Heidegger and the Nazis, again

by John Quiggin on June 4, 2005

Continuing on a European theme, and on recycled debates, the perennial issue[1] of Heidegger and the Nazis has been reignited by the publication of Emmanuel Faye’s Heidegger, l’introduction du nazisme dans la philosophie, which also includes an attack on Carl Schmitt, another thinker associated with the Nazis but now popular on the left (Mark Bahnisch gives some background here). Not surprisingly, Faye’s book has produced a reaction, in the classic form of a manifesto (in 13 languages!). The manifesto announces this site, with many contributions (all in French), with lots of references to to previous contributions to the debate, and without any systematic organisation, which makes it all a bit hard to follow. Some of the arguments focus on the details of the historical evidence, and others on the more general question of whether the kind of attack put forward by Faye and his supporters is legitimate, even granted the fact of Heidegger’s Nazi activity.

I haven’t read Faye, and it sounds as if he pushes his case too far, but I’m not ready to acquit Heidegger of active support for the Nazis, or to conclude that our reading of his philosophical views should be unaffected by his own apparent interpretation of them as a guide to action. However, others are, no doubt, better informed and should feel free to set me straight.

fn1. This longer post at my blog gives some links to an earlier round a few years ago.

{ 39 comments }

1

Hektor Bim 06.04.05 at 8:17 am

I always thought a good introduction to this issue and the related one of Carl Schmitt was found in Mark Lilla’s “The Reckless Mind”. A wonderful book.

2

bm 06.04.05 at 9:23 am

This stuff is so tired. Isn’t it? If you don’t frame the argument as over a choice between

option (a): we should flush heidegger down the toilet because he was a nazi

and

option (b): “our reading of his philosophical views should be unaffected by his own apparent interpretation of them as a guide to action”

then much of the usual flapping about this evaporates completely . . . like a lot of bad philosophy.

3

Matt 06.04.05 at 12:34 pm

knock, knock…{looks around…}

“unaffected” strikes me as the wrong word entirely, but something more subtle than position b is argued by Christoph here: http://www.long-sunday.net/long_sunday/2005/06/the_importance_.html

4

Kenneth Rufo 06.04.05 at 12:43 pm

Sorry, but I thought Mark Lilla’s book was an embarassing attempt at assessing some pretty heavy hitting thinkers. I am far from comfortable with any easy and unqualified embrace of Heidegger’s thinking, but I remain equally unsettled by polemically charged but rigorously challenged condemnations. I much prefer Derrida’s On Spirit or Lacoue-Labarthe’s Heidegger, Art, and Politics; say what you like about the French and their so-called post-whatevers, but at least some of them take reading and thinking very seriously. Lilla, from my read, does not.

5

Kenny Easwaran 06.04.05 at 2:37 pm

Is it clear that his philosophical views had anything to do with his actions? This is one of the classic problems in philosophy – how to connect it up with one’s ordinary life. Even in something as well-defined as mathematics, people with very different philosophies often have the same methodology, and vice versa.

6

Anderson 06.04.05 at 3:10 pm

A few years ago, I saw a fellow at the New School lecturing on the covert terminology of Being & Time, arguing that key passages were couched in a kind of proto-fascist rhetoric that was “in the air” in the 1920s, but which escaped scholars who were unfamiliar with that rhetoric.

(Anyone know whom I’m talking about? German fellow; they let him go shortly after, I think because he was hired to teach Aristotle & spent his time on Heidegger instead.)

That kind of inquiry strikes me as useful.

On the other hand, dispensing with ideas and resorting to biography is very easy and glib. Paul de Man is an even better example than Heidegger, I think.

7

Russkie 06.04.05 at 3:25 pm

I much prefer Derrida’s On Spirit or Lacoue-Labarthe’s Heidegger, Art, and Politics; say what you like about the French and their so-called post-whatevers, but at least some of them take reading and thinking very seriously. Lilla, from my read, does not.

Having heard lectures from Lilla on many occasions I can testify that he takes reading and thinking very seriously. Lilla also takes H. seriously and does not dismiss his thought simply because H. was enthusiastically pro-Nazi and not entirely repentant even after the war.

Lilla is working on a new book on German political theology that includes additional material on Schmitt.

I can translate Lilla’s surveys of Heidegger and Schmitt into Derrida-speak for you. Perhaps then you would find them deep.

8

John Quiggin 06.04.05 at 3:33 pm

I reviewed Lilla’s book and also one by Hitchens here

9

Hektor Bim 06.04.05 at 3:37 pm

Kenneth,

I’m genuinely curious. Since I’m not an expert in the the field or even one close to it (being a physicist), what precisely did you find embarassing? The main objective of the book – considering the support of tyranny by intellectuals under many different conditions – seemed both important and intensely interesting. And I didn’t find Lilla’s book to give simple answers to the inevitable questions that arise under these situations.

