"Paradoxically, work lets us feel our freedom; its character of burden is derived from burden as a more basic trait that has to do with human life as such, the fact that we cannot simply take life in indifference but must always 'bear' it, 'lead' it -- guarantee and stand for it." Jan Patocka, Heretical Essays in the Philosophy of History (1996/1975) 
"Contrary to the fears of some enmeshed in civilization's work ethic, our tribal past prepared us well for lives as idle rich." Hans Moravec, ROBOT (1999) 
The subtitle of the first edition of Arendt's book was: "A Study of the Central Dilemma Facing Modern Man." Three reasonable questions to ask, now that we've read nearly 200 pages of the book in a course titled "Computers and Human Values," are: 1) "What is the dilemma (for Arendt in 1958)?"; 2)"What had it to do with the state of technology in 1958?"; and 3) Is there anything about the world in 2004 that offers either critique or confirmation of Arendt's concerns/views?
Thinking about these answers in light of Moravec's book, there are a number of interesting crosscurrents:
Questions Arising from (Arendt's) The Human Condition
Arendt argues for the importance of human language, human action and the human body throughout her book; yet, as Louisa noted with respect to our attitude towards labor, we seem to struggle against our dependence on all of these things in the Modern Age, and science/technology -- for the moment consider them together -- seem to offer ways for us to transcend these things. Is this struggle a generalized form of the "paradox" noted by Patocka with respect to labor (above) or something more?
Before continuing our discussion of the text with chapters 3 and 5, we'll return to Arendt's chapter 2 discussion of the private, the public and social; specifically in section 9. For starters, how if at all does the fact sheet I've distributed (from a recent CBS poll of 18-29 year-olds) illustrate ways that the public and private realms have been submerged in "the sphere of the social"?
The Human Condition: "Labor" and "Action"
We'll use Louisa's and Duffy's notes to work our way through these important chapters.and try (by the end) to address whether or not "action" (or "faith" or "hope" -- as discussed in section 34) belongs in the list of the things we paradoxically struggle with most.
For Next Time: Read chapter 6 of Arendt, and prepare a response to the question of why/how "thinking" (another contender for the list?!) becomes such an issue for Arendt by the end of the book.
Back to the Syllabus
© 2004 Roger B. Blumberg and Brown University