Philosophy 190

Spring 2023

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
190 Proseminar: Hannah Arendt Kaiser Tu 4-7 Moses 234

This seminar will focus on Hannah Arendt’s later (and more ‘philosophical’) writings. We will analyze her understanding of action, speech, and language, as they relate to her conception of the ‘political’, understood as ‘the common space of appearance’. Only within the dynamic intangible ‘web’ of human relationships can we disclose ourselves to others as distinct and unique. Moreover, the revelatory quality of action and speech displays itself in true togetherness, a theme developed in Arendt’s major work The Human Condition.

Though initially the emphasis is on action and speech in their revolutionary potential as ‘new beginnings’ within a participatory political context, Arendt also worked out key concepts such as freedom, will, responsibility, and truth within their wider moral and historical horizons. Special attention was paid to the role of thinking and the capacity for judgment in her phenomenological analysis of a life increasingly endangered by ‘world and (technological) earth-alienation’, totalitarianism, violence, and last not least ‘the banality’ of evil: Amor mundi (love of the world) needs ‘thinking without banisters’ as much as reflective judgment based upon a sensus communis if despair is not to outrun hope, especially in ‘dark’ or ‘crisis’-stricken times. Thus thinking, willing, and judging figure prominently in her later celebrated lectures, essays, and most of all the (unfinished) sequel to her earlier book on the vita activa, The Life of the Mind.

Seminar discussions will build on a close reading of these later works and some of Arendt’s most influential shorter essays. But we will also trace the impact on Arendt’s thinking of other philosophers, including Aristotle, Augustine, Kant, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Jaspers, Merleau-Ponty, and Wittgenstein. A discussion of the relevance of Arendt’s seminal work for a broad range of contemporary philosophical movements (including feminist philosophy) will conclude the seminar.

As taught this semester, Phil 190 may satisfy the more inclusive history requirement (which is: 153, 155, 156A, 160–188).

Previously taught: SP21, SP21, FL20, FL20, SP20, FL19, SP19, FL18, SP18, FL17, SP16, FL15, SP15, FL14, SP13.