• July 31, 2014

Heil Heidegger!

Heil Heidegger! 1

Imagno, Getty Images

Martin Heidegger in 1961: Twenty-eight years earlier, the German philosopher told his students of Nazism’s “inner truth and greatness,” declaring that Hitler alone “is the present and future of German reality, and its law.”

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Imagno, Getty Images

Martin Heidegger in 1961: Twenty-eight years earlier, the German philosopher told his students of Nazism’s “inner truth and greatness,” declaring that Hitler alone “is the present and future of German reality, and its law.”

How many scholarly stakes in the heart will we need before Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), still regarded by some as Germany's greatest 20th-century philosopher, reaches his final resting place as a prolific, provincial Nazi hack? Overrated in his prime, bizarrely venerated by acolytes even now, the pretentious old Black Forest babbler makes one wonder whether there's a university-press equivalent of wolfsbane, guaranteed to keep philosophical frauds at a distance.

To be sure, every philosophy reference book credits Heidegger with one or another headscratcher achievement. One lauds him for his "revival of ontology." (Would we not think about things that exist without this ponderous, existentialist Teuton?) Another cites his helpful boost to phenomenology by directing our focus to that well-known entity, Dasein, or "Human Being." (For a reified phenomenon, "Human Being," like the Yeti, has managed to elude all on-camera confirmation.) A third praises his opposition to nihilism, an odd compliment for a conservative, nationalist thinker whose antihumanistic apotheosis of ruler over ruled helped grease the path of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s.

Next month Yale University Press will issue an English-language translation of Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism Into Philosophy, by Emmanuel Faye, an associate professor at the University of Paris at Nanterre. It's the latest, most comprehensive archival assault on the ostensibly magisterial thinker who informed Freiburg students in his infamous 1933 rectoral address of Nazism's "inner truth and greatness," declaring that "the Führer, and he alone, is the present and future of German reality, and its law."

Faye, whose book stirred France's red and blue Heidegger départements into direct battle a few years back, follows in the investigative footsteps of Chilean-Jewish philosopher Victor Farias (Heidegger et le Nazisme, 1987), historian Hugo Ott (Martin Heidegger: Unterwegs zu Zeiner Biographie, 1988) and others. Aim? To expose the oafish metaphysician's vulgar, often vicious 1930s attempt to become Hitler's chief academic tribune, and his post-World War II contortions to escape proper judgment for his sins. "We now know," reports Faye, "that [Heidegger's] attempt at self-justification of 1945 is nothing but a string of falsehoods."

The Heidegger exposés, like Annie Leibovitz's tasteless photos of partner Susan Sontag in the latter's final battle against cancer, force even refined, sophisticated observers of intellectuals to gape. See "Professor Being and Time" wear his swastika like a frat pin while meeting German-Jewish philosopher Karl Löwith! Recoil at the hearty "Heil Hitlers" with which Martin closed his missives! Wince as he covertly maneuvers another Jewish colleague or student out of a job with a nasty, duplicitous "recommendation" letter!

Unfortunately, Faye's scrupulously documented study, like Jytte Klausen's controversial The Cartoons That Shook the World, about depictions of Muhammad, lacks the satirical illustrations that might have given it knockdown force. In the case of Heidegger, it may be that only ridicule—not further proof of his sordid 1930s acts—can save us.

To his credit, Faye takes the usually avoided logical step of articulating that goal. He essentially calls on publishers to stop churning out Heidegger volumes as they would sensibly desist from hate speech. Similarly, he hopes librarians will not stock Heidegger's continuing Gesamtausgabe (collected edition), shepherded by the Heidegger family, a project that Faye rightly attacks as sanitized and incomplete.

Even on this side of the Atlantic, one can share Faye's distaste for the flow of reverent Heidegger volumes. In 2006, MIT Press brought us Adam Sharr's Heidegger's Hut, about the philosopher's Black Forest hideaway in Todtnauberg. It began with Simon Sadler asking in a foreword, "Is the hut described in this text the smallest residence ever to merit a monograph? Might it be the most prosaic, too?" A couple of quick yeses would have stopped the project right there. We wouldn't have had to read that while Heidegger's "politics were an abomination," the reader must "concede that any belief in something at Todtnauberg conducive to political crime would be essentialist." Oh, really? Sounds bad. You wouldn't want "essentialism" to make you think Heidegger's mullings at home base for 50 years had any connection to his rancid politics.

MIT, in fact, gifted us that year with a doubleheader, also offering up Heidegger's Topology: Being, Place, World. That came from Jeff Malpas, professor of philosophy at the University of Tasmania, which is about as far away from the camps as you can get. While conceding Heidegger's true-believer behavior, Malpas wrote of "the addresses from the early 1930s in which Heidegger seems to align himself with elements of Nazi ideology," as if there were any doubt. Malpas repeated a falsehood put into play by Heidegger himself after the war, that the philosopher had resigned his rectorship "after having apparently found it increasingly difficult to accommodate himself to the demands of the new regime." For Malpas, "Heidegger's own politics cannot be taken, in itself, to undermine his philosophy in any direct way."

In that respect, Malpas revived an old standard view that Faye seeks to eliminate once and for all. For Faye, new material about Heidegger's 1930s teaching and administrative work turns a crucial point upside-down. While other thinkers, including Löwith and Maurice Blanchot, suggested that Heidegger's Nazism stemmed directly from his philosophy, Faye counters that his philosophy grew out of his Nazism, forcing us to see it as a kind of philosophical propaganda for Nazism in a different key.

Faye's leitmotif throughout is that Heidegger, from his earliest writings, drew on reactionary ideas in early-20th-century Germany to absolutely exalt the state and the Volk over the individual, making Nazism and its Blut und Boden ("Blood and Soil") rhetoric a perfect fit. Heidegger's Nazism, he writes, "is much worse than has so far been known." (Exactly how bad remains unclear because the Heidegger family still restricts access to his private papers.)

Faye pulls no punches: Heidegger "devoted himself to putting philosophy at the service of legitimizing and diffusing the very bases of Nazism," and some of his 1930s texts surpass those of official philosophers of Nazism in "the virulence of their Hitlerism." Lacking any respect for Heidegger as thinker, Faye writes that the philosopher Hannah Arendt so deeply admired "has done nothing but blend the characteristic opacity of his teaching with the darkness of the phenomenon. Far from furthering the progress of thought, Heidegger has helped to conceal the deeply destructive nature of the Hitlerian undertaking by exalting its 'grandeur.'"

Faye agrees that it was possible, even in the wake of Farias's and Ott's work, "with a lot of self-delusion, to separate the man from the work." He asserts it's no longer possible, since scholars can now access "nearly all the courses" that Heidegger taught in the 1930s. According to Faye, "we witness, in the courses and seminars that are ostensibly presented as 'philosophical,' a progressive dissolving of the human being, whose individual worth is expressly denied, into a community of people rooted in the land and united by blood." The unpublished seminar of 1933-34 identifies the people with a "community of biological stock and race. … Thus, through Heidegger's teaching, the racial conceptions of Nazism enter philosophy."

The "reality of Nazism," asserts Faye, inspired Heidegger's works "in their entirety and nourished them at the root level." He provides evidence of Heidegger's "intensity" of commitment to Hitler, his constant use of "the words most operative among the National Socialists," such as "combat" (Kampf), "sacrifice" (Opfer) and völkisch (which Faye states has a strong anti-Semitic connotation). He also cites Heidegger's use of epithets against professors such as the philologist Eduard Fraenkel ("the Jew Fraenkel") and his fervid dislike for "the growing Jewification" that threatens "German spiritual life," mirroring Hitler's discourse in Mein Kampf about "Jewified universities."

For Faye, Heidegger's 1930s Nazi activism came from the heart. Pains takingly providing sources, Faye exhibits Heidegger's devotion to "spreading the eros of the people for their Führer," and the "communal destiny of a people united by blood." We learn of Heidegger's desire to be closer to Hitler in Munich, and his eagerness to lead the Gleichschaltung, or "bringing into line," of the German universities with Nazi ideology. According to several witnesses, Heidegger would show up at class in a brown shirt and salute students with a "Heil Hitler!"

Tellingly, Faye also mines the internal papers of the Munich philosophy faculty, showing that the department's professors considered Heidegger's work "claptrap," and saw him as so politicized that they believed "no philosophy could be offered the students" if he were appointed. They considered appointing Heidegger only because of his well-known status as a professor favored by the Nazis. Synthesizing details with the precision of a Simon Wiesenthal researcher, Faye further undermines Heidegger's later lies that he was not involved with book burning or anti-Semitic legislation, withdrew from active support of the party after he resigned his rectorship, and became rector only to protect the independence of the universities.

"We must acknowledge," Faye says in one fierce conclusion, "that an author who has espoused the foundations of Nazism cannot be considered a philosopher." Finally, he reiterates his opposition to the Heidegger Industry: "If his writings continue to proliferate without our being able to stop this intrusion of Nazism into human education, how can we not expect them to lead to yet another translation into facts and acts, from which this time humanity might not be able to recover?"

Is it superficial to yoke wildly different cultural worlds (Daseins, if you will) together? Might much the same reasoning heard among a few Manhattan TV executives recently about David Letterman—like Heidegger, a would-be touchstone for the authenticity of his Volk—apply as well to the Meister from Messkirch? Well, Heidegger did think that Daseins intersect.

"Only the jokes can do him in," opined one savvy network veteran in the group. All agreed that Letterman would survive or fall at the hands of fellow talk-show hosts and comics torn between instincts to eviscerate and guild solidarity. No sober column by, say, The New York Times's Nicholas Kristof, analogizing Ball State University's most famous alum to a Cambodian brothel owner, would pack the requisite resonance with key audiences.

It would seem that Heidegger, likewise, will continue to flourish until even "Continental" philosophers mock him to the hilt. His influence will end only when they, and the broader world of intellectuals, recognize that scholarly evidence fingers the scowling proprietor of Heidegger's hut as a buffoon produced by German philosophy's mystical tradition. He should be the butt of jokes, not the subject of dissertations.

In the meantime, we can expect Heidegger's Faux Tyrolean Wardrobe and the Specter of Carl Schmitt to roll off a university press before too long, sans cartoons or illustrative plates.

Carlin Romano, critic at large for The Chronicle Review, teaches philosophy and media theory at the University of Pennsylvania.

Comments

1. iaint - October 19, 2009 at 02:20 pm

This is terrible! Romano seems totally ignorant about Heidegger massive influence in continental philosophy, and about how critical much of that philosophy already is of Heidegger! It took Faye's supporters a long time to get this book published in English, because it was rejected by unbiased scholars as the irresponsible hatchet job that it is. (It has been almost universally panned in France.) Faye's book concludes by calling for the criminalization of the teaching of Heidegger -- not exactly a resounding defense of freedom of discussion! (Dare we say, closer to the fascism Faye confidently denounces?!) Faye's book begins, worse, by quoting from my book (Heidegger on Ontotheology: Technology and the Politics of Education), in a totally reductive and misleading way. I'm embarrassed to be mentioned in it. The whole thing is a tissue of mostly already well-known details plus tendentious guilt-by-association attacks. This is the opposite of "meticulous scholarship": by constantly ignoring the context, Faye takes places where Heidegger is criticizing something as if he were instead asserting it in his own voice, again and again. The one bit Romano quotes, that "The unpublished seminar of 1933-34 identifies the people with a 'community of biological stock and race'" is a good example. I can't find that exact line, but if you look at the recently translated book this refers to, Heidegger's Logic as the Question Concerning the Essence of Language, pp. 52-8, Heidegger -- collecting different understandings of the people (Volk), mentions the "racial movement that wants to bring the Volk back to the purity of their racial breed" (p. 53, scary, right?), but then subtly dismisses this way of conceiving of the "people" as "biological" (p. 55), a reduction of human being to the "body" (p. 57). Thus he also dismissed the eugenicist pseudo-science involving "skull measurements" as "a ridiculous effort" (on p. 48) and says that "perhaps citizenship" can be decided on the basis of "descent" but "belongingness to a Volk never" can! (pp. 52-3). Heidegger then proposes (in a move reminiscent of Fichte's speeches to the German nation) that belonging to the Volk is a matter of affirming certain "decisions" -- that is another Nazi buzzword, but if one looks at these decisions, they are clearly attempts to transform Nazism by yoking it to Heidegger's philosophy, rather than the reverse. It is true, as I say in my book, following Derrida, that a certain contamination takes place when one engages in this sort of strategy. It's as if I were to say, during the Bush years: "We must all support the war on terror!" But then I went on to suggest that by "war" I mean polemos, the underlying tension of opposites that shapes our sense of all things, and by "terror" I mean "aidos," the awesome and terrible feeling one has when confronted with a reality too large for the mind to grasp conceptually. Finally, I could say, "on" means that we have to understand the former in terms of the latter.... This is the rhetorical strategy Heidegger generally employs in his Nazi works: appropriating Nazi buzzwords and reinterpreting them in terms of his own philosophy. The goal is to transform Nazism (to change it into something very different than what it was) but the risk is that to a superficial reading (like Faye's) Heidegger just seems to be mouthing Nazi buzzwords, as if he were yoking his philosophy to Nazism, rather than the reverse.

I could go on; the issue is complicated, obviously. I plan to teach this book next semester in my Heidegger course, assuming Faye hasn't succeeded in making such efforts illegal by then!

2. dykino - October 19, 2009 at 03:54 pm

Hmm. Wouldn't disagree about Heidegger's support for Nazism. However, getting rid of Heidegger in twentieth century intellectual life would not be easy. You would have to eliminate half of the courses one finds in college catalogue in the humanities and social sciences. I would say good riddance but very impractical. For example, Richard Rorty's thought is based on Heidegger as well as Nietzsche and Dewey. Get rid of him as well as all postmodern thinkers? Good luck.

3. tcarman - October 19, 2009 at 06:23 pm

It's scandalous that the CHRONICLE could publish this kind of ill-informed and intellectual empty rant. Romano clearly had no idea what he's talking about. And "iaint" is right: Faye's book is a cheap hatchet job. Romano's juvenile performance here is unworthy of a respectable academic journal. The editors should be ashamed.

4. lthurnauer - October 19, 2009 at 10:14 pm

I hope Romano is neither a professor of philosophy nor a student of it and that his profession does not allow him to influence the opportunities that students have to discover various points of view or ideas.

5. maxbini - October 20, 2009 at 01:48 am

Carlin Romano writes like an undergrad convinced by the argument of the last book he has read. And yes he is a professor of philosophy and yes he was a Pulitzer prize finalist but his understanding of philosophy is so paltry it beggar's belief. He seems more concerned with raising controversy than presenting informed opinion.

Why is it that so much of the secondary literature on Heidegger portrays the Nazi issue so superficially? Why is this issue seen as so important that it is supposed to pass as an excuse for naive misrepresentation of philosophical positions?

""We must acknowledge,"Faye says in one fierce conclusion, "that an author who has espoused the foundations of Nazism cannot be considered a philosopher.""

And who can be considered a philosopher? If this is not a Totalitarian comment, then what is?

The Heidegger apologists are also wrong but they are not being deliberately unethical.

What of Plato and his attempts with Dionysus II of Syracuse, Aristotle with Alexander, Seneca with Nero. We also tend to forget Sartre's support of Stalin and then Mao; T.S. Eliot and many other modern poets supporting Facism.

Are all these works to be condemned to the flames? And what will be left?

6. mkeenan1955 - October 20, 2009 at 04:41 am

I agree with maxbini. Romano illustrates that anti-intellectualism prevalent in the US in his diatribe against Heidegger. It's as if he is driven by a Puritanical necessity or obsession to cleanse us (he says somewhere that we need to be saved from the likes of Heidegger). It's like the story "The Emperor has New Clothes"; Romano seems to think he is alerting us to the fact that Heidegger hasn't a stitch on, and we as children must have the shingles removed from our eyes. What a dolt is Romano! And even if he is actually getting a rise out of reading these unsympathetic reactions I have sympathy for him. What a hypocrite he is, too! Only in America can there be such oafishness in academe! And I'm being oafish with these !!!!!!! marks!

7. mzlo1 - October 20, 2009 at 09:16 am

Yes, Romano is a dolt. It is very interesting how such garbage manages to get published. For those interested in another viewpoint see Zygmunt Adamczewski's The Question of Ethics in our Time (with letters from Heidegger)

8. secondattempt - October 20, 2009 at 11:36 am

Thank god you've got the Germans. Who else could you blame otherwise?

9. zdenekv - October 22, 2009 at 02:54 am

Agree with most of Carlin's sentiments. Is he being slightly over the top ? So what. The link between Heidegger's work and his politics (i.e. the idea that his politics is underwritten by his philosophical work etc. ) needs to be made explicit and often because its there and secondly, as Carlin Romano points out, its airbrushed and swept under the carpet. It is a scandal that this rubbish philosopher ( obscure , pretentious , badly argued or not argued at all ) ,who crucially also provides ethics and metaphysics for the Nazis, continues to enjoy the respect he does.

10. gratismonster - October 22, 2009 at 03:19 am

Whether or not Heidegger's philosophy is compromised by his Nazi involvement is a necessary question to ask. Regardless of how they end up answering it, most writers who have tackled this question with some measure of judiciousness acknowledge that the answer to it anything but obvious. How could anyone believe that such a crudely simplistic, sneering rant as Romano's could even begin to do justice to the complexities of this topic? What I find most objectionable about this article is not the blinkered perspective of its philosophically tin-eared author but his almost pathological degree of presumptuousness--and the failure of judgment shown by the editors who chose to publish it.

11. shalomfreedman - October 22, 2009 at 03:29 am

Romano does not mention one key relationship in Heidegger's life where he also played a very non- ethical role. This is his relationship with Hannah Arendt. At one point in his life he ditched her but after the war when he needed rehabilitation he made very good use of her. Their renewed friendship was largely devoted to enabling him to be cleansed of the blame for support of the Nazis. His contemptible behavior was also apparent in his betrayal of his mentor Husserl.
Being immoral and cowardly does not mean one cannot be a great philosopher. I am not qualified to judge Heidegger's work in part because for me it is unreadable.
But certainly the despicable behavior of Heidegger should do something to his ' stature' in the eyes of the world.

12. ramesh1 - October 22, 2009 at 03:37 am

No doubt Heidegger is great philosopher, you can learn some thing new from his books.His doubtful behavour in Nazi era is shameful.More shameful is his last interview which he given on one condition must be published after 12 year of his death.He spoke too much lie in that interview.He did not understand mind of Hitler, he expected too much from Hitler,Hitler disappointed to him.till up to his death he dreamed that some one born and give new meaning to world. He was waiting for GODO, UP TO LAST MOMENT OF HIS LIFE

13. zdenekv - October 22, 2009 at 03:54 am

Carlin Romano is offering an opinion in his review of Faye's new book, at the end of the day, with little bit of argument thrown in. So the idea that he has not 'done justice to the complexities' of the subject is completely wrong headed and silly ( you cannot do justice to a philosopher like Heidegger in an opinion piece like this and that is exactly why Romano is not trying to do that ). Is he being philosophically simplistic in his discussion of faye's criticism of Heidegger or is his perspective muddled or simply in some other way misguided ? I cannot see why because the main claims he makes are spot and the argument he makes works on the whole. No ,what seems to bother most commenters --it would seem to me--is Romano's insinuation that Heidegger is not only a bad person but that he is a shitty philosopher to boot and of course that just will not do, after all who is Romano to say such things about this powerful German philosopher ? Well, but that is not true and its good that some people say so.

14. zdenekv - October 22, 2009 at 04:15 am

Heidegger is not just some philosopher who has important and deep things to say about the world and who also misguidedly ended up supporting the Nazis. That is what most the the Heidegger apologists argue but that view can no longer be maintained because it simply is not true. The truth is ( as Romano points out ) is that Heidegger is a philosopher of Nazism which is a different matter all together . The idea is that Heidegger stands to Nazism the way Kant or Rawls stand to liberalism which means that just like them he provides argument and concepts for Nazi philosophy and hence he helps to flesh it out ; in this sense he is an architect of Nazism. This is not just an accusation of course of Heidegger haters but can be seen by anyone who takes a closer look at his notion of Dasein and his ideas about ethics and authenticity . Some of the picture ( kind of Borg ethics and Borg metaphysics ) can be glimpsed in Heidegger's rectoral address he gave in 1933 which gives some indication of how his philosophy is linked to his politics. The links are there and they are intimate.

15. zdenekv - October 22, 2009 at 05:54 am

iaint : "Heidegger then proposes (in a move reminiscent of Fichte's speeches to the German nation) that belonging to the Volk is a matter of affirming certain "decisions" -- that is another Nazi buzzword, but if one looks at these decisions, they are clearly attempts to transform Nazism by yoking it to Heidegger's philosophy, rather than the reverse."

But this will not work I am afraid. Heidegger's own outlook is *more* conservative, when it comes to this question, than the actual historical Nazism ( for example he is opposed to the Nazis infatuation with technology and he moreover wants to return to some golden heroic age visible in the pre-Socratics )and so to yoke Nazism to his own philosophy does nothing as far as the question Romano is discussing and in fact may help to make Romano's point ( ie concede Romano's point ). That is, since Heidegger wants to transform Nazism into something more conservative ( and something disconnected from modernity and cartesian metaphysics and remnants of humanism which pollute it ) his project is *more Nazi* ( his is purer form of Nazism ) than the historical Nazism itself. The point is that Romano will be perfectly happy with this formulation of what Heidegger is up to and in fact it only strengthens his criticism of Heidegger.

16. artifish - October 22, 2009 at 06:42 am

This piece is reminiscent of watching a great Shire horse being pestered by a gnat. No one denies the disgusting spectacle of Heidegger's flirtation with Nazism. For an estimate of Romano's seriousness as a commentator I refer you to Brian Leite who asks: "...is there any other field in which the Chronicle of Higher Education--a generally high quality and admirable publication--employs as a commentator someone who is so demonstrably ... incompetent, who lacks even an intellectual tourist's knowledge of the field? I sincerely hope not". See:
http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2007/09/carlin-romano-t.html

17. zdenekv - October 22, 2009 at 07:15 am

" No one denies the disgusting spectacle of Heidegger's flirtation with Nazism."

Well no , Romano is making much stronger and a much more interesting claim viz. that Heidegger is a theorist of Nazism. To say that he 'flirted' with the stuff is typical from the apology of Heidegger ( shame poor Heidegger is being unfairly criticized for flirting with nazism but that is not charitable and it is mean because we are all weak etc ) Romano is criticizing. To say that H flirted with Nazism is misleading because it assumes ,falsely, that there are no strong links between his philosophical work and his political views . But that view is discredited and Romano is merely pointing this fact out and he is right to do so.

As to your other suggestion involving what Brian Leiter thinks , please try harder if you want to criticize Romano's position.

18. zdenekv - October 22, 2009 at 07:48 am

The Heideggerians have always been keen to defend their master by drawing a sharp distinction between his philosophical work and his politics and in this way they can make the following defensive move : "you are confusing two different things and hence are guilty of a type of category mistake or at least are not thinking clearly : you are confusing questions of philosophical merit which has to do with things like whether what the philosopher says is true , plausible , valid , sound , novel et. with questions that have to do with whether he was a good , wise and sensible person. But these are two different questions and therefore ( this is the key move ) it is simply confused to think that you can show that Heidegger's philosophical work has no philosophical merit by showing that he was misguided in his political judgments."

But this classic attempt to get H off the hook doesnt stand up because the argument falsely assumes that there are no connections between H's philosophy and his politics. But that assumption is false and once this point is made the critic of Heidegger ( Romano is making similar point I think ) can make the following two points : a) since there is an intimate internal connection between H's work and his Nazism, Heidegger's politics is a reductio of his philosophy or at least parts of it , and b) since there are intimate connections between H philosophy and his politics his philosophy constitutes a philosophical rationalization of Nazism.

19. meshabob - October 22, 2009 at 09:57 am

Colin Romano has a lot of chutzpah to be ranting about a degraded intelligentsia considering all the Islamophobic filth he has unleashed upon this newspaper's readers over the years.

20. exister - October 22, 2009 at 10:03 am

I agree with most readers that Romano's column is ignorant and silly. Yes, there is a connection between some of Heidegger's philosophical views and his Nazi politics, and that is troubling indeed. But it's something to THINK about, not an excuse to throw away his books. If Heidegger's writings were all just veiled Nazism, as Faye claims, then maybe reading them would be a waste of time; but that interpretation requires a degree of paranoia that is untenable. If Romano had bothered to keep up with publications by and about Heidegger, he would know that by the late 1930s, Heidegger was criticizing Nazi ideology fiercely in his private texts -- and even in 1934, while still rector, he delivered a public denunciation of the biological-racist interpretation of National Socialism. No, this doesn't get him "off the hook" -- we still need to think critically about his ideas and behavior -- but it does mean that thoughtless caricatures like Romano's won't hold water.

If you won't even read philosophers who have any illiberal or tyrannical sympathies, then don't read Plato (for obvious reasons), Aristotle (who thought that some people, and maybe all non-Greeks, were natural slaves), Aquinas (read his theories on serfs), Kant (who envisioned "the euthanasia of Judaism"), Marx (obviously), Nietzsche (obviously again), Sartre (fan of the USSR and Mao), Foucault (who was thrilled by the Iranian Revolution), etc., etc. If you confine yourself to reading philosophers who are morally and politically impeccable in their lives and ideas, and who you won't have any serious disagreements with ... that's nice for you, but don't call yourself an intellectual.

21. oldgus2 - October 22, 2009 at 10:33 am

Heidegger was an opportunist, a political suckup, and a slimey little man. But as a philosopher, he had much to say--mixed together with no little dreck--which is challenging. Kissing anyone's ass in public, whether Heidegger's or Hitler's is, though not demeaning to the jester, is demeaning to the critical intellectual.

22. auto23 - October 22, 2009 at 10:53 am

Wow -- all these apologists for Heidegger. As if his links to Nazism are just a youthful indiscretion sophisticated people know enough to ignore.

Reading Heidegger nowadays ought to be like reading Lenin. Given his role to create a framework for mass murder, totalitarianism and crimes against humanity more generally (all of which Stalin realized/perfected), no one takes Leninism seriously as philosophical/political work meriting attention independent of what Leninism achieved in practice. Instead, we read Lenin as part of the history of Marxist thought.

Heidegger's no different. He's a major figure in 20th century German philosophy but one in which his ties to Nazism are central. So let's teach him as someone who was nothing more than Hitler's classiest convert.

Which might be an interesting endeavor.

But for those here who regard his ties to Nazism as a minor complication to an otherwise honorable thinker -- that's appalling.

23. dank48 - October 22, 2009 at 11:03 am

I wish I'd done something half so significant lately as Carlin Romano has with this piece. To be attacked so virulently (and ungrammatically, unorthographically, and even sometimes incoherently) by people defending a Nazi is no small distinction.

Of course by now we've all had to face the unpleasant and disturbing fact that there were Nazis and there were Nazis. To take a few examples that come to mind, Rommel, Stauffenberg, and Schindler were all Nazis; so was Heidegger. The first three should not have to share a sentence with the fourth.

It's amazing to me that so many people can take this "aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?" attitude toward Heidegger. Exactly what could he possibly have done that wouldn't be excused? I'd rather try to defend Roman Polanski.

24. mikerol - October 22, 2009 at 11:10 am

Much as I detest much about Heidegger's irrationalism it's going to take more than cheap diatribes of Romano's kind to slay the beast of the black forest!

http://handke-nobel.scriptmania.com/

25. reglilly - October 22, 2009 at 11:18 am

If this is the way that Mr. Romano, JD, makes arguments, one wonders if he wasn't driven by failure from the practice of law, and it's depressing that such degraded reasoning has found a place in academia, including the pages of the Chronicle of Higher Education which one would hope would preserve some practical distinction between a ranting screed and a thoughtful review. The CHE should be ashamed at its transparent plunge into yellow journalism of the most tedious sort.

