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Tactics, ethics, or temporality?

Tactics, ethics, or
temporal ity?

Heidegger’s politics reviewed
Peter Osborne
There are moments in the reception of particular thinkers
– especially in translation – when the literature about
them, building up a critical mass, explodes, giving rise to
whole new subdivisions of the academic industry. It
happened to Hegel and Marx in the 1970s and to
Benjamin and Habermas in the 1980s. Now it is
happening to Heidegger.

Such events are rarely of merely academic interest
and Heidegger’s case is no exception. Indeed, following
Victor Farias’ s mould-breaking Heidegger et le Nazisme
(1987, translated 1989) debates about Heidegger’s work
have acquired a directly political dimension, absent from
European philosophy since the heyday of Marxism in
the early 1970s. It used to be said that Heidegger’s
commitment to National Socialism was a barrier to the
dissemination of his thought; today, it is the means of its
pUblicity. *
At first sight, it is hard to see why this should have
occurred. After all, Heidegger’s involvement with
fascism in the 1930s was never a secret; nor is the idea
that it was intrinsically linked to his philosophy a new
one. Karl Lowith, a one-time pupil, made the connection
at the time, in an essay which was published in Les Temps
Modernes after the war. He was followed by Habermas
in his review of Heidegger’s An Introduction to
Metaphysics (1953), Lubks in The Destruction of
Reason (1954), and Adorno in The Jargon ofAuthenticity
(1964) – a work which gives free and splenetic rein to an
analysis which Adorno had held since the early thirties.

Heidegger’s followers have always known about this
literature, but they have rejected it, referring their

opponents to Heidegger’s apologia for his political
history, crafted over the years from his 1945 letter to the
rector of Freiburg University (which failed to prevent
him from losing his right to teach) to the posthumously
published collection Das Rektorat, 1933/34: Tatsachen
und Gedanken (1983). The defence has two main strands.

On the one hand, it distinguishes in principle between
the ideology of National Socialism and the terms of
Heidegger’s thought, on the basis of which he identified
himself with the movement, allegedly mistaking its true
character. On the other, it involves a series of detailed
empirical claims: about the Nazi establishment’s
increasing hostility to his work after 1934, his political
inactivity from then on, his supposed attempt to use his
position as rector at Freiburg in 1933/4 to protect·
university life from political interference, and his attitude
and actions towards colleagues who were Jews. More
generally, however, Heidegger’s supporters have tended
to suggest that there is something intrinsically philistine
about the very idea that so great a thinker should have his
work judged in relation to his (supposedly passing)
political opinions, however distasteful. Steering clear of
the politics of the work, they have focused on the
autonomy of the text relative to the life, confining the
question of politics to the level of biography.

Protected by a close-knit band of disciples who
stressed the ‘turn’ in his thought registered in the lectures
on Nietzsche (1936-40), Heidegger maintained a silence
about his political history so far as was tactically
possible. (His famous interview with Der Spiegel in
1966, ‘Only a God Can Save Us’, was embargoed until

* Hugo Ott, Martin Heidegger: A Political Life, translated by Allan Blunden, London, HarperCollins, 1993. 407pp.,
£20 hb., 0 002153998. London, Fontana, 1994. £8.99 pb., 0 00 6861873.

Hans Sluga, Heidegger’s Crisis: Philosophy and Politics in Nazi Germany, Cambridge MA and London, Harvard
University Press, 1993. x + 285pp., £23.95 hb., 0 674 387112.

Theodore Kisiel, The Genesis ofHeidegger’s Being and Time, Berkeley and London, University of California Press,
1993. xiii + 608pp., £45.00 hb., 052008150 1.

16

Radical Philosophy 70 (March/April 1995)

after his death, a decade later.) Meanwhile, outside
Germany, the very different inflection of existentialism
in France (Sartre and Merleau-Ponty) helped to protect
Heidegger’s philosophical heritage from political
critique. Yet it cannot be said that material about
Heidegger’s views and activities during the Nazi period
was unavailable, for those sufficiently interested to look.

A significant collection of documents was published by
Guido Schneeberger in Germany in 1962, only to go
. largely unnoticed. So why all the fuss now? What’s new?

The driving force behind the debate has undoubtedly
been Farias’ s use of documentary evidence to expose the
duplicity of a number of Heidegger’s claims about his
actions, and to assert the fundamentally reactionary
character of his thought, from its earliest Catholic phase
before the First World War onwards. Yet in itself, this
would probably not have been enough to provoke the
storm which followed. Little of Farias’ s material is new,
although it was not previously wellknown, and the
connections he draws between Heidegger’s political
beliefs and his philosophical writings are often crude.

Rather, the decisive factor lies in the change in the stakes
of the debate brought about by the influence of
Heideggerian anti-humanism on radical thought in
France since the 1960s, and especially on deconstruction.

Farias’s book appeared at the highpoint of Derrida’ s
influence in the USA. It coincided with both the
revelations about literary theorist Paul de Man’s
collaborationist past in wartime Belgium and the
publication of the English translation of Habermas’s
Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, in which the
politically loaded charge of ‘undermining Western
rationalism’ was once again raised against Heidegger, as
a prolegomenon to an attack on Derrida. (Habermas
subsequently provided the introduction to an expanded
German edition of Farias’ s book.) Lobbed into this
heavily overdetermined situation, Heidegger et le
Nazisme acted as a bombshell in another war. It has since
sparked off a series of protracted battles of its own.

Hugo Ott’s Martin Heidegger: A Political Life (first
published in Germany in 1988, and translated here in its
second edition of 1992) is to some extent a product ofthe
furore generated by Farias’s book; but it is in no way a
secondary text, relative to Farias’ s research. Professor of
Economics and Social History at Freiburg University,
where Heidegger held his ill-fated rectorship, Ott has
been researching Heidegger’ s political activities for over
a decade now. Farias drew upon his preliminary findings,
and Ott has subsequently unearthed further material,
although a mass of relevant documentation remains
unavailable. (There is an indefinite ban on access to
Heidegger’s personal papers in the German Literary

Archive in Marbach.) It is a sign of the rapidly widening
resonance of the debate, rather than of any kind of
biographical populism, that whereas Heidegger and
Nazism was brought to us by the tiny Temple University
Press, A Political Life comes backed by the corporate
power of HarperCollins. Indeed, Ott’s book is in various
ways more severe than Farias’ s, since it foregoes the
synthesising perspective through which the latter
connects the life to the work, to concentrate on the detail
of Heidegger’s specifically political involvements. On
the grounds of disciplinary competence, Ott leaves
judgements about the philosophy to others.

