On The Human Condition (1958), Prologue and Sections 1 and 2.
How has our distinction between the private and public evolved over time? Arendt uses this history, and chiefly the differences between our time and ancient Athens, to launch a critique of modern society. In thinking about public, practical necessities like the economy, we’ve lost sight of the distinction between labor (what we need to do to sustain ourselves), work (the creation of things that will last longer than our lifespan), and political action (which needs to involve a real dialogue among equals, not the rote party posturing driven by economic interests that we have now).
We’ve become a society of laborers, defining ourselves in terms of our jobs and looking at politics as chiefly tasked with economic administration, which is kind of like national housekeeping. “The social” has erased the distinction between public and private realms, crushing us with its demands for conformity and leaving the private realm as merely “the intimate.” We need both robust political engagement and a space for deep, private contemplation in order to live fully and avoid catastrophic political blunders (e.g., creating technologies that will destroy us).
The fab four conducted this podcast live at the Pittsburgh Continental Philosophy Conference.
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End song: “Space” by Mark Lint. Read about it.