The Human Condition Quotes

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The Human Condition The Human Condition by Hannah Arendt
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The Human Condition Quotes Showing 1-30 of 77
“The common prejudice that love is as common as "romance" may be due to the fact that we all learned about it first through poetry. But the poets fool us; they are the only ones to whom love is not only a crucial, but an indispensable experience, which entitles them to mistake it for a universal one.”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“Love, by its very nature, is unworldly, and it is for this reason rather than its rarity that it is not only apolitical but antipolitical, perhaps the most powerful of all antipolitical forces.”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“Men in plural […] can experience meaningfulness only because they can talk with and make sense to each other and themselves.”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“Action, as distinguished from fabrication, is never possible in isolation; to be isolated is to be deprived of the capacity to act.”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“The possible redemption from the predicament of irreversibility──of being unable to undo what one has done──is the faculty of forgiving. The remedy for unpredictability, for the chaotic uncertainty of the future, is contained in the faculty to make and keep promises. Both faculties depend upon plurality, on the presence and acting of others, for no man can forgive himself and no one can be bound by a promise made only to himself.”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“Exasperation with the threefold frustration of action -- the unpredictability of its outcome, the irreversibility of the process, and the anonymity of its authors -- is almost as old as recorded history. It has always been a great temptation, for men of action no less than for men of thought, to find a substitute for action in the hope that the realm of human affairs may escape the haphazardness and moral irresponsibility inherent in a plurality of agents.”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“The ideals of homo faber, the fabricator of the world, which are permanence, stability, and durability, have been sacrificed to abundance, the ideal of the animal laborans.”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“Because the actor always moves among and in relation to other acting beings, he is never merely a "doer" but always and at the same time a sufferer. To do and to suffer are like opposite sides of the same coin, and the story that an act starts is composed of its consequent deeds and sufferings. These consequences are boundless, because action, though it may proceed from nowhere, so to speak, acts into a medium where every reaction becomes a chain reaction and where every process is the cause of new processes”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“Thought and cognition are not the same. Thought, the source of art works, is manifest without transformation or transfiguration in all great philosophy, whereas the chief manifestation of the cognitive processes, by which we acquire and store up knowledge, is the sciences. Cognition always pursues a definite aim, which can be set by practical considerations as well as by “idle curiosity”; but once this aim is reached, the cognitive process has come to an end. Thought, on the contrary, has neither an end nor an aim outside itself, and it does not even produce results; not only the utilitarian philosophy of homo faber but also the men of action and the lovers of results in the sciences have never tired of pointing out how entirely “useless” thought is—as useless, indeed, as the works of art it inspires.”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“It can be hidden only in complete silence and perfect passivity, but its disclosure can almost never be achieved as a willful purpose, as though one possessed and could dispose of this "who" in the same manner he has and can dispose of his qualities. On the contrary, it is more than likely that the "who," which appears so clearly and unmistakably to others, remains hidden from the person himself, like the daimon in Greek religion which accompanies each man throughout his life, always looking over his shoulder from behind and thus visible only to those he encounters. This revelatory quality of speech and action comes to the fore where people are with others and neither for (the doer of good works) nor against them (the criminal) that is, in sheer human togetherness. Although nobody knows whom he reveals when he discloses himself in deed or word, he must be willing to risk the disclosure.”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“Slavery became the social condition of the laboring classes because it was felt that it was the natural condition of life itself. Omnis vita servitium est.”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“Good works, because they must be forgotten instantly, can never become part of the world; they come and go,leaving no trace. They truly are not of this world.”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“In acting and speaking, men show who they are, reveal actively their unique personal identities and thus make their appearance in the human world, while their physical identities appear without any activity of their own in the unique shape of the body and sound of the voice. This disclosure of “who” in contradistinction to “what” somebody is—his qualities, gifts, talents, and shortcomings, which he may display or hide—is implicit in everything somebody says and does.”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“For love, although it is one of the rarest occurrences in human lives,81 indeed possesses an unequaled power of self-revelation and an unequaled clarity of vision for the disclosure of who, precisely because it is unconcerned to the point of total unworldliness with what the loved person may be, with his qualities and shortcomings no less than with his achievements, failings, and transgressions. Love, by reason of its passion, destroys the in-between which relates us to and separates us from others.”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“It is highly unlikely that we, who can know, determine, and define the natural essences of all things surrounding us, which we are not, should ever be able to do the same for ourselves--this would be like jumping over our own shadows.”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“Society is the form in which the fact of mutual dependence for the sake of life and nothing else assumes public significance and where the activities connected with sheer survival are permitted to appear in public.”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“There is perhaps no clearer testimony to the loss of the public realm in the modern age than the almost complete loss of authentic concern with immortality, a loss somewhat overshadowed by the simultaneous loss of the metaphysical concern with eternity. The latter, being the concern of the philosophers and the vita contemplativa, must remain outside our present considerations. But the former is testified to by the current classification of striving for immortality with the private vice of vanity. Under modern conditions, it is indeed so unlikely that anybody should earnestly aspire to an earthly immortality that we probably are justified in thinking it is nothing but vanity.”