Améry’s essay on the intellectual at Auschwitz is probably his most famous. Superficially a biographical description of why humanistic intellectuals like Améry found survival at Auschwitz more difficult than others, the essay darkly suggests that the intellect itself is no match for world-threatening evil. Why and how did he later write such powerful defences of the Enlightenment? I will seek to answer these questions while discussing the prescience of his critiques of two most powerful 20th century counter-Enlightenment thinkers, Adorno and Foucault.
Susan Neiman is Director of the Einstein Forum. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Neiman studied philosophy at Harvard and the Freie Universität Berlin, and was professor of philosophy at Yale and Tel Aviv University. Her books, translated into many languages, include Slow Fire. Jewish Notes from Berlin (1992), The Unity of Reason. Rereading Kant (1994), Evil in Modern Thought (2004), Fremde sehen anders (2005), Moral Clarity. A Guide for Grown-up Idealists (2008), Why Grow Up? Subversive Thoughts for an Infantile Age (2016), Widerstand der Vernunft. Ein Manifest in postfaktischen Zeiten (2017), and Learning from the Germans. Race and the Memory of Evil (2019). She has also published over one hundred essays and was most recently the Tanner Lecturer at the University of Cambridge and the Gifford Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh.