Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Humanities/2006 December 16

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December 16[edit]

German philosopher quotation[edit]

"Some things cannot be said simply and some things cannot be said in French"

I think I saw this somewhere, but cannot find the source -- if I remember right, a German philosopher, my guess being Hegel or Schopenhauer. But I could not find the quote under these names, or under simple + French, etc. And, of course, the text is not exact, and I have no idea how it may be in German.

I'm quite sure it was Hegel, but I don't know the source. Skarioffszky 13:55, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
Ah, yes, this is where I first encountered the quote: "When a certain clear-thinking but somewhat superficial French philosopher asked the profound but obscure German philosopher Hegel to state his views in a concise form, Hegel answered him harshly, 'These things can be discussed neither concisely nor in French.'" Skarioffszky 13:58, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

Why is there no page about Juggy Gales from the Brill Building era?[edit]

Because nobody has created it. –mysid 20:36, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

Nick Cave/Wings of Desire[edit]

Does anyone know of any early Nick Cave albums that sound similar to his appearance in Wings of Desire?

According to this the Nick Cave songs from the film are "The Carny" and "From Her To Eternity" from the albums Your Funeral... My Trial and From Her to Eternity. meltBanana 15:42, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

What are "Santa Fe pants?[edit]

I've left a detailed query at the Talk page for Santa Fe (disambiguation), seeking a description of this garment. Would appreciate a reply, here or there. -- Thanks, Deborahjay 06:54, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

Could this be anything to do with trousers worn by workers on the Sante Fe railroad? They look suitable (currently this is a guess)> 13:27, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
Where might I see an illustration of these? (I didn't succeed via Google Images.) The reference in context seems to be what I described in the initial detailed query, and I suspect their fabric would be too flimsy to serve adequately as a working garment for a laborer. -- Thanks, Deborahjay 05:00, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
Try regular google - each of the results on the first page of this search has a photo. Natgoo 10:38, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
here's an image*Prod_feeds*Prod_feeds*961&bhcp=1 15:54, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
Oh! Now I realize the value of the text search: I'd seen the picture(s), but it was the verbal description (cotton duck fabric) that helped most. My initial take is that the moniker for the garment is just a trendy fashion term picking up on the stylish cachet of Santa Fe, New Mexico for marketing purposes, rather than a bona fide reference to the railroad of that name. I really appreciate your going to the effort and clarifying this for me. -- Thanks! Deborahjay 02:25, 18 December 2006 (UTC)
Clarification: I only guessed they were railroad pants (in the same way levis are cowboy trousers) - they look like it.. but I'd bet on it being right.. If anyone can supply a ref directly linking the two - I'd appreciate it. 10:39, 21 December 2006 (UTC)

Title of the Book[edit]


I wish to know the title of the book. The book dealt with regrets a man faced daily, he simply could not see the good standing before him. So great was his obsession with the past that even as he relived it, he continued to fail. It is a sad story. Thanks.

Indraraj Pawar —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 12:42, 16 December 2006 (UTC).

Sorry, but this description could apply to many books. Can you give us any more detail? Setting, names of characters, period written? Cheers, Sam Clark 14:32, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes, I agree. You might say, Indraraj, that you have hit on what is arguably the dominant theme in western literature over the past hundred years. Clio the Muse 00:52, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

Nobel Prize Laureate....(Women)[edit]


Since the inception of Nobel Prize for Literature, how many women have received the this honour? Their names, nationality and year of receipt. Thanks —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Indraraj22 (talkcontribs) 14:24, 16 December 2006 (UTC).

