Anno LIII, n. 223, settembre-dicembre 2018
Good works and glorious actions. Hannah Arendt, the ethical and the political
In The Human Condition, Arendt includes good works or das tätiges Gut into human activities, but whereas she spends two long chapters analyzing non political activities as labour and works, she only takes moral activity into account to stress an incompatibility between its criterion – goodness – and action’s criterion – glory or beauty. Such an incompatibility is related with the intrinsically public character of action, whereas moral action is corrupted when publicly performed. This is what Matthiew teaches: «Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them». Moreover, Arendt follows Machiavelli’s distrust of any direct irruption of good into the political sphere. However this does not imply that, for her, action is completely separated from ethics. A lot of political actions are motivated by moral motivations. Although rising from a non-public sphere, moral motivations are not purely subjective and, following Montesquieu, some of them are principles enacted by action itself, even if, when performed, action meets questions intractable from a moral point of view. Moreover, whether moral or political, principles are always susceptible to being made public, when somebody is asked to account for what he or she has done.