Hannah Arendt Quotations

Hannah Arendt / 1906–1975 / Hanover, German Empire (now Germany) / Philosopher

Collective Guilt

When all are guilty, no one is; confessions of collective guilt are the best possible safeguard against the discovery of culprits, and the very magnitude of the crime the best excuse for doing nothing.

Source: On Violence (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970).


Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it, and by the same token save it from that ruin which except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and the young, would be inevitable. And education, too, is where we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, nor to strike from their hands their chance of undertaking something new, something unforeseen by us, but to prepare them in advance for the task of renewing a common world.

Source: “The Crisis in Education” (1959), in Hannah Arendt on Educational Thinking and Practice in Dark Times (Bloomsbury Academic, 2020).


Love, by its very nature, is unworldly, and it is for this reason rather than its rarity that it is not only apolitical but antipolitical, perhaps the most powerful of all antipolitical forces.

Source: The Human Condition (University of Chicago Press, 1970).

Perpetrators of Evil

The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.

Source: The Life of the Mind (Harcourt, Brace, 1978).


In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true… Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow. The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.

Source: The Origins of Totalitarianism (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973).

Radical Revolution

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

Source: New Yorker, September 12, 1970.

Totalitarian Rule

The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.

Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it.

Source: The Origins of Totalitarianism (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973).