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7 The French Reception of Heidegger's Nazism
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The Third Wave

Let us discuss these books in the order in which they appeared, which corresponds at least roughly to the order of their composition. We can begin with three rather different studies by Pierre Bourdieu, by Jean-François Lyotard, one of the main representatives of the postmodern tendency in French philosophy, and by Fédier. Bourdieu's discussion of what he, following Heidegger's concern with Being, calls Heidegger's political ontology, is the second edition of a text originally published in 1975, rewritten and adapted to recent revelations about Heidegger. Lyotard's study is the apparent result of the desire, or at least the felt need, of every well-known Parisian intellectual who desires to avoid regression to the state of mere anonymity to comment rapidly on any major topic. Fédier's work is a further example of his continued effort, which in the meantime has lost any semblance of scholarly credibility, to maintain the contingentist thesis in its original but now outmoded form. These three disparate works nicely illustrate the range of the next strand in the scholarly discussion by those whose relation to Heidegger is either tangential or, if the relation is on the contrary close, at least tangential to the further evolution of the Heidegger debate.

In a short introduction to his short study, Bourdieu, a well-known Marxist sociologist, indicates that his analysis of methodology has been updated in the footnotes and by placing at the end three chapters concerning the analysis of Heideggerian language.[79] In an evident reference to the first edition of his book, he remarks—with a certain self-approval—that, despite the image of sociology, a close reading of Heidegger's work already revealed such themes as anti-Semitism, his refusal to break with Nazism, his ultrarevolutionary conservative tendencies, as well as his disappointment in the lack of recognition of his revolutionary aspirations as the philosophical Führer .[80] In a clear allusion to the prior debate on Heidegger and politics, Bourdieu states that the failure to understand what has occurred was aided by Heidegger's erection of a wall between anthropology and ontology,[81] although we need now to examine the intrinsic blindness of these "professionals of lucidity."[82]

Bourdieu is prescient in his allusion to Heidegger's anti-Semitism, which has only recently been established.[83] His comments are significant in raising the second-order question of how so-called professionals of lucidity are able to respond to a situation of this kind. He provides an answer as to how one ought to proceed in a manner that reveals the


politically conservative thrust of purely textual analysis, favored most prominently in the current French discussion by Derrida and other so-called deconstructionists. According to Bourdieu, even the most determined adversaries of Heidegger have missed some of the signs concerning his Nazism since they unfortunately accept the form of immanent textual hermeneutics on which others, that is, Heidegger's epigones, insist. An approach of this kind, even its most radical form, can at best be only partially successful since it concerns certain presuppositions only.[84] In fact, this sort of approach is dangerous since when rigorously applied it has the effect not only of sanitizing what is unsavory but of turning attention away from the political dimension to which the texts in question, even by their failure to state their aim, nonetheless refer. A striking example provided by Bourdieu concerns the manner in which a variety of participants in the French discussion, for example Beaufret, Lefebvre, Châtelet, and Axelos—in fact those who accept Heidegger's own effort in the "Letter on Humanism" to measure his thought in terms of Marx's—see a convergence between Heidegger and Marx.[85]

Bourdieu insists that we must abandon the separation between a political and a philosophical interpretation in order to institute a double reading (lecture double ) that is both political and philosophical for Heideggerian texts characterized by an intrinsic ambiguity.[86] His aim is to break out of the circle formed by an exclusively immanent reading of the text, doubly confined within the text and to professionals, such as professional philosophers, or even confined to those philosophers who profess allegiance to Heidegger.[87] He regards Heidegger as representative of extremely conservative revolutionary tendencies that arose in Germany between the two world wars. And he agrees in part with the tendency of French defenders of Heidegger to discern two basically different stages in his thought. According to Bourdieu, Heidegger II constitutes a series of commentaries on Heidegger I in which, as the master himself notes, nothing is abandoned but, in Bourdieu's words, the celebrated author now absolutizes his practical choices in philosophical language.[88] He regards Heidegger's denial of a relation between his and any other position as an exercise in negative political ontology.[89] In Bourdieu's view, only those sensitive to the situation beyond the internal approach to the reading of the text can finally decode it.[90]

