Sunday, March 4, 2007

Nietzsche Redux

The Nietzschean choice of title ("Human, All Too Human") for Adam Lebor's review of four major books about genocide (the last actually being the first two volumes of a four-volume series) in The Nation makes the review all the more haunting and depressing. If Isaiah Berlin staked his philosophical reputation on the conviction that there is no single "one size fits all" world view or set of values for the vast diversity of world cultures and that the celebration of this diversity should hone every individual's sense of tolerance, then the combined perspectives of these historical analyses challenge that conviction with the proposition that the "human condition" response to diversity is to eliminate it. This is not philosophizing about the nature of evil but a bald recognition of behavior that has been going on practically as long as humans have organized themselves into groups (thus elevating the self-other distinction from the subjective world to the social world). Ultimately, Nietzsche's own persona could not tolerate that this might be the fundamental principle of humanity; and he went mad. When Lebor writes about the weakness of judicial rulings in the face of even the harshest evidence of genocide, he may actually be writing about an "induced insensitivity," without which we may all follow Nietzsche's path into madness. Such may be the ultimate price of "being human."

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