Friendship and Politics

Episode 48: Friendship and Politics

Professor Roger Berkowitz the Founder and Academic Director of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities joins us to discuss the up coming Friendship and Politics conference.

Show notes

Roger Berkowitz is Founder and Academic Director of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities and Professor of Politics, Philosophy, and Human Rights at Bard College. Professor Berkowitz authored The Gift of Science: Leibniz and the Modern Legal Tradition (Harvard, 2005; Fordham, 2010; Chinese Law Press, 2011). Berkowitz is editor of The Perils of Invention: Lying, Technology, and the Human Condition (2022) and co-editor of Thinking in Dark Times: Hannah Arendt on Ethics and Politics (2009), The Intellectual Origins of the Global Financial Crisis (2012) and Artifacts of Thinking: Reading Hannah Arendt's Denktagebuch (2017). His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The American Interest, Bookforum, The Forward, The Paris Review Online, Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, and many other publications. He is a co-editor with Drucilla Cornell of Just Ideas, a book series published by Fordham University Press. He is the winner of the 2019 Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought given by the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Bremen, Germany.

Professor Berkowitz joins us to discuss this upcoming event narrated below and shared directly from the event website. The thinking behind this idea which originally came from Hanna Arendt herself, as well as curated thoughts and ideas stemming from a prolific group of political thinkers and people.

"What is friendship and why have we as a nation isolated ourselves so much that we fail to confide in others as well as fail to rejoice?"

Berkowitz discusses that while Hanna Arendt believed in the power of intimate friendship, Arendt also understood what she called “the political relevance of friendship.” The world is not humane simply because it is made by human beings. Rather, the things of this world only become human “when we can discuss them with our fellows.” For Arendt, it follows that in public life, “friendship is not intimately personal but makes political demands and preserves reference to the world.” The common world is thus held together by friendship."

From the Bard Politics and Friendship conference site: "Politics and friendship both are based in the act of talking with others. There are no absolutes in either friendship or politics, where everything emerges from the act of speaking and acting in concert with others. Thus, Arendt insists there is no truth in politics. In politics it is opinion and not truth that matters. Absent truth, what holds the political world together is friendships, our sober and rational love for our fellow citizens.That friendship emerges in conversation and that conversation, and not the revelation of truths from on high, is the source of political consensus. That is why Arendt can say, with Cicero, “I prefer before heaven to go astray with Plato than hold true views with his opponents.” She means that friendship more so than truth is the foundation of a meaningful political world.

Both intimate and political friendships are in crisis today. Studies show that Americans have fewer and fewer friends with whom they can share their joys and sorrows. The crisis of friendship means the loss of a place in the world. And the crisis of political friendship means the loss of spaces and institutions where one can talk honestly and directly with those whom one shares a world amidst disagreements. Such institutions are threatened by echo chambers and algorithms that surround us only with like-minded acolytes.

The Arendt Center conference on Friendship and Politics brings together writers, thinkers, activists, and artists to collectively think about the importance of friendship in our world."

Produced by Matty Rosenberg and Jennifer Hammoud @ Radio Free Rhiniecliff

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