Public space

James Mensch

pp. 31-47


"Public space" is the space where individuals see and are seen by others as they engage in public affairs. Hannah Arendt links this space with "public freedom." The being of such freedom, she asserts, depends on its appearing. It consists of "deeds and words which are meant to appear, whose very existence hinges on appearance." Such appearance, however, requires the public space. Reflecting on Arendt's remarks, a number of questions arise: What does the dependence of freedom on public space tell us about the nature of freedom? How does public freedom relate to the freedom of a private individual? Does the latter also depend on its appearing? Which is generatively prior: freedom or public space, i.e., the actions that publicly manifest freedom or the space required for their appearance? How does public power shape this space? In this article, I approach these questions through a phenomenological study of public space.

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