Arendt: Professional Philosophy, Beauty, and a Very Sad Ending

Arendt: Professional Philosophy, Beauty, and a Very Sad Ending

There are no dangerous thoughts; thinking itself is dangerous.
Much of Arendt’s analysis of thinking makes distinct references to history, as is the case with much of her work, and in section 17 -- of The Human Condition Arendt makes note of her disdain for “professional philosophers”.  The problem, for Arendt, is the professional philosophers partisan interests passing as thought -- that is the professional’s conception of thought is typically constituted by their professional interests which “is out of order in ordinary living”.  

Moreover professional philosophers are often close-minded-- they fail to consider life from the existential vantage of everyday experience for “the answers we… receive are always too general and vague to have much sense for everday living, in which thinking, after all, constantly occurs and constantly interrupts the ordinary processes of life just as ordinary living constantly interrupts thinking”.  

What we are left with, in Arendt’s estimation, is “the need to concretize the implications of the Platonic wonder, the need… of the reasoning faculty to transcend the limitations of the knowable, the need to become reconciled with what actually is and the course of the world… or the need to search for the meaning of whatever is or occurs”.  Unlike these thinkers what Arendt is attempting to do is to inqur[e] about ways and means to bring [thinking] out of hiding, to tease it, as it were, into manifestation”.  What this looks like in action is given by an example of “The word “house” [which] is something like a frozen thought that thinking must unfreeze whenever it wants to find out the original meaning”.

And ultimately for Arendt thinking brings with it two problems.  One must stop and think, and when you actually have time to think one is left “dazed” or, in other words, one feels “unsure of what seemed to you beyond doubt while you were unthinkingly engaged in whatever you were doing”.  

Thirdly thinking is a form of negation -- “all critical examinations must go through a stage of at least hypothetically negating accepted opinions and “values” by searching out their implications and tacit assumptions, and in this sense nihilism may be seen as an ever-present danger of thinking.”

Most interesting from my perspective is Arendt’s thoughts about how meaning relates to love.  She notes that meaning “in Socrates’ language [is] love, that is, love in its Greek significance of Eros… men love wisdom and therefore begin to philosophize… because they are not beautiful”.  The beautiful, as I understand Arendt, is the source of all good.  and to be away from the one I care for as she confronts the death of her matriarch -- that to me is the fountainhead of my deepest world concern.

Zigmund Reichenbach -- the primary writer for this blog -- is just a concerned citizen eager to make a contribution to the world.  You can help support him -- or his excellent undergraduate professor-- here and here. Thanks friends!

*Again citations not provided.