Kiss Endre

Anti-Semitism as a This-Worldly Metaphysics




By regarding anti-Semitism as metaphysics, and more precisely as a special, and historically the most significant, version of modern, this-worldly metaphysics (the sense of which term will be defined in detail in the following), I attempt to alter the logic of theoretical approaches to anti-Sematism in two particular aspects.

The first of these changes should, therefore, also be tegarded as more than a mere conceptual novelty, it will influence the entire logic of the approach. Theinterpretation which characterizes anti-Sematism as a this-wordly metaphysics does not talk about ’political anti-Sematism’, but rather about a ’political metaphysics’, the direct theme of which of which is some sort of definition concerning the role of Jewry. The conception developed here, therefore, is scarcely concerned with ’political’ anti-Semitism as one constituent in a set of various other anti-Sematism. By contrast, it is interested in a specific ’political’ metaphysics, the positive theme of which is anti-Semitism (1).


Furthermore, this ’metaphysics-conception’, though paying due respect to the pluralistic, perspectival and interdisciplinary nature of researc and scholarship, aims to provide an ultimate theoretical explanation of modern anti-Semitism. It is this foundation on which other productive accounts, stemming from the natural plurality of the subject-matter, can be legitimately based.

As this ’metaphysics-conception’ regards anti-Semitisim as a modern and this-worldly metaphysics, it can also easily separate religiously motivated anti-Semitism of the past and present from the par excellence modern, plitical anti-Semitism. The criterion of this separation is determined by the natural and historical difference of the two great comprehensive ages (’other-worldly’-’this-worldly’) of metaphysics. While anti-Semitism surfacing in a religious setting can be located in the conceptual system of other-worldly metaphysics, this-worldly, positive anti-Semitism is the product of a post-religious age and attitudes, and so are all other this-worldly and positive metaphysics. Positive, this-worldly metaphysics acquire prevalence when the comprehensive plausibility of relogion is shaken, and consequently, it completely disappears from some spheres of society. Other-worldly and this-worldly metaphysics, on the one hand, represent two historical ages, on the other, they also stand for two fundamentally different systems of thought. Precisely the same distinction is applicable when one compares anti-Semitism emerging in the context of other-worldly and this-woldly metaphysics (2).


To view anti-Semitism as this-worldly metaphysics may also provide a constructive principle helping to establish the substantive foundations for separating ’right-wing’ and ’left-wing’ anti-Semitism. While, with virtually no exception, rught-wing anti-Semitism can be located in the intellectual context of this-worldly metaphysics, left-wing (or left-wing type) anti-Semitism present a much more diverse picture. Theyinclude approaches ’critical of metaphysics’ that attack, from one point of view or another, the this-worldly metaphysical character of ’Judaism’ (3).


An interpretation of anti-Semitism as this-worldly metaphysics can smoothly be harmonized with all socio-psychological, as well as political and other approaches that classify anti-Semitism with a broadly or narrowly defined class of ’prejudices’. It seems obvious that the phenomena categorized by socio-psychology (or by psychology in general) as ’prejudice’ could readily be described by the sociology of knowledge and ideological critism as ’this-worldly metaphysics’ (4).


The interpretation of anti-Semitism as this-worldly metaphysics is harmoniously compatible with distinctions between ’religious-non-religious’, ’left-wing-right-wing’, and can also be coordinated with the prejudice-problem. Nevertheless, these are not at all exclisive instances of this interpretation being conjoined with alternative account of the phenomenomen. without exceeding the limits of this essay, however, it would be impossible to discuss other possibilities in this context.


I have attempted to define this-worldly metaphysics, or as it is also termed ’positive’ metaphysics in a number of my works (5). One of the positive characteristics of this-wordly metaphysics (the use of the term positive should not imply a value judgement, but the orientation of the definition) is that it is-in accordance with the basic meaning of all metaphysics-an intellectual endevour aiming to provide a comprehensive interpretation of being and laws of existence.


There has been much written about the process of the ’disenchanting of the world’ (6). Through this process, metaphysics of an ancient philosophical and religious tradition, attempting to state the laws of existence, building on the idea of there being an other world, have collapsed. With the progress of modernization, however, everyday consciousness has been regularly contributing to the infinite line of this-worldly metaphysics. This activity, of course, has been supported by not a few political systems and cultural institutions. Nonetheless, it would be unwise to characterize everydayconsciusness as merely a source of intellectual manifestations of a potential, metaphysical nature, since the same everyday consciousness has the ability to exercise criticism over all metaphysics as well (7).


