To be is to do. To do is to be. Doobie, Doobie, Do.

Heidegger was opposed to the rot that had persisted in western philosophy since the earliest days of the reformation that had rejected Thomas Aquinas – and therefore Aristotle – and enlightenment which was the illegitimate intellectual offspring of the reformation [and its logical conclusion] that re-embraced Plato and once again left man shackled in a cave watching shadows on the wall. Unfortunately he was paralysed by the language of philosophy – or at least what had come to be known as philosophy – and whatever worthwhile ideas he may have had were too obscured to be useful and his unpleasant association with the Nazi’s and, more importantly to his critics, his refusal to publicly subject himself to the pillory for such an error, have left him as a footnote among a group who are nothing more than footnotes themselves.

Hannah Arendt was a brilliant observer of the human condition and a lifelong student and advocate of Aristotle and although she was aware of, and possibly even sympathetic to, Aquinas she did not make the transition from the noble old pagan philosopher to the apex of thought in the Christian tradition. The reason this is so important is that Aristotle presents us with a supremely rational prospect of humanity whereas Aquinas accepts that we live in a rational way in a mystical universe that gives meaning to our rationality. If you eliminate that mystical element Aristotle gets reduced to Ayn Rand and once again most men are left shackled – which means that all men bear the burden of those chains.

Maier-Katkin does not seem to be aware of the philosophical differences and distinctions and seems too overwhelmed by the indiscretions of two people who had too much time to think and too little time to do. As a piece of gossip about the literati who formed the barnacles on the hull of the twentieth century it is amusing but the unfortunate truth of the matter is that it is no more useful than a biography of Cher, Bono or Bill Clinton.

Stranger from abroad: Hannah Arendt, Martin Heidegger, friendship, and forgiveness New York: W.W. Norton, c 2010 Daniel Maier-Katkin Heidegger, Martin, 1889-1976 Arendt, Hannah, 1906-1975 Friends and associates Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. 384 p.; 22 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Shaking up the content and method by which generations of students had studied Western philosophy, Martin Heidegger sought to ennoble man’s existence in relation to death. Yet in a time of crisis, he sought personal advancement, becoming the most prominent German intellectual to join the Nazis.

Hannah Arendt, his brilliant, beautiful student and young lover, sought to enable a decent society of human beings in relation to one other. She was courageous in the time of crisis. Years later, she was even able to meet Heidegger once again on common ground and to find in his past behavior an insight into Nazism that would influence her reflections on “the banality of evil” — a concept that remains bitterly controversial and profoundly influential to this day.

But how could Arendt have renewed her friendship with Heidegger? And how has this relationship affected her reputation as a cultural critic? In Stranger from Abroad, Daniel Maier-Katkin offers a compassionate portrait that provides much-needed insight into this relationship.

Maier-Katkin creates a detailed and riveting portrait of Arendt’s rich intellectual and emotional life, shedding light on the unique bond she shared with her second husband, Heinrich Blücher, and on her friendships with Mary McCarthy, W. H. Auden, Karl Jaspers, and Randall Jarrell — all fascinating figures in their own right. An elegant, accessible introduction to Arendt’s life and work, Stranger from Abroad makes a powerful and hopeful case for the lasting relevance of Arendt’s thought.


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