The Ontology of Action: Arendt and the Role of Narrative
Theory & Event, Vol. 12, No. 4.
Leslie Paul Thiele
Hannah Arendt is best known for her trenchant analysis and original evaluation of political life. The
sine qua non of politics is
human action, which she celebrates above all other human capacities.
Arendt equates action with freedom. Action in concert is identified as
power. As the key element of power and the meaning of freedom, action
brings about and preserves the public realm.
Arendt considers politics a facet of the human condition distinct
from - and in many respects superior to - the biological and the social
realms, with their characteristic activities of labor, work, and life
management. Political action, occupying the highest echelon of the vita activa, is also distinguished from the
vita contemplativa, that is to
say, from the intellectual realm, characterized by reflective thought.
Notwithstanding her chosen vocation as a theorist, deep esteem for her
own intellectual mentors (including Martin Heidegger and Karl Jaspers),
and enduring reluctance to involve herself in political affairs, Arendt
refused to abide the Platonic subordination of politics to philosophy.
Arendt's depreciation of the philosophical, social, and biological
facets of life is frequently censured. Critics chafe against her
apparent nostalgia for the vita activa of antiquity and
question whether action (specifically, and politics more generally)
deserves Arendt's accolade as the defining feature of a truly human
existence, the sole bearer of freedom, the most endangered faculty in
the modern world and, consequently, the feature of contemporary life
most in need of our solicitude. In particular, critics reject Arendt's
comprehensive divorce between the public and the private spheres, a
divorce Arendt employs to champion political action over social
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(Something interesting I found)Posted: Friday, January 15, 2010