Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Walter Kaufmann

Walter Kaufmann I first encountered reading his translation of Martin Buber's 'I and Thou' and as the author of an illuminating study of Nietzsche (of whom he was a distinguished translator). Subsequently I read many of his original works of philosophy that were pugnacious, challenging and highly enjoyable. Kaufmann wants us to make thinking decisions, most especially about religion, and wants to confront us with the complexity inherent in any mature decision,

His deepest critique is preserved for any form of dualistic thinking that constructs a world of black and white. Here is a world of the blessed - the right, the in group - and  here are the damned - the other, the out group. We can only envisage the world aright if we think in colour.

He also critiques any religious form or belief that leads to the suffering  of others, or the neglect of that suffering, either in this life or in a purported next. This might be the Hindu caste system or the Christian afterlife of eternal torment.

These drivers lead him to a high valuation of Prophetic Judaism with its care for all and its search for a levelling justice and of the Buddha's original vision of a patient, self-directed, search for liberation, rooted in testing out your own experiences.

Reading his 'Religion in Four Dimensions' is an exhilarating ride through why you should trustingly engage in a thoughtful consideration of your own religious beliefs. They can only be strengthened if you are able and willing to test your convictions rather than merely assume them and Kaufmann provides you ample score to do this.

In his own biography is testimony to the ability to follow your own convictions, wherever they lead, since in 1930s Germany he converted to Judaism, mercifully winning a scholarship to America in 1939 and thus able to escape the terror to come but nonetheless following his convictions into the very eye of the storm.

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