In the wake of the Alpine Fellowship on Human Flourishing in Fjallnas, Sweden last week, I’ve been reading Lisa Miller’s book The Awakened Brain. Miller makes what my daughter says is an obvious argument, that mental illness and especially depression and anxiety can be prevented and also helped by having a rich spiritual and inner life. Hannah Arendt isn’t mentioned in Miller’s book, but the fundamental idea underlying Miller’s work is the Arendtian worry about the loss of meaningfulness, the absence of purpose, and the feeling of abandonment that has become widespread in the modern world.
Kristian Blickle of the Federal Reserve Board of New York has published a working paper, “Pandemics Change Cities: Municipal Spending and Voter Extremism in Germany, 1918-1933.” As described by Quint Forgey, Blickle’s paper “concludes that deaths caused by the 1918 influenza pandemic “profoundly shaped German society” in subsequent years and contributed to the strengthening of the Nazi Party.”
A bit over a year ago I attended a symposium on “Black Intellectuals & The Condition of the Culture” at Skidmore College, featuring Margo Jefferson, Darryl Pinckney, Thomas Chatterton Williams, Orlando Patterson and John McWhorter. The conversations were free and provocative and at times brilliant. Now the transcripts of the symposium have been published by SALMAGUNDI.
Over and again we hear the refrain: “Listen to the experts.” Amidst a crisis that has witnessed a disastrous response from President Trump and the federal government and from many states and cities—Mayor Bill DeBlasio has been particularly inept causing untold misery for New Yorkers like myself—there is a desire to have the experts guide us.
In “I Am (Not) a Monster,” a new movie by Dr. Nelly Ben Hayoun, Dr. Hayoun travels around the world dressed as Hannah Arendt to ask thinkers and activists about the origins of knowledge. Ben Hayoun, a Senior Fellow at the Hannah Arendt Center and the founder of the University of the Underground, begins with Arendt’s idea that “To act is to begin something new.”
Writing for the New York Review of Book, Fintan O’Toole dissects Trump’s failed leadership. Faced with a real emergency, Trump has been unable to set aside his self-promoting narcissism to guide the American people. O’Toole highlights the extent to which Trump’s delimited worldview as a business leader has influenced his posturing in managing the pandemic, examining at elisions in his language and refusal to face reality.
Seth Cotler points us to a book review written in 1983 by Samuel T. Francis that makes clear how much of the politics of populism and racism we are experiencing today was already visible to those with eyes to see it. The review of a book by Kevin Philips argues that the frustrations with America’s obsolete constitutional and political system will bring about a racially charged right-wing revolution in the United States.
Hannah Arendt Center Associate Fellow Jana V. Schmidt writes about the publication of the first Critical Edition of Hannah Arendt’s Complete Works. Schmidt’s ranging engagement reaches out to the broader reception of Arendt’s work and the posthumously published volumes of her work.
Hannah Arendt worried greatly about the rise of science. She took Niels Bohr seriously when he argued that “causality, determinism, and necessity of laws belonged to the categories of ‘our necessarily prejudiced conceptual frame’.” The new physics “defies description in terms of the ‘prejudices’ of the human mind[and] defies description in every conceivable way of human language.” Which is one reason why Albert Einstein...