Centre for Continuing Education

Philosophy Course: Hannah Arendt

Philosophy. Study the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence.

Hannah Arendt wrote some of the most profound philosophy of the twentieth century. Her work is rich and subtle and she engaged critically with the key intellectual ideas of philosophical history, including: What makes humans ‘human’? What makes an ethical life? The nature of evil; How do we forgive the unforgivable? What does it mean to have ‘common sense’? What is the nature of ‘story telling’?

Hannah undertook the considerable task of understanding the political events of her own time and produced works such as The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951) and Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963).

In the late sixties, she turned her attention to the Civil Rights movement, feminism and the Vietnam War. Her last work The Life of the Mind (1977) was published posthumously. In this work, she asks: What are we ‘doing’ when we do nothing but think? We will connect some of her ideas to our current situation and the possibilities in the post-COVID-19 world.

Aims

The aims of this course are to:

  • provide you with an overview of the origins and complexities of the philosophy of Hannah Arendt
  • make the connection between the history of Totalitarianism and the contemporary situation, including the outcomes of a post-COVID-19 world
  • demonstrate the important role played by Hannah Arendt in our understanding of human nature
  • provide you with an understanding of the complex structure of the internal workings of political theory through Hannah Arendt’s critical analysis.

Outcomes

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • identify the main theories of Hannah Arendt and discuss them in relation to our contemporary situation
  • discuss the issues involved in questions concerning the role of narrative and drama in political theory
  • discuss Anna’s warnings concerning the rise of totalitarian governments in relation to the post-COVID-19 world.

Content

Introduction to key concepts

  • Power
  • Evil
  • Thought
  • Speech
  • Truth

Life and times

Hannah Arendt’s life experiences as a Jew in Germany, the imperative to leave Germany and flee from the Nazis, and her life in America, are crucial in understanding the problems which she believes philosophy must address and give some answer to. She does not think that philosophy has the right to remain on the sidelines of history.

The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951)

For four weeks, Kerry will give an overview of Hannah' four major books. We will discuss their major themes and arguments, followed by an analysis of sections of the work. We will begin with The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951).

The Human Condition (1958)

Purposive behaviour is possible because humans experience their ability through ‘work’ to shape the world they inhabit; without it we could only live moment to moment. Arendt’s arguments are subtle and complex. She draws on some aspects of Nietzsche’s philosophy, but rejects other aspects; she has elements of both Existentialism and Phenomenology and yet comes to her own conclusions.

Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963)

Published in 1963, this was Hannah’s most controversial work. However it survived the initial outrage to become arguably her most read and discussed theory.

The Life of the Mind (1977)

She has a dynamic theory of thought. We will study her ideas on how humans make judgements, and the nature of ‘willing’ amongst others.

Political activism

On the Civil Rights movement, Feminism, Vietnam. We will analyse the text Reflections on Little Rock.

Arendt on narrative and drama

We will analyse the text Unlearning with Hannah Arendt, by Marie Louise Knott.

Arendt amongst the poets and playwrights

Arendt had many wonderful insights into the works of poets such as Auden and playwrights such as Shakespeare: to say she was ‘well read’ would certainly be an understatement.

Interpretation

We will review some recent interpretations of Arendt’s ideas and do an analysis of the film Hannah Arendt (2012).

Intended audience

Anyone with a general interest in the philosophy of Hannah Arendt

Delivery style

Lecture/seminar.

Materials

Course notes will be provided electronically.

Features

  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

What others say.

  • I have become totally addicted to these classes. The presenter highly motivates all students and makes each class a must not miss occasion. I will continue to enrol.

  • The courses I have done with this presenter have been interesting, always well prepared, encouraging different points of view and discussion – and there is a great rapport with everyone.

Philosophy Course: Hannah Arendt

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