The earliest study of Hannah Arendt, her doctoral thesis on the concept of love in Augustine, constitutes the most neglected part of her oeuvre, although many ideas from her later works have its origins in “Der Liebesbegriff bei Augustin
”. Scholars usually have not touched upon it, thus Arendt has been, not without reason, regarded as a secular thinker. Nonetheless, in a letter to Gershom Scholem written in 1945 Arendt described herself aptly as “ein Epikaeures
”, an epithet iridescent with various meanings, attributed by the Jewish communities to Hellenised Jews, heretics, epicureans or unbelievers. Relying on this polymorphous self-ascription, I will present the basic ideas of Arendt’s doctorate from an interpretative perspective which could be called a “cryptotheological defence of the secular world”. Since she wrote the dissertation in the late 1920s, my aim will be to reinstate its significance tracing it back to the Weimar period context, with particular emphasis on Carl Schmitt’s concept of political theology. Arendt’s philosophical investigations on theological matters–human createdness and love of the neighbour–form a clinamen from both disciplines, creating a no-man’s-land for which she coined the term “pretheological sphere”, potentially polemical towards the Schmittian anthropology.
Rafał Zawisza is a PhD candidate in Cultural Studies at the University of Warsaw. Currently he is a Józef Tischner Visiting Fellow at the IWM.