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RE: [xmca] "Creature Consciousness," "Heil Heidegger!," etc.

I think this actually has been a pretty big topic in French philosophy more because of Paul deMann than because of Heiddeger.  deMann I believe was very much a collaborator with the Nazis during the war.  There were distinct sides with some arguing for allowing deMann to maintain his standing in French philosophy, including I believe Derrida, and some arguing that if he could not be trusted as a human being, then he could not be trusted as a thinker and I think Satre was part of this group.
As for Heiddeger I think it is important to read Hannah Arendt on this.  Arendt, who was Jewish, was (at least I have been told) Heiddeger's mistress and I suppose along with Gadamer his prized student.  When she was asked afterwards about Heiddeger she said that she believed he was in the end not a bad man, but a weak man.  He craved the type of immediate adulation that came with wearing the Nazi uniform (which I believe he did), but he didn't really believe in Nazism.  He was a little boy playing soldier.  Perhaps after living through the last few years in the United States I can understand this type of person a bit more.
I think Arendt;'s book, "Eichman in Jerusalem" really explores the limits of understanding of and forgiveness of what only later is recognized as evil and monstrous behavior.


From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu on behalf of Wolff-Michael Roth
Sent: Wed 10/21/2009 7:36 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] "Creature Consciousness," "Heil Heidegger!," etc.

thanks for the extended note. I personally grounded quite a bit of my 
work in Heidegger, and so have numerous philosophers, including of 
Jewish faith, such as Derrida and Levinas. I do not think that anyone 
is in support of anything that Heidegger might have written to 
support Nazism, or his everyday behavior that would have given 
support to Nazism while it was operating at its worst.
        For those interested in the issue, there is an interesting 
discussion of the question of forgiveness in Derrida's book of the 
name, and he deals precisely with the question of Heidegger and 
Nazism, on Jankélévitch and his writings on the Shoah and pardon, and 
Paul Celan, his poem "Todtnauberg", and the visit to Heidegger. There 
is also the question why Heidegger did not ask for forgiveness.
        I think it is one of the master pieces of Derrida (I only have the 
French version, "Pardonner: l'impardonnable et l'imprescriptible") 
because he says that we can only forgive the unforgivable, because if 
you forgive something that is forgivable, then you have done nothing. 
The relationship between giving and forgiving is brought to that of 
temporalization, the very question Heidegger began to investigate in 
the relation of Sein (Being) and Seiendes (being).

On 21-Oct-09, at 4:12 PM, Martin Packer wrote:

A few days ago Steve made passing reference to an article that 
apparently Tony had drawn his attention to, titled "Heil Heidegger." 
I Googled and found that it is a recent article in the Chronicle of 
Higher Education.


The focus of the article is Heidegger's links with and support of the 
Nazis, and its principal recommendations are that we should stop 
paying attention to Heidegger, stop translating and publishing his 
writing, and "mock him to the hilt."

I feel I should comment on this, since I have occasionally drawn on 
Heidegger's work in these discussions. I certainly have no intention 
of apologizing for Heidegger, who seems to have been a very nasty 
person, who was responsible for some deplorable actions. I do want to 
question, however, the proposal that because of these facts we all 
would be better off ignoring his writing.

I was introduced to Heidegger by a Jewish professor of philosophy who 
shared his last name (coincidentally as far as I know) with one of 
the best-known victims of antisemitism. At that time less was known 
about Heidegger's Narzism, but by no means nothing, and I recall 
discussion in the classroom of the issue. I came to feel that the 
last thing one should try to do is separate the man's work from his 
life. Perhaps if he had been working on some obscure area of symbolic 
logic, say, that would have been possible, but Heidegger had written 
a philosophy of human existence, and this would seem to *demand* that 
there be consistency between what he wrote and how he lived. Indeed, 
perhaps it would be important to study the man's writings to try to 
understand where he went wrong; at what point in his analysis of 
human being did Heidegger open the door to the possibility of 
fascism? I think in fact that it is in Division II of Being and Time, 
where Heidegger is describing what he called 'authentic Dasein,' 
which amounts to a way that a person relates to time, specifically to 
the certainty of their own death, that the mistake is made and the 
door is opened to evil.

Carlin Romano, the author of the article, doesn't seem to know 
Heidegger's work very well. Dasein ("being there," i.e. being-in-the-
world) is not a "cultural world," nor do "Daseins intersect," as he 
puts it. (But I suppose that he is mocking Heidegger.) And that 
brings me to my other reason for recommending that we continue to 
read Heidegger, his politics and (lack of) ethics notwithstanding. It 
is that his analysis throws light on issues that have been raised in 
this group, and were important  to LSV and others. I am sure it seems 
odd to link a Nazi philosopher to a socialist psychologist, but I am 
hardly the first to see connections. Lucien Goldmann wrote "Lukacs 
and Heidegger," a book in which he acknowledged the incongruity but 
argued that there are "fundamental bonds" between the two men's work, 
that at the beginning of the 20th century "on the basis of a new 
problematic first represented by Lukacs, and then later on by 
Heidegger, the contemporary situation was slowly created. I would add 
that this perspective will also enable us to display a whole range of 
elements common to both philosophers, which are not very visible at 
first sight, but which nevertheless constitute the common basis on 
which undeniable antagonisms are elaborated" (p. 1).

What is this common basis? It is that of overcoming the separation 
between subject and object in traditional thought, overcoming subject/
object dualism, by recognizing the role of history in individual and 
collective human life, and rethinking the relation between theory and 
practice. As Michael wrote, Heidegger reexamined the traditional 
philosophical distinction between an object (a being) and what it 
*is* (its Being), and rejected both idealism and essentialism to 
argue that what an object is (and not just what it 'means') is 
defined by the human social practices in which it is involved, and in 
which people encounter it. These practices, of course, change over 
historical time, so the conditions for an object to 'be' are 
practical, social, and historical. And since people define themselves 
in terms of the objects they work with, the basis of human being is 
practical, social, and historical too.

I continue to believe that this new kind of ontological analysis, 
visible according to Goldmann in the work of both Lukacs and 
Heidegger, influenced in both cases by Hegel, is centrally important. 
If we can learn from studying Heidegger how to acknowledge these 
cultural conditions without falling into a valorization of the folk, 
without dissolving individuals in the collective (a failing of the 
Left just as much as the Right), then we will have gained, not lost, 
by reading his texts.


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