acerca de Husserl y su crítica de Fichte


Nicolas de Warren: I’d like to welcome you to the second lecture
of Module Two, ‘A Clash of Civilizations.’
I’m standing here in this quite elegant ceremonial lecture hall
in what used to be the University Library
which was destroyed in August of 1914.
In 1914, with the destruction of the University of Leuven library,
German intellectuals mobilized in defense of the German cause.
And although Husserl was not a signatory to the notorious “Manifesto of the Ninety-Three,”
indirectly, of course, his support of the war implicated him in the support of German
actions during the war,
including the destruction of the University Library.
It is perhaps one of the supreme ironies of the First World War that
Husserl’s own manuscripts were saved on the eve of the Second World War from destruction
and are now housed here at the University of Leuven at the Husserl Archives at the Institute of Philosophy.
One hundred years after the war to end all wars,
we can look back with a kind of dumbfounded amazement at how an entire generation of sophisticated
intellectuals, like Husserl,
seemingly lost all sense of reason and philosophical orientation in supporting the war.
In this regard, the judgment of the German anarchist Gustav Landauer that
‘nothing failed so much in the war as the intellectuals’
has a kind of bitter truth to it.
But, as we will try to explore in this lecture,
this bitter truth belies a certain complexity,
and that complexity is paradigmatically expressed
in the ambiguous attitude of Husserl to the war,
what I would like to call the ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ relationship that he has to the war.
For, on the one hand Husserl is a university professor, is a public intellectual,
but on the other hand, Husserl is also a father whose two sons fought in the war
As we’ll explored by both looking at Husserl’s lectures on the idea of humanity in Fichte,
as well as private letters that he writes during the war,
that conflict can be summed up as a confrontation between Husserl as the father of phenomenology
and Husserl as the father of two sons, one of whom was killed at the Battle of Verdun in 1916.
[Introduction music]
In 1917, with the war having taken its grim toll
on students and academics who had been sent to the front,
in the aftermath of the failed offensive in 1916 at Verdun,
and with an increasingly deteriorating home front due to economic sanctions,
Husserl gave three lectures on Fichte’s ideal of humanity at the University of Freiburg.
These lectures were organized at the behest of the Ministry of War
in so-called ‘Kriegsnot” seminars
– so, ‘seminars in the emergency time of war’, or ‘emergency war-time seminars’ –
and these seminars were largely meant for soldiers,
mostly soldiers who were wounded, who had seen service,
who were now returning to the university.
Many of these soldiers would, in fact, be sent back after this brief university experience.
Husserl would repeat these lectures twice in 1918,
the first time a few months before the Ludendorff spring offensive,
which had as its purpose to decide the war once and for all,
and the second time – and this quite amazingly –
one week before the end of the war in November of 1918 –
So, one week before the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918,
Husserl repeats his lectures on Fichte’s ideal of humanity.
Now, in all three of these iterations of Husserl’s lectures,
Husserl is functioning here as a university professor and as an educator,
as an educator in time of war
and as an educator who is delivering not only a philosophical message but,
as importantly, a political message.
In a letter that his daughter writes to a friend in the early part of 1918,
we get a glimpse of this enthusiasm that Husserl still had for the war,
his sense that the war was not lost.
As she writes:
“Daddy is completely beside himself and sees the complete victory as finally in our
hands. We’ll now see what a genius can do”
And the reference here is to Hindenburg and Ludendorff.
“The Western Front, it is said, is always frozen. There’s nothing that can be done and
the enemies also don’t know what to do.
And now Hindenburg goes to work, and look how it’s going:
the breakthrough will be achieved in three days.”
Now, what’s interesting for us in these lectures
is not so much the content of the lectures,
in the sense of how Husserl presents the main outlines of Fichte’s ideal of humanity,
the main outlines of which he draws from Fichte’s so-called ‘popular writings’ – the ‘Popularschriften’ –
as well as the quite famous ‘Addresses to the German Nation.’
What’s important for us is the staging these lectures, of the staging of this content –
so, the way in which Husserl understands the significance of what it is to speak about Fichte
in the context of the war in 1917 and 1918.
And here, what is striking is the direct connection that Husserl makes
between the First World War and the ‘Befreiungskrieg’ of 1813
– so, the war of liberation of 1813 –
as Husserl announces:
“It is [so, the present – so, 1917, 1918] a time of renewal of all the ideal sources
of power that was once spread out
and the deepest depths of the soul that had already proved their saving power.”
And here there are two terms which are quite crucial in Husserl’s statement.
The first is ‘the depths of the soul’, so, in German, he’s thinking of the idea of
‘Innerlichkeit’, or ‘interiority’;
the second is ‘the saving power’,
so the saving power of the war as precisely a redemptive power,
in Germany “erlösen”,
a redemptive power for the Innerlichkeit or spiritual, if you wish, particularity,
the spiritual relationship of Germany to itself.
The third point that’s quite interesting about the staging of these lectures
is the way in which Husserl will now articulate a certain philosophical and political vision
of death. As he declares:
“Need and death are today’s teachers.
For many years now, death is not an exceptional event which permits itself to hide and to
have its majesty debased through splendid congregations
under piles of bouquets and wreaths.
Death has again won back its wholly primal rite. It is again the great reminder of eternity in time.”
Note this quite striking idea that death is an educator.
By implication, the philosopher as educator is the educator of death, who teaches how to know to die.
Two other aspects that are here interesting
is the way in which death is tied to a notion of remembrance,
we might say in a platonic sense, ‘anamnesis’,
so, death is a reminder of eternity
for in the sacrifice that soldiers are called to,
eternal values are re-actualized, recalled, made present once again.
And the second aspect is the sense in which death is a vision:
indeed, it is a vision for the truth of German Idealism,
for the realization of German Idealism,
through Husserl’s own thinking.
As Husserl announces:
“And so there have grown again for us today organs of vision for German Idealism.”
So, the idea here is that the truth of German Idealism,
which had been forged in the context of the Napoleonic Wars,
can be finally realized once again – indeed, finally realized as such –
in the context of the First World War.
So what is at stake in the First World War is German Idealism.
I’d like to end these remarks with an open question,
and that open question is really an expression of a certain sense of amazement.
The amazement is to imagine what it would have been
to have been a soldier, to have been a student,
one week before the end of the war,
and to have heard this rousing declaration,
coming from the voice of Husserl,
that Fichte speaks to us, the Fichte of the war of liberation.
For it’s clear that this rousing declaration is meant to tell us that the war will be victorious,
but one can ask oneself:
“what is one to hear, what is one to make of this declaration, in the full knowledge,
one week before the end of the war,
that the German catastrophe
is something which no amount of philosophical speaking can avoid?”
What I would like to do now is to turn to Husserl’s letters,
and try to understand the development of Husserl’s ambivalent and complex relationship to the war –
not through the lens, as we have seen,
of Husserl as the public philosopher, the professor of philosophy, the public intellectual –
but more intimately, in the private setting of correspondence, of letters that he writes,
and, principally, in reaction to the death of his son in 1916.
I’d like to start first with a letter that Husserl writes to his wife, Malvine,
after Wolfgang had been wounded in 1915.
As he writes, actually in a postcard that he sends from Brussels,
“Wolfgang is extraordinarily beautiful and well accommodated here,
and has a voracious appetite.
Therefore, the exact day is not of great importance: he is very happy.
The doctor says he has to remain a few more days in bed;
we cannot expect to have Wolfgang back for another week.”
Indeed, Wolfgang would then return home to visit his family after he had healed from his wounds,
and would then be sent back to the front in 1916.
It’s in this timeframe that Husserl writes a letter to his friend and colleague,
the German psychologist Hugo Münsterberg,
who was quite an important professor at Harvard University,
and who at the time was trying to drum up support, American support, for the German
war effort.
Husserl writes the following:
“The feelings that every death means is that it is a voluntary sacrifice
and this gives a lofty dignity and raises the individual suffering into a sphere above
all individuality.
We hardly live any longer as private persons.”
This sense of individual sacrifice as raising the individual above their own singularity
and as elevating the German nation to a sense of solidarity,
no longer living as private persons,
is clearly something that Husserl himself felt with regard to his own son.
Wolfgang, as I said, would return to the front in 1916 and fought in the Battle of Verdun.
He was then killed in the battle while trying to storm a trench.
In the report of one of his comrades that was sent to Husserl:
“Wolfgang was killed while leading an assault by a burst of French machine-gun fire.”
And obviously, the traumatic news of Wolfgang’s death affected the Husserl family deeply.
In what is undoubtedly one of the most moving documents that we have here at the Husserl Archives,
we have a note that Husserl writes to himself when he tries to imagine,
where he tries to visualize,
the precise location of his son’s death.
As we can read in this note:
“Regarding Wolfgang’s gravesite, according to the communications of Lieutenant Lehrer.
In the grave of our Wolfgang is also buried Sergeant Feldman;
nearby, about six metres east, is Lieutenant Ladenberg;
directly next to Wolfgang’s grave is the grave of Lieutenant Rothe,
very near a mass grave in which twenty-one Germans and some French are buried.”
In this note that Husserl writes to himself, in which he tries to visualize and imagine,
indeed, to see, the precise location of his son’s burial,
one can see something like an arc that is being traced,
linking the death of an individual, Wolfgang Husserl,
to the anonymity of the deaths of many who no longer have names.
This arc encompasses not only the passage from the individual to the anonymous,
but from German death to French death,
such that death, here, becomes all-encompassing.
This reflects, in part, the reality of being killed in the First World War,
where the majority of casualties did not leave physical remains,
and the majority of casualties were never buried in identifiable graves.
Hence the phenomenon of the ‘nameless missing soldier’, ‘the missing of the Somme.’
In this note, we also see the sense in which there is a profound tension between
the sacrifice of the individual, as an individual – in this case, Wolfgang, the son of Edmund Husserl –
and the meaning of that sacrifice for a community,
for the anonymity of the ‘we’ in which we participate in the war.
And this, if you wish, ambiguity of sacrifice
is eloquently perhaps expressed in the term ‘Opfer’, the German word for sacrifice,
which both means ‘victim’ and ‘sacrifice’ – so, both the individual who is the victim
of a sacrifice,
and that sacrifice as something like an individual who gives up their life for a greater community.
This ambiguity of sacrifice between the personal and the public,
the anonymous and the individual,
is something that would forever haunt Husserl’s thinking,
and indeed left its mark in his own reflections on the nature of patriotism and sacrifice.
I’d now like to sort of bring these reflections to a conclusion
by quoting from another poignant document that we have in the Husserl Archives,
a letter that Husserl writes to his student Arnold Metzger in September of 1919 –
so, just a few months short of the one-year anniversary of the end of the war.
In this letter, we see something like another expression of the ambiguity of Husserl’s
attitude to the war,
the ambiguity of Husserl as both public philosopher, public intellectual,
and private father, private philosopher,
as well as Husserl’s attempt to draw some kind of philosophical solace, some kind of consolation, indeed,
some kind of lesson from his ambiguous engagement in the war.
As he writes to his student,
“I am not called to become the leader of a struggling humanity for blessed life.
In the passionate drive of the war years, I had to recognize this.
My ‘diamanion’ had warned me.”
And the reference here to the diamanion is a reference, of course, to Socrates,
and to that voice of conscience that did not tell Socrates what to do
but cautioned Socrates what not to do.
And in a similar vein, one can understand here Husserl recognizing a kind of Socratic moment,
where he understands not so much what he had to do,
or the meaning of what he did,
but a general caution about his ambivalent attitude in the war.

Kolakowski ,filósofo polaco , variando posiciones…y la implantación política de la Filosofía ( y de la ideología )

Lucha de clases y dialéctica de Estados

El siguiente artículo sobre la obra filosófica del polaco Lsek Kolakowski nos parece de mucho interés por tratar de exponer la trayectoria del filósofo en el contexto de los años anteriores a la época nazi y rusa comunista en el ámbito tanto polaco como de Occidente, incluyendo su paso por la Universidad de California donde en ese tiempo Marcuse era un referente de los estudiantes desencantados con el sistema o el stablishment occidental yanki, lo que expone bastante bien a mi parecer, el articulista de The Nation, John Connelly. Otros temas interesantes de la exposición de Connelly nos remiten a la problemática del papel de la religión católica y la Idea de Dios en general , y la implantación política de esa cuestión angular, por utilizar un término que es planteado desde el Materialismo Filosófico. Ver el artículo de Gustavo Bueno en que se polemiza con el profesor Juan Bautista Fuentes Ortega respecto del asunto de las concepciones marxistas sobre la cuestión de la lucha de clases y el Estado…


Jester and Priest: On Leszek Kolakowski

How the great Polish philosopher went from being an anticlerical scourge to an apostle of John Paul II.
John Connelly
September 3, 2013 | This article appeared in the September 23, 2013 edition of The Nation.

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Almost a quarter-century after the collapse of communism, and four years after his own death at the age of 81, the Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski remains a prisoner of the Cold War. He has been lionized in the West for Main Currents of Marxism, the indispensable three-volume history of Marxist ideas first published in Paris (in Polish) in 1976, and also for the essays he wrote a decade earlier that inspired advocates of “socialism with a human face.” Yet travel across the old Iron Curtain to Warsaw or Wroclaw, and one will encounter a different Kolakowski: not the Marxologist or dissident socialist, but the religious thinker and elusive cultural critic who found wisdom and solace in the works of Spinoza, Erasmus, the Dutch heretics and the Catholic skeptic Blaise Pascal. Highly esteemed in Polish Catholic circles, Kolakowski was a frequent guest of John Paul II’s at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence. But even in Poland, opinion about this other Kolakowski is mixed. Marek Edelman, a leader of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising, was among the mourners at his graveside in July 2009, and upon hearing the blessings being spoken as the casket was lowered into the pit, he whispered audibly, “Why are you making a Catholic out of him, that man was a decent atheist!”

Is God Happy?
Selected Essays.
By Leszek Kołakowski.
Translated by Agnieszka Kołakowska.
Buy this book

Kosciol w krainie wolnosci
O Janie Pawle II, Kosciele i chrzescijanstwie.
[The Church in the Land of Freedom: On John Paul II, the Church and Christianity]
By Leszek Kołakowski.
Znak. 123 pp. zł 29.90.

Czas ciekawy, czas niespokojny
[An Interesting Time, an Unsettled Time]
Leszek Kołakowski, in conversation with Zbigniew Mentzel.
2 vols. Znak. 474 pp. zł 74.
About the Author
John Connelly
John Connelly teaches history at the University of California, Berkeley. His most recent book is From Enemy to Brother…
Also by the Author

Swank Filer, where are you? (reprise); Poland in wartime; four-letter words.
Our Readers, John Connelly and Eric Alterman
The Noble and the Base: Poland and the Holocaust (Books & Arts, Racism and Discrimination, War and Peace, Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing, History)

Can the two central images of Poland during World War II—a country of heroes and a country of collaborators—ever be combined?
John Connelly

Was Kolakowski a socialist, a Catholic, an atheist or something else entirely? In the early 1950s, he was the communist state’s most prominent critic of Christianity; in 1956, along with most of Poland’s intellectual elite, he broke with Stalinism and began floating ideas for reform. By the 1970s, his certainty about God’s nonexistence had waned, and he took to calling himself an “inconsistent atheist.” Late in life, he playfully labeled himself a “conservative-liberal-socialist.” To the question of whether he believed in God, he answered that only God knew.

Yet Poles, whatever their politics and opinions about religion, do not want to disown Kolakowski. Looking past his complexities and caginess, they are proud of a countryman who was born in the humble provincial town of Radom in 1927 and became world famous. As a professor at Warsaw University for more than a decade and at Oxford for nearly four, Kolakowski garnered countless awards and honorary doctorates, but the near-universal esteem he enjoys in his homeland is perhaps his greatest laurel.

With Is God Happy?, Kolakowski’s daughter Agnieszka has collected (and partly translated) twenty-seven of her father’s essays that together span half a century. (Ten of them are appearing in English for the first time.) The book is a valuable introduction to Kolakowski’s extraordinary intellectual versatility: here are his reflections on the heritage of socialism, Erasmus, the “death of God,” relativism, the “future of truth” and much else. Still, Is God Happy? gives a partial view of the philosopher. Kolakowska has omitted from it the body of work that Kolakowski wrote before 1956, so this collection alone cannot help us answer an essential question: How did a communist devoted to demystifying religion in Poland become a vocal apostle of a reactionary Polish pope?

* * *

There was nothing mysterious about the young Kolakowski joining the Polish Communist Party in 1945. Many of the best and the brightest young Poles—the most idealistic and self-sacrificing—streamed into the party because it promised an end to years of impoverishment, exploitation, fascism and genocide. Yet many Poles knew that Stalin had betrayed them during the war. In 1940, the NKVD massacred some 15,000 Polish officers in the Katyn Forest, and in 1944 the Red Army stood by while the Nazis crushed the Warsaw uprising; Soviet forces then hunted down and arrested the Polish soldiers who had survived the onslaught. When pressed on such matters six decades later, Kolakowski claimed not to have known any victims of the Soviet secret police. The Russians he recalled meeting in 1945 were liberators.

Kolakowski’s upbringing left him sympathetic to Soviet messages of internationalism. His father was an educator, born in fin de siècle St. Petersburg, who had traveled in the marginal, leftist free-thinking circles of interwar Poland. A critic of Polish nationalism and intensely anticlerical, he refused to have his son baptized, effectively separating the boy from some 95 percent of ethnic Poles. When the family moved to Lódz in 1935, 8-year-old Leszek scandalized a teacher with the news that he belonged to no church. “Even the Jews have religion,” the teacher exclaimed, “yet this young philosopher claims he has no confession!”

In 1939, Polish children suddenly had very little in the way of education. The Nazis, intent on turning Poland into a nation of half-literates, prohibited school past grade six. Kolakowski escaped that fate by spending the early years of the occupation in the country house of distant relatives, a home well-stocked with books. He read “an immense amount,” including fiction and drama, but also texts on psychiatry, psychology, philosophy and political economy. Later, in Warsaw, his father secured for him access to a closed socialist lending library. The young autodidact pored over volumes on sociology and the religions of India, and learned ancient Greek through careful study of the New Testament. Aside from having time to read, Kolakowski was also relieved to have escaped a “standard Polish education,” with its rote learning and chauvinistic version of history. At war’s end, Kolakowski did what he could to bury the old regime and its philistine ways by joining the party; he also fell in with a radical youth group known as the Dzierzynskiites, named after the first head of the Soviet secret police.

During the war, communist partisans had rebuffed Kolakowski’s efforts to join their ranks, arguing that intellectuals must survive to help build socialism; in the immediate postwar period, the party did all it could to promote its young star, and he soon advanced to graduate work in Warsaw. His studies weren’t limited to books and lectures; they also involved class struggle. In March 1950, Kolakowski was chosen by his party cell to stand up in class and read a letter informing Warsaw’s eminent “bourgeois” philosopher, Wladyslaw Tatarkiewicz, that it condemned his toleration of statements “hostile to socialist Poland.” The cell denounced as ”reactionary” one of Tatarkiewicz’s students—Bronislaw Dembowski, later a bishop—and praised the principle of freedom of speech in communist Poland; without it, Dembowski would likely have landed in prison. That same year, perhaps in connection with this criticism, Tatarkiewicz was forced into retirement, his freedom of speech effectively curtailed.

Before assuming a professorship in 1955, Kolakowski worked as an instructor at the Institute of Social Sciences, an elite body of the Communist Party Central Committee dedicated to training politically correct scholars. Like much of Polish socialism, which grudgingly tolerated an independent peasantry, a strong Catholic Church and relatively open borders, the ISS defied Western stereotypes of a Sovietized country. Its students read the world press with few restrictions; they debated ideas openly and even argued with the director, a self-important Soviet-trained philosopher who imagined the ISS as a college on the British model, supporting intensive tutorials and serious research. The ISS was communist Poland’s intellectual forcing house, and in the post-Stalin era some of its graduates would become dissenting thinkers who clashed with the Communist regime.

It was at the ISS, with the blessings of the Central Committee, that Kolakowski deepened his knowledge of Christianity, studying and committing to memory long passages from the writings of Jerome, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. The immediate fruits of his efforts were standard: he exposed the Catholic Church as a force backing regimes of economic and political exploitation, and described belief in God as consolation for supporting a system of repression. Christian thought, Kolakowski wrote, “objectively aided imperialism”; as for the Almighty, he was the “intellectually mediocre author of a supposed autobiography known as the Holy Bible.”

His students at Warsaw University recalled him sketching a more complex picture of Christian thought. In the classroom he was an ascetic Marxist, often dressing entirely in black; some students mistook him for a defrocked cleric, and genuine clerics envied him his knowledge of Latin and Greek. He lectured without notes, splicing differences of opinion among long-forgotten scholastics while effortlessly citing passages from Scripture and the writings of church fathers. When the borders to the West opened in 1955, Kolakowski traveled to Rome, seeking serious conversation with the French neo-Thomists Étienne Gilson and Jacques Maritain. At the same time, he mockingly lamented his insight into religious matters. “Faith is solely the work of God’s grace,” but Kolakowski had yet to “experience the beneficent powers of Jehovah in his own person.”

* * *

Not long after Stalin’s death in March 1953, Col. Józef Swiatlo, a top official in the Polish ministry charged with overseeing the party, defected to West Berlin under fear of arrest. The following year, Swiatlo dissected Stalinism in reports broadcast by Radio Free Europe. His account was encyclopedic, detailing the luxurious lifestyles of the working-class avant-garde; the corruption, pettiness and power of secret police agents, even over the party; the use of torture against political prisoners and the humiliation of top Polish leaders; and countless instances of direct Soviet meddling. The revelations transfixed Poles, especially those in the party, many of whom realized they had been serving a lie.

