"The Banality of Evil"

Posted by MountainLady 5 years, 6 months ago to Philosophy
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  • Posted by 5 years, 6 months ago
    This is an essay by Hannah Arendt written as she watched the trial of Adolph Eichmann. She meant, not that evil itself was banal, but the attitude of evil-doers towards evil was banal. That Eichmann used platitudes, clichés and commonplaces as he discussed his activities was "banal".

    Part of Eichmann's defense was that he was "...only doing his duty." That "...he studied and knew his Kant, and Kantian philosophy well."

    To Eichmann, and other Nazis, good and evil were only words, concepts, to be bandied about; they had no emotional context, no emotional backup, to them at all.

    As you know, Kant, along with Rousseau, initiated that whole malignant 19th century European philosophical thought, and part of its malignancy is attributable to the fact that that philosophy completely divorced reason from emotion. Can you see the consequences?

    Remember, that the "debris" of enlightenment---19th century philosophy--, contributed to the backlash known as "Romanticism"---of which, Shelley, Scott, even Nietzsche were a part.
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    • Posted by krevello 5 years, 6 months ago
      Modern philosophy's emphasis on ontology has always bothered me. When Nietzsche suggests that languages and perception differences, like the fact that not everyone has the same mental image when they hear the word "tree," invalidate absolutism, they put all the emphasis on relativism, suggesting that the relativity between absolutes alters the nature of the absolutes, when it obviously can't. Yet that's what passes for "substance" in modern philosophy.
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      • Posted by 5 years, 6 months ago
        This is something I've been working on, and it may have a relation to why humans seem to think only in terms of "relatives".

        Unless humans can fully explicate the consequences of their actions
        they will always think in terms of "relativeness". Once consequences of actions, either individual or societal, are known with certainty, some relatives become absolutes. Can you see where I'm going with this? (Even as it refers to government sponsored homosexual marriage.)
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      • Posted by 5 years, 6 months ago
        You are using "ontology" in its emphasize on the nature of being?

        And I think then that your point is that the a part of the malignancy in 19th century philosophy was/is its emphasis on the relativeness of being itself? Worthy of thought.

        I believe that the essence of Objectivism is its absolute emphasis on the fact that there exists an objective reality apart from any one person's or even any one group's perception of it. It can not be otherwise. And yes, that too is part of the malignancy of 19th century philosophy.

        Your comment also explains Wittgenstein's pronouncements, over and over, of, "What do you mean by that?" Witgenstein saw, and correctly, that a lot of the problems in philosophy could be explained by the vagueness of language.

        (I think I have posted that on this forum before.)
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        • Posted by krevello 5 years, 6 months ago
          Yes, and specifically how ontology to more contemporary philosophers is all about language and how its relativity translates into relativity of being. Specifically, I see that as being centric to Nietzsche and Heidegger, to whom the "banality of evil" is certainly relevant since he was supportive of Nazism.

          I think you're right in noting that relatives become absolutes to many people because they examine facts in context of their existence and not anything broader. For instance, to use your example of the legalization of same-sex marriage, the relativity of different lifestyle choices has become not about simply accepting that there are differences and allowing people to chose based on what's best for them, both at an individual level and in line with their epistemological beliefs, but shoving one view down everyone's throat in the name of "tolerance" and "diversity," which effectively promotes a relativity as an absolute.

          I think it's interesting too that the relativists tend to be the ones more open to state-regulation of expression and more generalized control. Logically, this should be the more ontologically liberal view while Objectivists and others who believe in absolute truths would be more in favor of force. But of course this is not the case because the latter does not conflate the relativity and the absolutes; it allows individuals to sort them out for themselves.
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          • Posted by 5 years, 6 months ago
            Good reply. But my comment about government sponsored same-sex marriage was meant to be viewed in light of the consequences of such to culture and society as a whole. It is not good, absolutely not good. And if "interest groups" had the good of the country or society in mind instead of their own selfish "live in the moment" interests, they might be able to entertain the actual future consequences.

            God has said (and you won't find that in ANY book of scripture) that when morals become relative, then reality itself becomes relative. Perhaps that is what the liberals are trying to eradicate from the minds of thinking people.
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            • Posted by $ sjatkins 5 years, 6 months ago
              So you support discrimination on the basis of an unanswerable supposition of consequences? You support denying equal rights on this basis? Then you do not understand or support rights.

              If you get your "morals" from what you think some religion asserts or some holy book or what you think God arbitrarily asserts then you don't understand morals either. So I guess I shouldn't be surprised.
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              • Posted by 5 years, 6 months ago
                Read my post again.

                Then define what you mean by "discrimination" and "equal rights". You are one very confused person.
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                • Posted by $ MichaelAarethun 5 years, 6 months ago
                  Nothing wrong with discrimination per se one often discriminates in their choice of many things choosing one preference over another. Especially those with discrimininating taste. the world is often mixed up with two others prejudice and post judice to judge before facts are in evidence a subjective apporach and to judge after facts are in evidence an objective approach.

                  If people deign to learn the language then let them hang themselves with their own illiteracy.

                  Equal rights is still tied to it's joined at the hip twin rights and responsibilities or claiming a right brings with it a responsibility. Men for example have the constitutional right to be conscripted into the militias of the states by age while women are not by virtue of that right discriminated against in the matter of conscription there is just no age factor as a requirement.

