Monday, April 30, 2012

Hannah Arendt: Action is an end in itself

Hannah Arendt
I'm sitting here at home in Sandefjord. It's the last day of April. My thoughts go to Hannah Arendt and her critique of Kant's understanding of the concept and phenomenom of action. While Arendt has a radical understanding of action, Kant is not really concerned with action at all. He is concerned with morality. He has many ideas about morality, but very few, if any, of action. Both Arendt and Heidegger have written about this.

Arendt uses Kant as a starting point when she makes her critical analysis of action. She says that action is an end in itself. Not a means to reach a goal but an end in itself. This is the opposite of Kant. Saying that the important thing with actions is not that they have to be good, but that the freedom to act is important. Actions without freedom are no longer acts. She even says that bureaucracy and administration systems are not action oriented. They do not even act! Strongly put! It's a bit of a critical thought. However, she believes that politics has to do with action. Politics must never become bureaucracy and administration. Policies must be free. She bases her thoughts of act on her understanding Heidegger, considering his political view, this seems strange.

It is interesting to imagine the connection with Arendts understanding of action with that of Kierkegaard. His understanding of action has been called a radical existential practice. What if I see them in context? Or read Arendt in light of Kierkegaard? I think both are based on Aristotle. And both criticize Plato's doctrine of truth. This makes perhaps the clearest Heidegger. Plato saw the truth that light, the sun is there and shines so clear to them that come out of the cave.

Heidegger attempted to show that the truth that which is uncovered and that the truth lies in the movement. Thus the action. Kierkegaard believed that the truth lay in subjectivity. Being oneself. making responsibility for oneself and ones life. Being an individual in general. Especially in The Moment (Øieblikket) he is really radical. His political manifesto. He says in his journals that truth is the secret that the dying take with them. From this perspective, I see that " The Secrets of Knowledge" written by John Lundstøl is about truth (perhaps life as well). What a book! Politics as Lundstøl describes it, is poiesis, techne and praxis. It may be all three, but I think Lundstøl believe that politics is the most of all praxis.

Arendt goes so far in the book "Violence in our time" to say that it is not the evil acts that are the greatest problems in our modern age. The opposite of good deeds are not evil deeds, but indifference. Indifference is saying that it is the same what you choose or if you fail to choose. Here is a critique of Sartre, as in the example of the young man in "Existentialism is Humanism" is facing a choice between three options. He can choose to stay with his sick mother, to go to war against the Nazis, or not to choose (as Sartre believes is a choice). The last thing I do not agree i Sartre calls this a radical choice. But the choice is unimportant. This is incorrect. The choice is not indifferent. The individual must strive towards choosing the right choice. What the right thing to do is, the individual must find out for oneself through reflection, which precedes the action. Sartre and Kierkegaard are far apart. Sartre's ideas are dangerous because they are characterized by indifference. But it seems illuminating to have found a thinker Kierkegaard put up against. Sartre is readable, I can understand what he writes. Kant, however, is difficult. He makes things difficult. As if he does it on purpose. The truth is no more true by making it difficult. Kant makes the question "What should I do?" to a moral question. Arendt writes about this as well. Sartre does not even that. He is not concerned with morals or ethics, I think. Kierkegaard makes the question of an ethical question. He makes ethics into action. Maybe you could say that ethics is the sentence verb, not an object. This I think Arendt would agree in. For this reason, action an end in itself and not a means to achieve a goal.

Kaare T. Pettersen

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