Hannah Arendt's rich and varied political thought is more influential today than ever before, due in part to the collapse of communism and the need for ideas that move beyond the old ideologies of the Cold War. As Dana Villa shows, however, Arendt's thought is often poorly understood, both because of its complexity and because her fame has made it easy for critics to write about what she is reputed to have said rather than what she actually wrote. (...) class='Hi'>Villa sets out to change that here, explaining clearly, carefully, and forcefully Arendt's major contributions to our understanding of politics, modernity, and the nature of political evil in our century.Villa begins by focusing on some of the most controversial aspects of Arendt's political thought. He shows that Arendt's famous idea of the banality of evil--inspired by the trial of Adolf Eichmann--does not, as some have maintained, lessen the guilt of war criminals by suggesting that they are mere cogs in a bureaucratic machine. He examines what she meant when she wrote that terror was the essence of totalitarianism, explaining that she believed Nazi and Soviet terror served above all to reinforce the totalitarian idea that humans are expendable units, subordinate to the all-determining laws of Nature or History. Villa clarifies the personal and philosophical relationship between Arendt and Heidegger, showing how her work drew on his thought while providing a firm repudiation of Heidegger's political idiocy under the Nazis. Less controversially, but as importantly, Villa also engages with Arendt's ideas about the relationship between political thought and political action. He explores her views about the roles of theatricality, philosophical reflection, and public-spiritedness in political life. And he explores what relationship, if any, Arendt saw between totalitarianism and the "great tradition" of Western political thought. Throughout, Villa shows how Arendt's ideas illuminate contemporary debates about the nature of modernity and democracy and how they deepen our understanding of philosophers ranging from Socrates and Plato to Habermas and Leo Strauss.Direct, lucid, and powerfully argued, this is a much-needed analysis of the central ideas of one of the most influential political theorists of the twentieth century. (shrink)
Theodor Adorno once wrote an essay to "defend Bach against his devotees." In this book Dana Villa does the same for Hannah Arendt, whose sweeping reconceptualization of the nature and value of political action, he argues, has been covered over and domesticated by admirers who had hoped to enlist her in their less radical philosophical or political projects. Against the prevailing "Aristotelian" interpretation of her work, Villa explores Arendt's modernity, and indeed her postmodernity, through the Heideggerian and Nietzschean (...) theme of a break with tradition at the closure of metaphysics.Villa's book, however, is much more than a mere correction of misinterpretations of a major thinker's work. Rather, he makes a persuasive case for Arendt as the postmodern or postmetaphysical political theorist, the first political theorist to think through the nature of political action after Nietzsche's exposition of the death of God. After giving an account of Arendt's theory of action and Heidegger's influence on it, Villa shows how Arendt did justice to the Heideggerian and Nietzschean criticism of the metaphysical tradition while avoiding the political conclusions they drew from their critiques. The result is a wide-ranging discussion not only of Arendt and Heidegger, but of Aristotle, Kant, Nietzsche, Habermas, and the entire question of politics after metaphysics. (shrink)
The book is full of subtle, important, and in some cases controversial readings of major thinkers and represents a significant move forward in Villa's own thinking, placing him into conversation with some unexpected intellectual traditions, ...
Many critics bemoan the lack of civic engagement in America. Tocqueville's ''nation of joiners'' seems to have become a nation of alienated individuals, disinclined to fulfill the obligations of citizenship or the responsibilities of self-government. In response, the critics urge community involvement and renewed education in the civic virtues. But what kind of civic engagement do we want, and what sort of citizenship should we encourage? In Socratic Citizenship, Dana Villa takes issue with those who would reduce citizenship to (...) community involvement or to political participation for its own sake. He argues that we need to place more value on a form of conscientious, moderately alienated citizenship invented by Socrates, one that is critical in orientation and dissident in practice. Taking Plato's Apology of Socrates as his starting point, Villa argues that Socrates was the first to show, in his words and deeds, how moral and intellectual integrity can go hand in hand, and how they can constitute importantly civic--and not just philosophical or moral--virtues. More specifically, Socrates urged that good citizens should value this sort of integrity more highly than such apparent virtues as patriotism, political participation, piety, and unwavering obedience to the law. Yet Socrates' radical redefinition of citizenship has had relatively little influence on Western political thought. Villa considers how the Socratic idea of the thinking citizen is treated by five of the most influential political thinkers of the past two centuries--John Stuart Mill, Friedrich Nietzsche, Max Weber, Hannah Arendt, and Leo Strauss. In doing so, he not only deepens our understanding of these thinkers' work and of modern ideas of citizenship, he also shows how the fragile Socratic idea of citizenship has been lost through a persistent devaluation of independent thought and action in public life.Engaging current debates among political and social theorists, this insightful book shows how we must reconceive the idea of good citizenship if we are to begin to address the shaky fundamentals of civic culture in America today. (shrink)
The relation of Hannah Arendt's political theory to Martin Heidegger's philosophy is a fraught topic. This essay explores the basic structure of Arendt's appropriation of Heidegger, the better to defend her theory of political action against oft-repeated charges of elitism and exclusion. In my view, Arendt's critical reading of the canon is deeply indebted to Heidegger, even though her ultimate goal--the recovery of human plurality as a basic and irreducible dimension of politics and the public world--is radically un-Heideggerian in nature.
