Friday, November 23, 2012

#327 / For The Love Of The World
The Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College publishes a blog on a semi-regular basis. I am not sure who qualifies to post, but there are different authors, some of whom have interesting things to say. Last weekend, one blog entry was titled "What is a house?" The posting mostly focused on a Jonathan Franzen essay, "House For Sale," which has recently been translated into a kind of play (off-Broadway) by Daniel Fish

I have read Franzen's essay, which I liked, but what mostly interested me in the recent blog posting was a discussion of Arendt's concept of "love of the world." Elisabeth Young-Bruehl has written a biography of Arendt, called For The Love of the World, and the phrase has a specific meaning for Arendt: 

Hannah Arendt spoke of having acquired, through her life, a "love of the world." When writing about education she argues that "education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it." And in politics, she insists, we must care for and love the world more than oneself. What then is the world?

The world is related to human making and to the things and artifacts that human beings make. What defines the things of a world is that those things gather individuals together. In the public realm, a politician is that person who speaks and acts in such a way that those around him come to see those institutions and values that they share and treasure. The common world is the world that emerges when a plurality of people bind themselves to stories, traditions, institutions, rituals, and practices that they share and that they love. Like a table that unites those who sit around it in a common conversation or feast, the common world brings different people together. It stands between them, both joining and separating them.

For Arendt, in other words, the "world" is a creation of human activity, of, by, and through a kind of community-based politics.

This is, indeed, a world we need to love, and treasure; it is the world we make ourselves.

There is a another world, too; a world we do not create. That world, the World of Nature, is the world that loves us.

1 comment:

  1. The natural world does not love us. The natural world is uncaring. It's only humans who love or not love.

    Love connotes obligation, which does not exist in the non-human world. Only humans insert a culture of love and obligation between themselves and the rest of the world.

    Living in the natural world, one does what one must do, just as all other species do what they must do. Those thrive who do what they must in ways best suited to their environment. Those who don't, fail to thrive.


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