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5 Nazism and the Beitrage zur Philosophie
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Nazism and the Beitrage zur Philosophie

Heidegger's Beiträge

The single most important text for the relation between Heidegger's later position and his Nazism is a still little-known, recently published treatise composed in the period immediately following the rectorate: Contributions to Philosophy (On the Event) (Beiträge zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis )). The Beiträge , one of Heidegger's most difficult but most important works, is a highly technical philosophical study, unlike the semipopular texts and lectures so far considered.

In turning to the Beiträge , we enter uncharted territory. The speech and the essay we have studied above are available in English translation; they are at least well known and often mentioned, and the speech although not the essay has often been discussed. Although the Hölderlin lectures are not yet translated, Heidegger's Nietzsche lectures are available in English; the worked-over German version has been in the bookstores for many years, and the original lectures are now being published. With the exception of a few colleagues who possessed copies of the original manuscript, the Beiträge is not well known, even to the large circle of Heidegger enthusiasts. It was published only in January 1989. It is at present untranslated, and is still rarely mentioned outside of the circle of Heidegger specialists.[1]

Any discussion of the Beiträge must face difficulties specific to this unfinished, difficult text. The Beiträge is the only major Heideggerian work that has not yet been discussed in detail in the enormous Heidego ger secondary literature. In writing about a work, especially one that is


not well known, there is a natural tendency to cite passages, in fact to cite with more than usual frequency, in order in this way to make the work available to the scholarly public. This is useful in order to acquaint the reader with this difficult, little-known text as much as possible in Heidegger's own words. Yet even to write about this work requires one to undertake the perilous effort, which cannot be successful, in Kant's words a vergeblich Versuch , to put into standard English or at least into English a treatise that is scarcely in German, at least as measured by standard German. We do not possess a standard philosophical vocabulary to render Heidegger's difficult terminology in this work, unusually difficult even by Heideggerian standards. The difficulty in presenting Heidegger's thought in the Beiträge begins with the crucial term "Ereignis, " the master word of Heidegger's later thought, which, in the absence of received practice, I shall arbitrarily translate here as "event."[2] Since there is as yet no translation of the work as a whole or even any agreed-on way to render key terms, the passages cited will be rendered in literal fashion, with closer attention to meaning than to English style.

Although Heidegger is never an easy thinker, the Beiträge is especially difficult to comprehend. It is as if Heidegger, who in the wake of Being and Time increasingly thought of himself as the most important thinker of modern times, perhaps since the pre-Socratics, were forced here, in the wake of the failure of the rectorate, to come to grips with himself and his philosophy in the midst of a Nazi Germany heading rapidly toward a world war. There is a sense of urgency and confusion in this text, a feeling of the embarrassment of thought before the present day and history, a palpable confusion, present in none of Heidegger's other writings. There is an existential dimension in this text, equally present in the rectoral address, but with none of the self-confidence, conceptual hubris, even overweening pride evident in the speech.

Important philosophical works resist easy summary. It is not possible to describe the Beiträge in simple fashion since the thought it contains is of extraordinary complexity. As this text has only recently been published, there is no standard, or even well-known, way to understand it, so that any reading literally has to forge its own route. In the absence of guidelines, or extensive prior discussion against which to react, with respect to the Beiträge this chapter will concern itself with two tasks: a general description of some main lines of this difficult text, as a sort of first effort to relate it to Heidegger's corpus, without which a more detailed discussion would be literally out of context;[3] and a more specific scrutiny of its connection to Heidegger's Nazism.

In view of its recent appearance, it is both easy and difficult to write about this text. It is easy to do so since the Beiträge has only recently


appeared. Accordingly, there is almost no discussion that needs to be taken into account. It is for that reason also difficult to write about, since there is no well-traveled path to follow; and, with a single exception, there is not even a well-developed view of the precise relation of this work to the question of Heidegger's Nazism. In order to prepare for an analysis of the link of this book to National Socialism, it will be useful to provide some general remarks about the treatise.

The text of the book was handwritten by Heidegger during the period 1936-1938 and transcribed by his brother, Fritz Heidegger, in typewritten form.[4] The original manuscript, which was compared by Heidegger with the typescript prepared by his brother, is described by the editor as consisting of 933 handwritten pages, mainly of the size known as DIN A5.[5] It appeared for the first time in 1989, in the year of Heidegger's hundredth anniversary, as volume 65 of his collected works, in a version edited by Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann.[6] The whole is divided into eight parts and 281 numbered paragraphs of uneven length.

The Beiträge is obviously unfinished.[7] Although much of the work is rather polished, even complete, there are numerous passages that lack final form. These include discussions embedded within other discussions, and even "sentences" that lack verbs.[8] The terminology is particularly laborious: many words are written in hyphenated form, presumably in order to indicate their etymologies; Being is no longer written as Sein but now appears as Seyn , and Dasein occurs as Dasein; and there are numerous neologisms that render translation even more perilous than usual.[9] The reading is unusually difficult, even by Heideggerian standards. Although the parts of the book cohere internally, they do not form a single whole, and the overall line of argument is difficult to determine.

Little about the published book is clear, perhaps including the proper ordering of its parts. In a handwritten note, dated 8 May 1939, Heideg-ger complains that the discussion of Being, the second part of the typewritten manuscript, is not at its proper place and indicates that his manuscript requires another revision.[10] The editor reports that he placed the discussion titled "Das Seyn," at the end of the published version.[11] He justifies this decision through the remark that Heidegger renumbered the pages in such a way as to suggest this reordering of the manuscript. But a revision is more than a change in the numbering of the pages or the ordering of the parts of the work which Heidegger carried out. It is an open question whether a finished, or even a further-revised, manuscript would have presented its constituent elements in the same or a different order.

In part because the book has so recently been published, there is little literature and even little agreement about it. Pöggeler—for many years,


one of the few to have a manuscript of the text—has always believed that it is Heidegger's Hauptwerk .[12] ` This opinion was quickly contested by others after the work appeared. In response to Pöggeler, Alexander Schwan characterizes the Beiträge as Heidegger's second great philosophical work.[13] He insists that it refutes Farias's thesis that Heidegger remained a convinced National Socialist.[14] For Schwan, the Beiträge indicates a clear withdrawal from the interrelation of philosophy and politics in 1933.[15] Schwan maintains that the Beiträge does not lead to a criticism of National Socialism but to a renunciation of practice.[16] Von Herrmann, who takes a weaker line, describes the Beiträge as merely one of Heidegger's main works.[17] Vietta regards this book as Heidegger's most important Hauptwerk after Being and Time , a view that continues to give primacy to the early study of fundamental ontology.[18] He makes extensive use of this text to examine what he describes as Heidegger's critique of National Socialism and technology.[19] More recently, Pöggeler has insisted that the Beiträge presents a sharp critique of National Socialism, as well as liberalism and Bolshevism.[20] Thomä states without elaboration that the Beiträge continues Heidegger's critique of Nazism as it exists.[21] On the contrary, Tertulian maintains that in the Beiträge Heidegger manipulates the history of ontology in order to conceal fascist political goals.[22]

Obviously, this book is not only a key document in Heidegger's position; it is also a key document for a grasp of Heidegger's comprehension of Nazism after the rectorate. For this reason, the Beiträge is itself caught up in the political struggle now under way. It opposes defenders of Heidegger's life and thought, who for generations have resisted full access to the Heidegger Archives and sought to prevent the appearance of damaging material, and those who are less concerned to defend Hei-degger than to uncover the truth. This political struggle concerns the Beiträge in three ways. First, and most obviously, there is the scholarly interpretation of the text itself, the kind of hermeneutical struggle that occurs in any learned enterprise. Second, there is the prior problem of the establishment of the text, the object of interpretation, the determination of what is available for scrutiny. It is, then, a matter of some concern that a question has been raised about the completeness of the present published version of this text.[23] It is fair to say that the text we now have is probably incomplete, and we do not know what has been omitted from it. Obviously, it is important to have a full version of the text on which to base an informed judgment, and just as obviously, that is probably not the case at present. Third, there is the present struggle, unusual in scholarly circles, recently under way between those who control the ongoing edition of Heidegger's collected writings in German and the American publishers to find a translator acceptable to both parties to


render this text into English. In view of the political stakes, and the history of Heidegger scholarship, in which even noted scholars are frequently personally implicated in sustaining a particular interpretation, one can anticipate efforts to control even the wording of politically sensitive passages in the English translation.

