Rights, Morality, and Faith in the Light of the Holocaust

  • Sander Lee


When I mentioned to a colleague from the social sciences that I would be developing a course in philosophy and the Holocaust, he responded by suggesting that it should be easy to design such a course given the enormous impact that the Holocaust must have had on the field of philosophy, especially ethics. Indeed, he proposed that the course focus on ethics after the Holocaust, emphasizing the major changes in ethical theories that have resulted from an awareness of the horrors of the Holocaust. I am sorry to confess that my first response to my colleague’s suggestion was to laugh. As a scholar outside of the field who has a great respect for philosophy, my colleague simply assumed that an event as devastating as the Holocaust must have had a profound effect on moral philosophy. Wouldn’t all ethicists, he assumed, feel the need to respond to the murder of millions and the calculated attempt to extinguish European Jewry in its entirety?


Moral Philosophy International Criminal Jewish Teaching Objective Moral Principle Philosophical Implication 
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  1. 1.
    See Irving Greenberg, “Cloud of Smoke, Pillar of Fire,” in John K. Roth and Michael Berenbaum, eds, Holocaust: Religious and Philosophical Implications (St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 1989), p. 313.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Richard L. Rubenstein, The Cunning of History (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1987), p. 67.Google Scholar
  3. John K. Roth, ed., Ethics after the Holocaust (St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 1999), p. 291.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    Meister Eckhart, Sermon 41, Qui sequitur justitiam (They who pursue justice), German Works, vol. II, (Stuttgart: Verlag W. Kohlhammer, 1936).Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz: The Nazi Assault on Humanity, trans. Stuart Woolf (New York: Touchstone Books, 1996), p. 29.Google Scholar
  6. 4.
    Yeager Hudson and W. Creighton Peden, eds, The Social Power of Ideas (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  7. Diane Sank, ed., To Be A Victim: Encounters with Crime and Injustice (New York: Plenum Press, 1991).Google Scholar

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© Sander Lee 2005

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  • Sander Lee

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