Saturday, November 7, 2009

Is Heidegger's philosophy consistent with his politics?

Someone advanced the following argument, rather, this is my understanding of what he advanced:

Philosophers will have developed their thoughts to a much greater degree of consistency than ordinary people.

Since Heidegger sought consistency throughout his life in his philosophy, he is bound to have been consistent in the rest of his life, including his politics.

Therefore there must be consistency between Heidegger's philosophy and his politics.

Two objections occur to me. The first has to do with psychology. I have been slowly working my way through Freud's The Complete Introductory Lectures on Psychology. Freud might object that we (including philosophers) don't understand ourselves well enough to know whether we are being consistent or not. So while Heidegger might have striven for consistency, the inconsistencies buried in his subconscious may have rendered them contradictory.

The second objection has to do with Heidegger's history, at least the history provided us in Hugo Ott's book on Heidegger. Heidegger was indeed attracted to a form of Fascism, but it was a form of his own conception and Ott doesn't explain what it was. Heidegger thought he was influential enough to sway Hitler's Fascists to his way of thinking (whatever that was). But as it developed, Hitler's Fascists were never impressed with Heidegger. They used him for his publicity value only, and when he insisted on thinking for himself about important matters, they shunted him aside and ignored him. The wearing of the brown shirt, etc. was his way of going along with the Nazis on unimportant matters in order to sway them to his thinking on important ones. Since Heidegger's plan never worked, we don't know what form of Fascism Heidegger's politics might have taken. What we do know with a good deal of certainty, is that it did not correspond well enough with Nazi thinking to cause the Nazis to want to accept Heidegger as their philosopher.

There was a form of Fascism (or something of that approximation) that Heidegger believed, but what it was isn't known (as far as I know), and how Heidegger's later philosophy may have related to it isn't known either. But this doesn't seem a useful argument to suggest that Heidegger was consistently in favor of Hitler's form of Fascism.

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