinction.
reverse that.. as discrimination increases.. ness
it is true that most of us depend entirely upon social standards; we lose confidence in ourselves if society does not approve us; we are — and always were — ready to pay any price in order to be accepted by society
Maria Popova (@brainpicker) tweeted at 6:01 AM – 7 Feb 2017 :
Hannah Arendt on the normalization of evil and our only real antidote to it – spectacularly relevant read from 1963 https://t.co/urqwuMoayr https://t.co/O35WqfE1V7 (http://twitter.com/brainpicker/status/828951803152719873?s=17)
“Never react to an evil in such a way as to augment it,” the great French philosopher and activist Simone Weil wrote in 1933 as she contemplated how to make use of our suffering amid a world that seemed to be falling apart.
while acts of evil can mushroom into monumental tragedies, the individual human perpetrators of those acts are often marked not with the grandiosity of the demonic but with absolute mundanity.
The essence of totalitarian government, and perhaps the nature of every bureaucracy, is to make functionaries and mere cogs in the administrative machinery out of men, and thus to dehumanize them.
It is indeed my opinion now that evil is never “radical,” that it is only extreme, and that it possesses neither depth nor any demonic dimension. It can overgrow and lay waste the whole world precisely because it spreads like a fungus on the surface. It is “thought-defying,” as I said, because thought tries to reach some depth, to go to the roots, and the moment it concerns itself with evil, it is frustrated because there is nothing. That is its “banality.” Only the good has depth that can be radical.
It’s time to reread Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism (in which we find David Rousset’s famous quote:
“Normal men do not know that everything is possible”).
Open Culture (@openculture) tweeted at 1:06 PM on Fri, Oct 20, 2017:
Hannah Arendt Explains How Propaganda Uses Lies to Erode All Truth & Morality in “The Origins of Totalitarianism” https://t.co/qZJYE8vf5Lhttps://t.co/QDrmddMhgb
Arendt and others recognized, writes Levy, that “being made to repeat an obvious lie makes it clear that you’re powerless.” She also recognized the function of an avalanche of lies to render a populace powerless to resist, the phenomenon we now refer to as “gaslighting”:
The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth and truth be defamed as a lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world—and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end—is being destroyed.
via Maria – on how bureaucracy fuels violence
The greater the bureaucratization of public life, the greater will be the attraction of violence..t.. In a fully developed bureaucracy there is nobody left with whom one could argue, to whom one could present grievances, on whom the pressures of power could be exerted. Bureaucracy is the form of government in which everybody is deprived of political freedom, of the power to act; for the rule by Nobody is not no-rule, and where all are equally powerless we have a tyranny without a tyrant.
These definitions coincide with the terms which, since Greek antiquity, have been used to define the forms of government as the rule of man over man—of one or the few in monarchy and oligarchy, of the best or the many in aristocracy and democracy, to which today we ought to add the latest and perhaps most formidable form of such dominion, bureaucracy, or the rule by an intricate system of bureaux in which no men, neither one nor the best, neither the few nor the many, can be held responsible, and which could be properly called the rule by Nobody. Indeed, if we identify tyranny as the government that is not held to give account of itself, rule by Nobody is clearly the most tyrannical of all, since there is no one left who could even be asked to answer for what is being done. It is this state of affairs which is among the most potent causes for the current world-wide rebellious unrest..t
too much ness
on hold – thanks library
on love – via maria (feb 2019): https://www.brainpickings.org/2019/02/25/love-and-saint-augustine-hannah-arendt/
Arendt identified as the root of tyranny the act of making other human beings irrelevant. Again and again, she returned to Augustine for the antidote: love.
a love predicated on possession, Arendt cautions, inevitably turns into fear — the fear of losing what was gained. Two millennia after Epictetus offered his cure for heartbreak in the acceptance that all things are perishable and therefore even love ought to be held with the loose fingers of nonattachment
So long as we desire temporal things, we are constantly under this threat, and our fear of losing always corresponds to our desire to have. Temporal goods originate and perish independently of man, who is tied to them by his desire. Constantly bound by craving and fear to a future full of uncertainties, we strip each present moment of its calm, its intrinsic import, which we are unable to enjoy. And so, the future destroys the present.
