Vita Activa Action And Arendt Essay Research

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Vita Activa, Action And Arendt Essay, Research Paper Vita Activa, Action and Arendt What follows is the basic structure of Hannah Arendt’s account of vita activa, as I understand it. Arendt classifies the modes of human activities as “action”, “work”, “labor”, and additionally “speech” which is to be accompanied by action. Each corresponds to the human conditions of “natality,” “worldliness,” “life itself” and “plurality” respectively. In addition are the “faculties” of freedom, self-disclosure of identity of the actor, fabrication and (re)production. Arendt’s method is designed to calibrate the transformation of “constellation” referencing the ancient constellation, an archetype Arendt reconstructs from ‘fragments’ of human

possibilities found in the political life of the ancient Greek polis. In the constellation, freedom belongs to action, self-disclosure of identity of the actor to the coupling of action and speech, fabrication to work, and (re)production to labor. It is also important to note here that, for Arendt, human beings are simultaneously natural (like other creatures) and unnatural. Her categories of human activities directly correspond to this order. Labor serves to the natural, or biological, “necessity” on the one hand. Work, action and speech to unnatural requirements, especially “freedom” on the other hand. Arendt’s concept of “worldliness” as a property of the “human world” is one of the human conditions for unnatural dimension, as well as for plurality and

natality. It is a defensive boundary between nature and human world whose basic properties are “artificiality” and “stability,” relative to permanence and durability. In addition, Arendt provides two properties, that of publicity, and in-betweeness. Publicity means that the existence of the human world as such is common to all people, whereas in-betweeness means that, nevertheless the perspectives of each person in the world are irreducibly different. For Arendt, “action” is a simultaneously blessed and troublesome mode of activity. “Blessed” because, as mentioned above, it is a faculty of freedom to begin a new process and to bring about something unexpected against all odds. In the ancient context, by virtue of this faculty accompanied by speech, and grounded

within the condition of natality and plurality, actors could disclose irreplaceable identities. Thus weaving their unique lives on the one hand, while establishing new communal relationships among actors grounded by plurality on the other. In this sense, action is essentially political. The first aspect of the function of the faculty of freedom described here seems rather apolitical, but in the phase of “establishing new power relations and community,” it becomes quite crucial. The troublesome aspect lies in for example fundamental uncertainty. The unpredictability and unboundedness of the range of consequences of an action, the sheer happenstance or arbitrariness of an action and the irreversibility of the initiated process are all sufferings that are inevitably associated

with the fact that we are free beings. Thus Arendt mentions “the actor…is never merely a ‘doer’ but always and at the same time a sufferer” (p.190). Furthermore, these sufferings originate in a condition of plurality based upon which the blessing capacity of action is enjoyed. Namely, every action is always interference into the preexisting “web of human relationships,” the essential elements of which are the deeds and words of plural actors (p.183), and its resultant chains of action-reaction spread over the web, altering the state of affairs. In the case of the vita activa, for Arendt, the “redemption” for the troubles of action comes from the same origin. In other words, action itself is a source of redemption, and its necessary condition is again plurality.