GER 210 Final - David Grauer Arendt and Hegel A...

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David Grauer May 15, 2007 Arendt and Hegel, A Confrontation on History When looking at Hannah Arendt and Georg Hegel, two large figures in philosophic history, the way in which they approach history and even philosophy are polar opposites. To Arendt, history via politics is a logical impossibility considering the natural human condition plurality. Her dismissal of history is rooted however in a general dislike of philosophy. Such distaste does not result in her lacking conclusions or opinions about modern politics. To Hegel, the way that history proceeds provides a path for the mind to follow while on its pursuit universal principles. This path is guided by what Hegel refers to as the Spirit which is essentially governed by man’s inherent reason. To discern this path, Hegel provides a series of types of history in what, in total will add up to his idea of philosophic history. To begin, let us examine Hannah Arendt’s views on history. In this examination it will be possible to draw some conclusions about the origins of her opinions about the role of history in the following sections. The first point that Hannah Arendt makes clear in her The Promise of Politics is her wariness regarding what she calls “ the ‘absolute’, that which is ‘above’ the senses” ( Promise of Politics , prologue). The absolute is a concrete, universal idea of something; she posits it as “the true, the good, the beautiful” ( Promise of Politics , prologue). This absolute does not take into account “human plurality”, the reality that every person, while similar is inherently unique ( Promise of Politics , pg. 95). Each person has a similar idea of something, but never the exact same thing. She puts it this way, “God created man , but men are a human, earthly product, the product of human nature.” ( Promise of Politics , pg. 95) While we all came from the
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same things, we, in our respective, current states, are the result of our own experience, free will and environments. This plurality, or individuality, is the heart of Arendt’s trouble with the previous thinking. Other conclusions are based on the unity of men, as she puts it, “Worse still, for all scientific thinking, there is only man – in biology, or psychology, as in philosophy and theology, just as in zoology there is only the lion .” ( Promise of Politics , pg. 95) When this fault of thinking is then applied to political philosophy, the result is dramatic. In that “Politics is based on the fact of human plurality”, treating political philosophy as other fields results in a severe “lack of profundity” rooted in “a failure to sense the depths of in which politics is anchored.” ( Promise of Politics , pg. 95) It is here where western thought has, according to Arendt, “substitute [d] history for politics” in order to account for Christian creation stories in which man was created in the image of God, and therefore all men are inherently the same ( Promise of Politics , pg. 97). Again, this contradicts the plurality of men and, therefore, is not a true representation of reality.
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