Preferred Citation: Rockmore, Tom. On Heidegger's Nazism and Philosophy. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1992 1992.

4 The History of Philosophy: Nietzsche and the History of Ontology

The History of Philosophy: Nietzsche and the History of Ontology

Provisional Results

The discussion has so far focused on the two texts most directly connected to Heidegger's turn to Nazism: the Rektoratsrede of 27 May 1933, in which the newly elected rector of the University of Freiburg publicly identified himself, the university he represented, and the German university in general with National Socialism; and the article from 1945, posthumously published only in 1983, in which Heidegger, personally beleaguered after the defeat of Germany, sought to distance himself from real National Socialism.

This inquiry into Heidegger's Nazism has taken seriously his statement that the hermeneutical process needs to defend against semblance and disguise—in a word, to snatch entities out of their hiddenness. I have scrutinized the Rektoratsrede and the 1945 essay with some care since these writings, particularly the latter, are more often mentioned than studied in detail. Study of these texts reveals that despite denials by some of Heidegger's staunchest defenders, and despite his refusal to accept certain elements of the heteroclite series of doctrines known as National Socialism, Heidegger identified, in fact deeply identified, with Nazism; but he later sought to mask this identification, in particular through the formulation of what I have called the "official" version of his relation to National Socialism, which was later developed and spread by his followers.

With respect to Heidegger's Nazism, the above discussion has demonstrated the following points inter alia .


— Heidegger turned to Nazism on the basis of his philosophical position.

— Heidegger's theory of Being, or fundamental ontology, includes a political dimension that can only lead to Nazism or something like Nazism—in short, a totalitarian political movement.

— Heidegger shared with National Socialism a common goal of the realization of the essence of the German Volk .

— Heidegger's concern with authentic human being, ingredient in the Nazi turning, is inseparable from his deeper interest in the problem of Being.

— Heidegger's stress on philosophy as the ground of politics is a further form of the Platonic view that philosophy is indispensable for the good life.

— In the context of his effort to realize the essence of the German Volk , Heidegger insisted on the defense of the university, in particular of science in the Greek sense and knowing.

— The defense of the university and of the Greek conception of science was an intermediate goal, not an end in itself, although he later portrayed it as the final end of his action as rector.

— Heidegger later sought to distance himself from National Socialism, in particular through an "official" explanation tending to deny what could be denied and to minimize what could not be denied in order to represent his philosophy as untainted by his politics.

— Heidegger's later claim that in 1933 he turned to National Socialism only in order to defend the university is indefensible; in fact, even as he seeks to deny an interest in Nazi politics, he continues to acknowledge that in 1933 he indeed believed that National Socialism represented a historic turning point in the destiny of the German nation.

— Heidegger's assumption of the rectorate also reflected his effort, like Krieck and Baeumler, to use the rise of National Socialism for his own personal advantage.

This list, which is not exhaustive, is helpful to focus the relation between Heidegger's thought and Nazism. Heidegger's relation to Nazism can be represented as a series of three turnings: a turning toward real National Socialism when he became rector of the University of Freiburg and attempted to found Nazi politics through his philosophy of Being; a second turning away from real Nazism when he resigned as rector; and a third, simultaneous turning toward an ideal form of Na-


zism. The first turning is based in his fundamental ontology. His theory of Being is intrinsically political, since it requires a turn to the political plane in order not only to comprehend, but to realize authenticity and, as a result, to further the grasp of Being. The second turning is a turning away from really existing Nazism for reasons that are not clear but that may well include Heidegger's tardy awareness of the evident failure of his effort to lead the leaders. During the period when he was rector, Heidegger went to considerable lengths to reform the university in order to bend it in the direction of Nazism. But in the end, he was not widely followed in this endeavor. It is a little as if, to vary the well-known fable, the king had no clothes on and he finally realized it. For although Heidegger sought to lead, few desired to follow him. The third turning is Heidegger's continued allegiance after the rectorate, not to Hitlerian National Socialism, which in reality did not measure up to Heidegger's idea of it, but its ideal form which Heidegger continued to favor.

This list indicates that Heidegger's relation to Nazism was founded in his philosophical thought, hence not a merely contingent occurrence due to his misperception of the political situation, lack of knowledge of the world, or uncritical acceptance of others' suggestions. It further indicates that, despite his withdrawal from the rectorate, he did not alter his conviction of the importance of National Socialism. Now this latter claim is controversial. As part of the effort at damage control, Heidegger and his followers have stressed that after the rectorate he withdraw into the isolation of the solitary thinker who continued to struggle with the thought of Being until the end of his life. It has typically been suggested, following Heidegger's own view of the matter, that his relation to Nazism was merely a transitory episode, a short and philosophically meaningless period that should not be exaggerated[1] and was in fact independent of his thought. Moreover, Heidegger has suggested, and his followers have affirmed, that in his later writings he came to grips with, in fact criticized, National Socialism.[2] We need, now, to address the question of how Heidegger's Nazism, whose existence can no longer be doubted, impacts on his later thought. Only in this way will it be possible to determine whether his later position is unaffected by his Nazism, or whether in his later writings he in fact confronts National Socialism, or, finally, whether he continues to maintain his interest in Nazism.

To make this determination, we will need to consider relevant portions of Heidegger's later writings. In a way, all of Heidegger's corpus is relevant since traces of the theme that concerns us here run throughout his thought from beginning to end. An example among many is Heidegger's recurrent opposition to any form of Weltanschauungsphilosophie , an objection he brings against National Socialism in the essay on the rectorate. The theme of the relation between philoso-


phy and Weltanschauung , as well as further themes of university reform, prominent in the rectoral talk, and the relation of the theory of value to phenomenology, strongly criticized in 1935 in An Introduction to Metaphysics immediately after the rectorate,[3] are the three main topics of Heidegger's first lecture series in 1919.[4] In the motto he chose for the edition of his collected writings—Wege, nicht Werke —Heidegger justly emphasized the continual change of his thought. But there is an astonishing continuity in his position since the themes that initially attracted his attention are still there at the end.

In view of the size of Heidegger's corpus, it will be necessary to focus the discussion on those writings most relevant to the present discussion. Among his writings after the rectorate, in my view the most important texts for his later thought and for a grasp of his Nazism include his Nietzsche lectures, the recently published Beiträge zur Philosophie , and his essays on technology. If Heidegger later left Nazism behind, if he confronted National Socialism, this change will, or at least should, be visible in these texts. On the contrary, if Heidegger's turn away from real National Socialism were simultaneously a turn to an ideal form of Nazism, then it should be possible to point to passages in his writings which justify this reading of his later thought. In both cases, the time has come to go beyond unsubstantiated claims about what Heidegger may or may not have thought, what he may or may not have said, to examine the texts themselves as the final arbiter of the position without special pleading of any kind, in the same way as one would for any other thinker.

The Rektoratsrede and, to a lesser extent, Heidegger's discussion of the rectorate are exoteric writings, directed to the wider public and not specifically intended for the philosophical community. Heidegger's lectures on Nietzsche, his Beiträge , and the essays on technology, come under the heading of his esoteric writings, specifically directed to his students or to his philosophical peers, in which Heidegger sought to work out his own position. The task of this chapter is to carry the discussion of Heidegger's Nazism further in order to determine whether, and how, his own thought changed in the wake of his encounter with National Socialism, in particular the sense in which he comes to grips with Nazism in his later position. Heidegger suggests that his "first Hölderlin lecture" and his "Nietzsche lectures" were "a confrontation with National Socialism."[5] Following Heidegger, it has been claimed that from the moment of the lectures on Nietzsche "National Socialism ceases to become a historical recourse against errancy. It becomes, in its idea and in its reality , the most crepuscular form of errancy itself."[6] It has further been claimed that "with Nietzsche, Heidegger recognized the nihilism of real National Socialism."[7]


Heidegger's First HöIderlin Lecture Series

The initial series of Hölderlin lectures are important in themselves and for a consideration of Heidegger's Nazism. They occurred in 1934/ 35, in close proximity to his resignation from the rectorate and immediately before the lecture series published under the title An Introduction to Metaphysics .[8] The first Hölderlin lecture series was later followed by two others, which have also been published, given in the winter semester of 1941/42 and in the summer semester of 1942.[9]

Heidegger's first series of Hölderlin lectures is titled Hölderlin's Hymns Germania and the Rhine .[10] Although there is a good deal of Hölderlin interpretation in this text, the lectures are mainly devoted to an appropriation of the poet for the purposes of Heidegger's own theory. Here in the wake of the rectoral address, and the failure of the rectorate, Heidegger turns to poetry several years before he embarks on a great cycle of Nietzsche lectures. Heidegger's discussion of Hölderlin has evoked sustained critical discussion.[11] Our concern here is less with the extent to which Heidegger contributes to Hölderlin scholarship than with the importance of his Hölderlin discussion for his own position. The immediate problem is to understand how poetry relates to Heidegger's evolving conception of the question of Being, which remains his central interest, and the effect of that turn to poetry on the relation between his thought and Nazism. We need to ask: does Heidegger free himself from, or loosen the ties to, National Socialism in the first cycle of Hölderlin lectures?

In order to understand Heidegger's use of Hölderlin, we need to characterize the point of development reached by Heidegger's thought in the immediately preceding period. Heidegger himself calls attention to the relation between the rectoral address and the inaugural lecture, "What Is Metaphysics?" As late as the inaugural lecture, Heidegger still maintained a version of the traditional view of philosophy as transcendental science. His increasingly overt turning toward Nietzsche was visible in the rectoral talk in his insistence on Nietzsche's proposition of the death of God and the idea of a confrontation with Western thought through a return to its beginnings. The consequence, which was played out in the Nietzsche lectures, the "Letter on Humanism," the Beiträge zur Philosophie , and other later writings, is the effort to move beyond philosophy.

This entire effort represents a strengthening of the antirationalist, even gnostic side of Heidegger's thought. Heidegger's original position combines rationalistic and antirationalist aspects. The rationalist thrust


is evident in Heidegger's insistence in his writings through the period of the inaugural lecture on a version of the traditional view of philosophy as transcendental science. The incipient antirationalist side of his position is already evident in Being and Time in various ways, for instance in his insistence on the analysis of Dasein as prior to and apart from the various sciences (§ 10), in the antiscientific perspective of the work in general which Jaspers, for example, found objectionable,[12] in the abandonment of the Husserlian conception of transcendental truth, on which Heidegger insisted early in the book (§ 7) in favor of the view of truth as disclosure (§§ 44, 68), and in the idea of resoluteness (§ 74). The conceptions of truth as disclosure and resoluteness are basically antirational since there are no criteria to discern the correctness of either one.

The evolution of Heidegger's thought after Being and Time basically weakens its initial rationalistic side in favor of a growing antirationalism leading finally to the turn beyond the philosophical tradition. An antirationalist, quasi-gnostic side of Heidegger's thought is already evident in the rectoral address. It may even be directly related to Heidegger's mistaken identification of National Socialism as offering an occasion to seize the future realization of the Germans. Heidegger's perception of the advent of Nazism as a historical turning point depends on the ability to see into history. This is an application of the conception of truth as disclosure, a mainstay of Heidegger's position as early as Being and Time[13] and at least until the late essay, "The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking,"[14] to the interpretation of historical phenomena. As early as the rectoral talk, Heidegger claimed to use Nietzsche's thought, mediated by his own study of Jünger, literally to see into history, to grasp the essence of what is with respect to the present and future. In the wake of his coming turn away from philosophy to thought, Heidegger could no longer maintain this point in the same way. In his turn to poetry, specifically to Hölderlin, he maintained his antirationalist claim for insight into history and the future through a reference beyond the philosophical tradition.

Heidegger turns to Hölderlin's poetry as a source of extraphilosphical truth. His concern to appropriate Hölderlin's poetry for his effort to find truth in a realm beyond philosophy is apparent as early as the short "Preliminary Remark" (Vorbemerkung ) preceding the first series of Hölderlin lectures. In this and other writings, Heidegger adopts the pose, based on his conception of authenticity, that readings of prior theories which differ from his own are inauthentic. He applies this claim to the interpretation of Hölderlin. For Heidegger, to misinterpret "Hölderlin and his Gods" is to reduce this "poet finally to ineffectualness [Wirkungslosigkeit]."[15] In approaching Hölderlin in this "historical"


manner, one misses the "essential," namely, that "he founded the beginning of another history, the history that begins with the struggle about the decision on the coming or flight of God."[16]

Several words in this statement are suggestive, including "history," "God," "struggle," "beginning," and "decision." If we recall Heidegger's earlier attention, in the rectoral address, to Nietzsche's aphorism about the death of God, as well as his remark in the Spiegel interview that only a God can save us,[17] we can note Heidegger's stress on the need to struggle concerning a decision about the future arrival or departure of God. Here, Heidegger is preparing to use Hölderlin to forward his own view of himself as a seer of Being, he who sees into the future, including the possibility of the future of the Germans as German.

As the title of the lecture course suggests, it is divided into two parts, each of which is ostensibly devoted to the analysis of a poem by the great German poet. Taken as a whole, the discussion is very repetitive; Heidegger frequently returns to the same ideas, often in the same or closely similar formulations. An example, among many, is the pathetic statement—which in the wake of the rectorate has an autobiographical ring—repeated several times, that we do not know who we are.[18] The virtue of Heidegger's repeated treatment of the same, or similar, themes is to accord them an almost pedagogical emphasis, appropriate for a course, in order to permit the final view of a particular theme to emerge gradually—by accretion, so to speak.

Heidegger insists that his aim is not to interpret Hölderlin but to create a space for poetry in our historical being.[19] He understands his task as surpassing metaphysics, hence implicitly going beyond philosophy itself, "in developing the question concerning the origin and basis of Hölderlin's poetry as the poets of poets."[20] The reason for the concern with Hölderlin's poetry, great as it is, is not a mere hermeneutics of poetical texts. Hölderlin's poetry is important for reasons beyond its mere poetic qualities, as providing a way to respond to the historical situation, the situation in which, for Heidegger, the hour of our history has struck.[21]

As is his fashion, Heidegger never directly argues his view, although his writing is full of concealed arguments. We can reconstruct his view by following along in the text. We do not know who we are, a point Heidegger repeatedly urges, in most striking fashion in the statement that "the gods have flown, [and] who man is, we do not know."[22] Heidegger insists that poetry can help us in our time of need. For Heidegger, poetry is a way of literally making present a kind of saying of revelation,[23] both the most harmless and the most fearful.[24] More to the point, Heidegger tells us that the historical existence of peoples springs from poetry, from which authentic philosophical knowledge derives as well, and that from


both follows the realization of the existence of a people as a people in the state, or politics. "We have already heard... that the historical existence of people, the rise, peak, and fall, spring from poetry and from this authentic knowledge in the philosophical sense, and from both the realization of the existence of a people as a people through the state— politics."[25]

For Heidegger, then, poetry is deeper than philosophy, which derives from it. A role earlier attributed to philosophy, namely the authentic gathering of the German Volk , is now displaced to poetry since philosophy depends on it. Consistent with his view that truth lies beyond philosophy, Heidegger now locates truth in poetry, which makes possible the historical repetition of the German heritage. Whereas before philosophy was shown to be political, now both poetry and philosophy are regarded as intrinsically political, since they lead to historical destiny in a political context. In the rectoral address, Heidegger presented a version of the Platonic idea that philosophy founds politics, but poetry was not a factor. Heidegger now attributes a fundamental political role to poetry. For Heidegger, poetry founds philosophy as its ultimate source, both are intrinsically political, and both are necessary for the Germans to finally be German in the full sense. What Heidegger in the rectoral address saw as the possibility for the realization of the German people through philosophy is now depicted as a realization finally dependent on poetry.