Interpretation of the Beiträge

The approach in Being and Time to the problem of the meaning of Being through Dasein is later transformed through a turning (Kehre ), or reversal, announced in the "Letter on Humanism," in which everything is reversed, through a new thinking which abandons subjectivity.[24] Hei-degger describes his new thinking as "no longer philosophy, because it thinks more originally than metaphysics—a name identical to philosophy."[25] The precise nature of the turning in Heidegger's thought is a matter of scholarly dispute.[26] Yet it is clear that the Beiträge belongs to an effort to make a new beginning, to effect a transition from philosophy to the so-called new thinking—in short, through questioning in another track, which will arise from the transition from that followed by Western thought.[27]

A feature of Heidegger's consistent emphasis on the problem of Being and his later turn away from subjectivity is a change in his view of truth. Following Heidegger's suggestion that his book must be understood in terms of his notes from his lectures (Vorlesungen ), von Herrmann points to Heidegger's lectures from the 1930s, particularly the volume titled Basic Question of Philosophy: Selected "Problems" of "Logic" (Grundfragen der Philosophie: Ausgewählte 'Probleme' der 'Logik ') from the fall semester of 1937/38, above all the appendix (Arthang ) under the title "From the First Draft" ("Aus dem ersten Entwurf").[28] For von Herrmann, the relation between these two texts centers around the theme of truth as disclosure.

This suggestion is supported by Heidegger's repeated mention in the Beiträge of two lectures (Vorträge ) concerning truth from this period: "On The Essence of Truth" ("Das Wesen der Wahrheit") and "The Origin of the Work of Art" ("Die Ursprung des Kunstwerkes"). In Being and Time , Heidegger proposed an ontological view of truth as both objective and subjective. He insisted on the objective component of truth in his claim that a true assertion signifies the essence of the object. "To say that an assertion 'is true ' signifies that it uncovers the entity as it is in itself."[29] He stressed the subjective component of truth through his conception of Dasein, as in the assertion "that truth, in the most primordial sense, is Dasein's disclosedhess, to which the uncoveredhess of entities belongs."[30] Here, Heidegger carried his emphasis on the subjec-


tive component of truth to great lengths, for instance in the claim that truth only is as long as there is Dasein,[31] so that Newton's laws literally were neither true nor false prior to Newton, through whom the laws became true.[32]

In his later writing, consistent with the deemphasis of Dasein, and the decentering of the subject, Heidegger turns away from the subjective element while continuing to stress a view of truth as disclosure. Now he depicts truth as the disclosure that reveals an aspect of what still lies concealed. "Philosophical thinking is gentle disclosure that does not renounce the concealment of being as a whole."[33] In the Beiträge he carries this view still further by underscoring the event of that which is to be disclosed. So in the one-page section preceding the work, he stresses the verbs "to occur" or "to happen" ("ereignen "), as in the "event" ("Ereignis "). This stress preserves a clear etymological link to Heidegger's earlier insistence on the ownmost (eigen ) as the basis of authenticity (Eigentlichkeit ).[34]

The passage preceding the book is mainly devoted to comments on its subtitle: "Concerning the Event" ("Vom Ereignis").[35] For Heidegger, in the historical period (Zeitalter ) of the transition from metaphysics to the historical thought of Being (das seynsgeschichtliche Denken )[36] one needs to think the truth of Being from out of a more basic approach. This suggests his intention to differentiate between an earlier metaphysical, and a later, post-metaphysical period, characterized by a new form of thought, different in kind from its predecessors, and based on a historical perspective lacking in metaphysics. The new form of thought, in the post-metaphysical period toward which, in Heidegger's opinion, we are now tending, will be historical in a way that earlier thought was not.

Future thought is a thought-process , through which the as yet in general hidden realm of the becoming of the essence [Wesung—literally, essencing] of Being passes and so is first illuminated [gelichtet] and reached in its ownmost character of an event [in seinem eigensten Ereignischarakter].[37]

Heidegger makes it clear that he regards his new approach as breaking with the past, perhaps including his own past, in a way that carries forward his earlier basic insights. It is no longer a case, he points out, of expounding something objective, but of hewing to (übereignet ) the event. The result is an essential change in the concept of human being from that of a rational animal to that of Da-sein. Pointing now to his subtitle, he writes: "From the event occurs [ereignet] a thoughtlike-saying listening to Being and in the word 'of' ['des'] Being."[38]

As the title suggests, the entire work is concerned with the theme of


Ereignis . The book is divided into eight sections, whose connection remains unclear: The Preliminary Glance (Der Vorblick), The Trace (Der Anklang), The Handing Over (Das Zuspiel), The Jump (Der Sprung), The Ground (Die Gründung), To-come (Die Zu-künftigen), The Last God (Der letzte Gott), and Being (Das Seyn). Being, which was earlier written in the modern German manner as Sein , is now written as Seyn , presumably in order to set off the new beginning from the first beginning.[39] The unfinished, repetitive, even obsessive character of the work can be indicated by the fact that in the first section, which is divided into forty-nine numbered paragraphs, no fewer than five bear the title "Vom Ereignis"[40] and two others are titled "Das Ereignis."[41] In addition, in this same section there are ten paragraphs concerning beginning thought (das anfängliche Denken )[42] and seven about the decision (Entscheidung ).[43] A similar situation is repeated in the other parts of the work.

Despite its unsystematic nature, the Beiträge has a rich, almost polyphonic, fugue-like character.[44] It is without doubt a key text for a grasp of the thought of the later Heidegger. To the best of my knowledge, without exception all of the themes that later emerge in Heidegger's writings are sounded here. These include the overcoming of metaphysics, the rejection of Platonism, the critique of modernity, the interpretation of Nietzsche, Hölderlin and poetry, the turning (die Kehre ), the last god, thought as distinguished from philosophy, the enframing (das Gestell ), the critique of technology, silence, nihilism, Gelassenheit , and so on. Accordingly, this text plays a double role: as a key mediating link between the early and late phases of Heidegger's position, and as a key indication of the interrelation of the many motifs that emerge in his later thought.

Important insights are scattered throughout the work. An example is the perhaps untranslatable description of Machenschaft as "[d]er Bezug der Unbezüglichkeit," roughly "the relation of that which is beyond relation," which aids in understanding the perhaps equally untranslat-able concept of enframing (das Gestell ).[45] Another instance is the repeated reference to the difficult idea of the turning (die Kehre ), which Heidegger mentions on virtually every second page, for example when he writes:

The event has its innermost happening [Geschehen] and its widest scope [Ausgriff] in the turning. The turning that comes to be in the event is the hidden ground of all others, subordinated, with respect to their provenance, dark, easily taken as "final" turnings, [geometrical] circles [Zirkel] and circles [Kreise].[46]


The importance Heidegger attaches to the concept of the turning is apparent in his further remark that only future history will tell whether the insight thus gained into the hiddenmost events will remain open or be closed forever to human being.[47]

Since Heidegger here rejects system, and since his discussion is not systematic, it cannot be described in a systematic manner without doing violence to it, without distorting its antisystematic character. The nature of the work as a whole can be indicated through selective commentary on some themes raised in the first section, in the lengthy "Preliminary Glance."[48] Since this section comprises about a fifth of the entire book, and functions as its introduction, it is reasonable to treat it as a preface, not only to this particular work but also to Heidegger's later thought in general.

