Enjoy millions of ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, and more, with a free trial

Only $11.99/month after trial. Cancel anytime.

The Human Condition: Second Edition
The Human Condition: Second Edition
The Human Condition: Second Edition
Ebook578 pages10 hours

The Human Condition: Second Edition

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

4/5

()

About this ebook

The past year has seen a resurgence of interest in the political thinker Hannah Arendt, “the theorist of beginnings,” whose work probes the logics underlying unexpected transformations—from totalitarianism to revolution.

A work of striking originality, The Human Condition is in many respects more relevant now than when it first appeared in 1958. In her study of the state of modern humanity, Hannah Arendt considers humankind from the perspective of the actions of which it is capable. The problems Arendt identified then—diminishing human agency and political freedom, the paradox that as human powers increase through technological and humanistic inquiry, we are less equipped to control the consequences of our actions—continue to confront us today. This new edition, published to coincide with the sixtieth anniversary of its original publication, contains Margaret Canovan’s 1998 introduction and a new foreword by Danielle Allen.

A classic in political and social theory, The Human Condition is a work that has proved both timeless and perpetually timely.
 
LanguageEnglish
Release dateJan 11, 2019
ISBN9780226586748
The Human Condition: Second Edition

Reviews for The Human Condition

Rating: 4.026595744680851 out of 5 stars
4/5

188 ratings9 reviews

What did you think?

Tap to rate

Review must be at least 10 words

  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    A very unique approach to philosophy, to put it mildly.

    Divides human life into three spheres: labor, action, and work. Describes the evolution of these three concepts, using historical examples from philosophy. Not an easy book, but a very stimulating one.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Arendt deals with human beings in the collective, and thus calls herself a political philosopher. Her reflections on the nature of work, action, and thought are profound precisely because they are rooted in experience (phenomenology). Arguably, the most important political thinker for understanding the future of democracy...plurality and persuasion, rather than force and mass. This gets to the root of her critique of Marx.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    This is a difficult read, although initially more frightening than it ends up actually being. Arendt's intellect is intimidating to say the least, and the manner in which she launches into a discussion of the human condition in the modern age is altogether unlike anything I've ever seen before -- "unique" is certainly an understatement. She completely renovates the discussion of political and social theory, but does it in a way that makes it seem logical and even natural. The scope of her knowledge is breathtaking, as she deftly handles everything from Ancient Greek property rights to modern day astrophysics, displaying an impressive working knowledge of Greek, Latin, German, French, and Italian in the process.

    The book's greatest value is in its content. In addition to Arendt's revolutionary proposal of the vita activa (contrasted with the vita contemplativa) as broken up into the three separate areas of labor, work, and action, she also develops background arguments in each of these three categories that could have become books unto themselves. Her discussion of slavery in ancient Greece and Rome was one of the highlights. It was utterly fascinating to learn that unlike modern slaves that exist for production's sake, ancient slaves existed chiefly to free their masters from the necessities of everyday labor (day-to-day maintenance such as cleaning and cooking). This distinction does not seem like much on first glance, but it completely shifted the manner in which these two separate cultures thought about labor and human liberty: The opinion that labor and work were despised in antiquity because only slaves were engaged in them is a prejudice of modern historians. The ancients reasoned the other way around and felt it necessary to possess slaves because of the slavish nature of all occupations that served the needs for the maintenance of life. It was precisely on these grounds that the institution of slavery was defended and justified. p.83 In order to have freedom to pursue the truly worthy human deeds (politics, oration, philosophy), they had to enslave these servants. Arendt's documentation of this shift is perhaps the most memorable part of the book.

    I also enjoyed Arendt's writing style. Though she tended to lose me with some of her longer sentences, the meaning is always very clear when you take the time to parse down each phrase and aside. She is precise, if not concise. She is seemingly without pretension; neither arrogant in the way that she boldly takes down to size intellectual giants like Marx, Adam Smith, Bentham, Kant, or any of the Stoics or Epicureans, nor overly humble when she kneads the entire mass of political philosophy into a new (and more appropriate) form. Also, she seems to intuit that her ideas are complex and not immediately penetrable; some of the concepts in the first chapters that leave you scratching your head she knowingly addresses in more detail later on, without calling too much attention to the repetition and further elaboration. It's as if she knew you wouldn't have any idea what she was talking about the first time and wanted to inconspicuously help you, avoiding any embarrassment on your part.

    My biggest problem with the book is its lack of stated purpose or overall thematic vision. I know she mentioned early on that the idea was to get people to think more, and I can respect that. But I was left confused with what she was actually proposing. I understood that she seemed to value action higher than either work or labor, but she was fairly clear in her condemnation of some of the worse outcomes of unplanned action as well (unpredictability, irreversibility). So what, then, is a reasonable model to follow, according to Arendt? Or is it just about developing more appropriate categories for these ideas? The introduction (which I recommend reading AFTER the text itself) addresses this issue but doesn't fully resolve it either. All in all, the genius of the discussion itself more than makes up for this lack, and that indeed was probably her intention all along.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    I read this when I was sophomore at Berkeley and it changed my life. As a political philosopher, her fundamental belief about the human condition is that we must think about what we are doing as citizen of the world, as public beings who make the world and defend it from thoughtlessness and blind ignorance. Sigh. If I could be three of the most brilliant women of the 20th century, I would be Simone Weil, Gillian Rose, and this woman--Hannah Arendt.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Been on my “books to read” list. Was not disappointed.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Hannah Adrendt got me struck constantly with her brilliantly expressed philosophical arguments. As a philosopher of the 20s century’s modern age, she really deserves to be read more. It has helped me reflecting about topics as various as these following: the human existence in the postmodern age, man’s life experience in the modern society, role of the social and physical sciences to the world, acting and contemplating, etc.