Love and Responsibility: a Political Ethic for Hannah Arendt

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Abstract

This paper argues that those critics of Hannah Arendt's thought who have protested at her disavowal of ‘moral standards’ as being appropriate in the judgment of political action have, in fact, misjudged the structure of her thought. My argument is, however, a constructive one: the paper seeks to demonstrate how Arendt arrives at her sweeping rejection of conventional standards of moral judgment, and what solution she proposes. I do this in three stages. First, I address Arendt's understanding of self as opposed to world: especially how the moral absolutes which may be claimed by the former may threaten the very structure of the latter. Second, I draw upon her model of action to discover the idea of a worldly ethics, one of principle. And third, I consider the fate of our goals when we act into the world, paying particular attention to the idea of responsibility and the on-going responsiveness to the world that belongs to action under a principle.

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