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Nobility of Spirit: A Forgotten Ideal Hardcover – June 16, 2008
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About the Author
Rob Riemen, an essayist and cultural philosopher, is founder of the Nexus Institute, an international center devoted to intellectual reflection and to inspiring Western cultural and philosophical debate. He lives in the Netherlands.
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Regarding 9/11, too many of those who would call themselves intellectuals "... legitimize what should never be legitimized: mass murder. Intellectuals who subordinate the distinction between good and evil to their political ideology." Riemen points out that this has kind of value-impoverished intellectualism has historically paved the way to religious and political totalitarianism. Nazism, the Taliban, Communism, virtually all fundamentalism flourished when evil was sanctioned because it was committed in the name of good. Riemen quotes Camus three separate times with the same conversational lament about the failure of intellectuals: "Don't you think we are all responsible for the lack of values? And if we, who come from Nietzschean thought, nihilism, or historical materialism, were to openly declare that we were wrong, that moral values do exist, and from now on we will do all that is necessary to establish and clarify them, don't you think this will offer the beginnings of some hope?" [pp 57, 69, and 75] Riemen calls this conversation unforgettable, "because it expresses the essence of what civilization is, how it can be lost, what the task of intellectuals is, and what their betrayal means." Indeed, this is the theme of his book.
How then can the humanist philosophy be expanded to better address the threat to civilization and safeguard human dignity? Riemen, quoting Mann, suggests " ... through a new humanism - a religious humanism that respects the impenetrable human secret, does not deny the human tragedy or human's demonic depths; that acknowledges that the truth can be know only through our consciences, as the absolute standard to which we must aspire ... " The values to which we must aspire are repeated several time throughout the book: truth, beauty and goodness, the classic triad of Socrates and Plato. Riemen describes these MetaValues as "transcendental values that encircle the enigma of human existence like cherubs in the lost paradise." He quotes Goethe: "Freedom lies not in refusing to acknowledge anything above us, but rather in revering something above us." Reimen's new religious humanism boldly defies the arbitrary logic-tight barriers between humanism, a system of thought that is based on the values, characteristics, and behavior that are believed to be best in human beings, and the mysterious wellspring in the human psyche from whence springs all that is good, true and beautiful. Not exactly fare for the pulpit, but a bravely expanded humanism that perhaps could enrich rather than challenge a personal religious belief in a higher power.