Hannah Arendt

  • arendtWhen we were told that by freedom we understood free enterprise, we did very little to dispel this monstrous falsehood. Wealth and economic well-being, we have asserted, are the fruits of freedom, while we should have been the first to know that this kind of “happiness” has been an unmixed blessing only in this country, and it is a minor blessing compared with the truly political freedoms, such as freedom of speech and thought, of assembly and association, even under the best conditions.
  • Economic growth may one day turn out to be a curse rather than a good, and under no conditions can it either lead into freedom or constitute a proof for its existence.
  • The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be either good or evil.
  • The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together.
  • There are no dangerous thoughts; thinking itself is dangerous.
  • The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution.
  • Forgiveness is the key to action and freedom.
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One Response to Hannah Arendt

  1. shinichi says:

    Johanna “Hannah” Arendt was a German-American political theorist. Though often described as a philosopher, she rejected that label on the grounds that philosophy is concerned with “man in the singular” and instead described herself as a political theorist because her work centers on the fact that “men, not Man, live on the earth and inhabit the world.” Her works deal with the nature of power, and the subjects of politics, direct democracy, authority, and totalitarianism.

    In her reporting of the 1961 Adolf Eichmann trial for The New Yorker, which evolved into Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963), she coined the phrase “the banality of evil” to describe Eichmann. She raised the question of whether evil is radical or simply a function of thoughtlessness, a tendency of ordinary people to obey orders and conform to mass opinion without a critical evaluation of the consequences of their actions and inaction. She was sharply critical of the way the trial was conducted in Israel. She also was critical of the way that some Jewish leaders, notably M. C. Rumkowski, acted during the Holocaust. This caused a considerable controversy and even animosity toward Arendt in the Jewish community. Her friend Gershom Scholem, a major scholar of Jewish mysticism, broke off relations with her. Arendt was criticized by many Jewish public figures, who charged her with coldness and lack of sympathy for the victims of the Holocaust.

    Due to this lingering criticism, her book has only recently been translated into Hebrew. Arendt ended the book by writing:

    Just as you [Eichmann] supported and carried out a policy of not wanting to share the earth with the Jewish people and the people of a number of other nations—as though you and your superiors had any right to determine who should and who should not inhabit the world—we find that no one, that is, no member of the human race, can be expected to want to share the earth with you. This is the reason, and the only reason, you must hang.

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