As the Beitr äge belongs to the transition to the other beginning. we can expect Heidegger to be critical of even the most refined instances of the first beginning. His remark that "[t]he time of 'systems' is past"[49] suggests that earlier "systems" were never fully systematic and that, to the extent that he himself earlier adopted this aim, he was mistaken. In his pursuit of the distinction between the two forms of thought, he differentiates (1) the question of Being (Seinsfrage ), or the basic question (Grundfrage ) as concerns the truth of Being conceived from a new, historical point of view, and (2) the prior philosophical question concerning beings, now designated as the leading question (Leitfrage ).[50] There is a suggestion that fundamental ontology, which was still determined by the leading question, was insufficiently radical, since it had failed to penetrate beyond the later tradition to its roots.

The other beginning, like the first approach, can only be stated in language. Heidegger maintains that the thoughtful saying of the other beginning is a pointing out (Weisung ) but not a teaching (Lehre ).[51] He stresses the difficulty of his new thought in an odd, pathetic statement, which may also have a political resonance: "No one understands what 'I' am thinking here."[52] If we note that here as elsewhere, Heidegger intends his thought literally to see into the present and future, we can understand this remark as another indication that Heidegger feels that his work is not being accorded the respect that is its due since it is literally misunderstood. Since Heidegger still intends to grasp the possibility of the historical gathering of the German Volk through his position, there is a political cast to his remark.

Another constant in Heidegger's thought, despite change in his position, is his continued interest in Being. Heidegger reaffirms the ontological continuity in his thought by insisting that the question concerning the "meaning" of Being in Being and Time , "in short, concerning the truth


of Being , is and remains my question, in fact counts as the really only one [denn sie gilt ja dem Einzigsten]. "[53] Since in his initial Hölderlin lectures, Heidegger has in the meantime turned to poetry as a fundamental source of truth, he now signals a turn away from transcendental phenomenology toward the supposedly peculiar ability of the poet to respond to this question.[54]

Heidegger differentiates his new thought from the initial thought, or transcendental phenomenological ontology, which thinks Being as presence out of the presencing. "The thought of Being as event is the beginning thought, which as a controversy with the first beginning prepares the way for it."[55] His new thought, hence, does not break with, but rather goes behind, and founds, or deepens, the initial thought. For Heidegger, his new thought depends in part on a concept of history which is not a region of beings but a glance in the essencing (Wesung ) of Being itself.[56] The result is to distinguish between his own earlier effort to grasp the Being of beings, stated at length in Being and Time , and the effort begun here to grasp Being directly. The new approach requires a reconceptualization of the basic concepts of the first approach, which cannot simply be taken up unaltered in the new thought. For instance, care, which was earlier described as "[t]he totality of Being-in-the-world,"[57] is now conceived, in difficult terminology, as the anticipatory resoluteness to the truth of Being as well as the apprehension in the there.[58]

If the first beginning was philosophical, then the other beginning presumably reaches backward beyond philosophy. Heidegger addresses the question of how the new thought relates to philosophy in a series of remarks. "Philosophy as self-reflection [Selbst-besinnung] in the indicated way is first realizable [vollziehbar] as the beginning thought of the other beginning."[59] The new beginning, while no longer philosophy, is intended, then, to realize philosophy. One thinks of other such claims, for instance the well-known Marxist view that Marxism is the realization on the plane of science of the aims of philosophy.[60]

As the Marxists frequently do with respect to Marxism, Heidegger stresses in various ways that his proposed new beginning is not philosophy. "In the region of the other beginning there is neither 'ontology' nor in general 'metaphysics.' "[61] There is no ontology, since the leading question does not circumscribe any domain; and there is no metaphysics since the new thought no longer takes its departure from beings present to hand, as in the Cartesian position, or known objects, as in idealism. In a further return to the question of system, now linked to an implicit rejection of Cartesianism, he observes that this theme can only be raised from within a tradition dominated by mathematical thought. "This thought and the order based on it remains outside the question of


whether it belongs to a system or not. 'System' is only possible in the wake of the dominance of mathematical thought (in the wide sense of the term)."[62] Obviously, then, although Heidegger need not abandon conceptual rigor, he cannot present the new phase of his thought in systematic form; in his view, the very idea of system arises only within a deficient form of metaphysics.

The result is an essential clarification of the Seinsfrage that continues to preoccupy Heidegger. In terms of his distinction between the old Leitfrage and the new Grundfrage , he remarks:

The leading question defined from the Greeks until Nietzsche the same approach to the question concerning "Being." The clearest and greatest example for the unity of this tradition [Überlieferung] is Hegel's Logic . On the contrary, for the basic question Being is not an answer and a region of an answer, but the most questionable [Frag-wüdigste].[63]

It is not the answering of the question of Being but the widening of the questioning, the awakening and the clarification of the power of the question (Fragekraft ) in respect to this question, which still only springs from need and the upswing of Being-there (Da-seins ).[64] The result, according to Heidegger, is the repetition of what must occur ever more decisively since the end of metaphysics is neither a "teaching" nor a "system" but rather "must become the authentic history and consequently the most hidden."[65]

Heidegger insists that the truth of Being which this thought captures is identical with the essence of Being.

This truth of being is certainly not different from Being, but is rather its ownmost essence [eigenstes Wesen]; and therefore it lies in the history of Being, whether this truth gives itself [verschenkt] or fails to give itself [verweigert]; and so first authentically brings the unfathomable [das Abgründige] into its history.[66]

He sees this new thought as successful where "theory of knowledge" fails. "The 'theory of knowledge' is, however, only the form of the lack of awareness [Ratlosigkeit] of modern metaphysics with respect to itself."[67] This conclusion follows from his view, itself a further form of his idea of truth as disclosure, that the essential identification of truth and Being is available only to his new thought. "The truth of Being is the Being of truth."[68]

The Beiträge is a major text in the transition of Heidegger's thought from its original beginning to another beginning. Now our concern in this chapter is not with the later evolution of Heidegger's thought as such; it is rather limited to the significance of this evolution for his


Nazism. Accordingly, I have sought briefly to describe some main themes of the Beiträge in order to provide a context to consider its relation to Heidegger's Nazism. My limited aim was not to provide a full, or even an adequate, discussion of this work—a difficult task for any important philosophical treatise, especially so for this rich, complex, but unsystematic work—but rather to set the stage for a determination of whether, as has been claimed, in the Beiträge Heidegger confronts Nazism.

Nazism and the Beiträge

It is difficult to address the theme of Heidegger's relation to Nazism in the Beitr äge for several reasons. Material relevant for an evaluation of this theme is not confined to a single passage or a single portion of the work, which it traverses from the beginning to the end, from the initial comments, such as Heidegger's remark, cited above, that he is not understood—which anticipates his later assertions in the 1945 article on the rectorate that the rectoral address was not understood—to his suggestion in the final paragraph of the book that speech is grounded in silence.[69] It follows that this theme is intimately bound up with, hence inseparable from, the work as a whole.

Naturally, Heidegger's relation to Nazism in the wake of the resignation as rector and the abandonment of transcendental phenomenology can no longer be precisely the same. In particular, Heidegger can no longer strive for personal privilege within the academy through his position as philosophical Führer of the University of Freiburg nor can he continue to legitimate Nazism on the basis of fundamental ontology, which he has now given up. Yet Heidegger's relation to Nazism exhibits a remarkable continuity between the exoteric public statements in the rectoral speech and the esoteric "postphilosophic" view on display in the Beiträge .