Kolakowski’s own awakening was gradual and started in 1950, during a three-month visit to Moscow with seven other Polish Marxist scholars. The group hoped to tap wisdom at its spring by attending the special lectures of prominent Soviet social scientists and philosophers. The visitors’ immediate impression was shock. Decades later, Kolakowski recalled that the Soviets were an “assemblage of ignoramuses. They knew no foreign languages, nothing about so-called bourgeois philosophy, nothing about philosophy at all except what they read in Lenin and Stalin and sometimes Marx but more often Engels. Even though we were not specially schooled, their ignorance was stunning.” One “ignoramus” attempted to lecture on some “bourgeois philosopher named Grusel.” (He meant Husserl.) Perhaps the collapse of the Soviet bloc can be dated to these awkward encounters. How was it that not just critical thought, but thought itself, had shriveled at the heart of the new order? As word about the lectures got round, Muscovites visiting Warsaw with ex cathedra pronouncements about philosophy were received politely but taken seriously by no one.

After Nikita Khrushchev’s 1956 speech to the Twentieth Party Congress about Stalin’s crimes, including the purges of the late 1930s, Kolakowski wrote a stream of bitterly critical essays that captured the growing outrage in Polish society over Soviet communism. Several essays were so indignant that censors banned them from the press, but Poles ended up reading them in samizdat. One of them, “The Death of Gods,” appears for the first time in English in Agnieszka Kolakowska’s translation, and in it Kolakowski announced a key discovery: state socialism called itself scientific but in reality was based on myth. Yet unlike other young communists standing in the shadow of the gods that failed, Kolakowski did not blame the older generation for this feat of mystification. He and his friends had “deliberately blinded” themselves to reality. Lack of courage was no excuse, nor was deception: “we are responsible for everything we do,” he insisted—an extraordinary statement from someone who had been taught to delegate responsibility to the party.

A mystery lies at the heart of the essay. Kolakowski argued that instead of eradicating inequality, state socialism had created new social classes and its own forms of privilege, as well as a system of central planning far more debilitating for social initiatives than any bourgeois democracy, and new forms of the religious mystification of social relations. Yet he also explained that the knowledge of socialism’s gross imperfections had not broken his generation’s faith in Soviet communism, even though he described those flaws more extensively than Khrushchev, who blamed Stalin alone for the perversions of communist doctrine during his rule, thereby absolving anyone else of responsibility for the crimes of Stalinism. What, then, had caused Kolakowski’s crisis of faith if not the knowledge of those deformations?

The deeper problem—and for anyone trying to make sense of Kolakowski’s life, the deeper explanation—was that faith was never supposed to have been an issue. In the early 1950s, Kolakowski must have felt supreme confidence assailing the fanciful world of religion from the bedrock of science. Yet in 1956, whether out of moral duty or intellectual honesty, he admitted that scientific socialism was another kind of faith; even worse, the hypocrisy of myth masquerading as science had made the distortions of Stalinism inevitable. The idea that nationalization of the means of production would “automatically eradicate all social inequalities” could not be grounded in reason, and required instead a dictatorship of those in command, operating through a system of illusions, coercion and lies.

What would proper socialism look like? Kolakowski could not say. “The Death of Gods” offers three sentences of prognosis—and they are vague, stating that the political work of resuscitating a workers’ movement must begin anew, and that Poles needed to “analyse contemporary society” in order to “create a new revolutionary humanism.” There are no appeals to Marx. In those heady days, Kolakowski also wrote a shorter piece entitled “What Is Socialism?”, which, like Luther, he posted publicly (at Warsaw University) and which, like Pope Pius IX, he structured as a syllabus of errors. But whereas Pius IX, in 1864, had listed eighty ways of being un-Catholic, Kolakowski enumerated eighty-one ways of being unsocialist, such as creating a society that is “very sad,” or a “state where slave labor exists,” or a “state that thinks it has always been right.” As to the question of what socialism is, he offered an answer of five words: “just a really wonderful thing.”

* * *

For Poles, October 1956 seemed a wonderful time. The Soviet Union permitted the party leadership to elect the “national communist” Wladyslaw Gomulka, who had raised hackles in 1948 for resisting Stalin’s notion that Poland should become a miniature Soviet Union. (He was arrested in 1951 by Józef Swiatlo.) Poland could now go its own way. The energies Kolakowski had devoted to demolishing Christianity he now dedicated to dismantling state socialism. They turned out to be similar tasks. Marxism, he wrote, like all modern philosophy, returned to questions originally theological, such as eschatology, the belief that all contradictions approach a final resolution, and theodicy, whether an individual’s suffering is vindicated by a universal and benign historical rationality. Like the medieval church, Marxism produced priests, or defenders of the catechism, and jesters, who “expose as doubtful what seems most unshakable.” Kolakowski reckoned himself among the latter, a skeptic “vigilant against any absolute” who valued inconsistency because it was less dangerous than certainty. His hero was Erasmus, a Catholic who often sided with Luther and whose cause was tolerance, which, as Kolakowski later wrote, was the one value not susceptible to ideological deformation.

Kolakowski discovered Erasmus through research he was doing at the time on the early Dutch mystic heretics, who stood apart from the Catholic and Protestant churches, affirming a religion of grace against the religion of law. They were ostracized for rejecting all hierarchy, dogma, formulaic creeds and religious rituals. Kolakowski began to wonder if those who really experienced God even needed a church. Inspired by the Romanian philosopher Mircea Eliade, Kolakowski came to understand mysticism as the truest form of faith, “religiosity in relatively pure form.” Later he wrote that experiences of “mystical union” with God were the “core of religious life.” Though impossible to convey fully to others, this sensation was “decisive in keeping mankind’s religious legacy alive.”

In “Jesus Christ, Prophet and Reformer,”a lecture given in Warsaw in 1965, Kolakowski argued that the religious legacy remained crucial for the “European tradition as a whole.” To recover it, he reread the Gospels shorn of all doctrine and commentary, which, he claimed, revealed what can be known about Christ’s message “for sure.” But he also cautioned his audience that because the revolutionary roots of Christianity were buried so deep in Europe’s various cultures, the Gospel messages could often seem banal. For example, Kolakowski argued, when we reject violence in human relations, or live not merely by bread, or recognize that love has a higher value than law, we are living according to the ideas of Jesus of Nazareth, whether we know it or not. If we take for granted that some values “are not reducible to physical needs and material satisfaction,” it was “thanks to him that it has become so.”

Kolakowski the freethinker was not simply reiterating the words of Christ. He had embraced a Christian teaching that was not necessarily woven into European culture: that humans were wretched creatures, inescapably touched by sinfulness and in need of redemption. Just ten years earlier, he had ridiculed this idea. He was deserting the Marxist (and humanist) faith in the ability of humans to improve themselves and their lot in life.

Kolakowski began his critique of Marxism by unmasking its hidden mythology. But in his writings on religion, rather than rejecting myth in favor of reason, he grew to appreciate its powers for ordering human relations. The price of his newfound appreciation of myth was his earlier allegiance to socialism. When was Kolakowski no longer a Marxist? (As far as I can tell, he wrote his last piece from within the Marxist tradition in 1962.)

In January 1989, the journalist Zbigniew Mentzel wanted to ask Kolakowski this question and many others, but the philosopher refused, saying he was “afraid” to address them. Eighteen years later he relented, and the two sat down for hours of open-ended conversation, on the condition that Mentzel would not ask about “who slept with whom.” More than sixty years after the fact, 1956 was still the decisive threshold for Kolakowski. He recalled visiting Budapest that fall and being disappointed that the philosopher Georg Lukács still “believed” in the possibility of “building true socialism.” Kolakowski and his friends supposedly understood that communist ideology was a “road to nowhere.” Yet they chose not to leave the party because it provided the only arena for legal political activity.

In October 1966, students at Warsaw University, including a future dissident named Adam Michnik, invited Kolakowski to give a speech commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Polish revolution against Stalinism. The philosopher told his “comrades” there was nothing to celebrate. Rather than lead Poland down a new path, Gomulka had stranded the country in a political landscape barren of hope and freedom. In retribution, the party struck Kolakowski from its rolls. Polish writers launched a campaign to have him reinstated—he also appealed the decision—but the expulsion was upheld on review. (Two years later, Kolakowski’s name would be added to Poland’s index of forbidden writers.) His friends staged a “Ball of the Hanged” in his honor: guests deposited their party cards at the door, and Kolakowski took their fingerprints. That same year, the philosopher offered a toast at an eightieth-birthday party for Professor Tatarkiewicz, and he also sought out Bronislaw Dembowski, apologizing for having read that “terrible letter” in 1950. Dembowski understood the act to be one of expiation.

By the late 1960s, the heretic had become a cult figure lecturing to packed rooms. The draw was his gift for quickly encapsulating a writer’s signature insight, but also the opportunity to be—and be seen—in the presence of the “guru” known to young dissidents as “King Leszek I.” He was ousted from his position at Warsaw University in 1968 for defending students in a campaign launched by the party against intellectuals and “Zionists.” With the political climate becoming treacherous, Kolakowski, along with the cream of the critical intelligentsia and most remaining Polish Jews, sought refuge and employment outside Poland. He landed at McGill University in Montreal before moving on to the University of California, Berkeley.

* * *

When Kolakowski turned up in North America, his essays from the late 1950s were appearing for the first time in English, French and German translations, leaving Westerners to conclude that he was a Marxist revisionist. Yet his revisionism had since been eclipsed by skepticism, and his tenuous connection to Marxism was about to snap. His sojourn in Berkeley, where he taught as a visiting professor from 1969 to ‘70, was especially traumatic, and his contempt for campus radicals was as fierce as Governor Ronald Reagan’s. Kolakowski told Mentzel that all the people he met considered themselves Marxists, although their knowledge of Marx was often scant. Students fancied themselves the most oppressed class on earth and sought liberation “from everything.” They told him there wasn’t “the least difference between the conditions of life in a Californian university town and one of Hitler’s or Stalin’s concentration camps.” Their ideology was a self-serving “conglomerate of incoherent slogans.” Berkeley in 1970 was more debased than Moscow in 1950: never before had Kolakowski waded into such an intellectual swamp. Aggression was the only product of the revolution in Berkeley, he concluded, and he thought it apt that Herbert Marcuse, with his idea of “repressive tolerance,” was the students’ spokesman. In Main Currents of Marxism, Kolakowski would denounce Marcuse for propagating a “totalitarian utopia.”

Still, the break was not complete. In the fall of 1970, Kolakowski took refuge from the revolution at All Souls College at Oxford, where he was a research professor, with no requirement to teach students (though he did hold graduate seminars). Two years later he was a socialist no longer, partly because he realized that in the West he lacked genuine equals. Western Marxists knew little and cared less about the East and “really existing socialism.” The British communist and historian E.P. Thompson asked Kolakowski to clarify his stance. In an “Open Letter” published in the Socialist Register in 1973, Thompson asked if the much-esteemed Polish comrade was still engaged in the struggle to transcend capitalism, so that humans could emerge from the kingdom of need into a kingdom of freedom, where “social consciousness might begin to determine social being?”

The answer was no. Kolakowski saw in Thompson an egregious case of Western blindness. As he explained in “My Correct Views on Everything,” for the likes of Thompson the Soviet system was tolerable as long as it did not kill its own leaders. ”I simply refuse to join people whose hearts are bleeding to death when they hear about any big or minor (and rightly condemnable) injustice in the US,” he wrote, “and suddenly become wise historiosophists or cool rationalists when told about worse horrors of the new alternative society.” Though he had abandoned the party a decade before Kolakowski, Thompson was withholding judgment on the Soviet Union, explaining how, “to a historian, fifty years is too short a time in which to judge a new social system.” Indeed, he maintained, there were times when “communism has shown a most human face, between 1917 and the early 1920s, and again from the battle of Stalingrad to 1946.”

Kolakowski wondered what Thompson could have possibly meant. Was it “human” to attempt to “rule the entire economy by police and army, resulting in mass hunger with uncountable victims, in several hundred peasants’ revolts, all drowned in blood?” What did Thompson make of “the armed invasion of seven non-Russian countries which had formed their independent governments, some socialist, some not”? Socialism, Kolakowski explained, not only reproduced the problems of the capitalist system, such as “exploitation, imperialism, pollution, misery, economic waste, national hatred and national oppression,” but added “a series of disasters of its own: inefficiency, lack of economic incentives and, above all, the unrestricted role of the omnipotent bureaucracy, a concentration of power never known before in human history.”

Kolakowski recalled for Thompson an encounter of his with a Latin American revolutionary who complained about torture in Brazil. Kolakowski asked what was wrong with torture. “What do you mean? Do you suggest it is all right?” responded the revolutionary. No, said Kolakowski, he simply wanted an admission that torture—including its use in Cuba—was a “morally inadmissible monstrosity.” Cuba was different, replied the revolutionary: it was a “small country under the constant threat of American imperialists. They have to use all means of self-defence, however regrettable.” Such conversations repelled both sides. Kolakowski had come to understand that, far from being sought out by their Western counterparts for their direct knowledge of communism, East European émigrés in London or New York were regarded as provincials, “narrow empiricists and egoists [who] extrapolate a poor few decades of their petty personal experience (logically inadmissible as you rightly notice) and find in it pretexts to cast doubt on the radiant socialist future.” For Kolakowski, an insurmountable moral gulf separated the two camps.

* * *

Now calling his positions conservative, Kolakowski forged a new social critique in a lecture in Geneva called “The Revenge of the Sacred in Secular Culture” (it is not included in Is God Happy?). What he abhorred about secularism was not so much its negation as its universalization of the sacred, a development that affected even the church. Liberal Catholics blessed all forms of worldly life, creating a mode of Christian belief lacking a concept of evil—that is, the understanding that evil is not the absence or subversion of virtue but an irredeemable fact—and leaving the church no reason or means to stand against the secular. The dissolution of the sacred from within and without had observable effects on the culture as a whole, contributing to a growing amorphousness and laxity in making distinctions. This was dangerous, Kolakowski argued, because the sacred gave to social structure its “forms and systems of divisions,” whether between death and life, man and woman, work and art, youth and age. He advocated no mythology in particular, and would admit only that a tension between development and structure was inherent in all human societies. Yet it was clear that certain developments troubled him deeply, and if the liberation movements unleashed in the 1960s continued, he feared the outcome would be “mass suicide.”

Kolakowski was equally apprehensive about the opening to the world that the church had inaugurated at the Second Vatican Council in 1962 to ‘65. In his Geneva lecture, he maintained that John XXIII’s agenda of aggiornamento, bringing “the church up to date,” was a contradiction in terms, combining “two ideas that are not only different, but, in some interpretations, mutually contradictory…. One [side] says that the Church must embrace as its own the cause of the poor and oppressed; the other implies that the church may not oppose the dominant forms of culture…and be on the side of the strong and the victorious.” But Kolakowski gets the options facing the church during the aggiornamento exactly wrong: the conservative bishops from Southern Europe and parts of South America opposed a church active in the world; they supported the governing order and had little concern for the oppressed. “Progressive” bishops from North America and Northern Europe stood with the poor. Kolakowski conflated his emerging Polish anti-left perspective with the position of the universal church.

Kolakowski had moved in the opposite direction from being the anticlerical scourge of Polish culture in the early 1950s. Now he supplied Catholics with arguments against urgent challenges to faith, such as why an all-loving God permits suffering and evil. “People ask: where was God in Auschwitz?” he wrote in “Anxiety About God in an Ostensibly Godless Age,” from 1981.

Why did He do nothing? But this is the wrong question. Leaving aside the fact people have done monstrous things to one another down the centuries, that genocide, bloodbaths and torture have always occurred, and that evil—the evil in us—has never ceased its work, putting the question this way smuggles in an idea of God as a being whose duty it is to protect the human race, through miracles, from the evil it does and to ensure its happiness despite its self-inflicted wounds. But this God—a God who functions as a magical power in the service of our immediate needs—was never the God of the Christian faith, nor of any other great faith, despite His frequent appearances in folk religion.

By now, Kolakowski’s intellectual sympathies for atheism were irrelevant. He acknowledged that “God can of course be rejected as morally dangerous, denied as unacceptable to reason, cursed as the enemy of humanity,” yet he countered that without the Absolute, there was no basis for morality and law. Human reason is finite and can provide no path to such principles. He called in an unlikely witness for his bitter theism: “If we reject the principle that the end justifies the means, we can only appeal to higher, politically irrelevant moral criteria; and this, [Leon] Trotsky says, amounts to believing in God.”

Such thinking appealed to leading church authorities in Poland. Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, the primate of Poland, cited Kolakowski’s long essay from 1965 about the teaching of Jesus considered from a secular point of view, and Krakow’s Archbishop Karol Wojtyla included it among the readings assigned in a spiritual retreat that he organized for Pope Paul VI. Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II on October 16, 1978, and from that day until his own death, Kolakowski—the erstwhile critic of authoritarianism—was one of the papacy’s most stalwart defenders. The Holy Ghost was somehow active during the conclave that elected Wojtyla, Kolakowski later told Zbigniew Mentzel. The German cardinals had proposed Wyszynski, “but he refused, saying he did not know enough about international affairs, and suggested Wojtyla…. This was an extraordinary event, that shook up the entire Church. Wojtyla turned out to be an excellent pope. For a quarter century! A quarter century!”

* * *

John Paul II was charismatic, if not messianic, in his very personal approach to promoting spirituality, more so than any Catholic leader in memory. He seemed to enjoy a “mystical union” with God in the terms Kolakowski celebrated as foundational in his studies of mythology. Even atheists who heard him praying said he seemed to be talking to God. In trips that crisscrossed the globe, the Polish pope took messages of courage and faith to millions, especially his fellow Poles. Without his 1979 pilgrimage to his homeland, the trade union Solidarity would not have emerged the following summer, and without Solidarity, it’s hard to imagine the sequence of events leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall nine years later.

Yet John Paul II’s “management” style was authoritarian. The Second Vatican Council had enshrined a stronger role for the laity—the “people of God”—as well as “collegiality” for bishops, but ideas from below never rose to John Paul II. For twenty-five years, he used his powers of appointment to pack the ranks of the episcopate with men who never wavered in supporting his own positions on controversial issues like birth control (sinful), celibacy in the clergy (essential) and ordaining women (impossible). His “reconsolidation” of authority also had the effect of placing child abusers and their protectors beyond scrutiny. The religious orders he disciplined were ones that harbored dissent: particularly painful was his imposing an interim head of the Jesuit order in 1981, in defiance of its constitution. Sniffing Marxism, he silenced the advocates of liberation theology in Latin America. Advocates of social justice found themselves, in John Allen’s words, consumed by “self-censorship in order to ward off a new round of scrutiny.” In 1995, the pope even prohibited the clergy from speaking about the theological possibility of women’s priesthood. This was fatuous because, as theologians have argued, the question of female clergy is a matter not of Catholic theology but of church tradition.

Kolakowski the faithful Marxist would have found much to satirize in John Paul II’s repressive intolerance, but instead the reluctant fundamentalist mocked the pope’s Western critics, claiming they would never be satisfied until the pope said “there is no God, there is no salvation, abortion is fine, as is homosexual marriage, and the Church is a leftwing political party.” Readers of Polish can take the full measure of Kolakowski’s thoughts on Catholicism in Kosciol w krainie wolnosci (The Church in the Land of Freedom), a thin hardcover adorned in papal white; some may hear in his conservative defense of a reactionary posture strong echoes of the “good advice” offered by Western leftists to those trapped behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. Like Kolakowski the non-Catholic, such outsiders did not have to endure the regimes they extolled. Did Kolakowski ever have to explain to young girls why the church condemned them to second-class status for life? Or comfort divorced people denied the sacraments? Or explain to people in AIDS-ravaged Africa why the use of condoms is immoral?

As a scholar, Kolakowski overreached in his writings about the contemporary church. His defense of the pope’s moral intransigence was as theologically threadbare as it was heartless. He justified the ban on women priests by saying that to lift it would mean departing from “the injunction by St. Paul [in 1 Corinthians]: let the women be silent in church.” Yet leading theologians agree that these words are not Paul’s, but were inserted by a later author, perhaps a transcriber. They directly contradict Paul’s words earlier in this letter, according to which women should publicly pray and prophesy. Paul believed in the equality of men and women, and in a striking departure from the practices of his day, insisted that women be admitted to worship and not be segregated from men. As Garry Wills writes, Paul “gives every kind of honor to women he works with—as emissaries, as prophets, as attendants (diakonoi).” Even scholars who do believe the words of the injunction are Paul’s say that they apply to the situation in Corinth, and were not meant to be a general rule for the church.

Kolakowski’s defense of the church’s prohibition on birth control is no less obtuse. He writes that “one may not define the meanings of sexuality purely in terms of pleasure.” But critics in the church do not claim sex involves only pleasure; and even the Vatican (after Vatican II) has not said that sex should serve procreation alone. Rather, for the church, human sexuality has the dual purpose of expressing love between partners in marriage and fostering procreation. Theologians differ on whether every single act must be open to procreation; the overwhelming majority say it does not.

* * *

John Paul II, without whom the Cold War would not have ended, led a cold war against modernity into the heart of the church, reviving reactionary currents and leaving Catholics so deeply divided that, just as they did before 1989, Poles still conjure “the West” as a different political and cultural world. In his critical Marxist phase, Kolakowski might have noticed the parallels between the Polish pope’s Vatican and the Polish communist bureaucracy. But in the calm of All Souls, Kolakowski managed to overlook the malaise gripping Catholics across Europe, the intensity of which can be traced to John Paul II and his stubborn disregard of critical voices.

