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Thinking Without a Banister

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Published by Schocken on 2018-03-06
Hardcover: $40.00
PHILOSOPHY, SCIENCE


Hannah Arendt was born in Germany in 1906 and lived in America from 1941 until her death in 1975. Thus her life spanned the tumultuous years of the twentieth century, as did her thought. She did not consider herself a philosopher, though she studied and maintained close relationships with two great philosophers—Karl Jaspers and Martin Heidegger—throughout their lives. She was a thinker, in search not of metaphysical truth but of the meaning of appearances and events. She was a questioner rather than an answerer, and she wrote what she thought, principally to encourage others to think for themselves. Fearless of the consequences of thinking, Arendt found courage woven in each and every strand of human freedom.

In 1951 she published The Origins of Totalitarianism, in 1958 The Human Condition, in 1961 Between Past and Future, in 1963 On Revolution and Eichmann in Jerusalem, in 1968 Men in Dark Times, in 1970 On Violence, in 1972 Crises of the Republic, and in 1978, posthumously, The Life of the Mind. Starting at the turn of the twenty-first century, Schocken Books has published a series of collections of Arendt’s unpublished and uncollected writings, of which Thinking Without a Banister is the fifth volume. 

The title refers to Arendt’s description of her experience of thinking, an activity she indulged without any of the traditional religious, moral, political, or philosophic pillars of support. The book’s contents are varied: the essays, lectures, reviews, interviews, speeches, and editorials, taken together, manifest the relentless activity of her mind as well as her character, acquainting the reader with the person Arendt was, and who has hardly yet been appreciated or understood. 

(Edited and with an introduction by Jerome Kohn)


(Hardcover, 2018-03-06)
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ASIN: 0805242155
ISBN: 9780805242157
EAN: 9780805242157

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also by hannah arendt Nonfiction Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought Crises of the Republic Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil Essays in Understanding, 1930'1954 The Human Condition The Jew as Pariah: Jewish Identity and Politics in the Modern Age The Jewish Writings Lectures on ? Kant's Political Philosophy The Life of the Mind, Vol. I Thinking, Vol. II Willing Love and Saint Augustine Men in Dark Times On Revolution On Violence The Origins of Totalitarianism The Promise of Politics Rahel Varnhagen: The Life of a Jewish Woman Responsibility and Judgment Correspondence Between Friends: The Correspondence of Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy, 1949'1975 Correspondence, 1926'1969 (with Karl Jaspers) Letters,1925'1975 (with Martin Heidegger) Within Four Walls: The Correspondence Between Hannah Arendt and Heinrich Bl'cher, 1936'1968

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= = = ? WITHOUT A? = = = B A N I S T E R Essays in Understanding, 1953'1975 Hannah Arendt Edited and with an Introduction by Jerome Kohn schocken books, new york

