"Letters to the Editor"
The Wall Street Journal
There is some irony in seeing the column by Reuven Brenner, “The Roots of Anti-Semitism,” appearing on the same page as John Kaag’s review of The Existentialist’s Survival Guide, by Gordon Marino.
Apologists for Friedrich Nietzsche deny he was Anti-Semitic, and they can produce criticisms of Anti-Semitism by him. But Nietzsche’s theory of the “slave revolt in morals” cannot be taken any other way. The Jews, you see, undermined the morality of “the conquering master race, that of the Aryans” (die Eroberer- und Herren Rasse, die der Arier), by requiring that the strong protect the weak, rather than devouring them, as is properly done in nature. Since similar protections are required in Buddhism and Confucianism, or even in Ancient Egyptian wisdom literature, Nietzsche’s ire and accusations against the Jews in particular look more than a little suspicious. Indeed, Nietzsche invoked the Buddha to explain his own choice, or failure, to marry.
While Kierkegaard’s leap of faith was indeed irrational, the result obtained was the whole panoply of traditional Christian morality. The same cannot be said for Nietzsche or Camus, and certainly not for Jean Paul Sartre. The honorable mention of Simone de Beauvoir by Kaag leaves out the circumstance that she lost her license to teach in France because she had been procuring young girls for Sartre to seduce -– this while Sartre was happily publishing under the censorship of the German Occupation, whose countenance he obtained in part by invoking his enthusiasm for Martin Heidegger, one of the house philosophers of the Nazi Party. This was the Existentialist universe. Mr. Kaag may have an answer for this, but I think it leaves him in some difficulties.
Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D.
History of Philosophy, Modern Philosophy