Sunday, September 13, 2009

Minnich, Elizabeth. Review of Stephan Kampowski, ARENDT, AUGUSTINE AND THE NEW BEGINNING. NDPR (September 2009).

Kampowski, Stephan. Arendt, Augustine, and the New Beginning: the Action Theory and Moral Thought of Hannah Arendt in the Light of her Dissertation on St. Augustine. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008. Saint Augustine's significance for Hannah Arendt -- a modern, apparently secular Jewish woman who took as given the irreversibility of "modern 'deaths' -- of God, metaphysics, philosophy." (Life of The Mind, p. 11) -- is an obviously tantalizing question. On the face of it, these two thinkers would seem at best incompatible. In this superb book, Stephan Kampowski takes up this challenging inquiry, following a winding trail through Arendt's life as it is intriguingly marked, both early and late in her work, by her citations of Augustine. Kampowski's quest turns out to illuminate the whole of Hannah Arendt's, and strands of Augustine's, thought afresh. It does so in good measure because of his approach, on which I will therefore spend more than the usual time. Kampowski neither forces either of these distinctive thinkers into the other's terms nor stops when he has located divergences. Instead, as Arendt's dissertation supervisor, Karl Jaspers, put it, he seeks "the heartbeat" of their philosophizing below and beyond tangles, by-ways, contradictions as well as similarities. To thus reflect on Augustine and Arendt as they cast light on each other is to remember and take seriously the fact that, however different their paths, both sought meaning to sustain lives in "dark times," as the title of one of Arendt's books has it. . . . Read the rest here:

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