Heidegger develops his claim for poetry through a complex analysis of the relation between poetry on the one hand and Being, history, and a people on the other. For Heidegger, poetry gives (stiftet ) Being. Or, as he also says, poetry is the most originary language of a people.[26] Heidegger expands this view slightly when he says that poetry is the basic framework of historical being and that language is the basic event of historical existence.[27] His point is that we literally are language or constituted by a discussion, but that poetry provides the most basic form of language in which our being as human beings is made available to us. The effect is to privilege poetry as a means to deliver us to ourselves—as beings defined through our use of language—from within the poetic dimension.

If this were the goal of Heidegger's view of poetry, it would not be very interesting. It would, in spite of his disclaimer, turn out to be a kind of romanticism preaching poetry as the source of who we are. Yet Heidegger is no mere romantic, although he is also that. In the rectoral address, he argued for philosophy as the condition of the gathering of the Germans in an authentic sense. Here, where poetry has taken on the role of philosophy, he makes a similar point with respect to poetry. The significance of poetry is that it captures the historical being of a people,


its basic mood.[28] In fact, since "the fatherland" is Being, and the poet is the voice of Being, Heidegger concludes, in a passage that sounds suspiciously like Nazi propaganda, at a time when he has supposedly broken with Nazism, that through the poet the Being of the fatherland is experienced as the authentic and sole being.

This [i.e., the fatherland] does not play the external role of a closely related case, in terms of which the passing away and coming to being in the passing away can be illuminated in an exemplary fashion; on the contrary, the Being of the fatherland [Seyn des Vaterlandes], that is, the historical existence of its people [des Volkes], is experienced as the authentic and sole Being, from which the basic orientation to beings in general arises and wins its structure [Gefüge].[29]

The upshot of the claim is that the authentic way of Being of the fatherland, hardly an innocent term in the midst of the Third Reich, is lodged nowhere else than in poetry. The simultaneous result is again to deny the legitimacy of official Nazism, this time in reference to poetry, and to point toward the achievement of the Nazi goal.

Heidegger further emphasizes Hölderlin's role, the link between Being and poetry, and the future-oriented nature of poetry itself. For Heidegger, Hölderlin is the giver of German being,[30] or again "As the poet of poets Hölderlin is the poet of the future German and the only one."[31] His claim to deliver the German destiny to the Germans, to enable them to become fully German by reclaiming their heritage, rests on the fact that he has presumably seen farther than other poets. But that he has been able to see into the future at all is not due to him alone. In a mystical remark, Heidegger maintains that the poet as seer is possible only because Being lets it happen, because Being opens itself to the poet. "Being permits poetry to emerge, in order in an originary way to find itself within it and hence in it in a closed manner [verschliessend] to open itself up as a secret."[32] Heidegger's point is that Being is the cause of its own manifestation in a guarded way within the framework of poetic language. Left unclear is how Heidegger could possibly be privy to the secret of Being. What is clear, however, is that Heidegger now holds that Being, which was earlier depicted as the theme of the discussion in Being and Time , as that which is common to entities, has now taken on the causal character of something that stands behind beings and lets them be, so to speak.

Heidegger's discussion culminates in a series of related claims about Hölderlin's poetry and the future of the Germans, not as Greeks, but as German. Despite Heidegger's attachment to Greek thought, for Heidegger Hölderlin represents the future of the Germans. "Hölderlin is not


Greece, but the future of the Germans."[33] Heidegger emphasizes, now reaffirming the fundamental character of his own philosophical concern before all else, that a historical people must necessarily base itself on Being. "Only a historical people [Volk] is really a people. It is only historical, however, if it occurs on the basis of the center of Being."[34] Referring now to the task of the historical destiny of the German Volk , Heidegger insists that the central and ownmost task for a people is to realize their national being (das Nationelle ) as a nation. "In this struggle and only in it a historical people reaches its highest [level]."[35]

Heidegger's remarks on Hölderlin in the first cycle of Hölderlin lectures invite discussion on three levels: the contribution to Hölderlin scholarship; the displacment of his earlier view of philosophy in favor of poetry; and with respect to the link between his thought and Nazism. This is not the place to review Heidegger's contribution to the discussion of Hölderlin. We have already noted the significance of Heidegger's decision here to privilege poetry over philosophy as a source of truth. In this way, he rehabilitates poetry, in eclipse as a mere imitation of an imitation since Plato. For he rehabilitates the earlier Greek idea, criticized by Plato, for instance in both the Ion and the Republic , of the poet as inspired by and the interpreter of the gods, in Heidegger's case as offering the necessary hint to knowledge of Being.[36] Yet, as a result of the adoption of this conception of the power of inspiration, he abandons the traditional philosophical view, widely present in the philosophical tradition since Plato, as well as in Heidegger's own earlier position, that philosophy is the final, most adequate, in fact solely adequate source of truth.

For present purposes, the most important question is whether and how Heidegger's relation to National Socialism changes in this text. Heidegger's depiction of the first series of his Hölderlin lectures as a confrontation with Nazism is unwarranted. If we compare this text with the rectoral address, then the differences between their respective views of National Socialism are too slight to justify that conclusion. One obvious difference is a shift in emphasis consistent with the change from a public lecture on a ceremonial occasion in which Heidegger assumed the rector-ate to a lecture course for students on the writings of a major German poet. Heidegger's repeated emphases in the talk on struggle, the leaders, and "political science" have no equivalent in the lecture course, although their omission here hardly seems decisive. Neither text directly mentions either Hitler or the Nazi party. In fact, Heidegger's claim in the rectoral address to lead the leaders, which is not repeated here, is clearly more antagonistic to National Socialism than the lack of reference in lecture course.

One of the difficulties in determining whether and how Heidegger


later shifted his view of Nazism is the unclarity surrounding its original hold on his thought. It is possible that the attachment he earlier felt for Hitler began to fade or even vanished. But his link with National Socialism certainly surpassed whatever he may have felt for the person of Hitler. In the rectoral address as well as in later writings, including Heidegger's discussion of his rectorate and the Spiegel interview, he insists on the opportunity he then saw for the German people as German. This interest, even obsession, which he publicly expressed in the rectoral talk, is maintained in the initial series of Hölderlin lectures, which in this specific sense fully overlap with the rectoral address, for instance in Heidegger's insistence here on the realization of a people in a historical manner, on the idea that the hour of history has struck, on the need for a decision, on the assumption of destiny, on the extreme difficulty of the realization of national destiny, and so on.

If we take Heidegger at his word that his preoccupation with German destiny led him to Nazism, then there is no basis for his claim that his initial cycle of Hölderlin lectures represents a confrontation with National Socialism. With respect to the rectoral address, the most significant change lies in the means to the end, not the end itself. In the speech, Heidegger uncritically took a Platonic approach in grounding politics in philosophy in order to bring about the gathering of the Germans as German. Now, after the failure of his rectorate—which has not escaped Heidegger's notice—he still desires to attain the same end but now through a different means. Above all, he is clear that it no longer suffices to ground politics in philosophy. Philosophy still has a role to play, although its role is now indirect. The task of the philosopher is not to bring about the destiny of the German people directly, but to point to poetry, above all Hölderlin's poetry, as the means to realize that task.

For strategic reasons, as part of his effort to construct his own legend, to influence the reception of his life and thought, we can understand that Heidegger may have desired to portray his initial Hölderlin lectures as in fact coming to grips with Nazism. But the text, which does not support that interpretation, in fact reveals that he has not changed his mind about National Socialism or even about the shared concern to bring about German authenticity. He has merely changed his mind about the role of philosophy in bringing it about. It is false to claim that in the first series of Hölderlin lectures Heidegger either came to grips with, or weakened, his allegiance to this aim. At most, in the turn to poetry he came to grips with the failure of the rectorate, for his later writing, including the first Hölderlin lecture series, reveals a renewed determination to attain the same goal.


The History of Philosophy and the Nietzsche Lectures

There is no reason to believe that that Heidegger confronts National Socialism in his first cycle of Hölderlin lectures. There is no significant criticism of Nazism in these lectures; in fact, Heidegger here reaffirms his support for the historical gathering of the Germans, the very concern that is ingredient in his original Nazi turning. But perhaps Heidegger confronts National Socialism in his Nietzsche lectures. Heidegger's insistence that like the first Hölderlin lecture series, the Nietzsche lectures record his confrontation with National Socialism is accepted by a number of commentators. We need now to explore this claim in detail.

Heidegger's Nietzsche courses exhibit his approach to the history of philosophy. As a first step toward an appreciation of his reading of Nietzsche's thought, it is useful to characterize Heidegger's attitude toward prior philosophy. In general terms, Heidegger shares a form of the antihistorical bias, characteristic of the modern tradition, against the philosophical tradition. He is not biased against the history of philosophy as such, since he clearly borrows from it with great frequency in the process of working out his own thought. Yet in virtue of his approach to Being, in principle for Heidegger as for the majority of modern philosophers who maintain the separation between the history of philosophy and philosophy, the history of philosophy is a series of mistakes. The difference is that whereas most other thinkers reject the history of philosophy in general, at least initially Heidegger believes that he can return to certain insights in early Greek thought through his more limited rejection of the history of ontology since the early Greeks.

Most thinkers who devalue the history of philosophy simply do not know much about it. Examples are Descartes, Kant, and Husserl. Heidegger, who provides a stunning counterexample to the lack of historical knowledge typical of modern thinkers, is distinguished by his knowledge of the history of philosophy.[37] Like Hegel and few others in the modern period, Heidegger exhibits a truly comprehensive, encyclopedic grasp of the length and breadth of the philosophical tradition. Heidegger's unusual grasp of prior philosophy was apparent in Being and Time , which already exhibits a wide awareness of the history of philosophy from the pre-Socratics to the present. His interest in the history of philosophy is even more apparent in his later thought, which often takes the form of a series of commentaries on important philosophical predecessors, commentaries that Heidegger describes as an effort to dialogue with them on their own level.

Heidegger's knowledgeable approach to prior philosophy bears com-


parison with Hegel's. Heidegger explicitly credits Hegel with inventing the concept of the history of philosophy.[38] Hegel's discussion exhibits a profound grasp of the history of philosophy, but he is not a historian of philosophy if that implies a concern to study prior philosophy in independence of philosophy; and, for the same reason, neither is Heidegger. Yet Hegel and Heidegger differ radically in their respective approaches to the philosophic tradition. As concerns prior thought, Hegel's concern is epistemological whereas Heidegger's is ontological. Hegel considers prior thought from an epistemological perspective, as a unitary phenomenon composed of related efforts, which build upon earlier positions, in order finally to demonstrate the alleged unity of thought and being. From his ontological angle of vision, Heidegger maintains that the initial pre-Socratic insight into Being was later obscured and covered up by a turn away to another, mistaken approach, which continues to dominate the discussion of metaphysics until Hegel and Nietzsche. Heidegger's effort is directed toward a recovery of the initial pre-Socratic view of Being which supposedly lies hidden behind the later metaphysical tradition.

Hegel and Heidegger exhibit opposite attitudes to philosophy itself. Hegel is positively disposed toward the history of philosophy, which demonstrates ever greater progress in the study of the conditions of knowledge, and which finally reaches its traditional aim in his own theory. Heidegger holds that since the pre-Socratics philosophy has been engaged in a long, difficult, and finally meaningless metaphysical exercise. Heidegger's bleaker assessment that philosophy has historically failed to, and in fact cannot, realize its aim is widely shared by others in the modern tradition. In his later effort to move beyond philosophy, Heidegger came to accept a version of the view held in different but related ways by, among others, Wittgenstein, Kierkegaard, the Marxists, and Nietzsche—each of whom desired to surpass philosophy—that philosophy as such is inadequate to respond to its concerns. He further accepted a version of the Young Hegelian view that the philosophical tradition comes to an end in Hegel, which he restates as the claim that the history of metaphysics terminates in Nietzsche.[39]

Heidegger's thought is often understood in terms of figures in the historical tradition. Although he himself emphasizes his attachment to pre-Socratic thought, it is usual to classify his position in terms of possible sources in modern philosophy.[40] His historical interest developed in his early thought, even before Being and Time . His dissertation on the idea of judgment in psychologism, which concerned logic,[41] was followed in the second dissertation, or Habilitationsschrift , by a study of the categories and view of meaning of Duns Scotus.[42]

Heidegger's writings exhibit a wide acquaintance with prior philo-


sophical thought. In no particular order, his corpus exhibits detailed study and knowledge of Parmenides, Anaximander, Heraclitus, Plato, Aristotle, Duns Scotus, Descartes, Kant, Schelling, and Nietzsche. His early concentration on ontological themes partly explains the nearly complete lack of attention to English-language writers, including all of Anglo-American analytic philosophy, and the relative inattention to such writers as Socrates, Fichte, Marx, Augustine, Thomas, and Husserl. Even Hegel, who is discussed often, is handled in a curiously incomplete manner, as if Heidegger were finally unable to come to grips with his thought.[43]

In general terms, inspection of Heidegger's writings reveals a progression from systematic discussion—presupposing extensive historical analysis, which is initially mainly absent—to less systematic, more historically oriented discussion. Being and Time , the main work of Heidegger's early period, is highly systematic, based on thorough knowledge of the history of philosophy, with the exception of English-language sources. In the English translation, the index of proper names contains eighty-two names, not a large number, mainly philosophers, as well as an occasional theologian, the New Testament, and so on. There are no references to English-language writers. But there are extensive references to a variety of important philosophers, including most prominently Aristotle, Augustine, Descartes, Dilthey, Hegel, Husserl, Kant, Parmenides, Plato, Scheler, Simmel, and Thomas. Other writers whose influence on Heidegger's position is significant, even decisive, are scarcely mentioned. These include Kierkegaard, whose thought certainly provides a basic influence on the formation of Heidegger's view of human being as Dasein,[44] Luther,[45] and perhaps Nietzsche.

Not surprisingly, since the view Heidegger expounds in this book is basically anti-Cartesian, it contains a detailed account and critique of Descartes's thought.[46] Heidegger further studies aspects of numerous other positions, such as Kant's refutation of idealism,[47] the relation of his own view of historicality to the theories of Dilthey and Yorck,[48] and Hegel's view of time and its relation to spirit.[49] In addition, there are numerous generalizations about the history of philosophy. An example is the assertion, as early as the first page of the work, that the view of Being put forward by Plato and Aristotle remained basically unchanged until Hegel.[50] Yet the historical interpretation underlying such interpretative generalizations is mainly absent in the work itself.

