Monday, November 2, 2009

Romano-Faye treatment of Heidegger

Romano and Faye say Heidegger’s politics and philosophy are inextricably bound up, and since they don’t elaborate, perhaps we shall never learn what that binding consists of, but moving slightly beyond – to a parallel situation I want to relate to Heidegger’s, i.e., the Monica Lewinski episode in the Clinton administration -- If the outside pressures, the people who “voted for impeachment,” etc played no role in Clinton’s ability to run the country, then yes, Clinton’s ability to run the country would not have been compromised, but Clinton was not permitted that freedom, people wanted to hold him accountable under their idea of how a president ought to behave. That sort of thing is true in all Liberal Democracies. We see over the years that many leaders have been forced to resign over an improper (in the eyes of the critics) dalliance with the opposite (or the same) sex.

Someone might argue that it ought not to be that way, but it is. Some of the people who voted for or against a leader who is found to be engaged in something they consider immoral wish to see that leader removed from office. Whether or not he is removed depends more on the forces brought to bear than inflexible principles – in fact I don’t believe there are such principles.

Now if we apply that same sort of thinking to Heidegger, we find that we are more ready to forgive a Communist who has repented of his Communism than a Fascist who has repented of his Fascism. As far as I can tell, the main consideration that bears upon our rating Communism above Fascism is that Communism (as Marx conceived it) embodied an ideal that embraced all humanity; whereas Fascism exalted some particular ethnicity above others. The fact that Communism didn’t work shoved it in the direction of National Socialism which did, or may work, at least the modern day Russians seem to be giving it a try.

In moving back to Heidegger, Hugo Ott portrays Heidegger as being idealistic (an oxymoronic feeling as it turned out, but Heidegger didn’t know that at the time) about German Fascism. Heidegger’s “crimes” are discussed by Ott. He mistreated some colleagues and belonged to the Nazi party, but the colleagues would not have been acceptable to the Nazis anyway and if Heidegger didn’t mistreat them someone else would. Heidegger could rationalize that sort of behavior for a while. Then either Heidegger backed away from the Nazi party or the Nazi party backed away from Heidegger. Ott thought the latter. So we can build a case that portrays Heidegger as no worse than many Germans who went along with the Nazi party just far enough to get along.

But if we look back at the Clinton experience and apply it to Heidegger, we see that Heidegger’s critics are insisting on “removing him from office.” His critics are relentless and want to destroy his reputation – no resting in peace for this dead Nazi. We might object to the treatment Carlin Romano and Emmanuel Faye have subjected Heidegger to, but their articles carry weight. They may be rants, mere assertions, and lacking in logical content, but these critics are voting to impeach Heidegger, and their votes carry some weight.

I hope it won’t be too much weight. I hate articles like the ones these. But not everyone hates them. They certainly don’t hate each other. Notice what Rosenbaum had to say about Romano’s article. He described it “. . . a delightfully acerbic review essay by Carlin Romano . . . which discusses new revelations about Heidegger’s shameless adoption of Nazism.” Some of us think Romano and Rosenbaum’s articles shameless.

No comments: