By Leland de la Durantaye
Cabinet 25, Spring 2007
Edited by Andy Ross
Martin Heidegger was born in Messkirch on the edge of the Black Forest in
1889. He excelled in all areas, from math to Greek, theology to physics. He
chose philosophy. When he completed his studies, he moved to Freiburg im
Breisgau in a different part of the Black Forest to work with Edmund
Husserl, the founder of phenomenology.
As Husserl's assistant,
Heidegger grew famous. Intellectuals throughout Germany began to speak of "a
hidden philosopher-king", the successor of earlier princes of the mind such
as Kant and Nietzsche. Hannah Arendt traveled to the Black Forest and began
to study with him. They fell in love.
Despite a truly remarkable
depth and breadth of knowledge, neither then nor later did Heidegger have
the speech or the mannerisms of high European cultivation. He walked,
talked, and dressed like someone from the Black Forest. Too intelligent not
to make a virtue of necessity, Heidegger cultivated a quaint and bucolic
In 1922, his wife Elfriede had inherited a modest sum, and she
invested it in a secluded retreat in the higher reaches of the Black Forest.
She had a small hut, 6 x 7 sqm, built into a hillside
there, commanding a beautiful view of the valley below and the Alps rising
in the distance. Soon thereafter, her husband began, at last, to write.
Heidegger knew what he wanted to write about. It seemed to him that
philosophy had lost something which it desperately needed back. For him, the
largest question that philosophy might ask was this: what do we mean when we
speak of a being common to all modes and forms of individual beings? And he
saw Western philosophy as having gone astray in that it had ceased to ask
For his special task, Heidegger soon realized that he
needed special tools. He saw that the terms and concepts employed by
traditional metaphysical inquiry were little suited to the task. And so he
retreated to the Black Forest, and on long walks along its wooded paths and
in long hours poring over books in his hut, he patiently crafted a special
But while everyone remarked the strangeness of Heidegger's
language, not everyone rejected it, and figures as diverse as Karl Jaspers,
Werner Heisenberg, Ernst Jünger, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Maurice Blanchot,
Jacques Lacan, Pierre Klossowski, and René Char found in it an intensity of
expression without compare. For his own part, Heidegger was perfectly aware
of the strangeness of what he was saying.
Like his manner and his
dress, Heidegger's new philosophical language bore unabashed signs of its
origins. He began Being and Time by apologizing for "the severity and
strangeness of my expressions", and it soon became clear to the book's
readers that these were not the severe or strange expressions of classical
metaphysics but a new language.
I first heard of the Black Forest in
high school, having overheard a friend of my mother's who taught philosophy
say that Being and Time was "the smartest and worst book" he had ever read.
I soon got my hands on the book. On the first page I read:
to Edmund Husserl in friendship and admiration.
Todtnauberg in Baden,
Black Forest, April 8th 1926.
Heidegger never finished Being and Time, but this did nothing to limit its success. He published a first
installment, and this was enough. He learned many lessons from this first
and unfinished treatise, and in the works to follow chose the smaller scales
of lectures and essays.
In 1933, Heidegger joined the Nazi party,
restricted contact with his Jewish mentor, Husserl, as well as with his
Jewish love, Arendt, and his many Jewish students. He was appointed rector
of Freiburg University in 1933 and during his inauguration speech announced
that, "the Führer is himself and alone the present and future German reality
and its law."
In 1934, Heidegger turned down the most prestigious
teaching post in Germany, the Chair of Philosophy at the University of
Berlin. A radio address later that year entitled "Why I Remain in the
Provinces" begins, "On the steep slope of a wide mountain valley in the
southern Black Forest at an elevation of 1150 meters, there stands a small
ski hut." It evokes how "on deep winter nights when a wild, pounding
snowstorm rages outside and veils everything,” that “this is the perfect
time for philosophy. The questions become simple and essential."
Arendt and Heidegger met secretly and passionately. There is every reason to
believe that the love was mutual and real, and yet Heidegger chose to remain
with his wife and family. Written directly after their separation,
Being and Time proceeds by analyzing the affects that condition our experience of the
world, such as fear and anxiety. He offers magisterial analyses of a range
of these affects, but one is conspicuously missing: love.
