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

It could be worthwhile to consider how to differentiate between valid and invalid attributions of commonality between the traditions.

From Popper's point of view, Heidegger, Stalin, and the Frankfurt School
are all of one piece. I don't know what Sir Karl would have made of LSV, but he might have been thrown in with the others (although he did do experiments--and not the Stalin kind).

It would be good to have a clear way of acknowledging the commonalities while also clearly showing how Popper is wrong lumping them together. Macuse's answers would not satisfy, say, Stanley Fish.

On Wed, 21 Oct 2009, 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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Tony Whitson
UD School of Education
NEWARK  DE  19716


"those who fail to reread
 are obliged to read the same story everywhere"
                  -- Roland Barthes, S/Z (1970)
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