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A New Yardstick for Humanity: Hannah Arendt’s Political Philosophy

by Radner, Isaac Brownlee

Abstract

Hannah Arendt’s thought responds to what she believes to be the greatest danger and challenge of the modern age—the loss of belief in transcendent truth catalyzed by the rise of science. Without the structure and framework that transcendent truth traditionally provided communities, without the age-old distinction between humanity and the divine, the door has been opened to the possibility of realizing the divine on earth. The perfection of humanity has become an option. The dangers inherent in this modern situation are, for Arendt, exemplified by the atrocities of the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. However, Arendt does not believe that a reconstruction of the old pillars of transcendent truth is possible or necessarily desirable. Thus Arendt is a thinker caught between a resigned recognition of the inevitability of the loss of faith and a deep awareness of the dangers engendered by this development. This work begins by examining Arendt’s distinction between the public and private realms, it then turns to the decline of this distinction in the modern age with the rise of totalitarianism, and ends by examining the important role she assigns to the faculty of judgment. By tracing the larger arch of Arendt’s thought, this paper presents Arendt’s work as an attempt to discover a new kind of transcendent standard that could provide the necessary framework for a community without falling back upon the traditional reliance on revelation and faith. The core argument of this work is that Arendt locates such a standard in the public realm, the realm that she exalts above all others. For Arendt, the public realm is the place in which a common humanity, a humanitas, is revealed through the processes of interaction and judgment that take place between individuals.

Note

The author has given permission for this work to be deposited in the Digital Archive of Colorado College.

Colorado College Honor Code upheld.

Includes bibliographical references.

Administrative Notes

The author has given permission for this work to be deposited in the Digital Archive of Colorado College.

Colorado College Honor Code upheld.

Copyright
Copyright restrictions apply.
Publisher
Colorado College Tutt Library
PID
coccc:27362
Digital Origin
born digital
Extent
120 pages
Thesis
Senior Thesis -- Colorado College
Thesis Advisor
Timothy Fuller
Department/Program
Political Science
Degree Name
Bachelor of Arts
Degree Type
bachelor
Degree Grantor
Colorado College Tutt Library
Date Issued
2017-05