Research Article

Defining Evil Away: Arendt's Forgiveness

Abigail L. Rosenthala1 c1

a1 Brooklyn College of The City University of New York


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.

(Online publication March 25 2011)

Abigail L. Rosenthal wrote A Good Look at Evil (Temple University Press, 1987) and Conversions: A Philosophic Memoir (Temple University Press, 1995) and edited The Consolations of Philosophy: Hobbes' Secret; Spinoza's Way by H.M. Rosenthal (Temple University Press, 1989). This article is adapted from her next book, Terror and Evil.