The description of of the rectoral address as representing a kind of "private National Socialism,"[70] to which Heidegger objects in the article on the rectorate, correctly characterizes his view of Nazism in the Beiträge . Here, he criticizes its real form as an incorrect means to an end even as he continues to accept the end in view, for which he again proposes a "philosophical" means. Although he no longer offers his fundamental ontology in order to lead the leaders, he neither abandons the relation of "philosophy" to politics nor turns away from Nazism. He no longer proposes to ground National Socialism in fundamental ontology, yet he continues to insist on his "philosophy," in this case his new thought to attain the end in view shared with Nazism: the destiny of the


German people. The relevant difference is that Heidegger's new beginning is no longer understood as a sufficient means to a political end, which it is intended to achieve only indirectly, through the justification of the prophetic role of great German poetry. In other words, although Heidegger's position changes, and although he abandons philosophy for thought beyond philosophy, he does not abandon, in fact he specifically maintains, the political role of his thought of Being.

The recurrence of Heidegger's stress on the Germans as German at this late date in his thought is not less, but even more, troubling than before. In his early thought, beyond any strictly political sympathy with Nazism, Heidegger was pushed in this direction by fundamental ontology that insisted on Dasein, above all its authentic form, as the way to an authentic thought of Being. As a result of the turning, and the de-centering of the subject, in this work, Heidegger has already moved away from the analysis of Dasein as the clue to Being toward a view of Being as self-disclosing. It follows that Heidegger's continued insistence now as before on the Volk is doubly significant. On the one hand, it presumably indicates that his effort to decenter subjectivity is only incompletely carried out, since this concept continues to recur in his thought. On the other hand, to the extent that the ongoing concern with Being has been uncoupled from Dasein, it clearly shows the persistence of a political preference for the aim shared with Nazism.

Heidegger's continued acceptance of this political goal, which motivates all his writings after the rectoral address, is not incompatible with criticism of real National Socialism. To grasp Heidegger's criticism of National Socialism, it is useful to recall that his thought is limited throughout his corpus to the problem of Being. Heidegger's continued concern with Being literally prevented him from coming to grips with or even understanding the nature of Nazism as Nazism, which he seems to have regarded as an insufficient form of modern metaphysics, in patent disregard of its effects on human being.

In the Beiträge , Heidegger's critical remarks about National Socialism are easily overlooked for several reasons. First, in keeping with his concern with Being, the critique of National Socialism is strictly ontological in character and in that respect is unlike other, more standard discussions. It is fair to say that no one unfamiliar with Heidegger's thought would even recognize that it contained reservations about Nazism. His rare critical remarks on Nazism in this and other writings invariably concern its supposed insufficiency as a theory of Being. Here as elsewhere, Heidegger is chillingly insensitive to the significance of Nazism for human being. For instance, in the most direct comment on Nazi ideology in this work, in the context of a remark on "blood and race" as


the "bearers of history," Heidegger is primarily concerned with the defense of his own earlier distinction between history and historicality, that is, with an adequate concept of history.[71]

Second, the critical remarks directed to National Socialism are always secondary to Heidegger's main concern in this treatise, which is to sketch the outlines of the other beginning. In the Beiträge , Heidegger's reservations about Nazism are intrinsic to his new theoretical posture, the rejection of the insufficient radicality of his first beginning, which he now regards as a continuation of the metaphysical movement from Anaximander to Nietzsche. He is, then, critical of his own earlier fundamental ontology as well as National Socialism and other views as well, all of which from his perspective remain committed to an approach from which he now seeks to free himself. Since Heidegger's criticism of National Socialism is of the same generic type as that which he routinely brings against anything associated with modern metaphysics, his objections to Nazism in no sense grasp its essential nature.

Third, in keeping with the antisystematic character of Heidegger's later thought, there is no single systematic statement of his objections to National Socialism anywhere in his writings, least of all in the present work. In part, the unsystematic nature of his criticism is no doubt due to the resolute rejection of system in this text and in his later writings. In part it may also be due to his inability to confront directly the consequences of his earlier identification with Nazism on the basis of his thought.[72]

Heidegger's specific objections to Nazism in the Beiträge are consistent with the evolution of his position since Being and Time . In An Introduction to Metaphysics he continued the turn to Nietzsche begun in the rectoral address, and he reaffirmed the significance of Nazism and sketched aspects of what later became the critique of technology. In "Wege zur Aussprache," he emphasized his interest in the realization of the ownmost being of the Germans even as he criticized Descartes in order to comprehend the metaphysical essence of technology. In "The Age of the World Picture"—originally given as a lecture about the time Heidegger stopped working on the Beiträge —he criticized modern science and the so-called philosophy of the worldview, or Weltanschauungsphilosophie , and included a critical remark in passing on National Socialism.[73] All of these elements now appear in the Beiträge , where Heidegger criticizes National Socialism as illustrating the worldview correlated with the rise of technology in the age of metaphysics, a worldview which he intends to surpass through a turn to the other beginning.

In the Beiträge , Heidegger's reservations with respect to the theory of National Socialism are dispersed virtually throughout the work. They


appear in passages concerning such varied themes as metaphysics, technology, Weltanschauungsphilosophie , nihilism, the Volk , and, perhaps more surprisingly in the treatment of transcendental philosophy, the cult of personality, various forms of religion, and silence. Now it is not easy to describe a series of remarks which the author did not choose to restate as a single connected discussion. It would be a mistake to provide them with a systematic format when Heidegger now rejects this approach for reasons intrinsic to his position. The alternative, to be employed here, is to survey a selection of the ways Heidegger is critical of National Socialism in this work.

The Volk

The discussion of Heidegger's relation to Nazism so far has exposed a triple turning, centered in Heidegger's acceptance of the National Socialist conception of the realization of the Germans as German, based in German Volk ideology, both for its own sake and for his concern with Being. The triple turning is manifest in Heidegger's turn toward real Nazism in his assumption of the rectorate, his turn away from it when he resigned his post as rector, and his turn toward an ideal form of National Socialism. The fundamental thread that binds together the three political turnings in Heidegger's thought, the concern with the Volk , is prominent in the rectoral address and recurs after the rectorate in the initial lecture series on Hölderlin and in the Nietzsche lectures. It is a recurrent theme throughout the Beiträge . Attention to Heidegger's remarks on the Volk will offer insight into his supposed confrontation in this work with National Socialism. It is reasonable to suppose that if Heidegger desired to break with, or even to distance himself from, Nazism in the period after the rectorate, his desire would be evident in his treatment of the Volk throughout the book. At the same time, through the inspection of these passages, we will gain further insight into Heidegger's position in this work.

The following survey of Heidegger's account of the Volk in the Beiträge does not aim at completeness; it is intended to provide no more than a representative sample of how he uses this concept. In the Beiträge , Heidegger discusses, or at least alludes in passing to, the Volk in numerous passages throughout the work. Taken together, these passages provide an indication of his view of Nazism during a period in which he is in the process of fundamentally revising his thought in the wake of the failure of his rectorate. A typical instance of Heidegger's rejection of National Socialism as a theory occurs in a remark on Volk ideology in a passage on Ereignis , the main theme of the book, where he objects to the idea of a worldview.


