Robert L. Peters

20 August 2009

A salute: Hannah Arendt (1906-1975)


Hanover, Germany

Hannah Arendt was an influential German-Jewish political theorist. Often described as a philosopher (a label she refuted), Arendt’s work dealt with the nature of power and the subjects of politics, authority, and totalitarianism— with much of her work focusing on affirming a conception of freedom which is synonymous with collective political action among equals. She theorized that freedom was “public and associative.”

A selection of “quotables” by Arendt that I find interesting:

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In order to go on living one must try to escape
the death involved in perfectionism.

Forgiveness is the key to action and freedom.

Revolutionaries do not make revolutions. The revolutionaries are those who know when power is lying in the street and then they can pick it up.

The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative
the day after the revolution.

It is my contention that civil disobediences are nothing but the latest form of voluntary association, and that they are thus quite in tune with the oldest traditions of the country.

Nothing we use or hear or touch can be expressed
in words that equal what is given by the senses.

Only the mob and the elite can be attracted by the momentum of totalitarianism itself. The masses have to be won by propaganda.

Under conditions of tyranny it is far easier to act than to think.

There are no dangerous thoughts;
thinking itself is dangerous.

What really distinguishes this generation in all countries from earlier generations… is its determination to act, its joy in action, the assurance of being able to change things by one’s own efforts.

Poets are the only people to whom love is not only a crucial, but an indispensable experience, which entitles them to mistake it for a universal one.

Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.

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(It seems I’m into philosophers of late…)

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