Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Heidegger: which books shall we burn?

Referring once again to Cohens NY Times article on Fayes book, we find,

As a result Mr. Faye declares, Heidegger’s works and the many fields built on them need to be re-examined lest they spread sinister ideas as dangerous to modern thought asthe Nazi movement was to the physical existence of the exterminated peoples.’”

Further down Cohen writes, “First published in France in 2005, the book, “Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism Into Philosophy,” calls on philosophy professors to treat Heidegger’s writings like hate speech. Libraries, too, should stop classifying Heidegger’s collected works (which have been sanitized and abridged by his family) as philosophy and instead include them under the history of Nazism. These measures would function as a warning label, like a skull-and-crossbones on a bottle of poison, to prevent the careless spread of his most odious ideas, which Mr. Faye lists as the exaltation of the state over the individual, the impossibility of morality, anti-humanism and racial purity.”

I have ordered Fayes book, but I havent received it yet; still; one cant help thinking . . .

If one is going to burn Heideggers books (in a manner of speaking), one ought to be selective about it, it seems to me. Which books are to be burned. We know from the full title of Fayes book that hissmoking gun discovery about Heidegger are some previously unpublished speeches he gave in 1934 and 1935.

If we look at a record of the books Heidegger published, in

For example, we find that his most important work, Being and Time, was published in 1927. Some have argued that Heidegger was a Fascist even back in 1927 and that this book is shot through with Fascism, but that statement isnt borne out by a sober investigation. The single section used as evidence of Fascism in Being and Time isnt supportive of any of the objectionable actions the Nazis carried out during the war. So the most one could claim, it seems to me, is that this passage isnt inconsistent with some of the features of National Socialism. But it isnt inconsistent with the Sovereign Democracy of modern day Russia either. So is that sufficient evidence to burn Being and Time. I think not.

In 1929 he wrote Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics and in 1936, Elucidations of Holderlins Poetry. I havent encountered anything (thus far) asserting that these wereshot through with National Socialism. But Faye apparently wants to put his Deaths Head warning on these books as well. I will be interested in his argument for that.

We know that after 1935 Heideggers enthusiasm for National Socialism in Germany waned. And his enemies dont seem interested in pursuing anything he did later. Why is that? We find from his biography that he spent the time beginning in 1936 up through the end of the war (as much as he could) working on the Nietzsche lectures, eventually published in four volumes. In other words, he was doing scholarly work rather than supporting the activities of the Nazis. Has anyone found anything in Heideggers Nietzsche that supports the idea that he was an enthusiastic Nazi during that period? Not that I have read. In fact Heidegger argues that he opposed what National Socialism had become in his Nietzsche.

There is evidence that Heidegger never wanted Germany to lose World War II, but that is not usually held against the losers in any war. Writers wanting to demonize Heidegger look elsewhere for his after-war sins. His existential philosophy, for example, permits the blurring of the distinction between the Nazis committing atrocities and their victims; thus allowing post-war Germans to feel better about themselves.

Since I am not out to convince anyone else just myself I dont find any of these anti-Heidegger arguments persuasive. I have opposed Existentialism in several arguments, but it never occurred to me to want to destroy Existentialist literature.

As near as I can tell at this point in my investigation, the enemies of Heidegger are assembling not just the sins of the later Nazis, such as the burning of the Jews and the killing of political prisoners in concentration camps, but adherence to the more benign aspects of National Socialism. I can call thembenign because I have been looking at the same thing in RussianSovereign Democracy. Heidegger’s enemies must attack those benign aspects or they have no serious grounds for attacking Heidegger, for his head was into his Nietzsche studies during the war and not into the heinousness that Nazism became.

Here is Julian Young on the difference between National and Marxist Socialism:

Socialism of this national variety came to the fore once again in the twenties, in the writings of men such as Moeller van den Bruck and Oswald Spengler. It supplied, of course, the Nazi Party with its name. It differs in three important respects from Marxist socialism. Though it could claim to be concerned to terminate the exploitation of labour by capital (Nazi propaganda posers during the twenties calling for an end to the power of blood-sucking financiers and industrialists were often indistinguishable from those of its communist rival), it had no interest in a redistribution of wealth. National socialism, that is, was hierarchical rather than egalitarian: inequalities of wealth, and hence differences of class, were accepted on the ground that what mattered was the individuals duty to the state rather than the possession of the means to pleasure: true national socialism, wrote van den Bruck, is not materialistic but idealistic. Second, it rejected the Marxist dogma of the inevitability of class warfare: conflict between capital and labour was held to be by no means inevitable. They can be, and in a national socialist state are, brought into harmony with each other. Third, it rejected Marxist internationalism, a rejection grounded in the presupposition that a fundamental antagonism exists between nations so that the idea of an internationally coordinated transformation of economic relationships can be nothing but a dream. Whereas Marxist socialism postulates inevitable conflict as occurring between classes, national socialism locates it as occurring between peoples.

So what are thesinister ideas that Faye fears Heideggers books will spread? None of his detractors go so far as to suggest that he supported the crimes for which some Nazis were judged at Nuremberg. His crime must consist of his peculiar adherence to his idea of National Socialism.

From what Ive read thus far Heideggers National Socialism bears a closer resemblance to the ideas of Al Gore than Adolf Hitler; which causes me to wonder where Emmanuel Faye is coming from. That is, what are his presuppositions about politics?

1 comment:

enowning said...

Faye finds some of his stuff in the Nietzsche lectures, although I believe he finds it in the GA version (the complete works) which are somewhat different from the Nietzsche volumes published in the 50s. All of Heidegger's books are republished in the GA, including some marginalia from Heidegger's copies of the books, and some material from transcripts of the actual lectures. Unfortunately, I haven't heard of any plans to re-translate the Nietzsche volumes beased on the official GA versions. They've been translated once, and there's other untranslated books that are more compelling than retranslating and publishing books that are already available; e.g., we don't have a translation of the GA version of Being and Time yet.

Faye partly hones in on sentences with the word "race" in them, although Heidegger says in a couple places that he thinks biological racism is stupid. It seems Heidegger mainly dislikes cosmopolitan types and wants to send them to camps to learn to be authentic peasants like the real Volk. This apparently is one reason for his break with the party, which having discovered the decadent delights of cosmopolitan Berlin wanted nothing to do with Heidegger.