Home » Volume 4, Issue 1 » Featured, Political Philosophy

The Possibilities of Imagination in Hannah Arendt’s Thought

31 August 2010 1,078 views One Comment Print This Post Print This Post

By Gary Wang

In Hannah Arendt’s earlier work, The Origins of Totalitarianism, imagination is caught by totalitarian ideology leading to a denial of experience and a complicity in evil.[1] In her later work, Eichmann in Jerusalem, she explicitly condemns Eichmann’s “lack of imagination” as evidence of his inability to think and as paradigmatic of her diagnosis of totalitarian evil as banal[2]. In her Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy, Arendt’s discussion centers on how imagination is central to the faculty of judgment to possibly resist evil.[3] The relationship between Arendt’s conceptions of imagination hinges upon the existence of a space of appearances in which speech can extend the possibilities of representative thinking. Otherwise, the faculty of imagination runs amok allowing for logicality to replace thinking.

I. Ideological Consistency

For Arendt, totalitarian ideologies emphasize their internal consistency rather than their subject matter since its “movement does not spring from experience but is self-generated…because it transforms the one and only point that is taken and accepted from experienced reality into an axiomatic premise.”[4] While the factual basis of ideology arises out of specific historical circumstances in Europe, the consistency in which it must be implemented disregards “the fortuitousness that pervades reality”[5]. Reality is fortuitous precisely because “facts have no conclusive reason whatever for being what they are; they could always have been otherwise” meaning that retrospective explanations for facts themselves do not determine why events occurred; rather they reconcile factuality with human comprehension[6]. Ideology assumes and seeks to prove that its explanations for human events are determinate.

However, ideology is not an explanation for the present, or what is, but rather a consistent explanation for “the secrets of the past, the intricacies of the present, [and] the uncertainties of the future”[7]. As a result, there’s no stable basis from which one can begin something new since the foundation upon which to form opinions is “shifting and shuffling in utter sterility”[8]. Since events constantly change, ideology, in order to adapt, must constantly vary its rationalization for events but the ideology’s core premise – such as the existence of a world-wide Jewish conspiracy – remains unchanged since this ‘fact’ is precisely hidden from sensory experience. To uncover the concealment, ideologies appeal to “a sixth sense that enables us to become aware of it…The concept of enmity is replaced by that of conspiracy, and this produces a mentality in which reality – real enmity or real friendship – is no longer experienced and understood in its own terms but is automatically assumed to signify something else.”[9] Ideology perverts common sense, from that which “regulates and controls all other senses and without which each of us would be enclosed in his own particularity of sense data which in themselves are unreliable and treacherous” by denying reality the possibility to appear and instead subsuming all objects in experience to fit the ideological explanation.[10] The connection between devaluing common sense and the uses of imagination will become important later on.

So, the dialectical movement in ideological argumentation explains past setbacks in terms of future success so that the distinction between past and present is erased foreclosing the possibility the present ideological explanation can be contradicted. Any potentially contradictory event is explained in reference to the true conspiracy accessible only to a perverted common sense made possible by historical changes in the subject’s epistemology.

II. Common Sense to Common Sense Reasoning

Arendt traces the distrust of one’s own senses to Galileo and Descartes. The invention and practical success of the telescope proved that all events were valid according to universal laws “beyond the reach of human sense experience” and “beyond the reach of human memory” forming what Arendt terms, the Archimedean point[11]. This epistemological breakthrough occurs when Galileo transfigured geometry to algebra, dominated by internally consistent symbols, which spawned the modern tendency of “reducing terrestrial sense data and movements to mathematical symbols” giving a “non-spatial symbolic language” to scientific discovery[12]. In this new language, nature, to be understandable, has to reflect the logical structures of the mind. So, consciousness transforms sensory data into consistent symbols in order to formulate universal laws to understand nature after the telescope proved that self-evident sense experience was fallible. The key difference between pre-Galilean and modern ways of understanding sense experience is that the former relies on the possibility of nature’s self-evident disclosure and the latter relies on actively subsuming the sense experience of nature under the structures of human consciousness thereby pre-empting self-evident disclosure. The relationship of this new epistemology, where human beings must actively reach into appearance, to totalitarian ideology’s pretension to fashion human nature will become important later on. At this point, Arendt introduces the distinction, which will become critical later on, between “the capacities of the human mind for understanding…without true comprehension”[13] with the former concerned with how an event can be described consistently with respect to language and the latter concerned with the meaning of the event in its particularity. The difference depends on imagination’s relationship to language.

