Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data. Arendt, Hannah. The human condition / by Hannah Arendt; introduction by Margaret. Canovan. — 2nd ed. File:Arendt Hannah The Human Condition 2nd pdf Arendt_Hannah_The_Human_Condition_2nd_pdf (file size: MB, MIME. PDF | On Jan 1, , Arpad Kadarkay and others published Hannah Arendt: The Human Condition-Part I.
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The Human Condition, first published in , Hannah Arendt's account of how " human .. Print/export. Create a book · Download as PDF · Printable version. Hannah Arendt. I. Vita Activa and the Human Condition. With the term vita activa, I propose to designate three fundamental human activities: labor, work. The Human Condition. HANNAH. ARENDT. Chicago: University of Chicago human existence are the earth, birth and death, human plurality, and worldliness.
The prime culprit is Plato, whose metaphysics subordinates action and appearances to the eternal realm of the Ideas. Moreover, she arranges these activities in an ascending hierarchy of importance, and identifies the overturning of this hierarchy as central to the eclipse of political freedom and responsibility which, for her, has come to characterize the modern age.
Labor is distinguished by its never-ending character; it creates nothing of permanence, its efforts are quickly consumed, and must therefore be perpetually renewed so as to sustain life. In this aspect of its existence humanity is closest to the animals and so, in a significant sense, the least human "What men [sic] share with all other forms of animal life was not considered to be human".
Because the activity of labor is commanded by necessity, the human being as laborer is the equivalent of the slave; labor is characterized by unfreedom.
Arendt argues that it is precisely the recognition of labor as contrary to freedom, and thus to what is distinctively human, which underlay the institution of slavery amongst the ancient Greeks; it was the attempt to exclude labor from the conditions of human life. The prioritization of the economic which has attended the rise of capitalism has for Arendt all but eclipsed the possibilities of meaningful political agency and the pursuit of higher ends which should be the proper concern of public life.
Work thus creates a world distinct from anything given in nature, a world distinguished by its durability, its semi-permanence and relative independence from the individual actors and acts which call it into being. Homo faber's typical representatives are the builder, the architect, the craftsperson, the artist and the legislator, as they create the public world both physically and institutionally by constructing buildings and making laws.
It should be clear that work stands in clear distinction from labor in a number of ways. Firstly, whereas labor is bound to the demands of animality, biology and nature, work violates the realm of nature by shaping and transforming it according to the plans and needs of humans; this makes work a distinctly human i. Secondly, because work is governed by human ends and intentions it is under humans' sovereignty and control, it exhibits a certain quality of freedom, unlike labor which is subject to nature and necessity.
The common world of institutions and spaces that work creates furnish the arena in which citizens may come together as members of that shared world to engage in political activity.
Labor and its effects are inherently impermanent and perishable, exhausted as they are consumed, and so do not possess the qualities of quasi-permanence which are necessary for a shared environment and common heritage which endures between people and across time.
In industrial modernity "all the values characteristic of the world of fabrication - permanence, stability, durability Then we have work, which is a distinctly human i. Again it is Plato who stands accused of the instrumentalization of action, of its conflation with fabrication and subordination to an external teleology as prescribed by his metaphysical system.
For Arendt, the activity of work cannot be fully free insofar as it is not an end in itself, but is determined by prior causes and articulated ends. The fundamental defining quality of action is its ineliminable freedom, its status as an end in itself and so as subordinate to nothing outside itself.
Arendt argues that it is a mistake to take freedom to be primarily an inner, contemplative or private phenomenon, for it is in fact active, worldly and public. Our sense of an inner freedom is derivative upon first having experienced "a condition of being free as a tangible worldly reality.
We first become aware of freedom or its opposite in our intercourse with others, not in the intercourse with ourselves. And further, that freedom is to be seen: as a character of human existence in the world.
Man does not so much possess freedom as he, or better his coming into the world, is equated with the appearance of freedom in the universe; man is free because he is a beginning This "miraculous," initiatory quality distinguishes genuine action from mere behavior i. The definition of human action in terms of freedom and novelty places it outside the realm of necessity or predictability.
Herein lies the basis of Arendt's quarrel with Hegel and Marx, for to define politics or the unfolding of history in terms of any teleology or immanent or objective process is to deny what is central to authentic human action, namely, its capacity to initiate the wholly new, unanticipated, unexpected, unconditioned by the laws of cause and effect.
It has been argued that Arendt is a political existentialist who, in seeking the greatest possible autonomy for action, falls into the danger of aestheticising action and advocating decisionism. Another way of understanding the importance of publicity and plurality for action is to appreciate that action would be meaningless unless there were others present to see it and so give meaning to it.
The meaning of the action and the identity of the actor can only be established in the context of human plurality, the presence others sufficiently like ourselves both to understand us and recognize the uniqueness of ourselves and our acts.