10

john c. halasz 06.04.05 at 5:26 pm

During the last(?) go round on the issue of Heidegger’s Nazism, after the de Man revelations, when the French “discovered” that Heidegger was a Nazi, (just as they had “discovered” the previous decade that Stalinism was evil), Hans Sluga, an Austrian-born Berkeley professor, specializing in Frege and Wittgenstein, researched the topic and wrote a short book on the matter. His upshot was that a significant majority of German philosophy professors/members of the professional philosophy association of that time took out party cards, including some then prominent Kant scholars, and that Heidegger was among the least Nazified among them, having lost out early in the game of competing for influence/preferment. We remember that Heidegger was a great Nazi, because we’ve forgotten all the rest of those “names”. (No one remembers to first denounce Nicolai Hartmann, if they bother to still read him.) It might be added that Heidegger by origin was a south German peasant boy, educated on scholarship to become a priest, and that in Germany, being a full professor, (“Ordinarius”), was far more socially prestigious than in the U.S.A.,- (something of the equivalent of being an army general, the Germans being far more broadminded in their love of hierarchy than we Americans),- so that he rose, in effect, from the bottom to the top of the social heap, a type perhaps understandably susceptible to (self-)seduction by Nazism. His self-manipulation of his core category of Dasein and its “authenticity”, as to whether it referred to the isolated individual and his “resoluteness” or to the collective and its tradition, seems to be at fault. (At any rate, Dasein, was both “ontic and ontological”, the transcendental ego stuffed back into the emprirical ego, fodder for Adorno.) It should be remembered that it was the renewal of “our German science”, faced with the challenge of Being and technology, that supposedly was the “essence” at issue with the new regime. But the whole affair amounted to 2 years of active enthusiasm, before gradually subsiding into the disillusioned quietist acquiesence that characterized his post-war stance.

Whether Heidegger’s thought is “fascist through and through”, as Adorno claimed, is not a question that can be readily and easily decided. Certainly Heidegger was always an arch-conservative thinker veering toward the rechts-radikal, and there is a deep strain of a reactionary, irrationalistic, elitist cult of sacrifice built into his thought. And the recurrent trope of the dispensation of being amounting to a fated commandment,- (“a voice which no face commands”),- has an utterly authoritarian ring to it. (But, if one wants to try and understand “higher” fascism, decoding Heidegger wouldn’t be the worst way to go about it.) But if Heidegger was a reactionary, he was the most sophisticated kind of reactionary, turning the clock 180 degrees forward, rather than 180 degrees backward, hence his appeal to some not caught up in his “nostalgia” for Being. And whatever one thinks of the man and his work, he did raise in a new way fundamental questions, which are centrally important to the modern consideration of the philosophical tradition, regardless of whether one rejects his exact formulation of the problematic or his “answers”. Personally, I think his critique of the modern “metaphysics of the will”,- (which could be read as something of a latent self-criticism, behind the compulsion of “identity-thinking” to present a unity and continuity of the work),- and his “ontological destruction” qua dismantling criticism of the history of metaphysics as a recurrent “onto-theo-logical” schema, remain of lasting value, as problems not disposed of or exhausted. And one might consider the quality of his students and their own work, among them Gadamer, Arendt and Levinas, in considering how Heidegger is to be “interpellated” into current discussions and debates. It is a matter of whether his work is worth criticizing, thus engaging with, or whether it can simply be dismissed on “practical” grounds, inspite of the fact that that work remains a theoretical one, at some remove from any actual practice, entangled with the very theoretical tradition it criticizes.

11

roger 06.04.05 at 8:50 pm

I have always wondered, in this debate, why there is no list of names of those converted by Heidegger to Naziism. I think you could easily list those who cite Alfred Rosenberg or Houston Stewart Chamberlain as influences on becoming anti-semitic National Socialists. You could even list those who say the same about poor Nietzsche, whose disgust with anti-semites and German autocrats seemed not to register. But the only people who seem to have been influenced by Being and Time were anti-Nazi — not only in terms of being against anti-semitism, but also of being hyper-critical of any authority figure — which certainly puts the Fuehrer Principle in the garbage.

So who are the people who have been led from Heidegger to Naziism?

12

Matt 06.04.05 at 8:54 pm

“I can translate Lilla’s surveys of Heidegger and Schmitt into Derrida-speak for you. Perhaps then you would find them deep.”

Yes, could you please? Paying particular mind to the texture of the distinction between the ontic and the ontological, if you don’t mind. I am genuinely interested.

13

Kenneth Rufo 06.04.05 at 10:05 pm

I certainly don’t want to claim expert status either, hektor, gods know. Not sure such a claim’s productive in this sort of conversation one way or the other, but whatever. But I can tell you what I thought when reading the book in question. I agree with John’s review in large part, in that the Derrida reading (which I found particularly poor) serves as more of a counterargument to Lilla’s overall claim, and further I think that the sections on Benjamin and Foucault were far too polemical and selective in their approach, something probably necessitated by an attempt to lend consistency to the theme of the book. As for the chapter in question, the chapter dealing with Heidegger and friends – which takes less than 40 pages – I think there’s simply too little space and too few arguments to resolve a fundamentally complicated issue.

So Heidegger was, for a while at least, tied up with national socialism. Is this a failure in his philosophy, a failure to live up to his own philosophy, a failure to understand that particular structure of national socialsim, a personal/private affair independent of his thought, etc – pantloads of different angles. If it is the first option, a failure in his philosphy, where does that failure reside? The analytic of Dasein is one possibility, the obsession with technology, the fixation with temporality, the role of the spirit, or what have you? And if it is a failure, is it rectified, and if so, by what and when? Is it the difficulties and dangers of the Volksgemeinschaft that cause Heidegger to turn towards technology as the fundamental danger posed to Being? Should we be reading his later work as complicit with his national socialism, linked by the very German concept of Geist, explored ad nauseum through the German personages of Trakl, Goethe, etc, or should we view lectures like the Danger, the Question Concerning, his Der Spiegel interviews as hints as to what went wrong with national socialism?