Fearlessness is what love seeks. Love as craving is determined by its goal, and this goal is freedom from fear.
A love that seeks anything safe and disposable on earth is constantly frustrated, because everything is doomed to die. In this frustration love turns about and its object becomes a negation, so that nothing is to be desired except freedom from fear. Such fearlessness exists only in the complete calm that can no longer be shaken by events expected of the future.
hannah arendt devoted an entire volume to an examination of will as the ‘organ of the future’.. in the same way that memory is our mental organ for the past.. the power of will lies in its unique ability to deal w things ‘visibles and invisibles, that have never existed at all . just as the past always presents itself to eh mind in the guise of certainty, the future’s main characteristic it is basic uncertainty, no matter how high a degree of probability prediction may attain’.. w freedom of will we undertake action that is entirely contingent on our determination to see our project thru. these are acts that we could have ‘left undone’ but for our commitment. *’a will that is not free’ arendt concludes ‘is a contradiction in terms’
*but ever present in most all of us today.. ie: krishnamurti free will law
arendt’s metaphor of will as the ‘mental organ of our future’ suggests that it is something built into us: organic, intrinsic, inalienable,.. moral philosophers have called this ‘free will’ because it is the human counterpoint to the fear of uncertainty that suffocates original action. arendt describes promises as ‘islands of predictability’ and ‘guideposts o reliability’ in an ‘ocean of uncertainty’.. they are , she argues, the only alternative to a diff kind of ‘mastery’ that relies on ‘domination of one’s self and rule over others’
the freedom of will is the existential bone structure that carries the moral flesh of every *promise, and my insistence on its integrity is not an indulgence in nostalgia or a random privileging of the pre digital human story as somehow more truly human.. this is the only kind of freedom we can guarantee ourselves.. no matter the weight of entropy or inertia and irrespective of the forces and fears that attempt to collapse time into an eternity of shadowboxing now and now and now.. these bones are the necessary condition for the possibility of **civilization as a ‘moral milieu’ that favors the dignity of the individual and respects the distinctly human capacities for dialogue and problem solving ..any person, idea or practice that breaks these bones and tears this flesh robs us of a self authored and we authored future..
dang.. i’m seeing promises as cancerous to the human spirits.. to play.. and to spontaneity.. to the bravery to change our mind everyday..
am seeing **civilzation as cancerous to society
these principles are not quaint accessories.. rather, they are had won *achievements that have crystalized over millennia of human contest and sacrifice.. our freedom flourishes only as we steadily will ourselves to close the gap between making promises and keeping them
dang.. that stinks.. that’s being sure ness
In 1951, Arendt wrote that the ideal subject of a totalitarian state is not the convinced Nazi or communist but “people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (that is, the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (that is, the standards of thought) no longer exist.”
What had made people susceptible to fake news in the 1930s, Arendt argued, was loneliness: “the experience of not belonging to the world at all, which is among the most radical and desperate experiences of man.”
That’s the kind of loneliness you experience today in small-town America, or in the left-behind industrial towns of Britain, or the backwaters of Poland and Hungary—all heartlands of the new authoritarian racism. It’s also, paradoxically, the kind of loneliness you can experience in a networked society:
Later, in her report on the trial of the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, Arendt coined the famous phrase that could be applied to many of today’s authoritarian kleptocrats: “the banality of evil.” Thousands of Nazi functionaries like Eichmann had participated in mass killing, only to return home each evening to humdrum domestic life. What made them capable of this, Arendt argued, was the loss of their ability to think: “
This, in turn, was rooted in the modern bureaucratic lifestyle. Totalitarian states make people into cogs in an administrative machine, Arendt argued, “dehumanizing them.” Worse, she said, this might even be a feature of all modern bureaucracies.
too much ness
as we copied and pasted insights from Arendt into our Facebook pages, and held up her words on placards at anti-Trump rallies, a series of disturbing questions arose.
