Arendt, Augustine, and the New Beginning: The Action Theory and Moral Thought of Hannah Arendt in the Light of Her Dissertation on St. Augustine

Arendt, Augustine, and the New Beginning: The Action Theory and Moral Thought of Hannah Arendt in the Light of Her Dissertation on St. Augustine

Arendt, Augustine, and the New Beginning: The Action Theory and Moral Thought of Hannah Arendt in the Light of Her Dissertation on St. Augustine

Arendt, Augustine, and the New Beginning: The Action Theory and Moral Thought of Hannah Arendt in the Light of Her Dissertation on St. Augustine

Synopsis

A splendid piece of scholarship on a major twentieth-century thinker often overlooked. / This book presents an original scholarly analysis of the work of political theorist Hannah Arendt, focusing on an area hitherto ignored: the ways in which Augustine's thought forms the foundation of Arendt's work. Stephan Kampowski here offers readers a valuable overview of central aspects of Arendt's thought, addressing perennial existential and philosophical questions at the heart of every human being.

Excerpt

What is at the origin of action? What is the goal of the mysterious impetus that is proper to action and that carries the will always further, always beyond, in the search of a fullness that seems out of reach but that is nonetheless the driving force of everything we do?

Taking Maurice Blondel’s masterpiece Action (1893) as a starting point, the philosophy of the last century has often revisited the mystery of action, defending it against a purely external point of view that determines the morality of action by measuring it against norms or that evaluates the relevance of action merely by looking at its consequences. Going beyond this narrow moralism or technical functionalism, philosophers have rediscovered that action contains the very breath of life itself, insofar as action is in the search of meaning, a meaning that is mysterious yet beloved, unknown yet desired, transcendent yet always intimately near. It is precisely by acting that the human person risks his destiny, which he necessarily anticipates by an act of faith. Thus, according to the philosopher of Aix-en-Provence, “it is into action that we shall have to transport the center of philosophy, because there is also to be found the center of life.”

In her important book Intention (1958), Elizabeth M. Anscombe analyzes linguistic utterances about action and rediscovers the originality of the practical viewpoint (praxis), which is proper to Aristotelian thought, a thought that knows how to distinguish praxis from poiēsis. Only from within the intentionality that gives action its direction and structure can one comprehend its implicit meaning and distinguish it from simple events that occur and have consequences for the state of affairs in the world. Anscombe’s significant intellectual achievement marked a turning point, inaugurating a . . .

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