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Hannah Arendt on the Power of Creative Making in a World of Plural Cultures
ABSTRACT Since culture is a form of poesis and thus carries the danger of monologism and domination, and ¯ since today political ‘‘conflicts are increasingly defined from a cultural standpoint,’’ the question this paper addresses is whether culture can affect politics other than as a form of conflict and political aestheticism. Put differently: can culture become a source of communication and dialogue in politics? The answer this paper proposes is that culture can do so not by uncompromisingly divorcing praxis from any association with poesis, ¯ but by making a distinction between two forms of poesis. I argue that there are good grounds in Hannah ¯ Arendt’s conception of the human condition and of the life of the mind to think that a distinction is possible between, on the one hand, technical, and thus non-creative, making and, on the other hand, metaphorical, imaginative, and creative making. It is the work of art that, through the joint employment of taste and polyphonic authorship, brings culture into politics in a manner that creatively and dialogically serves the purpose of augmenting the world. Through taste one is receptive to particulars and thus capable of judging their worldly suitability, while keeping one’s mind open. Through polyphonic authorship one anticipates the unfinalized and open character of ideas and thus, the ongoing need to speak with other ideas, with the ideas of others.
Culture is a form of making. As such it carries with it (even if only potentially) the violence that is at work in poesis, which destroys the (raw and imperfect) material in the ¯ process of forming it according to a given purpose. To the extent that today political ‘‘conflicts are increasingly defined from a cultural standpoint,’’1 there is a danger that the products of culture could bring into politics some of the violence contained in the aesthetic desire to correct and shape imperfect reality. For, if transferred to the realm of human affairs, ‘‘a poetic model of disclosure’’2 has dangerous political implications, because the violent and monologic nature of poesis either brackets the plurality of ¯ (cultural) values or transforms them into a source of unbridgeable conflict. In extremis, this leads to the non- or anti-political, when politics becomes aestheticism and secular fanaticism. It is this combination that defines, after all, totalitarianism, where the ‘plastic
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ISSN 1084-8770 print/ISSN 1470-1316 online/08/040445–17 ß 2008 International Society for the Study of European Ideas DOI: 10.1080/10848770802180722
but rather a narrative structure. There are. This refers to man’s creative power to begin something new. not by uncompromisingly divorcing praxis from any association with poesis. This is the capacity to transfer my ‘‘here’’ into ‘‘there. on the other hand.’’ and thus to see both the past and the future as made out of human beings who are originators of meaning as much as those who live in the present.3 The question raised in this paper is: can culture(s) impact upon politics other than in the form of aestheticism and secular fanaticism? Can culture enter politics other than as a factor that aggravates the violence inherent in making? Can culture be a source of communication and dialogue in politics and can the aesthetic drive to shape what one perceives as imperfect be creatively engaged in this attempt? I suggest that puzzle can be solved. metaphorical. As a result. As a consequence of poesis thus becoming a category of praxis. I believe. With more than one path from the past entering the present. It is the foundational role imagination plays in origin-ally framing the moments of time that shapes this creative power of man. which is made possible by the imagination’s ability to function as analogical perception. Such a distinction is grounded in the different manner technical and poetic making relate to time. Refiguring (human) time throughout history results from a dialogue with the past and the future.’’ Arendt argues. on the one hand. as well as for humanity as a whole. tensions and thus incomplete mediations emerge between the different moments of time.’’4 The result of dialogical and creative poesis is narrative identity. making and. but by the creativity of their culture and of their common sense. imaginative. Unfortunately. modern alienation curtails the possibility of creative (cultural) making. and thus non-creative. good grounds ¯ in Arendt’s conception of the human condition and the life of the mind to accept the distinction between. one that is held together not by the strengths of their mind. technical. and creative making. with more than one possible future coming out of a given historical configuration. but deals with them productively. thus become constitutive of all three moments of human time. and with a present field of experience that is never completely determined. is the recovery of the finite character of human time. a dynamic identity ¯ that can always refigure its unity in light of new possibilities and new interpretations of . in the guise of what she calls the ‘‘origin-al’’ character of man. history turns out to ¯ have not a philosophical. but in the making. the past appears like a field of possibilities that need a ‘figure. A sense of the possible and of absent otherness. Poetic making is creative and non-domineering because it does not efface the aporiai of time. still waiting to be given a figure. but by ¯ making a distinction between two forms of poesis.’ The experience of the present appears indeterminate.446 MIHAELA CZOBOR-LUPP art’ of politics consists ‘‘in the production of a collective subject whose movement is directly determined’’ by either the laws of nature or of history. Thus. This means that human time is a combination of fiction (‘seeing as’) and history. while the future takes shape within a horizon of expectations that express care for the generations to come. What confers on the making of history its dialogical and creative character is the possibility of productively dealing with the finite character of human time. The ‘‘remedy. since there are always aborted or repressed possibilities of the past that still need to be provided with a figure. ‘‘it is still the imaginary that keeps otherness from slipping into the unsayable. Only thus would the moderns regain the capacity to make a common world.
