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Eichmann and Us

Differences in Moral Responsibility and Reasoning


  • Fatema Tambawalla Jai Hind College



Philosophy, Moral Responsibility


Is being rational, moderately reasons-responsive, normal and following the law enough to safeguard our actions from blame? Adolf Eichmann, as Hannah Arendt shows, was in possession of the above characteristics, followed the law and acted out of seemingly good motivation. Yet he managed to contribute to an unjust and immoral system, eventually leading to the deaths of millions of people. In this paper I aim to show that much like Eichmann we too, engage in various oppressive systems around us, despite being rational, normal, reasons-responsive and law abiding. We may not be actively participating in large scale genocide like him, but by driving a gas car and consuming meat or living in a society where systemic racial injustice occurs we nonetheless manage to contribute to both racism and climate change. It is evident that merely fulfilling the criteria to be held morally responsible for our actions, being in possession of good intent and being cognizant of the law are not enough to prevent us from severe moral transgression. I propose that engaging in dialogue with people outside of our immediate communities serves as an important epistemic check against which we measure our actions and enables us to criticize our own moral standards, hopefully preventing us from transgressing morally in a way similar to Eichmann’s. 


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2022-11-15 — Updated on 2022-12-23