sabato 2 luglio 2016

Hannah Arendt and the Desk Murderer

by Federico Sollazzo (

In March 2016 has took place at the Dept. of Philosophy of the University of Szeged the lecture of Ruggero D’Alessandro titled ‘Hannah Arendt and the Desk Murderer: The banality of Evil as Inability to Think’ – I was pleased to have organized it and to have been moderator as much as I’m now glad to provide this brief summary (the lecture was in English and I’m grateful to Ferenc Szabo for providing summaries in Hungarian of the key points).
Ruggero D’Alessandro, PhD by the University of Lausanne, is currently visiting professor at the University of Varese and ‘Sapienza’ University in Rome. He cares about Contemporary Continental Political Thought. He is the author of numerous publications in Italian, many of them translated in English.
The lecture was based on the 2015 book of D’Alessandro titled The Thinker and the Specialist: Hannah Arendt and the Eichmann Trial. As the title says, the lecture was devoted to one of the main Arendtian themes: the famous formulation of the banality of evil, as she defined it in her famous book of 1963 Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. As is well known, Arendt followed the trial of Otto Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi officer in charge for the so-called final solution (the planned extermination of all Jews, but not only of them, from the Earth), as reporter of the American newspaper ‘The New Yorker’. By collecting and reworking these reportages, it arose the book.
The main thesis of the book is that Eichmann was not an evil person, a sort of Iago in Shakespeare’s Othello, but a banal one. A thesis for which Arendt was harshly criticized by the Jewish Community for which Eichmann simply played the role of the monster. Why banal? The immediate answer is: because unable to think. But what does this inability mean for Arendt?