Copyright ? 2018 by The Literary Trust of Hannah Arendt and Jerome Kohn All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Schocken Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York, and distributed in Canada by Random House of Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited, Toronto. Schocken Books and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House LLC. Excerpts from the poems of W.' H. Auden appear courtesy of Edward Mendelson, Executor of the Estate of W.' H. Auden; Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC; and Curtis Brown, Ltd. '? 'As If Speaking to a Brick Wall': A Conversation with Joachim Fest? originally published, in slightly different form, in Germany as Eichmann war von emp'render Dummheit: Gespr'che und Briefe by Piper Verlag GmbH, Munich, in 2011. Joachim ? F est's questions copyright ? 2011 by Piper Verlag GmbH. This translation first published as 'Eichmann Was Outrageously Stupid? by Melville House Publishing, New York, in 2013. Translation of Hannah Arendt's responses copyright ? 2013 by Hannah Arendt Bluecher Literary Trust. Translation of Joachim 'Fest's questions copyright ? 2013 by Andrew Brown. 'Interview with Roger Errera? originally aired in France as Un certain regard by Office National de Radiodiffusion T'l'vision Fran'aise (ORTF) in 1974, and subsequently published in Hannah Arendt Newsletter, #2 (December? 1999). This translation first published as 'The Last Interview? by Melville House Publishing, New York, in 2013. Copyright ? 2013 by The Literary Trust of Hannah Arendt Bluecher. Translation of Roger Errera's questions copyright ? 2013 by Andrew Brown. Library of Congress ? Cataloging-'in-'Publication Data Arendt, Hannah, 1906'1975. [Works. Selections] Thinking without a banister : essays in understanding, 1953'1975 / Hannah Arendt ; edited and with an introduction by Jerome Kohn. Includes index. isbn '978-0-'8052-4215-7 (hardcover : alk. paper). isbn '978-1-'101-87030-3 (ebook). 1. Philosophy, 'Modern''20th century. I. Kohn, Jerome. II. Title. b945.a694 2015 '191''dc23 2014046457 www.schocken.com Jacket design by Linda Huang Book design by Peter A. Andersen Printed in the United States of America First Edition 2 4 6 8 9 7 5 3 1

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 Gel'nder. That is, as you go up and down the stairs you can always hold on to the banister so that you don't fall down, but we have lost this banister. That is the way I tell it to myself. And this is indeed what I try to do. ''Hannah Arendt

vii C ON T E N T S Introduction by Jerome Kohn''? ix Acknowledgments''? xxxi Publication History''? xxxiii Karl Marx and the Tradition of Western Political Thought''? 3 I.' The Broken Thread of Tradition''? 3 II.' The Modern Challenge to Tradition''? 16 The Great Tradition''? 43 I. Law and Power''? 43 II. Ruling and Being Ruled''? 56 Authority in the Twentieth Century''? 69 Letter to Robert M. Hutchins''? 92 The Hungarian Revolution and Totalitarian Imperialism''? 105 Totalitarianism''? 157 Culture and Politics''? 160 Challenges to Traditional Ethics: A Response to Michael Polanyi''? 185 Reflections on the 1960 National Conventions: Kennedy vs. Nixon''? 192 Action and the 'Pursuit of Happiness'''? 201 Freedom and Politics, a Lecture''? 220 The Cold War and the West''? 245 Nation-'State and Democracy''? 255 Kennedy and After''? 262 Nathalie Sarraute''? 265 'As If Speaking to a Brick Wall': A Conversation with Joachim Fest''? 274

viii Contents Labor, Work, Action''? 291 Politics and Crime: An Exchange of Letters''? 308 Introduction to The Warriors by J. Glenn Gray''? 316 On the Human Condition''? 322 The Crisis Character of Modern Society''? 328 Revolution and Freedom, a Lecture''? 332 Is America by Nature a Violent Society'''? 355 The Possessed''? 360 'The Freedom to Be Free': The Conditions and Meaning of Revolution''? 368 Imagination''? 387 He's All Dwight''? 395 Emerson-'Thoreau Medal Address''? 403 The Archimedean Point''? 406 Heidegger at Eighty''? 419 For Martin Heidegger''? 432 War Crimes and the American Conscience''? 433 Letter to the Editor of The New York Review of Books''? 434 Values in Contemporary Society''? 438 Hannah Arendt on Hannah Arendt''? 443 Remarks''? 476 Address to the Advisory Council on Philosophy at Princeton University''? 485 Interview with Roger Errera''? 489 Public Rights and Private Interests: A Response to Charles Frankel''? 506 Preliminary Remarks About the Life of the Mind''? 513 Transition''? 517 Remembering Wystan H. Auden, Who Died in the Night of the 'Twenty-'eighth of September, 1973''? 525 Index''? 535

