Advertisement

Conscientious Citizenship: Arendt and Aquinas on Conscience and Politics

Chapter

Abstract

This paper explores two theories of conscience and their potential impact in the lives of citizens in political society. First, it considers Hannah Arendt’s concept of secular conscience, which points to Socrates as the paradigm. He is a citizen who, according to Arendt, is responsible solely to himself and to his own internal dialogue that will preserve his individual moral integrity. Yet, as I argue, Arendt’s account of Socratic conscience fails in two important respects: first, Socratic conscience is limited to the individual and has little or no political influence, a problem Arendt herself acknowledges. Second, such an account cannot make sense of the notion that individual, moral thinking could be a bulwark against political evil. I offer a different account of conscientious citizenship grounded in the theory of conscience offered by Thomas Aquinas. Since the two thinkers are not considered to hold much in common, I demonstrate the possibility of bringing the two into dialogue. Then, I argue that Aquinas offers a solution to the two problems identified in Arendt’s theory. Specifically, I argue that by focusing on a relational aspect of conscience, citizens can share convictions of conscience with political potency. The relational aspect of conscience serves to help correct an erroneous conscience and can serve as a bulwark against political evil.

References

  1. Aquinas T. (1948). Summa Theologiae. Trans. English Dominican Friars. New York: Benzinger. 3 Volumes.Google Scholar
  2. Aquinas, T. (1949). On kingship to the king of Cyprus. Trans. G.B. Phelan. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies.Google Scholar
  3. Aquinas, T. (1953). De Veritate (Disputed Questions on Truth). Trans. J. V. McGlynn, S. J. Chicago: Regnery.Google Scholar
  4. Aquinas, T. (2012). Commentary on the letter of Saint Paul to the Romans. Trans. F. R. Larcher, O.P. Eds. J. Mortensen and E. Alarcon. Lander: The Aquinas Institute for the Study of Sacred Doctrine. Volume 37.Google Scholar
  5. Arendt, H. (1958). The human condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  6. Arendt, H. (1971). Thinking and moral considerations: A lecture. Social Research, 38(3), 471–446.Google Scholar
  7. Arendt, H. (1972). Civil disobedience. InCrises of the republic (pp. 51–102). San Diego: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich.Google Scholar
  8. Arendt H. (1973). Remarks of Professor Hannah Arendt to the American Society of Christian Ethics. Hannah Arendt Papers at the Library of Congress. http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/arendthtml/mharendtFolderP05.html. Accessed 3 Feb 2016.
  9. Arendt, H. (1978a). Life of the mind: Thinking. London: Secker and Warburg.Google Scholar
  10. Arendt, H. (1978b). Life of the mind: Willing. London: Secker and Warburg.Google Scholar
  11. Arendt, H. (1990). Philosophy and politics. Social Research, 57(1), 73–103.Google Scholar
  12. Arendt, H. (1994). Eichmann in Jerusalem: A report on the banality of evil. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  13. Brightman, C. (1995). Between friends: The correspondence of Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy 1949–1975. New York: Harcourt Brace.Google Scholar
  14. Canovan, M. (1992). Hannah Arendt: A reinterpretation of her political thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. D’Arcy, E. (1961). Conscience and its right to freedom. New York: Sheed and Ward.Google Scholar
  16. Hittinger, R. (2009). Examination of conscience. First Things, January 2009. http://www.firsthings/article/2008/12/004-examination-of-conscience-5. Accessed 1 February 2013.
  17. Irvin, R. A., & Stansbury, J. (2004). Citizen participation in decision making: Is it worth the effort? Public Administration Review, 64(1), 55–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kateb, G. (1983). Hannah Arendt: Politics, conscience, evil. Totowa: Rowman and Allenheld.Google Scholar
  19. Kries, D. (2007). The problem of natural law. Lanham: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  20. Lebech, M. (2003). Arendt and Aquinas: Two worlds or one? https://core.ac.uk/download/files/374/11523124.pdf. Accessed 10 February 2016.
  21. MacIntyre, A. (1999). Dependent rational animals: Why human beings need the virtues. Chicago: Open Court.Google Scholar
  22. Strauss, L. (1953). Natural right and history. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  23. Thunder, D. (2014). Citizenship and the pursuit of the worthy life. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Villa, D. (2001). Socratic citizenship. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Winters, F. X. (1987). The banality of virtue: Reflections on Hannah Arendt’s reinterpretation of political ethics. In J. W. Bernauer & S. J (Eds.), Amor Mundi: Explorations of the faith and thought of Hannah Arendt (pp. 187–218). Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Wolin, S. (1960). Politics and vision: Continuity and vision in western political thought. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Universidad de NavarraInstituto de Cultura y SociedadPamplonaSpain

Personalised recommendations