Heideggers bekanntestes Werk Sein und Zeit
erschien 1927. In der ersten Hälfte übte er starke Kritik am kartesischen
Subjektivismus und arbeitete in einer fundamental-ontologischen Untersuchung
eine neue Ontologie aus. Hierzu wählte er einen hermeneutischen Zugang:
indem er nicht von festen Annahmen ausging und dann argumentativ
fortschritt, sondern phänomenologische Analysen anwandte, wollte er mit
überkommenen Traditionen brechen. Im zweiten Teil des Buches beschäftigte er
sich mit grundlegenden Strukturen des Menschseins, wie etwa dem Phänomen des
Todes, der Möglichkeit zur Individualität und dem in die Welt und Geschichte
geworfenen Menschen. Hiervon wurden die Existenzphilosophen stark
Sein und Zeit
Thema der Untersuchung ist die Frage nach dem Sinn
von Sein, die nach Heidegger in der abendländischen Philosophie bisher nicht
wirklich gestellt worden sei. Sein sei bisher stets nach dem Muster von
Seiendem (Vorhandenem) charakterisiert worden. Heidegger unternimmt den
Versuch diese nach seiner Auffassung falsche Herangehensweise durch eine
fundamentalontologische Untersuchung in den rechten Blick zu bekommen. Die
Klärung eines ursprünglicheren Sinns von Sein bestimmt Heideggers
Although written in haste, and despite the fact that
Heidegger never completed the project outlined in the introduction, the book
has profoundly influenced 20th-century philosophy, particularly
existentialism, hermeneutics and deconstruction. It is widely considered the
most influential work of continental philosophy published during the 20th
On the first page, Heidegger describes the project in the
following way: "our aim in the following treatise is to work out the
question of the sense of being and to do so concretely." Heidegger claims
that traditional ontology has prejudicially overlooked this question,
dismissing it as overly general, undefinable, or obvious.
proposes to understand being as distinguished from any specific thing that
is. "'Being' is not something like a being." Being, he claims, is "what
determines beings as beings, that in terms of which beings are already
The question Heidegger asks in the introduction is: what
is the being that will give access to the question of the meaning of being?
Heidegger's answer is that it can only be that being for whom the question
of being is important, the being for whom being matters. The being for whom
being is a question is not a what, but a who. Heidegger calls this being
The question of the authenticity of individual Dasein cannot
be separated from the "historicality" of Dasein. On the one hand, Dasein, as
mortal, is "stretched along" between birth and death, and thrown into its
world, that is, thrown into its possibilities, possibilities which Dasein is
charged with the task of assuming. On the other hand, Dasein's access to
this world and these possibilities is always via a history and a tradition.
This is the question of "world historicality," and among its consequences is
Heidegger's argument that Dasein's potential for authenticity lies in the
possibility of choosing a "hero."
Spiked, November 2009
Edited by Andy Ross
Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy
Yale University Press, 464 pages
Martin Heidegger was a Nazi. Zealously renewing his party membership every
year between 1933 and 1945, his commitment to the National Socialist cause
was unstinting. As rector of Freiburg University, he praised "the inner
truth and greatness" of Nazism in his 1933 rectoral address. Wearing a
swastika on his lapel at all times, he and his wife also practised private
discrimination against Jews.
Emmanuel Faye enriches this portrait of
Nazi-era Heidegger with new research. We learn that in seminars from the
1930s and 1940s he defined a people in terms of the "community of biological
stock and race." Heidegger would turn up to teach, dapperly attired in a
brown shirt, and salute the students with a "Heil Hitler". Faye argues that
Nazism underpinned Heidegger's philosophy. To read Heidegger is to encounter
a philosophy of Nazism.
But Heidegger's opus, Being and Time,
was conceived during the early 1920s and published in 1927. And if
Heidegger's thought was so riven with Nazism, why have its principal
proponents not been Nazis?
In Germany, such radical icons as Herbert
Marcuse or Jurgen Habermas, or liberal paragons like Hannah Arendt, were all
at one stage in thrall to the "secret king of thought," as Arendt dubbed
him. In France, from the Heideggerian existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre, to
the post-subject, anti-humanist philosophies of Louis Althusser or Jacques
Derrida, Heidegger provided the inspiration.
