Lecture: Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: Fifty Years Later
2013 Walker-Ames Lecture: Seyla Benhabib, Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at Yale University, will speak on “Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: Fifty Years Later”
Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963) is one of the most controversial books of the second half of the twentieth-century. Hannah Arendt’s complex narrative – which originally was prepares as a trial report for the New Yorker – moves at multiple levels: historical, philosophical, psychological and legal. At the historical level, the book was one of the first times after the end of WWII that an extremely detailed historical account of the Jewish extermination policies of the Nazis was laid bare; furthermore, Arendt questioned the role of the Jewish Councils in this process. Philosophically, Arendt struggled with the question of evil and the relationship of evil to the activities of thinking and judging. Psychologically – and this is the aspect of Arendt’s analysis which gained most notoriety – Arendt introduced the term ‘the banality of evil,’ to characterize Adolf Eichmann’s personality. Legally, the Eichmann trial raised deep questions about international jurisdiction, crimes against humanity, and punishing the perpetrators of genocide.
This lecture will give an overview of the Eichmann controversy. Although some of Arendt’s claims concerning Eichmann’s personality and activities, as well as her analysis of the Jewish Councils are historically inaccurate, Benhabib will argue that her book leaves us with some enduring questions about human responsibility in extreme conditions.
Seyla Benhabib is the Eugene Meyer Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at Yale University. Professor Benhabib was the President of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association in 2006-07, a Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin in 2009, at the NYU Straus Institute for the Advanced Study of Law and Justice in Spring 2012, and at the German Marshall Fund’s Transatlantic Academy in Washington DC in Spring 2013. In 2009, she received the Ernst Bloch prize for her contributions to cultural dialogue in a global civilization and in May 2012, the Leopold Lucas Prize of the Evangelical Academy of Tubingen. She holds honorary degrees from the Humanistic University in Utrecht in 2004, the University of Valencia in November 2010 and from Bogazici University in May 2012. She received a Guggenheim grant during 2010-2011 for her work on sovereignty and international law.
Co-sponsored by The Graduate School, UW Alumni Association, Human Interaction and Normative Innovation Research Cluster (HI-NORM), UW Tacoma, Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, Department of Political Science, Department of Philosophy, Program on Values in Society, Department of Geography.