The Human Condition

A classic work of social theory & the nature of human agency

I've not heard of this book myself! @eliservescent what were some of your key takeaways/thoughts from it?
@bentossell It's a deconstruction of civilized society from Ancient Rome to the present. It's a foundational work in political and social theory. Not an easy read, but an important one for anyone interested in the relationship between individual liberty, political structures, and the logistics of basic human existence. Key ideas include: - the 'vita activa', or the life of a free citizen, has distinct goals from the 'vita contemplativa' of a scholar/philosopher - the distinction between 'labor,' which sustains life but is unending and unenduring (the production of food, for example', and 'work,' which achieves something that lives on, e.g. a building or an iOS app. - Arendt argues that while labor is necessary but debasing, work is a proper occupation of free citizens. Part of the movement from the ancient world to modernity was the movement of labor out of the domestic sphere and into the public. - 'Action' is the third element of the 'vita activa,' and is inherently political or social. It requires language in order to be achieved and it is the analogue in the 'vita activa' to the immortality sought by the philosopher in the 'vita contemplativa's world of ideas.
Action is the most important section, IMHO. I'll excerpt Wikipedia's summary of it in its entirety: The third activity, that of great deeds and great words, is specifically political and properly construed can only take place in the public realm potentially leading to the only form of immortality properly accepted in ancient Greece, that of creating something lasting within the world. This world is also made common through action. It necessitates speech (logos), since the actor needs to declare his or her unique existence in order for that action to be considered human. Other actions exist of course, such as bartering goods in a market, that do not require such a unique declaration. These, however, are products of the subject's necessity (ex. obtain food to survive) and not some unique individuality which is properly his. In this sense, worker's equality is almost a tautology, since it equates people through the basic human condition of need, while citizen's equality is by definition equality of unequals that are trying to create a common world. Its corresponding conditions are natality and plurality. Action can never manifest through a predictable, deterministic series of consequences, since the subject, by acting, is placed within a complicated web of relationships which cannot be predicted before hand. In the same sense, Action is irreversible.
wow thanks for the detail @eliservescent !! Incredible :)