What is Evil? [3:00]


Often the domain of religion, “evil” is an important concept for Humanists too.  We must decide whether evil exists and, if it does, what it is like.  The video focuses on Hannah Arendt’s discussion of the banality of evil, which she developed while covering of the Eichmann Trial after the Holocaust.  Arendt rethinks evil as more of an unintentional, everyday activity instead of the exaggerated depiction of evil people that want nothing more than to commit evil.

Discussion Questions

  • When someone is described as ‘evil’ what do you think is being said about them?
  • What does the phrase “the banality of evil” try to express?  How does it challenge classic conceptions of evil?
  • Do you think anyone explicitly tries to be evil for it’s own sake?  What might be a better explanation for why people do evil things?
  • How might we use this new perspective on evil and people’s intentions to explain ‘evil people’ like genocidal dictators, religious terrorists, greedy politicians?  what about others who are often considered evil?

Keywords: evil, Arendt, good, morality, ethics,


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