Facing the Banality of Evil: Arendt’s Political Response to Eichmann

  • Shmuel Lederman


For many commentators, the Eichmann trial signifies a shift in Arendt’s focus, from the vita activa to the vita contemplativa; from action and speech in the public sphere to the life of the mind. Accordingly, Arendt’s response to the phenomenon she identified in Eichmann is perceived to be the capacity for critical, “Socratic” thinking, which may save the individual thinker from participating in evil while everybody else is swept away by the genocidal imperatives of the ruling regime. This chapter turns attention to Arendt’s reluctance about the “Socratic” answer, which she thought was important yet limited in its application to “the many,” and shows that Arendt had a complementary, “political” response to the “banality of evil”: the constant practice of critical thinking and judgment in the public sphere with our fellow citizens.

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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shmuel Lederman
    • 1
  1. 1.The Weiss-Livnat International Center for Holocaust Research and EducationThe University of HaifaHaifaIsrael

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