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History-Metaphysics and Decay

What consequences has the Second World War had for mankind's position in modernity?


The Swedish journal Crisis and criticism number 11-12 from May 2018 has the drawing of a mammoth surrounded by willow trees on the front and carries the title «Historiemetafysik och förfall». A major topic, perhaps the greatest that can be imagined when the starting point is the position of the human species in modernity in light of the Second World War in particular and the teachings that can be drawn from it. The lead author of this comprehensive and very well-composed issue of the species and its relationship to the ruins it has left is Günther Anders (1902-1992), a highly personal, direct and contested thinker who has authored texts on the most important subject: Which what consequences has the use of weapons of mass destruction (Hiroshima, Nagasaki) and human extermination in Auschwitz had for the general condition of man? What lasting damage has been done?

For my generation, this author, along with Hannah Arendt, who was incidentally his first wife, belong to one of the very few thinkers who failed to spread illusions about the importance of the defeat of fascism and national socialism in 1945. The details of the post-war situation allowed everything but optimism. Two titles became crucial to Anders's international position as an ethical writer: first his and Claude Eatherlys Conscience forbidden from 1961 (Danish the following year). A very well-documented exchange of letters between the German philosopher and the war aviator, Major Eatherly, who abdicated his participation in the crash of the atomic bomb over Hiroshima and got lasting but on the soul of that action. However, he was treated as mentally ill by the American hospital system, so the exchange of letters raises some very fundamental questions about what man can do before being subjected, that is, to lose the sense of having a self. Next, Günther Anders' book We Eichmann Sons – Open letter to Klaus Eichmann from 1964 (Danish 1965) on how the generation of sons and daughters should relate to the parents whose abusive behavior has offended the human species. And four years before the youth uprising and May 68, Günther Anders is planning to break.

The number begins by Mårten Björk with the article "Abel, not Adam", which contains a research overview of the relationship between metaphysics and industry in German and European thinking in the 20th century, based on Günther Anders' work. Björk is, of course, the most widely read idea historian of his generation, and his knowledge of the German Spirit and its achievements in philosophy, political theory, philology, economics, biology, and theology are missing not only in Scandinavia but throughout the West.

Crisis and Criticism bears the name of a project by Walter Benjamin, which is also present in this issue with one of its classic texts today. Nothing is more Benjaminian than looking back without nostalgia or dizziness over all the ruins the flashback encounters. There is only one outlet to move forward, and that outlet is in the past.

Carsten Juhl
Carsten Juhl
Juhl resides in Copenhagen.

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