Friday, June 9, 2017

Hannah Arendt: The Manifestation of the Wind of Thought Is Not Knowledge But the Ability to Tell Right From Wrong, Beautiful From Ugly

Quotes by Hannah Arendt

Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it and by the same token save it from that ruin which, except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and young, would be inevitable.
When evil is allowed to compete with good, evil has an emotional populist appeal that wins out unless good men and women stand as a vanguard against abuse.
Politically speaking, tribal nationalism [patriotism] always insists that its own people are surrounded by 'a world of enemies' - 'one against all' - and that a fundamental difference exists between this people and all others. It claims its people to be unique, individual, incompatible with all others, and denies theoretically the very possibility of a common mankind long before it is used to destroy the humanity of man.
The chief qualification of a mass leader has become unending infallibility; he can never admit an error.
The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth, and truth be defamed as lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world - and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end - is being destroyed. 
There are no dangerous thoughts; thinking itself is dangerous.
There is a strange interdependence between thoughtlessness and evil.  
The outstanding negative quality of the totalitarian elite is that it never stops to think about the world as it really is and never compares the lies with reality.
There is hardly a better way to avoid discussion than by releasing an argument from the control of the present and by saying that only the future will reveal its merits.
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists.
Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it.
One of the greatest advantages of the totalitarian elites of the twenties and thirties was to turn any statement of fact into a question of motive.
True goal of totalitarian propaganda is not persuasion, but organization of the polity. ... What convinces masses are not facts, and not even invented facts, but only the consistency of the system of which they are presumably part.    

Never has our future been more unpredictable, never have we depended so much on political forces that cannot be trusted to follow the rules of common sense and self-interest—forces that look like sheer insanity, if judged by the standards of other centuries. It is as though mankind had divided itself between those who believe in human omnipotence (who think that everything is possible if one knows how to organize masses for it) and those for whom powerlessness has become the major experience of their lives.
To them, violence, power, cruelty, were the supreme capacities of men who had definitely lost their place in the universe and were much too proud to long for a power theory that would safely bring them back and reintegrate them into the world. They were satisfied with blind partisanship in anything that respectable society had banned, regardless of theory or content, and they elevated cruelty to a major virtue because it contradicted society’s humanitarian and liberal hypocrisy.
The point is that both Hitler and Stalin held out promises of stability in order to hide their intention of creating a state of permanent instability.
The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.
Under conditions of tyranny it is far easier to act than to think.  
Factuality itself depends for its continued existence upon the existence of the nontotalitarian world.
The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil. 
Politically, the weakness of the argument has always been that those who choose the lesser evil forget very quickly that they chose evil. 
This inability to think created the possibility for many ordinary men to commit evil deeds on a gigantic scale, the like of which had never been seen before. The manifestation of the wind of thought is not knowledge but the ability to tell right from wrong, beautiful from ugly. And I hope that thinking gives people the strength to prevent catastrophes in these rare moments when the chips are down. 
- Hannah Arendt,  
From The Origins of Totalitarianism

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