Unpredictable yet Guided: Arendt on Principled Action

Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 50 (3):189-207 (2019)
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Political action is unpredictable because it unfolds among a plurality of independent actors. This unpredictability generates a fundamental puzzle: If an actor cannot know where her initiative will lead, what motivates and guides her in her doings? The aim of this paper is to develop and defend the solution to the puzzle that we can find in the thought of Hannah Arendt, namely the idea that political action is – or should be – motivated and guided by principles, principles like justice, equality, or honour. Such principles must be distinguished from goals because they do not designate a specific state of affairs, but are general ideas that allow for diverse implementations. I show that this distinction is of great practical importance for the actors involved, since their outlook and their attitude towards others will differ depending on whether they see their activity as aimed at a goal or as guided by a principle.



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Wolfhart Totschnig
Universidad Diego Portales

References found in this work

The Life of the Mind.[author unknown] - 1980 - Human Studies 3 (3):302-308.
Constitutional Democracy.Jürgen Habermas - 2001 - Political Theory 29 (6):766-781.
Justice: On relating private and public.Hanna Fenichel Pitkin - 1981 - Political Theory 9 (3):327-352.
We Feel Our Freedom.Linda M. G. Zerilli - 2005 - Political Theory 33 (2):158-188.

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