ix I N T RO D U C T I ON Jerome Kohn The Republic of the United States of America has been in a state of decline for more than fifty years, that is, if the decline is dated from the debacle of the invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in 1961. More than a century before that, John Quincy Adams already despaired of what he called the 'noble experiment,' chiefly due to the mordant division of public opinion over the issue of human slavery. Today, the apathy of public opinion is denounced by politicians of all parties and pundits of all political stripes, for the sake of their own power. But for the people, what does an addiction to polls, however cockeyed their results, signify other than an obsession with public opinion? It will come as no surprise to those familiar with Hannah Arendt's way of thinking that she believed polls, like senseless calls for donations, signify either having lost or been swindled out of one's own opinion. Speaking with a group of students in Chicago in 1963, Arendt said that every one of us 'is forced to make up his mind and then exchange his opinion with others. You may remember,' she said, 'the great mistrust the founders had in public opinion, which stands opposed to public spirit. Where public spirit is lacking, public opinion comes in its stead.' To Arendt this is a 'perversion,' and a danger to all republics, perhaps especially those that consider themselves democracies. For (now quoting Madison, Federalist, 50) 'when men exert their reason cooly and freely on a variety of distinct questions, they inevi-

Introduction tably fall into different opinions.' .' .' .''When they are governed by a common passion, their opinions, if they are so to be called, will be the same.'* Thomas Jefferson was a 'party of one,' though not in the sense of The Loners? Manifesto,' which would transmogrify loners, political and otherwise, into a group identity! In a letter to Francis Hopkinson written from Paris in March of 1789, Jefferson wrote: 'I am not a federalist, because I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in any thing else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all. Therefore I protest to you I am not of the party of federalists. But I am much farther from that of the Anti'? federalists.' If the American Republic has failed, who bears the responsibility? That question can be construed economically ? or''in various forms'? psychologically, which, to Arendt, would bring forth social rather than political answers. To respond politically would require an observer standing at a distance from the certain but ambiguous sociability of men and women. A political response would be to a somewhat different and more precise question: How have citizens of the United States dissipated the power of their Republic? Her last public address, delivered in the last year of her life, 1975, in celebration of the approaching two hundredth anniversary of the birth of the American Republic, contains indications of what she might say today. There she emphasized 'the erosion of power in this country, the nadir of ? self-'confidence when victory over one of the tiniest and most helpless countries could cheer the inhabitants of what only a few decades ago 'really was the 'mightiest power on earth'? '? (referring to the United States in the midto late ? 1940s, after the Allied victory in World War? II). *? Noteworthy is the fact that Arendt heard the founders? words, which temper the element of chance in their actions. Contingency is a conditio sine qua non of free action, and at the same time of its manifold interpretations by professional political scientists and historians. Thus Arendt notes the futility of action without speech. '? Cf. A. Rufus, A Party of One: The Loners? Manifesto (2003). '? Responsibility and Judgment (New York: Schocken Books, 2003) 257'75.

xi Introduction She next mentions something that, by 1975, seemed to her the ? 'mini-'crisis triggered by Joe McCarthy? in the '1950s, which heralded 'the destruction of a reliable and devoted civil service? .' .' .''probably the most important achievement of the long Roo? se ? velt administration.' From that point on there had been a 'cataclysm of events, tumbling over one another,' and, in words frequently quoted, 'cascading like a Niagara Falls of history whose sweeping force leaves everybody, spectators who try to reflect on it and actors who try to slow it down, equally numbed and paralyzed.' Now, more than forty years after Arendt delivered that speech, how often do we still hear this country hailed as the world's greatest power, or sole ? superpower, with even less justification than in 1975? Even more confusing, today this swagger is accompanied by the politically empty economic caveat that somehow America must return to her former 'wealth? and 'greatness.' The ground beneath Arendt's political thought and speech, the soil that nourished it, was unusually fertile, for better and worse. One matter she almost certainly would be inclined to address today concerns the seemingly relentless political lies at the highest levels of the executive branch''but? not only ? there''of the U.S. government. This lying does not threaten the truth, as the grammatically inept and ? self-'contradictory description of our times as ? 'post-'truth? implies, but rather undercuts our ability to believe in the reality of political ? goings-'on as such. If the consequence of the loss of a sense of reality also spells the loss of political power, on the one hand, there is the more crucial matter of how citizens? exercise of freedom generates power, on the other. This is why the 'freedom to be free,' as she states forcefully in this volume, is for Arendt the end or telos of political revolution. Of course, none of this is to deny that ? self-'driven financial imbalances, 'death-'ridden racial inequalities, along with other diverse forms of brutality, bureaucratic corruption, and social injustice, deprive us of freedom in ways that are becoming ever more apparent. These are the signs of an encroaching social totalism, the more or less complete repression of political freedom in, for example, a republic that has become a bureaucracy. Such totalism need not arrive or result in the terror Arendt perceived as the essence of twentieth-century totalitarianism, but its signs are, I believe,

