The other day in the post office I saw two caregivers wheeling severely disabled people – and I do mean severely. Such sights are disturbing to me, like seeing squished worms is disturbing. But my second thought was that these people were not squished – to the contrary. I doubt they were even capable of having any kind of lives, but our society does its damnedest for them. Maybe it doesn’t make sense from a strict utilitarian standpoint. But we do it anyway, because we consider it a moral imperative. I exited the post office feeling very good about our society.
Shortly after, I happened to read an article about Bertrand Russell and his attributing Nazism to German philosophical antecedents. The article actually criticized Russell’s analysis. But in any case, a basic point should be clear: We’re often told that the Holocaust was the (perhaps inevitable) end product of The Enlightenment’s “cult of reason.” Yet in fact, the Holocaust was not the child of Enlightenment philosophy, but of the reaction to it – romanticism – not the cult of reason but of feeling, the cult of abjuring rationality.
Of course, Nietzsche’s name was prominent in the article, whose author sort of defended him against Russell’s critique.
Though dressed up in a lot of grandiosity and histrionics, what Nietzsche was really all about was the supposed moral rightness of squishing worms – or, rather, human beings, some of whose lives he deemed worth less than others, and hence they should be victimized by their betters. The article’s author denied that Nietzsche was necessarily thinking of himself as one of his superior beings. I don’t see how that matters. This is still a crock of garbage; the antithesis of humanist Enlightenment rationalism. And one can easily see how such bad ideas get you to Nazism, squishing people like those I saw in the post office, and of course a great many others, whose lives were considered unworthy in exactly the Nietzschean sense, who were thus exterminated not merely from expediency but as a positively right thing to do.