Tuesday, April 05, 2016
The excerpt below from the distinguished writer Hannah Arendt seems to me to have special application to the situation we find ourselves in today. However, I do believe that thinking can be taught through education.
We are being inundated these days with examples of people who seem incapable of analytical thought, as evidenced in the current presidential campaign.
Hannah Arendt was one of the major analysts of the causes that led to the rise and subsequent results of the Nazis in power in Europe before and during WWII. She contended that many participated in myriad horrendous acts not because they were innately evil as such, but because of what she called "the banality of evil." In other words, they were not evil per se but incapable of thinking about what they were participating in and so became part of a movement that led to devastation in Europe.
Here is an excerpt from Roger Berkowitz's review in the Paris Review of the film entitled
Lonely Thinking: Hannah Arendt on Film (available on Netflix)
"Although Arendt’s work follows numerous byways, one theme is clear: in modern bureaucratic societies, human evil originates from a failure not of goodness but of thinking. ... Struck by the danger of thoughtlessness, Arendt spent her life thinking about thinking. Could thinking, she asked, save us from the willingness of many, if not most, people to participate in bureaucratically regulated evil like the administrative extermination of six million Jews? Thinking, as Arendt imagines it, erects obstacles to oversimplifications, clichés, and conventions. Only thinking, Arendt argued, has the potential to remind us of our human dignity and free us to resist our servility. Such thinking, in Arendt’s view, cannot be taught: it can only be exemplified. We cannot learn thinking through catechism or study. We learn thinking only through experience, when we are inspired by those whose thinking enthralls us—when we encounter someone who stands apart from the crowd."