Consequently, common sense is no longer the five senses working together self-evidently and instead is the common sense reasoning of self-evident logic that structures human consciousness indicating the radical flight of self-evidence from the giveness of sense data to the different sense of giveness in the formal rules of logic. This flight – confirmed when the senses common to generations of individuals before the telescope were exposed as fallible – revealed for Descartes and modern science that “intelligibility to human understanding does not at all constitute a demonstration of truth, just as visibility did not at all constitute proof of reality.”[14] The fact that individuals could live their day to day lives believing the sun revolved around the earth and the fact that their belief was demonstrably false indicated that everyday experience can just as likely be a guarantor of fallibility as infallibility. As a result, sense experience and human reason, governing what’s intelligible, are both suspect since “Being…is tremendously active and energetic: it creates its own appearances, except that these appearances are delusions.”[15] Thus, truth becomes hypothetical truth subject to demonstrable confirmation over time rather than truth’s correspondence to a given reality: truth must be continually demonstrated in the future[16].

In light of science’s demonstrations of truth, philosophy withdraws to an analysis of the structures of consciousness in order to analyze sensation not sense data[17]. This retreat to consciousness means that objects no longer have an “unalterable identical shape of its own” since it’s “an object of consciousness on the same level with a merely remembered or entirely imaginary thing”[18]. With the fallibility of the senses and understanding established, the only sense that individuals have in common is “their faculty of reasoning”[19] or the deduction of conclusions by applying axiomatic rules of logic such as the law of non-contradiction in thought and language. The movement of logic is embedded within the structures of consciousness but not what’s contained in consciousness. Its coherence is strictly the internal consistency of its symbols. The force of logical movement arises from the fact that “the structure of one man’s mind is supposed to differ no more from that of another than the shape of his body.”[20] Thus, common sense reasoning, or logicality, coerces the Cartesian subject into accepting its conclusions by rooting itself in the Cartesian subject’s identity as a human being solely on its common and self-evident capacity to reason. The way in which the consistency in logical language can foreclose the possibility of meaning will become important later on.

III. Loneliness and the Space of Appearances

The emergence of Cartesian doubt within the subject, the heralding of demonstration as the criterion for truth, and the historical developments in Europe during the 19th and early 20th century, constituted the genealogical elements of the modern experience of loneliness that is the “essence of totalitarian government”[21]. The breakdown of classes into masses, the loss of authority in traditional institutions, and the denigration of social relationships, leads to an atomized society of mass, as opposed to isolated, loneliness[22].

The fundamental structure of consciousness is the two-in-one where the self recognizes its own internal difference as the basis for its own identity.[23] Consciousness becomes actualized, or made real, in the activity of thinking which is the self’s dialogue with itself. This occurs under the existential condition of solitude, where the self withdraws from all worldly activity in order to think. However, the self’s two-in-one dialogue in solitude is also lost under the condition of loneliness because the reality of the self and the world as a space of appearances are interrelated. Given that thinking – an equivocal dialogue of the self with itself – is a private experience without certainty nor necessary conclusion, the self is confirmed “through the spoken word in which he identifies himself as the actor, announcing what he does, has done, and intends to do” or when the self’s actions can be described by others.[24] Language then must not be used “to veil intentions but to disclose realities” because without trust between individuals, the degree to which reality is intersubjectively valid will be limited. Without the possibility of being recognized as the speaker or actor, the self loses trust in oneself since there’s no escape from the equivocality of thinking. One is not sure if what one is thinking is real or if sensations correspond with reality since one’s sensory experiences are suspect without intersubjective confirmation[25]. However, when the self appears in the presence of others, it confirms its identity as one because its very appearance, by speech or action, necessitates the cessation of the two-in-one split of thinking. The stream of consciousness by itself cannot deduce the body or the validity of one’s thoughts; it can only deduce the certainty of doubt.

