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Paperback Human Condition Book

ISBN: 0226025934

ISBN13: 9780226025933

Human Condition

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Book Overview

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... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

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What it is that We are Doing

Arendt begins her opus magnum with a proposal: she states that the launch of Sputnik in 1957 (similar to Vaclav Havel's proposal of the moon landing) has hearkened in a new age of humanity. Following this proposal is one of the most mysterious but rewarding books of the 20th century, in my humble opinion. I first encountered "The Human Condition" in an undergraduate class regarding the post-modern community. To this day, I still have not completely digested this work. Her objective, in her own words, is to determine "... what it is that we are doing", and her choice of a goal is challenging considering what is to follow. Situating herself between a Greek model of society and a Marxist interpretation of labor, Arendt calls into question our ideas of progress, technology, and even forgiveness, and aims a withering critique at the subjective personality of the post-modern world. I won't go into a broad summary of her points to convince you to read it, but instead implore the reader of this review to see for themselves what Arendt is doing. Some will give up on this book after a few pages, calling it semantical nonsense. Yet for those who forge a path through Arendt's intelligent interpretation of history will come out on the other side with a new appreciation for the way in which they live their lives, participate in this thing we call "work", and interact with the human community. I can't stress enough how much this book means to me.

One of the great works of twentieth- century thought

Hannah Arendt is one of the foremost political thinkers of the twentieth century. But more than this she is a thinker who attempts to understand the human situation in all its fundamental aspects. Her analysis of the Human Condition is at once a historical and a philosophical work which aims to speak to and describe the contemporary condition of mankind. One important element in the work is her etymological readings of fundamental philosophical concepts. Her tracing of their development and explanations of reality in terms of them is one of the great strengths of the book. Arendt in analyzing these concepts and in describing the human condition shows herself to have both a powerful skill in argument and in narrative. The basic three- part division between the life of labor, of production, and of action informs her analysis throughout. She attempts to understand the transformations in the condition of mankind through these categories. And one of her great themes is her sense of the decline of the public realm, the realm where action takes place. Her analysis of the problem is by the way far more convincing than her brief suggestion of a possible answer at the end of the book. I have really said almost nothing in this review about this tremendously insightful and rich work. The reader who wishes to stay with it will learn a whole new vocabulary for understanding the world. Whether the reader agrees with each and every point of Arendt's analysis is not the major question. When you are in her presence you are in the presence of a mind that uplifts and exalts, that makes you sense the world of the mind is a higher realm. I believe for the ' person for whom ' thought ' is important this can be a very valuable work.

A gift to humanity

It's hard to give a summary of this book, which touches on so many issues. In her introduction, Margaret Canovan notes that many academic critics, at the time of the book's first publication in 1958, found Arendt's argument "beneath refutation." The book is indeed something of a long essay in form and is not immediately "falsifiable" or arguable in the sense that most narrow academic texts are. Canovan also notes that many readers were thrown by Arendt's ongoing gesture (my words) of explaining contemporary social life in the vocubulary of Ancient Greek thought. In intellectual-history terms, this move of Arendt's is no surprise. She was a student of Heidegger's; many Continental thinkers fell under his spell. (Potential readers of "The Human Condition" might want to contrast it with "The Embers and the Stars" by Erazim Kohak, who also constructs a philosophy out of the etymologies of Greek words, but not of social life, but of the environment and nature.)In short, Arendt's book is interesting reading for anyone involved in the world of work. Her categories of "labor," "work," and "action" provide an interesting way of thinking about society. A back-cover blurb from poet W. H. Auden talks about "The Human Condition" as "one of those books that seem to have been written especially for me." I would go further and recommend Arendt to any artist or budding artist or anyone who has ever seen themselves as being of an artistic temperament. Arendt provides a philosophical view of the artist in society, as opposed to a lyrical view, which is what one might find in, say, Joyce's "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man." Arendt's vision is more realistic. A wonderful book!

come one, come all

this book starts off with a breathtaking reflections on the launch of the sputnik. arendt seemingly places us before the launch as witness, evoking the kind of awe, wonderment, fear and anxiety that must arise from such a sight. the prologue is amazing.i could easily come up with at least a dozen potential research projects from this book that arendt just touches on the surface. (as is the case with arendt's philosophy, it is, at its best, always very suggestive but, at its worst, she never follows through on the initial offering.) and arendt considered this book as her response to the influence of heidegger; i think that this is a most correct assessment. in fact, this is the great heidegger-book that heidegger himself never could have written. in my view, the latter heidegger pales in comparison (on subjects such as technology, poetry, speech, and history, arendt tops her former mentor). heidgger was truely out-foxed by this book.i suspect that even the amateur (defined here as the lover of an entity-x) will find much in this book to make this a life-changing experience. in philosophy we often talk of such 'life-changing' books but they are really few in number. this is one such on the look out for the moment where the discussion of nietzsche's conception of the promise effortlessly morphs into the birth of christ as a miracle. (note: for arendt, the miracle isn't christ but the birth itself, for that matter any birth). full of grace, this book will be devastating and ultimately redeeming.

A new possibility for social action and entrepreneurism

Hannah Arendt makes the case that what distinguishes human beings is that they are constantly making new beginnings. This leads her to theories of social action that have implications for our self esteem, our "making of ourselves" and how we influence and participate in social action.She reveals the implications of this inherent tendency to "make new beginnings" in the uncertainty of outcomes of our action. What we start we cannot know the outcome of beforehand. That is, in significant part, because those who come along after we start something will add or change with their own capacity for making new beginnings.This says we need social attributes of foregiveness. She also develops the importance of promising in a culture so that we can create some certainty by this social action.She is writing about social action and involvement in the broad social life. But she could as easily be writing about entrepreneurship and corporate life or any any other social activity.A stimulating book indeed!
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