Hannah Arendt belongs without doubt to that select group of people who can be announced with the topic of not needing any kind of introduction. This alleged privilege is a double-edged sword. Because on one hand, the guess that everybody knows them effectively implies that they have managed to make their voice heard -being recognized as someone worth being listened to-, but on the other, that same guess can be a worrying sign, in the sense that it would be indicating that the author has left a generalized ignorance heading for an even bigger danger, namely, being absorbed by topics, pre-established images, or even worse, the dominating speeches.
Fortunately, the figure of Arendt has so far resisted both menaces. Only mentioning her name does not cause an automatic and ridiculous location within the map of current ideas, as it happens with the most common writer. It would be exaggerated to say that she is like a woman without face, but it would not be so exaggerated to say that although being well known, she is not fully identified. The aim of this cycle of conferences will be to define with more clarity the profiles of her thought. The speakers -all accredited experts on the work of Arendt- will highlight the different theoretical reasons that make her proposal an inevitable stop for all those who still believe it is worth trying to shine some light over those times of darkness.
In a first moment, it will be mandatory to present a general characterization of Arendt's skills, a characterization that needs to take into account a whole series of circumstances -including the historical and the biographical- without which it is impossible to make a correct interpretations of the theoretical-political project launched by this thinker. From there, the reflexion will stop in those traits -specially the ones related with the space that memory occupies in the configuration of the present- that build the core of her concept of human being.
Humans are living beings that, in opposition to other animals, do not need to agree with what has been given to them and are capable of transforming it; facing the predation process of nature, they build a world of civilization, a world that survives them and provides a stable space to inhabit. When Hannah Arendt highlighted this human capacity of transforming what has been given to him, he was not only referring to the history of the homo faber, but was also wanted to highlight the artificial nature of politics, as from his point of view and in opposition to a long tradition of political philosophy, not all kind of human coexistence is policy. As a matter of fact, the experience of the concentration and extermination camps in the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century had proved that this human specificity has nothing of natural, inevitable, nor irreversible. Policy is not a need of human nature, but a only a possibility that can be occasionally accomplished. The aim of policy is precisely linked to being worried for the world (amor mundi), to the gestures aimed at stabilizing the cohabitation of mortal beings within a plural community. Arendt understands the political community in terms of distance, not proximity nor fusion: distance is a figure of the community, or as she says, "community is what relates men in the mode of the differences that they have" (,b9).
If we cease to consider, as we usually do, that the core of Arendt's thought is the defense of a participative democracy and the conception of actions just how it is presented in The Human Condition, we will notice that from her efforts to separate the elements of totalitarian governments, a sort of reflective plot appears for the "dark times". A plot much more complex, difficult to catalogue, and interwoven with considerations that are not always easy to admit when thinking about a figure in which we find a "variation of radicalism" that is not especially likable, due to "not being contaminated by the materialism, leninism, or historicism" (,b2). From the confrontation with the totalitarian experiences, Arendt extracts an analysis where she admits the terrible truth of what happened and its radical and tragic originality. This is, she seriously asumes the rupture that the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century cause, and checking her reflexions and reading her posterior works, her programme can be visualized. A programme that can be presented using the words of Tocqueville: "A new world needs a new political science" (,b3).
The central categories and problems that the arendtian thinking has, are greatly due to the semi-hidden plot that develops from the long effort of processing the totalitarian phenomenon. Many of its original topics can be read as inverted pictures from the concepts presented in The Origins of Totalitarianism.
,b9. Esposito, Roberto, Communitas. Origen y destino de la comunidad, Buenos Aires: Amorrortu, 2003, pp. 137-.
,b2 CANOVAN, Margaret, "Hannah Arendt como pensadora conservadora" en BIRULES, Fina (comp.), Hannah Arendt. El orgullo de pensar,Barcelona, Gedisa, 2000, p. 52.
,b3 La democracia en América, Introducción, Madrid, Alianza, 1995, p.13.
The well-known theory of evil's banality, enunciated in the subtitle of the book Eichmann in Jerusalem, takes Hannah Arendt to orientate her research towards the "activities of the sipirit", which are the thought, the will, and the judgement. From her point of view, what is characteristic to the evil perpetrated by the criminal Nazis is the absence of thought and judgement, their incapacity to reflect on what is going to be done, or what has been done, and the incapacity to judge it applying the common sense of morality. From this hypothesis, Arendt begins the analysis of the thought and judgement faculties, with the aim of establishing the fundamental moments and conditions needed for the formation of moral conscience.
Thinking is a dialogue with ourselves, putting at the same time some distance from reality, with the intention of finding some sense. In this internal search, the individual, a community being by definition, can also collect the opinion of others. She becomes a spectator of "wide mentality" that judges a certain reality or situation. Convinced about the fact that moral judgements should not go from the general principles to particular cases, but the other way around, from examples to the statements. Arendt feels more affinity with the Kantian analysis about the judgement of taste, than with the categorical imperative. She uses the appreciation of a work of art, initially subjective, as a model for moral judgement. A judgement not attempting to be a universal abstraction, but to extend intersubjectively and gain the approval of as many opinions as possible.
The aim of moral judgement is to rebuild a sensus communis, or common sense, essential for the political life. Such sense is acquired or recovered through a double movement with which the individual seeks the agreement of other, but even more importantly, his own agreement. It is this integrity with ourselves, the rejection of everything that makes us resign from authenticity, what makes a person decide at the same time how and with who to live. This way, the common sense or the moral sense is for Hannah Arendt the personal effort to avoid the the trend of ceasing thought and judgement, and thus, the assumption of any kind of responsibility.
As a consequence of this anti-metaphysic pulse and her theory that philosophy is thinking without using supports, Arendt is not proposing the fundaments of moral, but a phenomenology of moral discernment to only establish the conditions under which this can and should happen. It is not about reaching a truth about moral, but above all, avoiding uncritical conformity with what is given. Moral integrity is, on top of everything, the fight against indifference.