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Introduction: On Heidegger's Nazism and Philosophy
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Introduction: On Heidegger's Nazism and Philosophy

This book considers the nature and philosophical significance of the controversial relation between Heidegger's philosophy and his Nazism. The significance of this relation is clear in virtue of the importance of Heidegger's philosophical thought and its widespread influence not only in the philosophical discussion but throughout the cultural life of this century. Heidegger's supporters and even his most ardent critics agree that Heidegger's thought is important and cannot merely be dismissed. Heidegger is often held to be one of the most important contemporary philosophers, even the most important philosopher of this century, maybe even one of the small handful of truly great philosophers in the history of the philosophical tradition.

Heidegger is certainly the most influential philosopher of our time. Heidegger's influence is widely felt in contemporary philosophy: in negative fashion in Husserl's final phase; in the positions[1] of Gadamer and Derrida, his two closest students; in the thought of Herbert Marcuse, the first Heideggerian Marxist; in the phenomenological theories of Jean-Paul Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Emmanuel Levinas, and Paul Ricoeur; and more distantly in the writings of Foucault, Apel, Habermas, and Rorty, as well as in those of a host of other figures such as Hans Jonas, Hannah Arendt, and Leszek Kolakowski. The Heidegger literature has by now taken on such proportions that no one, not even the most industrious student, can possibly read it all. Heidegger is now


widely present in the discussions in Germany, even more so in the United States, but above all in France, where for several decades he has functioned as the main "French" philosopher, the unacknowledged but omnipresent master thinker whose thought continues to form the horizon of French philosophical thinking.

Heidegger's influence, which is by no means limited to philosophy, is widely apparent throughout the recent discussion: in theology in the work of Paul Tillich, Rudolf Bultmann, and Karl Rahner; in psychoanalysis in the work of Jacques Lacan, Ludwig Binswanger, and Medard Boss; in literary theory through Paul de Man; in feminism through Gayatri Spivak; in ecology through Albert Borgmann and Wolfgang Schirmacher; in political theory through Fred Dallmayr; and so on. The list of those influenced by Heidegger, which is impressive, rivals in scope that of such other conceptual giants of this century as Freud and Weber.

Obviously, the impressive nature of Heidegger's thought and its extraordinary influence do not diminish but rather only raise the stakes of the present discussion. In view of the growing knowledge of the historical record and the ongoing publication of Heidegger's writings, one can overlook, or choose to ignore, but can no longer deny, the relation between his Nazism and his philosophy. To "bracket" this issue, simply to turn away from the problem, to refuse to confront it, is silently to accept what a number have seen as the totalitarian dimension in one of the most important theories of this century, itself largely marked by totalitarianisms of the right and the left, a theory apparently lacking in the resources necessary to come to grips with totalitarianism. In confronting Heidegger's Nazism, one inevitably questions as well the philosophical and wider intellectual discussion of our time and its ability to think the connection between philosophy and politics.

The link between Heidegger's thought and politics has been known for many years. Its discussion began in the 1940s in the pages of the French intellectual journal, Les Temps Modernes , in a controversy initiated by Karl Löwith, Heidegger's former student and later colleague.[2] The initial phase of the debate ended quickly, but the theme has continued to resurface at intervals. It has recently received a fresh impetus in publications by Ott[3] and Farias.[4] The merit of Farias's book, in part based on Ott's research, is that for the first time it has brought the Heidegger affair to the attention of the wider intellectual readership.

Since a relation between Heidegger's thought and his Nazism has been known for more than half a century, one must ask why it has not been studied earlier in greater depth. The reasons include the relative success at what can charitably be described as damage control on the part of his most fervent admirers—those for whom he can apparently do


no wrong, or at least none of lasting consequence for his thought—as well as a lack of insight into its philosophical significance. But the recent discussion has provided sustained attention to the series of issues surrounding Heidegger's thought and politics. It is now too late to put the genie back in the bottle, to deflect attention away from this relation, since the publications by Farias and Ott raise this issue in a way that in good faith cannot simply be ignored.