It is a fact crucial importance, however, that everyday consciousness has immense difficulties in coping with the par excellence modern conditions. On the one hand, it finds itself in a multilateraly sanctioned (which sanctioning is often also externally imposed) scientific, rational world in wich everything has its ’cause’ and its ’law’. The various spheres of this world are studied by the particular branches of science, just a sin a modern hospital all the malfunctioning organs are treated in rationally separated departments. On the other hand, simultaneosly with an increasing rationalizition of the world, it is the whole, the entirety of individual and social existence that starts lacking a ’meaning’ (8). This is the essential conflict on which everyday consciousness bases its ability to generate further positive, this-worldly metaphysics.


The fact that the longing of everyday consciousness after the law of existence can only be satisified by ’positive’, ’this-worldly’metaphysics seems self-evident after the processes of the ’disenchanting of the world’ and secularization have taken place. New attempts at stating the law of existence ceased to be preoccupied with ’universalism’. They do not assume the existence of a spirit above the world that would be the vehicle and representative of the law of existence. The new metaphysics prefers a ’this-worldly’, ’positive’ pronciple which opoperates through the multitude of the existing and seems to be governed by laws. This ’metaphysics’ is positive because it deliberately chooses a notion or a phenomenon from a positive reality to perform the specific function of the law of existence. It is essentially the same reason that allows us to call it ’this-worldly’. In order to be able to use the notions of ’blood’, ’soil’, ’leader’ and ’war’, meeting the criteria of the law of existence, one has to have a preliminary positive and this-worldly interpretation on the basis of which the relevant notion is able to fulfil the function of the new, comprehensive principle representing the law of existence. There is no doubt that ’war’ is a most this-a ’transcendence or other-worldliness. As such a principle and theme, chosen from this-worldliness, does war become, for instance, the starting point for a this-worldly ’war’-metaphysics. In the process of this metamorphosis it becomes a ’law of existence’, that is from the status of a contingent and random phenomenon it rises to be the decisive cause of all other phenomena. From this point of view, for example, it was not the French and the German who fought the war of 1870 in a given historic and political space with their specific aims, but both parties were merely contingent agents realizing the characteristics of war as a this-worldly metaphysics and as a law of existence. In its mature and developed from’war’-metaphysics is also thoroughly (and most efficiently!) capable of performing all the functions of the this-worldly law of existence (9).


By referring to anti-Semitism as a this-worldly metaphysics, it is argued that the anti-Semite places the historical role of Jewry in the focus his this-worldly metaphysics in the same manner as an adherent of a ’war’-metaphysics would place war in the same position. The former recongnizes the positive, this-worldly pronciple of the actual law of existence, which transcends visible reality, in the historical role of Jewry, whereas the latter recognizes the same principle in the notion of war. Since modernity has produced an extraordinary number of this-worldly, positive metaphysics, this interpretation looks upon anti-Semitism as one among countless other modern this-worldly metaphysics (consequently, it is only natural to pose the question, to be answered at the end of this study, why and low has anti-Semitism acquired a conspicuous position among this-worldly metaphysics) (10).


Having been acquainted with two positive characteristics of this-worldly, positive metaphysics, one may be tempted to think that this seemingly, spontaneous and natural attraction of everyday consciousness towards varions of this-worldly metaphysics is at least understandable among the modern realities of a disenchanted world. Thus one could even justify an attitude of understannding sympathy towards everyday consciousness.


The three negative characteristics of the this-worldly, positive metaphysics will soon dispel, however, this sympathetic understanding of the inclinations of everyday consciousness towards this-worldly metaphysics. The common source of these negative characteristics is the fact that the intellectual attitude preoccupied with establishing the law of existence, as represented by this-worldly metaphysics, has had to face new rivals in modern times. Choosing any positive, this-worldly principle as the foundation of metaphysics of metaphysics does not anly imply the positive act that one, forinstance, recognizes the positive, this-worldly phenomenon of war as the ’law of existence’ behind all other phenomena, giving them a dynamic and cohesive framework. This choice also means that the validity of this ’law of existence’ thus chosen is, without further critism and analysis, preferred over the explanations of science, politics (social practice) and history referring to the same area. Therefore, one cannot, one should not yield nowadays to the need of a this-worldly metaphysics ’naively’ and ’with impunity’. The choice of any this-worldly metaphysics involves a three-fold conflict. The very existence of a scientific (political, historical) explanation of the same phenomenon can already discredit the validity of a much sought-after this-worldly metaphysics.


