Hannah Arendt: The Concept of History. Ancient and Modern

27 September 2019


The world we have now come to live in (…) is much more determined by man acting into nature, creating natural processes and directing them into the human artifice and the realm of human affairs, than by building and preserving the human artifice as a relatively permanent entity. Fabrication is distinguished from action in that it has a definite beginning and a predictable end: it comes to an end with its end product, which not only outlasts the activity of fabrication but from then on has a kind of “life” of its own.(…) Compared with the futility and fragility of human action, the world fabrication erects is of lasting permanence and tremendous solidity. Only insofar as the end product of fabrication is incorporated into the human world, where its use and eventual “history” can never be entirely predicted, does even fabrication start a process whose outcome cannot be entirely foreseen and is therefore beyond the control of its author. (…) Up to our own age human action with its man-made processes was confined to the human world, whereas man’s chief preoccupation with regard to nature was to use its material in fabrication, to build with it the human artifice and defend it against the overwhelming force of the elements.(…)The moment we started natural processes of our own and splitting the atom is precisely such a man-made natural process we not only increased our power over nature, or became more aggressive in our dealings with the given forces of the earth, but for the first time have taken nature into the human world as such and obliterated the defensive boundaries between natural elements and the human artifice by which all previous civilizations were hedged in. The dangers of this acting into nature are obvious if we assume that the aforementioned characteristics of human action are part and parcel of the human condition.

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