Category Archive 'Martin Heidegger'

26 Feb 2016

Heidegger’s Ghosts

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Martin Heidegger at his house in Todtnauberg, January 1966

Alexander Duff, in the American Interest, notes that every contemporary form of irrational opposition to Western Liberalism, Capitalism, and Democracy draws upon the intellectual influence of the Swabian sexton’s son, educated by the charity of the Church of Rome, who in the 1930s betrayed his Church and presided happily over the National Socialist Gleichschaltung (“bringing into conformity”) of his university.

A specter haunts the post-Cold War liberal order—the specter of radical spiritual malaise. This discontent with or downright opposition to the Western-originated, universalist claims of the broadly liberal cultural, economic, and political order takes diverse forms. One can detect it among Iranian revolutionary theocrats, Russian imperialist ideologues, white supremacist “Identitarians,” European neo-fascists, identity-politics partisans, and anti-foundationalist intellectuals of many stripes. But standing behind some of the leading intellectual and political figures in this mélange of counter-liberalism is one animating mind, that of Martin Heidegger.

Since the end of the Cold War, it has been an open question whether any organizing political principle could successfully vie with the liberal consensus of a secular state, limited by democratic accountability and the rule of law. To date, neither the remnants of Soviet-style communism, authoritarian capitalism, reactionary fascism, nor Islamic theocracy have achieved a successful combination of military strength and political legitimacy even among their own citizens, let alone among sympathizers in the world at large. But the political legacy of Martin Heidegger—if the strange and conflicting paths of his influence can be so termed—points to a combination that is sufficiently threatening to liberal democracy to be taken seriously, precisely because of the breadth of its evident appeal abroad and at home.

This is because Heidegger’s thought, while not lending itself to any politically cohesive opposition to the liberal West in a manner that characterized Marxism, recommends itself to virtually every variety of particularist opponent of Western universalism. For those inspired by Heidegger, the universalist claims upon which the liberal order is based are too thin, too weak, and too ignoble to provide tangible and meaningful sources of human identity.

20 Sep 2007

Visiting the Hut at Todtnauberg

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Patrick Lakey 2005
Patrick Lakey, Heidegger: Hut, Todtnauberg, Black Forest, Germany, I, 2005.

My old Philosophy professor, the late John N. Findlay, would bristle with patrician scorn at the very mention of Heidegger’s name, and would proceed to explain to students in a tone of wearied contempt that Heidegger was unworthy of serious attention, having promulgated a false philosophy which systematically confused human emotional states with metaphysical entities. Others would probably be more indignant over Heidegger’s purging of the University of Freiburg, his expressed ambition of providing the philosophic basis for the National Socialist Movement, and the continuing ability of Heideggerian thought post-WWII to inspire murderous totalitarians.

Harvard English professor, Leland de la Durantaye visits the famous hut on the mountain in the Black Forest in the spirit of a pilgrimage to a sort of shrine, and meditates on its former owner and his sinister and influential oeuvre.

In philosophy, as with the martial arts, a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. My little bit of knowledge about Heidegger’s philosophy told me that Heidegger’s final collection of essays bore the modest title Wegmarken. Wegmarken means “Path-Markers,” and was a simple enough title for a collection of essays. But when it came out, it reminded his readers of his most influential collection of essays and lectures published eighteen years earlier: Holzwege. Holzwege proved a disarmingly difficult title to translate, or even understand: Holz means “wood,” and wege means “paths.” Thus: “Paths in the Forest”—but Holzwege are not just any paths. They are paths made not for the forest but the trees; paths for finding and carrying wood (back to your hut), not for getting from point A to B. And when you are on one, you are, proverbially, on the wrong path. They are thus a special kind of Rundweg. And they can be dangerous if you do not recognize them for what they are, as sooner or later it gets dark and the animals come out. The French translated Heidegger’s book as “Paths That Lead Nowhere”; in a sign of Anglo-Saxon sobriety and pragmatism, the English translation is Basic Writings.


Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

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