What is Evil?
Hannah Arendt on Adolf Eichmann and the Nature of Evil

Press Start for “What is Evil?” by 8-Bit Philosophy, where classic video games introduce famous thinkers, problems, and concepts with quotes, teachings, and more.

Episode 20: What Is Evil? | Hannah Arendt on Adolf Eichmann and the Nature of Evil

Written by: Matt Reichle
Created & Directed by: Jared Bauer
Narrator: Nathan Lowe
Animation Producer: MB X. McClain
Original Music & Sound by: David Krystal (http://www.davidkrystalmusic.com)
Academic Consultant: Mia Wood
Producer & Additional Artwork by: Jacob S. Salamon

What Is Evil?
Hannah Arendt on Adolf Eichmann and the Nature of Evil

Traditional conceptions of evil focus on the utter monstrosity of evil actions—the complete awe and un-think-ability of horror.

Called pure or radical evil—this is the sort of evil associated with antagonists or villains—it is the antithesis of good.

For Hannah Arendt, a German-Jewish philosopher, evil is not always as simple as an overriding desire to do no good.

Rather, Arendt chooses to focus her discussion of evil on this man: Adolf Eichmann.

Put on trial for numerous horrors, Eichmann was found guilty of crimes against humanity—especially against the Jewish people, for overseeing the trains that transported people to Nazi death camps. On May 31, 1962 he was hanged.

Arendt traveled to Jerusalem to cover the Eichmann trial. She expected to encounter a cold calculating monster, a man who reveled in his malicious deeds.

Instead what she found was something far more shocking. Eichmann was an altogether innocuous and seemingly normal little man—in some sense, he was a cliché, a stereotypical bureaucrat, a sort of sleepwalker in life—a person who refused to comprehend the weight of his crimes. Because he didn’t physically shoot or kill anyone—he considered himself blameless.

Eichmann wasn’t afflicted with an overriding sense of maliciousness—instead what Arendt found was a man that was thoughtless, that never stopped to put himself in someone else’s shoes, that refused to think from another’s perspective. She found someone with an unquestioning sense of obligation to authority—who all his life he had been a follower—a person eager to fit in and be led—he suffered from blind allegiance and a complete self-deception about the morality of his actions.

This made Arendt rethink the concept of evil— for Eichmann wasn’t a demon in any obvious way.

What she encountered was the banality of evil—an everyday sort of evil: a bureaucrat eager to do his job. One who lacked empathy or perspective.

You don’t need to be cruel, sadistic, or vicious to embody evil—all that a person has to do is blindly follow the orders of another person. For Arendt that is the banality of evil.

So, dear viewer, what can be done to save humanity from mindless obedience?

More Videos

Are We Living in a Simulation? <br /> 8-Bit Philosophy

Are We Living in a Simulation?
8-Bit Philosophy

Why Are We So Nostalgic? <br /> 8-Bit Philosophy

Why Are We So Nostalgic?
8-Bit Philosophy

Why Do We ❤️ SERIAL KILLERS!? <br /> 8-Bit Philosophy

Why Do We ❤️ SERIAL KILLERS!?
8-Bit Philosophy

Is It Wrong if You DON’T Vote? <br /> 8-Bit Philosophy

Is It Wrong if You DON’T Vote?
8-Bit Philosophy

Does Political Correctness WORK? <br /> 8-Bit Philosophy

Does Political Correctness WORK?
8-Bit Philosophy

Will Drugs Make You Super-Human? (Adderall, Ritalin & More) <br /> 8-Bit Philosophy

