The Human Condition, Paperback Book
4.5 out of 5 (6 ratings)


In this text, Hannah Arendt considers humankind from the perspective of the actions of which it is capable.

The problems are identified as diminishing human agency and political freedom - the paradox that as human powers increase through technological and humanistic inquiry, we are less equipped to control the consequences of our actions.

This edition contains an expanded index and an introduction that analyzes the text's argument and its present relevance.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 366 pages
  • Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Western philosophy, from c 1900 -
  • ISBN: 9780226025988

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Showing 1 - 5 of 6 reviews.

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A timeless and fascinatingly philosophical look at humanity seen through its defining activities. The author divides these into labor, work, and action: after Aristotle's division of knowledge into episteme, techne, and phronesis. Labor is the activity of necessity: what we must do to sustain ourselves in the world. Work is the activity of craft and artifact: what we can do to build an enduring and beneficial environment. Action is the activity of ethical praxis: what we should do to improve ourselves and our progeny.

Review by

Arendt deals with human beings in the collective, and thus calls herself a political philosopher. Her reflections on the nature of work, action, and thought are profound precisely because they are rooted in experience (phenomenology). Arguably, the most important political thinker for understanding the future of democracy...plurality and persuasion, rather than force and mass. This gets to the root of her critique of Marx.

Review by

I read this when I was sophomore at Berkeley and it changed my life. As a political philosopher, her fundamental belief about the human condition is that we must think about what we are doing as citizen of the world, as public beings who make the world and defend it from thoughtlessness and blind ignorance. Sigh. If I could be three of the most brilliant women of the 20th century, I would be Simone Weil, Gillian Rose, and this woman--Hannah Arendt.

Review by

Arendt's book is a masterpiece of modern philosophy. Like any masterpiece, especially of philosophy, and even more especially of modern philosophy, this mistakes it very difficult to summarize. In this book, she draws on the history of Western thought from the ancient Jews, Greeks, and Romans through to Marx and Nietzsche to diagnose, as the title puts it, “the human condition.” Nearly every page is filled with insight into what it means to be human. She moves swiftly through the ages, introducing us to the ideas that have shaped our modern way of life and our way of viewing ourselves. And she finally ends with where we are at and why a reevaluation of our own humanity is now more pressing than ever (and now even more pressing than when Arendt wrote the book): our worst fears have been realized. Man has been simultaneously reduced to the state of an animal – a biological machine of no lasting worth – and elevated to the position of a god – capable of destroying worlds. What are we to do now? I recommend that everyone read this book – and ponder every word deeply.

Review by

A very unique approach to philosophy, to put it mildly.<br/><br/>Divides human life into three spheres: labor, action, and work. Describes the evolution of these three concepts, using historical examples from philosophy. Not an easy book, but a very stimulating one.

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