Friday, December 15, 2023

Hitler's Virtue


Hitler's Virtue

Peter Schultz


Stuff bothering me: From something Thomas Pangle wrote in his Montesquieu book: “Virtue is not the goal of a republic; it is the means to the freedom or self-rule which is the goal. The fatherland (the community) does not exist for the sake of virtue, but rather virtue for the sake of the fatherland.” [57]


Having read Ullrich’s biography of Hitler, I wondered how Hitler understood this relationship. Most would say that he understood virtue as existing for the sake of the fatherland. But he also thought that by re-establishing of German greatness with his Third Reich, Germans would be virtuous once again. So, it would seem that Hitler, and maybe others, thought that the relationship between the fatherland and virtue was complimentary, so to speak.


But isn’t this true of all war lovers? They see war as serving virtue and the fatherland simultaneously. – check out, for example, Teddy Roosevelt’s recommendation in favor of war, to wit: “No triumph of peace is quite so great as the supreme triumphs of war.” And isn’t this what those who affirm the political think, that serving virtue and the fatherland are not only compatible but reinforcing? Hence, their goal is to mobilize politically.


So, this affirmation depends on a certain understanding of virtue, viz., that virtue is or culminates in power, strength, and ruling, i.e., control of yourself, your society, and even other societies. And this points to the most important issue is: What is human virtue? How is human virtue best understood? This is most important because it determines how or whether the fatherland and virtue are related.


Saying the virtue exists for the sake of the fatherland hides the issue of virtue itself as the issue of greatest importance. But because this is the issue of greatest importance, being virtuous isn’t as crucial as understanding what virtue is. Being morally virtuous isn’t as important as figuring out what it is, or isn’t. And, so, the intellectual virtues are then indispensable.

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