We have already noted that Heidegger is critical of the idea of the philosophy of the worldview, or Weltanschauungsphilosophie , as early as his initial lecture series, as well as in his review of Jaspers's Psychology of World Views (Psychologie der Weltanschauungen ).[74] In Being and Time , Heidegger does not discuss the concept of the worldview, to which he returns in his lectures on The Basic Problems of Phenomenology . Here, he notes that a worldview is a coherent set of beliefs arising in relation to a particular individual at a given time, but not a theory as such; and he follows Husserl in arguing for a difference in kind between philosophy and a worldview. "If philosophy is the scientific construction of a worldview, then the distinction between 'scientific philosophy' and 'philosophy as worldview' vanishes."[75]

In the Beiträge , in his "postphilosophical" phase, from the vantage point of the other beginning Heidegger criticizes National Socialism as a mere Weltanschauung like Christianity or liberalism.[76] According to Heidegger, both the Christian view of transcendence and its denial in terms of the Volk as the aim of history are forms of liberalism (Liberalismus ). He further maintains that what today appears under the heading of a "worldview" is an alloy formed of varying parts of Christianity, Volk-Ideen , and culture (Kultur ). His objection, which is not clearly formulated, seems to be that a worldview of any kind presupposes that one already essentially knows what a person is, in terms of which the transcendent has meaning; but, on the contrary, it is only in terms of the transcendent that we can know beings, including human being.

As different as these "worldviews" are, and although they openly or covertly oppose each other—if the sending into the undecided [Sichum-treiben im Unentschiedenen] can still be named a battle—they all agree, without knowing or ruing it, that human being is posited as that which one essentially knows, as a being [Seiende], as that in respect of which and from which every "transcendence" is defined and accordingly as that which hence must first define the human being. But this has been made basically impossible since the human being is already grasped as definable, instead of defining it in terms of something else, which must be dis-placed [ver-rückt] from the previous determination, in order in the first place that the initially definable may be defined.[77]

Heidegger objects to the definition of the transcendent in terms of human being since he holds that human being must be understood in terms of Being in general; but the requirement to do so is concealed by the forgetfulness of Being. "Or is there the possibility that this displacement [Verrückung] comes over man? Certainly. And this is the need of the forgetfulness of being."[78] Heidegger maintains that the awakening of this need is the initial displacement of man into what he calls the be-


tween, characterized as an openness, that is, an openness in which Being occurs.

This "betweenness" ["Zwischen"] is, however, not a transcendence with respect to man, but on the contrary is the openness [jenes Offene], to which man as the founder and Wahrer belongs, in that he as Da-sein occurs [er-eignet] is from being itself [vom Seyn selbst], which does not essence [west] otherwise than as occurrence.[79]

In light of Heidegger's concern with Ereignis as the dominant theme of the other beginning, we can paraphrase his muted objection to Volk ideas as well as his own form of the first beginning as follows: Any explanation of the transcendent from an immanent perspective overlooks the fact that the immanent is explicable only in terms of the transcendent in the same way as Being in general is the "ground" of beings. One must, then, reject any form of the "anthropological" approach to ontology, such as the Cartesian position, the approach to Being in terms of Dasein featured by his own fundamental ontology, or a philosophy based on a worldview, or even the assumption of the Volk as the goal of history. Note, however, that Heidegger's continued interest in the Volk is compatible with his own rejection of its teleological claim since, from his ontological angle of vision, the end in view is not the Volk but Being.

Heidegger is not more critical of the Volk approach in this and other passages because his main concern does not lie in the rejection of National Socialism as such, but rather in the transition from the first to the other beginning. There is another example in Heidegger's lengthy analysis of the concept of decision at the end of the first section of the book. Heidegger's discussion here suggests his continued concern with the realization of the destiny of the German people, the theme so prominent in the Rektoratsrede . In a passage on the "decision," Heidegger emphasizes a point made at the beginning of the initial Hölderlin lecture series:[80] the decision is either for history or for its loss.[81] According to Heidegger, there is a commission to carry out the innermost need arising out of the abandonment of Being. This decision occurs through the so-called gift or the staying away from that which is designated as the future directed.

How does the decision occur? Through the gift [Geschenk ] or the staying away [den Ausbleib] from the excellently symbolized [jener ausge-zeichneten Gezeichneten], which we call "the future-directed" ["die Zukünftigen"] in contradistinction to the many kinds of as you please and unrelenting later considerations [Späteren], which have nothing more ahead and nothing more behind themselves.[82]


Heidegger provides a list of five forms of Gezeichneten . The fourth form includes individuals, namely, the few and the many, understood not numerically but in terms of their symbolic function. In a manner similar to Sartre's later view, Heidegger describes this form as possessing a hidden agreement (Einverständnis ) which, for historical reasons, can suddenly appear, thereby causing individuals suddenly to become a Volk .[83] In the fifth point, Heidegger affirms that the Volk is defined by the uniqueness of Being, whose task it is to ground. "This people [Dieses Volk] is in its origin and definition only according to the onetime occurrence [Einzigkeit] of Being itself, whose truth it must ground in a single place [in einer einzigen Stätte] in a single moment [in einem einzigen Augenblick]."[84] Here, Heidegger repeats his revolutionary view of the Volk that comes together in a propitious historical moment. With respect to the rectoral address, an important difference is that Heidegger is no longer interested in the destiny of the Volk for itself, but as a way to ground Being. In this way, he obliquely suggests that his turn toward Nazism was not only intended to bring about a gathering of the Germans as German, hence, not only for the perverse humanism whose highest form is National Socialism. Rather, his Nazi turning is also, perhaps above all, for the purpose of realizing his own authentic thought of Being.

Another reference to the Volk occurs in one of Heidegger's numerous remarks on the so-called abandonment of Being (Seinsverlassenheit ). In a section on a supposedly enduring problem, he suggests that this phenomenon corresponds to the prevalent understanding of Being, which fulfills and hides its forgetfulness.[85] Attention to such traits as generality and contemporaneity concern beings, but not Being as such. According to Heidegger, the ground of the historical uprooting of Being is due to Being itself, which withdraws before beings.

The innermost ground of the historical uprooting is essential, grounded in the essence of Being [im Wesen des Seyns gründender]: Being [Seyn] withdraws before being [dem Seienden] and it is hence then as "being" ["seiend"] and even as "in the process of being" ["seiender"] that it lets itself appear [erscheinen lässt].[86]

Heidegger offers a list of no fewer than sixteen ways in which the forgetfulness of Being announces itself (sich meldet ).[87] The first form of the forgetfulness of Being is a decided insensitivity to the ambiguous character of the essential.

The full insensitivity with respect to the ambiguous [das völlige Unempfindlichkeit gegen das Vieldeutige ] in that which is regarded as essential. Ambiguity occasions [bewirkt] the powerlessness and the displeasure


concerning an effective decision. For instance, whatever "Volk" means: the social, the racist, the lower [das Niedere] and the below [das Untere], the national, the remaining [das Bleibende]; for instance, whatever is called "godly" [gottlich].[88]

In a word, Heidegger here is objecting to the dogmatic, theoretically insensitive character of Nazism, apparent in its insensitivity to the manifold forms of Seyn as Seiende .[89] In sum, Heidegger is unhappy that the National Socialists are unaware of his own ontological difference. What is surprising is that Heidegger should be either surprised or dismayed to learn that the Nazis were less than fully absorbed, were in fact uninterested, in his own approach to Being, in the same way that they were also uninterested in the effort of Rosenberg, the well-known Nazi "philosopher," to bring about a profound spiritual renewal.[90] Heidegger's objection reveals, then, an astonishing lack of awareness of the nature of Nazism.

There is another remark on the Volk in a passage on "The Occurrence [Das Erlebnis] and 'Anthropology.' "[91] Here, Heidegger affirms that "anthropology" has today become the center of the scholasticism of the worldview (Weltanschauungsscholastik ). He restates his rejection of the approach to Being from a person-centered perspective, before remarking that the differences between the various forms of the anthropological approach are insignificant; for the significant question is whether one attempts a transition to another beginning or desires to continue the Platonic tradition.

