Sinnräume: Ein phänomenologisches Analyseinstrument, am Beispiel von Hannah Arendts Vita activa

Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie 68 (2):167-188 (2020)
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The paper introduces the concept of “spaces of meaning,” distilled from the work of political theorist Hannah Arendt, and used as an interpretative tool to understand some central theoretical moves in the The Human Condition. By focusing on activities which actualise conditional structures and which thereby generate experiences and meaning, I present a phenomenological re-interpretation of Arendt’s three basic activities of labour, work, and action, which actualise the conditions of life, worldliness, and plurality. The term “spaces of meaning” indicates how the unfolding of certain activities simultaneously creates and structures spaces and meaningful orientation which involves a certain temporality, spatiality, corporeality, and intersubjectivity. I differentiate between activity-based and visibility-based spaces of meaning and present a dynamic interpretation of their interplay. In doing so, I challenge Seyla Benhabib’s view that part of Arendt’s methodology contains what Benhabib calls “phenomenological essentialism.” Furthermore, this analysis aims at developing an analytical tool and flexible framework also beyond Arendt scholarship. Phenomenologists can use this model of “spaces of meaning” for the task of reclaiming experience as world-building and world-opening, also in a normative sense, and of demonstrating how structures and orders are lived while they condition and form spaces of meaning. If we want to understand, criticise, act, or change something, this subjective and intersubjective perspective will remain indispensable.



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Sophie Loidolt
Technical University of Darmstadt

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