21 July 2014

Forget Heidegger (2)

I have, in the past, repeatedly expressed my views here on the dubious claim Heidegger has on our attention. No one disputes your "right" to read the anti-Semitic, Nazi sympathizer. Knock yourself out! But this recent justification for doing so is tortured in the extreme. In the first place, I don't care that the author is a Jew. That identity confers no special status in this matter or any other. Arguments count. And the arguments in this piece are, well, unpersuasive. For instance, I am not advocating censorship. Read Heidegger if you like. Just don't expect me to care if you do. Moreover, while I agree that the charge of anti-Semitism  "is leveled too lightly, thoughtlessly, and therefore without a minimum of respect for the actual victims of ethnic or religious oppression," in this context that sounds like a veiled attempt to discount or sanitize Heidegger's actual, well-established anti-Semitism. Calling Heidegger out for his loathsome views about Jews is not "a tool for silencing dissent;" it is simply quoting from his own writings. Finally, what are we to make of this?
"Of course, none of the recent revelations about Heidegger should be suppressed or dismissed. But neither should they turn into mantras and formulas, meant to discredit one of the most original philosophical frameworks of the past century. At issue are not only concepts (such as "being in the world" or methodologies (such as “hermeneutical ontology”) but the ever fresh way of thinking that holds in store countless possibilities that are not sanctioned by the prevalent techno-scientific rationality, which governs much of philosophy within the walls of the academia."
Having already sought to minimize any concern for Heidegger's anti-Semitism, the best the author can do is intone about his "ever fresh way of thinking?" If you say so, I suppose. But to me this sounds an awful lot like a demand that we sequester the man's Nazism from his philosophy. Indeed, that is pretty much the thrust of the entire essay. But the entire basis for ongoing criticisms of Heidegger precisely is that in his case it is not possible to do that in any plausible way. And if we have to read as extensively as the author's example seems to require (well beyond, by the way, "those minimally versed in his thought") in order to grasp the oh-so-subtle way that Heidegger the philosopher actually was  not anti-Semitic, well doesn't that just suggest how his politics inflects his philosophy?

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