Leading the leader
A Political Life displays both the caution and the
incisiveness of the professional historian – reflected in
the more tentative subtitle of the original, ‘Towards a
Biography’. Even this, its author worries, ‘may sound
immodest’ . Foregoing polemic in favour of a meticulous
scrutiny of the record, Ott systematically exposes the
half-truths of the authorized version of events with which
Heidegger’s followers have held his critics at bay,
patiently dismantling its edifice of deceit piece by piece,
in a manner all the more devastating for its refusal to
moralise. Confronted with the evidence in Ott’s book,
much of the recent position-taking on Heidegger, on both
sides of the debate (and of the Atlantic), sounds like a
hollow and irrelevant aside, bearing no real relation to
the difficulties of historical understanding. However, by
sticking to the biographical, Ott’s narrati ve leaves certain
questions not so much unanswered as never even asked.

The book is structured around what Heidegger
described as the two ‘thorns in the flesh’ of his life: his
‘struggle with the faith of my birth’ (Catholicism) and
the ‘failure’ of his rectorship at Freiburg. Weaving back
and forth between Heidegger’s own account of these
events and the documentary evidence available, Ott
assembles a picture of the ‘mentality’ underlying
Heidegger’s political aspirations for his philosophy and
his apparently consistent betrayal of his mentors.

Growing up in a cultural milieu marked by a distinct
combination of class (rural petty-bourgeois), regional
(southwest German) and religious (Catholic) motifs,
Heidegger’s youth was characterised by early academic
success and the promise of upward mobility, followed
by the setback of a triple failure: first to become a priest,
then a theology student, and finally, to obtain the chair in
Catholic philosophy at Freiburg in 1916, when he was
still just twenty-seven.

The first two setbacks were caused by ill health: a
heart condition which Ott suggests had psychosomatic
dimensions. (This also meant that Heidegger was spared

17

active service in the Great War.) The third was
the judgement of academics on whom
Heidegger would soon avenge himself by
turning away from Catholicism and becoming
increasingly hostile towards it – although not
to the broader tradition of Christian thought.

Heidegger reacted by channelling his
resentment into the sharpening of an
opportunistic sense of ambition and charging
his marginalisation with a growing sense of
self-importance. (Ott implies that his later
dubious treatment of Husserl, after the latter
had secured a chair for him at Freiburg in 1928,
can be traced back to Husserl’s initial
indifference to Heidegger when he sought a
similar post in 1916, and the consequent
necessity for him to spend five years in the
shadow of the older man.)
This combination of opportunism, The Marburg University Faculty of Philosophy (1927?), Heidegger is in the
ambition and an ever more messianic self- first row, second from the left.

From Karl Lbwith, My Ufe in Germany Before and After 1933, University of

importance reached its climax after Hitler Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago, 1994.

became Chancellor in the spring of 1933, when
interference from Berlin, Heidegger immediately joined
Heidegger came to believe he could become the spiritual
leader of National Socialism. For, make no mistake about the Nazi Party and set about transforming the institution
in line with the ‘leadership-principle’, which was soon
it, as Ott demonstrates, this was unquestionably his goal.

to be imposed nationally. (A fetishisation of leadership
Heidegger’s interest in National Socialism cannot be
appears to have been the mediation for the transition from
extricated from his understanding of his own philosophy.

an individualist to a nationalist conception of Dasein.)
The national-political instantiation of an initially
He was formally inaugurated as one ofthe new unelected
individualistic conception of authentic existence, the
‘leader-rectors’ on 1 October that year. His plans for
Nazi Party was to be the vehicle of ontological renewal,
reorganisation,
projected at a national level (for his
and thus, the means by which Heidegger might assume
ambitions far exceeded the rectorship at Freiburg), were
his self-appointed role as the philosophical leader of the
exclusivistically
nationalistic and enthusiastically
German people. His aim, he confided to Jaspers, was ‘zu
martial. On Ott’s account, they display clear signs of a
fiihren den Fiihrer’: to lead the leader, Hitler himself.

compensatory
mechanism at work: compensation for the
As Ott remarks, this involved an ‘extraordinary loss
of reality’ on Heidegger’s part. For it presumed that a physical weaknesses underlying his earlier failures with
‘a curious yearning for hardness and rigour’. Aimed at
political movement ten years in the making, and already
the ‘restoration of honour’ and the ‘militarisation of
in possession of state power, would surrender itself,
academic youth’ (his inaugural address cites military
ideologically, to an academic philosopher who had not
service alongside labour service, the service of
previously been a party member and who, however
knowledge, and loyalty as the duties ofthe student body),
politically sympathetic and established in his field, was
Heidegger’s practical activities at Freiburg primarily
known primarily for the obscurity of his thought and the
opacity of his prose. Yet this is precisely what Heidegger consisted in the establishment of a paramilitary sports
camp for training the National Socialist student elite.

appears to have envisaged. And he set about his task with
They were accompanied by the injection of massive
all the seriousness and fervour characteristic of his
doses of a pseudo-religious rhetoric of national salvation
intellectual work. His opportunity was provided by the
(‘the total transformation of our German Dasein’) into
Nazis’ plans to reorganise the German universities
academic life, in an exaggerated quasi-military
according to the principles of National Socialism.

vocabulary in which Hilter meets Heraclitus in the
Elected rector of Freiburg University in April 1933,
constant exortation to a generalised ‘struggle’.

under a system of academic democracy he would shortly
(Fragment 35, in particular, is frequently evoked.) The
help to abolish, by a plenary council which hoped that
characteristic temporal dynamic of Heidegger’ s thought
his reputation would protect them from undue

18

– ‘the return to the new beginning’ – finds here a concrete
political correlate in the task of conservative revolution.

But Heidegger had badly misjudged the character of
the Party’s interest in him. The Nazis were not looking
for a new spiritual leader, still less one with the aspiration
to lead the leader himself. They were looking for a
transitional figure who would oversee the transfer of
power within Freiburg University from the old academic
hierarchy to the SA student leadership and its Party
organs. As Ott puts it: Heidegger ‘was being used as a
figurehead, for purely tactical reasons’. His personal
telegram to Hitler (20 May 1933) went unanswered, and
by the following spring, his field of action confined to
his own university, he was increasingly at odds with
colleagues of all stripes about his plans for ‘the radical
transformation of scientific education’ through an
‘inward restructuring’ of the lecture programme, in
which disciplinary specialisms would be replaced by the
integrity of a new philosophy. Frustrated, he resigned his
post as rector on 14 April 1934. The induction of the new
rector, a colleague recorded, ‘felt like a suicide’s funeral
for Heidegger; nobody so much as mentioned his name’.

Henceforth, he would sublimate his philosophical
investment in the German nation into an identification
with HOlderlin, and an increasingly theological evocation
of time’s ‘giving’ of Being.

1933 remained the kairos, the crucial moment at
which the sacred might have revealed itself, but it was
overlaid now with the pathos of a missed opportunity.