of praxis. Plato’s conception of ‘‘imitation’’ ‘‘indicates clearly the dependence upon a model that is above both the maker and his product. and future.9 At the same time. part of . for Arendt. with oneself as well as with others. namely. the necessary or the credible in the accidental. but creative and dialogical making. while Plato’s concept of mimesis presupposes only the conformity to the rational. thing. plot).Hannah Arendt on the Power of Creative Making 447 its history. present. In brief. Thus. the universal in the singular. Thus. intentional. ¯ POESIS AND TIME This line of argument is facilitated by the similarity of meaning that exists between ´ Arendt’s notion of poesis and that conceptualized by Paul Ricoeur in Temps et recit ¯ 5 (Time and Narrative). Arendt divorces the notion of poesis from Platonic mimesis (a type of making ¯ that ‘‘never really creates anything new’’). where the other is seen in his possibilities. but the creative and personal relationship with another human being. Taste is.7 Its function is twofold: it links praxis to muthos and it introduces a variation. deed. the ‘‘intelligible in the accidental.’’8 In this sense. he invents ‘‘as ifs’’ (‘‘du comme si’’). the creator of words invents/makes quasithings. conceptual model. the neighbor. it is the work of art that best exemplifies this type of non-violent and non-domineering.’’12 Thus. the core of political freedom. Narrative identity thus adds new practical possibilities to the present’s field of experience.’’11 It is this switch in the meaning of poesis that allows her to situate creative making in the context of ¯ plurality and finitude.’ it is divine love that provides the model one aspires to apply to all human relations. the capacity to begin something new and unexpected that cannot be traced back to a given form or chain of occurrences. poesis refers not to the subjective. namely. but to disclose a world through one’s ‘‘word. through the way it assembles the facts. because what matters is not the relationship with a (conceptual) model.6 Creative mimesis ‘‘‘metaphorically’ transposes the practical field through muthos’’ (mise en intrigue. thus enriching the world of cultural objects and symbols where actions take place. as a form ¯ of mimesis that is connected to praxis. a sense of possibility. creative mimesis mediates between praxis and the reader/spectator. since man aims at imitating God.’’ while for Augustine ‘‘imitation’’ ‘‘indicates dependence upon the Creator. its past. ¯ and epistemological creation with the mind.10 and rethinks it as spontaneity. through judgment and productive imagination. As Arendt points out in her book on Saint Augustine. ¯ In the realm of culture. Consequently. Arendt’s argument is that. a creative receptivity: the freedom to care for the world and to engage cultural plurality in its making in a responsible and creative manner. Both authors conceive poesis as creative mimesis. Creative mimesis brings to the fore. It is in this capacity that the narrative (poesis) does function as a category of action (praxis). of explicitly following the demand of ‘being as God. it is Augustine’s meaning of ‘‘imitation’’ that makes possible a personal relationship with the other (neighbor) as a creative relationship. to be ‘creative’ is not to reproduce a given conceptual model through one’s making. but to the creation through original language.
It thus seems plausible to argue that. Arendt argues. of one’s capacity to erect islands of credibility and reliability in the future. the past and the future. It can only be a dynamic identity that includes ‘‘change. and the future. namely. Forgiving transforms the past into a future possibility. in her later work. poetic configuration makes them productive. the present. Time thus proves to be a collective singular or a plural unity. in what he can still become. This is that every attempt to constitute time ‘‘reveals itself as belonging to a constituted order’’ which is ‘‘always already presupposed by the work of constitution. which plunges one even deeper into the (unity of) objective and cosmological time. one’s identity is shaped not only by what one initiates through one’s freedom. Every attempt to get to an objective and unified (cosmological) time is (unavoidably) filtered by the human finitude (and thus by phenomenological or lived time). In the realm of praxis. and to one’s neighbor. which invariably breaks the continuity of time into the past. This is how the trust that one will continue to be the same. This consists not in loving what actually belongs to the world.’’16 Thus.14 The third aporia surfaces as an idea already contained in the other two. At the same time. However. is (imaginatively) created. Both are creative and dialogical powers.’’ This inscrutability of time expresses the fact that time always escapes ‘‘the human will to mastery. as a person. oneself.13 the Augustinian meaning of imitation is one possible source of inspiration for making. of oneself. mutability. the answer to the question ‘who’ someone is can only be a narrative. every attempt to measure time dissolves its unity into the passing of time. the telling of a story. To respect the other is to see him as I see myself. given the active relationship Arendt entertained throughout her life with this early text. within the cohesion of one lifetime. to make and keep promises is possible because of the imaginative enlargement of one’s power.448 MIHAELA CZOBOR-LUPP the aspiration to imitate God is developing a certain manner of loving the world. The first and fundamental aporia of time is that between objective and lived time. It is this relationship with the other as a personal and creative freeing of him for future possibilities that both forgiving and promising bring into the realm of action as the realm of human (finite) time. This is the case because in the realm of praxis. to oneself.’’15 While it does not solve the aporiai of time. Only insofar as it exhibits the analogical power of imagination. The first aporia is made poetically productive through narrative identity. Thus. is not constituted by man. does respect make forgiving possible. it cannot be included. Forgiving can see possibility in the given unities of (past) identity and tradition. it is precisely this breaking that plunges one back into what one did not live or constitute. despite the unpredictability of the human heart and of the future. but also by one’s dependence on others. The second aporia is that between time as unity and its moments. but in loving what each of them could become. It is to love them in their possibilities. which ultimately. Since one . the sense of the possible central to the creative relationship with the other. It is only thus that man makes possible a new beginning of the world. It means to see the other in his possibilities. What makes such relations with the past-present-future of the other possible. namely. is one’s capacity to productively deal with what Ricoeur calls the aporiai of time. and of one’s neighbor. and one’s neighbor. while making and keeping promises disposes of the future as though it were present. ‘‘self-sameness’’ is dynamically refigured through the reflexive application of narrative configurations. Every attempt to make time and history a totality is undermined by the fact that something is always left outside.