Hello. You can fairly easily answer this question yourself. The Nobel Foundation publishes lists of prizewinners: it's just a matter of going through them and counting up. Cheers, Sam Clark 14:31, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
And if you're too lazy, someone has already counted and listed them for you! There were ten female Nobel Prize laureates for literature, or 9.8%, the second highest female percentage (the highest percentage goes to the Peace Prize), according to the article on Female Nobel Prize laureates. ---Sluzzelin 14:59, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
As a side comment, it's not quite as trivial to compile that answer as Sam suggests: the relevant list of winners on the Nobel Foundation web site does not show each person's sex, and they don't all have names like John or Patrick that make it obvious. Of course that doesn't mean it's a difficult job to find out, just not that trivial. --Anonymous, December 17, 04:04 (UTC)

Holocaust guilt[edit]

A difficult question is determining guilt for people marginally involved in the mass murder. For example, recently the History Channel presented a program about the extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. A German SS man described his duties there over 60 years ago. He worked in the currency office, sorting, compiling, recording and shipping back to Germany the scores of different types of money collected from the dead. He did not select arriving Jews for the gas chamber, nor did he torture or kill anyone. The moral question: Is this man, now about age 85, guilty of participation in the mass murder? Should he be arrested and put on trial? —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 15:48, 16 December 2006 (UTC).Sorry, forgot to sign 15:52, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

You're right, this is a difficult question. In fact, by requiring accounts of what guilt is, of what justifies punishment, and of what justice requires, it cuts to the heart of moral philosophy, and some of the hardest questions there are. Two possible kinds of answer:
1. Justice requires giving people their due: returning good for good and bad for bad. When they've done evil, that evil must be balanced or cancelled out by appropriate punishment. This retributive account looks backward to past actions, and asks, What would be fitting in response to this? On this answer, guilt will turn on how bad what the SS man did really was, and how aware he was of what was going on. The answers to those further questions might be: he was complicit in mass murder, even if he didn't actually kill anyone himself; and he must have known what was going on. So, yes, justice requires that he be put on trial and punished. His age has nothing to do with it.
2. Justice as an institution is worthwhile only because of its results. This consequentialist account looks forward to the results of our actions, and asks, How can we make things turn out for the best? On this answer, whether we choose to call the SS man guilty, and/or to put him trial, will turn on whether we think it's for the best that such people should be identified and publically made subject to such procedures. So, his age and status as a mere minor functionary might well be relevant: what good would be done, now, by putting him on trial?
If you want to pursue this further, I recommend Ted Honderich's book Punishment: the supposed justifications on the general philosophical questions, and Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem on the specific question of bureaucratic evil. Yours, Sam Clark 16:18, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

I would base the decision on 2 factors:

  • Was he aware that his efforts were assisting genocide ? The answer here appears to be yes.
  • Was he free to refuse ? I interpret this as "would he have a legitimate fear of execution for refusing to participate". I'm not positive on this one, but suspect the answer is no, the Nazis would likely have just transferred him to some other service, as they needed all the manpower they could get (see SS#Legality_of_the_Holocaust). And, if he volunteered for this work, that eliminates all doubt that he was a willing participant.

As for the severity of the punishment, if convicted, I say it should be rather mild for each victim, whatever the sentence is for robbing the dead, I suppose. However, when multiplied by the thousands of victims, it would quickly add up to life in prison, which, at his age, isn't much punishment anyway. StuRat 16:25, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

