October 14 ~  Action & Freedom Cambridge Companion to Hannah Arendt

"Forgiveness is the key to action and freedom." ~ Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt

Political philosopher Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) was born on this day in Hannover, Germany. A lover of philosophy, at a young age she devoured the writings of Johann von Goethe and Immanuel Kant and became a student of the esteemed existentialist Karl Jaspers.

She once said: "Nothing we use or hear or touch can be expressed in words that equal what we are given by the senses."

Arendt fled the Nazi government to France in 1933, then sought refuge in the U.S, becoming a citizen in 1951. Eight years later she became the first woman appointed to a full Princeton professorship.

Calling herself the "politically conscious pariah," Arendt spent her life trying to understand the nature of power with brilliant and original writing and teaching.

"No cause is left but the most ancient of all, the one, in fact, that from the beginning of our history has determined the very existence of politics: the cause of freedom versus tyranny," she said.

Considered a major political thinker of the twentieth century, her books included Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), a study of Soviet Communism and Nazism; The Human Condition (1958), a look at humanity and freedom; and On Violence (1970), a historical perspective of violence in war and politics.

Her controverisal report on the Adolf Eichmann war crimes trial in 1963 introduced her famous, oft-cited phrase "banality of evil," which suggested that ordinary people could be a part of extraordinary evil acts.

"Equality...is the result of human organization. We are not born equal," she said.

More Hannah ARENDT Quotations

Forgiveness is a gift of high value.