Date of Degree

6-2020

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Liberal Studies

Advisor

Jack Jacobs

Subject Categories

History of Philosophy | Intellectual History | Jewish Studies

Keywords

Hannah Arendt, Ostjuden, Eastern European Jewry, 20th Century Philosophy, Exemplary Validity, Exemplary Negativity

Abstract

Hannah Arendt’s vision of politics is one of the most enigmatic, perplexing, thoroughly analyzed, and potentially generative aspects of her philosophic corpus. It is marked by insightful analysis, cutting deconstructions of pressing moral issues, and confusing vernacular wherein her analytic boundaries, topics, and categories appear obfuscated. Although it has been observed that Arendt’s late-career theory of the political owes a debt to her earlier writings on Jewish history, including her Kantian-influenced theory of political judgment and storytelling, in this thesis I would like to narrow down this debt to a specific trope: The Ostjuden, or the imagined associations with Eastern European Jewry. In order to locate this “influence”, which I will track through a certain indirect intertextual conversation, I will invert the Kantian term “exemplary validity”. This concept is central to how Arendt’s ideal of individual judgement can find resonance in the space of public action, and therefore I will mobilize a certain heuristic notion of “exemplary negativity” in order to analyze these indirect modes of influence and theory production. Along with other tropes, signifiers, topics and events, assessing the Ostjuden’s intertextual function as an exemplary negativity sheds light on how certain aspects of Arendt’s politics that she presents as categorical in fact rely on certain assumptions about historical progress, cultural eloquence, and her own personal projections.

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