Everything about this relation is subject to dispute. It has been asserted that it is philosophically insignificant, since the struggle concerning Heidegger is merely symptomatic of a weakness of contemporary thought. It has been claimed that Heidegger was not a Nazi, or at least not in any ordinary sense. It has been suggested that we must differentiate between Heidegger the thinker and Heidegger the man, for the former cannot be judged in relation to the latter. It has been argued that information recently made available is not new and was already known to any serious student. It has been held that everything that Heidegger ever did or wrote was Nazi to the core. It has been maintained that Heidegger's only problem was that he never said he was sorry, that he never excused himself or asked for forgiveness. Finally, it has been maintained with all the seriousness of the professional scholar, in a way recalling many a theological dispute, that Heidegger's thought is so difficult that only one wholly immersed in it, at the extreme only a true believer committed to his vision, could possibly understand it. Yet if it can only be comprehended by a "true" believer, then Heidegger's Nazism is beyond criticism or evaluation of any kind, since no "true" believer will criticize it.

The view of the present study is that all of the above claims about the relation of Heidegger's thought and his Nazism are false. Attention focused on Heidegger's Nazi inclinations by Farias, Ott, and others (e.g., Pöggeler, Marten, Sheehan, Vietta, Lacoue-Labarthe, Derrida, Bourdieu, Schwan, Janicaud, Zimmerman, Wolin, Thomä, etc.) has created a momentum of its own. It has been realized that Heidegger's Nazism raises important moral and political issues that cannot simply be evaded and that must be faced as part of the continuing process of determining what is live and what is dead in Heidegger's thought. It is not inaccurate to say that as a result of recent discussion, at least two things have become clear: First, the problem cannot simply be denied since one can no longer even pretend to understand Heidegger's philosophy, certainly beginning in 1933, if one fails to take into account his Nazism. In a word, serious study of Heidegger's thought can no longer evade the theme of Heidegger's Nazism. Second, the issues posed by Heidegger's unprecedented turn to Nazism on philosophical grounds,


and the way the theme has been received in the discussion of his thought, point beyond his position to raise queries about the nature of philosophy and even the responsibility of intellectuals.

The complex topic of Heidegger's thought and politics concerns what we know about his actions and philosophy as they bear on his Nazism, including Heidegger's own explanation of his turn toward National Socialism, as well as the roots of that turn in his position and the later development of his thought. It includes as well the way in which this theme has been received in the Heidegger discussion over many years, in an often bitter dispute between his partisans and detractors, between those who invoke special rules for a German genius (e.g., Gadamer), and those who maintain the same rules for all. It further includes the significance of this affair for the philosophical discipline itself. We must inquire whether Heidegger's turn to Nazism is sui generis, an aberration uncharacteristic of the discipline, which hence casts no light at all on it, or whether, on the contrary, it in some sense illuminates philosophy.

This question is actually a series of questions, one of which can be stated as follows: Did Heidegger's effort to lead the German nation fail in 1933-1934 because he misjudged the appropriateness of National Socialism, or rather because philosophy is inapt to play a political role, or rather finally because, as Heidegger later came to believe, it is simply not useful? It is also relevant to inquire how and why he turned to Nazism. The obvious fact that—as Rorty, Habermas, and others have pointed out—Heidegger was an important thinker but a Nazi requires scrutiny. We cannot merely dismiss it, since it is as close to true as any claim about a philosopher can be; but we cannot act as if it were unimportant, since our view of Heidegger's position cannot ignore his own statement that he turned to National Socialism on the basis of his philosophical thought. This admission leads to a provocative question: can a theory be great which leads to the political abomination of National Socialism? Since Heidegger is not just any thinker but by all standards an exceptional one, his Nazism is exceptionally troublesome. In Heidegger we have an example of a supposedly great philosopher, according to Levinas, the author of the most important treatise since Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit .[5] Then there is the light that Heidegger's turn to Nazism and its reception in the literature throw on the philosophical discipline: what is the social relevance of philosophy if it can and in fact does lead to such ends? In other words, how can great thought lead to great evil? Or is it that in the claim of conceptual greatness, we are greatly mistaken?

