PHL217H1 Lecture Notes - Hannah Arendt, Intellectual, Thought Experiment
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Ordinary testimony and extraordinary events!
Levinas gave us this is of sincerity, truth of testimony that precedes truth of disclosure.
We have a much more mundane version today. Testimony of witnesses to historical
facts. But what's unique about the case, the facts witnessed were so unwelcome, so
unfathomable, that even after publicization, that they are met with a certain disbelief by
some, and outright denial by others. The facts of the holocaust, facts that been
established by copious research, the amount of work done in the ﬁeld, the collection of
abundant testimony from all the people that are there. The same facts are continually
put into question by historians who are often referred to as holocaust deniers. The
beginning of this is in many ways in place, during the holocaust itself, people were
denying already. !
The banality of lies? Hanna Arendt in public.!
Arendt was a Jew that ﬂed nazi germany. At the end of her academic career she was a
professor at Princeton university. But arendt never was a pure academic, she was
always a public intellectual who was widely read and widely attacked. Arendts reports
triggered several controversies as to what happened in Europe in WWII. Controversy
about arendts own character, she was frequently attacked a self hating Jew. Arendt
responded to these controversies directly. Post script in eichmen in Jerusalem: issues at
stake, image making, opinion manipulation. Inability of humanity to come terms to this
great catastrophe, that the event was so catastrophic that even with established facts,
one cannot even accept it, that there is this mendacious process in its wake. What
chance of success do holocaust deniers have? Do deniers who are simply historians
after the fact have the chance to deny what had really happened? Arendt says in truth
and politics, this is a unique situation of the modern world. !
Impotent truth versus deceitful power: a thought experiment!
The complete substitution of lie for factual reality. A system of worldwide
communication, advanced techniques of image making, as a substitute of reality, with
the emergence of these techniques, factual reality can be more easily distorted than it
could be before. Organized lying was never previously suspected earlier. Traditional lies
concern particulars, they were never meant to deceive everyone. Invasion of Iraq scam.
Did they believe their justiﬁcations or did they intentionally deceive on a large scale?!
The removal of some of these limits of organized lying and a new impetus to extend
beyond the traditional lies, the removal of these constraints, creates a new issue, is it
really possible to substitute reality with lies? The modern political lie will confront or
destroy reality itself. !
The vulnerability of factual truth!