Third: Hitler was destroyed by Stalin. The entire postwar world in which Arendt, Orwell, Koestler, and Levi wrote their critiques of the totalitarian mind-set was created by the victory of one totalitarian state over another.
The paradox of today’s cult of Arendt is that, among all the anti-authoritarians of that era, her thought is the least equipped to help us answer those questions.
Practically, Arendt solved the problem of fascism versus Stalinism by escaping to America, an achievement nobody could begrudge. Theoretically, however, she solved it by claiming that American constitutional democracy was a form of industrial society uniquely immune to totalitarianism.
deeper: maté basic needs
Arendt was a theorist of “What’s gone wrong and how should humans live?”—but not “What’s happening, and why?”
The assumption that Arendt was the first person to identify the common features of the totalitarian projects of Nazism and Stalinism is nonsense.
The Austrian socialist Lucien Laurat proposed in 1931 that the USSR was neither capitalist nor socialist, but “bureau-technocratic”: a new ruling caste had seized control and imposed a new form of class society. Laurat explicitly connected this to the emergence of managerial bureaucracy in Western countries, creating “another form of exploitation of man by man” to replace capitalism.
It was in the aftermath of the Moscow trials that an oddball left-winger named Bruno Rizzi published a book entitled The Bureaucratisation of the World. In it, he argued that the Soviet bureaucracy was simply a Russian expression of a new form of class society that was replacing capitalism all over the world: “bureaucratic collectivism,” he called it.
When Hitler and Stalin signed their peace pact in August 1939, ..Rizzi’s bureaucratic collectivism thesis took off powerfully inside the Western left. ..“a new form of exploitative society.” This “managerial revolution” was destined to triumph everywhere, leaving historical progress with no option but to operate through the actions of totalitarian dictators.
In George Orwell’s masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four, it is Burnham’s ideas that are parodied in The Book, the secret manual of the underground movement trying to overthrow Big Brother. Orwell rejected Burnham’s claim that the world was about to become three unmovable totalitarian dictatorships, but explored—by way of a warning—how it might come about: by suppressing all knowledge of the past; by turning language into political jargon so that people can’t think rebellious thoughts; and by repressing sexual desire.
Orwell’s hero, Winston Smith, does find out about the past. .
He maintains a critical private language in his diary.
These ideas—circulating from Rizzi to Burnham to Orwell—had been current for more than ten years when Arendt wrote The Origins of Totalitarianism. What distinguished Arendt, then and later, was her refusal to explain why totalitarian ideologies triumph. “There is an abyss,” she wrote, “between men of brilliant and facile conceptions and men of brutal deeds and active bestiality, which no intellectual explanation is able to bridge.
Arendt failed to understand the class dynamics of the societies that produced both fascism and Stalinism.
the number one weapon for the US right is that self-same “eighteenth-century philosophy” that Arendt assumed had given Americans immunity from totalitarian rule: their individualism, which has been turned against them during thirty years of free-market rule, and their belief that economic choice constitutes freedom.
Collapse everything and start again is the modern right-wing fantasy.
if Trump has triggered a crisis of progressive thought, it is in particular a crisis for the cult of Hannah Arendt. The United States of America was her last and enduring hope: the only political institution on earth that was supposed to be immune to totalitarianism, nationalism, and imperialism.
Arendt’s humanism was based on “what ought to be,” not on what is. Human beings, she wrote, should resist totalitarianism by trying to live an active life of political engagement, and by carving out freedom to think philosophically.
But no matter how many progressive causes she espoused, hers was a worldview tainted by admiration for the reactionary German tradition in philosophy begun by Friedrich Nietzsche.Nietzsche taught the German bourgeoisie of the late nineteenth century that its fantasies of empire and volk were more valid than the working-class project of collaboration, equality, and a human-centered society. Morality is a sham, he said, and the most honest thing to do is to pursue your own self-interest by any means necessary.There is no purpose to human existence, such as the “good life” imagined by Aristotle, and so no set of morals or ethics can be derived from it.
