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Hannah Arendt

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"Arendt" redirects here. For the surname, see Arendt (surname). For the film, see Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt from a 1988 German stamp

among the Women in German history series


14 October 1906
Linden, German Empire(presentday Hanover,Germany)


4 December 1975 (aged 69)

New York City, United States


Prussia (till 1937)

United States (1951)

Alma mater

University of Marburg
University of Heidelberg




20th-century philosophy


Western philosophy


Continental philosophy

Main interests Political theory, modernity,philosophy of history

Notable ideas

Homo faber, animal laborans, the laborwork

distinction,banality of evil, vita activa andvita
contemplativa, praxis as the highest level of the vita
activa,[2] auctoritas, natality[3]






Johanna "Hannah" Arendt[4] (/rnt/ or /rnt/; German: [ant]; 14 October 1906 4 December
1975) was a German-born political theorist. Though often described as a philosopher, she rejected
that label on the grounds that philosophy is concerned with "man in the singular" and instead
described herself as a political theorist because her work centers on the fact that "men, not Man, live
on the earth and inhabit the world." [5] An assimilated Jew, she escaped Europe during
the Holocaust and became an American citizen. Her works deal with the nature ofpower, and the
subjects of politics, direct democracy, authority, and totalitarianism. The Hannah Arendt Prize is
named in her honor.

Life and career[edit]

Arendt was born into a secular family of German Jews in Linden (present-day Hanover), the
daughter of Martha (ne Cohn) and Paul Arendt.[6]She grew up in Knigsberg (renamed Kaliningrad
and annexed to the Soviet Union in 1946) and Berlin. At the University of Marburg, she studied
philosophy with Martin Heidegger.

According to Hans Jonas, her only German-Jewish classmate, Arendt embarked on a long and
stormy romantic relationship with Heidegger, for which she later was criticized because of
Heidegger's support for the Nazi Party when he was rector at the University of Freiburg.
In the wake of one of their breakups, Arendt moved to Heidelberg, where she wrote
her dissertation under the existentialist philosopher-psychologist Karl Jaspers on the concept of love
in the thought of Saint Augustine. In 1929, in Berlin, she married Gnther Stern, later known
asGnther Anders. (They divorced in 1937.) The dissertation was published in 1929. Arendt was
prevented from "habilitating"a prerequisite for teaching in German universitiesbecause she was
Jewish. She researched anti-Semitism for some time before being arrested and briefly imprisoned by
the Gestapo in 1933.[7]

In 1933, Arendt fled Germany for Paris, where she befriended the Marxist literary critic and
philosopher, Walter Benjamin, her first husband's cousin. While in France, she worked to support
and aid Jewish refugees. In 1937, she was stripped of her German citizenship. In 1940, she married
the German poet and Marxist philosopher Heinrich Blcher, a former member of the Communist
Party of Germany. Later that year, after the German military occupation of northern France,
the Vichy regime began deportation of foreign Jews to concentration camps in the unoccupied south
of France, and she was interned in Camp Gurs as an "enemy alien".

New York[edit]
Arendt was able to escape after a few weeks and left France in 1941 with her husband and her
mother to the United States. They relied on visas illegally issued by the American diplomat Hiram
Bingham, who aided roughly 2,500 Jewish refugees in this way. Varian Fry, another American
humanitarian, paid for their travel and helped obtain the visas. Upon arriving in New York, Arendt
became active in the German-Jewish community. From 194145, she wrote a column for the
German-language Jewish newspaper, Aufbau. From 1944, she directed research for the
Commission of European Jewish Cultural Reconstruction and traveled frequently to Germany in this


A letter about Palestine signed by Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt and others

After World War II, she returned to Germany and worked for Youth Aliyah, a Zionist organization,
which saved thousands of children from the Holocaust and settled them in the British Mandate of
Palestine.[9] She became a close friend of Karl Jaspers and his wife, developing a deep intellectual
friendship with him.[10] She began corresponding with American author Mary McCarthy around this

In 1950, Arendt became a naturalized citizen of the United States.[12] She served as a visiting scholar
at the University of California, Berkeley,Princeton University, and Northwestern University. In 1959,
she was named the first female lecturer at Princeton. She also taught at theUniversity of
Chicago from 1963 to 1967, where she was a member of the Committee on Social Thought; The
New School in Manhattan; Yale University, where she was a fellow; and, the Center for Advanced
Studies at Wesleyan University (196162, 196263).[13]
She was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1962 and a member of
the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1964.[14][15]
Arendt was instrumental in the creation in 1974 of Structured Liberal Education (SLE) at Stanford
University. She wrote a letter to the then president of Stanford University to persuade the university
to enact Mark Mancall's vision of a residentially-based humanities program. [16]

Arendt died in New York City on 4 December 1975, at age 69, of a heart attack. She was buried
alongside her husband, Heinrich Blcher at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.

