Friday, March 21, 2008

As Germany Saw It

If the great German philosopher and theologian, Ernst Troeltsch, had had a chance to read The Wasteland, he might have said to himself "I knew it all along!" Here he is in 1922, reflecting on Germany's defeat in WW I and the fundamental differences between the "Romantic thought" of Germany and the soul-destroying individualism and utilitarianism of the West:

"Here we touch the core of the contrast. We begin to see, on the one hand, an eternal, rational, and divinely ordered system of Order, embracing both morality and law; we begin to see, on the other, individual, living, and perpetually new incarnations of an historically creative Mind. Those who believe in an eternal and divine Law of Nature, the Equality of man, and a sense of unity pervading mankind, and who find the essence of humanity in these things, cannnot but regard the German doctrine as a curious mixture of mysticism and brutality. Those who take an opposite view--who see in history an ever-moving stream, which throws up unique invividualities as it moves, and is always shaping individual structures on the basis of a law which is always new--are bound to consider the west-European world of ideas as a world of cold rationalism and equalitarian atomism, a world of superficiality and Pharisaism."

1 comment:

  1. Rationalism is never cold. Egalitarianism is never atomistic. Democracy—the political realization of the scientific method—has given the world women's rights, gay rights, and minority rights.

    It would be unfair to blame Troeltsch for Hitler, but the anti-democratic spirit that Troeltsch advocated set the stage for Hitler's crimes.

    The Janjaweed, who are carrying out the massacre in Darfur, have faith. The Salem witch trials were acts of faith. So was the Spanish Inquisition.