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HANNAH ARENDT / Vol. 44, No. 1 (Spring 1977)

Arien Mack, Editor

Hannah Arendt defines power as the ability to agree on a common course of action in unconstrained communication; discusses power in politics and concludes that Arendt's basis for power lies in her belief in the validity of contracts between free and equal parties.

Hannah Arendt has left no "philosophy" nor ever aspired to such a goal. Yet there is a unity of another than the systematic kind in all her thinking fl"On1 beginning to end. One can sight it fron1 many points in her diversified work. According to the bent of my interest and the limits of my competence, I shall concentrate on the specifically philosophic parts, skipping what looms largest in her work and justly also in the topics of this symposium—her thoughts on politics. She stayed close enough to that in her general philosophizing, because this was exclusively concerned with man, the political animal itself, but not only that; and if any label fits her in that domain of basic inquiry it is "philosophical anthropology."

In 1970 Hannah Arendt presented a lecture titled "Thinking and Moral Considerations" to students and faculty at Colorado College, one which appeared in revised form in Social Research a year later. This lecture, the precursor of the yet unpublished "Life of the Mind," provides in condensed form what she planned as her last major work, even before she was invited to deliver the Gifford Lectures. In this preliminary lecture she ventured to sketch her thoughts on the nature of judgment, that part of her final project she did not live to complete. Hence this initial essay is likely to be our only clue to the direction those thoughts might have taken. Accordingly, my comments will be directed in the main upon her reflections in their early formulation.

Hannah Arendt's 1963 On Revolution failed to examine social dissidence in the colonies and to recognize adequately the international importance of the American Revolution; however, she recognized that the American Revolution failed to incorporate the value of localism into government.

In formulating her political theory, Hannah Arendt relied both on the classical philosophy of Plato and the modern political thought of Nietzsche and Kant to strike a happy medium between politics and philosophy and to incorporate the humanism necessary to understand the lessons of history.

Discusses Hannah Arendt's philosophy regarding the interaction of politics and labor and the impact of politics on the "laboring mind"; Arendt's political theory was applicable to contemporary life and incorporated traditional philosophy.

Hannah Arendt, in The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), traced the rise of totalitarianism in Europe and attempted an explanation, warning that the struggle lies not between capitalism and Communism but rather between political, or republican, traditions and its own totalitarian caricature.

Discusses the notion of freedom and political action in Hannah Arendt's 1951 The Origins of Totalitarianism; assesses her impact on western political theory and applauds her humanism and poetics.

Hannah Arendt's conception of "polis," politics, and citizenry was derived from ancient Greek philosophy, which imparted humanism to her political philosophy, 1950s–1960s.

Examines Hannah Arendt's critical analyses of poets and writers, including Bertolt Brecht, Franz Kafka, and their contemporaries, 1950s.

Despite the open and spacious style in which it is cast, Hannah Arendt's thought appears to me marked by a matchless logical cohesion. I would insist that every attempt to show some discontinuities in her work is inherently doomed. Nor do I believe that Arendt reversed herself in her last and partly still unpublished work that she turned away from. To support my claim of the cohesion and incomparability of Hannah Arendt's thought, I should like to elucidate what might be called her method of political thinking. Yet an examination of Arendt's own methodology can accomplish more than merely counteract the prevalent misinterpretation of her work; it can foster understanding of her constant and fundamental theme: the political dimension of human action. This alone justifies my attempt.

Hannah Arendt loved to tell stories. She told her cherished stories again and again, with a channing disregard for mere facts and unfailing regard for the life of the story. She was also a collector" a connoisseur, of quotations and what Vico called "golden sayings." Her stories and her sayings were the threads with which she wove her conversations and her works. She knew that she lived in "dark times," times in which a long tradition had unraveled and scattered in a vast mental diaspora to the ends of the memories of men. But she viewed this rupture as a sign that the threads, the thought fragments, were to be gathered, freely and in such a way as to protect freedom, and made into something new, dynamic, and illuminating.

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