Tom Rockmore-Heidegger and French Philosophy_ Humanism, Antihumanism and Being-Routledge (1995)

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How is it that a difficult German philosopher widely known to have been an
enthusiastic Nazi became one of the “master thinkers” of postwar French
Heidegger and French Philosophy examines the reception of this highly
influential and controversial thinker in France. Tom Rockmore traces the
way in which Heidegger’s theory has redefined and largely determined the
nature of philosophical debate in France, and he investigates the background
against which “philosophers” from Sartre through Lacan and Foucault to
Derrida, Irigaray and Lacoue-Labarthe have adopted Heidegger’s thinking.
In doing so, Rockmore delineates some of the main aspects of the French
philosophical tradition—in particular its deep humanist commitment.
By arguing for a contextual interpretation of Heidegger, the author engages
with the controversy over the philosopher’s political affiliation with Nazism
and the debate on whether or not this commitment can be reconciled with
current French philosophy and its use of Heidegger’s theory. Heidegger and
French Philosophy examines the relations between Heidegger’s philosophy
and his politics, and contends that for the most part the French reception of
his theory—first as philosophical anthropology and later on as post-
metaphysical humanism—is systematically mistaken.
Tom Rockmore is Professor of Philosophy at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh.
His most recent books include On Heidegger’s Nazism and Philosophy and
Hegel and Contemporary Philosophy.


Humanism, antihumanism and being

Tom Rockmore

London and New York

First published 1995by Routledge
11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4EE
This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2003.
Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge
29 West 35th Street, New York, NY 10001
© 1995 Tom Rockmore
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be
reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now
known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any storage or informationretrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Rockmore, Tom, 1942–
Heidegger and French Philosophy: humanism, antihumanism and being/Tom Rockmore.p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Heidegger, Martin, 1889–1976 –Influence.
2. Philosophy, French–20th century. I. Title.
B3279.H49R618 1994
193–dc20 93–47961 CIP
ISBN 0-203-02660-8 Master e-book ISBN

ISBN 0-203-21035-2 (Adobe eReader Format) ISBN 0-415-11180-3 (hbk)
ISBN 0-415-11181-1 (pbk)


“French philosophy”?3
The French intellectual4
Philosophy and religion8
The philosophical tradition10
Husserl, Hegel and French phenomenology11
“French” philosophers and foreign conceptual models13
French academic conservatism15
A master thinker?18
The master thinker and philosophy as dialogue19
Whitehead, Kant and Sartre on the master thinker20
The master thinker in French philosophy: Descartes, Lacan,
Hegel as a “French” master thinker27
Kojève as a “French” master thinker31
Cartesian subjectivity and knowledge41
Cartesian and Kantian views of subjectivity44
Subjectivity after Kant46
Excursus on Husserl50

vi Heideggerian subjectivity51
Some recent French views of subjectivity54
French humanism64
Heidegger’s “humanism” and French philosophy69
Sartre, French phenomenology, and Heidegger75
Heidegger, Sartre, and humanism79
Sartre, Heidegger, and humanism82
Heideggerian criticism of existentialism85
Heidegger’s French offensive88
Heidegger’s letter to Beaufret91
Heidegger’s “Letter on Humanism”94
Heidegger’s “Letter on Humanism” and the turning in his
French Heideggerian orthodoxy and the “Letter on Humanism”104
Beaufret and the counteroffensive107
Beaufret and the rise of French Heideggerian orthodoxy111
French Heideggerian orthodoxy119
Heideggerian humanism: an orthodox reading?120
French Heideggerian orthodoxy for export124
Heideggerian exegesis126
Heidegger and the French interpretation of phenomenology128
Heidegger and the French interpretation of the history of
Heidegger and contemporary French philosophy135
Derrida and Heidegger139

An outline of the problem148
French discussion of Heidegger’s Nazism151
Main aspects of the third wave157
Some remarks on the French discussion162
The French discussion and Heidegger in France165
Understanding the philosophical tradition170
The French reception of Heidegger’s theory172
Subjectivity and Heidegger in France175
Humanism, antihumanism and Heidegger in France181
Return to Dasein?188


One of the pleasures of publishing a book is that it provides the occasion to
express gratitude for help received in carrying out the project. I would like to
record my appreciation to the Noble J.Dick Foundation for a grant that
allowed me to acquire books and other materials; to Dr. John J.McDonald,
Dean, Arts and Sciences, Duquesne University, for kindly funding a short trip
to France that allowed me not only to read a paper but above all to do
research in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris; and to the American
Philosophical Society for a fellowship that enabled me to spend a longer
period in the same library.


Denken ist die Einschränkung auf einen Gedanken, der einst wie ein Stern
am Himmel der Welt stehen bleibt. 1

More than 200 years ago, astronomers speculated that a star of sufficient
size would, owing to its gravitational pull, absorb rather than emit light and
would therefore exert an enormous influence while remaining, literally,
2 Today, such is the role of Heidegger’s philosophy in France. Like a
massive, yet rarely visible dark star, Heidegger shapes and determines the
nature and course of French philosophical debate. As Michael Roth has stated,
“Heidegger’s influence on French philosophy can scarcely be overestimated.”
In an earlier work, 4 I studied the relation between Heidegger’s philosophy
and his Nazism. This book continues the concern with the relation between
Heidegger’s theory and his politics through a self-contained, independent
inquiry into the French reception of Heidegger’s thought. We need to
understand, since it is by no means evident, the process leading to the
emergence of a philosophical theory linked to Nazism as the dominant view
in the basically humanist French philosophical tradition in postwar France.
And we need to grasp the background that makes possible the recent, strange
claim of Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, one of the most important French students
of Heidegger, that “Nazism is a humanism.”
Study of the French reception of Heidegger’s theory is interesting for three
main reasons. First, it offers an occasion to delineate some main aspects of
the French philosophical tradition, in particular its deep humanist
commitment, extending over centuries, that is crucial to the reception of
Heidegger’s theory in France. Second, it represents a special case of the wider,
but little understood relation of philosophy to the history of philosophy. We
simply do not know how philosophy relates to the philosophical tradition,
nor how philosophical theories are taken up in the later discussion. Third, it
provides an opportunity to learn something important about Heidegger’s
theory through study of its French reception. Simply put, this book contends
that in the period after the Second World War, Heidegger became the master
thinker of French philosophy, the main “French” philosopher; and it further
contends that for the most part the French reception of Heidegger’s theory,
to begin with as philosophical anthropology and later as postmetaphysical
humanism, is systematically mistaken.

xii The impact of Heidegger’s theory in France since the end of the Second
World War is comparable to Kant’s in Germany after the publication of the
Critique of Pure Reason toward the end of the eighteenth century. Some
philosophers were uninterested in Kant’s theory and a few opposed it. But
for the most part, it dominated the immediate post-Kantian discussion in
German philosophy. Some French philosophers are uninterested in Heidegger’s
theory and others reject it; but for more than half a century it has continued
to exert a decisive influence in French philosophy that still gives no clear
signs of abating.
The nature of Heidegger’s philosophical dominance in France after the
Second World War can be suggested through a Kantian concept. In a famous
passage, Kant employs the astronomical metaphor of the Copernican
Revolution to describe the central organizing function of the subject with
respect to the objects of possible experience and knowledge.
6 If to an
increasing extent since the end of the war Heidegger has become the master
thinker of French philosophy, if Heidegger’s theory is central to French
philosophy today, if it forms the horizon in which French philosophy
formulates its problems and seeks their solutions, then it is literally
comparable to the Kantian subject, the transcendental unity of apperception,
in transmitting its categories to the debate, in structuring the French
philosophical discussion.
Heidegger’s philosophical importance is mainly due to his brilliant early
work, Being and Time. When this book appeared in 1927, its genuine
importance was quickly recognized, and its author was propelled to the center
of the philosophical stage almost before the ink was dry on its pages. Otto
Pöggeler compares the appearance of this treatise to a flash of lightning that
illuminated the philosophical landscape in a new way so that things could no
longer remain as before.
7 When Alexandre Koyré introduced the first French
translation of Heidegger’s texts in 1931, he contended that “[Heidegger’s]
‘philosophy of existence’ would not only determine a new stage of the
development of Western philosophy but would form the departure point for
an entirely new cycle.”
Koyré’s contention can be read as a prediction that actually came true in
France. An even more radical view is passionately embraced by certain of
Heidegger’s French followers. François Fédier, one of the French philosophers
closest to Heidegger’s thought and since Jean Beaufret’s death one of
Heidegger’s most tenacious French defenders against the view that his
philosophy and his Nazism are directly related,
9 contends that French
philosophy is essentially Heideggerian: “It is very simple: the interest for
philosophy today is inseparable from the interest for Heidegger. It follows
that if there is a survival of philosophy in France, it is in strict relation
[étroitement en rapport] to the gigantic work that Heidegger has carried out
in this century.”
10 It is, then, hardly surprising that so many French
philosophers, convinced that Heidegger’s theory is central to philosophy,

xiii perceived the renewed controversy about his Nazism, following the appearance
of Victor Farías’s study in 1987,
11 as an attack on French philosophy.
To point out the French interest in Heidegger’s theory is not yet to address
the problem as to how to proceed. The two main possible approaches are
contextualism and anticontextualism. Philosophical anticontextualists take
their cue from the traditional philosophical conception of knowledge as
absolute. Absolute knowledge is unlimited in any way, for instance with respect
to the cognitive capacities of human beings, their relation to a historical or
conceptual context, and so on. Such writers as Descartes, Kant and Edmund
Husserl argue that knowledge is in time but not of time, not temporally limited.
Others, such as Hegel, Karl Marx, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, insist that
claims to know are not only in time but of time, hence temporally limited.
Contextualists insist that we consider the relation of ideas to context in
order to understand and evaluate them. Anticontextualists hold that we can
do all these things without examining the link of theory to context.
Contextualists hold that if we fail to consider context we arrive at a very
different and often erroneous understanding of theories, for instance
Heidegger’s theory, as when we fail to see Heidegger’s theory against the
background of his enthusiasm for National Socialism in the context of the
later Weimar Republic. Anticontextualists tend to eschew the relation of texts
to context in order to concentrate on the texts themselves. Contextualists
think that such information leads to a very different understanding of the
texts. Anticontextualists, such as Jacques Derrida and many French
Heideggerians, tend to engage in ever more elaborate scrutiny of the texts
while neglecting information that Contextualists maintain is essential to their
interpretation. Anticontextualists regard Contextualists as falling into
sociology of knowledge, as devoting insufficient attention to textual study
for which they substitute the gathering of textually peripheral information.
Contextualism, the approach of this book, is widely employed. Arthur
Lovejoy, for instance, appeals to this doctrine in an essay on William James
when he writes that “All philosophies…are the result of the interaction of a
temperament (itself partly molded by a historical situation) with impersonal
logical considerations arising out of the nature of the problem with which
man’s reason is confronted.”
In the Heidegger debate, anticontextualism is widespread on two levels: in
the reading of Heidegger’s theory as utterly different from, hence incomparable
with, the prior philosophical tradition, and with respect to his Nazism.
Heidegger’s turning to Nazism has been known for more than half a century.
Yet efforts are still under way to save if not the Nazi Heidegger at least the
philosopher Heidegger, typically by insisting on a strict separation between
Heidegger’s theory and his Nazism, on a distinction in kind between Heidegger
the great philosopher and Heidegger the ordinary Nazi.
Heidegger was, and on some interpretations remained, a Nazi even after
he turned away from real National Socialism. 14 With respect to his Nazi