                  The whole thing leads back to the customs and context of the time when the lower classes were considered fair game for a number of employments. Men as labor, cannon or factory fodder and women as baby factories to produce more fodder and factories.

                  The present military conscription laws are based entirely on that age old cultural context which also held there are certain classes...land ownership was one dividing line thus poll tax became a dividing line.

                  The whole point of what the framers were trying to do was set up a system which allowed the divine right of kings to become the source of power of governments that source being the citizens.

                  Nether Republicans nor Democrats support the Constitution in that respect but follow the dictum of government (by an elitist class the plato version) over the entire population and both are against the idea of individuals having individual rights and values. Ergo sum they both fit together in, for want of a better term, the Government Party while the rest of us are left to become not only cannon fodder and baby factories but worse yet tax payers.

                  One was the new idea of the framers and the other is the neo-feudalistic continuation of a along dead aristocracy.

                  Thus the choices are individualism and freedom or collectivism and .....choices like hillary or trump. the

                  A reasoning thinking individual will note the differences between evils and between the opposites and make a discriminating choice between them based on their own ethics, values and standards. When they willingly and knowingly choose their own definition of one or more of the evils it is self-incrimination and probably a choice they really prefer no matter what is presented as a public face. Thus the stated ethics are false the state evils are their true self.

                  Thus rands statement on the three choices. Right, Wrong, and Compromise. When you are in the collective herd with it's questionable safety being driven to market as a futures investment for hillary it's too late realize the difference between life as a pork belly and life as human being.

                  Too late for post judice your prejudices led you to the stock yards. There is nothing left but that chute and the looters butchering the moochers. That's a fair description of cannon fodder and baby factories should satisfy any leftist.

                  Good post and good thinking mountain lady and a thumbs up.
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                  • Posted by 5 years, 6 months ago
                    Thought I would also tell you what my definition of "benevolence" is:

                    I get what I want but only when government wants to give it to me.

                    Just in case you think a benevolent government is a good government.
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                  • Posted by 5 years, 6 months ago
                    And now "equal rights". I have no idea what this concept actually refers to.

                    Jefferson's Declaration of Independenc3e assures us that man's unalienable rights, GUARANTEED by government (just as the first 10 amendments are GUARANTEED by the Constitution) are "Life, Liberty and the PURSUIT of Happiness". Thus every American is guaranteed "equality of opportunities".

                    Remember, any right government "grants" you, can be taken away from you by your government as well.

                    That's why the founders insisted government must GUARANTEE rights, not GRANT them.

                    I'm not sure, Michael, what your point is regarding military conscription. But as I said, and probably this won't happen until late next week, I'll answer the rest of your comment.
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                    • Posted by $ MichaelAarethun 5 years, 6 months ago
                      they also include automatifally without discussion any rights or powers not specifically granted to government. Such as ignoring the Constitution or changing definitions. That's a right reserved and at the most some of it may be explained by the Supreme Court but not by two bit ham'n'egg shysteres from Chicago.

                      Draft.... The Constitution has a portion that allow Congress to set down regulations for all the militias. Another section states only the States may grant commissions and a third defines the ages for men to serve in the militia.

                      No where does it excuse women from the draft and the draft is a Civil War or later invention and i can't find it anywhere in the Constitution except by stretching it ....a right and power not granted.

                      It was customary and still is to not use women in the military precisely because their role was seen as producing soldiers and other mothers to be ergo sum women were viewed as baby factories to the men being viewed as cannon fodder. I use those terms to tick people off and get them thinking and perhaps searching the handbook of citizenship in it's entirety and to learn the difference between a mission statement (Declaration of Independence) and a book of legal rules (Constitution) which constitutes that by which we are governed within the limit of powers and rights granted.

                      Gotta dash...
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                  • Posted by 5 years, 6 months ago
                    I apparently only printed out the first half of your comment, Michael. I'll finish it today, and take it home; I can get back to you next week, as there is a cold front coming to the Springs.

                    But here's some info on the first part of your comment.

                    You seem confused about both the concept of "discrimination" and "equal rights."

                    As far as "discrimination" I'll refer you to three primary sources:
                    1. Aristotle---an early, in fact the initial exegesis on developing reason-based methods for establishing bodies of knowledge. Aristotle explained that the first step was to categorize, then we need to differentiate (discriminate).

                    2. The psychology of child development. The child first learns to sort "stuff" into categories, then as his sense of discrimination develops, he can begin to make distinctions. By the way, the child first learns to discriminate between the familiar and the unfamiliar when he learns his mother does not encompass the whole world.

                    3. My threads posted on One Political Plaza under my aka "CarolSeer2016"., particularly "I Discriminate" and "The Left Cannot Make Distinctions. You might want to read all my threads---you would learn something.
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              • Posted by 5 years, 6 months ago
                You strike me, sj, as a naïf for whom if consequences can not be seen, then they do not exist.

                It is true that man can not know all the consequences of any one action, much less the consequences of ALL actions. Only God can do that.

                However, humans do have a limited ability to foresee certain possible consequences, using reason and experience. The study of history DOES impart wisdom, AND we should be able to learn something of human nature through that study.

                Your comment about religion and morals is ridiculous. You have no idea where I get my "information". But I would like to think that even atheists and the non-religious even believe that murder is immoral.

                (I did say, by the way, that you will find that in NO book of scripture).

                How do you explicate consequences?
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