I’m only raising questions here, but the answers to these strike me as not being borne out of simple and short assessments, especially ones badly sandwiched among others in order to complete a theme that hardly bears completion. Sorry to ruffle feathers or offend in that regard – I’m just not keen on resolving the debate over Heidegger and National Socialism in such a thrifty reading. This is why I say I found Lilla’s book embarassing – not because I think it indicates a lack of in Lilla’s intellect (I’m not sure a particular book can signify much about intellect, one way or another) – but because it demonstrates a lack of serious engagement within the context of its own work, within its own project, and does so on one of the most important of subjects.

Still, it’s fascinating to see the first few responses to my complaint, which was certainly not intended to be anything other than a subjective appraisal, something akin to though contrasting with the unwarranted claim as to the “wonderful” status of the book. Russkie’s claim, for example, that perhaps I might find Lilla deep if only he could be translated into Derrida-speak, is fascinating. In one fell stroke, it dismisses my citing of two particularly interesting books on the subject of the FPP by implicitly dismissing the idiom with which the authors of those books write, which is, I think, supposed to indicate how silly I must be for presuming depth in the sort of gobbledy-gook that Derrida spews. The irony of course being, that if one is really going to take Heidegger seriously, which russkie believe’s Lilla does – as evidenced in the lectures he/she has attended – then the idiom isn’t just one concern among others, but the concern, as it offers the first encounter with the representational practices through which we can grasp the “Es Gibt” of language. Hence Heidegger’s own peculiar idiom and methodological overtures. Samuel Weber has written quite a bit about the problem of representation as being the problem posed by Heidegger, so I’m not saying anything novel here, but I do find the oddness of russkie’s condemnation somewhat revealing.

As for Derrida and Lacoue-Labarthe, I suppose a resistance to them is predictable. Still, they’re certainly not alone in offering more valuable assessments of Heidegger’s thinking and its relation to Nazism. Let me also mention a few others, less distinctively French: Fritsche’s Historical Destiny and National Socialism, which may be in line with Anderson’s reference, and hell, even Wolin’s The Politics of Being. These books, btw, diverge radically at points, but they are still leaps and bounds above what Lilla offers, imho.

14

Russkie 06.05.05 at 4:50 am

Paying particular mind to the texture of the distinction between the ontic and the ontological, if you don’t mind.

Not just the distinction, but “the texture of the the distinction”??

How about the “false consciousness embodied by the
distinction, and embraced by those who deny its texture”.

For a serious analysis of terms in Heidegger, you can do much worse than Hubert Dreyfus’ “Being-in-the-world”. But like Lilla, Dreyfus avoids pretentious jargon – so you might accuse him trying to tame bold and dangerous ideas.

15

Kenneth Rufo 06.05.05 at 8:12 am

Dreyfus’ commentary is brilliant, but it strikes me odd to think that a work that rife with Heidegger-speak somehow can be described as free of “pretentious jargon” – a phrase I’m assuming is simply reserved for jargon russkie doesn’t like, which in this case seems to come from France and not from Germany. So lines like “apophantic assertion: a deficient mode of hemeneutic assertion,” or “Dasein’s preontological understanding of various ways of being opens a clearing in which particular entities can be encountered as entities…” are fine, but I’m guessing attempts to play with differance or a poetry of cinders are not. I suppose pretension is just one of those eye of the beholder things, eh?

16

john c. halasz 06.05.05 at 8:55 am

Language is the “dwelling” of Being. Is that a metaphor?

17

Matt 06.05.05 at 12:51 pm

Thanks for the generous and useful response, Kenneth.

If you actually care to know, Russkie, I had in mind Derrida’s reading of Heidegger (together with Benjamin and Schmitt) in Acts of Religion, particularly “Force of Law,” a extremely rich essay that I certainly won’t bother to attempt to summarize or zing here.

18

Russkie 06.05.05 at 3:30 pm

particularly “Force of Law,” a extremely rich essay that I certainly won’t bother to attempt to summarize or zing here.

Oh please do try to summarize it.

What specifically was the flaw of Lilla’s Derrida essay?

19

Kenneth Rufo 06.05.05 at 7:14 pm

The flaw? As if there might be only one, as if insufficiency isn’t already an indictment, as if bias (yours) isn’t already demonstrated in a manner that determines the possibility of exchange…

Here are a few: first, unlike Heidegger and Schmitt, where the debate revolves around how to connect their philosophical thought to rather horrific political engagements, no such engagement can be found in Derrida. Derrida supports – gasp – internationalism, refugee rights, the abolition of the death penalty, and so on, and does so by explicitly arguing that support for those positions emerges through a thought that often goes under the name “deconstruction.” This is why Lilla’s take on Derrida is, relative to his other chapters, so short on actual examples.

Second, as with all of the chapters, most of which smack of the sort of dismissive tendencies one sees in Straussians, the arguments against Derrida involve a (literally) pathetic, psychosocial explanation that relies on a number of binaries that Derrida – along with a host of others – has called into question, rational and irrational, rhetoric and logic, and then tops it all off with a ridiculous helping of Lilla’s personal gloss on political responsibility, a gloss that happens, as with much of the book, with very little analytical exploration.

