Duped by Morality?

  • John K. Roth


We human beings are often deceived or fooled. Our own plans, dispositions, and actions account for much of that result. Typically, however, we do not think that morality dupes us. At least if we consider ethical reasoning, we tend to think that it is not misleading but trustworthy instead. Such reasoning provides the guidelines and insights that can keep us on track or warn us that we have gone in wrong directions. As this line of thought would have it, we will sooner or later be duped if we fail to follow where ethical reasoning leads, but ethical reasoning itself is not deceptive. If it were deceptive, that condition would exist only to the extent that ethical reasoning had not been done well or carried out sufficiently. Unfortunately, this chapter’s epigraph—the words with which Levinas begins Totality and Infinity—suggests a more radical and tragic alternative as far as ethics during and after the Holocaust is concerned: namely, that deception may be hard to eliminate if not inseparable from ethical reasoning.1


Ethical Reasoning Investment Policy Jewish People Christian Church Israeli Government 
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  1. 1.
    Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, trans. Alphonso Lingis (Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press, 1969), p. 21.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Peter J. Haas, Morality after Auschwitz: The Radical Challenge of the Nazi Ethic (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1988)Google Scholar
  3. Claudia Koonz, The Nazi Conscience (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003).Google Scholar

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© John K. Roth 2005

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  • John K. Roth

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