The interpretation of the link between Heidegger's philosophy and Nazism points toward the relation between thought and time. It has been usual in the philosophical tradition to maintain that philosophy is


in but not of time, since it is independent of its context. On the contrary, Marxism argues that philosophy can be reduced to its context. The present work denies these two antithetical claims in favor of a third, more difficult approach according to which philosophy is in part dependent on, and in part independent of, the context in which it arises. This view accords with Heidegger's understanding of Dasein as existence and as transcendent. It will be applied here in order to comprehend Heidegger's Nazism in terms of his philosophical thought, and his thought as dependent on and reflective of its social, historical, political, and philosophical background. A main theme of this book is that Heidegger's philosophical thought and his Nazism are interdependent and cannot be separated, more precisely, that he turned to National Socialism on the basis of his philosophy and that his later evolution is largely determined by his continuing concern with Nazism.

Not unnaturally, some of Heidegger's closest students, following Heidegger's lead, have long sought to conceal the Nazism lodged in his thought. The present effort to reveal and to consider the nature and philosophical significance of Heidegger's Nazism will need to break sharply with all the various ways in which Heidegger and his students have sought to conceal this aspect of his thought. It will rely on three general principles. To begin with, it will part company with the view that in order to discuss Heidegger at all one must be an expert in his thought, a master of his position able to quote chapter and verse at the drop of a manuscript, even capable on demand of adducing unpublished material in support of an argument.

Unquestionably, it is necessary to be informed about Heidegger's thought in order to comprehend the nature and philosophical significance of his Nazism. But the work to follow will not seek to imitate the massively detailed commentaries on the main thinkers in the tradition, or the equivalent analyses of Heidegger's thought. If the requirement of detailed expert commentary does not always function as a strategy to preclude significant criticism, in the main it only helps to foreclose the possibility of raising the significant philosophical issues. I am convinced that the relevant issues of Heidegger's Nazism, and probably any basic aspect of his thought, can be addressed in the intersubjective conceptual space common to the majority of philosophers and many intellectuals of all kinds. In this specific sense, whatever the peculiarities of Heidegger's position, which should not be denied, it is "available" to discussion in roughly the same way as others.

Second, we must refuse the distinction, cherished equally by Heideggerians and philosophers of all kinds, between Heidegger the thinker and Heidegger the man, Heidegger the great philosopher and Heidegger the intellectual's peasant solidly rooted in the soil of his beloved


Schwarzwald. The supposed distinction between Heidegger and his thought obviously reflects a separation of theory from practice, well rooted in traditional philosophical theory and practice. In virtue of their concern to separate what they think from what they do, philosophers resemble those in other lines of work, who are frequently unwilling to act on their views. The result is a peculiar form of inaction, or insistence on theory, which philosophers from Aristotle over Hegel to Heidegger have often identified with action, even with its highest form. Philosophers, who speak eloquently of the truth, are only rarely willing to break a lance for truth. The example of Socrates, who died for an idea which he regarded as more important than life itself, is overshadowed by the more typical case of Spinoza, who prudently refused to descend into the arena lest he compromise his freedom of thought.

In the discussion of Heidegger's Nazism, the distinction between Heidegger the man and Heidegger the philosopher is frequently invoked by his students in order to save, if not the man, at least his thought. This distinction underlies the frequent admission that Heidegger was a rather dreadful person, a concession that functions strategically to protect his thought against the defects of his character. Yet if Heidegger's philosophical thought and his turn to Nazism are continuous in any ordinary sense, if one admits that his identification with National Socialism was motivated by his philosophical theory, as Heidegger himself suggests, then a critique of his actions immediately reflects on his view.

