Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Heidegger: Spreading the fundamental tenets of Nazism on a world-wide scale

On Heidegger's Nazism and Philosophy

by Tom Rockmore

University of California Press, 1992

In recent years he [Martin Heidegger] has allowed his anti-Semitism to come increasingly to the fore, even in his dealings with his groups of devoted Jewish students. The events of the last few weeks have struck at the deepest roots of my existence.

Edmund Husserl (1859–1938), 4 May 1933, after Heidegger, as Rector of Freiberg University, had revoked Husserl's access to the University Library.

Among these prophets, Heidegger was perhaps the most unlikely candidate to influence. But his influence was far-reaching, far wider than his philosophical seminar at the University of Marburg, far wider than might seem possible in light of his inordinately obscure book, Sein und Zeit of 1927, far wider than Heidegger himself, with his carefully cultivated solitude and unconcealed contempt for other philosophers, appeared to wish. Yet, as one of Heidegger's most perceptive critics, Paul Hühnerfeld, has said: "These books, whose meaning was barely decipherable when they appeared, were devoured. And the young German soldiers in the Second World War who died somewhere in Russia or Africa with the writings of Hödlerlin and Heidegger in their knapsacks can never be counted."... What Heidegger did was to give philosophical seriousness, professorial respectability, to the love affair with unreason and death that dominated so many Germans in this hard time... And Heidegger's life -- his isolation, his peasant-like appearance, his deliberate provincialism, his hatred of the city -- seemed to confirm his philosophy, which was a disdainful rejection of modern urban rationalist civilization, an eruptive nihilism.

... When the Nazis came to power, Heidegger displayed what many have since thought unfitting servility to his new masters -- did he not omit from prints of Sein und Zeit appearing in the Nazi era his dedication to the philosopher [Edmund] Husserl, to whom he owed so much but who was, inconveniently enough, a Jew?

Peter Gay, Weimar Culture, the Outsider as Insider, Harper Torchbook, 1970, pp. 81-83 -- Husserl had actually become a Lutheran in 1887, though, of course, this was irrelevant to the racial theories of the Nazis.

Heidegger's political views are commonly deplored today on account of his early and open support of Nazism. Because of this connection, many like to suppose that his influence on subsequent political thought (as distinct from general intellectual thought) in Europe has been meager. Yet nothing could be farther from the truth. Heidegger's major ideas were sufficiently protean that with a bit of tinkering they could easily be adopted by the left, which they were... In the writings of numerous thinkers like Jean-Paul Sartre, "Heideggerianism" was married to communism, and this odd coupling became the core of the intellectual left for the next generation.

James Ceaser, "The Philosophical Origins of Anti-Americanism in Europe," in Understanding Anti-Americanism, Its Origins and Impact at Home and Abroad, ed. Paul Hollander, Ivan R. Dee, Chicago, 2004, p.58.

After the paroxysm of the Nazi and Hitlerian period, long elaborated in Heidegger's writings even before 1933, and after the toxic spite often characterizing his courses taught in 1933-1934, the diffusion of Heidegger's works after the war slowly descends like ashes after an explosion -- a gray cloud slowly suffocating and extinguishing minds. Soon the 102 volumes of the so-called complete work (sixty-six volumes have appeared to date), in which the same assertions are repeated over and over through thousands of pages, will encumber by their sheer bulk the shelves reserved for twentieth-century philosophy and continue to spread the fundamental tenets of Nazism on a world-wide scale.

Emmanuel Faye, Heidegger, The Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy in Light of the Unpublished Seminars of 1933-1935, translated by Michael B. Smith, foreword by Tom Rockmore, Yale University Press, 2009, p.xxv.

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