The newly awakened international attention on the question of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889 – 1976) and Nazism, as well as the publisher Dreyer's now published anthology Heidegger's wills requires a deeper explanation of the relationship between his philosophy and politics. So far, the big question has been whether Heidegger's adherence to Nazism is founded in his philosophical work, and if so, what consequences this should have for the general assessment of his thinking. The releases of the so-called "Black Booklets" have also given momentum to the debate, in addition to Donatella Di Cesare's book Heidegger and the Jews. "The Black Booklets" from 2014 / 15.
anthology Heidegger's wills is approximately 750 pages long and consists, in addition to a selection of Heidegger's own writings, of a total of 27 contributions. More than 20 of these are written by Norwegian and Nordic authors. Most seem relatively newly written, while the rest consist of translated European texts. The publication is an impressive work with a wide range of writers and the publisher's great efforts.
But why is Heidegger's relationship with Nazism still a hot topic that engenders such great engagement? Both because he is a great thinker and because his books have had an impact story leading into our day. He was also a charismatic personality with great appeal in the student environment. Heidegger talked about a philosophical victory over the deep crisis in Germany and Europe in the interwar period. The recent years of the release of the black booklets left behind – yet not the most recent ones – have reinforced for several generations the fear that Heidegger's philosophy would be poisoned by anti-Semitism and fascist attitudes.
But there are several reasons why it is fruitful to read Heidegger even today. His philosophy captures the mood of the time. For example, the author claims Heinz Bude in the book Society of Fear that a common feature between today's German society and the interwar period is the growing anxiety among people. Heidegger was the one who characterized the concept of anxiety as something fundamentally necessary and existentially basic. In his thinking, inspired by Kierkegaard, the anxiety is linked to decisive, authentic choices, but also to the possibility of choosing terrible mistakes, or choosing the average inauthentic existence – what Mon normally does.
Heidegger also renewed the hermeneutics, this ancient discipline of interpretation. With the release of Time and time in 1927 the (dasein) hermeneutics of existence was introduced as the basic feature of all human understanding. This basic theme was brought forward by, among others, the philosopher Paul Ricoeur, and his professional brother Hans-Georg Gadamer also included it in his conversation philosophy.
Today, there are a number of possible angles to judge Heidegger's philosophy, and it seems impossible to write him off. The secondary literature is huge. The present release Heidegger's wills is thus an anthology, and not a coherent and consistent text.
We should look beyond the anti-Semitic features of Heideggers
There is a contrasting and partly divergent documentation provided by Heidegger's philosophy in this book – although, not surprisingly, there is broad agreement on the reprehensible nature of his Nazi involvement. At the same time, it is counterproductive to seek to maintain a totalizing, unified image of Heidegger. Ny Tid has here chosen to comment on five different readings from three of the book's six parts:
1. Hans Hauges opening essay, "To read in the Black Booklet," comments on excerpts from the black booklets – that is, from around 1300 published pages of possibly 3000 "diary pages" in total. These will all eventually constitute the closing volumes of Heidegger's entire works. Hauge places the texts in a larger philosophical context, while exploring the basis of the solid claims that Heidegger was an obvious Nazi.
The texts appear, in Hauge's deconstructive reading, as a collection of notes without any clear systematics. The chronology is often difficult to spot, many are reflections on Heidegger's own thinking, other epistles are about literature, art, politics and religion – but extremely rarely it is with direct reference to the time they are written in. Many of Heidegger's texts appear for him as open experiment of ideas and has an unfinished and internal character, with alternating or unclear genre placement. Hauge concludes in his essay that the allegations about Heidegger's Nazism rest on a failing and dubious basis. The Nazi-critical nullifications of Heidegger presuppose, Hauge claims, an undue suspicion of the thinker's defenders and loyal followers – such as his son Hermann, colleague Hans-Georg Gadamer and the Danish philosopher Knud Ejlert Løgstrup. Here we can note that Hauge for Eivind Tjønneland (Ny Tid, May 2017) in the case of Løgstrup speaks against better knowledge: Løgstrup already in 1936 wrote an article in Dagens Nyheder where he called Heidegger «the philosopher of Nazism».
2. In the longest and most comprehensive essay of the anthology, "Literary Existence Completed", Espen Søbye makes a critical and totalizing reading that ends with a complete rejection of Heidegger's work and a write-off of his philosophical status. Since Søbye believes that Nazism permeates the entire building of thought, everything Heidegger wrote must be seen in the light of his revealing Nazi gas.
But Søbye makes use of "suspicion's hermeneutics". This is an interpretation method that, according to Hauge, assumes that the person in question is lying or has false intentions. The method therefore assumes that the interpreter (Søbye) himself has more adequate insight – which can be very difficult to justify, especially when talking about deceased historical figures.
Søbye also justifies his criticism that the elderly Heidegger, in connection with the famous interview with Der Spiegel (also printed in the book), demanded to be sent the machine-written interview manuscript – in order to be able to elaborate their answers and apply the desired corrections. This is by no means an uncommon desire, but is understood by Søbye as a piquant and typical example of Heidegger's suspicious inclination to correct his own staging. Heidegger died at the age of 87, just before the interview was published.
Heidegger's deep-rooted technology criticism is attributed to value.