The space of appearances is not physically limited or purely subjective. Even in solitude, the self can imagine the possible positions of others and thus move “in a space that is potentially public”.[26] However, under conditions of loneliness, individuals are susceptible to the temptation to find meaning in ideology by exchanging one’s capacity to think about oneself in the past, present and future for one’s capacity to grasp certainty for all time.

IV. The Appeal of Ideology

Just as Cartesian doubt and scientific rationality define what constitutes truth as active experimentation with appearances, ideological mental activity collapses the past and present into the potentiality of the future in the attempt to actualize its already given claim to universal validity precisely by mastering all human affairs[27]. Thus, ideology relates to reality, a set of haphazard events, in the same way modern science relates to nature, a seemingly random set of sensory data. Both impose a law of their own, born from the structures of consciousness in the form of logical reasoning, onto reality in order to explain it. The totalitarian elite don’t accept the ideology they propagate as factually true or false but have in common with modern science, the hypothesis that everything is[28]. Both seek to persistently test the hypothesis of omnipotence. Without the possibility for sensation or understanding to be self-evident, logicality is elevated since it “is as independent of experience as it is of thinking” since its premise is self-evident[29].

The question becomes what sense of self, does the consistency of logic appeal to? What Cartesian Doubt leaves unscathed are the structures of consciousness themselves, the rules of logic guiding the deduction from premises to conclusions. So when one asserts A is B and that B is C, the concept A already contains within itself the concept C given the acceptance of the first two premises. This example, the transitive property of equality, is consistent with itself in the mind regardless of sensations and thoughts. A, B, and C are symbols that can represent any object provided they represent them accurately. Yet, it’s impossible to evaluate if the symbols of logic represent reality merely based off the consistency of symbols with each other.

So, the sense of self that grounds the self-evidence of logical thinking are the structures of one’s consciousness supposedly common to all human beings and are valid regardless of the specific thoughts, desires, and sensations appearing in consciousness itself. It’s this very commonality that allows for Stalin’s secret police to extract false confessions[30]. Arendt writes:

“Before the alternative of facing the anarchic growth and total arbitrariness of decay or bowing down before the most rigid, fantastically fictitious consistency of an ideology, the masses probably will always choose the latter and be ready to pay for it with individual sacrifices …because in the general disaster this escape grants them a minimum of self-respect.”[31]

The structures of consciousness are self-evident while sensations and thoughts are suspect. This means, the consistency of the structures of consciousness become more important than what’s contained in consciousness since logical consistency can’t be doubted. As Arendt writes, “the inner coercion whose only content is the strict avoidance of contradictions that seems to confirm a man’s identity outside all relationships with others” is self-propelled logical deduction.[32] This indicates that what makes loneliness unbearable is that it intensifies the equivocality of thinking and denies the human need to confirm one’s senses, thoughts, and ultimately, one’s identity. Given the loss of self-evidence and the possibility for the intersubjective confirmation of one’s own sensations and thoughts, individuals tried to escape loneliness by replacing the uncertainty equivocal nature of thinking with dogma. As a result, the first premise of totalitarian logic must remain axiomatic and ignore contrary evidence because it is the foundation for the totalitarian subject to confirm its senses, thoughts and identity to itself.[33]

The blindness to receiving new experiences are manifestations of a lonely self searching for confirmation and coincidentally, the internal consistency of totalitarianism appealed to that search by virtue of its coherence in explaining the past and present in terms of a future that can never be validated by experience. In these instances, logicality does not regulate thinking but exploits the uncertainty of experience to fashion the meaning of all events consistently in order to self-referentially reconcile the sensations with one’s identity.

This identification of the self with an abstract ideology results in fantastical delusions of grandeur: the appeals to History and Destiny. The language of ideology appeals to a transcendent ‘meaning’ that serves to interpret reality consistently. Ideological language divorces itself from experience and the finality of the past. No events can interrupt the self-consistency of the language because the appeal of the language itself lay in its internal consistency. However, in order for people to function in everyday life under ideological conditioning, they, “through sheer imagination” were “spared the never-ending shocks which real life and real experience deal to human beings and their expectations.” That is, the faculty of imagination can make present in the mind, what is sensually not present, because Cartesian Doubt has “processed into an object of consciousness on the same level with a merely remembered or entirely imaginary thing” the actual objects given to the senses[34].

