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Thinking in Dark TimesHannah Arendt on Ethics and Politics$
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Roger Berkowitz, Jeffrey Katz, and Thomas Keenan

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780823230754

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: March 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fso/9780823230754.001.0001

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Is Evil Banal? A Misleading Question

Is Evil Banal? A Misleading Question

(p.131) Is Evil Banal? A Misleading Question
Thinking in Dark Times

Richard J. Bernstein

Fordham University Press

This chapter argues that the question—Is evil banal?—is badly formulated because it invites serious misinterpretations of Arendt. The question is objectionable for three reasons. First, the question suggests that Arendt has a general theory or thesis about the nature of evil. This is absolutely false. Over and over again she insisted that she was not proposing a general theory when she spoke about the banality of evil. Second, the question obscures the most important aspect of Arendt's thinking about evil. Third, the question obscures a distinction that is crucial for Arendt—the distinction between the doer and the deeds.

Keywords:   Hannah Arendt, banality of evil, Nazis, death camps, evil

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