Friday, November 13, 2009

Was Heidegger a Radical Universalist?

enowning left a comment on the post "RE: Heidegger: which books shall we burn?":

I don't think his family can sanitize B&T with the GA edition because it's his most popular book and scholars would notice immediately. Other volumes with works being published for the first time have more room for controversy. There are published seminars that are solely based on student transcripts, so there's room for judicious edits. That's also the case with books based on lectures published in Heidegger's time, especially if the lecture was delivered in several venues. The GA versions try to capture all the variations. The Nietzsche books are also in a similar situation. The Nietzsche lectures were the basis for the books, and the GA versions apparently are closer to the original books. This is all for specialists tracking the evolution of Heidegger's ideas. Heidegger is remarkably consistent compared to other philosophers who were productive over decades.

Heidegger is nakedly prejudicial towards the special philosophical nature of the German language. Apparently it is grammatically closer to Greek than other languages, but I'm not enough of a philologist to know. I find Heidegger to be a radical universalist when compared to his predecessors in German Idealism (Kant, Hegel, et al) - Dasein, Ereignis, and so on, work the same way for Bushmen, Eskimos, and Bavarians. It's easier for them to be authentic, than it is for city dwellers.


In regard to "Radical Universalism," if we take the typical definition, say from, we read "Radical universalism would hold that culture is irrelevant to the validity of moral rights or rules, which are universally valid."

Heidegger's totalitarianism was applied to Germany as the savior first of Europe (through its supposed greater spiritualism) and then of the world. He wasn't as far as I've read proposing that other nations adapt his totalitarianism.

Does Heidegger intend his "morality" to be applied universally? Not as "morality," surely, but as "authenticity," and yet what more can be said about this authenticity-ethic than that it can be applied universally? Can it be applied to a specific case? Does Heidegger ever say "this act is moral (or authentic) while that act is not"? Isn't he rather like Kant in this? That is, how do we apply Kant's Categorical Imperative universally . . . or perhaps that is what you are saying, that Heidegger's authenticity can more readily be applied universally than Kant's Categorical Imperative, and perhaps it can be for while neither becomes specific, Kant would have the individual go through the motions of determining whether an act could be applied universally; whereas Heidegger would fall back upon tradition.

But if that is what you are saying, Julian Young on page 101 of Heidegger, Philosophy, Nazism wrote "The theme that ontology determines value is not fully explicit in Being and Time. None the less it is consistent with it and, I believe, true. Hence the possibilities of alternate disclosures of being opened up by section 44 entails the possibility of alternative and incommensurable understandings of value or obligation. It entails, in short, some kind of ethical relativism.

But Arendt takes up the "Western" as opposed to the "German" tradition to oppose the acts committed by the Nazis under Hitler's totalitarianism; which Young construes as applying Heidegger's principle of authenticity.

1 comment:

enowning said...

Heidegger is interesting for what he has to say about ontology. As far as anything else is concerned, Heidegger's no more interesting than the next Bavarian bigot.

It's as an ontologist, and in the history of ontology, that Heidegger is a radical universalist. As far as I can tell, his predecessors split the being of this kind of being from the being of other kinds of beings, master from slave, philosophers from hoi polloi, women from men, uber- from mensch, and so on. Heidegger says that there's no difference. Anyone can question beyng. That's what's unique about humans. Animals don't have that ability. Heidegger was not so radical as to include animals, but all humans have the same ontological potential. Things may come to presence differently in different cultures and epochs, but things thing for all humans.

I haven't come across Heidegger discussing morality. I don't think he has anything original to contribute there.