Tuesday, December 1, 2009

On Heidegger's National Socialism and repentence

On page 30, Faye introduces some more hearsay evidence (something I shall have to get used to if I expect to read much further in Faye’s book):
“Equally important is the testimony of another student, Hermann Morchen, who was among Heidegger’s intimates.  Morchen, invited to his chalet in Todtnauberg on 25 December 1931, wrote in his diary what Heidegger had confided to him that evening.  He said he was convinced that National Socialism was the only movement capable of opposing Marxism effectively: neither democratic idealism nor Bruning’s honesty could be considered; halfway measures were henceforth worthless; a dictatorship was the only way.”
This is consistent with what Heidegger said elsewhere; so I have no difficulty believing this particular quote, but I know from other things Faye has said that he intends the reader to read “Hitler’s fully developed National Socialism” when we read of Heidegger’s National Socialistic hopes in 1931. 
I favor Liberal Democracy; yet I can understand how others might mistrust it and favor another form of government.  For Heidegger to favor an idealistic form of National Socialism doesn’t seem unreasonable.  We don’t have a clear view of National Socialistic “evil” until we see the direction that Hitler takes the Germany. 
After the war, Hannah Arendt urged Karl Jaspers to visit Heidegger; during the visit Jaspers asked Heidegger to issue a statement of repentance, but Heidegger refused.  Should he have issued such a statement?  Jaspers would have if he were in Heidegger’s situation, but Heidegger seems to have been convinced that he was not wrong.  The sort of National Socialism he envisioned would have been a good thing for Germany, so how could he repent of that?  He couldn’t.  As to repenting for what Hitler did, he took no responsibility for that.  He admitted to a “blunder,” but that blunder was in believing, initially, that Hitler was the sort of ubermensch that Nietzsche had prophesied.  Heidegger went rather far in supporting Hitler it might seem to most of us, than he should have, but we haven’t studied the concept of the ubermensch who was to be beyond good and evil; so how could we judge him?  And perhaps Heidegger continued to hope that Hitler would eventually become better than he seemed.
We who believe Liberal Democracy to be the best form of government would not have supported Hitler at all.  But someone who believed that ‘a dictatorship was the only way’ would not be put off by Hitler, at least not initially.  And it isn’t for Hitler’s dictatorship per se that we condemn him now, but for what he did with his dictatorial powers.  Perhaps any leader would have abused such powers, we Liberal Democrats tend to think that, but someone who is not a Liberal Democrat may think otherwise. 
I believe that Heidegger was wrong in his belief in National Socialism; just as I believe those believers in Political Marxism were wrong.  But I have discovered that those fervent adherents of Communism have a different way of looking at the USSR’s collapse in 1989.  They don’t think as I do that this collapse proves that Communism is a failure.  Yes, they might admit, the Russian experiment failed, but the next attempt might succeed.  Adherents of National Socialism might have a similar view. 
Probably most adherents of political Communism accept that the Russian experiment reflects upon Marx’s ideas, but not all.   Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us, therefore, that someone so concerned about justifying or explaining every intellectual decision he ever made would not readily “repent” of something someone else did.

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