Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 261
Man's Desire for Immortality
There are a great many themes in The Human Condition by Hannah Arendt. One of the strongest themes is the human need to achieve a sort of "immortality" via works and deeds. She refers to the Greek philosophers Plato and Socrates, among others, to unpack the human history of this concept of men's desire for achieving a form of greatness or tangible measure of worth that lives beyond their own mortal existence. Thematically speaking, this could suggest that one major theme is the timelessness and pervasiveness of the desire among humans to achieve immortality. One quote which addresses this idea is as follows:
The task and potential greatness of mortals lie in their ability to produce things—works and deeds and words—which would deserve to be and, at least to a degree, are at home in everlastingness, so that through them mortals could find their place in a cosmos where everything is immortal except themselves.
Interestingly, Arendt also generally refers to "men" and "mankind" instead of using more gender-inclusive pronouns such as most authors use today. This is both a reflection of the male-dominated culture seen in the thinkers she references from antiquity and the times she wrote in—the book was published in 1958, a decade before the advent of the fight for women's liberation and equality. The theme of equality is, however, present in the author's discussion of labor as being something that is contrary to the concept of freedom and how this idea surrounds the concept of slavery as discussed by the ancient Greeks.