For all his youthful anticlericalism and criticism of Polish chauvinism, it seems that Kolakowski could never escape the gravitational hold of traditional Polish culture. When John Paul II visited Poland, his appearances could have been mistaken for a stadium show of the Second Coming: the charismatic man in white, adored by millions, some screaming in ecstasy, on a stage with dozens of flags, Polish and papal, with his homeland blanketed by posters, books, videos, shrines and altar decorations. Not surprisingly, criticism of this “son of the Polish nation” is socially unacceptable, and iconoclasts are quickly ostracized. Before a late papal visit, the Jesuit Stanislaw Obirek made the obvious point that the pope had become a “golden calf.” For this, he was silenced by his order and later denied all contact with students. (He is now a lay scholar.) Other critics eke out an existence on the tiny anticlerical margins that call themselves—as Kolakowski’s father once did—freethinking. Even Poland’s leading secular newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, edited by Poland’s leading secular intellectual, Adam Michnik, features a website devoted to the Polish pope, including the latest news on his canonization and updates on the arrival of various papal relics, such as a vial of John Paul II’s blood recently secured by a church in Krakow. News of the vial was met with a gale of sarcasm. One disaffected reader, noting that Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz had ordered placing the relics of St. Stanislaw on a church tower to stanch the floods threatening Krakow, recommended lending the Polish pope’s relics to Australia to prevent flooding there.

Yet there was more to Kolakowski’s unordained priesthood than defending a deified countryman from liberal critics. If his words resonate differently in East and West, they also differ according to whether or not one adheres to the strictures of religious belief. Kolakowski strove to impress upon readers the desperation of existence without God, yet instead of praising the believer, he ridiculed the skeptic: as Michnik has noted, Poles may not fault their clergy, but they can fault God.

In a remarkable essay written toward the end of his life, Kolakowski wondered whether God could be happy. Because humans can experience the sacred and the profane, he dared to judge God in human terms. To be human is to participate in the pain and joy of others, to “feel compassion.” Only those ignorant of suffering, such as small children with “no experience of great pain or death among those close to them,” can therefore know true happiness, if only for a time. The same must apply to God: “If He is not indifferent, but subject to emotion like us, He must live in a constant state of sorrow when He witnesses human suffering.” Jesus Christ—for Christians, the son of God—“was not happy in any recognizable sense. He was embodied and suffered pain, he shared the suffering of his fellow men, and he died on the cross.”

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The religious may accuse Kolakowski of impiety, of presuming to know the designs of God, but the issue is more complicated. For decades, Kolakowski had been writing that all human lives end in failure or tragedy. When he looked to the Poles of his generation, he saw many with gifts like his own whose lives had been cut short. The cream of the Polish intelligentsia died in Warsaw in 1943 and ‘44, and if Kolakowski had been spared this fate, it was due to the good advice of communist partisans. One always enjoys fortune (szczescie) adumbrated by others’ misfortune (nieszczescie). To the extent that we are fully human, our sense of fortune is always partial, compromised, unsatisfying—everything true happiness, however fleeting, is not supposed to be. Thus he wonders: If God is at all like us (we are created in His image), can He be happy? Kolakowski’s answer, again perhaps impiously, is yes—but only if the universe is one in which everybody is saved, and hell and purgatory do not exist, and there is bliss for all. We can imagine such a situation, but “it has never been seen. It has never been seen.”

Such bleak theism is hardly the opiate that Kolakowski once equated with religion. But the idea of a world abandoned by God, one where History is simply “history,” a series of accidents whose meaning cannot be ascertained, was even more unsettling than a meager faith to Kolakowski, who once helped to build utopia, and witnessed genocide and totalitarianism firsthand. We have put the “cosy world of Enlightenment atheism” far behind us, he writes, and have seen modern thinkers and politicians who acted as “unconstrained legislators on questions of good and evil” transform the world into a “place of endless anxiety and suffering.” For Kolakowski, the failures of the dictatorship of idealism he once served proved that no political or intellectual system could explain or soften the bitter complexity and contradictions of human experience. In such a world, the problems of the modern papacy faded into insignificance for the old jester, and the church remained above all a bulwark against nihilistic viciousness. And yet we remain haunted by ultimate questions, Kolakowski insists, “intensely aware of God’s absence.” The “Absolute can never be forgotten,” for God is “present even in our rejection of Him.” If anything is certain about Kolakowski, it is that the life he devoted to critically examining elementary truths turned his thought into just the sort of unnerving intellectual paradox that he could accept on faith, but never bring himself to explain.
John Connelly
September 3, 2013 | This article appeared in the September 23, 2013 edition of The Nation.

Alex Steiner: Martin Heidegger, filósofo y nazi

[Diese Datei enthält alle drei Teile und zum Schluss ein paar Leserbriefe dazu. Fritsche wird in Teil drei zitiert und erläutert.]

The Case of Martin Heidegger, Philosopher and Nazi Part 1: The RecordWorld
Socialist Web Site

WSWS : Philosophy
The Case of Martin Heidegger, Philosopher and Nazi
Part 1: The Record

By Alex Steiner

3 April 2000

We begin today a three-part series on the life and work of twentieth century
German philosopher Martin Heidegger. Part 2 (“The Cover-up”) will be posted on Tuesday, April 4 and Part 3 (“History, Philosophy and Mythology”) will appear on Wednesday, April 5.

Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) has been considered by many to be one of the titans
of twentieth century philosophy. His international reputation was assured with
the publication in 1927 of Being and Time, a book that was characterized by the
young Jurgen Habermas as “the most significant philosophical event since Hegel’s
Phänomenologie …”[1]
The success of Being and Time was immediate and its influence pervasive. Many
currents of contemporary thought over the past 70 years have been inspired by
and in some cases directly derived from the work of Heidegger. Among these we
can mention existentialism, hermeneutics, postmodernism, eco-feminism, and
various trends in psychology, theology and literature. His writings have
influenced thinkers as diverse as Herbert Marcuse, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques
Derrida, Paul Tillich and countless others. Heidegger’s distinguished career as
professor of philosophy at the University of Freiburg was marred by a singular
event in his life. After Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933 Heidegger the
world-renowned philosopher became Heidegger the Nazi, holding membership card
number 312589.
The topic of Heidegger’s Nazism has recently stepped out of the pages of
scholarly journals and become an issue in the popular press and mass media. Last
year, the BBC aired a television series about three philosophers who have
strongly influenced our epoch, Nietzsche, Heidegger and Sartre. The episode on
Heidegger could not help but discuss his Nazism. Late last year, the New York
Review of Books published an article covering the relationship between Heidegger
and his colleagues Karl Jaspers and Hannah Arendt.
All this publicity to what was previously an obscure chapter in the life of a
well-known philosopher has caused a ripple of shock and dismay. For example, a
viewer of the BBC series recently wrote of his consternation that “the depth of
his [Heidegger’s] collaboration with the Nazis has only recently … been
brought out.” The long-standing myopia in the case of Heidegger can be directly
ascribed to a systematic cover-up that was perpetrated by Heidegger himself
during and after his Nazi period, and carried on by his students and apologists
to this day
. Before we explore the story of the cover-up, itself a long and
fascinating page in the annals of historical falsification, let us first
establish the facts of Heidegger’s relationship with the Nazis
The facts can no longer be seriously contested since the publication of Victor
Farias’ book, Heidegger and Nazism in 1987
.[2] Farias is a Chilean-born student
of Heidegger’s who spent a decade locating virtually all the relevant documents
relating to Heidegger’s activities in the years from 1933 to 1945. Many of these
documents were found in the archives of the former state of East Germany and in
the Documentation Center of the former West Berlin. Since the publication of
Farias’ landmark book, a number of other books and articles have been published
that explore the issue of Heidegger’s Nazism. An excellent summary of the
historical material can be found in an article written in 1988, Heidegger and
the Nazis.[3] Much of the material presented in this section is borrowed from
this article.
Heidegger was born and raised in the Swabian town of Messkirch in the south of
modern Germany. The region was economically backward, dominated by peasant-based
agriculture and small scale manufacturing. The politics of the region was
infused by a populist Catholicism that was deeply implicated in German
nationalism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism
. Modern culture and with it the ideals
of liberalism as well as socialism were viewed as mortal threats
. The growing
influence throughout Germany of the Social Democratic Party was commonly
identified as the main “internal enemy” in this region
. In the ensuing decades
this area would become one of the bastions of support for Nazism.
Heidegger’s family was of lower middle class origin. His mother came from a
peasant background and his father was an artisan. He was a promising student and
won a scholarship to attend secondary school in Konstanz. There he attended a
preparatory school for the novitiate. The school was established by the Catholic
Church hierarchy as a bastion of conservatism against the growing influence of
liberalism and Protestantism in the region. Nevertheless some of the secular
faculty of the school held decisively democratic and progressive ideals. Their
lectures were among the most popular at the school. We do not know exactly how
these progressive ideas were received by the young Heidegger. We do know that at
an early and formative period he was already confronted by the interplay of
ideas that were battling for supremacy in his part of Germany. We also know that
by the time Heidegger received his baccalaureate degree, he had rejected the
vocation of priest in favor of that of scholar. He also became heavily involved
in the partisan and cultural struggles of his time. By the time he was in his
early twenties, he was a leader in a student movement that embraced the ideals
of right-wing Catholic populism.

The reactionary and xenophobic forces in the region were strengthened following
the First World War and the Russian Revolution. The outcome of the war,
enshrined in the Versailles treaty, was not only a humiliating defeat for the
nationalists, but also resulted in the loss of territory to France. The lost
territories became a cause celebre among right-wing nationalist circles after
the war. The Russian Revolution on the other hand, while inspiring the working
class in Germany, spread fear and horror among the largely Catholic peasants in
the rural south
. A sense of crisis of world historic dimensions dominated the
ideology of the right-wing nationalist movements of the period. The zeitgeist of
crisis was given voice by the philosopher Oswald Spengler, who in turn was
inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche
. We know that Heidegger early on in his career
expressed sympathies for the nationalist viewpoint. It is also a fact that the
sense of crisis that emerged in this historical confluence would be a theme that
Heidegger the philosopher would retain his entire career.
Documentary evidence exists that Heidegger expressed sympathy for the Nazis as
early as 1932
. Given his previous history, this should not come as a shock.
Immediately following Hitler’s seizure of power, Heidegger joined the Nazis.
Heidegger was a dues-paying member of the NSDAP (the Nazi party) from 1933 to
. He became the rector of Freiburg University in April of 1933, three months
after Hitler came to power. His infamous inaugural address was delivered on May
27, 1933. Heidegger apologists have claimed that this address represented an
attempt to assert the autonomy of the university against the Nazis’ effort to
subordinate the sciences to their reactionary doctrines.
In fact, the address was a call to arms for the student body and the faculty to
serve the new Nazi regime
. It celebrates the Nazi ascendancy as “the march our
people has begun into its future history.” Heidegger identifies the German
nation with the Nazi state in prose that speaks of “the historical mission of
the German Volk, a Volk that knows itself in its state.” There is even a
reference to the fascist ideology of zoological determinism when Heidegger
invokes “the power to preserve, in the deepest way, the strengths [of the Volk]
which are rooted in soil and blood.”

On June 30, 1933 Heidegger gave a speech to the Heidelberg Student Association
in which he gave his views on the role of the university in the new Nazi order.
The following excerpt speaks for itself. It provides a glimpse of Heidegger’s
commitment to the Nazi ideals of blood, race and absolute subservience to the
“It [the university] must be integrated into the Volksgemeinschaft and be joined
together with the state …
“Up to now, research and teaching have been carried on at the universities as
they were carried out for decades…. Research got out of hand and concealed its
uncertainty behind the idea of international scientific and scholarly progress.
Teaching that had become aimless hid behind examination requirements.
“A fierce battle must be fought against this situation in the National Socialist
spirit, and this spirit cannot be allowed to be suffocated by humanizing,
Christian ideas that suppress its unconditionality …
“Danger comes not from work for the State. It comes only from indifference and
resistance. For that reason, only true strength should have access to the right
path, but not halfheartedness …
“University study must again become a risk, not a refuge for the cowardly.
Whoever does not survive the battle, lies where he falls. The new courage must
accustom itself to steadfastness, for the battle for the institutions where our
leaders are educated will continue for a long time. It will be fought out of the
strengths of the new Reich that Chancellor Hitler will bring to reality. A hard
race with no thought of self must fight this battle, a race that lives from
constant testing and that remains directed toward the goal to which it has
committed itself. It is a battle to determine who shall be the teachers and
leaders at the university.”[4]
After the war Heidegger tried to paint an exculpatory picture of his term as
rector, claiming that he was defending the integrity of the university against
the Nazis’ attempts to politicize it. Unfortunately for him the documentary
evidence provided by this speech and others like it blow up his attempted alibi.
Existing documentary evidence from Heidegger’s period as rector traces the
following events:
On August 21, 1933 Heidegger established the Führer -principle at Freiburg. This
meant that the rector would not be elected by the faculty as had been the
custom, but would henceforth be appointed by the Nazi Minister of Education. In
that capacity, the Führer -rector would have absolute authority over the life of
the university. On October 1, 1933 his goal was realized when he was officially
appointed Führer of Freiburg University. For Heidegger this was a milestone on
the way to fulfilling his ultimate ambition, which was to become the leading
philosopher of the Nazi regime. He envisioned a relationship in which he would
become the philosopher-consul to Hitler.

On September 4, 1933, in declining an appointment to the University of Munich,
he wrote, “When I put personal reasons aside for the moment, I know I ought to
decide to work at the task that lets me best serve the work of Adolf Hitler.”[5]
On November 3, 1933, in his role as Führer -rector, Heidegger issued a decree
applying the Nazi laws on racial cleansing to the student body of the
university. The substance of the decree awarded economic aid to students
belonging to the SS, the SA and other military groups. “Jewish or Marxist
students” or anyone considered non-Aryan according to Nazi law would be denied
financial aid
On December 13, 1933, Heidegger solicited financial support from German
academics for a book of pro-Hitler speeches that was to be distributed around
the world. He added on the bottom of the letter that “Needless to say,
non-Aryans shall not appear on the signature page.”[7]
On December 22, 1933, Heidegger wrote to the Baden minister of education urging
that in choosing among applicants for a professorship one should question “which
of the candidates … offers the greatest assurance of carrying out the National
Socialist will for education.”[8]
The documentary evidence also shows that while Heidegger was publicly extolling
the Nazi cause, he was privately working to destroy the careers of students and
colleagues who were either Jewish or whose politics was suspect. Among the
damning evidence that has been revealed:
Hermann Staudinger, a chemistry professor at Freiburg who would go on to win the
Nobel prize in 1953, was secretly denounced by Heidegger as a former pacifist
during World War I. This information was conveyed to the local minister of
education on February 10, 1934. Staudinger was faced with the loss of his job
and his pension. Some weeks later Heidegger interceded with the minister to
recommend a milder punishment. The motivation for this action had nothing to do
with pangs of conscience or compassion, but was simply an expedient response to
what Heidegger feared would be adverse international publicity to the dismissal
of a well-known scholar. He wrote the minister, “I hardly need to remark that as
regards the issue nothing of course can change. It’s simply a question of
avoiding as much as possible, any new strain on foreign policy.”[9] The ministry
forced Staudinger to submit his resignation and then kept him in suspense for
six months before tearing it up and reinstating him.
The case of Eduard Baumgarten provides another example of the crass opportunism
and vindictiveness exhibited by Heidegger. Baumgarten was a student of American
philosophy who had lectured at the University of Wisconsin in the 1920s. He
returned to Germany to study under Heidegger and the two men struck up a close
friendship. In 1931, however, a personal falling out ensued after Heidegger
opposed Baumgarten’s work in American pragmatism. Baumgarten left Freiburg to
teach American philosophy at the University of Gottingen. On December 16, 1933,
Heidegger, once more in his role as stool pigeon, wrote a letter to the head of
the Nazi professors at Gottingen that read, “By family background and
intellectual orientation Dr. Baumgarten comes from the Heidelberg circle of
liberal democratic intellectuals around Max Weber. During his stay here [at
Freiburg] he was anything but a National Socialist. I am surprised to hear that
he is lecturing at Gottingen: I cannot imagine on the basis of what scientific
works he got the license to teach. After failing with me, he frequented, very
actively, the Jew Frankel, who used to teach at Gottingen and just recently was
fired from here [under Nazi racial laws].”
Dr. Vogel, the recipient of this letter, thought that it was “charged with
hatred” and refused to use it. His successor, however, sent it to the minister
of education in Berlin who suspended Baumgarten and recommended that he leave
the country. Fortunately for Baumgarten he was able to get a copy of the
Heidegger letter through the intercession of a sympathetic secretary. It is only
due to this circumstance that this piece of documentary evidence still exists.
It is impossible to guess how many other poisoned letters were penned by
Heidegger in this period. Baumgarten was fortunate enough to win back his job
after appealing to the Nazi authorities. These facts were brought to light
during de-Nazification hearings in 1946.
Mention might be made of an incident with Max Müller. Müller, who became a
prominent Catholic intellectual after the war, was one of Heidegger’s best
students from 1928 to 1933. He was also an opponent of Nazism. He stopped
attending Heidegger’s lectures after the latter joined the Nazi party on May 1,
1933. Several months later, Heidegger used his authority as Führer -rector to
fire Müller from his position as student leader on the grounds that Müller was
“not politically appropriate.”[11] That was not the end of the story. In 1938
Heidegger, although no longer rector, once again intervened with the authorities
to block Müller from getting an appointment as a lecturer at Freiburg. He wrote
the university administration that Müller was “unfavorably disposed” toward the
regime.[12] This single sentence effectively meant the end of Müller’s academic
career. Müller, learning of this, paid a personal call on Heidegger asking him
to strike the incriminating sentence from his recommendation. Heidegger, playing
the role of Pilate, refused to do so, lecturing Müller by invoking his
Catholicism. “As a Catholic you must know that everyone has to tell the

Finally, there is the matter of Heidegger’s treatment of his former teacher,
Edmund Husserl
. Husserl founded the philosophical school of phenomenology and
had an international reputation equal to that of Heidegger. Husserl was also a
Jew. He fell under the edict of the racial cleansing laws and was denied the use
of the University library at Freiburg. In carrying out the Nazi edicts,
Heidegger was not simply doing his duty as a Nazi Führer -rector. There is
plenty of evidence to suggest that Heidegger enthused in accomplishing a mission
with which he closely identified. According to the testimony of the philosopher
Ernst Cassirer’s widow, Heidegger was personally an anti-Semite. In the past few
years other evidence has come to light to suggest that Heidegger’s anti-Semitism
did not disappear after the war. One eyewitness, Rainer Marten, recounted a
conversation with Heidegger in the late 1950s in which the distinguished
professor expressed alarm at the renewal of Jewish influence in the philosophy
departments of German universities.[14]

Apologists for Heidegger, most recently Rüdiger Safranski, have sought to
exonerate him from any personal responsibility for the fate of Husserl. They
point out that Heidegger never signed any edicts specifically limiting Husserl’s
access to the university facilities.[15] Yet this narrowly construed defense
hardly absolves Heidegger of his complicity as an agent in carrying out Nazi
anti-Jewish edicts, edicts that he knew would have a devastating impact on
former friends and colleagues. Nor is any explanation possible that would redeem
Heidegger from the shameful act of removing his dedication to his mentor Husserl
from Being and Time when that work was reissued in 1941.

After the war Heidegger would make much of the fact that he resigned his post as
rector after June 30, 1934. This coincided with the infamous “Night of the Long
Knives,” which saw forces loyal to Hitler stage a three-day carnage resulting in
the assassination of Ernst Röhm and over one hundred of his Storm Troopers.
Heidegger was later to maintain that after this date he broke definitively with
Nazism. Yet in a lecture on metaphysics given a year after this event Heidegger
publicly refers to “the inner truth and greatness of National Socialism.”
“The stuff which is now being bandied about as the philosophy of National
Socialism—but which has not the least to do with the inner truth and greatness
of this movement (namely the encounter between global technology and modern
man)—is casting its net in these troubled waters of ‘values’ and
It is also true that Heidegger began to distance himself from certain aspects of
National Socialism. Farias’ book convincingly argues that after 1934 Heidegger
counterposed to the existing Nazi regime an idealized vision of a National
Socialism that might have been. According to Farias, this utopian Nazism was
identified in Heidegger’s mind with the defeated faction of Röhm. The thesis of
Heidegger’s relationship with Röhm has generated a great deal of controversy and
has never been satisfactorily resolved. It is however an incontrovertible fact
that Heidegger did believe in a form of Nazism, “the inner truth of this great
movement,” till the day he died.