The masses, via sheer imagination, reinforce the internal consistency of totalitarian language precisely by giving leeway for euphemisms of ‘History’ and ‘Superhuman’, to mean anything and therefore nothing minus something transcendent with no regard for particulars. Ideological language gave people “the notion of being involved in something historic, grandiose, [and] unique” indicating that lonely individuals willingly had the illusion that their actions would be remembered and thus confirmed in their reality[35]. People used imagination to confirm the reality of their identity by identifying themselves with totalitarianism’s transcendent meaning in order to try and escape from the painful uncertainty of loneliness.

V. Representative Thinking

Imagination could also provide the means to escape blind ideological indoctrination. Arendt, drawing on Kant, locates imagination as the faculty that synthesizes the already ordered manifold of intuitions and then renders that manifold intelligible by synthesizing it with a concept.[36] In order for the manifold of intuitions, ordered by the concepts of understanding, to be recognized under a concept, the imagination already has to produce an image or schema for the concept to subsume the manifold of intuitions.[37] It allows for the collection of colors in the shape of a tree to be to be called a tree by bringing the manifold of intuitions under a concept but prior to the intuitions there must have already been an image in the mind associated with the concept that allows the intuitions once given to the senses to be connected with the concept.

Imagination is also the first step for the possibility of impartial and reflective judgment. But first, thinking precedes judgment under solitude.[38] Thinking, as exemplified by the Socratic dialogues, has a tendency to “‘unfreeze’… words (concepts, sentences, definitions, doctrines)” by undermining the applicability of concepts to describe all the particulars supposedly beneath them.[39] Thinking exposes this gap between the general concept and various particulars since Being is never totally manifest in appearance but only reveals hints of itself.[40]

For Arendt, representative thinking (political judgment) involves imagining “how I would feel and think if I were in…” the position of another but not as if one were the Other; the distinction being the difference between representing the Other’s possible standpoint in imagination and blindly adopting the Other’s actual perspective or trying to adopt their private mental states[41]. To even have a standpoint implies having a basis to stand from – the facts and experiences informing opinion and action – but the “experience of trembling, wobbling motion of everything we rely on for our sense of direction and reality” under totalitarianism perverts the use of imagination by constantly shuffling the ground underneath judgment precluding the development of a standpoint and the recognition of another’s standpoint.[42] Under conditions of loneliness, judgment is impossible since there is no one to hear them and no one to validate them.

For Arendt, the more positions represented in imagination, the more impartial the judgment[43]. Without the spectators to constitute a space for appearances, no action or speech could appear meaningfully because they could never survive their ephemeral existence. Yet, Arendt’s account of representative thinking describes how representing another’s possible standpoints informed by their physical characteristics, desires, or experiences could generate within the spectator a new experience of thinking because a different set of particulars are the object of thought. For example, if the spectator imagined herself as another race, her opinion of affirmative action may be enlarged. However, Arendt’s own account of representative thinking lacks a way to weigh between different positions and instead asserts that imagination “ascends from these particularities to some impartial generality” (italics mine).[44] What follows is an attempt to highlight the differences between Arendt’s account of representative thinking and her account of reflective judgment in order to then modify her account of representative thinking. The crucial difference will be Arendt’s assumption that impartiality means reflecting on possible standpoints rather than actual ones.

VI. Representative and Reflective Judgment

Normally, judgment involves the application of concepts to particulars but in the judgment of the unprecedented imagination becomes important. According to Arendt’s reading of Kant, reflective judgment – when the concept is derived from the particular rather than applied onto it – discriminates based off the inner senses (smell and taste) because “the it-pleases-or-displeases-me is immediate and overwhelming” meaning the inner senses judge objects in their particularity.[45] On the other hand, the objects of the three outer senses (hearing, sight, touch) can be represented by imagination because they “share their properties with other objects”[46]. The representational nature of the outer sense and the discriminatory nature of the inner senses combine to create the experience of reflective judgment where one’s immediate pleasure at the perception of an object is subject to “another choice: one can approve or disapprove of the very fact of pleasing”[47]. The emphasis is on taste rather than logic because then debate, the defining feature of politics for Arendt, would be compulsive rather than persuasive. Imagination functions by removing the object from direct sense perception and instead subjecting it to inner sense, which is necessarily discriminatory.

