13. The Protection of
the Philosophical Form
A Response to Zuckert
TERESA OROZCO, translated by Paul Malone
Although I do not share all the premises of the Gadamerian conception of dialogue, I am convinced that an examination of some of Catherine H. Zuckert's objections to my article can contribute to a better understanding of Gadamer's philosophical interventions under National Socialism. Her commentary gives me the opportunity to clarify some misunderstandings. It is both striking and paradoxical that in Zuckert's polemic, the hermeneu-tic postulate of openness to the opinions of others and the paradigm of understanding summon up less tolerance and moderation whenever a critical examination of the stock of tradition leads to undesirable results. It should be borne in mind that between truth and method there are various branches of inquiry—and even other theories of interpretation—which, by means of methodical reflection, have rightfully won their place on the field of philosophy and science. These theories grant no validity to the logic: that cannot be, which may not be. It might seem plausible that Gadamerian herme-neutics can be applied to their own prehistory with only partial success. The dogmatic authority of tradition and the uncontested continuance of authority exclude any question of their legitimacy. Since the intersection of intellectual traditions with domination and power is fundamental to the act of transmission, we are well advised not to give up critical reflection.
In this short article I refer to my book Platonische Gewalt, in which my thesis is supported by considerable evidence and a sentence-by-sentence interpretation. Much of what I formulate here in outline is considered there in its complexity. Since I have concentrated on Gadamer's interpretation of Plato, and have only peripherally treated the details and information that contradict Gadamer's depiction of these years in his autobiographical writings, one should recall the following: in November 1933 Gadamer signed the Bekenntnis derProfessoren an den deutschen Universitaten und Hochschulen zu
My work nowhere brings moral charges, nor does it demand an absurd martyrdom or a hidden resistance. My criticism is directed at the one-sided picture Gadamer gives after 1945 of the relationships at the earlier time. The results of my investigation revise decisively Gadamer's self-image as a “internal emigrant,” who of course had to make outward concessions for career reasons, but who remained philosophically and academically at a distance. It is not concerned with exposing Gadamer as a disguised Nazi, but rather with investigating the positions of nationalist conservatism that he then maintained in his philosophical production as well. One of the questions posed by my research was: What does it mean to represent conservative and antidemocratic positions in peacetime under parliamentary democracies, and what does it mean under a dictatorship? What form does the difference take? The interest of my work lay in comprehending the specifics of such forms of intellectual accommodation and in exploring them—not morally, but on the basis of their structural conditions. It was essential to work out how they became possible in the normality of the academy and through the medium of interpretation of the classics, without declaring such interpretation irrelevant and void from the outset in view of the cruder and violent forms of the volkisch fascist movement.
The fact that Heidegger appeared as a representative of the volkisch movement in party uniform while Gadamer was not a party member is no argument for an opposition to Nazism in the character of the nationalist conservative wing. This is a widespread misreading of the history of fascism, and one that has far-reaching consequences for Zuckert's interpretation of
Zuckert pleads for the recovery of quotations in which Gadamer declares the separation of the political from the scientific. Although it openly contradicts postulates in Truth and Method, Gadamer tries to mitigate his teacher Heidegger's entanglement by appealing to the “political incompetence of philosophy.” In addition I refer to an interview of 1990, in which he unmistakably stands by his contention that there were also Nazis who pursued ‘Very good science.” Gadamer tells us there how it was possible to philosophize undisturbed and scientifically under National Socialism. In fact, the Platonic claim “to lead the leader” released a tremendous philosophical
My reading does not assume Gadamer to be an opportunist; rather, it documents the astonishing coherence of his position. In the Plato interpretation of 1934, it becomes clear that Gadamer, through the medium of Plato's world of ideas and its hermeneutic renewal, collaborated in consummating the union into which the nationalist conservative middle class (which as “spirit of Potsdam” brought the Reichswehr into National Socialism) entered with the Nazis. I show that in his contribution to the Kriegsein-satz der Geisteswissenschaften (mobilization of the humanities) of 1942 the same Prussian group, with the debacle of Stalingrad at hand, loosened this union and strove toward an authoritarian reform of the state. This faction's method of movement is expressed in both texts.