‘‘the story of a life continues to be refigured by all the truthful or fictive stories a subject tells about himself of herself.’ since it is guided by a limiting idea. Such a conception sees history not as a (rational) totality that brings to its full conclusion only one line of development. and the force of the historical present.’’18 In this sense. even when being receptive. as well as on the other’s power to forgive. by the creative repetition of the origin through which the past is refigured in its possibilities. what seems so unfamiliar and inconceivable that it may darken the world so as to alienate one from it. One’s present identity is not the necessary unfolding of developmental stages already contained in the origin. mediations are imperfect. it is this twofold quality that is best captured by (auto)biography. Nevertheless. one depends on the other’s capacity to make and keep promises.Hannah Arendt on the Power of Creative Making 449 cannot fully control what one has initiated. the subject of narrative identity appears simultaneously as the reader and the writer of his own life.17 as both an actor and a sufferer. this ‘‘working at the limits’’ that Arendt exercises when she engages literature and ‘‘fictional ability’’22 in the attempt to give a figure to uncanny phenomena.’’21 It is. Modern alienation consists in the replacement of what is . such as totalitarianism. As a result. Thus. Fiction works here as a ‘‘laboratory for an unlimited number of thought experiments.’’ thus producing imaginative variations on the other of time. but as constituted through a plurality of narrative totalizations and judgments made by a historian and a worldobserver. no unity or objectification is ever absolute. despite the limitations and violence of what actually happened. They expand the horizon of one’s understanding and thus can bridge abysses. Arendt deals with this aporia of time through her Kantian post-Hegelian conception of history. I captivate myself through my own narration. who trained ‘‘one’s imagination to go visiting. in the Kantian sense of a regulative idea. because when I narrate my life. As a matter of fact. This is what Ricoeur calls ‘‘an epic conception of humanity. tradition. In this sense. ‘‘Exercises of imagination’’ are like thought-experiments.’’19 The second aporia is made poetically productive by recognizing that between the expectation of the future. it is both active and passive. in the field of history and culture.’ MODERNITY. thus preventing the strangeness of the other from turning into the ‘unsayable. This refiguration makes this life itself a cloth woven of stories told. but is only reflectively transformed and changed into new stories about one’s own life or about a community’s history. ‘‘I put myself in the hero’s place. one is affected by products that can be analogically perceived as human. Narrative identity makes the first aporia of time poetically productive precisely because it captures this twofold status of individuals in the realm of praxis. Imagination can thus still provide the distant with a figure. AND THE ORIGIN-AL CHARACTER OF MAN It is this poetically productive connection with the aporiai of time that modern human beings have lost. ALIENATION. It does not mirror one’s past but (practically) expands it. both individuals and communities take their identity from the reception of the stories they produced.’’20 The third aporia is made poetically productive as a form of ‘‘working at the limits. only totalization. This means that. imperfect mediation does not entirely renounce ‘unity. Namely. on eternity. perhaps. no Hegelian totality of history is possible.’’ a regulative narrative that keeps history open in its possibilities as a potential unity.
are given the occasion to creatively initiate the disalienation of the world.’’23 What ‘‘is lost in the mathematical reckoning is the actual function of the metaphor.’’34 At the same time. the very fact of the memorable continuity of these beginnings in the sequence of generations guarantees a history which can never end because it is the history of beings whose essence is beginning. and by productively dealing with it.33 By making the past present and thus depriving it of its bygone character. it can only be made through a praxis that has poesis as one of its categories. Since this present is a battlefield opened up by thinking. Arendt calls such a structure the ‘‘origin-al character of man’’: for ‘‘man has not only the capacity of beginning. disalienating the world. and only thus can historical time regain its depth and renew its flow. Since the present is not inherited. memory transforms the past ‘‘into a future possibility. who. its turning of the mind back to the sensory world in order to illuminate the mind’s non-sensory experiences for which there are no words in any language. because no ‘‘language has a ready-made vocabulary for the needs of mental activity. each of us is born as a newcomer and a stranger.’’ only by uncovering the ‘‘origin-al character of man. as it were. Without it. other than as a ‘‘sempiternal change of the world’’ or as a ‘‘biological cycle of living creatures. because it needs to be continuously refigured through the gaps in the continuity of time that the newcomers produce. a structure of human time organized around finitude needs to be uncovered. on the other hand.’’ because we are ‘‘contemporaries only as far as our understanding reaches.’’25 However. lost.’’31 Thus. because the present cannot be seen as something inherited by testament. the ‘‘creation of words is the human way of appropriating and.450 MIHAELA CZOBOR-LUPP ‘‘sensuously given’’ as the source of our commonality ‘‘by a system of mathematical equations where all relationships are dissolved into logical relations between man-made symbols. Moreover. can the moderns start to acquire a past and a future. after all. through . but is this beginning himself. because there is ‘‘no willed continuity of time. This makes the ‘unity’ of the world dynamic. Arendt concludes that historical time can be reinvented.’’26 an important source of creativity was. which creative act initiates the ¯ flow of time into the past and into the future. Since.’’29 Since only ‘‘a being whose essence is beginning may have enough of origin within himself to understand without preconceived categories and to judge without the set of customary rules which is morality.’’30 it is imaginative understanding that the ‘‘origin-al character of man’’ is intermeshed with. consequently. Its importance resides in the fact that the birth of the individual ‘‘re-affirms the origin-al character of man in such a way that origin can never become entirely a thing of the past. creativity.’’24 As moderns we thus forgot ‘‘the indissoluble connection between our thinking and our sense perception.’’ its finitude. This implies that humans are remembering beings only insofar as they are origin-al beings. into which. and thus practical. To renew modern poetic. in being born.’’28 It is this feature of the human condition that moderns need to reinvent.’’27 the creative possibility to enrich human language seems to reside in the gap opened in the temporal fabric of the world by the birth of every newcomer. we ‘‘would never be able to take our bearings in the world. only to the extent that they create their present. while. In sum.’’32 it is the burden of the moderns to create their own present and contemporariness. the task is to (imaginatively) weave it together.
