Loss, Connection, Transformation, March 2008
Hannah Arendt on Futurology, April, 2009
Hannah Arendt on Common Sense, April, 2009
Hannah Arendt on AI, April, 2009
Arendt, Fanon, King on Violence, May, 2009
More on Freedom, May, 2009
The Peer, February, 2010
Rhetoric and Nonviolence, June, 2010.
My Own Opposition to Capital Punishment, September, 2011.
Judith Butler at the People's Mic, October, 2011.
The name of this blog, "Amor Mundi," was the personal motto of the political thinker and cultural critic Hannah Arendt.
Arendt is both my earliest and certainly my most abiding philosophical influence, and only Judith Butler has had anything like a comparable impact on my thinking. Sometimes I feel almost as though the whole of my own thinking has just been an interminable effort to reconcile with one another the ways in which Arendt and Butler keep mattering to me in ever different, ever deepening ways however much everything else seems to change.
I have sometimes quipped to my students that whereas most philosophers have written about politics like it was marriage (a matter of contracts, compromises, housekeeping), Arendt wrote about politics like it was sex (a matter of agony, ecstasy, fraught collaborations moment to moment, peer to peer) and that I will always cherish her for that.
In a somewhat programmatic statement I offered up once to explain what I hoped to accomplish -- if that's the right word -- with this blog and get at the temperament out of which it arises I wrote:
"Amor Mundi" is the love of the world. It is the love of the worldly. It is the worldly love of that becoming that becomes us. It is the love of the collective struggle of which that becoming consists, and on which that becoming depends for its force, for its serendipities, for its pleasures, and for its dangers.
I feel keen kinship with Arendt's statement about herself, quoted in Elisabeth Young-Bruehl's magnificent biography of her teacher and friend Arendt, For Love of the World (a title which itself refers, of course, to Amor Mundi), that "I have a kind of melancholy, which I can only grapple with by understanding, by thinking things through." It was only through this grappling, writes Young-Bruehl, that Arendt could "hold to an attitude she called amor mundi, love of the world" (xvii), an attitude with which she meant to confront and reject "the philosophical tradition of contemptus mundi" (324).
I think it is also quite crucial to think of amor mundi as cognate with Nietzsche's amor fati, what he took to be the affirmation of the threatening, promising contingency of worldly life and reality as it is. With his own motto amor fati Nietzsche likewise demanded a repudiation of what he to took to be a fearful, resentful (to wit, "The Fearful Ones," ressentiment) unworldliness in traditional philosophy.
But where for Nietzsche loving the world was a matter of stamping the obliterative dynamism of the relentless encounters of the self and the living world with a significance one would sign and resign one's own name to (this is "How one becomes what one is"), for Arendt loving the world was accomplished through the no less dynamic but as supportive as obliterative encounters of the self with the pluralities within and without us: The plurality within is the dialogue of the "I and the me" that constitutes thinking, the ongoing reconciliation of our histories with our hopes, out of which come the assertions of judgment offered up to the hearing of the diversity of our peers, the plurality without us, the testimonies to fact and to value, the making of promises and the offerings of forgiveness, the clash of opinions through which we collectively make the world and substantiate our selves in the world.
I am anthologizing here all of my posts which have taken up the work of Hannah Arendt in a sustained way. Although Arendt's name comes up a lot here on the blog, and in my conversation more generally, I was surprised how rarely I have really devoted significant space to her here. I definitely mean to write quite a bit more about Arendt on the blog in the coming months, and especially to transcribe and elaborate some of the many lectures I have devoted to her work over the years in my teaching life.