Bourdieu is in part correct that Heidegger refused to explain his relation to Nazism since to do so would have been to admit that the essential thought never thought the essential, since Heidegger did not and could not grasp Nazism on the basis of his thought of Being. Bourdieu's error, which reveals a problem in his methodology, is to trivialize Heidegger's position by reducing it merely to an unconscious


component which it supposedly later erects as a philosophical standard. Yet when we consider Heidegger's texts, not only in the context of his position but against the social and political background, we clearly have access to a dimension not accessible if we limit ourselves to a more immanent textual approach. Bourdieu's point tends to undermine various forms of immanent hermeneutics, including the celebrated view of intertextuality. It further reveals a conscious or unconscious strategy on the part of some right-wing Heideggerians, the reason for its relative success, and the way in which, as Bourdieu's own essay demonstrates, one can surpass its limits.

Bourdieu's book is a significant effort, altogether too rare in the discussion, to come to grips with the political dimension of Heidegger's thought against the historical background. The limitation of his account is that he mainly relies on an essay already in hand with only minor changes to react to more recent discussion. Although both Lyotard and Fédier make greater efforts to confront the latest research, their books are less impressive. Like Bourdieu, Lyotard also refuses to amalgamate Heidegger's thought and his politics.[91] Yet in comparison with Bourdieu's book and his own earlier writing, Lyotard's essay appears hasty and unsatisfactory. Bourdieu's work is saturated with references to English and German discussion and is particularly rich in allusions to the constitution of the Weimar ethos against the nineteenth-century German background. Bourdieu's analysis of the relation between Heidegger's thought and the historical, cultural, and political background is still unsurpassed in the French discussion. With the exception of the obligatory tipping of the hat to Freud and Kant, Lyotard is exclusively concerned with French sources, something unsurprising since he holds that the "problem" is essentially French.

Despite Habermas's effort[92] to portray him and his colleagues as cryptoconservatives, Lyotard's approach reveals a fashionable, postmodernist form of liberalism. The term "Jews" ("les juifs") in the title refers not only to the Jews but to all those who in Europe have always been assimilated to them. This slight volume is divided into two chapters, respectively titled "The 'Jews'" and "Heidegger." According to Lyotard, who seems to like quotation marks, what he refers to as the Heidegger problem is a "French" problem.[93] He holds that "the Jews," those outcasts of society, demonstrate that man's misery is constitutive of his being.[94] Lyotard insists on the need to think the Heidegger problem[95] without accepting the modish view that Nazism can either be deduced from Being and Time or that this book arose from an ethos that was already Nazi or pre-Nazi.[96] After stating that both Farias and Derrida are correct, Lyotard asserts that there is, however, something unforgettable


but still forgotten that constitutes the real problem—that is, that Heidegger could possibly have thought that in and through his collaboration with the Nazi party a real opportunity existed.[97]

Lyotard is close to Bourdieu with respect to the famous turning, which he describes in difficult language as "the amnesiac meditation of what will occur in Heideggerian 'politics.' "[98] He suggests that Being and Time makes possible, but does not require, Heidegger's political engagement,[99] as witness the political reading Heideggger gave of his own thought during the rectoral episode.[100] The remainder of the book consists in a serial critique of the views of other French commentators, including Derrida, Lacoue-Labarthe, and Nancy. For Lyotard, all of them fail to grasp that—as Lyotard notes in a comment on Heidegger's "Essence of Truth"—in Heidegger's turn toward Being and, by inference, away from the Jews, or "Jews," Heidegger's thought commits a cardinal "fault" since it is still the hostage of the Law (la Loi ).[101]

This discussion is perhaps most enlightening as an undeveloped but correct suggestion: although not an overtly political book, Being and Time could be and in fact was read by Heidegger in a political sense as the basis of his turn toward Nazism.[102] The suggestion that the basic flaw in Heidegger's thought resides in its relation to the Law, perhaps by extension in its dependency on the nondifferentiated other, or other than itself, calls attention to a possible relation to the German idealist tradition; but it is unfortunately too vague to state clearly, much less to evaluate. This is not the defect of Fédier's work, which could hardly be clearer in its intent or weaker in its arguments.

