Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Hannah Arendt: Philosophy/History/Critical Thinking (Shooting Azimuths)

"Arendt." Mondoweis (Ongoing archive of articles/debates/opinions about Hannah Arendt and her writings)

Arendt, Hannah. Arendt, Hannah. "Archive of Writings." New York Review of Books (Ongoing)

---. "Eichmann in Jerusalem." The New Yorker (February 8, 1963)

---. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Penguin, 2006. ["The controversial journalistic analysis of the mentality that fostered the Holocaust, from the author of The Origins of Totalitarianism. Sparking a flurry of heated debate, Hannah Arendt’s authoritative and stunning report on the trial of German Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann first appeared as a series of articles in The New Yorker in 1963. This revised edition includes material that came to light after the trial, as well as Arendt’s postscript directly addressing the controversy that arose over her account. A major journalistic triumph by an intellectual of singular influence, Eichmann in Jerusalem is as shocking as it is informative—an unflinching look at one of the most unsettling (and unsettled) issues of the twentieth century."]

---. The Human Condition. University of Chicago Press, 2019. ["The past year has seen a resurgence of interest in the political thinker Hannah Arendt, “the theorist of beginnings,” whose work probes the logics underlying unexpected transformations—from totalitarianism to revolution. A work of striking originality, The Human Condition is in many respects more relevant now than when it first appeared in 1958. In her study of the state of modern humanity, Hannah Arendt considers humankind from the perspective of the actions of which it is capable. The problems Arendt identified then—diminishing human agency and political freedom, the paradox that as human powers increase through technological and humanistic inquiry, we are less equipped to control the consequences of our actions—continue to confront us today."]

---.The Origins of Totalitarianism. Meridian Books, 1962. ["How could such a book speak so powerfully to our present moment? The short answer is that we, too, live in dark times, even if they are different and perhaps less dark, and "Origins" raises a set of fundamental questions about how tyranny can arise and the dangerous forms of inhumanity to which it can lead." Jeffrey C. Isaac, The Washington Post. Hannah Arendt's definitive work on totalitarianism and an essential component of any study of twentieth-century political history. The Origins of Totalitarianism begins with the rise of anti-Semitism in central and western Europe in the 1800s and continues with an examination of European colonial imperialism from 1884 to the outbreak of World War I. Arendt explores the institutions and operations of totalitarian movements, focusing on the two genuine forms of totalitarian government in our time--Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia--which she adroitly recognizes were two sides of the same coin, rather than opposing philosophies of Right and Left. From this vantage point, she discusses the evolution of classes into masses, the role of propaganda in dealing with the nontotalitarian world, the use of terror, and the nature of isolation and loneliness as preconditions for total domination."]

---. Thinking Without a Banister: Essays in Understanding 1953 - 1975. ed. Jerome Kohn. Schocken Books, 2018. ["There's this other thing, which Draenos brought up ... "groundless thinking." I have a metaphor which is not quite that cruel, and which I have never published but kept for myself. I call it thinking without a banister--in German, Denken ohne Geländer. That is, as you go up and down the stairs you can always hang on to the banister so that you don't fall down, but we have lost the banister. That is the way I tell it to myself. And this is indeed what I try to do.": v.] 

Atwood, Margaret, Roger Berkowitz and Sally Parry. "From Hannah Arendt to The Handmaid's Tale." The Sunday Edition (May 7, 2017)

"Banality of Evil - Hannah Arendt on Film." DW (December 21, 2012)

Berkowitz, Roger. "Lonely Thinking: Hannah Arendt on Film." The Paris Review (May 30, 2013)

---. "Misreading ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’." Opinionator (July 7, 2013)

Berkowitz, Roger, et al. "The Human Factor - Hannah Arendt." Ideas (June 26, 2016) ["Hannah Arendt's best-known work, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil was based on her reporting for The New Yorker magazine about the trial of Adolph Eichmann. The book made her both famous and infamous. Eichmann had been one of the principal architects of the Nazi holocaust against the Jews, in which six million people died. Captured in Argentina after the war and brought to Israel, the spectacle of Eichmann on trial riveted the world."]