(Heidegger’s anti-democratic nationalism was no
‘passing’ opinion.) In the postwar years, he would inflect
his disappointment with National Socialism in a direction
more suited to the time. Yet his belated rejection of the
movement (he remained a Party member throughout the
war) maintained the terms of an interpretation of its
‘inner truth and greatness’ which he never renounced.

As Lowith put it: ‘It is not Heidegger, who, in opting for
Hitler, “misunderstood himself” … those who cannot
understand why he acted this way have failed to
understand him.’ Indeed, from Heidegger’s point of
view, it was Hitler who had misunderstood himself:

misunderstood the true historical task of National
Socialism. He felt betrayed by him.

It is remarkable that Heidegger’s adherents have
managed to stifle awareness of this dimension of his
thought for so long outside Germany. (David Krell’ s
‘Heidegger’ entry in the 1989 edition of the British
Concise Encyclopedia of Western Philosophy and
Philosophers, for example, continues the falsification of
Heidegger’s academic career in its very first sentence,
by claiming an uninterrupted teaching period at Freiburg
from 1928 to 1958. This conveniently overlooks his

sixyear postwar teaching ban, and all that it implies about
his previous activities. The piece concludes that
Heidegger’s post-war failure to condemn Nazi horrors
‘resists all explanation’.) It is doubly remarkable, in fact,
since the idea that Heidegger’s politics is irrelevent to
his philosophy contradicts the terms of an existential
interpretation of his philosophical project.

This raises interesting questions both about
Heidegger’s philosophical understanding of his own
biography – we know that he greatly admired Dilthey’s
two studies in philosophical biography, The Young Hegel
and The Life of Schleiermacher – and the historical selfunderstanding of his early philosophy. However, their
pursuit requires a confrontation with Heidegger’s
writings, beyond the string of duplicitous selfjustifications, into the domain of their philosophical
meaning. Yet this is precisely what Ott eschews.

Heidegger’s Marburg years (1923-1928), which include
the composition of Being and Time, are skipped over as
‘something of an interlude’ in his life. Nor does Ott
attempt to deal with his relationships with either his
student Hannah Arendt or his wife Elfride, who we know
from elsewhere was already trying to recruit her
husband’s students into the National Socialist student
group in Marburg in 1925. (Some commentators have
seen Heidegger’s complicity in the expulsion of Jews
from Freiburg University as part of an attempt to make
up with his wife, after his affair with the Jewi~h Arendt.)
Although Ott does stress the role played by his marriage
to the Protestant Elfride in his turn away from
Catholicism. This was crucial to the development of his
philosophy due to the reorientation within Christian
theology that it involved, marked by a growing interest
in Paul and Luther, and a new interpretation of
Augustine.

Ott’s book is to be recommended for its demolition
of the myths of Heidegger’s political self-justification,
and its eloquent marshalling of biographical materials.

But it should not be mistaken for a fully fledged
biography, still less the final chapter in I’ affaire
Heidegger. To get to grips with what is at stake in this
affair, philosophically,· we need both the fine-grained
philological analysis of the work and the broader
contextualisation of its cultural field offered by Kisiel’ s
Genesis and Sluga’s Crisis, respectively.

Following the leader
It is the virtue of Heidegger’s Crisis: Philosophy and
Politics in Nazi Germany that, despite its main title, it is
not actually a book about Heidegger at all. Rather, it is
about the moment of his crisis as ‘a turning point in the
relation of German philosophy as a whole to the politics

19

L

of its time’, during which Heidegger was ‘by no means
the only German philosopher who allied himself to the
Nazis in the name of a personal philosophy’. Out of the
one hundred and eighty or so philosophers in German
universities at the beginning of 1933, Sluga records, only
twelve (7per cent) were members of the Nazi Party.

Thirty joined that year; another forty in the years that
followed. By 1940 nearly half of the philosophical
establishment were Party members. Furthermore, this
was no sheerly passive or defensive obligation. All of
the philosophical schools which were not prohibited
competed for the Party’s ear, putting themselves at the
service of the regime ‘without hesitation’. The real
danger, in Sluga’ s view, was ‘not that the politicans made
use of philosophy but that the philosophers could make
use of politics’. Heidegger’s involvement was less the
exception than the rule.

A number of factors contributed to this situation. In
the first place, Sluga argues, National Socialism never
had a coherent political ideology, but was ‘an amalgam
of diverse ideas and attitudes’. On the other hand, the
crisis-situation in Germany in the 1930s was
characterised by a strong demand for the legitimation of
political choices. There was thus a clear space internal to
the discursive framework of National Socialism for a
stronger articulation of ideas. German philosophers were
well-suited to fill this gap because of the historically
distinctive place of philosophy in German culture, as
both the queen of the sciences and the spiritual
representative of the unity of the German people. This
pre-eminent role had been increasingly threatened by the
independent development of the sciences during the
nineteenth century. The rise of fascism provided German
philosophy with the opportunity to overcome its own
crisis of cultural authority by connecting itself up to the
National Socialist ‘solution’ to the crisis of German
society. If, as Arendt suggested, Heidegger’s turn to the
Fiihrer can be imputed in part to what the French call a
deformation professionnelle, it was nonetheless a
specifically German one. The problem lay in the plethora
of philosophical movements and ideas, inherited from
the Weimar period, which were competing for the role of
leadership.

Reconstruction of the diversity of this ultimately
unitary field is one of the major achievements of Sluga’ s
book, surpassing the sketch, focused exclusively on neoKantianism, to be found in Bourdieu’s The Political
Ontology of Martin Heidegger (reviewed by Jonathan
Ree in RP 60). Sluga exchanges the formalist empiricism
of Bourdieu’s analysis for a broadly Foucauldian
approach to the discursive constitution of the
philosophical field. Yet he too may be accused of

20

overstating the continuity of the Third Reich with the
Weimar period – the continuity of a diversity which is
said to remain ‘essentially intact’ – at the cost of
neglecting the significance of the prohibition of ‘Marxist
and positivist forms of philosophizing’ and the decline
of phenomenology, because some of its most prominent
representatives ‘happened to be Jews’. It would be more
than a pity if the repression of fascism in German
philosophical history were to be lifted only to be
accompanied by the timely disappearance of its main
historical antagonists.

Heidegger’s Crisis is organised by its exposition of
four concepts which bridge the gap between the
philosophical and political discourses of 1930s
Germany: crisis, nation, leadership and order. Each,
Sluga argues, was a central feature of both fields, and he
traces their fourfold thematic unity back to Fichte.

Heidegger’s rectoral address, ‘The Self-Assertion of the
German University’, is shown to have been modelled
explicitly on Fichte’s Addresses to the German Nation
(1807), in which the ideas of German as a ‘primordial
language’, of philosophy as ‘in a special sense German
only’, and of a total change in the system of education as
‘the sole means of preserving the existence of the
German nation’, are conjoined for the first time. Yet

neither Heidegger’s address, nor the other appeals to
Fichte characteristic of the time (the ‘Fichte Society of
1914‘ had a powerful influence on the nationalism of
German philosophy between the wars), should be
considered a simple return to a Fichtean nationalism.

