What Is Freedom

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In What is Freedom Hannah Arendt argues that freedom is related to “the political realm” rather than “the inner domain”. Arendt points out in the opening of her essay the need to “eliminate the greatest and mist dangerous difficulty, namely, that thought itself, in its theoretical as will as its pre-theoretical form, makes freedom disappear – quite apart from the fact that it must appear strange indeed that the faculty of the will whose essential activity consists in dictate and command should be the harborer of freedom.” (Arendt 439) What’s the logic behind Arendt’s opposition to the notion that equals freedom to free will? What’s the “theoretical” and “pre-theoretical form” of thought according to Arendt? And why would she contend that thought makes freedom disappear? We can assume thought to be in its “pre-theoretical form” when the philosophical concept of freedom has not yet appeared in the history. Arendt finds out that “there is no preoccupation with freedom in the whole history of great philosophy from the pre-Socratics up to Plotinus, the last ancient philosopher.” (Arendt 440) This is the time when the Greek polis in which freedom germinates was still in its full glory. In the ancient Greek city-states “freedom was understood to be the free man’s status, which enabled him to move, to get away from home, to go out into the world and meet other people in deed and word” (Arendt 442). Arendt argues that freedom is originally “exclusively political” and that thought in its “pre-theoretical” form does not play a role in the political realm. Arendt indicates that the philosophical freedom appears later in history as men gradually lost the public space to act as free agents. To interpret in other words, the “theoretical” thought of “inner freedom” appears as despotism and totalitarianism emerge in history. Freedom is no longer active participation in the political realm to Christian philosophers. They classify freedom to “the inner domain”...
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