Heidegger prompts discomfort because he was a Nazi
propagating a non-Nazi philosophy. His philosophical vision sits comfortably
with many mainstream attitudes, from the environmentalist assault upon human
hubris to a snobbish disdain for consumerism. His ontology, his obsession
with the Seinsfrage, the "question of being," is central to his thought.
As he puts it in Being and Time, man has forgotten
the question of being. This forgetting stems back to classical times and the
beginning of the Western cultural tradition. In Heidegger's words, Western
civilization has "grown up both into and in a traditional way of
interpreting itself" that is "thoroughly colored by the anthropology of
Christianity and the ancient world." Such terms as "man" or "the rational
animal" efface the question of being by pre-empting it. They provide a
conceptual framework with which to understand the world and man's place in
Heidegger builds, brick by unusual lexical brick, a portrait of
how we come to approach both the question of being and human existence. So,
as Dasein (being-there, Heidegger's phrase for human being), we are
always-already finding ourselves in a world. This world appears to us by
virtue of our dealings with things that "concern" us or with tools that are
Our being in the world is also being in the world
with others. It is a social existence, a being within society. This is the
public world, a world of duties, of responsibilities, of values. Here
individual human beings encounter "das Man", the they, the one, the social
agency manifest in the social world. This social agent mediates every aspect
of an individual's existence. "It prescribes that way of interpreting the
world and Being-in-the-world that lies closest" even to the extent that it
"prescribes one's state-of-mind, and determines how one "sees'."
Heidegger's virtuoso portrait of human being was damning. This critique is
the nub of his historical resonance. He says this mode of being in society
is "fallen". Through social existence, our being-in-the-world-with-others,
human being succumbs to the hopelessly rationalized, destructively
instrumental mode of being that Heidegger holds responsible for the
forgetting of the Seinsfrage.
Modernity here is to be understood as
the culmination of ontological forgetfulness. Human interests and needs,
values and ideals, have become the sole measure of all things. We identify
human being with our social being, nature with our use of it, other people
with the social role they perform. Modern citizens have an "inauthentic"
existence. Their self-consciousness is "only the satisfying of manipulable
rules and public norms and the failure to satisfy them." Fallen social man
has no other criteria to judge his behavior than those prescribed by
Heidegger's solution to this in Being and Time
is the authentic individual, the being who is true to himself, who, through
Angst, comes to recognize both his own finitude, his "being-towards-death",
and alongside it the meaningless of the modern, social world with its
routines of production and consumption, and liberates himself from
possibilities that "count for nothing" to become free for authentic ones.
Heidegger's existentialism informed Sartre's masterpiece
Being and Nothingness.
Heidegger wrote Being and Time
in a country devastated by the First World War, with an economy ravaged by
galloping inflation, and a ruling class rattled by the Bolshevik revolution.
This sense of crisis had been grasped by
Friedrich Nietzsche in terms
of a rising nihilism, and a fear of the common herd. But by the 1920s things
Heidegger's Nazism is the least troubling part of his
AR I think this is a good analysis. I have
been waiting to find the time to read Being and Time for
decades now. His work is generally seen as marking the final break between
the world of Anglo-American analytic philosophy, whose patron saint is
Gottlob Frege and whose guiding light for most of the 20th century was
Ludwig Wittgenstein, and the
"continental" tradition of phenomenology stemming from Frege's contemporary
Edmund Husserl. My own philosophical education was firmly in the analytic
tradition, in large part under the influence of Frege scholar Michael
Heidegger in France
By Jonathan Derbyshire
Prospect Magazine, December 2013
Edited by Andy Ross
Martin Heidegger has a higher standing in France than in Germany. Le Monde
journalist Nicolas Weill writes that the next volume of Heidegger's complete
works promises a definitive answer to the question whether Heidegger was a
lifelong believer in Nazi ideas.
Heidegger joined the NSDAP in May
1933, soon after assuming the rectorship of Freiburg University. He quickly
set about establishing the Führerprinzip there. In his inaugural address as
rector, he asserted that traditional notions of academic freedom were empty
and that real freedom lay in a German student body that was now on the
march. But he resigned after falling out with the minister in Berlin. A
postwar denazification commission concluded that there was no danger that
Heidegger would ever again promote the ideas of Nazism.
came to believe that the present is characterized by a forgetfulness of
Being that shows itself in the global domination of modern science and
technology. He came to regard Nazism as just another embodiment of the
nihilism of the modern age.
