Emmanuel Faye wants to get Heidegger out of the canon because he was a Nazi.
Hey, you know who were really good at getting books out of the canon? The Nazis! They just fucking threw the books they didn’t like on a fire and burn, burn, burn. I’m sure it was very efficient. Mr. Faye will settle for labeling Heidegger’s work “hate speech” and relegating it to a section of the library for dirty, sinful people. Of course, calling his work hate speech is a kind of exclusion that has nothing to do with exchanging ideas and everything to do with forbidding.
Heidegger’s affection for Hitler is despicable. His philosophy is incredibly generative, and he stands as one of the five greatest philosophers of the 20th century. This is the old Wagner question, still vexing, but rather boring– and, I would say, a largely resolved issue. Heidegger’s Jew hatred and support for fascism, like Wagner’s, are unforgivable. His philosophy is brilliant. Geniuses sometimes are hateful, ugly, and unworthy of our personal respect or admiration. Film at eleven.
Let’s get real: this has everything to do with what philosophies Heidegger has contributed to. It has everything to do with the assault on “postmodernism,” that capacious and vilified term that encompasses just about every straw man to be stacked up as a straw man against lefties and their various relativisms. If Heidegger’s philosophy had contributed to some new entrenchment of objective values, some neo-classicists return to “good sense and order,” I submit, his terrible personal failings would be relegated to the same margins that we relegate, say, the despicable support for slavery of many of the philosophers responsible for Western civilization. Existentialism, post-structuralism, constructivism, subjectivism– whatever you call them and to whatever degree they are actually consonant systems, they have been despised for decades, and the recipients of a massive and sustained assault that accuse them of all manner of sins. They are corrosive! They are subversive! They are incapable of defending us from fascism and totalitarianism and Marxism and Islamism and various other frightening things! Ah, but now we see the real story– they’re all secretly corroded by Nazism, I can hear the argument now. There we have it, the magic bullet to kill the beast.
Never mind that the actual content of all of these -isms is as far from the certainty and Manicheanism of Nazi ideology as is possible. Never mind that all of the greatest villains in the history of the world, every one, thought that they were in possession of just the kind of righteous certitude that this postmodern tradition tells us we can never really have. Never mind that the great advantage of the philosophy of people like Richard Rorty is precisely because it engenders caution, care and delicacy in the pursuit of actualizing ones values. Never mind that it is a banal and uncontroversial notion that we can take the pieces of a thinker’s work and incorporate them into our own philosophy while distancing ourselves completely from other, hateful aspects of their ideology.
No, never mind all that. Never mind it because, as the Times piece quotes, there are “residues and connotations” in Heidegger’s philosophy. Residues and connotations is all it takes, apparently. If I thought that our intellectual space had room for an understanding of real irony, the generative kind, I would suggest that we think hard about this kind of thinking– the kind that engages in guilt by association; the kind that engages in purity tests; the kind that declares vast phyla of disconnected and independent philosophical schools “good” or “evil”; the kind that declares certain ideas dangerous not because of what they say, but because of how you can connect the dots to bankrupt and hateful rhetoric like that of anti-Semitism; the kind that takes nuance and complexity, and casts them on the fire…. .