Although Being and Time mainly lacks specific historical analyses, Heidegger specifically indicates his view of the history of philosophy in his account of "The Task of Destroying the History of Ontology."[51] To provide for a radical new interpretation of Being as time, he desires to reappropriate the history of ontology in a way that frees, or makes


available, possibilities that, in his opinion, have been covered up at least since the early Greeks. His aim is to take up the tradition but not to fall prey to it,[52] to prevent it from, in his words, blocking "our access to those promordial 'sources' from which the categories and concepts handed down to us have been in part quite genuinely drawn."[53] His ultimate goal is to interrogate the history of Being in order to return, beyond it, to the original experiences which determine it.

We understand this task as one in which by taking the question of Being as our clue , we are to destroy the traditional content of ancient ontology until we arrive at those primordial experiences in which we achieved our first ways of determining the nature of Being—the ways which have guided us ever since.[54]

Heidegger's approach to the history of philosophy changes significantly in later writings. The Basic Problems of Phenomenology , the text of Heidegger's lecture course from spring semester 1927, the year in which Being and Time appeared, provides extensive historical interpretation within the systematic framework characteristic of Heidegger's position before the turning in his thought. The Basic Problems of Phenomenology takes up the central theme of the third section of part 1 of Being and Time , that is, the question concerning the meaning of Being through the demonstration that time is the horizon of all understanding of Being. According to the outline, the lecture course—it was organized as a book according to Heidegger's suggestions[55] —is divided into three main parts: a "phenomenological-critical discussion of several traditional theses about the meaning of Being in general," "the fundamental-ontological question about the meaning of Being in general," and "the scientific method of ontology and the idea of phenomenology."[56] In fact, the text of the course covers only the four chapters of the first part and the initial chapter of the second part. Roughly the last third of the work provides a purely systematic account of what Heidegger here calls "The fundamental ontological question of the meaning of Being in general." Roughly the first two-thirds of the book consists of a systematic treatment in detail of four traditional theses about Being.

Heidegger's systematic treatment of the different historical theses about Being is at least as comprehensive and relatively more detailed than the historical sections of Being and Time . He devotes fifty pages, for instance, to the analysis of Kant's thesis that being is not a real predicate in an analysis divided into three parts. The first part, devoted to "The Content of the Kantian Thesis," contains a detailed description of the Kantian exposition of his view in a precritical essay, "The Sole Possible Argument for a Demonstration of the Existence of God," and later in the


two editions of the Critique of Pure Reason . The account of the Kantian thesis demonstrates a mastery of the relevant details, such as an effort to trace Kant's use of the term "reality" over Baumgarten to scholasticism,[57] a remark on the difference between Kant's conception of objective reality, and reality as elucidated,[58] and so on. The depth and breadth of Heidegger's approach to Kant's thesis is equaled by his treatment of the other historical theses he considers. Heidegger's other early writings often contain historical generalization, but among them this volume stands out in virtue of Heidegger's willingness to provide the historical analyses that underlie his sweeping judgments about prior thought.

Heidegger's inaugural lecture, "What Is Metaphysics?," delivered in 1929, is a systematic analysis nearly devoid of attention to the history of philosophy. In the same year, he published Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics , a work based on lectures presented in the fall semester of 1925 and at Davos in March 1929.[59] Heidegger's interpretation of Kant is a by-product of his work on the second part of Being and Time .[60] Beyond the specific discussion of the critical philosophy, this book is valuable for the light it sheds on Heidegger's approach to the history of philosophy.

There is a clear link between the book on Kant and Being and Time . In his proposed destruction of the history of ontology, Heidegger represents his own position as the completion of the intention animating Kant's critical philosophy. He states that Kant is his only predecessor, although for reasons intrinsic to his approach Kant was unable to complete his study of the link between time and the "I think," which ultimately, for Kant, did not even appear problematic.[61] Heidegger discerns the key to this problem in Kant's doctrine of the schematism. Heidegger argues for his interpretation through an exposition of selected parts of the critical philosophy, beginning with an effort to establish what he calls the problematic of temporality. He attributes Kant's inability to reach the "correct" result, for Heidegger's own view of the temporal nature of Being, to two reasons. First, Kant neglected the problem of Being, and the analysis of Dasein, to which he preferred the Cartesian position. Second, although he brought time into the subject, he took over the traditional view of time. Now although Being and Time established the problematic of temporality, it does not contain Heidegger's analysis of the Kantian doctrine of the schematism, which is provided in Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics . In that sense, independently of the light it casts on Kant's position, this book represents a vital, further link in the chain of Heidegger's effort to provide his view of Being as time with "true concreteness" through a destruction of the prior onto-logical tradition.[62]

In his study of Kant, Heidegger considers the critical philosophy as an incomplete anticipation of the problem of Being. He presents the Cri-


tique of Pure Reason as an effort to found metaphysics, which, accordingly, is revealed as a problem of fundamental ontology. The title of the Kant book, which is ambiguous, can be understood from two perspectives: as the question concerning being (Seiende ) as such in its totality, and as an inquiry into the problem of metaphysics.[63] The discussion is divided into four main parts, including an analysis of the foundation of metaphysics, its carrying out, its originality, and its repetition.[64]

Any interpretation needs to reflect on its relation to what it interprets. This problem is especially acute in Heidegger's discussions of the history of philosophy since he never considers other views for their intrinsic merits, and always considers them in terms of his own project. Although his book sheds considerable light on Kant's position, it would be a mistake to read it merely as a study of Kant.[65] In the foreword to the translation, Thomas Langan, who closely follows Heidegger on this point, insists that the result is an "authentic Kantian commentary," in effect a model for all dialogue between thinkers, although he simply concedes that Heidegger is not concerned with what Kant meant or said.[66]

The very idea of a dialogue between thinkers is problematic since it is not clear what "commentary" means in this sense. The book, which documents an encounter of one powerful thinker with another, is not a dialogue, or at least not so in any simple sense because the encounter is clearly one-sided, a kind of monologue. Kant does not, and indeed could not, answer Heidegger either directly or through his writings since Heidegger makes no pretense at concentrating on what is either implicit or even explicit in the critical philosophy. And there is more than a hint that a commentary that concentrated on such matters would be inauthentic, by implication less valuable than one that did not.

Heidegger, who is aware of these issues, responds to them briefly in two places, which further illuminate his approach to the history of philosophy.[67] In the discussion of Kant's conception of the ground, he states that his work is concerned to bring out what Kant intended to say.[68] He points to a passage in which Kant talks about the need to go beyond what is said to the intention, and then adds that for this reason every interpretation is necessarily violent.[69] For Heidegger, a violent interpretation is not arbitrary since it is guided by a central insight, which is confirmed by its utility. "The directive idea itself is confirmed by its own power of illumination."[70] But this justification is unsatisfactory. In practice, it is obviously difficult to decide whether a given interpretation is in fact confirmed, since opinions will differ with respect to the significance of a given reading. It is further mistaken to believe that an interpretation that provides insight, and is, therefore, confirmed, is not merely arbitrary. An example, among many, is Kojève's justly celebrated, insight-


ful, but demonstrably arbitrary reading of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit .[71]

As if unsatisfied by his remark on the limits of interpretation, Heidegger returns to the issue of violent textual interpretation in a new preface added to the second edition of the work. He notes that he has been correctly criticized for the violence of his interpretations. In response, he argues that, in the discussion of prior views, one must choose between two mutually exclusive alternatives: what he calls the method of historical philology, from whose perspective, by implication, the objections to his approach are justified; and what he calls an inquiry that is both historical and philosophical, whose aim is, in his words, "to set in motion a thoughtful dialogue between thinkers."[72]

Since in the second edition, Heidegger is willing to admit that some, but not all, interpretations are violent, his task becomes the justification of violent interpretations. At this point, he silently drops the claim to elicit the hidden aim of Kant's position. In fact, he no longer makes any claim to follow the text as written in any strict sense, since presumably that is the appanage of the philological approach which he rejects. The resultant views of violent textual interpretation are independent of each other. It could be the case that an interpretation captures the intent of a text even if, in practice, it would be difficult to agree on a claim to that effect; and it could also be the case that a given reading sets in motion a dialogue between two thinkers in Heidegger's sense although it demonstrably contradicts, or at least fails to grasp, the intention behind a particular text on a reasonable interpretation of it.

We can infer that Heidegger regards his study of the prior tradition as respecting the historical and philosophical, but not the philological, approach; we can further infer that Heidegger feels justified in ignoring such criteria as fidelity to the text and the intent of a thinker, what Kant would call the letter and spirit of a view, in order to bring about what he regards as dialogue.[73] The criterion, then, of the degree of success of Heidegger's dialogues with previous thinkers is not, and cannot be, the fidelity of his interpretations or even the extent of the light he throws on their positions, since he has in effect insulated his discussion against any evaluation in terms of its relation to the texts; the criterion lies wholly and solely in the way in which Heidegger is able to make use of a prior position in order to argue for and advance his own thought. It follows that, as Langan admits, what he regards as an authentic commentary and a model for dialogue between thinkers is in fact freed of all textual constraints, and, hence, merely arbitrary.

These remarks, added to the second edition of Heidegger's study of Kant, usefully indicate Heidegger's awareness, and attempted justification, of the problematic nature of his approach to the history of philoso-


phy. Heidegger studies the history of philosophy increasingly in his later writings, although he only rarely reflects explicitly on his practice. Two exceptions occur in An Introduction to Metaphysics .[74] In a passage on the origin of philosophy among the Greeks, Heidegger remarks that being (Seiende ) was called physis , which is usually translated as "nature," from the Latin natura , which means "to be born, birth."[75] Heidegger regards this displacement as neither innocent nor innocuous but rather as an instance of the general problem that in the translation from Greek into Latin the original Greek philosophical impulse was lost. All later philosophy is based on the translation of Greek thought into Latin, as a result of which philosophy has lost its original inspiration. This idea grounds Heidegger's persistent effort, through the interrogation of terms, to recover the earlier, allegedly "correct" meanings, which have supposedly been "covered" up in the later discussion, in order, as he says, "to skip over this whole process of deformation and decay and attempt to regain the unimpaired strength of language and words."[76]

The thesis underlying Heidegger's linguistic retrieval of philosophical insight is problematic. We cannot establish, and there is no reason to believe, that earlier is better, so to speak, that the so-called original meaning—even if it could be determined in a leap behind the tradition to its origins, which is highly doubtful—is in general closer to the truth of the matter, or more productive of philosophical insight. Even if translation often, even inevitably, results in a displacement of meaning, it does not follow that the result is a general loss of significant philosophical insight. To know how Aristotle employs the term "ousia " provides insight into his ontology; it provides insight into a correct view of ontology only if Aristotle's ontological view is correct. In principle, Heidegger's linguistic approach offers a way to retrieve elements of earlier views; but it cannot justify the claim that to retrieve earlier views is to retrieve the truth of the matter.

What I am calling Heidegger's attempted linguistic retrieval of original philosophical insight yields two views, both of which are problematic: the claim that there is an original insight that has somehow been covered up, and the related claim that what has been covered up can now be appropriately uncovered. These views are obviously independent of each other. It could turn out that there is an original philosophical insight that has later been covered up but which we cannot retrieve since we cannot determine the original, correct meanings of the words; it could further turn out that we can determine the original meanings of the words but no original philosophical insight is revealed; it could finally turn out, as Heidegger maintains, that to determine the original meanings of the words, by returning behind their subsequent linguistic displacement, enables us to grasp original philosophical insight.


Now ordinarily translation provides the way to recover a meaning in a language that has later changed, either through intralinguistic translation, in which we consult a manual, dictionary, or lexicon of some kind to determine, say, how an English word was earlier expressed, for instance in Middle English or even in Anglo-Saxon, or through interlinguistic translation, such as through the use of a Greek-English lexicon to determine the meaning of a Greek term. In recent years, translation has come under attack as in principle arbitrary.[77] In virtue of his claim that a linguistic displacement has occurred in the translation of the original texts, Heidegger cannot rely on any later discussions. But if he needs in each case to determine the so-called original meaning without appealing to the available scholarly apparatus, he must find a way to guard against the charge of mere arbitrariness.

Heidegger attends to this problem in the course of a second, lengthy passage from the same work on the relation of thought to being in early Greek philosophy. He concedes that his interpretation must appear as an "arbitrary distortion"[78] with respect to the prevailing types of interpretation. He further concedes that he is correctly accused of reading in what cannot be exactly determined. But, he asks rhetorically:

Which interpretation is the true one, the one which simply takes over a perspective into which it has fallen, because this perspective, this line of sight. presents itself as familiar and self-evident; or the interpretation which questions the customary perspective from top to bottom, because conceivably—and indeed actually—this line of sight does not lead to what is in need of being seen.[79]

No doubt it is always useful, and sometimes unavoidable, to examine critically what we think we know, to scrutinize the habitual as a possible source of error. But it does not follow that, this having been done, the resultant textual interpretation avoids, or that Heidegger avoids, new forms of error, such as reading into the texts what one wishes to find there, which he here refers to as "what is in need of being seen."

Even in Heidegger's most systematic writings, such as Being and Time , the history of philosophy, especially the history of ontology, is never far from his mind. In the long period after this work, Heidegger directly considers historical themes with increasing frequency. This relative change in emphasis can be illustrated in various ways. For instance, the three collections of essays Heidegger published between 1950 and 1967 are largely concerned with historical topics.[80] A better index is furnished by Heidegger's lecture courses from 1923 on, namely volumes 27-55 inclusive in his collected works, now being published. Of these twenty-eight volumes, nine are devoted to systematic and nineteen to


historical topics. It follows that Heidegger gave rather more attention to historical themes than to systematic ones in his lectures, although the proportion was inverted in his published writings. Now if we take Heidegger's 1935 lecture course as a fictitious dividing point, we note a clear change in the relative attention to historical subjects around this point. Prior to 1935, there are a total of eleven lecture courses, including four on systematic and seven on historical questions. After 1935, there are fifteen lecture courses, including one or at most one and a half on systematic issues;[81] but all the rest concern historical topics. Hence, there is not only an increasing, but even a predominant, concern with historical matters after 1935, at least in the lecture courses.