In other words, you're a retributivist as defined above: you think the question turns on the nature of the past action (not the potential consequences of punishment), and you think there's a certain fitting punishment, deriving from the severity of the offense (and not from the deterrent or symbolic value of public denunciation, for instance). But you haven't given any reason for that position. As I've already pointed out, this is a difficult philosophical question, and as I've already implied, there's a large and often quite technical literature on it. I don't know, perhaps the questioner did intend just to invite this kind of gut-reaction response, but I don't really see the value of unsupported opinion here. Yours, Sam Clark 17:25, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
My answer is a bit of both. That is, I believe that those who assist genocide both deserve to be punished, and that such punishment may deter others from participating in the future. And, the original poster was clearly asking for opinions, as all moral questions are opinion. There was recently debate on the talk page on whether Ref Desk opinion questions should be allowed and I would say that most people supported allowing such questions, although there is no formal policy either allowing or prohibiting such questions, at this time. StuRat 17:45, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
It is not remotely obvious that 'all moral questions are opinion': that is, in fact, the highly controversial position, moral anti-realism, much argued over and widely opposed. See our (sadly stubby) article on moral realism for starting places. The point I was making, in any case, was that simply giving gut-reaction responses, without supporting reasoning, and without any evidence that you know anything about the subject in question, isn't adding much value to the reference desk. Further discussion should probably move to Talk. Sam Clark 18:06, 16 December 2006 (UTC) Later addition: I'm not remotely in favour of banning interesting questions like this. I would like to see more care taken over answering them. Sam Clark 18:29, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
Agreed that this should be moved to the talk page: [1]. StuRat 18:33, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
If "he did not select arriving Jews for the gas chamber, nor did he torture or kill anyone", than why to be convicted (or why to force guilt on him)? The Hollywood movies present ALL the German soldiers (all 18 million of them, not counting their allies) as devilish, while all the allies (except a traitor or two) as noble heroes. I think only a small percentage of the German soldiers were of the type who had tortured innocents, participated in the Holocaust, etc., the rest of them just did their job, fighting for their country, or just fighting because they were ordered to do it. Just like the soldiers of all the other nations. I have heard about a writer whom they wanted to take his Nobel prize (I can't remember, maybe some other prize) away, just because they found out he was enrolled in the German army more than half a century ago. Why this over-mystification of the world war? --V. Szabolcs 18:08, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
Are you thinking of Gunter Grass? The point there was that he had spent years castigating his fellow Germans about war-guilt and about the need to be completely honest about Nazism, but that he had, in fact, concealed his own membership in the SS. But I agree, mystification is a mistake. That's one reason why we need to do some theoretical work here, to make it clear what guilt is and what justice requires. Sam Clark 18:12, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
I think that did not do things wrong. I would refer to the November/December issue of the World Ark, a publication by Heifer International, and the story by Philip West about Japan, and then the part about kamikazes. They say that they "were caught up in the patriotic tides", and I think that might help about the part, even though he didn't belong to the army. That's probably why the enlisted. But I think that this man was guilty, because he was a Nazi. Laleenatalk to me contributions to Wikipedia 20:09, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
I believe a distinction should be made between members of the Nazi party and those who committed genocide. Many people were essentially forced to join the party (or the Hitler Youth, as is the case for the current pope), while, to my knowledge, most Nazis were not forced (under threat of death) to commit genocide. StuRat 22:12, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

I'm going to tread very carefully here, because speaking of the Holocaust as anything other than a wicked and terrible chapter in mankind's history is generally frowned upon as being profane. So:

There is a tendency to think of life as gain, and death as loss. Therefore, if anybody has died, it is considered loss -- a bad thing, and to be assidiously avoided in the future.

While I agree with the conclusion -- death is regrettable and to be avoided in the future -- I am hesitant to count deaths that have already occured as being terrible, tragic, and infinitely awful.

We all want to live, and value our own lives dearly (well - we usually do - suicide does happen), but to look upon dead men and think "This should not have occured -- someone should be feeling guilty right now" is probably not the most helpful way of regarding such matters.

This may come off as sounding callous or insensitive -- but look at it this way: if our pre-historic ancestors hadn't died, then we'd have to put up with them even today. Do you think that this would this be desireable? We can only sometimes get along with our fellow man today, so how much animousity do you think there would be between our ape-like ancestors and the extant homo erectus, us? It would be similar to the relationship between Middle-earth Elves and Orcs I think -- not good at all. Or, we would regard them as mere animals -- put them in zoos, experiment on them (for a time), teach them modern skills, and be ever so condescending toward them.