The anthropological hairstyle [Frisur—i.e., the particular type], whether Enlightenment-moral, or psychological-scientific, or social scientific-personalistic, or Christian, or folk-political [politisch-völkische], is all the same: the question, that is, whether it questions [erfragt] about another beginning, or whether one continues to insist on the decline under way since Plato, which is only still possible if one talks oneself into taking one's lack of awareness as the overcoming [Überwindung] of the tradition [Überlieferung—literally, what is handed down].[92]

This passage is mainly significant for Heidegger's insistence that the anthropological perspective, which he earlier connected to the influence of Descartes, is in fact rooted in the Platonic tradition itself.[93] In this way, he extends his earlier objections to Descartes to the origins of philosophy in the Greek tradition. Once again, it is clear that his objection to the Volk approach lies in its supposed theoretical indebtedness to the first beginning illustrated by Platonic philosophy.

We find several further references to the Volk in a discussion of nihilism as the absence of ends in Nietzsche's ateleological sense.[94] We


have already noted that one of Heidegger's favorite hermeneutical strategies is to assert that he and he alone comprehends a particular position or body of thought. In the article on the rectorate, he made this claim with respect to Jünger's position. Here, Heidegger remarks that Nietzsche's view of nihilism has still not been understood. For Heidegger, the moral and idealistic interpretations of this concept are preliminary since nihilism must be comprehended as the result of the abandonment of Being. He holds that it is a sign of the incomprehension of Nietzsche to consider Nietzsche's "teaching" of "nihilism" as a form of cultural psychology. Since there is a refusal to acknowledge the lack of goals, one "has" goals again.

Then, the insightful reflection runs about as follows: what would we come to if this were true or would become true? And one does not imagine that even this reflection , that is, the attitude and conduct toward being [zum Seienden]. is the authentic nihilism. And hence one suddenly "has" goals again, even if it is only rather a means for the establishment [Zielaufrichtung] and observance [Verfolgung] of goals: for instance, the Volk .[95]

Once again, the Volk view is invoked as an illustration of the refusal to accept his own view of thought beyond philosophy.

In still another critique of Cartesianism, Heidegger comments on the Volk in a passage on "The abandonment of Being and 'science.' "[96] For Heidegger, science is unable to understand the essence of Being. The abandonment of Being follows from the interpretation of the being of beings (Seiendheit des Seienden ), the main theme of thought. In modernity, truth has been sought in the form of certainty with respect to beings, particularly in the realm of science (Wissenschaft ). In order to progress toward the other beginning, we need to reflect on modern science. In a clear rejection of the concept of a ground associated with Cartesian foundationalism, he writes:

Every kind of theoretico-scientific (transcendental) grounding [Grund-legegung] has therefore become as impossible as an "attribution of meaning" ["Sinngebung"] which assigns a Volk -political [völkisch-political] or any other anthropological determination of goals [Zwecksetzung] to the present at hand [vorhandenen] and accordingly essentially [Wesensbestand] unmodifiable science and its operation [Betrieb].[97]

Heidegger's point is that henceforth any form of foundationalism is impossible since foundationalism as such presupposes a concept of science as grounded in a ground that is not a ground. The idea of a Volk worldview figures here, in a restatement of Husserl's view of objectiv-


ism, as a deficient form of science which is not reflective about its own conditions.

The conception of the Volk recurs in incidental fashion in one of the longest sections of the Beiträge . This section follows a short paragraph on the Greek conception of the idea (Idea ),[98] which Heidegger regards as an interpretation of truth leading to the entire later interpretation of being (Seiendheit ) as objectivity (Gegenständlichkeit ). For Heidegger, it is only from the vantage point of the other beginning that the question of the original meaning of the concept of truth can be raised. He develops this point in a detailed reflection on "The Idea, Platonism, and Idealism,"[99] which is curiously divided into different subsections. This section contains a lengthy, untitled meditation in twenty-seven numbered points, which is interrupted between points 14 and 15 by two smaller passages: a short discussion, in ten points, titled "Hegel's concept of the idea and the first possibility of a philosophical history of philosophy from its first beginnings"; followed by a shorter discussion, composed of four points, called "What belongs to the concept of 'idealism.'"

Throughout the Beiträge , as part of his transition to the other beginning Heidegger rejects Platonism in all its forms. In this section, he criticizes its occurrence in contemporary thought. In point 21, he identifies six clusters of contemporary Platonism: "ontology," which presumably means any ontological approach concerned with being (Seiende ) as opposed to being as such (Seyn ); all teachings concerning "values" or "meaning" concerning "ideas" and ideals; as well as views that deny them, such as positivism and biologism; all types of "life" philosophy ("Lebens"-philosophie ), such as Dilthey's view; various combinations of the preceding; and Nietzsche's view, which, in its concern to transform Platonism, falls back into it.[100]

Heidegger immediately amplifies his understanding of Nietzsche's understanding of Platonism in the next point. Here, the concept of the Volk appears in Heidegger's rejection of still another form of worldview, in what he calls Platonism for the people. Returning now to a theme present since the rectoral address, Heidegger argues that philosophy provides the key to history. For Heidegger, Nietzsche is the first to have understood the key role and importance of Platonism for the history of the West. "On the other hand, Nietzsche is the one who for the first time recognized the key role (Schlüsselstellung ) of Plato and the importance of Platonism for the history of the West (the rise of nihilism)."[101] Heidegger credits Nietzsche with grasping the significance of Plato between the pre-Platonic and post-Platonic moments, although he objects that Nietzsche mistakenly understood pre-Platonic thought in a Platonic way and not in terms of itself. Now invoking his own turn to the other beginning, Heidegger attributes Nietzsche's mistake to a supposed failure to recog-


nize the Leitfrage as such and to complete the transition to the Grundfrage . In essence, then, Heidegger finds that Nietzsche is guilty of failing to anticipate the evolution of Heidegger's later position. Heidegger then remarks: "But it is even more important that Nietzsche detected Platonism in its hiddenmost forms: Christianity and its Verweltlichungen are everywhere 'Platonism for the people' ['Platonismus fürs Volk']."[102]

There is a further reference to the Volk in a passage on various aspects of Da-sein.[103] The precise relation between human being and Dasein is difficult to determine. In Being and Time and subsequent writings, Heidegger sometimes clearly identifies human being and Dasein, or uses the terms as near synonyms, and sometimes appears to differentiate between them. Distinguishing here between human being (der Mensch ) and Da-sein, understood as existence, Heidegger suggests that the man is grounded in existence.[104] He describes human being as one who is needed by Being for the "essencing" of the truth of Being.[105] In this sense, human being plays a role in Heidegger's view of Being similar to its role in some versions of Christian theology. Turning now to Dasein and the people in another short paragraph, Heidegger remarks that the essence of a people can only be understood in terms of Da-sein, and then adds that the people can never be a goal or aim as in the Volk worldview or in commerce.

The essence of the people [des Volkes ] can only be understood from Da-sein and this means at the same time that the Volk can never be a goal or aim, and that such an opinion is only a Volk-type extension [völkische Ausweitung] of the "liberal" thought-of-the-"I" [des "liberalen .... Ich"-gedankens] and of the commercial view of the maintenance of "life."[106]

Heidegger's assertion here that a Volk can be understood only in terms of Da-sein is an extension of the claim that Da-sein grounds human being. Heidegger's insistence that a people can never be an aim or goal is consistent with the rejection of teleological thought in the other beginning.

