THE COMMON OBSERVER UNCOMMON OBSERVATIONS

Banality of Evil

You will be gladly excused if you have never heard of Hanna Arendt or Adolf Eichman, but you will not be excused if you are guilty of not thinking. Arendt’s book “Eichman in Israel” is a work that remains to be understood. Ardent brought forth the term, ‘banality of evil’, that has been co-opted to mean many things. It remains relevant. The other day I attended a lecture by Seyla Benhabib, “Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: Fifty Years Later.” On this topic Peter Ludlow recently published an opinion piece, Eichman in Israel

In “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” one of the most poignant and important works of 20th-century philosophy, Hannah Arendt made an observation about what she called “the banality of evil.” One interpretation of this holds that it was not an observation about what a regular guy Adolf Eichmann seemed to be, but rather a statement about what happens when people play their “proper” roles within a system, following prescribed conduct with respect to that system, while remaining blind to the moral consequences of what the system was doing — or at least compartmentalizing and ignoring those consequences.

Read the rest here. Also for a cinematic introduction to this chapter of history see the 2012 biographical film directed by Margarethe von Trotta, “Hannah Arendt.

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