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The Human Condition (2nd Edition) Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-0226025988 ISBN-10: 0226025985 Edition: Second Edition

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 370 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; Second Edition edition (December 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226025985
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226025988
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 3.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"It is hard to name another thinker of the twentieth century more sought after as a guide to the dilemmas of the twenty-first."
(Adam Kirsch New Yorker) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) taught political science and philosophy at The New School for Social Research in New York and the University of Chicago. Widely acclaimed as a brilliant and original thinker, her works include Eichmann in Jerusalem and The Human Condition.

Customer Reviews

It is provocative and filled with very insightful ideas.
Eliot Tretter
She moves swiftly through the ages, introducing us to the ideas that have shaped our modern way of life and our way of viewing ourselves.
David Withun
In short, Arendt's book is interesting reading for anyone involved in the world of work.
Emberek

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 50 people found the following review helpful By P. Costello VINE VOICE on February 16, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book is extraordinarily accessible and thought-provoking for undergraduate students. I have used it in my course on twentieth-century women philosophers. Arendt, without citing Husserl or Heidegger, enacts what I would call a phenomenology of action. That is, she examines the experience of the vita activa (or life of action) by describing it on its own terms. For Arendt, Marx and Smith were wrong to say that human life is fundamentally about labor or about skilled work. Human life is not mostly for or about the consumption of commodities and entrenching one's family ties. Rather, human life is about establishing a public, political realm that emulates (but does not simply attempt to reproduce) the Greek polis. Humanity is about opening up a space for meaning and for evanescent but important co-creation of what counts as a good life.

For Arendt, action is fragile, frail, unpredictable, and irreversible. Action appreciates the differences between humans within the outlines of a nation, for example, and action does not simply attempt to compel others to yield to a single, sovereign will. Action calls those who participate in true politics to realize the sense of 'e pluribus unum' and to make sure that the plurality or 'pluribus' is not simply a fading memory in the face of the One.

To make her point, Arendt delves into Judeo-Christian scriptures, as well as the history of philosophy (Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Marx, and Nietzsche), attempting to reconcile a desire for shared power with a need for mutual forgiveness. Students respond well to the nexus of issues that Arendt raises, especially to the idea that 'radical evil' cannot be (but that most ordinary transgressions must be) forgiven.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Emberek on October 14, 2003
Format: Paperback
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!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David Withun on March 20, 2012
Format: Paperback
Arendt's book is a masterpiece of modern philosophy. Like any masterpiece, especially of philosophy, and even more especially of modern philosophy, this mistakes it very difficult to summarize. In this book, she draws on the history of Western thought from the ancient Jews, Greeks, and Romans through to Marx and Nietzsche to diagnose, as the title puts it, "the human condition." Nearly every page is filled with insight into what it means to be human. She moves swiftly through the ages, introducing us to the ideas that have shaped our modern way of life and our way of viewing ourselves. And she finally ends with where we are at and why a reevaluation of our own humanity is now more pressing than ever (and now even more pressing than when Arendt wrote the book): our worst fears have been realized. Man has been simultaneously reduced to the state of an animal - a biological machine of no lasting worth - and elevated to the position of a god - capable of destroying worlds. What are we to do now? I recommend that everyone read this book - and ponder ever word deeply.
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28 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 20, 1999
Format: Hardcover
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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