26. pherzen - October 22, 2009 at 11:18 am

Some of these comments are hilarious. During my own modest philosophical education, my professors regularly trotted out their cherished "logical fallacies" - the Ad Hominem being central among them. Lectures on Heidegger were always prefaced with a passing mention of his Nazi links before moving on to his earth-shaking insights. Academic philosophers sure love hoarding their expertise on this barely coherent, prolix writer. Ever been stuck chatting with someone attempting to introduce a tiny mortal to his writings? "He had to create a new way of speaking," they invariably claim. Yeah, well so did Dr. Seuss (an incorrigible Nazi hater, incidentally). Both writers are laughably absurd, but for different reasons. Modern philosophy appears to be sinking ever deeper into its navel-gazing irrelevance. Allow an outsider his humble and doubtless erroneous opinion: Heidegger was a twit, as are those who would choke us with his drivel.

27. philrels108 - October 22, 2009 at 11:20 am

For a discussion of Heidegger's Nazism by someone who actually knows something about Heidegger, interested parties might want to see Thomas Sheehan's "Heidegger and the Nazis", a review of Victor Farias' *Heidegger et le Nazisme* (mentioned above) in the New York Review of Books (Vol. 35, no. 10, June 16, 1988, pp. 38-47) or his "A Normal Nazi" (NYRB, Vol. 40, Number 1 & 2 · January 14, 1993, pp. 30-5).

28. myemotan - October 22, 2009 at 11:45 am

Lightweight Review: A Pop Intellectual Falls for Censorship or Book Banning
Neither Romano's visceral diatribe nor Faye's polemic adds any "new material" to illuminate Heidegger's Nazi connection or Heidegger's Nazism. At best, Faye's 2005 tome (Heidegger, L'introduction Du Nazisme Dans La Philosophie: Autour Des Seminaires Inedits De 1933-1935) and Romano's Lilliputian review only add to the Heideggerphobic literature that reduces Heidegger's work to just "hate speech." Romano and Faye urge publishers "to stop" publishing Heidegger and "librarians" to stop stocking Heidegger's "collected edition" so as "to stop this intrusion of Nazism into human education." Heidegger's Nazism or Heidgger's Nazi connection should not escape serious or legitimate review but such critique should heed Alexander Pope's "Essay on Criticism": "A little learning is a dangerous thing/Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring/There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain/And drinking largely sobers us again." Papa Pope can benefit Pop Carlin. Carlin, demonstrate the wit of the other Carlin: George Carlin. (Dr. Okhamafe)

29. jfg123 - October 22, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Had Heidegger discovered an new chemical element or proved a new theorem in math, I assume the author would ask us to disregard this work.

30. bevaconme - October 22, 2009 at 12:23 pm

the substance of any argument is in inverse proportion to the number of exclamations marks used in expressing it.

31. laoshi - October 22, 2009 at 12:46 pm

Karl Marx was a whackjob, too, yet we have whole departments influenced by his lunacy.

32. _perplexed_ - October 22, 2009 at 12:57 pm

Much nonsense of all sorts has found its way into CHE, but I can't recall any reaction quite like this. Why not merely disagree with Mr. Romano and express the basis for that disagreement? Why damn him and CHE editors? There is something very strange about the "defense" of Heidegger among quite a few of these comments; and I have a hard time not being quite suspicious about the motives and beliefs of the "defenders".

33. zdenekv - October 22, 2009 at 01:41 pm

exister # 20 : "If you won't even read philosophers who have any illiberal or tyrannical sympathies, then don't read Plato..."

That is not the argument. The idea is not that Heidegger just had sympathies with Nazism or that he joined the party. While this calls into question his political judgement it does absolutely nothing --on its own-- to show that his philosophy must be tainted. As I pointed out the claim people like Ott ,Wollin , Farias , Faye and Romano are making is stronger ( actually we seem to have two claims ) : Heidegger is a Nazi theorist and stands to Nazism the way for example John Rawls stands to liberalism i.e. he is its architect and the second claim turns this relationship between H's philosophy and his politics around and says that H's philosophy is rooted in his Nazism and hence is a type of propaganda for Nazism.

Does this make any difference ? Yes it does because Romano is not making the absurd claim that Heidegger's work should not be read because Heidegger was sympathetic to Nazism ; that is not the claim. The argument rather is roughly : because Heidegger's work is rooted in his Nazism its not real philosophy but rather a type of agitprop which poses as philosophy, but it is no such thing. This is what compromises it and this is why it should not be treated seriously. I suppose the idea is that H's philosophy is like the recent incarnation of creationism which tries to present theistic account of origin of life as science. But just like H's Nazi propaganda which is not real philosophy so similarly creationism is not real science.



34. minnesotan - October 22, 2009 at 01:59 pm

This is just another case of bad academics trying to bury an idea or thinker they feel is politically incorrect. What is so scary about confronting viewpoints you disagree with? These need to be taught, too, and without bias!

Lazy thinkers. Fearful little ideologues. These are the people who go into academics in order to censor and shun, to control the rich world of ideas we emerged from and will fade back into.

35. gray1 - October 22, 2009 at 02:03 pm

This must be the most infuriatingly stupid thing I have read in weeks. When will the Chronicle stop publishing Carlin Romano's pathetic, feeble-minded, sophomoric blather? This article is an embarrassment to a frequently respectable publication.

36. alleyoxenfree - October 22, 2009 at 02:16 pm

"Real" philosophy? Will there be a tribunal to determine that next?

"I have a hard time not being quite suspicious about the motives and beliefs of the "defenders". (?)

In addition to the bad punctuation, what an astonishing range of ad hominem attacks in defense of Romano's ad hominem attack - while actual scholars offer reasoned and detailed views against the ad hominems. This was bad publishing - except as it might sell papers and that's what inflammatory rhetoric does. Whip up the populace. Sounds oddly familiar, like it's the '30's all over again. Off with their heads! Cleanse our libraries!

37. deess - October 22, 2009 at 02:19 pm

Good job Chronicle Editors. Let's do more to marginalize the intellectual value of the publication. Let us condemn Karl Marx for being a communist and Adam Smith for advocating genocide against the poor.

Perhaps we can whittle down the intellectual elite to a group so small as to be hardly worth the saving.

38. lester_hunt - October 22, 2009 at 02:34 pm

I am amazed at the hatred Romano's essay inspires among Heideggerophiles. Good heavens! You'd think this was The Daily Kos.

39. cokinos - October 22, 2009 at 02:47 pm

Iaint writes, "The goal is to transform Nazism (to change it into something very different than what it

40. srugare - October 22, 2009 at 02:53 pm

If we've learned anything in the last 25 years, it's that the French academy rewards almost anything provocative and over-the-top, and I'd say that Faye's book fits into that category. Back when I was interested in Heidegger (many years ago now when some of those earlier books on his politics came out), it seemed obvious to me that,like many German artists and intellectuals, he managed to convince himself that Nazi slogans were aiming at something like his own ideas. He was more than OK with that, since he certainly didn't have a liberal or democratic bone in his body. His effort at riding the Nazi wave was indeed immoral and cynical, but that's a far cry from saying that he was somehow an intellectual foundation of Nazism, if only because that would imply that Nazism had a coherent intellectual foundation. Heidegger's rightist tendencies are very real, but simply quarantining under the heading of Nazism blinds us to how pervasive that kind of thinking was in early 20th century thought. I can't see how the approach Romano advocates is going to help us understand either Heidegger's influence or 20th century intellectual history.

41. zdenekv - October 22, 2009 at 02:54 pm

#36 :""Real" philosophy? Will there be a tribunal to determine that next?"

Well, do we need a tribunal to decide ( or to make a persuasive case ) that Nazi sociology is not real sociology or that Lysenkoism is not real biology or that creation science is not real science ? Of course not and the same applies to Heidegger's stuff ; I dont see why not in the light of the fact that he does not really argue for his claims, makes stipulative, question-begging definitions all over the place , deliberately distorts the Pre-Socratics he reads and of course introduces unintelligible jargon to hide emptiness and poverty of some of his central claims re being. Add to this intellectual disaster, Heidegger groupies wish to call his philosophy, the possibility that Faye's take is correct and it seems hard to resist the conclusion that Heidegger's work is indeed a type of bullshit, because it is not really an inquiry into anything.

42. alleyoxenfree - October 22, 2009 at 02:56 pm

tribunals!
unintelligible jargon
intellectual disaster
groupies
bullsh*t

does not really argue for his claims.

43. aldebaran - October 22, 2009 at 03:09 pm

zdenekev,

Bravo. You've certainly idenfified the major features of the Heidegger virus, one that has infected French thought ever since, and which culminated in the intellectual fraud that was Jacques Derrida.

Alleyoxenfree: No one here really has the time and space here to develop arguments to your satisfaction; sorry about that.

If these assertions really bother you, however, then why don't you show, with extensive and well-developed arguments, why, for instance, Heidegger did *not* fill his writings with unintelligible jargon, or confuse assertion with argument? In other words, prove wrong those of us who feel otherwise. Oh, what's that, you say? You don't have the time or space to develop such an explanation? Well, that's OK, then, in *your* case--just not in anybody else's.

44. zdenekv - October 22, 2009 at 03:09 pm

# 40 :

"His effort at riding the Nazi wave was indeed immoral and cynical, but that's a far cry from saying that he was somehow an intellectual foundation of Nazism, if only because that would imply that Nazism had a coherent intellectual foundation."

I disagree. Take a look at just his rectoral address ( available on line ) which is relatively accessible to see that the main claims about the nature of the German university and its Nazi mission is based on his version of Kant's moral theory which he distorts by completely stripping it of what is characteristic of Kants moral thought viz.the idea that moral claims are universal because they involve the categorical imperative. What Heidegger is doing is fleshing out , he is providing a foundation , an argument a justification etc. for Nazism just like John Rawls does for liberalism. Heidegger is in other words Nazi theorist just like Ralws ( or Kant or Mill )is a liberal theorist.

45. jmonroe6400 - October 22, 2009 at 03:16 pm

I am fascinated by how people can conflate defense of Heiddeger's status as a philosopher with "hatred", or passive-aggressively conflate such defense as "defense of a nazi."

If anyone wonders why a witless diatribe like Romano's provokes such a sharp response it is because the fault lines here are genuine. There are many people who would like the way opened to "refute" intellectual adversaries using the kind of moral attitudinizing that Romano's diatribe demonstrates, and which others defend as a philosophical position. Rather than continue the long debate, they want to silence the other side (without admitting it, of course).

46. cokinos - October 22, 2009 at 03:46 pm

Hello,

My comment was cut off by mistake. I wrote that Iaint writes, "The goal is to transform Nazism (to change it into something very different than what it was)." Transform Nazism into what? If it's so transformed, then what is it? I find the nuances of Iaint's logic interesting but not very convincing. Perhaps we can see Heidegger as philosophy's counterpart to von Braun.

47. furst - October 22, 2009 at 03:56 pm

This very shallow lambast reminds me of another: http://www.tnr.com/article/books/the-deadly-jester

Both pieces smack of disingenuous opportunism to me.

48. jmonroe6400 - October 22, 2009 at 03:58 pm

Incidentally, the negative reaction to Romano's article need have nothing to do with the content of H's thought. Most of the people writing here object first and foremost to the intellectual laziness and almost comical ignorance betrayed in the article -- Which was not the result of Romano writing in shorthand: in one paragraph, comment number 44 manages to say more of substance than Romano did; Romano had adequate space but he preferred to use the space for hyperbole. What he lacked was something of substance to write, and he covered that by substituting ridicule and indignation where arguments should have been. Ridicule and mobilization of indignation are not the tools of intelligent discourse: their only purpose is to bring discourse to an end.

The conclusion that is being advanced against Romano's article is not that H was great, or that his philosophy was great, but that Romano's article was an embarrassment. If some people have expressed this thought angrily, I imagine they have good reasons: 1) The world of ideas that they have taken seriously is being ridiculed, and 2) Assertions that have offended their reason have also offended their honor by implying that they defend Nazism.

49. philippe - October 22, 2009 at 04:05 pm

Although I've studied some philosophy, I am by no means a philosopher, so perhaps some of the commentators who are might be able to comment on this thought. It seems to me that Heidegger's relationship to Naziism is that of a very conservative, perhaps even political reactionary, who saw Naziism arise at a time when his own thoughts had matured to a great extent. That is, rather than being an architect of that philosophy or belief system, he found many points of agreement, and became in a way a supporter, if not a true believer. Contrast this to Gentile, who was in many ways a founder of Fascism. Indeed, he wrote most of the article on Fascism in the Enciclopedia Italiana, although it was signed by Mussolini. That article, incidentally, is probably the best philosophical description of Fascism, quite concise and well constructed, in contrast to what is considered to be the foundation of Naziism, Hitler's voluminous "Mein Kampf." For good or bad, people still read and comment on Heidegger, but very few read and comment on Gentile, who wrote on many topics other than Fascism.

50. bphil - October 22, 2009 at 05:23 pm

I'm a reader of Heidegger, and I teach Heidegger in seminars sometimes entirely devoted to his work (either Being and Time or a few of the later essays). I do not understand Heidegger as a "master," and I would not qualify as a "groupie" in a million years. Having thus disarmed the ad hominem nonsense that passes for critique in some of the above, I will register my agreement with those who find Romano's article to be unbearably sophomoric and badly argued. In fact, it is without doubt one of the worst things I have ever read on Heidegger, at least among things written by someone over eighteen (assuming that Romano is indeed over eighteen). And clearly it does not do the Chronicle any good to publish this garbage.

Romano's defenders above need not have read the book, nor did they need anything more than Romano's ludicrous article to launch into what are now well-worn, tired, and entirely partisan attacks on Heidegger's thought. Nothing new here but the occasion to once again haul out the tedious whining about how Heidegger's whole philosophy is derived from Nazism. Anyone who knows Heidegger's work knows that this is a complicated claim, which explains why Romano flounders in trying to explain it, and then turns to ridicule, of all things, as if we can take as axiomatic that his philosophical insights are bunk and so the Nazism is reason to ignore it. Am I defending Heidegger here? Certainly not. His Nazism is indefensible. But again, we already knew that. As to whether his philosophy is rooted in Nazism, this is demonstrably false and Romano himself fails to argue coherently for this, first asserting that it does, and then quoting the book as saying "through Heidegger's teaching, the racial conceptions of Nazism enter philosophy." What a stupid mess this article is.

The real issue here is that someone is afraid of philosophy. Question the centrality of human being, claim that "man" is not the starting point of reflection on what is, submit the ethical to the ontological, question the "self" or morality or think differently about the world and community than the pedestrian heroes of the stultifying Anglo-American academy, and you're a dangerous cretin. Heidegger gets ridicule in this article. Derrida got it last time around. Let's see how Romano misreads, mocks, and otherwise makes hash out of Foucault, Deleuze, and some contemporary thinkers Romano (and his defenders here) can't begin to understand or appreciate. But consider this a plea to the chronicle to avoid publishing it.

51. theostudent - October 22, 2009 at 06:15 pm

Is it just me, or does the Chronicle only publish ridiculously sensational things these days? Yikes!

52. tiotom - October 22, 2009 at 06:39 pm

Romano might want to consider that Being and Time was published in 1927. Heidegger had been working on the ideas found in that book for almost a decade. During this time, Hitler was still hanging around beerhalls boring everyone but a few malicious thugs in the corner. From Romano's article, it is clear that neither he nor Faye have ever bothered to work their way through Heidegger's masterpiece. No one doubts that Heidegger was deeply attracted to the weird metaphysical side of Nazism, and that he was capable of deception and disloyalty. Moreover, Heidegger indulged himself in "windy mysticism" in more than one of his numerous texts. But the connections, if any, between his moral failings and his astonishing philosophical achievements is not a cause to burn his books. It is, rather, one of the more interesting enigmas in the history of twentieth century philosophy.

53. nickweir - October 22, 2009 at 06:55 pm

Heidegger's kitsch about peasants and their shoes is hilarious when you find out, as Heidegger himself did not, that the van Gogh painting he's talking about is not actually of any peasant's shoes. They're van Gogh's own shoes. So even if he'd said something beyond the usual guff, at its core there's nothing, an absence where these authentic and pure peasant's shoes should be.

54. rsknapp3370 - October 22, 2009 at 07:09 pm

I'm not sure how "Zein und zeit" provides a philosphical underpinning for "nazi-ism" (whatever that is). Especially considering the facts in "tiotom"'s posting.
I suggest we discredit Newtonian physics because Newton subsequently devoted his life to mysticism and alchemy.
Considering that attempting to read H's works can drive many people crazy, it is not surprising that the author himself became insane.
The unintelligibility of the works, IMHO, places him in the same category as Nostradamus - one can find whatever one is looking for in them.

55. fortunato92 - October 23, 2009 at 01:33 am

Let's see...liberal academics admire and make excuses for the mass murderers Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Che, Castro, still push the failed theories of Marx on bored undergrads, and you wonder why they dismiss Heidegger's Nazism and do the true believer tap dance to the tune of his philosophy? Go spend a couple of years living among the scowling Schwabians of the Schwarzwald and you'll understand Heidegger far better than any so-called insight you'll get from the state-supported, Dasein deluded prof in the seminar room.

56. zdenekv - October 23, 2009 at 02:55 am

#50 :

"Nothing new here but the occasion to once again haul out the tedious whining about how Heidegger's whole philosophy is derived from Nazism. Anyone who knows Heidegger's work knows that this is a complicated claim..."

Of course its a complicated claim and Romano does not deny that. The question is whether the claim is true and as far as I can see instead of showing ( or at least hinting ) how a refutation of Romano's claim would go you resort to ad hominem insults. Why is that ? Romano is glossing Faye's ideas on this topic ( he is a messenger really ) so should you not give some indication why Faye in your opinion is wrong ?

"Romano flounders in trying to explain it, and then turns to ridicule, of all things, as if we can take as axiomatic that his philosophical insights are bunk and so the Nazism is reason to ignore it."

Well, not axiomatic but Romano is only echoing a very longstanding & widespread view in Anglo-American philosophy which says that Heidegger's work is indeed rubbish . This goes back as far as Russell and has been the received view in analytic philosophy ever since( for the latest version of this assessment see Simon Blackburn who is one of the leaders in phil. of mind and language ) . Of course this view may be wrong ( I dont think that it is wrong but that is beside the point ) but that is not the issue . The issue is that Romano's view about the merits of Heidegger's philosophy is not off the wall at all and that it reflects a received view in analytic phil. and that is why he does not have to defend it in any elaborate way, especially given the fact that his piece is an opinion / review .

57. zdenekv - October 23, 2009 at 03:50 am

#50 : "As to whether his philosophy is rooted in Nazism, this is demonstrably false and Romano himself fails to argue coherently for this, first asserting that it does, and then quoting the book as saying "through Heidegger's teaching, the racial conceptions of Nazism enter philosophy." What a stupid mess this article is. "

First of all, the first part is a mere assertion and not an argument, which is of course needed, since the burden of proof has been shifted to people who deny the claim in question ( that H' phil is rooted in his Nazism ). That is , Romano has made an argument based on Faye's research to the effect that H's philosophy is rooted in his Nazism. To show that Romano is wrong in holding this view it is not enough to simply claim that H's phil is not rooted in his political views because that is simply question begging.

But second, is Romano being incoherent in glossing Faye's claim about the H' relationship to Nazism ( as you suggest )? I cannot see why because he is saying that through Heidegger's Nazi teaching, stuff which is not really philosophy, but rather a type of propaganda ( Romano makes this point a bit earlier ), Nazism enters philosophy because Heidegger dresses it up as philosophy in his public teaching and in this sense Nazism underwrites his philosophy. In other words what Romano is perfectly consistently saying is that Nazism is the sort of motivator for H's philosophy and hence his philosophy is rooted in Nazism ( The metaphor just makes the point that H's Nazism is both prior and shapes H' philosophy ). True, the point might have been made a bit more perspicuously but there is no incoherence, as far as I can see, in what Romano is saying at this point.

58. zdenekv - October 23, 2009 at 05:11 am

#50 : "The real issue here is that someone is afraid of philosophy. Question the centrality of human being, claim that "man" is not the starting point of reflection on what is, submit the ethical to the ontological, question the "self" or morality or think differently about the world and community than the pedestrian heroes of the stultifying Anglo-American academy, and you're a dangerous cretin. ."

I think this is a red herring because people's problem with Heidegger has nothing to do with the questions he asks and everything to do with his approach to doing philosophy which is unconcerned with stuff like trying to be intelligible ( he actually says stupid stuff like that “Making itself intelligible is suicide for philosophy.” ) , making arguments to back up claims and proposals, reading people you criticize with charity and so on. Put these things together and its easy to see that H's approach involves a type of dogmatic, a prioristic , armchair speculation that is hard to treat as philosophy. And his later work is even worse in this respect. This is the issue and not the questions he asks.

59. zdenekv - October 23, 2009 at 05:59 am

#50 ; ", submit the ethical to the ontological, question the "self" or morality or think differently about the world and community.."

Not at all, its Heidegger's moral vision that is the problem because the ethics Heidegger is putting forward in Being & Time treats the tradition and the Volk as the defining moral horizon against which action must be tested and so it is a type of chauvinist morality. It is a kind of perverted Kant ( also clearly visible in the rectoral address ) because Heidegger accepts Kant's idea that autonomous action involves laying down a law that can be universalized, which for Kant means that it can be applied to or embraced by by all human beings irrespective of race or gender or nationality . But Heidegger drops this universal component of Kant's theory and substitutes it with a demand that the legislated rules apply to his people , culture or his Volk only ; this is chauvinist ethics that in my opinion underwrite Nazism and it is easy to see how mass murder or genocide can easily be rationalized by this type of moral outlook. The problem is this criminal outlook and not the question H asks.

60. dankammeyer - October 23, 2009 at 06:02 am

I'm not a "professional" philosopher as, I assume, most of you are. Nonetheless, I found the Romano Article-Review and the ensuing Comments to be fascinating, in the same way that a no-holds-barred back-alley brawl might be fascinating. Is this the way philosophers argue important issues these days, armed to the teeth with corrosive name-calling and shorn of all sense of civilized discourse? If so, by comparison you make Glen Beck and Keith Obermann look like gentlemen and scholars. We should all heed the words of that great philosopher-king Richard Nixon: "When the issues get hot, keep the rhetoric cool."

61. psindk - October 23, 2009 at 06:08 am

Romano doesn't tell us anything new here (Heidegger was a full-throated Nazi and a bigot whose colleagues didn't much care for his work. We all know that.) Nor does he cite a single reason why we should regard a work like Sein und Zeit as having anything Nazist (or even particularly nationalistic) about it. Of course, it's open to others to make that case, and perhaps they can. But frankly I suspect that here, at least, the "Heidegger was a Nazi and therefore deserves nothing but mockery" is just a figleaf. The dismissive remarks about Heidegger's contribution to ontology at the beginning and the use of scare quotes around the word continental at the end give the game away: this is really just good ol' fashioned continental phenomenology-bashing. It's the old "so much bad poetry" slur dressed up as political critique. That's about the only way I can make sense of Romano's dismissal of Heidegger's contribution to 20th century philosophy: it only makes sense if you disregard the entire post-Heideggerian tradition (including Sartre and Levinas, both imprisoned by the Nazis - Levinas, admittedly, later said "It is difficult to forgive Heidegger" for his Nazism).

Also the snide remark about Jeff Malpas - that Tasmania is 'about as far from the camps as you can get' - is gratuitous and unhelpful at best. It seems somewhat strange and frankly a little offensive to dismiss one of Australia's most well-regarded philosophers on the basis that Hobart is geographically distant from Auschwitz.

62. myemotan - October 23, 2009 at 06:16 am

[The Story of Statistics 101] 58 Comments So Far
What do Comments 9, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 33, 41, 44, 56, 57, and 58 have in common?

63. bphil - October 23, 2009 at 07:46 am

Zdenekv does seem to be skewing the results.

First, the "received view" that Heidegger's work is bad is what underlies all of this, and Zdenekv would prefer an elaborate defense of both the inherent value of Heidegger's oeuvre AND of the claim that Heidegger's philosophy preceded his Nazism (only to be wrenched into conformity with it later on)...in the comments section of the Chronicle. He even pulls out the "Critical Thinking 101" bag of tricks to counter my own gestures toward critical thinking, all the while holding fast to a blatant argumentum ad populum that is, again, at the heart of this dispute. This is most certainly an exercise in philosphical bullying, with Romano leading the charge.

The ridicule that Romano argues for (and this is HIS pathetic contribution, as I do not understand Faye's book to be calling for childish ridicule) is premised on Romano's obvious inability or unwillingness to engage with even the most elementary thinking in Being and Time (Dasein as "Yeti"? PuhLeeeez). And Zdenekv's repeated allusions to Heidegger's "volk" as somehow rooted in Nazism bends both Heidegger's thought AND the laws of time. But if we ignore the Anglo-American academy's dyspeptic rejection of Heidegger (we can fondly recall early attempts to put Being and Time into logical form. Failing that, Being and Time was therefore nonsense) and read the work on its own terms, we learn a lot. It's not even unreadable. Indeed, it's extraordinarily clear and, dare I say, concrete. But like all good philosophy, it has to be read carefully.

64. zdenekv - October 23, 2009 at 09:09 am

#63: "And Zdenekv's repeated allusions to Heidegger's "volk" as somehow rooted in Nazism bends both Heidegger's thought..."

Well no, not just volk. As I pointed out we have fate , community , tradition and volk and it is these that define the moral horizon of Heidegger's moral vision. As I point out its Nazi stuff because its underpinned by stripped down Kant and that turns this outlook into morality of chauvinism : what ever my culture lays down as a norm or a becomes the supreme law (it needs emphasizing that the authentic choice is restricted by type of fate which guides the history of the community I have to embed myself in ).It should be easy to see why this is so and why any kind of atrocity can be justified by this criminal outlook.

"He even pulls out the "Critical Thinking 101" bag of tricks to counter my own gestures toward critical thinking, all the while holding fast to a blatant argumentum ad populum that is, again, at the heart of this dispute."

Sorry, but this is a misunderstanding of what I was saying. The argument was not that Heidegger is rubbish because most philosophers in Anglo-American tradition think so. What I said was that Romano's position is not off the wall, because he is just echoing what the received view in phil. about H is . My point was merely to block the argument which said ( I think you said something like that ) that Romano's view is based on ignorance with an insinuation that nobody in their right mind would ever think anything like that. To *that* I replied that Romano's view is held by many distinguished philosophers and hence it is silly to dismiss it as off the wall.

65. zdenekv - October 23, 2009 at 09:45 am

Anyway, even if Heidegger was not providing nuts and bolts for Nazism his phenomenological exploration of subjectivity ,if it is done so that subject / object is preserved, leads nowhere because nothing follows from the fact that something seems to be so about whether it is so and secondly, most mental phenomena have logical dimension that cannot be captured this way ( see for example something as simple as promising which cannot be made sense of from this point of view ).Of course one might try to go the Heideggerian 'ontological' road in the sense that you can say well I am going to jettison subject / object distinction in my explorations of the subjective dimension but this seems incoherent and impossible to carry out ; It is just a kind of gimmick that cannot be taken seriously.

To see this consider that the approach cannot make sense of ordinary activities like playing tennis and so it is hard to see how morality could be made sense of : Hubert Dreyfus ( Heideggerian ) describes tennis playing as 'skillful coping' which --a la Heidegger-- he wants to capture without object / subject distinction from this 'ontological' perspective , but as has been pointed out by a number of people, the Heideggerian story describes a a deaf mute tennis player who also seems to be suffering some kind of brain damage that prevents him from having any overall sense of the game.

We in other words do not play tennis like that.The problem with Dreyfus's example and Heidegger's similar example of carpentry , is not that they are false but rather that they are irrelevant, because they fail to capture the level at which tennis players, as well as carpenters, are consciously trying to do something when they engage in the so called "skillful coping" or primordial awareness.And of course if you cannot make sense of tennis, as it is played by human beings, there seems to be even less of a chance that'exploration of subjective architecture ' will shed any light on what is involved in humans making moral judgments , moral reasoning , following moral rules , solving moral problems , distinguishing moral from non- moral normativity and so on; as I said the point here is not that such subjective exploration is false but rather that it is irrelevant. In other words even if we for the moment ignore the Nazi dimension and forget the jargon, the work leads nowhere.