What are contents? The answer provided by the possible worlds approach is that contents are sets of possible worlds. This approach incurs serious problems and to solve them Jago suggests, in The Impossible, to get rid of the ‘possible’ bit and allowing some impossible worlds to be part of the game. In this note, I briefly consider the metaphysics behind Jago’s account and then focus on whether Jago is right in thinking that his worlds and his worlds only can do (...) the explanatory work he posits them for. (shrink)
In this paper I put forward some arguments in defence of inclusive legal positivism . The general thesis that I defend is that inclusive positivism represents a more fruitful and interesting research program than that proposed by exclusive positivism . I introduce two arguments connected with legal interpretation in favour of my thesis. However, my opinion is that inclusive positivism does not sufficiently succeed in estranging itself from the more traditional legal positivist conceptions. This is the case, for instance, with (...) regard to the value-freedom principle, which is commonly accepted by inclusive positivist scholars. In contrast with this approach, I try to show, in the concluding section, how a constructivistic version of inclusive positivism could legitimately acknowledge the presence of value-judgments in the cognitive activities of jurists and legal theorists. (shrink)
Hannah Arendt was one of the foremost political thinkers of the twentieth century, and her particular interests have made her one of the most frequently cited thinkers of our time. This Companion examines the primary themes of her multi-faceted work, from her theory of totalitarianism and her controversial idea of the 'banality of evil' to her classic studies of political action and her final reflections on judgment and the life of the mind. Each essay examines the political, philosophical, and historical (...) concerns which shaped Arendt's thought, and which prompted her to become one of the most unapologetic champions of the political life in the history of Western thought. (shrink)
This essay takes a critical look at the rubric “age of terror,” a rubric which has enjoyed a certain amount of theoretical and philosophical cachet in recent years. My argument begins by noting the continuity between this hypostatization and contemporary “war on terror” rhetoric, a continuity that is, in certain respects, ironic given the politics of the “age of terror” theorists. It then moves—via Machiavelli, Max Weber, and Hannah Arendt—to a consideration of the topics of state violence (on the one (...) hand) and totalitarian terror (on the other). I use Arendt’s theorization of totalitarian terror for a dual purpose: first, to emphasize the gap between totalitarian terror and the more familiar “terror as means”; second, to question the characterization of recent Islamic terrorism as totalitarian in essence. Arendt’s distinctions between violence, terror and totalitarian terror help us avoid the Schmittian logic installed by advocates of the “war on terror” and by a variety of writers anxious to identify a ill-defined and generic “totalitarianism” as the transhistorical and transcultural “other” of liberalism. Keywords : terror; islamic terrorism; Hannah Arendt; Max Weber; totalitarianism; “Age of Terror”; liberalism; Machiavelli; evil as policy (Published online: 25 August, 2008) Citation: Ethics & Global Politics 2008. DOI: 10.3402/egp.v1i3.1861. (shrink)
The aim of the paper is that of putting into question the dichotomy between fact-judgments and value judgments in the legal domain, with its epistemological presuppositions (descriptivist image of knowledge) and its methodological implications for legal knowledge (value freedom principle and neutrality thesis). The basic question that I will try to answer is whether and on what conditions strong ethical value-judgments belong within legal knowledge. I criticize the traditional positivist positions that have fully accepted the value-freedom principle and value-neutrality thesis, (...) but I also submit to critical scrutiny the new post-positivist views, that, even if they show interesting conceptual developments on the matter, end up, nevertheless, by presupposing the same epistemological image, while I call descriptivism. I stress that only by giving up descriptivism and accepting constructivism as a general image of knowledge is it possible to see the problem of value-ladenness of legal knowledge in a new light. On the basis of the constructivist image, I present two theses: firstly, at a much broader epistemological level, I advance the minimalist thesis on value-judgments, which simply removes the general ban on treating values as present within knowledge; secondly, I advance the strong thesis on legal value-judgments, which consists in arguing for the necessary presence of ethical value-judgments in legal knowledge. I draw, in the end, some important implications from acceptance of the strong thesis. One of these implications is a new distinction that replaces the traditional distinction between fact-judgments and value judgments, namely, the distinction between value-judgments exhibiting a cognitive function and value-judgments exhibiting a creative function. (shrink)
Este artigo busca analisar as interpretações mais correntes do conceito nietzscheano do eterno retorno, bem como apresentar uma nova leitura do mesmo enquanto consumação da perspectiva niilista e proposta de um modelo ético baseado no princípio grego do cuidado de si ( epiméleia heautoû ).: This article tries to analyze the most common interpretations about the nietzschean concept of the eternal recurrence, as well as present a new view that sees it as the consummation of the nihilistic perspective and an (...) ethic model based upon the greek principle of the epiméleia heautoû. Keywords: Nietzsche, Nihilism, Eternal Recurrence, Ethics, Epiméleia Heautoû. (shrink)