Tag Archives: William Deresiewicz

On The Human Condition of Hannah Arendt 10

Index to this series

CHAPTER V Action [3]

We come to the end of Arendt’s chapter on action. Action has two components:

  1. Getting it started (ἄρχειν).
  2. Keeping it going (πράττειν).

Anybody can do the first, but then the second is out of his (or her) exclusive control. This is a problem. You can try to avoid the problem, either by making other people your slaves, or by being a Stoic. You can also just recognize that the problem can be mitigated by the actions of promising and forgiving.

Picnic table among trees
Yıldız Parkı, April 16, 2022
Where I did some of the next reading

Before passing to a longer summary, then to Arendt’s text itself with my annotations, I am going to say more about how I see the problem, or at least an aspect of the problem.

Many people are afraid of mathematics, or disconcerted by it: the mathematician hears or infers this from time to time. People can also be afraid of another thing done in school, namely expressing themselves artistically—or just expressing themselves, Continue reading

Donne’s Undertaking

I was recently called on to recommend a poem. I chose “The Undertaking” of John Donne. I want to say here why.

  • The poem (quoted below) has a sound that impressed me when first I read it, more than thirty years ago.

  • The poem alludes to ideals:

    • of recognizing what is good for its own sake;

    • of climbing a rung or two on Diotima’s ladder or stairway of love, recounted by Socrates in Plato’s Symposium (211c):

      And the true order of going, or being led by another, to the things of love (τὰ ἐρωτικά), is to begin from the beauties of earth and mount upwards for the sake of that other beauty, using these as steps (οἳ ἐπαναβαθμοί) only, and from one going on to two, and from two to all fair forms (τὰ καλὰ σώματα), and from fair forms to fair practices (τὰ καλὰ ἐπιτηδεύματα), and from fair practices to fair notions (τὰ καλὰ μαθήματα), until from fair notions he arrives at the notion of absolute beauty, and at last knows what the essence of beauty is (ὃ ἔστι καλόν).

  • The sound of Donne’s poem may seduce one into thinking the ideals worthy.

Analytic Geometry and Donne's complete poetry

Two books that were my mother’s

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