Heidegger's Nietzsche Lectures

Partly because of Heidegger's concern with the history of ontology, Heidegger was increasingly concerned with Nietzsche after 1935. Heidegger's increased interest in Nietzsche's thought is apparent in an enumeration of the historical topics Heidegger treats in his lecture courses after 1935. There is one course each on Kant, Parmenides, and Heraclitus. There are two each on Schelling and Hölderlin. But no fewer than six are devoted to Nietzsche.[82] Hence, one can infer that starting in 1935 he devoted a very large fraction of his work in the classroom to direct study of Nietzsche's thought.[83] This inference is further strengthened by inspection of Heidegger's publishing during this period, which includes several articles directly concerned with Nietzsche's thought,[84] as well as two large volumes on Nietzsche quarried by Heidegger from his lecture courses.[85]

Heidegger, of course, was not the only thinker interested in Nietzsche, who almost immediately became exceedingly influential after his death in 1900. According to David Krell, Nietzsche was a literary phenomenon whose thought was widely seen, by those who came to maturity in the First World War, as correctly predicting the ruin of Germany.[86] Peter Gay points to widespread instances of Nietzsche's literary influence during the Weimar Republic, including his impact on Aby War-burg, the founder of the Warburg Institute, who took Nietzsche, Burckhardt, and Usener as his models; the circle around the poet Stefan George, which was attracted to Nietzsche, especially in the work by Ernst Bertram, for his celebration of Hölderlin; and Thomas Mann, who admired Nietzsche as well as Wagner and Schopenhauer, each of whom influenced Buddenbrooks .[87] Others associated with the George-Kreis who wrote on Nietzsche include Ernst Gundolf and Kurt Hildebrandt.[88]

Nietzsche's philosophical impact was considerable. In 1901, Wilhelm Windelband, the neo-Kantian historian of philosophy, still thought of


him as a poet.[89] A long stream of others discussed Nietzsche as a philosopher. With Goethe, Oswald Spengler considered Nietzsche as one of his two models.[90] As early as 1902, the Kantian Hans Vahinger published a book on Nietzsche, which was followed in 1911 by a chapter in his main work.[91] In 1907, the sociologist and neo-Kantian philosopher Simmel brought out a study of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche.[92] In fact, there was so much attention to Nietzsche in the discussion at this time that one can even differentiate between cultural, life-philosophical, and existential approaches to his thought.[93] Still a fourth approach is represented by the interest in the relation of Nietzsche and Christianity.[94]

Heidegger's relation to Nietzsche is complex.[95] There are at least six ways in which Nietzsche functions in Heidegger's thought, including (1) the constitution of Heidegger's own original position; (2) Heidegger's desire to contribute to knowledge of Nietzsche's thought through collaboration on the critical edition and the interpretation of Nietzsche's position; (3) within the framework of the study of the history of ontology, as a subset of the history of the philosophical tradition; (4) in the transition from the first beginning to the other beginning through the turning in the Beiträge and other writings, hence as a link between the early fundamental ontology and the later critique of technology; (5) as part of Heidegger's defense of his claim to philosophical hegemony within the Third Reich, through the refutation of other readings of Nietzsche; and (6) in Heidegger's claimed confrontation with National Socialism.

It is easier to document the role played by Nietzsche's thought in Weimar culture and National Socialism than in the constitution and later evolution of Heidegger's position. When Nietzsche began to exert a pull on Heidegger's thought is a matter of debate. As early as 1960, Gadamer suggested that Heidegger's true predecessor in raising the problem of Being against the whole direction of the Western tradition is Nietzsche. For Gadamer, the aim of raising Nietzsche's criticism of the Platonic tradition to the level of the tradition, of confronting Western metaphysics on its own level, is already implicit in Being and Time , even if Heidegger only realized this afterward.[96] Other observers tend to place the turn to Nietzsche after the development of fundamental ontology. Although Heidegger attended Rickert's lectures on Nietzsche, for Pöggeler Nietzsche's influence on Heidegger only becomes decisive in 1929-1930.[97] Arguing against Pöggeler, Krell dates the concern with Nietzsche to Heidegger's student days in 1909-1914 and sees traces of Nietzsche's influence in Heidegger's early thought, prior to Being and Time , including the Habilitationsschrift and the subsequent venia legendi lecture.[98] Nietzsche is mentioned three times in Being and Time .[99] Taminiaux has recently used Heidegger's extensive reference to Nietz-


sche's "Second Untimely Meditation" to argue that of all those to whom Heidegger refers in this work, Nietzsche is the only earlier thinker whose position he seeks to make his own.[100]

These writers do not differ about whether Nietzsche influenced Being and Time ; rather they differ with respect to the extent of that influence. There seems to be a clear link between Nietzsche's distinction between the overman, or superman, and ordinary mortals, for instance in Beyond Good and Evil , and Heidegger's canonical distinction in Being and Time between authenticity and inauthenticity. Heidegger's increasing interest in Nietzsche's thought after Being and Time is based on his conviction of its importance for his own position. Between 1927 and 1935, when the Nietzsche lectures began, Nietzsche's influence on Heidegger's thought quickly assumes major proportions. Nietzsche is already present in an important way in Heidegger's rectoral address. Here, in his habitual rhetorical style, Heidegger asks what if Nietzsche is right that God is dead.[101] In the article on the rectorate, he insists on the significance of Jünger in providing access to Nietzsche's thought, which in turn offers the possibility to think and even to foresee the history and present of the Western world in terms of metaphysics.[102] Nietzsche's precise impact on the constitution of Heidegger's fundamental ontology is unclear; but in 1935, it is clear that Heidegger had come to see his metaphysical task as gaining a true grasp of Nietzsche and of fully developing Nietzsche's thought.[103]

This conviction underlies Heidegger's collaboration with the Nietzsche Archives in the preparation of a new version of Nietzsche's collected works and his own reading of Nietzsche's thought. According to Marion Heinz, Heidegger was already in contact with the archives in the late 1920s.[104] He became a member of the editorial board in May 1934. Along with H. J. Frank and Alfred Rosenberg, head of the Amt Rosenberg, he took part in a commission charged with publishing a critical edition of Nietzsche's work and letters. From a letter to Leutheusser dated 26 December 1942 it is clear that he was further active in the preparation of the new edition of the Will to Power (Der Wille zur Macht ). It seems that he visited the archives twice a year during the period 1936-1938 as a member of the editorial commission. It is further known that in the preparation of his lectures on Nietzsche, he consulted Karl Schlechta, the editor of Nietzsche's collected works. It is not clear what his relation to the archives was after 1939. Heidegger did not participate in the meetings in 1941. The same letter to Leutheusser indicates that he resigned from the commission. It seems that Heidegger justified his decision in terms of the dispute in 1938 between the Nietzsche Archives and the Reichsschriftumskammer , which rejected the first volume of the new edition of the collected works, from which it with-


drew its support. There is extant a notification by the office, on which Heidegger wrote by hand: "This was to be expected: afterward work in common with the commission impossible; only work for Nietzsche's works—in independence from the edition."[105]

Heidegger's interest in Nietzsche's thought continued after he ended his collaboration with the Nietzsche Archives. His attention to Nietzsche is the main example of his effort to "dialogue" with another thinker on his own level in order to bring out what the latter supposedly wanted to, but could not, say, and to carry the discussion further than the point at which it was left. This "dialogue" is carried out at enormous length over a period of years, first explicitly—out loud, so to speak—in a series of lectures and articles, and then later in silent form, after the Nietzsche lectures, in many of Heidegger's later writings. We have already noted this "dialogue" in the Nietzsche lectures given between 1936 and 1940, in the lecture course planned but not given in the academic year 1941/42, and in several articles. Significantly, Nietzsche is still prominent in Heidegger's lecture course in the first semester of the academic year 1951/ 52, when he was permitted to resume teaching.[106] But Nietzsche is not discussed explicitly in the spring semester of this same lecture course. After the early 1950s, Nietzsche recedes into the background as an explicit theme, but what Heidegger learned from this encounter continued to shape his own thought in the years ahead.

To appreciate Heidegger's discussion of Nietzsche, it is useful to contrast it with his discussion of Descartes and Kant. In theory, Heidegger's treatment of thinkers after the pre-Socratics—that is, after what he discerns as the early turn away from the original, correct approach to Being—should be negative, although in practice this is not always the case. Heidegger's treatment of prior thinkers is sometimes less strict than his simple bivalent framework requires. Heidegger himself suggests that his attitude toward the past is not simply negative. "But to bury the past in its nullity is not the purpose of this destruction; its aim is positive ; its negative function remains unexpressed and indirect."[107] The criterion for Heidegger's specific attitude seems to reside in his conviction about the utility of a given position for his own purposes.

The often positive aspect of Heidegger's reaction to other thinkers is entirely lacking in his reading of Descartes. Simply stated, Heidegger consistently treats Descartes in a wholly negative manner, as the arch-villain of the philosophical tale. His negative approach toward Descartes is already in evidence in Being and Time in the passage on the destruction of the history of ontology. Here, Heidegger argues that in the Middle Ages, Greek ontology becomes a fixed body of doctrine that is transmitted by Suarez, Descartes, and others, in basically unchanged fashion in later thought up to and including Hegel.[108] Descartes plays a


key role in the transmission of an unexamined doctrine in the form of an ontology irreconcilably different from Heidegger's own view, based on the ontological difference. "In Descartes we find the most extreme tendency toward such an ontology of the 'world,' with, indeed, a counter-orientation toward the res cogitans —which does not coincide with Dasein either ontically or ontologically."[109] A similarly negative attitude toward Descartes and Cartesian thought is maintained in later writings, for instance in Heidegger's rejection of all forms of the humanist, anthropological approach.[110]

The discussion of Kant is more complex. On a superficial level, the treatment is equally negative, as in the suggestion that, except for the omission of an ontology of Dasein, Kant merely took over the Cartesian ontology in dogmatic fashion.[111] Yet Heidegger's reading of Kant's position is finally more nuanced. Heidegger discusses the critical philosophy on four occasions in Being and Time , with respect to the concept of time, the problem of Being, the refutation of idealism, and the transcendental unity of apperception.

(1) In an early reference to temporality, Heidegger indicates that the establishment of this problematic, the task of the second division of the book, will show that Kant took over the Cartesian view dogmatically, and hence neglected the problem of Being and the analysis of Dasein. The result was that Kant's concept of the schematism did not penetrate to the central ontological problem.[112] The implicit suggestion that Kant's approach can be carried beyond Kant is worked out in Heidegger's study of the relation between the critical philosophy and metaphysics. In an obvious departure from the more usual epistemological readings, Heidegger interprets Kant's position as an incomplete effort to lay the foundation of metaphysics which, through an appropriate repetition, can be completed.[113]

(2) In a discussion of the concept of "world" in Descartes and Kant, Heidegger maintains that the latter's rejection of being as a real predicate is an uncritical restatement of the problematical Cartesian view in a manner indicative of a failure to master the basic problem of Being.[114] This same claim is formulated in a more graceful but conceptually equivalent manner in the more detailed treatment of the Kantian thesis in the parallel lecture course.[115] For Heidegger, Kant's analysis fails because it lacks an explicit theory of Dasein.[116] In a later passage, Heidegger explicitly suggests that under appropriate conditions Kant's approach can be salvaged for the problem of Being. Here, Heidegger remarks that the four theses examined in this book, including Kant's, represent aspects of a unity toward which he is striving through their examination. "The four theses formulate only externally and still covertly the systematic unity of the basic ontological problems, toward


which we are groping by way of the preparatory discussion of the theses."[117]

(3) Heidegger further analyzes Kant's Refutation of Idealism as an example of Dasein's supposed tendency to bury "the external world" before proving its existence.[118] He maintains that Kant's alleged confusions manifest Dasein's falling and resultant comprehension of the "world" as mere presence-at-hand. Although he claims that the neglect of the existential analytic of Dasein impedes the establishment of the phenomenological problematic, he concedes the partial validity of each of the various approaches to the "problem of reality.[119]

(4) Heidegger studies Kant's transcendental unity of apperception under the heading of the self. He objects to Kant's view as an ontologically inappropriate description of the self in terms appropriate for a res cogitans , as something always present-to-hand.[120] He insists against Kant that the self is not a being-in-the-world in this sense. According to Hei-degger, the self can finally only be discerned through the phenomenon of care, or the authentic potentiality for being one's self.[121]

In Being and Time , the central thread of Heidegger's treatment of Kant is the claim to carry Kant's position beyond the point at which it was left to its intended conclusion. Heidegger believes that Kant's theory lacks an analysis of Being and of Dasein, and hence fails to achieve its goal; and he further believes that his own analysis of Dasein enables us to see the critical philosophy as valuable for the problem of metaphysics. In this respect, there is a limited analogy between Heidegger's view of Kant and Sartre's view of Marx.[122] Both are concerned with the completion, through an aspect supposedly supplied by his own thought, of an important but supposedly incomplete theory. The difference is that whereas Sartre holds that Marxism is unsurpassable as the philosophy of our time, Heidegger holds only that the critical philosophy is at best an incomplete anticipation of his own.

There is a significant difference in Heidegger's treatments of Kant and Nietzsche. With respect to Kant, Heidegger points to the critical philosophy as solidly ensconced within, and, for that reason, limited by, the philosophical tradition, which it uncritically accepts. Heidegger believes that this dogmatic acceptance of the prior tradition is the reason why Kant is unable to carry out the intrinsic aims of his thought. Even if Heidegger applauds Kant's intentions, he finally rejects the critical philosophy as a whole. With respect to Nietzsche, Heidegger applauds the effort as a whole, which he does not reject. To a degree unlike that of any thinker since the pre-Socratics, Heidegger thinks of Nietzsche as anticipating in incomplete form his own thought as he later came to understand it.

There is, of course, ample precedent for the idea that a later theory


takes up the central theme of and completes an earlier position. Heidegger's relation to Nietzsche partially resembles Hegel's relation to Kant. Like Fichte and Schelling, the young Hegel accepted the intent of Kant's position as basically correct. Hegel held that there was only one system of philosophy; and he regarded the views of Fichte and Schelling as further modifications of the critical philosophy.[123] Hegel's position is an effort to develop the Kantian speculative insight in accord with the spirit, but not the letter of the Kantian philosophy.[124] Similarly, in Nietzsche Heidegger finds a concern with two basic characteristics of his own thought: the problem of Being, and the revolt against the Platonic tradition following from this problem. Just as in his own position Hegel thinks with Kant against Kant, so in his own position Heidegger thinks with Nietzsche against Nietzsche in order to complete the proposed revolt against the Platonic tradition. Now Hegel's thought literally took form in his debate with Kant and such "Kantians" as Fichte and Schelling. Despite Heidegger's awareness of Nietzsche, his original position was already in place before he entered into "dialogue" with Nietzsche. For Heidegger, Nietzsche's importance does not lie in the constitution of his own thought; it lies rather in the later evolution of the original position. In fact, it would be an exaggeration to claim that, despite Nietzsche's influence on Heidegger's thought, Heidegger was ever, even for a brief period, a true disciple of Nietzsche. As for Hölderlin and the other writers he studies, Heidegger is never a disciple in any obvious sense, and always attuned to the possibility of using another body of thought for his own.

Beyond his strict contribution to Nietzsche scholarship, or work for Nietzsche's works, Heidegger's Nietzsche discussion has a triple function in his thought: to assert his own role in German philosophy by refuting other extant readings, to contribute to his own study of the history of ontology, and further to develop his analysis of Being. Like other philosophers, Heidegger was constantly concerned with the struggle for influence in the university, especially the German academy. In the Third Reich, this struggle was circumscribed by two additional factors: the normal academic disagreements concerning Nietzsche's thought, and the relation between Nietzsche and National Socialism.

