Arendt and Hegel on the tragic nature of action

Philosophy and Social Criticism 28 (5):523-536 (2002)
Abstract
Among the sources of Hannah Arendt's philosophy of action is an unexplored one: the account of agency in Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. Drawing on a consideration of what has been called the 'dramaturgical' character of Arendt's philosophy of action, the article compares the accounts of action in Arendt's Human Condition and in the 'Spirit' chapter of the Phenomenology. Both works share a similar overall structure: in each case, the account of action begins with the opening-up of previously unseen or unexpected tragic consequences within action and concludes with an exploration of what can be forgiven or reconciled in action. The Arendtian and Hegelian appropriations of tragedy and forgiveness reveal nonetheless important differences in their view of what counts as action and how its tragic elements are to be understood. Key Words: action • agency • Arendt • forgiveness • Hegel • tragedy.
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