It is relatively easy to criticize Heidegger's identification with Nazism since on the practical plane there is nothing to distinguish it from that of anyone else, with the exception of its possible relation—still contested by many, on occasion still even denied—to the position of an important thinker. If one thinks that there is something reprehensible about a close association with Nazism, or denouncing one's colleagues as politically unreliable, or trying to devise a Nazi theory of higher education, or maintaining a theoretical commitment to Nazism as an ideal after National Socialism had failed in practice, then it is important to return from the actions themselves to the view behind them. On the contrary, if we are willing to admit that theory is divorced from practice, as Heidegger's students insist, then the defense of his thought is simplified. For one can simply admit that Heidegger was not a very nice man, that he did a number of reprehensible things in connection with Nazism, while denying that any of his actions reflect on his position. And we can further express our dismay that Heidegger never simply excused his Nazi connection or expressed shame for his own past, since his stoic refusal to admit any involvement at all would, then, be the only problem.

I will resist the effort to drive a conceptual wedge between Heidegger the man and Heidegger the thinker for two reasons. On the one hand,


theory and practice are never wholly separate and hence cannot be disjoined. At least implicitly, practice of any kind always reflects a theoretical perspective. In all cases, action follows from, and is on occasion justified by, an attitude, a reason, an intention, an aim, or even a passion. Even such extreme views as the conviction of the Italian Fascists that one should act first and create a justification for the actions after the fact, or the German Führerprinzip according to which the will of the Führer is a sufficient justification for any action at all, make action depend on a prior theory.

On the other hand, the defense of Heidegger's position in terms of an alleged split between the man and his thought is inconsistent with Heidegger's own view of the matter. Obviously, it contradicts his clear claim that his theory must be judged by his actions. It further runs counter to the understanding, basic to his fundamental ontology, of Dasein as existence. In Being and Time , he repeatedly affirms the priority of existence, or the practical dimension in the wider sense of the term, over theory of any kind on the grounds that the precognitive dimension is prior to, and provides the basis for, the cognitive level. Heidegger's insistence that theory is meaningful only within the practical framework precisely denies the kind of separation of theory from practice which some of his followers introduce in order to defend his position in spite of his Nazism. In short, this defense must be resisted since if it succeeds it fails, because the condition of its success is precisely to deny a fundamental aspect of the position it is invoked to defend.

Further, we will consider Heidegger the thinker as in part a man of his times, whose times offer insight into his theory. Now Heidegger can be construed as deflecting attention from the relation of his thought to time, in particular to his own time, in his repeated insistence that his own thought is limited to the problem of Being, the Seinsfrage . Certainly, many writers on Heidegger have understood his position in this way, including the vast majority of commentators who discuss Heidegger's thought merely in terms of his texts without reference to the wider context that forms their background. In this sense, those who discuss Heidegger are repeating the view, itself a staple of the philosophical tradition at least since Plato, that thought is in time but not of time, as if a philosopher were somehow able to escape from time itself.

I believe this deflection should be resisted. To begin with, there is the general point, mentioned above, that all thought, including Heidegger's, is related to time. Thought cannot easily, in fact perhaps never wholly, be isolated from time. Perhaps even such familiar assertions as 7 + 5 = 12 are not devoid of reference to time and place. Certainly, Heidegger's own view is specifically related to the period in which it arose, and cannot adequately be understood merely through attention to factors


supposedly independent of the historical context, such as the problem of the meaning of Being. I am convinced that Heidegger's theory reflects a variety of contemporary influences, some of which he may not have been fully aware of, such as the role of a conservative, nationalistic form of Roman Catholicism in southwestern Germany in his youth, stressed by Ott, Farias, and most recently Thomä;[6] the widespread concern, which he seems to have shared, for Germany, the defeated party in the First World War, to recover as a nation and to assume what many thought was the manifest German destiny; the reintroduction of destiny as an explanatory factor of historical change by Spengler; the interest in the concept of the Volk as it was developed in nineteenth-century Germany; and Heidegger's own desire to assume an ever-greater role in the German university system as the central thinker of his day, even to reform the university system according to his own view of higher education. These and other factors are ingredient in Heidegger's theory, and knowledge of them offers insight into Heidegger's position. Conversely, to follow the traditional philosophical view that thought is independent of time, in this case to fail to take these and other factors into account, is to close off important roads of access to Heidegger's position.