xiv turning, the controversy about how to approach Heidegger’s theory, more
precisely the relation between his life and thought, divides his defenders and
critics. His defenders like to argue that his life and thought are separable and
separate, and that his thought does not depend in any basic way on his life.
They view his thought as untarnished by, even as unrelated to, his life, including
his Nazi turning. His critics tend to argue that his life and thought are
inseparable, and that his thought cannot be understood without understanding
his life, in particular his endorsement of Nazism.
Those who hold that Heidegger’s thought is not affected by his politics—
in practice many important Heidegger scholars, whose careers not incidentally
depend on their grasp of Heidegger’s writings, but also others whose relation
to Heidegger’s thought is more distant—like to diminish or even to disregard
his political commitment as a factor in the comprehension of his thought.
Richard Rorty, for instance, the self-described liberal ironist concerned to
reduce human suffering, surprisingly regards Heidegger’s theory, or the theory
of someone apparently unconcerned with human suffering, as relevant to
this task.
Some observers deny that Heidegger’s thought after his turning to Nazism
can be understood without reference to the turbulent context in which it
arose. Yet others consider his writings without reference to their context.
And others, still more extreme, argue that to do otherwise, even to attempt
to understand Heidegger’s writings in the context of his political commitment,
is to make it impossible to understand them at all.
Yet any effort to “save” Heidegger’s theory by reading the texts without
reference to their context, by turning away from his politics, is doubly
problematic: for it “saves” his theory through an anticontextualist maneuver
only at the cost of violating his own contextualist commitment; and it
provides a properly “sanitized” reading of his theory that conceals more
than it reveals, and finally misconstrues the theory it claims to uncover.
The approach of this book will be resolutely contextualist for two reasons.
First, contextualism is specifically appropriate in Heidegger’s case since,
although he does not use the term, Heidegger is himself a contextualist. In
Being and Time, he proposes a theory of Dasein, understood as existence,
in order to study being as time. He thinks understanding through its
existential roots in the preconceptual surrounding world. For Heidegger,
assertions of all kinds are based in interpretation; and interpretation is
grounded in understanding that, with state of mind and discourse, is one of
the fundamental ways in which human being is in the world.
17 Human
being’s grasp of itself and its surroundings in terms of itself, what Heidegger
calls its disclosedness (Erschlossenheit), literally depends on the fact that it
is understanding situated in the world. For Heidegger, understanding is
always and necessarily situated, literally inseparable from the context in
which it arises. It follows that if Heidegger’s political turning is to be
defended or even understood, this must be done on contextualist grounds.

xv It further follows that the widespread effort to interpret or to defend
Heidegger’s theory from an anticontextualist perspective is misguided on
strictly Heideggerian grounds.
Second, this book is contextualist since any other approach, in particular
an anticontextualist strategy, would be incompatible with its task of
understanding the French reception of Heidegger’s thought. French
philosophers, like others, are attracted to Heidegger’s theory because of its
philosophical power that no one denies. Yet there are a number of factors
intrinsic to the French situation that need to be elucidated in order to
understand, not why French philosophers are interested in Heidegger’s
theory, but rather why they are so interested, arguably more interested than
philosophers elsewhere, and why their interest has taken shape in the way
that it has. On methodological grounds there seems to be no other way to
understand how and why Heidegger’s theory was received in France as it
was than through a careful account of some main features of French
philosophy. Those who desire a detailed discussion of Heidegger’s texts,
certainly a legitimate concern, will need to look elsewhere since his writings
will be discussed only to the extent that they bear on their French reception.
It is easy to anticipate that many of those committed to Heidegger’s thought
will find the critical remarks scattered throughout this essay to be trivial,
based on an insufficient grasp of the master’s thought. Yet this discussion
may satisfy those who are concerned with the troubling question of how an
apparent philosophical genius who was drawn to Nazism has continued to
attract attention among many philosophers who do not share his political
views, above all those working in the humanist tradition of French
Heidegger and French philosophy came together through a double
movement in which he turned toward French philosophy and the latter turned
toward his theory. Both movements require explanation, and neither can be
explained without reference to the context that frames the texts. When he
wrote Being and Time and even afterwards, Heidegger was uninterested in
French philosophy and deeply critical of Descartes’s position that has long
been central in the French debate. His turn toward French philosophy, which
cannot be explained through his prior thought, can only be explained through
his own difficult existential situation at the end of the Second World War.
Similarly, we need to consider the nature of French philosophy in order to
understand why, immediately after the Second World War, it turned toward
the difficult theory of an obscure German thinker widely known to have
been an enthusiastic Nazi.
The Heideggerian turning of French philosophy can be characterized in
language now in vogue as “overdetermined.” French philosophy has long
been unusually receptive to Heidegger’s theory for a number of reasons,
including its continued strong link to religion, especially to Roman
Catholicism, which appeared to find a distant echo in the theory of a former

xvi seminarian; its traditional investment in Cartesianism that Heidegger opposed,
which in turn made his theory attractive in the French context striving to
break its traditional Cartesian bonds; the widespread French philosophical
concern with phenomenology, particularly the Hegelian and Husserlian
positions, which created interest in Heidegger’s fundamental ontology, a form
of phenomenology, and so on.
Like the French political structure, French philosophy is highly centralized.
French philosophical centralization is manifest in the phenomenon of the
master thinker, someone who tends to dominate the debate for a period, in
Descartes’s case over hundreds of years. Beside Heidegger, there have been a
number of other master thinkers in French culture in this century, including
Henri Bergson, Hegel, Alexandre Kojève, and Jean-Paul Sartre. And perhaps
most extravagantly of all, there is Jacques Lacan, the Freudian psychoanalyst,
who has been described in a nearly untranslatable phrase as le maître absolu.
From this perspective, Heidegger is merely the latest in a line of “French”
master thinkers, not all of whom wrote in French, were French in origin or
even French at all.
Another factor is the traditional French philosophical concern with
subjectivity going back to Descartes or even earlier to Michel de Montaigne.
The opposition between those committed to Cartesian and post-Cartesian
views of subjectivity is strikingly apparent in a debate between Michel
Foucault, who treats the subject as a concept to be discarded,
19 and Jacques
Derrida, who affirms that the lesson of Foucault’s supposedly superficial
reading of Descartes is that one cannot escape from the Cartesian
20 Heidegger’s concern with subjectivity is a constant theme in
his position: in the approach to being through the analysis of Dasein
dominant in his early view, and in the later turn away from subjectivity
through an effort to decenter the subject, which was influential in the French
structuralist movement.
These and other factors are certainly important. Yet perhaps the single
most important factor for understanding Heidegger’s extraordinary French
reception derives from the persistent French philosophical commitment to
humanism broadly conceived. The humanist revival of classical studies (studio
humanitatis) in Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was
accompanied by the development of a philosophy of human being that is
particularly strong in France. Not only the writings of literary figures like
Rabelais, but a long series of French philosophical theories, going back beyond
Jean Antoine Condorcet to Descartes and Montaigne, and continuing to the
present, turn on the problem of human being. This theme is widely visible in
recent French philosophy: in Alexandre Kojève’s celebrated interpretation of
Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit as philosophical anthropology,
21 in Sartre’s
famous lecture Existentialism is a Humanism, 22 and in various forms of French
structuralist antihumanism due to Claude Lévi-Strauss, Michel Foucault, Jean
Piaget, Louis Althusser, and others.

xvii The French Heidegger reception, which began in the late 1920s and early
1930s, received a strong impetus in Kojève’s famous lectures (1933–1939)
on Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. Others influential in the initial phase of
the French Heidegger reception include Koyré, Henry Corbin, Georges
Gurvitch, Emmanuel Lévinas, and later Jean Wahl. Kojève, who insisted on
close continuity between the views of Hegel and Heidegger, influenced the
initial reception of Heidegger’s theory as philosophical anthropology that
finally peaked in Sartre’s famous lecture after the war. Yet this initial way of
reading Heidegger’s theory was misleading, as Heidegger himself pointed
out. For despite contrary indications in Being and Time, and following Husserl,
he distinguished sharply between his theory and the sciences of human being
of whatever kind, including philosophical anthropology.
We can differentiate between the first and second stages of the French
Heidegger reception. The second stage was clearly begun through the
publication of Heidegger’s “Letter on Humanism,” appropriately enough a
letter to the French on how to read his writings. It was sustained through the
determined efforts of Jean Beaufret, its addressee and from the mid-1940s
until his death in 1982 Heidegger’s most important French student, to
transform the view of this text into the French view of Heidegger.
Heidegger’s “Letter on Humanism” is indispensable to appreciate the
phenomenally rapid rise to prominence of his theory at the end of the
Second World War. In this text, Heidegger distances himself from Sartre’s
uneasy humanist embrace through a description of his own theory as a
new, viable, postmetaphysical form of humanism. His rejection of Sartre’s
and all other traditional views of humanism in favor of a supposedly new
humanism attracted considerable attention to his theory in France
immediately after the most inhumane of wars, when humanism was a
theme on everyone’s mind.
Heidegger’s “Letter on Humanism” hinges on the underdetermined concept
of the turning (Kehre) mentioned in this text. This concept, which has acquired
an important role in the interpretation of Heidegger’s later thought,
23 can be
interpreted from philosophical and political perspectives. Philosophically, the
concept refers to the evolution of the original position that takes place in the
later writings of all thinkers, including Heidegger, who are not content merely
to repeat themselves. Politically, it suggests a turning away, away from all
that, away from National Socialism, toward which Heidegger publicly turned
and which he served as rector of the University of Freiburg in Hitler’s Germany.
Yet it is misleading to read the supposed turning in Heidegger’s thought as a
further turning away from Nazism. If Heidegger turned away from National
Socialism as it existed after he resigned his post as rector of the University of
Freiburg in 1934, it was only to transfer his allegiance to an ideal form of
National Socialism—a concept that, in his view, the German Nazis failed to
put into practice—that he never abandoned.
24 Heidegger’s apparently constant
fidelity to the allegedly misunderstood “inner truth and greatness of this