Third, Lilla’s relies, at least rhetorically, on a supposed “turn” in Derrida’s thought, away from a purely nihilistic deconstruction and towards the messianic concept of justice, something which Lilla sees at work in the Force of Law essay. This strategem, which attempts to sever deconstruction from its more obviously political consequences, is at best spurious, and at worst disingenuous. Calls to justice and mentions of the political motivation behind Derrida’s work can be seen all over in the 60s, most notably in “Stucture, Sign, and Play” and Of Grammatology. If there is a turn in Derrida at all, it comes about not as a question of the political or the concept of justice, but as a consequence of having exhausted what there is to say about the book, and having turned his attention to a broader assortment of media. This isn’t difficult to show if you take a gander at Archive Fever or if one recalls any of Derrida’s involvement in Greph (a group that struggled against a political environment in the university and elsewhere that discouraged teaching philosophy), but doing so, while it would be an example of a serious engagement a prolific and active career, wouldn’t fit easily into the far more simplistic “Derrida felt stupid for being rightly chastised for his lack of political responsibility” narrative through which Lilla tries to reduce and understand 40 years of scholarship.

Force of Law is available in several anthologies, or via Lexis Nexis in the Cordozo Law Review, and here is a brief interview regarding the original address. If matt wants to summarize it for you, russkie, then great for him and I admire his efforts, but pace the particular Lilla book in question, I don’t see how quick summaries benefit critical thinking.

20

Michael B 06.05.05 at 10:12 pm

“… relies on a number of binaries that Derrida – along with a host of others – has called into question …”

Rejecting binaries, a sum certain sign of profundity. And, no less than a positive and authoritative interpretation of Derrida’s labyrinthine prolixity? Even Foucault could be dismissive of D’s oleagenous oozings.

Derrida was apologist even of Paul de Mann’s equally overt Nazism and anti-Semitism in the early war years, so how ever nuanced and subtle one’s interpretation, an analogy cannot be so readily dismissed, all of which doesn’t even broach the manifold uses Derrida’s escapist casuistries can be put to, frustrating even a Foucault.

JQ frames it reasonably well when he indicates: “I’m not ready to acquit Heidegger of active support for the Nazis, or to conclude that our reading of his philosophical views should be unaffected by his own apparent interpretation of them as a guide to action.” Fact is, it could be put in more positive terms yet.

21

Kenneth Rufo 06.06.05 at 4:57 am

Was a claim made about profundity? When it comes to the difficulties in drawing a bright line between reason and its others, or between rhetoric and philosophy, I doubt there is anything fundamentally profound at work. After all, complaints about binary logics have an obvious philosophical history (e.g., Hegel’s treatment of the excluded middle, Kierkegaard’s assessment of either/or arguments).

But let’s be honest, indictments predicated on those binaries hardly rise to the level of profundity, which is probably why it’s more fun to mock the rejection of those binaries than to defend work predicated upon them. This tendency may even have something to do with the odd compulsion that seems to place “even” before each mention of Foucault, as if to say “but wait, this thought which I won’t really engage is obviously absurd, since ‘even’ other abstruse thinkers are bothered by it.” Paint me rhetorical, but to me, it’s always instructive to see from whence critique comes. In Lilla’s case, which is more typical of critique than not, it’s a fairly exegetical act, and we see something more like a dismissal of some odd “meta-Derrida” or “meta-Heidegger” and less something that might take either thinker on his own terms. The latter isn’t a requirement, but the former has its limitations and it’s worth recognizing them.

As for the de Man episode, while his case is certainly less straightforward than Heidegger’s, it’s been dissected elsewhere. Derrida’s response to de Man’s past, which does smack of a stubborn “stand by your mate” sensitivity, is regrettable, but hardly evidence for a pervasive nihilism, nor any personal embrace of repression. Derrida, in his reading of the relationship between Heidegger’s thought and politics, does indeed put JQ’s hesitation in more positive terms, arguing that while Heidegger’s thinking can be cleared of charges of complicity in the biological, eugenic tendencies of national socialism, it cannot be spared culpability – one that extends till the end of his career – with the spiritualist tenets that animated the so-called “revolution of the soul” that was ostensibly to be accomplished through the world-historical force of the Third Reich. Derrida’s claim, which is predicated on a close reading of Heidegger’s use of Geist and related terms (geistig, geistlich, even Gemut), and the ontological determination of “world,” focuses on a trope or a scheme in Heidegger through which one can see that Heidegger “spiritualizes Nazism.” Whether this spiritualization is on the one hand an attempt to save Nazism from a racism that is undoubtedly “vulgar,” or on the other hand an attempt to confer a philosophical legitimacy to a movement often decried for its failure to posit an actual ideology, is certainly open to debate, but at least it allows for a debate about the imbrication of philosophy and politics that pays close attention to certain philosophical determinations that continue to operate today, whereas with Lilla we can feel comfortable in dismissing the personage while the legacy of their thinking continues on in other forms and under different names. Derrida’s critique of Heidegger may be less satisfying in many respects, but it’s hardly consistent with a claim of moral relativism or philosophical nihilism, and the lack of that sense of satisfaction may be more valuable than not.

22

Russkie 06.06.05 at 7:11 am

first, unlike Heidegger and Schmitt, where the debate revolves around how to connect their philosophical thought to rather horrific political engagements, no such engagement can be found in Derrida.

Like John Searle and John M Ellis back in the day, Lilla tries hard in his essay to take Derrida seriously as a thinker before concluding that it’s not possible.

