Title page for ETD etd-07042008-000142

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Yoder, Joshua Luke
Author's Email Address jyoder1@lsu.edu
URN etd-07042008-000142
Title The Case of Human Plurality: Hannah Arendt's Critique of Individualism in Enlightenment and Romantic Thinking
Degree Master of Arts (M.A.)
Department History
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
David F. Lindenfeld Committee Chair
Cecil Eubanks Committee Member
Suzanne L. Marchand Committee Member
  • Hannah Arendt
  • Romanticism
  • Enlightenment
  • individualism
  • totalitarianism
Date of Defense 2008-05-23
Availability unrestricted
The theme of this thesis is Hannah Arendt’s critique and ultimate rejection of the ideas of individualism developed during the Enlightenment and the Romantic periods. She rejects the Enlightenment notion of the “abstract man,” but equally rejects the notion of Romantic introspection that followed. Such a critique is important to Arendt because she makes human plurality the center for her entire system of thought. Using the French Revolution, Jewish history, and totalitarianism as her examples, Arendt explains the effects of such overtly individualistic thinking in both society and politics. The goal of this thesis is not a comprehensive look at the vast number of theories developed during the Enlightenment and Romantic periods. That is far beyond its intended scope. The goal, instead, is to show how Arendt used her critique of a select number of ideas to further define and clarify her own thoughts. In the end it will be shown that while Arendt ranged all over in her thinking (from history to politics to philosophy) she engaged these topics in a systematic way as to explore the affinities and contradictions to human plurality in whatever she studied. She is drawn to the late 18th/early 19th centuries precisely because she envisions it as a watershed moment in Western conceptions of individuality, one that stamped out all thought of human plurality. Arendt wants to rescue the notion of human plurality and elevate it to a primal position in Western thought.
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