In response to news that Howard University is disbanding its Classics Department, Cornell West reminds us that Frederick Douglas and the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. were inspired and nurtured by the classics. West argues that the attack on the classics is an attack on the soul and symptom the moral and spiritual rot of American culture.
The excellence of higher education in the United States has been an assumption for decades. Ambitious students from around the flock to leading research universities in the United States and also to liberal arts colleges, seeking to benefit from academic freedom and cutting-edge research. And yet, in recent years, the combination of an anti-immigrant atmosphere and also a decline in research leadership threatens to undermine the relative advantage held by U.S. Universities.
Olúfémi O. Táiwò reflects on his unease at being asked to speak for underprivileged black people in elite and professional settings. As a Black American of Nigerian descent, Táiwò is an elite; to have him and others like him “represent” and “speak for” poor or excluded people of color contributes, he argues, is more to the maintenance of elitism than to real revolutionary change.
“Human plurality, the basic condition of both action and speech, has the twofold character of equality and distinction.” Arendt sets plurality as the foundation of her understanding of man as a political being. According to plurality, we are all equal, which means we can understand each other and those ancestors who came before us and those will come after us. And yet, as distinct, we need to seek to make ourselves understood.
Some things, Julie Beck argues, are more important than truth. Hannah Arendt says something similar, arguing that thinking is concerned not with truth, but with meaning. It is meaning, not truth, that Arendt holds to be the basic human need. That is why for Arendt, the most basic of human rights is the right to have rights, the right to speak and act in a political world so that one is meaningful.
I’m often asked what I most like about Hannah Arendt. It is one of those annoying questions, such as: what is your favorite book? And yet, the answer I usually give to the first question is that reading Arendt is a constant surprise. There is no other writer and thinker who constantly provokes me and surprises me in ways that make me question my own prejudices and my own settled convictions. Reading Arendt is, for me, a spur to being a better thinker.
As the Presidency of Donald Trump comes to an end (and it will end on January 20th), it is time to think about what has happened. The worries about President Trump being an authoritarian, fascist, or totalitarian leader have proven overblown. The conspiracy theories about collusion with Russia were always just that, conspiracies. With the exception of his abuse of power trying to cajole and bribe the Ukranian President into investigating his political...
As I write this on Thursday morning, the United States still does not know who will be its next president. A few thoughts: First, after four years of Donald Trump, over 60 million Americans still believe it is acceptable to be governed by a con man and fraud, a broken human being, someone who fundamentally believes that he has the power to define, redefine, and build the reality that suits his own political and personal interests.
Lying in politics is nothing new. Many rehearse this basic Arendtian insight and nevertheless go on to condemn President Trump as a liar. But when Hannah Arendt began to explore political prevarication, first in The Origins of Totalitarianism, and then in a series of essay following the Vietnam War and the controversy surrounding her coverage of the trial of Adolf Eichmann, she was not interested simply in the pedestrian fact that politicians lie.