Fédier's book[103] is the latest—and final, one hopes—expression of his unremitting faith as an orthodox Heideggerian not swayed, or even chastened, by new information or the intervening debate. He displays this point of view in his study with increased ardor even as he becomes the most prominent and certainly most persistent representative of this angle of vision, a sort of living dinosaur. Like the mythical author in Camus's La Peste , the entire bibliography of certain writers is wholly composed of multiple versions of a single text, which they write again and again in different forms. Fédier's scenario follows in detail the meanders of his initial defense of the master in articles published more than two decades ago. The relevant difference is that here the rappel des faits , meant to exonerate Heidegger, is not due to Fédier and does not follow but precedes the discussion. In a "biographical essay" ("essai biographique ") that begins the work, and which opens and closes with comments on the tranquil little city of Messkirch where Heidegger was born and is buried, François Vezin declares that the period of the rector-ate is no more than a parenthesis in Heidegger's life.[104]

Like the earliest forms of the contingentist analysis, Fédier's book is


intended to defend Heidegger by attacking his detractors, in particular Farias. In the course of a difficult defense, the author is compelled to take extreme measures. Two examples worth noting are the tortured distinction introduced between anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism,[105] and the defense of the German bishops for their 1933 decision to remove the interdiction that prevented Roman Catholics from adhering to National Socialism. In his introduction, Fédier indicates that his book is meant as an apology in a supposed Socratic sense in order to dispose of the charges.[106] Like a good defense lawyer, he begins by exaggerating the "crime" in order to show that his client could not possibly be guilty of it. According to Fédier, who perhaps had Adorno in mind, Farias holds that Heidegger never said nor thought essentially anything other than Nazism, a charge which Fédier affirms to be a calumny.[107]

This attempted defense is problematic, since neither Farias nor anyone else has ever criticized Heidegger as broadly as Fédier pretends. Although he is concerned to refute all the charges brought against Heidegger, Fédier mainly concentrates on the rectoral period. He claims that whereas it is permissible to accuse Heidegger of adherence to Nazism in 1933-1934, it is slanderous to describe the adherence as total, since he never adhered to biological racism and so on.[108] But, then, by this standard there never were many total adherents of Nazism, especially among German academics, since few wholly accepted all aspects of the doctrine. Fédier's main argument consists in a perverse form of skepticism, according to which in 1933 it was not possible to foresee the future of National Socialism.[109] He even asserts that the definitive form of Nazism was not known prior to 1 September 1939.[110] But although many aspects of what would occur were indeed unclear in 1933, and by definition the future is what has not yet happened, the situation was already sufficiently clear then, well before the outbreak of the war, for many, including numerous Jewish philosophers, such as Cassirer, Marcuse, Weil, Benjamin, Löwith, Arendt, and others, to choose exile. For instance, as early as the Nazi party program, formulated in July 1920, the fledgling political party insisted that a Jew could not be a member of the German community,[111] and Hitler left no doubt of his intentions toward Jews in Mein Kampf . In fact, even Fédier is not convinced by his argument, since he also concedes that when Heidegger took up the cause of a National Socialism it already carried with it the signs of an essential perversity.[112]

The first part of Fédier's discussion, entitled "Un pseudo-événement," is a long attack on Farias's book because of what Fédier alleges to be its inquisitorial tone,[113] obfuscation,[114] unconscious appeal to Freudian mechanisms of condensation and displacement,[115] failure to respect the rules of honest scientific procedure,[116] and so on. Alone at this late


date, when so much is known, indeed when even such croyants as Derrida claim incorrectly that everything is known, Fédier explains Farias's study as a sheer invention (montage ) of which almost no page can withstand serious study.[117] In the second part of the discussion, entitled "Heidegger et la politique," having disposed of Farias to his satisfaction, Fédier provides his own analysis of the problem raised by the rectoral period, which he attributes to Heidegger's impatience.[118]

In the course of his defense, Fédier makes the following controversial points: the rectoral address does not show an acceptance of Nazism but only a concern to defend academic science in the university,[119] Heidegger later distinguished himself in his opposition to Nazism,[120] the source of his action lies in a philosophical error leading to a need to modify the position,[121] and Heidegger's later silence is to be respected after the martyrdom he endured.[122] Yet unfortunately the rectoral address shows not only an interest in the defense of science but an explicit concern, which Heidegger underlines here and specifically admits in the article on the rectorate, to utilize the university to attain a common goal shared with the Nazis: the destiny of the German people; and Heidegger's silence is neither honorable nor acceptable. And examination of Heidegger's texts refutes Heidegger's own claim to have confronted Nazism in his later writings.

