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The Introduction sets out the questions at stake in the book. It argues that while practical political life is always guided by a pretheoretical understanding of politics, among theorists today there is no common agreement on the question of what politics actually is. The most illuminating response to this question has come from Hannah Arendt, but to fully grasp her response we have to do two things: to make explicit the understanding of politics implicit in her work; and to follow the way of thought by which she reached this understanding.
The sixth chapter shows how Arendt rethought some basic concepts of political theory: power; strength; force; authority; violence; government; contract; law; and freedom. She held that these phenomena have been distorted by the assumption--a legacy of Plato and Aristotle--that rule is essential to politics, and she argued that we have to suspend this assumption in order to see these phenomena clearly: “It is only after one ceases to reduce public affairs to the business of dominion that the original data in the realm of human affairs will appear, or, rather, reappear, in their authentic diversity.” In particular, Arendt claimed that power as it has been traditionally conceived (power-over-others) depends on a more basic level of power (the power-to-act of a group). She also argued that political authority need not come from an extra-political source (divine revelation or self-evident truth) but may be derived from the principles that govern political action. This chapter sets up the central questions of the book’s last chapter: How did Arendt’s study of the American Revolution inform her work in political theory, and how did her theoretical work illuminate the American Revolution?
The second chapter lays out Arendt's way of thinking. She appropriated the methods of existential phenomenology she learned from Martin Heidegger, but she used them to work out a distinctly non-Heideggerian concept of the political. In her view, political philosophers had been guided and misguided by the metaphysical assumptions implicit in their most basic questions. Her aim was to “critically dismantle” these metaphysical assumptions in order to grasp and bring to light what had been overlooked or distorted by traditional political philosophy. This chapter lays out the three tasks of thought proper to existential phenomenology – “Destruktion,” “Reduktion,” and “Konstruktion” – and shows how Arendt worked through each task in her critical dismantling of traditional concepts of rule.
The third chapter follows Arendt’s approach to the question of the political. She argued that theories of politics have been led astray by several prejudices: that politics is a universal part of human life; that politics is a means to nonpolitical ends; that rule is essential to politics; and that politics is ultimately a struggle for power. In her view, these prejudices distort our view of politics by abstracting the word from the history of the classical polis, which was the origin of the word “politics” and the prime example of a political community. Arendt worked out her concept of the political by retrieving and conceptualizing the nontheoretical understanding of politics implicit in classical literature and history. She argued that the polis excluded relations of rule between citizens; citizens ruled over those excluded from politics (women, children, slaves, foreigners), but that full citizens themselves were not divided into rulers and ruled. Politics, in her view, is a way of being together, based on principles of equality and nonviolence, in which people decide what to do and how to live together through open debate and common deliberation on matters of public concern.
The last chapter lays out Arendt’s interpretation of the American Revolution and her reading of the Declaration of Independence. She argued that--in the absence of established governments--the American colonists had to govern themselves, and the practical experience of self-government led them to non-theoretical but authentic insights into the nature of power and authority. But instead of rethinking traditional theoretical concepts in light of their experiences, they misconceived their experiences by forcing them into the framework of traditional theoretical concepts. So there was a tension between the implicit insights and the explicit theories of the colonists, Arendt argued: “the old understanding of power and authority...led the new experience of power to be channeled into concepts which had just been vacated.” This tension between implicit insight and explicit theory runs through the Declaration of Independence. Arendt’s reading goes beyond Jefferson’s explicit claims in order to bring to light a non-theoretical but authentic understanding of political power and authority implicit in the text of the Declaration.
Arendt argued that political thought and discourse have traditionally been misconceived by philosophers, who have typically measured them against philosophical standards, and so conceived them as crude or defective forms of philosophy. This chapter explains how she reconceived the main faculties of political thought (opinion, judgment, imagination), the central forms of political thought (narrative thought, exemplary thought, and what she called “representative thought”), and the central mode of political discourse (persuasion). She saw political thought and discourse as primarily non-theoretical, in contrast to the theoretical forms of thought and discourse central to philosophy. Her project was to rethink these non-theoretical forms of thought and discourse in light of their powers in the realm of politics, rather than in light of their weakness in the realm of philosophy. This distinction between theoretical and non-theoretical thought and discourse sets up the question of the next chapter: How did the political theories of classical philosophers distort or obscure the non-theoretical understanding of politics implicit in Greek literature and history?
