A compelling look at the problem of evil in modern thought, from the Inquisition to global terrorism Evil threatens human reason, for it challenges our hope that the world makes sense. For eighteenth-century Europeans, the Lisbon earthquake was manifest evil. Today we view evil as a matter of human cruelty, and Auschwitz as its extreme incarnation. Examining our understanding of evil from the Inquisition to contemporary terrorism, Susan Neiman explores who we have become in the three centuries that separate us (...) from the early Enlightenment. In the process, she rewrites the history of modern thought and points philosophy back to the questions that originally animated it. Whether expressed in theological or secular terms, evil poses a problem about the world's intelligibility. It confronts philosophy with fundamental questions: Can there be meaning in a world where innocents suffer? Can belief in divine power or human progress survive a cataloging of evil? Is evil profound or banal? Neiman argues that these questions impelled modern philosophy. Traditional philosophers from Leibniz to Hegel sought to defend the Creator of a world containing evil. Inevitably, their efforts—combined with those of more literary figures like Pope, Voltaire, and the Marquis de Sade—eroded belief in God's benevolence, power, and relevance, until Nietzsche claimed He had been murdered. They also yielded the distinction between natural and moral evil that we now take for granted. Neiman turns to consider philosophy's response to the Holocaust as a final moral evil, concluding that two basic stances run through modern thought. One, from Rousseau to Arendt, insists that morality demands we make evil intelligible. The other, from Voltaire to Adorno, insists that morality demands that we don't. Beautifully written and thoroughly engaging, this book tells the history of modern philosophy as an attempt to come to terms with evil. It reintroduces philosophy to anyone interested in questions of life and death, good and evil, suffering and sense. Featuring a substantial new afterword by Neiman that raises provocative questions about Hannah Arendt's take on Adolf Eichmann and the rationale behind the Hiroshima bombing, this Princeton Classics edition introduces a new generation of readers to this eloquent and thought-provoking meditation on good and evil, life and death, and suffering and sense. (shrink)
The Unity of Reason is the first major study of Kant's account of reason. It argues that Kant's wide-ranging interests and goals can only be understood by redirecting attention from epistemological questions of his work to those concerning the nature of reason. Rather than accepting a notion of reason given by his predecessors, a fundamental aim of Kant's philosophy is to reconceive the nature of reason. This enables us to understand Kant's insistence on the unity of theoretical and practical reason (...) as well as his claim that his metaphysics was driven by practical and political ends. Neiman begins by discussing the historical roots of Kant's conception of reason, and by showing Kant's solution to problems which earlier conceptions left unresolved. Kant's notion of reason itself is examined through a discussion of all the activities Kant attributes to reason. In separate chapters discussing the role of reason in science, morality, religion, and philosophy, Neiman explores Kant's distinctions between reason and knowledge, and his difficult account of the regulative principles of reason. Through examination of these principles in Kant's major and minor writings, The Unity of Reason provides a fundamentally new perspective on Kant's entire work. (shrink)
The thesis of this book is that Kant employs a single conception of reason throughout his analysis of the fundamental principles of natural science, morality and politics, rational religion, and the practice of philosophy itself, and that this conception is that reason is the source of the ultimate goals or ideals for our conduct of both inquiry and action, but never a faculty that yields cognition of objects that exist independently of us, whether sensible or supersensible. In Neiman’s words, “The (...) basis of Kant’s reconception” of reason “is the denial that the rational is, or is centrally concerned with, the cognitive”, and the heart of his thesis of the unity of reason is his view that “the regulative principles of reason... shape our actions in science, morality, religion and philosophy itself”. Neiman’s work is refreshingly ambitious in its attempt to demonstrate that these generalities hold for all four of the areas she lists, but the general claims themselves will not come as a surprise to contemporary students of Kant. So for the work to succeed, it would have to break new ground in either the detailed analysis of the regulative functions of reason or in our understanding of reason’s general function in unifying the several branches of philosophy as Kant understands it. In my view, the book does neither. Neiman offers some interesting insights about Kant’s treatment of science, morality, and religion, but does not offer a rigorous analysis of the structure of Kant’s thought in any of these areas that goes beyond what many others have already provided. More importantly, she misses the opportunity to make a major advance in our understanding of the general structure of Kant’s thought. For what she describes is really similarities in our use of reason in the various areas of our inquiry and conduct; she does not show how Kant uses his conception of reason to unify the apparently disparate realms of theory and practice, or, in his terms, of nature and freedom. This task dominates the Critique of Judgment, where, far from merely recapitulating his previous accounts of the regulative use of reason in both science and morality, Kant argues as he never did before that we must be able to see the realms of nature and freedom not merely as compatible but as unified, yet also makes explicit the regulative status of reason and of this vision of unity precisely by stating his theory of the unity of reason as the culmination of a theory of reflective judgment. Neiman largely ignores Kant’s own most mature account of the unity of reason. (shrink)
For years, moral language has been the province of the Right, as the Left has consoled itself with rudderless pragmatism. In this profound and powerful book, Susan Neiman reclaims the vocabulary of morality--good and evil, heroism and nobility--as a lingua franca for the twenty-first century. In constructing a framework for taking responsible action on today's urgent questions, Neiman reaches back to the eighteenth century, retrieving a series of values--happiness, reason, reverence, and hope--held high by Enlightenment thinkers. In this thoroughly updated (...) edition, Neiman reflects on how the moral language of the 2008 presidential campaign has opened up new political and cultural possibilities in America and beyond. (shrink)
This paper uses two museum exhibitions to raise questions about how Hiroshima and Auschwitz are coped with in the present. The stake of the paper is to examine how it has been possible for different polities to come to terms with criminal pasts that should cause shame and guilt. The criminality of Auschwitz is established, but not that of Hiroshima. In the first instance, then, the paper establishes the extent to which the justifications for the bombing of Hiroshima were and (...) remain controversial. The second part of the paper compares debates around two exhibitions: the Hiroshima exhibition at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC and the exhibition ‘Extermination War: Crimes of the Wehrmacht 1941–44’ which travelled through Germany and Austria in the late 1990s. (shrink)
De schrijfster ziet een paar opvallende veranderingen in de opvattingen over het probleem van het kwaad sinds de 18e eeuw. Terwijl de aardbeving, die in 1755 de stad Lissabon verwoestte, het optimistisch geloof aan vooruitgang en beheersbaarheid van de natuur aan het wankelen bracht, vernietigde Auschwtz in de 20e eeuw de toenmaals geldende ethische categorieën. Hierdoor blijkt het thans onmogelijk een niet politieke gekleurd antwoord te vinden op de aanslag op de Twin Towers te New York op 11 september 2001.
The Tanner Lectures are a collection of educational and scientific discussions relating to human values. Conducted by leaders in their fields, the lectures are presented at prestigious educational facilities around the world.
This collection demonstrates the range of approaches that some of the leading scholars of our day take to basic questions at the intersection of the natural and human worlds. The essays focus on three interlocking categories: Reason stakes a bigger territory than the enclosed yard of universal rules. Nature expands over a far larger region than an eternal category of the natural. And history refuses to be confined to claims of an unencumbered truth of how things happened.