Nietzsche functioned during the Third Reich for both political and philosophical goals. Baeumler points to a parallel in the views of Nietzsche and Hitler.[125] Enge, who was the head of the Nietzsche Archives in Weimar, stated that he owed "the interpretation and evaluation of the Hitler movement to the study of Nietzschean ideas concerning blood and the decline of cultures and my own observation of social phenomena."[126] Algermissen insists on the concern of both Hitler and Mussolini with Nietzsche.[127] Mussolini published and lectured on Nietzsche, and


understood fascism as the realization of Nietzsche's thought. When he was twenty, Mussolini published an article on Nietzsche, in which he wrote: "In order to attain the ideal picked out by Nietzsche a new type of free spirit must arise, spirits which are hardened by war, and loneliness, and in great danger, spirits which will free us from love of our neighbor."[128] On 29 July 1933, his fiftieth birthday, the Nietzsche Archives sent him the following telegram:

To the most masterful son of Zarathustra, of whom Nietzsche dreamed, the genial awakener of the aristocratic values of Nietzsche's spirit, the Nietzsche Archives sends on his fiftieth birthday a telegram, in testimony, that he is faithful to the master's work and has consciously come to grips with it.[129]

And on 26 May 1934 Mussolini held a two-and-a-half-hour speech in the Italian parliament in which he took up Nietzsche's slogan from Zarathustra: "War first only makes a man, as childbearing a women.[130] Hitler also thought of his political work as the realization of Nietzsche's aims. Even before 1933, he visited Weimar often. In 1938, he paid for a temple to be erected to Nietzsche's memory. In August 1943, he sent his friend Mussolini a specially printed collection of Nietzsche's complete writings. And the Nietzsche Archives reciprocated the attention in its ceremonial presentation to him of Nietzsche's Stockdegen .

In the Third Reich, both pre-Nazi and Nazi thinkers were concerned with Nietzsche's thought. Klages, who is a transitional figure, published a work on Nietzsche's psychology.[131] Baeumler studied Nietzsche as philosopher and politician.[132] Nietzsche's appropriation by Nazi thinkers for their own purposes is well known but not well studied.[133] Two exceptions are provided by Lukács and Stackelberg. Lukács devotes a long chapter to Nietzsche as a leading irrationalist in the so-called imperialist period in the context of his lengthy study of the rise of irrationalism from the later Schelling and Kierkegaard to Hitler.[134] For Lukács, fascism is the logical successor of vitalism, which draws the conclusions of the work of Nietzsche and Dilthey.[135] Nietzsche is present in the background in Stackelberg's balanced account of the road from Volk theory to Nazism,[136] but he is entirely absent in Cassirer's study of the state.[137]

We have already noted that Nietzsche was widely discussed in Germany starting even before 1900. In his review of sixty years of the Nietzsche discussion, Löwith describes no fewer than twelve important interpretations identified with the names of L. Andreas-Salomé, O. Ewald, G. Simmel, Bertram, Ch. Andler, Klages, A. Baeumler, E. Emmerich, Th. Maulnier, K. Jaspers, L. Giesz, and Heidegger.[138] If we except Giesz, who wrote after this period, in entering into the field of


Nietzsche interpretation Heidegger joined battle with no less than ten rivals, eight of whom wrote in German.

In his lectures, Heidegger was most concerned with the approaches of Jaspers and Baeumler, but for different reasons. Jaspers was an anti-Nazi, an important philosopher, an existentialist whose thought in part resembled Heidegger's, and a personal friend, to whom Heidegger unavailingly turned for support in a time of need. Baeumler was an unoriginal thinker, a Nietzsche specialist, but not a philosophical rival in any real sense. Jaspers reports that C. Schmitt, Heidegger, and Baeumler were three very different professors, each of whom sought to reach the peak of the National Socialist movement.[139] It is known that Baeumler, one of the first professors appointed by the Nazis, was linked to Alfred Rosenberg even before they came to power in National Socialism. Beginning in the summer semester of 1933, Baeumler was Professor for Political Pedagogy in the University of Berlin. Heidegger knew Baeumler well from the Nietzsche discussion. At the beginning of the Third Reich, in 1933, Heidegger collaborated with both Baeumler and Krieck, although in each case, as early as the end of that year or the beginning of the next year the relationship had been transformed into open opposition, even something approaching hate.[140] Baeumler remained close to Rosenberg and National Socialism in general after Heidegger's resignation as rector.

Heidegger's Reading of the Will to Power

Heidegger's discussion of Nietzsche is mainly centered on a complex interpretation of The Will to Power .[141] This work has come down to us as a series of notes Nietzsche composed in the period 1883-1888. Heidegger's Nietzsche lecture courses present Heidegger's reading of Nietzsche's long-projected, finally unwritten work. The series of lecture courses is composed of two volumes in the version Heidegger worked over for publication,[142] and of four volumes in the English translation of selected portions of the lecture courses, which also incorporates other material.[143] For present purposes, I will rely on the English translation, which I will supplement, as necessary, with references to the reworked, published version and to the original lectures. Heidegger's lecture courses on Nietzsche covered five semesters. At present, only two of the five lecture courses as originally given have been published.[144]

Heidegger indicates his overall aim in a series of programmatic statements in the first volume, containing material from the first lecture course. For Heidegger, Nietzsche is misinterpreted as a poet-philosopher or as a philosopher of life.[145] Like those students of Plato con-


cerned to interpret Plato's thought through his unwritten texts, Heidegger holds that Nietzsche's main philosophical contribution lies in the text he did not write.[146] Heidegger points out that the work was planned over many years but never written; and he further points out that it was intended to name "the basic character of all beings.[147] He regards this book as Nietzsche's chief contribution, the work in which Nietzsche decisively confronts all earlier Western thought. Heidegger believes that the confrontation with Nietzsche has not yet begun and its conditions have not yet even been realized. For Heidegger, then, Nietzsche marks the end of Western metaphysics and the beginning of another question of the truth of Being.[148] He sums up this very large claim about the main doctrines in Nietzsche's position in hyperbolic language and melodramatic fashion:

Now, if we do not thoughtfully formulate our inquiry in such a way that it is capable of grasping in a unified way the doctrines of the eternal return of the same and will to power, and these two doctrines in their most intrinsic coherence as revaluation, and if we do not go on to comprehend this fundamental formulation as one which is also necessary in the course of Western metaphysics, then we will never grasp Nietzsche's philosophy. And we will comprehend nothing of the twentieth century and of centuries to come, nothing of our own metaphysical task.[149]

This passage does not demonstrate any of Heidegger's claims about Nietzsche's thought. Rather, it deflects attention from Heidegger's specific claims through a gigantic assertion about the importance of Nietzsche's position for philosophy, for history, even for all human being. This passage provides a reaffirmation of Heidegger's pretense, familiar since the rectoral address, to be able to interpret the present and even the future through Nietzsche's metaphysics. Now we have also seen that he makes a similar assertion in his discussion of Hölderlin. Perhaps, then, the basic idea is less the utility of a given body of thought to comprehend all of history, including what is yet to come, than Heidegger's attribution to himself, in his description of his ability to grasp what will yet be, of a clearly prophetic, magical power, supported by no analysis at all, to see into time. The general idea is that a close scrutiny of the writings of a major thinker or poet—and it doesn't seem to matter which it is—is an adequate substitute for a crystal ball in the interpretation of the future.

In the crucial fourth chapter, Heidegger turns to the content of The Will to Power in order to demonstrate the claimed unity of Nietzsche's position. This chapter has a dual function in Heidegger's discussion: to present Heidegger's interpretation of what he regards as Nietzsche's


crucially important but misunderstood position, and to rule out a supposedly incorrect reading of Nietzsche's view. As the title to the chapter makes clear, Heidegger's own reading is centered on Nietzsche's doctrines of the eternal return of the same and the will to power. He notes that at present the prevalent interpretation does away with the doctrine of the eternal return of the same and, hence, excludes a fruitful grasp of Nietzsche's metaphysics.[150]

Two issues, which arise in the fourth chapter and should immediately be addressed, are Heidegger's unusual approach to the contemporary discussion of Nietzsche's thought and the relation of his interpretation to the Nazi reading of Nietzsche. Heidegger himself introduces the issue of his use of other interpretations. Early in his initial lecture course on Nietzsche, he states that he will not refer to the massive Nietzsche literature since none of it can help his endeavor.[151] We are meant to understand that his own approach is so distinctive as to set aside all other discussion of Nietzsche's thought, which need not be taken into account. This is a version of his conceit, on frequent display in his interpretation of prior philosophical views, that only his own readings are authentic. In place of the secondary literature, he recommends "the courage and perseverance" to read Nietzsche's own writings.[152]

Heidegger's stress on the need to study Nietzsche in preference to writings about Nietzsche is good advice on the premise that in most cases it is preferable to read the original texts rather than the discussion about them. Yet Heidegger's remark is misconstrued as implying that Heidegger in fact abstracted from the Nietzsche literature in the development of his own reading of Nietzsche's thought. His Nietzsche lectures contain occasional remarks on other interpretations; and he unexpectedly devotes a chapter in part to the available Nietzsche literature, with special attention to the writings of Jaspers and Baeumler,[153] which he treats as examples of an incorrect way to understand the doctrine of the eternal return of the same.[154]

The relatively circumspect treatment of Baeumler, an insignificant thinker, is probably due to his status as a well-known Nietzsche specialist, whose general interpretation of The Will to Power Heidegger apparently made the basis of his own. Certainly, when Heidegger's lectures were worked over for publication well after the end of the Second World War, Heidegger had nothing more to fear from Baeumler's close connections to the Nazi party.[155] Heidegger objects to Baeumler's interpretation of Nietzsche on three grounds: Baeumler's assertion that the idea of eternal recurrence expresses a personal "religious" conviction; Baeumler's claim that both the doctrines of the eternal return of the same and the will to power cannot be correct on pain of contradiction; and finally the link drawn between the former doctrine and Heraclitus's thought.[156]


In response, Heidegger makes the following points.[157] He denies the correctness of Baeumler's reading of Heraclitus. He uncharacteristically states that even if there is a contradiction, that is merely a demand to think a difficult thought, which cannot therefore be assimilated to religion. And he adds, plausibly in view of Baeumler's role as a professor of political pedagogy, that the latter rejects the importance of the concept of the eternal recurrence for Nietzsche's position on political grounds.[158]

Baeumler's interpretation of Nietzsche is less important than Jaspers's. Jaspers is widely regarded as a significant philosophical thinker, and his reading of Nietzsche's thought, and its relation to Heidegger's, has attracted attention.[159] Heidegger's remarks on Jaspers are briefer, but more pointed.[160] In comparison with Baeumler, Heidegger believes that Jaspers has a better grasp of the function of the idea of the eternal return in Nietzsche's thought. Yet Heidegger complains that Jaspers fails to bring the idea of the eternal recurrence in contact with the grounding question (Grundfrage ) of Western philosophy, which is Heidegger's basic philosophical concern. Heidegger attributes this failure to Jaspers's view that there is "no truth or conceptual import in philosophy," in effect that philosophy is impossible, which causes him to underestimate the vital importance of Nietzsche's idea.[161] It is, then, interesting to note that Jaspers believed not only that Heidegger did not understand science in his fundamental ontology but that Heidegger's theory was no more than a modern form of gnosticism and of magic.[162]

Jaspers's stature, unlike Baeumler's, as a worthy philosophical adversary explains Heidegger's unease at Jaspers's supposed rejection in general of the possibility of philosophy; it perhaps also explains the unusually sharp remark on Jaspers in a passage omitted from the lectures as reworked for publication, now available in the publication of the original lectures. In a passage in a postface, entitled "The Falsification of Nietzsche's Philosophy up to Now," Heidegger writes: "The greatest falsification—if one finds all and each in his [reading] and makes the 'so well as also' into a principle, and utilizes the whole only as existential clarification [Erhellung] and as 'psychological phenomenon.' Jaspers!"[163]

Heidegger's rapid remarks on Baeumler and Jaspers, and occasional comments on other Nietzsche interpreters,[164] do not constitute an adequate response to the large and varied Nietzsche literature of the time. Heidegger's treatment of the available lines of interpretation is overly selective. On balance, it is obvious that he fails to accord satisfactory attention either to the Nietzsche discussion as a whole—with which he may not have been deeply familiar and which he proposes merely to bracket—or even to the views of Baeumler and Jaspers. Heidegger's account of Jaspers's views of Nietzsche, which he acknowledges as philosophically more significant, is especially brief, schematic, and, hence,


unsatisfactory. But the insufficiency of Heidegger's hasty account of Nietzsche readings that he regarded as competing with his own is not due to his inability to discuss matters in more detail. Rather, it is probable that for Heidegger the approaches of Baeumler and Jaspers to Nietzsche were merely instances of the contemporary juggling with "transmitted concepts" which, being uncritical, failed to come to grips with ontology on a fundamental level.[165] Heidegger probably thought that it was sufficient to keep open the possibility of his own, "deeper" interpretation of Nietzsche by calling in question those among the available approaches which tended to close off the lines of inquiry he intended to pursue.

The relation of Heidegger's interpretation of The Will to Power to Nazi interpretations of this work is important. It has been suggested that Heidegger's reading of Nietzsche prevented Nietzsche's incorporation into the Nazi pantheon.[166] Yet Heidegger's overall approach to Nietzsche is redolent of the Nazi line, including his preference for The Will to Power as the height of Nietzsche's art and his treatment of it as a systematic analysis. According to Walter Kaufmann, the two main false readings of the book are both due to Nietzsche's sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche: the view that it represents Nietzsche's crowning achievement, prominently represented by Baeumler; and the contrary view that the work is not worth reading at all, due to Karl Schlechta.[167] Baeumler formulates his view succinctly:

The Will to Power is Nietzsche's philosophical magnum opus . All the basic results of his thinking are brought together in this book. The aversion of its author against systematizers should not prevent us from calling this work a system. Nietzsche only objected to the artificial, logically conclusive form of spinning out systems [Systembauerei]. For he well knew that all true philosophical thought is internally systematic, namely, it has a creative central point, which defines and supports the whole. Nietzsche is a systematic thinker in this sense as Heraclitus is, or Anaximander, whose systematic spirit we recognize from a single sentence that remains extant.[168]

Heidegger's reading of The Will to Power can be regarded as developing Baeumler's approach with respect to his own theory of Being. Since Nietzsche completed five books in his last active year, 1888, and another two in the two immediately preceding years, a case needs to be made that this particular work represents the key to Nietzsche's position.[169] Heidegger not only insists without apparent reason on The Will to Power as the peak of Nietzsche's thought, but further appears to adopt a version of the Nazi reading of that work in his approach to Nietzsche. It is, then, difficult to regard Heidegger's Nietzsche interpretation as "saving


Nietzsche from a Nazi distortion," whatever that phrase means, since Heidegger uncritically takes over Baeumler's variant of the Nazi view of The Will to Power as the basis of his own.

Heidegger's Nietzsche lectures occur at a crucial moment in his evolution, when he is in the process of making a transition from fundamental ontology to a new version of his position, supposedly beyond philosophy. Heidegger's view is always labile, but particularly so during this period. In virtue of the unstable nature of Heidegger's thought at this time, his attitude toward Nietzsche is deeply ambivalent. As he does for other views, in the lectures Heidegger studies Nietzsche's thought within the context of the history of ontology. For Heidegger, Nietzsche's "system" is the source of a radically new thesis about Being which, in its novelty, returns back behind the tradition to the early Greek thought of Being.

