By Patricia Bowen-Moore

ISBN-10: 1349201251

ISBN-13: 9781349201259

ISBN-10: 1349201278

ISBN-13: 9781349201273

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Example text

As we shall see in Chapter 3, this fact has great relevance for political freedom. Yet, before we consider action's specifically political content, we turn our attention to the child - a beginner in a pre-political circumstance who, by way of the activities of play and education, exhibits a type of action no less significant for the experience of being a beginner and a beginning. IV CHILDHOOD AND PRIMARY NATALITY: THE EXPERIENCE OF THE PRE-POLITICAL Our emphasis heretofore has been concerned with establishing primary natality as man's supreme capacity, his exellence as being capable of inaugurating new experiences in a world always old.

The beginner's first 'action' is his birth in time but this act alone establishes the condition for further beginnings as possible to it. According to Arendt, it is due to principium as the coincidence of principle and beginning that human natality is essentially constituted by the potentiality for beginning. In her interpretation, principium possesses a kind of ontological status which defines the human being as a capacity for beginning. The beginner's ability to act derives from an intrinsic principle for novelty which belongs to him as part of his essential structure.

Ontologically and existentially, natality's experience is constituted by the coincidence of principle and beginning, principium and initium. To state it succinctly: human birth is the source of the power to begin (that is, principium) and it is the factual presence of the power to continue to begin (that is, initium). This identity of the human being as structurally a beginning and historically an initiative becomes, for Hannah Arendt, a distinguishable source for inspiring human action. The unity of man who is by birth a beginner and a beginning is constituted by primary natality, that is, by the conditions of principium and initium by which the beginner undergoes the fact of his birth and makes this fact his possibility.

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Hannah Arendt’s Philosophy of Natality by Patricia Bowen-Moore


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