Context

  • Hannah Arendts Platz im spätmodernen Denken

    (Issue 2017/2)

    Download PDFDownload PDFHannah Arendt was a woman of eclectic culture, including among other things philosophi­cally. Yet when she spoke of philosophy or philosophers, she almost without exception referred to Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Cicero, Augustine, and the classics of German philo­sophy, especially Kant. She hardly ever referred to her contemporaries. She did not consider Sartre worthy of being taken seriously, she despised Adorno, Merleau Ponty and de Beauvoir did not exist to her. Arendt met Habermas, yet he left no trace in her philosophy. She wrote an essay on Benjamin, yet he, too, left no trace in her philosophy. This notable indifference towards her contemporaries could be understood as an urge towards original thinking. There were three thinkers who were especially important to Arendt – the three radical philo­sophers of the nineteenth century: Marx, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche. According to Ágnes Heller, Arendt was the first to consider these three thinkers together in the same context. Arendt regarded them as radical thinkers because they overturned, reinterpreted, and ulti­mately abolished traditions: Marx politically, Kierkegaard religiously, and Nietzsche meta­physically. Arendt saw their radical philosophical style as especially important. All three experimented with unorthodox philosophical genres, above all with essays and aphorisms.

  • The Jewish Judgement of Hannah Arendt

    (Issue 2017/2)

    Download PDFDownload PDFIn June 2017, the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute (VWI) organised a joint workshop in Vienna with the International Research Centre for Cultural Sciences (IFK) on Hannah Arendt. This workshop aimed to look more closely at Arendt’s understanding of judgement and the con­stant tension in her thought between universalism and particularism. This also serves as the point of departure for this essay. I would like to start with a couple of questions which were not only of interest for Hannah Arendt but for all scholars dealing with issues of genocide and mass death and how to judge it: Are Nazi murderers just a bunch of criminals? Can a legal system be the appropriate tool or its courts the venue for dealing with the traumas of past atrocities, the legacy of the Holocaust, or the unprecedented suffering of millions of victims? What does that do to our faculty of judgement which, of course, is not only the formal decision given by a court of law, but also our capacity to give an informed opinion and our capacity to cross the bridge from the particular to the universal and back?

  • The Struggle for a Universal Human Rights Regime. Hannah Arendt and Hermann Broch on the Paradoxes of a Concept

    (Issue 2017/2)

    Download PDFDownload PDFAfter the most fundamental assault on humanity and civilization that was realised in the annihilation of European Jewry by Nazi Germany, universalist concepts – an idea of mankind – seemed at stake. Still, in the aftermath of the Second World War the newly created United Nations were eager to set up a framework of international rights and duties with universal validity and proposed legal tools to restore peace and the recognition of human dignity worldwide. One of the most important articulations of these principles was the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
    Hannah Arendt’s famous exploration of The Perplexities of the Rights of Men forming a core element of her magnus opum Origins of Totalitarianism (1951) was an essential comment to the debate of her time. While affirming the universalist notion of humanity and human rights she revealed the unsolved challenges of their enforcement in a world of nation states, highlighting the fragile character of international agreements and their limited reach when faced with sovereign rule. To overcome the limits of the notion of universal human rights as such, she claims a more specific human right: the right to belong, a basic right to citizenship as a way to secure recognition and participation of every human being in a shared world.
    In my paper, I discuss Arendt’s claims in relation to another important Jewish thinker of the time: Hermann Broch. He was equally preoccupied with the possibilities of enforcement of a global human rights regime and tried to come up with very concrete political propositions. Both intellectual’s deliberations reveal general reconfigurations of thinking and judging after the Holocaust and highlight their importance within Arendt’s and Broch’s specific view on historical responsibility and justice.

  • Was heißt: Sich im Denken orientieren? Vortrag im Wien Museum, 21. Juni 2017

    (Issue 2017/2)

    Download PDFDownload PDFHannah Arendt demanded nothing less than a paradigm shift. Philosophers and thinkers generally should recount more about the experience of thinking. Only through reporting on this experience of the activity of thinking can we come to an awareness of what we are doing when we think, where we find ourselves in that moment, and why even one’s own thinking is anything but a merely private matter.