Hannah Arendt on Escape and the Self-Made Man

From the prologue to The Human Condition: In 1957, an earth-born object made by man was […]

Will McDavid / 1.9.15

From the prologue to The Human Condition:

tumblr_mxwr56t2Dp1qdl1hxo1_1280In 1957, an earth-born object made by man was launched into the universe… The immediate reaction, expressed on the spur of the moment, was relief about the first “step toward escape from men’s imprisonment to the earth”… What is new [in this comment] is only that one of this country’s most respectable newspapers finally brought to its front page what up to then had been buried in the highly non-respectable literature of science fiction (to which, unfortunately, nobody yet has paid the attention is deserves as a vehicle of mass sentiments and mass desires). The banality of the statement should not make us overlook how extraordinary in fact it was; for although Christians have spoken of the earth as a vale of tears and philosophers have looked upon their body as a prison of mind or soul, nobody in the history of mankind has ever conceived of the earth as a prison for men’s bodies or shown such eagerness to go literally from here to the moon. Should the emancipation and secularization of the modern age, which began with a turning-away, not necessarily from God, but from a god who was the Father of men in heaven, end with an even more fateful repudiation of an Earth who was the Mother of all living creatures under the sky? …and the wish to escape the human condition, I suspect, also underlies the hope to extend man’s lifespan far beyond the hundred-year limit.

This future man, whom the scientists tell us they will produce in no more than a hundred years, seems to be possessed by a rebellion against human existence as it has been given, a free gift from nowhere (secularly speaking), which he wishes to exchange, as it were, for something he has made himself.