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by Jerome Kohn & Hannah Arendt

Pub Date: June 15th, 1961
ISBN: 0143104810
Publisher: Viking

Between Past and Future is a collection of six long and rhetoric-filled essays that strive to measure how far modern man has strayed from the classical tradition, in both the way he educates his children and the way he evolves his outlook on life. This departure is not necessarily wholly bad, says the author, but she deplores the fact that nothing has been found that serves mankind so well as a deep understanding of history. Unless the reader is well acquainted with Plato, Aristotle, and Thucydides, to say nothing of Marx, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard, it is exceedingly difficult to follow the author's tortuous consideration of the meanings of immortality, authority, freedom, and culture. Some passages, for example, depend more on citations from the Greek and other languages than they do on the inadequate translations that are provided. With a fireworks display of syntax she contrasts the position of Hegel as a political prime-mover with that of Socrates as an educator, and Robespierre's defense of terror and tyranny are compared to the statements of Machiaveill. Dr. Arendt's publishers claim that her essays can "guide and inspire those seeking to understand our times", but the claim alone is not enough to make her writing clear to readers who lack the extraordinary background required to keep pace with her professorial erudition. A lineal "key" would be more to the point. The most her book can do is make the average reader comprehend that his education is totally inadequate.