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Hitchens and Levi

August 17, 2010

There are some interesting points coming out of the large number of articles being written by and about Hitchens at the moment. This one in particular has drawn me in, not only because it quotes one of the best passages by Primo Levi I’ve read. The author says that:

…the terrified, irrational effusions of a man facing his own extinction are no more to be trusted than a blind man’s account of a crime scene: each witness lacks the capacity to perceive, make sense of, and accurately judge the essential facts. Far more reliable are the sober, critical reflections of a man in good health, protected from danger, insulated from threats to his well being. That, for Levi and Hitchens, is a man at his best and most capable of determining the truth of things.

The word “best” at the end of the quote above is important. I think we’d all agree that we should be thinking and making decisions about the big questions when we’re at our best, and do any religious believers seriously believe that this “best” is when we’re suffering from cancer or terrified of death in Auschwitz?

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