02 Jul 2021 – 03 Jul 2021

Arendts Kritik am “archimedischen Punkt” – Erscheinungsraum einer nicht gegebenen Welt

Venue: Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, Aufgang B, 3. Etage, Trajekteraum / Online via Zoom
Organized by Marita Tatari
Contact: Marita Tatari

Hannah Arendt’s standpoint concerning the history of the Occident in Vita activa is not easily determined. Her admiration for ancient Greece and for ancient Rome, which she sees as arenas of the political, of action, and of the space of appearance, as well as her criticism of worldlessness in both Christianity and early and high modernity, and, not least, the fact that her work can be read on different levels, have led to a certain misunderstanding. Namely, the misunderstanding that Arendt discovered in ancient Greece and ancient Rome an ideal, even, as Margaret Canovan writes in her introduction to The Human Condition, an Archimedean point from which to critique familiar modes of thought and behavior.

In fact, there is nothing Arendt’s Vita activa criticized more harshly than the consequences of discovering just such an Archimedean point, namely, the discovery through which the Christian-Jewish sanctity of life became life as the highest good. It was no accident that the chapter on early modernity is prefaced by a quote by Kafka, according to which man was allowed to find the Archimedean point only on condition that he use it against himself. Arendt traces the utilitarian consequences of the Archimedean point as far as Kant’s statement that every human being represents an end in itself, and in his formula of pleasure without interest as the mode of reception suited to the “only things that are not objects of use, namely works of art.” The difficulty of locating the standpoint of her critique without applying to it categories of thought that are alien to it—such as precisely that of the Archimedean point—can be said of Arendt’s entire approach. It is by no means relativistic, nor does it pretend to be scientifically neutral. Arendt represents something that, on the one hand, distinguishes her from philosophy and yet enables her to shine new light on political philosophy with all its entrenched and seemingly self-evident ways of thinking.

Arendt’s critique does not seek solutions to the aporias that have accompanied the Occident’s concern for autonomy from the beginning—Greece and Rome included. Under the diverse cultural conditions, she conceives an attitude that stands up for the space of appearance without abolishing its plurality. Precisely because Arendt addresses the mutual as a space of appearance without applying established measures or procedurally projecting a principle into the horizon, her critique and attitude are particularly relevant today.

In the thoroughly technologized present, the oneness or mutuality presupposed by the Occident is faltering. Its colonial delusions and the ecologically devastating consequences of its anthropocentrism are being criticized on all sides, while theoretical alternatives to the past and present are being designed, for example within the New Materialisms. And yet, it can be assumed that, according to Arendt, such designs only testify to an increase of the same processuality that the Archimedean point set in motion as an aporetic striving for autonomy. The question arises whether the current destabilization of oneness can be reduced to such an interpretation and whether it should not, rather, be seen as a destabilization of the Archimedean point. One thing is certain: Today, though under different conditions, the wish to address the mutual persists—for example, in the arts and literature: as a space of appearance or as a world, as diverse, open, and indeterminable it may be.

Arendt’s standpoint will be the focus of this conference. But rather than focusing on her plea for vita activa over vita contemplativa, or for “world” and “plurality” over “processuality” and “life,” it asks: How or where is a space of appearance addressed, if there is no world pre-given—as there was for the Greek polis? How or where is the mutual addressed, if an Archimedean point can no longer be presupposed—as in early and high modernity?

The event is sponsored with funds from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.


Friday, 02 Jul 2021

I. Anfang


  • Marita Tatari (HMDK Stuttgart): Introduction: Arendts Standpunkt
  • Facundo Vega (Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez/ICI Berlin): Where Archimedes Wished to Stand: Hannah Arendt and the Principle of Beginning


  • Niklaus Largier (UC Berkeley): Vita activa und vita contemplativa – Zur Unschärfe eines Paradigmas

II. Individuum


  • Oliver Koch (Sächsische Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig/Ruhr-Universität Bochum): Jemand sein. Das vernünftige Individuum bei Jacobi und Arendt
  • Judith Siegmund (Zurich University of the Arts): Archimedischer Punkt und Zweckbegriff in Arendts Handlungsentwurf und im Fall des künstlerischen Handelns

III. Sprache


  • Anne Eusterschulte (Freie Universität Berlin): Welt-Ferne und Verlust des Gemeinsinns. Arendts Reflexion auf den archimedischen Punkt als Sprachkritik
  • Eva Geulen (ZfL): Der archimedische Punkt ist nicht der Punkt


Saturday, 03 Jul 2021

IV. Prozessualität


  • Ross Gillum Shields (ZfL): The Aesthetics of Alienation: Hannah Arendt and Lord Chandos
  • Michaela Ott (Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg): Weltlosigkeit der Individuen, Zwangsgemeinschaften der Dividuation

V. In-Erscheinung-Treten


  • Helmut Draxler (Universität für angewandte Kunst Wien): Was erscheint im Erscheinungsraum? Arendt und die empirisch-transzendentale Dublette der Politik
  • Mirjam Schaub (Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule Halle): Die Notdurft des Lebens – Agambens Lektüre von Arendt in “Der Gebrauch der Körper”