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5 Nazism and the Beitrage zur Philosophie
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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.

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