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Visualizing AtrocityArendt, Evil, and the Optics of Thoughtlessness$
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Valerie Hartouni

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780814738498

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814738498.001.0001

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The Banality of Evil

The Banality of Evil

Chapter:
(p.114) 5 The Banality of Evil
Source:
Visualizing Atrocity
Author(s):

Valerie Hartouni

Publisher:
NYU Press
DOI:10.18574/nyu/9780814738498.003.0005

This concluding chapter reexamines Arendt's widely considered but enigmatic characterization of evil as banal; what “this long course of wickedness had taught us,” she wrote at the end of her report on the trial of Eichmann, was a lesson about the “word-and-thought-defying banality of evil.” In Arendt's view, it was Eichmann's thoughtlessness—his refusal to test or examine received opinions or take his bearings from the awareness he clearly had of what was happening and how and to whom—that predisposed him, “to become one of the greatest criminals of the period.” Arendt also links his thoughtlessness to a failure of judgment for which thinking clears the way.

Keywords:   banality of evil, Eichmann trial, thoughtlessness, judgment failure

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