The article seeks to understand Hannah Arendt's political thinking by relating it to an issue which is crucial to the thinking of the later Heidegger, i.e., the problem of originality ( Anfänglichkeit) and history. In opposition to Hegel's thesis of the “end of art,” Heidegger envisages in “great art” such as Hölderlin's poetry a new origin of thinking and history. The end of art, which Hegel holds to be necessary, is in Heidegger's view to be overcome precisely because art, for him, entails an origin which is not a “Not yet” of a teleological perfection in Hegel's sense, but a “Not yet” of a future history. However, Heidegger's orientation towards a “pure” origin qua future leads him to poietically escape the realm of the Political and the questions of praxis and practical rationality.
Like Heidegger, Arendt is taken with the problem of origin; but in contrast to her former teacher, she tries to regain what Heidegger thought he could leave, viz., the dimension of the genuine Political and of acting. The original sense of acting (for Arendt, the capability of human beings to make a new beginning) can be observed in the Greek polis as well as in the American Revolution in modern times: The revolutionary act of a total new beginning elucidates, according to Arendt, what “acting” means in the full and truly political sense. However, Arendt's notion of an epochal beginning seems one-sided, and her abstract concept of acting seems to foster a mere actionism and anarchy. Therefore, contrary to Arendt's claims, the concept of the Political which she shapes in accordance with the extraordinary experiences of an epochal acting has apolitical consequences. The task of thinking after Heidegger and Arendt thus remains one of determining the political character of action in a convincing manner. In this respect, the paper pleads for a rethinking of Hegel's concept of ethical life ( Sittlichkeit).