Monday, February 08, 2010

Crispin, Jessa. "Being There." THE SMART SET December 2, 2009.

  • Faye, Emmanuel. Heidegger: the Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy. New Haven: Yale UP, 2009.
  • Maier-Katkin, Daniel. Stranger from Abroad: Hannah Arendt, Martin Heidegger, Friendship and Forgiveness. New York: Norton, 2010.

It's long been known that Martin Heidegger was involved with the Nazi regime, and we are still wrestling with the questions this brings up. Was Heidegger really a true believer, or was he just a careerist? Does this affect the way we view his work, particularly Being and Time? Should it? What does it say about Hannah Arendt that she loved such a man? What does it say about her work examining totalitarianism and power? What does it say about the other intellectuals who defended him when the Allies won and the "denazification" (what a word) hearings began? Within the next year, there will be multiple books published, including Emmanuel Faye's Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy and Daniel Maier-Katkin's Stranger from Abroad: Hannah Arendt, Martin Heidegger, Friendship and Forgiveness, trying to find answers to these questions. You can pick apart his work, trying to find alignments between his philosophy and the Nazi philosophy. (I won't be doing that. William James once wrote that he only felt like he truly understood Hegel when he was high on nitrous oxide. I feel the same way about Heidegger.) Heidegger's most famous work, Being and Time, was published in 1927. He didn't join the party until 1933 when he became the rector of the University of Freiburg and used his new enthusiasm to reorganize the school. Many of his critics say they have problems with his work because he never issued an apology for his time in the Nazi party. I'm guessing this is not what they actually want. How does one apologize, exactly, for 12 years spent supporting a political regime, and during the height of his career and intellectual prowess? An apology would be an insult. He did give one interview, printed posthumously, wherein he tried to justify his actions, saying he was trying to save his job. It's an obvious dodge. It doesn't explain why he informed on colleagues, or some of the work Faye cites in Heidegger justifying racism. Heidegger died without giving a real explanation to anyone, including his former lover Arendt, even after she passionately defended him and his work. But even if we had a full confessional from a repentant Heidegger, would that clear things up for us? The problem is not whether this information is available. It's that we don't know what to do with it. . . .

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