Things had changed dramatically since Fichte’s day: the
German state had come into existence and been defeated,
catastrophically, in a European war, the effects of which
continued to reverberate throughout German society,
breeding a resentment upon which the Nazis would feed.

This both broadened and intensified the sense of crisis to
which Fichte’ s nationalism had been a response.

Philosophically, the generalisation of the meaning of
crisis is associated with Nietzsche. Sluga follows
Foucault in identifying it with a ‘will to heroize the
present’ characteristic of the culture of modernity itself.

It is this general structure which he sees manifest in the
Germany of the 1930s, in an especially pure form. He
describes the various philosophical societies (especially,
the ‘German Philosophical Society’, the DPG) and the
journals through which such impulses were given a
determinate philosophical form. And he catalogues the
names of the philosophers involved, familiar from other
contexts: from the older generation of liberals, like
Rickert and Frege, who moved sharply to the right during
the First World War, to men like Hartmann, Gehlen and
Rothacker, whose careers would survive to thrive after
the Second World War. The abiding preoccupation of
the DPG – of which Heidegger was never a member, but
which finally succeeded in ‘absorbing almost the whole
German philosophical establishment’ – was a
metaphysical definition of ‘the German’ .

The construction of such a metaphysics, Sluga
suggests, was itself a distinctively German phenomenon.

The exc1usionary principles of the Nazi world-view
(anti-Semitism, racism and social Darwinism) were
supports or ‘negative complements’ to its affirmative
notion of Germanness. In this respect, Heidegger’s
pronouncements about German Dasein are read as
insertions into a discourse with a long history to which
they added little: ‘None of these ideas was his invention,
and he made little use of them in his philosophical
thinking.’ This is common argument – there is a version
of it in Derrida’s defence of Heidegger’s philosophy
against his politics in Of Spirit: Heidegger and the
Question (1987; translated 1989), for example. Yet it is
not a position which has stood up particularly well under
scrutiny. Even someone as sympathetic to Heidegger’s
thought as Lacoue-Labarthe acknowledges that
‘Gemeinwesen was always for Heidegger that of a people
[Volk] , and his analysis ofhistoricality has no meaning if
it is not seen against this horizon.’

Heidegger’s Crisis is perhaps most intriguing for its
account of German philosophers’ struggle for the
attention of the Nazi Party, and the various uses to which
the history of philosophy was put to this end. Ott’s
biography stresses how important the aspiration to
spiritual leadership was to Heidegger’s sense of himself.

Sluga shows how common it was among German
philosophers. He divides the contestants into the
‘philosophical radicals’, who emphasised a sense of the
present as a world-historical turningpoint requiring
radical institutional renewal, and the ‘philosophical
conservatives’, who identified National Socialism with
the preservation, strengthening and reworking of the
great tradition of German philosophy, especially
idealism. The radicals each stood outside the
philosophical establishment, while the DPG was the base
for the conservatives.

The radicals picked out by Sluga – Baeumler, Krieck
and Heidegger – each gave inaugural lectures or
addresses within two weeks of each other in May 1933.

(Baeumler arranged for his to coincide with the burning
in Berlin of 20,000 books, in which, he informed his
audience, ‘an alien spirit uses the German word to fight
us’.) The same themes recur, in slightly different
registers: most notably, the call for an end to
specialisation and the separation of disciplines in the
name of a newly unifying and distinctively German
philosophy. Yet the alliance which W(!S thereby
established between the three professors was only
temporary. They quickly fell out, over a combination of
philosophical differences and political exigencies. Soon
they were denouncing each other, and their philosophies,
for being insufficiently attuned to National Socialism.

(Like Ott, Sluga points out that the argument that
‘Heidegger was not a Nazi because he was repeatedly
attacked by others for not being a real National Socialist’

– used by Heidegger himself after the war – is fallacious,
since ‘such charges were regularly made by all the
philosophical factions’ against each other.)
With the breakdown of this alliance, Heidegger’s
chance of projecting his philosophical ideas on the
national stage were effectively over. He settled his
philosophical account with Baeumler – who had hailed
Nietzsche as the philosopher of the ‘new politics’ – in his
Nietzsche lectures, three years later. Subsequently,
Heidegger would cite this critique of Baeumler’s
understanding of Nietzsche as evidence of his distance
from Nazi philosophy. Henceforth, he would forgo any
attempt to find what he called ‘an immediate echo’ of his
philosophy in the present. His 1935 lectures, published
after the war as An Introduction to Metaphysics, signal a
withdrawal into an understanding of the ‘questioning of

21

Being’ purged of the activist dimension of Being and
Time. They were complemented by a growing
preoccupation with the critique of technology, which he
would later apply, retrospectively, to the Nazi system.

(The published version of Heidegger’ s lectures includes
material inserted after the war, without comment,
alongside his famous remark about ‘the inner truth and
greatness’ of National Socialism, which awoke
Habermas from his Heideggerian slumbers.) The overall
effect of Heidegger’s political involvement on his
philosophy thus appears to have been cautionary: the
petermination of the later work as increasingly
contemplative and poetic in the wake of the failure of
Heidegger’s activism.

Sluga both charts this process and affirms it,
philosophically, as a belated return on Heidegger’s part
to what he sees as the fundamental insight of his thought:

namely, that philosophy is a form of questioning which
can never legitimately invent ‘an original order on which
one could ground and justify a political system’. By a
startling sleight of hand, Heidegger’s Crisis thus turns
out to have been a philosophical Bildungsroman with a
deconstructive moral. It is not Heidegger’s specific
political engagement which is ultimately at fault, but the
political engagement of philosophy tout court. Sluga
balances the self-serving justifications and deceits of
Heidegger’s later years with a positive evaluation of his
‘determination not to be drawn back into politics’. In this
respect, his criticism of the later Heidegger is a subtle
one: his withdrawal from politics was still too politicaltoo much of an ‘antipolitical politics of waiting’ or
‘letting being be’ – framed by the same ‘quadrilateral of
the world-historical crisis, the German mission,
philosophical leadership, and the aspiration to a political
order based on the primordial question of being’ : ‘Where
the crisis had once seemed … to have its climax in the
political turmoil of 1933, it was now part of the history
of being.’

Rather than entering into the renewed confrontation
with Heidegger’s thought which this analysis makes
possible, Sluga takes its lesson to be a general one,
concerning any attempt whatsoever to ground political
commitment in philosophical argument. His book
concludes by pontificating on the indeterminacy of the
relationship between philosophy and politics, ‘truth’ and
‘power’, in general, in the manner of the quasiFoucauldian liberalism familiar from recent North
American political theory. Foucault’s concept of power
is criticised for its Nietzscheanism, but no replacement is
forthcoming, leading to a type of discourse analysis
which operates without a concept of power at all. What
is given with the one (historical) hand is taken away by

22

the other (theoretical) one.

