For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Labor, Thought, and the Work of Authorship: Virginia Woolf and Hannah Arendt"

by Baena, Victoria (2020)


Key Passage

While Arendt describes thought as a natural need of human life, “thoughtlessness” is, for her, a temptation of modern life, as well as a possible condition for evil. The Life of the Mind is wary, in turn, towards those whom Arendt (with Kant) calls the “professional thinkers.” Arendt would remain reluctant to include herself among those ranks, though also eager to downplay any difference between philosophers and other people, as she argued that philosophers’ mere common sense acquainted them with the out-of-order nature of thought.3 Yet if thinking is something that happens but leaves nothing behind—an event without a structure to capture it—how does one account for or describe the peculiar work of the intellectual? These were ambiguities that Arendt never fully resolved. This essay, however, uncovers a possible set of responses, if not resolutions, in the writings of an earlier female intellectual known for her similarly fraught relationship to the labors of the mind, though also her more concrete, material engagement with gendered labor. (p.83)


Arendt, Woolf, Gendered Labor, Professional Thought, Professional Intellectual, Intellectual Work


On Arendt

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