This basic conflict explains the inevitable hostility of this-worldly metaphysics toscience, politics (practice) and history. For an illustration of all three relationships with an example, one has to imagine an advocate of a this-worldly metaphysics of war. In his eyes all possible scientific explanations of the outbreak of war are irrelevant, and so are the political aspects of the war (it is not the French fighting the Germans under complicated external and internal political circumstances, but both sides are simply fulfilling the law of existence, as prescribed by the metaphysics of war.) It is the same case with history as well. A war is not provoked and fought by actors living in a complex historical space. These actors are mere marionettes of the positive, this-worldly metaphysics of war.


It is, therefore, not simply the case that positive, this-worldly metaphysics are spontaneously filling the vast vacuum so oppressive to everyday consciousness, but they also own an extremely powerful, necessary and manifoldly destructive potential. While one could justify a degree of understanding towards their positive emergence, the traumatic effect of their destructiveness should also be clear (11).


It is not surprising, therefore, that the most intense antagonist of positive, this-worldly metaphysics is always to be found in contemporary critical (always critical towards metaphysics) science. This antagonistic relationship, howerver, is to a large extent disguised by the fact that modern this-worldly metaphysics has developed a selective attitude towards sciences. While the validity of the ’law of existence’ stated by positive metaphysics is stonger than the scientific proposition referring to the same area (the Franco-German has a metaphysical cause rather than a scientifically reconstructable historical origin), this-worldly, positive metaphysics has always been exceedingly grateful for certain proven scientific theses that have seemed to corroborate the truth of its claims. There have been countless attempts made by advocates of anti-Semitism to ’scientifically’ prove their own position. This problem constitutes a separate chapter in the history of culture, it is sufficient to point to ’biological’, ’sociological’ or ’statistical’ possibilities of the anti-Semitic thesis (12).


I consider anti-Semitism to be a classically and unambigously this-worldly, positive metaphysics. The anti-Semite has taken the point of view of a this-worldly metaphysics, more precisely, that of a ’Jewishness-metaphysics’. The decisive, ’positive’ principle of its metaphysics can be seen in his, not the least transcendent, but most ’this-worldly’ conviction that the colorful fabric of the phenomena of modern society is only a semblance behind which one encounters the ’law of existence’, the mastery of the Jews (13).


The rule of the Jewry as a ’metaphysical principle’, as a law of existence in operation, completely fulfils the positive criteria of the ’law of existence’. The (perceptive and thinking) anti-Semite of a this-worldly metaphysical inclination, however, is equally able in making use of the three negative criteria of this-worldly metaphysics. In his eyes, the validity of his this-worldly metaphysics, the thesis of the world mastery of the Jewry will always prove stringer than scientific, politcal or historical arguments relevant to existing historical power. It can even admit the ’partial truth’ of these arguments without modifing the essential theme of this-worldly metaphysics (14).


A detailed analysis of the historical and contemporary versions of anti-Semitism in the light of the thesis of ’this-worldly metaphysics’ could easily fill an entire volume. Nevertheless, I believe that it is important to state here that this thesis would be able to provide the framework of such an independent study as well.


The crucial question still remains as to why anti-Semitism occupies a singular position among this-worldly, positive metaphysics. It has been argued at the outset that modern everday consciousness lives among a great number of positive metaphysics. This fact in context of the ’disenchanting of the world’, a process described by Max Weber, cannot fail to have ’social ontological’ aspects as well.


I will try to answer this decisive question with the combination of the following four points:

1. one can associate with the general legitimizing function of modern this-worldly metaphysics its ambition to offer an explanation to great crises, notable failures of the individual or communities. These explanations are to possess the status of law. Therefore, using my example already mentioned several times above, the idea of a this-worldly metaphysics of ’war’ would not have surfaced without the need to explain the two world wars of the twentieth century. This need may have been felt by an individual or be an aspect of modern civilization itself. Consequently, anti-Semitism as a this-worldly metaphysics is an obvious support available to deeply frustrated communities or individuals feeling themselves to be in a desperate situation.

2. All this-worldly, positive metaphysics provides a complete view of society. Anti-Semitism is particularly well-suited to such a full explanation of the world due to its particularly important role in modernozation (15).


3. Anti-Semitism is by definition a ’secret’, esoteric, not-for-public explanation. Similarly, the number of ’outspoken’ anti-Semites is incomparably smaller than those of ’secret’ anti-Semites. As a ’law of existence’ that is spread through ’secret’ channels and cannot be put forth publicly, it is in an advantegous to play the role of an all-encompassing and ’secret’ law of existence.


4. The struggle against the image of the enemy as drawn up by this-worldly metaphysics of an agressive ethnic nature has promised social as well material ’plunder’, in the sense of Elias Canetti’s definition in his ’Mass and power’. The ’plunder’ appearing in this conflict was, on the one hand, remote and symbolic, at hand and direct, on the other. As such it controbuted to the special status of anti-Semitism among positive, this-worldly metaphysics.




