Hannah Arendt (1906-1975)

“German political philosopher naturalized U.S. citizen 1950. Arendt received her doctorate at the age of twenty-two from the University of Heidelberg, where she studied with Karl Jaspers. She fled Hitler’s Germany in 1933 and eventually settled in the U.S. (1941), where she held numerous teaching posts and became the first woman to be appointed full professor at Princeton University. She ended her career at the New School for Social Research in New York. Her reputation as a profound and independent philosophical analyst was launched with the publication of The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), in which she documented the belief that Nazism and Communism had their roots in the anti-Semitism and imperialism of the 15th century. She continued to offer challenging and unconventional theories about the decline in values in modern society, in such books as The Human Condition (1961), and Crises of the Republic (1972). A storm of controversy surrounded the publication of Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963), in which she suggested that even the Jews could be held partly responsible for Germany’s barbarisms in World War II. Her other works include On Revolution (1963) and On Violence (1970), in which she suggested that violence is a response to powerlessness. Her philosophically most ambitious work, The Life of the Mind (1978), a three-volume study of the fundamental mental activities thinking, willing, and judging, though unfinished (only the volumes Thinking and Willing were completed), it is a penetrating analysis of the processes of the mind and of their corresponding effects on action.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

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