Saturday, August 22, 2020

MAN: Unique but in Plural - MSGR. PROF. J. B. AKAM

MAN: Unique but in Plural

 In no way is it an straightforward job to wade through the theories and vast writings of Professor Hannah Arendt. She is indeed "one of the few genuinely great thinkers of this century," as testified by her close assistant, Jerome Kohn, and, by some twist of fate, not among the clearest authors, a quality she shares with other great thinkers including Heidegger, Kant, Husserl, etc. Not the one

Dr. J.B. Akam's painstaking effort in his clear analysis and interpretation of her ideas on the theme of his search inquiry, namely, "Hannah Arendt and the Politics of Action: Man, Unique but Plural," has made it much easier for the great author to understand, and thus,

To enrich generations of scholars with their profound intellectual explorations, insight, and wisdom.

This work, the direct and total fruit of a doctoral thesis, is a close study of Arendt's Magnum Opus, the Human Condition, its central issue and main ideas, but the enormous fruit of the author's study and the many comments and interpretations that illuminated the work in no small measure.

Hannah Arendt 's ideas clearly show that the author knows all her works quite well. The book has two main sections, Sections One and Two, well tidied up. There are several sections in each part, three in the one; two in the other. Furthermore each section has several chapters which are broken up into articles in turn.

The Conclusion of each Chapter summarizes the Chapter in question and prepares the reader for the next theme. It also illustrates issues which have already been addressed in some definite way.

The remarkable capacity of the author for analyzing, synthesizing, and clarifying comes to light in his critical exposition of Hannah Arendt 's ideas in the human condition. From the outset, the author manifests Arendt's central concern, namely her concern for the modern man whose

The ideal, widely reflected in modern society, is that of animal laborers, a "labouring animal" since man's activity or labor is carried out under the compulsion of providing the necessity of life, that is, the pursuit of pure animal survival. For Arendt it means that the modern man's crisis in that life has raised his happiness to the highest level.

Thus the work the sustains the life is itself the highest task in the public life of man, or the "vita activa" (active life). The private realm, the domain of labor and necessity, and not the public realm characteristic of true individuality, namely the domain of

Politics and Liberty.

To fully appreciate her redeeming thoughts on the human condition and modern era, one must clearly grasp Arendt 's conception of the animal laborers. One should not liken Arendt 's animal laborers to the Marx or Engels proletarians defined solely by their relationship to the means of production. 

As the author notes, Professor Arendt is more concerned with "all those who think about something they do to support their own lives and those of their families.


" In this age of crass materialism, and as a result of the modern rule and glorification of labour, of animal labourers, what Arendt fiercely attacks is the almost total concern of modern man with the process of life itself;

Life is not much higher than eating and drinking, and habitat survival. According to her, it is the consequent theoretical glorification of labour that has transformed the entire society into a labourer society. 

In reality, the modern man, "laborers, bourgeoisie, professionals, scholars, politicians" in all professional cadres, has become a labourer, driven mainly by his animal instinct of sheer survival.

What is at stake in the present age is man, human life, "uniqueness of creation plurality." Arendet puts before him modern man 's task of turning man from animal laborers into animal politicum (a genuinely political animal) enjoying liberty.

By political intervention. Thus she calls to health the modern guy.


 Her primary objective, of course, is not to "show her haughty and distant contempt for the vulgarity of the modern world," as Canovan rightly says, but rather to remind the modern man that life has something more to offer, namely

Durability and the promise of immortality as the finest in the history of "homo politicus" in the free life of political action.


It was Dante who ordered man to focus on his origins over two centuries ago, because he was not made to live like brutes but to seek virtue and wisdom. With remarkable insight, Friedrich Nietzsche also noted that the first sign that an animal has become man is "when its motions are no

Longer designed to the gratification of the moment, but to what is perceived to be beneficial in a lasting way. Hannah Arendt thus joins these great thinkers in calling back modern man to his exalted self and integrity, sadly lost when the ideal of "food workers" becomes the ideal of effortless consumption and abundance, the ideal of person and society as a whole.