The Origins of Totalitarianism[edit]
Main article: The Origins of Totalitarianism
Arendt's first major book was titled The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), which traced the roots
of Stalinism and Nazism in both anti-Semitism and imperialism. The book was opposed by the Left
on the grounds that it presented the two movements as equally tyrannical. She further contends that
Jewry was not the operative factor in the Holocaust, but merely a convenient proxy. Totalitarianism in
Germany was, in the end, about megalomania and consistency, not eradicating Jews.

The Human Condition[edit]

Main article: The Human Condition
Arguably her most influential work, The Human Condition (1958) distinguishes between the concepts
of political and social, labor and work, various forms of action, and explores implications of those
distinctions. Her theory of political action, corresponding to the existence of a public realm, is
extensively developed in this work. Arendt argues that, while human life always evolves within
societies, the social-being part of human nature, political life, was intentionally constructed by only a
few of these societies as a space for individuals to achieve freedom through the construction of a
common world. These categories, which attempt to bridge the gap between ontological and
sociological structures, are sharply delineated. While Arendt relegates labor and work to the realm of
the "social", she favors the human condition of action as the "political" that is both existential and

Men in Dark Times[edit]

Her collection of essays, Men in Dark Times, presents intellectual biographies of some creative and
moral figures of the twentieth century, such as Walter Benjamin, Karl Jaspers, Rosa
Luxemburg, Hermann Broch, Pope John XXIII, and Isak Dinesen.

Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil [edit]

Main article: Eichmann in Jerusalem
In her reporting of the 1961 Adolf Eichmann trial for The New Yorker, which evolved into Eichmann
in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963), she coined the phrase "the banality of evil" to
describe the phenomenon of Eichmann. She raised the question of whether evil is radical or simply a
function of thoughtlessness, a tendency of ordinary people to obey orders and conform to mass
opinion without a critical evaluation of the consequences of their actions and inaction. She was

sharply critical of the way the trial was conducted in Israel. She also was critical of the way that
some Jewish leaders, notably M. C. Rumkowski, acted during the Holocaust. This caused a
considerable controversy and even animosity toward Arendt in the Jewish community. Her
friend Gershom Scholem, a major scholar of Jewish mysticism, broke off relations with her. Arendt
was criticized by many Jewish public figures, who charged her with coldness and lack of sympathy
for the victims of the Holocaust.
Because of this lingering criticism, her book has only recently been translated into Hebrew. Arendt
ended the book by writing:
Just as you [Eichmann] supported and carried out a policy of not wanting to share the earth with the
Jewish people and the people of a number of other nationsas though you and your superiors had
any right to determine who should and who should not inhabit the worldwe find that no one, that is,
no member of the human race, can be expected to want to share the earth with you. This is the
reason, and the only reason, you must hang.

On Revolution[edit]
Arendt presents a comparison of two of the main revolutions of the eighteenth century, the American
and French Revolutions. She goes against a common view of both Marxist and leftist views when
she argues that France, while well studied and often emulated, was a disaster and that the largely
ignored American Revolution was a success. The turning point in the French Revolution occurred
when the leaders rejected their goals of freedom in order to focus on compassion for the masses. In
America, the Founding Fathers never betray the goal of Constitutio Libertatis. However, Arendt
believes the revolutionary spirit of those men has been lost, and advocates a council system as an
appropriate institution to regain that spirit.

On Violence[edit]
Arendt's essay, "On Violence", distinguishes between violence and power. She maintains that,
although theorists of both the Left and Right regard violence as an extreme manifestation of power,
the two concepts are, in fact, antithetical. Power comes from the collective will and does not need
violence to achieve any of its goals, since voluntary compliance takes its place. As governments
start losing their legitimacy, violence becomes an artificial means toward the same end and is
therefore, found only in the absence of power. Bureaucracies then become the ideal birthplaces of
violence since they are defined as the "rule by no one" against whom to argue and therefore,
recreate the missing links with the people they rule over.

The Life of the Mind[edit]

Her posthumous book, The Life of the Mind (1978, edited by Mary McCarthy), remained incomplete.
Stemming from her Gifford Lectures at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, it focuses on the
mental faculties of thinking and willing, in a sense moving beyond her previous work concerning
the vita activa. In her discussion of thinking, she focuses mainly on Socrates and his notion of
thinking as a solitary dialogue between Me and Myself. This appropriation of Socrates leads her to
introduce novel concepts of conscience (which gives no positive prescriptions, but instead, tells me
what I cannot do if I would remain friends with myself when I re-enter the two-in-one of thought
where I must render an account of my actions to myself) and morality (an entirely negative
enterprise concerned with non-participation in certain actions for the sake of remaining friends with
one's self).

