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Thoughtlessness and the Optics of Moral Argument: Screening the Spectacle of Eichmann - Part 1

A presentation by Valerie Hartouni, University of California, San Diego

In her controversial work Eichmann in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt insisted that great evil is not necessarily a reflection of evil motives or an expression of natural depravity. Such evil, she argued, is better understood as the outcome of a certain thoughtlessness or inability to think from another’s point of view. “[O]ne cannot extract any diabolical or demonic profundity from Eichmann,” Arendt wrote, He merely, to put the matter colloquially, never realized what he was doing. It was sheer thoughtlessness–by no means identical with stupidity–that predisposed him to become one of the greatest criminals of that period.....[S]uch thoughtlessness can wreak more havoc than all the evil instincts taken together... –that was, in fact, the lesson one could learn in Jerusalem.”

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