3 posts tagged freedom
From Ortega y Gasset’s London essay, “History as a System” in Philosophy and History, ed. 1936 (“by compulsion” italicized by author), as quoted in Frank Kermode’s Sense of an Ending, p. 140 - 141)
“I’m worried that people do not understand precisely what I mean by a way out. I use the word in its most common and fullest sense. I am deliberately not saying freedom. I do not mean this great feeling of freedom on all sides. As an ape, I perhaps recognized it, and I have met human beings who yearn for it. But as far as I am concerned, I did not demand freedom either then or today. Incidentally, among human beings people all too often are deceived by freedom. And since freedom is reckoned among the most sublime feelings, the corresponding disappointment is also among the most sublime. In the variety shows, before my entrance, I have often watched a pair of artists busy on trapezes high up in the roof. They swung themselves, they rocked back and forth, they jumped, they hung in each other’s arms, one held the other by clenching the hair with his teeth. “That, too, is human freedom,” I thought, “self-controlled movement.” What a mockery of sacred nature! At such a sight, no structure would stand up to the laughter of the apes.
No, I didn’t want freedom. Only a way out—to the right or left or anywhere at all. I made no other demands, even if the way out should also be only an illusion. The demand was small; the disappointment would not be any greater—to move on further, to move on further! Only not to stand still with arms raised, pressed again a crate wall.”
Hannah Arendt, remarks to the American Society of Christian Ethics, 1973, Library of Congress MSS Box 70, p. 011828, quoted by Margaret Canovan in her introduction to The Human Condition, University of Chicago Press, 2nd ed.
I have just begun reading Arendt’s treatise on work and our struggle to supersede human nature. I should warn you now: I’m only a few pages in, and ready to send quotes out like mad. Which is only appropriate, in light of Arendt’s comment here. She would have been a fan of Tumblr.