The venture into the public realm (H. Arendt)


Permit me a last question. In a tribute to Jaspers you said: “Humanity is never acquired in solitude, and never by giving one’s work to the public. It can be achieved only by one who has thrown his life and his person into ‘the venture into the public realm’”. This ‘venture into the public realm’ -which is a quotation from Jaspers- what does it mean for Hannah Arendt?.


The venture into the public realm seems clear to me. One exposes oneself to the light of the public, as a person. Although I am of the opinion that one must not appear and act in public self-consciously, still I know that in every action the person is expressed as in no other human activity. Speaking is also a form of action. That is one venture. The other is: we start something. We weave our strand into a network of relations. What comes of it we never know. We’ve all been taught to say: Lord forgive them, for they not know what they do. That is true of all action. Quite simply and concretely true, because one cannot know. That is what is meant by a venture. And now I would say that this venture is only possible when there is trust in people. A trust –which is difficult to formulate but fundamental—in what is human in all people. Otherwise such a venture could not be made.” (1964).

Hannah Arendt, Essays in Understanding (1994), pp. 22-23.

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