The Nazi Philosopher is still a Philosopher

This post was written by Dan on January 21, 2010
Posted Under: Philosophy,Racism/Fascism

Straight-up racist that sucker was simple and plain,

Motherf**k him and John Wayne.*

Chuck D’s immortal rhyme more or less sums up my attitude towards Martin Heidegger in my more polemical moments. Heidegger was a Nazi. Whilst countless others of his generation fled, spoke out and resisted, he happily worked away under the regime. This fact should colour how we think about him. I don’t believe that it could not, and am suspicious of those who claim it can’t. However, this odd article on Comment is Free raises a peculiar thought. It apparently endorses the following idea:

He calls for the books to removed from the shelves of philosophy departments and rehoused under the history of Nazism. This is eminently sane. Being and Time deserves its place alongside Mein Kampf – as the work of a dangerous and deluded mind.

Unfortunately the iron law of Comment is Free, that all posters have to operate like cheap point scoring computers rather than rational commenters, has taken over, and no-one is really engaging with this idea. It is wrong, though not for the facile reasons most of the posters suggest. Heidegger’s arguments are not Nazi philosophy. This is different from the claim, which I am sympathetic to, that Heidegger’s philosophy was compatible with, even friendly to, Nazism. What I am saying is that Being and Time was not the official philosophy of the Nazi state. There is a stronger case for saying that Lenin’s Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, which became elevated to the official philosophy of the Soviet Union, being bracketed under the history of communism. An even stronger one for Stalin’s wretched Dialectical and Historical Materialism. But Heidegger wasn’t used in this way. Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics was not ‘the Nazi take on Kant’, his lectures on Plato and Aristotle were not ‘how fascists should see the ancients’. Heidegger’s work is philosophy, and whether good or bad, should be seen as such.

Personally, I would have Materialism and Empirio-Criticism in a philosophy section (as my library does), and couldn’t care less what happened to Dialectical and Historical Materialism. Heidegger’s work, too, belongs in the philosophy section. I do not feel able to make decisive judgement on whether his work gave ammunition to fascists, as I have only recently begun to engage with him. I have my suspicions, and cannot but read his early work without thinking about what he went on to do. Nonetheless, this itself is a philosophical question. Removing Heidegger from the philosophy section dodges it, rather than clarifying it.

*50 Third Estate points to the first person to tell me who Chuck is actually referring to.

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Reader Comments

It’s about Elvis, but I’m pretty sure there was no evidence to substantiate rumours of his racism of the quote which was attributed to him. Quite the opposite in fact.

#1 
Written By Salman Shaheen on January 21st, 2010 @ 4:24 pm

Yeah as far as I know the quote is a better description of Heidegger than of Elvis. Still, most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps.

#2 
Written By Dan on January 21st, 2010 @ 5:02 pm
Richard B

where does stuff like this belong? and why do I find myself reading it in the wee small hours?

http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-5/mswv5_70.htm

#3 
Written By Richard B on January 24th, 2010 @ 1:48 am
owen c agian

… Fisticated.

Here is quite a good punk song about Martin Heidegger.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyQqEjK_hx4

#4 
Written By owen c agian on January 24th, 2010 @ 5:36 pm
Dan

Thanks Owen, hadn’t heard that before.

#5 
Written By Dan on January 24th, 2010 @ 6:19 pm
sdv

Actually #Faye makes a strong case for Heidegger being considered a national socialist philosopher. Beyond Fayes strong case it’s perfectly clear that Heidegger’s reactionary modernism really should be considered the deeply conservative philosophy it appears to be….

#6 
Written By sdv on April 28th, 2010 @ 5:25 pm
Paul Trejo

Actually, one could have been a Nazi and conceal that membership in almost every scientific-academic pursuit, but Philosophy is not one of those pursuits. Because Philosophy involves Ethics, Morality, Honesty, being an example to others, and so on, then one’s personal politics necessarily enter into it. Otherwise, one doesn’t merit the title of Philosopher at all.

#7 
Written By Paul Trejo on September 24th, 2010 @ 1:45 am

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