Hannah Arendt (1906–1975): Embodying a promise in the university


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This chapter focuses on the educational implications of a number of recurring themes explored throughout Arendt's work. Plurality, she argued, defines the human condition, which is characterised by both the freedom of the human agent and the unpredictability that necessarily results from the free interplay of human interaction. She further argued that binding promises – from the inter-personal to the inter-state – are one of the ways in which we protect ourselves from the unpredictability of the human condition. I argue that the prime purpose of the university is to fulfil a particular promise: a promise to transfer the intellectual inheritance of one generation to the next. But, in order to fulfil that promise, the university must recognise that each new generation speaks back to its origins with the unpredictability of new beginnings; or, in Arendt's terms, with an assurance of its own natality. The university, in other words, is both a bulwark against discontinuity and a space for self-realisation. Copyright © 2020 Springer Nature Switzerland AG.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPhilosophers on the university: Reconsidering higher education
EditorsRonald BARNETT, Amanda FULFORD
Place of PublicationCham
ISBN (Electronic)9783030310615
ISBN (Print)9783030310608
Publication statusPublished - 2020


Nixon, J. (2020). Hannah Arendt (1906–1975): Embodying a promise in the university. In R. Barnett & A. Fulford (Eds.), Philosophers on the university: Reconsidering higher education (pp. 83-94). Cham: Springer.


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