The Holocaust and attempts to deny it, racism, murder, the case of Mary Bell. How can we include these and countless other examples of evil within our vision of a common humanity? These painful human incongruities are precisely what Raimond Gaita boldly harmonizes in his powerful new book, A Common Humanity.
Hatred with forgiveness, evil with love, suffering with compassion, and the mundane with the precious. Gaita asserts that our conception of humanity cannot be based upon the empty language of individual rights when it is our shared feelings of grief, hope, love, guilt, shame and remorse that offer a more potent foundation for common understanding. Drawing on the work of Hannah Arendt, Simon Weil, Primo Levi, George Orwell, Iris Murdoch and Sigmund Freud, Gaita creates a beautifully written and provocative new picture of our common humanity.
Winner of the Victoria Prize for Literature for Good and Evil: An Absolute Conception, Gaita (philosophy, Kings Coll., UK) argues that much contemporary moral philosophy is misguided. Both utilitarian and Kantian theories are divorced from our moral practices, he claims; a better approach would be to use the behavior of saints to help us understand that every human being is precious. Gaita shows the power of his conception in sensitive essays on the Holocaust and on the Australian treatment of the Aborigines. He holds that we condemn the Nazis not because they violated abstract principles of justice but because they denied the humanity of their victims. Gaita believes that by stressing humanity, he can avoid moralizing in a way that competing views of morality do not. His stimulating book, which reflects the influence of Wittgenstein and his Swansea followers, is highly recommended.--David Gordon, Bowling Green St. Univ., OH Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.