66. aldebaran - October 23, 2009 at 10:15 am

bphil wties:

"Having thus disarmed the ad hominem nonsense that passes for critique in some of the above [...]."

And then writes,

"Let's see how Romano misreads, mocks, and otherwise makes hash out of Foucault, Deleuze, and some contemporary thinkers Romano (and his defenders here) can't begin to understand or appreciate."

Ah, hypocrisy, got to love it! Ad hominem attacks are fine, it seems, so long as bphil and others of his ilk are the ones making them.

I would add that it is a standard, cheap, and unconvincing feint of gibberish-defenders to impugn the intellectual abilities of those who fail to see and acknowledge the Emperor's new clothes. This was a favored, desperate tactic of Derrida in his later years. Michel Foucault was himself hardly a model of clarity or intellectual rigor, but when he termed Derrida's style "terrorist obscurantism", he was dead right. The term applies equally well to Derrida's stylistic model, Heidegger.

Also, just to be clear, I dislike very much the tone of Romano's article, and I think that mounting an attack on Heidegger's philosophy because of his Nazism is both silly and unnecessary. It's quite sufficient to attack it on the other grounds that zdenekv has mentioned, and that I refer to in post # 43, above: Terrorist obscurantism, confusion of assertion and argument, etc.

67. quickben - October 23, 2009 at 10:36 am

"The problem with Dreyfus's example and Heidegger's similar example of carpentry , is not that they are false but rather that they are irrelevant, because they fail to capture the level at which tennis players, as well as carpenters, are consciously trying to do something when they engage in the so called "skillful coping" or primordial awareness."

Putting aside the various ad hominems for the moment, I think this passage comes close to the core of the intellectual stakes in this exchange. Could it be that those who appeal to the sweet reason of analytic philosophy find any account of a non-propositional relationship to our experience to be a roadmap to the irrational pit of hell?

The above quoted passage implies that any account of human action that fails to capture the conscious intentions of the actors is irrelevant. Irrelevant with respect to what? Human conduct? Given my own experience, I'd have to say that the burden of proof is on the party making such a claim. Perhaps the claim is implicitly restricted to _philosophical_ accounts. If so, I'd suggest reading Frege for what he says and Searle for how he says it (I love the ceteris paribus clause that is the "Background").

68. psindk - October 23, 2009 at 10:46 am

aldebaran writes: "it is a standard, cheap, and unconvincing feint of gibberish-defenders to impugn the intellectual abilities of those who fail to see and acknowledge the Emperor's new clothes."

- The problem with this of course is how we differentiate difficult (and/or stylistically obtuse) writing from gibberish. Yes, Heidegger has a maddeningly difficult, frequently impenetrable writing style. So did Derrida, so did Hegel - and so, for that matter, did Kant. Yet commentators have managed to extract both coherent and frequently illuminating arguments out of all these thinkers. I've also seen plenty of (often outstanding) analytic philosophers become so buried under their own jargon that they seem every bit as illucid as any of their continental counterparts.

And here's the flip-side to your point about ad hominems: if one side is far too quick to accuse others of intellectual laziness or lack of intellectual ability, the other is far too quick to dismiss work as "gibberish" or as lacking in intellectual rigor. Continental philosophers always seem to do analytic philosophers the courtesy of assuming that just because they don't speak the language doesn't mean what's being spoken is meaningless; analytic philophers seem far less inclined to repay the favour.

69. zmrzlina - October 23, 2009 at 12:18 pm

To a very large extent, it is simply a repeat of the scandal that erupted 22 years ago when the work of Victor Farias and Hugo Ott was published. There is nothing really new here, except perhaps an increase of the "data" of Heidegger's loathsomeness as a human being.

Here are the key questions, and my answers:

Q: On a personal level, was Heidegger a wretched specimen?

- Certainly.

Q: Is Heidegger's philosophy silly twaddle?

- No, though some of it comes close, and some of it goes over the line. But in toto, no.

Q: Is much of scholarship about Heidegger silly twaddle?

- Alas, yes. Heidegger makes a serious claim: that the question he is asking, the question of Being, has become so obscured by the conventions of our language, that we need new ways of expressing the phenomena that he is interested in. He might be right or he might be wrong, but it is certainly possible that our everyday language impedes us in understanding fundamental realities. After all, Plato and Aristotle twisted their Greek to get at new ideas (literally!).

The problem is that Heidegger's followers often mouth the "lingo" without being able to make vivid, in their own language, the questions at stake. It therefore often becomes a parlor trick of intellectualism. In my view, Heidegger scholarship, especially in the English-language world, has ground to a halt under the weight of Heidegger-scholasticism. We are unable to make the genuine philosophical questions live in the English language, and so we are largely doomed to reciting what sound like formulae and performing pious exegesis.

That is a real problem. And that is part (though not all) of the cultural context for the fight over Heidegger in philosophy today, between those who revere him and those who despise him. It's a sad sad situation.

Q: Was Heidegger a Nazi?

- Yes. Of course. We have known that for a long time now. But the devil is in the details. It has long been well-known that Heidegger was OPPOSED to biological racism and OPPOSED to global imperialism. He was what we might now call a mulitculturalist, but between nations, not within them. He thought Nazism would allow national cultures and historical traditions to maintain themselves in their own bounds. But note, in my view this still leaves room for what might be called a metaphysical or ontological racism (see the work of Berel Lang or Robert Bernasconi for a responsible treatment of this point), and I believe Heidegger was guilty of that. But it was by no means orthodox Nazism.

Q: Is Heidegger's philosophy an extension of his Nazism?

- No. His philosophy was developing in its most serious strands before the rise of the Nazis. The article wants to paint Heidegger as a hack, who dressed up his Nazism in philosophical clothing. That is a crude dodge that avoids what is seriously at issue for real thought. Heidegger was never an orthodox Nazi and the orthodox soon came to suspect him of deviationism. It is absurd to claim that Heidegger somehow was an architect of Nazi ideology, in the way, say, that Lenin or Marx were of Communism, or that Locke or Jefferson were of liberalism. (And Rawls, against what some of the posters in the comments sections assert, has had virtually no effect on ACTUAL liberalism as practiced in the West, as much of a giant as he was; he is purely an academic influence; to think otherwise is another illusion of the academy today: in the US, philosophy is without any real effect.) Yes, Heidegger lent his respected name to the movement, but little to its content or direction. He was a minor player in the political reality of the movement's ideological formation, even if landing him as a party member was a propaganda coup for the leadership.

Q: Is Heidegger's Nazism an extension of his philosophy?

- That is a much more difficult question to answer. It is a REAL question, one that requires genuine study and thought, both of which the reviewer seems incapable of engaging in. My answer, as I have argued in "Heidegger's Polemos," is YES, his Nazism is indeed an extension of his philosophy, but at the same time, that does NOT mean that his questions must NECESSARILY lead us to Nazism. His questions are not his alone. And this is why there is something worth studying in Heidegger. As I have long argued, reading Heidegger allows us to confront the PROBLEM that fascism REMAINS for us, in ways we ALL may not be able to see or want to see.

But this reviewer, and the Faye book, are not interested in thinking this through. That they want to ban books and purge the academy is a lamentable proof of this. Predator becomes prey.

And so it goes. Same as it ever was.

70. mekon - October 23, 2009 at 01:18 pm

Until I retired and came to live in France I had scarcely heard of Martin Heidegger, other than a passing reference by, I think, Kingsly Amis to "that Nazi jackanapes".
However, once my french had improved so that I could understand French radio( I recommend the station "France Culture" for the purety of its language) I was astonished by the amount of time devoted to his philosophy and disturbed by my failure to comprehend it.
One Saturday afternoon, during a long drive home, there was a two hour program devoted to dear Martin, with the habitual results in terms of understanding for the most part, until George Steiner had the following to say:-
1. Heidegger's writings consist mainly of a play on words which the structure of the German language facilitates. He essentially has nothing to say.
2. There being no "ism" in Naziism other than the "will to destruction" his vacuity was just what they wanted.

I believe he is also the originator of the term "abbau" = "déconstruction" = deconstruction and then to Derrida, Lacan and the rest of that charlatan gang.

71. zdenekv - October 23, 2009 at 01:30 pm

zmrzlina @# 69:"Is Heidegger's Nazism an extension of his philosophy?..... My answer, as I have argued in "Heidegger's Polemos,"is YES, his Nazism is indeed an extension of his philosophy, but at the same time, that does NOT mean that his questions must NECESSARILY lead us to Nazism."

Nice endorsement of the view I have been defending ( viz. that H's Nazism is rooted in his philosophy ) and I am sure Carlin Romano would be happy with at least this part of what you say in your post because that is the central issue. As far as your remarks about Rawls go, I am surprised that you discuss the suggestion I made -- which was that H stands to Nazism the way Rawls stands to liberalism-- in the section which deals with the claim Romano makes which was that H's philosophy is rooted in his Nazism. This seems back to front because I did not suggest that Rawls work on meta ethics is rooted in his liberalism ; this would be wrong way around. This is important because if you concede that H's Nazism is indeed an extension of his philosophy then the comparison with Rawls is apt and so my point stands.

72. aldebaran - October 23, 2009 at 01:47 pm

@ #68:

aldebaran writes: "it is a standard, cheap, and unconvincing feint of gibberish-defenders to impugn the intellectual abilities of those who fail to see and acknowledge the Emperor's new clothes."

psindk writes:

"Heidegger has a maddeningly difficult, frequently impenetrable writing style. So did Derrida, so did Hegel - and so, for that matter, did Kant. Yet commentators have managed to extract both coherent and frequently illuminating arguments out of all these thinkers".

My point is not whether one can extract, like an impacted wisdom tooth, any sort of meaning out of such gnarled and rebarbarative prose. (Also, Kant and Hegel, though far from being lucid stylists, are much clearer than Heidegger and Derrida, so I reject your comparison).The point is, should one have to make such an effort, and are the results worth it? It is a subjective judgment, I realize, but for guidance in such matters, I turn to Nietzsche:

"Those who know they are profound strive for clarity. Those who would like to seem profound strive for obscurity".

psindk :

"Continental philosophers always seem to do analytic philosophers the courtesy of assuming that just because they don't speak the language doesn't mean what's being spoken is meaningless; analytic philophers seem far less inclined to repay the favour".

Oh, really? *Always*? Lol. In any case, assuming arguendo that what you assert is correct, perhaps that is simply because the language of Analytic philosophy lends itself more readily to translation than the likes of Heidegger's obsessive neologizing, or Derrida's flatulent abstractions.

Again, these are my value-judgments, I freely admit, but I am quite prepared to defend them--not that there is really much point in doing so, in this thread!

73. zmrzlina - October 23, 2009 at 02:35 pm

zdenekv @71: Fair enough. The only thing to emphasize is that H's Nazism is AN extension of his philosophy, not the only possible one.

Romano and others want to make "the central issue" out to be a direct connection between Heidegger's thinking and Nazism. Fine. No one can stop them. If we concede that Heidegger was a Nazi, they will be happy to burn his books. (One might as well say that Brentano and Husserl, who led into Heidegger, and Arendt, Levinas, Sartre, and Marcuse, who were all inspired by Heidegger, were all unselfconsious Nazis, but that it is really a reductio of the ad hominem being wielded by Romano here.)

But "the central issue" for us should be not be this ultimately prosecutorial attitude, but what is the heart of fascism. Romano et al are unwilling to think this though by actually thinking about Heidegger, and so they add to the general unwillingness to think about the problems that are still with us and part of us. The abominations of the last century make it easy to sequester the danger that remains, in our midst, wearing a thousand masks and bearing a thousand names. By piling it all on the Nazis, as if the Nazis were simply an inhuman aberration that will never again reappear, that is not in fact sill part of of the trajectory of the West, we get to pat ourselves on the back and take relief that at least we are not as bad as them -- and all those like Heidegger who ran with the dogs.

At issue is this: Heidegger believed that to be human means to be connected to a community defined by a particular history, a particular place, a particular time. He opposed modern liberalism because its universalism threatened to erase all the particularity that makes unique place and time possible. In contemporary terms, he was opposed to the Disneyfication, the MacDonaldsization, and the globalization of the planet. He was a multiculturalist, and he thought Nazism would preserve the diversity of human traditions. In that sense, he shares a common root with the likes of Pat Buchanan (a wretch) or Evelyn Waugh (a brilliant beast) on the right and the anti-globlization folks on the left (think of the French farmers irate about the decline of their cheeses in the face of MacDonalds....).

This is not to endorse Heidegger's option for the Nazis. It is to recognize that the problem announced by his thought is still with us. To wish it all away by dismissing it as Nazi hackery is to refuse to face up to what still faces us all down. It is a refusal to think. We hate Nazism, sure, but the Nazis are just one manifestation of what is still happening in our world, in ways we don't see and don't want to see.

As for Rawls, you wrote:

"Heidegger is a Nazi theorist and stands to Nazism the way for example John Rawls stands to liberalism i.e. he is its architect and the second claim turns this relationship between H's philosophy and his politics around and says that H's philosophy is rooted in his Nazism and hence is a type of propaganda for Nazism."

The reading of the evidence cannot support the claim that Heidegger was an ARCHITECT of Nazism. He played no such historical role. To repeat: all serious scholarship of the matter (Ott above all) recognizes that Heidegger departed very seriously from orthodox Nazism and had little to no effect on its ideological development. I would add that Rawls is in no way an architect of anything in actual liberal practice in Wester politics. His influence is purely academic -- for better or worse. In that sense, they were the same. Certainly, though, Heidegger did allow himself to be used for propaganda, but it is again a dodge to claim that all his thinking is therefore orthodox Nazi propaganda. That's an unhistorical interpretation of what happened.

Our world stands on the knife's edge between the advocates of universalism (global human rights, world government, no borders, fundamental human unity, etc.) and particularism (the uniqueness of place and people, genuine borders, real vs kitsch diversity, separatism). Thinking about Heidegger, perhaps even because of his revolting choices, and not dismissing him out of hand, is one way to confront our planetary situation, one not essentially different than in 1933, and perhaps even more dangerous.

74. russ38 - October 23, 2009 at 03:26 pm

I would suspect that one would first take the time to read Heidegger before denouncing his work in totality. Heidegger certainly had more to say than what Romano attributes to him. Being in Time is what compelled me to go to graduate school, and I resent implication that anyone who appreciates Heidegger is an intellectual charlatan.

75. heliand - October 23, 2009 at 04:13 pm

I'm with #35 (gray 1).

This was a poorly written article. The language is frightfully juvenile and the attempt at wit is feeble. Does the author even know what a Teuton is, or did he hear it on a Monty Python sketch?

Poor style aside, there are some linguistic issues I'd like to address.
The translation of "dasein" is simply wrong. "Dasein" is "being", not "human being". That is "(das menschliche) Wesen"

"Zein" (zeiner) is not a German word.

From the text: "...his constant use of "the words most operative among the National Socialists," such as "combat" (Kampf), "sacrifice" (Opfer) and völkisch (which Faye states has a strong anti-Semitic connotation)."

Where's the translation of völkisch? I teach German. I know the meaning. I also know it's not easy to translate. It's derived from the word "Volk", which means "people". "Völkisch" was corrupted by the Nazis to mean "German/Aryan People"

The onus was on the author to bridge that gap, not to hide behind Fay's spin on the meaning.

Again, that's poor style.

76. neoconned - October 23, 2009 at 04:15 pm

excellent. now that we're done with Heidegger, let's start on Henry Ford. Because he was a great admirer of Hitler and fascism and this influenced his development of the production line all Fords are a vindication of Nazism and should not be purchased. Oh dear, it seems that no one is purchasing Fords anymore... Er, OK. Charles Lindbergh, another great admirer of the Nazis (see photos of him chumming with Goering) helped pioneer trans-Atlantic flights, undoubtedly inspired by fascist notions of modernity, therefore we cannot in good conscience continue to fly over the Atlantic. Next we can look at those slave-owning white men whose racist ideology infused the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution....

77. jchristopher - October 23, 2009 at 07:09 pm

Many critics of Romano's piece here actually claim they agree that the influence of Heidegger's politics on his philosophy is an important topic for study; however, they then -- very often -- go on to say that this topic is "very complex," suggesting that any such connection must necessarily be as difficult to apprehend as Heidegger's views themselves.

The frequency of this claim above -- that such study must be undertaken, but is very difficult and complex -- seems to me to be a) probably true; but b) a (possibly unconscious) defense against any subsequent finding of a connection between his Nazism and his philosophy. When such connections are unearthed, his defenders can simply call them simplistic and foolish because they have not risen to the challenge of the "complexity" of the issue. The complexity is thus always there out in front of any critique, in a way predetermining the outcome of the study.

78. zdenekv - October 24, 2009 at 02:01 am

zmrzlina : "To repeat: all serious scholarship of the matter (Ott above all) recognizes that Heidegger departed very seriously from orthodox Nazism and had little to no effect on its ideological development. I would add that Rawls is in no way an architect of anything in actual liberal practice in Wester politics. His influence is purely academic -- for better or worse. In that sense, they were the same."

Sure, but just as Rawls offers new way of grounding liberalism in both early and his late work which may have an impact on the way liberalism is construed in the future ( think of his Political Liberalism in this connection ) so Heidegger's Nazism might be turned into practical politics too. But who is keeping Heidegger's Nazism alive today ? This is an important issue Romano is making and now you seem to concede. Lets put Romano's point this way : Heidegger's Nazi philosophy is being discussed , elaborated and defended by both Heideggerians and people like you who do it much more carefully but still defend him and not enough of this discourse is critical of Heidegger. We see it here , on this thread, too which clearly involves complete denial that H's phil and his politics are even linked in any interesting way. That is, what Romano is plausibly pointing out is that given the reasonable premise that Heidegger's Nazism is derived from his philosophy ( something you concede too ) we have a choice whether we defend his Nazism or debunk it and in so far as Heideggerian industry is devoted to defense of it, it is complicit in making H's Nazism into viable political philosophy ; it is dedicated to defending and fleshing out Nazism ( the last point follows once we accept that H's Nazism is an upshot of his philosophy and accept the fact that H's Nazism is Nazism. It then easily follows that if you defend Heidegger you defend Nazism ).

79. zdenekv - October 24, 2009 at 02:52 am

zmrzlina : "His questions are not his alone. And this is why there is something worth studying in Heidegger. As I have long argued, reading Heidegger allows us to confront the PROBLEM that fascism REMAINS for us, in ways we ALL may not be able to see or want to see."

This is an important point but reacting the way Romano ( and others perhaps more persuasively ) is reacting to Heidegger IS confronting the problem of fascism because Heidegger's work itself constitutes a type of fascism in a theoretical and abstract form and hence to critically respond to it by debunking it , the way Romano is responding to Heidegger, is to respond to fascism. I think this is easily overlooked but once we come to recognize that Heidegger's Nazism is an outgrowth of his philosophy, intelligent critical condemnation of the philosophy IS one important way of confronting fascism itself ( its just that one is responding to a conceptulization and justification of Nazism ).



80. zdenekv - October 24, 2009 at 03:28 am

quickben @ 67 : "Could it be that those who appeal to the sweet reason of analytic philosophy find any account of a non-propositional relationship to our experience to be a roadmap to the irrational pit of hell?....The above quoted passage implies that any account of human action that fails to capture the conscious intentions of the actors is irrelevant. Irrelevant with respect to what?"

I agree, this is an important point but Heidegger 'primordial awareness',which is so important to him, is supposed to be some sort of experience / awareness but not involve representational content. The problem with this suggestion is that even experience very small pre linguistic children ( or even animals like dogs ) have of their environment, involves non conceptual content which involves representation ( see Elizabeth Spelke for instance for work which shows this ). It would appear that primordial awareness then has to involve representation a la non conceptual content ( note that I am not saying that such awareness has to involve beliefs ) but then --and this is the crucial point--primordial awareness involves subject / object distinction which is under the hood of such experiences, the only difference is that you are not consciously aware of this fact ( because it operates under the hood ). In other words Heidegger is faced with a dilemma : promordial awareness is either representational and hence Heidegger has failed to provide an 'ontological' story re our knowledge of the world OR he has succeeded to provide an 'ontological' account but it is an account of ZOMBIE experience and not of human ( or animal ) experience and hence he has failed.

81. mickeymackcoole - October 24, 2009 at 04:56 am

Carlin Romano writes so insightfully about Heidegger's past that I'm somewhat flabbergasted by the end of his piece when he brings in David Letterman, as if the latter's human flaws are on a par with Heidegger's egregious politics. The analogy was not only unnecessary, but weakens the very argument that has been made latterly in the essay.

82. dwreb - October 24, 2009 at 05:23 am

I'm with #73.

Throughout all this discussion 'Nazi' and 'Nazism' is used as a term that is simply understood, with no need to think further about it. Fascism is a very charged charge, and it usually comes from an equation with fascism and 'evil', but more often than not this 'evil' is treated in a theological sense, not a human sense. All fascists in the past have been human beings. If there is 'pure evil' it is above all else human in nature.

Is fascism related to ideas of 'popular sentiment'? Is fascism related to nationalism? Is fascism related to the generation of fear of perceived cultural 'others' within our society? We need to be thinking through the phenomena more, and not just using equations with gross reductive assumptions in them: Heidegger was a nazi, nazism is evil, therefore Heidegger was evil. What do we mean by evil? Do we mean human?

83. zdenekv - October 24, 2009 at 06:14 am

Typical. First one is asked to show that Heidegger is a theorist of Nazism and when this is done the move is : 'show me what is wrong with Nazism' . The next move has to be something like 'well right and wrong , good / bad involves values that relative to culture / speech community and so we cannot show that Nazism is wrong simpliciter and so all moral judgments which imply that it is a fact that Nazism is morally wrong must be false'. Fine , but I think should insist on starting from the common sense position here which says that Nazism is evil because it involves discrimination , intolerance , chauvinism etc and go on to say that we have seen it implemented for a while and so it has been road tested, and we can add that this common sense view is also realist, which means that it is a fact that Nazism is evil.. And we can treat this as our moral default starting point and invite the Nazi apologist to show that this default position is in some way misguided , implausible etc. That is, it is the Heidegger apologists who have the burden of proof when it comes to the question whether and why Nazism is evil and show that it is not evil.

84. dwreb - October 24, 2009 at 08:18 am

I agree, but I want to see an argument based on what Nazism is before or without all these very loaded value judgments. We all know (mostly maybe) that it's bad or evil, but as long as we insist on starting at this point, our understanding of Heidegger's involvment will always be just that, only 'our' understanding based on values we hold now, which is basically discriminatory, intolerant and chauvinistic.

85. jchristopher - October 24, 2009 at 09:09 am

Nazism isn't just another bad political idea, and there is no analogy -- say -- between Heidegger's relationship with the Nazis and Plato's with the tyrant. Most of us probably wouldn't ask, "Was Alexander's militarist triumphalism the fault of Aristotle's teachings?" Nazism and fascism are still with us; we're still living with the awful consequences of that period of history and the threat that of a resurgence of fascism. It is not unfair or uncritical for us to read Heidegger differently than he'll be read in 300 years.

86. jwielmak - October 24, 2009 at 10:11 am

Romano's ad hominem screed disgraces the Chronicle. With lines like "this ponderous, existentialist Teuton", one wonders whether Romano's ancestors were subject to humiliation by Blond Beasts. But who cares?

The dirty truth is that the 2 collectivisms of the time - international socialism and national socialism - truly did inspire brilliants minds (Sartre, Heidegger). And the idea that humans through their focused will could master history, rather than leave progress in the invisible hands of an open-ended market, is still intoxicating.

87. zdenekv - October 24, 2009 at 10:50 am

# 84 : "I agree, but I want to see an argument based on what Nazism is before or without all these very loaded value judgments..."

But we know what Nazism is plus we have seen it in actin and many of us have been personally effected by it ( my mother for example worked --was forced to work-- as a slave laborer in German munitions factory our woman living next door to us was tortured to death by gestapo for being a communist etc ). Secondly we also can read Heidegger's work which provides metaphysics and ethics for his version of Nazism. So here too we can see and understand H's involvement with Nazism. So this idea of yours that somehow we dont understand Nazism because we judge it before we have any idea what it is that we condemn,is absurd and cannot be taken seriously, if this is indeed what you are suggesting.

88. matthewgiobbi - October 24, 2009 at 01:32 pm

Another example of anti-intellectualism in the American university. My sympathies to Prof. Romano's students.

89. spellflinger - October 24, 2009 at 02:08 pm

THis article took me back to my phenomonology of literature class as an Honors Philosophy student many many years ago. Over time we came to suspect that our prof, who happened to be the President of the University, was a not so closeted fan of Heidegger. It was during a discussion of how language makes us human that she revealed her blind devotion to Heidegger when she stated that one must be able to use language to be considered fully human. When pressed, she conceded that humans who don't have the ability to use language were not fully human and thus not afforded basic human rights...

The high point of the class came when I made her concede that while a phenomenolgical reading of a text may have it's advantages there are many works in which the reader would miss the point of the work entirely by undertaking a strictly phenomenological reading.

Many, including myself, stopped attending class after she stated that use of language was an essential component of being fully human. We were quite convinced that a thorough search of her living quarters on campus would reveal a secret closet shrine to Heidegger....

90. oldude - October 24, 2009 at 03:46 pm

Excuse yet another amateur for butting in. The argument here seems to divide roughly between two groups, depending on the importance each assigns to Heidegger's Nazi affiliation. One group wants to ask: How should we judge Heidegger's philosophy in view of his nefarious politics? And it answers: Crush the infamous thing! The other group wants to ask: How should we judge Heidegger's philosophy apart from his nefarious politics? And it answers: With respect, because Heidegger explores in strikingly original ways a variety of issues that have little or nothing to do with politics. The first group says to the second group: There is no "apart" here, and therefore no possible "respect" either. Heidegger's politics grows directly out of his philosophy - that's what it's all about! The second group says: Not so! You can read Being and Time and the handful of tomes on either side of it and never guess they have anything to do with Germany's discontents circa 1927. The first group says: Well, that just shows how un-historical your reading is - not a little ironic, considering that Heidegger himself was a thorough-going historicist. The second groups say: No, that just shows YOUR unwillingness to separate the philosophy from the man and his historical conditons. Historicism itself is one - but just one - of the important philosophical issues that Heidegger's philosophy throws light on and challenges us to think about. The first group says: You're trying to give respectability to a set of ideas that anyone with half an intellectual conscience would condemn outright for what it is, obscurantist propaganda. The second group says: And YOU are playing the very same game that the Nazi's themselves played; you secretly want to repress the discussion of important ideas because of who they happen to come from. And it's at this point that the mashed potatoes and creamed corn begin to fly across the room.

Okay, the dispute doesn't split up quite so neatly or end quite so dramatically as I have stated it, but this seems to me roughly the way it sorts. As for myself, I read Heidegger off and on as an amateur for 10 years before the secondary literature finally exposed him as the Butcher of Freiburg. And, yes, like so many readers of Heidegger, I had that queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. How could I have spent all that time with a friggin Nazi and know nothing about it? How could I have been so duped! But then I wondered, as so many uneasy Heideggerians did, especially we amateurs: Where IS it exactly, this taint of Nazism that supposedly clings to every jot and tittle that Heidegger wrote? How did I miss it? Is it in his critique of Cartesian dualism and the whole epistemological problematic? Does it lurk somewhere deep inside his distinction between World and Nature? Is it in his understanding of human being as care and its radical difference from natural and equipmental beings? Could it be hiding in his analyses of anxiety and boredom? This was all some time ago, before I started wearing my trousers rolled and looking warily at peaches. Still, all these years later, even though the whole truth about this singularly nasty man is now out, I continue to find him philosophically interesting. And NOT because he's a fascinating case-study that enables me refine my views on fascism. Who would bother? No, the truth is much simpler. Political philosophy just ain't my bag. And that, I suspect, may be at the root of the displeasure directed toward those of us who who stick with Heidegger. By continuing to read him and by having the apparent calousness to go on cultivating aspects of his thought apart from his politics, we unwittingly condone his politics and are thus complicitous in its evil. One may not be non-political. Period. Am I wrong?

