Hannah Arendt


German-born U.S. Political Scientist, Philosopher

Author Quotes

The Third World is not a reality but an ideology.

To be sure, nothing is more important to the integrity of the universities than a rigorously enforced divorce from war-oriented research and all connected enterprises.

What the will is not able to accomplish is this steadfast enjoyment; the will is given as a mental faculty because the mind ?is not sufficient to itself? and ?through its need and want, it becomes excessively intent upon its own actions?. The will decides how to use memory and intellect, that is, it ?refers them to something else,? but it does not know how ?to use with the joy, not of hope, but of the actual thing.? That is the reason the will is never satisfied, for satisfaction means that the ?will is at rest,? and nothing - certainly not hope - can still the will?s restlessness ?save endurance,? the quiet and lasting enjoyment of something present; only ?the force of love is so great that the mind draws in with itself those things upon which it has so long reflected with love?. The whole mind ?is in those things upon which it thinks with love? and these are the things ?without which it cannot think of itself.?

The chief qualification of a mass leader has become unending infallibility; he can never admit an error.

The language of the soul in its mere expressive stage, prior to its transformation and transfiguration through thought, is not metaphorical; it does not depart from the senses and uses no analogies when it talks in terms of physical sensations.

The totalitarian attempt at global conquest and total domination has been the destructive way out of all impasses. Its victory may coincide with the destruction of humanity; wherever it has ruled, it has begun to destroy the essence of man. Yet to turn our backs on the destructive forces of the century is of little avail. The trouble is that our period has so strangely intertwined the good with the bad that without the imperialists' "expansion for expansion's sake," the world might never have become one; without the bourgeoisie's political device of "power for power's sake," the extent of human strength might never have been discovered; without the fictitious world of totalitarian movements, in which with unparalleled clarity the essential uncertainties of our time have been spelled out, we might have been driven to our doom without ever becoming aware of what has been happening. And if it is true that in the final stages of totalitarianism an absolute evil appears (absolute because it can no longer be deduced from humanly comprehensible motives), it is also true that without it we might never have known the truly radical nature of Evil.

To do and to suffer are like opposite sides of the same coin, and the story that an act starts is composed of its consequent deeds and sufferings. These consequences are boundless, because action, though it may proceed from nowhere, so to speak, acts into a medium where every reaction becomes a chain reactino and where every process is the cause of new processes.

What will happen once the authentic mass man takes over, we do not know yet, although it may be a fair guess that he will have more in common with the meticulous, calculated correctness of Himmler than with the hysterical fanaticism of Hitler, will more resemble the stubborn dullness of Molotov than the sensual vindictive cruelty of Stalin.

The chief reason warfare is still with us is neither a secret death-wish of the human species, nor an irrepressible instinct of aggression, nor, finally and more plausibly, the serious economic and social dangers inherent in disarmament, but the simple fact that no substitute for this final arbiter in international affairs has yet appeared on the political scene.

The more dubious and uncertain an instrument violence has become in international relations, the more it has gained in reputation and appeal in domestic affairs, specifically in the matter of revolution.

The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together.

To expect truth to come from thinking signifies that we mistake the need to think with the urge to know.

When all are guilty, no one is; confessions of collective guilt are the best possible safeguard against the discovery of culprits, and the very magnitude of the crime the best excuse for doing nothing.

The common prejudice that love is as common as "romance" may be due to the fact that we all learned about it first through poetry. But the poets fool us; they are the only ones to whom love is not only a crucial, but an indispensable experience, which entitles them to mistake it for a universal one.

The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution.

The trouble with lying and deceiving is that their efficiency depends entirely upon a clear notion of the truth that the liar and deceiver wishes to hide. In this sense, truth, even if it does not prevail in public, possesses an ineradicable primacy over all falsehoods.

To show one?s anger is one form of self-presentation: I decide what is fit for appearance. In other words, the emotions I feel are no more meant to be shown in their unadulterated state than the inner organs by which we live.

When an old truth ceases to be applicable, it does not become any truer by being stood on its head.?

The concentration camps, by making death itself anonymous (making it impossible to find out whether a prisoner is dead or alive), robbed death of its meaning as the end of a fulfilled life. In a sense they took away the individual's own death, proving that henceforth nothing belonged to him and he belonged to no one. His death merely set a seal on the fact that he had never existed.

The need of reason is not inspired by the quest for truth but by the quest for meaning. And truth and meaning are not the same. The basic fallacy, taking precedence over all specific metaphysical fallacies, is to interpret meaning on the model of truth.

The will always wills to do something and thus implicitly holds in contempt sheer thinking, whose whole activity depends on "doing nothing."

Today all these old verities about the relation between war and politics or about violence and power have become inapplicable. The Second World War was not followed by peace but by a cold war and the establishment of a military-industrial-labor complex.

When we were told that by freedom we understood free enterprise, we did very little to dispel this monstrous falsehood, and all too often we have acted as though we too believed that it was wealth and abundance which were at stake in the postwar conflict between the "revolutionary" countries in the East and the West. Wealth and economic well-being, we have asserted, are the fruits of freedom, while we should have been the first to know that this kind of "happiness" was the blessing of America prior to the Revolution, and that its cause was natural abundance under "mild government," and neither political freedom nor the unchained, unbridled "private initiative" of capitalism, which in the absence of natural wealth has led everywhere to unhappiness and mass poverty. Free enterprise, in other words, has been an unmixed blessing only in America, and it is a minor blessing compared with the truly political freedoms, such as freedom of speech and thought, of assembly and association, even under the best conditions.

The cultural treasures of the past, believed to be dead, are being made to speak, in the course of which it turns out that they propose things altogether different than what had been thought.

The new always happens against the overwhelming odds of statistical laws and their probability, which for all practical, everyday purposes amounts to certainty; the new therefore always appears in the guise of a miracle.

Author Picture
First Name
Last Name
Birth Date
Death Date

German-born U.S. Political Scientist, Philosopher