Arendt is definitely not against the work of man as such, but his futility and disgusting end to which his behavior leads man to, namely, the life of vulgarity and non-permanence, the unfitting qualities of a homo politus.

In critical reflection on the modern man and his human condition or mode of being in the world, Arendt does not take into account the detrimental impact that this new age of high technology, industrialization, unremitting scientific pursuit, environmental degradation, in other words, the combined effect of labor and work (animal laborers and Home Faber) has on individuals and their values. Modern man has become a slave to technology, his scientific experiments and his creations to the point that he lacks the desire to discover who he is special in history and the chance of attaining his true ideals.

Arendt laments this plight of the poor man who is now going for self-destruction owing, so to speak, to the abuse of his hands' labour. It was Francis Bacon who drew the attention of man to the purpose of all science and, for that matter, the scientific and artistic development of man which he said was "action in the creation of works to promote human happiness." For Arendt, as the core thesis of her human condition points out, the opposite is the fate of modern man, namely, death, unhappiness, self isolation , loneliness. She had observations of her own to draw conclusions from this.

Despite having lived through the Nazi regime's ordeals and witnessing the tragic fate of millions, she wasn't late to sense the head-long dive of the modern world into its political ruin and utter self-destruction. Therefore, in this technological era, she calls for peace, for the dethronement of homo Faber in order to rescue the integrity and individuality of the individual once again.


What is especially important to Arendt is the individual's identity, the restoration of his integrity, and life 's lasting values. It is this concern for man and his true well-being that has endeavored Arendt and her works to her readers in particular with the human condition and will remain a source of perennialy Appeal to posterity. Therefore, she joins ranks with other great thinkers including Gabriel Marcel, Kierkegaard, Maritain and others who have repeatedly denounced the crisis and fate of the modern man especially the Western man. In Gabriel Marcel 's word, she calls for the recovery of the human from the "techniques of destruction," the numerous crises of a highly sophisticated scientific and technological society. In Arendt 's opinion, the journey of the modern man to true self-recovery is definitely from dehumanization to humanization, from animal laborers (labouring animals) to animal politicum (Political animals).

Being an African and a member of the Third World, the relationship of his research to the Third World, to Africa, his own continent, is what also fascinated Dr. J. B. Akam in his thorough investigation of Arendt 's ideas especially in the Human Condition. Boethius lamented the ills of his day (around the fifth century A.D.), with the nostalgic wish that his age "might return to those ancient virtues but now the avarice of man burns fiercer than the fire of Aetnas." Likewise one might lament realistically the ills of modern Africa with its propensity towards conspicuous consumption, fulfillment of the desires of the moment

And therefore, to almost complete lack of more lasting virtues or intellectual attributes.

Throughout Africa, the fears of the animal laborers and Homo faber are becoming increasingly evident. Through his desire to preserve life, the African conceives labor through terms of material needs and contentment. Instrumentalisation is the daily concern and enterprise of homo faber. He's seeing life as means and ends. Thus utility and utility are defined as the supreme norm of living and human ideals. Through the same way, the African's search for progress, for "technological transition," is aimed at satisfying the animal laborers' complete aspirations and beliefs through the form of means to an end.

Indeed what scares serious thinking Africans is the growing cycle of dehumanization at work in Africa as the continent is experiencing rising scientific and technological developments. The problems of the great western nations are gradually those of the highly developed and urbanized African nations in particular. There's no positive overall image of African life, a slow trend from humanization to dehumanization. For many Africans today this is a serious concern as more and more Western ideologies and so-called culture, including the cults of science and technology, lay siege to the African consciousness and decide the notion of prosperity and good life for the people.

Before it's too late the African must redempt his humanity and cultivate his own culture.

That to me is the great lesson from Dr Akam's insightful analysis of Hannah Arendt for Africa and the developing nations. Throughout our quest for growth and advancement, throughout our pursuit of science and technology, let us not replay the Western man's history as a guarantee of avoiding his consequent scientific and technical ills in his creation and philosophy of growth.






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