chapter  6
28 Pages

Realms of Existence

The foundation of human rights for Arendt is the common world and hence her work is largely dedicated to rehabilitating the ontological significance of the common in modernity. There is, however, a subtle tension in her view. This tension concerns the relationship between the public, common world, and the private dimension of experience. Arendt’s focus thus far, I have suggested, is on the common world as the ground of human rights, while the realm of private interest appears to be, at best, insignificant and at worst, pernicious for human rights. Arendt appears to be separating human rights from private interests. The problem is that human rights, by most definitions, are precisely about the protection of these private interests, and especially the protection of life and the life process. If Arendt’s concept of human rights cannot account for this intuition, then her view would seem to be incompatible with our contemporary understanding of human rights.