Philosophy 190-1

Fall 2021

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
190-1 Proseminar: Hannah Arendt: The Human Condition Kaiser Tu 4-7 Moses 305

This seminar will focus on Hannah Arendt’s major work The Human Condition. At the center of this work is the notion of a vita activa: a life confined neither to ‘labor’ and its bodily forms of biological sustenance, nor to ‘work’ associated paradigmatically with ‘fabricating’ instruments and products. Instead, everything hinges on our freely immersing ourselves in action and speech within the dynamic web of human relations. Only the ‘polis’, understood as the ‘common space of appearance’ in which we humans can emerge ‘explicitly’ in our plurality and self-identity, allows for such a flourishing life. Though the emphasis is on action and speech in their revolutionary potential as ‘new beginnings’ within this participatory political context, Arendt does not neglect the importance of thinking, willing, and judging which figure prominently in her later studies of the life of the mind.

Seminar discussions will build on a close reading of The Human Condition and a few other essays and texts by Arendt. But we will also trace the influences on Arendt’s thinking of other philosophers and philosophical movements, including Aristotle, Kant, Marx, Nietzsche and the phenomenological thinkers of the 20th century, as well as lesser-known sources within the emergent school of critical theory. A discussion of the relevance of Arendt’s seminal work for a broad range of contemporary philosophical theories will conclude the seminar.

As taught this semester, Phil 190 may satisfy the more inclusive history requirement (which is: 153, 155, 156A, 160–188).

Required text: Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, enlarged 2nd edition 2018, University of Chicago Press. ISBN-10 : 022658660X; ISBN-13 : 978-0226586601
Additional texts will be made available either in a reader or online via bCourses at the start of the semester.