Tuesday, December 15, 2009

In Which FLG Shares Miss Self-Important's Dilemma

Arendt writes, in a footnote mind you, on page 131 of The Human Condition:
This leisure, needless to say, is not at all the same, as current opinion has it, as the skhole of antiquity, which was not a phenomenon of consumption, "conspicuous" or not, and did not come about through the emergence of "spare time" saved from laboring, but was on the contrary a conscious "abstention from" all activities connected with mere being alive, the consuming activity no less than laboring. The touchstone of this skhole, as distinguished from the modern ideal of leisure, is the well-known and frequently described frugality of Greek life in the classical period. Thus, it is characteristic that the maritime trade, which more than anything else was responsible for wealth in Athens, was felt to be suspect, so that Plato, following Hesoid, recommended the foundation of new city-states far away from the sea.

What does this mean?

It means that Arendt thought of writing something akin to my paper for about half a second and then said, "Fuck it. That's too simple. I'll just throw it in a footnote so that years from now when FLG writes a paper he'll feel really fucking stupid. He he."


Withywindle said...

Could be worse. You could have been writing your autobiography and discovered you were Rahel Varnhagen.

Miss Self-Important said...

"the well-known and frequently described frugality of Greek life in the classical period" - Not something I've ever heard of. Sounds like Withy's descriptions of 19th century English gentry.

However, I think the gist of this passage is that the Greek ideal of spare and disciplined, or at least Plato's ideal, is associated with Sparta, whereas Athens is the symbol of luxury and softness, corrupted by foreigners through sea trade. Luxury is mistaken for leisure, but is actually the pursuit of pleasure through the satiation of physical appetites. Thus, to have true leisure, you must avoid such temptations. However, Aristotle says in book 7 or 8 of the Politics that the major flaw of the Spartan regime was its incapacity for leisure.

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