Lectures on Kant's Political Philosophy

University of Chicago Press
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Hannah Arendt's last philosophical work was an intended three-part project entitled The Life of the Mind. Unfortunately, Arendt lived to complete only the first two parts, Thinking and Willing. Of the third, Judging, only the title page, with epigraphs from Cato and Goethe, was found after her death. As the titles suggest, Arendt conceived of her work as roughly parallel to the three Critiques of Immanuel Kant. In fact, while she began work on The Life of the Mind, Arendt lectured on "Kant's Political Philosophy," using the Critique of Judgment as her main text. The present volume brings Arendt's notes for these lectures together with other of her texts on the topic of judging and provides important clues to the likely direction of Arendt's thinking in this area.
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Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Dec 10, 2014
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Pages
182
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ISBN
9780226231785
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / General
Philosophy / History & Surveys / Modern
Philosophy / Political
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"Have the courage to use your own understanding! - that is the motto of enlightenment." - Immanuel Kant

The Enlightenment is one of the most important and contested periods in the history of philosophy. The problems it addressed, such as the proper extent of individual freedom and the challenging of tradition, resonate as much today as when they were first debated. Of all philosophers, it is arguably Kant who took such questions most seriously, addressing them above all in his celebrated short essay, An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?

In this engaging and lucid book, Samuel Fleischacker first explains and assesses Kant’s philosophy of Enlightenment. He then considers critics of Kant’s views - from Burke and Hegel to Horkheimer and Adorno - and figures he regards as having extended Kant’s notion of enlightenment, such as Feuerbach, Marx, Habermas, Foucault, and Rawls.

Throughout, he demonstrates how Kant holds two distinct theories of enlightenment. On the one hand, Kant proposes a ‘minimal’ view, where to be enlightened is simply to engage in critical public discussion, allowing diversity of opinion to flourish. On the other, he argues that Kant elsewhere calls for a ‘maximal’ view of enlightenment, where, for example, an enlightened person cannot believe in a traditional religion. With great skill Fleischacker shows how these two views are taken in a multitude of directions by both critics and advocates of Kant’s philosophy.

Arguing that Kant’s minimal enlightenment is a precondition for a healthy proliferation of cultures, religious faiths and political movements, What is Enlightenment? is a fascinating introduction to a key aspect of Kant’s thought and a compelling analysis of philosophical thinking about the Enlightenment. Including helpful chapter summaries and guides to further reading, it is ideal for anyone studying Kant or the philosophy of the Enlightenment, as well as those in related disciplines such as politics, history and religious studies.

This is the first edition in over a century to present David Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Dissertation on the Passions, Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, and Natural History of Religion in the format he intended: collected together in a single volume. Hume has suffered a fate unusual among great philosophers. His principal philosophical work is no longer published in the form in which he intended it to be read. It has been divided into separate parts, only some of which continue to be published. This volume repairs that neglect by presenting the four pieces that Hume in later life desired to "alone be regarded as containing [his] philosophical sentiments and principles" in the format he preferred, as a single volume with an organization that parallels that of his early Treatise of Human Nature.

This edition’s introduction comments on the historical origins and evolution of the four parts and draws attention to how they mutually inform and support one another. The text is based on the first (1758) edition of Hume’s Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects. Notes advise the reader of the changes made in the final (1777) edition. Excerpts from the work of some of Hume’s most important contemporary critics are included as appendices. Hume’s abundant references to ancient historians, geographers, poets, and philosophers—many of them now quite obscure—are rendered accessible in this volume through extensive textual notes and a bibliography of online sources.

Hannah Arendt was born in Germany in 1906 and lived in America from 1941 until her death in 1975. Thus her life spanned the tumultuous years of the twentieth century, as did her thought. She did not consider herself a philosopher, though she studied and maintained close relationships with two great philosophers—Karl Jaspers and Martin Heidegger—throughout their lives. She was a thinker, in search not of metaphysical truth but of the meaning of appearances and events. She was a questioner rather than an answerer, and she wrote what she thought, principally to encourage others to think for themselves. Fearless of the consequences of thinking, Arendt found courage woven in each and every strand of human freedom.
 
In 1951 she published The Origins of Totalitarianism, in 1958 The Human Condition, in 1961 Between Past and Future, in 1963 On Revolution and Eichmann in Jerusalem, in 1968 Men in Dark Times, in 1970 On Violence, in 1972 Crises of the Republic, and in 1978, posthumously, The Life of the Mind. Starting at the turn of the twenty-first century, Schocken Books has published a series of collections of Arendt’s unpublished and uncollected writings, of which Thinking Without a Banister is the fifth volume. 
 
The title refers to Arendt’s description of her experience of thinking, an activity she indulged without any of the traditional religious, moral, political, or philosophic pillars of support. The book’s contents are varied: the essays, lectures, reviews, interviews, speeches, and editorials, taken together, manifest the relentless activity of her mind as well as her character, acquainting the reader with the person Arendt was, and who has hardly yet been appreciated or understood. 

(Edited and with an introduction by Jerome Kohn)
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