Nationalism by Elie Kedourie

By Elie Kedourie

This version of Elie Kedourie's Nationalism brings again into print one of many vintage texts of our instances. With nice beauty and lucidity, the writer lines the philosophical foundations of the nationalist doctrine, the stipulations which gave upward push to it, and the political results of its unfold in Europe and somewhere else during the last centuries. As Isaiah Berlin wrote of the unique version, "Kedourie's account of those principles and their impact is exemplary: transparent, realized and just."

In a brand new creation the writer displays upon the origins of the ebook and the connection of his argument to modern nationalist conflicts.

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W ith great ingenuity, Fichte works out the political ramifications of this broad and general contention. He tries to show, for instance, that the mere presence of foreign vocables within a language can do great harm, by contaminating the very springs of political morality. When foreign terms relating to political and social life are introduced into a language, those who speak it are un­ sure of the exact connotations of those terms and they fall into confusions which can lead to great harm. Take for instance, he argues, the words Humanity, Popularity and Liberality.

Under­ standing is understanding of the whole, and right action is 1 Textual quotation from the Qur’an, XLIX: 9. 2 The speaker here adapts to his purposes St. Matthew, XII: 46-50. 50 NATIONALISM action which tends to absorption in the whole. Action is understanding, and understanding action. ‘The Scholar’, writes Fichte in The Vocation o f the Scholar (1794), ‘sees not merely the present—he sees also the future: he sees not merely the point which humanity now occupies, but also that to which it must next advance.

In Fichte’s words, the universe ‘is an organic whole, no part of which can exist without the existence of all the rest; it cannot have come gradually into being, but m ust have been there complete at any period when it existed at all’. Only reality can be known; and the only reality is the whole. Knowledge of the parts is illusory; no parts can be known by themselves, since they cannot exist on their own, outside a coherent and ordered whole. F. W. Schelling (1775-1854), a philosopher of this school, who started as Fichte’s disciple, went so far as to say: ‘Individuals are only phantoms like the spectrum.

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