xii Introduction what she cautions us to beware of as 'the true predicaments of our time [in] their authentic form.'* Of what does political freedom consist? To cast a secret ballot while alone in a voting booth, is that to be free? Is to teach, to write, or to read to be free? For Arendt, the simplest answer appears to be that the capacities to act and to ? speak''speech as distinct from mere ? talk''are the conditions sine qua non of political freedom. The question that then falls upon us is where and how do acting and speaking together generate power? Unlike military 'force''including the massed armies and novel weapons of World War? II, which still 'endure''political power for Arendt, at least negatively, is not engendered by men and women talking to their peers about themselves, their families, or their careers. What does relate to power is the speaking out of citizens, their arguing with eloquence in public to persuade other citizens of their opinions. That is the opposite of obedience. Citizens fit words to events that by definition are not their own: no one says 'my event,' because an event is objective, it stands over against many people, and its consequences affect a plurality of different people. The power contained within an event is the potentiality of citizens who recognize their faculty to render it, to a greater or lesser extent, tractable. The condition of that tractability is political commonalty, from which the stamp or mold of human inequality is effaced. Political commonalty is actualized public space, which Arendt calls 'an island of freedom.' Such an island has only rarely appeared in a world that for the greater part of its history may be likened to a sea of distrust, malfeasance, and iniquity. Arendt's letter to Robert Hutchins, included in this volume, is rich with examples of what she recognizes as common political concerns. To some readers, this may suggest the possibility of a common world. How that might develop, and what form of government would best suit it, are fundamental issues raised by attempting to understand such a world. Arendt's view of realizing a common world was never optimistic, and she was reticent to discuss a form of government that had hardly yet, and then only briefly, appeared in the world. Still, on one occasion, when asked about the prospects of a council system of government, she replied: *? The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Schocken Books, 2004), 593.

xiii Introduction 'Very slight, if at all. And yet perhaps, after 'all''in the wake of the next revolution.'* Her conception of council systems of governance is not detailed, for they would be new beginnings that cannot be fully grasped in advance. Nevertheless, her vision of them is immense. Arendt saw totalitarianism as 'a novel form of government,' one of total destruction, and it had no positive counterpart in the sense that monarchy is the counterpart of tyranny, aristocracy of oligarchy, and democracy of ochlocracy. These pairings had remained virtually unchanged since antiquity, until Arendt added the council system as the positive counterpart to totalitarianism and, by extension, to all forms of totalism. Her most extensive account of this system of governance is in her essay on the Hungarian Revolution, which is published here in its entirety for the first time. At the basic level (which is also the basis of power) councils are composed of men and women who have common interests in issues such as fair wages and adequate housing, primary and secondary education, personal safety, and public security. These basic local levels would then elect higher and smaller regional levels of councils whose members would have researched and studied the specifics of resolving these issues. At the top of the pyramid, a governmental or steering council, also elected from below, would direct and organize the conglomerate of common interests within its jurisdiction. It may be worth mentioning here that Arendt strenuously opposed any notion of 'world government,' as potentially the greatest tyranny imaginable. In council systems of government the freedom to move, to think, and to act would be present at each level, but power would be actualized only in the basic levels? responsibility for the fulfillment of the duties and commitments of the levels above it. Council governments would result in a common world, one literally overflowing with interests that lie between (inter esse) the world's plurality of men and women, relating them as acting and speaking individuals while maintaining sufficient space between them for each to address others from his or her unique point of view. This ? in-'between space would exist in any one council system and in a plurality of like systems of governance. And it may be added that within council *? Crises of the Republic (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1972), 233.

