Knott, Marie Luise. “Unlearning with Hannah Arendt”, Translated by David Dollenmayer, Other Press, 2014.
Achieving Intellectual Freedom
Because of her posing one of the most chilling and divisive moral questions ever, Hannah Arendt, an acclaimed intellectual became the object of severe scorn and criticism. She presented her theory of the banality of evil and asked, “How can genocidal acts be carried out by non-psychopathic people”? She further revealed the full complexity of the trial with her own reasoning that “defied prevailing attitudes”. She lost friends and colleagues and Arendt became the object of severe and often slanderous criticism, losing some of her closest friends as well as being labeled a “self-hating Jew.” Her theories continue to be contested but as a philosopher and thinker, she is well respected and her work remains “an invaluable resource for those seeking greater insight into the more problematic aspects of human nature”.
This book looks at how Arendt “unlearned” trends and patterns, both cultural and philosophical in order to establish a pattern, a “theoretical praxis” that was all her own. She had been culturally inspired by
Karl Jaspers, Walter Benjamin, and Martin Heidegger and there were what helped shape Arendt’s process. Author Knott brings us “a historically engaged and incisive contribution to Arendt’s legacy”. We see how to benefit from Arendt’s writings that we see as “a process to dissolve certainties and to systematically forget them.” This is a small book with a lot in it and provides us with food for thought.