Hannah Arendt: The Human Condition
What does it mean to be human in the world today? Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition (1958) is a provocative treatise on what it means to live on earth and share the world in common. Her study, originally intended to be titled Amor Mundi (Love of the World), investigates the central activities of human life—labor, work, action—and their corresponding realms—private, social, public. For Arendt, The Human Condition is about protecting spaces of freedom and the ways in which we move through the world. Beginning with man’s exploration of space in the 1950s, Arendt is concerned with the ways in which modern technologies are alienating people from the world held in common. From the triumph of labor over work, to the need for promises and forgiveness, Arendt offers us an understanding of what it means to be human in the world today.
In this class we will consider Arendt’s central claims in the context of our own time, in which the distinction between private and public is being progressively erased. Arendt’s insistence that we must “stop and think what we are doing” only becomes timelier in an era of technological bombardment, fake news, and the sense of worldly alienation that so many feel in the face of increasing privatization. We will read the entirety of The Human Condition, and consider the relationships between scientific advancement, earthliness, and worldliness as we explore the realms of labor, work, and action. Along the way, we will confront foundational questions regarding forms of political action and ask: Are there essential characteristics of human life today? In what ways do science and technology both facilitate and undermine our capacity for care, thinking, and judgment? Can love be political? And what does it mean to be at home in the world?
Course ScheduleThursday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
June 03 — June 24, 2021