Thursday, August 12, 2010

Smith, Stephen B. "Nazi or Philosopher?" CLAREMONT REVIEW OF BOOKS (Spring 2010).

Faye, Emmanuel. Heidegger: the Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy. Trans. Michael B. Smith. New Haven: Yale UP, 2009.

Sometime shortly after the publication of Victor Farias's Heidegger and Nazism (1987), I recall a conversation with the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre who complained that the title of Farias's book was misleading. The "and" suggested that Heidegger was one thing and National Socialism something else; the correct word should have been "is." The publication of Emmanuel Faye's Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy would seem to be the work that MacIntyre was looking for.

Faye is far from the first to detail Heidegger's love affair with the Nazis. In addition to Farias, it suffices to mention the work of Hugo Ott and Guido Schneeberger in Germany and Tom Rockmore and Richard Wolin in the United States. But the links between Heidegger and Nazism have never been drawn so clearly and explicitly as Faye draws them. Indeed, Faye goes farther—much farther—than Heidegger's earlier critics. Most of Heidegger's critics have been content to ask the question how could a great philosopher be a Nazi? Faye, an associate professor at the Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, argues that Heidegger's embrace of National Socialism is sufficient to eliminate him from the ranks of philosophy altogether.

In Faye's view, Heidegger systematically distorted the meaning of philosophy to make it serve the ends of Nazi propaganda. What else can you say of a man who used apparently philosophical titles such as "The Fundamental Question of Philosophy," "Of the Essence of Truth," and "Logic" to smuggle in doctrines of Aryan supremacy, völkisch German nationalism, and the Führerprinzip? Henceforward, Faye argues, Heidegger's works should be removed from the philosophy sections of libraries and bookstores and placed under the category of Nazi Studies. A strong thesis, to say the least.

The book concentrates on Heidegger's work of the mid-1930s, at the height of his enthusiasm. Faye begins with a brief, selective treatment of proto-Nazi themes in Heidegger's masterpiece Being and Time (1927), but concentrates on his speeches, seminars, and writings from the 1933-45 period. In addition to the heavily redacted Gesamtausgabe (Complete Works), Faye has had access to previously unpublished seminar materials in which Heidegger often speaks more openly and politically than in the published texts. . . .

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