The fact that Gadamer in his lecture “Plato and the Poets” (1934) positively articulates some of the most prominent topoi of the speeches in support of book burning and Gkichschaltung (accommodation to National Socialist doctrine), that is, the criticism of liberal humanist education, is by no means the only reason that this text can be read as a justification of Nazism in its incipient phase. The “historical context” is more complex and many-layered than Zuckert assumes. The venue in which this lecture was delivered, namely the Gesellschaft der Freunde des Humanistischen Gymnasiums (Society of Friends of the Classical High School), as well as the self-accommodation of classical philology and the transformation of the humanist canon of Platonic interpretation, stand in the context of fasciza-tion, which has left clear traces behind in Gadamer's text. The astonishing effect that the National Socialist present is not directly named, yet is tacitly present, rests on a hermeneutics of allusion: the text is laid out so that in the historical horizon of understanding of the classically educated milieu, it becomes charged with fascist meanings. As a result the perception of the fascist present in the text seems to be achieved by the listener. The records of this course of lectures, which were published regularly in the magazine Das Hwnanistische Gymnasium (The Classical High School), give an impression of this. In the closing commentary to Gadamer's lecture—in accordance with the fascist rhetoric of the new man—one reads: “The new man is created for the new state and from nothing. … It is the welfare of the entire state that matters…. Plato's mythic literature, as much as his dialogic literature, shows true poetic ability, which puts itself in the service of the new idea of man.” Zuckert's reproach of “guilt by association” is therefore already untenable, because Gadamer and his audience at the time manufactured these “associations” themselves. The further remarks of the secretary by no means arose by chance; rather, they were guided by connotational elements. The lecture is in its very text shot through with a network of interdiscursive
I have not maintained, as Zuckert assumes, that Gadamer's interpretation of Plato consists of direct instructions for the persecution of intellectuals. His philosophical Anschluss was skillful and unconstrained. I wrote: “Gadamer constructed an interpretive framework for the contemporary situation in Germany that, at the same time, allowed Plato's critique of the poets to be understood in a manner that simultaneously articulated the self-understanding of the present.” This projection of the new backwards into the Platonic order showed itself capable of constructing a kind of deja-vu experience, bestowing a trace of heroic greatness upon the violent National Socialist circumstances through the medium of classical philosophy. What is remarkable here is that such processes as the suppression of enemies of the state, the driving of poets into exile, and the “cleansing” of poetry (i.e., censorship) are placed in charge of the power of the state and not of the hermeneutic dialogue. So it is evident that here the framework of state power forms the conditio sine qua non of the dialogue.
Zuckert's argument that in both essays Plato's Politeia “does not constitute a blueprint for political reform,” and that he backs the philosophical upbringing of the guardians of the state, is philologically a mere half-truth. The theme in the text of 1934 is the “foundation of the state” and “the radical rejection of the existing state,” as well as the philosophical upbringing of youth to become guardians of the state. The defense is directed at the sophistic spirit, which “attacked” and “dissolved” the substance of the state. In 1942 the main idea is that of the “decline of the state under tyranny” and the philosophical upbringing of the guardians with particular consideration given to the state-supporting leaders. Gadamer stresses the seduction of those who govern by their power (“tyrants have no friends”), and the injury to the corporative order of the Platonic state. Both interpretations are transposed into the words of philosophy and thus also into their normative function. The philosophical form is a protection from any crude topical relevance, for the Gadamerian art of allusion lies in the continual working out of the character of the Platonic state as a philosophical model, and to this end it is necessary that Plato's Politeia remain a state in thought alone. This exemplary quality is what first sets in motion the hermeneutic effect on the listeners and/or readers. Zuckert pays no heed to the sentence in which this inaccessible model, as “exclusive determination” (Plato und dieDichter 14), is assigned an ordering function for the subject of the state: “It is an ‘origi-nary image in heaven’ for whoever wishes to organize himself and his internal constitution” (ibid.). Contemplating this “originary image in heaven,” individuals recognize in themselves the “reality of the state.” The frequently appearing motif of “care for the internal state” (Plato und dieDichter 29) is addressed to the audience and/or readership. On this model the interior
One must visualize how Nazism articulated itself as an “educational state” around 1933 in order to be able to estimate the resonance of the following sentence in the Platonic imaginary: “Although it appears to be a state resting completely on the power of an educational organization, an ahistorical new beginning from nothing through the force of a new habituation, it is in truth a picture, in whose delineation the soul should recognize justice” (Plato und dieDichter 17). The “true state of justice” (Plato und die Dichter 28) has nothing to do, however, with democratic ideas of participation and justice. Gadamer discreetly makes this clear in a footnote, according to which the Platonic state is a state of “masters and servants” and a state for war (Plato und die Dichter note 36; 0054).
