Sensus communis as a foundation for men as political beings: Arendt’s reading of Kant’s Critique of Judgment

Philosophy and Social Criticism 37 (3):345-358 (2011)
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Abstract

In the literature on Hannah Arendt’s Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy, two sorts of claim have been made by different interpreters. First, there is Beiner’s observation that there is a shift in Arendt’s thoughts on judgment, which has led to the idea that Arendt develops two distinct theories of judgment. The second sort of claim concerns Arendt’s use of Kant’s transcendental principles. At its core, it has led to the critique that Arendt detranscendentalizes — or empiricalizes — Kant, by linking Kant’s judgments of taste to an empirical sociability. In this article, I argue against both of these claims. Early fragments of Arendt’s on judgment make clear that she develops only one theory of judgment. It is only that it is not until later in her life that she fully elaborates it. Nor does Arendt confuse Kant’s idea of enlarged thinking with an actual dialogue with others. In fact, Arendt introduces an interesting interdependence between judgment and speech, or communication. I develop my argument by first outlining the problems Arendt hoped to resolve via judgment. Through my reading of the Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy, I show how Arendt interprets Kant’s Critique of Judgment not as his theory of aesthetic judgments, but as an answer to the more general question ‘How do I judge?’ I also clarify the difference Arendt draws between common sense and community sense. With community sense, Arendt uncovers a foundation not only for men as political beings but also for the idea of humanity. This finding is often overlooked in the literature. I conclude with another Arendtian distinction that is often overlooked, that between spectators and the solitary philosopher.

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References found in this work

Between past and future.Hannah Arendt - 1961 - New York,: Viking Press.
The life of the mind.Hannah Arendt - 1981 - New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
The Life of the Mind.[author unknown] - 1980 - Human Studies 3 (3):302-308.
Philosophical profiles: essays in a pragmatic mode.Richard J. Bernstein - 1986 - Cambridge [Cambridgeshire]: Polity Press in association with B. Blackwell, Oxford.

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