Banality and Cleverness

Peter Baehr

in Thinking in Dark Times

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780823230754
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823235858 | DOI:
Banality and Cleverness

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This chapter explores Hannah Arendt's “banality of evil” argument in Eichmann in Jerusalem. She claimed that Eichmann was not a demon on a mission from Hell, but a crass, ludicrous, pathetic individual. Faced with a media blitz that depicted him as the quintessence of perversion, Arendt wished to puncture such verbiage with a formula designed to show that very unremarkable people have often perpetrated the most despicable acts of modern times. Many disagree with Arendt's portrait of Eichmann, claiming that he was far more of an ideological antisemite than she realized. Others defend her, saying that, even if she were wrong specifically about Eichmann, her argument applies more generally.

Keywords: Hannah Arendt; banality of evil; Adolf Eichmann; antisemitism

Chapter.  2011 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social and Political Philosophy

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