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Nazi Germany: Evil ideas produce evil results
on March 11, 2000
This book answers the plaguing question: How could it happen? How could ordinary people, seemingly decent Germans, turn into goose-stepping, Sieg-Heil-ing robots, eager to obey any orders, even to administer the "final solution"--the Holocaust?
This book answers those questions, and makes the rise of the Nazis finally intelligible. The cause, Dr. Peikoff demonstrates, lies in certain philosophic ideas--the anti-reason, anti-self, anti-freedom ideas that were already deeply imbued in German culture long before Hitler's rise.
If one were to compile a list of the most fanatically anti-reason philosophers since the Renaissance, almost every top figure--Kant, Hegel, Marx, Schopenhauer, Heidegger--would turn out to be German.
This is not to say that German culture produced evil philosophers. Just the reverse: Germany's evil philosophers produced an evil culture. Men act on their ideas, and ideas originate somewhere. Fundamental ideas, ideas about morality, knowledge, reality, are originated by philosophers. The vast majority of people simply absorb gradually the ideas available to them in their culture. Thus, most people get their life-shaping ideas, indirectly, from the philosophers of their culture (with a time-lag for these ideas to seep down into the educational establishment, the media, the arts, etc.).
Dr. Peikoff's answer to "How could it have happened?" is: "The land of poets and philosophers was brought down by its poets and philosophers."
This book is an impassioned call to jettison the philosophy of obedience, the philosophy of unreason and self-sacrifice, in all its versions lest we follow the German path to destruction.
In regard to the U.S., Dr. Peikoff emphasizes the gulf between the pro-reason Aristotelian spirit of the people and the Kantian-Pragmatist philosophy of our intellectuals. This conflict is the source of the frequently noted anti-Americanism of American intellectuals. He points out that anti-Germanism was NOT a feature of the Weimar Republic (the period in which Hitler rose to power). There, the intellectuals and the people were united philosophically, and the intellectuals (e.g., Heidegger) lined up solidly in support of "Fatherland" and "Volk."
This is a fascinating, gripping book, exhaustively researched, but presented with a masterful prose style, not pedantic "scholarship." It will change forever the way you think about ideas and history.