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.
The European Journal of Psychoanalysis has published a symposium “Coronavirus and Philosophers.” It begins with an excerpt from Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish about the quarantine of a town during the plague in the 17th century.
We live in irregular times and the President and members of the Executive branch of government are pushing the bounds of Constitutional norms. But there are lines that should not be crossed if we are to preserve the virtues and benefits of limited government. One of those norms is quite simply the rule of law and authority of the Federal judiciary.
Matt McManus writes about a dimension of Hannah Arendt’s work that he believes is given short shrift: Arendt’s critique of bigness and of “political leaders who embody the traits of “impotent bigness,” as she framed it.” Bigness in politics for Arendt is a danger to freedom. It goes together with the rise of bureaucracy and centralized government.
Alex Ross writes about “The Haunted California Idyll of German Writers in Exile.” Bertolt Brecht, Heinrich Mann, Thomas Mann, Theodor Adorno, and Max Horkheimer, among others, found refuge in Los Angeles during the war years, and turned the city into “the capital of German literature in exile.”
Hannah Arendt Center NEH fellow Thomas Chatterton Williams write about his travels in Lisbon, Portugal, reflecting on Hannah Arendt’s own time there for three months in 1941, as she fled Nazi-occupied France. Williams observes that “According to legend, it was Odysseus himself who, during his meandering trip around the Mediterranean and past the Pillars of Hercules—guided by a thunderbolt from Zeus—founded Olisipo...
We are all learning about the year 1918 when the last influenza pandemic swept across the world leaving millions dead in its wake. Most of all we have learned the difference in the impact of the flu in Philadelphia, where rallies and crowds were allowed, and in St. Louis, where public health officials banned such gatherings. But there are other lessons to learn from the last great viral pandemic.
Eitan Hersh argues that college-educated voters only think they are engaged in politics, while what “they are doing is no closer to engaging in politics than watching SportsCenter is to playing football.” When college-educated voters donate online, follow the polls, and become fans of a candidate, they are less doing politics than participating in a spectator sport as spectators. And these hobbyists, Hersh writes, are hurting American politics.
In an essay on Hannah Arendt in a series on the Great Thinkers, Finn Bowring rightly focuses on Arendt’s worry about the power of intellectual elites. At home in abstraction and theories, intellectuals have an uncanny ability to lose themselves in flights of fancy and reject or deny the facts of this world. The philosophical temptation is to live amongst logically coherent fictions and deny those real facts that frustrate their beautiful forms.