Friday, March 12, 2010


Faye, Emmanuel. Heidegger: the Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy. New Haven: Yale UP, 2009. Heidegger is undoubtedly a genius. You can tell he's a genius because his philosophy is so hard to understand. A word of background first, before we tackle Emmanuel Faye's book. Alasdair MacIntyre, the venerable 20th-century philosopher especially respected for his views on politics and morality, says of Heidegger's key text, Being and Time, that "The great difficulty with Sein und Zeit (which is a far better book than those who have not read it generally allow) is that the perhaps warranted apprehension of traditional philosophical terminology is too often used to permit the invention of a new word". Naturally, not wishing to waste time on those who have not worked through Heidegger, he does not elaborate, but one example springs to mind as part of his discussion of "nothingness". Heidegger tells us that "the Nothing noths". "Noths" being a word Heidegger has made up, it is hard to know what it means. Aside from which, it is hard to understand why he was an enthusiastic supporter of the Nazis in the 1930s, why he continued to support them during the Second World War, and why he even refused to condemn the ideology afterwards. Fortunately, many philosophers do understand all this. MacIntyre himself has no trouble. He says: "We should not be surprised that Heidegger was for a short period a Nazi, not because anything in Sein und Zeit entails National Socialism but because nothing in Sein und Zeit could give one a standpoint from which to criticise it or any other irrationalism." Equally, Michael Inwood, the Trinity College, Oxford expert in Heidegger's work, opines that the "controversies" over Heidegger's "initial support" for Nazism result from a failure to understand that his stance was rooted in "distaste for technology and industrialised mass society ... rather than with anti-Semitism". As to why Heidegger "failed to speak out after the War in condemnation of the Nazi atrocities", David Farrell Krell, professor of philosophy at DePaul University, Chicago, adds that this had more to do with "a Kierkegaardian contempt for publicity and our media-dominated lives" than anything else. So why step forward into this old controversy - now seemingly settled - Emmanuel Faye, professor at the University of Rouen? Particularly as within France, Heidegger is not only "understood" but much cherished, and the reading of his thoughts obligatory for all high school students as part of the baccalaureate. Over the decades that followed the war, if elsewhere Heidegger's critics kept nibbling away, in France the likes of Sartre, Foucault, Ricoeur, Levinas and so on kept admiring the philosophy. In a newspaper interview in 1987, Jacques Derrida threw down the gauntlet to Heidegger's critics, demanding that they either show substantial links between Heidegger's texts and "the reality of all the Nazisms" or shut up. It is this challenge, in effect, that Faye's book, first published in France in 2005, takes up. . . . Read the rest here:

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