Monday, May 10, 2010

Heidegger case ...

This is not a review yet. This is just an announcement that I started reading, the excellent book by French philosopher Emmanuel Faye: „Heidegger. The Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy”. Probably it will take me some time to read it, and maybe I will be posting more posts while reading it — because it seems so important.

Of course, we know that Heidegger'sBeing and Time” is one of the most important philosophical books of XX century. And although Heidegger was accused of sympathy to Nazism — his thought continues to inspire philosophers. But, does it rightly, though ?

Emmanuel Faye says: no. He thinks, that not only Heidegger's Nazism was not an accidental affair of his life in Nazi Germany, but that his entire thought is saturated with inhuman ideas.

„Heidegger does not present a philosophy of individual existence but rather a doctrine of radical self-sacrifice, where individualization is allowed only for the purpose of heroism in warfare.”

Let's read the Preface to the book:

„We have not yet grasped the full significance of the propagation of Nazism and Hitlerism in the domain of thoght and ideas — that mounting tidal wave that sweeps up minds, dominates them, and eventually overcomes all resistance.
Against it, the military victory was but the winning of a first battle — a vital one, to be sure, and a costly one for humanity, since it took a world war. Today a different battle, more protracted and sinister, is unfloding: a contest in which the future of the human race is at stake. It calls for a heightened awareness in all areas of thought, from philosophy to law and history.

Whatever we are considering the case of Heidegger, Schmitt, Jünger (in many respects), or Nolte, these main propagators of Nazism in the life of letters have taken the time to refine their strategy of reconquest after the defeat of the armies of Hitler's Reich.”

I'm sure it will is very important book. It was just published in English. I hope for high temperature discussions...


  1. Anonymous1:46 PM

    This is a very difficult and complicated issue. One may relish the words of a famous author but might not be able to sit across the table at dinner and enjoy their company. So there is a distinction between what one writes and how one lives. Yet how one lives should in some way be related to how one thinks and writes. I am not sure that a serial killer would be capable of writing a nobel prize winning novel.

    Because I admire Heidegger's thought and because it has stimulated my own thinking, I want to believe that Heidegger to a greater or lesser degree was seduced by the Nazi trance like many others who may have regretted it afterwards. But to make the claim that his entire philosophy is tainted with Nazism and should be discredited seems untenable to me. Do we reject any of the accomplishments of anyone who joined the nazi party?

    My own political thoughts are related to my way of thinking and writing, but should I discount the thoughts and writings of all those whose political beliefs are different from my own?

    There have been many biographies written about very flawed personalities who wrote brilliant works of Art. But there are some 'mistakes" that are difficult to forgive. And so I find myself unable to decide on this issue except to say that I will continue to read Heidegger because I find that his thinking stimulates my own.

    A similar feeling accompanied my reading of In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. This is a non-fiction story about a murderer who is convicted of a horrible crime. Truman Capote is sent to investigate the trial, and he finds himself in the awkward position of befriending the murderer.

    The film In Cold Blood creates a unique sympathy for the murderer and his pending execution and is a formidable statement about the cruelty and immorality of capital punishment. The recent film Capote creates an understanding of Capote's sympathies for the murderer because both shared similar childhood abuses and are capable of understanding one another in a way that no one else can.

    We are not all good or all bad. Each of us has performed actions that we deeply regret. Should those actions discount all of the good we have done? Are some actions unforgivable?

    The Greeks thought so. Their concept of Hamartia suggested that one tragic flaw was capable of destroying the entire personality.

    If Heidegger deeply regretted his Nazi affiliations afterwards, he must have been tormented with regrets for his past actions. That alone functions as a tortuous punishment for his faults. One can escape the law, but one can never escape one's own mind.

    The laws of Karma in Eastern thinking delineate a system of psychological retribution or reward for every thought and action. Christianity is permeated with confession and redemption.

    I can read the thoughts of a philosopher who had been a Nazi party member. Yet how did he live with himself after the war ended? Now that is a great idea for a novel!

    Raymond Harrison

  2. Raymond, Many thanks for this deep and meanigful comment.

    I only honestly tell you that shock I felt when read the first chapters of the book was also deep. I guess I will try to restrain myself from further comments until I read the book from cover to cover.

    Yes, I do agree that if Heidegger rued his fascinations in his later years, and if he was indeed seduceed - I'm not against him.

    We did have another regime here - just 20 years ago - the communism. One could say it was less dangerous - maybe - but it originated from similar sickeness of human soul.

    Yet I know many people who were communists, but whom I do not hate, whose thoughts I do admire despite their political affiliation. Any witch haunt is deplorable act. Of course the pursue of justice is different thing...

    But the book claims a stronger message - that the entire thought of Heidegger, his entire mindset was poisened by Nazi ideology...

    That is exactly my problem, and I wish it was not!

    After all, my most admired philosopher of XX century, Emmanuel Levinas, was also influenced by Heidegger... To accept Faye's conjecture is to shake my own philosophical mindest....