6th Pavia Graduate Conference in Political Philosophy – Abstract/Cecchi

Dario Cecchi

Appearing in a World of Appearances. Hannah Arendt on Immagination and Public Speech 

The paper focuses on Hannah Arendt’s political theory, in particular on her texts The Life of the Mind and the Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy. These texts show that Arendt is not only a political theorist, but also a philosopher. However, political theory and philosophy are strictly related. For instance, plurality, a key-concept of The Human Condition, evolves, in The Life of the Mind, into appearance. Appearance is the frame we use to understand that human beings coexist being continuously affected by each other. World is the net of all these relationship among human beings. According to Arendt, everything appears in the world. My hypothesis is that what distinguishes man, as he appears, is imagination. Imagination is the activity helping us to understand mind as something living. In facts, imagination gives the sensible material for representations both of thinking (cognitive representations) and willing (psychological representations). However, imagination is free when at work in what Kant calls «aesthetic judgment», which Arendt interprets as truly political judgment. But it is free imagination, and not aesthetic judgment, to have a real political character. This is due to its power to present (darstellen). To present means to display one’s identity living among a plurality of human beings. To present means to offer the others with the possibility of recognizing us. The power of imagination is that of opening this space between actor and spectator. Thus, political actions do not rest upon universal ideas or rules, but are performed in order to produce an identity endowed with a particular ethos. Philosophy, taking Socrates’ thought as its paradigm, is a paradoxical case of performing action. It does not even produce an ethos, because its performance is based on a critical analysis and unending re-foundation of given social values.