Heidegger's objection to a Volk -extension of "liberalism" and of a "commercial" approach to life, which is clearly limited to the way in which the concept of the Volk is formulated, is not directed against the conception as such. In the remainder of the passage, he reformulates this conception through a quasi-Platonic view of insight possessed by only some members of the group. For Heidegger, who here draws on his earlier discussion of the concept of mood,[107] the essence of a people lies in its voice understood, not as arising in a natural way, but only occasionally and in the few.


But the essence of the people is its "voice" [Stimme]. This voice does not , however, speak, in a so-called immediate flood [Erguss] of the common, natural, undistorted, and uneducated "person" [unverbildeten und ungebildeten "Mannes"]. Then this chosen witness [Denn dieser so angerufene Zeuge] is already very distorted and no longer moves in the originary relation to being [zum Seienden]. The "voice" of the people speaks seldom and only in the few [in Wenigen], if it [i.e., the voice] can be brought to sound [zum Klingen].[108]

If the "voice" of the people does not speak through everyone, but only through the few, and the latter are not associated with National Socialism or other forms of "liberalism," then this passage can be read as a further form of Heidegger's quasi-Platonic view in the rectoral address that finally only the philosopher can secure the good life for the people. Heidegger's continued faith in the supposedly exceptional, indeed unique, capacity of philosophers to discern political truth is inconsistent with his concern in the Beiträge to reject Platonism in all its forms. His insistence on the superior insight of the selected few, even as mediated through Nietzsche, a constant feature of all his later thought, including the discussion of technology, is clearly quasi-Platonic.

The short, sixth section of the book, devoted to what is to come, prepares the way for another short discussion concerning "The Last God."[109] In the sixth section, there are two consecutive paragraphs concerning the Volk .[110] From the perspective of the other beginning, Heidegget describes the "last god," a theme that later recurs in the Spiegel interview, as beyond all reckoning, hence, beyond such terms, associated with the first beginning, as "monotheism," "pantheism," or "atheism."[111] The language of the discussion of what is to come recalls that of such writers as Nietzsche and Spengler. In Nietzschean terminology, Heidegger evokes future beings (die Zukünftigen ) as slow and long-listening founders of the essence of truth.[112] In Spenglerian terms, he describes "the hour of the fall of the West," interpreted philosophically, but not politically, as the end of the age of metaphysics.[113] Once again, Heidegger insists on his mystical pretense, a steady theme in his thought after the rectoral address, to interpret the present and future through his superior insight into metaphysics.

In his remarks on "The essence of the people and Da-sein," Heidegger returns to his conviction that only the few can provide a people with its identity.[114] For Heidegger, who here makes use of a notion of plural authenticity originally mentioned in Being and Time ,[115] a people only is one when it receives its unifying idea and so returns to Being. In this way, a people bypasses the danger of merely turning on its own axis, or of falling prey to the false god of one's unlimitedness. Heidegger main-


tains that the idea that unifies a people can only be discovered through those who listen silently, that is, by those who are the true ground of the Being of these beings.

A Volk is only a Volk if it receives its history through the discovery of its god, through the god, which, through history, compels it in a direction [hinwegzwingt] and so places it back in being [es so in das Seiende zurückstellt]. Only then does it avoid the danger of turning only on its own axis [um sich selber zu kreisen] and that which is only a condition of its maintenance, falsely honoring its unlimited [zu seinem unbedingten zu vergötzen]. But how can it [i.e., a Volk ] find the god otherwise than if those who seek silently for it and as these seekers even apparently [sogar dem Anschein nach] must oppose the still not volkhafte "Volk"! However, these seekers must be themselves first; they are to be prepared as being [seiende]. What is Da-sein other than as the ground [Griündung ] of the being of these beings, of the future beings of the last god.[116]

Heidegger now sums up his view of this relation in a single sentence describing the essence of the people as grounded in the historicity of those who seek to listen from their relation of belonging to the last god. "The essence of the people is grounded in the historicality of those listening to themselves [Sichgehörenden] on the basis of [aus ] the relation of belonging to the god."[117]

This passage provides another clear indication of Heidegger's refusal to accept the hegemony of National Socialism and his assertion of the practical significance of his thought in bringing about the future of the Germans, both constant features in his writings beginning with the rectoral address. Heidegger's remark on the need to oppose the still not volkhafte "Volk " is difficult to construe. By placing the term "Volk " in quotation marks, he points out that it is not yet a Volk in his sense, since it has not yet been unified in an authentic manner around its own essence. If this passage refers to the German people, then Heidegger is disputing the success of National Socialism as far as bringing about the historical realization of the essence of the Volk is concerned. Here, in other language, Heidegger reaffirms his intimate conviction that the "philosopher" is the essential link for the authentic gathering of the German people. This passage provides a qualified restatement, from a point "beyond" philosophy, of the ancient Platonic claim that finally only a philosopher, only one attuned to the problem of Being in general, can lead the German people with respect to its own destiny.

With respect to Platonism and his own earlier writings, here the relevant difference is Heidegger's effort to combine his insistence on the political import of his own theory with his acknowledgment of modern nihilism. In light of Heidegger's conviction that nihilism follows from


Nietzsche's statement that God is dead, we can regard Heidegger's view of the last god, to be discovered by the philosopher, as a necessary political corrective, as a way to provide a new sense of direction to society. For Heidegger as for Nietzsche, the essence of the people is grounded in the few exceptional human beings. Like Kant, who held that the philosopher is the lawgiver of human reason,[118] Heidegger apparently believed that only a "philosopher" could provide a new sense of direction in the age of nihilism. For only a thinker, one who meditates in silence, can discern the last god.

Heidegger continues this line of argument in the next paragraph, entitled "Da-sein and the future beings of the last god."[119] This passage provides a transition to his account of the last god. Now further developing his mythological account, he describes this imaginary concept as a kind of historical vademecum at the beginning of a new history beyond history. For Heidegger, the last god will introduce a series of contradictions as paths which, when followed by the people, will lead it back to its essence and enable it to create its own history. "This god will set up the simplest, but farthest contradictions [Gegensätze] over his Volk as the paths over which they wander outward in order to find its essence again and to exhaust the moment of its history [und den Augenblick seiner Geschichte auszuschöpfen]."[120] The concept of the last god functions here as an organizing principle to enable a people to find and to realize its essence within history. Heidegger's conception of history beyond history echoes Marx's well-known view of the distinction between prehistory and history in the human sense, which only begins in and through the transition from capitalism to communism.[121] If we distinguish between authentic and inauthentic forms of history, as correlated to the essential and distorted forms of a Volk , then Heidegger's point is that in the other beginning, through its relation to the last god, the people will finally reach historical authenticity. Once again, the philosopher appears as the one who points the way to an authentic historical realization of the essence of the Volk .

The final comment on the Volk we will mention occurs appropriately in the last part of the book, in the discussion of Being in general (das Seyn ) in a passage on being (das Seiende ).[122] Once again Heidegger offers a description of an inauthentic people, whose lack of authenticity he indicates by enclosing Volk in quotation marks. This passage follows an earlier discussion of being (Seiende ) and calculation in which Heidegger maintains that a result of the drive to master the environment in quantitative terms is the loss of the relation to being (Seiende ).[123] In his following remarks on being (das Seiende ), he unsystematically examines different aspects of the phenomenon.