Fédier's most interesting point is his claim in passing that a philosophical error necessitates a modification of the position, which suggests, reasoning by modus tollens , that if a position leads to an incorrect form of action there is something mistaken in its very heart. In different ways this theme is developed in three further books on Heidegger and politics, due to Jacques Derrida, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, and Luc Ferry and Alain Renaut. Derrida requires no introduction. Lacoue-Labarthe, Derrida's former student, is a well-known Heidegger specialist who has worked closely in the past with Jean-Luc Nancy, another of Derrida's close associates.[123] Ferry and Renaut are two young antiestablishment philosophers who have collaborated on several other works. Derrida's book, which coincidentally appeared almost immediately after Farias's study, caused a stir in Heideggerian circles. Lacoue-Labarthe's work is an effort to think through the problem in a manner related to, but also significantly different from, Derrida's analysis, itself apparently dependent on Lacoue-Labarthe's earlier writing. The study by Ferry and Renaut is an attack on French right-wing Heideggerianism as a form of antihumanism due ultimately to Heidegger.

Derrida is an important thinker as well as presently the leading Heideggerian in France. His thought is deeply marked by, in fact inconceivable without, the encounter with Heidegger; he has also commented on Heidegger's position in numerous writings.[124] His influential but unortho-


dox Heideggerianism is itself an important form of Heideggerian "orthodoxy," especially in France.[125] Derrida's study, which can be viewed as a long meditation on Heidegger, is thoroughly Heideggerian since it proposes to thematize the concept of spirit, something Heidegger never does, in fact avoids. It can be read from at least two perspectives: as a Heideggerian analysis of Heidegger; and as an indirect, but pointed response to the theme of Heidegger and politics.[126]

Derrida's defense of Heidegger, like so much of the French discussion of Heidegger, rests on a creative use of the "Letter on Humanism." Derrida applies Heidegger's remark that humanism is metaphysical to characterize Heidegger's own Nazism as a metaphysical humanism which, in his later writings, he supposedly overcomes in a nonmetaphysical, deeper form of humanism announced in this text. This analysis presupposes on the one hand that the later Heidegger, but not the early Heidegger, is antimetaphysical, or more precisely beyond metaphysics in any ordinary sense—precisely what Heidegger himself claimed in his later writings, such as the Beiträge —and on the other hand that there is a break between the early and later phases of Heidegger's thought.

As a defense of the importance of Heidegger's thought while acknowledging the clear, undeniable link to Nazism, Derrida's strategy is reminiscent of a form of "orthodox" Marxism, most clearly represented by Althusser and his associates, which argued for a break situated within Marx's thought. On this reading—already foreshadowed in Marx's view of the break between prehistory and human history in the transition from capitalism to communism—Marx's thought allegedly decomposes into two chronologically separable positions, the first of which can be described as philosophy but not yet as science, and the second of which breaks with philosophy in order to assume the form of science that is supposedly beyond philosophy. Althusser, who was obliged by the tardy publication of Marx's early writings to acknowledge the philosophical tenor of the early position, sought to defend the nonphilosophical, allegedly scientific character of the later theory, that is, the supposedly mature form taken by Marx's theory after it broke with philosophy. In a similar manner, apparently relying on the concept of the turning in Heidegger's thought, which he does not, however, discuss, Derrida correlates the initial Heideggerian critique of metaphysics with Heidegger's supposedly still metaphysical philosophy, which then later gives way to what Heidegger later describes as an antimetaphysical view of thinking beyond philosophy. According to Derrida, in his still metaphysical phase Heidegger turned to Nazism, which he renounced in his later move away from metaphysics and beyond philosophy.

