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This book presents an account of Hannah Arendt’s performative and non-sovereign theory of freedom and political action, with special focus on action’s disclosure of the unique ‘who’ of each agent. It aims to illuminate Arendt’s critique of sovereign rule, totalitarianism, and world-alienation, her defense of a distinct political sphere for engaged citizen action and judgment, her conception of the ‘right to have rights,’ and her rejection of teleological philosophies of history. Arendt proposes that in modern, pluralistic, secular public spheres, no one metaphysical or religious idea can authoritatively validate political actions or opinions absolutely. At the same time, she sees action and thinking as revealing an inescapable existential illusion of a divine element in human beings, a notion represented well by the ‘daimon’ metaphor that appears in Arendt’s own work and in key works by Plato, Heidegger, Jaspers, and Kant, with which she engages. While providing a post-metaphysical theory of action and judgment, Arendt performs the fact that many of the legitimating concepts of contemporary secular politics retain a residual vocabulary of transcendence. This book will be of interest not only to Arendt scholars, but also to students of identity politics, the critique of sovereignty, international political theory, political theology, and the philosophy of history.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

1. Introduction

Abstract
Chapter 1 introduces the two primary lines of exploration in the book, following a brief overview of Arendt’s life and works. Firstly, Arendt develops a concept of non-sovereign freedom experienced through political action that interrupts the existing processes and discloses ‘who’ the actor uniquely is, as it discloses the ‘world.’ By focusing on Arendt’s account of action’s disclosure of the ‘who,’ the book sheds light on many resources Arendt’s thought offers for understanding the contemporary political world, as well as several tensions within her work. Secondly, I suggest that Arendt’s engagement with the ‘daimon’ figure illustrates and performs some of the insoluble perplexities facing actors and spectators in the modern, secular public realm, with its complicated relationship to the residual vocabulary of the divine and transcendent.
Trevor Tchir

2. Action’s Disclosure of the ‘Who’ and the ‘World’

Abstract
Chapter 2 introduces Arendt’s notion of freedom as experienced through political action that discloses ‘who,’ as opposed to ‘what’ the actor is, while it discloses the ‘world.’ I foreground the distinction Arendt makes between the ancient Greek political metaphors of productive and performance art. This distinction shows action as non-sovereign, as the actualization of natality, and as conditioned by plurality. I then examine the role of the spectator who retrospectively identifies the ‘who’ within a coherent narrative. The importance of a space of appearance is developed through the metaphor of the theatre. I conclude by exploring Arendt’s thesis that freedom depends on action’s continuous augmentation of the constitutional principles established by the founding moment of the political community, and her distinction between power and violence.
Trevor Tchir

3. Appearances of the Divine ‘Daimon’

Abstract
In Chapter 3, I explore appearances of the ‘daimon’ figure in Arendt’s work, especially in The Human Condition, and in the work of thinkers with whom Arendt engaged, including Plato. I argue that Arendt understands human action and thinking as inescapably revealing the existential illusion of a divine presence, through action’s ecstatic disclosure of meaning, through the ‘two-in-one’ structure of moral thinking, and through one’s public performance of thought as a ‘valid personality’ acting and judging within ‘boundary situations,’ concepts adopted from Karl Jaspers. I also explore Arendt’s worldly transformation of Augustine’s account of love, her examination of the temptation of political theology’s sanction of an absolute within modern, secular projects of political foundation, and the persistence of the grammar of transcendence in modern politics.
Trevor Tchir

4. Aletheia: The Influence of Heidegger

Abstract
Chapter 4 explores how Heidegger’s depiction of Dasein’s disclosive relation to Being influences Arendt’s conception of action in non-teleological terms. I show the connection between Heidegger’s conception of truth as aletheia, his understanding of freedom as openness to Being, and Arendt’s own concept of non-sovereign freedom experienced through self- and world-disclosive action. I revisit Heidegger’s lectures on the Aristotelian modes of aletheia with special attention to the difference between techne (technical know-how) and phronesis (practical wisdom), the respective modes of disclosure of poiesis and praxis. Arendt transforms Heidegger’s account of authentic Dasein to emphasize the natality of action and restore the dignity of opinion in the public sphere. To conclude, I study Heidegger’s influential critique of technological enframing as the dominant modern mode of disclosure.
Trevor Tchir

5. Labor and ‘World Alienation’: Arendt’s Critique of Marx

Abstract
Chapter 5 engages with Arendt’s critique of Marx, highlighting some of Arendt’s ideas most fecund for reflection on contemporary global politics, including the ‘right to have rights.’ Arendt argues that Marx’s ‘socialized humanity’ has reflected and encouraged modern phenomena that have distorted the disclosure of the ‘who’ and the ‘world,’ namely the ‘glorification of labor,’ the ‘rise of the social,’ and ‘world alienation.’ Since Arendt holds that the ‘who’ cannot be adequately disclosed by the work of homo faber, nor labor tied to necessity, I distinguish her concept of action from Hegel’s and Marx’s work model of freedom. I assess Arendt’s critique of the ‘social question’ and address critics who read her prioritization of political freedom as a threat to justice and material equality.
Trevor Tchir

6. The Dignity of Doxa: Politicizing Kant’s Aesthetic Judgment

Abstract
Chapter 6 studies Arendt’s adaptation of Kant’s theory of aesthetic judgment as a model for political judgment, without the guidance of absolute standards. The responsibility to judge the unprecedented arises from the appearance of totalitarianism, which dissolves the reliability of common ethical standards, yet introduces acts whose novelty must still be understood. Reflective judgment serves as an ethical limitation to agonistic action and is crucial to non-violent, responsible ‘world’ building, given the condition of plurality. I proceed to question whether the purpose of a community of spectators is to reach rational consensus and the convergence of opinion, or whether judgment is an end in itself as an affirmation of freedom and plurality. Finally, I illuminate the similarity between Kant’s ‘genius’ and Arendt’s ‘daimon.’
Trevor Tchir

7. Forgotten Fragments: Arendt’s Critique of Teleological Philosophies of History

Abstract
Chapter 7 explores Arendt’s critique of modern teleological philosophies of history, including Kant, Hegel, and Marx, which she sees as a danger to human plurality, spontaneity, and dignity, through their dialectical logic that influenced totalitarian ideology, and their emphasis on necessary universal processes when explaining the meanings of acts. Arendt develops an alternative concept of time in response to Kafka and Benjamin, arguing that one thinks and acts in a gap between past and future, and can interrupt processes because of action’s natality, leaving a story behind that discloses the ‘who’ and the ‘world’ in a cosmos of meaning separate from universal progress narratives. Arendt sees Benjamin’s fragmentary historiography as a more appropriate approach that better preserves individual disclosures of the unique ‘who.’
Trevor Tchir

8. Conclusion

Abstract
In the conclusion, I argue that Arendt’s critique of rule according to ‘whatness’ is crucial, with the rise of divisive populist discourse. As a guideline for non-sovereign action and judgment, I propose Arendt’s principle of responsibility. I explore Havercroft’s linking Arendt to ordinary language philosophy’s critique of sovereignty. I conclude by arguing that the ‘daimon’ illustrates the notion of responsibility after the rupture with traditional sources of authority and ultimate teloi. Arendt acknowledges the depth of alterity, the givenness of human beings, of the past, and of the divine, as points of origin for future action, but which can never be mastered. Non-sovereignty frees agents to assert their doxa, along with a reciprocal engagement with others in a spirit of respect, non-violence, and disinterested togetherness.
Trevor Tchir

Backmatter

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