Adolf Hitler – philosopher, or theologian? (3 of 3)
|July 25, 2014||Posted by Joseph Keysor under Blog|
Schopenhauer’s view that life was essentially a struggle of conflicting wills, and that will was dominant over reason merged seamlessly with the Darwinist Ernst Haeckel’s later ideas about life as a pitiless struggle. It was from this amoral and ruthless struggle for survival that the Germans had emerged as the most advanced and highly developed species of humanity. This was also easily harmonized with Nietzsche’s (and many others’) belief that Christian virtues were false, weak and unhealthy, but vicious brutality and cruelty were healthy, noble, free, warlike. That Christianity was only a Jewish trick; that democracy was bad and the common herd needed to be ruled by their masters, the elite – many of these and yet more ideas can be found in Mein Kampf (sometimes in altered form). These were ideas that came not from the gutter, but from some of Germany’s finest minds.
Hegel’s influence on Marxism is well known; the extent to which he contributed to a proto-fascist mentality in Germany merits more attention. Kant, Schopenhauer and others also had an influence far greater than many realize . The unfortunate importance of Nietzsche today shows that ideas can penetrate very deeply, and be influential on a popular level – even with people who have not deeply studied the philosopher in question.
There is a fair amount of philosophy littering the pages of Mein Kampf, and the book is by no means as lacking in intellectual substance as many think – if by “substance” we mean many false and ugly concepts easily recognized as wrong today, but widespread among certain influential German circles before World War I.
Hitler’s concept of some higher power can much more easily linked to Hegel’s, Fichte’s, Schopenhauer’s and the biologist Ernst Haeckel’s ideas of God than to anything conventionally Christian. These in turn can be linked to Spinoza’s idea of God as something discovered by and agreeable to human reason. For example, Spinoza thought that God was immanent in nature, that nature was an expression of God. “To Spinoza, ‘the universal laws of science’ were the decrees of God which followed from ‘the necessity and perfection of the Divine nature’” . But if that is the case, and science later reveals the truth of evolution, then the process of survival of the fittest that weeds out the less fit and brings about the evolutionary advancement of the human race is the work of God. By facilitating the dominance of Germany, by purifying the race, Hitler could be seen as doing the work of a philosophical sort of god – a work of ruthless evolutionary progress that had been hindered by false Christian sentimentality and respect for individuals.
If nature decrees that the weak and the unfit should perish, this is a decree of God, since nature is a manifestation of God. Thus exterminating the unfit is doing the will of God. Now Spinoza, of course, had no such thing in mind, yet it is remarkable how closely these ideas follow those of Ernst Haeckel. Nineteenth-century Germany’s leading evangelist for the new theory of Darwinism, he too saw “the Almighty” as working through scientific law, and understood through scientific law – only for Haeckel, scientific law was survival of the fittest .
Thus, in Hitler’s rhetoric about “providence” we see not Hitler the theologian but Hitler the philosopher. This will seem incredible to those who believe that religious faith is inherently irrational and hence more easily accessible to Hitler, while philosophy requires a much higher order of intelligence that Hitler was incapable of exercising. However, Hitler was more intelligent that many give him credit for. He was fully capable of understanding Hegel’s, Schopenhauer’s and Fichte’s concepts in a general way, and of basing his ideology on a concept of some higher power devised from human reason, not from the Bible.
 For an analysis of Kant’s influence on Schopenhauer, and Schopenhauer’s influence on Richard Wagner, see Bryan Magee, Wagner and Philosophy (London: Penguin Books, 2001). Wagner, of course, as an evangelist for racial antisemitism and for pre-Christian Germanic values has often been directly linked to Hitler.
 Colin Brown, Christianity and Western Thought: From the Ancient World to the Enlightenment (Volume I) (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1990), p. 187.
 In his book The Scientific Origins of National Socialism (New Brunswick USA / London: Transaction Publishers, 2004), Daniel Gasman has proven conclusively that many of Haeckel’s views were close to and even identical to Hitler’s [though some of the conclusions he draws from this fact can be disputed]. Haeckel openly rejected and even ridiculed conventional religious belief.