Arendt, Genocide, and Evil
Hannah Arendt’s discussion of genocide in Eichmann in Jerusalem is still one of the most interesting. Her work on this has been misunderstood partly because its ethically complex argument and tone have been judged in the light of an assumption that morality is the only relevant ethical category with which to do it. I shall develop that claim in order to discuss what she says about the concept of evil in Eichmann in Jerusalem and also in On Revolution, where she says that “the men of the eighteenth century” did not acknowledge “that there exists goodness beyond virtue and evil beyond vice.” Few contemporary writers on evil have thought it relevant to consider its connections with goodness of a kind that might invite a capital ‘G’ — goodness, for example, as it shows in some the works of saintly love. To some, but important, degree Arendt was an exception.
Raimond Gaita is Professor of Moral Philosophy at King’s College, University of London, and Foundation Professor of Philosophy at the Australian Catholic University. He has published widely in moral phi-losophy, including Good and Evil: An Absolute Conception (1991); The Philosopher’s Dog (2002); Breach of Trust: Truth, Morality and Politics (2004); Why the War Was Wrong (2003; as editor and contributor), and Romulus, My Father (1998).