In the intended third volume of The Life of Mind, Arendt was planning to engage the faculty of
judgment by appropriating Kant's Critique of Judgment; however, she did not live to write it.
Nevertheless, although her notion of judging remains unknown, Arendt did leave manuscripts

("Thinking and Moral Considerations," "Some Questions on Moral Philosophy,") and lectures
(Lectures on Kant's Political Philosophy) concerning her thoughts on this mental faculty. The first two
articles were edited and published by Jerome Kohn, an assistant of Arendt and a director of Hannah
Arendt Center at The New School, and the last was edited and published by Ronald Beiner,
professor of political science at the University of Toronto. Her personal library was deposited at Bard
College at the Stevenson Library in 1976, and includes approximately 4,000 books, ephemera, and
pamphlets from Arendt's last apartment. The college has begun archiving some of the collection
digitally, which is available at The Hannah Arendt Collection. [18]


The asteroid 100027 Hannaharendt is named in her honor.

The German railway authority operates a Hannah Arendt Express
between Karlsruhe and Hanover.[19]

The Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College is named in her

The Hannah Arendt Institute for the Research on Totalitarianism is named in her honor.

The Hannah Arendt Prize is named in her honor.

Various gymnasiums (German high schools) have been dedicated to Arendt.[20][21][22][23]

The photographer Fred Stein has taken a portrait of Hannah Arendt which has become

In 2012, a German film titled Hannah Arendt was released, directed by Margarethe von
Trotta, and with Barbara Sukowa in the role of Arendt. The film concentrates on the Eichmann
trial, and the controversy caused by Arendt's book, which at the time was widely misunderstood
as defending Eichmann and blaming Jewish leaders for the Holocaust.

Arendt as depicted in the 2012 film is now the basis for a seminar held at Brown
University's Cogut Center for the Humanities.[citation needed]
In 2014, Google Doodle celebrates her 108th birthday.[25]

In 2014, the French philosopher Michel Onfray devoted a series of lectures broadcast on the
national French radio station France Culture to an analysis of the work of Arendt.[26]

Selected works[edit]

Der Liebesbegriff bei Augustin. Versuch einer philosophischen Interpretation (1929).

The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951). Revised ed.; New York: Schocken, 2004. (Includes all
the prefaces and additions from the 1958, 1968, and 1972 editions.)
The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958).
Rahel Varnhagen: the life of a Jewess. Translated by Richard and Clara Winston (1958).
Complete ed.; Ed. Liliane Weissberg (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), also in
March 2000. 400 pages. ISBN 978-0-8018-6335-6.
Die ungarische Revolution und der totalitre Imperialismus (1958).

Between Past and Future: Six exercises in political thought (New York: Viking, 1961). (Two
more essays were added in 1968.)
On Revolution (New York: Viking, 1963).
Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963). (Rev. ed. New York: Viking,
Men in Dark Times (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1968).

On Violence. Harvest Books (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1970). (Also included in
Crises of the Republic.)

Crises of the Republic: Lying in Politics; Civil Disobedience; On Violence; Thoughts on

Politics and Revolution (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1972). "Civil Disobedience"
originally appeared, in somewhat different form, in The New Yorker. Versions of the other essays
originally appeared in The New York Review of Books.

The Jew as Pariah: Jewish Identity and Politics in the Modern Age, edited with an
introduction by Ron H. Feldman (1978).

Life of the Mind, unfinished at her death, Ed. Mary McCarthy, 2 vols. (New York: Harcourt
Brace Jovanovich, 1978). ISBN 0-15-107887-4.

Hannah Arendt/Karl Jaspers Correspondence, 19261969. Edited by Lotte Kohler and Hans
Saner, translated by Robert Kimber and Rita Kimber (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,

Essays in Understanding, 1930-1954: Formation, Exile, and Totalitarianism, Ed. Jerome

Kohn (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1994). Paperback reprint edition, September 10, 1983, ISBN
0-300-03099-1. Paperback ed. (New York: Schocken, 2005).

Love and Saint Augustine. Edited with an Interpretive Essay by Joanna Vecchiarelli Scott
and Judith Chelius Scott (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1996/1998).

Lectures on Kant's Political Philosophy. Edited and with an Interpretive Essay by Ronald
Beiner (The University of Chicago Press, 1992).

Within Four Walls: The Correspondence between Hannah Arendt and Heinrich Blcher,
1936-1968. Edited by Lotte Kohler, translated by Peter Constantine (New York: Harcourt, 1996).

Responsibility and Judgment. Edited with an introduction by Jerome Kohn (New York:
Schocken, 2003).

Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger. Letters, 19251975, Ed. Ursula Ludz, translated
Andrew Shields (New York: Harcourt, 2004).

The Promise of Politics. Edited with an Introduction by Jerome Kohn (New York: Schocken,

Arendt und Benjamin: Texte, Briefe, Dokumente. Edited by Detlev Schttker and Erdmut
Wizisla (2006).

The Jewish Writings. Edited by Jerome Kohn and Ron H. Feldman. Schocken Books (2007).