The ‘Prophet’ and the ‘Histor’: Levinas and Arendt on Judging

JVF Conference Papers

In a dialogue that Maurice Blanchot writes as a reaction to ‘Totality and Infinity’, the answer to the opening question ‘What is a philosopher?’ is the following: “Once upon a time people said that a philosopher is a human being who is astonished; today I would say […]: it is somebody who is afraid.” It is remarkable that Hannah Arendt also refers to fear (Angst) or fearful imagination as useful “for the perception of political contexts and the mobilization of political passions.”
The foundational mood (Grundstimmung) and with it the paradigm of ethical and political thinking has obviously changed. This does not have so much to do with the revolution in philosophy that Heidegger finally made explicit. What has really happened in philosophical thinking cannot be explained by history of ideas only. The Holocaust and the monstrous desertion that went along with it challenged and changed philosophical thinking in a way no single critique, however ingenious, could have ever done.

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