91. zmrzlina - October 24, 2009 at 05:27 pm

zdenekv: @78, you write:

"But who is keeping Heidegger's Nazism alive today ? This is an important issue Romano is making and now you seem to concede. Lets put Romano's point this way : Heidegger's Nazi philosophy is being discussed , elaborated and defended by both Heideggerians and people like you who do it much more carefully but still defend him and not enough of this discourse is critical of Heidegger."

With all due respect to your evident hatred of Nazism, which I share, what is so problematic about this discourse is that folks like Romano are acting like Inquisitors seeking to purge secret cells of "Heideggerian" Nazis.

I do not "defend" Heidegger, or his politics. I condemn him for it without reservation. So that is a distortion of what I was saying. No one I know in American Heidegger circles working on Heidegger is bent on "keeping [his] Nazism alive." Believe me: I have met with scores of Heidegger scholars: none of them is interested in developing, enlivening, or protecting his Nazism. Like most academics, most are pretty Lefty.

So what bothers people is the imputation that simply by taking Heidegger seriously, even in being critical of him, they are somehow advancing the cause of Nazism.

That is an inquisitional mindset. It distorts serious inquiry and forces decent people to say, Hey, I'm not a Nazi! Is this really the kind of discourse we should be encouraging in a journal of higher education?

It really is more complicated than Faye's simplistic notion "that an author who has espoused the foundations of Nazism cannot be considered a philosopher."

Here is a partial list of philosophers who argued for awful things on the basis, not just of a whim, but of central notions in their work:

- Aristotle, in book 1 of the Politics, argued for the reality of natural slavery. Southern slave-owners used him to bolster their claims before the Civil War. Slavery is not dead, and Aristotle might be used again to defend it. So: burn Aristotle, and condemn all scholars of Aristotle as promoters of slave-ideology unless they concede to his hackery for the Greek ruling classes.

- Locke, in the 2nd Treatise, argues that in some cases, slavery is justified. Furthermore, he supported businesses that actually engaged in the slave trade. So: burn Locke, condemn "liberalism" as a front for the slave-trade, and condemn all Lockeans as slave-mongers. (Rawls included: after all, he draws heavily on Locke and Kant.)

- Jefferson, in Notes on Virginia, argued for the inherent inferiority of blacks. He kept slaves. He forced his own slave, Sally Hemmings her to bear his children, whom he left in slavery. So, not only was Jefferson a racist, he was a rapist who helped build a republic based upon slavery, racism, and continental-scale oppression and genocide (Louisiana Purchase, etc.). So, burn Jefferson, and force all those who won't admit that the American experiment is just a cover for white-supremacy out of public life.

- Kant, in Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, argues at length that the Jews are inheritors of an evil religion. In the Anthropology and other writings, he advances profoundly racist characterizations of Africans and Jews. He is a racist, and an antisemite. So, burn Kant, and force all Kantians who refuse to recant (pun intended) out of the academy.

- Hume: also argues for the inherent inferiority of Africans. Etc etc etc.

(If you want all this carefully documented, read Charles Mills, The Racial Contract.)

My point, though, of course, is that this is all absurd reductionism, and to press it would be a form of witch-hunting.

Heidegger, the man, deserves no defense. He was a wretch, just as were at least some of the men cited above. But PHILOSOPHY is never a monolith that can simply be reduced to the thinker.

That does not mean we should not be careful, and, in the case of a Nazi like Heidegger, VERY careful, to see how certain questions and ways of answering those questions, might take us down very dangerous paths.

But the only way to do that is to engage the work and to think. Faye and Romano don't want to do that. Theirs is a purely ideological reaction.

@79 you write:

"...[R]eacting the way Romano ( and others perhaps more persuasively ) is reacting to Heidegger IS confronting the problem of fascism because Heidegger's work itself constitutes a type of fascism in a theoretical and abstract form and hence to critically respond to it by debunking it , the way Romano is responding to Heidegger, is to respond to fascism. I think this is easily overlooked but once we come to recognize that Heidegger's Nazism is an outgrowth of his philosophy, intelligent critical condemnation of the philosophy IS one important way of confronting fascism itself ( its just that one is responding to a conceptulization and justification of Nazism )."

No, because "debunking" is not "intelligent critical condemnation"; it is an attempt to dismiss it out of hand as bunk. That's the coward's way out of what is in fact a very daunting but important task. Furthermore, if the philosophy truly is more than just a delivery system for fascism, then the condemnation is bound to fail, and indeed to backfire, because intelligent readers who come to Heidegger in another generation will see the condemnations as lazy and made in bad faith. That will in turn prevent serious thought about what strands of the thinking MIGHT lead to fascism.

And the point, again is: just because Heidegger based his fascism on his philosophy, that does not mean that this is the only conclusion possible once one begins with his questions (which are not simply his). No more than you are required to be an antisemite when reading Kant, a slave-monger when reading Locke, or a genocide-promoting rapist when reading Jefferson.

Yes, it's complicated, yes, it's hard. That's what your brain is for.

If someone just can't stand reading Heidegger, fine. He is hard and sometimes insufferable. Fight against fascism some other way. But do you really know where is lurks, here among us today? And if you have any self-doubt about this (and we all should), don't look for leads from the likes of Faye and Romano, who all but advocate burn-banning and academic purges.

92. prueda - October 24, 2009 at 05:44 pm

It is absolutely unbelieveable! Someone who does not even have a PhD is criticizing Heidegger's contributions to philosophy! Obviously this vulgar cuasi-academic does not understand Heidegger. But, has he even read him carefully? What kind of university allows this man to "teach" commnications and philosophy? You have every right to criticize Heidegger's politics (you do not need to know much to do so). But how dare this person make such primitive comments about his philosophy?

93. zdenekv - October 25, 2009 at 04:26 am

zmrzlina @78 : "- Hume: also argues for the inherent inferiority of Africans. Etc etc etc." ( and you make similar point about Aristotle , Kant and so on ).

This entire line is a red herring I think -- as we agreed I thought-- because the argument that I have been making is that Heidegger stands to Nazism the way Rawls stands to liberalism or perhaps the way Kant stands to liberalism. It should be obvious that this is NOT analogous to a philosopher arguing that Africans are inferior unless this argument is part of a larger project ( as is the case with Rawls vis a vis liberalism )of establishing substantive claims about the truth of racism etc. But this is not what Hume is up to ( or any of the philosophers you mention )and this is why your comparison doesnt work ; as I said the claim about Heidegger is not that he said some nasty things about the Jews or liberalism or that he belonged to the Nazis etc which is neither here nor there if we are discussing his theoretical work ; the claim is that he is a philosopher of Nazism in the way Rawls is a philosopher of liberalism and this is a different matter.

Once this distinction is made clear it should be easy to see that the 'witch hunt' accusation doesnt work either because it is premised on the blurring of the distinction we are talking about.


"I do not "defend" Heidegger, or his politics. I condemn him for it without reservation. So that is a distortion of what I was saying. No one I know in American Heidegger circles working on Heidegger is bent on "keeping [his] Nazism alive." Believe me: I have met with scores of Heidegger scholars: none of them is interested in developing, enlivening, or protecting his Nazism. Like most academics, most are pretty Lefty."

Again, this tacitly assumes that when someone says 'hey you are defending Heidegger's Nazism' that she must be talking about things like H's Nazi party membership , his anti semitism or his early admiration for Hitler, but this is not what the criticism says. The criticism says that since Heidegger is a philosopher of Nazism ,defending his views, which have nothing explicitly to do with his political actions or views, still constitutes a defense of Nazism all things being equal. Just as if I defend say Rawls' Kantian Constructivism I would be defending a version of liberalism because this type of Constructivism just is the meta ethics of this type of liberalism and hence my defense of the one constitutes defense of the other. It is in this sense and in this sense only that most Heideggerians are apologists of Heidegger's Nazism.

"So what bothers people is the imputation that simply by taking Heidegger seriously, even in being critical of him, they are somehow advancing the cause of Nazism."

Well, as should be obvious now, if one doesnt accept the thesis that Heidegger is a philosopher of Nazism ( in the sense I explained ) then this follows ( i.e. one can plausibly resist the charge of advancing Nazism if one takes H 's phil seriously ) but not if one accepts the thesis we are talking about. If you accept it, then by taking Heidegger seriously, you are taking his Nazism seriously and this seems to be a consequence of accepting the claim ,which you say you endorse, to the effect that Heidegger is a philosopher of Nazism . It seems that you want to have your cake and eat it : you want to say that Heidegger is important and a valuable thinker who should be taken seriously and since his philosophy is Nazi philosophy this commits you to the view that Nazism should be taken seriously but at the same time you want to say that we can distance our selves from H's Nazism but this seems like an unstable view to me.

94. zdenekv - October 25, 2009 at 05:46 am

zmrzlina : #79 : "... just because Heidegger based his fascism on his philosophy, that does not mean that this is the only conclusion possible once one begins with his questions (which are not simply his). No more than you are required to be an antisemite when reading Kant, a slave-monger when reading Locke, or a genocide-promoting rapist when reading Jefferson. "

Again, the bad analogy is doing most of the work here : Kant doesnt advance anti semitic philosophy in any interesting sense ( and it is naughty to insinuate that he is if this is what you are indeed saying ) even though he may have been an anti Semite, so what we see here again is the conflation of two quite different, and in this discussion crucially different claims : a) S is an antisemite , racist , Nazi in the sense that he holds anti semitic views and belongs to Nazi party ( this is not an interesting construal of what the critic is saying ) and b) S is a philosopher of anti Semitism or racism or Nazism in the sense that he puts forward metaphysics and ethics that could underwrite anti Semitism ,racism or Nazism and develops concepts and makes arguments which would provide philosophical framework and justification of anti-Semitism , racism or Nazism ( this is the interesting sense in which H is said to be a philosopher of Nazism ). These are two different claims and the issue here is that Heidegger is criticized for on the basis of (b )and NOT (a) but you continue to construe this criticism as if it involved exclusively (a ) . Your reply for that reason is off target. Second, once this distinction is made explicit, it is by no means obvious that Heidegger's Nazism, which is rooted in his philosophy is optional because his Nazism is IMPLIED by his philosophy.

95. dwreb - October 25, 2009 at 07:14 am

Is it possible that the article above has... two authors?

96. zmrzlina - October 25, 2009 at 08:51 am

zdenekv, you write @ 93:

"Just as if I defend say Rawls' Kantian Constructivism I would be defending a version of liberalism because this type of Constructivism just is the meta ethics of this type of liberalism and hence my defense of the one constitutes defense of the other. It is in this sense and in this sense only that most Heideggerians are apologists of Heidegger's Nazism."

Again, with all due respect, and acknowledging the stakes at issue here, I believe that this line of thinking is Inquisitorial, not philosophical.

Must I really say that if I find Rawls' Kantian construction convincing or even philosophically interesting, then I am committed to his whole architectonics of neo-contractarian liberalism? Surely that is too reductionistic, and the upshot of thinking this way is to make all philosophy into ideology.

Yes, for RAWLS the Kantian construction is a lynch-pin of his liberalism. But it begs the question to say that therefore something like the construction MUST lead to liberalism. Whether it must is a genuine QUESTION, that cannot be resolved by pointing to Rawls' own development. Again: his questions do not belong exclusively to him. We are talking philosophy, not Disney's copyright on Mickey Mouse.

And so I don't think it is a red herring at all to compare Heidegger with Plato (whom some, like Popper, accuse of totalitarianism), Aristotle (advocate of natural slavery), Locke (slave-monger), Kant (anti-semite and racist), etc. etc. etc.

Please reread Kant's Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone: his anti-semitism there certainly IS integral to his philosophical argument. His arguments for racial superiority of whites in the Anthropology played as important a role in the spread of such views as anything Heidegger did. The philosophical connection is by no means accidental. Same for Aristotle's argument for slavery. And Locke's. And Jefferson's. HOW integral is the connection between what is revolting and ALL elements of their thinking? Well, that's a philosophical question that must be worked out in great detail in each case! This is what we must confront in reading and thinking. But to accuse those of taking the thought seriously, as they try to sort such things out, of aiding and abetting the worst crimes of the West is, shall we say, a bit much.

As your write in 94: "it is by no means obvious that Heidegger's Nazism, which is rooted in his philosophy is optional, because his Nazism is IMPLIED by his philosophy."

I still read and teach Aristotle and Kant and Locke and agree with much of what they say. I must be a genocidal racist, since that is implied by their genuine philosophical work. I still read and teach Plato and Hegel and Marx. I must be a totalitarian mass-murderer.

Once one starts down this Inquisitional road, it's hard to turn back. Beware!

97. oldude - October 25, 2009 at 01:00 pm

I agree with zmrzlina on the whole, but for quite different reasons. Both he and zdenekv are political philosophers, so they see politics in places where someone like me would never think to look for it. The way I would defend the continued reading of Heidegger - despite his Nazism and any aiding and abetting it might have provided the Nazis - is that he's not a political philosopher in any interesting sense at all. To begin with, he wrote nothing that remotely compares with the classics in the genre. I'm talking about that great body of works that explicitly, systematically, and with great subtilty expound concepts about power, sovereignty, the state, justice, liberty, equality, right, duty, and all the rest. Most of what Heidegger wrote that has any noticeable bearing on political philosophy strikes me as so vague, undeveloped, obscure, oafishly, and downright wacky as to be useless. From what I gather, not even the Nazis had much use for him, except as a name. Who cares what he had to say about Germany as the unique site of the destiny-ing of Being or whatever. That's just kooky talk, Heidegger at his most flaccid and boring. Why insist that it's at the very center of his thought, when it's so patently peripheral? If it were at the center of his thought, he might today be memorialized with Alfred Baumler and other bugs of the Nazi intelligencia - which is to say, forgotten.

Heidegger was a metaphysician or ontologist, not a political philosopher - and never mind "political ontology", which to my fritzy hearing aid sounds something like "biological economics". Come again? His issue was how to resurrect the question of the meaning of being, which, he argued, had been born in Greek, buried under Latin, and then forgotten by us epigones - a mey thesis in itself, by the way. Anyhow, he wrote a huge amount on this topic, and it has nothing to do with politics. In my previous post (#90) I gave a list of non-political Heideggerian themes (and there are dozens more) that I and plenty of others find of great philosophical value, and I wanted to know how anyone's study/teaching of those themes should cause him or her to have moral qualms about promoting Nazism in disguise or otherwise. I got no response. Well, the argument is between the two z's, so probably I'm just being intrusive. My apologies if I am.

98. zmrzlina - October 25, 2009 at 09:55 pm

oldude, at 90, you wrote:

"Political philosophy just ain't my bag. And that, I suspect, may be at the root of the displeasure directed toward those of us who who stick with Heidegger. By continuing to read him and by having the apparent calousness to go on cultivating aspects of his thought apart from his politics, we unwittingly condone his politics and are thus complicitous in its evil. One may not be non-political. Period. Am I wrong?"

I think you are right that this worries some people. And to give them due credit, it's by no means a completely unreasonable concern.

Richard Rorty argued, from the heart of his American pragmatism, that Heidegger's work is like any other philosopher's: it should be treated as a toolbox of ideas, and that we should feel free to rummage through it for ones that we can use, without any great concern for other tools we find puzzling -- or offensive.

If I am right that a serious philosophy cannot simply be reduced to a set of propositions that necessarily contaminate everything else in the work, then there is some merit to this kind of pragmatism.

At the same time, I cannot agree with Rorty entirely. While it is often the case that we can, as it were, pull a thread from an author's corpus and weave into something entirely new of our own, I don't think that it is always so simple. With a thinker like Heidegger, you need to be very careful what the ideas you are lifting might (underline MIGHT) imply.

It seems that what is at stake between zdenekv and myself is the very notion of implication. For zdenky, to say that an author's politics is implied by his thought means that engaging the whole complex structure of issues, questions, and pathways to answers NECESSARILY implies the politics. For me, to say that there is a connection between a body of work and a politics means that the thinking POSSIBLY implies the politics, and that we need to think through all the pathways that the whole complex might take. In each case, this is what doing serious work on a figure in the history of philosophy means.

No, Heidegger was not a political philosopher in the sense that Locke was. Or Plato, or Kant, or Mill, or even Nietzsche. I do think he had a political ontology (despite the short-circuiting oddness of this concept), and I have written about it, as have many others.

In 97, you wrote:

"In my previous post (#90) I gave a list of non-political Heideggerian themes (and there are dozens more) that I and plenty of others find of great philosophical value, and I wanted to know how anyone's study/teaching of those themes should cause him or her to have moral qualms about promoting Nazism in disguise or otherwise."

What I'd say is, be bold but be cautious, and think about the possible connections in order to see if the threads you are pulling really don't come with lice attached. For example, there is clearly politics to his treatment art in "The Origin of the Work of Art" -- look towards the end and the afterwords.

You also write: "Who cares what he had to say about Germany as the unique site of the destiny-ing of Being or whatever. That's just kooky talk, Heidegger at his most flaccid and boring. Why insist that it's at the very center of his thought, when it's so patently peripheral?"

Because it's not OBVIOUSLY peripheral. Just as we cannot dismiss out of hand the value of all the other themes in his work, nor should be be so quick to dismiss the politics as merely a kooky spin-off from the main attraction.

At issue is what Löwith noted many decades ago: that Heidegger's politics were connected to his understanding of history as the horizon for human meaning and human being. Heidegger was a radical historicist -- as Strauss has claimed, perhaps the most radical historicist there has ever been. Many of the themes you cite as so interesting (the attack on Descartes, for example) are deeply bound up with Heidegger's critique of the history of Western thought as the history of metaphysics and nihilism. He saw liberal universalism as a feature of Western nihilism (the homogenization and technologizaton of the planet). His understanding of Dasein as radically finite and enmeshed in a place and a history made him deeply suspicious of modernity and receptive to a politics that offered him hope that the uniquely local might be preserved against the modern hubris of the titanically universal.

To say all this is NOT to say that asking the question of Being or even addressing it in ways that Heidegger does in Being & Time must necessarily land us in the lap of fascism. But one must not ignore the problem, either. Radical historicism is still very much alive, both Right and Left. To understand it deeply, to take it seriously, even in its most frightening forms, is necessary if one is to avoid what Heidegger fell into. It does not good to bury one's head in the sand, either by saying that Heidegger is a phony hack or by cordoning off his politics as an embarrassing irrelevancy.

If you're concerned, I'd encourage you to read some English-language material on this question by folks who take the political question seriously without merely dismissing Heidegger as a fraud. When this same issue erupted 22 years ago, some good stuff came out pretty fast. Sheehan, ZImmerman, and others did a fine job with the overall questions. An essay by Polt in Interpretation (2007), "Beyond Struggle and Power," offers a lucid and fresh update, treating many of the recently released materials in a synoptic way.

So: read, but scrutinize.

99. odzihozo - October 25, 2009 at 11:47 pm

What this discussion (and others like it) needs is some way for readers to sift through the commentary, such as the way in which Amazon.com allows readers to evaluate the "most useful" reviews of books or other products, and some way to organize the commentary so as to make the debate more of a process and less of a list of individual comments.

If I could vote on the posts I've found most useful, for instance, I would vote for zmrzlina's #69, 73, and 91, and oldude's #90 and 97; but someone else might vote for some of zdenek's or one of the other "anti-Heideggerians." If the overall voting patterns could be analyzed and color-coded into different camps, a new reader would be able to quickly find the "most useful" posts in each camp (just as Amazon allows for the "most useful favorable reviews" and "most useful critical reviews"). Their contribution, in turn, would then speak to the best arguments made so far, not just chime in repeating what someone had already said a few days ago.

And secondly, it would be very helpful if we could eliminate the anonymity provided by the silly nicknames. Names of posters should be linkable to their previous posts and to their posts on other topics, and to identifying information (of some kind) to ensure that commenters are willing to take responsibility for their words.

Why, for instance, would I (on the non-anti-Heideggerian side) care to hear what "zdenekv" thinks of every comment made by anyone who disagrees with him? (One in four comments here are his.) But if I were to find out that zdenekv was actually Carlin Romano in disguise, then I might -- and that would help me contextualize the article better. Ditto for the other commenters. This might even encourage participation by more of the published authors on the topic.

I've written these suggestions up at greater length (along with a bit of Godardian cinematic commentary) at Immanence, for anyone interested.

100. zdenekv - October 26, 2009 at 04:06 am

zmrzlina at 96 ; "Must I really say that if I find Rawls' Kantian construction convincing or even philosophically interesting, then I am committed to his whole architectonics of neo-contractarian liberalism? Surely that is too reductionistic, and the upshot of thinking this way is to make all philosophy into ideology."

Yes, you would be committed to R's liberalism if you accepted ( or found persuasive, bought into ) enough of Rawls' key claims he makes and argues for in his T of J. The reason for this has to do with the fact that the components of Rawls' analysis such as veil of ignorance , the difference principle , reflective equilibrium , the meta ethics that go with this viz. Kantian Constructivism , the claim that the choices people in the original position would make would involve choice Rawls claims people would make , his definition of well ordered society etc ,and the accompanying argument which is presented by R for these claims of his are an ARGUMENT for liberalism. That is to say these components rationalize , justify, present evidence for liberalism and for this reason once you buy the argument you are committed to the conclusion of the argument which in this case is Rawls's liberalism ( in other words the relationship between the argument and in this case liberalism is like that between premises of an argument and a conclusion of the argument and hence the relationship is that of implication ). Philosopher ( pick anyone you like ) is making an ARGUMENT, in other words, for a certain CONCLUSION and once you accept the argument you are committed to the conclusion in a sense that you cannot consistently endorse the one without endorsing the other ( science and crime investigation works in the same way : once you accept Darwin's claim , his argument and the evidence he presents you have to endorse his claim re natural selection and similarly if you accept the evidence which shows that Smith killed Jones you have accept that Smith is guilty of the crime in question). Same considerations then apply to our discussion: accept Heidegger's philosophy or find it persuasive and you have to endorse his Nazism.


"For me [ zmrzlina ], to say that there is a connection between a body of work and a politics means that the thinking POSSIBLY implies the politics,."

No, this cannot be the case if philosophy is understood as an inquiry continuous with science and involving making of arguments which entail or support conclusions the philosopher is arguing for.If the politics are backed up by a body of argument ( which constitutes evidence for the politics) and which support it or make it reasonable to believe then you cannot say plausibly that politics is possibly implied because that just misconstrues the relationship that politics stands to the philosophy that underwrites it. Lets look at an example : if I accept, for example, the premise
1) ' if the war in Iraq was just then we had a reason to go to war'
and the premise

2)'we had no reason to go to war'

and I accept the principle Modus Tollens , I have to accept

3)'the war in Iraq was not just'

That is , I cannot accept the premises of this simple argument but not endorse the conclusion which is implied by the argument. On zmrzlina's construal of philosophy, on other hand, one is entitled to say 'yes I accept the argument but in my opinion the conclusion only POSSIBLY follows from the premises'. But this seems like nonsense because the conclusion is not in any interesting sense optional. And hence again if this is right if you buy into Heidegger's philosophy you have to on pain of being inconsistent buy into his Nazism.









101. zdenekv - October 26, 2009 at 05:26 am

oldude at 97 : "His issue was how to resurrect the question of the meaning of being, which, he argued, had been born in Greek, buried under Latin, and then forgotten by us epigones - a mey thesis in itself, by the way. Anyhow, he wrote a huge amount on this topic, and it has nothing to do with politics. In my previous post (#90) I gave a list of non-political Heideggerian themes...."

I dont agree with this at all. Heidegger's project involves attack on the big picture, which liberalism --and modernity more generally ( with science and philosophy being key parts of the modernity )--come with / depend on, and so he wants to dismantle it and put in place his Nazi metaphysics and his Nazi ethics . So, he may be talking ontology and other seemingly unconnected stuff but this is just an attempt to provide a replacement for what he thinks he has shown to be deeply problematic and needs to be replaced ( Similarly Rawls talks about moral psychology , or nature of philosophical method but its important part of his political story he wants to tell even though, on the face of it, it seems only tenuously connected with his politics ).

We can ignore of course the fact that this is Nazi metaphysics and ask whether he succeeds with his dismantling project and whether what he puts in its place works and here there is a consensus, as far as I can see in Anglo - American philosophy, that in this regard his effort is worthless and a dead end : his ontological method ( this allegedly jettisons subject / object distinction ) is really useless and cannot deliver any interesting results because it is a priori , armchair speculation which leads nowhere because nothing follows from the fact that something SEEMS to be so ( this is the phenomenological component ) about whether it IS so ( empirical component ).See my comments # 65 and 80 for more details on this particular point.

102. dwreb - October 26, 2009 at 05:48 am

'on pain of being inconsistent', I like that. Did Nazism have a logical relation to it's 'roots'? Sure, there is 'political science', but that doesn't make politics 'scientific'. Or are we just talking about our argument's logic here?

This is almost like watching 'Inglorious Basterds' while listening to the 'Cabaret' soundtrack.

103. zdenekv - October 26, 2009 at 06:36 am

Well , Nazism has philosophy underwriting it which provides justification to it and comes with some story re how the world is organized ( metaphysics ) --- Liberalism has Hume , Kant , Mill and Rawls and these guys provide grounding and metaphysics ( in this case it is naturalism ) and ethics which is either untilitarianism ( Hume / Mill ) or rights based story ( Kant / Rawls )and Nazism has its own philosophy and Heidegger provides most sophisticated one ---. In so far as this is philosophical account it has to relate logically to what it rationalizes , justifies , grounds. Heidegger's picture is one big argument which rationalizes his Nazism. Is this scientific ? Well in a sense yes because science and philosophy are continuous but that doesnt mean that its good science. Since Heidegger's philosophy is bad philosophy ( or rather pseudo philosophy or as harry Frankfurt says "bullshit" )its got to be kind of pseudo science like astrology or creationism.

104. jchristopher - October 26, 2009 at 09:28 am

I once heard Norman Mailer at a book reading say "I hate Hitler because he made it more difficult for us to laugh." It was an odd statement, but given his reflections on it I think he meant that the Holocaust makes it impossible for us to dismiss ideas as silly or play with them in the same way. A philosopher who writes obscure prose, a chain of sloppy thinking, an off-color remark based on a cultural stereotype: we are still in a sense contained by the response to Hitler, which means none of these things can be laughed at; they need to be scrutinized as potential threats of the next fascist wave. Mailer's remark was something Nietzsche might have said; imagine Nietzsche kicking his boots up onto a desk and proclaiming himself Fuhrer of a university!

105. oldude - October 26, 2009 at 01:05 pm

Thank you, zmrzlina, for your excellent, balanced, and very helpful response (#98) to my post. I agree with most of what you say, and especially with the tone with which you say it. Thank you.

I agree that the segue into Heidegger's politics is his radical historicism and his beef with Enlightenment universalism. And I agree that there's no necessary connection between historicism and Nazism or any other cultural or political idee fixe. In fact, to take it a step further, I think it's far more plausible to argue that what historicism actually implies is just the opposite of any such regressive pining for cultural singularity and purity. A true historicist, and I mean someone who studies historical conditions and conditioning seriously, knows perfectly well that there's no such thing as going back, that history has brought us to this often disorienting, but also highly enriching, amalgamation of nationalities, races, and cultures which we call post-modernity, and that it has done so with finality. Nietzsche put it well when he said, himself nostalgically looking back to the Greeks, that we (we Europeans, I think he meant) are not so much a culture as history of cultures. Yes, inescapably, this IS what we now ARE: a dizzy commotion of world cultures gravitationally merging into one another and producing in the crunch a great deal of heat and queasiness -- but also of light. One might almost say that universality -- or our desperate need for universality, for the means wherewith to talk with one another and achieve mutual understanding -- is thrust upon us as our true historical destiny. ("Almost," because something vaguely ill-smelling seems to emanate from the word 'destiny' when combined with the word 'history'.) I'm not talking here about Hegelian progress (the inevitable unfolding of the ideal) or of Enlightenment rationalism (the abstract formulation of the ideal and its programmatic imposition on reality). I'm talking about the messy, piecemeal, pragmatic, distinctly non-ideal JOB we're all saddled with in view of where history has actually landed us -- AND in view of "the sweet sentiment of existence", which most of the world, thank god, still has in common: our dear physical bodies and their "primordial" economic needs, that saving natural minimum. So it's just here, you see, that I feel most "entitled" to sweep aside Heidegger's political rhetoric and turn my attention solely to his important philosophical contributions. Sorry, Martin, no more Liederhosen, no more bucolic yah, yah, yah unter der Lindenbaum, no more mawkish picture-taking by the old water pump, not to mention under all those red and black banners. Now, please, can we talk about Dasein -- "that [particular] being to whose [mode or type of] being something like an understanding of being [as such] belongs" -- whether you're German or not! -- and what difference that makes to our self-conception as human beings? Now that's interesting. once we work past the incantation.

