Chapter

The Limits of Understanding: Perpetrator Philosophy and Philosophical Histories

Robert Eaglestone

in The Holocaust and the Postmodern

Published in print December 2004 | ISBN: 9780199265930
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780191708596 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199265930.003.0012
 							The Limits of Understanding: Perpetrator Philosophy and Philosophical Histories

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Beginning with an encounter described by Primo Levi, this chapter looks at philosophical attempts to explain why the perpetrators did as they did. It begins by analysing a debate over the very possibility of explanation, countering beliefs that no explanation is possible and that philosophers have no role in this process. It then turns to the philosophical problems involved in ‘refuting’ Nazism, using the work of Hilary Putnam. It then argues that Levinas understanding of ethics as first philosophy is very illuminating and resolves some of these philosophical difficulties, and is an effective response to some concerns of Adorno.

Keywords: Holocaust philosophy; Emmanuel Levinas; Jacques Derrida; Theodor Adorno; Hilary Putnam; Hannah Arendt; reason; understanding

Chapter.  7095 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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