Lilla attended Derrida’s lectures at the Ecole Normale. Derrida recounted how Heidegger accused Nietzsche of not escaping Western metaphysics, and then accused Heidegger of having not escaped Western metaphysics. Amusingly, as time went on various grad students with leather jackets and face piercings would then accuse Derrida of not having escaped Western metaphysics.

Derrida supports – gasp – internationalism, refugee rights, the abolition of the death penalty, and so on, ……

Lilla doesn’t mock these causes a priori as you seem to suggest.

Indeed, they are not even mentioned (internationalism is perhaps alluded to) – apparently because Derrida doesn’t mention these very earthly and practical issues in the works being reviewed.

Why do you bring these up as if they figured at all in the argument?

the arguments against Derrida involve a (literally) pathetic, psychosocial explanation

That’s not my reading (haha). Lilla describes Derrida’s work in the context of European intellectual trends of the 60s and onwards (ie. Marxism, structuralism, Sartrean vs. Heideggerian existentialism).

BTW, what does “(literally) pathetic” mean? Is that in contrast to metaphorically pathetic?

that relies on a number of binaries that Derrida – along with a host of others – has called into question, rational and irrational, rhetoric and logic

OK, so in other words if I’m not sure whether to agree with Lilla or Derrida, I have to agree with Lilla because I supposedly believe in these “binaries”.

Or perhaps what you mean to say is that when Lilla writes “An intellectually consistent deconstruction would therefore seem to entail silence on political matters.” he must be jeered at for expecting an intellectually consistent position.

, and then tops it all off with a ridiculous helping of Lilla’s personal gloss on political responsibility,

That’s name-calling, not an argument.

Lilla’s relies, at least rhetorically,

What does it mean to “rely at least rhetorically”?

on a supposed “turn” in Derrida’s thought, away from a purely nihilistic deconstruction and towards the messianic concept of justice, something which Lilla sees at work in the Force of Law essay.

This strategem, which attempts to sever deconstruction from its more obviously political consequences, is at best spurious, and at worst disingenuous.

Calls to justice and mentions of the political motivation behind Derrida’s work can be seen all over in the 60s, most notably in “Stucture, Sign, and Play” and Of Grammatology.

OK. So you are saying that Lilla has misunderstood Derrida’s early work, and that there is concern with politics and justice in them.

My recollection of “Of Grammatology” is that it’s primarily concerned with critiquing Saussure – but maybe you can provide a pointer to relevant text.

If there is a turn in Derrida at all, it comes about not as a question of the political or the concept of justice, but as a consequence of having exhausted what there is to say about the book, and having turned his attention to a broader assortment of media.

It does seem that you and Lilla are reading a different author.

Is the notion of “infinite justice” as an “experience of the impossible” present in D’s earlier writings?

This isn’t difficult to show if you take a gander at Archive Fever or if one recalls any of Derrida’s involvement in Greph (a group that struggled against a political environment in the university and elsewhere that discouraged teaching philosophy), but doing so,

I don’t see anything wrong in focusing on D.’s writings rather than his actual political involvements.

Although you might find that very binary of me.

while it would be an example of a serious engagement a prolific and active career, wouldn’t fit easily into the far more simplistic “Derrida felt stupid for being rightly chastised for his lack of political responsibility” narrative through which Lilla tries to reduce and understand 40 years of scholarship.

Lilla does not say or even intimate anything like “Derrida felt stupid for being rightly chastised for his lack of political responsibility”.

Specifically, Lilla says:

“He simply cannot find a way of specifying the nature of the justice to be sought through left-wing politics without opening himself to the very deconstruction he so gleefully applies to others. Unless, of course, he places the “idea of justice” in the eternal, messianic beyond where it cannot be reached by argument, and assumes that his ideologically sympathetic readers won’t ask too many questions.”

It seems like it’s you who are simplifying and making caricatures.

23

raj 06.06.05 at 8:45 am

Regarding the post, at some point, it should be acknowledged that some French don’t like Germans. I don’t know the merits of Faye’s claim regarding Heidegger, and I really don’t care (since I don’t know Heidegger, and don’t really care much about what he has written–he wasn’t Einstein, after all) but that’s the fact.

Some French people don’t like Germans. Historically, France tried to meddle, with some (but minimal) success, in the politics of the various states that now comprise Germany. And French art (music, painting, literature and so forth) was far below that of the Germans. French envy of Germans is quite obvious.

24

Kenneth Rufo 06.06.05 at 8:48 am

I don’t know if there’s much of a benefit continuing this exchange, russkie, so I guess I’ll let it go after this last response. Suffice it to offer a few quick lines. Attending lectures isn’t a good sign you understand them, nor that your understanding can translate in or into a book, or more accurately, the particular book in question. Citing other folks who find Derrida disagreeable is an argument from authority, not an engagement, which is fine, but hardly responsive re: Lilla’s particular deficits. I never suggested Lilla dislikes internationalism, only that the things Derrida supports, and claims to support through his thinking, are neither nihilist nor fascist in inclination. Saying “Lilla’s personal gloss” is not name calling, though it does use a name in a possessive, appropriative sense. Your reading “(haha)” is actually, entirely consistent with psychosocial analysis, and to be literally pathetic means simply to be governed by pathos, as opposed to a more colloquial sense of “sad” or “deficient.” Of Grammatology also includes engagements with Rousseau, and in it a discussion of instrumentality and the law, both subjects political enough to be found problematic when addressed in “Force of Law.” And along with the ignored reference to “Structure, Sign, and Play,” you might also read or reread the rest of Writing and Difference, especially the chapters on Levinas, Freud, and “even” Foucault. While I doubt Lilla and I are reading a different author, I’m fairly confident we are reading differently, and while the idea of an infinite justice isn’t explicit in those terms in his earlier writings, he comes close, and while we’re having fun with argument by authority, let me at least direct you to work by Simon Critchley and John Caputo, where you can find some nice cite-maps regarding Derrida and ethics, the influence of Levinas, and some related concepts. Oh, btw: Derrida was one of the first to claim that “deconstruction” needs to be deconstructed, and that it isn’t a method as much as an attitude. Last but not least, that Lilla quote demonstrates not only a sad lack of hermeneutic charity, but also a profoundly warped view of the concept of the messianic. If it will help you any, you might find better indictments of it in Ghostly Demarcations, a collection of responses to Specters of Marx. Enjoy.

