Thoughtlessness and resentment: Determinism and moral responsibility in the case of Adolf Eichmann
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Is a devoted Nazi or a zombie bureaucrat a greater moral and political problem? Because the dangers of immoral fanaticism are so clear, the dangers of mindless bureaucracy are easy to overlook. Yet zombie bureaucrats have contributed substantially to the greatest catastrophes of the 20th century, doing so seemingly oblivious to the monstrous qualities of their actions. Hannah Arendt's work on thoughtlessness raises a dilemma: if Eichmann, the architect of the Nazi Final Solution, truly was a thoughtless 'cog', lacking in intentionality, can one really hold him morally accountable for the evil qualities of his acts? This article relates Arendt's 'thought' and Strawson's and Bilgrami's discussion of 'reactive attitudes' and Sartre's concept of 'bad faith'. To find a basis for moral accountable in seemingly thoughtless cases like Eichmann's. Although Arendt's Eichmann is an extreme example, finding a basis to hold him accountable is valuable because 'little Eichmanns' will persist as long as impersonal forces structure and depress reactive attitudes. © The Author(s) 2014.
Published Version (Please cite this version)10.1177/0191453713518323
Publication InfoSchupmann, Benjamin (2014). Thoughtlessness and resentment: Determinism and moral responsibility in the case of Adolf Eichmann. Philosophy and Social Criticism, 40(2). pp. 127-144. 10.1177/0191453713518323. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/18174.
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Assistant Professor of Political Science at Duke Kunshan University