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On Nietzschean Philanthropy

January 12, 2013

5

“The more I love mankind in general, the less I love people in particular, that is, individually, as separate persons.” Americans love philanthropy. An earthquake rocks Haiti, a tsunami devastates Japan, and we rush to help, sending money by the bucketful and more hands than the hundreds of philanthropic organizations can effectively put to work. But we walk right by the homeless man on the street. We rail against government welfare, but when a family in our church has been struggling financially for years, we don’t think to give aid to a brother in need. We may not even notice their plight.

Loving mankind in general does exactly what Nietzsche feared, it prefers the universal to the detriment of the particular. Should we despair like Nietzsche? “You have your metanarrative, I’ll have mine,” we say, “and as long as we acknowledge each as its own cold comfort, everyone should get along just fine.”

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