Gadamer by no means stands alone in his interpretation of the Platonic paideia. The topos of the education of the guardians forms the kernel of most of the interpretations of Plato at the time. Here the National Socialist discourses of domination, beauty, health, and race found their ideal expression. The successful paideia stands not only for eugenic discourses but also for the development of the internal state that constitutes itself in the mirror of the state order. In opposition to an enlightened educational model, the contemporary elaborations of the Platonic education of the guardians emphasize the manly virtues of military fitness, heroic lifestyle, readiness for death, decisionistic choice, the struggle against the “sophistic” enemy, and the affirmation of the “unwritten law” of the state (Orozco, “Die Platon-Rezeption” 156 ff). Gadamer articulated these individual aspects in his interpretation. The “ethical” component, which Zuckert claims is bound in this text with the anchoring of state domination in the plane of elementary socialization, is the world of the customs and traditions of a community. The “upbringing into a state” (Plato und dieDichter 17) is a process that happens essentially inexpressibly and without a determining and planning subject. “The most important educational effect never reaches the explicit instruction, but rather the ‘laws of the state,’ particularly the unwritten, the ruling ethic in the state community, in which safe human formation happens in seclusion” (ibid., 14). In this view, those ethical forms that are not prevalent
In Zuckert's representation of the Platonic paideia, its militarization is not in evidence. Gadamer declares the status of guardian to be the “real status of human being” (Plato und die Dichter ig). We have here no autonomous individuals who can distinguish the true from the false independently of the state will. The real human is reduced to readiness for war and to subjection under the state. The warrior's self-discipline is not an end in itself: it is necessary to prevent the force of the guardians from turning into power against the domination of the state. The knowledge of the guardian (in accordance with Carl Schmitt) consists of an elementary power of differentiation: “he must be able to distinguish friend from enemy” (ibid., 19). It is in the education of this decisionistic love—and-hate competence that Gadamer in 1934 locates the task of philosophy. In return, any power of differentiation that is based on elementary humanity and that can be mobilized against illegitimate demands of the state has no place, for the decisionistic principle remains in force: “to love the friend just because he is a friend—and not because and as far as he does one good but also, if he does one harm: and to hate the enemy, just because he is the enemy, even if he does one good” (Plato und die Dichter 20). That this explanation found resonance is demonstrated by an expert opinion in connection with Gadamer's summons to Leipzig. His text “Plato and the Poets,” it is said, provides “a thoroughly original explanation of the Platonic doctrine of the state and gains a completely new relevance through the knowledge that the status of the warrior and guardian in the Platonic state is the status of human being” (Gadamer's personal file in the Leipzig University archive, Doc. 41).
I do not contest the fact that the reception and history of the effect of Gadamer's texts under Nazism attest a plurality of interpretations. A reading, however, that is obligated to the historicity of the interpretation must continue the attempt at reconstruction provided here in its infancy, and
The enlightenment knew what hermeneutics forgets: That the “dialogue” that we “are” according to Gadamer is also a forced connection and exactly for that reason is no conversation.… The universal claim of the hermeneutic attempt [can] only then [be maintained] if one proceeds on the assumption that the context of transmission, as the locus of possible truth and factual communication, is at the same time also the locus of factual untruth and continuing power.
Perhaps the uncomfortable aspect of my research lies in the disclosure of that which Isabelle Kalinowski calls “the decisive pledge,” which accrued to the Hitler regime from the combination of the conservative discourse with the National Socialist discourse: “The hatred for the Weimar constitutional state has no doubt found a deeper form of efficacy in Gadamer's commentaries on Plato than in the direct engagement of Heidegger, which perhaps paradoxically proves a greater political naivete.” Zuckert agrees with Gadamer's negative attitude toward the Weimar Republic, but does not want to acknowledge its consequences: the authorization of Nazism, whose astonishing stability was not least the result of a legitimation pursued by many voices in the eternal space of philosophy.
