Arendt and the "Banality" of Evil: A Note on Neiman

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Susan Neiman claims in Evil in Modern Thought that Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem may be understood as a work of theodicy inasmuch as it gives “meaning to evil that helps us face despair.” More precisely, Neiman claims that to call evil banal “implies that the sources of evil are not mysterious or profound but fully within our grasp” and even “shallow enough to pull up.” This note argues that Neiman’s interpretation of Arendt’s book is mistaken and that Arendt does not hold that evil has “shallow” roots, but no roots at all.

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Notes, Insights, and Flashes