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  • What is Evil?

  • Traditional conceptions of evil focus on the utter monstrosity of evil actionsthe complete awe and unthinkability of horror.

  • Called pure or radical evilthis is the sort of evil associated with antagonists or villainsit is the antithesis of good.

  • For Hannah Arendt, a German-Jewish philosopher, evil is not always as simple as an overriding desire to do no good.

  • Rather, Arendt chooses to focus her discussion of evil on this man: Adolf Eichmann.

  • Put on trial for numerous horrors, Eichmann was found guilty of crimes against humanity

  • especially against the Jewish people, for overseeing the trains that transported people to Nazi death camps.

  • On May 31, 1962 he was hanged.

  • Arendt traveled to Jerusalem to cover the Eichmann trial.

  • She expected to encounter a cold calculating monster, a man who reveled in his malicious deeds.

  • Instead, what she found was something far more shocking.

  • Eichmann was an altogether innocuous and seemingly normal little manin some sense, he was a cliché, a stereotypical bureaucrat,

  • a sort of sleepwalker in life⏤a person who refused to comprehend the weight of his crimes.

  • Eichmann wasn’t afflicted with an overriding sense of maliciousnessinstead, what Arendt found was a man that was thoughtless,

  • that never stopped to put himself in someone else’s shoes, that refused to think from another’s perspective.

  • She found someone with an unquestioning sense of obligation to authority

  • who all his life he had been a follower⏤a person eager to fit in and be led

  • he suffered from blind allegiance and a complete self-deception about the morality of his actions.

  • This made Arendt rethink the concept of evilfor Eichmann wasn’t a demon in any obvious way.

  • What she encountered was the banality of evilan everyday sort of evil: a bureaucrat eager to do his job.

  • One who lacked empathy or perspective.

  • You don't need to be cruel, sadistic, or vicious to embody evil

  • all that a person has to do is blindly follow the orders of another person.

  • For Arendt that is the banality of evil.

  • So, dear viewer, what can be done to save humanity from mindless obedience?

What is Evil?

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