Leo Strauss on Racism

LS: No, he [Nietzsche] speaks of physiological value judgments.

Same Student: Yes, I think that the kind of thing that he is talking about is the concept of the subject and the development of the philosophy of that and which would have more to do with the nature of the people, and not their physical nature, but their spiritual nature.

LS: Yes, if the spiritual nature as you call it is completely separate from the bodily nature, which he would deny.

Same Student: I am talking about under soul.

LS: Yes, sure, that is clear, but that does not affect the issue now. The main point is that –

Same Student: Oh, he might be a racist.

LS: Yes, but in a way we all are racist. I don’t see what’s wrong with that. A racist is a man who says there are different races. I do not have sufficient evidence to answer the question whether some races are not more gifted than others. That is the most scientific definition of racism which I have ever heard. I say this as though I just made it up at the moment. [Laughter] But I bet that I would be called a racist if I said that. That doesn’t mean much, I mean, that is a slogan

Same Student: But that certain people would be spiritually or in their souls superior to others is certainly in contradiction to the kind of thing that Lincoln was talking about when he said that men are created equal.

LS: But Lincoln [was talking about] the demand for political equality and that one must not exploit people through slavery. What has this to do with the question of equality in other respects?

Same Student: Well, I mean, Lincoln would be the first to agree that people may be very different with regards to intelligence . . . or something like that. But when he talks about the equality I think he is referring to, insofar as they have souls, they are spiritually equal.

LS: Yes, but then we would have to find out what Lincoln understands by soul. If he understands by soul an immortal soul (which is possible), then he argues from entirely different ground [than ] Nietzsche, who denies that there is an immortal soul. We have seen that there is no soul separable from the body in Nietzsche. And if there are great, profound differences among human beings in bodily respects, they would be connected (to use a very loose word) with profound differences in the higher aspects.

Same Student: According to Nietzsche.

LS: Yes.

Same Student: Yes. That’s a very difficult question.

LS: I don’t believe that this is so difficult. It may be obnoxious but I do not believe it is difficult.

Same Student: To answer?

LS: To state it and to understand the meaning of this proposition.

Same Student: But the answer isn’t.

LS: Yes, that requires the famous scientific empirical studies to which I referred in my definition of racism and which are still common.

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