Volume 3, 2019
Hannah Arendt on Science and Technology
This article expands Patchen Markell’s (2011) seminal problematization of The Human Condition by examining the impact that the modern developments in science and technology had on Arendt’s signature categories. Whereas Markell is interested in the systematic “architecture” of the book, I attempt to historicize Arendt’s distinctions in light of the story she tells about science and technology. From the invention of the telescope to the splitting of the atom, technoscience has provoked shifts in the hierarchies within the vita activa; spawned new varieties of “labor,” “work,” and “action”; and blurred the traditional boundaries between “nature” and the “human world.” These reconfigurations draw the contours of a new, “modern world” that is different from the world whose story and conceptual tradition Arendt set out to articulate. Largely as a result of the activities of science and technology, the experiences that informed the categories of the “Western tradition” correspond to a world that is no longer our own.