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Fragmented Testament: Letters Written by World War II Resisters Before Their Execution

Fragmented Testament: Letters Written by World War II Resisters Before Their Execution Psychoanalysis does not always take moral greatness as a given, a fact attributed by Horney to Freud's view of psychology as a natural science. The French psychiatrist Henri Baruk, however, attempts to bridge the gap between normative and empirical considerations by proposing a model based on the Biblical concept of tsedek, a Hebrew term for altruism coupled with a strong sense of justice. Those who possessed these qualities, Baruk argued, had a more highly developed sense of Self and Other. Consistent with Baruk's model, we argue that moral greatness may be defined as a high degree of moral consciousness combined with courage. Character qualities of World War II resisters, as revealed in a review of over 200 letters written to family and friends immediately before their execution, indicate a strong sense of Self and Other and an equilibrium between a sense of duty and an affective impulse. These qualities are seen in letters written by those engaged in a broad spectrum of resistance activity. The interpersonal quality of these letters; the concern for the suffering that their deaths will cause others; the efforts to reassure those left behind and even to impart useful information and instructions; and the gratitude expressed for large and small favors, all suggest that altruism is a marker for moral greatness, and that it is present even in those whose resistance activity might not at first be classified as altruistic. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis & Dynamic Psychiatry Guilford Press

Fragmented Testament: Letters Written by World War II Resisters Before Their Execution

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Publisher
Guilford Press
Copyright
© 2010 The American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry
ISSN
1546-0371
DOI
10.1521/jaap.2010.38.2.261
pmid
20528139
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Psychoanalysis does not always take moral greatness as a given, a fact attributed by Horney to Freud's view of psychology as a natural science. The French psychiatrist Henri Baruk, however, attempts to bridge the gap between normative and empirical considerations by proposing a model based on the Biblical concept of tsedek, a Hebrew term for altruism coupled with a strong sense of justice. Those who possessed these qualities, Baruk argued, had a more highly developed sense of Self and Other. Consistent with Baruk's model, we argue that moral greatness may be defined as a high degree of moral consciousness combined with courage. Character qualities of World War II resisters, as revealed in a review of over 200 letters written to family and friends immediately before their execution, indicate a strong sense of Self and Other and an equilibrium between a sense of duty and an affective impulse. These qualities are seen in letters written by those engaged in a broad spectrum of resistance activity. The interpersonal quality of these letters; the concern for the suffering that their deaths will cause others; the efforts to reassure those left behind and even to impart useful information and instructions; and the gratitude expressed for large and small favors, all suggest that altruism is a marker for moral greatness, and that it is present even in those whose resistance activity might not at first be classified as altruistic.

Journal

Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis & Dynamic PsychiatryGuilford Press

Published: Jun 1, 2010

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