xviii movement”,
25 as he put it in 1953, well after the end of the war, must be kept
in mind in interpreting his later writings.
Heidegger’s rise to prominence in French philosophy after the war was
due not only to the impact of his “Letter on Humanism” but also to the
tireless efforts of Beaufret on his behalf. Many other thinkers, such as Kant,
Hegel, and Marx have had committed disciples. In an extended sense, as
Alfred North Whitehead reminds us, the entire Western tradition is the work
of those toiling in Plato’s shadow.
26 Yet perhaps no thinker—probably not
even Heidegger, whose disciples are notoriously ready to excuse any possible
defect in his life and thought, even to the point of presenting a consciously
engaged Nazi as simply naive—ever had a closer disciple than did Heidegger
in Beaufret. Over a period of more than thirty years, Beaufret, who quickly
acquired a preeminent position in French Heidegger studies, devoted himself
to Heidegger’s life and thought in a way that has few if any precedents in the
philosophical tradition and that contributed greatly to Heidegger’s growing
importance in French philosophy.
There is a distinction between a retrospective analysis of factors ingredient
in the French philosophical turn toward Heidegger’s theory and the influence
of that theory within contemporary French thought. The stunning impact of
Heidegger’s position in the contemporary French philosophical discussion
will be documented below in two ways. One way is through attention to
some among the many French thinkers concerned with Heidegger’s theory.
These include those devoted to its exegesis, those dependent on Heideggerian
approaches in studies of phenomenology and the history of philosophy, and
those whose own views are crucially dependent on Heideggerian insights,
most prominently Derrida. The sheer number and quality of those concerned
with Heidegger’s theory, and the volume of their writings on that theory, is
an impressive indication of its influence.
The influence of Heidegger’s theory in French philosophy is further
apparent in the way it has tended to shape French philosophical consideration
of the complex issues arising from the turning of one of the main philosophers
in this century to National Socialism. No treatment of the French Heidegger
reception is complete that ignores the efforts of French thinkers since the war
to come to grips with the link between Heidegger the ordinary Nazi and
Heidegger the great philosopher, between the political engagement and the
philosophical theory, from a point located within the thoroughly Heideggerian
framework of the French discussion. As the following discussion will show,
the widespread French philosophical commitment to Heidegger’s thought
restrains the ability of French thinkers to analyze the link between Heidegger’s
thought and his political engagement, between his fundamental ontology and
his Nazism. And as the discussion will further show, recent efforts by important
French Heideggerians such as Derrida and Lacoue-Labarthe in effect to
minimize the political damage to Heidegger’s thought continue to presuppose
a mistaken reading of his early position as humanism.

xix The French Heidegger reception illustrates the way in which important
theories are understood only much later if at all. There is a French reading of
Heidegger’s theory, as of French philosophy itself, as humanist. Heidegger
himself contributed to widespread misapprehensions about his theory as
humanism in two systematically ambiguous, but crucial texts: in § 10 of
Being and Time, which indicates that his fundamental ontology both is and
cannot be philosophical anthropology; and two decades later in the “Letter
on Humanism”, which suggests that his position is a postmetaphysical
The correction to the first reading of his theory, its misreading as
anthropological humanism, was provided in its later reading as
nonanthropological humanism, which developed after the war under the
influence of the “Letter on Humanism.” This later reading, intended to
correct the initial reading, only does so through yet another misreading of
Heidegger’s theory. In his “Letter on Humanism” Heidegger condemns
humanism while touting his own theory as a new humanism. Yet if humanism
is metaphysics, if his own theory is no longer metaphysics, then it cannot
be humanism.
It follows that the frequent French reading of Heidegger’s theory as
humanism, which has been widely influential, particularly in the American
Heidegger discussion, is in fact a misreading of his thought. The predominant
French reading of Heidegger’s theory depicts it early and late, or as he later
cast it himself, at least after the so-called turning in his thought, as a new,
deeper form of humanism. Yet this is a demonstrable misreading, possible only
because his own antihumanism, or more precisely his indifference to human
being and humanist concerns, as illustrated in his later commitment to an ideal
form of Nazism, has so often been minimized or even gone unnoticed.
We can end with a word about the nature and intended audience for the
present study. Heidegger’s work has led to a massive literature, often technical,
mainly aimed at Heidegger specialists, a literature that is frequently devoid
of criticism of any kind. On the contrary, this book will be critical and as
nontechnical and accessible as possible. Naturally, Heidegger specialists will
be unhappy with and unconvinced by the discussion, which they will find
uninformed, superficial, or both. That much can be safely anticipated. Yet it
is normal to be critical of another philosopher, to attempt to determine what,
to paraphrase Benedetto Croce’s famous approach to Hegel, is living and
dead in their theories.
27 Indeed, it is especially important to be critical of the
link between Heidegger’s philosophical theory and his Nazism since so many
writers believe that this link is unimportant or even desire to overlook it on
the grounds that Heidegger is an important, even a great philosopher. But I
am convinced that unless we try to grasp Heidegger’s theory in the context of
its times, we cannot understand it.
In this sense, the issues that this book raises are not the concerns of a few
specialists but an illustration of the much broader problem of how to

xx comprehend and evaluate ideas in the context of their times. Accordingly, the
book is not intended for the Heidegger specialist, but for intelligent men and
women of good will, philosophers and nonphilosophers, who, toward the
end of our troubled century, are legitimately concerned by the link between
philosophy, or philosophers, whose craft is allegedly indispensable for the
good life, and the outstanding illustration of evil in our time.



This chapter will have a somewhat sociological flavor due to the need to
sketch in some of the contextual background of the French reception of
Heidegger. This essay contends that since the end of the Second World War
Heidegger has assumed a dominant role in French philosophy. If one overlooks
Heidegger’s impact on the contemporary French philosophical discussion,
one cannot hope to understand its main problems and main approaches to
them. There is a measure of truth to Heidegger’s boast that when the French
begin to think, they think in German.
It is difficult to measure something as nebulous as influence. Even the
term is difficult to analyze precisely. Yet in an informal, subjective sense, it is
clear that as measured by a variety of criteria—including the sheer size of the
discussion concerning his thought, the number of philosophers interested in
his position, his impact on the subsequent debate—as we approach the end
of this century, Heidegger has attained exceptional status as one of the several
most influential philosophers of this period. This is nowhere more clearly the
case than in France, where over the last half-century his ideas have left their
mark on a wide range of leading philosophers (Lévinas, Derrida, Lyotard,
Henry), on philosophers specifically committed to detailed historical studies
of such figures as Aristotle (Pierre Aubenque, Rémi Brague), Suarez (Jean-
François Courtine), Descartes (Jean-Luc Marion), Schelling (Courtine, Miklos
Vetö), Hegel (Kojève, Jean Hyppolite, Dominique Janicaud), as well as on
social theorists (Foucault), feminists (Luce Irigaray), psychoanalysts (Lacan),
and others.
The relation between Heidegger’s theory and French philosophy is not
bidirectional, or marked by mutual appreciation, but starkly unilateral.
Although Heidegger appreciated some French poets, such as René Char, and
philosophers devoted to him and to his thought, such as Jean Beaufret, he
was unimpressed by, in fact overtly hostile to, French philosophy. With the
exception of his severely negative reaction to Descartes’s theory, there is no
corresponding French philosophical influence in Heidegger’s thought. To the
best of my knowledge, there is no evidence that Heidegger was ever influenced
in his philosophical thinking, other than in a negative sense, in whole or in

2 part, by French philosophy. In at least one text he makes overtures toward
France and French thinkers, but in general he takes a consistently negative
attitude towards French thought.
2 This negative attitude is illustrated by his
consistently critical attitude, early and late, toward Descartes’s theory 3 and
his later rejection of Sartre’s position. 4 Yet, for reasons to be specified below,
Heidegger’s negative reactions toward the theories of Descartes and above
all of Sartre did not hinder but rather helped bring about the French
philosophical turn toward Heidegger.
Heidegger’s thought, like that of other important thinkers, is susceptible
of different interpretations. It is a matter of record that Heidegger’s position
receives different treatments in different languages and literatures. In practice,
the link between Heidegger’s and Husserl’s theories is more frequently taken
into account in Europe than in America, where students of either tend to
have a low opinion and even less knowledge of the other philosopher’s theory.
In Germany, it is standard practice to understand Heidegger’s theory through
examination of its relation to Husserl’s.
5 In France, where the currently
influential Derridean approach to Heidegger’s theory is only one of the
variants, there is a pronounced tendency to approach Heidegger’s thought
through its relation to Husserlian phenomenology. In the United States,
Heidegger is often understood through the eyes of French postmodernism,
with particular attention to the views of Derrida and such associates as Philippe
Lacoue-Labarthe, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Françoise Dastur as well as through
the influence of writers located in America, influenced by the French reception
of Heidegger, such as Gayatri Spivak, Jacques Taminiaux, Reiner Schürmann,
John Sallis, David Krell, and others.
Heidegger’s influence on French thought has become more important
over time. Although Kant’s position quickly exerted great influence in the
German philosophical debate in the wake of the publication of the
Critique of Pure Reason, some philosophers, such as Johann Georg
Hamann, Johann Gottfried von Herder, and Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi
were either unconcerned with or even hostile to Kant’s critical philosophy.
In the contemporary French philosophical debate, there are exceptions,
thinkers who display no interest for, and whose own writings are
untouched by, Heidegger’s thought. Yet it is fair to say that since the end
of the Second World War, Heidegger’s influence has steadily increased to
the point where it can be said to form the horizon of contemporary French
philosophy, the perspective within which French philosophers now tend to
think and write.
Even if we acknowledge the importance of his theory, Heidegger’s enormous
influence on the French philosophical discussion is surprising. Certainly, the
views of such other German-language philosophers as Gottlob Frege and
Ludwig Wittgenstein, which have long been highly influential in English-
language philosophy, have so far failed to attract anything like Heidegger’s
audience in French philosophy.

3 The impressive impact of Heidegger’s theory in France is surprising
sincethere are some fairly obvious factors that in principle ought to count
against any large-scale French interest in Heidegger’s thought. We have already
noted Heidegger’s known antipathy toward French philosophy. Then there
is a stylistic barrier. In principle French philosophy still respects the well known
Cartesian concern with clarity and distinctness. Heidegger is an obscure
German philosopher who formulates his ideas in language that at best is not
quite standard German and presents formidable difficulties.
Further, even when we take into account the ongoing rapprochement within
the framework of the Common Market, there are obvious historical grounds
for continuing friction, even animosity, between the Germans and the French,
whose deep political differences, apparent in two world wars in this century,
testify to the uneasy coexistence of these geographical neighbors. In an
assessment of the French turning to Heidegger, it should not be overlooked
that in the Second World War France was defeated and occupied by the same
Nazi Germany with which Heidegger clearly and unambiguously identified.
To understand the French reception of Heidegger’s thought requires a
characterization of “French” philosophy as well as of its context or
background. To avoid misunderstanding, let me clearly state that it is not my
intention to provide a description of French philosophy here, even in outline.
My characterization of French philosophy will be limited merely to identifying
some aspects important for understanding its attraction to Heidegger’s theory.
French philosophy, starting with the understanding of the term “philosophy,”
is no better or worse than, but certainly different from, philosophy as practiced
elsewhere, say in Germany or the United States. The ambiguous term “French
philosophy” may be taken to mean “philosophy in France,” or “philosophy
written in French,” or even “philosophy that conveys a specifically French
point of view.” The French Heidegger discussion includes not only
philosophers working in France but others as well who have contributed to
the French-language debate. By “French philosophy” I shall mean philosophy
published in France by French writers as well as non-French writers writing
in French and an occasional contributor to the French discussion of Heidegger
from outside France, such as Alphonse De Waelhens, Marc Richir or Jean
Grondin. This means that I will have little or nothing to say about French-
language philosophy in other countries, including Belgium, Canada,
Switzerland, French-speaking parts of Africa, and so on.
The word “philosophy” has different meanings in different philosophical
tendencies and national traditions. On seeing the term philosophie a French
reader is reminded of “philosophy” in the English or German senses of the
term. The French reader is reminded as well of the last year in the lycée—

