Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger

Annette Vowinckel

in Hannah Arendt in Jerusalem

Published by University of California Press

Published in print August 2001 | ISBN: 9780520220560
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520923669 | DOI:
Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger

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It is a striking fact that while the idea of history is a central element in the thinking of both Heidegger and Arendt, this element is to a large extent present as the object of remarkable antagonism between them. Despite this antagonism, it is precisely the raw contingencies of history that have given the relationship between these two figures — intellectual and emotional — its particular urgency and poignancy. This chapter discusses Arendt's and Heidegger's conceptions of history. Heidegger chose to break what he perceived as causal thinking's universal “monopoly on rule” by proposing a quasiteleological Seinsgeschick — a “fate of being” — that happened to serve as his justification of an embrace of Nazi politics. In contrast, Arendt made her skepticism toward the specific causal thinking at work in one kind of history and her belief that a new beginning is possible even under the grimmest circumstances the basis for a specific theory of action in the here and now. In doing so, she explicitly opposed Heidegger's general disinterest in particular events, as well as his contention that the past is only one aspect of temporality, hence of secondary importance. She likewise refused to share his universal criticism of scientific research, his contempt for all the empirical sciences as “machinations.” Where Heidegger is always very much concerned with death and mortality, Arendt is increasingly concerned with birth and natality.

Keywords: Hannah Arendt; Martin Heidegger; history; science; death; mortality; birth; natality

Chapter.  3880 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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