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105 of 118 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nazi Germany: Evil ideas produce evil results, March 11, 2000
This review is from: The Ominous Parallels: The End of Freedom in America (Paperback)
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.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 29, 2009 7:58:19 PM PST
Paul Beaird says:
I have read Peikoff's book 3 times and now have to thank you for a fair-minded and accurate review of it. You capture its over-all purpose and theme. If it were updated today (January 2009), it would have to include the open statements by both recent candidates for the US Presidency and give us some idea how far along we are to economic dictatorship and leader-worship. After World War II, Frederick Hayek wrote a book, The Road to Serfdom, in which he used Germany as his historic example of the steps along which a relatively free country "progresses" to the full descent into dictatorship. Using his measure, I roughly see America as 60% of the way there. In a recent book on Ayn Rand's interviews (Objectively Speaking), Rand says she does not think America can go fully statist, because of the sense of life she sees in Americans, which has its origins in individualism, culturally, and in individual rights, politically. One has to hope she is right, while the policies of the previous Republican Administartion and the stated aims of the new Democratic Administration clearly aim at nationalizing much of the financial sector of the American economy. I remember the frustration that Bill Clinton expressed when he found out that he could not simply act on the economy the way Obama is about to. He was told that even the Unites States government can be rated up or down on its credit worthiness and, thus, limit its abitlity to manipulate its currency while borrowing from abroad. Well, now the stupidity of financiers and businessmen, who think that ideas and economics don't have any real effect on business life, succumed to the seduction of government policies in housing finance with the result that Wall Street is solidly in the hands of government and now exercises no restraint on what government can do with our money.
A warning to those who think that Obama's heavy-handed manipulation of the currency and economy will save us. One thing we learn from Peikoff's book is that two things follow swiftly upon the establishment of economic dictatorship: shortages of basic human needs (food!) and the suppression of dissent (free speech).

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 25, 2009 12:39:19 PM PDT
Random says:
Paul,
Just wondering your thoughts now - two months later.

Posted on Mar 15, 2010 10:50:45 PM PDT
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 23, 2010 9:54:46 AM PDT
Anti-intellectualism?! This whole book is a demonstration of the power of ideas, and a call to look at the ideas that can set America back on the right track. Is it my review that you're calling "anti-intellectual"? I wrote, inter alia:

"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.)."

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 25, 2010 7:59:41 AM PDT
Marina says:
The US is 99.9 percent of the way there. Obama/Bush/Clinton/Reagan -- there's no difference. The behind-the-scenes New Aristocracy chooses the candidates and controls the media and sends John Q. Gullible racing down the false scents of foreign wars for oil and bogus elections.
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