4 often referred to as philosophie—devoted to acquiring a general grounding
in Western philosophy, with particular attention to Descartes and other French
thinkers. A further meaning, familiar to any speaker of French, is the frequent
injunction to take things philosophically or, more precisely, stoically.
The French term philosophe makes no distinction between technical
philosophy and the nontechnical musings of the French equivalent of, say, a
Francis Bacon. In France, a philosopher is not only someone concerned with
ultimate questions like Plato or Aristotle, Kant or Hegel, Descartes and Jean-
Jacques Rousseau, but even someone like Victor Riqueti, the Marquis de
Mirabeau, or the Baron Paul-Henri d’Holbach, writers who in the French
cultural context count as philosophers. As a matter of policy, the set program
featured by the agrégation—that nationwide competitive examination that
still remains the main hurdle to be negotiated to become a college teacher—
excludes the writings of all living philosophers. But among nonliving
philosophers, the program is quite likely to include texts by François Marie
Arouet de Voltaire, Denis Diderot, or even Blaise Pascal, writers who are not
philosophers in the English-language sense of the term. It is, then, not surprising
that the Logique de Port Royal features a strong emphasis on Pascal as a
A further point is the intrinsically scientific status accorded to philosophy
in France. Philosophy has long been bewitched by the conception of philosophy
as the science of sciences, most recently in Husserl’s view of philosophy as
rigorous science.
7 Since the rise of the new science in the seventeenth century
and the separation of philosophy from science, this model has tended to lose
its hold in philosophy in general. Yet at least on the linguistic plane, it continues
in French philosophy, which is routinely classified with sociology, psychology,
and so on as a human science (science humaine).
It is important but difficult briefly to characterize the peculiarly significant
role of the French intellectual, including the French philosopher.
9 In
comparison, the French intellectual tends to function more autonomously, to
be taken more seriously, and to regard himself as carrying out a more
significant task than elsewhere.
The role of the French philosopher is partly due to the task of the French
intellectual, not duplicated elsewhere, in cultural transmission. Vincent
Descombes points out that at the beginning of the Third Republic, French
academic philosophy, which was given the mission of teaching “the legitimacy
of the new republican institutions”
10 naturally tended to depict itself as the
terminus ad quem of social development.
The importance of philosophy is recognized through the place of
philosophy in the classes terminales of the lycée, which culminates in the

5 final year, or classe de philosophie, the peak of French secondary studies,
appropriately devoted to philosophy.
11 Philosophy is also crucial in the exam,
known as the baccalauréat, which must be passed to gain a diplôme, the
French secondary school diploma. The importance of philosophy is further
acknowledged through the practice, to my knowledge unparalleled
elsewhere, of regularly reviewing philosophical books in Le Monde, the
main French national newspaper.
In France, intellectuals frequently talk and act as if they were the conscience
of society.
12 They are comparatively more willing to take a stand on the
important issues of the day, to publish petitions, to participate in public
meetings centered on important issues, and so on. A conviction of the
importance of the intellectual manifests itself in the concern with intellectual
13 that, depending on one’s point of view, reaches an apogée or
a nadir in Sartre’s conception of engagement, or deliberate commitment of
each person to everyone else.
The importance of French intellectuals, including philosophers, is magnified
by features of the French context that allow intellectuals to acquire an
autonomous or semiautonomous status outside the usual academic
establishment. Elsewhere, academic intellectuals, including philosophers,
depend on the acquisition of a university position as the condition of exerting
influence in the academic discussion. For an intellectual, it is usually very
difficult to influence the academic debate, let alone be noticed by the wider
public, if one is not located within the academy in some fairly obvious way.
In Germany, Heidegger continued to influence the philosophical discussion
during the period after the Second World War when he was barred from
teaching because of his collaboration with the National Socialists. Yet I am
aware of no other similar example in German philosophy. In the United States,
where intellectuals, with the possible exception of a few natural scientists,
have little influence, it is difficult to reach any real public audience outside
the university system. Such instances as the later moral influence of Albert
Einstein, made possible by his work in physics, are exceedingly rare in the
United States. It is further difficult to exert any influence on American
academic life from a position outside the university. Rare examples such as
the literary critic Edmund Wilson or the philosopher C.S.Peirce, whose
influence has continued to increase despite his failure ever to secure a
permanent university post, tend to confirm rather than to question this rule.
French intellectuals, including philosophers, often play an influential role
from a position outside the university or even outside the academy. In part,
this is due to the presence within the French academic system of a number of
parallel institutions that function on a university level but are not part of the
university in any formal sense. Among these are the so-called grandes écoles,
to which students are admitted only on competitive examination. They further
include the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, whose doors, like thoseof the
traditional French university, have traditionally been open—although this is

6 now starting to change—to everyone who receives a baccalauréat, but which
unlike the universities in the French university system chooses its own faculty
rather than accepting appointments made from without. And they finally
include the even more prestigious Collège de France.
Throughout this century, French intellectuals have exerted considerable
influence from positions within these parallel French institutions, that is from
outside the formal university system. There are many well known examples:
Pierre Bourdieu, the French sociologist, Merleau-Ponty, Vuillemin, Barthes,
and Foucault all taught at the Collège de France; Lévi-Strauss lectured at the
Collège and at Hautes Etudes, while Althusser and Derrida have been
associated with the Ecole Normale Supérieure as well as, in Derrida’s case,
Hautes Etudes.
In France, some intellectuals attain a position of great influence through
work carried out wholly outside the educational establishment. This is often
the case for writers both in France, such as André Malraux, and elsewhere
but it is rare for philosophers. Two examples of this phenomenon among
philosophers are provided by Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. Both
took degrees in philosophy, both taught at secondary level before resigning
to devote themselves to philosophy and literature, and neither returned to
the educational system after the hiatus enforced by the Second World War.
Both acquired great influence only after they had left the ranks of French
education. Unlike Beauvoir, whose influence was mainly literary, Sartre
continued to make important literary and philosophical contributions from
his position outside the French academy virtually until his death.
Heidegger is on record as opposed to Descartes and to organized religion.
Yet paradoxically, French Cartesianism and the close link of French philosophy
to religion have contributed strongly to its Heideggerian turning. Descartes
has for centuries held a central place within the French discussion that
maintains a religious, often strongly religious character. Although it might
appear that the Cartesian and religious aspects of French philosophy are in
conflict, this is not the case. In France at least, Descartes’s theory has often
been interpreted in a sense compatible with a claim for the religious
foundations of philosophy, for the continuing effort to ground reason in faith.
Outside France, Descartes is usually regarded as an important philosopher
whose significance mainly lies in the influence of his theory within the history
of philosophy, as the author of a once centrally important theory that is no
longer central to the philosophical discussion. Unquestionably, Heidegger
contributed to this view of the Cartesian theory through an effort to show
that Descartes’s impact on later thought, and his theory itself, are at best
illustrative of a deep-seated error. A rather different attitude is common

7 inFrance and French philosophy where Descartes’s thought is perceived in a
mainly positive manner, and where, now as before, it continues to remain
close to the center of the French philosophical debate.
A striking example is Bergson’s declaration: “All modern philosophy derives
from Descartes… All modern idealism comes from there, in particular German
idealism… All the tendencies of modern philosophy coexist in Descartes.”
A further, equally striking example is Derrida’s response to Foucault’s famous
study Histoire de la folie. In an important passage in the first of the
Meditations, Descartes raises against his theory the possibility that he is quite
simply mad.
16 Foucault’s comments on this passage 17 led Derrida to remark
that not only did Foucault misread the cogito in this work but that his
misreading proved that the act of philosophy could no longer be anything
other than Cartesian.
Since the seventeenth century, Descartes’s impact has continued to be felt
widely throughout French thought, 19 including the conception of the well
written essay. His influence radiates out beyond the limits of philosophy
throughout the far reaches of intellectual life. According to Ernst Cassirer,
who relies on Gustave Lanson, “After the middle of the seventeenth century
the Cartesian spirit permeates all fields of knowledge until it dominates not
only philosophy, but also literature, morals, political science, and sociology,
asserting itself even in the realm of theology to which it imparted a new
20 The frequent assertion that Sartre is the last of the Cartesians and
Merleau-Ponty is the first of the post-Cartesians is false since there are still
many Cartesians in French philosophy.
There is a corresponding difference in the respect accorded Cartesian
scholars. Elsewhere, scholars of Descartes tend to receive serious but limited
respect. In France, the Descartes discussion has long formed a minor cottage
industry in which whole careers are built on research into his thought.
21 Even
taking into account Heidegger’s view, Descartes still casts the longest shadow
in contemporary French philosophy.
Heidegger’s position in French philosophy as a master thinker was certainly
aided by his opposition to Descartes. Heidegger is concerned throughout his
work with being in general, as distinguished from beings, or entities. For
Heidegger, Descartes provides a central illustration of the incorrect view of
ontology that has arisen since the early Greeks and that still blocks our access
to the problem of being. Heidegger’s Being and Time, the central treatise of
his early period and the most important work of his entire corpus, contains a
violent attack on Descartes
22 that is prolonged in later writings, above all in
the important essay on “The Age of the World Picture.” 23 In these and other
texts, Heidegger argues strongly that the Cartesian position epitomizes a
fallacious form of metaphysics arising out of a fateful turn away from the
original Greek insights concerning being.
Even if the Heideggerian problem of being has never been a traditional
interest in French philosophy, the anti-Cartesian thrust of his thought

8 wascertainly important in creating interest for his position as a way to move
beyond traditional French Cartesianism. Heidegger’s well known antipathy
to Descartes’s position, extending throughout his entire corpus, is
unquestionably attractive to French thinkers still struggling, almost three and
a half centuries after Descartes’s death, to free themselves from his hold on
French philosophy.
More than either German or English-language philosophy, French philosophy
is distinguished by a strong emphasis on the relation between philosophy and
religion, reason and faith. Greek philosophy is essentially secular, focused
mainly on reason. Scholastic philosophy represents an effort stretching over
centuries to reconcile the concepts of reason and faith in various ways. This
effort finally came undone when the entire enterprise was rejected in the
Enlightenment reassertion of independent reason as the standard of
knowledge, presupposing the emancipation of philosophy from religion, for
instance through attention to the distinction between reason and faith.
It has been said that modern philosophy records the displacement of
theology in an atheistic world. 25 With the important exception of Thomism,
philosophy since the Middle Ages has been engaged in a still unconsummated
effort to free itself from religion, for instance in the Enlightenment period,
which is often understood through its widespread skepticism toward
26 After Descartes and certainly after Kant, claims to knowledge
can no longer be based on the claim to theological insight. Yet the theological
impulse has by no means disappeared from the philosophical discussion, in
which it has tended to take on new forms. The degree of continuity in
French philosophy between philosophical and religious themes is one of its
most remarkable features.
Hegel’s theory is often understood, or more precisely, misunderstood as
essentially philosophy of religion, even as a form of ontological proof. 28 Ye t
its author typically maintained that the philosophical conception of free
thought introduced by Descartes at the beginning of modern philosophy was
made possible by the Protestant Reformation.
29 For Hegel, the conception of
independent thought, 30 presupposing the separation of reason and faith, or
again the principle of the world as regulated through reason, what he calls
the Protestant principle, is the central insight of modern philosophy.
Yet despite repeated attempts, philosophy has never entirely emancipated
itself from religion, since it has never finally severed the cord linking reason
and faith. The same Hegel, for instance, who insisted on the importance of
the conception of free thought as the hallmark of modern philosophy,
recognized religion as an essential component of knowledge in the absolute
32 Although Hegel’s theory is often thought to be the culmination