Heidegger's own insistence on the contextuality of thought within existence, in which it arises, and by which it is limited, suggests that his own philosophical theory can fairly be understood in this way and cannot be understood otherwise. There is an obvious analogy between Heidegger's understanding of the contextuality of thought and Hegel's view of philosophy as its own time captured in thought. Hegel sees philosophy as both immanent and transcendent, as an analysis of what occurs on a higher conceptual plane. This duality of immanence and transcendence is reproduced in Heidegger's position in his understanding of Dasein, or human being, as existence and in his insistence on the dimension of transcendence. As early as his dissertation and in later writings, Heidegger continued to insist that human being was not only present in but also able to transcend its situation. But Heidegger goes further than Hegel in an important respect, since he follows Husserl's concept of the horizon, for instance in his insistence in Being and Time on the world as in effect the horizon for all interpretation. The point is not to perform a reduction on Heidegger's position by reducing it to its situation, since no philosophical theory is merely a reflection of the circumstances in which it arises. But since theories are also not independent of such circumstances, one can—in fact, in my view, one must—utilize an awareness of the role of that situation in the constitution of the theory as a clue to its interpretation. As concerns Heidegger, an awareness of such factors is helpful to understand his position in ways that might not be as evident if we restrict ourselves merely to the Seinsfrage .


Although it is my intention here to study Heidegger's Nazism, I do not intend to provide a study of Nazism as such. For present purposes it is unnecessary to consider the nature of Nazism in detail, which, as an amorphous collection of doctrines that never assumed canonical shape, is in any case notoriously difficult to define.[7] It will be sufficient to center this discussion on a doctrine which Heidegger shared with National Socialism as well as preceding forms of Volk ideology: the historical realization of the German Volk . I am less interested in Heidegger's acceptance of the Führer principle, an important element in the legal framework of the Nazi state, such as it was, than in the constant presence of a metaphysical commitment to the German Volk as a central historical goal in his thought, a commitment which, like the theme of a fugue, is consistently renewed at regular intervals beginning in 1933. It is, I believe, this concern—in conjunction with Heidegger's underlying interest in Being—which drew him to National Socialism. This concern remains constant throughout his career and determines the later development of his position, the evolution of which cannot otherwise be grasped.

The present inquiry into Heidegger's Nazism conflicts in two ways with the reigning temper of philosophy. On the one hand, it associates philosophy with history, whereas a major current in the modern tradition is to drive a wedge not only between philosophy and the history of philosophy but also between thought and history. Although there are exceptions, such as Hegel, most philosophers adopt a nonhistorical perspective on the grounds that truth is not historical. Yet if philosophy is to tell us about the world as given in experience, if it is to make good on its claim to grasp the nature of experience as a historical process, it must in some sense emerge within it and actually be historical. Philosophy cannot, then, sever the link to history and pretend to know it. Hence, in a deep sense a discussion of Heidegger's Nazism cannot be successful in isolation from a study of the link between his thought and his times.

