Legacies: Karl Adam & Jules Isaac


In his article on Karl Adam (“Reformer and Racialist,” January 18), John Connelly demonstrates how the terms of Adam’s theology proved to be so compatible with, and supportive of, Nazi ideology. How are we to account for Adam’s enthusiastic support for an ideology so antithetical to the spirit of Catholicism?

For a partial but very profound solution to this paradox, we can turn to the German-Jewish phenomenological philosopher Aron Gurwitsch, who wrote a manuscript titled “Some Philosophical Roots of Nazism.” While recognizing that Nazism had more than one cause, he focuses on an underlying and pervasive philosophical force that affected the German psyche and culture. He concludes that the lack of resistance to the Nazi ideology on the part of the intellectual classes of Germany was a result of the romantic and nationalistic ideas of Hegel and Fichte that had been taught in German universities for over a century.

Karl Adam would not have escaped this philosophical influence. It was a virus that infected all German intellectual and cultural life. Although expressed at times in lofty spiritual terms, the Hegelian philosophy that formed the German intellectual class was at root materialistic and naturalistic—what Husserl would diagnose as philosophical naturalism. Gurwitsch...

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