9 ofrationalism, it insists on the inseparable link between reason and faith—
since reason itself requires faith, that is faith in reason.
For centuries, French culture has been deeply influenced by Roman
Catholicism. 34 The religious element remains a persistent, central aspect of
French philosophy. 35 The pandemic religious element in French philosophy
can be illustrated by the recent claim, advanced in all seriousness by an
important French thinker, that Europe has always been, is now, and will in
all probability remain basically Christian, even Roman Catholic.
36 The same
religious element in French philosophy can be further illustrated by the French
reading of Descartes.
Outside France, Descartes’s theory is routinely read as a rationalist effort
to emancipate reason from faith in order to pursue knowledge by the natural
light alone. Read in this way, Descartes bases his position on what is present
to mind, to the “I think” or cogito, as opposed to mere revelation. He strives
to separate reason from faith through a view of evidence based solely on the
certainty of the individual conscience as distinguished from assertions based
on belief in God.
This way of reading the Cartesian theory suggests a conflict between
philosophy and religion, between reason and faith. In France, however, the
Cartesian theory is often, perhaps even mainly read as maintaining the
inseparability of reason and faith, hence as presupposing the continuity
between philosophy and religion, or theology. In France, the unusually religious
character of French thought is often taken to be compatible with a religious
reading of the Cartesian theory. In French circles, the distinction between
reason and faith, in which many claim to see the resolutely modern character
of the Cartesian position, is usually understood as an effort to ground reason
in faith, as an instance of the permanent link of philosophy to religion.
Descartes is widely supposed to have dispensed with faith to found
knowledge in the rational certainty of the cogito, in the conscience of the
individual subject as distinct from God—more precisely in the first truth, or
je pense, from which everything else follows—and to provide certain
foundations on an extratheological basis. Yet he can also be read as basing
the claim to overcome doubt on awareness of God,
38 on the certainty that
God is no deceiver. 39 Although Descartes is often understood as a resolutely
secular thinker, the insistence that knowledge depends on the certainty of
faith is a persistent doctrine running throughout his writings from the
beginning to the end.
Historically, Descartes’s concern to link his theory of knowledge to faith
failed to disarm theological objections that led to his writings being placed
on the Index. The difficulty posed by a possible conflict between religion and
philosophy in the Cartesian theory is evident in the Port Royal Logic, a
thoroughly Cartesian work. Pierre Nicole and Antoine Arnauld, the authors,
both strongly Cartesian thinkers, suggest that reason and faith do not
conflictsince they arise from the same source. Yet they candidly admit that

10 the fifth edition, published in 1683, was modified in response to theological
41 One can further speculate that the important role accorded in
French philosophy to Pascal—who, other than his purely mathematical
writings, is best known for his quarrel with Jansenism—is at least partially
due to the French emphasis on religion.
The strongly religious character of French philosophy paradoxically
predisposes it to Heidegger’s antireligious philosophical theory. As we shall
see, Kojève’s famous reading of Hegel explicitly presupposes a strong
continuity between Hegel’s and Heidegger’s philosophical atheism.
Although Heidegger studied theology and even spent time in a Jesuit
seminary, his relations to the Church were later strained, even hostile. 43 Ye t
in the context of the continuing French philosophical commitment to
religion—as part of the ongoing debate between thinkers such as Sartre,
who claim to liberate themselves from the constraints of faith, those such
as Merleau-Ponty, who strive to think within a semblance of the Christian
framework even when their faith has diminished, and those who strive to
maintain both personal faith and a Christian framework for religion—
Heidegger’s interest in being is often seen as compatible with a Christian
perspective. Thomists have traditionally been hospitable to Heidegger,
particularly French Thomists. For instance, Etienne Gilson, while regretting
that Heidegger overlooks the Thomist thesis that the being of beings is
God, applauds his return to the Platonico-Aristotelian concern with the
relation between beings and being.
The resolutely historical character of the French philosophical discussion is
surprising. History of philosophy has gone out of fashion in English-language
circles. Hegel is the main influence on British idealism. It is well known that
the analytic philosophical tendency grew out of the revolt against British
idealism initiated by Bertrand Russell and G.E.Moore. This revolt, which
was not initially antihistorical, later became so in the wake of Wittgenstein.
Recent analytic philosophy has retained a resolutely ahistorical and even on
occasion frankly antihistorical bias. Although some analytic thinkers are
interested in the concept of history, they are in general unconcerned with the
historical status of the philosophical discipline or even the historical status of
45 They tend, on the contrary, to prefer a positivistic view of
philosophical discussion restricted to a concern with ahistorical objects and
objectivity understood in an ahistorical manner.
46 The positivistic, ahistorical
and even antihistorical nature of analytic philosophy is above all evident in
contemporary philosophy of science, which for the most part simply ignores
historical discussion in favor of the examination of alternative conceptual
models of science.

11 Heidegger’s detailed studies in writings after Being and Time of a number
of figures in the philosophical tradition strikes a sympathetic chord in French
philosophy, which is resolutely oriented in a historical direction. In France,
unlike America, the majority of philosophical works are historical and not
systematic. The English-language discussion is replete with studies of the
main Greek thinkers or Kant, but includes comparatively few other figures in
the philosophical tradition. German idealism, for instance, which is rarely
studied in English-language thought, is a main topic in France at present.
Such writers as Hegel or Schelling or even Fichte are rather frequently studied
in French philosophy. The vogue for Hegel studies is in part to be explained
through Hegel’s continuing role as a master thinker in recent French thought.
The emphasis on Schelling, who is perhaps as popular as Hegel, is partly due
to the religious element in his thought. As measured by the number of works
on his thought or translations of his works into French, France (e.g. Xavier
Tilliette, Jean-François Marquet, Vetö, Courtine, and others) is at present
unquestionably the world’s center of Schelling studies.
The continuing French philosophical concern with historical topics is
reflected in the comparative prestige accorded to historians of philosophy. In
English-language philosophy—with the exception of Greek thought, where
historians such as G.E.L.Owen or Gregory Vlastos can shine—there is little
attention to historical themes. Apart from writings on a few selected
philosophers, say, Kant, and more recently Wittgenstein, Frege, and the Vienna
Circle theorists, it is more than suspect to be concerned with establishing and
chronicling the main features of a given body of thought. A historian of
philosophy is thought of as someone who does not really do philosophy,
certainly not in any essential sense. In French thought, the historian of
philosophy is regarded as an equal player in the game, whose historical interests
do not require excuses. Examples include such earlier figures as Gilson, Jacques
Maritain, Ferdinand Alquié, Henri Gouhier, and Xavier Léon, more recently
Aubenque, Vuillemin, and Alexis Philonenko, and at present Marion, Courtine,
and Brague.
When the history of French philosophy in this century is written,
phenomenology will loom very large. In France, where phenomenology has
long been more important than elsewhere, it is sometimes understood as the
main philosophical movement of our time,
49 even as the successor to
philosophy at the end of metaphysics. 50
The French philosophical turning towards Heidegger was aided by the
traditional French interest in phenomenology. 51 Heidegger began as a
phenomenologist. Being and Time, the main text of his early period, is strongly
influenced by Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology. Husserlian

12 phenomenology originated in Germany but seems to have become even more
important in France. Even in Germany, except perhaps during Hegel’s lifetime,
phenomenology was never the dominant tendency. Attention to
phenomenology has considerably declined in recent years as the major
representatives (Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, Gabriel Marcel,
Karl Jaspers) left the scene, and new tendencies, such as hermeneutics, most
clearly associated with Hans-Georg Gadamer, Heidegger’s student, and Paul
Ricoeur, have emerged. But phenomenology has continued to attract strong
attention in France, in part because of the continued interest in Descartes,
whose thought Husserl claims to prolong in his own transcendental
The French appreciation of the views of Husserl and Hegel contributes to
the interest in Heidegger’s thought. 53 More than elsewhere, French writers
tend to turn to Heidegger because of an interest in Husserl or to combine
interests in both thinkers. The turn to Heidegger in French phenomenology is
helped, not hindered, by the continuing French concern with Husserlian
phenomenology. Important French students of Heidegger, including Emmanuel
Lévinas and Derrida, have devoted detailed studies to Husserl as well.
Although there are fewer Husserlians than Heideggerians in France, that is
not usually regarded as an indication of the relative importance of the two
philosophers. In French philosophy, Husserl’s theory is still often understood as
approximately equal in importance to Heidegger’s. Husserl and Heidegger are
often considered together, in dialogue, as it were, something that is rare elsewhere.
This tendency is comparatively unusual. Heidegger scholars outside
France either tend not to know Husserl’s thought well, or when they do, to
consider it relatively unimportant for the constitution of Heidegger’s theory.
Even Heidegger scholars familiar with Husserl’s thought, approach
Heidegger’s thought with little or no recourse to Husserl’s position.
56 In a
classic presentation of Heidegger’s thought prepared under Heidegger’s
direction, Otto Pöggeler devotes comparatively little attention to Husserl.
Pöggeler accepts Husserl’s view that Heidegger failed to build upon the
Husserlian basis.
Pöggeler’s reading of the views of Husserl and Heidegger as discontinuous
is implicitly disputed by Merleau-Ponty’s stress on their continuity. According
to Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger merely prolongs Husserl’s thought, from which
he does not basically depart. He maintains that Heidegger’s own main text
can fairly be understood as the “explicitation” of Husserl’s idea of the life
world (Lebenswelt).
58 Although few French philosophers go as far as Merleau-
Ponty in stressing the continuity between Husserl and Heidegger, his concern
to understand Heidegger against the Husserlian background is typical of the
French discussion.
The French emphasis on the Husserlian background in Heidegger’s theory
is consistent with Heidegger’s own view of the matter. Being and Time is
dedicated to Husserl. Heidegger insists that he was captivated by Husserl’s

