Reconsidering 'The Human Condition'

  • Melanie Beacroft

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis is a reconsideration of Hannah Arendt‟s The Human Condition. It suggests that the complex narrative structure of the book presents problems for our ability to understand its meaning, as Arendt presents us with a story rather than a systematic political theory. In response, this thesis thinks with Arendt, appropriating her techniques to offer a re-reading of The Human Condition that attempts to provide a genuinely Arendtian approach to her thought. This thesis begins by approaching The Human Condition via the concept general human capacities ,the activities that grow out of the human condition and give depth to human life. It does this by way of a comparison of Arendt‟s view of these capacities, with that of three key political thinkers that share similar political concerns: Aristotle, Machiavelli and Rousseau. The juxtaposition of these thinkers allows us to pinpoint just what it is that makes Arendt‟s consideration of the human condition so unique, namely, that the distinctiveness of The Human Condition lies in Arendt‟s particular manner of thinking. The second half of the thesis thus explores Arendt‟s conceptions of both thinking and thoughtlessness, and argues that her understanding of thinking precludes her from developing a systematic conceptual framework, or a set of generally applicable „truths‟. By reflecting directly on the modern world and its effect on the constellation of general human capacities, Arendt instead provides a demonstration of the very process of thinking. By presenting us with an open-ended and narrative account of general human capacities, Arendt calls on us to think for ourselves.
    Date of Award2010
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMary Walsh (Supervisor) & Adam Dickerson (Supervisor)

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