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Posted on August 21st, 2012, by

The development of modern society is accompanied by the growing complexity of human relations. In such a situation, efforts of many philosophers to understand human nature and essence of human relations, to understand modern human individuality are quite interesting and noteworthy. In spite of the tremendous progress of mankind, especially within the last century, people still have considerable difficulties with understanding of each other, needs and interests of each other. Naturally, such a situation affects dramatically human relations, while the mutual understanding would help people to build up new, more effective relationships. In this respect, the book “The Human Condition”¯ by Hannah Arendt is particularly noteworthy since the author attempts to view the modern society and people from the position of ancient Greek society, the civilization which has laid the foundation to the modern western civilization and to the modern society and which has proved to be highly developed, especially in the realm of philosophy. In this book the author attempts o understand the possibilities of modern active life or “vita active”¯, as Arendt defines her central concept (11). In fact, she stands on the ground that action is of the utmost importance for the understanding of the modern society and each individual in particular. However, the author reveals two major problems, which are the characteristics of action in the modern world ”“ the action is unpredictable and irreversible. In order to solve these two defects of action, modern people have developed two solutions: promising and forgiveness.

In fact, action constitutes an essential part of human life since people cannot exist without action which is essential for their daily relations and interpersonal contacts and communication. In such a context, it is quite natural that Hannah Arendt refers action to the “public realm”¯ (307). Apparently, the action naturally affects the public realm because people live in the society and constitute an essential part of the society. Therefore, an individual’s actions naturally affect his relations with other people, even though the action is not directed at other people. What is meant here is the fact that an individual can perform some routine, regular action which does not involve other people directly. For instance, as one person does his work, it does not necessarily mean that he supposes to involve all other people in his action.

Nevertheless, through his action an individual can define the attitude of other people toward him because, according to Hannah Arendt, it is through action people can do their judgments concerning each other and it is through the action that the agent is discovered (315). What is meant here is the fact that, while observing each other activities and being involved in some common activities directly or indirectly, people interact and get information about each other. They understand each other and make their own judgments concerning the character and personality of each other. As a result, the action becomes a powerful tools which defines, to a significant extent, the perception of an individual by other people, by his social surrounding.

At the same time, the author lays emphasis on the fact that each personality is unique and it is through the action it is possible to understand the uniqueness of an individual’s personality (Arendt, 317). At this point, it should be said that it proves beyond a doubt that human actions are unique and, even when people perform some routine actions, for instance, when they do one and the same job, they behave in a different way. In fact, this difference is crucial for the understanding of the personality of each individual because through the uniqueness of his action specific traits of character or inclinations can be revealed. As a result, on the basis of observation an individual in action, other people can shape their view on the personality of the individual and they perceive him through prism of his actions.

However, on analyzing human actions, Hannah Arendt identifies certain defects in actions of modern people, which she criticizes and considers very important for the understanding of human nature and individual personality in the contemporary world. The first defects she identifies lies in the fact that an individual cannot fully control what he does (Arendt, 318). In this respect, it is important to underline that people often commit actions on the subconscious level automatically. In fact, actions constitute a part of their nature and, therefore, people cannot be fully conscious of his actions because he does it automatically without a profound reflection and analysis of his action.

Often, actions can be like habits and, therefore, an individual cannot be fully responsible for his actions as he commits them uncontrollably, i.e. without the rational, conscious control. Hence, Arendt concludes that human actions are unpredictable (321).

Another substantial defect of human action leis in the fact that an individual cannot reverse what he has done. In other words action is irreversible (Arendt, 323). In actuality, the problem of irreversibility of human actions also proves the fact that people cannot adequate control their actions and, what is more, they cannot change the outcomes of the actions they have once committed. Consequently, people cannot change their behavior and actions because, otherwise, it would be impossible to understand an individual’s personality through his actions. To put it more precisely, it is exactly due to the unpredictability and irreversibility of human actions people can learn and understand each other’s personality. It is through the action which definitely occurs, in spite of an individual consciousness or will, other people can learn his personality. Otherwise, if an individual could fully control his actions or change or reverse their effects and consequences, people would be unable to understand his personality because they could not see the true, natural actions of the individual.

At the same time, being unable to control and reverse his actions, an individual uncovers his true personality to other people, which make their judgments of the personality on the basis of his actions which they witness and which effects they can observe.

Nevertheless, it is obvious that unpredictability and irreversibility of human actions are serious flaws of humans and if the actions of an individual are negative than they have to be prevented. However, because of the inability of an individual to fully control his actions and reverse its effects, the outcomes of the actions either positive or negative are inevitable. In such a situation, the risk of conflicts arises since because of negative effects of their actions people can come into clashes and they can raise unsurpassable barriers in attempt to separate themselves from those people whose actions can be harmful for them. In such a context, Hannah Arendt suggests two possible solutions: promising and forgiveness (344).

On the one hand, promising allows an individual to express his good will not to commit some actions, which can be potentially harmful to other people. In such a way, an individual shows that he is not intent to cause some problems to other people through his actions. However, being unable to fully control himself nor he is able to reverse his actions, an individual can commit actions, which can have a negative impact on other people, or actions, which can provoke dissatisfaction of other people. In such a way, promising rather serves as a warning to other people that an individual is conscious of the possible negative effects of his actions and he is unwilling to commit them, but he actually cannot resist to his nature. Hence, the author offers another solution of the defects of actions she has identified in her book and this solution naturally complements the previous one. The solution is forgiveness, which implies that people are conscious of the fact that an individual cannot fully control his actions and reverse their effects and, therefore, his actions may occur against his will, at the subconscious level. Hence, other people should forgive the individual because the harm he causes is not intent.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that human actions play crucial role in the modern society since they contribute to the understanding of personality of each individual. At the same time, the action has considerable flaws: unpredictability and irreversibility, which can be solved by means of promising and forgiveness.

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