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Defining Evil Away: Arendt's Forgiveness

  • Abigail L. Rosenthal (a1)
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  • Published online: 25 March 2011

Arendt claims that evil is banal and its perpetrators merely shallow. Deliberate evil she takes to be extremely rare. However, nonrare examples of deliberate evil, whose aim is to spoil one's story, abound in everyday life. Arendt also makes forgiveness personal, not requiring repentance. This prompts a consideration of certain personal relations among philosophers. Heidegger's relation to Husserl shows a betrayal of teacher by student. His seductive and philosophic power over Arendt, a betrayal of student by teacher, should not be dismissed in terms of reductive Freudian notions. Faced with a real feminine predicament, Arendt made the wrong choices: in her exoneration of Heidegger, her report on the Eichmann trial, and her exculpatory doctrine of evil.

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Arendt, ‘Shadows’, in Ursula Ludz (ed.), Letters: 1925–1975, Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger tr. Andrew Shields (New York: Harcourt Inc., 2004

Herbert Spiegelberg , The Phenomenological Movement: A Historical Introduction, vol. one (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1960)

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  • ISSN: 0031-8191
  • EISSN: 1469-817X
  • URL: /core/journals/philosophy
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