Heidegger’s Crisis sheds a welcome light on the
broader philosophical context of Heidegger’s political
involvement, helping to rectify the failure to think about
Heidegger’s fascism historically which has blighted so
much of the literature. In the end, however, its quasiFoucauldianism prevents it from becoming the
intervention it might have been. Fascism is reduced to a
mere symptom of the crisis-culture of modernity, and
Heidegger is chastised for becoming politically involved
for philosophical reasons, rather than for upholding any
more specific philosophical or political positions.

Being the leader
Kisiel’s Genesis is another story altogether, not just
because it stops in 1927, six years prior to Heidegger’s
political involvement, but because it is the story of his
philosophy. The reason that there is a Heidegger debate
is not only because Heidegger was a Nazi – lots of
reputable philosophers were, as Sluga shows. It is
because Heidegger was also a thinker whose thought
lives on. (Habermas, for example, has described Being
and Time as ‘the most significant philosophical event
since Hegel’s Phenomenology’ – a judgement he has
recently reiterated.) For some, it remains the source of
all theoretical contemporaneity. Of those whose careers
flourished in Germany during the period of National
Socialism, Heidegger alone has a claim to having moved’

‘the tradition’ decisively forward. It is this combination
which is so troubling; especially since it involves a
rethinking of the concept of tradition itself. (See Simon
Critchley, ‘Black Socrates? Questioning the
Philosophical Tradition’, in RP 69.) Ott and Sluga each
approach the issue via the facts of Heidegger’ s fascism.

Kisiel explores the strictly philosophical background to
his best-known work, with a thoroughness unlikely to be
equalled; yet her results are far from being merely
academic in their significance.

The Genesis of Heidegger’s Being and Time is an
extraordinary book, both philosophically and
philologically. It is a systematic reconstruction of
Heidegger’s intellectual trajectory, from his submission
of his Habilitation thesis on Duns Scotus in 1915 to the
publication of Being and Time – a twelve-year period
during which Heidegger’s thought was transformed
several times but he published virtually nothing. Being
and Time appeared to the public like a bolt from the blue
(something which undoubtedly contributed to its
success). Yet it was actually the still provisional, faltering
product of a complex process of rethinking dating back
to the end ofthe First World War, in which, Kisiel argues,

Heidegger was ‘subtly downplaying, disguising, or
otherwise distorting some of the deepest roots of his
thought’ . Forced into print by the pressure on Heidegger
to publish, in order to secure promotion, Being and Time
is notoriously unfinished. (Only the first two of the three
divisions of the first part of what was announced as a
two-part work appeared.) This has led to a variety of
interpretations of its ‘failure’. Read in the context of
Kisiel’s reconstruction, however, neither its literal
incompletion nor its theoretically unfinished character
seem in the least peculiar, since it becomes just one more
fractured moment in an ongoing process of intellectual
renewal. Heidegger described the book to Jaspers as a
‘transition work’. For Kisiel, Heidegger’s thought is in
permanent transition from 1919 onwards, anticipating
the motto he coined at the end of his life for his Collected
Edition: ‘Ways – not Works’.

Kisiel’s method in Genesis is painstakingly
straightforward. It is to take us through Heidegger’s
lecture and seminar courses, chronologically, semester
by semester, from the ‘war-emergency’ semester of 1919
up to the winter of 1925-26, immediately prior to the
composition of the final draft of Being and Time, in a
single month (March 1926). This is followed by a critical
exegesis of what is described as the three ‘drafts’ of the
work itself. The level of detail is stunning. (The two
courses from the winter semester 1920-21, for example ‘Introduction to the Phenomenology of Religion’ and
‘Augustine and Neoplatonism’ – alone take over seventy
pages to expound.) Yet at no moment is the point of the
story lost. It is a measure of the book’s achievement that
not only does Kisiel manage to avoid so mechanical a
procedure becoming boring, but the narrative gradually
quickens as it acquires the form of a philosophical
detection, transferring the obsessional quality of its quest
onto the reader.

One reason for this build up of interest is the variety
of sources which have to be pieced together to produce
the picture: annotated manuscripts, student transcripts
and voluminous correspondence, alongside published
material. Another is the running polemic that Kisiel
conducts against the editors of the Collected Edition for
their record of ‘factual misstatement and chronological
distortion’, deriving from the adoption of the principle
of a ‘last hand’ edition in which it is the ultimate changes
to a text, however belated (in Heidegger’s case, often
decades), which are regarded as authoritative, thus
obliterating the differences from earlier versions.

Resisting this practice in the name of the objectivity of
historical scholarship, Kisiel undertakes a massive labour
of retrieval. Finally, there is the intrinsic attraction of the
material, philosophically, indicating that it is no mere
paraphernalia in which Kisiel is dealing, but the
substance of Heidegger’ s thought: the gradual formation
of an ultimately startlingly original conception from the
entrails of the philosophical tradition. It is the temporality
of this process – a fitful dialectic of the archaic and the
new – which links Kisiel’ s rigorously immanent account
of Heidegger’ s philosophy directly to his politics.

The key to this dynamic – indeed, to the continuity of
Heidegger’s thought as a whole – lies in the dual role
performed by medieval scholasticism in mediating
Heidegger’s relationships to Catholicism and to
Aristotle, respectively. The ‘system’ of Catholicism
represented the present with which Heidegger sought to
break. It had its roots in the medieval reception of
Aristotle. The critique of this reception from the
standpoint of the philosophical present – essentially, for
Heidegger, a radicalised phenomenology – was thus the
task at hand. This was also, however, a
phenomenological recovery of Aristotle via the
destruction of the traditional reception of his work.

Heidegger’s methodological aspiration to radicalise
Husserl’s critique of neo-Kantianism, in order to provide
the ontological ground for a ‘hermeneutics of facticity’,
was thus combined, from the very beginning, with the
application of this method to the interpretation of
Aristotle. This was a process which yielded substantive
philosophical results of its own: there was a ‘peculiar
backflow’ into Heidegger’s systematic philosophical
concerns. Heidegger’s dilemma – and ultimately his
achievement – lay in the integration of these two
radically different strands of the philosophical tradition
– the one, apparently backward looking, the other
radically futural – into a coherent project. Although he
does not go so far as to treat it as part of the draft material,
Kisiel convincingly expounds Heidegger’s 1922
‘Introduction’ to his unwritten book on Aristotle as the

23

‘zero-point’ of Being and Time.

