Home > Ethics, Philosophy, Quotations > The inadequacy of reason alone to discern moral absolutes

The inadequacy of reason alone to discern moral absolutes

We come to a startling realization, for which the Holocaust provides a profound confirmation: reason cannot deduce the absolute prohibition against murder that was revealed at Mount Sinai any more than it can deduce the utterance of “I am the Lord thy God, who brought you out of Egypt.” The sophisticated thinkers of the Third Reich demonstrated that human reason can find a rationale for opposing any moral dictum deduced by human reason. Indeed, the absolute prohibition against murder is not a moral dictum; it is a divine revelation voiced at Mount Sinai and affirmed at Auschwitz. Only by hearing both Voices can we view the human being as one who is created in the image of the divine.

David Patterson, Emil L. Fackenheim: A Jewish Philosopher’s Response to the Holocaust

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