I am not saying death is not a bad thing -- but to always assume that wherever people have died, a great evil has occured, and guilt must be felt to this very day, is perhaps not the most rational way of viewing the world. Just my opinion though. Cheers. Vranak 20:34, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

I must say I cannot follow the logic in your opinion, Vranak, which seems to conflate two seperate propositions: that death is natural and inevitable, which is right, and that all deaths are somehow equal, which is quite obviously nonsense. To die of old age or disease may be tragic, but it is part of the human condition. To be deliberately choked to death by poison gas is not 'natural' by any reasonable standard of human behaviour. It is a crime: a crime against man, a crime against morality, a crime against law, and a crime against God. Clio the Muse 00:10, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
Agreed. StuRat 00:29, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes, very well said Clio.
I suppose I would answer by saying that Nazi war criminals are generally thought of, or at least spoken of, as inhuman monsters who committed their atrocities for no reason whatsoever. That they had free will to behave humanely, but consciously and deliberately set out to eradicate non-Aryans, because, well, they were inhuman monsters, and inhuman monsters tend to do that sort of thing. Or, if they were not evil, that they were very vain and very misguided by eugenic pseudo-science. At any rate, Nazi participants in the Holocaust are almost ubiquitously regarded as either incredibly evil, or exceptionally misguided, by today's thinkers and writers.
I have never read or heard any explanation of the Holocaust that does not make, or appear to make, this sort of tacit assumption: Hitler and his cronies were unredeemably evil.
Such rash judgements on good and evil are not, in my view, terribly useful in reducing the amount of murder and misery in the world, so this is why I am not with the majority in declaring Hitler et al as completely sociopathic, or completely misguided. I do think it best that Hitler committed suicide, it was regrettable that so many Jews died in the Holocaust, but the whole notion of guilt brought up by the original poster is, in my view, a touch misguided.Vranak 03:24, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
This all comes down to a question of how one defines "evil". I personally don't think of the perpetrators of the Holocaust as "inhuman monsters"; I think of them as all-too-human monsters. I have no doubt that many of the architects of the Final Solution followed what was to them a rational and logical analysis of a situation to arrive at a conclusion which led them to their actions. I also think that any person who is capable of rationally choosing to do what they did is evil. If not, then the word itself has no meaning. (And, "regrettable"? You have a gift for understatement.)
Looking at the original question, I think that it can be misguided to attempt to assign moral guilt to every cog in the Nazi machine. While there were guilty parties at all levels, a mere concentration camp clerk who took no part in the killings also had no means to prevent them. He had a simple choice: do his job in the face of the evil surrounding him, and live, or speak out against it, and die. No matter what he chose, the killing would continue. Is it a crime to choose one's one life in those circumstances? I don't know; I think many people would have done the same thing. - Eron Talk 03:50, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
I would agree, if it was true that he would have been executed if he refused. However, I believe the SS was an all-volunteer "elite" service, and anyone could choose to be transferred to another service (see SS#Legality_of_the_Holocaust). StuRat 20:20, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
Your phrase all-too-human monsters is a potent one. :) Vranak 04:42, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

I would like to return this debate back to the original question, and perhaps look at the moral issues raised in real historical terms. First of all, the individual in question is Oskar Gröning, who served as a clerk in Auschwitz, and is now, I believe, the last of the surviving SS personnel. Herr Gröning was in fact put on trial in Germany in 1948 and cleared of crimes against humanity. But, as it has rightly been observed, he never left Auschwitz and it never left him. He once applied for a transfer from the camp after he saw a drunken SS man smash a baby's head against a wall, but his application was refused. I think he has in his own way tried to make amends for his part in the service of Moloch. He has spoken out where a great many others remained silent; and though some of his answers are self-serving, he has done much as an eye-witness to challenge the assertion that the whole thing never happened. Indeed, it was the Holocaust deniers who provoked him into breaking his silence in the first place. And that in itself must go a small part of the way towards satisfying the ends of justice. Should further action be taken against him? Some may say so; but what purpose would this serve? His own sentence is far more burdensome that any earthly court may impose-Down the years I have heard the cries of the dead in my dreams and in every waking moment. I will never be free of them. I have never been back there because of my shame. This guilt will never leave me. I can only plead for forgiveness and pray for atonement.. Clio the Muse 00:38, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

