Happy birthday, Aunt Hannah!

取り敢えず、New York Sunの2つの記事。10月4日付けと11日付け。

Hannah Arendt at 100

October 4, 2006

Centennial celebrations for the political theorist Hannah Arendt (1906–1975) are springing up from Lucerne to Lima and Sydney to Seoul. Forthcoming gatherings in Germany, Paris, and New York will successively retrace the geographical arc of this prodigious Jewish émigré scholar's flight across Europe to America.

Arendt probed the roots of totalitarianism, examined reasons for revolution, and showed how evil could wear an ordinary face. She served as chief editor of Schocken Books, and covered, very controversially, the Eichmann Trial for the New Yorker. Her love and later apologia for the philosopher and Nazi sympathizer Martin Heidegger gained her some notoriety.

"She didn't impose philosophy on the world," said a professor at SUNY Stony Brook, Dick Howard, "the world made her think."

Arendt had an "ability to make philosophy come alive and make it matter," a professor at Yale University, Seyla Benhabib, said. She was the principal organizer of a conference last weekend in New Haven, Conn. where she elicited ideas for a consortium across universities of higher learning to work with the New York-based nonprofit Hannah Arendt Organization in helping to preserve Arendt's legacy.

Among the programs in New York will be a symposium at the CUNY Graduate Center on October 12 called "Why Arendt Matters?" featuring the biographer and psychoanalyst Elizabeth Young-Bruehl. A professor at the New School, Richard Bernstein, who will also speak in Lima, Peru, and Stockholm, Sweden, will speak at a conference at Bard College October 27–29. That conference will feature a tour of the Hannah Arendt Collection at the library, a keynote address by Christopher Hitchens, a discussion of Arendt's Jewish identity with the New School's Hannah Arendt Center director, Jerome Kohn, and others, and a visit to the grave sites of Arendt and Heinrich Blücher, whom she married in 1940.

While a graduate student at Yale in 1972, Ms. Benhabib recalled heading to the New School to hear Arendt. The auditorium of 400 or 500 people included many anti-war activists "hanging from the rafters" to hear "extremely dense lectures on Kant." The first few questions posed to Arendt were about the Vietnam War: "They had come to talk to her since she was a political thinker."

"‘The personal is not the political': that is the message of Arendt's life and work," Ms. Benhabib once wrote in the Boston Review, adding the public sphere was "the arena in which we are uniquely able to express our human capacity to jointly address common concerns." Arendt found much to admire in ancient Greece's citizen-led democracy and Thomas Jefferson's idea of small "elementary republics."

"You can't place her on the left or the right," a professor at the University of Toronto, Ronald Beiner, told The New York Sun. Her views "don't map" onto those coordinates: "She is floating in some other space." The left has criticized Arendt, a non-Marxist, for elitism and uncoupling politics from economics. And her support of pro-student activism drew fire from the right. But "her sympathies in general ran to the left," a professor at the University of Nottingham, Richard King, said.

"One of the reasons I admire Hannah Arendt," Mr. Bernstein said, "is that she was a person who really thought that if we want to understand what is happening in the 20th century, we cannot simply rely on traditional categories. The task of the thinker is to forge new ways of thinking." He added, "Now, if you really try to do that, that's threatening."

次はElisabeth Young-Bruehlの新著を巡って。記事の後半部は議論の余地が大いにあり;

Trying To Update a 20th-Century Master

October 11, 2006

Hannah Arendt, who was born 100 years ago this Saturday, is one of those writers whose names will always be linked with the evils of the 20th century. Like Orwell, Benjamin, or Camus, Arendt had her intellectual gifts commandeered by history, and devoted her life to understanding the new demons she saw loosed upon the world. This was hardly a fate she could have foreseen growing up in Koenigsberg, a conspicuously brilliant daughter of the German Jewish bourgeoisie. Through her mid-20s, Arendt was educated in the unworldly tradition of German academic philosophy, studying with Martin Heidegger and writing her doctoral dissertation on Saint Augustine. That she eventually put her learning at the service of political questions, writing about sovereignty and pluralism and human rights, was a direct result of her biography.

