Auctoritas - Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt considers auctoritas a reference to founding acts as the source of political authority in Ancient Rome. She takes foundation to include (as augeō suggests), the continuous conservation and increase of principles handed down from "the beginning" (see also pietas). According to Arendt, this source of authority was rediscovered in the course of the 18th-century American Revolution (see "United States of America" under Founding Fathers), as an alternative to an intervening Western tradition of absolutism, claiming absolute authority, as from God (see Divine Right of Kings), and later from Nature, Reason, History, and even, as in the French Revolution, Revolution itself (see La Terreur). Arendt views a crisis of authority as common to both the American and French Revolutions, and the response to that crisis a key factor in the relative success of the former and failure of the latter.

Arendt further considers the sense of auctor and auctoritas in various Latin idioms, and the fact that auctor was used in contradistinction to - and (at least by Pliny) held in higher esteem than - artifices, the artisans to whom it might fall to "merely" build up or implement the author-founder's vision and design.

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Famous quotes by hannah arendt:

    Our Last Will and Testament, providing for the only future of which we can be reasonably certain, namely our own death, shows that the Will’s need to will is no less strong than Reason’s need to think; in both instances the mind transcends its own natural limitations, either by asking unanswerable questions or by projecting itself into a future which, for the willing subject, will never be.
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    The heritage of the American Revolution is forgotten, and the American government, for better and for worse, has entered into the heritage of Europe as though it were its patrimony—unaware, alas, of the fact that Europe’s declining power was preceded and accompanied by political bankruptcy, the bankruptcy of the nation-state and its concept of sovereignty.
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    Immortality is what nature possesses without effort and without anybody’s assistance, and immortality is what the mortals must therefore try to achieve if they want to live up to the world into which they were born, to live up to the things which surround them and to whose company they are admitted for a short while.
    Hannah Arendt (1906–1975)

    ... the will always wills to do something and thus implicitly holds in contempt sheer thinking, whose whole activity depends on ‘doing nothing.’
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    Only the mob and the elite can be attracted by the momentum of totalitarianism itself. The masses have to be won by propaganda.
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