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Existential Philosophy and the Promise of Education

Learning from Myths and Metaphors

Mordechai Gordon

Myths and metaphors share not only an ability to call our attention to aspects of our world of which we were previously unaware, but also a propensity toward symbolic meanings and interpretations. In Existential Philosophy and the Promise of Education: Learning from Myths and Metaphors, Professor Gordon draws on some well-known myths and metaphors of various Existentialist thinkers and writers as a lens and an interpretative framework with which to explore a variety of issues in philosophy of education. His book argues that symbolic or metaphorical interpretations can offer us representations of problems in education that go beyond what we can gain when we consider them only in their literal sense. Existential Philosophy and the Promise of Education is an excellent classroom text for a variety of foundations courses, including the Philosophy of Education.
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Chapter 7. Hannah Arendt’s Concept of the ‘Banality of Evil’: On Thoughtlessness in Education

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HANNAH ARENDT’S CONCEPT OF THE ‘BANALITY OF EVIL’: ON THOUGHTLESSNESS IN EDUCATION1

Introduction

In coining the concept the “banality of evil,”2 Hannah Arendt pointed to a phenomenon unique to twentieth century political life, and especially to totalitarian regimes. She thus challenged political thinkers to reflect on the significance of this concept even though she never fully developed a theory of evil. In describing this phenomenon, Arendt insisted that banal individuals, whom she described as thoughtless and “remote from reality,” can commit crimes on a mass scale without even realizing that they are doing wrong: “That such remoteness from reality and such thoughtlessness [as discovered in Eichmann] can wreak more havoc than all the evil instincts taken together which, perhaps, are inherent in man—that was, in fact, the lesson one could learn in Jerusalem.”3

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