Freud on Moses and Monotheism

"Freud on Moses and Monotheism," Jewish Philosophy and the Crisis of Modernity, Kenneth Hart Green, ed., State University of New York Press, 1997.


The first sentence is: “To deny a people the man whom it praises as the greatest of its sons is not a deed to be undertaken lightheartedly–especially by one belonging to that people.”  The denial of Freud is directed against himself, a self-denial, a moral action, an action requiring self-sacrifice.  “No consideration, however, will move me to set aside truth in favor of supposed national interests.  Moreover, the elucidation of the mere facts of the problem may be expected to deepen our insight into the situation with which they are concerned.”  The act of Freud is an act of self-denial, but also an act which looks like an act of treason against the national interest.  The justification is that it is done for the sake of truth.  The question arises, is truth a part of the national interest?  Does the true national interest necessarily lead to truth?  Does this apply to the Jewish people in particular or to all peoples?  At any rate Freud seems to make a suggestion of the utmost importance–that truth is more important than society.  Truth means knowing the truth as distinguished, in the first place, from proclaiming the truth.  Freud, however, tacitly identifies knowing the truth and proclaiming the truth.  This is justifiable only if the truth is essentially salutary.  This would be the case if knowledge of the truth and only knowledge of the truth makes us good men and good citizens.  But if truth is essentially edifying, as I believe it is, one should not begin with “To deny.”

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