It is through action as speech that individuals come to disclose their distinctive identity: "Action is the public disclosure of the agent in the speech deed.
Such action is for Arendt synonymous with the political; politics is the ongoing activity of citizens coming together so as to exercise their capacity for agency, to conduct their lives together by means of free speech and persuasion.
Politics and the exercise of freedom-as-action are one and the same: …freedom Without it, political life as such would be meaningless. Arendt takes issue with both liberal and Marxist interpretations of modern political revolutions such as the French and American.
Against liberals, the disputes the claim that these revolutions were primarily concerned with the establishment of a limited government that would make space for individual liberty beyond the reach of the state.
Rather, Arendt claims, what distinguishes these modern revolutions is that they exhibit albeit fleetingly the exercise of fundamental political capacities - that of individuals acting together, on the basis of their mutually agreed common purposes, in order to establish a tangible public space of freedom.
Yet Arendt sees both the French and American revolutions as ultimately failing to establish a perduring political space in which the on-going activities of shared deliberation, decision and coordinated action could be exercised.
Meanwhile, the American Revolution evaded this fate, and by means of the Constitution managed to found a political society on the basis of comment assent. Yet she saw it only as a partial and limited success.
America failed to create an institutional space in which citizens could participate in government, in which they could exercise in common those capacities of free expression, persuasion and judgement that defined political existence. She controversially uses the phrase "the banality of evil" to characterize Eichmann's actions as a member of the Nazi regime, in particular his role as chief architect and executioner of Hitler's genocidal "final solution" Endlosung for the "Jewish problem.
Rather it is meant to contest the prevalent depictions of the Nazi's inexplicable atrocities as having emanated from a malevolent will to do evil, a delight in murder.
As far as Arendt could discern, Eichmann came to his willing involvement with the program of genocide through a failure or absence of the faculties of sound thinking and judgement. From Eichmann's trial in Jerusalem where he had been brought after Israeli agents found him in hiding in Argentina , Arendt concluded that far from exhibiting a malevolent hatred of Jews which could have accounted psychologically for his participation in the Holocaust, Eichmann was an utterly innocuous individual.
He operated unthinkingly, following orders, efficiently carrying them out, with no consideration of their effects upon those he targeted. The human dimension of these activities were not entertained, so the extermination of the Jews became indistinguishable from any other bureaucratically assigned and discharged responsibility for Eichmann and his cohorts.
Arendt concluded that Eichmann was constitutively incapable of exercising the kind of judgement that would have made his victims' suffering real or apparent for him.
This amounted to a failure to use self-reflection as a basis forjudgement, the faculty that would have required Eichmann to exercise his imagination so as to contemplate the nature of his deeds from the experiential standpoint of his victims.
This connection between the complicity with political evil and the failure of thinking and judgement inspired the last phase of Arendt's work, which sought to explicate the nature of these faculties and their constitutive role for politically and morally responsible choices. Thinking and Judging Arendt's concern with thinking and judgement as political faculties stretches back to her earliest works, and were addressed subsequently in a number of essays written during the s and s.
However, in the last phase of her work, she turned to examine these faculties in a concerted and systematic way. However, the posthumously publishedLectures on Kant's Political Philosophy delineate what might reasonably be supposed as her "mature" reflections on political judgement. Understanding yields positive knowledge - it is the quest for knowable truths. Reason or thinking, on the other hand, drives us beyond knowledge, persistently posing questions that cannot be answered from the standpoint of knowledge, but which we nonetheless cannot refrain from asking.
The value of thinking is not that it yields positive results that can be considered settled, but that it constantly returns to question again and again the meaning that we give to experiences, actions and circumstances. This, for Arendt, is intrinsic to the exercise of political responsibility - the engagement of this faculty that seeks meaning through a relentless questioning including self-questioning.
It was precisely the failure of this capacity that characterized the "banality" of Eichmann's propensity to participate in political evil. Arendt's concern with political judgement, and its crisis in the modern era, is a recurrent theme in her work.
As noted earlier, Arendt bemoans the "world alienation" that characterizes the modern era, the destruction of a stable institutional and experiential world that could provide a stable context in which humans could organize their collective existence.
Moreover, it will be recalled that in human action Arendt recognizes for good or ill the capacity to bring the new, unexpected, and unanticipated into the world.
This quality of action means that it constantly threatens to defy or exceed our existing categories of understanding or judgement; precedents and rules cannot help us judge properly what is unprecedented and new. So for Arendt, our categories and standards of thought are always beset by their potential inadequacy with respect to that which they are called upon to judge. The mass destruction of two World Wars, the development of technologies which threaten global annihilation, the rise of totalitarianism, and the murder of millions in the Nazi death camps and Stalin's purges have effectively exploded our existing standards for moral and political judgement.
Tradition lies in shattered fragments around us and "the very framework within which understanding and judging could arise is gone.