25

Laon 06.06.05 at 8:51 am

There’s useful discussion on this topic in Johannes Fritsche’s _Historical Destiny and National Socialism in Heidegger’s Being and Time”, Uni of California Press, 1999. Fritsche makes no bones about Heidegger being a National Socialist, and does provide convincing links (I think) between his Nazism and his more technical philosophy.

There’s also Richard Wolin’s _The Heidegger Controversy: A Critical Reader_, Columbia Uni Press, New York, 1991.

For taster and background, to indicate that Heidegger didn’t just “go along” but actively adopted the mantle and the ideology of Nazism, and lent his position and his voice in Hitler’s service, here are a couple of quotes.

The 3 November 193 address to “German students”:

“The National Socialist revolution is bringing asbout the total transformation of our German existence [Dasein]. In these events it is up to you to remain the ones who always urgwe on and who are always ready, the ones who never yield and who always grow. […] Be hard and genuine in your demands. Remain clear and sure in your rejection.

“Do not pervert the knowledge you have struggled for into a vain, selfish possession. Preseerve it as the necessary primal possession of he leader [führerischen Menschen] in the Völkisch professions of the state. […]

“Let your loyalty and your will to follow [Gefolgschaftswille] be daily and hourly strengthened. Le your courage grow without ceasing so that you will will be able to make the sacrifices necessary to save the essence of our Volk and to elevate its innermost trength in the State. […]

“The Führer alone is the present and future German reality and its law. Learn to know ever more deeply; from now on every single thing demands decision, and every action responsibility.

“Heil Hitler!
“Martin Heidegger, Rector.”

Or as Heidegger put it in his 22 January 1934 address of National Socialist Education:

“To the man of this unprecendented will, to our Führer Adolph Hitler – a threefold Sieg Heil!”

There’s _much_ more where that came from.

And here I crave your indulgence, because I’ve just launched a blog, and I’ll now lay down a link to my post on Heidegger, which concerns why I have more problems with the man than just the Nazism thing.

The url of my sad, lonely and ignored blog, sad bastard that I am, is: http://laonandthenibelungs.blogspot.com/

And if you think the Heidegger stuff is not your cup of meat, there’s a discussion of medieval and current joke structure a little way further down the page. Love me, love me! etc…

I’m also going to put up evidence and argument suggesting links between Heidegger’s embrace of Nazism and his technical philosophy. But it’s bedtime in Oz, and I have a day job. So that will appear tomorrow.

I also think Lilla’s book is very far from pathetic.

Cheers!

Laon

26

Matt 06.06.05 at 8:53 am

“He simply cannot find a way of specifying the nature of the justice to be sought through left-wing politics without opening himself to the very deconstruction he so gleefully applies to others. Unless, of course, he places the “idea of justice” in the eternal, messianic beyond where it cannot be reached by argument, and assumes that his ideologically sympathetic readers won’t ask too many questions.”

Well that’s not about to get any serious reader of Derrida even mildly interested. On the contrary.

Notice how this all-too-familiar and tired line of “argument” REDUCES a)deconstruction to destruction (not even destruktion), as if some pure relativism or mere pomo nihilism (at the very least, it is not concerned with contradicting this popular misreading); b)deconstruction to a method “applied to others” (and with “glee” nonetheless; glee with destructing them! One might ask here what tendencies or assumptions about the proper role of philosophy or thinking are being betrayed..); and c)the very concept and potential of ‘justice’ to its “nature,” or some likewise pragmatic (or normative?) plan…etc.

Without presenting any arguments himself, it seems to me, the author in that paragraph alone implicitly accuses Derrida of a) being an ideological poser merely; b) having no “serious” readers; and c) “simply failing” to “specify” something he devoted a lifetime of work and dozens of books to exploring and articulating.

For comparison purposes, if you wish, an excerpt from what is–to say the least–a more patient and less arrogant essay that touches on Heidegger:

http://pasaudela.blogspot.com/2005/02/from-derrida-faith-and-kno_110816546346718120.html

Hopefully it still goes without saying that I haven’t read anywhere near enough Lilla to form any definitive judgements of the sort (although that passage doesn’t begin to entice), and there are others who frame this (quite common) concern with Derrida far more carefully and hospitably.

27

Russkie 06.06.05 at 9:32 am

Attending lectures isn’t a good sign you understand them,

It’s an indication that L. took D. seriously.

Citing other folks who find Derrida disagreeable is an argument from authority, not an engagement,

On the contrary, Searle and Ellis are serious attempts at understanding Derrida that are never addressed seriously by Derrida’s enthusiasts.

