Wednesday, February 25, 2015
In the THE, Jon Nixon on Hannah Arendt and lonely thinkers.
[S]he developed a profound suspicion of “pure thought” that isolates the thinker – not abstract thought but any kind of thinking that entraps the thinker within a closed system. This suspicion formed the basis of her 1946 assault on the “terminological façade” and “obvious verbal tricks and sophistries” that characterised her ex-lover’s magnum opus, Being and Time. The book, she claimed, was marred by Heidegger’s use of “mythologising and muddled concepts like ‘folk’ and ‘earth’”. Later – in a handwritten journal entry dated July 1953 – she likened Heidegger to a fox attempting to lure potential victims into a trap that none of them can enter because the fox is itself trapped within it.
Even when, years later in a 1969 radio broadcast, she sought to excuse Heidegger’s Nazi past, she did so on the grounds that his residency in his own exclusive world of thought had made him a stranger to the wider world of human affairs. In defending Heidegger, she was forced to highlight what for her was a serious deficiency in his thinking: its self-absorbed unworldliness from which – like the fox in her earlier journal entry – he was unable to escape. For Arendt, thinking was meant to be of the world, worldly.
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