Derrida's Heidegger interpretation takes shape as a meditation on the terms "Geist," "geistig ," and "geistlich " in Heidegger's thought.[127]


His defense of Heidegger includes a reading of Heidegger's supposed deconstruction of spirit (Geist ) and its significance for an appreciation of Heidegger's relation to National Socialism.[128] Derrida points out that in Being and Time Heidegger warns against the use of Geist , which he puts in quotation marks; but twenty-five years later in an essay on Trakl[129] he speaks freely of the same term, which he now employs without quotation marks.[130] Derrida's hypothesis is that for Heidegger this term refers to such supposedly metaphysical concepts as unity (l'Un ) and gathering (Versammlung ).[131] According to Derrida, for Heidegger spirit is neither pneuma nor spiritus , but finally a flame more originary than either the Christian or the Platonico-metaphysical concepts.[132] He maintains that even in 1933, for instance in the rectoral address, Heidegger rejected the reduction of spirit to reason[133] in order to spiritualize Nazism,[134] as can be seen in the role of spirit in the rectoral address.[135] It follows, then, that Heidegger's Nazism was metaphysical, and that he overcame it when he overcame the metaphysical element in his own thought.

This attempted defense is problematic for various reasons. To begin with, in his self-described Heideggerian effort to think the unthought, Derrida exaggerates the importance of a concept which Heidegger never thematizes precisely because it is not fundamental but ancillary to or even insignificant in his position. Derrida is unconvincing in his claim that spirit is central to Heidegger's thought, in which this concept seems at best a minor concern. Derrida unfortunately trivializes Heidegger's commitment to Nazism as following from a residually metaphysical turn of mind, in effect by reducing a practical political engagement to a philosophical commitment from which it apparently followed but with which it cannot reasonably be equated. A form of thought that makes it possible to accept a particular political approach, no matter of what kind, must not be confused with its consequence. Obviously, metaphysics as such does not necessarily lead to Nazism, since there are many metaphysicians who did not become Nazis. Yet when Heidegger renounced metaphysics after the turning in his thought, he did not give up Nazism. Further, Derrida is obviously incorrect if he means to suggest that when Heidegger employs the term "Geist " without quotation marks in the 1953 article on Trakl, Heidegger has overcome both metaphysics and Nazism. For in the same year he republished An Introduction to Metaphysics in which he publicly reaffirmed his commitment to a form of Nazism present, in Heideggerian terminology, under the mode of absence. At most, Heidegger turned away from Nazism as it was, although there is no evidence that he ever accepted it without reservations, but he never turned away from it as he still desired it to be. Finally, the interpretation of the turning in Heidegger's thought, on which Derrida's defense of Heidegger rests, is basically mistaken if


judged by Heidegger's texts. As the Beiträge zur Philosophie shows in detail, the turning is not intended to indicate a break or discontinuity between phases of Heidegger's thought; rather, it is intended to point to further progress from a first beginning to another, deeper beginning more originary than, and a condition of, his initial but more superficial starting point. Since there is, then, no break in Heidegger's thought, his position cannot fairly be defended in this way.

Lacoue-Labarthe presents a clearer, even more extreme, less acceptable form of a similar argument. Lacoue-Labarthe's consideration of "la question " antedated Farias's book. In a recent collection[136] he includes two earlier papers concerning Heidegger and politics which preceded and obviously influenced both his and Derrida's later discussions of Heidegger and politics: "La transcendance finie/t dans la politique" from 1981, and "Poétique et politique" from 1984. In the former, he poses the question of the possibility of a politics that takes into account Heidegger's thought. Here, he examines the rectoral speech in order to show its link to the destruction of the history of ontology and, by extension, to the effort to rethink the problem of the meaning of Being. In this paper, he makes two points: the rectoral speech is not an occasional document but a reflection on science, which is metaphysics as such; and this speech is intended as a philosophical foundation of the political. According to Lacoue-Labarthe, Heidegger's political engagement in 1933 was metaphysical and its basic result is the collapse of Heidegger's fundamental ontology. In the latter paper, in an examination of the question why the poetical dimension arose within political discourse, he argues that Heidegger's effort at the leadership (Führung ) of National Socialism was essentially spiritual.[137]