Searle in particular is sometimes mocked but the content of his critique is never addressed.

I never suggested Lilla dislikes internationalism, only that the things Derrida supports, and claims to support through his thinking, are neither nihilist nor fascist in inclination.

You seem to ignor my point, which was that Lilla says nothing about the death penalty, refugees etc. but you mysteriously imply that D.’s support for them is what actually bothered Lilla.

Saying “Lilla’s personal gloss” is not name calling, though it does use a name in a possessive, appropriative sense.

My point was that saying “tops it all off with a ridiculous helping of Lilla’s personal gloss on political responsibility” is not an argument. Hence it’s nothing that can be responded to and is just derogation.

our reading “(haha)” is actually, entirely consistent with psychosocial analysis,

“entirely consistent with” ? What does that mean – either it is or it isn’t psychosocial analysis.

Lilla’s description of the intellectual background of D.’s emergence is fascinating. We’re talking about D.’s engagement w/ the thought and writings Sartre and Levi-Strauss – not his traumatic childhood.

and to be literally pathetic means simply to be governed by pathos, as opposed to a more colloquial sense of “sad” or “deficient.”

Lilla is literally governed by pathos? Don’t think so.

Of Grammatology also includes engagements with Rousseau, and in it a discussion of instrumentality and the law, both subjects political enough to be found problematic when addressed in “Force of Law.”

This would seem to be the main point. And if it is correct I wonder why you aren’t emphasizing it rather than the other points which seem personal or minor.

The question then is whether Lilla is entirely wrong in his understanding of “Politics of Friendship” – or if the latter conflicts with other less nihilistic writings.

And along with the ignored reference to “Structure, Sign, and Play,”

I didn’t ignor it, as I’m simply not familiar with it which I think was evident from the fact that I mentioned OG, which struck me as a superficial attempt to deal with issues already addressed by Wittgenstein.

you might also read or reread the rest of Writing and Difference, especially the chapters on Levinas, Freud, and “even” Foucault. While I doubt Lilla and I are reading a different author, I’m fairly confident we are reading differently, and while the idea of an infinite justice isn’t explicit in those terms in his earlier writings, he comes close,

So the idea of infinite justice is meant to be taken seriously? Lilla wasn’t sure.

and while we’re having fun with argument by authority, let me at least direct you to work by Simon Critchley and John Caputo, where you can find some nice cite-maps regarding Derrida and ethics, the influence of Levinas, and some related concepts.

Oh, btw: Derrida was one of the first to claim that “deconstruction” needs to be deconstructed, and that it isn’t a method as much as an attitude.

Lilla quotes D. to this effect – which for L. is part of the problem of nailing D. down on anything.

Last but not least, that Lilla quote demonstrates not only a sad lack of hermeneutic charity, but also a profoundly warped view of the concept of the messianic. If it will help you any, you might find better indictments of it in Ghostly Demarcations, a collection of responses to Specters of Marx. Enjoy.

Lilla may indeed lack hermeneutic charity.

When you say Lilla has “a profoundly warped view of the concept of the messianic” – are you saying that he misunderstood Derrida’s doctrine of the messianic? I can’t tell.

Commendably, it seems that you are claiming that D. has a certain political doctrine that can be assessed, described and taken seriously – and that Lilla simply got it wrong. But I’m surprised that you didn’t make that the main point of our discussion, that you seem to endorse deconstruction not being a doctrine, and that you didn’t try to explain how that is consistent with the nihilistic views that Lilla quotes.

28

Russkie 06.06.05 at 9:41 am

You can read Lilla’s Derrida essay at:

http://jya.com/lilla-derrida.htm

29

Matt 06.06.05 at 9:42 am

I’m not.

30

Matt 06.06.05 at 9:51 am

“The question then is whether Lilla is entirely wrong in his understanding of “Politics of Friendship” – or if the latter conflicts with other less nihilistic writings.”

The Politics of Friendship is “nihilistic”?

Good grief.

31

Michael B 06.06.05 at 12:55 pm

Kenneth R.,

You took the remark regarding ‘profundity’ per se too personally. Regarding de Man, I wasn’t so much forming a positive assessment but was comparing de Man (and Derrida’s too eager apology on behalf of de Man – an apology rife with dismissiveness btw) with Heidegger, then essentially agreeing with the manner of JQ’s assessment, though I would go a step further than JQ does herein in assessing Heidegger’s (and de Man’s) more positive embraces of National Socialism and the linkage that has with their speculative initiatives.

(And placing “even” before merely two similar mentions of Foucault hardly represents a pattern, nor was Foucault’s “abstruse” quality per se the object of comparison.)

Too though, I regard Lilla highly, you indicate a more dismissive regard, which I don’t regard too seriously; Lilla is a substantial critic. Finally, my own far too humble assessment is that an aspect of Derrida can ultimately be treated more seriously, one example only thereof is Graham Ward’s context, but other aspects very much tend to outstrip themselves, as I believe Lilla substantially – and coherently – demonstrates, lending both intellectual and moral seriousness to his critique of Heidegger’s faith in the autonomous mind and, similarly, Derrida’s as well. All this reflects Mark Lilla’s use of the term philo-totalitarian – or is it philo-tyrannical? – an apt term applied to both Heidegger and Derrida, if differently applied, to be sure.)

32

Wrong 06.06.05 at 1:44 pm

“Searle in particular is sometimes mocked but the content of his critique is never addressed.”