1. In the first paragraph of my chapter “The Art of Allusion” I cite a newspaper article. I criticize the statement that Jurgen Habermas is undeserving of the title of philosopher because he has “made too much of a mark in the social sciences and in political debates” (Ross, “Schmuggel: Gadamers Geheimnis” Frankfurter All-gemeine Zeitung, vol. 11, no. 2 [Feb. 11, 1995]). Zuckert attributes to me the very opinion criticized by me. [BACK]
2. An example for this logic is the commentary on my work by Richard Palmer (PHGG588 ff). Without entering into my research, Palmer contents himself with a
3. Moreover, if one wishes to use Gadamer's memoirs as an authentic source, it would make sense to demand at least their examination of and their comparison with other sources. [BACK]
4. The political significance of this document has been described by George Leamann, Heidegger im Kontext: Gesamtuberblich zum NS-Engagement der Universitdt-sphilosophen (Hamburg: Argument-Verlag, 1993), 100, and Thomas Laugstien, Philosophieverhdltnisse im deutschen Faschismus (Hamburg: Argument-Verlag, 1990), 29 ff. [BACK]
5. This membership (number 254, 387) is substantiated by the files of the former Berlin Document Center. In 1934 Gadamer became a member of the National Socialist People's Welfare Organization (NSV) and in 1938 he joined the German Reich Union for Physical Education (DRL) (Leaman 40). [BACK]
6. Gadamer published a text in 1967 with the title Herder und die geschichtliche Welt (Herder and the historical world). It appears as an epilogue to the edition of J. G. Herder's early writings, Audi eine Philosophie der Geschichte zur Bildung der Men-schheit (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1967). A comprehensive examination of this text and of the lecture underlying it, “Volh and History in Herder's Thought” (Frankfurt: Vit-torio Klostermann, 1942), is likewise found in my book. There I reconstruct the official context of this enterprise and analyze the characteristics of National Socialist occupation policy in France, as well as the importance attached to German cultural policy and to the German Institute in Paris. [BACK]
7. Here it should be mentioned that Gadamer has also shown courage. In 1942, when the Marburg Romanist Werner Krauss was arrested by the Gestapo in their action against the Schulze-Boysen-Harnack resistance group and was condemned to death, an intensive rescue operation was set in motion by Krauss's university colleagues. Among them was Gadamer, who sent a plea for clemency to the Reich court-martial. Cf. Peter Jehle, Werner Krauss und die Romanistik im NS-Staat (Hamburg: Argument-Verlag, 1996), 141–50. [BACK]
8. Habermas attributes the solidarity of the faction of Young Conservatives to their collective convictions: “It is precisely the specifically German offshoots of the lost First World War—which was also lost mentally—who appear as the true guardians of an unbroken national tradition According to what they themselves profess, they had nothing to regret in 1945, for they felt that the movement they had supported in 1933 had let them down. They had seen National Socialism in the light of their own ideas, at least as a variation on what was’ their own’” (Jiirgen Habermas, “Carl Schmitt in the Political Intellectual History of the Federal Republic,” in A Berlin Republic: Writings on Germany, trans. Steven Rendall [Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997], 116–17). [BACK]
9. Martin Broszat and Horst Moller, eds., Das Dritte Reich: Herrschaftsstruhtur und Geschichte (Munich: Beck, 1986). Eberhardjackel, Hitlers Herrschaft (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1986); Martin Broszat and Klaus Schwabe, eds., Die deutschen Eliten und der Wegin den Zweiten Welthrieg (Munich: Beck, 1989); Hans Momm-sen, “Zur Verschrankung traditioneller und faschistischer Fuhrungsgruppen in Deutschland beim Ubergang von der Bewegung zur Systemphase,” in DerNational-sozialismus und die deutsche Gesellschaft (Hamburg: Rowohlt-Verlag, 1991), 39–66. [BACK]
10. Hans Mommsen, “Gesellschaftsbild und Verfassungsplane des deutschen Widerstands,” in Der Nationalsozialismus und die deutsche Gesellschaft (Hamburg: Ro-wohlt-Verlag, 1991), 233–337. [BACK]
11. “Unlike after the Second World War, after the first World War in Germany the national dreams of greatness and world power were still by no means dreamed out…. An especially fateful effect of the humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles was that it prevented the self-critical examination of Wilhelmine imperialist pre-war policies” (Mommsen, “Zur Verschrankung,” 36). [BACK]
12. “The real Nazis, however, had no interest in us at all.” Hans-Georg Gadamer in conversation with Dorte von Westernhagen, Das Argument 182, 32.4 (July-Aug. 1990): 543–55; here 549. [BACK]
13. Teresa Orozco, “Die Platon-Rezeption in Deutschland um 1933,” in “Die besten Geister der Nation.“Philosophie und Nationalsozialismus, ed. Use Korotin (Vienna: PicusVerlag, 1994), 141–85. [BACK]
14. Gadamer, “Uber die politische Inkompetenz der Philosophie,” Sinn und Form 45.1:5–12. [BACK]
15. Hans-Georg Gadamer in conversation with Dorte von Westernhagen, Das Argument 182, 32.4 (July-Aug. 1990), 543–555; here 549. [BACK]
16. In terms of the society as a whole, this is also substantiated in the new Hitler biography by Ian Kershaw, particularly in the chapter “Dem Fiihrer entgegen ar-beiten.” Hitler 1889–1936 (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1998), 663–744. [BACK]