13 Logical Investigations. He stresses his repeated effort, over a period of years,
to come to grips with Husserl’s position.
59 Although it is unclear whether his
later position can still be properly regarded as phenomenology, 60 his early
fundamental ontology, like Husserl’s theory beginning in Ideas, I, is widely
seen as a form of transcendental phenomenology.
Heidegger’s appeal to French philosophy was strengthened by the French
philosophical concern with Hegel. At least four factors in the French Hegel
discussion call attention to Heidegger’s theory. First, French Hegel scholars
often insist on a link between Hegelian and Husserlian forms of
phenomenology. According to Kojève and Hyppolite, for many years the
main French Hegel scholars, and to Wahl
61 and Derrida, Hegel’s theory
overlaps with Husserl’s. 62 This suggests a link, through Husserlian
phenomenology, to Heidegger’s thought.
Second, there is the role of Heidegger’s theory for an understanding of
Hegel’s. In his famous study of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, Kojève
relies heavily on the views of Marx and Heidegger. Kojève’s immensely
influential lectures during the 1930s, the basis for his famous book which
appeared in the 1940s, focused attention on Heidegger’s theory, which, in his
reading of Hegel, in part represented a more recent version of Hegel’s own
theory. Kojève was one of the first participants in the French philosophical
debate to be aware of Heidegger’s position. His early interest in Heidegger’s
theory preceded and partially determined his study of Hegel. He regards
Heidegger as presenting the most significant atheistic philosophy since Hegel.
Third, and more remotely, there is the way that Heidegger calls attention
to Hegel, something which, in the French context, suggests the need to bring
Hegel’s and Heidegger’s theories together.
63 Heidegger made repeated efforts,
in his language, to dialogue with important thinkers on their own level. 64
Beginning with Being and Time, Heidegger’s writings contain a number of
attempts to enter into dialogue with Hegel’s thought. 65
Fourth, there is the enormous influence of Hegel in French thought. In
France, from Kojève in the early 1930s until the decline of Marxism at the
end of the 1960s, a long string of Hegel commentators, often associated with
the French Communist Party, either developed a peculiarly leftwing form of
Hegelianism or a Hegelian form of Marxism. Increasingly, Heidegger’s theory
was seen as representing a viable alternative to this tendency. For the desire
to escape from the pervasive influence of what many saw as a disturbing
form of leftwing Hegelianism led for many in the direction of Heidegger.
Further aspects of French philosophy relevant to the reception of Heidegger’s
theory include the fact that so many “French” thinkers are of foreign origin,

14 and the French willingness to assimilate foreign conceptual models. The
important role of foreign-born thinkers in French intellectual life is surprising
since France has long been a country turned inward on itself. The French
Revolution confidently announced the universal ideals of liberty, equality
and fraternity and promptly violated them in the great terror to which it gave
rise. The ultimately Christian ideal of fraternity, rarely translated anywhere
into practice, is even less frequently realized in this largely Roman Catholic,
basically xenophobic country. According to Foucault, the institution of the
psychiatric hospital has long been used to exclude those who were held to be
66 In the postwar environment, Charles de Gaulle’s powerful vision of
a France united in defense of itself has been regularly distorted by his supporters
and others in the political debate to exclude resident aliens. The same land
that brought us the famous egalitarian ideals of the French Revolution, which
continue to ring throughout subsequent history, also spawned the authoritarian
vision of a Joseph de Maistre
67 and Joseph-Arthur Gobineau’s view of history
as an Aryan conspiracy. 68
French intellectual life, like France itself, may initially appear mainly, even
wholly, to revolve on its own axis. Its apparent indifference, even hostility, to
other views is, however, misleading since it is in fact extremely sensitive to
foreign philosophical models and foreign intellectuals. French philosophy is
unusually open to foreign, particularly German philosophical models.
The interest in views imported from abroad is not a recent phenomenon,
as witness Voltaire’s well known efforts over many years to bring the insights
of John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding and above all Isaac
Newton’s Principia Mathematica to the attention of his French colleagues.
What is recent is the tendency to concentrate on Germany as the main such
source. As early as the beginning of the second decade of this century, well
before the rise in French interest in Hegel or the concern with Heidegger, the
great French critic Hippolyte Taine observed that “From 1780 to 1830,
Germany produced all the ideas of our historical period, and, during still half
a century, perhaps during a century, our great task will be to rethink them.”
Obviously Heidegger would not have achieved preeminence in French
philosophy if it had not been open to the influence of a foreign intellectual. It
has been said that there are four German models of French philosophy:
Nietzsche, Heidegger, Marx, and Freud.
72 In fact, we have already noted the
presence of others, including Husserl and Hegel, whose thought has exercised
a strong influence on French philosophy at least since the end of the 1920s.
The French intellectual context has been exceedingly hospitable to foreign-
born philosophers. Recent examples include such well known “French”
philosophers as Emmanuel Lévinas, the phenomenologist born in Lithuania;
Eric Weil, a German-born thinker who did work on Kant and Hegel, and put
forward his own systematic position;
73 Alexandre Koyré, a Russian emigrant
who made significant contributions to the history of philosophy and science
before emigrating to the United States; Alexandre Kojève, who was also

15 Russian by birth; Jacques Derrida, who was born in Algeria, at the time a
French possession, and many others.
In the United States, college faculty tend to be liberals, whereas in France and
Germany they tend to be conservatives. French academic conservatism, partly
due to the strong Roman Catholic influence present everywhere in French
philosophy and society, is further fostered by the structure of the French
academy. It has been said that the entire French system of secondary education
is organized around the reproduction of the French educational system.
74 For
this reason, leftwing French philosophers have periodically denounced the
role of French philosophy in preserving the status quo.
In the present context, it will be sufficient to identify four ways in which
the French educational system tends to co-opt future academics, including
philosophers, by subjecting them to a series of pressures to ensure that they
conform to, rather than deviate from, accepted academic norms as the price
of success. Collège teachers, who generally tend toward conformism, are
perhaps even less adventurous and more conformist in France than elsewhere.
One factor is the time, often many years, that many French academics
spend in the lycée before beginning to teach at university level. In practice,
this means that one must often watch one’s academic step over a long period
of time in order to have any hope of a university career.
A second factor is the structure of the agrégation, a nationwide competitive
examination based on a different set program in each of the different academic
disciplines. The examination consists of two parts, a written exam followed
by an oral. In order to pass the exam, it is better to distinguish oneself within
the usual academic guidelines than outside them. A famous example is Sartre’s
effort at brilliance when he first took the exam: he was failed, and passed it
on his second attempt.
A third factor was, until recently, the requirement of a second dissertation,
or thèse d’état, which was normally undertaken only after the young professor,
having proven his or her mettle in a series of competitive exams, had passed
the agrégation in order to become agrégé, had acquired a doctorate, most
often a doctorat du troisième cycle, and had begun to teach. In practice, this
meant that at a point in his or her career when a young professor in the
United States university system, who has finished the requirements for the
degree, need only acquire tenure, the average French professor, who instantly
receives tenure on being appointed to a position, nonetheless otherwise
remained a student, often for a lengthy period of time, during which the
second dissertation was being written. The result was an unusually lengthy
period in which the young professor remained subject to external direction,
hence to influences tending to bind his or her allegiance to the French

16 educational establishment. Although the second dissertation has recently been
abolished, other obstacles have been introduced in its place. Hence, it seems
unlikely that the result will weaken the various structures tending to link the
average French professor to the corporate structure of French education.
A fourth factor concerns the particular way that French academic talent
is identified and nurtured through a system of elite secondary schools. The
notion of an elite school system is fairly common in Western countries,
which have long maintained elite secondary schools and universities. An
obvious example is the English public school system, in reality a number of
private schools for students from a frequently wealthy or at least well-to-
do background, the best of whom are expected to matriculate at Oxford or
The French system is different, but the results are similar. Even if students
in the French elite school system often come from a well-to-do family, emphasis
is placed less on the financial background than on the identification and
eventual co-optation of the most intelligent students through a system of
national examinations. The system,
76 which goes back to Napoleon, includes
a number of so-called “grandes écoles” of which the most prominent are the
Ecole Polytechnique for future engineers as well as for those interested in
mathematics and the physical sciences, the Ecole Normale Supérieure
77 mainly
for humanists, and the Ecole Normale d’Administration for future technocrats.
These schools take the place of, and are commonly—and correctly—regarded
as superior to, an ordinary university education. Those who study in these
schools have traditionally enjoyed an enormous comparative advantage in
the series of competitive examinations taken by future French teachers at
university level.
78 It has been suggested that one does not become but is rather
born a normalien, or student of the Ecole Normale. 79 Acceptance as a
normalien, Bourdieu has argued, is a consecration. 80
One enters this and other elite schools after a period of intense preparation
followed by rigorous examinations including both a written, and, for those
successful in the first stage, oral portion. Those admitted to the schools take
no further examinations while they are there. But on graduation they are
expected to play a leading role in France as heads of major companies and, in
the case of the normaliens, within the university system as teachers of
humanities. Instances of such students who go on to play a major role in
French society are frequent and frequently well known. Recent examples
among French politicians include Georges Pompidou, a former president,
who was admitted as first on the list (cacique) to the Ecole Normale Supérieure
and taught before turning to politics, and Valéry Giscard d’Estaing,
Pompidou’s successor, who is a graduate of both the Ecole Polytechnique
and the Ecole Nationale d’Administration.
The peculiarly rigorous selection process and the subsequent nurturing to
which these students are exposed is designed to produce, and in fact produces,
an unusually tightly knit group, loyal both to their institution and to the

17 system of which they are arguably the finest flower. The system leads to a
clear co-optation of its most important members who, having been identified
and fostered through it, naturally tend to defend and to propagate it. The
result is a strong, sometimes unconditional loyalty to the very restrictive,
rigid academic system, heavily tilted towards a numerical few, the academic
elite, in which they themselves have succeeded.
The importance of this background continues to manifest itself throughout
the academic career. In France, it is normal for future students to indicate
that they are graduates of the Ecole Normale after their names when publishing
a book. This background is also a factor in attracting students since, within
the French academic establishment, those professors who are well connected,
those who are normaliens, are more attractive to work with for those students
whose goal is to enter into and become a part of the system.
The same system that ensures the co-optation of elite French academics,
including philosophers, tends to maintain traditions of all kinds, leading to a
resistance to change and a consistent political conservatism. Like others,
philosophers live in, and are subject to the pressures of, the prevailing social
context. It is well known that Kant deferred the publication of his writings in
order not to incur public censure. For decades Hegel has been accused, most
frequently by Marxists, of seeking a political accommodation with the political
establishment of his day.
This same political conservatism is reflected in Heidegger’s own deeply
conservative thought. His intrinsic conservatism is evident in his turning to
National Socialism, a conservative revolutionary movement, which in the
waning days of the Weimar Republic was acknowledged by many intellectuals
as a putative third way between liberalism and communism. Heidegger’s
conservatism is further evident in his insistence on the importance of tradition.
In Being and Time, he argues for the need for authenticity, understood as an
authentic choice of oneself, or “ownmost” possibilities of being. An authentic
choice is a choice of what has already been authentically, of one’s destiny, in
other words a choice of a future that lies in the authentic reenactment of
one’s past.
84 Hence, yet another reason why French philosophy turned so
strongly to Heidegger lies in perceived conservative qualities of his thought,
regarded, for that reason, as useful to counter other, more liberal views.