There is an obvious, striking continuity between the views of Derrida and Lacoue-Labarthe in their joint insistence on the metaphysical nature of Heidegger's turning toward Nazism and the spiritual component of Heidgger's view of politics. But there is an even more important difference in Lacoue-Labarthe's stress on the link between the political and the philosophical in Heidegger's thought, in virtue of which Heidegger's original philosophical project is compromised by the political action to which it led. The assertion that Heidegger's effort at fundamental ontology was irreparably compromised by his turn to Nazism derives from the recognition—now rarely denied, and explicitly affirmed by Heidegger—that at least his initial enthusiasm for National Socialism followed from his position. This insight is significant for an understanding of the link between Heidegger's thought and Nazism. It leads to a conclusion which Lacoue-Labarthe does not draw, and which Heidegger means to deny in his description of the rectoral episode as meaningless (beudeutungslos ): the later evolution of the Heideggerian position, per-


haps even the famous turning in his thought, must be understood, in fact cannot be understood otherwise than, in relation to Heidegger's Nazism.

I stress this unstated but important consequence of Lacoue-Labarthe's article since he mainly develops other themes from his earlier analysis of the relation of poetry and politics, less menacing for the faith of a Heideggerian, in his later treatment of the political as fiction.[138] Unlike some others in the French discussion, who are concerned mainly, or even solely, to defend Heidegger at all costs, and hence unconcerned to present a full record, Lacoue-Labarthe does not hesitate to mention items rarely evoked in the French debate, such as the problem of anti-Semitism, the comments by Löwith and Jaspers, Heidegger's denunciation of Baumgarten, Heidegger's meditation on the nature of the Holocaust, and so on. It is especially significant, in view of the author's obvious identification with Heidegger as incontestably the best thinker of our time,[139] that he does not hesitate clearly to denounce Heidegger's failure to decry the Holocaust, which, from Heidegger's conception of history as the unfolding of metaphysics, supposedly constitutes a metaphysical event.[140]

In his book, Lacoue-Labarthe modifes his earlier analysis. According to Lacoue-Labarthe, Heidegger's political engagement in 1933 was based on the idea of the hegemony of the spiritual and the philosophical over the political[141] —a stance in obvious continuity with Being and Time[142] and coherent with all his earlier thought[143] —which cannot be explained as an error[144] but must be viewed as a consequence.[145] Now abandoning his earlier insistence on the significance of the rectoral speech, Lacoue-Labarthe argues for a caesura (césure ) in the sense of Hölderlin.[146] Heidegger's understanding of the political does not lie in his texts from 1933, including the rectoral address, but in writings after the break with Nazism, specifically those on technology. In this respect, Lacoue-Labarthe makes two important points: On the one hand, he suggests that there is a beginning of the Verwindung of nihilism in the poet's thought,[147] since for Heidegger art opens the possibility of the historicity of Dasein;[148] on the other hand, he maintains that Heidegger's discourse on art throws light on the essence of Nazism as a national-estheticism.[149]

These suggestions are independent of each other and must be discussed separately. Lacoue-Labarthe is certainly correct that Heidegger never abandoned his concern to seize the destiny of the German people, and that he later linked this possibility to an interest in the alethic qualities of poetry. Yet this point is inconsistent in two ways with his own analysis. For whereas he insists on a break in Heidegger's position, this point requires an acknowledgment of the essential continuity of Heidegger's thought over time as concerns the destiny of the Dasein. And as a


further, direct consequence, it requires an acknowledgment of a conceptual kinship with Nazism, which Lacoue-Labarthe strongly denies in his critique of Adorno's well-known claim that Heidegger's thought was Nazi to its core.[150] It is further inaccurate to regard Heidegger's discussion of art or technology as illuminating the essence of Nazism. One can concede a certain perverse aestheticism in Nazi ideology, for instance in the writings of Albert Speer, the Nazi architect. But one must resist the idea that the massive political phenomenon of German fascism is solely, or even mainly, or essentially, aesthetic.

