expanded November 29, 2021
I’m saddened that Heidegger’s texts are still objects for broad stroke journalistic polemic, rather than opportunities for philosophy.
Dec. 29, 2020: This posting was motivated by the appearance of a book that I won’t name, by an Assistant Professor who belongs to an academic group of Heidegger readers who prevalently believe that Heidegger owes them something unsaid—“prevalently” relative to the prevailing voices of the group.Heidegger wasn’t being poetic when he appealed to the unmet need for thinking. He appreciated the realities of European nihilism that had led the German university to appease, if not vocally support, the transition of Germany into another war, leading to the Holocaust, echoing in Cold War tendencies toward military-industrial disaster.
Dec. 29: That’s a sweeping scale of comment, but exactly The Issue for Heidegger was the scale of “onto-theological constitution of metaphysic[al]” power that “rationalized” (naturalized) what became a juggarnaut of unfathomable, epochal tragedy.These days, an air of continuing scandal about Heidegger is useful for academic careers that weren’t alive when the “Silence” in Europe was deafening.
In the face of what could not be stopped—and unfathomable disorientation by the scale of inexplicability—a horrified German saw that neighbors had so profoundly betrayed their own humanity that empathic capability left one stunned silent with sorrow.
Pope John Paul II’s note inserted into the Western Wall, 2000, said in part “we are deeply saddened…and commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood…” That’s not enough! The Vatican’s 1998 document, “We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah,” so many paragraphs is not enough! Heidegger’s expression to an intimate gathering of others, 1946, “What Are Poets For?” speaks “despite all suffering, despite nameless sorrow…,” but it’s not enough!
George Steiner (literary renaissance man, born to a Jewish family in 1929, Swiss child of the Depression and war) writes in 1991 (cit. available): “The material destruction, the revelations of inhumanity which accompanied the collapse of the Third Reich numbed the German imagination….The condition of a leprous, divided Germany was too new, the Hitlerian atrocity was too singular, to allow of any coherent philosophic critique or revaluation.”
Many of the survivors of the prison camps didn’t talk about it for many years afterward. Some nearly never did: This was a theme of a documentary several years ago that interviewed some of the last survivors, some talking for the first time to anyone about their experience. They were silent because they were wholly oriented to living. They made lives as if there is only futurity.
I will never forget my exiting from witnessing the entire nine hours of the “Shoah” documentary in one day—Silent. There was “Nothing” to say. (There was ultimate Nothing-ness escaping words.) Anyone who might have approached me to ask “What do you have to say about that?” would have seen me look back like blank-faced children in war, turn away, walk away silent.
Scholars weaponize invalid charges of “Nazi sympathy,” if not “antisemitism,” to—evidently—defend against something, I don’t know: Was it disappointed young hopes for philosophy that met Heidegger’s texts and loved that until they were faced with his “failure” to bridge for them what Germans didn’t begin to face until their children forced the issue in the 1980s?
The Silence of 1945 was deafening. The only possible option was beginning again as if another apocalypse isn’t possible, because we’re enabling “Never Again”
to be integral to being.
The wake of Nothingness is nothing. Children are born in love with being,
when Nothingness is not conceivable.
Opportunistic “scholarship” grounds nothing: Heidegger was not ever supportive of authoritarianism, not ever ethnocentric, not ever in denial about the onto-theological roots of the Holocaust. The “question of being,” born from WW-I, became unbearable “strife,” lost for words.
Heidegger was far more attuned than most academics of his era to what’s necessary to counter and to avoid authoritarianism: teaching—patient, masterful, evincive, thought-provoking, emancipatory teaching which enables fundamental renewal and creative potential, framing critique of the nihilistic conceptuality of academic Dialectics in audacious conceptual prospecting, etc..
He was more attuned than most others of his peers to what’s necessary to counter and avoid ethnocentrism, beyond the ghost of Holy Roman Empire that was still very much alive in the Catholic-Prussian/“aristocratic”/Capitalist toleration and use of Nazism.
He was attuned to what’s necessary for prominent voices: to counter and avoid Cold War tendencies toward planetary crisis. Life on Earth has completely disappeared more than four times. Dictatorship was not born with Hitlerlism, and it’s not dead yet.
It is no mere point of poetics that the cosmos is black and Silent.
Nothing will Arrive from the stars to keep humanity from burning away.