Psychologists have long pointed out that religious and political beliefs, cultural conditioning, unconscious expectations, higher awareness, needs, biases and intents all form our view of reality, what we see and don’t see. Even in the hard sciences, quantum physicists have determined that mind in all its facets, determines the outcomes of nature’s behavior. Detachment and objectivity work only up to a point. The great wisdom traditions of the world’s religions all are profoundly aware of it and insist on careful study of all our motivations.
There is something much deeper in Arendt’s conscious and unconscious motivation that is responsible for her cluelessness to the public reaction to her articles and book. I believe that the explanation for Hannah Arendt’s conscious and unconscious intent is to be found in her rootedness in the methods, attitudes and values of the modern research university originating in the 19th century in Germany. The evolution of this orientation has enormous consequences for our time. It has been brilliantly analyzed by Anthony T. Kronman, Sterling Professor of Law at Yale and former dean of Yale Law School, in his book, Education’s End:Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life. According to Kronman, the German research university ideal, transferred to this country by American graduate students studying in Germany, emphasized scholarly detachment and scholarly specialization. Detachment meant complete objectivity. It meant excluding emotional, political, social, and most certainly, religious-spiritual inputs which 19th century Enlightenment scholars categorically rejected. As the detective in a TV crime drama says to a witness: “Only the facts please.”
Part I: The Movie
The movie, Hannah Arendt, focuses on the scholar’s coverage of the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem and the public reaction to the articles she wrote about it in The New Yorker and in a subsequent book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Arendt emerges as a fascinating woman who is completely taken aback by the antagonism her articles and book have aroused in the Jewish community and the subsequent confusion of her non-Jewish colleagues. Even her dear friends in Israel and in the United States react with consternation.
In Search of Higher Wisdom is now available on Kindle!