Hannah Arendt is sometimes described as humanizing Martin Heidegger; that is, she grounds Heideggerian concepts in a historically located body. Moreover, Dana Villa argues that rootlessness is Arendt's main project; it lies at the core of her explanation of the German genocide and the challenge of acting with authenticity in modern life, though rootlessness is neither limited to the twentieth century nor uniquely German. Understood in this way, Arendt's “peculiar biography” of Rahel Varnhagen becomes far more than an idiosyncratic or self-revelatory work; rather, it is an examination of rootlessness via Heidegger's core concepts: thrownness, falling prey, and projectivity. Arendt narrates Varnhagen's life to “thickly constitute” these concepts, revealing the ontological core of rootlessness as well as the political implications of disparate ontologies. In the process, she charts for herself a new course, an experiential ontology, which is grounded in and draws attention to the value of lived experiences.
Skip Nav Destination
Kimberly Maslin; Rahel Varnhagen: Arendt's Experiential Ontology. New German Critique 1 August 2013; 40 (2 (119)): 77–96. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0094033X-2077708
Download citation file: