Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews Between the Lines

Understanding Hitler

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 07 September 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e5950
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

Do students still sit up till three in the morning, arguing passionately but inconsequentially about whether human existence is free or determined? In my time, I took the side of determinism, the fierceness of my defence a cover for my doubts; and my defence notwithstanding, I demanded the greatest possible freedom for myself.

I argued, with striking unoriginality, that a human being (save for myself, of course) was the vector of the forces of heredity, environment, and circumstance. What else, after all, could a human be? A causeless cause, like God?

In so far as a thriller might be said to have metaphysical preoccupations, these are the questions asked in the novel The Boys from Brazil …

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