Monday, December 7, 2009

Hans Sluga, Julian Young and Heidegger

I encountered the name of Hans Sluga in Julian Young’s Heidegger, Philosophy, Nazism.  Of the three anti-Heidegger writers that Young deals most with (Farias, Wolin and Sluga) he hows the most respect for Sluga, but he nevertheless disagrees with him. 
Unlike Tom Rockmore (another anti-Heidegger writer) who is attempting to rehabilitate Karl Marx, Sluga is interested in philosophers that seem more directly related to Heidegger: Nietzsche, Foucault (in the sense of being anti-humanist).  He also claims a current interest in Heidegger: .
Not quite so respectful was the Julian Young comment on page 134 of his book: “The word ‘Fuhrer’ – before Hitler a perfectly decent, ordinary word – has almost disappeared from the language of post-war Germans.  A ‘party leader’, for example, has to be spoken of as a Partei Vorsitzender.  Sluga’s powerful reaction against the idea of leadership as such may well be influenced by this ‘Fuhrer’ –phobia, an understandable but excessive reaction to the German politico-linguistic past.  (It may also be influenced by his residence in California, the home of phoney [sic] charisma).”
The book of Sluga’s that Young criticizes is Heidegger’s Crisis: Philosophy and Politics in Nazi Germany, 1993.  Here is an interesting quote from a review by Frank Edler: : “The book is rooted in Sluga's own experiences learning philosophy in the late fifties as an undergraduate in West Germany, in particular, his own painful discovery that many German philosophers were involved in National Socialism in varying degrees. Sluga turned away from the early influences of Oskar Becker and Heidegger and shifted to Gottlob Frege, only to discover that even Frege was not above the taint of nationalism and antisemitism. This book represents Sluga's attempt to address that uncomfortable silence concerning the role of German philosophy in relation to the rise and takeover of National Socialism.” 
Here is an interesting review by Thomas Baldwin of Julian Young’s The Death of God and the Meaning of Life: This review portrays Young as a Heidegger advocate:  “Young is, however, much more sympathetic to Heidegger’s own positive philosophy. The ’early’ Heidegger of Being and Time gives us an account of ’authenticity’ which builds on Nietzsche’s position but, according to Young, takes matters further by emphasising that the task of achieving authenticity can be accomplished only by taking account of the values inherent in one’s own historical context (one’s ’heritage’). The issue that Young raises here, as to how far the achievement of authenticity is a matter of self-discovery as opposed to choice of oneself . . .” 

COMMENT:  .  My little Heidegger library is warped toward the con side in the issue of his Fascism since the pro writers have been largely French and have incorporated a Heideggerian influence into their philosophies.  Whereas the cons may be considered philosophical light-weights who seek to spoil Heidegger’s reputation.  Sluga’s motivation may be clear if we can believe Elder.  I am not so clear yet on the motivations of Hugo Ott, Victor Farias, Tom Rockmore (someone else who doesn’t seem like a lightweight), Wolin and Emmanuel Faye.  Why am I interested in their motivations?  If Heidegger’s reputation has been established since the 60s by the French Left and subsequently by the American Left, it would seem logical that those motivated to attack Heidegger would be on the French and American Right, but I find no evidence of that.  Tom Rockmore, for example, with his interest in rehabilitating Marx would seem to be on the Left but he has doggedly opposed Heidegger.
Motivations aside, Julian Young deals very convincingly with the actual arguments of Sluga, Farias and Wolin and that was part of my initial goal, to find out whether the anti-Heideggerian attacks based upon his association with Fascism were valid.
A more important issue has to do with the French Left.  They seem to have put all their post-Marxist eggs in a Heideggerian basket; so it is important to learn whether there are valid holes in that basket.  So far I haven’t found any.

1 comment:

enowning said...

I liked the Sluga book because it provides the context of what was going on at all the other universities. Either a new rector was sent from Berlin or the faculty elected one of their peers that was acceptable to Berlin, as happened in Freiburg. And what happened at Freiburg in 1933-34, wasn't as enthusiastically pro-Nazi compared to other universities. That's different from the sense you get in Farias, et al, that what happened in Freiburg was due to Heidegger's embrace of Nazi ideology. Heidegger argued that he was actually delaying the nazi's plans - e.g., by ignoring Berlin's requests to fire some members of the faculty. I don't buy all the ex post facto excuses for his behavior, but knowing the history of higher education in 1930's helps to understand what happened in Freiburg.