The Political Glance of the Philosopher: Rereading Hannah Arendt's The Life of the Mind

By:
Dr. Hanako Koyama
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My contention in my paper is threefold. First, I argue that many of Hannah Arendt's commentators have relatively overlooked the significance her posthumously published book The Life of the Mind (1978) for her political theory. The commentators have primarily looked at the Life as an apolitical work concerned with the activities of the vita contemplativa as opposed to the vita activa. I challenge this interpretation of the Life by carefully studying the opening sections of the book where she outlines the basic motifs of the book.

My second contention in my paper is that The Life of the Mind offers an account of the contemplative, though political, gaze of the philosopher that is suitable for the dignity of human actions in the world. What Arendt suggests in the Life is that human actions are so important for the well-being of human life that they require a special kind of viewing.

My third contention concerns the connection between The Human Condition (1958) and The Life of the Mind. The Human Condition is usually understood as a work relating to the vita activa, i.e. man's active life, as opposed to the vita contemplativa. But in my reading, the idea of the contemplative, though political, glance of the beholder has a powerful presence in the book. Homo faber "judges" human affairs according to the criterion of utility. Animal laborans judges and understands everything in terms of life's necessity. The actor, or the storyteller, judges human affairs by the standard of greatness. Thus the tripartite model of human activity in The Human Condition entails the corresponding model of an evaluative act appropriate to each activity.

Overall, my contention in my paper is that the Life is not a move away from Arendt's earlier interest in politics and action but a culmination of it.


Keywords: Hannah Arendt, The Life of the Mind, Judgment, Thought and Action, Spectatorship in Politics
Stream: Knowledge, Philosophy, Ethics, Consciousness, Political Science, Politics
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Political Glance of the Philosopher, The, Politics, Judgment, Speech


Dr. Hanako Koyama

Doctoral Candidate/Special Researcher, Institute for the Study of Global Issues Faculty of Social Sciences, Hitotsubashi University
Japan

I am a Research Fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, and am now trying to complete my dissertation on Hannah Arendt. I am submitting my dissertation both to New School University (Department of Political Science), and Hitotsubashi University, Japan (Faculty of Social Sciences).

Ref: H05P0330