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Lecture

banality of evil


Department
Philosophy
Course Code
PHIL 2065F/G
Professor
T A

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The Banality of Evil
Last sentence of the book
“It was as though in those last minutes he was summing up the lesson
that this long course in human wickedness had taught us- the lesson of
the fearsome, word-and-thought-defying banality of evil.”
What does she mean?
“when I speak of the banality of evil, I do so only on the strictly factual
level, pointing to a phenomenon which stared one in the face at the
trial. Eichmann was no Iago and no Macbeth, and nothing would have
been farther from his mind that to determine with Richard III “to prove
a villain”. Except from an extraordinary diligence in looking out for his
personal advancement, he had no motives at all. … see postscript
No Intention
-A central part of her thesis is that evil can be done although the agent
had no intention in doing the act.
This is difficult to understand because we don’t normally think of evil in
these terms. We think of evil as a person with the intention of doing
evil. The intention is what makes evil evil.
Another formulation
“…the phenomenon of evil deeds, committed on a gigantic scale,
which could not be traced to any particularity of wickedness,
pathology, or ideological conviction in the doer, whose only personal
distinction was a perhaps extraordinary shallowness.”
Eichmann is a shallow person who wants only to be approved by others
and his superiors.
Controversial
“Behind that phrase (banality of evil), I held no thesis or doctrine,
although I was dimly aware of the fact that it went counter to our
tradition of thought- literary, theological, or philosophic- about the
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