Universiteit Leiden

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Dissertation

Politics between Philosophy and Polemics: Political Thinking and Thoughtful Politics in the Writing of Karl Popper, Leo Strauss, and Hannah Arendt

This dissertation offers a reconstruction of the propositional contents of the writings of Karl Popper, Leo Strauss, and Hannah Arendt while bringing these into discussion with their performative meanings, such as polemical forms of reasoning, analogical and metaphorical uses of language, and hidden assumptions that become manifest as soon as people start acting upon them.

Author
Wout Cornelissen
Date
15 January 2014

Political philosophy is not only a form of theory, but also a practice. If we wish to learn something about politics, therefore, we should focus not only on its propositional content, but also on its performative meaning. This dissertation offers a reconstruction of the propositional contents of the writings of Karl Popper, Leo Strauss, and Hannah Arendt while bringing these into discussion with their performative meanings, such as polemical forms of reasoning, analogical and metaphorical uses of language, and hidden assumptions that become manifest as soon as people start acting upon them.

First, it is demonstrated that Popper prescribes a conception of politics that is modeled after science, while he performs a polemical conception of politics. Next, it is shown that Strauss is aware of the performative condition of philosophy, whereas his way of framing it in terms of the mutually hostile opposition between phi losophy and politics and his remedy of the art of writing amount to an unrealistic escape from it. Finally, it is argued that Arendt not only shows to be aware of the contingent character of human action, but also develops forms of political thinking that do justice to it.

Supervisor: prof.dr. P. Kleingeld

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