There is another biographical fact that the Heidegger apologists cannot pass
over. Heidegger was a life-long friend of a man named Eugen Fischer. Fischer was
active in the early years of Nazi rule as a leading proponent of racial
legislation. He was the head of the Institute of Racial Hygiene in Berlin which
propagated Nazi racial theories. One of the “researchers” at his institute was
the infamous Dr. Joseph Mengele. Fischer was one of the intellectual authors of
the Nazi “final solution.” Heidegger maintained cordial relations with Fischer
at least until 1960 when he sent Fischer a Christmas gift with greetings. It
would not be stretching credibility too far to suppose that as a result of his
personal relationship with Fischer, Heidegger may have had knowledge at a very
early period of Nazi plans for genocide
The record shows that after the war Heidegger never made a public or private
repudiation of his support for Nazism
. This was despite the fact that former
friends, including Karl Jaspers and Herbert Marcuse, urged him to speak out,
after the fact to be sure, against the many crimes perpetrated by the Nazi
regime. Heidegger never did. He did however make a fleeting reference to the
Holocaust in a lecture delivered on Dec. 1, 1949. Speaking about technology, he
“Agriculture is now a motorized food-industry—in essence, the same as the
manufacturing of corpses in the gas chambers and the extermination camps, the
same as the blockade and starvation of the countryside, the same as the
production of the hydrogen bombs
In equating the problems of mechanized agriculture with the Holocaust, thereby
trivializing the latter, Heidegger demonstrated his contempt for the Jewish
victims of the Nazis. We will return to this theme when we examine Heidegger’s

For the most part Heidegger chose to remain silent after the war about his
activities on behalf of the Nazis. The few occasions in which Heidegger did
venture a public statement were notable. The first instance in which he makes
any assessment of this period was a self-serving document that was written for
the de-Nazification commission. We will comment on that in the next section. The
most important postwar statement Heidegger made about his prewar political
activity was in a 1966 interview with the magazine Der Spiegel. This interview
was first published, at Heidegger’s insistence, after his death in 1976. A great
deal of the discussion centers on the question of technology and the threat that
unconstrained technology poses to man. Heidegger says at one point:
“A decisive question for me today is: how can a political system accommodate
itself to the technological age, and which political system would this be? I
have no answer to this question. I am not convinced that it is democracy
Having set up an ahistorical notion of technology as an absolute bane to the
existence of mankind, Heidegger then explains how he conceived of the Nazi
solution to this problem:
“ … I see the task in thought to consist in general, within the limits
allotted to thought, to achieve an adequate relationship to the essence of
technology. National Socialism, to be sure, moved in this direction. But those
people were far too limited in their thinking to acquire an explicit
relationship to what is really happening today and has been underway for three

It is thus beyond dispute that at the time of his death Heidegger thought of
Nazism as a political movement that was moving in the right direction. If it
failed then this was because its leaders did not think radically enough about
the essence of technology.

1. Jurgen Habermas, “On the Publication of the Lectures of 1935,” trans. Richard
Wolin, The Heidegger Controversy: A Critical Reader, ed. Richard Wolin,
Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998, p. 191
2. Victor Farias, Heidegger and Nazism, Temple University Press, 1989
3. Thomas Sheehan, “Heidegger and the Nazis,” New York Review of Books, June 16,
4. Martin Heidegger, “The University in the New Reich” Wolin, pp. 44-45
5. Farias, 164
6. Sheehan, “Heidegger and the Nazis”
7. Sheehan, “Heidegger and the Nazis”
8. Sheehan, “Heidegger and the Nazis”
9. Sheehan, “Heidegger and the Nazis”
10. Sheehan, “Heidegger and the Nazis”
11. Sheehan, “Heidegger and the Nazis”
12. Sheehan, “Heidegger and the Nazis”
13. Sheehan, “Heidegger and the Nazis”
14. George Leaman, “Strategies of Deception: The Composition of Heidegger’s
Silence,” Martin Heidegger and the Holocaust, ed. Alan Milchman and Alan
Rosenberg, Humanities Press, 1996, p. 64
15. Rüdiger Safranski, Martin Heidegger: Between Good and Evil, t rans. Ewald
Osers, Cambridge: Harvard University Pressm 1998, p. 257
16. Sheehan
17. Richard Wolin, “French Heidegger Wars,” Wolin, p. 282
18. Farias, 287.
19. Martin Heidegger, “Only a God Can Save Us”: Der Spiegel interview, Wolin, p.
20. Martin Heidegger, “Only a God Can Save Us”: Der Spiegel interview, Wolin, p.

Copyright 1998-2003
World Socialist Web Site
All rights reserved


WSWS : Philosophy
The Case of Martin Heidegger, Philosopher and Nazi
Part 2: The Cover-up

By Alex Steiner

4 April 2000

We continue today a series on the life and work of twentieth century German
philosopher Martin Heidegger. The final part will posted tomorrow, April 5.

Having reviewed some of the pertinent facts in the career of German philosopher
Martin Heidegger, we must now turn to the myths and evasions that constitute the
building blocks of his postwar reputation. The official version of the story,
propounded by Heidegger and his supporters, has it that his 1933 turn to Nazism
was a youthful mistake, a brief flirtation by a scholar who was naïve about
politics and the ways of the world. Within a few months, so the story goes, the
young philosopher realized his mistake, resigned his position as rector of
Freiburg University and refused henceforth to take part in Nazi activities.
Furthermore, the legend continues, even during his period as rector, Heidegger
tried to protect the integrity of the university from the worst predations of
Nazism and personally intervened with the Nazi authorities on behalf of a number
of Jewish students and colleagues.
Finally, even if one is not convinced by this account of events, the most one
can say, according to his defenders, is that Heidegger the man suffered from a
character flaw. Heidegger’s personal failing, however, is an entirely separate
matter from his philosophy, which must be judged “on its own merits.” Concretely
this means that any assessment of Heidegger’s philosophy that tries to relate it
to his Nazism is deemed illegitimate by his apologists. This viewpoint further
implies that there is nothing in Heidigger’s pre-Nazi philosophy, particularly
in Being and Time that bears any affinity to Nazi ideas. Similarly, the later
turn [Kehre] in Heidegger’s philosophy has been interpreted as a purely internal
reaction, unrelated to politics, to problems encountered in the initial
formulation of his thought.
This is a multi-layered effort at damage control. One can view the cover-up as a
redoubt upon whose walls Heidegger’s supporters stand fighting to prevent a
breach. If the facade, the story of Heidegger’s youthful indiscretion, is
broken, all is not lost. The inner wall, Heidegger’s actions as rector in
defiance of the Nazis, still stands. Even if this line of defense is broken, and
the supporters are forced to concede the defects of Heidegger the man, there
still stands the last line of defense, the so-called autonomy of Heidegger’s
philosophy. Marshaling an impressive array of intellectuals in his defense, many
with impeccable anti-Nazi credentials, Heidegger managed to maintain his
reputation relatively intact until the middle of the 1980s.
One can trace the beginnings of the campaign to rescue Heidegger’s reputation
from the verdict of posterity to the efforts of Heidegger himself. The outlines
of the legend of the politically naïve scholar are already adumbrated in the
biographical essay Heidegger submitted to the de-Nazification committee in 1945.
Here he wrote:
“In April 1933, I was unanimously elected Rector (with two abstentions) in a
plenary session of the university and not, as rumor has it, appointed by the
National Socialist minister. [That appointment would come later when Heidegger
was made Führer of the university, something he fails to mention. A.S
.] It was
as a result of pressure from my circle of colleagues … that I consented to be
a candidate for this election and agreed to serve. Previously I neither desired
nor occupied an academic office. I never belonged to a political party [This is
not exactly the full story as we know that in his early 20s he was the president
of a right-wing Catholic youth movement. A.S.] nor maintained a relation, either
personal or substantive, with the NSDAP or with governmental authorities. I
accepted the rectorship reluctantly and in the interest of the university
Having painted a picture of his reluctant enlistment as rector, the letter
proceeds to describe how its author joined the Nazi party, almost as an
afterthought, in order to facilitate administrative relations with the
“A short while after I took control of the rectorship the district head
presented himself, accompanied by two functionaries in charge of university
matters, to urge me, in accordance with the wishes of the minister, to join the
Party. The minister insisted that in this way my official relations with the
Party and the governing organs would be simplified, especially since up until
then I had no contact with these organs. After lengthy considerations, I
declared myself ready to enter the Party in the interests of the university, but
under the express condition of refusing to accept a position within the Party or
working on behalf of the Party either during the rectorship or afterward.”[2]
[He fails to explain here why, if his party membership was motivated by his
desire to facilitate his work as rector, he renewed it every year until 1945,
long after his duties as rector were terminated. A. S.
Finally he presents evidence of his opposition to Nazism after his resignation
as rector in 1934.
“After my resignation from the rectorship it became clear that by continuing to
teach, my opposition to the principles of the National Socialist world-view
would only grow…. Since National Socialist ideology became increasingly
inflexible and increasingly less disposed to a purely philosophical
interpretation, [The “purely philosophical interpretation” is apparently how
Heidegger wishes to convey to the reader his initial attraction to Nazism, which
unfortunately had lost its metaphysical lustre by 1934. A.S.] the fact that I
was active as a philosopher was itself a sufficient expression of opposition …
“I also demonstrated publicly my attitude toward the Party by not participating
in its gatherings, by not wearing its regalia, and, as of 1934, by refusing to
begin my courses and lectures with the so-called German greeting [Heil
Hitler!]… [We now know from some of the documentation published by Farias that
this last statement is a patent lie. A.S.
“There was nothing special about my spiritual resistance during the last eleven
By presenting himself as accidentally caught up in a form of “philosophical”
Nazism for a brief period that was later transformed into one of “spiritual
resistance” Heidegger tried to build a wall around his philosophical views. The
methods he employed were silence about much of his activity before and after
1933, evasions, half-truths and outright lies.
In Heidegger’s philosophy, the category of “silence” denotes not simply the
absence of speech, but is itself an active form of being in the world. Likewise
in his practice “silence” has meant the active suppression of evidence about his
Nazi years. Much of Heidegger’s correspondence and other personal documents have
been unavailable to scholars for decades. These documents are kept under lock
and key by the Heidegger family and sympathetic scholars
. Furthermore, in the
immediate postwar years, the academic community in Germany had been loathe to
publicize anything related to Heidegger’s Nazism. One early scholar who did much
original research in this area, Guido Schneeberger, found that he could not find
a publisher for his book. He eventually published his findings on his own in

Nor has Heidegger shied away from out-and-out falsification of his own history.
A well-documented example involves the republication of his 1935 lecture on
metaphysics. The 1953 edition of this lecture includes the infamous depiction of
the “inner truth” of Nazism. The full statement in the 1953 edition reads as
“The stuff which is now being bandied about as the philosophy of National
Socialism—but which has not the least to do with the inner truth and greatness
of this movement (namely the encounter between global technology and modern
man)—is casting its net in these troubled waters of ‘values’ and
The publication of this article caused a bit of consternation in Germany. Some
questioned why Heidegger chose to reprint this article in this exact form. He
“It would have been easy to drop the aforementioned sentence, along with other
ones you cite, from the printed manuscript. But I did not and I will keep it
there in the future because, for one thing, the sentences belong historically to
the lecture course …”[5]
We now know that Heidegger did indeed make changes to the 1935 text when he
prepared it for republication. For one thing, the more general “inner truth and
greatness of this movement” is actually the much more specific “inner truth and
greatness of National Socialism” in the original lecture
. When an assistant
helping him prepare the galley proofs for publication noticed this phrase,
without any explanatory text, he asked Heidegger to remove it. Heidegger
responded that he would not do so. Nevertheless, without telling his assistant,
Heidegger did change the text a few weeks later. He removed the direct reference
to “National Socialism” and substituted the general term “this movement.” He
also added the explanatory comment about technology in parenthesis. Heidegger
always maintained until his death that he never altered the text of this
lecture. He reiterated this point in his 1966 Der Spiegel interview. In a later
attempt to finally settle this controversy, a search was made of the original
1935 manuscript of the lecture. The page containing the controversial phrase was
The same methods—suppression of evidence, evasions and falsifications—were
employed by the legions of Heidegger interpreters and apologists. They were,
until the publication of Farias epochal book, largely successful in preventing
any critical scrutiny of Heidegger’s ideas and their relation to his politics.
An ironic chapter in this enterprise was played out by the deconstruction
theorist, Paul De Man
. De Man did much to publicize Heidegger among the American
intelligentsia in the 1960s. Then there came the posthumous revelation in the
late 1980s that De Man’s hands had not exactly been clean. He had been a Nazi
collaborator in occupied Belgium during World War II and in that capacity had
written some anti-Semitic articles for a Nazi-sponsored literary magazine
. After
De Man’s war-time essays were published there ensued a lively controversy about
the relationship between De Man’s war-time activity and his subsequent ideas on
An even more sinister champion of Heidegger was the French translator Jean
Beaufret. Beaufret, a former Resistance fighter, published several volumes of
conversations with Heidegger before his death in 1982. For 35 years he was the
most consistent defender of Heidegger in France. His credentials as a former
Resistance fighter lent added weight to his defense of a former Nazi
. Yet it
seems that all along Beaufret had a hidden agenda. He had been for some time a
secret sympathizer of the notorious Holocaust revisionist historian Robert
. Beaufret, like Faurisson, denied the existence of the Holocaust and
more specifically of the gas chambers. In a letter sent to Faurisson, Beaufret
was quoted as saying:

“I believe that for my part I have traveled approximately the same path as you
and have been considered suspect for having expressed the same doubts
[concerning the existence of the gas chambers]. Fortunately for me, this was
done orally.
Beaufret’s credentials were never questioned until Faurisson published his
letters in the 1980s.
As part of their public relations campaign Heidegger and his apologists were
particularly keen to enlist the testimony of German Jewish philosophers who had
themselves suffered under the Nazis
. To this end the well-known philosopher and
German émigré Hanna Arendt was solicited to write an essay for an anthology
honoring Heidegger on the occasion of his eightieth birthday. Arendt’s essay,
“Heidegger at Eighty,” contains the following cryptic allusion to Heidegger’s
political activities:
“Now we all know that Heidegger, too, once succumbed to the temptation to change
his ‘residence’ and to get involved in the world of human affairs. As to the
world, he was served somewhat worse than Plato because the tyrant and his
victims were not located beyond the sea, but in his own country. [The reference
is to the sojourn Plato undertook to Syracuse. He hoped to counsel the tyrant of
Syracuse, Dionysus. After a relatively brief experiment in seeking to temper
Dionysus rule with a dose of wisdom, Plato returned to Athens, concluding that
his attempt to put his theories into practice had been a failure. A.S.] As to
Heidegger himself, I believe that the matter stands differently. He was still
young enough to learn from the shock of the collision, which after ten short
hectic months thirty-seven years ago drove him back to his residence, and to
settle in his thinking what he had experienced …

“We who wish to honor the thinkers, even if our own residence lies in the midst
of the world, can hardly help finding it striking and perhaps exasperating that
Plato and Heidegger, when they entered into human affairs, turned to tyrants and
Führers. This should be imputed not just to the circumstances of the times and
even less to preformed character, but rather to what the French call a
déformation professionelle. For the attraction to the tyrannical can be
demonstrated theoretically in many of the great thinkers (Kant is the great
exception). And if this tendency is not demonstrable in what they did, that is
only because very few of them were prepared to go beyond ‘the faculty of
wondering at the simple’ and to ‘accept this wondering as their abode.’”[
According to the legal brief presented by Arendt, Heidegger’s unfortunate lapse
was due neither to the circumstances in which he lived, nor to his character and
certainly has no echo in his ideas
. The fact that Heidegger became a Nazi, which
she euphemistically describes as, having “succumbed to the temptation to change
his ‘residence’ and to get involved in the world of human affairs,” can be
ascribed solely to the occupational hazard of being a philosopher. And if other
philosophers did not follow in these footsteps, that can be explained by the
fact that they did not take thinking as seriously as Heidegger. They were not
prepared to “accept this wondering as their abode.”

Arendt’s piece is notable for its sheer effrontery. She manages to make
Heidegger into the victim who fell prey to the greatness of his thought. To say
that “He was served worse than Plato” is to imply that he was tossed about by
forces beyond his control, that he bore no responsibility for his own actions.
As if recognizing the absurdity of her position, Arendt shifts the argument from
the body of her text into a long explanatory footnote
. In this note she descends
from the lofty rhetoric of her musings on Plato to some of the concrete issues
surrounding the Heidegger affair. She returns to the theme of Heidegger’s primal
innocence and political naiveté, writing that
“… the point of the matter is
that Heidegger, like so many other German intellectuals, Nazis and anti-Nazis,
of his generation never read Mein Kampf.”[10]
Actually there is good evidence to suppose that Heidegger not only did read
Hitler’s opus, Mein Kampf, but approved of it. Tom Rockmore has convincingly
argued that in his speech assuming the rectorate of Freiburg, Heidegger’s
“multiple allusions to battle are also intended as a clear allusion to Hitler’s
notorious view of the struggle for the realization of the destiny of the German
people formulated in Mein Kampf.”[11]
At a later point in her note, Arendt seeks to turn the tables on Heidegger’s
critics by trotting out the legend, manufactured by Heidegger himself, of his
redemptive behavior following his “error.”

“Heidegger himself corrected his own ‘error’ more quickly and more radically
than many of those who later sat in judgment over him—he took considerably
greater risks than were usual in German literary and university life during that

Even in 1971, Hannah Arendt certainly knew better, or should have known better,
than the tale she relates in this embarrassing apologia. She certainly knew for
instance of Heidegger’s 1953 republication of his essay discussing the “inner
truth of National Socialism.” She was also aware, through her friendship with
Karl Jaspers, of the deplorable behavior Heidegger exhibited toward Jaspers and
his Jewish wife
. (Heidegger broke off all personal relations with Jaspers and
his wife shortly after he became rector. It was only after the war that
Heidegger tried to repair their personal relationship. Despite an intermittent
exchange of letters, the two philosophers could never repair their personal
relationship as a result of Heidegger’s refusal to recant his support of

The reference to the “considerably greater risks” he took, is, like Heidegger’s
“spiritual opposition” to Nazism, an echo of Heidegger’s own postwar
. Why then did Hannah Arendt, a prominent liberal opponent of
fascism, weigh in with such fervor in the attempt to rehabilitate Heidegger’s
reputation? One can only guess
. Perhaps there was an element of loyalty to her
former teacher, a loyalty that was strained but not broken by her persecution at
the hands of the Nazis and her years in exile. (At one point she found herself
in a Nazi prison. Later when war broke out, she was trapped in Nazi-occupied
France, from which she managed a daring escape.) The most charitable
interpretation of her grotesque defense of Heidegger is that she turned away
from a truth that she could not face.

When Victor Farias’ book hit the stores, it had an electrifying effect on
Heidegger’s followers in France. Following the publication of his Heidegger and
Nazism in October of 1987, no less than six studies on the subject of Heidegger
and Nazism were published in the following nine months. This should not have
been a surprise. It was in France, after all, that Heidegger’s influence found
its deepest roots in the postwar period. The French debt to Heidegger extends
from the existentialism of Sartre in the early postwar period to the more recent
waves of structuralism, post-structuralism and deconstruction associated with
Claude Levi-Strauss, Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida
. Also weighing in with
their own interpretations of Heidegger’s relation to Nazism were the
postmodernists Jean-Francois Lyotard and Jean Baudrillard.
One could, broadly speaking, break down the type of responses to Farias into
three main categories
. The first is the unconditional defense of Heidegger by
his most orthodox keepers of the flame. This group is represented by Francois
Fedier, who, since the death of his teacher Beaufret, has been the most
consistent defender of Heidegger in France. Fedier continues to deny that
Heidegger ever had any problem with Nazism and simply dismisses the rectorate
period as a youthful flirtation that has no bearing on Heidegger’s thought.
Fedier’s response, in light of the voluminous material in Farias’s book and
others published since, commands little credibility outside of the most ardent
devotees of the Heidegger cult.
The second type of response, represented by Derrida and his followers, is to
acknowledge in general that there is a problem with Heidegger’s philosophy
insofar as it allowed him to realize its implications by becoming a Nazi. But
then Derrida tries to turn the tables on Farias by insisting that the ultimate
cause of Heidegger’s turn to Nazism was the fact that Heidegger had not
sufficiently emancipated himself by 1933 from pre-Heideggerian ways of thinking,
particularly rationalism and humanism. According to Derrida’s tortured logic,
once Heidegger succeeded in liberating himself from “metaphysics” following his
post 1935 “turn,” his philosophy became the best form of anti-Nazism.
This perverse viewpoint was aptly summed up by one of Derrida’s students,
Lacoue-Labarthe, who said that “Nazism is a humanism.”
By this he meant that the
philosophical foundations that underpinned the Enlightenment tradition of
humanism had as their consequences the domination of humanity in the service of
an all-encompassing universal-totalitarianism. Such thinking has become a common
stock in trade of Derrida, Lacoue-Labarthe and their followers. The notion that
Nazism is just another expression of Enlightenment universalism has recently
been expressed by the Americans Alan Milchman and Alan Rosenberg. They write,
“This principle of sufficient reason, the basis of calculative thinking, in its
totalizing, and imperialistic, form, can be seen as the metaphysical
underpinning which made the Holocaust possible.”
From this premise, Lacoue-Labarthe builds a sophisticated defense of Heidegger.
Unlike the orthodox Heideggerians, he concedes that Heidegger’s thought was
consistent with his Nazism. However, Lacoue-Labarthe then seeks to rescue
Heidegger by claiming that the post-1935 Heidegger who had overcome metaphysics
and humanism, was free from any Nazi blemish. This bizarre argument is then
carried to its logical conclusion by other deconstructionists who insist that
not only is the second coming of Heidegger free of the fascist taint, but that
his work for the first time makes it possible for us to “think the Holocaust.”
Lest the reader thinks this is a polemical extravagance, listen to the words of
Milchman and Rosenberg,
“While facets of Heidegger’s thinking can provide insight into the experience of
the Extermination, make it possible for us to think Auschwitz, the Holocaust can
also help us to penetrate the opaqueness of the later Heidegger’s thinking.”[14]
Heidegger’s accusers on the other hand have been dubbed “totalitarians” in some
of the annals of the deconstructionists. Once more, as we saw in Arendt’s piece,
Heidegger was portrayed as a victim of small-minded and envious enemies.
Weighing in on the French debate from the other side of the Rhine was the
long-time Heidegger interpreter Hans-Georg Gadamer. In a curious echo of
Arendt’s 1971 essay, “Heidegger at Eighty,” Gadamer returns to the image of the
well-meaning but naïve thinker retreating from his attempt to educate the prince
of Syracuse.[15]

In contrast to the philosophical obscurantism practiced by Derrida and
Lacoue-Labarthe, some voices have been raised in the French discussion that
clearly acknowledge the problem posed by Heidegger’s lifelong relationship to
fascism. Most prominent among these is Pierre Bourdieu who wrote a major study
on Heidegger long before Farias’ book even appeared. This book was republished
in French in a somewhat revised format after the controversy elicited by
Farias’s book broke. The Political Ontology of Martin Heidegger, attempts to
ground Heidegger’s philosophy in the historical context from which Heidegger
emerged. At the same time Bourdieu avoids the temptation of simply reducing
Heidegger’s thought to a reflex of his historical and class position. Bourdieu
engages in a textual analysis of Heidegger’s work in an attempt to show the
intrinsic relationship between Heidegger’s philosophy and his politics. His
textual analysis is distinguished from the type of “immanent” reading of texts
characteristic of Derrida and other deconstructionists that artificially isolate
texts from the historical circumstances in which they were produced.
Perhaps the most curious and damning recent defense of Heidegger came not from
France but from Germany. Ernst Nolte, a historian and long-time friend of the
Heidegger family, published a biography of Heidegger in 1992, Martin Heidegger:
Politics and History in His Life and Thought. Prior to the publication of this
book, Nolte was already notorious as a revisionist historian of the Holocaust
and apologist for Nazism. Nolte has to be given his due as he was much more
consistent and far more intellectually honest than some of the French defenders
of Heidegger.