On the other hand, the skepticism about truth as historical has given rise to skepticism about historical truth. The rise of deconstructionism, clearly influenced by Heidegger's position, is a form of skepticism with obvious historical implications. The very idea of historical truth has recently been placed in doubt by one of Heidegger's admirers, Paul de Man, who was notoriously concerned to conceal his own political past:

[I]t is always possible to face up to any experience (to excuse any guilt), because the experience always exists simultaneously as fictional discourse and as empirical event and it is never possible to decide which one of the two possibilities is the right one. The indecision makes it possible to excuse the bleakest of crimes because, as a fiction, it escapes from the constraints of guilt and innocence.[8]


The implication of de Man's view—which is by no means unprecedented, since it is common also, say, to Stalinism—is that we can treat the past as a fiction that can be rewritten at will in order to correct or even to erase what has taken place, to expunge inconvenient events from the historical record. But Heidegger's very idea that revealing is accompanied by concealing implies the obverse doctrine, that concealing is linked to revealing, or at least to its possibility. Despite Leopold von Ranke, it may not be possible to recover the past as it really happened, whatever that means. Yet in my view, there is indeed a kind of historical truth, a possibility of determining the historical record which justifies a refusal of historical skepticism and undercuts the efforts of many to conceal the past. A premise that underlies the present discussion is that despite Heidegger's lengthy effort to hide, to distort, and to misrepresent the nature of his commitment to Nazism, his very deception reveals itself as a deception as well as the truth about it if we will only examine his thought with sufficient care.

The discussion of the nature and philosophical consequences of Heidegger's Nazism unfolds in eight chapters. The first chapter, which is procedural, considers the proper approach to reveal the Nazism concealed in his thought. It is argued that his Nazism is concealed in his philosophy; it is further argued that through an "official view" of the matter Heidegger and a number of his followers have contrived to conceal his Nazism in a manner similar to that in which, in his belief, the original Greek insight into Being was later covered up. Chapter 2 studies in detail the famous rectoral address, in which Heidegger turns publicly to Nazism and seeks to ground politics in philosophy, in order, as Jaspers and, following him, Pöggeler have said, to lead the leaders. The speech, which is more often mentioned than analyzed, is studied in continuity with such background factors as the romantic reaction against the Aufklärung , the völkisch intellectual movement, the decline of the Weimar Republic, and Heidegger's view of inauthentic boredom as the predominant mood at the end of the Weimar period. The intrinsic link between Heidegger's philosophical thought and his turn to politics is analyzed in terms of concepts of authenticity, resoluteness, Being-with, destiny, fate, and so on. There is detailed attention to the quasi-Platonic aspect of Heidegger's understanding of the relation between politics and philosophy, his reliance on von Papen, his crucial misrendering of a Platonic text, and other relevant factors.

The third chapter discusses the effort, ultimately rooted in Heidegger's own fabrication of an "official" view of his relation to Nazism, to contain the damage to his reputation. The "official" view provides the basis for Heidegger's largely successful effort to minimize his Nazi turn


as transitory whereas it was permanent, as unrelated to his thought from which it in fact followed closely, as unimportant for the later turning in his thought which it basically influenced, and so on. This phase of the discussion is mainly devoted to careful scrutiny of Heidegger's detailed account of his relation to Nazism as rector of the University of Freiburg in a posthumously published article, "The Rectorate 1933/34: Facts and Thoughts." Heidegger's discussion of his political turn is more often invoked than discussed. Analysis of this text, crucial for an understanding of Heidegger's political turn, shows that it reveals what it is meant to conceal: an enduring commitment to Nazism on the basis of his thought. Attention is given to the nature of Heidegger's philosophical attachment to Nazism, and its grounding in his concept of the destiny of the German people. Heidegger's sophistical effort to reinterpret the idea of Kampf , which he related to Clausewitz in the Rektoratsrede , and by implication to Mein Kampf , as a disguised allusion to Heraclitus is studied carefully.