Heidegger's position evolves between Being and Time and the lectures on Nietzsche. Yet the modifications—which are reflected in such important intervening texts as the work on Kant or An Introduction to Metaphysics —remain, or at least mainly remain, within the overall framework of fundamental ontology. Heidegger's familiar claim that previous thought merely incompletely adumbrates his own, illustrated in his study of Kant, is still present, although to a lesser degree in his lecture course on metaphysics, in such themes as the so-called fault of Being,[170] the unique philosophical status of the Greek and German languages,[171] repetition[172] grounding,[173] and so on. But there is also a beginning displacement, evident in the emergence of new themes—some of which receive a considerable development in later writings, and which seem to surpass the conceptual armature of fundamental ontology in the direction of something new—such as the uneasy position of Europe between Russia and America,[174] the full unfolding of Nietzsche's thought,[175] and techne as neither art nor technology.[176]

In the Nietzsche lectures, Heidegger's position transgresses fundamental ontology, however understood, to something beyond it. Heidegger's view of the importance of an unfolding of Nietzsche's thought dominates his Nietzsche lectures, where Nietzsche functions as a further development of the original thought of Being and as a transition toward a new form of the original thought. These lectures reflect both a residual permanence and an incipient change in Heidegger's position, the coexistence of the original position, as it developed in the interval between its formulation and these lectures, and the transition to another view, closely based on, but different from, its predecessor, toward which Heidegger moves through what, for want of a better word, is a displacement.

Both the continued presence of the original view and the slow transi-


tion to the new form of the original theory, or the new theory that will arise out of the original position, are visible in the crucial fourth chapter of the initial lecture series where Heidegger comes to grips with other interpretations and begins to state the outlines of his own reading of Nietzsche's thought. Not surprisingly, since Nietzsche functions here to complete the original framework and to point toward a new one, this chapter can be read from either of two angles of vision: from the philosophical perspective of the history of ontology, or as pointing beyond that history to a new form of thought purportedly beyond philosophy.

Here, Heidegger indicates the link between his reading of Nietzsche and the history of ontology. He begins the chapter by reformulating in other words the statement with which the previous chapter ends, cited above, about the unity of Nietzsche's position and its importance for present times and for the centuries yet to come. For Heidegger, the term "will to power" names what is basic to any being. He then introduces an important distinction between the supposedly first, essential question of philosophy and its final preliminary question (Vorfrage ). Nietzsche's doctrine, Heidegger says, answers the final preliminary question but not the first, essential question. To ground this assertion, Heidegger maintains that here, at the end of Western philosophy, the decisive query is not the basic character of beings, but that of Being itself, the meaning of Being.

The expression "will to power" designates the basic character of beings; any being which is, insofar as it is, is will to power. The expression stipulates the character that beings have as beings. But that is not at all an answer to the first question of philosophy, its proper question; rather, it answers only the final preliminary question. For anyone who at the end of Western philosophy can and must still question philosophically, the decisive question is no longer merely "What basic character do beings manifest?" but "What is this 'Being' itself?" The decisive question is that of "the meaning of Being." not merely that of the Being of beings.[177]

This passage is helpful to an appreciation of the later development of the Nietzsche lectures and their significance for Heidegger's thought. It is evident from the distinction between the first essential question and the final preliminary question that Heidegger is continuing to operate within the wider context of the fundamental ontology developed in Being and Time . Heidegger signals his intention here to demonstrate the unity of Nietzsche's thought through an appropriate reading of its basic concepts, precisely that unity which he has claimed but not so far demonstrated. At this point he further advances a thesis not present in Being and Time in his observation that we have now arrived at the end of Western philosophy. This new thesis is not a change in the basic position;


it is rather a description of the philosophical tradition as a whole from the perspective of fundamental ontology, whose consequences have now become clearer to Heidegger in his reflection on the position developed in Being and Time . In restating the view advanced in his fundamental ontology according to which the important question is not the nature of beings but the meaning of Being in general, he associates Nietzsche with his basic question. The result is to call attention to a relation between fundamental ontology and Nietzsche's position which was not present, or at least not clearly present, in Being and Time , and which has perhaps only become apparent to Heidegger in the years after he composed this book. Heidegger now depicts Nietzsche as responding not to the question itself but to a condition for its response, which, in turn, opens the way to a possible response to the basic question of all philosophy, a response that has supposedly become possible only now at the end of the Western philosophical tradition.

The history of ontology belongs to a negative approach to the previous discussion of metaphysics intended to free the ground for a positive appropriation of a hidden insight from early Greek thought. The justification of the negative moment of the projected destruction of ontology was to make possible a positive reappropriation of ancient doctrine, which has been covered up in the subsequent but erroneous discussion of Being. In principle, Nietzsche belongs to this discussion as the author of a theory of Being that must be taken into account in any effort to destroy the history of ontology. Since Nietzsche's most important contribution to this history occurs in a book that was never written, Heidegger's effort to destroy the history of ontology requires him to treat as history, and hence in the past, something which literally never took place. In that sense, his discussion is nothing more than a mythical interpretation of a mythical treatise.

From within the perspective of fundamental ontology, and through the interpretation of Nietzsche's unfinished, in fact unwritten, study, a putative masterpiece, Heidegger sees Nietzsche's key contribution to the history of ontology as the conception of the will to power. He insists that Nietzsche's other interpreters, say, Baeumler and Jaspers, have not grasped the importance of this doctrine. For Heidegger, Nietzsche's doctrine is a definitive response to the question of the being of beings as beings. Since Heidegger interprets "will to power" as meaning "the eternal recurrence of the same,"[178] he objects to the reading of this concept presupposed in the usual association of Nietzsche with Heraclitus.

As a view of the being of beings as beings, Nietzsche's conception of ontology addresses a specific issue which, for that reason, does not respond to Heidegger's own, more general concern with the meaning of Being. A concern with truth occupies an increasingly central position in


Heidegger's later thought, including the Beiträge . He states that "meaning" is what makes it possible that "Being in general can become manifest as such and can come into truth."[179] But Nietzsche's view must not be ignored, since it is essential to respond to the question of Being preceding the question with which Heidegger is concerned, and so make an answer to the latter question possible. Even if Nietzsche's ontological view falls short of Heidegger's, for Heidegger it nonetheless surpasses all other views, which he stigmatizes collectively as a mere playing with concepts. "What is proffered today as ontology has nothing to do with the question of Being proper; it is a very learned and very astute analysis of transmitted concepts which plays them off, one against the other.[180]

Heidegger argues for the importance of Nietzsche's thought of Being against the background of Western philosophy. In reference to Heraclitus, he maintains that becoming is grounded in Being. According to Heidegger, through the idea of eternal recurrence Nietzsche returns behind the later tradition to the Greek beginnings of Western thought. He believes that Nietzsche takes up the beginnings of Western philosophy in the customary manner, despite his otherwise original grasp of pre-Socratic thought. Nietzsche's view is revolutionary, Heidegger maintains, not because it overturns another, but rather because it uncovers what has previously been covered up. Heidegger now attributes to Nietzsche the thought of the essence of time.

Thinking Being, will to power, as eternal return, means thinking Being as Time. Nietzsche thinks that thought but does not think it as the question of Being and Time. Plato and Aristotle also think that thought when they conceive Being as ousia (presence), but just as little as Nietzsche do they think it as a question.[181]

Heidegger's discussion of Nietzsche's ontological view collapses an important distinction, which Heidegger apparently overlooks. There is a difference between thinking the being of beings as beings as the will to power and the thought of Being as time. For Heidegger, the view of the being of beings as beings as the will to power is a usual but mistaken approach to ontology repeated erroneously throughout the metaphysical tradition. On the contrary, the thought of Being as time is the view which Heidegger opposes to the metaphysical tradition, and which he wants to recover in pre-Socratic thought. It is the view which he prepares in the entire second division of Being and Time and to which he alludes in later writings. His view of the relation of time to Being is clearly expressed at the outset of his lengthy account of "Dasein and Temporality": "Within the horizon of time the projection of a meaning of Being in general can be accomplished."[182]


Heidegger reads the "idea of the will to power as eternal recurrence" to mean the "inner character of beings, that is, the basic character of anything insofar as it is," what he refers to as the "final preliminary question," and as "the idea of Being as time." The latter is, of course, an idea which Heidegger also "finds" in Plato and Aristotle, and which Nietzsche "rediscovers." For Heidegger, the idea of Being as time is no longer that of the final preliminary question. This idea, hence, goes beyond beings as beings to address at least implicitly the question of the meaning of Being—not, as Heidegger says, to the book in which this question is raised, but to its question.

In sum, Nietzsche's thought of Being is important for Heidegger's concern with the history of ontology for at least four reasons. First, it provides the definitive account of the being of beings as beings. Second, it raises the thought of Being as time. Third, it points to the problem that occupies Heidegger in Being and Time and in all his subsequent writings, to which he alludes here in terms of the question of the meaning of Being. Fourth, it closes the circle of the ontological tradition in returning to the early idea of being which was later covered up and which Nietzsche helps to uncover through his metaphysical revolution. In a word, with respect to the history of ontology, Nietzsche stands out as "destroying" the received approach. He offers a different view that "solves" the final preliminary question and calls attention to, but does not pose, the basic question. Nietzsche's thought of being differs from the views of previous thinkers, such as Descartes, Kant, and even Hegel, thinkers whom Heidegger regards as having dogmatically repeated the usual but erroneous view of being, which they fail to examine and merely restate. Only Nietzsche opens the way to a new thought of being, which Heidegger regards as a very old thought present in early Greek philosophy.

We have reviewed the way in which Heidegger considers Nietzsche's thought of being, against the history of ontology, within the framework of fundamental ontology. But we can also read the same passage, from a different angle of vision, as opening the way, through study of Nietzsche's thought, to a version of Heidegger's position lying beyond fundamental ontology. This reading is suggested by Heidegger in many places in his lectures on Nietzsche, for instance in an appendix to the first volume of the lectures, added in May 1937 but not taken up in the version reworked for publication. Here, in a comment on Nietzsche as a transitional figure, he notes that the transition leads to a new beginning: "A transition [Ein Übergang], the transitions [Übergänge] introduce a second beginning.[183] Heidegger further brings in a number of distinctions discussed in detail in the Beiträge , at which he was at work from 1936 to 1938, that is, during the period of the Nietzsche lectures, includ-


ing the concepts of Grundfrage and Leitfrage, Gefüge , and so on, all of which relate to his conception of the other beginning.[184]

This passage in the fourth chapter offers a series of hints that separately and together point to the way in which Heidegger made use of his Nietzsche lectures in the evolution of his position beyond its original formulation and subsequent development to another, later form. So against the view that a revolutionary merely destroys, Heidegger maintains that as a revolutionary Nietzsche reveals what lay concealed. With respect to Nietzsche's activity, he writes: "But what is essential in the revolutionary is not the overturning [Umwendung] as such; it is rather that in overturning he brings to light what is decisive and essential."[185] The fruit of Nietzsche's revolutionary activity is his thought of being, namely, his thought of being as time. But like Plato and Aristotle, who also had this thought, Nietzsche failed to think it as the question of Being and time, that is, he failed to anticipate Heidegger's thought.[186]

This characterization of Nietzsche as a philosophical revolutionary who does not merely destroy is as interesting for what it does not say as for what it says. Unlike his remarks on Descartes, Kant, and all other modern thinkers, Heidegger does not depict Nietzsche as someone who simply perpetuates a traditional but erroneous view of being. In Heidegger's remarks, Nietzsche is promoted to the level of the twin pillars of the Greek tradition, outshining all other thinkers in modern philosophy, whose thought dogmatically continues what since the time of the Greeks has no longer been thought. Nietzsche's limitation is that he fails to question what calls for a question, namely the view of Being as time. In that sense, despite the positive import of his philosophical revolution, like Plato, Aristotle, and all others he falls below the level of Being and Time .

Heidegger is convinced that despite the limitations of Nietzsche's system, Nietzsche's thought of being is decisive and necessary. Since Heidegger collaborated with others on the critical edition in order to improve on the available versions of Nietzsche's texts, we know that he was not satisfied with the editions already available. He correctly points out that we cannot know how Nietzsche would have modified the work we possess had he been able to complete it. He further maintains that we possess the presuppositions to think Nietzsche's authentic philosophical thought.[187] Once again, Heidegger distinguishes between a so-called genuine interpreter and the crowd of uninformed readers, in practice all others who are supposedly unable to grasp Nietzsche's authentic philosophical thought (Nietzsches eigentliches philosophisches Denken ), or at least are unable really to think it.

How is one to think Nietzsche's thought? For Heidegger, it is not sufficient merely to follow the aphorisms in the order in which they are


disposed, since, as he concedes, the order is arbitrary; this is only possible by thinking through the movement of the thought of the questioning of the authentic questioning (Denkbewegung des Fragens der eigentlichen Fragen heraus ). In this way Heidegger promises to accomplish two crucially important tasks. First, he intends to hear Nietzsche himself, something which, he implies, no one else has so far been able to do. This implication follows from the conjunction of a pair of claims already mentioned: that with respect to ontology Nietzsche towers above anyone else since Plato and Aristotle, and that contemporary ontological thought is quite literally worthless. Second, Heidegger does not merely want to hear Nietzsche. For he does not intend merely to receive another position in passive fashion, even that of Nietzsche; and his goal is not to learn the nature of Nietzsche's thought for itself. Rather, he wants to hear Nietzsche's thought of being in a critical way in virtue of his own conviction that it is essential to Western philosophy. "Still, in all this what remains decisive is to hear Nietzsche himself; to inquire with him and through him and therefore at the same time against him , but for the one single innermost matter that is common to Western philosophy."[188]

Nietzsche's thought enabled Heidegger to progress beyond his own initial view in a later development which is more than another form of fundamental ontology. The result, paradoxically, is not to go beyond metaphysics to nonmetaphysics, since Heidegger cannot abandon metaphysics in his abandonment of philosophy.[189] If he did, then he would have to admit the nonphilosophical status of early Greek thought, whose importance never changes in his eyes. Like Kant, who desired to leave behind bad metaphysics at the same time as he specified the condition of metaphysics to come as a science,[190] Heidegger intends to throw off the bad metaphysics which he sees as pervading the Platonic tradition, and philosophy itself, which he identifies with bad metaphysics, in order, finally, to build correctly on pre-Socratic thought to grasp Being as such in what can only be authentic metaphysics.

Heidegger's and Nietzsche's respective contributions can be assessed in terms of what Heidegger here refers to as the innermost matter (innerste Sache ) of Western philosophy. Heidegger insists that Nietzsche ends metaphysics, and attributes to him a special status as the last metaphysical thinker. Yet he explicitly denies that Nietzsche fulfills metaphysics, for instance by bringing it to a close or successfully completing the metaphysical quest.[191] To see this point, to comprehend that with Nietzsche the metaphysical discussion has in a sense come to a limit, is to move beyond that limit and toward the completion of metaphysics. But to do so is also to move beyond the position of Being and Time where, depending on one's reading of this text, Nietzsche was either absent or not explicitly appreciated. Since Nietzsche brings this philosophical


movement to an end, since his thought stands at the outer reaches of Western metaphysics, it also stands beyond it as a theory that points beyond the limits and indicates the direction to be taken.