17. The remarks that Zuckert misses with regard to the differences between Gadamer's philosophical texts before 1933 and after 1945 are found in my book (15, 65 ff) and also in my essay in this volume. [BACK]
18. Fritz Bucherer and Herman Easters, eds., Das Humanistische Gymnasium (Berlin and Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1934), 100. [BACK]
19. My attempt to reconstruct these resonances is prompted by the French linguist Michel Pecheux's concept of interdiscourse and/or cross-discourse. Pech-eux's discourse analysis takes as its task the analysis of the effect of interdiscourse, “which bursts into the organization of what can be said, in the form of the unsaid or the said-elsewhere.” Michel Pecheux, “Uber die Rolle des Gedachtnisses als interdiskursives Material: Ein Forschungsprojekt im Rahmen der Diskursanalyse und Archivlektiire,” in Das Subjeht des Dishurses: Beitrdge zur sprachlichen Bildung von Subjektivitdt und Intersubjektivitdt, ed. Manfred Geier and Harold Woetzel (Berlin: Argument-Verlag, 1983), 54. The cross-discourse functions “as a kind of axiom of meaning, stabilized in the discursive memory, which seems to make possible evident intradiscursive links.” It is a kind of reading “in which the reading subject at the same time is responsible for and is expropriated by the meaning that he deciphers. For the interpretation follows the interdiscursive tracks, which are preconstructed and transversal as such” (54). To this end, discourse analysis describes processes “that expose to the reader those levels of the discourse which are opaque relative to the strategic actions of an information-processing epistemic subject” (54) as presupposed by the cognitivistic variants of discourse analysis. In this sense discourse analysis shares a point of view with Gadamerian hermeneutics, since both oppose the logicistic or cognitivistic theories of meaning. The crucial difference from the hermeneutic position, however, is that concepts like the preconstructed (preconstruit), the interdiscourse (discours transverse), and indirect or reported discourse
20. “Only in the context of this founding of the state, and from the motive of a radical rejection of the existing state and its establishment in the words of philosophy, can the critique of poets be understood.” Plato und die Dichter (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1934), 13. [BACK]
21. “He who recognizes himself in it certainly does not, indeed, recognize himself as a stateless, isolated being: he recognizes in himself the ground on which the reality of the state is built, however, and in whatever degenerate form the real state may exist” (Plato und die Dichter 14). [BACK]
22. The linguistic difficulty of the usual rendering of German staatlich in English as “political” must be considered here in its distorting consequences. The concept of the political does not have to be imagined in conjunction with the attributes of the state, as is generally the case in these texts. [BACK]
23. As Kurt Hildebrandt, a member of the George circle, sums it up, Plato's state “rests on the human soul, it is a mental construct. For that which we call the total state today, there is no more perfect portrait than Plato's Politeia.” Kurt Hildebrandt, Einleitung zur Platan: Der Staat, trans. A. Horneffer (Leipzig: Alfred Kroner-Verlag, 1933), 364. Alfred Baeumler believes that Plato encourages artistic and gymnastic upbringing, “not because he considers art to be an educational material,” but as “a necessary device for rearing children.” By such means a youth would learn “to love and to hate correctly, without first of all being able to indicate the reason.” Alfred Baeumler, “Asthetik,” in Handbuch der Philosophie. Die Grunddisziplinen (Munich and Berlin: Oldenburg, 1934), 6. Regarding the adoption of Platonic principles in a broad spectrum of National Socialist organizations, the Nazi educational theorist Ernst Krieck writes, “No one, however, has had as profound an understanding of the power of the artistic as Plato, who in this regard can become our teacher yet again. For education in the youth leagues; in the state youth groups; in the army; and in the defense units of the SA, the SS, and the Stahlhelm, artistic education has become a necessity.” Ernst Krieck, Musische Erziehung (Leipzig: Arma-nen, 1933), i. [BACK]
24. Rolf Nemitz, “Die Erziehung des faschistischen Subjekts,” in Faschismus und Ideologic (Hamburg: Argument-Verlag, 1980), 141–75. [BACK]
25. Ernst Krieck, “Erziehungsphilosophie,” in Handbuch der Philosophie, ed. A. Baeumler and M. Schroter (Munich and Berlin: 1931). See section III, “Mensch und Charakter,” pp. 68 and 48. [BACK]
26. This allotment of status is explicitly contrary to Plato's Politeia, in which the guardians constitute a profession between the workmen and the philosopher-kings. More important than the accuracy of this interpretation, however, is the harmony of this reading with the political constellation to which this text speaks, for example,
27. Albrecht Wellmer, quoted in Jiirgen Habermas, “Der Universalitatsan-pruch der Hermeneutik,” in ZurLogik der Sozialwissenschaften (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, [BACK]
28. Isabelle Kalinowsky, “Les ambiguites de Gadamer,” Liber: Revue Internationale des livres 30 (Mar. 1997): 14. [BACK]