Exploring The Nature of Evil

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“The Reality is that the Nazi’s are men like ourselves; the nightmare is that they have shown, have proven beyond doubt, what man is capable of” (Arendt 1945 quote taken from Kohn 1994).

The aim of this essay is to address the theory of “radical evil” and to establish how it has been incorporated into Hannah Arendt’s thesis the “Banality of evil”. This will be done by first addressing Immanuel Kant’s main concept of evil been “radical” and concluding what he meant by this. Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: A report on the Banality of Evil (1963) will then be analyzed to explore how Kant’s main propositions have influenced and to some extent been transformed by Arendt to explain the horrors of the holocaust. We will conclude by looking at how the nature of evil should be addressed following the Holocaust.

Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher working in the late seventeenth century and has been considered “The greatest member of the idealist school of German philosophy” (Aquila 1989). Kant’s work regarding evil especially that covered in his work Religion has received more attention since the start of the twenty first century than it did in his time (Hanson 2012). This rise in attention could be accounted for due to a wider search for answers in regards to “evil”. Previously unimaginable events that have occurred in modern times from the Holocaust to the 9/11 atrocities, make us question morality and ourselves as a human race, leading to questions such as, “are the people responsible for these crimes normal?” “Are these people born evil?”

To answers the latter question from Kant’s perspective, yes these people are born evil, or at least they are born with an intrinsic ability to become “evil”. To answer the former, ye...

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