Jean-Paul Sartre claimed to derive from
Heidegger an existentialism according to which man is free to decide his own
essence. But Heidegger said Sartre took for granted that man's essence lay
in action or decision and missed the more fundamental question about the
meaning of Being.
Heidegger appeared on the postwar French scene as a
critic of technology and of modernity. But the critique of biologism that
Heidegger developed was not opposed to the Nazi worldview. He rejected the
Nazi racial theories yet retained a metaphysical conception of race. He
merely objected to the grounding of biologistic theories in the Darwinian
conception of life.
Heidegger's Black Notebooks
Jewish Review of Books, Summer 2014
Heidegger's Black Notebooks contain sustained reflections on contemporary
problems as viewed from the standpoint of the history of Being. The Volk
concept he embraced in Being and Time
(1927) underwrites his political view that inferior peoples may be justly
Heidegger: "Man does not decide whether and how beings
appear, whether and how God and the gods or history and nature come forward
into the lighting of Being, come to presence and depart. The advent of
beings lies in the destiny of Being."
The Black Notebooks reflect
Heidegger’s enthusiasm for the German "National Revolution" of 1933, from
which he expected "a total transformation of our German Dasein": "The
metaphysics of Dasein must deepen itself in a manner consistent with its
inner structures and extend to the metapolitics of the historical Volk."
Heidegger held that the superiority of his Existenzphilosophie derived
from its claim to being rooted in Being. Nazi völkisch ideology was based on
the virtues of Bodenständigkeit, where Heidegger saw a deep affinity with
his own ontology.
Jews lacked Bodenständigkeit, a capacity for
völkisch belonging predicated on rootedness in Being. And they had invented
religious universalism. This was anathema to Heidegger, who saw it as a
vestige of the idealism he sought to "annihilate" by turning to Being.
Heidegger's critique of theories of knowledge that abstract from the
actual conditions of human existence is deeply original and remains
important. His philosophy of existence revolutionized the enterprise of
transcendental philosophy. But his fundamental ontology was profoundly and
No matter where Heidegger trains his gaze,
he sees manifestations of historico-ontological degeneracy, and
hypostatization and disqualification of Being. His preferred term for this
is Machenschaft or "machination". He believed that the USSR, USA, and UK, as
embodiments of Machenschaft, were expressions of the spirit of World Jewry.
More quotes from the Black Notebooks:
"Since time immemorial, the
Jews ... have 'lived' according to the principle of race. They now seek to
defend themselves against that same principle's unrestricted application."
"The character of modernity is the total and unrelenting manipulation of
all Being ... The bourgeois-Christian form of English Bolshevism must be
"The Führer has awakened a new reality that has
rechanneled our thinking along the right path and infused it with new
"National Socialism is a barbaric principle. Therein lie its
essence and its capacity for greatness."
Heidegger in Black
Peter E. Gordon
The New York Review of Books, October 2014
Martin Heidegger wrote several "black books" from 1931 to 1941. They reveal
him as a man who refused to abandon his political delusions.
Heidegger, the inner truth and greatness of the Nazi movement lay in the
encounter between global technology and modern humanity. After 1934 he felt
that Nazism had betrayed its promise and succumbed to the technological fate
that afflicted the modern age.
In Being and Time (1927), Heidegger
set forth a bold challenge to the conventional picture of the human being as
a thinking being. He proposed instead that philosophy should take as its cue
our everyday commerce with worldly things. The human being is immersed in
its world. Dasein is an ongoing event that is thrown into time and can only
come upon itself as it presses forward into its own possibilities.
Heidegger said insight permits the human being to grasp itself as it truly
is despite the fallenness and opacity of its being. Dasein gains this
knowledge in an anticipation of its own end. Its ongoing existence depends
on the resolute decision to embrace certain possibilities as its own.
Authenticity is an unflinching affirmation of the history of one's own
people and the hardness of its fate.
Heidegger resists ideas and
propositions just as he resists the Cartesian model of the disengaged mind.
He rejects mere theory against the solidity and efficacy of worldly
practice. As rector he tried to resist vulgar National Socialism. He
expressed fear that the ascendant language of allegedly scientific racism
would mislead the German people from its true historical mission.
