The Human Condition

The Human Condition - Hannah Arendt, Margaret Canovan

I had never heard of “The Human Condition” before one of my professors brought it up in class and said we would be reading it for the course. Seeing as how there is high praise for Arendt written on the back cover and the reviews on Goodreads are quite high, I expected to at least somewhat enjoy it. Philosophy is not within my field of reading – I get lost in the wordiness of it, and sometimes lose my patience with the arguments when they contradict themselves or have apparent loopholes if they are applied to the practical world.


That is exactly what happened with “The Human Condition”. Most of what I read went right through me – I wasn’t sure which strands and ideas to cling onto, and which should be seen as support material. The book is an overload of philosophical theory, name dropping and referencing to philosophy’s past without thinking twice. And to someone who is familiar with the works of people like Hegel this won’t be a problem. But seeing as how I never touched anything of Hegel’s, and my one and only brief experience with Nietzsche ended up with me hissing at the book and returning it to the friend I borrowed it from, I was lost in a sea of information. The arguments got quite redundant at times and, although the fancy language was impressive, it often took away from the argument.


Then again – every person is entitled to their own theory, thoughts, and ways of expressing them. Just because Arendt didn’t speak to me doesn’t mean she isn’t worth reading. There were some extracts which I quoted for an assignment from the book that I thought were wonderful. This began from the very first page in the prologue, where Arendt talks about “the first “step toward escape from men’s imprisonment to the earth””, which was a very simple thought that somehow I never considered, and it left a lasting impact on me. If there were more clear and simple but truthful thoughts like this, I would’ve enjoyed the book a lot more. Instead reading it became a chore that I’m only too glad to have completed.