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Inconceivable EffectsEthics through Twentieth-Century German Literature, Thought, and Film$
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Martin Blumenthal-Barby

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780801478123

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801478123.001.0001

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“The Odium of Doubtfulness”

“The Odium of Doubtfulness”

Or the Vicissitudes of Arendt’s Metaphorical Thinking

(p.16) 1 “The Odium of Doubtfulness”
Inconceivable Effects

Martin Blumenthal-Barby

Cornell University Press

This chapter focuses on Hannah Arendt’s study of the question of “style” in historiographical narration. It analyzes Arendt’s book, Origins of Totalitarianism, and determines her own style, while questioning how its efficacy relates to the problem of understanding totalitarianism. In response to political philosopher Eric Voegelin, a reviewer of Origins, Arendt elaborates on her decision to allocate more historiographical legitimacy to metaphorical thinking than to statistical science. She treats the merits of metaphorical thinking on the basis of a metaphor employed in Origins—that of the Nazi concentration camp as a place of “Hell.” Arendt feels that a heavy reliance on the explanatory power of quantitative material means prolonging the logic of Nazism or, more generally, the biopolitical logic of totalitarian politics.

Keywords:   Hannah Arendt, Origins of Totalitarianism, historiographical narration, totalitarianism, Eric Voegelin, concentration camp, Nazism

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