Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Hannah Arendt's view of Evil

I've always been compelled by Arendt's view of evil as depiected in Eichmann in Jerusalem. Here's Amos Alon's excellent gloss on Arendt's view of evil:
In The Origins of Totalitarianism, she still held on to a Kantian notion of radical evil, the evil that, under the Nazis, corrupted the basis of moral law, exploded legal categories, and defied human judgment. In Eichmann in Jerusalem, and in the bitter controversies about it that followed, she insisted that only good had any depth. Good can be radical; evil can never be radical, it can only be extreme, for it possesses neither depth nor any demonic dimension, yet--and this is the horror!--it can spread like a fungus over the surface of the earth and lay waste the entire world. Evil comes from a failure to think. It defies thought, for as soon as thought tries to engage itself with evil and examine the premises and principles from which it originates, it is frustrated because it finds nothing there. That is the banality of evil.
I agree entirely: evil comes from a failure to think.

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