An introductory remark: My efforts at analysing ’positive’ or ’this-worldly’ metaphysics, in the various contexts of the sociology of knowledge, ideological criticism, history of philosophy and ideas, are contained in the following essays: ’Max Horkheimer und die Denkstruktur der positiven politischen Metaphysik’, in: Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Universität Halle, XXXXI, 92. 6. vol. pp. 55-58.; ’Nietzsche, Baumler, Heidegger und die Folgen’ in: Heidegger. Technik-Ethik-Politik. Herausgegeben von Reinhard Margreiter und Karl Leidlmair. Würzburg, 1991. pp. 229-238.; ’Die Stellung der Nietzsche-Deutung bei der Beurteilung der Rolle und des Schicksals Martin Heideggers im Dritten Reich’, in: Zur philosophischen Aktualität Heideggers. Band I. Philosophie und Politik. Herausgegeben von Deitrich Papenfuss und Otto Pöggeler. Frankfurt am Main, 1991. pp. 425-440.; ’A pozitív politikai fizika rekonstrukciója (Reconstructing positive political metaphysics)’, Valóság, 1989. 6. pp. 28-39.; ’Zum Begriff der positiven politischen Metaphysik’, in: Berichte, des 12. Internationalen Wittgenstein-Symposiums: Recht-Politik-Gesellschaft. Wien, 1988. pp. 65-70.; ’Positive politische Metaphysik als grundstruktur faschistischen Denknes’, in: Traditionen und Traditionssuche des deutschen Faschismus. Halle (Saale), 1987. pp. 131-137.; ’Történelem és társadalomlélektan. Bibó István fasizmus-magyarázata (History and social psychology. István Bibó’s interpretation of fascism)’, Valóság, 1984. 9. pp. 42-49.; ’Nietzsche, Baumler avagy egy teljes fasiszta metafizika problémája (Nietzsche, Baumler or the problem of a total fascist metaphysics)’, in: valóság, 1982. 9. pp. 71-79. (in Germann: ’Nietzsche, Baumler oder das Problem der positiven politischen Metaphysik’, in: Annales, Bd. XVI. 1982.)


(1)As this distinction will reveal (and as it will be seen in the following) not every this-worldly metaphysics is ’political’, that is, a metaphysics playing a political, political-ideological role. Nevertheless, the expectional historical, social and political significance of this-worldly metaphysics can be attributed to the fact that this this-worldly metaphysics as such has penetrated the sphere of politics both from ’above’, with deliberate intentions, and from ’below’, in a spontaneous way. Positive metahysics, therefore, is not inherently and essentially political, but its capacity to govern the sphere of politics has given it the status of an independent factor shaping history.


(2)There are, of course, possible overlaps between the two anti-Semitism as defined by the two differing notions of metaphysics, in some even traces of contiunity can be observed. From our point of view, however, it is highly important to maintain this distinction, since the relevant modern version of anti-Semitism as a this-worldly metaphysics can only be subsumed under one of these notions of metaphysics. Scientifically speakingm, it can even be outright confusing to place or analyze the specific phenomenon of this-worldly metaphysics in any context of other-worldly metaphysics.


(3)I do not claim that a final distinction could be made between right-wing and leftwing versions of anti-Semitism on the basis of their given relationship to this-worldly metaphysics. The ’anti-Judaism’ of the Enlightenment or that of the young Hegelians, among them that of Marx (and that of Heine who can be loosely associated with this group), has not been rooted in a critique of this-worldly metaphysics, but rather it is founded on a critique of all metaphysics, that is, a critique of all ideologies. From our point of view, therefore, it is not really justified to label the young Marx’s occasional anti-Judaist remarks as anti-Semitic. Recent literature has been increasingly insensitive to this distinction. This may be explained by the duality of ’this-worldly metaphysics as ideology’ and ’the Utopian transcending of all ideologies’.


(4)It is not a task of social psychology to analyse the phenomenon of prejudice any further in terms of a criticism of ideologies. Therefore, this discipline will not raise the question whether a prejudice manifest in a given society goes back to an ultimate ’this-worldly metaphysical judgement’ or not.


(5)Cf. first of all the works listed in the introductory remark at the beginning of the notes.


(6)Max Weber’s famous thesis, the ’Entzauberung der Welt’ is to be included among the direct genealogical elements of all this-worldly metaphysics. Without this ’disenchanting’, this-worldly, positive metaphysical forms are not possible. At the same time, this perspective (of the sociology of knowledge and critism of ideologies), though indirectly, will also expose the inseparability of ’anti-Semitism’ and ’modernization’. The significance of this is all the greater here, a sin the present context of the essay the focus is not on much-cited, banal instances of the relationship of modernization and anti-Semitism.