This is already enough to convey something of the
genealogical complexity at issue, yet it barely scratches
the surface of Kisiel’ s multilayered reconstruction. Other
notable aspects include: the importance ofLasks’s ‘logic
of philosophy’ to Heidegger’s reception of Husserl; the
stimulus of Natorp’s challenge to the accessibility and
expressibility of the phenomenological conception of the
‘stream of life’ to Heidegger’s relation to religious
mysticism; Dilthey’s repositioning of Augustine in the
history of philosophy; Jaspers’ concept of the ‘limitsituation’; and the underlying structural impulse of
Heidegger’s theological modernism.

Overall, we are presented with a genealogy of three
intertwining phases: the project for a hermeneutics of the
fact of life (1915-21); the deconstruction of Aristotle’s
ousiological ontology by way of his own anthropology
(1921-24); and the reformulation of the classical
question of being out of the temporality of the human
predicament (1924-27). It is not possible to go into the
details here; Kisiel’ s Genesis is required reading for
anyone with a serious interest in the topic. It will suffice
to indicate some of the broader issues which arise in the
course of the analysis, making it of far more than merely
philological significance.

First, there is the depth and continuity of Heidegger’s
theological concerns (also stressed by Ott), leading Kisiel

Marcuse, who between 1928 and 1932 found in its pages
the missing philosophical dimension to Marxism.

(Habermas admits to having been ‘fascinated’ by the
Heideggerian Marxism of the young Marcuse.

Fortunately for Marcuse, Marx’s 1844 Paris
Manuscripts were published in 1932, providing him with
the ‘real thing’ just in time to avoid the intellectual crisis
otherwise likely to have been precipitated by
Heidegger’s turn to National Socialism.) The ‘ecstatichorizonal’ temporality of Dasein laid down in Being and
Time – perhaps its greatest philosophical innovation – is
prefigured in the temporal logic of Heidegger’ s working
orientation towards the history of philosophy, in the form
of a hermeneutic-phenomenological model of
philosophical experience.

A central feature of this model of philosophy as the
fundamental experience of ‘the historical I’ / ‘factical
life’ / ‘Dasein’ (the terminology changes rapidly between
1919 and 1923) is an equally fundamental ambiguity
about its theoretical status. On the one hand, following
Husserl, what Kisiel dubs Heidegger’s ‘neo-hellenic
phenomenology’ is conceived as the ‘primal science’;
on the other, as a ‘pretheoretical science of origins’, it is
not re all y a science at all, albeit from ‘excess’ rather than
lack. Thus, while he laboured to develop a methodology
of ‘formal indication’ to overcome the problem of the
unity of the categories inherited from medieval

to agree with Gadamer that after the failure of Being and
Time Heidegger reverts to earlier insights, previously
unpursued. The famous ‘turn’ (Kehre) is, in this respect
and suitably enough, a ‘return’ to Heidegger’s

scholasticism, the ‘primal something’ which Heide.gger
sought nonetheless retained distinct mystical overtones,
leaving him oscillating between the poles of an antinomy
he had formulated as early as 1916: ‘Philosophy as a
rationalistic system detached from life is powerless,
mysticism as an irrationalistic experience is aimless.’

Identification with National Socialism would, albeit
briefly, offer the power of mysticism the focus of a
definite goal: ‘The Fiihrer alone is the German present
and future reality and its law’, Heidegger would declare
on 3 November 1933 in his address to German students
on the occasion of the plebiscite called by Hitler to
sanction Germany’s withdrawal from the League of
Nations.

Heiedgger never found a stable theoretical form for
the mediation of this contradiction, collapsing it in his
later work into the celebration of a powerless mysticism,
by displacing it into language. However, he did find a
practical form for its mediation, prior to his political

theological origins. His 1922 recognition of ‘the
fundamental atheism of philosophy’ modified, but did
not contradict, his sense of himself as ‘a Christian
theologian’, working on a project he could describe to
Bultmann at the end of 1927 as ‘an ontological founding
of Christian theology as a science’. Second, there is the
identification of phenomenology (and Heidegger’s own
project for its radicalisation) with philosophical
modernity, as the intellectual tool for the pursuit of
theological modernism via the destruction of the
medieval scholasticism (and back beyond it, the Greek
ontology) which bars intellectual access to the ‘living
present’. The destruction of Greek ontology is intended,
emphatically, as a ‘critique of the present’ – a phrase
which recurs in Heidegger’s manuscripts from the early
1920s, anticipating Foucault’s late reflections on the
ethos of the Enlightenment. This is of especial
significance in the context of Luc Ferry and Alain
Renault’s influential but crude critique of Heidegger as a
resolute anti-modernist. It also helps explain the
attraction of Being and Time to someone like Herbert

24

involvement, in teaching. If there is one thing that
Kisiel’s book establishes beyond doubt, it is the
importance to Heidegger’ s philosophy of teaching as the
medium for his thought. Nearly everything he wrote
began, in one form or another, as a teaching text. The
interpretive labour he devoted to the exegesis of key

passages from seminal works – always from the
standpoint of a prior definition of the tasks of the
philosophical present – is astonishing. In the winter
semester 1924-25, for example, he took eighteen hours
to examine chapter six of Aristotle’s Nicomachean
Ethics. Immediately prior to drafting the ‘Introduction’

to Being and Time, his advanced level seminar spent the
entire semester discussing the first transition (from Being
and Nothing to Becoming) in Hegel’s Science of Logic.

Furthermore, the enactment of philosophy as ‘a form
of life on the edge of expression’ , as Kisiel nicely puts it,
rather than a science, was by no means the sole
significant feature of Heidegger’s practice as a teacher.

Equally important, politically, was the way the classroom
situation provided Heidegger with a model of spiritual
leadership. Kisiel suggests that his understanding of the
teacher-student relationship was the model for the
dialectic of leader and followers outlined in his political
speeches. (It was because Jaspers considered
Heidegger’s manner of thinking to be ‘in its essence
unfree, dictatorial, and incapable of communication’ that
he recommended to the Denazification Committee at
Freiburg University that he be suspended from teaching.)
The idea of philosophical know ledge as the basis of
leadership is not, of course, an uncommon one. Sluga
notes that the thinker most cited in the public speeches of
Nazi philosophers in 1933 was neither Fichte nor
Nietzsche, but Plato: the Republic was ‘the most widely
read work on political theory’. In Heidegger’s case,
however, this idea of leadership acquired a special
significance in the context of his religious development.

Like the metaphor of the ‘path’ or ‘way’, it is embedded
in his thought at the deepest cultural level. This raises the
question of the extent to which its anti-democratic
dimension has its origins in the transposition of a certain
religious model of authority, first to philosophy, then to
the university, and finally to the state.

One final textual point of political note: Heidegger
turned to an existential terminology for Being and Time
(which he had previously, with one brief exception,
conscientiously shunned) only in the final ‘Kantian’ draft
of the book. This makes it unlikely that he had time to
think through its full implications for the concept of
action. This is important because it is involves the whole
vocabulary of ‘possibility’, ‘decision’, ‘authenticity’,
‘resoluteness’ and the like, comprising the activist side
of the book, and which Heidegger would subsequently
use to interpret National Socialism in philosophical
terms, and vice versa, with often startling directness.

