[Hannah Arendt] The Human Condition

  • Title: The Human Condition: Second Edition
  • Author: Hannah Arendt
  • Published: 1958
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 2nd edition (Dec 1 1998)
  • ISBN-10: 0226025985
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226025988

The main arguments are:

In this book, Hannah Arendt illustrates the historical development of the situation of human existence, from the Ancient Greeks to the modern era (in Europe). The focus of her argument is how and what the vita activa (life of action) can do in the modern world.

  • vita activa (life of action) vs. vita contemplativa (contemplative life)
  • Human Activities: Labor, Work, and Action
  • Realms of Activities: the Private, the Social, the Public, and the Political

Three activities can be summarized like the following:

  • Labor: repetitive and never-ending process, to be consumed, necessary to sustain life
  • Work: has a beginning and an end, to be used
  • Action: public and political, necessitates speech

Her rhetoric is not what you can call logical. She does not give you the answers. Rather, by providing you with all the necessary information, you can have a chance to construct your own solution.

The Human Condition” is more abstract than “The Origins of Totalitarianism” though the book is a complete feast for anyone who wants to contemplate what to be a human.

We are usually confused about what is public or what is private. Socializing is not an action in public. To be truly being private, you may be in the public realm. By differentiating yourself with others in public, you can be private. Society may give you what you need, but being social or becoming social makes you just a part inside a society. The private expands to the public, and the social replaces the public. And now we have the private and the social, not the public.

The book is quite old now. But it still gives me the insight of what it means to live in a society.

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