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Mon May 11, 2020, 11:42 PM

Hannah Arendt, 20th C. Philosopher Remains Inspiring Today; The Banality of Evil

The German-American philosopher was one of the great political thinkers of the 20th century. Berlin's German Historical Museum has dedicated an exhibition to Hannah Arendt, who remains more relevant than ever. DW, 5/10/20.



- The thinker- A philosopher, writer and professor of political theory: Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) became renowned in the US and worldwide for her works examining revolutions and totalitarian systems, as well as the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, in which she radically questioned traditions and ideologies.


The exhibition examines in 16 chapters the thinker's subjective perspective on historical events — with photos, sound and film documents, objects from Arendt's private estate and international loans. The aim is to present key events in 20th century history in a new way.

Hannah Arendt's work is indeed ideally suited for this purpose. The philosopher published works on anti-Semitism, colonialism and racism, the Nazis and Stalinism in her straightforward style — demonstrating that critical thinking could be both daring and entertaining.

The list of controversies the intellectual philosopher triggered is long, and her 1963 book Eichmann in Jerusalem — a major focus in the exhibition — certainly tops that list. In 1961, Hannah Arendt witnessed the trial of former SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem as a reporter. Eichmann was responsible for the deportations of millions of Jews to concentration and extermination camps.

Arendt's article on the trial appeared in 1963 in The New Yorker and then as a book with the subtitle, "A Report on the Banality of Evil." She describes Adolf Eichmann as a technocrat without convictions who stylized himself as a mere tool of his superiors.

The banality of evil

The banality of evil, the famous phrase coined by Arendt, is characterized by organized thoughtlessness and irresponsibility, she wrote. The "unconditional" obedience that Eichmann repeatedly referred to was an expression of this thoughtlessness and irresponsibility.

The controversy surrounding Arendt's report was sparked not only by the title and the question of "banality," but also by the fact that she questioned the reaction of the "Judenräte" (Jewish Councils) to developments in Germany at the time. Were the members of these institutions guilty of collaboration?

(Read more: The ratlines: What did the Vatican know about Nazi escape routes?)

"We are putting Hannah Arendt's analysis of 20th-century issues up for discussion," says exhibition curator Monika Boll. "Not because we believe that Hannah Arendt is always right, but by transmitting her enthusiasm for analytical thinking to the visitors, we want them to form their own opinions."

Hannah Arendt, who viewed critical thought as an eminently political activity, would most certainly have agreed with that approach. After all, the philosopher felt that National Socialism spelled not only a collapse of all moral values, but also the breakdown of the ability to show judgment, points out Boll. Opinions were synchronized; people learned to talk as "we" and not "I" — and the question of personal responsibility was thus shifted to impersonal authorities, says Boll...

Read More, https://www.dw.com/en/why-hannah-arendt-remains-inspiring-today/a-53372810

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Reply Hannah Arendt, 20th C. Philosopher Remains Inspiring Today; The Banality of Evil (Original post)
appalachiablue May 2020 OP
BlancheSplanchnik May 2020 #1
appalachiablue May 2020 #2

Response to appalachiablue (Original post)

Tue May 12, 2020, 01:23 PM

1. Shifting responsibility for the Self to the Bureaucracy.

Opinions were synchronized; people learned to talk as "we" and not "I" — and the question of personal responsibility was thus shifted to impersonal authorities, says Boll

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Response to BlancheSplanchnik (Reply #1)

Tue May 12, 2020, 02:44 PM

2. It wasn't individuals, they were 'just following orders.'

bunk

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