Here, the second order reflective judgment is ultimately governed by communicability which presupposes common sense or the “sensus communis”[48]. In the context of judgment, common sense is broadly understood as “an extra mental capability…that fits us into a community” implying the possibility that judgments can be validated intersubjectively.[49] The sensus communis assumes a distinction between communication and expression.[50] The latter is the ability to let others know one’s needs, desires, and wants or all the What attributes of a person, but the former is the ability to persuade others requiring an ability “to think from the other person’s standpoint; otherwise one will never meet him, never speak in such a way that he understands.”[51] The possibilities of language will later illuminate the relationship between communication and imagination in terms of thinking from the standpoint of a possible Other.

The judging spectator represents another’s possible position and then must weigh the pleasure arrived at that position with her own position in terms of communicability which tests the degree self-interest that must be removed in judgment. The less partial the judgment, the more intelligible it will be to others and more intersubjectively valid it will be. What guides the spectator’s own weighing between various possible standpoints and her own are the examples the spectator imagines.[52] The example can be “some incident and some person” and they are valid only within a particular community of spectators.[53] Specifically, their actions don’t provide a general rule to apply to all particulars but rather manifest, in their enactment, a principle that inspires. Arendt writes:

“Principles do not operate from within the self as motives do…but inspire, as it were, from without; and they are much too general to prescribe particular goals, although every particular aim can be judged in the light of its principles once the act has been started. For, unlike the judgment of the intellect which precedes action, and unlike the command of the will which initiates it, the inspiring principle becomes fully manifest only in the performing act itself.”[54]

Socrates and Jesus manifested their principles in their action, speech and lives. Hence, the communicability of one’s reflective judgment is governed with reference to which examples the community of spectators has in their minds[55]. Just as the ‘image’ or schema of the tree must be imagined in a community, in order to recognize a manifold of intuitions as a tree, the example must be present in the minds of the spectators to guide the discussing the relative merits of everyone’s judgments.

VII. Speech in Judgment

However, there’s a tension between Arendt’s account of representative thinking (‘Truth and Politics’) and reflective judgment (Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy) in terms of the context in which the judgment or opinion occurs. As Roland Beiner writes:

she is tempted to integrate judgment into the vita activa, seeing it as a function of the representative thinking and enlarged mentality of political actors, exchanging opinions in public while engaged in common deliberation. On the other hand, she wants to emphasize the contemplative and disinterested dimension of judgment, which operates retrospectively, like aesthetic judgment…Arendt, achieves a final resolution by abolishing this tension, opting wholly for the latter conception of judgment.[56]

On one hand, the representative thinker is forming an opinion to act. On the other hand, the spectator judges retrospectively without aiming to act. If Beiner is right, then Arendt lacks an account of political judgment except “when the chips are down”.[57] Her analysis of conscience occurs in marginal situations[58] and the spectator imagines the possible rather than actual judgments of others[59]. Moreover, there’s no mention of examples to guide representative thinking.

However, Arendt’s articulation of political speech is central to modifying her account of judgment in order to describe the conditions of representative thinking. The key is her emphasis on representing the possible standpoints of others as opposed to adopting the “actual views of those who stand somewhere else” since the former is the movement of impartial judgment and the latter is blind empathy.[60] However, her distinction means that the judging citizen does not pay attention to any actual standpoints articulated in anyone’s actual speech but imagines their possible standpoints which are “the conditions they are subject to, which always differ from one individual to the next, from one class or group as compared to another.”[61] However, could the range of possible standpoints be limited by self-interest in ways that are impossible to remove without actually listening to the standpoints of Others?

Arendt assumes the space of possible standpoints comes into being in the absence of self-interest by letting imagination automatically create the possible positions of others to then be reflected on. For example, the citizen, in judging from the hypothetical position of a black college student, could support affirmative action on the basis that they are black but just as validly oppose affirmative action because others wrongly attribute their accomplishments to race. Either way, by assuming that all possible standpoints are determined by attributes, the citizen can inadvertently import her own biases, even biases unrelated to self-interest, onto the range of possible standpoints which limits the variety of viewpoints considered. If attributes don’t imply interests or standpoints, how can imagination in the absence of self-interest fill the space with other possible standpoints?

