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.
Accordingly the amenability of European populations to totalitarian ideas was the consequence of a series of pathologies that had eroded the public or political realm as a space of liberty and freedom. These pathologies included the expansionism of imperialist capital with its administrative management of colonial suppression, and the usurpation of the state by the bourgeoisie as an instrument by which to further its own sectional interests.
This in turn led to the delegitimation of political institutions, and the atrophy of the principles of citizenship and deliberative consensus that had been the heart of the democratic political enterprise. The rise of totalitarianism was thus to be understood in light of the accumulation of pathologies that had undermined the conditions of possibility for a viable public life that could unite citizens, while simultaneously preserving their liberty and uniqueness a condition that Arendt referred to as "plurality".
In this early work, it is possible to discern a number of the recurrent themes that would organize Arendt's political writings throughout her life.
For example, the inquiry into the conditions of possibility for a humane and democratic public life, the historical, social and economic forces that had come to threaten it, the conflictual relationship between private interests and the public good, the impact of intensified cycles of production and consumption that destabilized the common world context of human life, and so on. These themes would not only surface again and again in Arendt's subsequent work, but would be conceptually elaborated through the development of key distinctions in order to delineate the nature of political existence and the faculties exercised in its production and preservation.
In this work she undertakes a thorough historical-philosophical inquiry that returned to the origins of both democracy and political philosophy in the Ancient Greek world, and brought these originary understandings of political life to bear on what Arendt saw as its atrophy and eclipse in the modern era. Her goal was to propose a phenomenological reconstruction of different aspects of human activity, so as to better discern the type of action and engagement that corresponded to present political existence.
In doing so, she offers a stringent critique of traditional of political philosophy, and the dangers it presents to the political sphere as an autonomous domain of human practice. 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. The Human Condition was first published in A second edition, with an introduction by Margaret Canovan , was issued in The work consists of a prologue and six parts.
Arendt introduces the term vita activa active life by distinguishing it from vita contemplativa contemplative life.
Ancient philosophers insisted upon the superiority of the vita contemplativa, for which the vita activa merely provided necessities. Marx flipped the hierarchy, claiming that the vita contemplativa is merely a superstructure on the fundamental basic life-processes of a society. Arendt's thesis is that the concerns of the vita activa are neither superior nor inferior to those of the vita contemplativa, nor are they the same.
The 'vita activa' may be divided into three sorts of activities: According to Arendt, ancient Greek life was divided between two realms: The mark of the private was not intimacy, as it is in modern times, but biological necessity.
In the private realm, heads of households took care of needs for food, shelter, and sex. By contrast, the public realm was a realm of freedom from these biological necessities, a realm in which one could distinguish oneself through "great words and great deeds.
Slaves and subordinated women were confined to the private realm where they met the biological necessities of the head of the household. The public realm naturally was accorded higher status than the private. With the fall of the Roman Empire , the church took over the role of the public realm though its otherworldly orientation gave it a character distinct from the previous public realm , and the feudal lords ran their lands and holdings as private realms.
The modern period saw the rise of a third realm, the social realm. The social realm is concerned with providing for biological needs, but it does so at the level of the state. Arendt views the social realm as a threat to both the private and the public realm.
In order to provide for the needs of everyone, it must invade the private sphere, and because it makes biological needs a public matter, it corrupts the realm of free action: There is no longer a realm free from necessity.
Arendt claims that her distinction between labor and work has been disregarded by philosophers throughout history even though it has been preserved in many European languages. Labor is human activity directed at meeting biological and perhaps other necessities for self-preservation and the reproduction of the species. Because these needs cannot be satisfied once and for all, labor never really reaches an end. Its fruits do not last long; they are quickly consumed, and more must always be produced.
Labor is thus a cyclical, repeated process that carries with it a sense of futility. In the ancient world, Arendt asserts, labor was contemptible not because it was what slaves did; rather, slaves were contemptible because they performed labor, a futile but necessary activity. In the modern world, not just slaves, but everyone has come to be defined by their labor: We are job-holders, and we must perform our jobs to meet our needs.
Marx registers this modern idea in his assertion that man is animal laborans , a species that sets itself apart from the animals not by its thinking, but by its labor. But Marx then contradicts himself in foreseeing a day when production allows the proletariat to throw off the shackles of their oppressors and be free from labor entirely. By Marx's own lights, this would mean they cease to be human. Arendt worries that if automation were to allow us to free ourselves from labor, freedom would be meaningless to us without the contrast with futile necessity that labor provides.
Because we define ourselves as job-holders and have relegated everything outside of labor to the category of play and mere hobbies, our lives would become trivial to us without labor. Meanwhile, advances in production and the transformation of work into labor means that many things that were once to be lasting works are now mere disposable objects of consumption, "The solution Work, unlike labor, has a clearly defined beginning and end. It leaves behind a durable object, such as a tool, rather than an object for consumption.
These durable objects become part of the world we live in. Work involves an element of violation or violence in which the worker interrupts nature in order to obtain and shape raw materials. For example, a tree is cut down to obtain wood, or the earth is mined to obtain metals.
Work comprises the whole process, from the original idea for the object, to the obtaining of raw materials, to the finished product.
The process of work is determined by the categories of means and end. Arendt thinks that thinking of ourselves primarily as workers leads to a sort of instrumental reasoning in which it is natural to think of everything as a potential means to some further end. Kant 's claim that humanity is an end in itself shows just how much this instrumental conception of reason has dominated our thinking. Utilitarianism , Arendt claims, is based on a failure to distinguish between "in order to" and "for the sake of.
Although use objects are good examples of the products of work, artworks are perhaps the best examples, since they have the greatest durability of all objects. Since they are never used for anything least of all labor , they don't get worn down.
The third type of activity, action which includes both speech and action , is the means by which humans disclose themselves to others, not that action is always consciously guiding such disclosure. Indeed, the self revealed in action is more than likely concealed from the person acting, revealed only in the story of her action. Action is the means by which we distinguish ourselves from others as unique and unexchangeable beings.
With humans, unlike with other beings, there is not just a generic question of what we are, but of who each is individually. Action and speech are always between humans and directed toward them, and it generates human relationships. 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.