Hannah Arendt

Professor of Philosophy, New School for Social Research, New York City

The Life of the Mind

The first woman appointed as Gifford Lecturer, Hannah Arendt investigates the fundamental elements of our mental lives, exploring the concepts of ‘thinking’ and ‘willing’. She provides an overview on how thinking contributes to discerning right from wrong, and the dichotomy between the responsibility of freedom or its abandonment, leading to fatalism. A third category, ‘judging’, was never completed due to her death in 1975. For Arendt, these themes are intimately bound together in the life of our minds.


Hannah Arendt was born on 14 October 1906 in Hannover, Germany. A political scientist and philosopher, Arendt is best known for her critical writing on Jewish affairs and totalitarianism. Awarded a doctorate in 1929, securing an academic appointment proved challenging, and she began writing and assisting the German Zionist Organisation. After an arrest by the Gestapo, she escaped to Paris, and eventually the United States. In 1946, she became Chief Editor of Schocken Books, and shortly after, was appointed Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York City, retiring in 1967. 

Executive Director of the Jewish Cultural Reconstruction project in 1953, Arendt published the controversial work, Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963), on Nazi war criminal, Adolf Eichmann, asserting that his crimes resulted from sheer ‘thoughtlessness’, not wicked or depraved character. Important works include The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), The Human Condition (1958), Between Past and Future (1961), On Revolution (1963), Men in Dark Times (1968), The Jew as Pariah: Jewish Identity and Politics in the Modern Age (1978), and Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy (1982).

Published/Archival Resources