Butler, Judith. "Hannah Arendt's challenge to Adolf Eichmann: In her treatise on the banality of evil, Arendt demanded a rethink of established ideas about moral responsibility." The Guardian (August 29, 2011)

Dean, Michelle. "The Formidable Friendship of Mary McCarthy and Hannah Arendt." The New Yorker (June 2013)

d'Entreves, Maurizio Passerin. "Hannah Arendt." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Last revised August 14, 2014)

Ellis, Marc H. "Exile and the Prophetic: Arendt vs. Wiesel at the crossroads of Jewish empire consciousness." Mondoweiss (June 12, 2013)

---. "Hannah Arendt is a love letter, eulogy and elegy to the prophetic voice." Mondoweiss (June 10, 2013)

Garrett, Daniel. "Innocent Laughter, Intellectual Legacy: Margarethe von Trotta’s film Hannah Arendt." Offscreen 20.8 (September 2016)

Hill, Samantha Rose. "Crises in Academia Today." Medium (September 21, 2018)

---. Hannah Arendt. Reaktion Books, 2021. ["Hannah Arendt is one of the most renowned political thinkers of the twentieth century, and her work has never been more relevant than it is today. Born in Germany in 1906, Arendt published her first book at the age of twenty-three, before turning away from the world of academic philosophy to reckon with the rise of the Third Reich. After World War II, Arendt became one of the most prominent—and controversial—public intellectuals of her time, publishing influential works such as The Origins of Totalitarianism, The Human Condition, and Eichmann in Jerusalem. Samantha Rose Hill weaves together new biographical detail, archival documents, poems, and correspondence to reveal a woman whose passion for the life of the mind was nourished by her love of the world."]

---. "Where Loneliness Can Lead." Aeon (October 16, 2020)  [MB Comments: In thinking about the dangers of our current "loneliness" epidemic in America, we must consider that loneliness is not actually a state of being alone (hiking in a forest, reading a book, working on a project), it is instead a continuous state/sense of detachment or isolation in the midst of others or a community. This is important to consider when reflecting on violent terror enacted by the latest mass shooter (and countless others from various ideological perspectives), but also in regards to the blind allegiance to our party lines or identity allegiances in which all that matters is that "our" team wins, even if it destroys our lives/community/country/world. Arendt uses the word "totalitarianism," but I find, for this moment, that "authoritarianism" is a more useful word. In the desperation of their loneliness people cede the ability to think (and act) to a governing force and silence the important ongoing dialogue within themselves, driving out any considerations of contradictions or recognition of the plurality of the world. This is a high price to pay for the false promise of peace of mind.]

Hoberman, J. "Hannah Arendt: Guilty Pleasure." Tablet (May 24, 2013)

Illing, Sean. "The philosopher who warned us about loneliness and totalitarianism." Vox (May 8, 2022) 

Jones, Kathleen B. "The Idea of a Common World: Ada Ushpiz’s Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt." The Los Angeles Review of Books (April 29, 2016)

Lilla, Mark. "Arendt & Eichmann: The New Truth." New York Review of Books (November 21, 2013)

The Living Dead (BBC: Adam Curtis, 1995: Three 60 minute episodes) [Michael Benton: While watching Adam Curtis' BBC documentary 'The Living Dead' (the first episode "On the Desperate Edge of Now") I was struck by its revelations in regard to Arendt's writings about Eichmann. This episode is partially about the 1945/1946 Nuremberg Trials of the NAZI leaders captured at the end of the war. It examines how these trials were used to obfuscate the realities of the NAZI rise to power and their motivations for war (and in turn the Allies motivations/actions). In particular when Hermann Göring testified about the NAZI rise to power and drive to war. It made the victorious forces nervous - the realities of how you motivate and control the masses cut too deep into their (the victors) own machinations. In response, they turned this show trial into a tale of the evil NAZI monsters, going so far as to silence/suppress the testimony of the accused. In this way they rewrote the war, making it into a fairy tale of the righteous victors and vanquished evil monsters (keep in mind this was a war of imperial powers struggling to control the world). Equally important it examines the cost of this move to repress the difficult realities for a more easily controled fantasy narrative. The repression within German society would erupt in the 1960s into a full scale cultural/social war as a new generation wanted to know why, how and whom. Hannah Arendt would have known well the events of the Nuremberg Trial and remember how this demonization process worked out. Keep in mind, the trial was not intended to mislead those that experienced the war, instead it was used to rewrite the war for future generations. Arendt knew that painting a picture of monstrous evil blots out the realities of human action - individual and collective. She knew it would do little to bring understanding ... something she valued intensely.