Chapters 4 and 5 provide detailed discussion of Heidegger's first Hölderlin lecture series; of his recently published, unfinished work, for some his masterpiece, Contributions to Philosophy (Beiträge zur Philosophie ), composed in 1936-1938 during his Nietzsche lecture courses; and of the Nietzsche lectures themselves. Following Heidegger's own suggestions, some of his followers (e.g., Aubenque, Vietta) maintain that in these places Heidegger decisively criticizes National Socialism. Yet close analysis of these texts reveals that Heidegger criticizes Nazism not as a political practice but for its alleged insufficiency as an ontological theory, that is, as a grasp of Being as such. It further reveals his continued insistence on the realization of the historical destiny of the German Volk , a point that originally led him to Nazism and which he never abandoned. Here, we find the emergence of a new conception of silence as no longer an authentic aspect of speech but the ground of authentic speech, a change tending to justify his own silence about Nazism and the Holocaust. Detailed discussion of the famous turning in his thought shows that it is composed of a series of elements, including, as part of his later "post-metaphysical" antihumanism, a turning away from personal responsibility—earlier stressed in the notion of resoluteness—in the later emphasis on Being as the ultimate historical agent.

The sixth chapter takes up the genesis and nature of Heidegger's theory of technology, which some writers (e.g., Caputo) see as his permanent legacy. Attention is focused on Heidegger's conception of technology as an effort to carry further a supposedly incomplete attempt by National Socialism to confront technology and modernity. The discussion, which criticizes Heidegger's nonanthropological understanding of modern technology as inadequate, shows that Heidegger does not break


with, but carries further, his view of Nazism in his writing on technology. It further demonstrates the inadequacy of Heidegger's grasp, even after the Second World War, of National Socialism as a response to technology.

It is perhaps understandable on human grounds that Heidegger concealed his relation to Nazism. But since relevant material has long been available, no credit can be accorded to his followers for their continued obstruction of efforts to understand this relation. The seventh chapter reviews the reception of Heidegger's Nazism, with special attention to the obscurantist tendencies of the French discussion. In the discussion of Heidegger's politics, the French debate stands out as an ongoing effort, over many years, to examine, but mainly to defend, Heidegger's position. It is argued that Heidegger's thought has come to form the horizon of French philosophical thought, which has in turn obstructed the concern to understand the philosophical component of his Nazism.

The conclusion affirms an "organic" relation between Heidegger's philosophical thought and his commitment to real and ideal forms of Nazism. It compares the "organic" interpretation to other interpretations of the link between Heidegger's thought and politics. It considers the problem which the reception of Heidegger's political engagement poses for the reception of his thought, for philosophy in general, and for the responsibility of intellectuals. It is stressed that Heidegger's philosophy ought not to be rejected merely in terms of his political engagement but that his thought also cannot be understood apart from that engagement, which must figure prominently in the reception of his theory of Being. It is further stressed that Heidegger shares with Nazism an interest in authenticity, interpreted as the destiny of the German people, which he did not and literally could not renounce without renouncing an aspect of his thought unchanged in its later evolution, or turning. Heidegger's insensitivity to human being, which he apparently found meaningful only as a means to the authentic thought of Being, appears as a philosophical component of his insensitivity to Nazism. The book ends with a reflection on the paradox of Heidegger, an important thinker, perhaps a great philosopher, but unable to discern the character of National Socialism, a leading example of absolute evil. It is suggested that Heidegger's example calls in question the widely held view of the socially indispensable character of philosophic reason. If the ethical component is not present in the beginning, it will not be present at the end; and it was not present in—in fact, it was specifically excluded from— Heidegger's "antihumanist" meditation on Being. The concern to respect nature but the insensitivity to human being, the turn to Nazism, the continued adherence to the destiny of the German Volk , Heidegger's antihumanism and inability to understand Nazism even after the Second


World War, all follow from his nearly obsessive care about the authentic thought of Being.

It is appropriate to anticipate two related objections. On the one hand, there is the obvious criticism, long a staple of the Heideggerian defense of Heidegger's thought, that whoever criticizes the master is insufficiently versed in the position. Let me immediately concede the strategic strength of this defense, to which, in my opinion, there is no fully satisfactory response. It is appropriate to acknowledge the permanent possibility of skepticism about the analysis of a philosophical position. Any effort to allay doubts about the grasp of a theory can always be met by raising further doubts. But at a certain point, criticism cannot merely be evaded by suggestions that the critic is insufficiently versed in the topic and must be met directly. Readers will need to decide whether on balance this essay demonstrates a grasp of Heidegger's position sufficient to permit the analysis developed below.

