DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.5714726

Thinking without a banister. Hannah Arendt and Tradition

by Rosalia Peluso

The article analyzes the concept of “Tradition” in Hannah Arendt’s thought according to three specific interpretations. First, Arendt uses the term as a diagnosis of the present time, that is, as a loss of tradition denounced widely in her works as a characteristic feature of the contemporary world. A second sense of the term “Tradition” in Arendt is the recovery or establishment of another tradition. In this case, “Tradition” refers to an element of permanence, stability, persistence that serves to make human action durable. This is the sense of “Tradi-tion” that can be seen, for example, in every revolution: if the beginning were not lasting, revolutionary action would be destined to be in vain or to have no consequences in the world; it could not produce effects. Finally, there is a third sense of “Tradition” in Arendt that alludes instead to a condition of freedom: as a matter of fact, the above-mentioned diagnosis of the present time exposes individuals to practices of freedom that are free from any tradition. More than enthusiasm, this condition of freedom to which liberation from tradition leads entails risk, disorientation, and a perhaps an even more authentic sense of responsibility. This is exactly the modern situation, effectively summed up by the expression Denken ohne Geländer, Thinking without a banister. This metaphor was an indication of direction, the most coherent synthesis of Arendt’s itinerary of thought, with her very personal questioning of the relationship between the autonomously judging individual conscience and Tradition.

Keywords: Hannah Arendt, Tradition, Thinking Without a Banister, Revolution, Judgment

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Rosaria Peluso, Pensare senza balaustra, Hannah Arendt e la Tradizione