Except in a long essay by, erm, Derrida.

“Lilla’s description of the intellectual background of D.’s emergence is fascinating. We’re talking about D.’s engagement w/ the thought and writings Sartre and Levi-Strauss – not his traumatic childhood.”

But Lilla _doesn’t_ talk about Derrida’s engagement with Sartre or Levi-Strauss. There’s a vague waffle about some people who apparently ‘misunderstood’ Levi-Strauss, and a little bit about Heidegger’s debate with Sartre on humanism.

Indeed, the Lilla article doesn’t seem to contain much content at all, except a blank incomprehension that anyone could reject the conceptual underpinnings of bourgeois liberalism. It’s no suprise, then, that it ends with the revelation that the problem with Derrida is that he was French and, therefore, tragically was not American.

33

Russkie 06.06.05 at 2:14 pm

> Except in a long essay by, erm, Derrida.

a rather unresponsive essay which even Derrida’s admirers termed “ironic” or “playful”

34

Kenneth Rufo 06.06.05 at 3:12 pm

I was so just going to sit back and agree with matt, but alas… russkie, the crux of Searle’s disagreement is precisely the potential to determine the value and nature of an utterance based on the separation of the serious from the frivolous – that Derrida can contest that reading, and do so ironically or playful is the argument. For Derrida, form is content – hence the reason why I find the flippant disregard of his idiom such a comical entree to an assessment of his work.

And michael, I did indeed take it too personally, so my apologies. I’m content to disagree with you on the value of Lilla’s treatment, as well as your use of the word even, which I still maintain is demonstrative. Other than that, I’ll just say that wrong is right, and leave it at that.

35

Michael B 06.06.05 at 4:09 pm

Fair enough, though by no means is an apology needed, I wasn’t entirely clear myself. Too, you’re right, the ‘even’ is demonstrative, but not as specifically noted – I won’t go into the tedious details beyond that caveat.

Re, Lilla, we agree to disagree and that too is fine. Lilla is not complete but he is substantial, he tackles Heidegger and Derrida (with full philosophical comprehension from what I can tell) and then angles in largely from a psychological/moral perspective. In that sense alone there will always be “loose ends” to grapple with. To be brief, it is their unspoken and unexamined faith (from what I’ve been able to tell) in the autonomous mind, a type of hyper-Cartesian quality, that serves to reveal the most elemental pivot-point upon which their thought in general, and their amoral error more specifically, hinges. Someone like Rorty, an egalitarian purist, is essentially post-metaphysical, he does not deign to address the metaphysical. Heidegger, by contrast, still takes it seriously while also wanting an escape from virtually all Western metaphysics, at least so since early antiquity. (Derrida on this scale is not so easy to classify, which reflects a problem, he’s a bit too playful and indeterminate, so perhaps is somewhere between Rorty and Heidegger in this vein.) But they all express a faith, unexamined if not unacknowledged, in the autonomous mind, a hyper-Cartesian faith.

36

Russkie 06.06.05 at 4:45 pm

the crux of Searle’s disagreement is precisely the potential to determine the value and nature of an utterance based on the separation of the serious from the frivolous – that Derrida can contest that reading, and do so ironically or playful is the argument. For Derrida, form is content – hence the reason why I find the flippant disregard of his idiom such a comical entree to an assessment of his work.

OK. That’s the kind of response that I am familiar with.

The question then is what makes someone decides to adopt the Derridean religion.

37

Kenneth Rufo 06.06.05 at 4:48 pm

His religion? Christ, russkie, this is quickly becoming embarassing. I’m heading back to silent running.

38

Michael B 06.06.05 at 6:44 pm

To be clear, I wouldn’t use the term religion applied to Derrida, too vague and dismissive. However the term philosophical faith or deconstructive faith is sufficiently applicable. Similarly the term post-metaphysical faith applied to Rorty is entirely reasonable, as is a type of metaphysical faith or yearning applied to Heidegger, who quite overtly at times expressed as much. But in this company the term ‘religion’ has far too many connotations that wouldn’t apply, barring rather specific qualifications, neo-logisms, etc.

On the other hand, in a different venue, that of the sundry social/political effusions and proud heterodoxies of the Left, I only hesitate to use the term ‘ideological religionists’ – in a pejorative sense. But that’s a different setting – even if one that does have some antecedents in the former subject. If these often highly fevered ideological religionists were to complain, the reply is that they are the ones attempting to forever use rhetoric as a force multiplier in the first place (Amnesty International most recently), so they have no reasonable complaint about their own weapon being turned against them. It can create difficulties, yes, but at least one does not naively engage on the basis of their rhetorical salvos, charades and theatre. But all that represents a different category compared to the primary subject.

39

Michael B 06.06.05 at 11:00 pm

Perhaps a final note here. Previously noting Graham Ward’s positive use of Derrida and Mark Lilla’s substantial but incomplete critique of D, it’s worth noting a critique that is both substantial and complete, which is not meant to say exhaustively so. J. Claude Evans, in Strategies of Deconstruction, Derrida and the Myth of the Voice is unassailable from what I’ve been able to assess. He reads Derrida on his own terms, according to his own stipulated prerequisites, and he is also entirely transparent and unbeguiling with his considerable explications throughout, qualitities I would not associate with Derrida himself, not with any consistency at least.

Am happy to stand corrected with any of this, but whether entrenched academic or enlightened autodidact, come armed and at the ready (lol).

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