previous sub-section
3 The "Official" View and "Facts and Thoughts"
next sub-section

After the Rectorate

The shorter third, and final, section of the text bears the German title: "The Time after the Rectorate." It mainly concerns Heidegger's complaints about perceived professional slights after his resignation. He objects in passing to criticism voiced by Ernst Krieck, the Nazi pedagogue, and Alfred Baeumler, apart from Heidegger the most prominent German philosopher to identify publicly with Nazism. Heidegger complains as well that he was under surveillance and that his best students (Gadamer, Krüger, Bröcker) were kept back in their academic careers. He finally indicates unhappiness about the difficulty in publishing his writings and his exclusion from official German delegations to international philosophical congresses.

From a strictly philosophical perspective, this section is more historical and thus less interesting than the preceding ones. Four passages require comment. The first one is a remark Heidegger makes in passing about a philosophical meeting in Berlin to which neither he nor Jaspers was invited, but which apparently resulted in an attack on "existential philosophy." "In this case, too, as already during the rectorate, and notwithstanding the oppositions that divided them, my opponents demonstrated a strange willingness to ally themselves against everything by which they felt spiritually threatened and put into question."[145] This remark illustrates Heidegger's almost petulant view that he received insufficient attention, that he wasn't taken seriously enough.


Second, there is Heidegger's comment, also in passing, that he had no illusions about the possible consequences of his actions after he resigned from office.

I had no illusions about the possible consequences of my resignation from office in the spring of 1934; after June 30 of the same year, these consequences became completely clear. Anyone who after that still assumed an administrative office in the university was in a position to know beyond the shadow of a doubt with whom he was bargaining. [146]

This passage is ambiguous. It might mean that after he resigned, for that reason Heidegger felt that he ran a personal risk, as was made clear with the physical elimination of Röhm and the S.A. leadership. Or it might conceivably mean that the realization of the kind of people with whom he was dealing led Heidegger to reassess his support for their common ends.

It is, however, unlikely that until 30 June 1934 Hitler's intentions were not clear. According to Fédier, the most unrelenting of Heidegger's defenders, the essence of Nazism was not clear until 1938. [147] Jaspers accepts the view that the Nazi intentions became clear only gradually, since he remarks in his report on Heidegger, where he doubts the extent of Heidegger's change of heart, that anything less than a radical turn away from Nazism after 30 June 1934 is of lesser worth.[148] But he remarks pertinently elsewhere that despite the lack of precise information, the general lines of Nazism, its lies, its criminality, were known to any one who desired to know.[149] In a letter to Jaspers, Heidegger admits that in 1933 and even earlier the "Jews and the left-wing politicians" already knew.[150] Indeed, somebody must have known since at the time Heidegger became rector in the spring of 1933, concentration camps were already being built in the region of Freiburg. It is absurd to maintain that Heidegger had not understood the main thrust of Nazism since Hitler had repeatedly made it perfectly clear in Mein Kampf and elsewhere. And Heidegger relied in part on this work, which he cited in his public praise of Schlageter as a kind of Nazi saint, as a hero in the sense identified in Being and Time .[151]

Third, there is a further remark on the significance of the rectorate, which Heidegger now describes in Nietzschean terms in a final effort to free himself from any responsibility. Whereas in the talk, he exalted the importance of the rectorate, he now demeans it as essentially meaningless. "Taken by itself, it [i.e., the rectorate] is as unimportant as the barren rooting in past attempts and measures taken, which in the context of the entire movement of the planetary will to power are so insignificant that they may not even be called tiny."[152] This description of the


rectorate's significance is only apparently inconsistent with its earlier description through the supposed metaphysical transformation of science into technology. Common to both is Heidegger's conviction that the reign of metaphysics can be understood as ongoing development of the will to power whose most advanced form is the increasing encroachment of technology. Once again, it is difficult to overlook Heidegger's implicit self-exculpation in the face of the domination of what he now calls the planetary will to power.

Fourth, we can note the dark statement which ends the essay. "But these events, too, are only a fleeting appearance on waves of a movement of our history, of whose dimensions the Germans have as yet no inkling, even now that catastrophe has engulfed them."[153] Once again Heidegger makes the familiar, but unverifiable claim of superior insight into history, including the future, following from his basic distinction between authenticity and inauthenticity. This statement is further interesting for the obvious transformation of the revolutionary enthusiasm of the rectoral speech, where Heidegger thought he stood at a turning point in German history, into a kind of conceptual dark night of the soul where the real possibility for a radiant future has disappeared.

This chapter has been devoted to an examination of Heidegger's selfjustificatory, indulgent interpretation of the Rektoratsrede in a time of personal need. Heidegger's defense consists in an effort to demonstrate that his rectoral address was directed toward the defense of the university with respect to knowing and science. Although this is literally true in part, it is insufficient as a description of the text as a whole, and false as an account of its spirit. For Heidegger's concerns with the university and with science as the rector, or educational Führer , of the University of Freiburg were means to other ends, including the grounding of Nazism in fundamental ontology; the realization of the Germans as German, the goal he shared with National Socialism; and further insight into Being.

The central insight that emerges from this inspection of Heidegger's self-interpretation of the rectoral address is the tension between his claim to be concerned only with the defense of the university and his continued stress on the destiny of the Germans and on Being. The latter concerns, which derive from Being and Time , remained constant throughout his later thought. We have already noted that Heidegger's remark that he did not renounce his thought in his effort, in an official capacity, to realize the essence of what is German, is significant. [154] This statement should be recognized as what it is, as a clear admission of a seamless web, a direct link, between his own thought, as he understood it, of the concept of authenticity applied to the Germans as a whole and his turn to Nazism as presenting a propitious moment, a kairos , to realize this goal.


previous sub-section
3 The "Official" View and "Facts and Thoughts"
next sub-section