For what it's worth, I have read some Zimmerman and a good deal of Sheehan. In fact, Sheehan is among my top four or five favorite commentators. I wish all his articles were anthologized together, by the way. I've gone so far as to work through his excellent book on the theologian Karl Rahner's debt to Heidegger, which happens also to be one of the best books on Heidegger. Guess what? No politics!

More later. And something for you, too, I hope, zdenekv. You definitely have me feeling antsy. In a good way.

106. zmrzlina - October 26, 2009 at 01:08 pm

odzihozo at 99 challenges posters such as myself to come out from behind their anonymity. I see no reason whey not, especially as this is an organ of "higher education." I am Gregory Fried, Philosophy Department, Suffolk University, Boston. Much of my published work (for example: _Heidegger's Polemos: From Being to Politics_; "Back to the Cave: A Response to Heideggerian Postmodernism"; a recent response to Zizek) deals directly with the question of Heidegger and politics. I write on him in part because I an interested in defending the liberal tradition, broadly construed from Plato on) against what I take to be one of its most serious critics. But to defend means also to take that criticism seriously; otherwise, it's all too easy. I've learned that much from Heidegger, for better or worse.

107. zmrzlina - October 26, 2009 at 03:05 pm

zdenekv, I suspect that our discussion may have exhausted its potential, but I'll give it one more go. I thank you for the occasion to address this.

At 100, you write:

"Yes, you would be committed to [Rawls'] liberalism if you accepted (or found persuasive, bought into) enough of Rawls' key claims he makes and argues for in his T of J. ... Philosopher (pick anyone you like) is making an ARGUMENT, in other words, for a certain CONCLUSION and once you accept the argument you are committed to the conclusion in a sense that you cannot consistently endorse the one without endorsing the other.... Same considerations then apply to our discussion: accept Heidegger's philosophy or find it persuasive and you have to endorse his Nazism."

Cogently put. The one fly in the ointment is that word "enough" in the first sentence.

At what point to I know that I have committed to "enough" of a thinker's claims to commit me to his or her conclusion? If I find Marx's analysis of alienation intriguing, perhaps even convincing, am I then committed to internationalist socialism, the dictatorship of the proletariat, Stalin's purges, and the liquidation of the kulaks. Maybe; maybe not. It's a question. If I find Kant's analysis of moral personality compelling, even convincing, am I committed to Rawls' Kantian construction of the person, the original position, and his whole liberal edifice? Again: not at all obvious.

And so my reductio about Plato being a totalitarian, Aristotle an advocate of natural slavery, Locke and Jefferson advocates of slavery and colonialism, Kant a promoter of anti-semitism and racism, etc etc etc -- all still holds good. In each of these instances, I could make a very good case that the conclusions, as you call them, follow from an argument, as you call it, that proceeds from the deepest core of the philosophy. Hence, to follow your logic, to accept or event to find persuasive, in any detail, the likes of Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Jefferson, Kant etc etc etc, would be to endorse tyranny, slavery, racism, anti-semitism, and genocide. The contamination goes all the way down.

But this is absurd reductionism. (Although I would also say that you'd better pay attention when reading Plato et al, too, just as I would say about Heidegger!)

Furthermore, it begs the question to assume that EVERYTHING in an author's corpus is part of the "argument" for a particular politics. Cannot an author work on a variety of themes and problems, not each of which contaminate the others? Again, this is a question for the minute exegesis of each author in each case. An ideological approach to philosophy seeks to avoid that hard work in favor of summary judgments. This is why it is tendentious and question-begging (and perhaps a bit bullying to those who study him) to call Heidegger's thought a "Nazi metaphysics."

I argued that "to say that there is a connection between a body of work and a politics means that the thinking POSSIBLY implies the politics," and zdenekv, you responded at 100:

"No, this cannot be the case if philosophy is understood as an inquiry continuous with science and involving making of arguments which entail or support conclusions the philosopher is arguing for."

Here, I think, we arrive at the heart of why you and I are talking past each other, and perhaps why much of so-called Analytic and Continental philosophy talk past each other.

I do not believe that philosophy is "an inquiry continuous with science"; yes, philosophy does make arguments, but that is only part of its calling.

One does not have to be a Heidegger fanatic to call into question the positivistic claim that philosophy is continuous with science. This question is very much a live one, despite the fact that many modern positivists would like to ignore it.

In my view, crudely, philosophy involves at least the three following elements:

1) DISCERNMENT: as Aristotle wrote (aptly enough, in the Metaphysics), philosophy begins in wonder. We must first awaken that sense of wonder and discern what is worth thinking about. We must be able to see what is AT ISSUE, and why it is. (Science can never tell us this; only our own responsive situatedness.)

2) QUESTIONING: once we see that something is at issue, we must be able to understand it well enough to formulate a question about it that gets at the heart of what we are wondering about. (Science has no resources for telling us what questions to ask in the first place.)

3) ANSWERING: here is where what we usually cal and argument comes in: once we have formulated a question well, we may (underline MAY!) be in a position to give an answer that resolves it. But it may be an answer only (only!) exacerbate it as a question and deepens our wonder (consider all the "aporetic" Platonic dialogues; consider Socrates himself!).

(For example, and simplistically: 1) notice and wonder about both the terrible and the noble things people do to one another; 2) formulate a question: What is justice? 3) frame an argument for what justice is, such at Plato's or Rawls'.)

Certainly there are many philosophers, some of them very great ones, who operate largely on the third level. But there are many who do not, and they are no less philosophers for it; perhaps they are more so (the levels are not necessarily higher or lower). It is reductionistic and question-begging to say that all that does on in philosophy is in argument.

I read philosophers (and literature and sacred texts, etc) not just for their answers ("arguments") but also for how they can help me unsettle and rethink my own questions, even to reformulate what it is that I am wondering about in the first place, and so to eke out possible new paths to a response to what is at issue. That is another reason (in addition to what I argued above about the reductive absurdity) why I reject the claim that a philosopher's "conclusion is not in any interesting sense optional." THAT claim is the root of the Inquisitorial mindset.

Philosophy is not continuous with science, even if it must enter into conversation with it. One does not need to be a phenomenologist, a hermeneuticist, or even (gasp!) a reader of Heidegger, to notice that science is unable, qua science, to justify its own foundations, and even less to make sense of its purposes. Science, as such, is incapable of ethics.

Or shall we blame Einstein for the "conclusion" of his "argument" at Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

Your write: "Since Heidegger's philosophy is bad philosophy (or rather pseudo philosophy or as Harry Frankfurt says 'bullshit'), it's got to be kind of pseudo science like astrology or creationism."

This is not a valid (dare I say) argument, and it is hand-waiving at what one does not like (or shall we say, what one hates) or does not understand or does not want to think about.

Science cannot justify itself in scientific terms. That can only be a project for philosophy. All philosophy, not just Heidegger's must therefore be "bullshit" (Plato, Aristotle, Kant -- the whole motley herd from then to now). No serious reader of the history of philosophy can claim that philosophy is science, at least not in the modern sense of science. Heidegger's philosophy may, in part or whole, be wrong and even dangerous, but then only wrong and dangerous in the sense that Platonic, Aristotelian, Kantian metaphysics is or might be, too (if not in exactly the same way).

To think is to confront that danger, and no science, no empirical "results," can relieve us of that burden.

108. swidman - October 26, 2009 at 03:27 pm

Whether or not Romano was too glib in dismissing Heidegger's thought altogether, there seems no sense in most if not all of these comments of the possibility that Romano is working on a much larger project, and perhaps a more important one. That project is to plumb the failure of morality--the failure among some of the last century's leading thinkers to have been more clear and outspoken about the evils of Nazism and genocide. His essays on the silence of leading American college presidents in the 1930s --even when presented with evidence of what was going on--and his essay on the Pope's relationship to Nazism need to be put with the essay on Heidegger if we are to grasp, or so it seems to me, the underlying issue that Romano is running down. Especially among those from whom we might havee expected more, what provoked the silence?

109. 11220972 - October 26, 2009 at 04:02 pm

I'm not a philosopher, I don't know much about Heidegger (his history or his philosophy), and I'm grateful to those who know more than I for their posts here. I don't have time to read all of the 108 posts before mine, but I am particularly grateful to "iaint" for the first post.

As I say, I don't know much, but Romano's piece sounded too much like a call for book burning for my comfort. The irony in this made me doubt Romano's judgment and make a reality check at this forum.

If Romano had followed his own advice and attacked Heidegger by making him a butt of jokes instead of a hate-filled screed, he probably would have won me over. Unless his jokes were as opaque (to me) as his last line (about "Heidegger's _Faux Tyrolean Wardrobe adn the Pecter of Carl Schmitt_").

I apologize if anyone already made this rather obvious point.

Ken Pimple, Indiana Univesity (pimple@indiana.edu)

110. zdenekv - October 26, 2009 at 05:19 pm

zmrzlina @ 107 : "Philosophy is not continuous with science, even if it must enter into conversation with it. One does not need to be a phenomenologist, a hermeneuticist, or even (gasp!) a reader of Heidegger, to notice that science is unable, qua science, to justify its own foundations, and even less to make sense of its purposes. Science, as such, is incapable of ethics."

This outlook seems very much out of touch with the latest developments in philosophy because naturalism is very much back since Quine's "Two Dogmas" ( shows that there is no coherent notion of analyticity and hence no coherent notion of a priori which you btw require to make sense of your method ) which has ushered in an approach to philosophical problems and also the way philosophy conceives of itself which is similar to the way philosophy was done by pre-Socratics and Aristotle and more recently by Descartes , Locke , Leibniz , Hume , Kant and Mill. All of these philosophers showed willingness to draw on ideas of the emerging sciences , to cull concepts from psychology and physics and later to find inspiration in Darwin and hence endorsed the idea that science and philosophy are continuous. Frege / Wittgenstein break with this naturalistic outlook arguing that there is such thing as first philosophy which sees philosophical method as a priori. This is the source of the idea that philosophy and science are discontinuous you seems to also endorse.

Can naturalism justify scientific foundations ? Sure , and such an approach is called reliabilism in epistemology. What about ethics? Same answer : naturalists like Richard Boyd and Peter Railton have developed semantics appropriate for moral realism which treats moral properties as natural properties and similar developments can be see elsewhere in ethics ( I am thinking of Korsgaard's constructivism ). So it seems to me that your outlook is out of touch with what is going on in both naturalized epistemology ( this goes to your claim that science cannot justify its own foundations ) ethics ( this goes to your claim that science is incapable of ethics.

111. oldude - October 26, 2009 at 05:22 pm

zdenekv, I acknowledge that your motives are the best, and I certainly have no qualms with your delving deeply into Heidegger's Nazism and asking what his embrace of that bastard creed has to do with his philosophy as a whole. I'm very glad that there are people as passionately involved with political thought as you and Professor Freid are, and I feel more than slightly sheepish about my own slackness in this regard. Still, I am concerned that you're making assertions and generalization about the original motives behind Heidegger's ontological interests that are just plain false to the facts of his intellectual development. In #101 you say: "Heidegger's project involves [an] attack on the big picture, which [is] liberalism -- and modernity more generally (with science and philosophy being key parts of [...] modernity) [...] and so he wants to dismantle it and put in [its] place his Nazi metaphysics and his Nazi ethics." If you don't mind, I'd like to limit remarks to BT and the lead-up to it, because BT is generally accepted as the locus classicus of Heidegger's thought and is anyway the focus of my own interest. This may be unfair to you, because I think your generalization far better fits the Heidegger who emerges post-BT. This is NOT to say that there aren't things in BT that Heidegger was later able to incorporate into his Nazi rigmarole, including certain rhetorical turns of phrase that the Anglo-American ear is perhaps deaf to.

It's true that from the very start of his career Heidegger was imbrued with very conservative, anti-modernist attitudes and opinions. But these stemmed from his devout rural Catholicism and his subsequent Catholic education, not from any early political interests or affiliations. His thinking career began as a Jesuit seminarian, and his interest in ontology began in 1907 when he was presented with a copy of Franz Brentano's work "On the Several Sense of Being in Aristotle" (1862). He was given this book because he was on his way to prepare for the Catholic priesthood and therefore to immerse himself in the study of Thomas Aquinas, the Aristotelian's Aristotelian, as you know. Nazi metaphysics? No, just old-fashioned, church-bound, onto-theological metaphysics with a lot of Greek metaphysics to back it up. In short, Heidegger's interest in ontology began with RELIGION, not with politics. But Heidegger developed quickly and soon outgrew the Catholic Church and its restrictions on his independent thinking, which was becoming more and more focused on his one rather arcane question about the meaning of being. So where does he go from there? Nazi metaphysics? No. He develops into a Protestant and goes on to Marburg to major in philosophy, where one of his closest associates is Ruldolph Bultmann, the Protestant theologian.. As a philosopher, he embarks on an intensive study of -- politics? No, again. Rather with what we might call philosophical religion, always with an eye to the question of being. His reading list is very telling: Plotinus, Augustine, Dun Scotus, Aquinas, Eckhart, St. Teresa, Schleiermacher, Kierkegaard, Wilhelm Dilthey, and Karl Jaspers, to name a few. At the same time, he was always intensively reading Aristotle, Kant, and Husserl. All mainstays of Nazi thought, nicht wahr? Of course not. So this is the background that feeds into BT. Knowing this background -- as you almost certainly do -- can you seriously continue to claim (without a heck of lot of qualification) that Heidegger's philosophical motive was to dismantle liberalism and modernism and "put in [its] place his Nazi metaphysics and his Nazi ethics"? (Emphasis here not on the dismantling (he was anti-modernist) but on the Nazi identity of his revolt against modernism.

I should cut this off. Perhaps as usual I've belabored a simple point far beyond need. But it does seem to me that details such as I've just randomly thrown out are very pertinent to the kind of general condemnations that you seem committed to. I shall be very impressed if you can recruit these details to bolster your thesis that BT is "Nazi metaphysics" in both plan and realization. If you do, I shall repent in dust and ashes, the same dust and ashes produced by the bonfire of my Heidegger collection.



112. zdenekv - October 26, 2009 at 06:01 pm

zmrzlina at 107 : "Science cannot justify itself in scientific terms. That can only be a project for philosophy. All philosophy, not just Heidegger's must therefore be "bullshit" (Plato, Aristotle, Kant -- the whole motley herd from then to now). No serious reader of the history of philosophy can claim that philosophy is science, at least not in the modern sense of science. Heidegger's philosophy may, in part or whole, be wrong and even dangerous, but then only wrong and dangerous in the sense that Platonic, Aristotelian, Kantian metaphysics is or might be, too (if not in exactly the same way)."

Doesnt follow because naturalistic approach to philosophy is just more theoretical, more abstract science and it construes philosophical problems as scientific problems and hence the problem of justifying science foundations is construed as being essentially scientific problem at the end of the day. In naturalized epistemology this is called reliabilism ( see Fred Dretske , Alvin Goldman Larry Laudan and Philip Kitcher all of whom stress the impossibility of doing epistemology a priori ).So psychology cognitive science are back in the picture in this regard ( ie. results from these sciences are being used in epistemology just as it was done by say Hume and Kant ).

You also appear to have misunderstood my point about Heidegger being a bad philosopher. The claim is NOT that he is a bullshitter because his philosophy is not continuous with science . The idea is rather that just as Nazi sociology is not real sociology or that Lysenkoism is not real biology or that creation science is not real science so similarly Heidegger's stuff is not real philosophy because he does not really argue for his claims, he makes stipulative, question-begging definitions all over the place , deliberately distorts the Pre-Socratics he reads and of course introduces unintelligible jargon to hide emptiness and poverty of some of his central claims re being ( he actually says that to be intelligible is a suicide for philosophy ).This is a mark of scharlatan in my opinion.

113. gdesilet - October 26, 2009 at 07:30 pm

zdenekv says at #112: [Heidegger] makes stipulative, question-begging definitions all over the place . . . and introduces unintelligible jargon to hide the emptiness and poverty of some of his central claims re being.

I can't agree with what you say here and most of what you say in your other posts. Many have found Heidegger's claims about the intersection of Dasein, Being, and Time to make a great deal of sense, including me--which is not to say that I agree with it.

Stepping back and speaking more broadly of all the above comments, the number of passionate responses to Romano's piece proves that, while "nothing new" may be said in Faye's book and very little to praise may be perceived in Romano's lamentable seconding of Faye's indictments, the Heidegger controversy pushes many people's hot buttons. And I think for good reasons. The question of the connection between someone's chosen philosophy and the way in which that person actually behaves is no small question considering that at least one main purpose of philosophy may be to show us better ways to live. How Heidegger lived, including especially his political choices, is certainly relevant to the substance of his philosophy. But Here I agree with the majority of zmrzlina's (Prof Fried's) views, while adding that Heidegger's answers to the significant questions he raises (see post #69) are crucial. To the extent Heidegger raises good questions about the relation between self and community--both through his work and through his questionable example--then his conduct and his philosophy are both worth examining. In this sense it could even be said that men such as Heidegger--another might be Paul de Man--raise such questions to a pointed extreme like few others in history--precisely because their manifest intelligence and certain aspects of their philosophies are so hard (or seemingly so) to reconcile with other parts of their words and actions. If beliefs connect with or govern actions in any important way, then the life and work of men like Heidegger and Paul de Man become case histories of prime interest from which much may be learned about that connection. This is especially true considering many minds have seen much of value in the work of both Heidegger and de Man.

A comment blog like this is not a good place for sorting out the differences between Heidegger's National Socialism and Hitler's. But these two views of National Socialism or their respective political/philosophical implications and assumptions do share something, and it's very important, as many have herein suggested, to figure out what that is. What did Heidegger find in the de facto National Socialism of his day that caused him to see similarities with his own thinking, aspirations, assumptions, etc.? Identifying this point (or points) of intersection and then evaluating it's philosophical merit may prove difficult and interpretive (what isn't?) but also valuable to the extent it imposes an adequate reflection on the collective travails of the 20th century (a necessary task Prof. Fried also recommends). My own attempt to do this borrows considerably from Habermas' comments on Heidegger's relation to National Socialism and attempts further illumination by way of a comparison/contrast between American theorist Kenneth Burke (who wrote a famous review of Mein Kampf) and Heidegger. This work points out part of the value and innovation in Heidegger's thinking while also offering a critique. The arguments cannot be adequately repeated here, so forgive me if I refer the interested reader to chapter three of a book I've written, much of which can be accessed via Google book search (search "Gregory Desilet" and "Cult of the Kill"). The book also contains a chapter (appendix) on the Paul de Man controversy. Also, Prof. Fried, if you are still looking in, I would like to read the work of yours you mention above. Can you provide the citation?

114. oldude - October 26, 2009 at 08:14 pm

One clarification for Professor Fried. In response to my remark at #90: "One may not be non-political. Period. Am I wrong?" you replied at #98: "I think you are right that this worries some people. And to give them due credit, it's by no means a completely unreasonable concern."

Except for the blogger's hyped-up urgency to cram his precious message through, I might have said what I was actually thinking: "One may not be non-political in one's reading." I am very much for citizenship, participatory democracy, and informed voting, and I urge that prejudice on everyone I know. However, just as I don't bring Heidegger into the voting booth, I don't bring the voting booth into Heidegger -- nor do I feel morally obliged to do so. Just to make that clear.

115. zmrzlina - October 27, 2009 at 01:09 am

oldude: points taken. Thank you.

gdesilet: the texts cited are:

* _Heidegger's Polemos: From Being to Politcs_ (Yale, 2000)

* "Back to the Cave: A Platonic Rejoinder to Heidegger," in Hyland and Manoussakis, eds., _Heidegger and the Greeks_ (Indiana, 2006)

* "Where's the Point? Slavoj Zizek and the Broken Sword," in the _International Journal of Zizek Studies_, 1:4 (2007), avalable online at http://zizekstudies.org/index.php/ijzs/issue/view/6

zdenekv: like das ewig Weibliche, you lure me ever on!

Yes, I know that naturalism is very much in fashion, and obviously I am not persuaded by scientism. I do think it would be a valuable thing to engage in a genuine dialogue between naturalism and phenomenology/hermeneutics. But this is not the place, and I certainly don't have the resources for such a battle royal now.

What is certain, granting for the sake of argument that naturalism is truer than true, is that Heidegger would be consigned to the same rubbish heap as all other witless non-empiricists, starting with Plato and going on through. He would not stand out from the rest of the dross in that case.

As for Heidegger's treatment of the history of philosophy, I take him to task for it myself, in "Back to the Cave," cited above. But interpretations can be interesting and important even when wrong -- because, as I have argued all along, philosophy is more than propositional argument (though it includes it)!

Which brings us to the real issue in this whole dispute, which is that I think the point still stands that if you condemn all of Heidegger for his politics, as an expression of his philosophy, then we must do the same for Plato for his totalitarianism, Aristotle for his support of slavery, Locke and Jefferson for their support of slavery and colonialism, Kant for his anti-semitism and racism, and on and on and on. Because in each case, one can make an entirely credible case that their heinous conclusions are grounded in fundamental arguments of their philosophy.

I reject such reductionism as Inquisitorial, of course, and I am beginning to repeat myself. You have not escaped from the gravitational pull of that "enough" in your post 100. How many of an author's ideas must I agree with before I am committed to his or her conclusions? One? Some? All? Presumably, somewhere between one and all. But HOW many must surely depend on the question and the argument at hand, and this is a matter of careful exegesis and probity in each case, as well as a modicum of intellectual generosity for the thought one is confronting (it is the relentless refusal to grant this that bothers so many here; it strikes one as cheap and dishonorable, despite how rancid Heidegger the man may have been).

But mark me, and this is a distinction with a difference: while I reject Inquisitionism, I advocate vigilant reflection on the implications of a thinker's work.

G Fried
Suffolk University



116. zdenekv - October 27, 2009 at 01:53 am

oldude at # 111 : "This is NOT to say that there aren't things in BT that Heidegger was later able to incorporate into his Nazi rigmarole, including certain rhetorical turns of phrase that the Anglo-American ear is perhaps deaf to...So where does he go from there? Nazi metaphysics? No...All mainstays of Nazi thought, nicht wahr? Of course not. So this is the background that feeds into BT.. It's true that from the very start of his career Heidegger was imbrued with very conservative, anti-modernist attitudes and opinions."


I appreciate your comment but I am not persuaded. You seem to concede my point ( you say that there is anti modernist , very conservative attitude plus you say that there are Nazi elements etc ) but puzzlingly you draw a conclusion that is incompatible with this concession. It seems to me that if one is less quick and less keen to brush these Nazi components under the carpet a different conclusion follows : the elements I see in B&T involve both "innocent and mystical relation of hand and tool , which must be cleansed of the pretensions and illusions of abstract intellect " and also explicit Spenglerian sense of apocalypse and a crisis so deep that normal standards of moral conduct can be ignored. This leads to the emphasis on rootedness and on the intimacies of blood and remembrance which an authentic human being cultivates with his Volk and his native ground. Together these elements of Hs rhetoric of 'at-homeness', of the organic continuum which knits the living to the ancestral dead buried close by, underwrite the Nazi cult of 'blood and soil'.

Lets be a bit more explicit re H's moral vision that emerges in B&T that you either dont see or want to ignore : the ethics H is putting forward in B&T treats the tradition and the Volk as the defining moral horizon against which action must be tested and so it is a type of chauvinist morality. It is a kind of perverted Kant ( also clearly visible in the rectoral address ) because Heidegger accepts Kant's idea that autonomous action involves laying down a law that can be universalized, which for Kant means that it can be applied to or embraced by by all human beings, irrespective of race or gender or nationality . But Heidegger drops this universal component of Kant's theory and substitutes it with a demand that the legislated rules ( rules the community autonomously lays down ) apply to his people , culture or his Volk only ; this is chauvinist ethics that in my opinion underwrite Nazism and it is easy to see how mass murder or genocide can easily be rationalized by this type of Nazi moral outlook.

117. zdenekv - October 27, 2009 at 02:47 am

gdesilet @ 113 : "I can't agree with what you say here and most of what you say in your other posts. Many have found Heidegger's claims about the intersection of Dasein, Being, and Time to make a great deal of sense, including me--which is not to say that I agree with it."

Thank you for your comment but ( I hope this is not going to sound too rude / dismissive ) many people find astrology or the so called Soviet Science or creationism to make lots of sense but that ,on its own, is not sufficient. The question is whether H's work can be defended against the sort of criticisms i have glossed ( I am not claiming that they are original ) which argues that H's philosophy is not very good as philosophy and that it moreover has to be regarded as philosophy of Nazism and Heidegger as a theorist of Nazism. Of course if his work contained some important philosophical insights the nature of stuff ( world , mind , language , meaning ,knowledge ,nature of philosophy itself , politics )then we would have to take it seriously, but unfortunately it does not have anything useful to say on any of these matters, as most philosophers have argued for some time now and that is why, at the end of the day, it has to be judged by its philosophical defense of Nazism only and be condemned not only as both bad philosophy but also as pernicious philosophy( note btw that most people who defend Heidegger's work and take it seriously-- engaging in endless exegesis of it only-- are usually not trained in philosophy and same seems to apply to work of people like Foucault , Derrida and the other postmodernist H inspired , why do you think that is ? ).

118. artifish - October 27, 2009 at 03:55 am

Well zdenekv to paraphrase. "There are more things in heaven and earth, [Zdenekv or is it ......?] ... Than are dreamt of in your philosophy". Spare us the: "I hope this is not going to sound too rude / dismissive" nonsense. In the same paragraph you proceed to dismiss "people who defend Heidegger's work and take it seriously" and "Foucault [and] Derrida" to boot, as "usually not trained in philosophy". But what you mean is: not trained in the narrow rationalist philosophical tradition which Heidegger critiqued. Which would all be very well if you refrained from taring your opponents with the Nazi brush. The whole tone of Romano's piece and your defense of it is riddled with "rude / dismissive".

119. zdenekv - October 27, 2009 at 04:25 am

# 118 : "...But what you mean is: not trained in the narrow rationalist philosophical tradition which Heidegger critiqued..."

Well, actually it is Heidegger ( and Heideggerians ) who is the narrow rationalist of course because his philosophical approach is purely a priori , armchair speculation. He thinks that science and phil are not continuous remember and what you think this means ? The whole force of saying --as Greg Fried did ( defending Heidegger's method ) in comment # 107 especially -- that science and phil are not continuous is to claim that philosophical method is independent of experience or to put it more precisely results of such thinking are completely a priori. But this is narrow rationalism if ever there was one involving worst kind of armchair speculation ! In other words it is Heidegger and his devotees who are the narrow rationalists and not the outlook H is critical of ( enlightenment outlook which is naturalistic ). If narrow, sterile , armchair speculation speculation detached from experience bothers you then you should be critical of Heidegger instead of defending him !

