“Research Post on Hannah Arendt”, Unit 3 Assignment 1, Nikolaos Paramythiotis

  1. Hannah Arendt was born in Hanover, Germany, in 1906, and she was of Germanic-Jewish descent.[1]
  2. She studied philosophy in the University of Marburg and later got her doctorate at the University of Heidelberg in 1928, its topic being: “Love and Saint Augustine”.[2]
  3. From 1924 until 1928 she had a romantic relationship with Martin Heidegger, professor of philosophy in Marburg. However, she had to flee to Paris in 1933, after he, now a professor in the University of Freiburg, joined the Nazi party and started utilizing Nazi educational policies.[3]
  4. In 1940 she married Heinrich Blücher, and had to flee with him to New York in 1942, after Paris was occupied by the Nazis.[4]
  5. She got an American citizenship in 1951 and lived in New York until her death in 1975.[5]
  6. Her first major work, “On Totalitarianism”, was published in 1951, and was inspired by the horrific events taking place in Europe, accompanying the rise of Nazism. She examined Nazism in Germany as well as Soviet Stalinism, and how they were both examples of political evil.[6]
  7. Her main claim was that although terror has been used throughout history as means to obtain or to sustain power, it is the first time that a whole regime was built with evoking terror to its citizens as its goal and founding principle.[7]
  8. Her second major work, “The Human Condition”, was published in 1958. There, Arendt tried to analyze and search for the origins of democracy and political philosophy, as well as the main principles of political life as presented in the Classical Ancient Greek era, which she argues that have greatly degenerated in today’s political scene.[8]
  9.  The main concept described in the book is vios theoritikos (βίος θεωρητικός), which has to do with normative politics, or how should a government be. Her argument is that in a just government, theoria (θεωρία) the theoretical study of something comes before praxis (πράξις), which is actually performing it. Also, episteme (επιστήμη), the in-depth knowledge of something gains much more value in contrast to doxa (δοξασία), one’s personal belief about it, which often might be misleading. [9]
  10. Her work “Eichmann is Jerusalem” was published in 1961, the same year as Adolph Eichmann, who organized the transportations of millions of Jews in various concentration camps, was sentenced to death as a war criminal by the Israeli court. After speaking with Eichmann and listening to his testimony in court, she came up with the concept of the “banality of evil”.[10]
  11.  According to this, Eichmann was not the “sadistic” and “monstrous” individual she expected, but rather an “everyday”, “terrifyingly normal” man. He was not fanatically antisemitic, and he committed all the crimes he was rightfully charged with because of “shallowness of character” and “cluelessness”. He was nothing more than a bureaucrat interested merely in the advance of his career, and his work was organized in such a manner, that he never felt he was doing something immoral.[11]
  12. Question: Shouldn’t the indifference towards making moral judgements be perceived as a characteristic adequate to describe someone as immoral, or even “monstrous”?   

[1] https://hac.bard.edu/about/hannaharendt/

[2] https://hac.bard.edu/about/hannaharendt/

[3] https://www.britannica.com/biography/Hannah-Arendt

[4] https://www.britannica.com/biography/Hannah-Arendt

[5] https://www.britannica.com/biography/Hannah-Arendt

[6] https://www.iep.utm.edu/arendt/#H3

[7] https://www.iep.utm.edu/arendt/#H3

[8] https://www.iep.utm.edu/arendt/#H3

[9] https://www.iep.utm.edu/arendt/#H3

[10] https://aeon.co/ideas/what-did-hannah-arendt-really-mean-by-the-banality-of-evil

[11] https://aeon.co/ideas/what-did-hannah-arendt-really-mean-by-the-banality-of-evil

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