VIII. Language and Imaginative Imitation

Arendt’s account ignores the possibility that the Other’s speech can extend the citizen’s imagination by undergoing an event of disclosure. She assumes the “only condition for this exertion of the imagination is disinterestedness” and concludes paradoxically that not listening to the actual positions of other’s is somehow impartial.[62] The range of standpoints considered in representative thinking must be actual rather than possible. First, thinking in solitude has already liberated the citizen from her interest by removing her from being directly affected by the particular. In the Socratic dialogues, thinking loosens the meaning of concepts by exposing the inconsistency between them and the particulars they are supposed to describe. Thus, to be disinterested is to loosen the way one thinks words mean so that one can be open to the other possible meanings.

Now, the citizen exerts her imagination by representing the Other’s speech in the inner sense. Here, she can imagine herself as the speaker of the Other’s speech thereby thinking from her identity where she is not. Since Arendtian speech discloses the Who of a person not the What, imaginatively imitating the Other gives the citizen the possibility to expand what words could possibly mean for her by seeing its use by the Other. This attempt is neither fruitless nor blindly empathic because she’s not trying to understand the Other’s speech through her own understanding of the possibilities of meaning in language. Rather, imagining oneself using the Other’s words generates new possibilities of meaning since one is necessarily exposed to previously discounted or ignored uses of language.

Analogously, in the experience of reading a text, words appear in the inner sense when imagination takes the literal sight of the letters on the page and reproduces them as sound in the inner sense. This use of the imagination stages a confrontation between the reader’s personal configurations of words and the text’s new configuration and it’s up to the reader’s inner sense to feel comfortable with the way language is used in the text. To comprehend what an author means is to already to have imaginatively imitated his or her words in your voice.

The degree one feels comfortable speaking in one’s voice the words of another indicates how meaningful the others words are. In the same way, the degree to which the citizen can comprehend the perspective of the Other is how easily the citizen can use the Other’s configuration of words in her own voice. This is because the speaker may not know all the possible meanings of his speech, but his speech already has to be meaningful to him when he speaks it. The irreducible gap between the meaning of the speech to citizen and the way in which the speech makes sense to the speaker is what imaginative imitation seeks to bridge in order to expand the possibilities of language for the citizen.

Arendtian speech is “finding the right words at the right moment” because persuasion relies on the possibility for meaning to be shared.[63] Unlike the impersonal consistent rules of logic, the language in an Arendtian speech emphasizes eloquence by constantly transgressing the boundaries of the consistency between concepts.[64] By contrast, Himmler’s language rules were dangerous not because they were hateful but because they prevented people from thinking in their own language by prohibiting people from describing particulars outside the terms of the language rules.[65] Thus, clichés are meaningless because their indiscriminate usage prevents them from being meaningful to anyone; no one’s inner sense discriminates when hearing a cliché because the configurations of words in a cliché aren’t unique to anyone. Paradigmatically, “Eichmann’s inability to think was closely connected to his in ability to speak” because his impoverished stock phrases guarded him from reality by precluding him from being able to describe particulars in his own voice.[66] His euphemisms were so successful that they prevented him from recognizing or judging the abhorrent situation he was in the midst of. The language rules closed the space of appearances between individuals and within them by denying them the conceptual resources to distinguish themselves in their speech. Hence, the possibilities for thinking and speaking mutually presuppose each other.

In this way, the absence generated by disinterest entails being receptive to the ways other perspectives describe particulars. As such, Arendt’s argument that sign language cannot substitute itself for speech presupposes that the meaning in language can be shared amongst people whereas a sign language is purely expressive and therefore its meaning can’t be shared[67]. Indeed, the sensus communis presupposed by Arendt and Kant is really the stock of common words, phrases and sentences used by a community to describe particulars. In order to for one to persuade, it must be possible to be think in a language that others can comprehend, which presupposes already imagining oneself using language in the ways the Other does. Therefore, impartial judgment considers the actual judgments of others in order to expand the meaning of one’s own concepts in describing a particular. The comfort in which one can do this is the second order judgment that is subject to intersubjective communication.