The previous chapter identified features of French philosophy tending to turn
it toward, or at least to create an atmosphere receptive to, Heidegger’s thought.
The present chapter will analyze the concept of the master thinker with special
reference to French philosophy.
The phenomenon of the master thinker is not confined to France. It can be
found in other countries, too, and is a common feature in academic and
nonacademic disciplines, including philosophy, where the ideas of a few
thinkers tend to dominate the ongoing discussion to a disproportionate degree,
generating the very framework in which other contributions are received and
evaluated. This dominance is apparent in what is often an almost reverential
attitude of Marxists toward Marx, of Freudians toward Freud, for instance,
and of followers in general toward significant intellectual figures.
In philosophy, too, the phenomenon of the master thinker is widespread,
for instance in Anglo-American analytic philosophy. At the beginning of the
twentieth century, a small coterie of thinkers at Cambridge University including
Russell and Moore, and later Wittgenstein, formulated views that have
dominated the discussion ever since. This pattern has endured in more recent
analytic thought even as the dominant figures have changed. The ideas of
Wilfrid Sellars and W.V.O.Quine, more recently those of Donald Davidson,
Michael Dummett,
1 and now Rorty, and perhaps to a lesser extent Hilary
Putnam, literally form the horizon of the discussion. Anyone who writes in
the analytic vein but fails to take their ideas seriously risks being excluded
from serious consideration.
A similar phenomenon is even more widespread in France, particularly
in French philosophy, where Descartes has been the master thinker over
centuries and others have enjoyed a similar status for briefer periods. The
predisposition for the philosophical debate in France—to this day a strongly
centralized country in many senses of the term, politically as well as

19 intellectually—to center around the theory of a master thinker was
undoubtedly a factor in enabling Heidegger to become the master thinker
of French philosophy.
To comprehend the master thinker phenomenon in philosophy, it will be
useful to consider the dialogic structure of the philosophical tradition.
Virtually since its origins in ancient Greece, philosophy has been understood,
by analogy with the Platonic dialogues, as spoken or written dialogue. The
two forms of dialogue can be roughly described as oral, and antitraditional
on the one hand, written and based on tradition on the other hand.
The former, or Socratic model, follows the example of the Platonic
dialogues, where philosophy is presented as a direct discussion, or
2 This Platonic notion of philosophy as an oral dialogue is still
influential. It underlies so-called Oxford common room approach, still
widespread in analytic philosophy, famously illustrated by J.L.Austin.
Philosophy, in this model, takes place as a rapid-fire exchange in a direct,
face-to-face encounter. A similar idea lurks in the background in infrequent
philosophical works presented as largely or even wholly oral in character, as
in Saul Kripke’s Naming and Necessity.
The oral, Socratic model of philosophy as dialogue is characterized by a
resolutely antitraditional stance. This antitraditionalism is exemplified, even
in views that do not insist on oral dialogue, in the familiar idea that we need
to begin again—to begin in awareness of the failure of previous thought
(Kant), to make a new beginning (Husserl), to recover the beginning
(Heidegger), to ignore the history of philosophy in a resolutely systematic
approach (Quine). Such variations on the theme of a new beginning for
philosophy assume that the philosophical discussion is discontinous and can
start anew, so to speak. Philosophy, on this model, is not understood as a
tradition, or a continuous dialogue taking place over time, but rather as a
series of discrete, independent discussions.
The rival Hegelian model, though also influenced by the Platonic example,
extends the dialogue over time. Philosophy is now viewed as an indirect,
ongoing dialogue, a tradition, not as a direct encounter, and, for that reason,
not as oral, but essentially as written. In this model, the conversation of
philosophy occurs as later thinkers react to and build upon the written views
of their predecessors; and the philosophical tradition is a continual, written
dialogue in which competing ideas are advanced and rejected in an effort to
construct a satisfactory theory. This view is most clearly exemplified by Hegel,
according to Heidegger the inventor of the history of philosophy in a
philosophical sense,
4 who privileges the written over the spoken, 5 and who
consistently strives to take into account and to build upon preceding theories.

20 The common element in both models is the assumption that philosophy
follows some version of the Platonic dialogue. The dispute between them
concerns the proper way to model the dialogical form of philosophy, not
whether it is dialogical. This problem can be put more provocatively as follows:
if we admit that the philosophical discussion assumes the form of a dialogue,
are there any further constraints? Does philosophy have any further structure
other than the oral or written dialogue between individuals?
We can begin to respond by noting the restrictions upon participants in
philosophical dialogue. It may seem as if philosophical dialogue were open
on an equal basis to anyone who cared to participate. Yet most of those who
take part in the debate do so on a rather unequal footing. For the views of
only a relatively small number of thinkers effectively shape the philosophical
discussion which they often influence decisively as master thinkers (maîtres à
6 masters of the philosophical game. 7
Histories of philosophy tacitly concede that only a relatively small number
of thinkers really influence the philosophical debate. No historian of
philosophy attempts to mention all the participants. For the same reason,
philosophical movements are usually described through the views of a few
central thinkers. Examples include the dominance of Descartes, then Leibniz
and Spinoza in continental rationalism, of Locke, Berkeley and Hume in
British empiricism, and of Fichte, Schelling and Hegel in German idealism.
Each of these philosophers is important within an important
philosophical movement. Each of them can fairly be regarded as
contributing to the development of a particular approach, to the
formulation of a tendency, to the elaboration of a movement. The
philosophical tradition as a whole can be understood as an ongoing struggle
among competing approaches tending to exclude each other as the single
true or correct theory of knowledge and truth.
Under different names, the conception of the master thinker has been
discussed from various perspectives. According to Whitehead, on the
assumption that “Philosophy never reverts to its old position after the shock
of a great philosopher,”
9 an outstanding thinker can be identified through
the introduction of a new alternative that permanently displaces the
discussion. Yet it is rarely the case that different views coalesce around a
single, identifiable position.
To take an extreme example, the phenomenological movement issuing
from Husserl’s thought is widely regarded as a search for essences. But some
of its main proponents (e.g. Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, and others)
are not concerned with essences, and it is unclear whether the movement

21 itself has a single essence. Moreover, alternatives to established positions are
often recognized through their influence. But there are doubtless many
important ideas, alternatives in Whitehead’s sense, that fail to attract attention
and hence do not displace the succeeding discussion.
Whitehead’s conception of the phenomenon of the master thinker remains
embryonic. A more developed approach is suggested by Kant’s concept of
philosophy as a systematic science. According to Kant, a system requires the
unity of the various parts of a theory with respect to a single idea.
10 Like
Hume, who famously argues that a missing shade of blue can be inferred as
11 Kant assumes that the parts of the theory are interrelated in a natural
unity, so that the absence of even one of them can be noticed. A new science
is based on a new hypothesis whose elements follow an intrinsic order of
which its founder (Urheber) is often unaware. He advances and applies a
view that is often unclear both to him and his followers but that is to be
understood in terms of its rational unity:

For we shall then find that its founder, and often even his latest
successors, are groping for an idea which they have never succeeded in
making clear to themselves, and that consequently they have not been
in a position to determine the proper content, the articulation (systematic
unity), and limits of the science.

Kant expands his argument that a new science is based on a new insight in
his revival of the distinction between the spirit and the letter which St. Paul
proposed as the basis for interpretation grounded in the Christian faith. Kant
reinterprets this distinction to emphasize the contrast between a conception
of the whole and the interpretation of passages taken out of context. With
this in mind, and in order to protect his own position against misinterpretation,
Kant recommends the interpretation of a theory in terms, not of its letter, but
of its intrinsic spirit.
The idea of textual interpretation in terms of the spirit and the letter was
popular in the German idealist tradition. 14 It is presupposed in efforts by Fichte,
Schelling and Hegel to complete the theoretical revolution initiated by Kant, 15
and is related to a conception of orthodoxy influential in the reception of Kant’s
position. Beginning with Reinhold, a series of writers separately claimed that
they were the only one fully to understand the critical philosophy. Kant’s frequent
indications to thinkers as disparate as Reinhold and Maimon that he alone
understood the critical philosophy only encouraged this tendency.
It is virtually a truism—Hegel and Cassirer are important exceptions—that
historians of philosophy rarely do original work of their own; their energies
are mainly taken up in the arduous, unending task of reading others’ views.
Yet original thinkers frequently make claims for unusual understanding of prior
thought, as in Heidegger’s tacit and not so tacit assertions that only his own
readings, for instance his own readings of the critical philosophy, are authentic.

22 Heidegger is typically uninterested in Kant’s theory for its own sake. He admits
that his attempt to dialogue with Kant is violent, but asserts that the violence is
justified since it is subject to other criteria.
16 It is fair to say that Heidegger’s
interest is not simply or even mainly to provide a correct reading of Kant’s
philosophy but to reread him as a precursor of his own view.
The assertion, frequent in the discussion concerning the Critique of Pure
Reason, that a particular writer possesses unusual insight into the critical
philosophy, is consistent with Kant’s own understanding of the relation
between an important thinker and his disciples. For Kant, the former utilizes
an idea he cannot formulate, and the latter formulate an idea that they cannot
utilize. For instance, in a famous passage Kant claims to understand Plato
better than he, Plato, understands himself.
Through his modest suggestion that an original thinker often makes use of
an insight that he cannot clearly formulate, Kant encouraged his students to
suggest exclusive possession of the correct reading of his thought. As concerns
the critical philosophy, this claim has been raised on purely philosophical
grounds not only by writers who were relatively modest (K.L. Reinhold) but
also on occasion by major thinkers (Fichte). Similar claims with clearly political
ramifications have been made throughout the Marxist movement with respect
to Marx’s thought.
Kant agrees closely with Whitehead’s conception of the master thinker as
someone who launches an idea taken up by the later discussion that turns on
grasping and further developing its spirit. A master thinker is someone who
dominates the later discussion, which is largely, mainly, on rare occasions
nearly exclusively, concerned to work out the implications of his thought.
Unlike Whitehead, who ignores the relation of the master thinker to subsequent
debate, Kant stresses that the master thinker dominates the later discussion
whose task is to come to grips with his thought.
Kant’s concept of the master thinker finds a distant echo in Sartre’s effort
to link the thought of the master thinker to society. Kant’s analysis is
intentionally abstract since he is concerned throughout with the conditions
of the possibility of knowledge in the most general possible sense. For Kant,
the master thinker is characterized by an original idea that dominates the
later discussion. Sartre’s innovation lies in the suggestion that the ability to
dominate the later discussion is due to an original idea as well as its relation
to contemporary society. For Sartre, a master thinker is someone whose
thought captures the nature of society at a given moment.
This concept of what we have called a master thinker arises in embryonic,
undeveloped form in Sartre’s later, Marxist phase, in his assertion that
philosophy is sustained by the practice (praxis) from which it emerges and
which it explains. Sartre makes three assumptions in this regard. First, he
assumes that there is a single form of social practice that characterizes society
at a given moment. According to Sartre, the present period is the epoch of
capitalism, which arose in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. For

23 explanatory purposes, other forms of social practice are not significant.
Second, he assumes that at most a single theory can grasp the dominant
contemporary form of social practice. He fails to entertain the possibility
that more than one theory might be able to explain contemporary social
practice or that the understanding of contemporary society might be a question
of degree only. Third, he assumes that philosophy is solely concerned to
understand social practice. In this way, he silently excludes from consideration
all philosophical theories—in practice, the majority of them, including the
initial version of his own position—that are not centered on the comprehension
of social practice in particular or society in general.
According to Sartre, a theory that understands the society in which it
emerges must remain the philosophy of its time for as long as it continues to
grasp contemporary social practice. “Thus a philosophy remains efficacious
so long as the praxis which has engendered it, which supports it, and which
is clarified by it is still alive.”
19 It follows that there can be only one philosophy
of our time, one theory that is both supported by and succeeds in
comprehending contemporary social practice. It further follows that, when
social practice changes, when society enters another period, what has been
the philosophy of the time, the master idea of the contemporary epoch, loses
its vitality. The result is a theoretical vacuum created by social change that
invites the contribution of a new master thinker.
Sartre’s assumption that a master thinker captures the nature of the social
context in an unusually penetrating manner can obviously be realized only
rarely. He identifies three such occasions in modern philosophy, which he
associates with the names of Descartes and Locke, Kant and Hegel, and finally
Marx. These three philosophies define the modern philosophical discussion:

There is the “moment” of Descartes and Locke, that of Kant and Hegel,
finally that of Marx. These three philosophies become, each in its turn,
the humus of every particular thought and the horizon of all culture;
there is no going beyond them so long as man has not gone beyond the
historical moment which they express.