For Nolte, Heidegger’s turn to Nazism does not represent any problem at all. Not
only does Nolte insist on the intimate connection between Heidegger’s philosophy
and his Nazism, but he also defends Nazism as a necessary response to the
internal and external threat posed by the Russian Revolution. To Nolte Nazism
was a necessary response to Bolshevism and Heidegger, by turning to Nazism, was
merely responding to the call of historical necessity. Nolte even goes so far as
to defend the Holocaust as a defensive measure made necessary by the hostility
of world-Jewry to the National Socialist regime. Nolte’s defense of the
Holocaust is couched in the following rhetorical question:
“Could it be the case that the National Socialists and Hitler carried out an
‘Asiatic’ deed [the Holocaust] only because they considered themselves and their
kind to be potential or actual victims of a [Soviet] ‘Asiatic’ deed. Didn’t the
‘Gulag Archipelago’ precede Auschwitz?”[16]

There is a symmetry between the early apologists for Heidegger and Nolte’s
effort. Whereas the original defenders sought to minimize Heidegger’s political
involvement, then to build a wall between his politics and his philosophy, Nolte
inverts the terms of the argument. Not only was Heidegger a politically engaged
thinker from the start in Nolte’s view, but he made the right choice. He writes,
“Insofar as Heidegger resisted the attempt at the [Communist] solution, he, like
countless others, was historically right…. In committing himself to the
[National Socialist] solution perhaps he became a ‘fascist.’ But in no way did
that make him historically wrong from the outset.”[17]
Elsewhere Nolte returns to the story of Heidegger the otherworldly thinker who
became briefly ensnared in political matters that he did not understand. This
fertile image, introduced by Hannah Arendt, is turned on its head by Nolte.
Doubtless he did not wish to let a Jew get in the last word here. He writes of
Heidegger’s support for Hitler that, “…it was not an episodic ‘flight’ from
the realm of philosophy into everyday politics but was sustained by a
‘philosophical’ hope … [and was] essential to his life and thought.”[18]
In other words, Heidegger’s thought and his practice were cut from the same
cloth. He was not just a Nazi, but in the words of Thomas Sheehan, he was “a
normal Nazi.”
Finally, mention should be made of the most recent biography of Heidegger,
Rüdiger Safranski’s Martin Heidegger: Between Good and Evil, first published in
English in 1998. This book, unlike Nolte’s effusive support for Heidegger’s
Nazism, is a retreat back to a more orthodox defense of Heidegger
. Once again,
we are presented with a schizophrenic division between Heidegger the man and the
philosopher. The author diligently presents the known facts of Heidegger’s
association with Nazism. It is no longer tenable to deny these facts. At the
same time he provides a largely positive reading of Heidegger’s ideas
While avoiding the excesses and logical gymnastics of Lacoue-Labarthe and other
deconstructionists, Safranski seems incapable of making any essential judgment
about his subject. This deficiency, a common trademark of modern biography and
historiography, is considered an advantage in today’s dismal cultural context
The watchwords here are “detached” and “balanced.” Despite the minutiae of
facts, there is little understanding. In its own way, this book is another
contribution to the cover-up. In the end, Safranski weighs in on the side of
those who praise Heidegger for making it possible for us to “think Auschwitz.”
He writes:
“The fact that Heidegger rejected the idea that he should defend himself as a
potential accomplice to murder does not mean that he shied away from the
challenge ‘to think Auschwitz.’ When Heidegger refers to the perversion of the
modern will to power, for which nature and man have become mere ‘machinations,’
he always explicitly or not, also means Auschwitz. To him, as to Adorno,
Auschwitz is a typical crime of the modern age.”
We cannot let pass commenting on the arrogance of Safranski’s juxtaposition of
Heidegger with Theodore Adorno. Adorno despised Heidegger and had nothing but
contempt for Heidegger’s “jargon of authenticity,” which he viewed as a form of
philosophical charlatanry passing itself off as profound insight. This dismal
book, despite its account of the facts, represents but another apology for
Heidegger’s involvement with Nazism. It has nevertheless met with largely
positive reviews.

A typical example is Richard Rorty, who wrote, “Heidegger was oblivious of the
torment of his Jewish friends and colleagues, but after a year of hectic
propagandizing and organizing, he did notice that the Nazi higher-ups were not
paying much attention to him. This sufficed to show him that he had
overestimated National Socialism.
“So he retreated to his mountain cabin and, as Safranski nicely says, traded
decisiveness for imperturbability. After World War II, he explained,
imaginatively albeit monomaniacally, that Americanization, modern technology,
the trivialization of life and the utter forgetfulness of Being (four names, he
thought, for the same phenomenon) were irreversible
Once again we meet the quotidian figure of the well-meaning but bruised thinker
who “retreated to his mountain cabin.” At least this time we are spared another
return from Syracuse. We should point out that there is no basis even in Safranski’s book to draw the conclusion that Heidegger, after “a year of hectic
propagandizing and organizing,” his period as rector at Freiburg, “withdrew”
from the political fray. What Safranski does say is that over a period of
several years following his resignation as rector, Heidegger gradually loosened
his involvement with Nazism, without cutting them completely until 1945.
It turns out that Heidegger has defenders beyond the legion of French
deconstructionists. Rorty represents a tendency that has emerged in recent years
among American pragmatists, a tendency that has tried to amalgamate pragmatism
with elements of continental philosophy. In his capacity as something of a
public spokesman for American pragmatism, Rorty has above all sought to enlist
the followers of Heidegger to his cause.
In the following section we will
briefly examine the philosophical basis for this curious amalgam of two
seemingly disparate traditions. Yet even the most cursory examination reveals
that when Rorty focuses on the relationship between Heidegger’s politics and his
philosophy, we are served up with another version of the by now familiar theme
of Heidegger accidentally stumbling into Nazism.
In an essay that had been revised as recently as 1989, well after Farias’ book
was published, Rorty wrote that, “… Heidegger was only accidentally a Nazi.
He then expanded on this thought in a note with the following explanation, “His
[Heidegger’s] thought was, indeed, essentially anti-democratic. But lots of
Germans who were dubious about democracy and modernity did not become Nazis.
Heidegger did because he was both more of a ruthless opportunist and more of a
political ignoramus than most of the German intellectuals who shared his
Although Rorty tosses in some harsh words in Heidegger’s direction, to wit his
characterization of Heidegger the “ignoramus” and “opportunist,” the gist of his
presentation is another caricature of the naïve philosopher getting in over his
head. By this time, we have become quite familiar with this argument. We have
seen variations of it in Heidegger’s own apology for his term as rector, in the
orthodox defenders of Heidegger in France, in the reflections of personal
friends such as Hannah Arendt, and in its inverted pro-Nazi form in Nolte’s
biography. That this argument can be repeated ad nauseam, in the face of an
ever-mounting array of facts demonstrating that Heidegger’s relation to Nazism
was more than incidental, shows that we are dealing here not with an objective,
scholarly judgment, but with bad faith and apologetics.
The debate in France lasted for about two years following the publication of
Farias’ book in 1987. Nowadays, very little is heard in France about Heidegger’s
politics. In contrast, since the beginning of the 1990s the discussion has
continued unabated in the United States, Great Britain and other
English-speaking countries. In fact, three separate books have appeared on the
subject since 1997. Of these, Julian Young’s book, Heidegger, philosophy,
Nazism, is foursquare in the tradition of the Heideggerian whitewash. In fact,
the author announces his intentions right at the beginning, where he says that,
“This work aims to provide what may be described as a ‘de-Nazification’ of
Tom Rockmore sums up the flavor of Young’s book in a recent review. Rockmore
writes, “In sum, according to Young, despite the many texts to the contrary (for
instance, the comment in the Spiegel-Gesprach, where Heidegger questions the
democratic ideal), the same philosopher turns out to be more or less like you
and me: to wit, a proponent of liberal democracy. This is to say not a credible
but an incredible picture of Heidegger …”[23]
It is evident that a quarter century following the death of Heidegger, the
cover-up still continues. At the same time, we do not wish to suggest that there
has been an absence of countervailing tendencies working to expose Heidegger’s
politics. In fact, we have seen just this past year the publication of what may
be the most important examination of Heidegger’s philosophy in the context of
his politics, namely Johannes Fritsche’s work, Historical Destiny and National
Socialism in Heidegger’s Being and Time
. We will comment on this book in the
next section.
1. Martin Heidegger, “Letter to the Rector of Freiburg University, November 4,
1945, Wolin, p. 61
2. Martin Heidegger, “Letter to the Rector of Freiburg University, November 4,
1945, Wolin p. 64
3. Martin Heidegger, “Letter to the Rector of Freiburg University, November 4,
1945, Wolin, pp. 64-66
4. Sheehan, “Heidegger and the Nazis”
5. Sheehan, “Heidegger and the Nazis”
6. Sheehan, “Heidegger and the Nazis”
7. Denis Donoghue, “The Strange Case of Paul De Man,” New York Review of Books,
June 29, 1989
8. Richard Wolin, “French Heidegger Wars,” Wolin, p. 282.
9. Hannah Arendt, “Martin Heidegger at Eighty,” New York Review of Books,
October 21, 1971
10. Arendt, “Martin Heidegger at Eighty”
11. Tom Rockmore, On Heidegger’s Nazism and Philosophy, Berkeley: Univeristy of
California Press, 1992, p. 6
12. Arendt, “Martin Heidegger at Eighty”
13. Alan Milchman and Alan Rosenberg, “Heidegger, Planetary Technics, and the
Holocaust,” Milchman and Rosenberg, p. 222
14. Alan Milchman and Alan Rosenberg, “Heidegger, Planetary Technics, and the
Holocaust,” Milchman and Rosenberg, p. 224
15. Hans-Georg Gadamer, “Back From Syracuse?” Critical Inquiry 15(2): 1989, pp.
16. Cited in Thomas Sheehan, “A Normal Nazi,” New York Review of Books, January
14, 1993
17. Cited in Thomas Sheehan, “A Normal Nazi”
18. Cited in Thomas Sheehan, “A Normal Nazi”
19. Safranski, p. 421.
20. Richard Rorty, Rev. of Martin. Heidegger. Between Good and Evil, by Rüdiger
Safranski, New York Times Book Review, May 3, 1998
21. Richard Rorty, “Philosophy as Science, Metaphor, Politics,” Essays on
Heidegger and Others: Philosophical Papers, vol. 2, Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1991, p. 19
22. Julian Young, Heidegger, philosophy, Nazism. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1997, p. 1
23. Tom Rockmore, “Recent Discussion of Hediegger and Politics: Young,
Beistegui, Fritsche,” Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal, vol. 21, no.2, 1999,
p. 53

Copyright 1998-2003
World Socialist Web Site
All rights reserved


The Case of Martin Heidegger, Philosopher and Nazi Part 3: History, Philosophy and MythologyWorld
Socialist Web Site

WSWS : Philosophy
The Case of Martin Heidegger, Philosopher and Nazi
Part 3: History, Philosophy and Mythology

By Alex Steiner

5 April 2000

We are posting today the concluding part of a series on the life and work of
twentieth century German philosopher Martin Heidegger.

Prior to a discussion of the philosophy of Martin Heidegger it seems necessary
to dispose of a possible objection
. This objection can be expressed as follows:
if it is true that the thought reflects the man, and if the man is known to be
morally and politically reprehensible, then the thinking behind the man must be
equally reprehensible. If that is the case, then we are in a position to render
judgment on someone’s thinking without actually reading what he wrote. When
stated in this way, the absurdity of this mode of thinking becomes self-evident.
The problem with this type of reasoning is that it takes what is a partial
truth, that indeed a thinker does in some way reflect the man and his times, and
transforms this insight one-sidedly into an absolute dictum such that it becomes
as false as it is true. In general, the relation between a thinker and his
action is far too complex to be summed up in a well-phrased maxim.
At the same time, we must reject the opposite, equally one-sided judgment, one
that has been championed by Heidegger apologists, that there is no relation
between a thinker and his politics. The proponents of this viewpoint often bring
up the example of Gottlob Frege, a vicious anti-Semite whose politics apparently
had no bearing on his technical work on logic. Yet even if one concedes that
there are cases—particularly in technical areas removed from political and
sociological concern—where theoretical work can be pursued unrelated to a
person’s biography or social status, it does not follow that such a dichotomy is
present in the work of any particular theorist. It would be particularly
surprising to find a discordance between the political activity of a man such as
Heidegger and his theorizing, knowing that his theorizing was itself intimately
concerned with personal and political activity.
Were we to follow either of these false paths in relation to Heidegger, we may
feel vindicated in our judgment of the man and his politics, but we would miss
an opportunity to learn something about how his philosophy influenced or was in
turned influenced by his politics. In particular we would be negligent in our
responsibility to account for a most remarkable phenomena of fin-de-siecle
bourgeois thought—namely, how is it that a philosopher who has been called by
many the greatest thinker of the twentieth century was in fact a Nazi? What does
this conjuncture say about the kind of philosophy practiced by Heidegger and his
followers? Most important of all, what does this say about the state of cultured
opinion at the dawn of the new millennium?
As an alternative to the pious banalities of those who would characterize
Heidegger as an innocent who “fell into error,” we will briefly survey the
history of thought with which Heidegger was engaged
. In doing so it will become
clear that Heidegger was neither naïve nor error-prone but, as he himself had
admitted, that his conversion to Hitlerism expressed the deepest principles of
his thought.

Broadly speaking, Heidegger appears within the framework of the Romantic
reaction to the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. Philosophically, both
the Enlightenment and the French Revolution had its most profound expression in
the work of George Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel. Hegel sought to overcome what he
viewed as the one-sidedness of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution while
at the same time defending their work as historically necessary for the
emergence of modern bourgeois society. Marx follows Hegel as a defender of the
Enlightenment and the French Revolution. Marx however also recognized that the
ideals of the French Revolution—liberty, equality and fraternity—are
incompatible with a society based on private property. Henceforth these ideals
could only be realized through the struggle for socialism
The year 1848 saw revolutionary movements break out throughout Europe. The
working class took its first steps as an independent political force
. This had
profound reverberations among all strata of society. Following the events of
1848, the philosophical reaction against Enlightenment rationality becomes more
conscious of its aims. If the original opposition to the Enlightenment in the
eighteenth century came from the monarchists, landholders and the church, the
nineteenth century saw a new wave of opposition to the legacy of the
Enlightenment emanating from those forces who felt most threatened by the
emerging bourgeois society. They looked back longingly to a mythical golden age
in a medieval past
In Germany especially where the bourgeoisie had still to establish its political
hegemony, the birth of political Romanticism found resonance among the peasantry
and the middle class, which felt most threatened by the democratic revolutions
that began to challenge the old order in the Europe of the 1840s. This played
into the hands of the dukes, princes and landholders who had no desire to share
political power. In 1841, 10 years after Hegel’s death, the Prussian authorities
brought in his former roommate and philosophical nemesis, Friedrich Schelling,
to lecture in Berlin.

With Schelling’s later philosophy we can say that the Romantic reaction against
the Enlightenment found its first philosophical voice
. Schelling sought to
replace the Enlightenment’s concern with reason, political freedom and social
equality with a rejection of reason in favor of revelation and elitist values
Schelling’s later system consecrated an appeal to myth and authority.
Consequent on the defeat of the 1848 revolution, the anti-rationalist tendencies
expressed in the later philosophy of Schelling found fertile ground
. The promise
of the French Revolution,
which seemed to inaugurate a new era in human history,
was transformed into the nightmare of Prussian reaction. Instead of celebrating
new possibilities, the prevailing spirit was one of resignation to a very
narrowly circumscribed avenue of political practice. The notion of freedom was
redefined subjectively, as an inner state that can be maintained despite the
vicissitudes of political life
. This was combined with a deep pessimism toward
the ability of human agents to create a more humane society. The name of Arthur
Schopenhauer will forever be linked to this strand of subjective idealism
There was a fundamental change in social conditions after 1848. Whereas
political Romanticism maintained a hostility to capitalism prior to 1848,
following the turmoil of that year, which saw the working class rise as an
independent political force for the first time, the political thrust of
Romanticism, particularly in Germany, was turned against the working class
. All
that remained of the anti-capitalist impulse of the earlier period of
Romanticism was a cultural critique of bourgeois mediocrity
Aristocratic and elitist values were championed as a safeguard against the
threat of the great leveling out of society introduced by democratic and
socialist impulses. Needless to say a palpable fear of the working class was
exponentially heightened following the events of the Paris Commune in 1871, in
which the working class for the first time briefly took power in its own hands
The mood of the German petty bourgeois immediately following the defeat of the
Paris Commune was captured in a letter written by Nietzsche
“Hope is possible again! Our German mission isn’t over yet! I’m in better spirit
than ever, for not yet everything has capitulated to Franco-Jewish leveling and
‘elegance’, and to the greedy instincts of Jetztzeit (‘now-time’)…. Over and
above the war between nations, that international hydra which suddenly raised
its fearsome heads has alarmed us by heralding quite different battles to
Nietzsche in particular plays a key role in our narrative for it is with him
that the Enlightenment project is literally turned on its head
. Nietzsche
appropriates the Enlightenment’s own critical weapon and turns it against the
Enlightenment. He begins by unmasking the relations of power lurking behind
claims to truth, a technique that was developed by the Enlightenment in its
struggle against religious superstition, and turns this against the
Enlightenment itself
. He concludes that all truth claims amount to nothing more
than exercises of the “will to power.
He reinterprets the entire history of
thought as an expression of a hidden will to power
According to this account, for the past two millennia we have witnessed the
“will to power” of Christianity guiding the fate of European culture. Nietzsche
despised the egalitarian movements for democratic reforms and socialism that
emerged in his time. He saw these modern political and social movements as
threatening the aristocratic values for which great civilizations and great
people (the overman) should strive
. He indicts Christianity, which he sees as
imbued with a “slave morality” for setting into motion a process which
culminates in the Enlightenment’s final unmasking of religious beliefs, an event
he called “the death of god.” The Enlightenment ushers in an age in which values
can no longer be grounded, an age of nihilism
It is in Nietzsche that the counter-Enlightenment finds its real voice. And it
is to this tradition that we should look in situating the philosophy of Martin
Heidegger. Heidegger himself in fact recognized Nietzsche quite correctly as a
kindred spirit
. But whereas Nietzsche saw himself as the prophet announcing the
coming of nihilism, Heidegger sees himself as the biographer of a mature
. Heidegger’s views were formed in the deeply pessimistic atmosphere
engendered by Germany’s defeat in World War I. He was influenced by the
right-wing author Ernest Juenger, whose novels celebrated the steadfast,
resolute soldier meeting his fate in battle. Another important influence was
Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West, a hysterical rant against socialism and
liberalism, which are indicted for corrupting the values of Western

