Abigail L. Rosenthal

Spoiling One’s Story:

Hannah Arendt’s posthumous influence continues to be enormous, even though her best-known claims have been refuted by new evidence. Since her death, a youthful diary shows Arendt precociously aware of a choice between two possible futures. Either she would choose a natural future unfolding with harmonious openness, or else attain public influence by advancing unsupported claims. In fact, Arendt lived both futures successively. In early essays, she held ex-Nazis responsible for their war crimes, and depicted Martin Heidegger, her former teacher and lover, as a nihilist whose philosophy led directly to his Nazi commitment. Yet later, she portrayed Adolf Eichmann, the official who implemented the Holocaust, as a mindless, “banal" bureaucrat. And she later exonerated and celebrated Heidegger, even using his coinages in arguments that lifted responsibility from bad actors. Arendt left a paper trail of documents for us to decode. The real story, of a talented woman—simultaneously sustaining a hidden love affair and maintaining the posture of a disinterested public intellectual—is also a story of moral upendings and reversals. It is the back story. It is time for thoughtful readers to know it.
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Wipf and Stock Publishers
Matthew Cohn


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