Jon Nixon - Hannah Arendt: thinking versus evil
Education was, for Arendt, an expression of that care – “the point at which”, as she wrote in her 1954 essay on The Crisis in Education, “we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it”. Education provides us with a protected space within which to think against the grain of received opinion: a space to question and challenge, to imagine the world from different standpoints and perspectives, to reflect upon ourselves in relation to others and, in so doing, to understand what it means to “assume responsibility”. She had observed at first hand how such opinion can solidify into ideology.
Universities are – if nothing else – places where people meet to think together. Hannah Arendt passed through many such places in the course of her life, but never defined herself as an academic. She was – first and last – a thinker. She thought about many things, but particularly about the nature and purpose of thinking itself: its ethical and political significance, its potential for good and evil, its grounding in the commonality of human consciousness. Forty years after her death, her work is a reminder of the urgent need for us to learn how to think together – and how to imagine the university as a place in which such thinking matters.