Hannah Arendt's Theory of Deliberative Judgment

Open Access
Miller, Joshua A.
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
April 20, 2010
Committee Members:
  • John Philip Christman, Dissertation Advisor
  • John Philip Christman, Committee Chair
  • Shannon Wimberley Sullivan, Committee Member
  • Dennis Schmidt, Committee Member
  • Stephen Howard Browne, Committee Member
  • hannah arendt
  • judgment
  • life of the mind
  • public sphere
  • sensus communis
  • common sense
  • immanuel kant
  • kant
  • arendt
  • augustine
  • love and saint augustine
In this dissertation, I investigate the role of judgment in the work of Hannah Arendt, focusing on her reading of Kant and Augustine and her account of deliberation in democratic theory. In an attempt to fill the lacuna left by her unfinished work, The Life of the Mind, I argue that Arendt’s appropriation of the Kantian sensus communis entails a theory of ethical and political judgment centered in the community rather than the subject. Taking my cue from her comment that the goal of philosophy is to teach us how to “think without banisters,” I defend Arendt’s view that the faculty of thinking cannot practically constrain the faculty of willing, and that the categorical imperative is inadequate to challenge of the explosive unforeseeability that Arendt attributes to action. Thus Arendt’s account of judging cannot be equated with reasoning over consequences or intentions. Because Arendt rejects Kant’s attempts to circumscribe action under a moral law and his nascent account of historical progress developed under the rubric of teleological judgment, her account of aesthetic judgments also departs significantly from that of Kant. To spell out this departure, I analyze Arendt's dissertation on Augustine, in which I show that Arendt sought a theory of judging as amor mundi that depends on the phenomenological circumscription of communities of interpretation and response. I expand this account with a reading of Augustine’s struggle to negotiate with the Donatist schismatics, which I use to develop the parallels between Arendt’s account of judgment and contemporary democratic theories of deliberation and public reason