(L6with remarks that at the end of the rectoral address,
‘the listener was in doubt as to whether he should start
reading the pre-Socratics or enlist in the SA.’) It is

precisely this ‘energetic yet empty’ sense of
appropriating a destiny which Heidegger would
subsequently drop in the wake of his rectorsbip, in his
turn towards the ‘history of Being’. The idea that Being
and Time is a ‘failure’ may in this regard be connected,
quite concretely, to Heidegger’s own description of his
rectorship, lending support to the contention that for
Heidegger himself the latter was a test of the
existentialism of Being and Time.

Even if we accept this reading, however, it is not to
say that Heidegger’ s fascism logically ‘follows’ from the
‘premises’ of Being and Time. The relationship is
hermeneutical, not syllogistic. It does not follow, but it
did ‘fit’, at the time. It is not just that Being and Time was
‘not incompatible’ with a National Socialist
appropriation (this is far too weak a basis from which to
launch a political critique); in certain respects, it seems
positively to have encouraged one. One might go so far
as to say that National Socialism was the only political
movement which could translate Heidegger’s
existentialism directly into political terms. (Marcuse’ s
Marxist version of existentialism as ‘concrete
philosophy’ mediated Heidegger’s ontological
categories with the materialist conception of history to
produce the opposite political result.) The question thus
becomes that of the theoretical conditions of possibility
for the historical fit. Here, Kisiel’ s fastidious restoration

25

of the problem-situation of Being and Time, in its full
genealogical complexity, provides a number of pointers
in the direction of a new approach.

Heideggerian philosophy, modernity,
and conservative revolution
Reference has already been made to the prefiguration of
the ‘ecstatic-horizonal’ temporality of Dasein in
Heidegger’s working relationship to the history of
philosophy, and his identification of this method with
philosophical modernity, understood as a ‘critique ofthe
present’ through the destruction of the fixed forms of the
tradition – especially, for Heidegger, that reception of
Aristotle in medieval scholasticism which became the
basis for the ‘system’ of Catholicism. What I want to
suggest now is that it is the way in which the temporal
dimension of this project was developed – as a revival of
the openness of the present through the retrieval, beneath
the de-structured tradition, of the concealed truth of a
distant origin – that structurally ties his philosophy to the
politics of National Socialism, beyond any particular
ethical stance (nationalism) or tactical or biographical
consideration. Indeed, it is this temporal structure – a
reactionary appropriation and modification of the
temporality of modernity, a reactionary modernism that provides the framework for Heidegger’s esoteric
nationalism, in which it is the Germans’ affinity with the
Greeks that is the key to their spiritual destiny.

It is not surprising that Heidegger lost out, politically,
in his attempt to inflect the ideology of National
Socialism in this direction, to the crude anti-Semitism
and biologistic racial stereotyping of Rosenberg and
others – which was an anathema to his thought. The
return to the Greek origin was hardly a plausible basis
for ‘total mobilisation’ in the dying days of the Weimar
Republic. Yet the temporal logic of this call is
nonetheless similar to that of Rosenberg’ s appeal to the
‘soul’ of a naturalised ‘race’, insofar as it too has recourse
to the self-fulfilling logic of an essentially mythic
structure, prior to the historically established social
spheres of citizenship and class which were blamed by
the Nazis for the crisis.

As a form of conservative revolution, the politics of
National Socialism was inscribed within the paradoxical
temporal logic of a crisis-ridden hyper-modernity. Under
such conditions, the intensification of the experience of
change (in this case, exacerbated and epitomised by
soaring inflation) ultimately negates duration, opening
the way for appeals to principles outside of historical
time to restore the semblance of order. Such appeals
combine the comfort afforded by the restoration of a lost
past with the energising promise of a new dawn, as the

26

temporal dynamic underlying the experience of crisis is
normalised and controlled through the mediating
political form of national revolution. This is the Uiform
of conservative revolution as a form of historical timeconsciousness. Furthermore, if we abstract the
temporality ofthis ‘solution’ from that of the situation to
which it is a response, it displays distinct affinities with
the temporal-political logic ofthe Reformation, in which
religious authority was challenged by reference to the
concealed essence of an extra-worldly domain
(conscience), delegitimising the established Church and
energising the present with a newly transcendent futurity:

justification by faith alone. In this regard, it is possible to
see Heidegger’s interest in Luther as a crucial stage on
his journey from Catholicism to Hitlerism. The
complexity of the mediations is daunting, but Kisiel has
done much to help us. The relationship between the
theological and political dimensions of Heidegger’s
thought appears ripe for further, more direct exploration.

The merits of such a specifically temporal approach
are many. First, it promises a much more determinate
response to the question of the philosophical basis of
Heidegger’s politics than the established Frankfurt
School position. This highlights the abstractness and
indeterminacy of the categories of ‘existence’ and
‘historicality’ (Geschichtlickheit), and hence their
openness to arbitrary historical interpretation. But it so
underdetermines Heidegger’s diagnosis of the present
that it risks degenerating into a form of philosophical
guilt by political association, which shifts the critical
burden onto the biographical domain. On the other hand,
a temporal approach does nothing to undermine the
insights of this critical tradition. It can build and
reformulate them. Moreover, it has the virtue of
specifying the level at which the connection to politics
occurs (the temporal logic of conservative revolution) in
such a way as to accept the distinctiveness – indeed, the
eccentricity – of what one of Hitler’s ministers called
Heidegger’s ‘private National Socialism’, without this
turning into any kind of apologetics.

Heidegger, we might say, plumped for the Nazis
because he recognised them as the most authentic
representatives of ‘conservative revolution’ of his day.

And he stuck with them, despite the fact that he gradually
came to believe that they had misunderstood their ‘true’

mission, for the same reason. (His criticisms of the
regime were always philosophically based, never merely
political.) Just as Walter Benjamin supported the German
Communist Party because he recognised them as the
political representatives of a particular historical
standpoint, a particular form of futurity to which he was
committed, for philosophical as a well as existential

reasons. In this sense, however philosophically derived,
Heidegger’s National Socialism was fully and maturely
‘political’, rather than (as Gadamer would have it) an
‘illusion’ having ‘notably little to do with political
reality’. This is what so many admirers of Heidegger’s
work seem unable to face. The consequences for their
understanding of the value of philosophical inquiry as an
inherently ‘critical’ activity are simply too momentous.

The moral imagination associated with a certain
valorisation of philosophy is tested to the limit here and
generally found wanting.

