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Ethics – Degeneration


Degeneration

Prof. Paul Eidelberg

The great Zionist, Max Nordau, was a psychologist of profound learning. His 1895 work DEGENERATION, which was republished in 1968, has been the subject of several doctoral dissertations. It provides insights which may be relevant to various Israeli politicians.

According to Nordau, “That which nearly all degenerates lack is the sense of morality and of right and wrong” (p. 18). Widespread throughout the democratic world is the university-bred doctrine of moral relativism, which cannot but erode a people’s sense of justice and of national honor.

An inevitable consequence or concomitant of moral relativism is what Nordau calls “ego-mania,” which he discusses at great length (pp. 241-372). Such is their ego-mania that degenerates are incapable of empathy. Preoccupied with themselves, they are insensitive to the feelings of others (pp. 254-259). Degenerates lack public spiritedness, a heightened sense of outrage at the suffering of others, and of course they lack a sense of honor (p. 260).

Nordau also finds that in many degenerates, ego-mania coexists with “self-abhorrence” (p. 20). There is no contradiction here. Egoism or lack of concern for others is quite compatible with self-loathing. Interestingly, Nordau sees that the egoism and self-loathing of degenerates render them quite suggestible (ibid.) But the combination of ego-mania, self-loathing, and suggestibility is indicative of impulsiveness, lack of balance, weakness of will–which Nordau also attributes to degenerates (pp. 19, 22, 23, 257-261). Here let us pause.

Nordau claims that the degenerate is “incapable of correctly grasping, ordering, or elaborating into ideas and judgments the impressions of the external world …” He “surrenders himself to the perpetual obfuscation of … fugitive ideas” (p. 21). He is given to “fixed” ideas, however nebulous (today “peace”) (p. 242).

Moreover, “facts which do not please him he does not notice, or so interprets that they seem to support his delirium” (p. 31). Here Nordau anticipates Harry Stack Sullivan’s concept of “selective inattention” (so typical of Jews whose lust for peace blinds them to thirteen centuries of Arab-Islamic bellicosity).

This selective inattention raises the question of whether degenerates compulsively misrepresent or consciously lie about reality. Nordau contends that they believe in the truth of their fabrications (p. 25). It seems to me, however, that conscious but habitual liars may also believe, eventually, in the truth of many of their lies.

In any event, bearing in mind that fear governs many degenerates (p. 19), such is their inability to face reality that even their instinct of self-preservation, according to Nordau, is crippled (p. 31).

Now, dear reader, can you name any prominent Israeli politicians that fit Max Nordau’s analysis of a degenerate?

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