16 December 2007

The Philosophers of the White Rose

I posed the question in my last post: Who is the only philosopher quoted in the six leaflets of the White Rose? (Well, there are perhaps two philosophers -- it all depend how one counts.)

The leaflets are extraordinary. I had known about them for a long time, but only recently, through the book I mentioned, did I become aware that they are extant. Consider for instance the following passage from the second leaflet:

The German people slumber on in their dull, stupid sleep and encourage these fascist criminals; they give them the opportunity to carry on their depredations; and of course they do so. Is this a sign that the Germans are brutalized in their simplest human feelings, that no chord within them cries out at the sight of such deeds, that they have sunk into a fatal consciencelessness from which they will never, never awake? It seems to be so, and will certainly be so, if the German does not at last start up out of his stupor, if he does not protest wherever and whenever he can against this clique of criminals, if he shows no sympathy for these hundreds of thousands of victims. He must evidence not only sympathy; no, much more: a sense of complicity in guilt. For through his apathetic behavior he gives these evil men the opportunity to act as they do; he tolerates this 'government' which has taken upon itself such an infinitely great burden of guilt; indeed, he himself is to blame for the fact that it came about at all! Each man wants to be exonerated of a guilt of this kind, each one continues on his way with the most placid, the calmest conscience. But he cannot be exonerated; he is guilty, guilty, guilty.
Sophie Scholl was a dual major in biology and philosophy. The professor who assisted the students, as I said, was Kurt Huber, a philosophy professor, who was executed himself by guillotine on July 13, 1943. He continued to work on a book on Leibniz when in prison awaiting trial and execution. Huber wrote the sixth and final leaflet; he definitely counts as a philosopher of the White Rose.
But the only philosopher quoted in the pamphlets of the White Rose?

Lao-Tzu is also quoted.

So let us say that the only Western philosopher to be quoted is .... Aristotle. And here is the passage, from the third leaflet, taken from the Politics:
... and, further, it is part [of the nature of tyranny] to strive to see to it that nothing is kept hidden of that which any subject says or does, but that everywhere he will be spied upon, ... and further, to set man against man and friend against friend, and the common people against the privileged and the wealthy. Also it is part of these tyrannical measures, to keep the subjects poor, in order to pay the guards and soldiers, and so that they will be occupied with earning their livelihood and will have neither leisure nor opportunity to engage in conspiratorial acts ... Further, [to levy] such taxes on income as were imposed in Syracuse, for under Dionysius the citizens gladly paid out their whole fortunes in taxes within five years. Also, the tyrant is inclined constantly to foment wars.