Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition is not about human nature. Arendt says little if anything about what it means to be human in the sense of our natural humanity. Her inquiry is premised on the fact that we humans are conditioned beings, that we are born into an already existing world. That world is made through human artifice; it also conditions us humans insofar as we must live and die in a humanly built world.
I am not a prognosticator. Take what I am going to say with a large dose of skepticism. It is very likely that in four years the United States will elect a minority woman as its President. The question may be, will that woman be Vice President Kamala Harris or former South Carolin Governor Nikki Haley?
Hannah Arendt was skeptical of social science theories. Theorists, or problem solvers as she often referred to them, are people of “great self-confidence.” They are confident in the education and intelligence and they “pride themselves on ‘rational.’” Dedicated to rationality, they “were indeed to a rather frightening degree above ‘sentimentality’ and in love with ‘theory...'"
Susanna Crossman reflects on the power of play. “Play is a powerful motor.” Play involves a “leap in the dark” and requires trust. Play, the thinker Eugen Fink writes, “unites ‘the highest desire and the deepest suffering’.” Play is thus deeply connected to the very human way of being alive, something we can hear in its etymologies, many of which go back to the Latin ludere. “Ludere in Latin refers to leaping fishes and fluttering birds. The Anglo-Saxon lâcan means to move like a ship on the waves, or to tremble like a flame.
In what seems a fairly usual occurrence, two journalists and two professors were fired or prosecuted this week for running afoul of mainstream opinions or, in Poland, legally prohibited opinions. John McWhorter argues that firing a New York Times reporter for using the N-word to refer to the N-word and not as a slur obfuscates the difference between a slur and a taboo. Ben Cohen reports on the prosecution of Professors Barbara Engelking and Jan Grabowski in Poland.
The latest issue of Poetry Magazine, guested edited by poets Tara Betts and Joshua Bennett, focuses on work written by currently and formerly incarcerated poets, bringing a systematically suppressed chorus of voices to the forefront of the poetry community’s publishing landscape. Editor Tara Betts writes in her introduction to the issue, “The contributors, who are often no longer perceived as people in the non-incarcerated world, are indeed human.