a critical enterprise. It is.’’’40 This being the case.’’’36 With this fictive core. they are beings of the world. THINKING.’’35 This too is how human beings prepare to deal with the future. where the demand for the creative appropriation of the world originates. narrative and imagination thus play a foundational role in both thinking and judging. humans need to withdraw from the world of appearances. initiating both the past and the future. to embody it. the . One is the Socratic two-in-one. origin-ally. Arendt illustrates the capacity of thinking to provide absence with a figure with two examples. Not closing the gap between appearance and retreat provides the criterion of true thinking. Insofar as ‘‘speaking and thinking spring from the same source. IMAGINATION. thinking consists in the attempt to provide absence with a figure (image). To retrieve the original context. to come to the point. where (only) a past creatively refigured from the present opens up the expectation of a possible future. moved by ‘‘an urge toward self-display.’’ language is proof that human beings are ‘‘naturally endowed with an instrument capable of transforming the invisible into an ‘appearance. to transform the invisible into an appearance that shows their kinship to human (finite) time.Hannah Arendt on the Power of Creative Making 451 remembering men learn how ‘‘to deal with things that are absent’’ and thus to ‘‘‘go further. modern human time displays a narrative (plural and dynamic) unity and identity. It is this power language and thinking have. as a preparation for judgment. of a strange otherness. In brief.’’38 when we retrieve its particularity. The task of undoing and unfreezing what language ‘‘has frozen into thought-words’’ is therefore part of the search for meaning: thinking ‘‘dissolves and examines anew all accepted doctrines and rules. As essential features in this reinvented modern common sense. the true meaning of concepts discloses itself only ‘‘when we dissolve the term into the original context. but the experiencing of an absence.’’39 However. AND JUDGING In order to think. Arendt tells us. through metaphors and analogies. that cannot be remembered because they were never present to sense experience. because both deal with absences.’ toward the understanding of things that are always absent. Both also start with the act of remembrance initiated from the present. to experience the very nature of human time. primarily. where the particularity of concepts originates. making it ‘‘sayable. That is why. At the same time. which is analogous to the capacity to deal with the (has been of the) past.37 because it allows us to see that concepts originate in frozen metaphors and analogies. Thus. and thus to experience the initial strangeness to the world of every individual.’’ toward appearing to the others. this task is not only negative or purgative. Part of accepting this somewhat paradoxical character of time is to understand that the new cannot be seen as being ‘‘potentially contained in ‘the preceding series. ‘‘to think’’ means to create the language for making one’s absence present and for giving a figure to one’s strangeness. is not. which is the essence of thought.’’ in the effort to appropriate and thus to disalienate the world. the focal origin of this (imaginative) temporal exercise is the creative making of the present through which the finite newcomers appropriate the world. that confronts finite creatures.
49 We are human and thus sociable to the extent that we can communicate our judgments to others.’’44 Staging one’s appearance thus consists in creating through language a figure to the ‘‘origin-al’’ absence from the world that everyone experiences as a newcomer to it. as bridges that mediate without ever closing the gap that thinking opens up between retreat and appearance. points ‘‘to the infinite plurality which is the law of the earth. one’s sensus communis. the sensus communis is the sense for humanity. The implication is that the more human beings to whom we can communicate our judgments.45 but to find a concept for them in order to be able to communicate to others. We are led and guided by examples. and thus of our sociability and humanity. the invisible and the visible belong together. which is where imagination steps in. ‘‘the larger the scope of those to whom one can communicate. since the aim is to make particulars communicable. Thinking is a preparation for judging.’’50 However. the rule of which is the non-coincidence with itself. thinking can function as the making visible of an absence thanks to its imaginative capacity ‘‘to make invisibles present. imagination establishes ‘‘the proper distance’’ or remoteness ‘‘for evaluating something at its proper worth.42 In a nutshell.51 An example has . This makes every origin-al making fundamentally other-oriented. Concepts thus appear to have a narrative and dynamic identity. and thus from objectivity as thinghood.’’47 It is the appeal to the sensus communis that gives judgments their special validity. as well as other-dependent.’’ As such it captures for Arendt the fundamental nature of what it means to be human—to present one’s self to others in a manner appropriate to be seen by them. thinking and sense experience. provided by the imagination. a political faculty that Arendt models after Kant’s reflective judgment. as it were.43 or in other words. thereby accommodating one’s strangeness to it. the vehicle of our communicability. The challenge is to communicate to others the particular idiosyncrasy of one’s taste. in the absence of a universal rule.452 MIHAELA CZOBOR-LUPP dialogue between me and myself. The leading urge is to appear to others by making visible one’s absence from the world. are ‘made’ for each other. however. in our attempt to communicate to others the results of our judgments. Staging one’s appearance does not so much aim at expressing an inner self. By removing the object that confronts and affects one directly. and communication and speech depend upon it. what according to our taste pleases or displeases us. imagination connects to sensus communis. because of its affinity to the finite and aporetic character of human time. to stage one’s own strangeness to the world. the greater our humanity. As Arendt points out. like Socratic duality.’’ It is detached from self-interest and from utility. Metaphors and analogies prove to be useful in this undertaking because they are ‘‘the threads by which the mind holds on to the world.48 As taste. the greater is the worth of the object. The aim of reflective judgment is not to subsume particulars under a given concept or rule. The result of reflection is communicable because one ‘‘judges always as a member of a community. the larger our culture. reveal the variety of sensible experiences that are connected and synthesized under the ‘‘sameness’’ of one concept. The other is metaphor that.’’41 This is the case because metaphors. is imagination. Imagination non-violently accommodates the making of one’s own appearance to the plurality that constitutes the world. guided by one’s community sense. it is from the beginning other-oriented and thus driven by care for the world.’’ They are the ‘‘‘proof’ that mind and body.46 In preparing the ground for reflection.