Søbye's text analyzes a number of fragments from Heidegger's texts, including the hitherto black pamphlets, in search of Nazi and anti-Semitic thought. He gives a scholarly and very convincing account of various historical theories of anti-Semitism, Nazism and the Holocaust. However, this is also the main reason why the text appears somewhat unbalanced, as the scope of the historical material simply becomes too extensive. The excerpts from the first Black booklets alone reveal, with compelling clarity, Heidegger's more or less expressed Nazi sympathies, but also his "metaphysical anti-Semitism". Here we can add that this type of criticism of "the Jewish spirit" – according to Cesares' book – should be seen in the extension of the attitudes of great philosophers such as Kant and Hegel. Had this not in itself been sufficient in the case? But when Søbye insists on looking further, also outside and behind Heidegger's texts, the strength of his extensive argumentation is weakened. Søbye seems unnecessarily speculative. He concludes that since Heidegger chose Hitler-Germany, he will forever be associated with this barbaric regime and their misdeeds.
3. Espen Hammers contribution «Heidegger's National Socialism. An increase in clarification is in an intermediate position in the relationship between acceptance and rejection. His thorough analysis points towards a holistic understanding. At the same time, it is no more uniform than that, for example, Heidegger's deeply founded technology criticism of Hammer is valued despite Heidegger's cultural anti-Semitism. Heidegger's technology criticism strikes the hegemonic, techno-instrumental understanding of nature and being – which many believe is the basis of today's eco-crisis. (It may be mentioned here that Søbye rejects technology criticism on a Marxist basis.) Heidegger's criticism, according to Hammer, anticipates the possibility of a less violent truth regime, and thus points to his fascist views.
Hammer also deals with Heidegger's settlement with the entire Western being – the philosophy around that something or someone whatsoever. He concludes that Heidegger's philosophy does not deserve to be rejected, as it is both a poetic and a meaningful alternative.
4. Hans Ruins interesting religious-philosophical contributions "In Paul's spirit" do not presuppose a strict unity in Heidegger's life work. He emphasizes here that the Jewish roots of Christianity had a central place in Heidegger's Christian critique. Ruin seeks to show, by bringing references to Rudolf Bultmann and Jewish Hans Jonas, how Heidegger's understanding of Paul sheds new light on his relationship with Christian-Jewish thinking.
Heidegger's criticism anticipates the possibility of a less violent one
Ruin here gives a broad introduction to Heidegger's end-time thinking, where a mythic-religious dimension enables a settlement with totalizing metaphysics – and its pursuit of origin and firm foundation. Rather, Heidegger's philosophy provides a preparation for a new beginning in which metaphysics is abandoned. He structurally identifies the "new beginning" where imagined Ancient Greece should be able to have a new and original "renaissance" – so to speak, merged with the emerging German self-understanding. It is all based on Paul's interpretation of Jesus' crucifixion, and the newly created covenant, on the ruins of the old law.
Heidegger's vision of a new beginning thus has its origin in Jewish tradition and Lutheran theology's interpretation of the Apostle Paul. But according to Ruin, Heidegger neglects to recognize the Jewish-intellectual traces in his own thinking. Can he thus claim that Heidegger's philosophy is steeped in metaphysical anti-Semitism?
5. Erling Aadland contributes with the essay «For a thinker. For a mistake – Freedom of thought and poetry ». Aadland deals with Heidegger's left-hand writings from the 1930s in light of the Black Booklets. But, like Ruin, he insists that Heidegger's apparent outburst of Christian-Jewish spirituality covers an ambiguity, which is expressed in particular through the philosopher's particular vocabulary. Heidegger derives rather unreserved expression from Christian tradition, such as "The Shepherd of the Aries," the thinking as "devotion" with his "bliss" and "piety." This bears witness to an unclear boundary between the earlier outcomes against Christianity / Judaism and how he views Christianity as a mysterious resource.
Through Aadland's close reading, the reader also gets an insight into Heidegger's thinking about philosophy, culture, science, religion and art. Here, Heidegger's more dictated thinking is at the center. It can be added that Heidegger himself emphasized that "man lives dictated", as we are the interpreters or co-creators of our existence.
By commenting on a number of text sites, drawn from different stages in Heidegger's production, Aadland concludes that there is no direct link between the philosophical academic and Heidegger's personal-ideological side: The writing Heidegger is recognizable in all his texts, but the private person has no place there. Nor is nationalism in any way consistent with the philosopher's idea of a new beginning, says professor of literature Aadland – who, incidentally, also states that after World War II Heidegger claimed that nationalism was a criminal offense.
A "seventh reading"
In his poignant book Heidegger and the Jews also launched Donatella Di Cesare a series of different, partially overlapping readings of Heidegger's works. Di Cesare described there a seventh reading – a diverse, non-uniform reading. This, in line with typical topological twists in architecture and philosophy, can help to make Heidegger current. An important exponent of such a reading is the philosopher Reiner Schürmann, who reads Heidegger's works backwards, based on Heidegger's late works. This is a way of reading that has so far paid little attention to receiving the Black Booklets. Di Cesare writes: "For those who follow the path backwards, Heidegger's topology appears as the area of the plurality», with reference to Schürmann. Topology, or topos, refers to the dictatorial place thinking in Heideggers later thinking. This is an outline where weathering, urban / natural philosophy and technology criticism provide a possible basis for an alternative environmental or eco-philosophy.
Drawing on what a philosopher has thought through a long life, one can seriously bring Heidegger's philosophy into our current debate – both as an alternative critique of capitalism and technology hegemony and, not least, as the source of inspiration for an anarchist-inspired environmental philosophy. . Such renewed environmental thinking needs a poetic-open attitude and anti-instrumentalist understanding of nature – which is clearly a violation of today's prevailing paradigm.
See also Ny Tid, May 2017, about Vinduets number about Heidegger. Schürmann's philosophical Heidegger-inspired anarchism will also be discussed in December by Ny Tid's editor