Vol. 45 No. 3 1978 - page 350

World then so popular in New Left circles and continued to hold
many nonleftist beliefs, a striking example being her insistence that
private property was a necessary bulwark in the defense of liberty. Thus
by the time of her death, she had managed alternately to inspire and
infuriate almost all sectors of the political spectrum, remaining still an
enigma whose elusive and unpredictable mind continued
attempts to pigeonhole it.
But even enigmas can be unraveled and it is perhaps not too much
expect that with the passage of time it will be easier to make out the
contours of her intellectual career and give her work a coherence it may
have lacked for her contemporaries, especially those who saw her solely
in the American context. She now, after all, belongs
history and with
the perspective that history should offer, it may be easier to see her
whole. To do so will, of course, entail a more thorough understanding
of her intellectual biography than is now possible with the materials
available. One obvious starting point would be her deep and ambig–
uous involvement with Jewish issues, which sparked her first work on
Rahel Varnhagen and clearly colored much of the rest. As Benjamin
Schwartz demonstrated some years ago, her controversial attitudes
towards the Jewish question were very much of a piece with her
historical and theoretical work.
will, however, still take more time
for the dust to settle from the
Eichmann in Jerusalem
controversy to
approach this problem with the proper distance, so I will not attempt
to go beyond Schwartz's account now.
What I would prefer to do instead is focus on another context in
which Hannah Arendt's work must be placed, that of the
which many commentators have seen as her starting point.
What I will argue is that to a remarkable degree this point of origin
defined her attitudes well after she had apparently moved beyond it.
She often, . of course, gratefully acknowledged her indebtedness to
Heidegger and Jaspers.
Partisan Review
essay written in 1.946, in
which she posed and answered the question "What is Existenz Philoso–
phy?," Hannah Arendt made clear her conviction that the tradition
beginning with Schelling and Kierkegaard and culminating in her
teachers of the 1920s was
philosophy of the modern age. The
French existentialists, Sartre in particular, were excluded from this
judgment, although in later years she would find much to admire in
Merleau-Ponty. Even though she made no reference to the political
implications of
with hindsight one can see that
many of the themes made explicit in her subsequent work on politics
were developed in strictly philosophical terms in the essay. Her distaste
for the Hegelian-Marxist tradition, indeed for rationalism in general,
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