European Journal of Political Theory, Ahead of Print. This article turns to Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem in order to illustrate the difficulties involved in approaching the metaphysical concept of evil as a secular phenomenon. It asks how the advocate of plurality, natality and forgiveness could also vouch for the death sentence of Eichmann based on a rhetoric of retribution and revenge. It then shows that Arendt's surprisingly consistent view of evil is based on a quasi-ontological understanding of the human condition that allowed her to negate Eichmann's humanity. Rather than simply unmasking a metaphysical account in disguise, however, the article develops an alternative perspective that emerges from the conversation between Arendt and Jaspers. It argues that Jaspers's interpretation of Kant offers a way to defend the idea of secular evil and judge Eichmann on the basis of his thoughtlessness.
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DOI 10.1177/14748851211052809
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