An introduction into the work of Hannah Arendt. Round table talk with Round table talk with:
Dr. Nguyen Thi Minh, HCMC University of Education
Dr. Tran Ngoc Hieu, Hanoi National University of Education
Hannah Arendt (1906 –1975) was a German-American philosopher and political theorist. She is one of the most important political philosophers of the twentieth century.
Hannah Arendt was born in Hanover, raised in Königsberg, studied at the University of Marburg under Martin Heidegger, obtained her doctorate in philosophy in 1929 at the University of Heidelberg with Karl Jaspers.
When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, Arendt had to flee Germany, went into exile to Czechoslovakia and Switzerland before settling in Paris. When Germany invaded France in 1940, she escaped and made her way to the United States. She settled in New York for the rest of her life. She became a writer and editor and worked for the Jewish Cultural Reconstruction. With the publication of The Origins of Totalitarianism in 1951, her reputation as a thinker and writer was established. Other big works followed: The Human Condition in 1958, as well as Eichmann in Jerusalem and On Revolution in 1963.
Her works cover a broad range of topics, but she is best known for those dealing with the nature of power and evil, as well as politics, direct democracy, authority, and totalitarianism. In the popular mind she is best remembered for the controversy surrounding the trial of Adolf Eichmann, her attempt to explain how ordinary people become actors in totalitarian systems, which was considered by some an apologia, and for the phrase "the banality of evil".
The Goethe-Institut supports publication and discourse related to Hannah Arendt’s philosophy. We do this in the light of the end of WW II, thus we honour the overcoming of Nazi-fascism 75 years ago.
Hannah Arendt’s book which is at our focus this year: Between Past and Future was first published in 1961. It is a collection of essays which share a central idea. Humans are living between the past and the uncertain future. They must permanently think to exist, and each human being is required to learn thinking. For a long time we all have resorted to tradition, but in modern times, this tradition has been abandoned, there is no more respect for tradition and culture. The essays underline her fame as a defender of human rights, as a theorist of imperialism and genocide, as a proponents of the intrinsic value of political action.
The notion of crisis is central to Arendt’s work. In Between Past and Future, her collection of eight exercises crisis in political thought. The third and the fourth essays are entitled, respectively, “What Is Authority?” and “What is Freedom?” The following two texts bear the titles “The Crisis in Education” and “The Crisis in Culture.”
The interrelation of these two concepts – politics and crisis – can be summarized. According to Arendt, politics is fundamentally about the relationship of human beings with one another, the nature of their bond, the principles that unite them, and the very frame of the multiple local and temporary projects they undertake together. Crisis on the other hand names the dissolution and possible reconstitution of human communities: it is the moment when the community’s taken-for granted integrity is threatened. It follows, then, that crisis is central to politics. So, what is a crisis? – Well let’s hear and discuss.
Nguyen Thi Minh
, a translator of the first book by Hannah Arendt (Between Past in Future) into Vietnamese, is a lecturer (equals to Associate Professor) in the Faculty of Linguistics and Literary Studies, Ho Chi Minh City University of Education. Her main research interests are comparative literature, film adaptation based on subjectivity theory and semiotics. She has participated in collaborative research activities in Japan (2017, 2019) and the United States (2017-2020), participated in organizing and presenting reports at many conferences at home and abroad. She is a translator and co-translator of some classic philosophical publications. She is also the co-founder of "The Ladder - a Learning Space for Community", a space for those who love wisdom to share and make academic knowledge becomes more available to everyone, especially the youngsters in Vietnam.
On Hannah Arendt
I have pursued semiotics for more than 10 years and used this method to study literature and cinema, especially the representation of women in literature and cinema from a comparative perspective. Semiotics has two main sources. The first branch comes from Ferdinand de Saussure and linguistics. The second branch originates from Charles Sanders Peirce and philosophy. That was the reason why I spent a long time studying and translating philosophy. Among modern philosophers, Hannah Arendt can be considered a philosopher of crisis. She suggests a way of thinking in times of crisis: when the old is gone, the new is not yet formed. I am particularly interested in Hannah Arendt's idea of living together and taking care for the world which I feel very relevant to women studies. Arendt will also help me to think and answer many questions for Vietnam today.
Dr. Tran Ngoc Hieu
(* 1979) has been teaching at the Hanoi National University of Education since 2001. His research interests include literary theories, contemporary art and Vietnamese literature.