Sun, 25 Feb 2018


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Misreading 'Eichmann in Jerusalem'

The Stone in the New York Times. July 7, 2013.


In The Stone in The New York Times, I argue that a new critical consensus is emerging around Hannah Arendt's thesis about the "fearsome, word-and-thought-defying banality of evil."  This new consensus holds that Arendt was right in her general claim that many evildoers are normal people but was wrong about Eichmann in particular. As Christopher R. Browning summed it up recently in The New York Review of Books, “Arendt grasped an important concept but not the right example.” Behind this consensus is new scholarship on Eichmann’s writings and reflections from the 1950s, when he was living among a fraternity of former Nazis in Argentina, before Israeli agents captured him and spirited him out of the country and to Israel. In recent decades, scholars have argued that the Sassen interviews show that Arendt was simply wrong in her judgment of Eichmann because she did not have all the facts. But this new consensus is wrong. See why Here

Lonely Thinking: Hannah Arendt on Film

The Paris Review Daily


In 1963, The New Yorker published five articles on the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi chief of Bureau IV-B-4, a Gestapo division in charge of “Jewish Affairs.” Written by political thinker and Jewish activist Hannah Arendt, the articles and ensuing book, Eichmann in Jerusalem, unleashed what Irving Howe called a “civil war” among New York intellectuals. While some reviews cursed Arendt as a self-hating Jew and Nazi lover, the Jewish Daily Forward accusing her of “polemical vulgarity,” Robert Lowell termed her portrayal of Eichmann a “masterpiece,” and Bruno Bettelheim said it was the best protection against “dehumanizing totalitarianism.” Across the city, Arendt’s friends chose sides. When Dissent sponsored a meeting at the Hotel Diplomat, a crowd gathered to shout down Alfred Kazin and Raul Hilberg—then the world’s preeminent Holocaust scholar—for defending Arendt, while in The Partisan Review Lionel Abel opined that Eichmann “comes off so much better in [Arendt’s] book than do his victims.”

Read the rest of my review of "Hannah Arendt" in The Paris Review. Here

The Wonders of Man in the Age of Simulations

The Fortnightly Review (2010)

A Fortnightly Review of The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology by Ray Kurzweil, You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier, and Simulation and Its Discontents by Sherry Turkle.

IN “THE ODE TO MAN” from Antigone, Sophocles conjures “Man” as the wondrous being who wears out the “imperishable earth” with his ploughs. This man “overpowers the rough-maned horses with his devices” and tames the “unbending mountain bull.” He flees the “stormy darts” of winter’s frost and he escapes “needful illness.” Such a man who tames nature is a wonder, according to the Ode’s opening line:

Manifold the wonders
And nothing towers more wondrous than man.

The Greek word for “wonder” is Deinon, which connotes both greatness and horror, that which is so extraordinary as to be at once terrifying and beautiful. This is how Sophocles understands man. As an inventor and maker of his world, man can remake and master the earth. This wonder terrifyingly carries the seeds of his destruction. Man, Sophocles imagines, threatens to so fully control his own way of life that he might no longer be man. As the chorus sings: “Always overcoming all ways, man loses his way and comes to nothing.” If man so tames the earth as to free himself from uncertainty, what then is left of human being?

Read the full article here.

Liberating the Animal

Theory & Event (2010). Review of Vanessa Lemm's Nietzsche's Animal Philosophy

The animality of humans has been a basic axiom of philosophical thinking at least since Aristotle characterized the human being as the animal having logos. Logos is sometimes translated as speech, so that humanity is distinguished as the animal having language. Others, building upon Kant, translate logos as reason, itself a multi-faceted idea that alternates between the sense of calculative rationality and logic on the one side and a higher and less-well-defined sense of freedom and knowing on the other. Ambiguous as it remains, the appeal to man’s logos has for millennia named a hierarchical relationship, one in which human beings stand above irrational animals lacking logos.

The Aristotelian-Kantian elevation of the human as the animal who reasons is under attack. In part, the dissent results from our changing views of animals. At a conservation camp for the endangered Thai elephants in northern Thailand, elephants have been taught to paint. You can watch these amazing animals carefully administering brush strokes on internet videos. Elsewhere, scientific studies on mirror neurons in both humans and animals suggest that animals—especially elephants who are regularly observed in acts of empathy and grief—share the same neurological basis of the human moral faculty. The painting elephants and the grieving elephants—to take just two examples—raise questions about the traditional hierarchy of man over animal as the rational animal.

Read the full article here.

Hannah Arendt and Human Rights

Philosophy in Review (December, 2007). Review of Peg Birmingham's Hannah Arendt and Human Rights

Apologies. This article is not currently available online.

The Encyclopedia of Truth

Law, Culture, and the Humanities, v. 2, #1 (2006). Review of Rainer Maria Kiesow's The Alphabet of Law

Read the full article here.

Harsh Justice

Law, Culture, and the Humanities, v. 1, #1 (2005). Review of James Whitman's Harsh Justice

Read the full article here.

Nietzche's Love

Journal of Politics, v. 65 (2003). Review of Laurence Lampert's Nietzsche's Task

Nietzsche prophesied that “people may be able to read [Beyond Good and Evil] around the year 2000” (301). In Nietzsche’s Task: An Interpretation of Beyond Good and Evil, Laurence Lampert seeks to make good on Nietzsche’s prophecy.

Lampert’s fifth book dedicated to Nietzsche, Nietzsche’s Task, should serve as one important model for future Nietzsche scholarship. Nietzsche’s Task proceeds chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph (with the exception of the aphorisms in (chapter four), offering a systematic and pathbreaking way through one of Nietzsche’s most challenging texts. No other secondary source I know of has successfully given such a coherent and meaningful reading of one of Nietzsche’s books. We need more books that seek a way through the labyrinth of Nietzsche’s thought through close readings of his texts.

View the full PDF here. (See page 6).

Other Kinds of Conversations

Rechtshistorisches Journal, v. 20 (2001). Review essay on Uday Mehta's Liberalism and Empire

View the full article here.

Some Prefatory Remarks on Positive Law (Gesetz)

Rechtshistorisches Journal, v. 19 (2000). Review of A. Sebok's Legal Positivism in American Jurisprudence.

Read the full article here.

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Crossing the Warrior Path

Rechtshistorisches Journal, Volume 16, 1998. Review essay on Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon

“‘It goes back,’” Thomas Pynchon invites us to imagine, “‘ to the second Day of Creation, when ‘G-d made the Firmament, and divided the Waters which were under the Firmament, from the waters which were above the Frimament,’ -- thus the first boundary Line. All else after that, in all History, is but Sub-Division.’”

In the beginning was sub-division, which is to say: In the beginning was the lawsuit. And how different is that from the Word? Are not theology and jurisprudence sister sciences, dedicated to the proper -- or must we today say authoritative? -- interpretation of manifested truths -- or must we say desires? If theology endeavors to rightly discipline the expression of desire, the functional essence of the lawsuit is instead the authoritative resolution of conflicting desires. The traditional bridge between theology and jurisprudence consists, of course, in the latter’s purported subsumption to the former.

View the full PDF here.

Highlighting the Unknowable

Rechtshistorisches Journal, Volume 14, 1995. Review of Questions of Evidence, ed. J. Chandler, A. Davidson and H. Harootunian

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Risk of the Self: Drucilla Cornell's Transformative Philosophy

Berkeley Women's Law Journal, v. 9 (1994). Review Essay on Drucilla Cornell's work

Apologies. This article is not available online.