By contrast, the emphasis on consistency in totalitarian ideology suppresses the possibility for language to be meaningful. Deduction guides the analysis of concepts but the meaning of those concepts depends on the limits of one’s own imagination. Without a space of appearances, imagination has no experience of language to draw upon since no one’s Who can be disclosed. Moreover, the emphasis on consistency, as opposed to creativity, as the fundamental relation between words tends to limit what can be communicated as well as the ability to comprehend the unprecedented. Most importantly, the way in which loneliness is unbearable reflects an inability for one’s words to be meaningful since one’s speech can’t be heard and therefore one’s thoughts lack the confirmation needed to trust them. The ability to impartially judge then is closely related to the ability to imagine other possible meanings in language.


[1] The Origins of Totalitarianism pg 351

[2] Eichmann in Jerusalem pg 288

[3] Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy pg 68

[4] The Origins of Totalitarianism pg 471

[5] Ibid pg 352

[6] Between Past and Future “Truth and Politics” pg 242

[7] Origins of Totalitarianism pg 469

[8] Between Past and Future “Truth and Politics” pg 258

[9] Origins of Totalitarianism pg 471

[10] Ibid pg 476

[11] The Human Condition pg 263

[12] Ibid 265

[13] Ibid pg 270

[14] Ibid 275

[15] Ibid 276

[16] Ibid 278

[17] Ibid 280

[18] Ibid 282

[19] Ibid 283

[20] Ibid 284

[21] The Origins of Totalitarianism pg 475

[22] Ibid pg 317

[23] Responsibility and Judgment “Thinking and Moral Considerations” pg 184

[24] Ibid pg 179

[25] The Origins of Totalitarianism pg 477

[26] Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy pg 43

[27] The Origins of Totalitarianism pg 469

[28] Ibid pg 387

[29] Ibid pg 477

[30] Ibid pg 473

[31] Ibid pg 352

[32] Ibid pg 478

[33] Ibid pg 478

[34] The Human Condition pg 282

[35] Eichmann and Jerusalem pg 105

[36] Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy pg 81

[37] Ibid pg 81

[38] Responsibility and Judgment “Thinking and Moral Considerations” pg 165

[39] Ibid pg 175

[40] Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy pg 80

[41] Between Past and Future. “Truth and Politics” pg 241

[42] Ibid 258

[43] Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy pg 43

[44] Between Past and Future. “Truth and Politics” pg 242

[45] Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy pg 64

[46] Ibid pg 66

[47] Ibid pg 69

[48] Ibid pg 70

[49] Ibid pg 70

[50] Ibid pg 70

[51] Ibid pg 74

[52] Responsibility and Judgment. “Some Questions of Moral Philosophy” pg 145

[53] Ibid pg 145

[54] Between Past and Future “Truth and Politics” pg 242

[55] Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy pg 84

[56] Ibid pg 139

[57] Ibid pg 139

[58] Responsibility and Judgment. “Thinking and Moral Considerations” pg 188

[59] Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy pg 43

[60] Between Past and Future “Truth and Politics” pg 241

[61] Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy pg 43

[62] Between Past and Future “Truth and Politics” pg 242

[63] The Human Condition pg 26

[64] Ibid pg 180

[65] Eichmann in Jerusalem pg 106

[66] Ibid Pg 49

[67] The Human Condition pg 179

Works Cited

1. Arendt, Hannah. The Origins of Totalitarianism. New York: Harcourt Brace. Jovanovich, 1973. Print.

2. Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 1958. Print.

3. Arendt, Hannah. ed. Kohn, Jerome. Responsibility and Judgment. New York: Random House Inc. 2003. Print

4. Arendt, Hannah. Eichmann and Jerusalem. New York: Penguin Group. 2006. Print

5. Arendt, Hannah. ed. Beiner, Roland. Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 1982. Print

6. Arendt, Hannah. Between Past and Future. New York: The Viking Press, Inc. 1968. Print.

Gary Wong (’11) is a Philosophy major at Whitman College.

Art courtesy of quaerion.

One Comment »

  • Debt Consolidation said:

    Sorry for my bad english. Thank you so much for your good post. Your post helped me in my college assignment, If you can provide me more details please email me.

Leave your response!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>