Matters have not been helped on the North American
side of things by the rigid coding of the debate in terms
of the humanism/anti-humanism divide. (To read some
authors, one could be forgiven for thinking that the only
thing at stake was the place of Derrida’ s work in
American university life.) Heidegger’s ‘Letter on
Humanism’ postdates the period at issue. Composed at
the end of 1946, and revised for publication the following
year, its terms were set, first, by the defeat of German
fascism and, second, by debates in France. (Sartre’s
Existentialism is a Humanism had appeared earlier in
1946.) Nor was National Socialism at issue later, in the
1960s, when the banner of ‘theoretical anti-humanism’

was raised by French structuralists in revolt against
contemporary representatives of Cartesianism – although
Stalinism was. A similar point applies to Sluga’s use of
Foucault to undertake a rapid generalisation from
Heidegger’s National Socialism to a ‘will to heroize the
present’, which Sluga understands indiscriminately to
characterise the ‘culture of modernity’ as a whole.

Fascism was (is?) a part of such a culture, but surely a
rather more specific one (especially in temporal terms)
than Sluga allows. In both cases, the narrowness of the
definition of the present in relation to which Heidegger’ s
relevance is sought positions fascism as something which
is definitively past, which all the participants in the
debate can agree to condemn, however much they may
disagree about its relations to Heidegger’s writings. The
actuality of National Socialism, as a form of historical
experience provoked and fuelled by crises in economic
and political structures which continue to shape our lives,
is effaced.

One cannot help but feel that an opportunity is being
missed. Recent work has deepened the comprehension
of Heidegger’s thought by returning it to the politics of
its time. What it has thus far failed to do, however, is use
Heidegger’s work to deepen our understanding of that
politics, as a politics of time. For the question of the
‘contemporaneity’ of Heideggerian philosophy cannot
be divorced from that of either the contemporaneity of
conservative revolution, or the nature of

contemporaneity itself. The study of temporality in
Heidegger’s philosophy from the standpoint of his
politics has much to offer our understanding of the
politics of reaction in general. At this level, jousts
between ‘humanists’ and ‘anti-humanists’ for the spoils
of the sixties seem pretty much beside the point.

Bibliographical note
Heidegger’s ‘Letter to the Rector of Freiburg University,
November 4 1945′ is published in Richard Wolin ed., The
Heidegger Controversy: A Critical Reader, MIT Press,
Cambridge MA, 1993, as is: Karl Jaspers’ response, ‘Letter to
the Freiburg University Denazification Committee, December
22 1945′; Heidegger’s 1966 interview with Der Spiegel and
his 1933 Rectoral Address, along with other of his political
writings from the 1930s; Karl L6with, ‘The Political
Implications of Heidegger’ s Existentialism’ (1946); and Jiirgen
Habermas, ‘Martin Heidegger: On the Publication of the
Lectures of 1935’ (1953). Martin Heidegger, ‘The Rectorate
1933/4: Facts and Thoughts’ (1983), translated by Karsten
Harries, appears in Review of Metaphysics 38 (March 1985).

‘Letter on Humanism’ (1947) can be found in Martin
Heidegger, Basic Writings, edited by David Farrell Krell,
Routledge, London, 1978 (2nd edn., 1993).

Hannah Arendt, ‘Heidegger at Eighty’, is reprinted in
Giinter Neske and Emil Kettering eds, Heidegger and National
Socialism: Questions and Answers, Paragon Press, New York,
1990. The main work of Marcuse’s Heideggerian phase is
Herbert Marcuse, Hegel’s Ontology and the Theory of
Historicity (1932), translated by Seyla Benhabib, MIT Press,
Cambridge MA, 1987. Habermas’s introduction to the (1988)
German edition of Farias’s Heidegger et le Nazisme, ‘Work
and Weltanschauung: The Heidegger Controv~rsyfrom a
German Perspective’, is translated by John McCumber, in
Critical Inquiry, vo!. 15, no. 2 (Winter 1989), pp. 431-56. This
issue of Critical Inquiry also includes translations of short
pieces on Heidegger’s politics by Gadamer, Blanchot, LacoueLabarthe, and Levinas.

The recent French debate was initiated by Jacques Derrida,
De l’espirit: Heidegger et la question (translated by Geoffrey
Bennington and Rachel Bowlby as Of Spirit: Heidegger and
the Question, Chicago University Press, Chicago and London,
1989), and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, La fiction du politique
(translated by Chris Turner as Heidegger, Art and Politics: The
Fiction of the Political, Blackwell, Oxford, 1990) both of which
appeared in 1987, pre-empting the appearance ofFarias’s book.

The opposing ‘humanist’ position is set out in Luc Ferry and
Alain Renault, Heidegger and Modernity (1988), translated by
Franklin Philip, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and
London, 1990. The debate is summarised in Richard Wolin,
‘French HeideggerWars’ (1991) in Wolin (ed.), The Heidegger
Controversy. For the background, see Tom Rockmore,
Heidegger and French Philosophy: Humanism, Antihumanism
and Being, Routledge, London, 1995. Wolin’s own advocacy
of the humanist position led Derrida to demand the withdrawal
of the translation of an interview with him by Le Nouvel
Observateurwhich had appeared in the first edition ofWolin’s
collection – for an account of which, see Jonathan Ree, ‘Hell’s
Angels: Derrida and the Heidegger Controversy’, Radical
Philosophy 64, Summer 1993, p. 61.

Notable contributions to the North American debate
include: Thomas Sheehan, ‘Heidegger and the Nazis’, New
York Review of Books, 16 June 1988, pp. 38-47; Arthur

27

Davidson’s introduction to the ‘Symposium on Heidegger and
Nazism’ in Critical Inquiry, vol. 15, no. 2 (Winter 1989),
‘Questions Concerning Heidegger: Opening the Debate’; a
spirited response to Davidson by William V. Spanos,
‘Heidegger, Nazism, and the “Repressive Hypothesis”: The
American Appropriation of the Question’ (1990), reprinted in
his Heidegger and Criticism: Retrieving the Cultural Politics
of Destruction, Minnesota University Press, Minneapolis and
London, 1993; and Richard Wolin, The Politics of Being: The
Political Thought of Martin Heidegger, Columbia University
Press, New York, 1990.

The idea of conservative revolution as a reactionary
modernism derives from Jeffrey Herf, Reactionary Modernism:

Technology, Culture, and Politics in Weimar and the Third
Reich, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1984. For an
account of Heidegger’s place within this cultural matrix, see
Michael E. Zimmerman, Heidegger’s Confrontation with
Modernity: Technology, Politics, Art, Indiana University Press,
Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1990. For an analysis of Nazi
ideology as myth, see Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc
Nancy, ‘The Nazi Myth’, translated by Brian Holmes, Critical
Inquiry 16, Summer 1990, pp. 291-312.

The idea of a politics of time is outlined in my ‘The Politics
of Time’ , Radical Philosophy 68, Autumn 1994. It is elaborated
in Peter Osborne, The Politics of Time, Verso, London,
forthcoming; ch. 5 of which develops the approach to
Heidegger introduced in the final section of this essay in greater

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