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The Life of the Mind (Combined 2 Volumes in 1) (Vols 1&2) Paperback – March 16, 1981


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

MARY MCCARTHY (1912-1989) was a short-story writer, bestselling novelist, essayist, and critic. She was the author of The Stones of Florence and Birds of America, among other books.
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Product Details

  • Series: Combined 2 Volumes in 1
  • Paperback: 540 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1st Harvest/HBJ Ed edition (March 16, 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156519925
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156519922
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.5 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) taught political science and philosophy at The New School for Social Research in New York and the University of Chicago. Widely acclaimed as a brilliant and original thinker, her works include Eichmann in Jerusalem and The Human Condition.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 18 customer reviews
I've read a lot of books, and this is probably one of the most important.
G. Koufeldt
This book was a complete intellectual delight, relatively easy to digest, but extremely well written, without a trace of arrogance or stylistic awkwardness.
D. R. Greenfield
Hannah is one of my favorite political scientists and philosophers of the 20th century.
Bill Lunsford

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

89 of 97 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 18, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book does so much in such a small space. It is at once an introduction to much of Western philosophy and an original treatise on many fundamental philosophical questions. Like her other books, Arendt focuses here more on philosophy as it applies to a person rather than more theoretical matters such as metaphysics. Everybody should read this book. I had it for a sophomore-level philosophy class, and I have found myself coming back to it time and time again for the next 8 years.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By D. R. Greenfield on October 3, 2007
Format: Paperback
I came to this book still quite skeptical of Arendt's writing style and intellectual caliber; several years earlier I had attempted to read her book 'The Human Condition' and it underwhelmed me with its stilted writing style. But I was pleasantly surprised and even delighted almost from the first few pages of this work. This book was a complete intellectual delight, relatively easy to digest, but extremely well written, without a trace of arrogance or stylistic awkwardness. This is no doubt due to the expert assistance given Arendt by her editor Mary McCarthy.

While Arendt had originally planned to write a three-part work, on Thinking, Willing, and Judging, she only lived to complete the first two sections. But since she associates Thinking with the past and Willing with the future, it seems fitting to limit the book to these two concepts. (There is a short appendix containing lecture notes from a series she had given on Kant's Critique of Judgment, but I don't recommend it; it's very rough and hard to read.)

A large part of the first section on Thinking is devoted to Greek philosophy. She throws around a fair amount of Greek that, for the most part, is translated or understandable from the context. The second section is heavy on medieval philosophy with healthy doses of Latin all over the place. This was the more interesting section from my point of view, for there are lengthy discussions of Augustine and Duns Scotus. Towards the end of the second section she deals with Nietzsche and Heidegger. Heidegger (as you might expect) is given a full and sympathetic treatment.

Reading this book has been an experience that I won't soon forget. In fact, I am suffering withdrawal symptoms from it as I write this review. The book was a one-of-a-kind intellectual home to me.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
It seems to me that Hannah Arendt's thought is at its strongest( and also its weakest) when it does not confine itself to the world of pure metaphysical abstraction, but rather addresses historical realities and concepts. The Arendt of 'The Origins of Tolitarianism' and of 'The Human Condition' brings a tremendous power of thought to the analysis of phenomena of the real world. In this work there is primarily ' thinking about thinking' and the connection with historical realities, individual personalities is not central. Therefore the reading of the work it seems to me becomes more an exercise in that metaphysical abstract never- never land where nothing can be firmly affirmed or falsified.

It thus seems to me that this text is best read as a kind of poetic inspirational work, that does provide understanding and insight into thinking and the world of the mind, but which does not fundamentally provide ' truth'. My guess is Arendt would greatly object to this definition of her enterprise. And my sense is that in this work what she was really trying to do is make her bid to be among those system- producers who stand at the center of the long philosophical tradition in the West.

I say this when I myself find Arendt an exalted and inspiring thinker, one who inspires me to thought of my own. I will just bring one passage, in my opinion, a key one from the work so that the reader can have a feel of what she is doing.

"If thinking is an activity that is its own end and if the only adequate metaphor for it, drawn from our ordinary sense experience, is the sensation of being alive, then it follows that all questions concerning the aim or purpose of thinking are as unaswerable as questions about the aim or purpose of life."
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By G. Koufeldt on August 20, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In her typical straight-to-the-point style of writing, Arendt explores some of the most philosophically important questions asked since antiquity. She guides us through the ages of development on topics such as freewill, time, and Being. She is one of the most important thinkers, not of the 20th century, but of all "time". This is Arendt for the philosopher/thinker, not the political scientist. From Heraclitus to Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Arendt leaves no great thinker's stone unturned. I've read a lot of books, and this is probably one of the most important. Does she give us any answers to these important questions? NO. However, she shows that there are no answers to these questions, only better questions to be asked.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Steiner VINE VOICE on January 5, 2007
Format: Paperback
`Life of the Mind,' while incomplete, nevertheless serves as a phenomenal exegesis of Western thought from one of the leading political and metaphysical thinkers of our era. Arendt breezes through an exorbitant quantity of philosophy with remarkable clarity and grace in this two-volume work. In it she provides a critical review of classical thought, including Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Dons Scotus, leading all the way up to Kant and Rousseau. She also explicates the notion of the Will in Nietzsche, and then Heidegger's `Will-Not-to-Will' in his later thought. It is possible that Arendt will remain among the greats in Western philosophy, political theory, and journalism more broadly. Her depth of knowledge and insight and capacity to read a text with fresh eyes will astonish you. Also included in the second volume of the text is one of the most cogent explications of Heidegger's Being and Time you are ever likely to find.
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