In The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt, the author, explains that actions are frail; they are both irreversible and unpredictable (The Human Condition 191). Forgiveness and promising are the only ways in which we can remedy the frailty of our actions. The act of forgiveness creates a new beginning, giving humans the opportunity to start over again, without forgetting what happened. This is necessary because actions always occur in a web (The Human Condition 190). My actions have an effect on others, and the actions of others have an effect on me, meaning that I am both a “doer” and a “sufferer”. Actions can have infinite ramifications because they are boundless. We can never truly know what outcomes an action will have, and even the best predictions are only good guesses. As humans, we are inherently vulnerable because we do not have total control of the effect that our actions have on ourselves or on others (The Human Condition 237). We can be affected in unseen ways that can be either good or bad. Forgiveness is a powerful act, which can release us from the consequences that our actions may have on ourselves or on others (The Human Condition 241). Through forgiveness, people can open up a new future for themselves. Forgiveness serves to remedy the irreversibility of actions because in forgiving someone, both of the affected individuals can move on with their lives. Unfortunately, as humans we tend to limit forgiveness to those that are close to us (The Human Condition 241).
The faculty of making and keeping promises is the second remedy for the irreversibility and unpredictability of our actions (The Human Condition 237). As humans, we make promises to both ourselves and others. For example, when I get into my car and begin driving, in a way I am promising to obey the laws of the road. Laws are basically just the codification of promises. The promises that we make are not binding in any way; they can be broken. The fact that any human that is able to drive has the capacity to break the laws of the road is particularly distressing to humans. The same is true for all laws (The Human Condition 191). Humans are not bound by the laws they create, so they can choose whether or not to follow those laws. Because of the unpredictability that freedom creates, humans search for ways to stabilize their lives.
Making promises serves to remedy the unpredictability of our actions by adding a sense of stability. On page 244, Arendt states, “Man’s inability to rely upon himself or to have complete faith in himself (which is the same thing) is the price human beings pay for freedom.” This means that because man is completely free, man will always be unpredictable. A promise may not be set in stone, but it is a pledge to act in a certain manner. In that sense, a promise allows people to be mutually trusting of one another, so that they may live their lives freely and without worry.
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