120. jeffreyvd - October 27, 2009 at 06:16 am

As a filmmaker who has recently completed a documentary about Heidegger, I know only too well the pitfalls of trying to pass judgement on Heidegger. The first comment, in this long series of
comments, was that of Iain Thomson, who is a passionate defender of Heidegger. At the same time, however, Thomson is not afraid to denounce Heidegger's Nazism and, in my film, ONLY A GOD CAN SAVE US, eloquently attacks Heidegger's actions during the Third Reich. I agree with Thomson that Heidegger will be read and studied for hundreds of years. I also agree with those who vehemently disagree with Faye's desire to ban Heidegger. Yet Faye's scholarship can not be denied. He has thoroughly studied the recently published works of Heidegger's
seminars and has drawn, I believe, appropriate and reasonable
conclusions. Faye (who is also in my film) explains quite
thoroughly Heidegger's relationship with Jean Beaufret and Beaufret's close ties with Faurison and Maurice Bardesh (both
holocaust deniers who display deep antisemetic sentiments). When
Thomson claims that Faye is not recognized or respected in his own country, one has to realize that practically all of French
philosophy and philosophy departments in French universities
are Heideggerian and they all hate Faye. One of the worst is Francoise Fedier. Faye actually risked his academic career in France by writing his book. There is no doubt that Heidegger was
a major, important thinker of the 20th century, but he was also
a petty bourgeois from a small village in Baden who was also raised in a highly conservative form of Catholicism and displayed
powerful patriotic, nationalistic feelings which were steeped in the "blut und boden" of an arch-conservative, predominately rural
society. Rainer Marten, who believes that Heidegger doesn't deserve the controversy that now surrounds him, nevertheless makes it very clear in my film how "disgusting" he found Heidegger's behavior and much of Heidegger's ideas. Rainer Marten, retired philosophy professor at Freiburg University and Heidegger's assistant for 15 years, knew Heidegger personally and
recounts many positive and decent interactions he had with his teacher and boss, but doesn't shy away from what he called Heidegger's "spiritual racism." Hugo Ott makes it very
clear in my film that Heidegger's youth was strongly
tainted by a deep "anti-Jewish, not yet anti-semitic" strain that
was present in the Catholic Church. Thomas Sheehan was right when
he said in the New York Review of Books article that we must now
read Heidegger critically and as Richard Wolin claims in my film,
"we must not let our admiration for Heidegger's thought devolve into uncritical devotion, a constant temptation when dealing with a thinker like Heidegger." Wolin also reminds us that of all the one hundred or so volumes which will be published from Heidegger's complete works, "not one word is written about the greatest catastrophe of the twentieth century, namely Auschwitz." As a young man I was powerfully influenced by Heidegger. Ted Kiesel, a wonderful teacher, has shown me important ways to read Heidegger and speaks passionately about Heidegger's thought. Hugo Ott has shown the tragedy of the man who denounced his fellow teachers to promote his own career and yet claims that Sein und Zeit is a book he could not live without. Tom Rockmore's final comments in my film
says it all: "If a philosophy has bad consequences, then there is something wrong about the philosophy. If there is something wrong with Nazism, and I think that there is, then I think that one has to assess the philosophy which identifies with Nazism.
I think that is the case with Heidegger."
Persons interviewed in ONLY A GOD CAN SAVE US include:
Rainer Marten, Bernd Martin, Hugo Ott, Victor Farias, Ted Kiesel,
Tom Rockmore, Richard Wolin, Alfred Denker, Emmanuel Faye, Iain
Thomson among others.

121. odzihozo - October 27, 2009 at 08:10 am

zdenekv writes:

"the ethics H is putting forward in B&T treats the tradition and the Volk as the defining moral horizon against which action must be tested and so it is a type of chauvinist morality."

Where in BT do you find "the Volk" referred to as the defining moral horizon? Does the word "Volk" even appear in the book? I don't have the German translation, but Macquarrie/Robinson's "Glossary of German Expressions" doesn't list it. If the term doesn't appear, then what exactly are you reading it into? (It's the most unusual interpretation of BT I've ever heard.)

to jeffreyvd:

How can we see or get a copy of your film?

It's about time someone has made a film like that.

A Ivakhiv
U of Vermont

122. myemotan - October 27, 2009 at 10:57 am

Perhaps, to regard Heidegger as a "narrow rationalist," one also has to contend with certain hurdles, such as Sections 32 and 33 of B&T and the full version of the essay "What Is Metaphysics?" (1929/1943/1949). Philosophically and theoretically, something antinomic apparently persists in Heidegger. (Dr. Okhamafe)

123. bernardcraig20 - October 27, 2009 at 11:22 am

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124. artifish - October 27, 2009 at 11:35 am

I agree entirely with Dr Okhamafe. Heidegger called for a thinking which is more "more sober-minded than the incessant frenzy of rationalisation... ". But why let anything as trivial as the literature interfere with the slur-fest.

125. oldude - October 27, 2009 at 12:10 pm

zdenekv, at #116 you say: "You seem to concede my point ( you say that there is anti modernist , very conservative attitude plus you say that there are Nazi elements etc ) but puzzlingly you draw a conclusion that is incompatible with this concession." I rarely reach the level of subtlety, but let me try.

First, I would be cautious about taking a general definition of "anti-modernism" and slapping the label on Heidegger's forehead without first inquiring into the particulars of his personal and intellectual development. How anti-modern Heidegger was at any given point in his life and in what specific ways are open questions. What are the chances that a patriotic backwoods Catholic lad growing up in Kaiser's Germany before the Great War might develop anything that we would recognize as liberal views? I don't know, but I should think possibly fairly slim. As to science, I think you're inaccurate to represent Heidegger as somehow wholesale anti-scientific. As a student, he was quite interested in the sciences and actually considered majoring in them for a time. Apparently he had a flair for mathematics, if you can believe that. Today plenty of scholars (with good ol' Anglo-American analytic skills, nota bene) argue that BT and other works express views quite compatible with scientific realism, within the limits defined by its ontological pluralism. It comes down to a nuanced version of the neo-Kantian distinction between Natur- and Geistes-wissenschaften, or, in Heidegger's argot, the categorial difference between extant and the existential modes of being. "Pure dreck!" you say, from your scientific point of view. Very well. But now you're arguing about philosophy of science and not any putative "Nazi metaphyics."

Second, it seems to me that it makes a world of difference whether Heidegger's "anti-modernism" originates in his rural Catholic, patriotic German upbringing or (impossibly) in his future "fall" among the Nazis. The most relevant difference for our purposes concerns the motives and intent of his metaphysics/ontology and whether it can plausibly be understood as nothing more than an inflated, pseudo-philosophical rationalization for cracked-brained politics. You assert that Heidegger's ontology is "Nazi metaphysics," when the evidence of his develop suggests to the contrary that it's "just" metaphysics, with no political agenda associated with it at all. It begins with Aquinas and Aristotle, undergoes a revolution with his and Bultmann's radically demythologized interpretation of primitive Christian experience, is constantly refreshed with detailed, highly technical readings of Aristotle, Kant, Kierkegaard, Dilthey, and Husserl, and culminates in the agnostic "existential analytic" in BT -- all as preliminary to his re-asking the ancient and forgotten question of the meaning of being. He goes on re-asking that question for the rest of his life, with very mixed results, as we know.

That's a rather crude summary, to be sure, but I think you get the point. Heidegger's upbringing and character, his social and cultural background, remain intact throughout his development along his philosophical trajectory (what would one expect?), but they are not the guiding impetus or meaning of his highly abstract, nuanced, purely theoretical interests. Whether a more complete understanding of Heidegger's character development and social mindset would lead us to say, "Wouldn't you know that guy would turn out to be a Nazi!" is another question altogether.

Third, I did not say that there are "Nazi elements" in BT. That is a gross anachronism. I did said that I wasn't denying the possible existence of conservative, anti-modernist elements in BT which Heidegger would later incorporate into his Nazi rigmarole. I did not specify what those elements were or where they might be found. I don't know and I don't much care, because my interest is in Heidegger's ontology, not his Nazism or his possible, later misappropriation of his own early works. For all I know, Heidegger may have been (to lesser degree, to sbe sure) his own Frau Forster-Nietzsche. As for his post-Great War Spenglerian Angst, his apparent revulsion for modern urban, industrial life, and his nostalgic attachment to the simple Volk (you know, his folks) back in old Messkirch -- what can I say, they reflect truly rotten times for Germany from the point of view of...-- please reread from the top.

126. oldude - October 27, 2009 at 12:24 pm

jeffreyvd, I'm sorry I didn't read your post before posting mine. I would love to see that film!

127. zdenekv - October 27, 2009 at 12:27 pm

"You assert that Heidegger's ontology is "Nazi metaphysics," when the evidence of his develop suggests to the contrary that it's "just" metaphysics..."

I would disagree with that. In my opinion Heidegger's account of primordial awareness and Dasein is dehumanizing in a crucial way and hence constitutes an important part of his Nazi project. First small preliminary point : Dasein is supposedly ontologically prior to what takes place on 'ontic' level according to Heidegger and this is a key component of his attack on the so called 'Cartesian metaphysics' ( subject / object and dualism are parts of this outlook he is opposed to and wants to replace with his scheme ) he is opposed to and wants to dismantle.

The idea seems to involve the claim that Dasein is ontologically more basic than language culture and consciousness itself ; on this claim he erects his idea that we know the world in a primordial way and not via theory and language but rather in a more direct way. It is this picture he intends to replace Cartesian metaphysics with ( this view is incoherent but I want to set that issue aside to make the point about dehumanization of this whole story of H's ).

Dehumanizing point : 'awareness' that is preconscious , prelinguistic and completely precultural is ZOMBIE existence that might characterize what a virus or an automatic door feels and is aware of, and hence to call a human being who has an awareness of itself and its environment that is no more sophisticated than what a virus is aware of, really describes a zombie or a human being who is at best seriously mentally handicapped and in a vegetative state.

It is perverse and dehumanizing to want to call this sort of zombie being, authentic. In Heidegger's dehumanizing scheme of things, the zombie Borg are more authentic than conscious human beings with consciousness / awareness, built out of language, conscious interaction with other human beings and culture. That is, Heidegger claims that zombie existence is ontologically more fundamental--more primordial --- than 'ontic' existence which he disparages . Existence, which we lead as thinkers , husbands , teachers , lovers or care takers of other people--in other words as normal human beings-- and which relies on consciousness and language, is disparaged and called inauthentic, implying that zombie existence without consciousness, involving only zombie awareness, is the real thing and in this move he takes another step towards his Nazi politics !

128. odzihozo - October 27, 2009 at 12:53 pm

??... Where does Heidegger call conscious and linguistically-mediated existence "inauthentic"? This sounds like some sort of garbled version of an undergrad's half-understood freshman lecture on Heidegger. For Heidegger, language is the "house of being," and Dasein, or "there-being," refers to our being always already caught up in the midst of a world, with its concerns and commitments.

If zdenekv is Romano (as I suspect), then this (#127), with its ravings about "zombie existence," would seem to disqualify any last shred of authority he could claim for himself. (And if he isn't, then the others commenting here are paying too much attention to zdenekv.)


129. zdenekv - October 27, 2009 at 12:57 pm

Does Heidegger's idea of Dasein make sense ? No because its incoherent. Heidegger is making two incompatible claims:

(i) Dasein is not conscious and does not communicate by means of representations of any sort , and

(ii) Dasein calls and also says things to itself ( which involves beliefs / desires or non conceptual content in a way pictures do ).

The contradiction is that calling out , necessarily involves semantics of some sort and hence we have reference and sense going on in such states ( whether this is propositional or non propositional does not matter for the purposes of my criticism ).

The key point point is that this involves representation. The thing is that Heidegger also DENIES that Dasein involves consciousness and intentionality and this implies that Dasein calling out, or talking to itself does not involve reference and sense of any kind. The point of course is that this is a contradiction; Heidegger's position is incoherent.

130. odzihozo - October 27, 2009 at 02:22 pm

Heidegger's main point about Dasein, as I understand it, is that we are always already "in the world." We are not separate from the world, Cartesian subjects that manipulate representations about the objects around us (as old school cognitivism, which you seem to rely on, tends to think). We are caught up in projects, concerns, etc.

Rejecting the in-the-worldness of existence makes you a Cartesian of some kind (or something like that); but accepting it hardly makes one a Nazi. If it did, then Merleau-Ponty, Marcuse, Gadamer, Ricoeur, Foucault, Derrida, Nancy, Charles Taylor, George Grant, Hubert Dreyfus, Gianni Vattimo, Peter Sloterdijk, and a whole lot of other thinkers - most of them, as it turns out, on the democratic left - would also have to be called "Nazis" - which is plainly absurd.

131. zdenekv - October 27, 2009 at 02:28 pm

odzihozo 128 : " ....For Heidegger, language is the "house of being," and Dasein, or "there-being," refers to our being always already caught up in the midst of a world, with its concerns and commitments."

No, I think this is a misunderstanding of Heidegger's position. In B&T H tells us that his analysis of Dasein is ontological analysis and that it is more fundamental than the special sciences of man , such as anthropology or psychology, which move on the ontical level. Language , meaning and daily concerns which can be studied by science like psychology or linguistics are all situated at the ontic level and not ontological level of Dasein and the key thing is that nature of Dasein that is revealed by this ontological analysis is similar to Kant's transcendental properties or Husserlian essences and this just confirms the point I made above in 127 which you misunderstood because these sorts of properties cannot have semantics in any intelligible sense which is a property of things at the ontic level and if they cannot have semantic properties they cannot speak or call in any meaningful sense. If this is the case the point I made in 129 holds.

132. oldude - October 27, 2009 at 02:34 pm

zdenekv @128. Good heavens! The whole point of Heidegger's ontological pluralism -- his distinction between extant beings (rocks, trees, and stars), equipmental begins (hammers, chairs, and yes robots), and Dasein's unique mode of being -- is precisely his defense of the "conscious", irreducible, and completely ontic particularities you specify. The crucial difference is that Dasein, unlike those other modes of being, is intrinsically and inseparably open to the world. By "world", Heidegger understands the exquisitely complex and differentiated meanings and relationships which make up the very content and definition of each of our lives. Most of these meanings and relationship constitute, at any given time, the inarticulate (but articulable!) background conditions that enable our more explicit, rational, and "conscious" dealings with things. You don't actually go through life asking of everything you encounter, "What's this? What's this? What's this?" and then representing to yourself what they are. You always already "know" what they are in your intelligible but inexplicit interactions with and responses to them. That's not to say that you can't be mistaken about them or know more about them by making them explicit. To the contrary, by dear zdenekv! My scare quotes around "conscious" (above) are not meant to deny the familiar phenomena associated with intelligible experience (consciousness), but rather to emphasize Heidegger's critique of mind as a self-enclosed representational medium that has a problematic relationship to a putative "external world," so external that one is even perplexed about its very existence. In other words, he's rejecting the old, epistemological subject and it's inability to encounter, relate to, or otherwise know (including scientifically!) anything apart from its own experience. That's why he shies away from terms like "consciousness" and "mind" and replaces them with Dasein. The point of Dasein, of being "there" in the world, is that the things and people of the world are REALLY THERE to be encountered, interacted with, investigated, loved, and all the rest, in just the varied ways we do encounter, interact with, investigate, and love them -- without the intervention of the opaque veil of "mind" and its private contents, whether that's understood as the old Cartesian metaphysical substance or its latter-day scientific, representational equivalents. If you're worried about Dasein and robots, maybe you should read Hubert Dreyfus's What Computer's Can't Do? He's a big-time Heideggerian who seriously questions the very possibilty of intelligent machines, because Dasein does things that machines can't possible do. Relax, he has a clear, analytic mind and does not speak "mystic".

Okay, that's a mouthful, but what's a amateur philosopher to do in an exasperating situation like this? It occurs to me, by the way, that you're confusing phenomenology with phenomenalism. I seem to have picked that up from an earlier post as well. And, hey, did you just leapfrog my extremely astute and impregnable remarks on Heidegger's personal and intellectual development vis-a-vis the swamping importance you assign Nazi politics in BT?

133. artifish - October 27, 2009 at 02:45 pm

Re 128. it is very interesting that zdenekv has not denied the suggestion there that he is Romano. and if he is he might be interested in this comment on the debate:

http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2009/10/carlin-romano-does-it-again.html

134. zdenekv - October 27, 2009 at 02:59 pm

# 130 : " Heidegger's main point about Dasein, as I understand it, is that we are always already "in the world." We are not separate from the world, Cartesian subjects that manipulate representations about the objects around us (as old school cognitivism, which you seem to rely on, tends to think). We are caught up in projects, concerns, etc."

Sure, but how is this 'being always already in the world 'to be understood ? I mean what mechanism is involved such that you are aware of the world and yet this awareness does not involve representation of some sort ? Well, supposedly 'primordial awareness' does the trick but as I argued the idea doesnt work and presupposes intentionality and hence some form of representation. So yes we are caught up in projects and so on which dont involve self consciousness but they all involve representation without which such 'getting on in the world' would be totally blind. Activities like playing tennis, driving cars , writing or using tools all involve intentionality as cognitive science has shown: Even animals like dogs or very small children ( see for instance Elizabeth Spelke work )cope via mental states that have representational contents ( in this case non conceptual contents ).



"Rejecting the in-the-worldness of existence makes you a Cartesian of some kind (or something like that); but accepting it hardly makes one a Nazi".

No, this argument doesnt work because you are arguing aganist a straw man: the argument is not that accepting this zombie picture of Dasein on its own makes you into a Nazi, but rather that accepting this part of the Heidegger's account plus the rest of the story presented in B&T such as his ethics, as I keep on repeating over and over again, makes you into a Nazi and obviously the thinkers you mention do not endorse Heidegger's perverse chauvinist moral outlook I glossed earlier.

135. odzihozo - October 27, 2009 at 03:47 pm

To zdenekv - Your comment #134 shows that you're relying on a cognitive representationalist theory of mind -- which, it turns out, a growing number of cognitivists have themselves been rejecting in favor of an embodied/distributed/enactive theory of cognition (influenced in no small measure by, dare I say it, Heidegger, along with Merleau-Ponty). Not that that makes it right, but it does make me wonder if your writing on cognitive science is any better informed than your writing on philosophy.

Brian Leiter's characterization seems ever more apt...

136. gdesilet - October 27, 2009 at 03:48 pm

zdenekv: note btw that most people who defend Heidegger's work and take it seriously-- engaging in endless exegesis of it only-- are usually not trained in philosophy and same seems to apply to work of people like Foucault , Derrida and the other postmodernist H inspired , why do you think that is ?).

To suppose that postmodernists like Derrida are not trained in philosophy betrays a very narrow, and I should think, sterile, view of philosophy. This notion reminds me of a comment made by John Searle in a brief conversation I once had with him, following his lecture, where, after I had mentioned Derrida, he said "Derrida does not know how to do philosophy." And, pointing to the book "Limited Inc" I held in my hand he added, "That book is trash." This kind of dismissal I do not understand, especially since in my view Derrida, by far, got the better of their public exchange in the 70s.

zdenekv says further: If narrow, sterile , armchair speculation detached from experience bothers you then you should be critical of Heidegger instead of defending him !

I would ask you to point out how anyone who could do philosphy "detached from experience." As for "armchair speculation," how about Einstein? He was every bit as much an "armchair" thinker as Heidegger. Science based on empirical observation is more Aristotelian science than modern (or postmodern) science (such as particle physics) where imagination and deduction play a larger role than induction or accumulated observation. All theories, whether in physics or philosophy are in one way or another tested against experience. Heidegger's essay titled "Modern Science, Metaphysics, and Mathematics" traces the important leap from Aristotelian science to Newtonian science and shows how the latter is consistent with modern and postmodern metaphysics. In fact, I've made what I think is a strong case that "postmodern" philosophers such as Derrida (and Heidegger) are more scientific in their philosophical bearings (especially with regard to language theory) than the majority of their so called "scientific" critics such as Searle and Quine (see for example, "Physics and Language--Science and Rhetoric: Reviewing the Parallel Evolution of Theory on Motion and Meaning in the Aftermath of the Sokal Hoax"). Thus, to say that thinkers like Heidegger and Derrida are unscientific and non-naturalistic is, in an important sense, certainly questionable if not demonstrably false. They are scientific in important ways that should not be overlooked.

As for representationalist views of language, Derrida (who borrowed much from Heidegger) shows that the representational model is inadequate to explain what can be empiricallly observed to take place in the use of language. Even Wittgenstein came to understand that his early representationalist view of language could not explain how language works and demonstrated as much with endless examples in his Philosophical Investigations (this point, however, should not be taken to suggest that there are not very important differences between Wittgenstein's radical operationist and Derrida's deconstructionist views of language).

137. gdesilet - October 27, 2009 at 03:59 pm

Jeffrey Van Davis--when will your film open and will it screen in most cities? I live near Denver and would love to see it.

Greg Desilet

138. zdenekv - October 27, 2009 at 04:20 pm

oldude : "You always already "know" what they are in your intelligible but inexplicit interactions with and responses to them. That's not to say that you can't be mistaken about them or know more about them by making them explicit...."



Sure we do engage in these activities but they all involve either propositional content ( beliefs desires or non conceptual content ) so Heidegger's ( or Dreyfus' skillful coping ) approach which claims to drop subject / object distinction doesnt make sense of these ordinary activities like playing tennis , driving cars or anything of this ordinary sort . Dreyfus describes tennis playing as 'skillful coping' which --a la Heidegger-- he wants to capture without object / subject distinction from this 'ontological' perspective , but as has been pointed out by a number of people, the Heideggerian story describes a a deaf mute tennis player who also seems to be suffering some kind of brain damage that prevents him from having any overall sense of the game. We in other words do not play tennis like that. The problem with Dreyfus's example and Heidegger's similar example of carpentry , is not only that they are false ( false because such accounts are incoherent ) but also that they are irrelevant, because they fail to capture the level at which tennis players, as well as carpenters, are trying to do something when they engage in the so called "skillful coping" or 'primordial awareness.

139. zdenekv - October 27, 2009 at 04:45 pm

# 135 : "Your comment #134 shows that you're relying on a cognitive representationalist theory of mind -- which, it turns out, a growing number of cognitivists have themselves been rejecting in favor of an embodied/distributed/enactive theory of cognition (influenced in no small measure by, dare I say it, Heidegger, along with Merleau-Ponty)."

Well representational theory of mind is the main game in town and it remains to be seen whether recent developments which call parts of this paradigm into question will endure. The point is that according to the most popular current account of mind which is rooted in both philosophy and cognitive science Heidegger is wrong and that is all I was claiming and as far as I can see what you say confirms that.

140. tmckinne - October 27, 2009 at 05:14 pm

zdenekv: I agree with you that the position you are describing-- developed especially vividly by Dreyfus in his "exegeses" of Heidegger and arguments with Searle-- is incoherent and certainly less philosophically pregnant than it is usually taken to be. I disagree that the position you are describing bears any resemblance to a position that could be fairly ascribed to Heidegger.

Heidegger never claims that manipulating equipment lacks intentionality. What he does say is that when we are manipulating, e.g., a hammer, the hammer must withdraw from view in order to be genuinely available. He goes on to say in the very next sentence that the reason for this is that the hammer's withdrawal enables us to direct ourselves, in our activity, to the work -- to "that which is to be produced at the time." So we bear an intentional relation to the goal of our activity when we work with the hammer (or whatever). What's more, Heidegger has a name for the means by which the referential nexus of equipment (things "in order to") is uncovered. He calls this 'circumspection'. Scholars gloss this term variously, but I believe it is best understood as a form of interpretation. We interpret things circumspectively by putting them to use, but this use interprets an item of equipment as "something in order to (whatever)." So there's intentionality, or content, anyway, here, too. So Heidegger isn't denying that intentionality belongs in the context of human practice. Does that mean Heidegger is committed to the idea that our engagement with the world is mediated by the causal powers of representational states, like beliefs and desires? I don't believe so. Nothing in the text points unambiguously to such a position. I think the best way to read Being and Time is as neutral on that question. Being and Time is not a text in psychologistic philosophy of mind.

I know people get very attached to anti-cognitivist readings of Heidegger, but in my opinion, there is simply much less in the text to support the kind of thoroughgoing anti-cognitivism (according to which practice positively excludes thought, conscious awareness, and the like) that people are attached to. This makes sense: whether we can regard beliefs and desires as, e.g., causally active in producing our behavior seems to me a psychological question. If that's so, though, _Sein und Zeit_ shouldn't (and doesn't!) say much to decide it. If you like that sort of clearly and resolutely anti-cognitivist view, read Merleau-Ponty, who was fairly comfortable in claiming psychology as a domain of his concern.

What Being and Time is about is how (ontologically) people, i.e., creatures who act and make judgments, can be understood. Part of this project is denying that the right starting point to make sense of people is to treat them as subjects. But the problem with that approach is not that it involves intentionality or ascribes to people mental lives (which they surely have!), but that it treats the being of human agents and their mental lives on the model of substances (that's what's bad about Descartes) or fails to treat the question of their being at all, by claiming essential or necessary ignorance of it (that's Kant and Husserl). The subject of Being and Time is not anything under study by cognitive science (which treats the *components* of people, not people themselves), and so nothing Being and Time claims should be understood as contradicting or confirming the results of that science.

Just my $.02, writing as a Heidegger-dissertator, who is sincerely hopeful that his writings won't be ruled illegal by the time they're fit to print!

141. tmckinne - October 27, 2009 at 05:17 pm

Correction to the previous post. The end of the first paragraph should have read: "I don't believe so. Nothing in the text points unambiguously to such a position *or its opposite*. I think the best way to read Being and Time is as neutral on that question. Being and Time is not a text in psychologistic philosophy of mind."

142. zdenekv - October 27, 2009 at 05:33 pm

gdesilet : "To suppose that postmodernists like Derrida are not trained in philosophy betrays a very narrow, and I should think, sterile, view of philosophy."

Misunderstanding. Iam saying that ( perhaps not as clearly as I should have ) people who take Foucault and Derrida seriously are typically not trained in philosophy and not that Foucault and Derrida themselves are not trained in philosophy. My fault.


gdesilet :"I would ask you to point out how anyone who could do philosphy "detached from experience."

Most of analytic philosophy influenced by Frege / Wittgenstein and also Husserl , Heidegger and other continental philosophers influenced by these two have done philosophy in this way. How does it work ? Well involves logical analysis of philosophical problems and a search for necessary and sufficient conditions of concepts. In phil of science for example philosophers tried to discover ' the logic of discovery ' et. Or look at the way knowledge was analysed by analytic philosophers until recently. In what sense is such an approach disconnected from experience ? Well it focuses on logic and analysis of concepts and so the results of this approach is alleged a priori knowledge. Think of for example the claim 'if Paul is taller then John and John is taller then Peter then it follows that Paul is taller Peter' . We know that the conclusion ' Paul is taller then Peter' is true but this knowledge is not dependent on any experience but is completely based on knowing the meaning of the term 'taller' etc. This type of knowledge is said to be a priori.

gdesilet :"As for "armchair speculation," how about Einstein? He was every bit as much an "armchair" thinker as Heidegger."

This is a misunderstanding. Heidegger's approach is a priori whereas Eistein's is not and that is the difference that I wanted to emphasize and that is the difference between philosophy which is continuous with science ( most of recent Anglo -American philosophy is like that )and philosophy which is not continuous with science ( because it regards a priori approach as appropriate within philosophy ) eg. Husserl / heidegger inspired Continental philosophy.

gdesilet :"I've made what I think is a strong case that "postmodern" philosophers such as Derrida (and Heidegger) are more scientific in their philosophical bearings (especially with regard to language theory) than the majority of their so called "scientific" critics such as Searle and Quine"

It should be obvious now what is wrong with this suggestion . Heidegger inspired postmodernism is a prioristic and hence it thinks that it can achieve results by a non empirical method and of course it also does not think that there is a continuity between philosophy and science. For this reason i would say you have things the wrong way around.



143. dwreb - October 27, 2009 at 07:29 pm

Oh dear, now it's like watching 'Schindler's List' while listening to the 'South Pacific' soundtrack.

Zdenekv, your argument and position is a dog's breakfast. It is possible to be clear on most of these points, as Zmrzlina, Oldude and the others who take you to task have been, but they have been upfront and clear about their interest, investment, perspective and position regarding Heidegger. I mean, you're now making generalisations not about philosophers anymore (Derrida, Foucault etc), but about people who take them seriously! If that isn't armchair then I don't know what is (in fact only one arm might be resting on the chair...).

I'm not 'trained in philosophy', if by that you mean running alongside the obviously 'not-armchair', 'athletic' feats performed by 'logic' in determining Peter's height, but I take thinking very seriously. You're making it an issue no more (or less) interesting than 'freedom fries over French fries'.

144. mccumber - October 27, 2009 at 07:46 pm

I am one of the people who passed on Faye's book for publication in the US.

I thought it was silly. Heidegger's thought did not grow out of his Nazism--it was pretty much there long before. It is also not stupid--but in any case Faye, like the slightly saner Farias twenty years ago, doesn't get into it at all (neither, of course, does Romano).

