Claire Katz: "Education After Auschwitz: Levinas, Jewish Education, and the Crisis of Humanism"

October 31, 2019 - 5:30pm

In a 1966 radio interview published as “Education after Auschwitz,” the critical theorist, Theodor Adorno declares, “the premier demand upon all education is that Auschwitz not happen again….” Adorno’s comments are made in response to the atrocities of the Holocaust. Barbarism is not something that poses merely a threat of a relapse.  As Adorno insists, Auschwitz was the relapse. Adorno’s solution lies in creating an environment that will prevent another Auschwitz by cultivating individuals who can resist authoritarian thinking.  Nearly forty-five years later, Martha Nussbaum argues that the humanities are central to developing the courageous individuals who could stand strong against the Milgram and Zimbardo prison experiments.  Even if Nussbaum and Adorno are correct that that a certain kind of education develops critical thinking such that one resists authoritarian thinking, I argue that this resistance to authoritarian thinking will not by itself mitigate the danger that he fears.  The prescription offered by both Adorno and Nussbaum while necessary is not sufficient. We need an educational model that will cultivate a subject who actively resists not only authoritarian thinking but also the actions such thinking produces. Although not typically viewed in this way, Levinas’s emphasis on education and the cultivation of an ethical subject might be such a model.

Clair Katz, Texas A& M University

Co-Sponsors: Department of Religous Studies, Jewish Studies, the Honors College and the Humanities Center

Location and Address

Cathedral of Learning, 501