Michael Pollak mpollak at panix.com
Sun Aug 6 16:18:42 PDT 2000

> kenneth.mackendrick at utoronto.ca writes
> >
> >Despite my Adornoesque dislike for Heidegger, I agree. The problem with
> >Heidegger (one problem, not the problem) is that he knew very little about that
> >Nazi party (one Heideggerian scholar once mentioned to me that the only reason
> >he was a member was because he hadn't read the party platform), despite being a
> >member (although, hell, one would think he knew enough!!!). If my memory
> >serves, he might even be read as a kind of (pathetic!) internal critic... since
> >he, more than once, pointed out that the party had failed to achieve its
> >greatness... (note my earlier parenthesis about pathetic!).

Jim Heartfield rejoined:

> I appreciate that this is the standard defence of Heidegger's philosophy
> (ie that it was untainted by his fascism). In a forthcoming issue of the
> journal Prometheus, I argue the opposite, that Heidegger's philosophy is
> substantially a transliteration of concepts drawn from the far right.

Ken, you're quite right about pathetic. Ignorance is a pathetic defense. Heidegger was a first rank philosopher, but he was also a Nazi. His speeches as a rector are full throated in support, and the second half of Being and Time is full of concepts, like Fate and Destiny and, most of all, Volk, that chime perfectly with Nazi ideology. He saw the connection. Of course he wrote that book when Adolf Hitler was still an unknown private, so he didn't get it from him. I think the most accurate way of putting it is that Heidegger's philosophy and Nazi ideology grew out of the same traditions and shared the terms of reference rather than that one was a transcription of the other. But perhaps this is exactly what Jim means when he says H transliterated concepts from the far right.

I think the best book on the social and political meaning of Heidegger's thought, and one of the best essays in the sociology of knowledge period, is Bourdieu's book _The Political Ontology of Martin Heidegger_. You'd think from that title, and those two authors, that it would be almost impenetrable, but oddly, it's exactly the opposite -- it is the clearest and simplest book Bourdieu ever wrote, and it's a downright enjoyable read.

On the original connection between the terms of German Lebensphilosophie and German arch-conservatism, my favorite is that other great essay in the sociology of knowledge, Karl Mannheim's _Conservative Thought_.

But if Jim is arguing that because the terms emerged from the right, they have to stay there, I would have to strongly disagree. After all, Hegel was the greatest of the conservative Lebensphilosophers. And that didn't stop Marx from using his ideas to other ends.


__________________________________________________________________________ Michael Pollak................New York City..............mpollak at panix.com

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