How Does Corporeality Inform Theorizing? Revisiting Hannah Arendt and the Banality of Evil

Human Studies 41 (4):545-563 (2018)
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Abstract

The perplexing relationship between two of the twentieth century’s most important philosophers, Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger, has been the subject of much speculation within academic circles. For Arendt, Heidegger was at once, her mentor, her lover, and her friend. In this paper, we juxtapose Arendt’s theory of the banality of evil against her relationship with Heidegger in an effort to consider the question: How does corporeality inform theorizing? In answering this question, we repudiate the conventional reading of the banality of evil, which attributes the theory to Arendt’s analysis of Adolf Eichmann during the latter’s criminal trial for the actions that he perpetrated in the operation of the Holocaust. Instead, we argue that the theory is, more compellingly, reflective of Arendt’s deeply personal attempts at making sense of Heidegger’s decision to affiliate himself with the German Nazi Party in the years preceding, and during, the Second World War. Through this revisionist account of the banality of evil, we animate the idea that theorizing is the discursive corollary, and belongs within the phenomenological parameters, of corporeality. Finally, we contend that any constructive understanding of how corporeality informs theorizing will only be realized, when there is a collapsing of the seemingly impervious philosophical boundaries that demarcate between ontology and epistemology.

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