despite her claim that re-productive (remembering) imagination is the ground of productive imagination. the disclosure of a world. The limits of one’s capacity to communicate. fundamentally. This means that.’’52 Arendt defines imagination as re-presentation. and spontaneity is also receptive. It is this twin presence of creativity and receptivity that expresses the productive incorporation by the imagination of the ineluctable alternation that traverses the aporiai of time. self-limiting. imagination bridges the gap between retreat and appearance without closing it and therefore relates to the fundamental fact of being human. and. This is the case because to the extent that ‘making present’ what is absent takes place through giving form to the moments of time. are. the past. which is the condition of all appearance. AESTHETIC CREATIVITY. which makes visible the world in which we dwell by providing a possibility with a figure. as making present what is absent. on the other hand. However. of making present to others one’s absence from the world. namely. IMAGINATION.Hannah Arendt on the Power of Creative Making 453 exemplary validity because it is a particular that contains a rule in itself: judgments bring together the particular and the general. but rather projection and disclosure. . on the one hand. those whom one can address and to whom one can communicate the results of one’s judgments. the limits of one’s imagination.54 re-presentation is not strictly re-production. .’’55 To ground. In the case of judging. AND THE DIALOGUE WITH THE OTHER In the case of thinking. Without it. makes a world out of it. imagination makes present the plurality of the world and. . In Heidegger’s interpretation of Kant’s first Critique. it carries with it the promise of a world. imagination is both receptive and spontaneous or creative.53 the foundational work of imagination is clearly creative. Accordingly. but also because it forms and synthesizes the whole that is the world. imagination is not a mastering of. imagination is the common root of both sensibility (which is receptive: that through which we are affected by what we did not constitute) and understanding (which is active: that which constructs our knowledge with the help of categories and thus constitutes the world). but a receptive letting-be. and the future. Imagination is aesthetic not only because it transforms the utilitarian mode of violence and domination toward the world into a receptivity and openness to the beauty of existence. the present. which are linked by the imagination. ‘‘there would be neither the objectivity of the world . It is here that the creative receptivity through which the past affects the present not as something dead. in this sense. which coincide with the limits of one’s world. of a ‘‘horizon of objectivity. at the same time. receptivity is also creative.57 This means that imagination forms the moments of time. nor any possibility of communication.56 This is primarily the work of the imagination. Receptivity and spontaneity are joined through it. Imagination thus appears to be ‘‘foundational’’ for both thinking and judging. It is transcendence in Heidegger’s sense. It is here that the analogical and dialogical power of the imagination has its ground. a creative forming and making sensible of a horizon of objectivity. is to project and open a world. Occupying such a foundational position. it is a sketching of possibilities. between the time one constitutes and the time one is constituted by.
one structural feature of praxis. because the present limits its spontaneity. Thus. of absolute creativity. Pivotal to this work of the imagination is aesthetic creativity. Arendt points out that even the actor and the fabricator should have the capacity to communicate their origin-ality. If the actor cannot do so. has a dynamic and living character. both action and willing are forms of receptive creativity. but only a repetition of the origin. the capacity to productively use the aporiai of time. is receptive as well.’’’59 This means that a beginning is never absolute. the very origin of action. This is the crux of Arendt’s notion of creative making. it participates in the making of the world. What makes aesthetic creativity a mitigating factor of human praxis is that it combines creativity and receptivity. narrative identity. The same is true for willing. the faculty of spontaneous beginning. creative mimesis takes place in the interval between two absences. Similarly. This is a creative and imaginative enterprise. taking a disinterested pleasure in their existence. in the making of the company of those to whom I communicate the results of my reflections. a creative contemplation. then ‘‘he would be so isolated from the spectator that he would not even be perceived. which mitigates the virtuosic initiative of the actor. the function of poetic configuration to both retrieve the (past) absent other (the doer of great deeds) and to anticipate the (future) absent other (the reader. This is true for both the vita activa and for the life of the mind. is not only receptive and contemplative but is also a form of spontaneity. after all. in her Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy. and as a result.454 MIHAELA CZOBOR-LUPP but as a field of possibilities. originates. the audience). thus productively incorporating the fundamental tension that traverses the aporiai of human time. One’s novelty (birth) is. to begin with. In summary. At the same time. while thinking and judging are forms of creative contemplation. judgment is not just receptive to the unique phenomenality of particulars. as defined by Arendt in The Human Condition. as imaginative taste. It also mitigates the hubristic tendency of modern man to be a maker of history and to master time through his will (in Ricoeur’s interpretation). amidst plural appearances and opinions. Aesthetic creativity is both a retrieval and an anticipation of the absent other. Its core is creative temporality. Willing. It is here also that the receptive creativity to dispose of the future as though it were present takes shape. the origin-ality of the artist and the novelty of the actor depend on their ability to communicate them to the others. in truth. because it requires metaphors and analogies in the case of thinking and examples in the case of judging. Judgment. thus already receiving the future into its field of experience. This receptive power resides in the ability to anticipate the non-expert or the outsider. its product.’’58 Thus. to the extent that it turns ‘‘to the legendary tales that in our tradition have aided former generations to come to grips with the mysterious ‘in the beginning. and thus to see across boundaries. a rebirth. This is taste: a form of receptive creativity. Without the miracle of beginning (which origin-ally constitutes the . it is the essential mark of the rhetorical and humanist tradition. To have taste means to be able to situate concepts in a worldly (not a universal) context (a task that both thinking and judging face). It is. The origin-al character of man continuously generates the twofold need to (receptively) accommodate difference and thus to (creatively) reinvent a common world. waiting to be provided with a figure. This means that taste sees meaning in the context of the world (of culture).
Since for homo faber the world is not an opening. The danger that lurks in fabrication is to interpret time only as a multiplication of sameness. relatively permanent existence in the world. fundamentally. any receptivity for what could still be brought to presence would fade away. and thus a model (Vor-Bild) for ‘‘all of manifest being. in discourse making. one is always outside and ahead of oneself. always dependent on others. and not as a source of new refigurations. plunges one even deeper into the (past and future) world of others. no beginning would be a miracle.Hannah Arendt on the Power of Creative Making 455 world anew) there would be no incentive to recreate and readjust the commonality of the world to its newcomers. in reality. Paradoxically. PLURAL CULTURES. reduces time to the repetition of the endless .’’61 the danger of forgetting the finite nature of human time becomes imminent. As origin-ally forming the moments of time. to give a figure to one’s novel presence in the world. ahead of themselves. the capacity to begin and. instead. trumps sovereignty.’’ Its source resides deeper than the tension between theatricality and the lack of alienation of commonality. a making manifest. If so. story-telling is an exercise not in image making. namely. nothing is really ‘‘primordial. In this sense.’’62 Animal laborans. Born as newcomers to the world. they are engaged in making their narrative identity that is dynamic and open–unfinalizeable. Since one has to begin. time ceases to be a source of novelty.’’ if in time. strangers to it. In other words. because it would have no stage to shine on. THE A WORK OF ART. This is the case because one’s origin-ality. because homo faber ‘‘multiplies something that already possesses a relatively stable.’’60 This is not ‘‘estrangement from the world. thus. individuals are always in-between.’’ but rather ‘‘a worldly form of estrangement. the embodiment of one’s novelty to the world. freedom. give a figure to the discontinuity that one’s birth introduces to the continuity of time and of the world. which is why ‘‘to be worldly in Arendt’s sense is to inscribe a certain modality of alienation at the heart of one’s existence. is. and if his way of forming and experiencing it becomes dominant. Without the public common world (by which one is constituted). constantly oriented toward others. If the artifact were to overpower the sense of possibility. imagination projects the absent other as the constitutive element of a dynamic present narrative identity. It is just a deeper plunging into the past and into the future. It resides in the finite temporal structure of the human condition and in the aporiai of time. and thus as that which first looks at the world and one’s presence in it. AND COMMON WORLD THE POSSIBILITY OF One reason why Arendt prudently confines technical making to the private realm of work is to prevent homo faber’s experiencing of time from dominating human action. which presupposes one’s dependence upon the absent others. Such a dynamic unity of one’s present (narrative) identity. an even deeper plunging into the otherness of the past and of the future. Dialogism is possible because in a human world structured by time that is organized around finitude and the aporiai. humans remain. Given the nature of human time and of imagination. but in having a dialogue with the other. Arendt defines freedom as non-sovereign but nevertheless as capable of creating a common world.
