Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt’s Claim about Collective Guilt

by Kalinda Rose Stevenson

Collective Guilt 

Where all are guilty, no one is;
confessions of collective guilt are
the best possible safeguard against the discovery of culprits,
and the very magnitude of the crime the best excuse for doing nothing.

Hannah Arendt
Hannah Arendt (1906–1975) was one of the most influential political philosophers of the twentieth century.
Hannah Arendt Quote Guilt


Arendt's assertion about guilt is the epigraph of  Your True Self Identity: How Familiar Translations of Bible Verses in the Gospel of Matthew Hide Your True Identity from You.

Hannah Arendt and Political Philosophy

Here are three excerpts chosen at random of academic writings concerning Arendt's political philosophy:

Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt (1906–1975) was one of the most influential political philosophers of the twentieth century. Born into a German-Jewish family, she was forced to leave Germany in 1933 and lived in Paris for the next eight years, working for a number of Jewish refugee organisations. In 1941 she immigrated to the United States and soon became part of a lively intellectual circle in New York. She held a number of academic positions at various American universities until her death in 1975. She is best known for two works that had a major impact both within and outside the academic community. The first, The Origins of Totalitarianism, published in 1951, was a study of the Nazi and Stalinist regimes that generated a wide-ranging debate on the nature and historical antecedents of the totalitarian phenomenon. The second, The Human Condition, published in 1958, was an original philosophical study that investigated the fundamental categories of the vita activa (labor, work, action). In addition to these two important works, Arendt published a number of influential essays on topics such as the nature of revolution, freedom, authority, tradition and the modern age. At the time of her death in 1975, she had completed the first two volumes of her last major philosophical work, The Life of the Mind, which examined the three fundamental faculties of the vita contemplativa (thinking, willing, judging) (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

German 'Collective Guilt' a Fallacy, Arendt States at Ford Hall Forum in March 16, 1964

Hannah Arendt attempted yesterday to clear away the confusion surrounding the moral dilemma which faced citizens of Nazi Germany.
The noted political scientist, whose recent book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report an the Banality of Evil, touched on heated controversy throughout the intellectual world, addressed a Ford Hall Forum audience on "Personal Responsibility Under Dictatorship."
Miss Arendt referred to the post-war climate in Germany — where those personally innocent during the Nazi period all admitted to their "collective guilt" while the real criminals showed no remorse as "the quintessence of moral confusion." The concept of collective guilt, as opposed to individual guilt, is "senseless," Miss Arendt said, and only serves as an effective "whitewash" for guilty individuals to hide behind.
In the legal sphere, Miss Arendt condemned the "cog" theory as moral evasion. This theory argues that a functionary, like Eichmann, is not responsible for the criminal action of the government whose command he obeys. The courts should not deal with "systems" or "isms," but persons, she added. (Harvard Crimson).

Guilt versus Responsibility: A Reading and Partial Critique of Hannah Arendt

By Iris Marion Young
This chapter explicates the distinction between guilt and responsibility as it appears in Hannah Arendt's essays, "Organized Guilt and Universal Responsibility" and "Collective Responsibility." It then supplements this interpretation with a reading of her book Eichmann in Jerusalem, specifically from the point of view of the distinction between guilt and responsibility. It argues that the detailed analysis that Arendt makes of the actions of many individuals and groups during the time of the Nazi mass murder of Jews belies the simplicity of that idea. Out of a reading of Eichmann, the chapter distinguishes four ways that agents related to these state-perpetrated crimes. Out of these distinctions a notion of political responsibility is derived as a duty for individuals to take public stands about actions and events that affect broad masses of people, and to try to organize collective action to prevent massive harm or foster institutional change for the better. The distinction between responsibility in this sense, and concepts associated with guilt, blame, and fault is important for political theory and practice (Oxford Scholarship Online).
[Original Post August 10, 2016]
What are your thoughts about this kind of academic writing concerning political philosophy about collective guilt? Leave a comment below. I look forward to hearing from you.

Does the Bible Really Say That? Series focuses on the impact of Bible translations on what people believe “the Bible says” on any topic.

Your True Self Identity: How Familiar Translations of Bible Verses in the Gospel of Matthew Hide Your True Identity from you considers the idea of your true self-identity. Do you know your true self-identity? Are you happy being who you are? If you are not happy, what if the real cause of your unhappiness is that you don’t really know your true identity? One powerful reason is the effect of misleading translations of the Christian Bible.

One glaring example of the effect of Bible translations on identity is Chapter 18 of the Gospel of Matthew. Careful analysis of familiar translation choices in English language bibles demonstrates how sin doctrine creates false identities by turning the innocent into sinners.

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