Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Heidegger, We Hardly Knew Ya...

The brainy parts of the internet are all a-buzz recently about philosopher Martin Heidegger and his student Hannah Arendt, largely as a result of the publication of a series of provoctaive reviews of Emmanuel Faye's provocatively titled book Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy. The most provocative of those reviews was an essay published in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Carlin Romano entitled "Heil Heidegger!", which seems to have hit the kind of nerve that divides otherwise polite communities into viciously territorial factions.

Full disclosure: I don't really have a dog in this fight. I have my own, strictly philosophical, reasons for not being a huge fan of Heidegger or Arendt, but it would be utterly dishonest of me to say that the influence of both of their work on my own is not profound. And, independent of my own particular judgments of the merits and demerits of their work (or their politics), I am obligated to acknowledge their enormous importance to 20th C. philosophy as it emerged in the European tradition.

So, I'm going to pass the buck here to two of my fellow-bloggers, Dr. Trott and Anotherpanacea, both of whom have entered the would-the-"real"-Heidegger-please-stand-up?-fray with their own careful critiques. Take a look at Dr. Trott's post "Out-Fascioning the Fascists or Critiquing Heidegger and Arendt," which argues that the anti-Heidegger vitriol may in fact be nothing more than pedestrian unthinking (perhaps banal evil?) covered over with the veneer of righteous indignation. And from AnPan, there is "The Dasein/Non-Dasein Problem" (which tries to pinpoint exactly why Herr Doktor may be "overrated") and "Heidegger and Nazism" (which attempts to situate the value of Heidegger's apologists by taking Faye's criticisms seriously). Kudos to both Dr. Trott and AnPan, both great thinkers and careful scholars.

3 comments:

Lorenzo said...

Having been very much taught in the analytic tradition, I found Heidegger an impenetrable Continental. When I read Mark Lilla's essay on Heidegger in his The Reckless Mind, my reaction was "but Heidegger's philosophy just comes across as ersatz Buddhism", a reaction I was not alone in having, it turns out starting, in a sense, with Heidegger himself.

Given the complicity of Zen Buddhism with Japanese militarism, and Heidegger with Nazism, and the parallels become quite eerie, as I note here.

anotherpanacea said...

Thanks for the shoutout, Dr. J. This has been plaguing me lately and I'm hoping to do something a bit more rigorous on the various questions at stake in both the Nazism and the value of Being & Time.

BTW, I'm wondering if you've seen Brian Leiter's discussion of Party Line Continentalists, and if you have any thoughts? I find that I'm fairly sympathetic to that version of his concerns....

DOCTOR J said...

@AnPan: Yes, I have seen Leiter's "Pary Line Continentalism" post. I struggled long and hard over whether or not to address that here on my blog, but finally decided against it. I'm happy to chat about it with you, though. Give me a call sometime.