The shift in Heidegger's position enabling him to grasp the dimensions of Nietzsche's contribution is an integral part of the evolution of his own thought. Heidegger regards his own contribution to Nietzsche scholarship as twofold. On the one hand, we have noted that Heidegger literally believes that unlike others he can not only listen to but even hear Nietzsche.[192] This mystical faith in his own hermeneutic capacity should be illustrated by his capacity to think through Nietzsche's problem, which is not the same as simply reading the aphorisms. In that sense, Heidegger means to suggest that he understands not only the letter but the spirit of a position which has so far escaped its other readers. But there is no basis to evaluate Heidegger's claim to be the authentic interpreter of Nietzsche's thought, and it is even unclear—just as it is unclear in respect to Kant's position—what an authentic reading would look like.

On the other hand, Heidegger holds that he can and must continue the process of unfolding Nietzsche's thought beyond the point at which Nietzsche left it, by thinking it through with and against Nietzsche in order to unfold it against its letter, even against Nietzsche's understanding of its spirit. In the same way as Hegel believed that he could think Kant's revolution in philosophy through to the end and complete the Platonic tradition, Heidegger believes that he can think Nietzsche's system through to the end and complete the pre-Platonic thought of Being beyond Platonism in order to respond to the innermost philosophical task. In this respect, there is an exact analogy between Hegel's dependence on Kant and that of Heidegger on Nietzsche: in both cases the former desired to complete the latter's position in a way perhaps foreign to its spirit, and certainly foreign to its letter, but without which it cannot be grasped and could not initially have been formulated.

The impact of Nietzsche on Heidegger's thought is not exhausted by the Nietzsche lectures. Heidegger's later thought continues to unfold his perceptions of the consequences of Nietzsche's position, as he reads it, in the effort to move decisively beyond the Western tradition in the authentic thought of Being. In this effort, Heidegger depicts Nietzsche from two angles of vision: as one who closes the Western discussion of metaphysics by returning to an earlier view, and as one who in the closing opens another era of authentic ontology.[193] Through the dialogue with Nietzsche in his later thought, Heidegger extends his initial rejection of modern philosophy to englobe Platonism in all its forms and, to the extent that fundamental ontology is insufficiently radical, his own earlier thought as well.


A measure of the change in Heidegger's position with respect to his earlier writings lies in the various themes he studies in his discussion of Nietzsche's thought. Often these are themes not present in his earlier writings, or not present in the same way, or which take on a different role in later writings. These themes, which Heidegger in every case associates with Nietzsche, include the will to power, the eternal return of the same, and revaluation—the three basic ideas Heidegger identifies in Nietzsche's thought—as well as nihilism and the reversal, or turning. The result is a change of emphasis and, in at least one case, that of the turning, the emergence of an important new idea.

Further Discussion of Heidegger's Nietzsche Lectures

Heidegger's views of Nietzsche have attracted attention in a specialized literature. As in the case of any original text, it is difficult, perhaps not possible, to provide more than an incomplete idea in a summary.[194] Since we are concerned here with Heidegger's Nazism, a few very brief remarks will suffice to delineate some main themes of his lectures on Nietzsche.[195]

We have already noted that early in the initial lecture series Heidegger twice asserts the unity of Nietzsche's basic concepts of the eternal return of the same and the will to power in the transvaluation (Umwertung ) of all previous values. The first volume is divided into three large discussions concerning "The Will to Power as Art," "The Eternal Return of the Same," and "The Will to Power as Knowledge." In the account of "The Will to Power as Art" Heidegger brings together his interest in the link between art and truth and his concern with Nietzsche's position.[196] He presents Nietzsche's view as an inverted Platonism, culminating in a relation between the will to power as art, and as a way to understand the unity of Being and becoming.

Art as will to semblance is the supreme configuration of will to power. But the latter, as the basic character of beings, as the essence of reality, is in itself that Being which wills itself by willing to be Becoming. In that way through the will to power Nietzsche attempts to think the original unity of the ancient opposition of Being and Becoming. Being, as permanence, is to let Becoming be a Becoming. The origin of the thought of "eternal recurrence" is thereby indicated.[197]

Heidegger regards the eternal return of the same, which he discusses in a lengthy section, as Nietzsche's basic metaphysical position. He sees this concept as a confrontation with the Platonic-Christian mode of


thought characteric of the Western tradition. The discussion culminates in three points. First, Nietzsche's idea constitutes the end of metaphysics.[198] Second, Nietzsche's effort to eliminate the fundamentally Platonic position through its inversion in his own system fails, and in fact confirms Platonism.[199] Third, Nietzsche's failure, at the end of metaphysics, to go beyond it can function as the opening to transcending it if we adopt a questioning attitude toward his guiding question: what is Being?[200] In other words, we can use Nietzsche's effort to transcend Western thought, by thinking with him and against him, to carry out what he meant to accomplish.

The account of "The Will to Power as Knowledge" occupies the last part of the first volume. Here, from the vantage point of his view of Nietzsche as the last metaphysical thinker, Heidegger explores Nietzsche's idea of truth as an "illusion." He interprets Nietzsche's doctrine of the return as pointing to a view of truth based on value, related to correctness.[201] In the same way as he refused to accept Nazi biologism, Heidegger refuses the appellation of "biologism" for Nietzsche's thought,[202] although he maintains that in Nietzsche's system correctness refers ultimately to life itself.[203] From an epistemological point of view, Heidegger regards Nietzsche as favoring permanence over change in the idea of the eternal return of the same, which finally refers to life.[204]

The second volume contains seven smaller accounts of the "The Eternal Return of the Same and the Will to Power," "European Nihilism," "Nietzsche's Metaphysics," "The Ontological-Historical Definition of Nihilism," "Metaphysics as the History of Being," "Sketches of the History of Being as Metaphysics," and "Memory in Metaphysics." The most important passage, which takes up roughly half of the second volume, concerns the topic of European nihilism.[205] Heidegger's discussion here of nihilism is neither unprecedented nor even unusual. To the best of my knowledge, this theme is not discussed in his corpus, or at least not discussed under that title, prior to the Nietzsche lectures. But nihilism was a frequent topic in the German-language discussion of the period.[206] The theme is further anticipated in Heidegger's earlier writings under the heading of nothing (das Nichts ).

The idea of nothing is discussed by Heidegger in several early texts. In Being and Time , in a remark on authenticity and inauthenticity Heidegger describes inauthenticity as not nothing but as average;[207] and in a later passage, he states that nothing functions as that in the face of which we are anxious.[208] Here, nothing is related to value, as values that can be realized in authentic comportment, that can fail to be realized in inauthenticity, and that can be definitively lost in death. Heidegger brings out another dimension of nothing in "What Is Metaphysics?" by reemphasizing the relation to human being and adding an explicit link to


metaphysics. In the inaugural lecture, nothing, which science has supposedly failed to analyze, becomes an explicit theme. According to Heidegger, "Dasein" literally means "being held out into the nothing."[209] Nothing here is presented as transcendence, or the Being beyond beings, as the nihilation of nothing that is human being.[210] Heidegger goes on to claim that when we reflect on nothing, it leads to the metaphysical question of the meaning of Being.[211]

Heidegger's discussion of nothing continues his earlier reflections on this theme. In Being and Time , he was concerned with the individual and with falling as a basic kind of being that belongs to everydayness, or inauthentic Dasein. A similar concern is visible in the rectoral address, where Heidegger mentions Nietzsche's statement that God is dead and asks about the consequences for science in the Greek sense given the abandonment of today's man in the midst of beings.[212] In the Nietzsche lectures, he provides a historical interpretation of Nietzsche's view as a determination of a fall away from Being as such. He further refers to a passage in Being and Time , in which falling is described relative to the potentiality for being-in-the-world.[213]

In An Introduction to Metaphysics , Heidegger brings together his prior analyses of nothing in relation to value and metaphysics in an explicit meditation on history from Nietzsche's perspective. He now provides what can only be regarded as a mythical explanation of the source of fallenness through an equally mythical happening. In an important passage, which largely anticipates the discussion of nihilism in the Nietzsche lectures, he writes:

And should we not say that the fault did not begin with us, or with our immediate or more remote ancestors, but lies in something that runs through Western history from the very beginning. a happening [ein Geschehnis] which the eyes of all the historians in the world will never perceive, but which nevertheless happens, which happened in the past and will happen in the future? What if it were possible that man, that nations in the greatest movements and traditions, are linked to Being and yet had long fallen out of Being, without knowing it, and that this was the most powerful and most central cause of their decline?[214]

In comparison with earlier discussion of this theme, the account in the course on metaphysics differs in the dual emphasis on an event linking metaphysics to history and on a grasp of that event in respect to Nietzsche's thought. Nietzsche is said to be important in that he alone has grasped the fall away from Being which supposedly determines all of Western history and which is now manifested in the decline due to the fall out of Being. This same decline is visible in Europe's being pinched between Russia and America, in the rise of modern technology, and in


the spiritual decline affecting Germany, that most metaphysical of nations, which needs to realize its vocation through an authentic renewal of the fundamental question of metaphysics.[215] Once again, Heidegger is merely stating his obviously mystical belief in the salvific power of a renewal of philosophy for the future history of the world.

Heidegger believes that the importance of Nietzsche's insight into history goes beyond merely getting metaphysics right after several thousand years. This new understanding means that we can now make another beginning, a beginning beyond the old beginning which will not merely be a continuation of what has previously occurred. "To ask: 'How does it stand with being?' means nothing less than to capture, to repeat, the beginning of our historical-spiritual existence, in order to transform it into the other beginning."[216] All of these themes, including metaphysics, technology, modernity, are now decisively linked by Hei-degger to his understanding of the unfolding of Nietzsche's thought with respect to the decisive event described as the fall away from Being.

The discussion of nihilism in the lectures on Nietzsche records Heidegger's effort, in a lectures series given in 1940, to come to grips with the fall away from Being. In comparison with his earlier writings, his Nietzsche lectures innovate through a detailed study of Nietzsche's grasp of this so far unnamed but fateful event, the introduction of a partially novel terminology to refer to the event and its consequences, and the statement in allusive fashion of the outlines of the position he began to develop in the Beiträge in the period immediately preceding this lecture course.

The term "nihilism" occurs in previous writers, but Heidegger believes that Nietzsche uses it in a different way to designate a phenomenon he was the first to identify. For Heidegger, Nietzsche concentrates the meaning of the concept in the statement "God is dead," interpreted as the loss by the "Christian God," or the "transcendent" in general, of any meaning for beings and for human being.

Nietzsche uses nihilism as the name for the historical movement that he was the first to recognize and that already governed the previous century while defining the century to come, the movement whose essential interpretation he concentrates in the terse sentence "God is dead." That is to say, the "Christian God" has lost His position over beings and over the determination of man.[217]

Heidegger now argues for a connection between an ongoing event in which the transcendent loses its sway and the history of ontology. If Nietzsche's metaphysics is the fulfillment of Western metaphysics, then we can only confront the former if we confront the latter.[218] In Being and


Time , the history of ontology was the series of incorrect views which, through their dogmatic reproduction, continue to dominate the metaphysical tradition deprived of access to the original Greek insight into Being. Here, the history of ontology is revealed as coextensive with the ongoing process of the loss of transcendence symbolized by the death of the "Christian God."

Nihilism is that historical process whereby the dominance of the "transcendent" becomes null and void, so that all being loses its worth and meaning. Nihilism is the history of being itself, through which the death of the Christian God comes slowly but inexorably to light. In his recognition of the ongoing process of nihilism, the history of being. and metaphysics itself, has come to an end.[219]

But since history continues, the task at present is to reflect on the significance of the end of metaphysics as symbolized by the statement of the death of God.

The end of metaphysics discloses itself as the collapse of the reign of the transcendent and the "ideal" that sprang from it. But the end of metaphysics does not mean the cessation of history. It is the beginning of a serious concern with that "event" [Ereignis]: "God is dead."[220]

Heidegger makes a number of further points to indicate the significance of nihilism for his own thought. His remarks on Nietzsche's relation to Descartes reflect an acute embarassment. This is an illustration of Heidegger's arbitrary, often violent reading of views in the philosophical tradition to follow his prior explanatory framework instead of adapting his framework to the views. Since Heidegger's view of Being depends on the rejection of Descartes, in virtue of his conviction of Nietzsche's importance it cannot be that Nietzsche accepts the Cartesian philosophy. Heidegger provides a strained, unconvincing effort to demonstrate that Nietzsche only seems to accept the Cartesian theory since he fails to grasp it. Although Heidegger concedes that Nietzsche adopts Descartes's fundamental philosophical position,[221] that Nietzsche is in fact admittedly rigorously committed to the Cartesian concept of subjectivity,[222] Heidegger nevertheless maintains that Nietzsche holds a different view,[223] since Nietzsche misunderstands the relation of his own view to the Cartesian view.[224]

Heidegger ends his discussion of nihilism with a reaffirmation of the significance of Nietzsche's insight. As in the rectoral address, he maintains that Nietzsche's metaphysical view is insightful for the present historical period. Heidegger here attempts a transition from the thought of Being to a characterization of social being. Unlike Sartre, who held


that Marxism is the philosophy of our time, Heidegger believes that this age is defined by Nietzsche's metaphysics.[225] The leading characteristic of this period is an indifference to the true thought of Being, which has given way to a worldview (Weltananschauung ) concerned with beings as opposed to Being, the decline of metaphysics in the legitimate sense of the term, and the increasing dominion over beings.

In Heidegger's terminology, "worldview" is antithetical to metaphysics in the true sense since through the conjunction of ideas and values the essence of Being, even the distinction between Being and beings, has been lost. For Heidegger, contemporary metaphysics has become a meaningless echo of true metaphysics. The rise of the dominion over beings has only been rendered possible by the emergence of the concept of the worldview at the end of metaphysics. But this result is not due to human being; rather, according to Heidegger it is due to Being itself, which is the cause of the history of being and, as a result, of human history. In the last paragraph, Heidegger writes:

The age of the fulfillment of metaphysics—which we descry when we think through the basic features of Nietzsche's metaphysics—prompts us to consider to what extent we first find ourselves in the history of being. It also prompts us to consider—prior to this—the extent to which we must experience history as the release [Loslassung] of being into machination [Machenschaft]. a release that Being itself sends, so as to allow its truth to become essential for man out of man's belonging to Being.[226]

Heidegger's Nietzsche Lectures and the Turning (Kehre)

Heidegger's stress on the historical importance of a mythical withdrawal of Being provides insight into two further themes: the relation of the Nietzsche lectures to the Beiträge , and the important but obscure concept of the turning in his thought. The central concept of the Beitr äge is the concept of the event (Ereignis ). Now the German language has a number of words which mean "event," including "Erlebnis," "Geschehnis, " and "Ereignis. " It has been suggested that in writings prior to the first series of Nietzsche lectures, Heidegger routinely employs the word "Geschehnis " to refer the so-called crucial event of Western history.[227] In the crucial passage in the discussion of metaphysics, cited above, in both the published version and in the original lecture course Heidegger uses the word "Geschehnis " to designate the event which Nietzsche was allegedly the first to perceive,[228] whereas in parallel passages referring to the "death of God" in the rewritten and original lecture versions of the Nietzsche course he employs the term "Ere-


ignis ."[229] In writings after this period, he consistently reserves "Ereignis " to designate the particular historical event and he utilizes "Geschehnis " to refer indiscriminately to other events.

