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The Good Life: Hannah Arendt's Active Life

  • Aug 14, 2014 · 7:00 PM

What is a/the “good life”? - hedonistic pleasure; avoidance of pain/stress; moral/virtuous life; simple life (voluntary simplicity, economic minimalism); contemplative live; search for knowledge, search for truth, search for understanding.

Are there measures of the good life?  Does a good life have value?  Who determines the value of a life?  Can that value be stored for future use?  Is action required to enter the race?  Behavior?  Does respect from others, or ourselves, play a role in realizing a good life?

Is “good” a matter of cognitive (reasoning) or non-cognitive (emotional) activity?  What motivates us to define “good”, either in terms of an end or means?  What keeps us riveted to / focused on the end?  [See radio podcast of August 12th On Point radio show for discussion of emotional riveting.]

Obstacles? -  resource limitations, variations in opportunity, cultural expectations, behaviors.

Do the possibilities of of a good life vary with the domain (e.g, personal/social, commercial, political)?  Can excess success in one domain serve to offset a deficit, or shortcoming in another domain?

The “Active Life” - Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt, a early-mid 20th century political philosopher out of Germany presents a different partitioning of domains.  Her concept of an “active life” is based on what we do in life and defines domains as labor, work, and action.  She has taken license with the common usage for these three words, so one might do better with labeling them Activity A, Activity B, and Activity C.  However, I will stick with her terms.  In her terms labor refers to effort that goes into subsistence/survival.  Work refers to effort to make things (tools/technology).  And, action refers to those higher level activities such as political discourse.  This effort at modernization notes that the burden of labor heavily on the shoulders of slaves and women.  Work, as she calls it, refers to artisans making things.  The action domain mostly left to landowners who have the leisure to actively participate in political discourse.

How do the foregoing questions play out in the "Active Life"?

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  • Carolyn

    Very timely topic as the very sad news of Robin Williams death shocks and bewilders us as we contemplate the complexity of the human spirit and can often even eerily understand and respect his choice.

    Have made other plans as it stands right now. Hope to catch you next time.

    1 · August 12, 2014

    • Stan

      As an aging middle-aged 'white guy' myself facing a career disruption, I can relate to R. Williams' plight/angst [albiet fortunately, for me - less times than most others]. What keep me going are these words of sage advice attributable to Jesus, 'By your perseverance you shall secure your life' ... and so far I've found them to be the avenue presenting the most alternatives -- given the permanent/fixed choice of R. Williams: To do one's best and take that next step as difficult as it may be @ times to do so ... as more will then have a opportunity to be revealed.

      August 13, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Gene, Does your group always meet on Thursdays? I would love to attend, but currently have a pretty busy schedule. I didn't see a schedule for your future topics. Is there anything in the works?

    August 12, 2014

  • Angela

    Sounds interesting. Likely I will be late but very interested in attending.

    August 12, 2014

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