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"The Human Condition, ch.5" by Hannah Arendt
"Action"

Part 31
(I) The Traditional Substitution of Making for Action
i) Stemming from the threefold exasperation with action:
  1. Unpredictability of its outcome

  2. Irreversibility of the process

  3. Anonymity of its authours (p.220)

ii) Which arise from the human condition of plurality
iii) The commonly proposed solution is to treat politics as another sort of fabrication, requiring:
  1. Mastery (mon-archy) (p.223)

  2. Seperation of those who know from those who do not (p.223)

  3. Bringing together of beginning and achieving (archein kai prattein) i.e. control of processes (p.222)

iv) The violence required for making is thus transposed and justified in the political realm (p.228)
v) The language of "means and ends" will tend to overpower all moral qualifications (p.229)
  1. This language is endemic in all classical talk of higher "ends" (p.229)


Part 32
(I) The Process Character of Action
i) Exploration of natural laws
ii) Fabrication of objects out of natural material replaced with...
iii) Acting into nature, and beginning new and spontaneous processes; "basic research is what I am doing what I don't know what I'm doind -- Werner Von Braun, Dec. 16, 1957; the attempts to eliminate action because of its uncertainty has resulted in its re-channeling. (p.230)

(II) The Unpredictability of Action
i) "While the strength of the production processes is entirely absorbed in and exhausted by the end product..."
ii) "...the strength of action processes is never exhausted in a single deed but, on the contrary, can grow while its consequences multiply;"
iii) "...what endures is the realm of human affairs are these processes, and their endurance is as unlimited, as independent of the perishability of material and the mortality of men as the endurance of humanity itself... action has no end." (p.232-3)

(III) In-sovereignty over Action
i) He who acts never quite knows what he is doing.
ii) He always becomes "guilt" of consequences he never intended or had even forseen.
iii) He can never undo his deed.
iv) Only the historian, who does not act, may look back upon the deed or event, and disclose its meaning (p.233-4)

(IV) Turning Away from Action
i) Freedom is condemned of luring man into necessity -- a net of predetermined relationships.
ii) Salvation from this kind of freedom seems to lie in non-action, in abstention (Quietism or Stoicism)
iii) But only in monotheistic systems can sovereignty and freedom be the same; in all other cases it is imaginary.
iv) "If we look upon freedom with the eyes of the tradition... the simultaneous presence of freedom [to begin processes] and non-sovereignty... seems almost to force us to the conclusion that human existence is absurd [i.e. existentialism], [or tragic, i.e. Kant]." (p.243-5)

Part 33
(I) Irreversibility & the Power to Forgive
i) "We have seen that the animal labourans could be redeemed from its predicament of imprisonment in the ever-recurring cycle of the life process only through..."
ii) "...the capacity for making, fabricating, and producing of homo faber, who as a toolmaker not only eases the pain and trouble of labouring but also erects the world of durability."
iii) "The redemption of life, which is sustained by labour, is worldliness, which is sustained by fabrication."
iv) "We saw furthermore that homo faber could be redeemed from his predicament of meaninglessness, the 'devaluation of all values' and the impossibility of finding valid standards in a world determined by the category of means and ends, only through interrelated faculties of action and speech, which produces meaningful stories as naturally as fabrication produces use objects."
v) The redemption for those comes from activities outside of themselves.
vi) The redemption from the irreversibility and unpredictability of action comes from action: the faculty of forgiving against irreversibility, and promising against unpredictability. (p.236-7)

(II) Forgiveness, radical evil, and revenge
i) "...men are unable to forgive what they cannot punish..."
ii) "...and they are unable to punish has turned-out to be unforgivable. This it... [Kant's] 'radical evil'... All we know is that we can neither punish nor forgive such offenses and that they therefor transcend the realm of human affairs and the potentialities of human power, both of which they radically destroy...:
iii) It is nor completely true that love [being unworldly] is necessary for forgiveness; respect may do as well. (p.242-3)

Part 34
(I) Unpredictability and the Power of Promise
i) While forgiving, perhaps due to its connection to unworldly love, has oft been deemed unfit for the public realm.
ii) The promise has been with is since Roman Law (pacta sunt servanda) and the covenantary drive of Abraham. (p.243-4)

(II) The Purpose of Promising
i) To work against "the darkness of the human heart"... of men who can never guarantee who they will be tomorrow.
ii) ...and against the impossibility of for-telling the consequences of an act... where everyone has the same capacity.
iii) It is the only alternative to mastery which relies on domination of one's self and rule over others.
iv) "It corresponds exactly to the existence of a freedom which was given under a condition of non-sovereignty -- * "The moment promises lose their character as isolated islands of certainty in an ocean of uncertainty, that is, when this faculty is misused to cover the whole ground of the future and to map out a path secured in all direction, they lose their binding power, and the whole enterprise becomes self-defeating." (p.244)

(III) Natality v. mortality
i) Action ontologically rooted in natality
ii) Action is man's one miracle-working faculty, which allows him to start something new, break out of cycle.
iii) Fullness of this faculty only realized w. Jesus' insights into the miracle of forgiving.
iv) This faith in natality most gloriously expressed in the NT, 'glad tidings: A child has been born to us.'"

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