For those who didn't understand the reference to Moloch, here's a link. StuRat 02:21, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
This type of question make any issue of guilt very difficult to solve. Even though the SS may have been volunteer only, this only goes to show that those who signed up for it believed that they were doing something worthwhile. The Hitler youth was once like the boyscouts in Germany. Nazi influence pervaded German society so much that "good" people across the country became utterly convinced that Jews were behind everything, even in some cases, the war. I remember a nazi propaganda poster from 1945 (!) that said something like "Why are we still at war? Behind the scenes, the Jew is smiling." This type of talk provoked people to be "inhuman monsters" while believing that they were fighting for something good. In a situation like this, one has trouble even accusing a nazi who joined the SS voluntarily, chose to work in a concentration camp, and personally contributed to the deaths of many jews as being a truly bad person. He was a victim of his circumstances. It is silly to suggest that in today's society, if that same person was born into American culture, he would not behave entirely differently. It is difficult to suggest that anyone bears guilt for actions so completely determined by their environment. Think of America's "founding fathers." They were wonderfully smart, morally strong people, most of whom were utterly convinced that blacks were subhuman. It has become quite chic these days in history to attack such people as racists and bad people, but in truth they were ordinary, good people, who simply were part of a culture imbued with anti-black sentiment. Simon Schama's great book Rough Crossings details the extraordinary mindf**k required for a group of people determined to achieve a new level of human and state rights to simply ignore the rights of an enormous population in their midst. But it happens. You can't accuse the founding fathers for this. They were who their world made them. Sashafklein 18:29, 18 December 2006 (UTC)
That's the "people are all a product of their environment so bear no responsibility for their actions" argument. I reject that argument, because not everyone raised in a bad environment turns out bad, thus demonstrating that there's a personal choice involved. A similar argument is made by some criminals: "in my neighborhood, most people grew up to be drug dealers". That may well be, but a few grew up to be good citizens, thus demonstrating that it was possible, even in that environment. Going back to the example of Nazi Germany, most Germans had nothing to do with the Holocaust (unless you consider supporting Nazi Germany to be supporting the Holocaust). Those who chose to participate, however, were willing to do something the rest were not, despite having a similar background. Also note that the Nazis were only in power for 13 years, not enough time to brainwash everyone from birth. StuRat 01:50, 19 December 2006 (UTC)

It's limiting to reject moral relativism entirely because of the existence of a couple exceptions, StuRat. Moreover, 13 years, especially in a country like pre-war Germany, is a long enough time to affect a large portion of the population. The "brainwashed" population was pretty certainly not in the minority. Have you seen Triumph of the Will? In the whole 2 hour length of that film with all the thousands upon thousands of spectators, every one of them looks completely dedicated. Granted, this is a propaganda film, but nonetheless, the message is clear. This was before the war had even begun. The early scenes of the movie show quite well how Hitler Jungen had become an alluring opportunity for most youth, something to look up to and yearn towards. And many of these views were already fairly commonplace in the German population. Hitler was elected, based largely on the racist and expansionist policies of his Mien Kampf, before he had had the chance to brainwash anyone. Anti-Versailles fervor was tremendously strong in a country that had just recovered from a terrible depression and was still reeling from the harsh rulings of the treaty, and much of Germany's trouble was easily enough tacked on the Jews, who were already looked down upon. Of course there were good and bad apples. People are different, and nobody is arguing that when Hitler and Mother Teresa were born they had the same potential for good or evil. In the grand scheme of things, however, individual morality is largely irrelevant when you consider, as my extrapolation of this questioner's query is doing, the population at large. At large, the population was ripe for such a terrible event as the Holocaust, and although individual immorality may lie at the center of some people's actions, I think it's clear that, by and large, the German population's environment, in this situation, determined their actions more than anything else. Sashafklein 03:58, 19 December 2006 (UTC)