Arendt confronts the question: on what basis can one judge the unprecedented, the incredible, the monstrous which defies our established understandings and experiences? If we are to judge at all, it must now be "without preconceived categories and Arendt eschews "determinate judgement," judgement that subsumes particulars under a universal or rule that already exists.
What Arendt finds so valuable in Kant's account is that reflective judgement proceeds from the particular with which it is confronted, yet nevertheless has a universalizing moment - it proceeds from the operation of a capacity that is shared by all beings possessed of the faculties of reason and understanding.
Kant requires us to judge from this common standpoint, on the basis of what we share with all others, by setting aside our own egocentric and private concerns or interests. The faculty of reflective judgement requires us to set aside considerations which are purely private matters of personal liking and private interest and instead judge from the perspective of what we share in common with others i.
Diversity among the humans that see the action makes possible a sort of objectivity by letting an action be witnessed from different perspectives. Action has boundless consequences, often going far beyond what we could anticipate. The Greeks thought of the polis as a place where free people could live together so as to act.
Philosophers like Plato , disliking action's unpredictability, modeled the ideal polis on the household. In it, the philosopher king produces the lasting work of legislation, and the people labor under him. Against attempts to replace action with work and labor, Arendt offers two solutions to the two greatest problems action creates: Arendt thinks that three great events determined the character of the modern age: They happened suddenly and had repercussions their instigators never intended.
One effect of each of these events is to increase our alienation from the world, which Arendt thinks is far more characteristic of our age than alienation from the self as Marx thought.
The process of expropriation kicked off by the Reformation expropriated people from their land and place in the world. Galileo 's discovery of the continuity between the earth and the universe alienates people from their world by showing that our earth-centered view of the world is illusory, that the sun does not rise and set as it appears to.
Ironically, the outcome of the scientific revolution is that current theories have become so bizarre and that perhaps no one can grasp the world they describe. They have turned out to be useful primarily as instruments, after having shattered our previous understanding of the world. Meanwhile, science now further alienates us from the world by unleashing processes on earth that previously occurred only further out in the universe. We have found an archimedean point to move the world, but only by losing our place in it.
The consequence of this world alienation for philosophy has been an intense focus on the self, the one remaining sphere of certainty and knowledge.
The world described by science cannot be known, or not with certainty, but the self, Descartes and other moderns thought, could be known. Though his cogito ergo sum was anticipated by Augustine, his dubito ergo sum is original and a hallmark of modernity: The notion of common sense as a sense in which the other five were fitted to a common world ceded to a conception of common sense as an inner faculty with no relationship to the world, and the assumption that all humans had faculties like this in common became necessary to get theories going, but without the assumption of a common world, the assumption of faculties in common lost some warrant.
Galileo's discoveries also have implications for the 'vita activa' and 'contemplativa'. That he made the discoveries with a telescope, with a product of human work, signals an important change in science. Knowledge is acquired not simply by thinking, but by making.
Homo faber and the life of work were thus exalted over the life of contemplation. Indeed, the model of scientific inquiry, the experiment, is one in which the scientist unleashes a process by which the scientist produces results.
This way of doing science is naturally understood in terms of work processes.
The philosopher has consequently been relegated to a position of relative insignificance, merely puzzling over what the scientists have shown. But in the end, Homo faber ceded primacy to animal laborans.
Labor, Work, Action
The life of labor became the central concern because all of these developments took place in a Christian society that valued life far more than others have. After secularization, this vestigial preoccupation with life as the central value dominates our activities. It has made us into a society of laborers. Judged by the historical significance of what they do, the people most capable of action now are perhaps the scientists, but unfortunately, they act into nature and not human relationships, and thus their action cannot be the source of meaningfulness that illuminates human existence.
Action is still possible in free societies, but fragile. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article includes a list of references , but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations.
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Arendt Hannah. The Human Condition
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University of Chicago Press. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Archive. Stanford University. Retrieved 6 February Revision as of May Yar, Majid. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 18 July Hannah Arendt.
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Hannah Arendt (1906—1975)
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She credits Kant with having dislodged the prejudice that judgments of taste lie altogether outside the political realm, since they supposedly concern only aesthetic matters. In the subsequent years, she continued her involvement in Jewish and Zionist politics, which began from onwards.
Without the accompaniment of speech, action would lose its revelatory quality and could no longer be identified with an agent. She remained close to Jaspers throughout her life, although the influence of Heidegger's phenomenology was to prove the greater in its lasting influence upon Arendt's work.
References and Further Reading a. Firstly, whereas labor is bound to the demands of animality, biology and nature, work violates the realm of nature by shaping and transforming it according to the plans and needs of humans; this makes work a distinctly human i. She defines the three activities — labor, work, and action — and describes four possible realms: the political, the social, the public, and the private.
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