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The Human Condition

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speech and action in the human condition May. 29th, 2005 @ 12:10 am
i was wondering what people thought about speech and action in the human condition. it seems to me that arendt is resisting a metaphysical interpretation of both that does not want to answer what the question, "What is speech and action;" rather, Arendt seems to be discussing the ontological significance of the two as they relate the event of natality. it seems to me, as well, that to ask the question what is speech and action would also place our answer within a definition that only understands these two conditions of human existence in functionary terms, which might, for Arendt, render both superfluous.

anyway, thoughts?
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hello? Dec. 12th, 2004 @ 11:05 am

I'm a philosophy graduate student writing my dissertation (partly) on Arendt, and I signed up to your community to see if the reading group might continue. Are there future plans to keep reading?

Sep. 18th, 2004 @ 12:27 am
Im not sure what edition of The Human Condition you are using, so I cannot quote direct pages, but I am interested in comments about Arrendt's use of the concept, 'The Archimedean Point'. Please clarify and discuss this?

Week Three Reading Sep. 6th, 2004 @ 08:59 pm
Alright, moving right along, here's the week three reading plan:

Section III. Labor, chapters 11 - 17

That's a good chunk of reading, but still no more than 10 pages a day, and it will take care of an entire section. The tentative plan is to finish this up for week three and then do section IV during week four. We can then stretch sections V and VI over a three weeks period.

Gettin' the Hang of It Sep. 5th, 2004 @ 06:11 pm
Alright, I think I'm starting to figure out what Arendt is doing here. She seems to be lamenting the loss of the political, which I take to be a public space for our actions. Now, I'm not entirely sure how Arendt uses this term yet, action, but I'm keeping my eyes out for a clearer definition and more revealing uses of the word.

Arendt looks to be locating the loss of the political in two historical events: 1) the rejection of the political life for the contemplative life by philosophy, and 2) the rise of society out of the private life which comes to overtake and eventually replace the political realm of human affairs. The first is pretty straightforward, and Arendt uses ancient and Christian philosophy as examples. The second is a little more complicated, but could be put so: private concern for the necessities of life comes to be a public concern, economics leaves the household, and organizes itself as "society" which manages and directs both the public/political and the private aspects of life. Society displaces the political and as the new public realm also pervades private life.

Why is this a problem? Well, Arendt seems to be suggesting that the political, a space in which human beings can act and create, is a condition of homo sapien. Human beings are human beings in part because they can act and create. In order to do these things, they require a shared location, the public/political space, which has been disintegrating since late antiquity. Is Arendt saying that humanity is losing itself? Being animal is no problem, but being human?

There is one thing that bothers me about all this though. Arendt seems to be using original Greek thinking and acting (Greek "self-understanding" is the phrase she uses) to justify her analysis of the political. Although Arendt hasn't directly said it yet, it appears obvious that the loss the political is a negative thing. She at least implies that humans cannot be human without it. But why does Arendt think she needs to erect an original Greek world that preserved the distinction between the political and the private? Heidegger does the same damn thing: Oh! We need to return to originary Greek thinking, to the Greek understanding of Being, to the inception of Being! The both of them feel the need to appeal to the Greeks to legitimate their own enterprises, as if they were unable to do it themselves. What's the deal?
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» Week 2 Reading
So how is everybody doing with reading? Are folks actually reading? I'm a little behind right now, but nothing terrible. For this week I'll suggest we read through chapter 10, which will finish the second section, The Public and the Private Realm. How does that sound?

So, week 2 reading: Chapters 8 - 10.

NOTE: I just noticed that it is difficult to post to the community without using a livejournal client. If you do not have a client installed on your computer, follow these instructions:

1) Click "User Info" on the left sidebar.
2) Click the pencil icon at the top center of the screen.
3) Type you message
4) Before hitting "Update Journal" at the bottom of the screen, make sure you are posting to the hannaharendt community. You can set that under the "Optional Settings" section.

