Monday, April 1, 2013

Different Statues, Same Altars

Education is a sword that cuts both ways. One can be expanded and enlightened, one can be captured and limited. Every age has its false gods. Often the student is dazzled by a transient, unsettled fad and makes a fateful choice. How many lives have been distorted or ruined by the blinding flash of Freud or Marx?
Yvonne Sherratt has a new book out called Hitler's Philosophers in which she tries to collect information on the thinkers who might have influenced Hitler during his rise and period of power. In one place she quotes him declaring that "there can be nothing of value which is not in the last resort based on reason." Yet the future Führer boasted that he "carried Schopenhauer's work with me throughout the whole of the First World War—from him I learned a great deal." A key element Hitler loved in Schopenhauer was the latter's glorification of will over reason, leading Hitler to remark, "Once will is gone, all is gone."

Hitler loved books. But maybe the Church of the Middle Ages was right, maybe some books need an intermediary. And maybe some books should be handled like radioactive elements. "Caution! Handle with care. Not for amateurs. This kind of thinking can be dangerous to your health, the health of those around you and maybe the world."

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