That's what's needed, don't you see? That! ... Everyone is ... a very great, very important character! Yes, that's what we have to tell them up there! Every man must be persuaded - even if he is in rags - that he's immensely, immensely important!
Tuesday, March 31, 2020
#91 / Intellectual Arrogance
I am taking part in the Hannah Arendt Virtual Reading group that meets online each Friday morning at 10:00 a.m. (Pacific Time). During our nationwide coronavirus lockdown, the Hannah Arendt Center is providing free access to anyone who would like to join. I do encourage my friends to join the group, and to participate (click right here).
This is not the first time I have made this suggestion, and I must report that I am not seeing any familar West Coast faces, or seeing any familiar West Coast names, among the group gathered on these weekly video conference calls. If you are trapped at home anyway, think about going outside your current mindset to explore the wonderful world of Hannah Arendt.
Last Friday, as the Virtual Reading Group studied the "Epilogue" to Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem, it was noted that Hannah Arendt exhibited, in authoring that book, which is probably her most controversial work, what amounts to a kind of "intellectual arrogance." This sounds like a "bad thing," right?
In the conversation in the group, it was pointed out that "intellectual arrogance" is perhaps not always such a bad thing. Einstein's equation, above, should never be disregarded, but when mutual respect undergirds the conversation, it is important that there be at least a few persons in the world who are willing to be so "arrogant" as to advance their own ideas and understandings of what is right and true, despite the fact that they will know in advance, or quickly discover, that their ideas and thoughts have no acceptability whatsoever among the general public.
We make our world by acting together, and we can build on solid rock only if we are willing to "speak truth to power," and to have the "intellectual arrogance" to insist that our ideas be taken seriously, as we all search for truth.
As I listened to the conversation - and agreed that we must preserve a place for the "intellectual arrogance" that can bring us to the recognition of new truths and new possibilities - I was reminded of my favorite quote from Ugo Betti. Betti was an Italian judge and a playwright. He tells us that WE are important - each one of us. If we truly knew our own importance, we would be strengthened in our resolve to say what we think, and to insist on it, even when everyone we know says we are in error.
Speaking one's "own mind" can seem like arrogance, sometimes, but if we are willing truly to cross-examine ourselves before we speak, to see if we really do believe that our thoughts are correct, then we need to have the courage to speak up and speak out.
What is the Virtual Reading Group going to be talking about this coming Friday? On Violence.
Hannah Arendt is worth listening to on that topic, and it's a topic worth thinking about!