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Document Details :
Title: Ethics in the Post-Shoah Era
Subtitle: Giving Up The Search for a Universal Ethic
Author(s): HAAS, Peter J.
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 8 Issue: 2 Date: 2001
In 1988, my book Morality After Auschwitz: The Radical Challenge of the Nazi Ethic first appeared. The book generated a variety of responses, some positive and enthusiastic and some quite negative. The reason for these responses, of course, was that in the book I staked out a discomforting, and so controversial, position. The overarching conviction which led to the writing of the book was that, like in so many other areas, the process of thinking about ethics and doing moral philosophy in the post-Shoah world simply could not continue in the same way as it had up to that point. That is, for me, the events of the Holocaust represent, if I can borrow a concept from Emil Fackenheim, a kind of revelation, a radical challenge to the way we in the West must face and try to understand the human condition. Beginning from this perspective, I came to the conclusion, in brief, that one of the most disturbing implications of the Holocaust for moral theory is that we can no longer assume that there is a universal moral truth to which all normal people have access and to which all normal people will naturally respond. In other words, the optimistic assumption of Western modernity that human beings can know and act on the true and the right, can no longer be taken for granted.