Sunday, August 28, 2016

Universal

Philosophically, it seems that man's ability to take this cosmic, universal standpoint without changing his location is the clearest possible indication of his universal origin, as it were. It is as though we no longer needed theology to tell us that man is not, cannot possibly be, of this world even though he spends his life here; and we may one day be able to look upon the age-old enthusiasm of philosophers for the universal as the first indication, as though they alone possessed a foreboding, that the time would come when men would have to live under the earth's conditions and at the same time be able to look upon and act on her from a point outside. (The trouble is only —or so it seems now— that while man can do things from a 'universal', absolute standpoint, what the philosophers had never deemed possible, he has lost his capacity to think in universal, absolute terms, thus realizing and defeating at the same time the standards and ideals of traditional philosophy. Instead of the old dichotomy between earth and sky we have a new one between man and the universe, or between the capacities of the human mind for understanding and the universal laws which man can discover and handle without true comprehension.) Whatever the rewards and the burdens of this yet uncertain future may turn out to be, one thing is sure: while it may affect greatly, perhaps even radically, the vocabulary and metaphoric content of existing religions, it neither abolishes nor removes nor even shifts the unknown that is the region of faith.

—H. Arendt. The Human Condition, 270–1, emphasis hers.

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