16 June 2010

Hannah Arendt

'Action, with all its uncertainties, is like an ever-present reminder that men, though they must die, are not born in order to die but in order to begin something new.'

Via her concept of 'The Vita Activa' in The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt divides human activity into three spheres: Labour, Work and Action. Of these three activities Action is the highest pursuit, for it is through Action that humans can attain excellence and transcendence.

Labour is the bodily toil that allows one to subsist. The products of Labour are meant for almost immediate consumption so that production and consumption become almost the same movement. Labour is therefore the infinite cycle that forms the basis to our finite rectilinear lives.

The result of Work is the human artifice, the world of things which surround us. Work is done by human hands and their tools, its products are durable (though ultimately expirable) objects whose purpose is use in its broadest sense. Work fabricates the world: 'without a world between men and nature, there is eternal movement, but no objectivity.'

Action is man's highest faculty. It goes hand-in-hand with speech, which allows the 'who', the agent in the act, to be disclosed. The fundamental concept is that each man is born with the ability to start something new, i.e. 'natality'; that each birth signals the opportunity for excellence and transcendence to appear.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) was a German-Jewish philosopher who, since World War II, lived predominantly in the United States. She was married to (anti-Stalinist) Marxist philosopher Heinrich Bl├╝cher, and studied under Martin Heidegger and Karl Jaspers. One of her most famous books, The Origins of Totalitarianism, critiques the totalitarian systems of Stalin's Russia and Hitler's Germany. Arendt suggests in The Origins that the times in which we live are themselves conducive to such regimes, and that therefore Nazism and Stalinism were not anomalies but could indeed occur again and in yet more horrific incarnations. 'Political, social, and economic events everywhere are in a silent conspiracy with totalitarian instruments devised for making men superfluous.'


Anonymous Anonymous said...

hannah aendt is my philosopher and i am about to write my doctoral dissrtation on her book "eichmann in jerusalem"

chito manaloto

27 December, 2010 23:17  

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