The usefulness of Lacoue-Labarthe's book is limited by the depth of his own commitment to Heidegger's thought. As a result of his basic acceptance of Heidegger's position, Lacoue-Labarthe is unable to draw the consequences of his own critique of it. For instance, Lacoue-Labarthe cites a passage from an unpublished conference on technology, already cited above, where Heidegger likens agricultural technology to the Nazi gas chambers.[151] Despite his criticism of the patent inadequacy of Heidegger's dreadful comparison, Lacoue-Labarthe, the Heideggerian, is unable to perceive the full implication of Heidegger's statement in at least two ways: in his quasi-Heideggerian claim that this phenomenon somehow reveals the essence of the West,[152] which Heidegger allegedly failed to perceive, which in turn supposes the Heideggerian view that technology is the extension of metaphysics; and in his inability to draw the obvious consequence of his own indictment of Heidegger's failure, due to the inadequacy of fundamental ontology, to grasp the essence of the Nazi phenomenon.

Lacoue-Labarthe's analysis—patient, sober, careful, informed, considerate of other points of view—exhibits virtues unsurpassed in the present French Heidegger debate. This comprehension and tolerance gives way in Ferry and Renaut's work to an accusatory, pamphletary, confrontational style, more characteristic of recent French philosophy. In their attack on the separations between various forms of French Heideggerianism as in effect distinctions without a difference—which they paradoxically represent as an effort to surpass mere polemics[153] —they deny the shared assumption, common to Derrida and Lacoue-Labarthe, of a break in Heidegger's thought. Their book is the successor of their earlier work on contemporary antihumanism, centered mainly on French varieties of Heideggerianism.[154]

Ferry and Renaut are most original in their effort to develop Lyotard's suggestion of the link between the defense of Heidegger and French philosophy. They draw attention to the parallel between the French controversy about Marxist antihumanism in the 1970s and the current Heidegger controversy.[155] Their aim is to diagnose a link between Heidegger's antihumanism, which they comprehend as the rejection of


modernity[156] and the supposed erreur par excellence of contemporary French philosophy.[157] They illustrate this error by Lacoue-Labarthe's strange, even wild comment, in the course of his attempt to differentiate the later Heidegger from the earlier Nazi enthusiast, that "Nazism is a humanism."[158]

After some remarks on the significance of Farias's book in the context of the French debate, Ferry and Renaut develop their indictment of contemporary French philosophy through the identification of the common thread of various forms of French Heideggerianism. They isolate three variants: the so-called zero degree, represented by Beaufret, which simply denies any relation between Heidegger and Nazism; Heideggerian orthodoxy, which admits, by playing Heidegger II off against Heidegger I, that in 1933 the master was not yet free of the metaphysics of subjectivity; and Derridian, or unorthodox, Heideggerianism, which relies on Heidegger's purported later deconstruction of the concept of spirit. According to Ferry and Renaut, in the final analysis there is no difference between Derridian and orthodox Heideggerianism since at best the Derridian approach innovates on a strategic plane only.[159]

Apart from their remarks on Farias's work, the main contribution of Ferry and Renault lies in their survey of various factions of the French debate about Heidegger's politics. They are most helpful in their suggestion of a relation between French postmodernism, or antihumanism, and Heidegger's own Nazi proclivities. They usefully relate Heidegger's well-known reading of modernity as the reign of technology to his view that democracy and totalitarianism are similar in their domination by subjectivity, and his further adherence to the possibility of a good form of National Socialism[160] as by inference postmodernist and anti-modernist.[161] They criticize Heidegger's general incapacity to think subjectivity[162] because of an inability to think humanism in a nonmetaphysical manner,[163] an inattention to the plural character of modernity,[164] and the inconsistency in his rejection of a humanist vision of man in his view of Dasein in terms of Being. And they invoke a certain humanism in his view of man as transcendental in order to criticize Nazi biologism and racism.[165]

These criticisms are well taken in virtue of Heidegger's identification of humanism with metaphysics. The relation of postmodernism and "antihumanism" in the work of recent French thinkers such as Derrida, Lyotard, Foucault, and Lévi-Strauss among others is too well-known to require detailed commentary. The most original point is insistence on Heidegger's supposed inability to differentiate the various forms of modernity while implying the point, clearly articulated only by Lacoue-Labarthe among Heidegger's French disciples, that Nazism is humanism of a different, supposedly acceptable kind. Beyond its indictment of the


French identification with the Heideggerian rejection of Cartesian subjectivity—manifest in the ongoing effort to decenter the subject— the most important result of this work is to question Heidegger's conception of the subject as transcendence, a theme present throughout his writings from his dissertation on Duns Scotus onwards.[166]

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