As to the historical facts, I didn't find much new in the ms--only the claim that they, somehow, showed that Heidegger, somehow, inspired Hitler and the Nazis which is laughable. Heidegger wanted to do that, sure--but the Nazis never took him at all seriously.

So, it's a shame that the Chronicle of Higher Education has sunk to this. I know Glenn Beck is busy, but why don't you have Rush Limbaugh write somethings for you?

145. oldude - October 27, 2009 at 08:33 pm

To zdenekv. Am I not hearing you clearly now, or are you really saying that Heidegger was knowingly propounding a robotic view of human nature? I must be mishearing, so please excuse me if I am.

Let's assume you're right and that Heidegger's account of how human beings negotiate the everyday world is actually a description of something closer to how mindless robots operate. That's not the same as saying he intended such an account, and I think he might have been big enough to admit such am embarrassing goof had it been pointed out to him. (On the other hand, some people can get their backs up to the point where they would rather stomp on other people's feet than admit to a blunder.)

One of Heidegger's primary commitments, it seems plain to me, was to save our self-conception as human beings from the dehumanizing effects of scientific reductionism and technological manipulation. Thus when he says things such as, "Dasein is an entity...ontically distinguished [from other entities] by the fact that, in its very being, that being is an issue for it"; or such as, "Dasein always understands itself...in terms of a possibility of itself: to be itself or not itself", it sounds pretty obvious to me that he has in mind something thoroughly self-relating and conscious, not mechanical -- something, or I should say someone, more along the lines of Hamlet than Hal.

Dasein, Heidegger says, is never a "what" but always a concrete (ontic) "who." He's trying to capture the ontological (generic) structure of ontical (concrete) "who's" in order to show the impossibility (we might more cautiously say, implausibility) of theoretical efforts to explain them as only "what's" (such as their brains). Did he really wind up saying just the opposite of what he intended? If so, he wouldn't be the first, or the last. But, again, I think you may be generalizing beyond the text. Come to think of it, do you ever refer to a text, any text? And what, again, does Heidegger's goof in defense of the ontological uniqueness of ontic human beings -- assuming he made such a goof -- have to do with "Nazi metaphysics" or Nazi anything? Ach, I'm so dense!

If your never-ending indictment is finally to be " brought", I think it's time to gather the evidence and not just the charges. This venue is not the place to do that, I admit. So write a book. It sounds like one is in you desperately trying to get out.

Best of luck to you! And thanks again for all your intense thought. God, I wish I had your energy.

146. jeffreyvd - October 27, 2009 at 10:21 pm

MANY THANKS TO THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE EXPRESSED INTEREST IN MY FILM, ONLY A GOD CAN SAVE US (nur noch ein Gott kann uns retten).

We have just completed the subtitles for those interviews in German. We are planning a tour throughout the U.S. in 2010. German and French television have expressed interest. For those who wish a DVD ( please specify either English or German) you may purchase one by contacting me.

FOR DETAILS PLEASE CONTACT ME AT jazzmusiker@yahoo.com

Also if your history, philosophy or German studies department
would be interested in a special showing, I would be happy
to attend and participate in a postfilm panel discussion.

AGAIN, THANK YOU FOR YOUR INTEREST.

147. artifish - October 28, 2009 at 10:32 am

Hows this for a clarification from zdeneky:

"Misunderstanding. Iam saying that ( perhaps not as clearly as I should have ) people who take Foucault and Derrida seriously are typically not trained in philosophy and not that Foucault and Derrida themselves are not trained in philosophy. My fault".

Oh well that's very comforting.

This is the same kind of nonsensical "dog's breakfast" (to quote dwreb) we have had from Romano above. But then the writer has tellingly not responded to suggestions that he is Romano.

Is this what passes for serious comment at The CHE, shame!

148. lusiad - October 28, 2009 at 10:00 pm

I've been lurking in the corner, reading this thread with real interest. Just wanted to thank olddude for his clear-headedness and often illuminating comments. A rare gentleman (gentleperson?) and a terrific writer.

Lusiad

149. recoveringacademic - October 31, 2009 at 12:21 am

Why do academics care so much about their arguments?... Because they matter so little. Nothing demonstrates this truism better than the foregoing thread.

150. jeffreyvd - November 01, 2009 at 10:21 am

Oldude, if you see this, please contact me at jazzmusiker@yahoo.com. I would be happy to send you a copy
of my film, ONLY A GOD CAN SAVE US.



151. willequet - November 01, 2009 at 02:03 pm

An interesting discussion in the sense that it dances around the possibility that some ideas are actually dangerous. Whether that is true of Marx's, Lenin's, or Heidegger's does not especially matter so much as the question what an appropriate stance to that fact might be. Insisting that the authors of such ideas are 'whackos' does not seem like a satisfying answer. Nor does the knee jerk supposition that only bad ideas or false theories are dangerous.

What counts as dangerous? How about having significant inhumane consequences if taken seriously? Are there insignificant inhuman consequences? Is it a matter of numbers?

152. nomentanus - November 02, 2009 at 08:28 pm

I've read all the comments carefully (which isn't my habit) and am a bit discouraged that the historical context has only been alluded to, and I gather, generally misapprehended.

The Nazis were a political party competing for votes until 1933, but not thereafter. Until that date they presented themselves very much as a pastoralist party, amongst other things (many of which they also weren't.) In fact, they were avid technocrats who also understood how to draw in rural voters, and how to exploit the hatred ripening there. In fact, soon enough the Nazis' highly technological World War would more thoroughly industrialize Germany than any other course of action could have done in the same time period; altering German economic demographics forever - and not inadvertently. With the advantage of hindsight, we think of the Nazis only as extremists with very narrow and specific views: but as other political parties have done, the Nazis first tried to erect a "big tent", or the appearance of one. They hardly minded thoroughly and deliberately deceiving voters and other political parties; and of course, they folded up that tent as soon as they achieved power. Remember, too, that in 1933, four of the five leading parties in the German parliament - just before Hitler was handed executive power - were committed to ending democracy. The death of democracy and democratic values was what the Nazis, Catholic party, Monarchists and Communists agreed on. In such an atmosphere, the extremity of the Nazis was clear, but not remarkable. Even their violence wasn't unique.

The petty truth is that Heidegger was just one more "useful idiot" for the Nazi's, amongst millions. So far as we know, Heidegger didn't scruple at thuggery, censorship, or anti-semitism if that's what it took to retard the march towards more technology. Even so, he did realize he'd been had, and that the Nazi's weren't pastoralists in any way at all, but just late to do anything about it - which is to say, right on the Nazi's schedule. Similarly, believe it or not, there are some people in the U.S. even now, who are just now beginning to realize that George Bush wasn't really the "education president", and never sincerely intended to be!

If Heidegger was a backwoods political fool - a hick - then he was a hick with a great deal of company, in a country sick of disorder and economic chaos. That doesn't excuse the morality of Heidegger's political choices - so far as we know he never disagreed with violence as a decider in politics, he was only surprised by the world-conquering and technocratic ends the Nazi's actually sought once in power. He wanted the Nazis to force a great many people back onto the farms, and into some authentic peasant shoes. (In contrast the Nazis, as soon as the power fell to them, were concerned to change inheritance laws in order to increase the size of individual farms and make them more efficient, freeing up labor and soldiers.)

It is rarely mentioned, but the Nazis were the last modern movement to thoroughly embrace the once uniformly held agrarian view of economics and state power - that economic muscle was proportional to the amount of productive farmland a state contained. This made them look like pastoralists to many. But the Nazis eagerly embraced modern technology as a way to seize more farmland, a view which turns previous pastoralism on its head.

Many of the comments here reflect (in effect) a certainty that pastoralism and Nazism are the same thing. And there is a relationship - the Taliban are fervid pastoralists who draw on many of the same themes as the Nazis did, and who also hate Jews; and that's not entirely coincidental, of course. But it doesn't make the Taliban into technocrats, much less competent technocrats, as the Nazis were. Come to think of it, the Taliban far more closely model Heidegger's ideal - maybe Heidegger just missed his time, and didn't live to see his "ideal Nazi party" in action.

I believe that the lesson we ought to draw here is that - whatever the effect of technology on the human soul - Pastoralism and other forms of reactionary political thought are extremely dangerous precisely because they are easily seduced into any violent apparently reactionary nonsense - this is unavoidable because they actually react against or even explicitly prohibit the very sort of critical thought and analysis that could keep them from being co-opted or diverted. The Khmer Rouge, for example, never tarried to tidy up their logic or evaluate empirical fact. Reversing modernity was simply the ideal course of action, however it was achieved. So it can't be said that Heidegger's philosophy and his practical politics are entirely separate matters.

In fact, H's practical politics vividly exhibit the constant practical weakness of reactionary thought in general, and pastoralism in particular, that it is so easily duped and channeled. Recently in the U.S., we've seen a reactionary religious movement entering politics at the behest of the Republican Karl Rove, in order to get Roe vs Wade reversed once and for all. In truth, millions of churchgoers were simply being exploited in order to facilitate changes to the securitization and banking laws, and to the administration of those laws - changes that would made the greatest bank robbery in history possible. There's a "useful idiot" born every minute, and often baptized soon thereafter.

As mentioned earlier, four of the five most popular parties in the German parliament in 1933 were committed to ending democracy. It wasn't a nice place and it wasn't a nice time - and it seems that by our standards H wasn't a nice person. Does this mean that pastoralism is in every way philosophically incorrect, as well as being dangerous? Hardly. It does probably mean, ironically enough, that the only people likely to draw useful insights from such pastoralist "anti-analysis" or "muddled language-games" are those from liberal, critical traditions who generally despise the motivations of pastoralist theological philosophers. But even they should beware. After all, useful idiots never think they're the mark, and are often incapable of thinking a person of their sophistication could be the mark. That's what makes them so useful.

Interestingly, the very recent discovery of ipRGCs provides a mechanism for general damage to neurotransmitter levels and a deterioration in the quality of "being" with the advance of technology. It turns out that human beings are strongly affected by photoperiod, and that technology - electricity and gas lighting - is indeed whack, neurologically speaking. Science is beginning to line up behind Heidegger now!

To mention just one source: there are many good books covering the Nazis rise to power, and what their actual beliefs and strategies were; but perhaps the best one doesn't quite declare itself as such, namely, Adam Tooze's "The Wages of Destruction: the Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy", 2006 Allan Lane, Penguin 2007. Every continental philosopher, and most analytic ones, should give it a read, if only to see where ideas can lead.

153. sg127 - November 04, 2009 at 12:02 pm

Jokes? Mockery? Mr. Romano has some nerve. Heidegger's Nazism is a complex problem that those of us who teach him and twentieth-century history of ideas routinely address, and none of us have happy delusions on the matter. None of us also do nearly as pathetic a job of handling the elements that go into his nazism or the reasons behind his influence as this horrid mccarthyite article insinuates we do. I agree with tcarman: the editors should be ashamed.

154. ichhabekeinname - November 05, 2009 at 04:52 pm

Great article. The truth has to be said. The guy was a nazi and a fascist and it is impossible to separate his practice - explicitly nazi - from his theory - implicitly nazi. Of course some teachers who spent half their lives studying this crap won't admit that. But people should stop and think how is it possible that so many people find a lot of excuses to defend a nazi nowadays, and everybody seems to think it's normal. Most of the comments above comes to show how promptly people defend that nazi bastard, without thinking about the absurd of doing so. By the way, that he was a fool, used by the nazis, if true, doesn't excuse anything. Just makes him a repulsive fool instead of just a fool.

155. lfriedla - November 09, 2009 at 09:40 am

The previous comment is so rich. His suggested analogy to support for the "war on terror" precisely makes Faye's point. If by "war" I mean "peace" and if by "terror" I mean "friendship" then, of course, I am not supporting Bush's "War on Terror" but simply transforming its meaning from within so subtly that no one but true insiders will know that I am really secretly subverting it. Hence, the howler:
"The goal is to transform Nazism (to change it into something very different than what it was) but the risk is that to a superficial reading (like Faye's) Heidegger just seems to be mouthing Nazi buzzwords, as if he were yoking his philosophy to Nazism, rather than the reverse." So Heidegger is actually yoking Nazism to his philosophy! Well, in that case...

156. smarba - November 09, 2009 at 10:03 am

I don't understand why I should take seriously the comments of people who do not provide their names and contact info. Isn't that irresponsible by definition?

Sam Abrams
sxagsl2rit.edu

157. lfriedla - November 09, 2009 at 10:21 am

Apologies. First comment in thread.

158. quidditas - November 09, 2009 at 11:22 pm

"Recently in the U.S., we've seen a reactionary religious movement entering politics at the behest of the Republican Karl Rove, in order to get Roe vs Wade reversed once and for all. In truth, millions of churchgoers were simply being exploited in order to facilitate changes to the securitization and banking laws, and to the administration of those laws - changes that would made the greatest bank robbery in history possible."

Sure, and under Clinton we had the opposite and under Obama we have, well, Obama.

When questioned about his financial team by "progressives," did Obama not state that "the change" was himself? No need for diversity of thought in the Oval Office. The change is me.

""There's a "useful idiot" born every minute, and often baptized soon thereafter.""

And then we went to the inauguration.

159. leary52 - November 10, 2009 at 01:24 am

Romano writes not like he teaches or has ever taught philosophy but like a writer for a senastionalist gossip column. I took a course on Heidegger in college at a school close to UPENN with a similar ranking philosophy department. The class was called 20th century continental philosophy, and all we talked about was Heidegger, because he is beyond a doubt the most important philosopher of that century. The professor who taught the class is German, specializes in Heidegger, and he would have the best perspective of Heidegger's beliefs versus his philosophical arguments. Yes, Heidegger was a nazi, but only in so far as every German man in Germany was during the 1930s. His philosophy could not be farther from the views Romano expresses, as well as the New York Times article that quotes a person who says Heidegger is "anti-moralist." His book Being and Time, has sections devoted to "Care as the being of Dasein," Dasein specifically being people.

The reason I say that Roman writes not like a professor of philosophy is because he says, "One lauds him for his "revival of ontology." (Would we not think about things that exist without this ponderous, existentialist Teuton?)" What Romano is getting at is that ontology, which is the study of being or existing, would still be discussed without Heidegger, and to credit him with somekind of laudatory achievement for talking about existing is stupid, for we obviously would talk about existing without him. But that is not true. Heidegger single-handedly reintroduced ontology, which previously was only studied under the context of Plato's theory of the forms. Had Heidegger not written Being and Time, we probably would be less advanced with computers: look at existential AI programs and Hedeggarian AI's influence on it.

Ezra Pound, the writer who became an ex-patriot of America, who also went to UPENN, the same as Romano, turned into a British citizen then became good friends with Mussolini and was indicted for treason, the whole time giving anti-Semetic rants on the radio. Yet as a scholar of literature, I can read his Cantos or Plahn for the Young English King and be moved or interested in some way. I can despise his beliefs but respect his art. Yet Heidegger is less subjective than Pound, he is not an artist, his beliefs are completely separate from his work. His work entails truths and examinations of facts in the world, something he calls "readiness to hand" and is therefore separate from his beliefs. The book that is coming out denouncing Heidegger says his work should be all but thrown out for one cannot remove the nazism from the ideas, but that could not be more wrong. Looking over some of the comments at least gives me a little hope that although people like the publishers of the forthcoming book think the American public is stupid and foolhardy enough to eat up dribble like that, it is not entirely so.

160. oxen3516 - November 10, 2009 at 03:23 pm

A simple thought experiment can tell us whether or not Heidegger's philosophical thought should be regarded as seriously tainted by his Nazi affiliation. We might ask ourselves whether a reading of his work would have led us to suspect such an affiliation had we not known of it through other sources.

The answer to this question is manifestly no. That this is evidently so can be established by appeal to those anti-Nazis (Sartre, Derrida, Levinas and many others) who found (and find) merit in Heidegger's writing. I count myself among them.

Nazism can be read into Heidegger's work by those who wish to do so (for that matter, it could probably be read into Plato's work, with its endorsements of eugenics and dictatorship, etc.) but there is little to suggest that it would ever have been read out of it by anyone who had not already known of Heidegger's political involvements.

That pretty much answers Romano's diatribe.

As for whether Heidegger's writing is 'gibberish,' well, that is a quite different charge--but when a whole generation of thinkers and scholars have found a writer's work meaningful it seems boorish at best to call it 'gibberish.'

161. fadoria - November 15, 2009 at 01:36 pm

I was in my late teens and early twenties when Heidegger was an inspiration ***to the left***. The Marxian 1833 manuscripts were published with a Heideggerian-like aura; psychoanalysis and existential psychotherapy - from Medard Bosso, Binswanger, von Gebsattel, von Weiszäcker on to Laing and Cooper - stemmed from Heidegger's writings.

How does Ms Romano or Mr Faye explain that?

162. ann_observer - November 18, 2009 at 12:59 pm

If Heidegger's philosophical work over the two decades or so preceding Hitler's takeover of Germany led him to embrace Hitler and National Socialism, then that work is nothing worth. It doesn't deserve to be banned, but neither does it deserve to be studied. Life is short and then we die; one ought not waste precious hours struggling to comprehend the intentionally opaque jottings of an anti-Semitic, head-up-Hitler's-butt, brown-nosing Brown Shirt.

163. guinness4life - November 18, 2009 at 11:34 pm

Heidegger will eventually become what he is - a minor philosopher who had a major impact on shifting the direction of ontology towards being bottom up, rather than god's eye. His books though are poorly written, often obscure and yes, the biggest problem, heavily plagiarized from Eastern sources.

Ah, that whole being a plagiarist thing. Where are his eastern sources listed or mentioned in any of his books? Hegel, Nietzsche and Schopenhauer all mention their debt to Eastern sources, yet H is the most indebted to Eastern Works and he's the most reluctant to admit acquiantanceship with them.

The Book of Tea said in a page what H couldn't say in all of the immensely overrated and disjointed Being & Time. I liked it better when it was called Taoism and could be expressed succinctly. Yes, I know H is closer to Buddhism.

The fact that there are 160 comments and this is the first to mention the fact that he's a plagiarist is ethnocentrism to an extreme. H is an academic darling. Because of that, criticism will not be tolerated.

Gentile, Cioran, Spengler and Evola - all had similarly troublesome fascist personal views that occassionally intruded on his works, but significantly more substantial scholarship, are all persona non grata in the academy. Why is that? Oh wait, I know. Actually I don't. Why is one nazi OK, but the other 4 (3 of which were never actually fascist party members, one of whom Spengler, actively spoke out against Hitler) not? I could not cite a single one of them in an article without eliciting horrified cries.

Even if we just measure impact, other than Derrida, Heidegger hasn't had a meaningful impact on any major philosopher. None of his work was sufficiently translated into French to influence the Existentialists other than as a vague idea.

It also disgusts me that no one bothered reading anything in the Christian tradition, especially the medieval Neo-Platonists who were onto most of this stuff. Oh, and then there were the Russians. Just read the Lossky. It's not like Soloviev wasn't doing this 100 years prior. The Russian Christian Nihilists were along similar lines at many times, especially once Hegelianism reached Russia.

Of course there's the most hysterical part of H - Heidegger still has the audacity to say that he re-discovered Being, which no one knew was lost, what with Schopenhauer and Nietzsche and Kierkagaard and Dostoevsky. It's like Columbus' claim to have discovered a country that millions of people already lived on when he made a navigation error.

164. michaelgordon - November 20, 2009 at 04:48 pm

 

.....................   SOME INTRODUCTORY REMARKS:

1) I'M A POLITICAL SCIENTIST, NOT A PHILOSOPHER LIKE AS MOST OF YOU SEEM TO BE in this thread --- though I did study a fair amount of philosophy in undergrad and graduate school while concentrating mainly on history, ECONOMICS, and political science.

(i.) AS FOR HEIDEGGER, my interest in him --- as in other important philosophical thinkers and other intellectuals in the history of France, Britain, Germany, and the rest of Europe --- has been in how his thought reflected the dominant intellectual life and cultural traditions of the German Right and Extreme-Right between his birth in 1889 and the end of WWII . . . and, in turn, influenced them.  Especially, pleases note --- as I'll try to show here --- German political ideology and behavior in the Nazi period.

 

(ii.) Then, too, I confess right off: I'VE NEVER BEEN ABLE TO MAKE MUCH SENSE OF HEIDEGGER'S WORK, WHETHER IN ENGLISH OR GERMANY.

And to be fully upfront, my views of Heidegger even before the work of Victor Farias's path-breaking study of Heidegger's Nazism appeared in 1987 were shaped mainly by Rudolf Carnap's seminal article, "Versteht Sich Heidegger?" --- "Does Heidegger Make Sense?", which was published in the early 1930s.  For Carnap, the most famous of the Logical Positivists, Heidegger's most important book "Being and Time" (Sein und Zeit, 1928) was little more than a prolonged mishmash of a grammatical conundrum.  

Want an example? 

Well, consider the following excerpt singled out by Carnap from Heidegger's "What Is Metaphysics?"

"What is to be investigated is being only and-nothing else; being alone and further-nothing; solely being, and beyond being-nothing. What about this Nothing? ... Does the Nothing exist only because the Not, i.e. the Negation, exists? Or is it the other way around? Does Negation and the Not exist only because the Nothing exists? ... We assert: the Nothing is prior to the Not and the Negation.... Where do we seek the Nothing? How do we find the Nothing.... We know the Nothing.... Anxiety reveals the Nothing.... That for which and because of which we were anxious, was 'really'-nothing. Indeed: the Nothing itself-as such-was present.... What about this Nothing?-The Nothing itself nothings. (Heidegger as quoted by Carnap 1932, 69)"

Make sense to you?  Whatever else may be said about the profundity of Heidegger's philosophical work, this passage --- which is anything but exceptional in his voluminous writings --- would have been hard for Groucho Marx to match as a parody of pretentious airbag academic hokum, no? 

  

(iii.) WHETHER THESE REMARKS ABOUT MY LACK OF ABILITY TO MAKE SENSE OF HEIDEGGER'S WRITINGS SEEM TO DISQUALIFY ME OR NOT FROM SAYING SOMETHING REVEALING ABOUT HEIDEGGER'S PHILOSOPHICAL WORK AND HIS NAZISM, I CAN SAY TWO THINGS IN MY DEFENSE:

(1st) . . .  I ‘ve read Victor Farias' path-breaking study, the controversy over it, and the biographies and other studies of Heidegger's life and thought by Richard Wolin, Hugo Ott, Rudiger Safranski, Hans Sluga, some Johannes Fritsche, and some lengthy passages from the French edition of Emmanuel Faye's book that started this thread . . . along with a long and illuminating interview that France's most prominent intellectual weekly, Le Nouvel Observateur, carried out with him in 2005 about his latest book on Heidegger

Something else that's  also relevant in these introductory remarks:

It's Heidegger's writings and published lectures discussed in these books and in a variety of academic articles by others that are the source of my comments here, including those dug up with remarkable diligence by Farias about Heidegger's writings on Jünger  and others about Hitler, racism, Jewish extermination, and the like that appeared in WWII . . .  amid the vicious war and genocidal campaign that the Nazi Germans directed at Jews and others throughout Europe at the time

 

(2nd) . . .  Then, too, I ‘ve read William Blattner's clear, short book short book entitled "Being and Time: A Reader's Guide" (2007) . . . which was for me roughly the equivalent of an archaeologist chancing upon an unfathomable stone-table full of strange hieroglyphics and desperately searching for a computer programmer who could translate the indecipherable stuff into recognizable lucid English.

Whether I then found Heidegger's "Being and Time" illuminatingly persuasive about his brand of existentialism is another matter. 

  

2) THREE QUERIES QUICKLY FOLLOW BEFORE WE GET DOWN TO THE MAIN BUSINESS AT HAND:  THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HEIDEGGER'S PHILOSOPHICAL WORK AND NAZI IDEOLOGY . . . mainly the growing influence after 1932 of that ideology on his thought.  Including, as you'll see, assimilating Nazi racist ideology to his long-standing obsessions with German Volkish Gemeinshaft (ethnic communal life) and Germany's unique creativity in history since the ancient Greeks, the only other soil-rooted, linguistically gifted, culturally and intellectually creative ethnic-national community in history.  

QUERY ONE: Why couldn't Heidegger write in as clear German as Blattner's English commentary?

The German language doesn't prevent clarity --- just the contrary if it's effectively written, and that's true of philosophy.  Think of the logical positivists in Vienna and Berlin.  Think of Nietzsche (Heidegger's biggest inspiration after his turning away in 1934-1935 from metaphysics, along with Hoelderlin and Herder as you'll soon see)?

Or is there, to put it tersely, a tangled, obscurantist problem with Heidegger's personal style, and maybe one shared to one degree  or another by traditional German idealist philosophy?  As we'll see later on, even Nazi intellectuals thought he was an obscurantist windbag --- a major reason why Heidegger's effort to climb to the highest rank of the Third Reich, Hitler's indispensable intellectual colleague, failed him . . . or so we'll also see.

 

SECOND QUERY: Are those who claim in this thread that "Being and Time" --- published in 1927 and so a good six years before the Nazis came to power --- is apolitical right? . . .and so couldn't have betrayed any ideological affinity to Hitler and the Nazi party?   No.  In particular, according to Johannes Fritsche, Historical Destiny and National Socialism in Heidegger's Being and Time, University of California Press, 1999, (p. xv and 218-19):

*..  As Fritsche argues convincingly, Heidegger's key philosophical concepts the book were anything but non-political. In particular, "When one reads Sein und Zeit in its context, one sees that, as Schuler put it, in thekairos[crisis] of the twenties   Sein und Zeit was a highly political and ethical work, that it belonged to the revolutionary Right, and that it contained an argument for the most radical group on the revolutionary Right, namely, the National Socialists." Source of the reference and quote of Fritsche's: Alex Steiner's informative series on Heidegger --- in particular the third part found here: http://evans-experientialism.freewebspace.com/steiner3.htm

 

*..  What did Fritsche mean by these references?

Well, according to several specialists on the Weimar Republic --- see especially an illuminating account by Matthew Feldman entitled "Between Geist  und Zeitgeist" (2003) ---"Sein und Zeit" has to be understood against the rippling antagonisms of the German right and much of the conservative middle classes toward the Weimar Republic: whether in the army, the judiciary, the huge German bureaucracies, big and small business owners and managers, and large numbers of intellectuals and professors.  And as other scholars have noted, the so-called Golden Years of the Weimar republic between1924 and 1929 didn't signal that the Republic had legitimacy and large support from the German public.  (See, among others, Richard Evans recent book, "The Coming of the Third Reich", p. 960.)  (The extreme left, the German Communist Party --- note in passing --- was equally antagonistic and regarded the Social Democrats as "Social Fascists"

In Fritsche's view, all of these alienated educated elites on the German political right, you see, would have immediately understood the core message of Heidegger in "Being and Time": the Weimar Republic  was a monstrous, disorderly perversion of organic German life and true-authenticity . . . the Germans, in Heidegger's subsequent work in the 1930sd and after the only Volk in all of history since the badly misunderstood Greeks to be capable of equaling true-Being rooted in the soil and genius of the Greek language, culture, and artistic creativity --- lost in subsequent perverted interpretations of Greek thought carried out by Latin-speaking and later English-speaking philosophers; but now renewable with a revolutionary sweeping away of all the horrid trash of Modernity. 

 

Modernity meaning what in Heidegger's and the German right's mental world? 

Mainly the liberalism of the French, British, and America sort; and materialist capitalism and industrialization pioneered by the same superficially rationalist and shallow peoples, and also the enemies who had defeated Imperial Germany by 1918; and the frightening Revolt and Rise of the Masses and Mass Man; and  demagogic, mass- democracy; and for that matter the entire universalist and rationalist heritage  of the Enlightenment.  Needless to add, they all also hated every form of Marxism --- not just Communism, but the revisionist pro-democratic ideology and policies of the German Social Democratic Party . . . the mainstay of the Weimar Republic. 

  

THIRD QUERY: Why did Blattner himself, right away in his introduction, sugar-coat Heidegger's Nazi-party membership by using the dismissive apology--- imitated by a couple of posters in this thread --- that Heidegger only "flirted" with Nazism?  It's the exact opposite of the truth as I'll argue in a few moments..