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“Without being forgiven, released from the consequences of what we have done, our capacity to act would, as it were, be confined to one single deed from which we could never recover; we would remain the victims of its consequences forever, not unlike the sorcerer's apprentice who lacked the formula to break the spell.”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“Tools and instruments which can ease the effort of labor considerably are themselves not a product of labor but of work; they do not belong in the process of consumption but are part and parcel of the world of use objects.”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“The fact is that the human capacity for life in the world always implies an ability to transcend and to be alienated from the processes of life itself, while vitality and liveliness can be conserved only to the extent that men are willing to take the burden, the toil and trouble of life, upon themselves.”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“One of the obvious danger signs that we may be on our way to bring into existence the ideal of the animal laborans is the extent to which our whole economy has become a waste economy, in which things must be almost as quickly devoured and discarded as they have appeared in the world, if the process itself is not to come to a sudden catastrophic end. But if the ideal were already in existence and we were truly nothing but members of a consumers’ society, we would no longer live in a world at all but simply be driven by a process in whose ever-recurring cycles things appear and disappear, manifest themselves and vanish, never to last long enough to surround the life process in their midst. The world, the man-made home erected on earth and made of the material which earthly nature delivers into human hands, consists not of things that are consumed but of things that are used. If nature and the earth generally constitute the condition of human life, then the world and the things of the world constitute the condition under which this specifically human life can be at home on earth. Nature seen through the eyes of the animal laborans is the great provider of all “good things,” which belong equally to all her children, who “take [them] out of [her] hands” and “mix with” them in labor and consumption.86 The same nature seen through the eyes of homo faber, the builder of the world, “furnishes only the almost worthless materials as in themselves,” whose whole value lies in the work performed upon them.87 Without taking things out of nature’s hands and consuming them, and without defending himself against the natural processes of growth and decay, the animal laborans could never survive. But without being at home in the midst of things whose durability makes them fit for use and for erecting a world whose very permanence stands in direct contrast to life, this life would never be human.”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“Action and speech are so closely related because the primordial and specifically human act must at the same time contain the answer to the question asked of every newcomer: “Who are you?” This disclosure of who somebody is, is implicit in both his words and his deeds; yet obviously the affinity between speech and revelation is much closer than that between action and revelation,4 just as the affinity between action and beginning is closer than that between speech and beginning, although many, and even most acts, are performed in the manner of speech. Without”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“No human life, not even the life of the hermit in nature’s wilderness, is possible without a world which directly or indirectly testifies to the presence of other human beings.”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“La nascita e la morte degli esseri umani non sono semplici eventi naturali,ma sono connesse a un mondo in cui singoli individui - uniche, insostituibili e irripetibili entità - appaiono o da cui scompaiono. La morte e la nascita presuppongono un mondo che non è in costante movimento,ma la cui durevolezza e relativa permanenza rendono possibili l'apparizione e la scomparsa, un mondo esistente prima che un qualsiasi individuo vi facesse la sua apparizione e che sopravviverà quando infine scomparirà.”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“La fatica e la pena", per ottenere i beni necessari alla vita, e il piacere di "incorporarli" sono così strettamente legati assieme nel ciclo biologico che la perfetta eliminazione della pena e dello sforzo del lavoro non solo spoglierebbe la vita biologica dei suoi piaceri più naturali, ma priverebbe la vita specificamente umana della sua stessa vivacità e vitalità. La condizione umane è tale che la pena e lo sforzo non sono semplici sintomi, che possono essere rimossi senza cambiare la vita stessa; sono piuttosto modi in cui la vita, insieme con la necessità cui è legata, si fa percepire. Per i mortali, la "facile vita degli dei" sarebbe una vita senza vitalità.”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“E che cos'altro è, infine, questo ideale della società moderna se non l'antico sogno del povero e dell'indigente, che può avere un fascino finchè rimane sogno, ma diventa il paradiso di un pazzo non appena è realizzato?”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“La richiesta universale di felicità e infelicità largamente diffusa nella nostra società sono i segni più convincenti che viviamo in una società dominata dal lavoro, ma che non ha abbastanza lavoro per esserne appagata.”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“Only the existence of a public realm and the world’s subsequent transformation into a community of things which gathers men together and relates them to each other depends entirely on permanence. If the world is to contain a public space, it cannot be erected for one generation and planned for the living only; it must transcend the life-span of mortal men.”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“Action is, in fact, the one miracle-working faculty of man, as Jesus of Nazareth, whose insights into this faculty can be compared in their originality and unprecedentedness with Socrates’ insights into the possibilities of thought, must have known very well when he likened the power to forgive to the more general power of performing miracles, putting both on the same level and within the reach of man.”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
“It means, first, that everything that appears in public can be seen and heard by everybody and has the widest possible publicity. For us, appearance—something that is being seen and heard by others as well as by ourselves—constitutes reality. Compared with the reality which comes from being seen and heard, even the greatest forces of intimate life—the passions of the heart, the thoughts of the mind, the delights of the senses—lead an uncertain, shadowy kind of existence unless and until they are transformed, deprivatized and deindividualized, as it were, into a shape to fit them for public appearance.41 The most current of such transformations occurs in storytelling and generally in artistic transposition of individual experiences. But we do not need the form of the artist to witness this transfiguration. Each time we talk about things that can be experienced only in privacy or intimacy, we bring them out into a sphere where they will assume a kind of reality which, their intensity notwithstanding, they never could have had before.”
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition

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