Hitler’s Philosophers by Yvonne Sherratt - review by Stephen Mulhall

Stephen Mulhall

Immoral Science?

Hitler’s Philosophers


Yale University Press 302pp £25

The relationship between the Nazis’ rise to power in Germany and the broader European intellectual culture within which it took place has generated much passionate debate. George Steiner, for example, has famously suggested that the Nazi era may have been made possible by political, moral and religious ideas and attitudes – both traditional and distinctively modern – that one might rather have expected to justify principled opposition to a viciously nationalist, racist and ultimately genocidal ideology. In her sobering study, Yvonne Sherratt approaches this perplexing but fateful issue by focusing exclusively on the ways in which philosophers were caught up in this mid-20th-century catastrophe.

Noting that Hitler himself was concerned with providing a philosophical underpinning to his regime, Sherratt picks out three dimensions of the relationship Nazism established with the Enlightenment traditions that were (and still are) central to German cultural self-understanding. She tracks the uses Hitlerite intellectuals made of the ideas of Kant,

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