The immediate philosophical tradition from which Heidegger graduated was
inaugurated by Wilhelm Dilthey in the latter decades of the nineteenth century.
The trend launched by Dilthey has come to be known as Lebensphilosophie
(Philosophy of Life or Vitalism)
. Its practitioners include such disparate
thinkers as George Simmel, Oswald Spengler, Max Scheler and Karl Jaspers, as
well as the fascists Ludwig Klages, Alfred Baeumler and Ernst Krieck
Lebensphilosophie was not so much a specific philosophical doctrine as a certain
cultural mood that affected broad areas of the intelligentsia. It is
characterized by a sharp dichotomy between science and technology on one side,
versus the category of “Life” on the other
. For its ideological armaments
Lebensphilosophie borrowed the critique of scientific understanding from the
debates that were raging prior to 1848. Scientific understanding, thought of as
narrow and barren, was contrasted to “Experience” which gives us an intuitive
access to “Life.”
This appeal to immediate intuition which gradually becomes
more pronounced is what brands Lebensphilosophie as a form of irrationalism.
In his most important work, Being and Time, Heidegger sets out for himself the
heroic task of retrieving the history of metaphysics. Specifically, Heidegger
maintains that modern man has forgotten the meaning of the question of Being. He
says that in using the common word “is” we no longer know what we mean.
According to Heidegger, the subject-predicate logic which we use every day
conceals the true meaning of what existence really is. Heidegger claims that the
Greeks had an authentic experience of Being as “unconcealment.” But when Greek
philosophy was translated into Latin, it lost the richness of this primal
experience. The experience of Being was reified into a relation between a thing
and its properties. Heidegger sees his task as the retrieval of the original
meaning of Being which has been lost. From this vantage point he goes to war
against the entire history of Western philosophy following the Greeks.
The echoes of Nietzsche are here evident and they will become even more obvious
in Heidegger’s later philosophy. Like Nietzsche, Heidegger turns away from the
history of philosophy which he views as hopelessly compromised by a flawed model
of knowledge. His method of practicing philosophy also retraces the steps of
Nietzsche. He abandons discursive argumentation that try to convince an unbiased
reader by the force of their logic in favor of prophetic pronouncements and
etymological sleight-of-hand that aim at overpowering the reader.
In his later philosophy, Heidegger will go even farther in his repudiation of
the history of philosophy. He will claim that all philosophers after the
pre-Socratics have been guilty of falsifying and concealing some kind of primal
experience of Being. His program for retrieving the original meaning of Being
becomes transformed into a project aimed at the “destruction of metaphysics.”
Being and Time is preoccupied with a discussion of the meaning of death.
According to Heidegger, it is the imminence of death and our knowledge of it
that makes an “authentic” life possible. It is only when we live life at the
extreme, and confront our own mortality, that we are able to set aside the
inauthentic chatter of our day to day existence and come to terms with our true
selves. This theme, which Heidegger called our Being-towards-Death, is by no
means new in the history of thought. It is closely related to the meditations of
scores of religious writers from St. Augustine to Kierkegaard to Tolstoy.
Perhaps more to the point, however, Heidegger’s secularized meditation on the
imminence of death and the responsibilities that devolve to us as a result owe
more to the heroic literature of Ernest Juenger. It is the soldier above all who
is called upon to make a decision that will validate his life as he faces
imminent death. Heidegger’s category of “resoluteness,” which becomes so
important to existential philosophy, is rooted in the situation of the soldier
facing the enemy in the trenches in a hopeless struggle.
Many commentators have remarked that this feature of Heidegger’s thinking, his
emphasis on the need to make critical decisions determining ones fate,
illustrates the essentially apolitical quality of Heidegger’s philosophy.
Seemingly, one can choose to be either a Nazi, as Heidegger himself did, or a
member of the French resistance, as Sartre did, and still remain faithful to the
terms of an authentic existence. The completely empty character of the
categories of authenticity and resoluteness have been the subject of much
criticism. Habermas, for instance, characterized it as “the decisionism of empty
resoluteness.”[2] Heidegger is taken to task for lacking a criteria by which to
judge the worth of one decision against another. Given the accepted
interpretation of Heidegger, this criticism is correct as far as it goes.
However, a remarkable book that has just been published promises to turn upside
down the body of received opinion on the philosophy of Heidegger.
In his path-breaking work, “Historical Destiny and National Socialism” in
Heidegger’s Being and Time, Johannes Fritsche demonstrates that not only are the
categories discussed in Being and Time not apolitical, but on the contrary,
“When one reads Sein und Zeit in its context, one sees that, as Scheler put it,
in the kairos [crisis] of the twenties Sein und Zeit was a highly political and
ethical work, that it belonged to the revolutionary Right, and that it contained
an argument for the most radical group on the revolutionary Right, namely, the
National Socialists.”[3]
Fritsche’s point is that Heidegger’s idiom and use of language were part of a
shared tradition of right-wing thought that emerged in the 1920s in Germany. The
political content of Being and Time would have been clear to Heidegger’s German
contemporaries. However, to readers of the French and English translations that
circulated a generation or two later, this political content is completely
obscured. Instead as Fritsche mockingly puts it, “You see in Being and Time the
terrifying face of the old witch of the loneliness of the isolated bourgeois
subjects, or the un-erotic groupings in their Gesellschaft [society], and you
see the desire for a leap out of the Gesellschaft.”[4]
Sartre and the French existentialists adopted from Heidegger the themes of
loneliness and alienation as well as the corollary notion of a heroic and resolute voluntarism in the face of an absurd world. Fritsche maintains that
whatever the merits of their own works, the existentialists misunderstood
Heidegger. Fritsche’s argument for reading Heidegger as the philosopher of
National Socialism is impossible to summarize here. It relies on a very
sophisticated historical and philological analysis of the text of Being and
Time. After reconstructing the actual content of Being and Time, Fritsche
compares it with the writings of two other notorious right-wing authors who were
contemporaries, namely Max Scheler and Adolf Hitler. Fritsche demonstrates that
the political content of Being and Time and Mein Kampf are identical,
notwithstanding the fact that the first book was written by a world renowned
philosopher and the second by a sociopath from the gutters of Vienna.

One of the myths Fritsche exposes is that Heidegger’s notion of authenticity
bears some relationship to the traditional conception of individual freedom.
Fritsche demonstrates that for Heidegger achieving “authenticity” means
precisely the opposite of exercising freedom. Rather it means that one answers a
“call” to live life according to one’s fate. The fate whose call one must answer
has been preordained by forces that are outside the scope of the individual.
Answering the call is therefore the very anti-thesis of any notion of freedom.
In support of this thesis, Fritsche quotes the following passage from Being and
“ Dasein [Heidegger’s term for human being] can be reached by the blows of fate
only because in the depths of its Being Dasein is fate in the sense we have
described. Existing fatefully in the resoluteness which hands itself down,
Dasein has been disclosed as Being-in-the-world both for the ‘fortunate’
circumstances which ‘comes its way’ and for the cruelty of accidents. Fate does
not arise from the clashing together of events and circumstances. Even one who
is irresolute gets driven about by these—more so than one who has chosen; and
yet he can ‘have’ no fate.”[5]
Fritsche comments on this passage as follows:
“First, far from being something a Dasein creates or changes or breaks, ‘fate’
exists prior to the Dasein and demands the latter’s subjugation. The point is
not how to create or break fate [which would be a typical existentialist
interpretation. A.S.]. Rather, the problem is whether a Dasein accepts, opens
itself for, hands itself down to, subjugates itself to, or sacrifices itself to
fate—which is what authentic Dasein does—or whether a Dasein denies fate and
continues trying to evade it—which is what ordinary, and therefore inauthentic
Dasein does.”[6]
Nor is the fate to which authentic Dasein must subjugate itself some sort of
existential angst. For Heidegger, fate had a definite political content. The
fate of the patriotic German was identified with the Volksgemeinschaft, a term
that was used polemically by the Nazis to denote a community of the people bound
by race and heritage. The idea of a Volksgemeinschaft was, in the right-wing
literature of the time, often counterposed to that of Gesellschaft, a reference
to the Enlightenment notion of a shared community of interests based on
universal human values. Continuing his analysis of authenticity, Fritsche
“In contrast to ordinary Dasein and inauthentic Dasein, authentic Dasein
…realizes that there is a dangerous situation, and relates itself to the
‘heritage.’ In so doing, it produces the separation between the Daseine that
have fate and those that do not, i.e., the inauthentic Daseine. In the next step
authentic Dasein realizes that its heritage and destiny is the
Volksgemeinschaft, which calls it into struggle…. After this, authentic Dasein
hands itself down to the Volksgemeinschaft and recognizes what is at stake in
the struggle…. Finally, authentic Dasein reaffirms its subjugation to the past
to the Volksgemeinschaft and begins the struggle, that is, the cancellation of
the world of inauthentic Dasein.”[7]
In characterizing the struggle for authentic Dasein as “a cancellation of the
world of the inauthentic Dasein,” Fritsche is being overly metaphorical. In
plain language, “the cancellation of the world of inauthentic Dasein” is a
reference to the fascist counterrevolution. It entails the destruction of
bourgeois democracy and its institutions, the persecution and murder of
socialists, the emasculation of all independent working class organizations, a
concerted and systematic attack on the culture of the Enlightenment, and of
course the persecution and eventual elimination of alien forces in the midst of
the Volk, most notably the Jews.
If Fritsche’s interpretation of Being and Time is correct, then it can likewise
serve to demystify the riddle of the relationship between Heidegger’s early
philosophy and his later conversion to a peculiar form of quietism. Many
commentators have been puzzled at the seemingly radical transition from a
philosophy based on activism, as the typical interpretation of Being and Time
saw it, to one rooted in the mystical resignation to one’s fate that
characterizes Heidegger’s later philosophy. Fritsche has shown, however, that
the early philosophy was anything but voluntarist. The notion of man
transforming his destiny in accordance with his will is a typical Enlightenment
motif that bears little resemblance to Heidegger’s vision. Rather, as Fritsche
has demonstrated, we do not so much transform our destiny as find what it is and
submit to it. Thus, the sense of resignation is already there in the early
philosophy. The transition therefore in the later philosophy is hardly as
radical as it has appeared.
We can add that there is nothing particularly unique in Heidegger’s theory of
authenticity as answering the call of one’s fate. A strikingly parallel
conception can be found in the work of another contemporary intellectual who
evinced sympathy for Nazism, the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. Lecturing in
1935, Jung provides the following account of the relation between individual
volition and our collective fate:
“Our personal psychology is just a thin skin, a ripple upon the ocean of
collective psychology. The powerful factor, the factor which changes our whole
life, which changes the surface of our known world, which makes history, is
collective psychology, and collective psychology moves according to laws
entirely different from those of our consciousness. The archetypes are the great
decisive forces, they bring about the real events, and not our personal
reasoning and practical intellect…. Sure enough, the archetypal images decide
the fate of man. Man’s unconscious psychology decides and not what we think and
talk in the brain-chamber up in the attic.”[8]
If we substitute Jung’s vocabulary, grounded in his mythological appropriation
of psychology, with Heidegger’s philosophical categories, we will find an
essential congruence in the thought of Jung and Heidegger. For instance, if
“authentic Dasein” stands in for “man’s unconscious psychology” we will have
reconstructed another expression of Heidegger’s argument that fate is neither
created nor transformed by the conscious activities of men. Rather fate is a
pre-existing state, an archetype in Jung’s terminology, whose “call” on some
unconscious level, one is compelled to “answer” or risk the consequences of
The affinity between Heidegger’s thinking and Jung’s should not be interpreted
as a case of cross- pollination between philosophy and psychology. Rather, what
it does demonstrate is a shared outlook deriving from a common ideological
source. This common substratum is the Volkisch ideology that had been gestating
in Germany for a century prior to the development of Nazism. Whereas the
philosophers of the counter-Enlightenment paved the way for Volkisch ideology,
an eclectic assortment of ideologues were its actual authors. From the Romantic
reaction against the Enlightenment, to Nietzsche’s pronouncement that nihilism
is the culmination of Reason, the belief in progress and the perfectibility of
mankind through science and social evolution was successively undermined. These
moods resonated among those social forces that found themselves increasingly
displaced and marginalized by the industrialization of Germany in the latter
half of the nineteenth century. The rise of Volkisch ideology expressed the
fears of peasants, artisans and landowners squeezed between the pincer movements
of the bourgeoisie and the working class.
Ideologies emerge not only from the official philosophical schools, but are also
generated through an “underground” whose leading representatives are often
barely noticed by later historians. Heinrich Riehl (1823-97), a man who left no
trace in any history of philosophy text, was a seminal theorist of Volkisch
ideology. His book Land und Leute [ Places and People] argued that the inner
character of a people is completely intertwined with their particular native
landscape. Central to Riehl’s thinking and to Volkisch ideology thereafter is
the concept that certain classes or ethnic groups have an organic relationship
to the land and are thus “rooted” whereas others are “rootless” and cannot be
assimilated to the Volk. The historian George L. Mosse in his definitive history
of Volkisch ideology, provides a summary of this aspect of Riehl’s ideas:
“Yet for Riehl a third class, dangerous to the body politic and unfit to be
accommodated within Volkisch society, had come into being. This group,
identified as true ‘proletariat,’ consisted of the totally disinherited …
“What precluded the integration of the proletariat into the system of estates
was its instability, its restlessness. This group was a part of the contemporary
population which could never sink roots of any permanence. In its ranks was the
migratory worker, who lacking native residence, could not call any landscape his
own. There was also the journalist, the polemicist, the iconoclast who opposed
ancient custom, advocated man-made panaceas, and excited the people to revolt
against the genuine and established order. Above all there was the Jew, who by
his very nature was restless. Although the Jew belonged to a Volk, it occupied
no specific territory and was consequently doomed to rootlessness. These
elements of the population dominated the large cities, which they had erected,
according to Riehl, in their own image to represent their particular landscape.
However, this was an artificial domain, and in contrast to serene rootedness,
everything it contained, including the inhabitants, was in continuous motion.
The big city and the proletariat seemed to fuse into an ominous colossus which
was endangering the realm of the Volk …”[9]
Jung, having been philosophically predisposed towards Volkisch mythology,
expressed sympathy with Nazism in the immediate period after 1933. Unlike
Heidegger, however, Jung did not answer the “call” and never joined the Nazis.
It is perhaps not entirely coincidental that this unflattering period of Jung’s
biography, like that of Heidegger’s, although known for decades, has only
recently become the subject of critical scholarship.[10]

It is not too difficult to see how the themes of “rootedness” and “rootlessness”
appear in Being and Time as “authenticity” and “inauthenticity.” The Volkisch
strands in Heidegger’s thought combined with the irrationalist heritage of
Nietzsche to produce an eloquent statement of the social position of the petty
bourgeois in the period between the two world wars. In his study of the genesis
of irrationalist philosophy George Lukacs diagnosed the social psychology of the
time that created such an opening for Heidegger’s conceptualization:
“Thus Heidegger’s despair had two facets: on the one hand, the remorseless
baring of the individual’s inner nothingness in the imperialistic crisis; on the
other—and because the social grounds for this nothingness were being
fetishistically transformed into something timeless and anti-social—the feeling
to which it gave rise could very easily turn into a desperate revolutionary
activity. It is certainly no accident that Hitler’s propaganda continually
appealed to despair. Among the working masses, admittedly, the despair was
occasioned by their socio-economic situation. Among the intelligentsia, however,
that mood of nihilism and despair from whose subjective truth Heidegger
proceeded, which he conceptualized, clarified philosophically and canonized as
authentic, created a basis favourable to the efficacy of Hitlerian
Thus far, we have identified two strands in Heidegger’s thinking that form part
of a common substance with German fascism: philosophical irrationalism and the
appropriation of Volkisch mythology. A third ideological building block of
German fascism was the pseudo-science of racial theory rooted in a crude
biological determinism. To be sure, Heidegger’s thought never accommodated this
brand of crude racialism. For one thing, the philosophical traditions from which
biological racial theory derives, Social Darwinism and mechanistic reductionism,
were anathema to the tradition of Lebensphilosophie from which Heidegger
emerges. Lebensphilosophie, particularly in the hands of its later
practitioners, stressed the difference between Life and the natural sciences.
With Heidegger, it develops a distinctly anti-scientific animus. One might say
that Heidegger’s animosity toward science precluded any consideration of
racialist pseudo-science.
Some of Heidegger’s apologists have suggested that because Heidegger was opposed
to biologism he therefore could not have been a Nazi or an anti-Semite. If we
follow this line of thinking, we would be attributing entirely too much
significance to the role of biological racial theory for Nazism. As Tom Rockmore
has pointed out,
“Yet the antibiologism which Heidegger shared with many other intellectuals is
compatible with anti-Semitism and Nazism. Biologism was not as important to
Nazism, at least until well after National Socialism came to power, as the
traditional anti-Semitism strikingly present in, for instance, Luther’s works
and even in speeches before the German Reichstag, or parliament.”[12]
We may add that Heidegger was not above collaborating in common projects with
the vilest of the Nazi racists, despite his rejection of their crude philosophy.
Whatever philosophical differences Heidegger may have had with Alfred Rosenberg,
he was more than willing to attend international conferences as a representative
of the Third Reich and sit on the same dais with Rosenberg and his ilk.[13]
One can add the observation made by Lukacs, that official National Socialist
“philosophy” could never have gained a mass audience without years of
irrationalist culture paving the way.
“But for a ‘philosophy’ with so little foundation or coherence, so profoundly
unscientific and coarsely dilettantish to become prevalent, what were needed
were a specific philosophical mood, a disintegration of confidence in
understanding and reason, the destruction of human faith in progress, and
credulity towards irrationalism, myth and mysticism.”[14]
Perhaps then Heidegger’s biggest crime was not his enlistment in the Nazi Party
and assumption of the rectorship of Freiburg. These were merely political
crimes, of the sort committed by many thousands of yes-men. Perhaps his crime
against philosophy is more fundamental. Through it he contributed in no small
degree to the culture of barbarism that nourished the Nazi beast.
Danse Macabre: Heidegger, Pragmatism and Postmodernism
“This conceit which understands how to belittle every truth, in order to turn
back into itself and gloat over its own understanding, which knows how to
dissolve every thought and always find the same barren Ego instead of any
content—this is a satisfaction which we must leave to itself, for it flees the
universal, and seeks only to be for itself.”[15]
One of the most curious philosophical trends in the postwar period has been the
embrace of Heidegger by many left-leaning intellectuals. This is an
extraordinarily complex subject to which we can hardly do justice in the scope
of this presentation. We wish simply to sketch the epistemological kinship,
despite the historical differences, between Heidegger and his contemporary
What has characterized the postwar intelligentsia in the West has been the
wholesale abandonment of any identification with Marxism, humanism or any
vestige of Enlightenment rationality. The hopes of a generation of radical
intellectuals were trampled underneath the weight of the failed revolutionary
movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s. It would be hard to underestimate
the impact on the French intelligentsia in particular of the failure of the
revolutionary upsurge of May-June 1968. Legions of former left intellectuals
began a wholesale retreat from the Enlightenment vision of an emancipatory
rationality. Their spirit of despair was summed up by the late Jean-Francois
Lyotard, the founder of postmodernism:
“We can observe and establish a kind of decline in the confidence that for two
centuries, the West invested in the principle of a general progress of humanity.
This idea of a possible, probable, or necessary progress is rooted in the belief
that developments made in the arts, technology, knowledge and freedoms would
benefit humanity as a whole …
“There is a sort of grief in the Zeitgeist. It can find expression in reactive,
even reactionary, attitudes or in utopias—but not in a positive orientation that
would open up a new perspective.”[16]
Lyotard’s personal history exemplifies the political and intellectual
transformation of an entire generation of radicals. In the 1950s and 1960s he
was on the editorial board of the radical journal Socialisme ou Barbarie. He was
an active participant in the events of May 1968. Following the restabilization
of the Gaullist regime after 1968, Lyotard turned against Marxism, which he
characterized, along with the Enlightenment notion of progress, as a “failed
Holding the attempt to encompass in thought the terrible recent history of our
time a failure, it was not a very big step for the postmodernists to appropriate
the irrationalist tradition that turned its back on the Enlightenment. This is
where the Heidegerrians, postmodernists, deconstructionists and neo-pragmatists
find a common ground. All these trends reject what they call the traditional
conceptual thinking, “Philosophy” or “Science” with capital letters.
Why did these disparate philosophical traditions gravitate to Heidegger’s notion
of a “thinking that is more rigorous than the conceptual”?[17]
They saw in Heidegger the intellectual apparatus that would take them beyond the
now suspect model of rationality that has been the hallmark of Western
philosophy for 2,500 years. Heidegger provided the anti-foundationalist approach
of Derrida, Rorty and others with a systematic critique of the history of
philosophy. The postmodernists, deconstructionists and pragmatists solemnly
accepted Heidegger’s diagnosis of the terminal state of Western thought when he
said, “What is needed in the present world crisis is less philosophy, but more
attentiveness in thinking; less literature, but more cultivation of the
The neo-pragmatist Richard Rorty comes to the identical conclusion when he
“If Philosophy disappears, something will have been lost which was central to
Western intellectual life—just as something central was lost when religious
intuitions were weeded out from among intellectually respectable candidates for
Philosophical articulation. But the Enlightenment thought, rightly, that what
would succeed religion would be better. The pragmatist is betting that what
succeeds the ‘scientific,’ positivist culture which the Enlightenment produced
will be better.”[19]
In a remarkable confession, Rorty himself explains the underlying sociological
imperative that has produced this sea-change in Western thought. In describing
the malaise that has passed over Western thought Rorty writes:
“It reflects the sociopolitical pessimism which has afflicted European and
American intellectuals ever since we tacitly gave up on socialism without
becoming any fonder of capitalism—ever since Marx ceased to present an
alternative to Nietzsche and Heidegger. This pessimism, which sometimes calls
itself ‘postmodernism,’ has produced a conviction that the hopes for greater
freedom and equality which mark the recent history of the West were somehow
deeply self-deceptive.”[20]
We thus witness the peculiar intellectual partnership between the post 1968
generation of disappointed ex-radicals with the ideas of the German radical
right of the 1920s. The warm reception for Derrida and French postmodernism in
the United States can be explained by a series of developments in the past three
decades that in many ways parallels the experiences of the French
intelligentsia. We have in mind the disillusionment that occurred when the heady
days of protest politics of the 1960s and early 1970s gave way to the
constricted cultural and political landscape of the Reagan administration.
Yet, what is the content of the new “thinking” about which Heidegger, Derrida
and Rorty speculate? We will look in vain in the works of Heidegger, Rorty,
Lyotard or Derrida for an explanation of what this new “thinking” is and how it
is “better” than a thinking grounded in an attempt to conceptualize an objective
world. At best, we are told to look at the work of poets and other artists whose
intuitive aesthetic view of the world is offered as a new paradigm of knowledge.
This explains the later Heidegger’s abandonment of the traditional philosophical
issues in favor of musings on the poetry of Hölderlin. We can discern a similar
trend in the works of the postmodernists and neo-pragmatists. Derrida for
instance has sought to redefine the philosophical enterprise as a form of
literary text. Rorty champions the “good-natured” novelists at the expense of
the sickly philosophers.[21]
Heidegger’s claim to point to a primordial “thinking” that is in some way a
return to a more authentic, uncorrupted insight is hardly new in the history of
philosophy. It is but a variation of the claim that immediate intuition provides
a surer basis for knowledge than the mediated sequence of concepts that brings
particulars into relation with universals. The attempt to grasp the bare
particular, uncorrupted by the universal, whether conceived of as “sense
perception” or a mystical access to the divine, has dogged philosophy for
centuries. In his own time, Hegel had to respond to the intuitionists who
opposed critical thought. Replying to these thinkers, he wrote, “what is called
the unutterable is nothing else than the untrue, the irrational, what is merely
meant [but is not actually expressed].”[22]
This comment, it seems to us, makes a perfect coda to Heidegger’s “thinking”
that is beyond philosophy. Heidegger’s “thinking” is not post-philosophic but
pre-philosophic. We have not so much overcome the history of metaphysics, as we
have regressed to a period in the history of thought prior to the emergence of
metaphysics, prior to the differentiation of science from myth and religion.
The pomposity and pretentiousness of Heidegger’s return to the archaic was
magnificently punctured by one of Heidegger’s earliest and most trenchant
critics, Theodore Adorno. Adorno highlighted the hidden assumption in
Heidegger’s thought, “the identification of the archaic with the genuine.”
Continuing this thought he wrote:
“But the triviality of the simple is not, as Heidegger would like it to be,
attributable to the value-blindness of thought that has lost being. Such
triviality comes from thinking that is supposedly in tune with being and reveals
itself as something supremely noble. Such triviality is the sign of that
classifying thought, even in the simplest word, from which Heidegger pretends
that he has escaped: namely, abstraction.”[23]
What practical results ensue from this kind of “thinking”? The non-mediated
perception leads one back to the “familiar.” The “familiar” is that which we
take for granted as being self-evidently true. It is the realm of historically
ingrained assumptions and class biases, those axioms of everyday life that are
accepted by ones friends and colleagues that make up the realm of the
“familiar.” The intuitionist is thereby a slave to the historically rooted
ideologies of his place and time, all the while thinking that he has overcome
all dogmas and prejudices. For Heidegger, the “familiar” is heavily invested
with the ideological stance of the Radical right, its shared mythology of a Volk
having a common destiny, the betrayal of the fatherland by the liberals and
socialists, etc. For the contemporary crop of postmodernists and
neo-pragmatists, it is possible to delineate a common set of beliefs that are
considered today’s intellectual coin of the realm. Among these one could mention
the following:
Rational discourse is incapable of encompassing the complexities and nuances of
(post)modern society. (The fact that such a statement is itself an example of
rational discourse and is therefore self-refuting does not seem to bother
proponents of this view.)
The notion of progress cannot be demonstrated in history. This is closely
related to a deep sense of skepticism about the possibility of harnessing
technology for the benefit of humanity.
The working class cannot play a revolutionary role. Some postmodernists
counterpose other forces to the working class. Others simply despair of any
possibility of a revolutionary transformation of society. Others even deny the
existence of the working class in contemporary society.
All, however, are united in their conviction that the prospect for socialism is
precluded in our time. It follows that Marxism is conceived as a hopeless
Utopian dream. This last conviction is uncritically adopted by all shades of
postmodernism, deconstruction and neo-pragmatism. It has the force of a new
dogma, one that remains completely unrecognized by its proponents.
Let us be clear. The defenders of Heidegger today are not, with a few notable
exceptions such as Ernst Nolte, supporters of fascism. What they see in
Heidegger is his attack on the history of rational thought. Like Heidegger, they
wish to return to a mythical past prior to the corrupting influence of Western
metaphysics. The politics of the “primordial thinkers,” those who would in
Hegel’s words, “flee the universal,” invariably leads to a politics that
elevates the immediate and fragmentary at the expense of the objective and
universal interests of humanity.
It is not accidental that the postmodernists have become supporters of various
forms of “identity politics,” grounded in subjectively conceived particularistic
interests, such as gender or ethnic group or even neighborhood. They oppose any
notion of a politics based on universal and objective class interests. This is
but a variation of Heidegger’s political position of the 1920s and 1930s in
which the reality of the mythical Volksgemeinschaft became the chief principle
around which political positions were formulated.
Finally, we wish to ask once more why has Heidegger been considered by many the
greatest philosopher of this century? We can certainly elucidate some reasons
why philosophers and others who have no sympathy for fascism, find his work
compelling. His work does evince a deep familiarity with the history of
philosophy and its problems. He also develops a very novel interpretation of
this history. At bottom, the content of his thought is neither profound nor
original. Judgments of this sort are not, however, based on the content of
Heidegger’s philosophy. They arise from the perceived lack of an alternative to
the spirit of nihilism that pervades our age. Heidegger more than anyone else in
the twentieth century gave voice to that spirit.
It is a spirit whose presence must be banished. The other of nihilism, the
spirit of hope and equality ushered in by the Enlightenment, is Marxism. We wish
to conclude with the words of the German Marxist, Walter Benjamin, himself a
victim of the Nazis. Commenting on Ernst Jünger’s book celebrating the fascist
aesthetic, War and Warriors, he wrote the following, at a time (1930) when the
fascist threat began to cast a very dark shadow:
“ Until Germany has exploded the entanglement of such Medusa-like beliefs …it
cannot hope for a future. …Instead, all the light that language and reason
still afford should be focused upon that ‘primal experience’ from whose barren
gloom this mysticism of the death of the world crawls forth on its thousand
unsightly conceptual feet. The war that this light exposes is as little the
‘eternal’ one which these new Germans now worship as it is the ‘final’ war that
the pacifists carry on about. In reality, that war is only this: the one,
fearful, last chance to correct the incapacity of peoples to order their
relationships to one another in accord with the relationships they posses to
nature through their technology. If this corrective effort fails, millions of
human bodies will indeed inevitably be chopped to pieces and chewed up by iron
and gas. But even the habitues of the chthonic forces of terror, who carry their
volumes of Klages in their packs, will not learn one-tenth of what nature
promises its less idly curious but more sober children, who possess in
technology not a fetish of doom but a key to happiness.”[24]
1. Nietzsche to Baron von Gersdorff, June, 21, 1871, cited in George Lukacs, The
Destruction of Reason. Humanities Press, 1981, p. 325
2. Jurgen Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse on Modernity: Twelve Lectures,
trans. F Lawrence, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1978, p. 141
3. Johannes Fritsche, Historical Destiny and National Socialism in Heidegger’s
Being and Time, University of California Press, 1999, p. xv
4. Johannes Fritsche, pp. 218-19.
5. Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson,
New York: Harper and Row, 1962, p. 436
6. Johannes Fritsche, p. 65
7. Johannes Fritsche, p. 67
8. C.G. Jung, Analytical Psychology: Its Theory and Practice, New York, Vintage
Books, 1970, p. 183
9. George L. Mosse, The Crisis of German Ideology: Intellectual Origins of the
Third Reich, New York, Grosset and Dunlop, 1964, p. 22
10. Jung’s affinity for Volkisch mythology and anti-semitism is documented by
Richard Noll, The Jung Cult:Origins of a Charismatic Movement, Princeton,
Princeton University Press, 1994
11. George Lukacs, The Destruction of Reason, Humanities Press, 1981, p. 504
12. Tom Rockmore, On Heidegger’s Nazism and Philosophy, p. 111
13. Heidegger’s former student and friend, Karl Löwith met him while at a
conference in Rome in 1936. Löwith, a Jew by birth, had gone into exile after
1933. On the occasion of their meeting, Löwith asked Heidegger how he could sit
at the same table “with an individual like Julius Streicher.” Streicher, the
notorious editor of Der Sturmer, was admitted as a member of the board of the
Nietzsche Archive. Heidegger was a fellow board member. Löwith, in his memoirs,
reports that Heidegger’s response to his question about Streicher was to
“dismiss the rantings of the Gauletier of Franconia as political pornography.”
He insisted, however, on dissociating the Führer, Adolf Hitler, from Streicher.
[Hugo Ott, Martin Heidegger: A Political Life, Basic Books, 1993, p. 268]
14. Lukacs, p. 416
15. Hegel, 52, paragraph 80
16. “Notes on the Meaning of ‘Post’,” Jean-Francois Lyotard, Postmodernism a
Reader, edited by Thomas Docherty, New York, Columbia University Press, pp.
17. Martin Heidegger, “Letter on Humanism”, Basic Writings, edit. David Farrell
Krell, New York: Harper and Row, 1977, p. 235
18. Martin Heidegger, “Letter on Humanism”, Basic Writings, p. 242
19. Richard Rorty, Consequences of Pragmatism (Essays: 1972-1980), Minneapolis,
University of Minnesota Press, 1982, p. xxxviii
20, Richard Rorty, “Heidegger, Kundera and Dickens”, Essays on Heidegger and
Others, 67
21. “The important thing about novelists as compared with theoreticians is that
they are good at details”, Rorty, “Heidegger, Kundera and Dickens, p. 81
22, Hegel, 66, paragraph 109
23. Theodore W. Adorno, The Jargon of Authenticity, Northwestern University
Press, 1973, p. 51
24. Walter Benjamin, “Theories of German Fascism”, Selected Writings: Vol II.,
trans. Rodney Livingstone, Harvard University Press, 1999, pp. 320-21

