The title of my post today is taken, of course, from Hannah Arendt's famous work on the 1963 trial of Adolf Eichman, Hitler's architect of the Holocaust. In my Memoir, I tell the story of a brief encounter with Arendt in the 60's, during my time as a Columbia University philosophy professor. I gave a lecture on John Stuart Mill at a session of a faculty seminar series at Columbia, and Arendt, whom I knew casually, attended. My lecture was taken from an essay I had published as my contribution to a little volume called A Critique of Pure Tolerance authored by Herbert Marcuse, Barrington Moore, Jr., and myself, in which I beat up on old J. S. pretty bad. At the end of the lecture, Arendt came up to say hello. She was pretty clearly not too thrilled with my talk, but she asked, politely, what I was working on. I replied that I was hard at work on a book on Kant's ethics. When I said this she brightened visibly, smiled, and said, "Ah, yes. It is so much better to spend time with Kant!"
I thought of her remark this morning as I was wondering what I might say today on my blog. During the past week and more, while I have been writing my unsatisfactory three-part unfinished essay on the concept of money, interrupted by the posting of my little paper on The Color Purple, America's political clown show has continued, complete with the bizarrerie of the annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference, known familiarly as CPAC. I have feelings about what has been happening politically in America, but it would be too much to say that I have thoughts, which would imply that America's politics have a formal structure adequate to support rational discourse, and about that I have serious doubts. [Compare the well-known passage in the Parmenides (130C) where Plato has the young Socrates question whether "hair or dirt or mud or any other trivial and undignified objects" have Forms.]
Still and all, we live in this world, and it behooves us to engage with it as it is, not -- pace the Utopian Socialists -- as we wish it were. So I shall try to find something to say that is "useful or agreeable to myself or others," to quote David Hume's description of those things about which we experience a sentiment of approbation.
Well, in the course of complaining about the abysmal state of contemporary American politics, I have managed to allude to Hannah Arendt, Herbert Marcuse, Barrington Moore, Jr., John Stuart Mill, Immanuel Kant, Alice Walker, Plato, Socrates, Parmenides, and David Hume. Not a bad day's work.