Will Drugs Make You Super-Human? (Adderall, Ritalin & More)
8-Bit Philosophy

Is Trump REALLY a Fascist? <br /> 8-Bit Philosophy

Is Trump REALLY a Fascist?
8-Bit Philosophy

Is Tinder KILLING Love? <br /> 8-Bit Philosophy

Is Tinder KILLING Love?
8-Bit Philosophy

Will Candy Crush Set You Free? <br /> 8-Bit Philosophy

Will Candy Crush Set You Free?
8-Bit Philosophy

Is Trump the END of Politics? <br /> 8-Bit Philosophy

Is Trump the END of Politics?
8-Bit Philosophy

Why Do We Binge During the Holidays? <br /> 8-Bit Philosophy

Why Do We Binge During the Holidays?
8-Bit Philosophy

Is Kanye West Even Human? <br /> 8-Bit Philosophy

Is Kanye West Even Human?
8-Bit Philosophy

Does Money Own You? <br /> 8-Bit Philosophy

Does Money Own You?
8-Bit Philosophy

Is Batman Just? <br /> 8-Bit Philosophy

Is Batman Just?
8-Bit Philosophy

Why Do We Take Selfies? <br /> 8-Bit Philosophy

Why Do We Take Selfies?
8-Bit Philosophy

Is Boredom Worse than Death?

Is Boredom Worse than Death?

Is Gender Real?

Is Gender Real?

Are Psychedelic Drugs<br />GOOD For You?

Are Psychedelic Drugs
GOOD For You?

Is Technology Killing Your Creativity?

Is Technology Killing Your Creativity?

Should Animals <br> Have Human Rights? (Pokémon + Speciesism)

Should Animals
Have Human Rights? (Pokémon + Speciesism)

Do We Crave Fascism? <br> (Freud & Psychoanalysis)

Do We Crave Fascism?
(Freud & Psychoanalysis)

Can We Trust The Media?<br>Baudrillard

Can We Trust The Media?
Baudrillard

Is God Useful?

Is God Useful?

Is The American Dream A Sham?

Is The American Dream A Sham?

Does Christianity Make Us Weak?

Does Christianity Make Us Weak?

Why Do Haters Hate?

Why Do Haters Hate?

Is Capitalism Bad For You?

Is Capitalism Bad For You?

Does Privilege Matter?

Does Privilege Matter?

What Is Evil?

What Is Evil?

Do We Need Government? (The Social Contract)

Do We Need Government? (The Social Contract)

Who Was Socrates?

Who Was Socrates?

Who Was Machiavelli? <br> (The Prince)

Who Was Machiavelli?
(The Prince)

Is A Cat A Cat? <br> (Derrida + Double Dragon)

Is A Cat A Cat?
(Derrida + Double Dragon)

Are Your Actions GOOD? (Kant vs. Mill)

Are Your Actions GOOD? (Kant vs. Mill)

What If You Could Get Away With Anything? <br> (Plato + Zelda)

What If You Could Get Away With Anything?
(Plato + Zelda)

What is Woman? (de Beauvoir + Metroid)

What is Woman? (de Beauvoir + Metroid)

Time is a Flat Circle?<br>(Nietzsche + Mega Man)

Time is a Flat Circle?
(Nietzsche + Mega Man)

Why Shouldn’t We Commit Suicide? (Camus + Donkey Kong)

Why Shouldn’t We Commit Suicide? (Camus + Donkey Kong)

Are You Authentic? (Heidegger + River City Ransom)

Are You Authentic? (Heidegger + River City Ransom)

What is Marxism? (Karl Marx + Super Mario Bros.)

What is Marxism? (Karl Marx + Super Mario Bros.)

Will History END?<br>(Hegel: The Philosophy of History)

Will History END?
(Hegel: The Philosophy of History)

Does Rationality Give Life Meaning? (Kierkegaard: Truth is Subjectivity)

Does Rationality Give Life Meaning? (Kierkegaard: Truth is Subjectivity)

Is Change An Illusion? (Zeno’s Paradoxes)

Is Change An Illusion? (Zeno’s Paradoxes)

Do We Enjoy Being Free?<br>(Final Fantasy + Sartre)

Do We Enjoy Being Free?
(Final Fantasy + Sartre)

Can We Be Certain of Anything? (Descartes & Cartesian Doubt)

Can We Be Certain of Anything? (Descartes & Cartesian Doubt)

Do Humans Operate Like Computers? (Kant’s Moral Philosophy)

Do Humans Operate Like Computers? (Kant’s Moral Philosophy)

Does SCIENCE = TRUTH?<br>(Nietzsche + Mega Man)

Does SCIENCE = TRUTH?
(Nietzsche + Mega Man)

What is Real? <br> (Plato’s Allegory of the Cave)

What is Real?
(Plato’s Allegory of the Cave)