A noticeable decrease in common sense in any given community and a noticeable increase in superstition and gullibility are therefore almost infallible signs of alienation from the world.
The Human Condition (1958)
Hannah Arendt was a true maverick. Despite impressive Teutonic academic credentials (a Ph.D. from Heidelberg), she thought of herself as a "writer" rather than a philosopher. The first woman visiting professor invited to Princeton was never comfortable in the cloistered atmosphere of academia; and, although she was not a feminist, Arendt's life and work hold valuable insights for all those truly care about the rights and treatment of both women and children.
The brief efforescence and subsequent collapse of the Weimar Republic (to which the handle of this web page alludes) was an extremely important formative event for Arendt. Since Weimar has become a metaphor for the fragility and fate of democratic republics, and no one has written more ably of the dark times of America than Arendt, this metaphor seems appropriate. After eighteen years as a stateless person, Hannah Arendt welcomed her American citizenship in 1951 as a refuge; she took her citizenship very seriously, if not uncritically. It is surely worth remembering in this context that it was a young woman in her twenties, and not her revered teacher Karl Jaspers, who correctly judged which way the wind was blowing in Germany in 1933. Jaspers, who barely avoided deportation to Auschwitz in April 1945 (the Allies arrived ahead of schedule), never forgot the lesson and always gave Arendt credit for it; indeed, it was this judgment which perhaps more than anything else formed the basis of their lifelong friendship. It may well be that America has not yet done with dark times.
I defended my master's thesis, Hannah Arendt and De Jure Authority,at The University of Kansas in January 1991, just as George Bush and the United States government was unleashing Desert Storm. From 1988 to 1996, I taught courses in ethics, logic and history of philosophy. But my first love was poetry and creative writing, which have no doubt fueled my interest in, and approach to, the work of Hannah Arendt.
Analytic philosophers do not find Arendt particularly appealing for many reasons (no conspiracy here) but mostly because her writing does not lend itself to mathematized technical analysis and the sort of positivist formulae customary in analytic circles. Arendt represents a profound antidote to recent trends in scientism and technobabble, at least for those who come to her works with the requisite linguistic competence and poetic vision. As Richard Cole succinctly put it during my thesis defense, "she writes beautifully."
Arendt is profoundly anti-metaphysical and anti-ideological. The emphasis on contingency in the life of political action and her reappropriation of the historical event for judgment is much more akin to Perry Miller's analysis of seminal historical narrative than has been appreciated hitherto; a brief indication of which may be found in this remark from Miller's The New England Mind: From Colony to Province, Chapter XXVII, "The Death of an Idea," page 447:
"The difficulty of presenting a coherent story of the intellectual allignments is further complicated by personal relationships. . . . [t]here was too much vanity, jealousy and sheer irascibility among Puritan priests to prevent passions from flaring up in ways that had nothing to do with opinions."
The idea that Arendt did not live to finish a third volume on Judging is a notion that has outlived its usefulness and deserves to be scotched. Although I have considered putting an original unpublished 1984 paper, "Hannah Arendt and the Missing Volume," online for the benefit of those interested, I will probably seek publication. So, for now, Mary McCarthy's assertion in the editorial "Postface" of Arendt's The Life of the Mind will have to suffice: "Her plan was for a work in two volumes. . ."
Hannah Arendt studied with Martin Heidegger for 1 year at Marburg, with Edmund Husserl at Freiburg for only a semester, but for three years under the mentoring and tutelage of Karl Jaspers at Heidelberg, for whom she wrote her doctoral dissertation on Augustine's concept of love. The teacher-pupil relationship with Jaspers blossomed into a lifelong friendship which lasted in excess of forty years, the importance of which is attested by a two-volume correspondence published in recent years. Hannah and Martin may have been lovers for a time, even over a protracted period of years as some biographers have alleged; but, even as important as this may be biographically, to suggest that Arendt's work is somehow owing to Heidegger is ludicrous, a perpetuation of the same sort of Teutonic paternalism (not to mention sexism) of which Heidegger himself was a preening example. While I am, generally speaking, a defender of romantic love (indeed, of Romanticism!), the salient fact to keep in mind here is that Hannah Arendt was scarcely eighteen years old, Heidegger in his mid-thirties when their unhappy love affair began. I think we all know what that amounts to. When I was teaching, the practice was wisely frowned upon. Am I being judgmental, condemning Arendt and Heidegger for their love, suggesting, like some joyless Puritan, that it should never have been? No. Am I suggesting that all was not right with Heidegger's sense of professional ethics, that he perhaps misused his authority as a teacher? Yes! A problem of authority... Heideggerians have an overinflated opinion of Heidegger's importance; while I do not wish to minimize Heidegger's legitimate significance for Arendt's thinking and work, there is little textual basis for the claim that Heidegger was an important influence on her subsequent work and thought (with the exception of a chapter in Willing, Part Two of the posthumously published The Life of the Mind in 1978). Those wishing to urge such a nexus would do well to read her 1946 Partisan Review (Winter) essay "What is Existenz Philosophy?" There Hannah Arendt perspicuously cites Heidegger's metaphysics as an intellectual dead-end, his notion of the Self she calls "an ideal which has been working mischief in German philosophy and literature since Romanticism" (pp. 49, 50). Heidegger's later conceptions, she asserts, "can lead one only out of philosophy into some naturalistic superstition" (p. 51). Arendt has the temerity to suppose (with what prescience, I leave it to Heideggerians to consider) that Heidegger's work has been taken too seriously.
I plan to include a hypertext link to an exhaustive bibliography of Arendt in the future, but for now I will link to the Library of Congress.
This web page is intended as a resource for scholars interested in the life and work of Hannah Arendt. I hope that it will become a place of impartial and non-partisan intellectual investigation and dialogue. Although it begins its life rather humbly with a few links, I have designed it so it can grow in an orderly and attractive way. Dialogue is, at present, confined to my email address; but in future I hope to offer a discussion group devoted exclusively to Arendt.
Thanks to Angelfire for providing the space for this homepage and to Sunflower Community Network, the best service provider and prettiest l'il flower on the i-net prairie. This webpage was originally designed with S.H.E. (Simple HTML Editor), and was redesigned with the help of Claris Home Page 3.0 on a new iMac in November, 1998.