On the other hand, there is the objection based not on lack of knowledge but possible prejudice, such as prejudice with regard to Heidegger's thought, even the imputation of prejudice for raising the question of the philosophical significance of Heidegger's Nazism.[9] The possibility of prejudice is certainly enhanced in a discussion of Nazism. I have no illusions that my rereading of these texts will convince all observers, some of whom will certainly find—indeed, how could it be otherwise?— that my discussion reflects my own prejudices. The issue of how to react to possible prejudice is an important hermeneutical theme. In reaction to the Enlightenment concern with pure reason, Gadamer, Heidegger's closest student, has tried to rehabilitate the concept of prejudice (Vorurteil ) through the Hegelian move that we should be prejudiced against prejudice. In this case, I hold that nothing is to be gained by being open to prejudice, mine or that of anyone else. There can be no guarantee that all prejudice has been overcome. But if one must be prejudiced, which I do not concede, let us at least, with Aristotle, be prejudiced in favor of the truth.

The link between Heidegger's Nazism and his philosophical thought is the topic of an expanding literature in a variety of languages. It is necessary to present a reasonably broad account of the debate about Heidegger's politics, especially the discussion in languages other than English, for the reader to have a sense of the complex, controversial issues at stake and the relevant texts. It is useful to pull together the wider debate that has now become so broad as to be difficult to survey quickly if at all. The importance of an awareness of the prior discussion of the topic is brought home by a strategy to defend Heidegger now emerging in the American discussion, as well as elsewhere, which consists in


bracketing the entire literature on the relation between Heidegger's philosophy and his Nazism in order to discuss his position in total isolation from his politics,[10] and his political turning in independence of what is now known about it.[11] In the same way as Heidegger later urged the idea of a Verwindung of metaphysics, the idea clearly is to confront the problem posed by the discussion of Heidegger's Nazism, not by responding to the available discussion and textual analyses, but by simply turning one's back on it.[12] Now only a philosopher could possibly hold that knowledge is irrelevant to judgment[13] or even prevents one from arriving at a proper understanding. Yet others, deeply committed to Heidegger's thought, have properly seen that Heidegger's receptivity to Nazism requires careful study since at this late date we cannot continue business as usual if we desire to understand Heidegger's thought.[14]

In the present case, the relevant material includes not only Heidegger's exoteric writings, in which he set out his official view of the matter, but his esoteric texts, including pertinent portions of his published writings and of his lectures and correspondence, certain background materials, and the full range of writings by Heidegger's defenders and critics. Hence, one criterion on which to judge this essay is its relative success in presenting a representative sample of the relevant materials, including materials that contradict my own reading of the issues as well as the main features of the previous debate. Another criterion is an appropriate treatment, not of Heidegger's thought in general, surely an enormous task, but of those portions of Heidegger's corpus which bear on the problem at issue here. Finally, one must consider the degree of insight offered by the overall conceptual framework proposed here into the wider theme of Heidegger's Nazism and philosophy. It is one thing to collect themes in the secondary discussion and in Heidegger's writings relevant to a grasp of the link between his Nazism and philosophy, and something else to weave the various strands together in an appropriate fabric, a comprehensive theory. A measure of the usefulness of this essay is its capacity to embrace and explain, but not to explain away, all that is now known, and to provide a place for what as yet remains unknown about Heidegger's turning toward National Socialism and the permanent place thereafter of Nazism in the further evolution of his philosophical thought. If it is not too much to ask, it is my hope that in this way it will be possible to focus the debate, not on a careless word or a phrase, as a means of evading the issues, but on a careful discussion, as serious as the serious nature of the theme permits, of the many issues raised by the deeply rooted, permanent commitment to National Socialism in the philosophical position of one of the most important thinkers of our time.


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