Nietzsche would become the cult figure of neoliberalism. Once human beings are reduced to two-dimensional, selfish, and competitive individuals—in a world where “there is no such thing as society,” as Margaret Thatcher once put it—the only logical response is to cast yourself as one of Nietzsche’s supermen: the alpha male, the ruthless manager, the financial shark, the pick-up artist.
Arendt certainly drew different moral conclusions from those of Nietzsche, but she could never see him or the philosophical tradition he gave birth to as the progenitor of Nazism. Indeed, she went out of her way to absolve him of responsibility for Hitlerism. To her dying day, she remained in awe of Nietzsche’s leading pro-Nazi follower, and her one-time lover, the philosopher Martin Heidegger.
For us, understanding the philosophical through-line from Nietzsche via Hitler to the American neocons of the Iraq era and the alt-right of today is critical. Nietzsche is the all-purpose philosopher of reactionary politics. He says to the middle-class mind, dissatisfied with managerial conformity, that there is a higher form of rebellion than the one proposed by socialists, feminists, and other progressives: an individualist rebellion against morality, in favor of oneself.
He tells the elite that elites are necessary, and he is brutally honest that this demands a form of social apartheid in which most people perform “forced labor.” He decries state intervention, just as the modern right does, and advocates “as little state power as possible.” He is appalled, of course, at the possibility of working people using taxation to redistribute wealth. Nietszche, instead, idolizes the “criminal type”: all the gangster lacks to be a superhero, he says, is “the jungle, a certain freer and more dangerous form of nature,” in which he can demonstrate that “all great men were criminals and that crime belongs to greatness.”
Nietzsche greeted the rise of European imperialism with the words: “A daring master race is being formed upon the broad basis of an extremely intelligent herd of the masses.” What that master race needed was freedom from social norms and religious morals, so that they could become “the kind of exuberant monsters that might quit a horrible scene of murder, arson, rape and torture with the high humor and equanimity appropriate to a student prank.”
Any reading of what Nietzsche actually said, in the context of the rise of the German labor movement and the birth of German imperial ambition, should leave any humanist, democrat, or supporter of human rights reeling in disgust. But he did not repel Arendt.
The Scottish philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre once wrote that there is something logical in the repeated rediscovery of Nietzsche and his superman theory. Whenever the capitalist order comes under stress and the rule of the elite is challenged, the ordinary morality that rich people profess is called into question. Repression, deviousness, lies, and even murder become the order of the day. At these critical moments, the ordinary, boring bureaucrats discover that their norms and morals were just a jumble of old rules without any logical underpinning. Because of this, wrote MacIntyre, “it is possible to predict with confidence that in the apparently quite unlikely contexts of bureaucratically managed modern societies there will periodically emerge social movements informed by just that kind of prophetic irrationalism of which Nietzsche’s thought is the ancestor.”
That is exactly what we are living through now, and Arendt’s thought cannot explain it—because she refused to understand fascism as the elite’s response to the possibility of working-class power, or to understand the essential role of irrationalism in all such reactionary movements, and because hers was a philosophy based on American exceptionalist assumptions of immunity to totalitarian impulses.This is sadly disproved.
Arendt’s optimism about postwar America stemmed from her belief that people can learn to take self-liberating actions, learn to distinguish good from bad, and the ugly from the beautiful. But if you share her optimism—and I do—then you are now up against a very dangerous opposing force.
In this context, the rediscovery of Hannah Arendt and the humanism of the 1950s is not enough.
We need a humanism that can resist the re-establishment of biological hierarchies and root instead the universality of human rights on *more solid foundations than the ones currently under attack.
This project will need to survive contact with the new challenge of thinking machines and the new ideology of machine control known as post-humanism.
tech as it could be..