Stranger from Abroad: Daniel Maier-Katkin on Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger

It's been my great pleasure to have some inkling of the extent to which Daniel Maier-Katkin--former dean of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida State University--has immersed himself in the subject matter of his new book Stranger from Abroad: Hannah Arendt, Martin Heidegger, Friendship and Forgiveness. The book is the product of several years of inquiry and research, and the final text is a profoundly detailed, complex, and thoughtful view of two controversial figures, the times in which they lived, and the ideas they came to represent.

Who were Arendt and Heidegger? For once, a book's jacket copy is of use: "Shaking up the content and method by which generations of students had studied Western philosophy, Martin Heidegger sought to enoble Man’s existence in relation to Death. Yet in a time of crisis, he sought personal advancement, becoming the most prominent German intellectual to join the Nazis. Hannah Arendt, his brilliant, beautiful student and young lover, sought to enable a decent society of human beings in relation to one other. She was courageous in the time of crisis. Years later, she was even able to forgive Heidegger and to find in his behavior an insight into Nazism that would influence her reflections on 'the banality of evil'--a concept that remains bitterly controversial and profoundly influential to this day."

Stranger from Abroad has already received much praise, including a recent starred review in Booklist, which wrote, "Readers welcoming diverse perspectives will benefit from this inquiry into a relationship uniquely freighted with historical meaning." It's a fascinating book.

I recently interviewed Maier-Katkin via email. For more information, visit the dedicated website, which includes extensive video excerpts.

   Stranger Others have written about this subject. What is new or different about your approach?

Maier-Katkin: My approach, especially to Arendt, is more sympathetic than that of most others who have written about her relationship with Heidegger. Richard Wolin, for example, starts from the assumption that Arendt was excessively critical of other Jews and of Israel, and constructs an argument that she was uncomfortable with her own Jewish identity, felt more German than Jewish, and that this was somehow explained by her love for Martin Heidegger. Other critics have been more hostile, characterizing Arendt as a self-hating, anti-Semitic Jew because she conceived of the complicity of ordinary Germans with Nazi evil as somehow "banal," and because she argued that Israeli militarism was more likely to result in some cataclysm for the Jewish people than in perpetual domination of the Middle East through raw power.

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