Zinging Heidegger

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on March 6, 2010


I reserve judgment on whether Martin Heidegger was a Nazi–at least, until I have a chance to read Emmanuel Faye’s book. But there is no need to reserve judgment on whether the following passage from this review of Faye’s book is funny. For, it is:

Heidegger is undoubtedly a genius. You can tell he’s a genius because his philosophy is so hard to understand. A word of background first, before we tackle Emmanuel Faye’s book.

Alasdair MacIntyre, the venerable 20th-century philosopher especially respected for his views on politics and morality, says of Heidegger’s key text, Being and Time, that “The great difficulty with Sein und Zeit (which is a far better book than those who have not read it generally allow) is that the perhaps warranted apprehension of traditional philosophical terminology is too often used to permit the invention of a new word”.

Naturally, not wishing to waste time on those who have not worked through Heidegger, he does not elaborate, but one example springs to mind as part of his discussion of “nothingness”. Heidegger tells us that “the Nothing noths”. “Noths” being a word Heidegger has made up, it is hard to know what it means.

Aside from which, it is hard to understand why he was an enthusiastic supporter of the Nazis in the 1930s, why he continued to support them during the Second World War, and why he even refused to condemn the ideology afterwards. Fortunately, many philosophers do understand all this.

MacIntyre himself has no trouble. He says: “We should not be surprised that Heidegger was for a short period a Nazi, not because anything in Sein und Zeit entails National Socialism but because nothing in Sein und Zeit could give one a standpoint from which to criticise it or any other irrationalism.”

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