Thursday, June 23, 2022

Leiter links to Robert Paul Wolf, on Geuss, and again.

Geuss, adapted from his memoir, in the New Statesman.

When I met Axel, what struck me most was the particular way in which his moral world was structured around his conscience. Even 40 years later, he could not forgive himself, but not so much for having failed to kill Hitler – his failure had not been his fault at all. Rather what obsessed him was that he had sworn an oath to the Führer, and yet had then plotted to kill him. The Führer was a monster, but this didn’t seem to matter to him as much as the fact that he had broken an oath he had freely sworn; the guilt for that pursued him to the end of his life. I was flabbergasted by this and had the sense that I had encountered a man from Mars, but I think I had just met a proper Protestant. Fear and shame played no role in this: in fact, Axel was universally feted after the war for what he had tried to do. His view still was, though, that Hitler’s crimes were Hitler’s guilt, but Axel’s violation of his oath was his own unending guilt. I still find this way of looking at the world extraordinary.

At least he's open about calling it a memoir, unlike his fellow CatholicAdolph Reed, who's just a snob. But they're both idiots. Catholics and Protestants. Protestants and Catholics, and Jews.

I want to examine that mixture of the good and the bad, the light and the shadows, by focusing on the idea of a ”research imperative.” Though unfamiliar to most scientists and the general public, the term expresses a cultural problem that caught my eye. It occurs in an article written by the late Protestant moral theologian Paul Ramsey in 1976 as part of a debate with a Jesuit theologian, Richard McCormick. McCormick argued that it ought to be morally acceptable to use children for nontherapeutic research, that is, for research with no direct benefit to the children themselves and in the absence of any informed consent. Referring to claims about the “necessity” of such research, Ramsey accused McCormick of falling prey to the “research imperative”, the view that the importance of research could overcome moral values.

That was the last time I heard of the phrase for many years, but it informs important arguments about research that have surfaces with increasing force of late. It captures, for instance, the essence of what Joshua Lederberg, a Nobel laureate for his work on genetics and president emeritus of Rockefeller University once remarked to me: “The blood of those who will die if biomedical research is not pursued will be upon the hands of those who don’t do it.”

I've used that quote a lot since It's in the manuscript. On Lederberg:  "It’s war communism in the war on disease, Stalinism for the betterment of the race. And isn't that what Stalinism always was?" 

repeats: Two essays on violence, by Wolff, and Arendt. Fans of John Ganz should read it.

And Geuss on Arendt, and "Ghandi".

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