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The Life of the Mind

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  1,224 ratings  ·  69 reviews
The author’s final work, presented in a one-volume edition, is a rich, challenging analysis of man’s mental activity, considered in terms of thinking, willing, and judging.
Paperback, 521 pages
Published March 16th 1981 by Harvest Books (first published 1971)
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Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
A Really Unexpected Revelation

Hannah Arendt, most famous for her contention concerning the banality of evil in her writing about the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem, died in 1975. Remarkably, however, she provides an explanation in her Life of the Mind for the social as well as political situation in which we find ourselves in 2018.

Like many I am bewildered how a man like Trump - mendacious, corrupt, vulgar, misogynistic, and incompetent - can insinuate himself into a political system, lik
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love an author who assumes the reader really wants to understand. In the end there is no more interesting topic than ‘Being’. There’s been a 2500 year conversation going on among incredibly smart people concerning Being, and Hannah Arendt summarizes and amplifies that conversation and this book allows people like me to peek in on what really smart people think about the topic.

Parmenides starts the conversation when he rejects ‘nothing’, makes the all the ‘one’, and equates Being as thinking.
Jun 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
A very interesting account of what do we do when we think. Where are we when we think? Why do we think at all? At times a complicated text, full of erudite references to Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, Nietzsche and other philosophers, but never boring. Arendt recognizes 3 basic mental activities – thinking, willing and judging. The first section, Thinking, is the best and the most stimulating read. It is a pity Arendt didn't have time to finish this work, she died, left it unfinished, and it was ed ...more
Jul 08, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finito
Fascinating. But so difficult to read at times that I had to read it aloud to myself to keep from getting confused. I am not proud of that.
Mar 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-x-2, favorites
"The wonder that is the starting-point of thinking is neither puzzlement nor surprise nor perplexity; it is an admiring wonder."

There is nothing inherent in being human that I relish, seek, ponder and want to understand more than the mind's capacity to wonder. It is from this starting point in my thinking that authors are chosen, books are read and other media is readily consumed. And it is the void of wonder that will mark my end.


Feb 19, 2008 added it
Shelves: theory
"Everything that can see wants to be seen, everything that can hear cries out to be heard, everything that can touch presents itself to be touched."

-from book one, "Thinking"
sheena d.
Oct 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Oh, with or without Hannah I'm never going to graduate. ...more
Andreea Toader
3,5⭐ Not an easy Read, but definitely interesting!
Mar 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Originally conceived in three parts, Thinking, Willing and Judging, but not completed at the time of her death, this is perhaps Hannah Arendt's most difficult work. Cetainly the initial section on Thinking took a long time to read and a lot of reflection to follow all of her arguments. Willing the second section seemed easier, since the activities of the will have been much discussed by Nietzsche and Heidegger for example. The last section Judgement is the shortest and is based upon lecture note ...more
Sep 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
A philosophical analysis on the Life of the Mind ... a page turner?! Yes!

In The Life of the Mind Hannah Arendt sets out to express the interconnectedness between the three major faculties of the mind: Thinking, Willing, and Judging. What's extraordinary about her analysis is the systematic way in which she presents her arguments, weaving and culling a multitude of different philosophers -- admitting some limitations while reconstructing other arguments, shaping these contributions to foment a ne
Michael Cabus
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There is a moment in The Life of the Mind in which Arendt mentions if she does not acknowledge a certain philosophical theory, she would face death. This hyberbolic statement has some feeling of truth to it for anyone who has been (or has tried to be) an academic. Alan Watts once remarked that you can always throw someone off balance simply by asking them what they forgot. This is not something one would not do in real life; but which one would absolutely do in academia (I remember being in love ...more
Apr 06, 2017 rated it liked it
In a discussion of Duns Scotus, the esteemed 'subtle doctor' of medieval theology, Arendt here at some point quotes Pico della Mirandola, who was reputed to have remarked of himself: "Pledged to the doctrine of no man, I have ranged through all the masters of philosophy, investigated all the books, and come to know all the schools". Although cited in reference to Scotus, there is perhaps none better to whom the epithet applies than Arendt herself, who has, it's pretty clear, ranged, investigated ...more
Michael Huang
Feb 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Philosophy books are often similar in one regard: while sometimes there are fantastically concise and yet precise descriptions, other times the sentences require multiple readings and the meaning is still unclear to a lay reader. This book is no different. I wouldn’t recommend audio book format. In fact, I’m very surprised this was made into an audiobook. It did pique my interest into reading some more introductory summary of Kant et al.
Adam Hall
Sep 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Easy to read? Not so much, but if you enjoy summaries of major philosophies you may find it fulfilling. I wish Arendt had contributed more of her personal thoughts on the matter instead of just giving a history of philosophy.

