Rereading Hannah Arendt's Kant lectures

Philosophy and Social Criticism 23 (1):21-32 (1997)
This paper offers a restatement of the basic project of Hannah Arendt's Lectures on Kant's Political Philosophy, tries to trace its theoretical motivation, and presents some criticisms of Arendt's interpretation of Kant's Critique of Judgment. Arendt's political philosophy as a whole is an attempt to ground the idea of human dignity on the publicly displayed 'words and deeds' that con stitute the realm of human affairs. This project involves a philo sophical response both to Plato's impugning of the dignity of the polis and to Hegel's founding of modern historicism. The Kant Lectures bring this philosophical project to its completion because the enact ment of public deeds presupposes a company of judging spectators who draw meaning from the spectacle by judging and appreciating what is enacted. But this conception, precisely because it relates so deeply to Arendt's own theoretical impulse, leads to a sometimes onesided and misleading reading of Kant. Key Words: aesthetic judgment • dialogue/communication • Hannah Arendt • Immanuel Kant • political judgment.
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