From actor to spectator: Hannah Arendt's 'two theories' of political judgment

Philosophy and Social Criticism 26 (2):1-27 (2000)
Abstract
The question of judgment has become one of the central problems in recent social, political and ethical thought. This paper explores Hannah Arendt's decisive contribution to this debate by attempting to reconstruct analytically two distinctive perspectives on judgment from the corpus of her writings. By exploring her relation to Aristotelian and Kantian sources, and by uncovering debts and parallels to key thinkers such as Benjamin and Heidegger, it is argued that Arendt's work pinpoints the key antinomy within political judgment itself, that between the viewpoints of the political actor and the political spectator. The paper concludes by highlighting some lacunae and difficulties in the development of Arendt's account, difficulties that set challenges for those theorists (such as Seyla Benhabib and Alessandro Ferrara) who wish to appropriate and extend Arendt's contribution into the field of contemporary critical theory. Key Words: action • aesthetics • community • freedom • history • judgment • reflection.
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