Raimond Gaita

Raimond GaitaRaimond Gaita

Raimond Gaita was born in Germany in 1946. He is Emeritus Professor of moral philosop ...

In a critical moment of reflection and pause, Romulus, My Father offers the reader a key to its interpretation. The author – philosopher Raimond Gaita – tells us that ‘Plato said that those who love and seek wisdom are clinging in recollection to things they once saw’. This reference to the Greek philosopher’s work < ...

Palestine Betrayed by Efraim Karsh & Gaza edited by Raimond Gaita

October 2010, no. 325

It is a great pity that Efraim Karsh could not have read Raimond Gaita’s new collection of essays before completing his own. The essays might have prompted him to reflect that the Israeli–Palestinian conflict is not nearly as straightforward as he would have us believe.

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When Raimond Gaita’s memoir Romulus, My Father was published in 1998, the acclaim with which it was greeted was ubiquitous. The book was significant not simply because it was a strikingly revealing personal narrative written by a renowned philosopher, but because it managed to present a story that contained large doses of personal tragedy without rendering the experience of reading it either falsely uplifting or overwhelmingly depressing. While offering vivid portraits of an inconstant, depressive wife and mother, and a self-possessed husband and father struggling with his own sense of self-worth, Romulus, My Father celebrated the power of love and friendship in the most subtle, telling and deeply humane ways.

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On the face of it, this book represents a strange project: to elaborate for the reader’s consideration the moral beliefs of a man whom the author judges (and judged in advance, one suspects) to be shallow, inconsistent, lacking moral and intellectual sobriety, and to have failed so often to act on the moral principles he repeatedly professes that he can fairly be accused of hypocrisy ... 

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‘Dear God. Save us from those who would believe in you.’ Not long after the attack on the World Trade Centre on September 11 last year, those words were sprayed on a wall in New York. Knowing what provoked them, I sense fear of religion in them. Their wit does not dilute the fear, nor does it render its expression less unsettling. To the contrary, it makes the fear more poignant and its justification more evident.

Enough people have been murdered and tortured over the centuries in the name of religion for anyone to have good reason to fear it. Is it, therefore, yet another example of the hyperbole that overwhelmed common sense and sober judgment after September 11 to sense something new in the fear expressed in that graffiti? In part, I think it is. But the thought that makes the fear seem relatively (rather than absolutely) novel is this: perhaps the horrors of religion are not corruptions of religion, but inseparable from it. To put it less strongly, but strongly enough: though there is much in religion that condemns evils committed in its name, none of it has the authority to show that fanatics who murder and torture and dispossess people of their lands necessarily practise false religion or that they believe in false gods. At best (this thought continues), religion is a mixed bag of treasures and horrors.

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