Machination was a technological force that Heidegger saw as dominating the
modern world. He brooded over the unconditional power of machination and the
complete groundlessness of things. The ascendency of the Jews belonged to
the metaphysics of the West. Heidegger in 1941: "The question concerning the
role of world Jewry is not a racial but a metaphysical question."
Heidegger conflated modes of technology in his postwar remark that "the
manufacture of corpses in the gas chambers and the death camps" and the
mechanized food industry were essentially the same.
not make Heidegger wise.
Alexander S. Duff
The American Interest, February 2016
Radical spiritual malaise takes diverse forms: Iranian theocrats, Russian
imperialists, American racists, European extremists, and more. Behind them
all is Martin Heidegger.
Heidegger was no Marx. Whereas Marx traces
the sources of dissatisfaction to the alienation of labor in the capitalist
system, Heidegger looks to the character of human reason. This is the source
of the anxiety, distress, boredom, and terror that characterize our time.
According to Heidegger, western rationalist philosophy has blinded us to the
deepest sources of authentic meaning in human existence.
was disappointed by the Nazis. They were not radical enough. Since then,
opponents of the liberal West on both right and left have drawn on his work.
Today, two beneficiaries of his influence stand out: Iran and Russia.
In Iran, Ahmad Fardid is often called Iran's Heidegger. He inspired the
Red Shi'te revolutionaries opposed to the Black Shi'ite establishment
clerics. His concept of Gharbzadegi is variously translated as Occidentosis,
Westoxication, or Westitis, and is the spirit of Greek rationality that
culminated in Enlightenment humanism. Fardid called it the chief enemy of
the Iranian Islamic revolution and advocated permanent revolution to keep it
out. Fardid was to Heidegger what Trotsky was to Marx.
Aleksandr Dugin used Heidegger's ideas to recreate a Russian identity from
the wreckage of the Soviet Union. Dugin claims to be close to Vladimir Putin
and provides the Eurasianist veneer of Putin's opposition to the United
States and the European Union. Dugin aims to retrieve a Russian imperial
identity, in the language of Orthodox Church Slavonic, that can rescue the
spirit of the country from liberal capitalism.
liberal universalism thinning out the basis of community and corrupting a
thicker communal existence. Stopping it involves reviving a religious order.
The retrieved community is shaped by a purified religion, such as Russian
Orthodox Christianity or Shi'ite Islam.
Heidegger says reason shaped
the modern world but led us to forget our deepest identity as manifestations
of being. This forgetfulness he calls nihilism. Nihilist phenomena include
world wars, genocide, and nuclear confrontation. They set the moods of our
time as anxiety, terror, distress, and boredom.
from a preference for comfort and stability in the face of finitude and
impermanence. It becomes our main approach to the world, excluding feeling
and tradition. Our practice of creating meaning in the world by engaging
with that world gets hidden. We have built societies instead of a community. This
error alienates us from our real selves.
Heidegger quoted Hölderlin:
Wo aber Gefahr ist, wächst das Rettende auch!
Martin and Fritz Heidegger
Adam Soboczynski, Alexander Cammann
Review of Books, December 2016
and his brother Fritz exchanged more than 500 letters between 1930 and 1946.
Martin the philosopher was a vocal supporter of National Socialism but Fritz
the banker was skeptical.
Martin complained of the "Judification" of
German culture and universities. His philosophy teacher Edmund Husserl and
his student and lover Hannah Arendt were both Jewish, as were many other
students that sat with him in his classes, including Karl Löwith, Herbert
Marcuse, and Leo Strauss.
On April 13, 1933, Martin wrote: "It can be
seen from one day to the next how great a statesman Hitler is becoming. The
world of our people and the Reich finds itself in a process of
transformation, and all those who have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a
heart for action will be swept along and put in a state of extreme
On January 18, 1945, Martin wrote: "What the Weltgeist
has in store for the Germans is a mystery. Just as murky is why it is using
the Americans and Bolsheviks as its servants."
On July 23, 1945, he
wote of the "KZ-people" housed in his apartment as being "not so nice" and
of the dreadful situation at his university. He wrote in April 1946 that the
expulsion of Germans from eastern lands exceeded "all organized criminal
atrocities" prior to 1945.