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World Socialist Web Site
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Two letters and two replies on “The Case of Martin Heidegger, Philosopher and Nazi”–Part 2World
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WSWS : Philosophy
Two letters and two replies on “The Case of Martin Heidegger, Philosopher and Nazi”—Part 2

2 November 2000
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On April 3-5, 2000 the WSWS published a three-part series entitled, “The Case of
Martin Heidegger, Philosopher and Nazi.” Today we are posting the second of two
letters criticizing the articles, and a reply by the author of the series, Alex

To the editor,

I recently read and enjoyed Alex Steiner’s article on Heidegger and the Nazis.
Although there is much in this essay I would take issue with, I thought that the
section that drew upon Fritsche’s Historical Destiny and National Socialism in
Heidegger’s Being and Time was particularly interesting because it claimed to
have successfully achieved something new and exciting; to the effect that the
ideas of Being and Time were in some way an early expression of Heidegger’s
Nazism and of the horrors of the Third Reich. However, I have looked at the
Heidegger passages that Fritsche quotes from and which Steiner included and I
have considered what the significance of these might be. Having done so I am now
less than convinced that any thing theoretically new has been said. I haven’t
read Fritsche’s book but I am presuming that the passages that are quoted from
by Alex Steiner and Fritsche’s analysis of these Heidegger passages are the
“high point” of the study? Although I have nothing theoretically new to offer
either, and at some considerable risk of being branded yet another Heidegger
apologist, I thought it perhaps worth restating some clear intellectual
boundaries that should continue to be maintained in my view and especially
where, as in the case of Alex Steiner’s piece, such boundaries appear to have
been abused. In my view Alex Steiner’s survey of the current literature on the
“Heidegger case” provokes three related questions:
(1) To what extent were Heidegger’s ideas a part of the milieu in which he
wrote, i.e., those of the 1920s and the Weimar Republic?
(2) To what extent are Heidegger’s ideas uniquely his own and which were shared
by others, e.g., Hitler in Mein Kampf, and so forth?
(3) To what extent might Being and Time contain material of interest to
philosophers today?
This list of questions is not meant to be in any way comprehensive, in fact
these are really positive and negative ways of addressing the same issues. My
point in restating these is that I simply want to indicate that I don’t think
that Alex Steiner’s intervention has been decisive with regard to these
questions. What Steiner, Fritsch and the others that he mentions have
demonstrated to date is that there was a language of Weimar struggle and
decisionism, (and I would hold that this language was neither exclusively the
property of those on the left or right), and that Heidegger may have shared some
of that language. The literature on the subject has also clearly demonstrated
that Heidegger was a card-carrying member of the Nazi party and that he carried
out Nazi reforms when he was in a position to do so, and with some enthusiasm.
As for his qualities as a human being? This does not interest me.
What I have yet to see, however, is a clear demonstration that the meaning of
Heidegger’s philosophy, and that the text of Being and Time, have anything in
common with either the full development of Nazi ideology or with the actual
policies and political direction taken by the Third Reich under the Nazis. Or
even that there is any necessary connection between that text and these events.
I will not attempt to answer Alex Steiner’s essay in detail for I am really not
qualified to answer him given my limited command of German. However, I do
believe I have some idea of what an answer to some of these questions might
begin to look like. For example, that the period was an extraordinary time and a
tremendous trial of world-historical specificity for all concerned was widely
understood at the time, and it certainly appeared to be a time for “decisions”,
in the view of many.
Ernest Hemingway once wrote (while the exchange rate was running at 7000 marks
to the $), about a “swinish spectacle” in Strasbourg on September, 19, 1922,
(presumably while Being and Time was being composed some miles south):
“the youth of the town of Strasbourg crowd into the German pastry shop to eat
themselves sick and gorge on fluffy, cream-filled slices of German cake at 5
marks the slice.
“In a pastry shop we visited, a man in an apron, wearing blue glasses, appeared
to be the proprietor. […] The place was jammed with French people of all ages
and descriptions, all gorging cakes, while a young girl in a pink dress, silk
stockings, with a pretty, weak face and pearl earrings in her ears took as many
of their orders for fruit and vanilla ices as she could fill.
“[…] The proprietor and his helper were surly and didn’t seem particularly
happy when all the cakes were sold. The mark was falling faster than they could
“As the last afternoon tea-ers and pastry-eaters went Strasbourg-wards across
the bridge the first of the exchange pirates coming over to raid Kehl for cheap
dinners began to arrive. The two streams passed each other on the bridge and two
disconsolate-looking German soldiers looked on” ( The Faber Book of Reportage,
edited by John Carey, Faber and Faber, 1996, pp. 497-501).
The sense of impending crisis is palpable in this extract, and one is left with
the impression that Hemingway’s sympathies are entirely with the German baker
and not with the “good fortune” and gluttony of the French, who are seen to be
extracting their pound of flesh. Only a few years later the Italian Marxist
Antonio Gramsci, writing from his prison cell, was forced to reflect on the
notion of Mussolini as the “modern Caesar”, a term often used at that time to
describe the nature and ambition of the fascist project. While Gramsci harbours
no illusion that Mussolini’s particular project is “world-historical” in the
sense that Napoleon Bonaparte’s may have been, yet he identifies the difficulty
of making a decision as to the historical specificity of the movement.
“Caesarism—although it always expresses the particular solution in which a great
personality is entrusted with the task of ‘arbitration’ over a
historico-political situation characterised by an equilibrium of forces heading
towards catastrophe—does not in all cases have the same historical significance.
There can be both progressive and reactionary forms of Caesarism” (Gramsci, A.,
Selections From The Prison Notebooks, L&W, pp. 219-20).
Gramsci’s conclusions were ambiguous, the nature of modern Caesarism was
changing and consent was being mobilised by elite groups in new ways.
Nevertheless, to the modern democratic ear there is surely something unnerving
in the notion that some form of “dictatorship” by a “strong personality”, could
be acceptable under any circumstances, whether by an individual or by a party of
either the left or right. Much has changed since the 1920s and today it seems
obvious that all politics must operate within the law. Although many still hold
that violence is coeval with capitalist relations of production, few would see
further unlawful violent action as warranted. Such was the political tumult of
the 20s in Europe, one could pick out any number of intellectuals of this period
and the fact is that apart from a few principled defenders of
parliamentarianism, such as Max Weber and Piero Gobetti, few were prepared to
speak out against violent political methods. As Gramsci himself was to discover
to his cost, neither left nor right looked principally to the rule of law or to
representative democracy as a system particularly suited to the times in which
they lived. In short, Heidegger’s apparent disregard for the norms of democratic
conduct, and his support of political thuggery were relatively normal during the
period and this was not a phenomenon confined to supporters of right-wing
Returning to the second question and the obsession with national destiny,
rebirth and “Volkish” culture. In fact, here I think that Alex Steiner and
Fritische let Heidegger off rather lightly since Heidegger is much more explicit
about “Volk” and “fate” than the passage quoted from suggests. For example, over
the page from the quote on fate and Being-in-the world is the following:
“if fateful Da-sein essentially exists as being-in-the-world in being with
others, its occurrence is an occurrence-with and is determined as destiny. With
this term, we designate the occurrence of the community, of a people. Destiny is
not composed of individual fates, nor can being-with-one-another be conceived of
as the mutual occurrence of several subjects. These fates are already guided
beforehand in being-with-one-another in the same world and in the resoluteness
of definite possibilities. In communication and in battle the power of destiny
first becomes free. The fateful destiny of Da-sein in and with its “generation”
constitutes the complete, authentic occurrence of Da-sein” (Heidegger, M., Being
and Time, trans. by Joan Stambaugh, 1996, p. 352).
This damming passage provides a good clear example of the “Heidegger problem”,
here then we have all of Heidegger’s most reprehensible political engagements in
one passage, the Volksgemeinschaft, Destiny, fate and surrender, authenticity
and struggle through “communication” and “battle”. I bring your readers’
attention to this passage because it is the most damaging that I can find in the
work, and certainly it is the most concrete and unambiguous example of his
mythic “Volkishnish” that I can locate. (I do not have a German copy of Being
and Time. Thus everything I have to say about it can only be provisional). Yet,
we must surely ask who are the “Volk” in Heidegger’s lexicon?
Heidegger was quite clear about his intended subjects, thus he said regarding
“The answer to the question of the who of everyday Da-sein is to be won through
the analysis of the kind of being in which Da-sein, initially and for the most
part, lives”. Heidegger continues, “If we justifiably stated that all structural
factors of being-in-the-world already came into view by means of the previous
explication of the world, the answer to the question of the who must also be
prepared by that explication”. In other words, in a typical phenomenological
move “the who” of really “authentic” Da-sein is to be revealed by “authentic”
Da-sein itself provisionally until the end of the story. Thus the beginning or
“natural attitude” is to be found in the “work-world of the handworker” and in:
“The field, for example, along which we walk ‘outside’ shows itself as belonging
to such and such a person who keeps it in good order, the book which we bought
at such and such a place, given by such and such a person, and so on. The boat
anchored at the shore refers in its being-in-itself to an acquaintance who
undertakes his voyages with it, but as a ‘boat strange to us’, it also points to
others” ( Being and Time, 1996, pp. 110-111).
According to Heidegger the “world” is also Da-sein through the intentions of the
“handworker” who made it. Thus the choice of those who enjoy this primordial
relationship is of crucial significance. Any worker who relates to the world
through technology, “the wind in the sails”, is operating upon the world at one
or more steps removed from authenticity. Thus Heidegger is not addressing the
“little people” of the modern urban Nazi conurbation, the failed artist, the
bank clerk, the gasoline salesman or the schoolteacher. Rather Heidegger is
addressing the baker, the farmer, the bookseller and the fisherman. Heidegger
has a special place in his philosophy for the provincial craftsmen who embody
the rustic simplicity and purity that is “care”, that which can beget really
authentic Da-sein, and these types work at a pace that allows them to “know
their fate”. This is hardly the stuff of the high-octane Nazi state or of the
rabid modernity (and social democracy) of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Rather,
Heidegger’s politics are more like the kind of reactionary rural conservatism
promoted by the Countryside Alliance here in the UK, or other forms of rustic
authoritarian conservatism. As Tom Rockmore has suggested, Heidegger is really a
German “redneck”.
Of course, the “other”, such as the Gypsy or the cosmopolitan European Jew, are
likely to be out of place in Heidegger’s Alpine idyll, but political activism in
defence of these provincial values is not circumscribed by anything that is said
in Being and Time. Such a defence of provincialism might well indeed imply the
need to emasculate bourgeois democracy, socialists and other working class
organisations. Such a defence may even imply a need to systematically attack the
culture of the European Enlightenment, but why must it entail, as Alex Steiner
has suggested, the “persecution and murder of socialists” or the “persecution
and eventual elimination” of alien forces in the midst of the Volk? As South
African Apartheid once demonstrated, or even as recent events in the former
Yugoslavia have indicated, once one accepts the perverse logic of “ethnic
cleansing” there are any number of ways to solve the “problem” of the “other”.
They might be corralled into “reservations”, or driven from their homes by
intimidation and harassment, they might be refused work or have their identity
papers taken from them, and so on. Of course, once such perverse logic takes
hold it might appear to be a short, inevitable and terrible step to the next, as
it was in the case of the “holocaust”, but the fact is that there is no
necessary step from that kind of political behaviour, repugnant though it might
be to all decent people, to the systematic mass murder of millions of people in
modern factories of death. To accuse Heidegger of such a move in Being and Time
does not do justice to his immense philosophical labour in defence of
provincialism and anti-modernism, nor to the horrors and historical specificity
of the “holocaust” and its causes.
Alex Steiner replies:
It is refreshing to receive a letter that discusses the relationship of
Heidegger’s philosophy and his politics on the terrain in which it should
emerge—through an examination of what Heidegger actually wrote and did in the
context of his historical situation. I welcome the opportunity to return to the
text of Being and Time as part of this examination. That being said, the method
by which you chose to weigh the relationship between Heidegger’s words and
National Socialism leaves us with but another form of an apology for Heidegger.
Before plunging into the main theme of your letter you prepare the ground by
relativizing Heidegger within his historical situation. The problem is that the
historical situation you present is completely abstract, divorced from any
consideration of the real historical developments. You simply see a “Right” and
a “Left” which turn their backs to the “rule of law.” You write that
“Heidegger’s apparent disregard for the norms of democratic conduct and his
support of political thuggery were relatively normal during the period and this
was not a phenomenon confined to supporters of right-wing causes.” Your argument
has the effect of normalizing Heidegger. By claiming that he was acting like
everyone else in his historical situation, you conclude that his actions were
not exceptional. This argument is a kind of magician’s trick—apply it to anyone
and his or her culpability disappears.
But Heidegger did not act like everyone else. Although many German intellectuals
disgraced themselves in this period, others did not. A large number of German
intellectuals and artists, including world-renowned figures such as Einstein,
went into exile. In effect, they voted against the Third Reich in the only way
they could vote, with their feet. They included Jews and socialists within their
ranks as well as liberal opponents of fascism such as Thomas Mann. Heidegger on
the other hand joined the Nazi party, accepted the position of rector under Nazi
sponsorship, and later of Führer of Freiburg University. During this period he
engaged in acts of political persecution against colleagues and personal rivals
and became a public spokesman for the Nazi cause at international academic
gatherings. Furthermore, Heidegger did not become a Nazi reluctantly, as some
opportunists did, but by all accounts he was an enthusiastic party member. Do
you really mean to say that such behavior is in any sense of the word “normal”?
If so, then what is considered “normal” is being dictated by the lowest level of
Proceeding to the main body of your letter, let us examine your method as you
yourself describe it. First, after acknowledging Heidegger’s debt to what you
call “the language of Weimar struggle and decisionism,” and acknowledging
Heidegger’s personal involvement in Nazism, you then make the point that I have
failed to prove my case—namely that there is a deep and intimate connection
between Heidegger’s philosophy and his Nazism because, you claim, I have failed
to present “…a clear demonstration that the meaning of Heidegger’s philosophy
and the text of Being and Time has anything in common with either the full
development of Nazi ideology or with the actual policies and political direction
taken by the Third Reich under the Nazis. Or even that there is any necessary
connection between the text and these events?”
You make two claims in objecting to my essay. First, you insist that I have
failed to demonstrate a necessary connection between Heidegger’s philosophy and
his politics. Second, you claim that I do not show where specific Nazi policies
flow out of Heidegger’s texts.
Philosophy and Politics: A Necessary Connection?
Allow me to turn the tables momentarily and put a question to you. What kind of
evidence would you accept as sufficient proof that “Heidegger’s philosophy and
the text of Being and Time” is of a piece with “the full development of Nazi
ideology” as you put it? In my essay, I provided a textual analysis that
demonstrated this “connection.” You chose however to demand a criterion for
demonstrating the connection that is in principle impossible to fulfill. You
demand not only that any connection must be shown to be “necessary,” but that I
must locate the specific policies of National Socialism in the text of Being and
Time. That, I agree, would be quite a trick were it possible.
What I wrote in my essay was that the content of Being and Time is consistent
with Heidegger’s later decision to become an active member of the National
Socialist Party. This does not mean that having written Being and Time in 1927,
it was somehow inevitable that Heidegger would become a Nazi six years later.
The political evolution of an individual always has a contingent element.
Heidegger could have had a philosophical transformation and turned his back on
Nazism. Max Scheler, another right-wing philosopher who was active in the 1920s,
did just that. During his last years of active engagement, he abandoned his
previous right-wing militarist views and became a supporter of the political
center in the Weimar Republic.
By insisting that the only genuine proof of the link between Heidegger’s
thoughts and his actions is that the former must logically entail the latter,
you are preparing to absolve Heidegger’s philosophy with the argument that it
was merely accidentally connected to Nazism. You are however setting up a
standard that goes counter to all accepted norms of historical research. This
very point was made by Berel Lang, a scholar who has recently written about
Heidegger’s relationship to the holocaust. Replying to others who have presented
arguments similar to yours, he writes:
“…I have not been claiming that Heidegger’s turn to the mediating form of the
Volk —still more to the German Volk,—is systematically entailed. But to impose a
requirement of necessary connection or implication between the level or branches
or elements of philosophical systems would ensure the failure of virtually all
such systems, including the most complex or historically important among them.
The relevant standard here should be—and constantly has been—one of disposition
or probability in respect to positions or claims that the system either excludes
or includes. In this sense the minimal claim for Heidegger’s conception of the
Volk —that it is not inconsistent with other systematic elements of his
thinking—or beyond this, that it is likelier or more probable than other
alternatives, claims a good deal. Must Heidegger invoke this mediating form or
indeed any such form? No, but there is little among the levels of almost any
philosophical system that would meet such a requirement.”[1]
Where are the policies in the philosophy?
Your next grievance is that my essay fails to show the connection between the
“… text of Being and Time …with either the full development of Nazi ideology
or with the actual policies and political direction taken by the Third Reich
under the Nazis.”
