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Hannah Arendt on the Banality of Evil

The Life of the Mind (Houghton Mifflin harcourt: March 16, 1981), pp. 3-4.

Evil, we have learned, is something demonic; its incarnation is Satan … or Lucifer … What I was confronted with was utterly different and still undeniably factual. I was struck by a manifest shallowness in the doer that made it impossible to trace the incontestable evil of his deeds to any deeper level of roots or motives. The deeds were monstrous, but the doer — at least the very effective one now on trial — was quite ordinary, commonplace, and neither demonic nor monstrous. There was no sign in him of firm ideological convictions or of specific evil motives, and the only notable characteristic one could detect in his past behavior as well as in his behavior during the trial and throughout the pre-trial police examination was something entirely negative: it was not stupidity but thoughtlessness.