Lecture Notes – Hannah Arendt ** Essay assignment: What’s the evidence that someone might use to make the argument that Frank Luntz treats political language the same way that Edelman describes? How would Luntz respond, and why? Do you agree with Luntz’s argument? Human freedom is really at its most fulfilled when people are acting freely in politics. Socrates had an insight into the nature of human conscience, but misunderstood it and therefore we have inherited a corrupted view of this. Plato despaired at the death of his teacher (Socrates), despaired at Socrates’ inability to convince his judges of why his practice of questioning and conversation was really worthwhile. Response was for him to reject all together the practice of politics as being something inherently worthwhile. Believed politics was marked by persuasive speech and opinions. Both of these things are in themselves not valuable activities. The way people talk in public in is a problem for Plato – no real Truth. Philosophy would be a way to discover the proper Truths to get rid of persuasion and opinions, and rid them of the violence and corruption associated with them. Arendt says Plato got Socrates wrong. Plato got it wrong because he partially agreed with the Athenians’ opinion of politics – switched values. Athenian thought = philosophy and phronesis (practical judgment – practice of state craft) Philosophy = pursuit of truth for its own sake = useless, distraction Socrates generally meant it when he said he had no wisdom that he was imparting – Plato did not believe this, but Arendt does. Judges at trial demanded that he admit that he was preaching false ideals, Plato wanted Socrates to admit this and explain why these are so important to the youth. Socrates did not believe that philosophers were the only ones who understood the world. Philosophers should not be rulers. Plato’s distinction between philosophy and political practice runs through all of his thought and all of Western thought (action/thought, soul/body, etc) Socrates would not have accepted this. Opinions are not something to hate or dispel. Opinions we have about the world are actually the basis for whatever truth we can actually achieve. There is one world – it’s the same world that’s appearing to everybody – but it appears differently to different people. Everybody carries around with them opinions about the way the world discloses itself to everybody – all of us are in the same condition vis-à-vis that world. What we ought to be doing if we want to be truthful is engaging these differing opinions – our opinions are only partial, and combining these will help us find a real truth. There is no “Truth” If we can’t get to this “Truth” we can take everyone’s opinion and be truthful. There is a way of being truthful that is not opposed to politics but is actually necessary for politics to function. We need to get over this platonic understanding of philosophy. Philosopher as a midwife = questions do not reveal truth but help people’s opinions become more truthful. True wisdom lies in knowing that the best that we can achieve on our own is limited by our grasp on the world around us. There are limits to human knowledge. Take other people’s opinions seriously, and compare them to my opinions to help me form better opinions. It is better to be in disagreement with the world than being in disagreement with myself. The most important thing for the person who wants to speak truthfully is to avoid self-contradiction. If the interior dialogue is healthy, we can hold our actions at metaphorically arms length and ask ourselves what is the meaning or the implications of this belief or action. Why should we not commit murder? If I commit murder, I have to live with a murderer for the rest of my life. NO different if it’s a roommate or yourself. Conscience for Socrates is the result of this interior dialogue we have with ourselves. The best thing we can do with people is to help them facilitate this interior dialogue. Socrates is a relativist = There is a real Truth and making opinions more meaningful is a way to find it.