43481173 - The Banality of Radical Evil Silke Ann Mariz...

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The Banality of Radical Evil Silke Ann Mariz Mariano, Mililani School, Hawaii, USA Abstract: The views of Hannah Arendt on totalitarianism and her ideas of radical evil and the banality of evil have sparked controversies that Fourish with increasing fertility. In her inFuential work published in 1951, The Origins of Totalitarianism, she insisted that the totalitarian destruction of spontaneity as an element of human behavior and the extermination of whole populations for no utilitarian or in- telligible reason at all through total terror together constituted what she called radical evil. However, she apparently changed her view on the nature of evil when she covered the 1961 Eichmann trial in Jerusalem for the The New Yorker. Her 1963 report, Eichmann in Jerusalem, argued for the banality of totalitarian evil, that it arose from thoughtlessness. This apparent shift, alleged to be real by com- mentators, critic and sympathizer alike, and by Arendt herself, in favor of the idea of banality plunged her into headlong conFict with the Jewish community which, with considerable justi±cation, interpreted her position as an exoneration of Eichmann. It is the main thesis of this paper that Arendt not only had not changed her mind about the nature of totalitarian evil but also that the major doctrines of The Origins - the Doctrine of Totalitarian Logicality, the Doctrine of Universal Parity of Victims and Ex- ecutioners and the Doctrine of Counter-utilitarianism and Senselessness - imply the conception of banality upheld in her later work. In fact, The Origins already speaks explicitly of banality. The paper also attempts to show that this interpretation of Arendt can easily dispose of several, otherwise powerful, objections raised against such conception. ²inally, a partial explanation is offered for why Arendt came to believe falsely that she had changed her mind on the nature of totalitarian evil. Keywords: Arendt, Radical Evil, Eichmann, Banality, Thoughtlessness, Totalitarianism H ANNAH ARENDT CONTINUES to intrigue and inspire many in philosophy, political theory and history. Penetrating yet provocative, her views on totalitarianism and her ideas of radical evil and the banality of evil have sparked controversies that Fourish with increasing fertility. In her inFuential work published in 1951, The Origins of Totalitarianism , 1 she insisted that the totalitarian destruction of spontaneity as an element of human behavior—that is, the reduction of humans into Pavlovian beasts—and the extermination of whole populations for no utilitarian or intelligible reason at all through total terror together constituted what she called radical evil . However, she apparently changed her view on the nature of evil when she covered the 1961 trial of the Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem for the The New Yorker. Her 1963 report, Eichmann in Jerusalem , argued for the banality of totalitarian evil, in particular Eichmann’s role as executioner of Hitler’s genocidal program against the Jewish people. Totalitarian evil was banal in that it
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This note was uploaded on 03/14/2011 for the course ENG 102 taught by Professor Emelbekişoğlu during the Fall '11 term at Bilkent University.

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43481173 - The Banality of Radical Evil Silke Ann Mariz...

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