It therefore belongs both to the world. ‘‘whether the world built by homo faber provides a stage for authentically disclosive (revelatory) action. without which political life would not be possible. thus. imagination acquaints one with an incomplete coming to presence. through which the individual constitutes and affects the world. The dynamism of possibility and open unity thus breaks down. if the world is to continue to be enriched through the novelty of its newcomers. as Margaret Canovan points out. then culture would bring into politics the unimaginative repetition of sameness and thus lead to political aestheticism. where there are possibilities that can be still provided with a figure. something given.’’ into a ‘‘worldly in-between’’ and a dialogue of voices. can occur is the work of art. The work of art intersects these two aspects. As a novel perception of time. their permanence and stability. if the human artifact is transfigured into a ‘‘scene for action and speech’’ and thus for the ‘‘worldly in-between’’ then culture would bring into politics the ‘‘continuous and improvisatory creativity’’ that comes with plurality. On the one hand. At the same time. The contemplation of beauty also teaches us how to distance ourselves from things or other human beings . the world Arendt envisages and values ‘‘is more emphatically a world of cultural objects and milieux than of engineering. The field where the ‘‘veritable metamorphosis’’ of homo faber’s experiencing of time. into ‘‘a scene of (new) action(s) and speech(es). as Dana Villa points out. By changing both the experiencing of time and of the artifact through art. which as permanence and stability. It is here that the direction in which the quasi-cultural artificiality of politics will go. If homo faber simply transfers his (re)productive mode to the realm of action. because it is both a thing. the sense of immateriality in anything material and the sense of possibility in anything given.’’65 The challenge then is to transform the human artifact.456 MIHAELA CZOBOR-LUPP biological cycle. as the source of new creative appropriations of the world. and a potential source of new possibilities and imaginative variations. The work of art can be a decisive field for the metamorphosis of homo faber because it can bridge the paradox of the human condition. the permanence of culture. However. Both expunge the possibility to experience human time as an incomplete coming to presence and. the receptivity for what is still absent is lost. and with it. or remains simply the site of productive comportment.’’ As the ‘‘origin-al’’ forming of time. homo faber can anticipate the invisible (Unsichtbare) and can thus form and bring to presence an absence. the power to transfigure the materiality and actuality of the given into a new possibility is equally necessary. the challenge is. because ‘‘without the enduring permanence of a human artifact. and with it the occasion for the renewed creation of the world. and to the realm of freedom. constitutes and affects the individual. and thus of the ‘nature’ of the human artifact. to the origin-al power to initiate something new.’’64 without culture. the materiality of the artifact provides the worldly character of human polities. It is nevertheless true that homo faber makes the world as permanent and stable. is shaped. politics would not be possible. With this. there cannot be ‘any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after. On the other hand. a harbinger of novelty. Time is then experienced not as the repetition of sameness. It teaches one to free ‘‘the living spirit’’ in the artifact. art transfigures homo faber into an actor. but as an ongoing figuring of possibilities.’’’63 Since. ‘‘a doer of great deeds and a speaker of great words.
which is appearance. The humanist’s poesis is ¯ guided by the receptivity to the particularity of the other and by the capacity to judge his potential suitability to the world. for Arendt. implicit in any form of making.’’74 He wanted to save fear as an incentive for creating a form of art (drama) which could augment the world (those with whom one can communicate). the judge. the imagination ‘‘breathes new life into the familiar. Taste is an aesthetic faculty because it unites receptivity and creativity to make a world. but in view of its possibilities and not-yet-made-present absences. It is a poesis in the service of making a common world.’’ and ‘‘the ability to consider all standpoints. consequently. only in a world which is common to all. in its appearance. or the humanist. which showed his imaginative flexibility. it persists as a never completed ‘‘space of display’’ for ‘‘things whose essence it is to appear and to be beautiful. One may therefore be said to have taste when one’s sense of the possible does not lead to an escape from the world. despite its discouraging strangeness. Only by keeping these two aspects conjoined can the work of art transfigure its artificiality into a new possibility. Taste as an imaginative faculty is thus the very core of political freedom. The darkness of the world was an incentive to change his definition of the world and to bring himself into harmony with it ‘‘by the detour of thought. E.Hannah Arendt on the Power of Creative Making 457 through the forgetting of our interests and urges. act for the sake of the world. to augment the world.’’70 To ‘‘humanize the beautiful’’ means to contain the (non-political) violence. Arendt illustrates her notion of taste as an engagement with the world with G. a source of plurality.’’66 Thus. ‘‘so that we will not seize what we admire but let it be as it is. the poet. and thus.’’68 It perceives the necessary permanence of the world as new voices.’’ Lessing thus augmented the world because he was capable of ‘‘vigilant partiality’’ (the attentive . without taking away the part-iality of its different voices. Taste accomplishes this task because it ‘‘truly humanizes the beautiful and creates a culture.’’67 The true vocation of the work of art is to free one ‘‘for the world and its culture. art reveals that the world does not persist in view of its manipulable actuality and utility.’’71 The humanist is capable of such imaginative flexibility because he can ‘‘rise above specialization and philistinism’’ and. who was actively involved in the world and its making.’’ according to Arendt’s notion of creativity (see supra). because his pleasure in dealing with the world sprang ‘‘from a passionate openness to the world and love of it.’’69 Yet being able to ‘‘breathe new life into the familiar’’ can take place only against the background of ‘‘a world which is common to all. but to the attempt to augment it.’’73 Lessing’s concern was to ‘‘strip fear of its escapist aspect in order to save it as a passion. He did not expect the world to confirm the products of his mind. the works of art can ‘‘fulfill their own being. The capacity to see the work of art (and consequently culture and the world) as harboring new possibilities is. Lessing. taste. defined as the freedom of movement in the mental world: ‘‘the ability to see the same thing from various standpoints. His attitude was aesthetic. ¯ of increasing the number of those whom one can address. At the same time.’’ By freeing the ‘‘living spirit’’ in the material. Taste is the capacity to judge particulars in view of their worldly suitability. by the creative (and imaginative) distancing of the spectator.72 This freedom is both a creative and a receptive practice.