Heidegger's change in terminological emphasis is accompanied by a conceptual alteration of his position, which undergoes a transformation or deepening, but not a rupture, in the so-called turning in his thought. After a passing reference in the "Letter on Humanism," the difficult concept of the turning (Kehre ) came to dominate discussion of the relation between the earlier and later phases of Heidegger's thought.[230] The concept of a turning is well-known in German thought, for instance in Marx's obscure suggestion that his own theory can be regarded as the inversion (Umkehrung ) of Hegel's idealism.[231] Marx's suggestion, which has been seen as fundamental to an interpretation of his position by generations of students, implies that his position grows out of a fundamental transformation of, but not a break with, Hegel's position. Hei-degger employs the concept of the turning in order to suggest an analogous transformation in his view, whose later form develops in a fundamentally new way, but does not fully leave behind, his earlier thought. In a comment on Being and Time , Heidegger remarks that his standpoint is not changed, but deepened;[232] and in another comment on Sartre he remarks that the latter reverses or inverts (umkehrt ) the traditional order in the relation of essence and existence.[233]

The German language is particularly rich in etymologically related terms to express the idea of turning and related concepts. There is a clear etymological link between "Kehre " and "Umkehrung " through "Umkehr." "Umkehrung " can be rendered as "overturning," "reversal," "conversion," or "inversion," whereas "Kehre " means a "turn" or "bend." Both are further related to "Umdrehrung ," that is, "turning" or "revolution." In the first series of Nietzsche lectures, Heidegger mentions the idea of an Umkehrung in a number of places, in particular the early chapter on The Will to Power and in a later chapter concerning truth in Platonism and positivism.[234] In the former, Heidegger describes Nietzsche's nihilism as a countermovement to nihilism within nihilism. Nietzsche's procedure, he maintains, is a constant reversal (ständiges Umkehren ).[235] In the discussion of Nietzsche's philosophy as an Umkehrung of Platonism, he remarks on the need to change the order so that the Umdrehung , or turning around, will become a Herausdrehung from Platonism, or twisting free.[236] But a turning (Drehung ) is not necessarily a reversal (Umkehung ), as he later reminds us; it can rather be a kind of penetration (Eindrehen ).[237]

Heidegger thinks of Nietzsche as attempting a turning within nihilism in order to overturn and go beyond Platonism. It is, then, reasonable to see in this concept an earlier version of Heidegger's own later effort,


through a turning, to progress beyond his own earlier thought, Nietzsche, Platonism, and metaphysics.[238] Both the idea and the date of the turning are controversial. It is possible that there is not a single turning, an isolated event, but rather several turnings, or types of turning, in Heidegger's thought. This way of reading the turning is plausible since even the most labile positions do not change suddenly or in discontinuous fashion, but rather undergo shifts in emphasis over time. If this is the case, then the term "turning" does not designate a single event, such as a sudden shift or a break, but rather refers to the process of the evolution of Heidegger's position from the original phenomenological ontology, with its stress on a transcendental analysis of the problem of Being in terms of Dasein, to a later, nontranscendental analysis of this problem which no longer depends on Dasein.

It is unclear why the turning, or turnings, took place. The process may have been set in motion by a renewed encounter with Nietzsche, more precisely through the growing awareness, which can be traced through the texts, of the importance of the idea manifested in the slogan "God is dead," which finally gives rise to the extensive meditation on nihilism. If we accept this hypothesis, then we can plausibly understand the turning as a number of related elements in Heidegger's position arising out of his meditation on the supposed withdrawal of Being, through Nietzsche's insight, over a period of years beginning no later than the early 1930s.[239]

One precipitating factor seems to have been Heidegger's later realization that later philosophy did not simply fall away from Being, leading to the emergence of an inauthentic metaphysics. There is, hence, a reversal in Heidegger's understanding of the concept of falling, which in Being and Time was ascribed to Dasein's inauthenticity, or failure to choose itself authentically, but which is later ascribed to the mythical event in which Being withdraws. If this is the case, then the turning in Heidegger's thought represents his effort to think what is no longer, or at least no longer primarily, a suppposed infidelity to Being, but what he later comes to see merely as the hand that Being has dealt us.

In general, we can discern at least the following features as constiturive of the turning in his thought. First, there is a turn away from Dasein to Being, since Being, not Dasein, is the source of its own occultation. This explains the eclipse of Dasein, or the analysis of Dasein, and the later disinterest in authenticity, elements that are no longer relevant to the thought of Being. Second, there is the new focus on the loss of the thought of Being as an event due to Being itself. Although Being and Time pointed toward the thought of Being as time, it turns out that the problem of the meaning of Being needed to be rethought in terms of an initial event which, in a sense, creates the problem. Third, there is a turn


to Nietzsche since he alone, on Heidegger's view, has recognized the primordial event which since the beginning determines Western history and Western metaphysics. This explains the realignment of Heidegger's fundamental ontology after 1935, perhaps even before, as an attempt to unroll the consequences of Nietzsche's thought of Being. Fourth, there is a decision to deepen the earlier approach, which is no longer tenable, or at least not tenable as originally understood. When Heidegger says that we need to recapture or to repeat the beginning of our historical epoch in order to transform it into another beginning, it is significant that he characterizes such repetition as "anything but an improved continuation with the old methods of what has been up to now.[240] In this sense, the celebrated turning, or the turn to another beginning, represents an effort to push the questioning back to a deeper level, to begin again on a prior remove, finally once and for all to make a true beginning. It is the desire to make a deeper, truer, in fact finally true beginning which is manifest in the detailed effort in the Beiträge to think another beginning from the perspective of the so-called event.

Fifth, there is a political turn that does not precede but follows from the turning in Heidegger's thought. In the lecture course on metaphysics, after he resigned as rector and severed his official connection to National Socialism, Heidegger repeats his call to follow the political lead of metaphysics in order to undo, if not for the world, at least with respect to Germany, the ravages supposedly wrought by the withdrawal of Being in the mythical event. His effort to lead the leaders is, and is seen by him as, an attempt to seize the propitious moment in which this supposedly most metaphysical nation can arrest its decline and assume its historical destiny. Heidegger reemphasizes this point in his statement of the necessity for Germany to act on behalf of itself and the history of the West in order to avoid catastrophe through decisive action.

All this implies that this nation, as a historical nation, must move itself and thereby the history of the West beyond the center of their future happening [Geschehens] and into the primordial realm of the power of Being. If the great decision [Entscheidung] regarding Europe is not to bring annihilation, that decision must be made in terms of new spiritual energies unfolding historically from out of the center.[241]

Yet this statement after the rectoral period does not record a new or even a substantially different conviction; rather it restates in almost equivalent language a familiar view, a muted echo of the essential message of the rectoral addresss, a conviction Heidegger continues to hold, and which he expressed in his speech noting the importance of Nietzsche's slogan "God is dead" and calling for the realization of German


destiny. There is an obvious continuity between Heidegger's claim in the rectoral address to lead the leaders, to realize the ends which he shares with Nazism, and the statement in the lectures on metaphysics of the need for decisive action to realize German destiny. In both cases, the call for action, for the translation of metaphysics into politics, follows from a turning in Heidegger's thought based on his reading of Nietzsche's slogan.

The Nietzsche Lectures and Nazism

The turning in Heidegger's thought was not a single event, but a series of transformations of which he only later became aware. Among the turnings, there is Heidegger's political turning, on the basis of his understanding of metaphysics, to National Socialism. But perhaps there is also another turning, or at least another part to the turning, such as a turning against National Socialism? The view that Heidegger later turned against Nazism has often been expressed by Heidegger and his followers. In a remark on his lecture course from 1944/45, Heidegger states that his Nietzsche lectures were a confrontation with Nazism. In reference to his lectures on "Poetizing and Thinking," he writes: "This was in a certain sense a continuation of my Nietzsche lectures, that is to say, a confrontation [Auseinandersetzung] with National Socialism."[242]

The view that Heidegger later turned against the "movement" is widely accepted by Heidegger's followers. For instance, Arendt locates a turn against Nazism between the first and second volume of the Nietzsche lectures, in which Heidegger purportedly comes to grips with "his brief past in the Nazi movement."[243] Aubenque affirms that in 1935 Hei-degger tried to save an internal truth of National Socialism but that beginning in 1936 in the Nietzsche lectures he rejected Nazism as a possibility.[244] Krell states imprecisely that in lectures and seminars after 1934 Heidegger began to criticize the Nazi ideology of Blut und Boden more and more openly.[245] For Vietta, Heidegger's analysis of Nietzsche's view of nihilism constitutes a recognition of the intrinsic nihilism of Nazism.[246]

In order to determine whether Heidegger confronted National Socialism in his Nietzsche lecture series, it is useful to note some of the differences between the lectures from this period as given and as prepared by Heidegger for publication. Examination of the text shows that in the published versions Heidegger sought to conceal his reliance on Nietzsche's concept of nihilism in order to draw political conclusions. So in the lectures on Schelling in the spring semester of 1936, immediately prior to the Nietzsche lectures that began that fall, in the context of a


remark on knowledge Heidegger suddenly interjects a statement to the effect that the efforts of Hitler and Mussolini to react against nihilism were determined by Nietzsche:

It is known in this respect that Mussolini as well as Hitler, both men who in different ways in Europe have introduced contrary movements concerning the political shape of the nation and of the people, are again in different ways essentially limited by Nietzsche, although it is not the case that in this way the authentic metaphysical region of Nietzschean thought immediately received its value.[247]

Since it was known that both Mussolini and Hitler were interested in Nietzsche, the interest of the omitted passage is that Heidegger here signals that both were in fact determined by what they failed fully to comprehend. And in the first series of Nietzsche lectures, again in a passage omitted in the version revised for publication, Heidegger once more insists on the importance of his evocation of Nietzsche's slogan in the rectoral address: "'God is dead' is not an atheistic proposition, but rather the formula for the basic experience of the event [des Ereignisses] of Western history. I consciously put this statement in my Rektoratsrede of 1933."[248] Here, Heidegger correctly emphasizes the continuity between his attitude toward Nietzsche both during and after his service as rector of the University of Freiburg.

One can admit the existence of a controversy with National Socialism in the Nietzsche lectures but deny that Heidegger here turns against Nazism. Obviously, a disagreement on one point is compatible with agreement, even a large measure of agreement, on other points. Those who follow Heidegger's description of the Nietzsche lectures as a controversy with National Socialism need to answer two questions: what is the nature of the controversy with National Socialism within the Nietzsche lectures? In what sense does it constitute a turning against Nazism? It is difficult to evaluate Krell's imprecise statement since it does not refer to a specific passage or text. Arendt's claim is not sustained by the inspection of the texts. Even were there a shift in tone, as she claims, between the first and second volumes of the Nietzsche lectures, it would follow neither that the second volume represented a confrontation with Nietzsche[249] nor that Heidegger here severed his connection with Nazism.

In different ways, Aubenque briefly and Vietta in more detail both correctly point to Heidegger's controversy with Nietzsche and National Socialism; but both incorrectly conclude from the existence of an objection to the metaphysical acumen of Nazism, a complaint about it as theory, that Heidegger rejects Nazism as politics or its political goals. The controversy with Nietzsche, mentioned above, includes related cri-


tiques of such topics as his supposedly confused view of values, his allegedly unsatisfactory effort to come to grips with Platonism from which he is said to fail to escape, his questionable understanding of his relation to the Cartesian philosophy, and so on.[250] But a critique of Nietzsche, or even of Nazism as a theory or theoretical entity, is not the same thing as a rejection of the political aspect of National Socialism.

In the rectoral address, Nazism is never named, although the reference to it is unmistakable. To the best of my knowledge, in the Nietzsche lectures National Socialism is never directly named and hence never overtly criticized. But Heidegger does criticize Nazism as an approach to Being, and more obliquely as a political movement that springs from an incorrect form of metaphysics. The controversy with National Socialism is perhaps most evident in brief remarks at the end of the long discussion of nihilism, where Heidegger opposes so-called authentic metaphysics, which rests upon the ontological difference, to an inauthentic metaphysics, or worldview. If the statement about the worldview is an allusion to National Socialism, then Heidegger's statement that "dominion over beings can develop only with the beginning of the fulfillment of metaphysics" is a veiled description of the way in which Nazism has become possible in the age defined by Nietzsche's metaphysics.[251] Heidegger's objection, then, is that as a mere worldview National Socialism represents an inauthentic metaphysics, which must be rejected. In this way, Heidegger distances himself from every inauthentic form of metaphysics, including National Socialism, supposedly thrown up by nihilism.

It is probable that Heidegger here rejects Nazism as a theory of Being. Yet he does not object to the political consequences of National Socialism. A political rejection of National Socialism would only follow if he believed that a metaphysically bad theory is, in virtue of that fact, politically unacceptable. In my view there are two reasons to refuse this interpretation. First, although when Heidegger accepted the rectorship he allied himself with National Socialism as the Führer of the university, he never accepted the political hegemony of Nazism. Heidegger's refusal of Nazi political leadership is clear in his determined argument in the rectoral speech from a Platonic perspective that philosophy, not "political science," must lead the state. Second, in the rectoral address, in the lectures on metaphysics, in the lectures on Nietzsche, and in all his later writings, Heidegger maintains the goal, which he shares with Nazism: the realization of the destiny of the German Volk .

In sum, in his critique of National Socialism Heidegger apparently rejects its mistaken interpretation of Being. Yet he does not distance himself here or, to the best of my knowledge, anywhere else in the Nietzsche lectures or in other writings on the history of philosophy from political Nazism as such. In the limited sense that he criticizes National


Socialism as a theory of Being, Heidegger is correct to claim that his Nietzsche lectures represent a confrontation with Nazism; but the confrontation is mainly limited to Nazism as a form of metaphysics in the age of nihilism. It is obviously incorrect to interpret this limited confrontation with Nietzsche or with the metaphysical capacity of National Socialism as a turn against Nazism. There is nothing in the texts to show that Heidegger's turning is a turning against the political consequences of Nazism and even less to show that it is a turning against Nazism as such. In fact, since Heidegger apparently never accepted official, or real, Nazism with which he colloborated, and to which he belonged as an official member of the Nazi party, it would indeed have been difficult for him later to turn against it.


4 The History of Philosophy: Nietzsche and the History of Ontology

Preferred Citation: Rockmore, Tom. On Heidegger's Nazism and Philosophy. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1992 1992.