Philosophy 16 (63):257 - 271 (1941)

It is a wise child who knows his own father; and the climate of thought of a generation may be subtly changed without conscious recognition of the formative minds which have been, if not the parents, at least the godparents of that change. That is to say, they have sponsored the baptism of ideas which would only be safe so long as they renounced the world, the flesh, and the devil; but, as is so often the case, when the offspring grow up they form a pact with those very powers. To make Søren Kierkegaard spiritually responsible for the present war would have as little, and perhaps as much, truth in it as the facile explanations which made Hegel responsible for the last one. But it is part of the demonism of policies of power and ambition to be able to pervert to their own ends religious ideas which in their intention are a protest against those very ambitions; and, by so doing, to win a response from people who, in a dim, unconscious way, are feeling after the ideas themselves, but have neither the powers of self-criticism nor of radical thinking to resist travesties of them which appear to justify their own self-assertion. When Hitler informed Sir Nevile Henderson that he was a man of “ ad infinitum decisions” we may question the extent of his knowledge either of the Latin language or of the existential philosophy; but the phrase awakes an echo of the religious philosophy of circles far removed from National-Socialism. Both Nazi apologists and their Confessional or independent opponents are consciously or unconsciously moved by a way of thinking which puts the decision of the individual, made in the concrete moment, above any objective or universal norm of ethics or of reason by which it can be either justified or criticized
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DOI 10.1017/S0031819100002540
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