Senior Fellow: April–June 2017 and October–December 2017
Research Project: Hannah Arendt and Leo Strauss on “Jewish Scepticism”
There is a standard narrative about Hannah Arendt. She was a sceptic regarding human rights: from the early 1940s on, she insisted in her writings that universalised human rights ignored the difference between humanity and humankind, and that because of this ignorance, human rights were defending an abstract idea of human beings. As a consequence, Arendt invoked the formulation ‘the right to have rights” as the one true human right. “The right to have rights” has become part of the standard repertoire of current debates about refugees, statelessness, and the struggles of modern democracies.
However, nobody has defined the meaning of “sceptic” or “scepticism” here, or explored it in greater detail. It is at this crucial point that my research project begins. If Arendt was indeed a sceptic, what made her philosophically sceptical? Answers to these questions will form the foundation for three inquiries that are essential to my research project:
1. To what degree is Arendt’s “scepticism” a response to the Holocaust and its consequences?
2. Can similarly sceptical reactions to the Holocaust and its consequences be found in other Jewish thinkers of her generation?
3. If there are such similarities, would it not be necessary to address this particular scepticism as a new form of Jewish scepticism and to define it more precisely?
Thomas Meyer obtained his doctorate (2003) and completed his Habilitation (2009) at LMU, Munich. After that, he received several fellowships and visiting- and guest-professorships at the University of Graz, the ETH Zurich, the University of Chicago, Vanderbilt University, Wake Forest University, Boston University, Erlangen University, and the University of Hamburg.