The first chapter, following the path of Arendt’s work throughout her life, shows how her questions arose from her own experiences, and how her thinking responded to events that eluded or exceeded traditional forms of thought. It argues that the question of the political was an implicit but central concern in all of her writing. Totalitarianism was essentially an anti-political form of government, in her view, which had to be opposed in part through an affirmation of political life. But such an affirmation was difficult, Arendt thought, because Western philosophy had never had a pure concept of the political. So an overarching aim of her thought was to work out a new approach to political theory, an approach that would let her see politics “with eyes unclouded by philosophy.”
The fifth chapter lays out Arendt’s critical dismantling of classical political philosophy. Socrates understood the dialogical and aporetic nature of essential thought, she argued, and Socratic thought is compatible with the openness and endlessness of political persuasion. By contrast, Plato aimed to replace political persuasion with government by philosopher-kings, whose knowledge entitled them to rule over citizens, as the expertise of master craftsmen entitled them to give orders to subordinates. But this aim led Plato both to misunderstand the realities of political life and to misconceive the nature of political theory. Aristotle also derived some of his basic terms from the sphere of production, Arendt argued, so that his metaphysical concepts led him to conceive the political philosopher on the model of a craftsman, the polis on the model of a product, and political action on the model of making. The chapter then traces Arendt’s genealogies of the concepts of freedom, authority, law, and principle in classical philosophy. This account of classical political theory leads to the question of the next chapter: How did Arendt rethink the basic realities of politics?
What is politics? How is politics different from other spheres of human life? What is behind the debasement of political life today? This book argues that the most illuminating answers to these questions have come from Hannah Arendt. Arendt held that Western philosophy has never had a 'pure concept of the political', and that political philosophers have been guided and misguided by the assumptions implicit in their metaphysical questions. Her project was 'to look at politics … with eyes unclouded by philosophy', and to retrieve the non-theoretical understanding of politics implicit in ancient Greek literature and history. David Arndt's original and accessible study shows how Arendt reworked some of the basic concepts of political philosophy, which in turn led her to a re-interpretation of American political history and even to a profoundly original reading of the US Declaration of Independence.
DSM-5 proposes an Attenuated Psychosis Syndrome (APS) for further investigation, based upon the Attenuated Positive Symptom Syndrome (APSS) in the Structured Interview for Psychosis-Risk Syndromes (SIPS). SIPS Unusual Thought Content, Disorganized Communication and Total Disorganization scores predicted progression to psychosis in a 2015 NAPLS-2 Consortium report. We sought to independently replicate this in a large single-site high-risk cohort, and identify baseline demographic and clinical predictors beyond current APS/APSS criteria.
We prospectively studied 200 participants meeting criteria for both the SIPS APSS and DSM-5 APS. SIPS scores, demographics, family history of psychosis, DSM Axis-I diagnoses, schizotypy, and social and role functioning were assessed at baseline, with follow-up every 3 months for 2 years.
The conversion rate was 30% (n = 60), or 37.7% excluding participants who were followed under 2 years. This rate was stable across time. Conversion time averaged 7.97 months for 60% who developed schizophrenia and 15.68 for other psychoses. Mean conversion age was 20.3 for males and 23.5 for females. Attenuated odd ideas and thought disorder appear to be the positive symptoms which best predict psychosis in a logistic regression. Total negative symptom score, Asian/Pacific Islander and Black/African-American race were also predictive. As no Axis-I diagnosis or schizotypy predicted conversion, the APS is supported as a distinct syndrome. In addition, cannabis use disorder did not increase risk of conversion to psychosis.
NAPLS SIPS findings were replicated while controlling for clinical and demographic factors, strongly supporting the validity of the SIPS APSS and DSM-5 APS diagnosis.
Sophie von La Roche's America novel, Erscheinungen am See Oneida (Phenomena at Lake Oneida, 1798), centers on a French aristocratic couple from Flanders who go to live on a remote island in upstate New York. Carl and Emilie von Wattines have fled to the United States from the French revolutionary Terror, in which several of their relatives lost their lives. On advice from a Quaker friend in Philadelphia, they find their way to an island in Oneida Lake. There they live without contact with other Europeans for four years, producing two children and making a modest life for themselves, before moving to a new town founded by Dutch and German settlers on the lakeshore. A narrator traveling in the region pieces their story together from what he learns from them and their friends. At the crux of the tale is how the Wattineses, Crusoe-like, manage to survive in their isolation.
Three factors play a role. First, in spite of being aristocrats, they possess a bourgeois ethic, demonstrating qualities like modesty, hard work, and resourcefulness that help them to thrive. Second, they have brought a whole library of reference books with them, including the entire Encyclopédie and Buffon's Histoire naturelle, to which they frequently refer for how-to information. Finally and most interestingly, Emilie Wattines decides to reach out and make contact with the local indigenous people, the Oneidas, when she is about to give birth.