Hannah Arendt, “What is Freedom?”

This is our reading for Saturday, August 26.  You can find the location and other details at our meetup.com page.

The word freedom has two common senses: the philosophical idea of free will, and the political idea of action.  Arendt argues that free will as a property of individuals is a relatively recent invention, having been created by Christians for theological reasons.  Freedom as a matter of action in the world is the original sense of the term, stemming from the Greek and Roman experience of public life.  Given the endless philosophical problems with the idea of free will, Arendt argues that we ought to think of freedom as political first and foremost, not as a property of individual will but as the human capacity to interrupt old processes and begin new ones.

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The Decline of the Nation-State and the End of the Rights of Man

Here is the reading for Saturday, February 27.  We will meet here at 4:30.  A printable copy can be found here.  Try to print your own copy or bring a mobile device.

This chapter of The Origins of Totalitarianism describes how millions of Europeans in the 20th century lost all semblance of human rights, and more so, how the concept of human rights became hollowed out.  Stateless, rightless people are basically homeless people, except on a global scale; they are accepted no where and protected only by laws of exception, which typically proved ineffective.  They have lost any identity beyond merely human; they have no nationality, no culture, no community to fall back on—and unfortunately for these people, the bare human is the most contemptible human.

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The Public and the Private Realm

Here is the reading for Saturday, February 13.  We will meet here at 4:30.  A printable copy is here.

Man: A Social or a A Political Animal

Last week, we saw the basic distinction between labor, work, and action.  First, labor produces the necessities of life which are things to be consumed.  Second, work produces lasting objects that make up the human world.  Third, there is action, the words and deeds that make up the world of interactions between humans.  All three human activities are conditioned by the fact that men live together, but only action cannot be imagined outside relations with others.

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Labor, Work, Action

Here is the summary for Saturday, January 30th.  Here is a printable copy..  If you have access to a printer, try and make your own copy, or bring a mobile device to read it on.  We will meet here at 4:30.

Arendt distinguishes between three elements of human life.  First, labor consists of the actions we take to stay alive.  It produces things that are meant to be consumed or used up, such as food, tools, and clothing.  Second, work produces lasting objects that build the human world. Work is what creates the environment for the third element of human life, action.  Action is made of the words and deeds that reveal ourselves to one another.

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