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The Modern Era

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  • Mary Jo
    Hannah Arendt helped move `Existentialism in America from vogue to canon in little less than a decade. Having been a personal witness and victim of the
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 2, 2004
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      Hannah Arendt helped move `Existentialism in America from vogue to
      canon in little less than a decade." Having been a personal witness
      and victim of the practical and horrifying application of Heidegger's
      philosophy in Europe, she herself was an effective and powerful voice
      between the academic-scholar and post-war everyman. With the decline
      of the nation-state and the rise of Totalitarianism, Arendt saw that
      its troubling appeal was in the `promised solutions to the chronic
      loneliness, alienation, and malaise of modern men and women. Thus the
      existential problems of the anxious individual lurked at the heart of
      totalitarianism." It was supposed to transcend class boundaries and
      divisiveness but instead created "the orgies of destruction that made
      the totalitarian turn all the more confounding and frightful.
      Everyone, it now appeared, shared the human condition with its
      attendant joys and sorrows. In a state of `existential despair,'
      human beings came face to face with choices between the seductive
      allure of totalitarianism and the uncertain freedom of democracy…
      Arendt asked readers to view French existentialism as more than `just
      another fashion of the day." In the 50's the modern media became the
      powerful purveyor of the existential `fashion'. Through both
      literature and media, Existentialism influenced artists, activists,
      entertainers and other attendant culture. "Based on a `definite
      modernity of attitude,' French existentialism courageously refused to
      turn to the past for inspiration or nostalgia. Instead, heroically
      and rebelliously, it engaged the problems of the world… Everyone
      shared the human condition." - Quotes from Cotkin's `Existential
      America'.

      Over half a century later we might ask if democracy or capitalism has
      come any closer to providing the solutions for `chronic loneliness,
      alienation, and malaise' recognized by Existentialism. The naiveté of
      the ideologue has met its match in the practical individual, who
      finds a reason to face the world each day, instills optimism in his
      children, and goes his own way as neither executioner nor victim.
      Though we may long for solutions in our world, at this point in our
      development, I suspect there are only individual ones.

      Due to our modern, vast resource of past generations' thinkers and
      the immediate, media availability of current thinkers, Nietzsche's
      opinion about the relativity of time to leadership is no longer
      valid.

      If anyone is interested in personal relationship between Heidegger,
      Arendt, and Jaspers during and after Nazi Germany, here are a two
      links:

      <http://www.heartfield.demon.co.uk/love.htm>
      <http://www.newcriterion.com/archive/14/jan96/lang.htm>

      Mary
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