The Ethical Challenge of Auschwitz and Hiroshima

Apocalypse or Utopia?

By Darrell J. Fasching

Subjects: Public Policy
Paperback : 9780791413760, 366 pages, July 1993
Hardcover : 9780791413753, 366 pages, July 1993

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Table of contents



Prologue: The Challenge of Babel--From Alienation to Ethics After Auschwitz and Hiroshima

Part I: The Promise of Utopia and the Threat of Apocalypse

1. Technology and the Dialectics of Apocalypse and Utopia


The Coming of the Millennium
Language, Technique, and the Utopianism of the Body
The Technological City as Utopian Horizon of the Body-Self
The Apocalyptic Deformation of Utopianism: Procrustean and Protean Distortions
Doubt and Utopian Transcendence
The Dialectics of Apocalypse and Utopia


2. The Narrative Ambivalence of a Technological Civilization: Apocalypse or Utopia?


Technopolis: The Secular City as Utopian
Auschwitz: The Secular City as Apocalyptic
Technopolis: The Sacralization of the Secular City
From Auschwitz to Hiroshima: Technopolis and the Abyss of the Demonic


3. From Auschwitz to Hiroshima: The Apocalyptic Dark Night


Doubling and the Demonic Narrative of Auschwitz: Killing in Order to Heal
From Auschwitz to Hiroshima: The Demonic Inversion of the Narrative Traditions of the Holy—East and West
From Trinity to the Bhagavad Gita: Wounding in Order to Heal, Slaying to Make Alive
The Apocalyptic Dark Night and the MAD-ness of Planetary Suicide


Part II: After Auschwitz and Hiroshima: Utopian Ethics for an Apocalyptic Age

4. The Ethical Challenge of Auschwitz and Hiroshima to Technological Utopianism


Ethics: From Sacred Narratives to Utopian Critique
Theology of Culture as the Utopian Critique of Technical Civilization
The Dialectics of the Critique of Culture: From the Sacred and Profane to the Holy and Secular
The Challenge of Auschwitz and Hiroshima: From Sacred Morality to Alienation and Ethics


5. Utopian Ethics: From Human Dignity to Human Rights and Human Liberation


The Utopianism of Job: From the Ethics of Obedience to the Ethics of Audacity
Secular Holiness in Defense of Human Dignity: The Commanding Voice from Auschwitz and the UN Declaration of Human Rights
The Convergence of Utopian Narratives: From Abraham and Siddhartha to Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.


6. Beyond Technopolis: The Utopian Promise of Babel


The Linguistic and Narrative Poverty of Secularism
Welcoming the Stranger as the Utopian Norm of Secular Reason
Technobureaucratic Rationality and the "Myth" of Human Rights
From Narrative Diversity to the Utopian Promise of Babel


7. A Utopian Vision: Narrative Ethics in a MAD World


Beyond the Naked Public Square
The Utopian Quest in an Age of Apocalyptic Darkness
Utopian Technopoesis and the Limits of Political Realism
From Apocalyptic MAD-ness to Utopian Madness: Public Policy Ethics as Critique of the Narrative Imagination


Epilogue: The Secular University, Religious Studies, and Theological Ethics After Auschwitz and Hiroshima

Appendix: The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights




This book addresses the problem of religion, ethics, and public policy in a global technological civilization. It attempts to do what narrative ethicists have said cannot be done—to construct a cross-cultural ethic of human dignity, human rights, and human liberation which respects the diversity of narrative traditions. It seeks to do this without succumbing to either ethical relativism or ethical absolutism.

The author confronts directly the dominant narrative of our technological civilization: the Janus-faced myths of "Apocalypse or Utopia." Through this myth, we view technology ambivalently, as both the object of our dread and the source of our hope. The myth thus renders us ethically impotent: the very strength of our literal utopian euphoria sends us careening toward some literal apocalyptic "final solution." The demonic narrative that dominated Auschwitz ("killing in order to heal") is part of this Janus-faced technological mythos that emerged out of Hiroshima. And it is this mythic narrative which underlies and structures much of public policy in our nuclear age.

This book proposes a coalition of members of holy communities and secular groups, organized to prevent any future eruptions of the demonic. Its goal is to construct a bridge not only over the abyss between religions, East and West, but also between religious and secular ethics.

Darrell J. Fasching is Professor of Religious Studies and Associate Dean for Faculty Development of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of South Florida, Tampa.