Friday, March 26, 2010
Gordon, Peter E. Review of Emmanuel Faye, HEIDEGGER: THE INTRODUCTION OF NAZISM INTO PHILOSOPHY. NDPR (March 2010).
Faye, Emmanuel. Heidegger: the Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy. Trans. Michael B. Smith. New Haven: Yale UP, 2009. "All things are wearisome; no man can speak of them all. Is not the eye surfeited with seeing, and the ear sated with hearing? What has happened will happen again, and what has been done will be done again, and there is nothing new under the sun." Thus spake Koheleth, the Hebrew prophet. Of all writers in the Western tradition, Koheleth perhaps more than anyone else owes his singular fame to the fact that he was a man who was not impressed. What might have (and perhaps should have) roused him to moral fury, of the kind that consumed Isaiah and Amos and Jeremiah, prompted Koheleth only to compose a grandiloquent hymn to indifference. No frailty in human character surprised him. Our penchant for war and mendacity seemed in his eyes no more remarkable than the passing of the seasons. Curiosity itself left him cold. "For in much wisdom is much vexation," he observed, "and he who increases knowledge, increases pain." And now, once again, Heidegger and Nazism: Once more the cycles of scandal and denunciation. Once again the shameful revelations and the no-less shameful attempts to conceal or prettify the ugly facts. The rituals of outrage are familiar, the dramatic end-of-innocence reports no less so. After reading Faye's study, writes one critic, "it will be impossible to read Heidegger again naively." But the age of naïveté is long since past. Who reads Heidegger naively? Haven't we seen all of this before, and several times? Emmanuel Faye's book makes its belated appearance in an academic culture that no doubt feels a certain exhaustion with the endless trials of l'affaire Heidegger. The ennui is perhaps justified. One might have thought, after all, that by this point just about everything that needed to be said had been said. But nobody, I think, has said it with quite as much historical evidence, nor with quite the same unrestrained vitriol, as Emmanuel Faye. His book, though it is hardly the only publication in recent years to revisit the matter of Heidegger's politics, has already drawn the attention of the journalists and the journalistic academics for whom, it seems, philosophy merits discussion only when some outrage calls the very legitimacy of philosophy into question. When I undertook the task of reviewing this book, I did so with a sense of scholarly obligation, believing (as I sincerely do) that all scholarly arguments deserve a judicious assessment. I had not anticipated that the task of reading it would prove quite so unpleasant. No doubt a great deal of the unpleasantness is not Faye's fault: to revisit the ugly business of Heidegger's Nazism is hardly an occasion for joy. In fact, although it may come as a surprise that there was more to learn, Faye has unearthed long-neglected and previously unpublished documentation, further proof that Heidegger was a zealous rather than merely opportunistic supporter of the Third Reich. But Faye shares in the responsibility in that his tone is so immoderate and his general line of analysis so lacking in qualification. For this is surely one of the most single-minded and unrestrained political attacks on Heidegger's philosophy ever written. Its genre is not that of a philosophical exposition but a jeremiad. The stance of prophetic outrage, however, is best left to the prophets. Towards the end of this review I shall try to explain in a more precise manner just what is so misguided in its approach, and just how its argument goes awry of its stated aims. But first, a summary is in order. To understand this book, it may be helpful to recall that France has been the chief theater of ongoing controversy concerning the scandal of Heidegger's politics. Beginning shortly after liberation with the publication of critical assessments by Karl Löwith, Maurice de Gandillac, and others in the pages of the newly-founded journal Les Temps Modernes, French intellectuals have returned again and again to the question of Heidegger and Nazism, and they have done so with a passion onlookers often find perplexing. That French intellectuals have not yet grown tired of the debate may say something about Heidegger's prominence in the French philosophical canon. In its classic phase the controversy implicated Sartre as a philosopher whose own work made copious (if somewhat idiosyncratic) use of Heidegger's existential motifs. The debate was never truly repressed but it returned nevertheless with the 1987 publication of a book by Victor Farias, Heidegger and Nazism, which set off a storm of salvos and counter-salvos by philosophers and social theorists such as Jacques Derrida, Pierre Bourdieu, and many others too numerous to mention. It may be of some interest to note that Emmanuel Faye's own father, Jean-Pierre Faye, was a major player in an earlier phase of the Heidegger affair: In 1969, Faye (père) published a scathing attack on Derrida in the pages of the Communist paper L'Humanité, in which he accused Derrida and his colleagues on the journal Tel Quel of betraying the political cause by opening an ideological passage through history from the German right to the French left. Derrida, claimed Jean-Pierre Faye, was an agent of "le malheur Heideggerien." The elder Faye went on to write a book on Totalitarian Languages (1972) and another book addressing the whole phenomenon of Heidegger's philosophy, entitled The Trap: Heideggerian Philosophy and National Socialism (1992). The apple has not fallen far from the tree. . . . Read the whole review here: http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=19228.