Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition is not about human nature. Arendt says little if anything about what it means to be human in the sense of our natural humanity. Her inquiry is premised on the fact that we humans are conditioned beings, that we are born into an already existing world. That world is made through human artifice; it also conditions us humans insofar as we must live and die in a humanly built world.
In a wide-ranging essay on Hannah Arendt’s approach to judgment and thinking, Blake Smith considers Arendt’s argument that “the dangers facing our political and moral life must be met with a particular kind of mental activity she called “judgment,” and distinguished from two others: “cognition” and “thinking.” As opposed to cognition that seeks truths and solutions, thinking aims for meaning.
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.
In a common narrative, racial progress in the United States was slow or non-existent until the Civil Rights Movement, at which time there was a sustained improvement in racial equality. Shaylyn Romney Garrett and Robert D. Putnam argue that this view is not born out by facts. On the contrary, the years in which black Americans performed best on metrics of economic and social prosperity were before the Civil Rights Movement; since the 1970s, black achievement has stagnated.
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.
Robin DiAngelo’s book White Fragility has become a bestseller and a symbol, not to mention a cudgel. It promises to teach whtie people how to admit their racism and inveighs against any and all defense mechanisms—“silence, defensiveness, argumentation, certitude, and other forms of pushback”— by which white people might disclaim their racist tendencies. Coleman Hughes pushes back, writing without white guilt as a black man.