Hannah Arendt, the famous political theorist who argued that “there are no dangerous thoughts. Thinking, in itself, is dangerous.”
Born in Hannover (Germany) in 1906, Hannah Arendt, the daughter of wealthy and secularized Jewish merchants, was able to think about her time by examining it with complete freedom, without giving up an incorruptible critical spirit. Despite having to go into exile due to the rise of National Socialism, she became one of the most relevant political theorists of the 20th century.
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As a teenager, already at the age of 14, I had read works by Immanuel Kant. His biography, as stormy as it is passionate, allows us to know that in 1924 he began his university studies in Marburg where he met Martin Heidegger. With him she maintained a close intellectual and sentimental relationship. Later he continued to study philosophy in Freiburg, and obtained his doctorate in Heidelberg in 1928 with the thesis The Concept of Love in Saint Augustine.
However, the persecution of the Jews promoted by Adolf Hitler from 1933, as soon as he came to power, forced her to move to Paris, where she worked actively to help young Jews who aspired to emigrate to Palestine. Four years later, the Nazi regime withdrew her nationality and she lived stateless until she obtained American nationality in 1951, thanks to which she was able to develop an intense professional activity.
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In addition to working as a journalist on political and social issues in various media, Arendt was a professor at the universities of New York, Chicago, Columbia and Berkeley. In 1959 she became the first woman to teach at Princeton University. At all times she publicly defended that “there are no dangerous thoughts. Thinking, in itself, is dangerous.”
In this regard, the philosopher Hans Jonas, a personal friend and author of the famous work The Principle of Responsibility, in which he openly criticized the evolution followed by modern science and the risks involved in the use of technology, referred to it by stating : “Thinking was her passion, and for her thinking was a moral activity.”
Her condition as a witness to a historical era, characterized by the violence of the two world wars during the first half of the 20th century, made Arendt very aware of the fragility of rights and the vulnerability to which citizens were permanently subjected. citizens. The enemies of freedom change, but they don’t disappear, he insisted over and over again. Hence his determination and intellectual commitment to his time.
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With the skill of a surgeon, she used her analytical skills as if it were an accurate and precise scalpel in order to dissect the reality that surrounded her. Jealous of her integrity and independence, Arendt did not give in to the pressures of her cultural environment. She always refused to identify with any ideology, including the Zionist one.
Both his steely words, which became darts aimed at an ever-moving target, and his incisive phrases seemed like flashes that emerged as “lightning bolts of thought.” It is not surprising that, on the occasion of the founding of the State of Israel, he stated bluntly: “Never in my life have I ‘loved’ any people or group, neither the German people, nor the French, nor the American, nor the working class, or anything like that. Indeed, I only ‘love’ my friends and the only kind of love I know and believe in is love for people”.
A tireless worker, as well as a writer with an agile pen, she published weekly articles in The New Yorker through which she insisted on the relevance of defending “the right to have rights.” Among her main works are: The Human Condition, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Study on the Banality of Evil and Men in Times of Darkness.
Hannah Arendt: “The enemies of freedom change, but they do not disappear.”
In 1951 he published The Origins of Totalitarianism, an exhaustive study in which he exposed both the genesis and the historical development of anti-Semitism, imperialism, and totalitarianisms. Through his pages, he evidenced the strategy and tricks that the mass leaders had then followed to gain the support of acolytes in order to turn them into passive and silent subjects.
It was a strategy no different, on the other hand, from the one now practiced by numerous political leaders, often populists, who try to seduce voters with continuous stratagems and falsehoods. As the German thinker specified, before accessing power to “fit reality into her lies, her propaganda is characterized by her extreme contempt for facts as such.”
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Today, despite almost half a century since her death, Arendt’s voice continues to resonate strongly. It is not surprising that the professor of Ethics at UNED, Amelia Valcárcel, considers that in recent years “our world is being interpreted and understood with its categories and ideas”. In fact, most of the great themes studied by the political thought of our time are present in Arendt’s work.
Among them it is worth mentioning the proposals that he put forward in Truth and lies in politics in order to prevent citizens from being reduced to only the status of employees and consumers, while a kind of moral apathy spread more and more among the population.
“The origins of totalitarianism”, one of Arendt’s masterpieces.
It could be said that Arendt was, in the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, a kind of “premature birth”. And yet, despite the vicissitudes and adversities that he had to face throughout his life, he permanently displayed impeccable autonomy when it came to defending his moral principles. Hence, neither his personal criteria nor the critical spirit that governed his decisions paled at any time.
In fact, despite receiving various awards and tributes over time for the rigor and depth of his works on political theory, both in various European countries and in the United States, he was aware that “nothing is more transitory in our world than , less stable and solid, than that kind of success that brings fame; Nothing happens faster and faster than success.
[Una amplia bibliografía sobre Hannah Arendt se puede adquirir en Bajalibros clickeando acá.]
When current US President Joe Biden began his first term as a senator, he wrote to Hannah Arendt on May 28, 1975, asking for a copy of Truth and Lies in Politics. There the writer herself analyzed the lies generated by the advertising machinery, as well as the influence of marketing in the manipulation of political life. The essay also anticipated the emergence and indiscriminate proliferation of fake news.
An eloquent example of her lucidity was reflected in one of her last diaries, where the German thinker wrote: “Death is the price we pay for the life we have lived. It is miserable not wanting to pay that price.”
For Hannah Arendt, education had to be conservative and it was imperative to restore the authority of the teacher The suicide of Hitler and Eva Braun: bullets, cyanide, a photo of her mother in her hand and the “erotic fever” of the bunker Love, forgiveness and banality of evil between Martin Heidegger and Hannah Arendt