Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Arendtian Exercises

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.

Futurological Discourses and Posthuman Terrains, published in the Fall 2013 issue of Existenz. (Sections four and seven, especially, take up Arendt.)

"Public Happiness," August, 2014.

Of Natal Politics, February, 2015.

Natality, Tech "Disruption," and Killer Robots, February, 2015.

Returning to the Arendtian "Turn" on Judgment, February, 2015.

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 as it is, characterized most essentially in the eternal return, the intensive interminable responsibility, refigurability, resignifiability of reality. 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 some of my posts which have taken up the work of Hannah Arendt in an explicit, 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, and someday to transcribe and elaborate lectures I have devoted to her work over the years in my teaching life.


liz said...

Dear Dale,

Happy Thursday! On more days than this one, I am very grateful that I have access to this blog. I'm also grateful that teachers like you have inspired me to read texts that I've oh-so-needed to read and with which I intend to grapple for a long time.

I've read very little of Arendt's work, and though I want to, I don't know where to begin. I love the idea of discussing politics as if were like sex as opposed to marriage. I'm working on a thesis project that could really use some support on that front (I'm working on a political mask from the 1630s, just before the whole 'political consent as marriage contract' was about to be articulated like never before.

With that in mind, which of Arendt's works do you suggest I tackle first?


Dale Carrico said...

Read the "Action" chapter in The Human Condition, "The Pursuit of Happiness" and "The Lost Treasure" in On Revolution, and if you've fallen in love like any sensible person would by then, well, there are dozens more books to read from there, each one deepening your appreciation of the others, including some truly amazing posthumous volumes published recently from hitherto mostly neglected lectures and essays and notes.

liz said...

Thanks for directing me to this:

"Freedom and power have parted company, and the fateful equating of power with violence, of the political with government, and of government with a necessary evil has begun." (fr. "The Pursuit of Happiness")

Besides being a damn-near perfect and incredibly concise formulation of what went down in the revolutionary period I'm studying, it points beautifully to the baby of the now grown beast we're still stuck battling today.

Jarrett said...

Dear Dale,

Is my commitment to using a psychoanalytic understanding of the subject(explicitly Freudian) within my developing Arendtian arguments about "culture" any stranger than Arendt's twin reliance on Kant and Nietzsche to battle Hobbes?

Is this fact itself a kind of temporary justification for my doing so (as I have led myself to believe)?