Arquivo para December 5th, 2023

Between immortality and eternity

05 Dec

It is not just a spiritual theme as it seems, Hannah Arendt’s Vita Activa cited by Byung-Chul is a course correction, to remove us from simple mortal temporality, to the “time that is proper to the gods, who do not die and do not age , and the immortal cosmos” (Han, 2023, p. 145), where he differentiates immortality from eternity.

The search for immortality is, again Han quoting Arendt, “the source and center of the vita activa”. According to the author, “human beings achieve their immortality on the political stage. On the other hand, the objective of the vita contemplativa is not, according to Arendt, to persist and last in time, but the experience of the eternal, which transcends both time and the surrounding world” (Han, 2023, p. 145), in other words, immortality is the senseless search for the political stage, while eternity is the search for the experience of eternity already here and now.

But the author warns that the human being cannot linger on the experience of the eternal, “he needs to return to his surrounding world” (idem), when comparing it with the thinker, as soon as he starts writing he abandons the experience of the eternal , this is how one dedicates oneself to active life, and it is in this that one hopes to achieve immortality, Arendt admires Socrates who does not write, although Arendt herself thought and recorded her thoughts with the intention of immortality (Han, 2023, p. 146), but the Writing can be a contemplation, says the author.

In Byung-Chul’s view, the way Arendt sees Plato’s myth of the cave is actually a completely different story, it is of a philosopher who frees his companions from the chain of the shadows that waver before them, which they consider the only reality (page 147-8), Plato asks Glaucon to imagine: what would happen to philosophers if, after having seen the truth, they returned to it and tried to free prices from illusions? (page 148).

“Parehesia” (opening of the truth) is a risky situation, “the philosopher acts, when despite the danger of death, returns to the cave” in order to convince them of the truth, thus the action precedes the knowledge of the truth, while contemplation is the path from knowledge to truth, which precedes action (page 149).

After all, the Greek polis itself and Plato’s thought originated in the dialogues of Socrates written by Plato himself, this is a contemplative and discursive truth (I would say dialogical, but the term can have dubious interpretations), so action precedes thought in Plato.

According to Hans’ criticism, the idea that the loss of contemplative capacity led to the victory of the “animal laborans” that subjects everything to work with the consequent loss of contemplative capacity and its reintegration into nature and the planet.

Han quotes Saint Gregory, a master of the vita contemplativa: “when a good life program demands that one pass from the active to the contemplative life, it is often useful for the soul to return from the contemplative to the active life, in such a way that the flame of contemplation awakens in the heart surrender all its fullness of activity” (page 151), this is how eternity on earth is lived.

HAN, B.C. (2023). Vita Contemplativa: In Praise of Inactivity, transl. Daniel Steuer, USA, ed. Polity (the page numbers is in brazilian text).