Hannah Arendt on the Banality of Evil

Powerful Essays
Hannah Arendt is a German Jewish philosopher, born in 1906 and died in 1975. She studied philosophy with Martin Heidegger as Professor. Her works deal with the nature of power and political subjects such as democracy, authority, and totalitarianism. She flew away to France in 1933, when Adolf Hitler became Chancellor in Germany. She flew away from Europe to the United States after escaping from the concentration camp of Gurs. She became a Professor in New York city, in which she became an active member of the German Jewish community. In 1963, she was sent to Jerusalem to report on Eichmann’s trial by The New Yorker. Hannah Arendt’s thoughts on Eichmann’s trial were expected to be harsh, considering the philosopher’s roots. However, her first report from Jerusalem shocked everyone. Far from defending Eichmann, Hannah Arendt tried to question why would such an ordinary man, as she depicted him, commit such atrocities. Hannah Arendt’s reports on Eichmann trial led in 1963 to the publication of one of the philosopher’s most discussed, debated work, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. During Eichmann’s trial, the philosopher was not only reporting but also questioning the origins of evil, thus digging herself into the field of metaphysics. Hannah Arendt elaborates on what she would come to call the banality of evil. She does not consider the banality of evil as a theory nor a doctrine, she simply uses it as a notion to explain “the phenomenon of evil deeds, committed on a gigantic scale, which could not be traced to any particularity of wickedness, pathology or ideological conviction in the doer, whose only personal distinction was a perhaps extraordinary shallowness” (Arendt).

The first depiction of Eichmann by ...

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...r dehumanizing individuals and turning them away from their ability to tell right from wrong, as the one reliable explanation of the atrocities committed during the Second World War. Now accepted as a sound concept, the banality of evil is often questioned when our world witnesses new forms of evil, such as terrorism.

Works Cited

Arendt, Hannah, and Adolf Eichmann. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report of the Banality of Evil. London: Faber & Faber, 1963. Print.

Arendt, Hannah. "Thinking and moral considerations: A lecture." Social Research (1984): 7-37.

Miller, Stephen. "A Note on the Banality of Evil." Wilson Quarterly 22 (1998): 54-59.

Myers, William Andrew. "The Banality of Evil in an Age of Terrorism." Considering Evil and Human Wickedness (2004): 33.

Judt, Tony. "The ‘problem of evil in postwar Europe." The New York Review of Books 14.2 (2008): 33-5.
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