xiv Introduction systems citizens would be related as equals in the marketplace not only of ideas but also of products of consumption and utility. The sensuous awareness of political equality would not only prohibit inequity by law but also empower and assure its 'non-'appearance, from bottom to top. One thing is certain, the council system of governance would overwhelm the traditional notion of state sovereignty. The title of this book, Thinking Without a Banister, is Arendt's ? description'? in 'Hannah Arendt on Hannah ? Arendt'''of her own experience of thinking: a ? world-'withdrawn activity that depends on agreement with no one other than oneself. In other words, while withdrawn in the dialogue of thinking, the subject divides in two, which Arendt names the ? 'two-'in-'one.' For her to experience the ? 'two-'in-'one? is thinking, as it seems to have been for Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and others whom she names. The activity of thinking enables Arendt, as it did Hegel, to be reconciled to the world as it is. The unprecedentedness of the atrocities and destruction of Hitler's and Stalin's totalitarian regimes, however, deprived Arendt, never more so than when she was withdrawn from the world, thinking alone with herself, of any traditional religious, moral, or historical supports. It was in reflection that the burden of her own times weighed heaviest upon her. To engage in the activity of thinking was, for Arendt, akin to stepping up and down a staircase, caring for the great burden she bore, without the support of a banister on either side. Thinking without a banister complements another of Arendt's metaphors: the abyss that suddenly gaped between past and future when the bridge of traditional norms spanning the passage of time, relating the past to the future, was mocked out of existence by the hitherto unimagined political crimes of totalitarianism. This abyss lacks all spatial dimensions, including depth, for it is bottomless. How giddy is that? W.' B. Yeats, the Irish poet whom Arendt greatly admired said it best: Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold? .' .' . Were Hannah Arendt here today, she probably would share our sense of impending natural and political crises. But would she, as others have done, often in her name, make comparisons to twentieth-century totalitarian

xv Introduction movements or their elements? Arendt remembers and describes totalitarian regimes, which for her ended with Stalin's death, in the essay 'Authority in the Twentieth Century.' There, I trust, she makes clear to readers how far distant from anything comparable we are today. On the other hand, what may be heard as a leitmotif throughout this volume, the specific topic of at least six essays, with echoes in many others, is revolution. Arendt's remarks on revolution are timely today because the revolutionary spirit, which flourished at the end of the eighteenth century in France and America, revived the long dormant freedom experienced in action and speech as action. The spontaneous newness of action, the ? god-'like thaumadzein, or wonder, with which it endowed the ancient world, I believe, is what originally gave rise to the notion of amor mundi, love of the world, frequently associated with Arendt. The spirit of revolution is fully realized in the world when men and women in action have reached, in Arendt's words, 'the point of no return,' that is, when it is no longer possible to turn back, like a clock that can be reset. On the contrary, something entirely new is about to be born into the world, and again Yeats, writing in 1916 of a failed action in the struggle for Ireland's independence, says it best: And what if excess of love Bewildered them till they died? I write it out in a ? verse'? MacDonagh and MacBride And Connolly and Pearse Now and in time to be, Wherever green is worn, Are changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born. By far the more historically influential of the two great eighteenth-century revolutions was the one in France, despite the fact that, unlike the American Revolution, its failure to attain its threefold goal, libert', 'galit', fraternit', was an unreserved disaster. Arendt spells out in considerable detail the reasons for the failure of the French and the success of the American revolutions, but what I want to emphasize here is what she says about amor

