How is the 'human condition' conveyed in this artwork called 'epitaph' ?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Human Condition

The human condition is loosely defined as the collection of events that occur over a human's lifetime and that are common to all regardless of gender, religion, ethnicity, or any other differentiating characteristic. Such events include but are not limited to birth, learning, growth and development, emotional nature, aspirations to achieve and attain, inevitable conflicts, mortality and death.

The human condition is defined more philosophically, for example as by Hannah Arendt, as public and private struggles to achieve immortality through work and action in order to capitalize on birth and existence and to defy death and mortality, which is that which ends the human condition for each individual human. 

The philosophical definition of the human condition also encompasses the contradictions and conflicts that arise at the moment of birth such as the craving for relationship versus the inevitable moments or feelings of isolation and the need for peace and harmonious accord versus the drive for (and against) uniformity of worldview and dominance of subgroups.

The psychological elements of the human condition, inescapable because of our consciousness and ability to be self-aware and self-questioning, such as insecurity, anxiety, uncertainty and instinctive needs versus humanitarian needs drive the fires of the human condition. Psychological components of the human condition underpin the contradictions within that condition which, as one author, Jeremy Griffith, describes as "not knowing why, when the ideals of life are so obviously to be cooperative, loving and selfless, are humans so competitive, aggressive and selfish."


The artwork called "Epitaph" conveys the human condition as described philosophically and psychologically. Deterioration and isolation are featured in the barren, derelict central figures. The conflict between actively achieving versus existing in a futile state is demonstrated by the absence of order or beauty. The orientations of "Epitaph," in its various layers of images, with and without color, is that of the failure to attain immortality through work, words, or actions (Arendt). This failure within the confines of human condition is both the result of and the cause of the loss of continuity, productivity and cooperative relationships negatively apparent in "Epitaph." 

ajf74 | Student

The word epitaph is derived from the Greek, epi (upon) and taphos (tomb). And that's literally what it is--something you find inscribed "upon" a "tomb." As you'd probably figure, the things people want on their tombs are the things that were most important to them while they were living. From looking at epitaphs, it's often easy to figure out someone's religion, for example, or, even, their function in a family (as in, mother, father, etc.). Epitaphs reflect the ways in which people think of themselves and the way others think of them, and, therefore, when viewed holistically, offer a rich glimpse at the human condition.