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Arendt and the Human Condition

In her Prologue to the Human Condition, Hannah Arendt expresses great concern regarding the impact modern science has had on how we think about human nature and how we relate to the world in which we live. She writes, in many respects in direct contrast to Descartes, “the earth is the very quintessence of the human condition” (p. 2). As we have seen from Descartes’s Mediations on First Philosophy, he defines the human as primarily as a thinking being, a being considered “quintessentially” as a mind. A central question for Arendt concerns what scientific progress means when we consider the human being as a mind, as no longer bound to the earth or perhaps no longer a member of the living, embodied world.

1. If science primarily understands the human being as a “mind,” what would be the primary goals of scientific progress?

2. Are there other aspects to being human that are essential to being human? Provide some examples.

3. How would these other aspects of the essence of the human being have us rethink the goals or meaning of progress?