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Re: [xmca] "Creature Consciousness," "Heil Heidegger!," etc.
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- Subject: Re: [xmca] "Creature Consciousness," "Heil Heidegger!," etc.
- From: Wolff-Michael Roth <email@example.com>
- Date: Wed, 21 Oct 2009 16:36:28 -0700
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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
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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