Saturday, January 04, 2014


In his article "Arendt & Eichmann: The New Truth" (The New York Review of Books, November 21, 2013), Mark Lilla writes about Margarethe von Trotta's film Hannah Arendt:

The deepest problem with the film, though, is not tastelessness. It is truth. At first glance the movie appears to be about nothing but the truth, which Arendt defends against her blinkered, mainly male adversaries. But its real subject is remaining true to yourself, not to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. In her director’s statement on the film von Trotta says that “Arendt was a shining example of someone who remained true to her unique perspective on the world.” 

Being true to the truth, then, is different than being true to yourself. The latter is often held up these days as a central human value: one must be true to oneself. But what will you be true to when the truth and your sense of your self come into conflict?


Greta said...

I need an example.

Andrew Shields said...

One example is the one I quoted: In Lilla's reading, Trotta sees Arendt as "being true to herself." But Lilla argues that Arendt would not have stayed "true to herself" if she knew what further research had meanwhile shown: Arendt would have been "true to the truth," as it were, and changed her position in response to the new research.
But in a different sense, Arendt did stay "true to herself" rather than "true to the truth": no matter what evidence came out in her lifetime about Martin Heidegger's actions and statements during the Third Reich, she remained loyal to her teacher and former lover. In the case of Heidegger, then, she was "true to herself" but not "true to the truth."