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Palgrave Macmillan

From Darwin to Hitler

Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics and Racism in Germany

ISBN 9781403965028
Publication Date May 2004
Formats Hardcover Paperback 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

In this work, Richard Weikart explains the revolutionary impact Darwinism had on ethics and morality. He demonstrates that many leading Darwinian biologists and social thinkers in Germany believed that Darwinism overturned traditional Judeo-Christian and Enlightenment ethics, especially the view that human life is sacred. Many of these thinkers supported moral relativism, yet simultaneously exalted evolutionary 'fitness' (especially intelligence and health) to the highest arbiter of morality. Darwinism played a key role in the rise not only of eugenics, but also euthanasia, infanticide, abortion and racial extermination. This was especially important in Germany, since Hitler built his view of ethics on Darwinian principles, not on nihilism.

RICHARD WEIKART is an Associate Professor of Modern European History, California State University, Stanislaus, USA. He has had two previous books published, including Socialist Darwinism: Evolution in German Socialist Thought from Marx to Bernstein (1999), as well as articles in German Studies Review, Journal of the History of Ideas, Isis, European Legacy and History of European Ideas.

Introduction
PART I: LAYING NEW FOUNDATIONS FOR ETHICS
The Origins of Morality and the Rise of Relativism
Evolutionary Progress as the Highest Good
Organizing Evolutionary Ethics
PART II: DEVALUING HUMAN LIFE
The Value of Death
The Specter of Inferiority: Devaluing the Disabled
The Science of Racial Inequality
PART III: ELIMINATING THE "INFERIOR ONES"
Controlling Reproduction: Redefining Sexual Morality
Killing the Unfit
War and Peace
Racial Struggle and Extermination
Part IV: Impacts
Hitler's Ethics
Conclusion

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'One of the finest examples of intellectual history I have seen in a long while. It is insightful, thoughtful, informative, and highly readable.' - Ian Dowbiggin, University of Prince Edward Island, Canada, and Author of A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern AmericaReview of the Hardback Edition
'This is an impressive piece of intellectual and cultural history - a well-researched, clearly presented argument with good, balanced, fair judgements. Weikart has a thorough knowledge of the relevant historiography in both German and English.' - Alfred Kelly, Edgar B. Graves Professor of History, Hamilton College, USA
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