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Friday, March 21, 2014

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Martin?

How do you solve a problem like Martin?
How do you catch a philosopher,  and pin him down?

The Week

...Arguably the most influential European philosopher of the 20th century (only Ludwig Wittgenstein rivals him for the title), Heidegger has long been known to have been a National Socialist. He joined the Nazi Party in 1933 and remained a member through 1945. He eagerly served in an administrative post as rector of Freiburg University after Hitler assumed power. He praised the "inner truth and greatness" of National Socialism during a lecture in 1935. Never once did he express a word of moral condemnation of the Nazis or the Holocaust. (He died in 1976.)
And now, a philosophical diary Heidegger kept through World War II has just been published, displaying blatant examples of anti-Semitism. Heidegger's defenders have always noted that the philosopher flatly rejected the explicitly racial theories promoted by the Nazis, and the so-called "black notebooks" apparently corroborate that. But they also contain passages denouncing "world Jewry," the distinctively Jewish "talent for calculation," and the "collusion of 'rootless' Jews in both international capitalism and communism." These sound like quotes lifted straight out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
 and further along,
...Perhaps the most electrifying statement of this vision of philosophy can be found in a lecture course Heidegger taught in 1929-30:

Philosophy is the opposite of all comfort and assurance. It is turbulence, the turbulence into which man is spun, so as in this way alone to comprehend his existence without delusion. 

Precisely because the truth of this comprehension is something ultimate and extreme, it constantly remains in the perilous neighborhood of supreme uncertainty. 

No knower necessarily stands so close to the verge of error at every moment as the one who philosophizes. Whoever has not yet grasped this has never yet had any intimation of what philosophizing means.

That the man who delivered this bracing lecture would fall for the Nazis a mere four years later was not, as Arendt would have it, a sign of mere naïveté or foolishness. It was a complete betrayal of his own philosophical ideal and a flinching in the face of its strenuous demands. In place of relentless questioning and uncertainty, Heidegger bought into a comforting Teutonic fairy tale, put his faith in the most demonic false prophet in human history, and endorsed some of the vilest (and most ridiculous) conspiracy theories ever proposed.
But we can do better — in part by following Heidegger's example better than he followed it himself. Heidegger was right to insist on placing at the core of thinking the relentless questioning of every dogma — in religion, philosophy, science, economics, politics, morality, and countless other spheres of life. It would be a terrible shame if Heidegger's utter failure to live up to his own philosophical standards persuaded people to reject those standards altogether — or to reject him entirely as a guide to striving for them.
I am not sure how to take this.
The writer is quite sure that he, the writer, is on the side of the angels, but the very thing Heidiggerian which arrests his attention - standing so close to "supreme uncertainty" - makes me wonder how any person who thinks himself to be on the verge of error at every second can be so sure of themself.

It is a philosophical pose, not a truth. Most of our knowledge is attitude and posing.
I know of no one who lives up to strict and severe philosophical standards, much less Heideigger.
Seek God, not Martin.


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