Hannah Arendt's Theory of Judgment in an Era of Digital Public Spheres

No Thumbnail Available
Estes, Katherine
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Middle Tennessee State University
Hannah Arendt argues that the erosion of the arts and culture in the modern age is inextricably linked with the threat to democratic freedom in the political realm, and she concludes that one of the greatest hopes for preserving the arts, culture, and democracy is fostering the power of human judgment. In her early work—“The Crisis in Culture” and “Truth and Politics”—Arendt adopts Aristotle’s notion of phronēsis to envision judgment as a faculty used by political actors who engage in agonistic debate in order to decide on a course of action. In her later works—Thinking, Willing, and Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy—Arendt appropriates Kant’s theory of judgment, adapted from aesthetics, as a model for political action. My thesis demonstrates how, by making a shift to Kant in her later work, Arendt effectively combines aspects of Aristotelian rhetoric with notions of Kant’s aesthetics into a political theory that accounts for the possibility of communicating innovative concepts. Innovations in judgment’s concepts in turn make possible the evolution of a free and enlightened public sphere of debate. Pieced together from several of her works and developing across her lifetime, Hannah Arendt’s theory of judgment first grapples with, and ultimately resolves, the problems associated with adapting Kant’s reflective theory of aesthetic judgment for use in the political realm. Understanding Arendt’s recognition of a kind of judgment in which rhetoric, phronesis, and aesthetics meet, helps us interpret politics conducted in digital public space. My project concludes by exploring of an application of Arendtian judgment in the era of social media.