Thomas Hill
May 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
An excellent survey of the history of Western thought as told from one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century.
Kunal Sen
Jul 05, 2020 rated it it was ok
The topic of thinking should be of natural interest to anyone who spends time in any organized intellectual activity. However, my first disappointment with this book is Hannah Arendt’s narrow focus only in the type of thinking done by professional philosophers. Had she lived a few hundred years ago then this bias was justifiable, because until the 18th century most serious questions were tackled by philosophers. Here I use the term “tackled” instead of “answered” because philosophy rarely gave a ...more
May 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A tour de force of the history of how our minds activity has been understood, from a Western perspective. Fascinating stuff and plenty of provocation for your own thoughts.
Nov 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Twenty-four years after I purchased it, I finally read the Life of the Mind, having gone on something of an Arendt binge this past year. As with all of Arendt’s works, The Life of the Mind is steeped in western Philosophy. The book, originally planned in three parts, consists of an historical interpretation of thinking and willing. Judging, the third part, was never started due to Arendt’s untimely death in 1974.

Thinking, for Arendt, always leads to a kind of twoness, a bifurcation between what
Lindsay Moore
Jul 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is very important and worth careful study.
Arendt takes up where Kant's Critique of Pure Reason stops, showing how "reason" goes beyond conceptual knowledge. Knowing that Arendt was one of Heidegger's most important students, you can see places where she is pointing toward Heidegger's non-representational 'thought' as the path beyond knowledge and into the unknowable metaphysical realities.
She is at her best in the first section of this two volume work, where she deals with thinking p
Jul 13, 2008 is currently reading it
Each page takes me days
Aug 30, 2020 rated it it was ok
Arendt suggests morality requires a free mind above truth and reason. The history is good, but, as she warns us, she’s no philosopher.
Jan Goericke
Dec 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
[audio book] This was Hannah Arendt's last book. She died before finishing the last chapter on Judging. The Life of the Mind explores the thinking and writing on the subject of human thought, will and judgement throughout history. It starts with the ancient Greeks, the Romans, and went all the way via Kant and Hegel to Nietzsche, Heidegger and some contemporary philosophers. Although parts of the book were beyond my intellectual comprehension, I really enjoyed this book. I love Hannah Arendt's v ...more
Aug 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Great book about thinking as viewed by philosphers over the ages. Somewhat difficult to grasp the phrases in Latin and German that occur often. I especially like her statement that The present is slippery, the now changes to then, the past, and ahead is the future approaching but not yet there. We live in between the past and the future. The present is a life-long fight against the dead weight of the past while hope drives one forward. Yet fear drives man backward toward the quiet of the past an ...more
Joseph Sverker
There is a sense of the book not being finished as everyone comments on. It is very interesting how much can be said about the life of the mind from purely philosophical persectives. But what I would like to explore more is how Arendt uses Augustine and Paul. Theology is a very significant part of this book and it is often overlooked.
Jan 31, 2014 added it
Begriff- Reason. The German thought-experiments, fearsome in their density. The Raskol- sovereign trickster, white shaman, standing outside the community, representing it in the animal and planetary consuls, delivering their edicts.
Ron Mitchell
Feb 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Just brilliant, and superbly edited by Mary McCarthy after the author's death. ...more
Dec 15, 2014 added it
Shelves: philosophy
what makes us think ?
David Warner
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The philosophical groundings of a great political thinker's world view

Originally intended as three volumes, Thinking, Willing, and Judging, only the first two were complete, in unedited form, at the author's death, although as an appendix excerpts from her lecturers on Kant's political philosophy are included in this edition in lieu of Judging, 'The Life of the Mind' constitutes a return to her philosophical passions for Hannah Arendt, in a bold attempt to answer the question: how do we think.
Paige  McLoughlin
A good survey of the intellectual outlook of major figures in Western history. Including St. Paul, Plato, Kant, Heidegger, Nietzsche, Augustine, Hegel. Very continental, very mitteleuropa, very cold war Plato to Nato stuff. I mean it has a certain narrative appeal but I don't feel we are in the same place since this book came out in the 1970s but a nice grand narrative. ...more
Patricia Roberts-Miller
I read it once a long, long time ago. This time, understanding more about the context of the book, I found it insightful and fascinating.
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Hannah Arendt (1906 – 1975) was one of the most influential political philosophers of the twentieth century. Born into a German-Jewish family, she was forced to leave Germany in 1933 and lived in Paris for the next eight years, working for a number of Jewish refugee organisations. In 1941 she immigrated to the United States and soon became part of a lively intellectual circle in New York. She held ...more

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