’’81 Ideas. This means that he does not stifle the freedom and the independence of his heroes.’’ Thus. to find and renew its verbal expression. the author. every cultural idea has an ‘‘unfinalized and inexhaustible’’ character. She limits the capacity to sense the possible in the world to the judge/contemplator of the work of art. Art shows that a common world can come into being only as an open and dynamic ‘unity. without bracketing their particularity. as voices and truths. deepens. but inspires them and thus he broadens. to combine some and expose others. to develop.76 He does not force them to merge with his idea or design. to the doers and sufferers. which is the source of their indomitable diversity.79 What makes other ideas and cultures addressable is precisely their unfinalized and indeterminate core.’ the result of a twofold process: cultural products (ideas and values) would have to be freed in their living spirit and sense of possibility. only when it enters into genuine dialogic relationship with other ideas. which. It is thus through the joint employment of taste and of polyphonic authorship that the work of art brings culture (poesis) into politics (praxis) in a non-violent and ¯ non-domineering manner. namely.75 With the notion of ‘‘vigilant partiality’’ Arendt touches upon an aspect of art that she has carefully avoided: the artist. and re-arranges his creation. that is to take shape. . through the meaning of vigilant partiality. the final word does not belong to him but to the fictional characters. and as a result of this.’’ it does ‘‘not dissolve in itself the other’s power to mean. and. As a corollary of this interpretation. The reason for this is that Arendt sees the artist/author exclusively after the model of the Platonic maker. the artifact would be transfigured into a ‘‘scene of action and speech. the polyphonic author sees the sense of the possible in the world as another voice with which to speak and through which the world can be augmented without stifling the freedom and particularity of its protagonists.’’78 The polyphonic author thus anticipates the response of others. as engaged only in a monological and violent form of poesis. The transfiguration of the cultural product into an act reveals its open and dynamic ‘unity. this sense of further development and determinacy would never get the chance of being ‘‘finalized. The idea ‘‘begins to live. but in a dialogical one. As Bakhtin argues. can augment ¯ the world. in the spirit of Arendt’s thinking. The perspective of the artist/author is prudently kept out of politics. their freedom to answer. in this sense. as a category of praxis. to give birth to new ideas. where the author anticipates the world and its potential augmenting.’ its narrative identity. The trouble is that such an ¯ implicit Platonic premise is incompatible with her overall criticism of Plato and with the attempt to define a creative form of poesis. never merge. without the other. not the givenness of the product and their present actuality.458 MIHAELA CZOBOR-LUPP cultivation of the other’s standpoints as being necessary for ‘completing’ and augmenting one’s own world). As the notion of vigilant partiality merely suggests. However. to try out orientations.’’ even if only asymptotically. Arendt moves her understanding of creative making a step closer to Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of the polyphonic author of novels. with the ideas of others. his own ideas. Such an author is not engaged in a monological and violent form of making. it would dissolve the artificiality of cultural products back into ideas that can address each other and speak with each other.77 because his design ‘‘liberates and de-reifies the human being.’’80 To think therefore means ‘‘to question and to listen.