Heidegger's comment on the Volk in this context is interesting for the


link he identifies between Greek thought and German romanticism. Ever attentive to Greek thought, Heidegger asserts that "nature" ("Natur ") is a debased form of the Greek "physis " and then raises the idea of a theoretical reformulation of Goethe's ideas of "earth" and "life." For Heidegger, a rooting around (Wühlen ) in the irrational is required to complete the modern period. He remarks that Romanticism has not yet reached its end, since it still seeks an "unclarification" (Verklärung ) of being (Seiende ) which it opposes to other views. He maintains that the resultant lack of clarification manifests the effort to renew culture that is uprooted from the people. "The historical renovation of 'culture' is invited to this raising up [Verklärung] and its uprooting is practiced in the 'VoIk ' [im 'Volk' betrieben] and striven to communicate it to everyone."[124]

The Volk and Silence (Schweigen)

This chapter has considered the evolution of Heidegger's Nazism in that huge, as yet only partially explored continent known as the Beiträge zur Philosophie . To test the claim that Heidegger here breaks with, or at least distances himself from, National Socialism,[125] we have examined Heidegger's scattered remarks throughout the work on the concept of the Volk . Consideration of his Nazism in terms of this concept is justified by its central role in the amorphous series of doctrines collectively known as the National Socialist worldview and in his own turn to Nazism. It is reasonable to suppose that any turn away from Nazism would be visible in his treatment of this concept.

Heidegger's criticism of National Socialism in the Beiträge is based on a perspective that is astonishingly foreign to that revolutionary movement. Whatever else Nazism was, it was mainly, centrally concerned with the practical problem of world domination. On the contrary, here as elsewhere Heidegger considers Nazism from his own theoretical vantage point, in terms of the criterion of a theory of Being. In the few instances where Heidegger objects to Nazism, it is invariably because of its supposed failure, as a form of worldview, to achieve full theoretical status through a transition to the other beginning that he sketches in this book. Heidegger does not reject National Socialism as such in this work, and certainly not because of the practical consequences to which it led; rather he objects to it for its theoretical deficiencies from his ontological vantage point, for its supposed failure to provide an adequate theory of Being.

The Beitr äge is indispensable to comprehend the interrelation between Heidegger's Nazism and the evolution of his position in the period after the rectorate. With respect to National Socialism, Heidegger's


other beginning is continuous with his earlier thought in three main ways. First, there is a further stress on the destiny of the German people which remains to be realized in history, a commitment that Heidegger continues to share with National Socialism. Second, now as before, Heidegger holds that what he earlier stigmatized as "political science" and still rejects as a mere worldview is inadequate to achieve its end in view. In a word, although Heidegger accepts the Nazi goal, which was ingredient in his turn toward National Socialism, he continues to reject Nazism as an adequate means to that end. Third, in the Beiträge Heidegger reaffirms the point made in rectoral address: the German people need finally to be led to their destiny by Heidegger's thought since it cannot realize itself as German through National Socialism. The difference, of course, is that in the meantime Heidegger's thought has evolved beyond philosophy to the other beginning, in virtue of which Heidegger has come to believe that "philosophy" cannot lead directly to the gathering of the German as German. It can only point to that goal whose realization lies through the turn to poetry, in particular to the thought of Hölderlin.

In sum, Heidegger's thought has changed, but its relation to German destiny remains unchanged. Heidegger remains convinced of his own messianic role in bringing about the destiny of the German people within history. Further, he remains convinced that Nazism is not finally conducive to that shared end. In his later thought, Heidegger does not reject a political role for "philosophy," for his new thought beyond the Platonic tradition, although he rejects philosophy. Even in his rejection of Platonism, Heidegger retains his confidence—characteristic of the hubris often restated since Plato by others, and perhaps characteristic of philosophy itself—that the thought of a philosopher, in Heidegger's view the view of thinker of Being, is a necessary condition of the good life.

Heidegger's critique of Nazism in this work cannot be denied, although its extremely limited extent should be stressed. Here, his objection to National Socialism is always limited to its failure as a theory of Being. Heidegger's failure to object to the political consequences of the Nazi worldview is significant, since it suggests an incapacity of his thought—that is, the thought of a great thinker, in the opinion of some observers the most important thinker of this century—to grasp the political specificity of National Socialism. It is an error to hold that after the rectorate Heidegger breaks with Nazism on a political plane. Even in the rectoral address, his commitment to National Socialism was tempered by his refusal of the hegemony of politics, which he intended to found in philosophy. In the Beiträge his view has not changed, since he continues to accept the point he has always shared with Nazism: insistence on the authentic gathering of the Germans.


We can end this chapter with a comment about Heidegger's silence. [126] It is well known that in his writings, Heidegger never publicly spoke to the problem of the Holocaust, about which he remained silent. The Beiträge suggests an interesting reason for this attitude, for Heidegger's failure to assume the moral consequences of his commitment to a worldview whose well-known excesses have been decried by history. [127] In Being and Time , Heidegger in passing describes silence (Schweigen ) and hearing as possibilities of discursive speech. [128] He characterizes the possibility of authentic silence in genuine discourse, as distinguished from mere silence. [129] In the discussion of conscience, he maintains that the call of conscience is silence. [130] In the initial cycle of Hölderlin lectures, immediately after the rectorate, he modifies this view in maintaining that we are a conversation, which means as well that we are silence.[131] He further inverts the relation between silence as a form of speech and speech in order to ground speech in silence.[132] Heidegger exploits this revision of his view of silence in his discussion of Nietzsche. Here, he states that the highest form of saying lies in being silent (verschweigen ) about what must be said; the saying of thought is being silent (ein Erschweigen ).[133] Heidegger's revised understanding of silence suggests that to be silent is not only possible in an authentic manner; in fact, silence is the most authentic form of speech. In a word, to be an authentic person requires that one in effect be silent.[134]

Heidegger raises the theme of silence in two places in the Beiträge . In a pair of passages in the first part, he examines the silence (Erschweigung ) of Being in general as a Sigetik . [135] This term is a neologism coined by Heidegger, formed from the Greek "sigao, " whose infinitive form means "to be silent or still, to keep silence."[136] Heidegger uses this term to refer to those who still think according to a "logic" used to fit what is thought into compartments. His point is that this "logic," which belongs to the first beginning, is inadequate to grasp the Ereignis , which is the theme of the other beginning. In this sense, one can say that Being in general is silent with respect to the thinking effort to depict it. Heidegger returns to the theme of silence in the last paragraph of the book, in a comment on the origin of speech. [137] Now following the revised understanding of silence announced in the initial Hölderlin lectures, he maintains that speech is grounded in silence. According to Heidegger, silence is the measure, since it first provides the standard. "Speech is grounded in silence. Silence is the hiddenmost holding to the measure [verborgenste Mass-halten]. It holds the measure [Mass], in that it first provides the standards [Maßstäbe]."[138]

This passage in the Beiträge suggests an interesting philosophical explanation for Heidegger's later silence, unrelated to personal psychological weakness, or moral insufficiency, or the effort to preserve one's


honor. On the basis of this text, we can infer that in the face of the mere chatter of supposedly inauthentic beings, Heidegger kept silent at least in part on philosophical grounds, for the reason that to do so is supposedly to engage in an authentic form of genuine discourse, to maintain the standards of rigorous thought based upon silence.

Heidegger's idea of silence should be put in perspective. His point differs from Wittgenstein's view that one should be silent about what cannot be expressed in speech.[139] Heidegger is not willing to take a skeptical stance, for instance by asserting that one should say nothing about what one cannot know. Rather, Heidegger's revised doctrine of silence—a view which, like its original formulation, is presented without any effort to justify the change—is intended to point to silence as the highest level of speech. The modification is, however, significant, even "convenient" in the present context, after the failure of the rectorate. For this revised view of silence provides Heidegger with a reason, rooted in his thought, to remain silent in an authentic manner, to refuse on philosophical grounds to say anything, anything at all, to decline in virtue of his theory to take a public position on the Holocaust, on Nazism, or on his view of Nazism. But one must wonder whether a form of thought can be authentic or even rigorous if this means to remain silent before the Holocaust whose central meaning it can neither express nor grasp.


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