the banality of evil 1

This week introduced us to the now famous concept of the banality of Arendt coined when she introduced and examined it in The Origins of Totalitarianism and the Milgram experiment on authority. Consider the following quotations:

“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists”

“It is indeed my opinion now that evil is never ‘radical,’ that it is only extreme, and that it possesses neither depth nor any demonic dimension. It can overgrow and lay waste the whole world precisely because it spreads like a fungus on the surface. It is ‘thought-defying,’ as I said, because thought tries to reach some depth, to go to the roots, and the moment it concerns itself with evil, it is frustrated because there is nothing. That is its ‘banality.’ Only the good has depth and can be radical.”

One of her critics summed up one of her significant contributions in the following words:

“Arendt’s insight into the banality of evil remains undiminished: human character is malleable, not fixed; in the right circumstances masses of otherwise ordinary, decent, law-abiding people can be transformed into collaborators and perpetrators of reprehensible crimes against humanity.”

Consider these quotations as well as the results of Milgram’s experiment. What does the work of Arendt and Milgram contribute to the body of knowledge about evil?

Journals should be between 2 to 4 pages double-spaced in length and supported with paraphrases and/or brief direct quotations from the critical articles.

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