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Hannah Arendt Quotes

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975)

By

Hannah Arendt, a political philosopher, specialized in analyzing the rise of totalitarianism, with special attention to Nazi Germany.

Selected Hannah Arendt Quotations

• The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be either good or evil.

• The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together.

• To think and to be fully alive are the same.

• This is the precept by which I have lived: Prepare for the worst; expect the best; and take what comes.

• There are no dangerous thoughts; thinking itself is dangerous.

• The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution.

• Under conditions of tyranny it is far easer to act than to think.

• Forgiveness is the key to action and freedom.

• War has become a luxury that only small nations can afford.

• Man cannot be free if he does not know that he is subject to necessity, because his freedom is always won in his never wholly successful attempts to liberate himself from necessity.

• Promises are the uniquely human way of ordering the future, making it predictable and reliable to the extent that this is humanly possible.

• For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.

• Man's chief moral deficiency appears to be not his indiscretions but his reticence.

• Action without a name, a "who" attached to it, is meaningless.

• No cause is left but the most ancient of all, the one, in fact, that from the beginning of our history has determined the very existence of politics, the cause of freedom versus tyranny.

• The defiance of established authority, religious and secular, social and political, as a world-wide phenomenon may well one day be accounted the outstanding event of the last decade.

• The right to marry whoever one wishes is an elementary human right compared to which "the right to attend an integrated school, the right to sit where one pleases on a bus, the right to go into any hotel or recreation area or place of amusement, regardless of one's skin or color or race" are minor indeed. Even political rights, like the right to vote, and nearly all other rights enumerated in the Constitution, are secondary to the inalienable human rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence; and to this category the right to home and marriage unquestionably belongs. [Dissent, Winter 1959]

• Love, by its very nature, is unworldly, and it is for this reason rather than its rarity that it is not only apolitical but anti-political, perhaps the most powerful of all anti-political human forces.

• Power and violence are opposites; where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent. Violence appears where power is in jeopardy, but left to its own course it ends in power's disappearance.

• Totalitarianism is never content to rule by external means, namely, through the state and a machinery of violence; thanks to its peculiar ideology and the role assigned to it in this apparatus of coercion, totalitarianism has discovered a means of dominating and terrorizing human beings from within.

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About These Quotes

Quote collection assembled by Jone Johnson Lewis. Each quotation page in this collection and the entire collection © Jone Johnson Lewis 1997-2005. This is an informal collection assembled over many years. I regret that I am not be able to provide the original source if it is not listed with the quote.

Citation information:
Jone Johnson Lewis. "Hannah Arendt Quotes." About Women's History. URL: http://womenshistory.about.com/cs/quotes/hannah_arendt.htm . Date accessed: (today). (More on how to cite online sources including this page)

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