Hannah Arendt was a decidedly anti-metaphysical and anti-universalist thinker. For Arendt, “particular questions must receive particular answers.” There are, she writes, “no general standards to determine our judgments unfailingly, no general rules.” Amidst what Arendt calls the “break in the tradition,” it is a fact that “traditional verities seem no longer to apply” and the “loss of general standards and rules--cannot be undone.” There is no going backwards to some past golden era.
There is a widespread misconception that we are seeing a threat to democracy. More rightly, we are witnessing a democratic revolt against liberal-constitutional-limited government. The question, then, is how liberal-constitutional republics should react to threats from populist democratic movements. The general view at least in the United States is that constitutional democracies allow its critics—even its existential critics—the benefit of freedom of speech.
I am not a prognosticator. Take what I am going to say with a large dose of skepticism. It is very likely that in four years the United States will elect a minority woman as its President. The question may be, will that woman be Vice President Kamala Harris or former South Carolin Governor Nikki Haley?
Hannah Arendt was skeptical of social science theories. Theorists, or problem solvers as she often referred to them, are people of “great self-confidence.” They are confident in the education and intelligence and they “pride themselves on ‘rational.’” Dedicated to rationality, they “were indeed to a rather frightening degree above ‘sentimentality’ and in love with ‘theory...'"
Susanna Crossman reflects on the power of play. “Play is a powerful motor.” Play involves a “leap in the dark” and requires trust. Play, the thinker Eugen Fink writes, “unites ‘the highest desire and the deepest suffering’.” Play is thus deeply connected to the very human way of being alive, something we can hear in its etymologies, many of which go back to the Latin ludere. “Ludere in Latin refers to leaping fishes and fluttering birds. The Anglo-Saxon lâcan means to move like a ship on the waves, or to tremble like a flame.
In what seems a fairly usual occurrence, two journalists and two professors were fired or prosecuted this week for running afoul of mainstream opinions or, in Poland, legally prohibited opinions. John McWhorter argues that firing a New York Times reporter for using the N-word to refer to the N-word and not as a slur obfuscates the difference between a slur and a taboo. Ben Cohen reports on the prosecution of Professors Barbara Engelking and Jan Grabowski in Poland.