What is the purpose of public life? Should we live as thinkers or doers? These are the questions that Hannah Arendt tackles in her 1958 work The Human Condition. Philosophers have long argued that the ideal state for the human condition is a life of contemplation and inward-focus. Arendt questions the value of the vita contemplativa and she proposes that a life of action, vita activa, is central to the human condition. Hannah Arendt is one of the most influential thinkers and writers of the 20th century. She is typically associated with her work on totalitarianism and the philosophical roots of evil and judgment. The Human Condition offers a comprehensive view of what Arendt sees as the inherent value of living with others and collectively shaping the world we share. She asks the reader to consider the activities that help us feel most at home with ourselves.
We will read The Human Condition in its entirety. The book asks more questions than it answers about what it means to be human in the modern world. How do we create a vita activa and a life lived in public when our society has become increasingly insular and individual? What are the forces in modern life that are hindrances to the vita activa? Is a life lived through action and labor really the best way of living? We will grapple with these questions with the intensity and rigor that they deserve.
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
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