Hannah Arendt’s Fame Rests on the Wrong Foundation

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Arendt A street is named after her. Back-to-back conferences celebrate her. New books champion her. Hannah Arendt, who was born 100 years ago this past October, has joined the small world of philosophical heroes. Nor has this attention come to her only since her death in 1975. During her life, she received honorary degrees from Princeton, Smith, and other colleges and universities. Denmark awarded her its Sonning Prize for “commendable work that benefits European culture,” also bestowed on Albert Schweitzer and Winston Churchill. When she gave public lectures, students jammed the aisles and doorways.

Arendt fits the bill for a philosophical hero. She was a German Jewish refugee drenched in classical education and worldly experience. With its frequent references to Greek or Latin terms, her writing radiated thoughtfulness. She was not afraid to broach big subjects — justice, evil, totalitarianism — or to intervene in the political issues of the day — the war in Vietnam, civil rights, the trial of Adolf Eichmann. She was both metaphysical and down-to-earth, at once profound and sexy. Alfred Kazin, the New York critic, recalled her as a woman of great charm and vivaciousness — a femme fatale, even.

Yet if her star shines so brightly, it is because the American intellectual firmament is so dim. After all, who or where are the other political philosophers?

More here.