Martin Heidegger (book review) Rüdiger Safranski,

Between Good and Evil

Ewald Osers (Translator)


020220: well now i have read about 49 books involving hd...

040815: for someone i had decided not to read on or by, i have read far too much hd. i have read 6 books by him, in collections, in essays, and then 21 books on him to some degree. i have not read his masterwork 'being and time' (hereafter bt). i had decided, several times, that his acts before, during, after world war two, his enthusiastic, insensible, confusion of philosophy with politics- his 'greatest error', his unapologetic support for the rise of adolf hitler and the nazis- shocked, horrified, rendered his thought into educated, eloquent, delusion... and i did not want to read more...


and then i have. i have not changed my horror of his acts, i have perhaps changed my condemnation of his entire thought, for i have seen hd is a major, inescapable voice for much 20th century continental philosophy. so i would really like to understand him. i would like to find that point hd goes from authentic, brilliant, innovative, inspiring thinker- to inauthentic, obtuse, political fool. if hd had died right after he wrote bt, his place in philosophy of the century would be assured, no one would have to excuse his later career and common enthusiasm for the nazis...


i have not read many bios on hd, tending to believe great thought should be eternal, all in effect, genesis, truth. however historically expressed, however limited by the era, by conceptual, by artistic, contingency. i have found what little bio needed in my favourite on hd: [book:The Philosophy of Heidegger|13238145], and really have not changed my reading since. this present book, in some chronology, does not accuse or excuse hd's nazi adventure, but by understating what careful 'political' reading of his actions, tend to soften the serious damning actions he was caught up in. rather perhaps the way most 'good germans' would like to imagine and so excuse culpability, and in this way i can see how this was a bestseller in germany, where it is a matter of getting along, of adjusting, of fear and friendship that allows so many common people to be swept up in nazi fervour...


but this is the point: hd was not one of these 'common people', not in his mind, not in the mind of those students, and whatever minimal effect his support of the nazis, it was real, it was persistent, it had who knows how much practical result. this book follows closely hd, i find most engaging those passages others- who have not read hd- do not enjoy. where i understand better this or that quote, this or that idea, the genesis of any idea, all the ways in which hd was so brilliant. from the 'lectern experience' to the assertion that the key to 'Being' is 'Time' well he did write a whole book on that, bt, the man was a brilliant, brilliant, brilliant philosopher. you could ask what about the rest of the time, but this might be mistaken: in enjoying your favourite athlete do you stop to think he is a philosophical idiot?


but then the rest of hd's life is not so easily dismissed. he had fantasies of the 'right time' for emergence of 'dasein', he wondered whether germany really needed so many philosophers- when they had him? hd dreamed of starting something of an academy like plato, but here closer to the work, the striving, the truth of german 'boy scouts'. hd thought at first that the nazis were a countering force to the mechanizing, inhuman, domination of 'being', the 'leveling' of all humans and worlds he saw in the russians and americans, in their versions of technocracy. hd as much as anyone in germany probably underestimated hitler, thought he could direct, promote, 'dasein', and was later convinced the nazis were only another symptom of degradation of the human. and then, as with this book, the messy realities are not thought about, not much mentioned: concentration camps, political murders, world war, attempted total destruction of an entire people- the jews, hd? did you apply your brilliant philosophy to them?


i understand that in french history there is a desire to refuse identity as collaborators when the nazis established the vichy government during the war, i understand the japanese history that focuses on the atom bombs that ended the war rather than the fact japan vigorously attacked other asian countries and committed such atrocities as the rape of nanking, i understand latin american total destruction of peoples and cultures predating contact with europe, i understand the americans' practically oblivious history of the genocide of natives and establishment of slavery of africans, i understand the equivalent process everywhere from canada to australia- even the ethnic cleansing of ishiguro kazuo's most recent book: [book:The Buried Giant|22522805]. i understand that the germans are not unique. so this understanding is forgiving but not forgetting...


i give this a 5 in recognition of the questioning questions it provokes. hd was a brilliant man who among other human failings was rather blind to his hubris, rather seduced by his own intellect and convinced it applied in all realms. i have never liked people who are so identified with how smart they are, so valuing only that in themselves and others. i do not like myself sometimes. a sense of humility, a sense of kindness, goes a long way, and as kings once had jokers who alone could mock them and remind them of their human dimensions- perhaps this is what hd needed as well...


and not everyone was so distracted: sentence quoted by julien benda- 'man belongs neither to his language, nor to his race; he belongs only to himself, for he is a free, that is, a moral, being'. for hd, you make your choices, you earn contempt...

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