It was politics that turned Arendt into a political philosopher. In 1933, after being jailed briefly by the new Hitler regime, she escaped to Paris, where she spent the rest of the decade working for Youth Aliyah, an organization that helped send German Jewish children to Palestine. After the fall of France she became a refugee once again, ending up in New York, where she would live until her death in 1975. Arendt became a fixture of the New York intellectual world — working at Schocken Books, writing for Partisan Review, teaching at the New School. But her intellectual concerns, like her manner and accent, remained unmistakably European. Even when she wrote admiringly about the American Revolution and the Founders, it was in the context of her lifelong attempt to understand the failure of the European political tradition.

Now that Arendt has completed her own century, it is natural to wonder whether her work is as salient now as when it was written. That is the question Elisabeth Young-Bruehl sets out to answer, with a strong affirmative, in "Why Arendt Matters"(Yale University Press, 232 pages, $22), the first in a new series of books whose titles will all take the form "Why X Matters." Ms. Young-Bruehl is uniquely qualified to write a brief on Arendt's behalf: her 1982 biography "Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World" is still the standard bearer.

In laying out some of the key concepts of Arendt's thought, Ms. Young-Bruehl does a useful service for a thinker who is known, to most readers, only as the coiner of the much-misunderstood phrase "the banality of evil." Ms. Young-Bruehl begins her book with a complaint about the way this formulation from "Eichmann in Jerusalem," so "full of suggestion and portent," has been turned into an all-purpose journalistic "sound bite," ripped from its intellectual context. "Eichmann in Jerusalem" remains Arendt's most widely read work (a new edition has just appeared in the Penguin Classics series, with an introduction by Amos Elon). But as Ms. Young-Bruehl shows, Arendt's philosophical analysis of concepts like action, thoughtfulness, and forgiveness, expounded in more technical works like "The Life of the Mind" and "The Human Condition," are crucial to her judgments of specific political and historical questions, including her controversial analysis of Nazism.

To explain how evil can become banal — for instance, how Adolf Eichmann, an utterly mediocre bureaucrat, could murder millions of people without deliberation or passion — Arendt evolved a whole theory of ethics, according to which it is not obeying moral laws but living thoughtfully that protects us from doing evil. This theory depends, as Ms. Young-Bruehl points out, on Arendt's "conversational" vision of the life of the mind, what she called "the soundless dialogue between me and myself." Movingly, Arendt suggests that the real reason not to do evil is that it makes it impossible to live with oneself, and thus puts an end to that dialogue. As Ms. Young-Bruehl writes,"It is better to suffer wrong than to do it and have to live with the wrongdoer." It was only because Eichmann enjoyed no such inner dialogue that his conscience could be drowned out by the voices of hate that surrounded him.

"Why Arendt Matters" suffers, however, when it stops being an introduction to Arendt's thought and attempts to become an argument for her relevance. For when Ms. Young-Bruehl tries to adapt Arendt's insights to our present-day political quandaries — "to put to her imaginatively the questions that come to mind when reading the morning paper," as she writes in her introduction — she ends up making this complex, rebarbative thinker sound platitudinously philanthropic. Ms. Young-Bruehl is certain that Arendt would support the European Union ("this astonishing demonstration of the power of promising"), oppose child poverty (a product of what Ms. Young-Bruehl oddly calls "childism," that is, bias against children), and worry about globalization. Surely, there need be no ghost come from the grave to tell us this.

Perhaps Ms. Young-Bruehl's attempt to consult the shade of Hannah Arendt for advice, like the Delphic oracle, is to blame for these disappointments. Happily, the world Arendt set out to explain — the world of ideological dictatorships, concentration camps, and gulags — has largely disappeared, for now at least. As a result, any attempt to apply her terminology to our post-Cold War world risks turning her historically precise insights into generalized truisms. Worse, it risks moral equivalence, as when Ms. Young-Bruehl seems to suggest that "the destruction of natural human bonds," which Arendt saw as integral to Nazism and Communism, is currently taking place in American public schools, whose "curricula have become a key battleground for Christian proselytizers."

If the quest for relevance leads to such misunderstanding, perhaps it is better to acknowledge that Arendt is not relevant, in the manner of this morning's headlines, but rather, like all original thinkers, timeless.