xvi Introduction mundi regarding the Terror that emerged within the French revolution itself, turning its goals ? inside out: 'What is most difficult is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it.' As Yeats says, a terrible beauty is born when individual actors fall for the sake of their cause. There is no doubt that a defeated human cause could please Hannah Arendt, as it is said not to have pleased the ancient gods, but is that the same as loving the world as it is? Arendt is well known for having said she did not love any peoples in the world, only individuals. This corresponds to its obverse: as I will try to show in the second part of this Introduction, Arendt held only individuals responsible for even the most egregious of political crimes, including the crime against humanity. ? Toward the end of her ? lif e''after Heinrich Bluecher (her husband) and Karl Jaspers had died, and the person on whom she most relied after them, her close friend W.' H. Auden, who would also die before her, and Martin Heidegger, whom at their last meeting she found enfeebled mentally and ? physically''Arendt said she felt 'free as a leaf in the wind? (Frei wie ein Blatt im Wind ), a striking image of sheer powerlessness. And since thinking's reconciliation to the world is hardly the same as love, all of this tends to make one a bit skeptical of the 'worldly wise Hannah Arendt's amor mundi in her later years. At this point it is critical, I believe, to focus on what has frequently been overlooked in Arendt's many accounts of revolution. Resounding clearly within this volume's revolutionary theme of the revival of political freedom and public happiness in the modern age is Arendt's unique insistence that revolutions are of two distinct kinds: those that seek a new beginning in the world and those that seek to renew a past beginning. For Arendt, the latter is what Virgil describes as Aeneas's founding of Rome, namely, the renewal of the sacked and consumed polis of Troy; her principal example of the former is the absolute new beginning of the Republic of the United States of America. Arendt wants her readers to see and feel the difference. She herself senses it in the change of Virgil's ab integro saeclorum ordo, a renewal of what has passed in the order of time, to the words that still appear on our one-dollar bills, novus ordo seclorum, signifying a total break in the order of the ages. Arendt quotes in her beautiful eulogy of Auden, the last essay in this

xvii Introduction book, his poem written in memory of Yeats, which ends: In the prison of his days / Teach the free man how to praise. She goes on to say: Praise is the key word of these lines, not praise of 'the best of all possible ? worlds'''as though it were up to the poet (or the philosopher) to justify God's 'creation''but praise that pitches itself against all that is most unsatisfactory in man's condition? .' .' .''and sucks its own strength from the wound. To Arendt, Auden was the greatest ? En'glish poet of his time,* and what made him that 'was the unprotesting willingness with which he yielded to the 'curse? of his vulnerability to 'human unsuccess''vulnerability to the crookedness of the desires, to the infidelities of the heart, to the injustices of the world.' That, too, is not harmonious, to my ear, with amor mundi. It is rather the courage of human resolve that Arendt finds in all great poets. And this again brings Virgil to mind, who sang of the founding of Rome as the renewal of his desecrated homeland. In the America of today, with its glorious new beginning more than two hundred years ago, that seems almost the last word of wisdom. *? *? * Claudio:? .' .' .'? Death is a fearful thing. Isabella: And sham'd life a hateful. Shakespeare, Measure for Measure III, i Hans Jonas said of Hannah Arendt, his friend from their university days, that, however she may be judged in the future, in her lifetime she raised the level of political discourse. In her vast writings that is unquestionable, although there is as yet little sign of its dissemination in the American electorate, or within the bureaus of the public realm, or, where it might be expected, among professional political writers. In its place we have the superficiality of a once reliable newspaper, the glibness that has replaced This spared her from weighing Auden against Yeats, who was Irish, or T.' S. Eliot, who was '*? American.

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