WITHOUT GUILT AND JUSTICE: From Decidophobia to Autonomy by Walter Kaufmann

WITHOUT GUILT AND JUSTICE: From Decidophobia to Autonomy

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Nietzschean ethics for the milktoast -- a perversely fascinating blend of pop psychology, strictly-argued philosophy, and iconoclastic uplift. Kaufmann, author of books on existentialism, Nietzsche, etc., offers as his key concepts two ugly neologisms that will touch a certain chord: ""decidophobia,"" which speaks for itself (i.e., if you can't decide what it means, you have it), and ""humbition,"" a rational sense of one's limitations and goals, prescribed to replace guilt and ""moral rationalism."" Kaufmann identifies various ways we avoid making hard decisions, with little examination of the modes in which choices are presented or prohibited by society. He goes on to sketch the Nietzschean ethic for the Untermensch -- an individualistic ""autonomy"" which involves ""the need for alienation"" (predicated, of course, on existing conditions) with a mumbled postscript that love and social conscience are not rationally required. Nietzschean nonconformism and anti-democracy are also affirmed but played down; and instead of a positive Nietzschean idea of creativity it is negatively defined as involving the above-mentioned alienation, but not necessarily integrity, with Solzhenitsyn as the benign and scarcely appropriate exemplar. In an equally watered-down but more polished fashion Kaufmann contests traditional ideas of punitive justice and pluralistic ideas of distributive justice, especially egalitarianism. Here he makes a great many valid points in the anti-bourgeois spirit of Nietzsche but an acceptably academic tone. It is hard to tell how much sway this good-natured digest of trans-morality may have, but the Psychology Today serialization will surely extend its reach.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1973
Publisher: Peter H. Wyden -- dist. by McKay