Marshall, Colin. "Hannah Arendt’s Original Articles on 'the Banality of Evil' in the New Yorker Archive." Open Culture (January 16, 2013)

Rich, Jamie S. "Hannah Arendt - Criterion Channel." Criterion Confessions (December 23, 2020)

Said, Hammad. "Relevance of Hannah Arendt’s 'A Report On The Banality Of Evil' To Gaza." Counterpunch (July 28, 2014)

Scott, A.O. "How It Looks to Think: Watch Her." The New York Times (May 28, 2013)

Sissenich, Beate. "Hannah Arendt Biopic Offers Rare Onscreen View of Political Philosophy: Movie Paints Vivid Picture of German-Jewish Émigrés." The Forward (May 26, 2013)

Song, C.S. "Hannah Arendt's Life and Ideas." Against the Grain (May 15, 2017)

Stonebridge, Lyndsey. "Thinking and Friendship in Dark Times: Hannah Arendt for Now." On Being (May 18, 2017) ["Along with George Orwell, the 20th-century political theorist Hannah Arendt is a new bestseller. She famously coined the phrase “the banality of evil” and wrote towering works like The Origins of Totalitarianism. She was concerned with the human essence of events that we analyze as historical and political. Totalitarianism she described as “organized loneliness,” and loneliness as the “common ground for terror.” The historian, she said, always knows how vulnerable facts are. And thinking is not something for elites; it is the human power to keep possibility alive."]

Sukowa, Barbara and Margarethe von Trotta. "Hannah Arendt Revisits Fiery Debate over German-Jewish Theorist’s Coverage of Eichmann Trial." Democracy Now (November 26, 2013)

Tubali, Shai.  "Hannah Arendt and the Human Duty to Think." Philosophy Now #125 (2018) ["Many complain nowadays that their thinking is too active. What they mean is they feel that their brain is chattering with itself too much; that there are too many thoughts of worry and distress, frustration and struggle, going on in their mind. They then try to quieten their stormy over-thinking through different methods of meditation or relaxation. Indeed, quietude in one’s mind, especially when life’s challenges are unbearably intense, sounds a very nice state to be in. However, Arendt’s reflections tell us the very opposite: that our thinking is often not active enough – that people tend to shut down the activity of right thinking and judging. In light of Arendt’s own thinking, it becomes clear that most of the time we are not really actively thinking, we are daydreaming. Daydreaming may be intense at times, yet it does not help us develop a thinking which leads us to wakefully engage with the world. Thinking as an act of gathering one’s mental forces in order to understand or to realize something for oneself, is a relatively rare phenomenon in peoples’ lives. Interestingly, recent research affirms this criticism of human thinking. As research into cognitive bias informs us, the human brain does not really like to think. In fact, most of the time it puts itself in a mode of energy preservation. Most of the time, when things are relaxed, the brain/mind shifts to an ‘automatic pilot’ mode, a state of reaction without much creative thinking. We undergo the mental strain of reflective thought only when we don’t have a choice – for example, when confronting new difficult tasks at the office or facing acute and demanding challenges elsewhere. The brain’s natural effort is dedicated to maintaining an effortless state. Moreover, for the brain, the privilege of ‘being lazy’ implies much more: it means there is no threat, that everything is going well. That is why cognitive ease is associated with good mood and good feeling, and intense thinking with crisis. Things become more complicated when we realize that cognitive ease is also associated with truthfulness, and that our telling right from wrong is too often guided by the hidden wish of the brain not to think too much about things. According to research, most of our judgments are made by the brain’s lazy system of reactive thinking, not at all by our capacity to deeply engage in consideration and thoughtful observation. Therefore the brain’s default position is that an easy answer is also a true answer, and that a quick judgment is a right judgment."]

Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt (Israel/Canada/Germany: Ada Ushpiz, 2015) ["A documentary about the life and work of Hannah Arendt, the prolific and unclassifiable thinker, political theorist, moral philosopher and polemicist, and her encounter with the trial of Adolf Eichmann, a high-ranking NAZI."]

West, Stephen. "Hannah Arendt - The Banality of Evil." Philosophize This! #136 (November 2, 2019) ["To not be engaged in the “active life” is a mistake to Hannah Arendt. But she’d want us to understand that not living the “active life” can take on many different forms. You could surrender your responsibility to think, fall into an identity given to you by someone else, the mistake made by people like Adolf Eichmann. But you could just as easily become an accessory to evil being carried out in the world by sitting around, thinking about stuff all day, like so many traditional philosophers have done in the past. This is why she doesn’t want to be thought of as a political philosopher, because so many philosophers she’s seen lead by the example of sitting quietly in an academic institution, theorizing about abstract concepts all day long, but never taking action on anything. She’d want us to realize that this “contemplative lifestyle” has real consequences in the world. You can’t innocently and benignly theorize about things by yourself and just expect things to end there. The sad reality of living the contemplative life is that this passive, inactive approach almost always leads to your ideas being coopted and used by people that are actually engaging in the “active life.” Philosophy and politics will always be closely connected to each other, and to deny that fact is to be willfully complacent so that you can sit in a tower alone where it’s safe. Safe at least for now, she would say."]

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