63. IL: University of Chicago Press. ´ 9. Joanna Vecchiarelli Scott and Judith Chelius Stark (Chicago. Arendt and Heidegger. . The Liberating Power of Symbols (Cambridge. based on the distinction between technical and imaginative poesis. 253. NJ: Princeton University Press. 1996). after her arrival in the United States. 1983). Ricoeur. vol. Ricoeur. ´ 8. 2. Dana R. 4. NY: Cornell University Press. 21. brings to the fore the notion of dialogic aesthetic creativity. vol. 257. Vladimir Holquist and Vladimir Liapunov (Austin. 271. Hannah Arendt. Ricoeur. 106. Hannah Arendt. Love and Saint Augustine. vol. as a configuration of human time and its aporiai. ´ 17. Ju ¨rgen Habermas. perpetually other-oriented and other-dependent. 261. 184. 10. 13. 31. Paul Ricoeur. 1985). 1988). vol. 175. 1977). IL: University of Chicago Press. ´ 6. 22. ed. NOTES 1. Time and Narrative. It reveals that one’s present identity and the world’s present ‘unity’ are dynamic and open. Ricoeur. 3. precisely because living in time is just a deepening of otherness in me. Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy (Chicago. Le Temps raconte (Paris: Editions du Seuil. Time and Narrative. 3. George Kateb. 3. Ricoeur. 72. thus bringing into politics the creative making that is a function of finite temporality. 2001). Conscience. Temps et recit. 255. Art and Answerability: Early Philosophical Essays by M. ´ 16. Bakhtin. As Joanna Vecchiarelli Scott argues.Hannah Arendt on the Power of Creative Making 459 However. Paul Ricoeur. 93. It forbids the impersonal truth of a monological world and connects one to the temporal character of the human condition. MA: MIT Press. L’intrigue et le recit historique. Time and Narrative. 24. L’intrigue et le recit historique. Villa. 443. taste and polyphonic authorship) has a central role to play in making a common political world out of our great diversity of cultures.e. Paul Ricoeur. thus makes creativity possible. The Human Condition (Chicago. L’intrigue et le recit historique. 154. 85. it is precisely diversity that makes commonality possible. and Evil (Totowa. Arendt and Heidegger: The Fate of the Political (Princeton. 1958). M. 20. unfinalizable. 246 (Le Temps raconte. Temps et recit: L’intrigue et le recit historique (Paris: Editions du Seuil. The Life of the Mind: Thinking (New York: A Harvest Book. In summary. Sandra Rudnick Left. M. trans. 457. M. Kathleen Blamey and David Pellauer (Chicago. ´ ´ ´ 14. TX: University of Texas Press. Ricoeur. Ricoeur. started working on the English translation of her dissertation on Saint Augustine. 3. 93. trans. Villa. 1996). 54. 15. Diversity and the occasion it offers to be receptive to the varied particulars. 1990). 246 (Le Temps raconte. 3. 284. Bakhtin. NJ: Rowman & Allenheld. 23. Hannah Arendt. Villa. 3. ´ ´ ´ 5. ´ 19. 11. 71–72. This (re)involvement with the text resulted over time in a constant interchange of ideas and concepts between her mature work and her (earlier) approach to Augustine (1996). IL: University of Chicago Press. L’intrigue et le recit historique. ´ 7. 1992). Le Temps raconte. vol. Hannah Arendt. Time and Narrative. Politics. 443). IL: University of Chicago Press. Ricoeur. Arendt and Heidegger. 18. 43. 1984). 12. Arendt. 2003). This notion suggests that art (i. Vico’s Uncanny Humanism: Reading the New Science between Modern and Postmodern (Ithaca. 443). ¯ a work of art. Time and Narrative. Ricoeur.
169. Arendt. Human Condition. Love and Saint Augustine. 108. 1990). 88. 132. Lectures. Arendt and Heidegger. The Life of the Mind: Thinking. 142. Arendt and Heidegger. Villa. Lectures. Lectures. Human Condition. Hannah Arendt. 42. 48. M. 29. Kant. 168. 26. 68. Margaret Canovan. Arendt. 35. 203. Arendt. Thinking. 63.’’ 391. Heidegger. 31. Lectures. 210. Heidegger. Arendt. Arendt. 100. 89. Love and Saint Augustine. 117. Thinking. IL: Northwestern University Press. 1969). 77. 56. 70. 109. trans. Arendt.’’ in Politique et pensee. 64. 34. The Life of the Mind: Thinking. 59. Heidegger. 210. 1977). Arendt. ´ 43. . 75. Villa. Between Past and Future. Arendt. Arendt. Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics. Arendt. 54. 283. 57. 55. and ed. 69. Arendt. Kant.460 MIHAELA CZOBOR-LUPP 25. Willing. 32.’’ 392. 40. ‘‘Understanding and Politics. IN: Indiana University Press. 2005). 47. 51. 109. Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought (New York: Penguin Books. Terrence Malick (Evanston. Hannah Arendt. Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics. 56. Arendt. Arendt. Thinking. Jerome Kohn (New York: Schocken Books. Arendt. Arendt. Arendt. Thinking. Arendt. 62. Lectures. ‘‘Le paradox de l’appartenance et du retrait. 67. Between Past and Future. 38. Hannah Arendt.’’ 390. 44. Between Past and Future. 45. 71.’’ in Politique et pensee: Colloque ` Hannah Arendt (Paris: Petite Bibliotheque Payot. 176. Arendt. Hannah Arendt: A Reinterpretation of Her Political Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Between Past and Future. 61. 5. 36. Arendt. 41. 28. Arendt. Martin Heidegger. MN: University of Minnesota Press. Richard Taft (Bloomington. Arendt. 72. 121. 52. 218. trans. 64. 30. Arendt. Arendt. 60. Hannah Arendt. ‘‘Understanding and Politics. Taminiaux. 1977). 33. 49. Arendt and Heidegger. Between Past and Future. ed. 74. Arendt. The Promise of Politics. Arendt. 224. Bakhtin. trans. 109. 59. 104. 46. 1996). Arendt and Heidegger. 48. 204. 1992). Thinking. 109. 84. 99. ´ 37. 1984). Arendt. Caryl Emerson (Minneapolis. The Human Condition. 55. 51. M.’’ Partisan Review ( July–August 1953): 390. Lectures. Villa. The Life of the Mind: Willing (New York: A Harvest Book. 66. The Essence of Reasons. 58. ‘‘Understanding and Politics. Thinking. 70. ‘‘Le paradox de l’appartenance et du retrait. 84. 50. Lectures. Villa. 93. 39. 65. 139. Arendt. Lectures. Arendt. Jacques Taminiaux. Arendt. 83. 203. 27. 53. ‘‘Understanding and Politics. The Essence of Reasons. Martin Heidegger. 63. 35. Arendt. 30.
Dostoevsky. 8. Bakhtin. 78. Men in Dark Times. Men in Dark Times (New York: Harcourt. Arendt. Bakhtin. Bakhtin. and Bakhtin. . 29. 63.Hannah Arendt on the Power of Creative Making 72. Arendt. 122. 461 Arendt. 64. 80. Men in Dark Times. 77. 64. Bakhtin. Brace & World. Dostoevsky. Preface. Between Past and Future. 75. 86. 81. 73. 65. 74. 76. 95. 27. 79. 68. Dostoevsky. Hannah Arendt. Dostoevsky. 1968). Dostoevsky. Between Past and Future. Arendt. 6. Dostoevsky. Bakhtin. 88. 225.
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