I don't think it's just a "couple exceptions", but many. There are also many exceptions in the other direction, people who have had the best possible upbringing, yet still turn out to be evil. And, note that "brainwashing" occurred over a wide range, from those who merely supported the German war effort to those who supported, and took part in, the genocide. I would argue that the degree to which people were affected by propaganda efforts was largely dependent on their own lack of an internal moral compass. StuRat 14:15, 19 December 2006 (UTC)

Let's go back to the original question, and view any potential punishment from several perspectives:

  • Retribution/vengeance: From this point of view, the victims (or victims' families) have a right to avenge the crime, with the "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" standard being widely used.
  • Reform: This would focus on "fixing" the individual (via moral instruction, technical education, etc.) so they can function properly in society. At his age, the opportunity to do this seems to be long past.
  • Salvation: The emphasis here is on "saving the soul" of the individual. This approach conflicts somewhat with modern secular societies, so isn't used much any more, at least in the West.
  • Removal from society: Here the idea is just to prevent them from doing any more damage, by locking them away. At his age, there isn't much likelihood of him doing any significant damage to society.
  • Deterrence: Here the idea is to punish in such an unpleasant manner that the perpetrator will avoid a repeat of his actions for fear of a repeat of the unpleasant punishment. Again, at his age, deterrence seems unnecessary.
  • Example to others: Here the idea is that others will be deterred when they see how he has been punished. A similar case was the attempts to bring Pinochet to justice for his role in genocide.
  • Prevention of people "taking the law into their own hands": This is a basic law-and-order argument; that, in order to prevent mob violence from those who feel justice was cheated, some punishment must occur. There were a few Jews who went around killing ex-Nazis after WW2 ended, but this cycle of revenge now seems to have ended, so this argument isn't very strong, here.

An alternative to punishment is:

  • Forgiveness/reconcilliation: Here the idea is to "move on" by forgiving all parties involved. This sometimes has a religious basis ("turn the other cheek") and is sometimes a very practical way to end a cycle of punishment and revenge.

To summarize, then, punishment might still make sense primarily from the "retribution/vengeance" and "example to others" justifications, with "forgiveness/reconcilliation" being the main counter argument. StuRat 13:33, 19 December 2006 (UTC)

An Iowa event[edit]

Recently at a hospital in Iowa, 3 babies were born at once. One of either the mothers or daughters was named Jane Olson (or Oleson, I'm not sure). Could you direct me to an article about this, or could you tell me if one of their middle names was Gertrude? Thank you. Laleenatalk to me contributions to Wikipedia 19:52, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

Could you be quite a bit more specific in your question. ie when you say 'born at once', do you mean 3 babies to two mothers born on the same day in the same hospital? And all babies were girls? When you say recently do you mean this year, last year or when precisely? Could you say which town or city in Iowa. Is this event notable enough for article about this on WP?--Light current 01:12, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
Agreed. How recently and where in Iowa? You could probably search new arrival records on newspaper websites if it's within the last month or so. Mike H. I did "That's hot" first! 04:19, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
Or do you mean they were triplets? Triplets occur about 1 in 8000 pregnancies, so they are not that unusual, and we don't have any articles about triplets unless they do something notable together.--Shantavira 09:34, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
She may not be asking to write an article on these people, she may be asking because it's a friend or family member she may have lost touch with. I guess we shouldn't be jumping to the conclusion of "this needs an article," because it might just be a reference desk question. ;) Mike H. I did "That's hot" first! 10:11, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
I don't know much about it. It's simply a project I'm researching. Laleenatalk to me contributions to Wikipedia 15:02, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
Can you not tell us even a little more details? I dont think we ll be able to help on what we have so far 8-(--Light current 20:26, 17 December 2006 (UTC)