Here I must ask, are you imposing a reasonable criterion? I would hardly expect
to find a defense of specific policies adopted by the Nazis after 1933 in a book
whose theme is metaphysics and ontology written in 1927. That would simply be a
bit more than the subject could bear. Ought we not be allowed to distinguish
between advocating specific policies, which a book whose topic purports to be
“fundamental ontology” would hardly undertake, and the broader Weltanschaung
that is painted by this philosophy? Furthermore, there is more in Heidegger’s
philosophy than just a general adoption of the spirit of the radical right in
the 1920s. I have previously referred to the philological work of Johannes
Fritsche, who has demonstrated a specific connection between Heidegger’s
philosophical oeuvres and Nazism. He has shown that Heidegger inserted certain
rhetorical code words into his works whose echoes were distinctly those of the
Were you to apply your criteria with any degree of consistency, then I think you
would have a tough time demonstrating a necessary connection between Nazism and
anything written in the 1920s, including Mein Kampf. Even Hitler did not and
could not know every twist and turn that Nazism would take in the following
decade, though of course the basic direction of his murderous course was clear
enough. Likewise, I would maintain, the basic direction of Heidegger’s thinking
was already announced in Being and Time.
Furthermore, I think it is significant that Heidegger himself, after the period
of his rectorship, interpreted his previous philosophical works, retrospectively
to be sure, as having prefigured the specific politics of Nazism as it emerged
after 1933. Thus, I would view Heidegger’s public speeches during his rectorship
period as his own concretization of the categories developed in Being and Time
in terms of the specific policies of National Socialism. In his speech assuming
the rectorship, Heidegger paints the destiny of the German University and of the
German people as a whole, in terms that are recognizably both consistent with
National Socialist policies and propaganda and also echo his existential
categories from Being and Time. One example should suffice:
“The self-assertion of the German University is the original, common will to its
essence. We regard the German University as the ‘high’ school which from science
[Wissenschaft] and through science, educates and disciplines the leaders and
guardians of the fate of the German Volk as a Volk that knows it in its state.
Science and German fate must come to power at the same time in the will to
essence. And they will do this then and only then when we—the teachers and
students—expose science to its innermost necessity, on the one hand, and, on the
other, when we stand firm in the face of German fate extreme in its
The man behind the text
A further point needs to be made here. Although the textual evidence should be
the primary source from which we formulate our judgments as to Heidegger’s
philosophical direction, there is no reason to limit ourselves solely to this
type of material. Public and private actions recorded in the letters or memoirs
of contemporaries are also legitimate building blocks for an overall
interpretation. I am therefore puzzled by your facile dismissal of the
activities of Heidegger the man, which hold no interest for you. Whereas I would
agree that it is illegitimate to formulate an opinion on the thinking of the man
solely from our knowledge of his political involvement, it does not follow that
his “extra-philosophical” public and private activity is of no relevance. On the
contrary, our knowledge of Heidegger’s personal involvement with Nazism and his
anti-Semitism provide a crucial backdrop to informing our understanding of his
thinking when carefully weighed in with his philosophical works.
In this connection, I would think that a particularly important piece of
evidence to assess would be Heidegger’s own statement of the relationship
between his philosophy and his politics, as candidly described to an old friend
and recorded in his memoirs. Karl Löwith has told us that when he met Heidegger
in Rome in 1936 the latter admitted that Nazism expressed the deepest principles
of his philosophy as expounded in Being and Time. Löwith writes of his meeting
with Heidegger,
“We talked about Italy, Freiburg, and Marburg, and also about philosophical
topics. He was friendly and attentive, yet avoided, as did his wife, every
allusion to the situation in Germany and his views of it.”
“On the way back, I wanted to spur him to an unguarded opinion about the
situation in Germany. I … explained to him that I … was of the opinion that
his partisanship for National Socialism lay in the essence of his philosophy.
Heidegger agreed with me without reservation, and added that his concept of
‘historicity’ was the basis of his political ‘engagement’. He also left no doubt
concerning his belief in Hitler.”[3]
Löwith’s report cannot be easily dismissed. He was, prior to his exile from Nazi
Germany, Heidegger’s senior student and close personal friend and was more
intimately acquainted with the inner thoughts of his teacher than just about
anyone else. Heidegger’s admission to Löwith cannot therefore be construed as
simply an off the cuff remark, but one that must have been carefully considered.
It is of course possible to argue that Heidegger’s own interpretation of his
philosophy is mistaken, but should we not at least consider it carefully? Yet
you have nothing to say either about this well-known incident or any other
historical action of the man you are examining.
The text and nothing but the text
When you do discuss the text, you claim to have found an even more damning bit
of right-wing vitriol than any cited in my article. But it was never my purpose
to collect the most outrageous quotations from Being and Time. The passages from
Heidegger’s work that I did cite are more than sufficient to illustrate my
thesis. However, if you are looking for selections from Heidegger’s
philosophical writings that express his politics, there are plenty to be had.
Following is a sample of some of Heidegger’s more heavy-handed statements:
“Only from the Germans can world historical mediation come—provided that they
find and defend what is German.”[4]
“The peril of world … darkening … [will] be forestalled [only] if our nation
in the center of the Western world is to take on its historical mission.”[5]
“We are caught in a pincers. Situated in the middle, our Volk experiences the
severest pressure. It is the Volk with the most neighbors and hence the
most—endangered—and with all this, the metaphysical Volk. We are certain of this
mission. But the Volk will only be able to realize that destiny if within itself
it creates a resonance … and takes a creative view of its heritage. All this
implies that this Volk, as a historical Volk, must move itself and thereby the
history of the West beyond the center of their future ‘happening’ and into the
primordial realm of the powers of Being.”[6]
“Reflection on the Volk is an essential stage…. An uppermost rung of Being
will be attained if a ‘ Volkisch principle,’ as something determinative, is
mastered and brought into play for historical Da-sein.”[7]
All these statements are taken, not from ceremonial public speeches, but from
his serious philosophical works written in the 1930s.
An alpine idyll?
Whereas your letter acknowledges the right-wing political content of Being and
Time, you claim that there is nothing more sinister in this than a misguided and
romantic defense of rural life against the intrusions of the modern world.
Anyone who reads the above passages with any felicity, even if they were totally
ignorant of Heidegger’s personal involvement with Nazism, could hardly construe
this material as evocative of sentimental attachment to the countryside and
old-fashioned values. Instead of Heidegger providing us with harmless nostalgia
about the mountains of the Black Forest, as you suggest, we have something more
akin to a Wagnerian twilight of the gods. Only this drama is not meant for the
theater at Bayreuth, but for the gallery of world history.
Your depiction of Heidegger as a harmless romantic conservative simply will not
stand up to the textual evidence. You contrast Heidegger’s “concern” for the
rural craftsman with “the rabid modernity (and social democracy) of Hitler’s
Mein Kampf.” By painting Heidegger as a conservative concerned with peasant
life, you seriously misinterpret Heidegger’s role within the political situation
in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. Throughout this period, there was a big
divide on the right between the mainstream right-wing parties who represented
big business and the Junker interests, and the Radical right, comprising the
Volkisch groups and the fascists, whose base was among the disenfranchised
middle classes and unemployed war veterans.
We know of course that by 1933 all the right-wing parties lined up behind Hitler
and thereby sealed the fate of Germany, but that should not blind us to the very
real ideological and social antagonisms that existed between the groups on the
right. Of the many groups in the camp of the Radical right, the Nazis were by
1923, following the abortive beer-hall putsch in Munich, the most prominent. All
the groups on the right shared an animus toward the working class and its
political organizations, the Social Democrats and the Communists. They also were
suspicious of the Weimar Republic, which to the nationalists could never be
disentangled from the traitors who handed Germany over to its enemies with the
signing of the Versailles Treaty.
What distinguished the Radical right and particularly the Nazis, was the firm
belief in a national destiny, a community of the people “ Volksgemeinschaft”
that could only be realized by canceling the institutions of parliamentarism and
modernism that had been imposed on the German people. These institutions were
viewed as a kind of alien skin that had to be removed in order to recreate an
ideal community bound by race and blood. The task of undoing the hated regime
must be taken up by authentic heroes, cut from the same mold as Albert
Schlageter. Schlageter was a member of the Freikorps, a right-wing terrorist
group that carried out acts of violence against socialists and Jews. He was
captured by the French authorities, who had occupied the Rhineland in 1923,
convicted of conducting acts of sabotage, and subsequently executed. Thereafter
he became a martyr for the Nationalist cause. After their accession to power the
Nazis established a holiday in his honor. For Heidegger, Schlageter served as
the model of the authentic Dasein who answers the “call.” Listen to Heidegger’s
declamation on the subject of Schlageter, from a speech he gave shortly after
assuming the rectorship of Freiburg:
“Schlageter walked these grounds as a student. But Freiburg could not hold him
for long. He was compelled to go to the Baltic; he was compelled to go to Upper
Silesia; he was compelled to go to the Ruhr.
“He was not permitted to escape his destiny so that he could die the most
difficult and greatest of all deaths with a hard will and a clear heart.”[8]
Note that Schlageter, the authentic hero, does not so much chose his destiny as
submit to a call. He does not decide to go to the Baltic, he is compelled to do
so. Compare this with the following passage from Being and Time and in which
Heidegger elaborates on his concept of the “authentic”.
“Once one has grasped the finitude of one’s existence, it snatches one back from
the endless multiplicity of possibilities which offer themselves as closest to
one—those of comfortableness, shirking, and taking things lightly—and brings
Dasein into the simplicity of its fate. This is how we designate Dasein’s
primordial historizing, which lies in authentic resoluteness and in which Dasein
hands itself down to itself, free for death, in a possibility which it has
inherited and yet chosen.”[9]
Like Schlageter, authentic Dasein does not choose, but “hands itself down” to a
“possibility which it has inherited but yet chosen.” Only authentic Dasein is
capable of responding to the “call” and caring about the peasant and the
“hand-worker”, even in the face of death. On the other hand, inauthentic Dasein,
those who are caught up in the everyday world of the Weimar Republic, in the
life of “comfortableness, shirking and taking things lightly”, turn their back
on the call and are thereby condemned to a life exiled from the community of the
Once Heidegger’s concepts of “authenticity”, “care”, the “call” are read in
conjunction with an appreciation of the ideology of the Radical right the
mystery disappears. Central to Heidegger and the Radical right was the concept
of “cancellation”. This more than anything else distinguishes the dynamics of
Heidegger and fascism from that of more traditional conservative movements. The
term is a reference to the fascist counterrevolution, that which the Nazis
called the National Revolution. The cancellation is not simply a return to an
uncorrupted past, but it is a retrieval of the authentic community that once
existed by way of the destruction of the institutions and people that have
corrupted it. In that sense it is the very opposite of a Hegelian sublation, a
leap to something new that simultaneously preserves what was best of the old.
The Heideggerian cancellation sees nothing of value to preserve. There has been
no progress leading up to the present. There has been only corruption and
degeneration. The uncorrupted state can only be regained through heroic and
violent actions, a baptism of fire. In Being and Time this conception is
explicitly treated in the dramatic climax of the book.
In order to be authentic, we must retrieve the possibilities from the past, the
community that has been eclipsed by the modern world. We must become heroes,
like Albert Schlageter, and make a decision for that which has already been
chosen for us by our heritage. Elsewhere, Heidegger says that “…the handing
down of a heritage constitutes itself in resoluteness.”[10] Further on in this
key section, we find the following passage:
“…repetition makes a reciprocative rejoinder to the possibility of that
existence which has-been-there. But when such a rejoinder is made to this
possibility in a resolution, it is made in a moment of vision; and as such it is
at the same time a disavowal of that which in the ‘today’, is working itself out
as the ‘past’.”[11]
It is one of the outstanding merits of the work of Johannes Fritsche in his
Historical Destiny and National Socialism in Heidegger’s Being and Time to have
demonstrated that Heidegger’s audience in Germany in the 1920s would clearly
have understood his allusions to the themes of the Radical right. Fritsche
spends a considerable amount of time discussing the above passage and shows that
the reference to the rejoinder which is a “disavowal” is a reference to the
cancellation of the Weimar Republic and its institutions. It is not possible in
this venue to repeat the details of Fritsche’s analysis. I will however provide
Fritsche’s own summary of his reading of Being and Time, a portion of which I
had previously quoted in my article:
“In Being and Time, Heidegger unfolds a drama in three acts, the drama of
Dasein’s historicality. In the first act the necessary conditions of the
conflict are developed. In the second act, a critical situation develops that
calls for a dramatic solution, which is presented in the third act…. The
solution of the drama consists in authentic Dasein stepping out of the world in
which it has been living as ordinary Dasein, turning back to this world, and
canceling it. Authentic Dasein does so because it has been called upon by the
past to rerealize the past, which has been pushed aside by the world in which
Dasein has been living as ordinary Dasein. The rerealization of the past
requires that authentic Dasein cancel, destroy, or disavow the world it has been
living in as ordinary Dasein. Ordinary Dasein is living in a downward plunge….
At some point in the downward plunge the second part of the drama begins, and a
buzzing in the air … indicates a crisis. The solution of the crisis lies in
the cancellation of the downward plunge and the world of ordinary Dasein so as
to make room for a world in which the past and its principle are revitalized and
properly present.”[12]
If Fritsche’s reading is correct, and I believe it is, then the Heidegger of
Being and Time is clearly in the camp of the most extreme elements of the
Radical right in the 1920s. Even if you claim not to be convinced by this
interpretation of Being and Time, what possible room is there for
misinterpretation of Heidegger’s writings, public speeches and actions in the
1930s, when he demonstratively threw in his lot with the Nazis? Was he still
being a romantic rural conservative then? Your contention that Heidegger was a
“redneck” is merely another variation of the theme defended by legions of
Heidegger’s apologists, from Hannah Arendt to Richard Rorty—that Heidegger was
politically naïve when he joined the Nazis and simply got in over his head. I

discussed this absurd thesis in my essay at great length. Your letter adds
nothing to lend it any credibility.
In conclusion, I would urge you to ponder the remarkable situation that
philosophy faces at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Martin Heidegger, who
was an active and unapologetic Nazi, has been widely acclaimed as the most
important philosopher of the twentieth century. I have stated elsewhere that I
do not share this enthusiasm for Heidegger’s work. Nevertheless, it is
undeniable that Heidegger has been and continues to be one of the most
influential thinkers of the past century. To date, there have been perhaps a
thousand volumes of commentary on Heidegger published in the English language
alone. This is by far more attention than any other modern philosopher has
The most influential philosopher of the twentieth century a Nazi? Does this not
point to a deep crisis within philosophy itself? It is time to stop making
excuses for Heidegger, and confront this crisis.
1. Berel Lang, Heidegger’s Silence, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1996, p.
2. Martin Heidegger, “The Self Assertion of the German University,” The
Heidegger Controversy, Sheldon Wolin, editor, MIT Press, 1998, p. 30.
3. Karl Löwith, “My Last Meeting with Heidegger in Rome, 1936, Wolin, pp.
4. Martin Heidegger, Heraklit, in Gesamtausgabe, vol. 55, Frankfurt am Main,
Klosterman, 1979, p. 149. (cited in Lang)
5. Martin Heidegger, An Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. Ralph Manheim, Yale
University Press, New Haven, 1959, p. 123.
6. Martin Heidegger, Einführung in die Philosophie, in Gesamtausgabe, vol. 40,
Frankfurt am Main, Klosterman, 1983, p. 41-42. (cited in Lang)
7. Martin Heidegger, Beiträge zur Philosophie, in Gesamtausgabe, vol. 65,
Frankfurt am Main, Klosterman, 1989, p. 42. (cited in Lang)
8. Martin Heidegger, Schlageter (May 26, 1933), The Heidegger Controversy,
edited by Sheldon Wolin, MIT Press, 1993, p. 42.
9. Being and Time, p. 435.
10. Being and Time, p. 435.
11. Being and Time, p. 438.
12. Johannes Fritsche, Historical Destiny and National Socialism in Heidegger’s
‘Being and Time’, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1999, p. x-xi.
See Also:
Two letters and two replies on “The Case of Martin Heidegger, Philosopher and
[1 November 2000]
The Case of Martin Heidegger, Philosopher and Nazi
Part 1: The Record
[3 April 2000]
The Case of Martin Heidegger, Philosopher and Nazi
Part 2: The Cover-up
[4 April 2000]
The Case of Martin Heidegger, Philosopher and Nazi
Part 3: History, Philosophy and Mythology
[5 April 2000]

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versión y argucia jesuita actual sobre la relación ética/religión

versión y argucia jesuita actual sobre la relación ética/religión

February 27, 2011 by comeniussantaclara

En las redes sociales virtuales facebook, encontré un enlace anunciando el congreso de sociedades de fenomenología, no ciencia primera en el sentido de Metafísica, pues precisamente Husserl es quien intentaba buscar vías de solución a problemas que Kant expuso con lo cual hizo- Kant- que se abriera la primera fisura honda en el camino de la Metafísica europea. Se convoca a un congreso de fenomenología y en el sitio lo vinculan con la ciencia primera, aun sin ser el título del congreso…que reza de esta guisa

IV Conferencia mundial de fenomenología: razón y vida. La responsabilidad de la filosofía

De los enlaces allí colocados hay un artículo que creo de interés para los temas del Proyecto Comenius Between Religions and Ethics. A common ground en que venimos trabajando desde octubre de 2010 y seguiremos hasta junio de 2012

Se trata de la exposición que hace el profesor de la Universidad Pontificia de Comillas -ahora en Madrid- Miguel García Baró

VER en enlace

Un dato que resulta tan interesante como crucial para la crítica materialista de estas tesis: no se cita para nada a Kant, las antinomias,paralogismos,ilusiones de la Razón Pura…¿ extraño? No creo, más bien lógico pero , también, etológico.