If anything,  Heidegger was so deeply immersed in Nazi ideology that he said in a lecture given in 1935 and published at the time that set out the  "inner truth and greatness of National Socialism".

Later, in his sustained and systematic whitewash job after WWII, Heidegger replaced "National Socialism" with the more innocuous "movement::  "The inner truth and greatness of this movement"

 

3) TURN NOW TO THE FAR-REACHING NATURE OF HEIDEGGER'S NAZI PARTY MEMBERSHIP AND ARDENT EFFORTS TO RISE HIGH UP IN ITS POLITICAL HIERARCHY IN 1933 AND 1934.

The evidence is now overwhelming here: Heidegger was a fervent Nazi party member from 1933 and 1945, whose efforts to rise to the top of the Nazi hierarchy and exercise high-powered influence on Nazi ideology and policies have been clearly established by now. . . all the camouflaged lies and excuse-making undertaken by Heidegger after 1945 revealed to be self-serving chicanery; nothing else.

And that fervent enthusiasm for Hitler and the Nazi regime led him by the early 1940s --- as you'll see soon --- to switch from a raw redneck-like glorification of Volkish cultural and linguistic and unmatched German superiority in all of history, at any rate since ancient Greece, and embrace outright Nazi Racism in all its forms . . . biological explanations of German intellectual and cultural predominance and of the German's biologically inferior enemies . . . those being exterminated in East Europe and Russia, including the death-camps, seen in Heidegger's writings on Juenger to not really be human beings worthy of life.

And the chief reason? 

Unworthy because they were never living an existentially true-sort of Being to begin with (as you'll soon see here). 

 

(1st) . . ..CONSIDER RIGHT OFF THE CRUDELY APOLOGETIC TERM "FLIRTING" TO DESCRIBE HEIDEGGER'S NAZISM,

Nothing could be further from the truth about his Nazi era, which lasted from 1933 until 1945:

 

Heidegger not only sought to become Hitler's sole Philosophy King, on May 1st 1933 --- three weeks before he gave his Rectoral address at Freiburg University --- he immediately joined the brown-shirted SA Storm-Trooper movement of the Nazis . . . something not at all required by his party membership itself. The Storm-Troopers, who by early had mobilized 2.5 million men, had been running wild in the streets of German cities on a rampage of violence against alleged enemies of Der Führer and his Nazi Party.

As a famous philosopher by then, Heidegger --- who began wearing his SA brown-shirt to his lectures, Nazi arm-bad included --- started to court the friendship of Ernst Roehm, the notorious head of the SA, and full of ambitions to make it the vanguard movement of the Nazi Revolution.  He wore his brown-shirted SS uniform to his classes and sought as Rector to militarize and integrate Freiburg University fully into the Third Reich revolution . . . . a point we'll clarify in a few seconds. 

 

* ...Heidegger's aims as an active and energetic proselytizer for the SA and Hitler?

Well, like his friend Röhm, he also seemed to view the SA as the major instrument of Nazi ideology and influence in the Third Reich.  His hope, apparently, was to use his friendship and influence with Röhm as a pitchfork to hoist himself quickly toward the top of the SA hierarchy and --- together with his intellectual prominence in Germany and fervent pro-Nazism as exhibited in his Freiburg Rector's lecture --- gain der Führer 's favor and achieve his ultimate ambition: to become Hitler's sidekick Philosophy King who would have a dominant influence in shaping Nazi ideology and policies. 

* .. Too bad for his ambitions.

In June 1934, Hitler --- anxious to reassure the German army and German big business that violent chaos wouldn't prevail in Nazi Germany --- ordered his elite black-shirt SS guardians to exterminate the SA leadership and ensure that the threatening mass movement was permanently tamed.  That triumph of the SS, together with doubts about the depth of Heidegger's anti-Semitism,  ended his  bid to become the official Nazi philosopher-in-residence.  The role was assumed  instead by a colleague of his, Ernst Krieck. 

  

(2nd.) . . .  HEIDEGGER'S WHITEWASHED REASONS FOR RESIGNING HIS RECTORSHIP AT FREIBURG IN APRIL 1934

In his sustained campaign after 1945 to conceal his Nazi zeal, he claimed that his resignation was prompted by his failed efforts  to protect the integrity of the university and its independence from the Nazi educational bureaucracy. 

As in every aspect of Heidegger's 12 year Nazi career, the claim turns out to have been pure self-serving hokum. Specifically, in important study put out by Alan Milchman and Alan Rosenberg in 1997 --- entitled  Martin Heidegger and the University as a Site for the Transformation of Human Existence --- they conclude after a long examination of the evidence that Heidegger's year-long effort to radicalize his university, break the dominance over appointments and course work of the traditional and Nazi mandarins on the faculty, and his constant disputes with them, they conclude:

"In the wake of the shambles of his rectorate, in which virtually every action he took seemed to result in the destruction of the remnants of any autonomy that the university still preserved, and the furtherance of its incorporation into the project of the Hitler-state, it is difficult to appreciate the connection between Heidegger's initiatives and the vision of philosophy that he had articulated. Nonetheless, certain of Heidegger's key actions as Fiihrer-Rektor of Freiburg University were conceived in terms of the transformation of the university into a site for radical questioning, even if in actuality they too ended up facilitating Nazi hegemony over that institution"

 

(3rd.) . . .  EVEN TOP NAZI SCHOLARS AND INTELLECTUALS REGARDED HIM AS SOMETHING OF AN INTELLECTUAL FRAUD . . . HIS PHILOSOPHICAL WORK DESCRIBED, IN A NAZI REPORT, AS AN UNFATHOMABLE CONCOCTION OF "CHICANERY" WORD-PLAY.

(i.) Yes, chicanery word-play, only much worse in their crackling Jew-hating genocidal way.

To clarify: in February 1934, the ardent Nazi psychologist Dr. Erich Jaensch --- by then, the editor of the prominent journal "Zeitschrift fuer Psychologie"  --- wrote "A Report on Heidegger" that he sent to Alfred Rosenberg . . . , the notorious Jew-hater whom Hitler deputized eventually as his Philosopher-King,  the intellectual trusted with elaborating on Nazi ideology and instructing the Nazi party and all national organizations in it.  According to Jaensch,

"His [Heidegger's] manner of thought is exactly that kind of talmudic chicanery which has always been resented as something particularly foreign to the German spirit. Heidegger's philosophy goes even further in the direction of vacuity, confusion and talmudic obscurity than the original, authentically Jewish works. This type of talmudic thinking, proper to the Jewish spirit, is also the reason why the thought of Heidegger has always exercised, and continues to exercise, a great power of attraction on Jews and half-Jews."  (Source: Alex Steiner, http://evans-experientialism.freewebspace.com/1933_1934germany.htm  taken from Victor Farias' book."

 

(ii.) A little more clarification presses itself here: specifically, how many of Heidegger's apologists have sought to underscore Heidegger's own post-WWII lies about his alleged intellectual rejection of Nazi doctrine and evil policies after 1934?

* .. Apparently, almost all of them . . . some of whom have posted in this thread; often repeatedly. On their shared view, the Nazis regarded Heidegger as insufficiently anti-Semitic from late 1934 on to give him the high-up post in the party hierarchy that he sought. Nonsense. In a lecture on metaphysics published in 1935, recall from what was noted in the introductory part of these comments, Heidegger referred to the "inner truth and greatness of National Socialism".

* ... Typically, as you might recall. Heidegger sought in his self-serving excuse-making campaign after WWII to republish the lecture by, among other things,, replacing "National Socialism" with the anodyne "movement."

*..Worse yet for Heidegger,, as Emmanuel Faye's recently discovered 1935 lectures by Heidegger on Carl Schmidt --- a fervent Nazi sociologist --- Heidegger had already IDENTIFIED TRUE-BEING OF THE INDIVIDUAL WITH THE TRUE-BEING OF THE NAZI STATE.

  

As Faye notes on p. 58 of his book (my paragraphing for readability)

"The recently published lectures are not the only texts where the teachings of Heidegger reveal themselves as impregnated with Hitlerism. As I indicated earlier, unedited seminars exist as well. It is in the latter that we best see the intensity of Heidegger's Hitlerism. In the winter seminar of 1933-1934, the final three meetings treat the essence and concept of the State.

"In front of a hand-picked audience consisting largely of his students wearing the uniform of the SA or the SS, Heidegger delivered [End Page 58] what he called a lecture on "political education," with the goal of forming a "political nobility" in the service of the Third Reich.

"In fact, it is the entirety of Heideggerian doctrine that is implicated in this teaching of Nazi politics: in the lecture he equates, in effect, the ontological relationship between Being and beings with the political relationship between the State and the people!

"He declares, in fact, that "the State is to its people what Being is to beings." It is a question, he says, introducing the eros of Führer State into the souls of the people. As in State, Movement, People-the most radically Nazi of Carl Schmitt's books-one must bring everything back to "the living bond" of racial essence that unites the Führer and his people.

" Heideggerian identification of Being with the völkisch State, with the Führer State, is total. He affirms, in effect, in the conclusion of his seminar, that "the State is the most substantive reality that must give a new sense, an original sense, to the totality of Being."

"Moreover, it would be difficult to find a more radical exaltation of the total domination of Hitlerism over the minds of the people. After having made the tribute to "völkisch destiny" and to the eros of the people for the Führer State, Heidegger describes how "the essence and the superiority of the Führer have inscribed themselves in the Being and souls of the people in order to bind them primordially and passionately to the task."

"The faith Heidegger manifests in his lectures leads, in fact, to a total possession of the human being, subjugated body and soul, by the Hitlerian Führung"  (Source: 2006 excerpts taken from Emmanuel Faye's book and translated into English by Alexis Watson and Richard J. Golsan (South Central Review, 2006, pp. 55-66)

  

(iii.) WORSE FOR HEIDEGGER'S CLAIM THAT HIS PHILOSOPHY HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH NAZISM, HE TOLD KARL Löwith, A FORMER STUDENT AND FRIEND OF HEIDEGGER, THE EXACT OPPOSITE DURING A 1936 VISIT TO THE JEWISH ÉMIGRÉ IN ROME.

According to Löwith, " We talked about Italy, Freiburg, and Marburg, and also about his philosophical topics. . . On the way back [from a walk] I want to spur him to an unguarded opinion about the situation in Germany.  I . . . explained to him that I . . . was of the opinion that his partisanship for National Socialism lay in the essence of his philosophy.

" Heidegger agreed with me without reservation, and added that his concept of ‘historicity' was the basis of his political ‘engagement.'  He also left no doubt concerning his belief in Hitler."  Source: The Heidegger Controversy: A Critical Reader, ed. Richard Wolin, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998, pp. 141-42 . . . as cited in Alex Steiner, http://evans-experientialism.freewebspace.com/steiner5.htm  (my paragraphing for readability)

 

(iv.) No surprise then, against this background, that an internal May 1938 Nazi report on Heidegger's Nazi commitments found that he "IS AN EXEMPLARY PARTY MEMBER." (Source: Matthew Feldman article 2004 referred to earlier).

 

(v.) HEIDEGGER'S WIFE ELFRIEDE WAS AN EARLY PARTY MEMBER OF THE NAZIS --- 1920! --- and a known and vicious anti-Semite.

Are we supposed to assume that Heidegger and his wife never had sympathetic understanding talks about Nazism and Hitler, especially as the movement rose in prominence in the late 1920s and before 1933?

  

(vi.) FINALLY, HEIDEGGER'S MERGING OF HIS VOLKISH GLORIFICATIONS OF GERMAN SUPERIORITY WITH NAZI BIOLOGICAL RACISM

In the recently published writings and lectures about of Heidegger on Ernst Juenger --- an ardent right-wing extremist writer and terrorist in the 1920s, with whom Heidegger had a long correspondence in the 1930s --- Heidegger's cultural-linguistic Volkish view of German uniqueness, unity, and greatness moved to embrace Nazi biological racism and monstrously callous hatred of its enemies.  (Source:  Emmanuel Faye's interview by the Nouvel Observateur in 2005, the quoted sentences taken from that interview and the paragraphing mine)

"At the same time, in his writings on Ernst Jünger, he [Heidegger) spoke positively about *racial being* which had *finally* been brought into existence and referred to "the essential German spirit which has not yet been purified."
"In 1942, he went so far as to legitimise"racial selection" as "metaphysically necessary. Can a work which exalting the murderous folly of Nazism under the gloss of *metaphysics* ever be considered ?"

 In his lecture courses recently published in German, Faye goes on, I saw that the teaching of Heidegger in its very foundations blended with Hitler's programme for the destruction of man. In other words he makes an explicit defence of the Fuhrer's world vision.

"Moreover he speaks of identifying the hidden enemies within the nation - "in order to annihilate them totally:" as with Jünger, this expression, "hidden enemies within the nation" means primarily the assimilated Jew."

   

IT GETS WORSE: HEIDEGGER'S RACIST GENOCIDAL EMBRACE IN THE PERIOD 1939-1942.

In his lectures on Nietzsche in this period and his writings on Ernst Juenger, Heidegger --- says Faye --- "goes so far as to affirm that "racial selection is metaphysically necessary," that "racial thought springs from the experience of the Being as subjectivity."

He doesn't refrain in these lectures and writings from speaking about "the not-yet-purified German essence." In some of the ways in which he uses the word metaphysics, it is impossible to deny that he intends not a moral approval of Nazism-like Nietzsche, Heidegger situates himself outside all moral judgments-but an ontological and historical legitimitization of Nazi racism. Furthermore, the word Legitimization is also at the heart of his meditation on Junger's Nietzschism (cf. for example GA 90, 170)."

 

"It is necessary, in order to understand what Heidegger had in mind, to reflect on the lectures that have most recently appeared in the so-called definitive edition, and not on Nietzsche (1961). In the latter, Heidegger had modified the text of his lectures to make them more palatable. Thus, I discovered that the lecture of May-June 1940 on "European Nihilism," given at the moment of the invasion of France by Nazi armies, concludes, in the original, with the exaltation of "the total 'mobilization'-that is to say fundamentally radical-of the Wehrmacht."

"This "mobilization" constitutes for him "a metaphysical act which, without question, surpasses in profundity the suppression of 'philosophy'" in the curriculum (GA 48, 333)! Therefore, the fact of the suppression of the teaching of philosophy is secondary to him! What constitutes a metaphysical act for him, implicating the determination of the totality of being as unconditional power and as will for planetary domination, is that the mobilization of the Wehrmacht permitted the clear victory of June 1940. The use of the word "metaphysics" with regard to the Wehrmacht and racial politics is not then a philosophical usage, but rather a politically militant one and-in a word-a Nazi usage. [End Page 60 of Emmanuel book in French]"

"Heidegger's strategy, which succeeded well for him most notably in the French reception of his work, consisted of reversing his discourse on nihilism and metaphysics after the defeat of Nazism, which after Stalingrad was a quasi-certainty, and accomplished historically in 1945. This was the only real "turning" (Kehre) in his work, and it was strategic.

  

Faye adds in the interview more damning evidence:

"Indeed, in his [Heidegger's] 1936 lectures on Schelling, he voiced an explicit tribute to Mussolini and Hitler, whom he presented as "the two men who launched counter-movements [against nihilism] in Europe, undertaken through the political organization of the nation, that is to say of the people" (GA 42, 40-41). So it is clear that Nazism, for him, in no way coincides with nihilism, but constitutes on the contrary a counter-movement to European nihilism.

 "Moreover, as we have seen, at the outset of the 1940s, the adjective "metaphysical" still had a largely positive significance for him. In his texts on Jünger from the same period, very recently published in volume 90 of the Gesamtausgabe, it is not so much nihilism that preoccupies Heidegger, as it is what he calls "the next zone of decision," where "the struggle concerns exclusively the question of world power." And he specifies that "the decision consists above all in determining if the democratic empires (England, the United States)will prevail or if imperial dictatorships of absolute military power for its own sake[which is for him the characteristic of the Third Reich] will prevail" (GA 90, 221).

"What is at stake in this war of the Third Reich for world domination? What Heidegger labels "the force of the not-yet-purified essence of the Germans" (GA 90, 222), which is to be joined with a "new truth of Being." Hence, it is a question not only of assuring the domination of the Hitlerian Reich, but equally one of advancing toward the purification of the essence of the Germans themselves. It is in this context that, from 1940 to 1942, Heidegger sprinkles in his writings declarations legitimizing racial selection and exalting what he calls "racial thought" and "racial Being" (Rasse-sein). At this stage, metaphysics is not yet corrupted in ways that it will become for him, once Heidegger realizes that the defeat of the Reich is imminent."

  

Faye observes finally:

" And in his lecture on Nietzsche that deals with "racial selection", Heidegger said:

"It is only where the unconditional subjectivity of the will to power becomes the truth of being in its totality that the principle behind the institution of racial selection, that is to say not merely a simple formulation of race deriving from itself, but the thought of race as knowing itself, is possible, which is to say metaphysically necessary."

 

4) ALL OF WHICH BRINGS US TO HEIDEGGER'S PRIVATE AND PUBLIC VIEWS ON THE HOLOCAUST

As a jump-off point, PONDER NOW A KEY CONCERN ABOUT HEIDEGGER'S THOUGHT AND HIS NAZISM MENTIONED JUST ONCE in this thread, full of long and stimulating posts: specifically, HIS POST-WAR VIEWS ON THE HOLOCAUST.

 

(i.) Heidegger --- who lived a good 31 years after WWII ended --- said "virtually" zilch about the Holocaust. Throughout those three decades, as he struggled to conceal and whitewash his Nazi party membership and adulatory views of Hitler, he sidestepped any discussion of the genocide of Jews (and gypsies).

(ii.) Put more rigorously, Heidegger wasn't entirely silent during his 31 year life after WWII about the Holocaust..

He did toss out two brief comments in those 31 years, both typical of German romanticized animus against the Enlightenment and modern life, along with wider German glorification of an idealized organic Volkish life.  All of this --- Heidegger's comments and wider German romanticism and Volkish reverence --- clearly bear on his philosophical thought and form a link to Nazi ideology.

(iii.) First off, the two revealing comments:

 

* . . In 1949, Heidegger declared that in "essence" mechanized agriculture was "no different from the production of corpses in the gas chambers and death camps, the embargoes and food reductions to starving countries, the making of hydrogen bombs." A headshaking, brutally callous claim, wouldn't you say?

And in a letter of 1948 that he sent in reply to Herbert Marcuse --- then an American professor, and a former student of Heidegger's --- he said brutally, with typical trivializing and rationalizing fervor:

*"I can only add that instead of the word "Jews" [in your letter] there should be the word "East Germans," and then exactly the same [terror] holds true of one of the Allies, with the difference that everything that has happened since 1945 is public knowledge worldwide, whereas the bloody terror of the Nazis was in fact kept a secret from the German people." 

 

THE LATTER CLAIM, OBSERVE IN PASSING, IS APOLOGETIC NONSENSE.

Several recent books by German, British, and American scholars have clearly documented the awareness of the German population to the extermination camps, and the disappearance of their former Jewish neighbors --- about 600,000 in 1933, when Hitler came to power . . . roughly 0.8% of the German population in the united Austro-German Third Reich  after 1937; but responsible for about 30-40% of Germany's numerous Nobel Prizes before 1945.

And worse for Heidegger, his recently published writings on Jünger and other subjects in WWII show that he was fully aware of the Holocaust, by which time he had shifted from a cultural and ethnic Volkish view of German global superiority to an outright RACIST view (as we'll soon see)

 

(iv.) WHAT DO THESE TWO EXTRAORDINARY CLAIMS REVEAL ABOUT HEIDEGGER'S EMOTIONALLY CHARGED MENTAL LIFE, BOTH DURING THE EARLY 1940S WHEN THE HOLOCAUST WAS UNFOLDING AND AFTER WORLD WAR II? ...

With those latter 31 years, between 1945 and 1971, devoted in no small part to his systematic campaign to whitewash his blatant Nazi commitments.

1st. First and foremost, they disclose --- do they not? --- a monstrous and brutally callous indifference to the lives of any people other than the Germans . . . this indifference, note carefully, rooted in a chauvinist, idealized Volkish ethnocentrism that is central to Heidegger's existentialist view of the world.

Tersely put, his philosophy that pointed to a  new revolutionary existential leap into "true being and authenticity" is inseparable from his profoundly anchored cultural and ethnocentric convictions. . . or so I will argue in a moment or two.

2nd. ... Then, too, these comments reveal something else that was commonplace in German intellectual and media life before 1933 and again after 1945 in the chatter of a variety of Nazi apologists and Volkish idolators. NAMELY, THE HOLOCAUST AND THE VICIOUS NAZI WAR TO CONQUER FIRST EUROPE AND LATER THE WORLD --- REMEMBER HERE: "HEUTE DEUTSCHLAND! MORGEN DIE WELT!" --- WERE NOW BLAMED ON THE SHARED WORLDWIDE EVILS OF THE MODERN WORLD.

  

What follows?

We now have far more recently published works on Heidegger WWII cogitations about the Holocaust AND racism . . . which are discussed in a lengthy interview by Brice Coutourier with Emmanuel Faye and Alain Finkielkraut that was , published by France Culture in August 2005.[2] and is reprinted in the Faye book. 

 We now have far more recently published works on Heidegger WWII cogitations about the Holocaust AND racism . . . which are discussed in a lengthy interview by Brice Coutourier with Emmanuel Faye and Alain Finkielkraut that was , published by France Culture in August 2005.[2] and is reprinted in the Faye book. 

Thanks to it, as we know now, in those years Heidegger was not only immersing himself in racist theory, but went out of his way to use his philosophical existential thought about Dasein and authenticity and inauthenticity to justify Nazi racism and the  Holocaust with all sorts of convoluted flimflam.  Let us call these contorted existential extensions what they are: racist and genocidal through and through:  Specifically (the source: http://evans-experientialism.freewebspace.com/mejame04.htm , with the paragraphing my own.)"

"In the interview, Faye says, we now have all the courses available from the years 1939-1942 and that he has notably discovered in all the texts on Junger which appeared last year (presumably in 2004) in Germany (that is on Ernst Junger, Vol 90 of the Gasamtausgabe)

"Heidegger does not talk about Junger in connection with the problem of nihilism, it is rather something else that catches his interest. What as such interests him in the Junger era is nothing more than the determination of a new race and the planetary domination of this new race. In these texts on Junger, affirms Faye we find serious terms written in: "the force of the essence not yet purified by Germans is capable of preparing in its foundation a new truth of Being such is our belief".   

"On several occasions", stresses Faye, "Heidegger talks about "Glaube".It is a völkisch belief in the superiority of the essence of the German people.

"Faye maintains that these texts [of 1940-1942]  . . . [show Heidegger's intellectual]preparations for the final solution . . . Faye terms this as an ontologisation of racism in the context of the years 1940-1942

 

 Further on, in this interview, Faye projects an interpretation on Heidegger's Brême conference which he qualifies as a terrible text based on the question "do they die?" [W]hat Heidegger precisely wants to say in these texts is that the victims of the extermination camps could not die because they were not in their essence mortals.

"Behind that there is the Nazi conception of death as the sacrifice of the individual to the community.

"It is already announced in Being and Time, celebrated by Heidegger in May 1933 in his speech exalting Schlageter, hero of the Nazis, shot by the French in 1926.  Says Heidegger, [shot]"to die for the German people and its Reich". For Heidegger dying [occurs]in a harder and greater way. But those who have perished in the extermination camps are grausig Ungestorben, "horribly not dead".

"They are not dead. They could not die for they were not in the "guard of being" and those are not in the rightful conditions of the Nazi exterminations camps that Heidegger denounces.

"It is the fact that those victims were not dying of the death of heroes, they were not in essence in the "guard of being". It is, in his jargon, he says, Faye quotes Heidegger, "man can only die if and only if being itself appropriates the essence of man in the essence of being from the truth of essence".

 

KINDLY NOTE:  I've been busy banging out these comments at a bursting pace, and though I've written several pages more, this seems to be a good spot to post the first three parts --- labeled 1), 2), and 3) --- and see if those comments stimulate enough exchanges to justify my posting the rest of my argument.

Michael Gordon,

 

165. michaelgordon - November 20, 2009 at 04:52 pm

I apologize for the large spaces between the paragraphs. I've used a converter program that transforms Word's formatting into HTML, and the initial posting of my commentary yesterday was even worse . . . huge blank spaces twice as large as those found now.
So I asked the Chronicle web-manager to delete it, and used the converter program again, eliminating the line-spaces between paragraphs.

Well, it reads more easily. And I trust that those who look at it will share this opinion.

..

Michael Gordon

166. morrison2008 - November 20, 2009 at 06:28 pm

Much that appears here is puzzling, because I don't see acknowledgments of the basic issue: the reason Heidegger's Nazism is so shocking is that his work, far from laying groundwork for German fascism in the 1920s or covertly embracing it later, in fact explicitly stands against imperialist tendencies of modern thought and the "Europeanization" of the world, especially during his Nazi period. See, for instance, "The Age of the World Picture," 1938. Those seeking explcit Nazi content in Heidegger's philosopy will have great difficulty finding it (as they would have little difficulty finding proto-Nazi ideas in, for instance, Hegel), and Heidegger's work was of no use to the regime, as Hegel's was. The question is how the author of such philosophy could espouse an ideology such as Nazism in any way, for any period of time, or however marginally or deeply implicated in it - and what this tells us about the nature of such ideologies in their historical contexts. Banning Heidegger will get us no further to answers to such questions - any more than will Romano's jolly and snappy burlesques in the pages of an ostensibly respectable publication.

167. jeffreyvd - November 22, 2009 at 02:12 pm

To many of you who have written me e-mails about my film, ONLY A GOD CAN SAVE US (Nur noch ein Gott kann uns retten), I would like
to inform you of the North American premiere of the film sponsored by the Graduate Center, CUNY, in New York City on 17 March 2010 and
in Boston sponsored by Suffolk University on 26 March 2010.

For further information about the documentary on Heidegger please contact jazzmusiker@yahoo.com or docfilmmaker@comcast.net.

Most of the themes discussed in this unbelievably long string of comments have been touched upon in my film.

My film premiered in the belly of the beast on July 23 in the Aula (auditorium) of Freiburg University, the same place where Heidegger gave his infamous Rektorsrede (Rector's speech) on May 1,1933. The philosophy department at Freiburg wouldn't touch it, so the film was sponsored by the Historisches Seminar of Freiburg University. Prof. Bernd Martin was moderator and the postfilm panel discussion included Hugo Ott, Rainer Marten, Silke Seemann,
Tom Rockmore and myself. The Heidegger family came (I found out later they always show up at such events, the reason being evident a bit later) and sat in the second row with friends and allies. The Aula was packed with over 400 people. That morning the good citizens of Freiburg woke up to see a full page article about the film in the local newspaper, Badische Zeitung, who's editor of the Kultur section felt the film deserved. During the film, the filmmaker was pleased to see that people laughed in the right places and reacted with anger and disgust in others. Then something happened that even the filmmaker couldn't imagine possible if he had written the script himself. It was what elevates an incident into a full blown media event. Hermann Heidegger, the son of Martin Heidegger, shouted out during the middle of the film "lies, all lies!" and then often later in other parts of the film "not true!" People began yelling back at him to "shut up!". At the end of the documentary, the filmmaker
was humbled and pleased by a resounding wave of applause and standing ovation. During the postfilm panel discussion, Hermann Heidegger insisted on coming up on the stage and began to attack the Freiburg philosophers and historians on the panel (who were also featured in my film) for their lies and deceit. The audience booed, some yelled out "Nazi!" and things almost got out of hand. In no time the pro-Heideggerians in the audience were
shouting down the anti-Heideggerians and vice versa. In the end when Prof. Martin finally closed the proceedings, the Heidegger family decended upon me with their complaints and criticism. I knew then that the evening was a huge success and the response was so phenomenal that we were invited back (by popular demand) to show the film again on Oct. 21. Hermann Heidegger claims my film is one-sided, others have told me it was fair and balanced.
No matter what you think, this film will certainly encourage intense debate about Heidegger and his thought which continues to have an incredible influence still today.

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