Language and Loneliness: Arendt, Cavell, and Modernity

International Journal of Philosophical Studies 20 (4):473-497 (2012)
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Many have been struck by Hannah Arendt’s remarks on loneliness in the concluding pages of The Origins of Totalitarianism, but very few have attempted to deal with the remarks in any systematic way. What is especially striking about this state of affairs is that the remarks are crucial to the account contained therein, as they betray a view of agency that undergirds the rest of the account. This article develops Arendt’s thinking on loneliness throughout her corpus, showing how loneliness is connected to thoughtlessness. In so doing, the article also suggests a connection between Arendt’s notion of loneliness and Stanley Cavell’s notion of skepticism. This connection, it is argued, allows us not only fully to answer a question Arendt leaves unaddressed (the cause loneliness), but also allows us to see how we, as agents and users of language, are perpetually prone to loneliness.



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Martin Shuster
University of North Carolina, Charlotte

Citations of this work

Loneliness and appearance: Toward a concept of ontological agency.Sarah Drews Lucas - 2019 - European Journal of Philosophy 27 (3):709-722.
Skepticism and Critique in Arendt and Cavell.Andrew Norris - 2018 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 44 (1):81-99.
Hannah Arendt on the evil of not being a person.Martin Shuster - 2018 - Philosophy Compass 13 (7):e12504.
Another Origin of Totalitarianism: Arendt on the Loneliness of Liberal Citizens.Jennifer Gaffney - 2016 - Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 47 (1):1-17.

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References found in this work

Mind and World.John Henry McDowell - 1994 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
The life of the mind.Hannah Arendt - 1981 - New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy.Hannah Arendt - 1982 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Edited by Ronald Beiner.

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