I will try to make this simpler. If anyone knows how to put a "Post New Message" link or button on the frontpage of the community, please let me know!
» Arendt and Heidegger
Alright, for the first post about the text itself, I'd like to take notice of a few Heideggerian points in section 1 of chapter 1: Vita Activa and the Human Condition

In the third paragraph Arendt says "The human condition of work is worldliness," that is, the human being cannot work without a world. Work is the activity that produces artificial things. Heidegger calls these things Zeug in the German which is usually translated to Equipment. According to Heidegger, the totality of equipment and their relationships to one another in terms of use and ultimately human use go to make up the "worldhood" of the world. (ie: I sit at a *desk* in a *chair* with a *pen* in my hand writing on *paper* to produce an article because that is part of being a professor) Arendt's worldliness is Heidegger's worldhood, and like Heidegger, she is saying that no artifact of work makes sense unless it belongs in a nexus of other artifacts.

Now, work both produces these artifacts while simultaneously using them. The two need one another. Arendt says exactly this in paragraph 6: "The objectivity of the world--its object or thing character--and the human condition supplement each other." Remember that work is part of the human condition. This is one of Heidegger's main points in Being and Time as he tries to overcome the duality and division between realism and idealism. There is a world and there are humans, but the world requires humans and humans require a world--you can't separate them. As Arendt says, the two condition each other.

Directly related to this is the distinction between earth and world that Arendt offhandedly makes in paragraph 6 before the above quote. Heidegger made a big deal of this distinction in "The Origin of the Work of Art." For Arendt, the earth corresponds to labor and biological processes while the world corresponds to work and artificial human creation. Both, however, are conditions of human existence. Now, the problem with making the distinction is that it seems to reintroduce the idealism/realism divide. Is the earth what is real and the world just a human construct? Heidegger would say no and I wonder if Arendt would even care.

In paragraph 8, Arendt says "Nothing entitles us to assume that man has a nature or essence in the same sense as other things" and she distinguishes between a "who" and a "what." That's straight up Heidegger. For Heidegger, the closest thing to human nature is actual human existence, which is conditional and subject to change and endless interpretation. In fact, because humans differs so greatly from every other created thing, we must speak of them only as a "who" in terms of their existence as opposed to a "what" in terms of its "whatness."

Existentialism and Phenomenology attract me partly for this reason. Human beings are unique. We cannot think of them as we think of everything else. We require a different "in terms of." Consider genetics on the other end of the spectrum. All life, human or otherwise, can be thought in terms of genes. All life, no matter how complicated or simple, is basically the same and can be thought the same. Folks like Arendt and Heidegger say No. Recognizing genetics and biology as well as the other sciences of man is necessary, but there is more to being human, something, well, these two would say something philosophical.
» Week 1 Reading
Alright, so I suppose today would be a good day to start up with the Arendt reading. Let's try it with one subsection a day. This week would then cover sections 1 through 7, or "Vita Activa and the Human Condition" through "The Public Realm: The Common." In my edition, that's 50 pages in a week, which isn't rough at all, about 7 pages per day, which might be a good pace considering that school is starting up for a lot of people. So.

Week 1 reading:

1. Vita Activa and the Human Condition - 7. The Public Realm: The Common

Make posts whenever something catches your eye or you have any question or maybe need references to material that's mentioned or alluded to in the text. Actually, just make posts whenever!

Note too that week one's reading will take us completely through the first section, The Human Condition.
» Introductions
This community has been created to foster the discussion of Hannah Arendt's The Human Condition. Anyone may join the community and post to it, although anonymous posting will not be allowed. It is hoped that the members of the community will read the text together and then discuss those ideas in it that strike them most. Ideally, real discussions will form around various passages in the text and the community will become more than the mere stating of opinion and ensuing bickering that plagues many live journal communities of this kind.

Although the readings will proceed at a regular pace in order to keep everyone on the same page, new members are encouraged to begin the text at their leisure and post thoughts on whatever sections of the book they've read. Weekly readings will be both posted in the community itself and available from the user info page. The community will not be using any particular edition of the text, although the moderator is reading from The University of Chicago's second edition, ISBN 0-226-02598-5, with an introduction by Margaret Canovan.

Links to online resources concerning both Hannah Arendt's life and more specifically The Human Condition will be available from the sidebar at the left once I get the chance to put them there. Have some fun, take some notes, and hope to be talking with you all later!
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