An Ethics of Rescue for the Future

Aristotelian and Levinasian Perspectives
  • Steven Kepnes


Given the brutality and coldness with which the Nazis murdered the Jews of Europe and the complicity and apathy of most bystanders, post-Holocaust social science and philosophy has seen renewed attention to ethics and moral psychology. Social scientists such as Stanley Milgram, Robert Lifton and Ervin Staub have focused on the kinds of social and psychological processes which were necessary to produce the Holocaust. Philosophers have taken a slightly different approach and viewed the Holocaust as a kind of moral barometer which revealed the flaws in Enlightenment rationality and ethics. This has led to a re-evaluation of modern Kantian ethics and a search for an ethical theory which could serve as a guide to prevent future genocides. For further resources to this end social scientists and philosophers have jointly turned to investigations of the statistically insignificant yet morally critical presence of non-Jewish rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust. Ethicists and social scientists have been attracted to rescuers not only because they offer some hope for signs of moral life during the Holocaust but also because they believe that the rescuers may be able to provide models for an ethics of rescue which they could employ in the prevention of genocide today and in the future.


Moral Virtue Ethical Activity Moral Community Moral Life Rescue Activity 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2001

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  • Steven Kepnes

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