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The Pediatric Forum |

Hegel, the Nazis, and Child Euthanasia

Eric v. d. Luft, PhD, MLS
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1998;152(6):606. doi:.
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The article by Parent and Shevell in the January 1998 ARCHIVES1 is well researched, well written, and important to read. Nevertheless, it contains a manifest falsehood that must be set right. On page 85, the authors assert: "Under the Nazis, the prevailing ethic was a Hegelian one, in which ‘ends justified means'." Delete the reference to Hegel, and the sentence would be true.

As a trained philosopher who wrote his doctoral dissertation on Hegel, a former secretary and executive councillor of the Hegel Society of America, and a former associate editor of its journal, The Owl of Minerva, I can state with certainty that to attribute any such ethic to G. W. F. Hegel (1770-1831) is completely erroneous. In fact, I can think of no major philosopher for whom ends would justify means. Even Machiavelli or Hobbes would temper that attitude somewhat. It typifies practitioners of politics such as Hitler, Lenin, and Stalin rather than scholars or theorists of ethics and political philosophy such as Hegel, a constitutional monarchist and liberal republican who believed in the rule of law and in the preservation and enhancement of human rights and freedoms. Lenin even claimed that he had to "turn Hegel upside down" to incorporate Hegelian dialectic into his "ends justifying means" revolution.

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