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Who are we to judge the wickedness of those who do not judge?

By ROGER BERKOWITZ [Democracy] – We must face our unwillingness to judge. This fear of judgment is all too recognizable—the political thinker Hannah Arendt was writing about it in the middle of the last century. In her essays and books, Arendt gave voice to what she called the “fear of passing judgment, of naming names, and of fixing blame—especially, alas, upon people in power and high position.” Reflecting upon the anger caused by her own judgment of the Judenräte—the Jewish community leaders who cooperated with the Nazis in the hopes of saving themselves, their families, and others—Arendt was struck by the fear and anger that judging others provoked. She worried about the fear of judgment underlying the uproar against Rolf Hochhuth’s play, The Deputy, which accused Pope Pius XII of silence in the face of the Holocaust. And she chafed at the outpouring of angry letters accusing scholar Hans Morgenthau of un-Christian hubris for writing an essay in The New York Times Magazine pointing out that Charles Van Doren was wrong to cheat on the quiz show Twenty One. In all of these instances, Arendt was struck by the “huge outcry the moment anyone fixes specific blame on some particular person instead of blaming all deeds or events on historical trends or dialectical movements.” Instead of judging the wrongdoers, the people judged those who had the temerity to judge.

At the root of our problem with judgment is the undeniable victory of relativism over truth. Judgment requires, above all, what Kant called disinterestedness and what Arendt called enlarged mentality, seeing the question from another’s point of view. While it is singular, judgment is not mere personal taste or preference.

Continued at Democracy: A Journal of Ideas | More Chronicle & Notices.

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