Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Heidegger’s Children

The problem with Martin Heidegger is that the shadow of Nazism, which always looms over him, makes it difficult for scholars to take an objective view of his philosophy. I think, Heidegger’s reputation pressures scholars to pay too much attention to investigating his connection with Nazism when they should be focusing on the non-political side of his philosophy. I would love to read a book on Heidegger’s philosophy that does not digress into the area of nazism.

The book that I am currently reading, Richard Wolin’s Heidegger’s Children, is the story Heidegger’s four Jewish students who go on to become famous philosophers in their own right—Hannah Arendt, Hans Jonas, Karl Löwith, and Herbert Marcuse. Wolin introduces them as non-practicing Jews. He suggests that had they been practicing Jews, Heidegger may not have accepted them as his students. Wolin also notes that “Heidegger’s own mentor, Edmund Husserl, to whom the philosopher dedicated Being and Time, was also Jewish.”

Heidegger’s philosophy was significantly inspired by his disenchantment with modernity. Wolin offers an interesting perspective on Heidegger’s view of modernity (Introduction, Page 8):

“In Heidegger’s view—and this was a perspective that his disciples largely shared—the modern age was an era of “absolute sinfulness” (J. G. Fichte). As such, any and every means was justified to drive it into the abyss. For the “front generation,” to which both Heidegger and his children belonged (Heidegger, Löwith, and Marcuse actually served in the First World War), a distinct flirtation with nihilism was a corollary of the conviction that widespread destruction was required before anything of lasting value could be built."

According to Wolin, Heidegger’s disenchantment with modernity drove him towards “ontological fascism” and turned him into a supporter of Hitler. There is no doubt that Heidegger made bad political choices, but I am still not sure if the inference can be drawn that his philosophy has a nexus with Nazism.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I read this book awhile back. I found it lacking objectivity. You're right in commenting how the political interferes. Current views on Nazism and antiSemitism influence an analysis of books and events when they actually occurred/written. This is not a moral agreement. Nazism appealed to millions of Germans the extermination of the Jews did not. It being an outcome of such a political ideology was not conceived by the people at the time. I don't believe the direct co relation was there. In the minds of the actual leaders and elites, yes. Arendt believed in the human without the national, ethnic,religious narrative defining him as the primary. And in an important sense this was what Heidegger developed in his Being and Time. Why, despite his emotional attachment to Nazi ideology did not deter Arendt from remaining an admirer of his philosophy. It's very tiring to constantly encounter authors whether fiction or non fiction, whose works are 'black listed' based on current moral views. We dismiss and risk losing great literature and ideas. Not to mention, patting ourselves on the back and thanking God that our thinking and morality evolved to a truer alliance with the universal moral code. A fine line must be drawn between the private and the public views of creators. Not always easy to do because rationality loves to dip into emotions before it expresses a judgement