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The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 6, 1998

Contemporary Philosophy

Bethania Assy
Pages 7-15

Eichmann, the Banality of Evil, and Thinking in Arendt’s Thought

I analyze the ways in which the faculty of thinking can avoid evil action, taking into account Hannah Arendt's discussion regarding the banality of evil and thoughtlessness in connection with the Eichmann trial. I focus on the following question posed by Arendt: "Could the activity of thinking as such, the habit of examining and reflecting upon whatever happens to come to pass, regardless of specific content and quite independent of results, could this activity be of such a nature that it 'conditions' men against evildoing?" Examples of the connection between evildoing and thinking include the distinction between the commonplace and the banal, and the absence of the depth characteristic of banality and the necessity of thinking as the means for depth. I then focus upon Arendt's model thinker (Socrates) and argue that the faculty of thinking works to avoid evildoing by utilizing the Socratic principle of noncontradiction.

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