Black and white photograph of political scientist and philosopher Hannah Arendt holding a cigarette.

Photograph by Ryohei Noda (CC BY 2.0)

Hannah Arendt

(1906 - 1975)

Hannah Arendt studied under Martin Heidegger at the University of Marburg and completed her dissertation, “St. Augustine’s Concept of Love,” under Karl Jaspers at the University of Heidelberg in 1929. She came to the U.S. in 1941 and over the next twenty-five years published The Origins of Totalitarianism, The Human Condition, and Eichmann in Jerusalem, in which she coined the phrase “the banality of evil” to help explain Adolf Eichmann’s role in the Holocaust.

All Writing


Ahead of a visit from Hannah Arendt in 1971, Mary McCarthy purchased anchovy paste, which she knew Arendt enjoyed. When McCarthy pointed out where to find it in her cupboard, Arendt looked displeased. “She had a respect for privacy, separateness,” McCarthy later wrote. “I knew I had done something wrong in my efforts to please. She did not wish to be known, in that curiously finite and, as it were, reductive way. And I had done it to show her I knew her—a sign of love, though not always—thereby proving that in the last analysis I did not know her at all.”

Every thought is, strictly speaking, an afterthought.

—Hannah Arendt, 1978

The ceaseless, senseless demand for original scholarship in a number of fields, where only erudition is now possible, has led either to sheer irrelevancy, the famous knowing of more and more about less and less, or to the development of a pseudo-scholarship which actually destroys its object.

—Hannah Arendt, 1972

No punishment has ever possessed enough power of deterrence to prevent the commission of crimes.

—Hannah Arendt, 1963

No human life, not even the life of a hermit, is possible without a world which directly or indirectly testifies to the presence of other human beings.

—Hannah Arendt, 1958

The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative on the day after the revolution.

—Hannah Arendt, 1970

Issues Contributed