12 May 2020

Evil, Resistance, and Judgment: Hannah Arendt and Religious Critique (Distance)

This seminar explores Hannah Arendt’s reflections on the themes of evil, resistance, and judgment, especially as these are shaped by her experience reporting for The New Yorker at the 1961 war crimes trial of Adolf Eichmann (first published in book form in 1963 under the title Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil). In this book, Arendt claims to have observed a new face of evil, banality, which she describes as a refusal to ‘think’ that robs our moral imagination of the ability to see things from another’s point of view. At the same time, the book offers an intriguing analysis of human power and the possibility of resisting seemingly inexorable evil forces.

Before launching into Eichmann in Jerusalem, the course will begin with an examination of Arendt’s assessment of the human condition “between past and future,” or her description of the space of human action and possibility between a past that is never past, and a future that is yet to be written. In light of this context, we will then turn to Eichmann in Jerusalem, in order to assess how her experience of witnessing that trial altered her understanding of the human condition. Toward the end of the course, we will turn to Arendt’s last (and uncompleted) reflections on judgment as that ‘faculty’ which might yet help us think and act in unprecedented social and political situations where traditional wisdom has collapsed and universal rules have proved incapable of providing moral guidance.

Throughout the course, one of our guiding concerns will be to ask what members of specifically religious communities might learn from Arendt’s reflections (a question Arendt does not herself explicitly ask): Are faith communities prone to fostering ideological formations that inhibit their members’ capacity to engage in the kind of thinking that Arendt says is a necessary condition of our ability to judge? How do the beliefs and actions of different religious communities contribute to the ability of their members to become effective judges of a world that is shared and constituted by a plurality of persons who are members of different communities? How might Arendt’s insights help religious adherents rediscover the spiritual and intellectual resources of their traditions that could awaken hope and reveal novel possibility for resistance and action?

All-online (May 12 - June 18, 2020)

Register no later than May 11, 2020, by emailing Elizabet Aras, Registrar.

ICSD 220502 S20
ICT6735HS L0101*
Drs. Ron Kuipers, Andrew Tebbutt
Intensive, Distance (Online) 

(MA, PhD)


*TST students have to register with ICS Registrar to complete registration and pay tuition.