(7)Cf. my essay on ’A mindennapi tudat tizemhárom alapelve (The thirteen basic principles of everyday consciousness)’, in: Valóság, 1968. 12. pp. 26-31., as well as, ’Die Grundprinzipien des modern Alltagsbewußtseins im Spiegel ihrer Gesichte’, in: Prima Philosophia, Band 5., Heft 3. 1992. pp. 279-293.


(8)It is a specific and vital characteristic of modern everyday consciousness that all partial spheres and social sub-systems possess an own ’rationality’, ’science’ and ’law’, while the same everyday consciousness is to face the ’lawlessness’ and ’aimlessness’ of the whole, that of general existential problems. Everyday consciousness is able to move in carefully constructed and rational systems whether that be mathematics or law, the Highway Code or soccer. Meanwhile, the meaning of its own existence, the final resultant of social changes, economic cycles all appear to lack the rationality of these particular areas. In contras to the disciplines dealing with these areas, which can freely question the coherence and rationality of the most general spheres, modern everyday consciousness is unable to come to terms with the possibility that precisely the most comprehensive spheres would lack intelligible ’laws’. Everyday consciousness constructs its ’this-worldly metaphysics’-conceptions in order to explain these ’great’ problems.


(9)The claim that the metaphysics of ’war’ has acquired special significance in the twentieth century can be supported by countless examples. Similarly, it is also easy to show why this metaphysics of war could become a legitimizing ideology (because, for instance, it could legitimize openly aggressive, bellicose policies.) This will also demonstrate that an explicit awareness of the ’this-worldliness’ of this-worldly metaphysics does not at all make it more difficult that this metaphysics perform its specific metaphysical functions.


(10)The number of this-worldly, positive metaphysics ought to be the subject of independent research, since the law of existence posited here can appear not only in the sphere of everyday consciousness, buti t can also surface in the form of a scientific or philosophical theory which poses to be ’eternal’.


(11)Under ’normal’ circumstances, everyday consciousness does not embrance the three-fold destructrive potential, concomitant with positive, this-worldly metaphysics, in a delibareta way. In other words, one who may haveregarded the phenomenon of ’war’ as a positive, this-worldly metaphysics was not necessarily aware of the fact tha the has adopted an ’anti-scientific’, ’anti-political’ and ’anti-historical’ standpoint.


(12)Only a passing reference can be made here to the independent cultural history of the ’scientific’ attempts at proving the anti-Semitic stance. A good example is provided, however, of the extent of the ’epistemological interests’ in scientific proofs by the activities of the geological-prehistorical institute of the Third Reich. Inisolation, the theory researched here seemed to be entirely legitimate from a scientific point of view. This theory, however, was to prove that the true order of climatic periods of warming and cooling contradicts the accepted scientific theory. The new theory would also lead to the hypothesis that the ’Northern’ Aryan type appeared in the world before the birth of Caucasian and Mediterranean cultures. There is no doubt that the positive metaphysics of anti-Semitism would have accepted this ’specific’ result, moreover, it would have incorporated it in its propaganda precisely as a ’scientific’ result.


(13)There can be no anti-Semitism without the thesis of Jewish ’world mastery’. In the given theoretical framework, it is this ’world mastery’ that is capable of laying the positive and thematical groundwork for the function of the law of existence. It is by no means a coincidence that the first few basic works anti-Semitic literature were born simultaneously with the positive thesis of ’world mastery’.


(14)A particular, inner verificational rule of this metaphysics can be seen in the fact that the validity of the law of existence provided by the concrete metaphysical principle is not restrained by the existence of an opposing reality. A ’thinker’, advocating war as a this-worldly metaphysical principle, need not be convinced by a few decades or few centuries of peace that this law of existence may actually not work. – A parodic aspect of this attitude can be witnessed in the anti-Semite’s claim that the very failure of his thesis to realize demonstrates the cunning of ’Jewish world mastery’, as the accusations against it cannot be proved. The wanting proof of an accusation thus becomes – and this is only a seeming paradox – a proof in itself, and this is possible because of the this-worldly metaphysical character of anti-Semitism.


(15)In the course of a more lengthy discussion of the topic is should be noted with emphasis that the historical existence of the Jewry and its participation in modernization is by definition international. This internationality proves particularly important int he eyes of everyday consciousness and could also explain why anti-Semitism has probably become the most influential this-worldly, positive metaphysics.