Saturday, October 21, 2006

Do Being and Appearance Coincide?

Arendt holds that being and appearance coincide (Life of the Mind, Vol. 1, pp. 19 ff.). I'm not completely sold on the idea. Perhaps it's a question of how one approaches the problem and how one walks away from it. Nobody, Arendt says (p. 26), has managed to actually live in a world that does not manifest itself on its own accord. Is that really true? Obversely, has anybody managed to live in world that they have not helped to bring about in some way? Search me.

If my existence were worldly in the way a thing is worldly, it ought to appear to me just like a thing. It doesn't seem that way to me. Arendt notes a duality of sentient existence, that we sentients are both subjects and objects of reflection, both beings and appearances. That hardly does justice to the problem. Other people don't really appear to me as things and if I treat other people as things it occurs to me that I'm somehow in the wrong.

Yet there is a ring of trueness to what Arendt is saying. "To be alive means to be possessed by an urge toward self-display which answers the fact of one's own appearingness" (p. 21). That says a lot about humans. I doubt the same applies to bacteria or other asexual organisms, and by the same token I doubt it's an adequate summation of what it means for a human being to live. Arendt is on to something, but I can't yet say what it is.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:57 AM.


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