The assertion that there are only three important philosophies in the modern
philosophical tradition is obviously questionable. So is the claim that either
of the odd couples, Descartes and Locke, or Kant and Hegel, represent a
single philosophy. Descartes is a rationalist whereas Locke is an empiricist.
Hegel intended to bring to a close the movement in thought initiated by
Kant. The Young Hegelians and later the Marxists routinely contend that
Hegel was successful in that task.
21 In his first philosophical text, the so-
called Differenzschrift, Hegel argued that there can never be more than one
true philosophical system; one can point to basic dissimilarities between the
Kantian and the Hegelian positions to deny that there is any single position
that Kant and Hegel share. It is even more difficult to identify a single position

24 shared by Descartes and Locke since the former’s rationalism and the latter’s
empiricism seem basically incompatible.
It is clearly controversial to identify Marxism without qualification as the
philosophy of our time, as a theory that cannot accept revisionism of any
22 When Sartre offered this claim in 1957, in the wake of the Hungarian
Revolution, it represented an acknowledgment of his residual Marxist faith,
despite the terrible events in Hungary, in effect the suppression of freedom in
the name of freedom. Today, after the tumultuous changes in Eastern Europe,
it is considerably more difficult to defend this claim. Either, as Sartre foresaw,
as times change a new philosophy must come to the fore; or Marxism in fact
never grasped the warp and woof of modern society, never clarified the practice
that engendered it.
There is obviously no neutral, universally, or even widely acceptable way of
identifying the master thinkers of the philosophical tradition. Unquestionably,
Sartre is correct that some thinkers succeed in capturing in thought the social
practice of the time in a way that propels them to the center of the discussion.
Yet if thought does not have to be socially oriented to be important, this is not
a reason to identify master thinkers in this way only. Other thinkers capture
only the Zeitgeist, the ideas that are in the air, as Heidegger can be said to
capture the spirit present at the decline of the Weimar Republic and as Sartre
clearly captured the concern with freedom in occupied France.
Since the philosophical tradition can be understood in different ways, it is
simply impossible to agree on a short list of the few genuinely great
philosophers. Such a list would have to be very short indeed since there are
only a few thinkers who are universally or even widely regarded as great
philosophers from any perspective. On one reading of the philosophical
tradition, it includes no more than four names: Plato and Aristotle, Kant and
23 These four thinkers arguably comprise the tiny handful of genuinely
great philosophers whose influence extends throughout the subsequent
philosophical discussion that takes shape as a series of reactions to their
thought. They also exemplify those rare thinkers whose influence extends
beyond philosophy to other domains, such as social science, the arts, literature,
in short virtually throughout Western culture. Yet from different perspectives,
one might want to include Descartes or Hume, Bergson,
24 Wittgenstein 25 or
Frege, or St. Thomas, St. Augustine, and others.
Whitehead, Kant, and Sartre agree at least that what I have been calling
the master thinker decisively affects the philosophical discussion. After the
impact of a major thinker, there is a tendency for later philosophical positions
to take shape within his sphere of influence and to revolve around his theory
as moons and asteroids move in orbit around a planet, and as planets circle
around the sun. The theory of the master thinker exerts a quasi-gravitational
influence on the views of others who take up his problems, debate his solutions,
and generally continue to think within the gravitational field or conceptual
horizon established by his thought. In unusual cases, the conceptual field of

25 the master thinker is so strong that it literally cannot be “seen,” as if it were
invisible, by virtue of its location at the center of the discussion where, like a
giant star it exerts its influence but absorbs all light.
There have always been master thinkers in the philosophical tradition, those
whose thought dominated the later debate. Whitehead’s famous description
of the “European philosophical tradition” as “a series of footnotes to Plato”
indicates the impact of Plato’s thought in what is routinely known as the
Platonic tradition.
27 In modern philosophy, Descartes has been peculiarly
influential in two ways: in his discovery of the idea of independent thought
as distinguished from faith, which Hegel called the Protestant principle; and
in his discovery of the foundationalist strategy for knowledge that has since
dominated epistemology.
28 Hegel’s influence has been acknowledged by many
writers, as in the frequent assertion that later philosophy is largely composed
of a series of reactions to his thought.
The fact that a theory attracts attention does not necessarily mean that
it was developed by a master thinker. Reinhold, for instance, was widely
popular in the discussion of Kant’s critical philosophy, but his theory was
intrinsically unimportant and has since by and large been forgotten. A master
thinker has an organizing or centralizing effect on the later discussion: his
views not only influence the debate, they define the boundaries within which
it takes place, provide it with a focal point and stake out the positions that
may be taken up by the contenders. This crucial organizing function of the
master thinker, evident throughout the philosophical tradition, is particularly
strong in French thought.
French philosophy has long had a succession of master thinkers (maîtres à
penser) and seeming master thinkers. Since the 1930s, Hegel, Kojève, Sartre,
Lacan, Marx and Heidegger have all at least briefly enjoyed the special status
of the master thinker. Merleau-Ponty, Lévi-Strauss, Foucault,
30 and Derrida
are writers with important international reputations who never gained the
kind of ascendancy in the philosophical discussion long held by Descartes,
and for much shorter periods by Hegel, Kojève, and Sartre.
In France, Marx’s theory is a special case. For many years his influence
was sustained through two different sources: philosophically, through the
leftwing Hegelianism popularized first by Kojève and then by Sartre; and
politically, through the French Communist Party. The latter was a major
force until it was effectively silenced by the election in 1981 of François
Mitterand, a socialist, as president and its subsequent political maneuvering.
Marx’s influence was exceedingly strong until the late 1960s, but after the
student rebellion of 1967–1968 it began to recede rapidly. It has all but

26 disappeared at present as the result of the recent political changes in Eastern
Europe. But at its peak, French Marxism was an important intellectual
movement, particularly in the writings of Louis Althusser, the orthodox
Marxist, even Stalinist philosopher.
In its heyday, Marxism, though always dependent on Hegel’s thought,
nearly equalled it in importance. It was certainly more influential
philosophically than the views of Merleau-Ponty, Lévi-Strauss, Foucault, or
Derrida. Merleau-Ponty is an extremely solid if unspectacular thinker. Despite
his position of influence as professor at the prestigious Collège de France, his
main audience has been abroad, particularly in the United States, where his
thought has been extensively discussed. Lévi-Strauss is a philosophically
trained anthropologist whose thought is one of the main sources of French
structuralism. Yet he played only a relatively minor role in the strictly
philosophical debate, and then mainly through his controversy with Sartre
about the latter’s Marxism.
32 Foucault, another highly regarded professor 33
at the Collège de France, has arguably been more influential in the period
since his death than he was in his lifetime. 34 Derrida is a deliberately eccentric
writer who has long had a much greater audience abroad, occasionally
approaching a cult following in Anglo-Saxon lands, and there mainly in
literature departments. In France, his thought has not so far elicited the interest
of more than a small coterie of close associates who tend to publish with
Editions Galilée and/or to be associated with the Collège International de
Philosophie in Paris.
In most cases, the career of a master thinker is like a flower that buds,
suddenly bursts into full bloom, and withers after a while. Thus, around
the turn of the nineteenth century, in the post-Kantian period, Fichte was
for a brief moment the brightest star in the philosophical firmament, prior
to his decisive eclipse by Hegel. All the master thinkers of French philosophy
have enjoyed a similarly transient status—except for Descartes. His
influence, which spans several centuries of French thought, apparently
remains undiminished.
In the hothouse environment of French culture, the writers identified here
as master thinkers in the French philosophical context have distinct, even
intimate links with each other. With the exception of Descartes, each of these
thinkers has, for a variable time, exercised a strong, decisive, even
overwhelming influence on contemporary French philosophy; each of them
was influenced by Heidegger; each further propagated Heidegger’s influence
in the French discussion. And, in comparison to Heidegger’s commanding
presence as the most important master thinker in French philosophy since
Hegel, each was finally only a minor satellite, an asteroid, a lesser body in
orbit around an enormously larger gravitational mass.
Lacan is a Freudian psychoanalyst with a worldwide reputation as well
as the uncontested doctrinal master of French psychoanalysis.
35 In the inbred
world of French culture, he maintained a complex link to philosophy,

27 particularly to Heidegger, Hegel, and Kojève,
36 as well as through the
structuralist discussion and his brief psychoanalytic treatment of Beaufret. 37
As will become clear below, the latter more than anyone else created the
ongoing French fascination with Heidegger’s theory. Lacan’s transient
contact with Beaufret led to his own direct acquaintance with Heidegger.
Although an important intellectual who virtually ruled over Freudian
psychoanalysis in France, Lacan willingly deferred to Kojève, 39 whom he
acknowledged as his master. 40 Kojève’s characteristic concepts, centered
around Lacan’s own interpretation of the famous master-slave analysis in
Hegel’s Phenomenology, appear throughout Lacan’s writings.
41 In point of
fact, many of Lacan’s fundamental ideas are decisively influenced by Kojève’s
reading of Hegel.
Sartre’s dominant role in French philosophy after the end of the Second
World War—Being and Nothingness appeared in 1943—and during the
emergence of French structuralism in the early 1960s is well known and
has often been described.
43 Like Lacan’s, Sartre’s theory reflects the influence
of the views of Heidegger, Hegel, and Kojève, as well as others, above all
44 Husserl was undoubtedly Sartre’s first major philosophical master.
It was to pursue his studies on Husserl that he spent the academic year
1933–1934 in Berlin. His first major academic publication, the “Essai sur
la transcendance de l’Ego,” written in 1934, offers a realistic rereading of
Husserl’s idealist conception of the ego.
45 Like so many French intellectuals,
Sartre only came to Heidegger through Husserl’s writings. He reports that
his initial enthusiasm for Husserl’s theory led to an intensive preoccupation
with it over a period of four years. He only turned to Heidegger’s theory
when he was saturated with Husserl’s, in order to resolve problems that
still remained, in particular solipsism and the elaboration of a realistic
46 The influence of Hegel’s position on his thought, particularly
in Being and Nothingness, has often been studied. 47 Unlike so many other
French thinkers of his generation, Sartre was not introduced to Hegel through
Kojève’s famous lectures on the Phenomenology, although he was certainly
aware of Kojève’s views through his friends and, apparently, through an
article written by Kojève.
Assessments of the importance of Hegel’s thought are extremely disparate.
While some writers regard his theory as uninteresting, even unimportant,
others argue that it is one of the few genuinely important philosophies in the
entire philosophical tradition. Lévinas, for instance, a thinker deeply influenced
by Husserl and Heidegger, once claimed that “For a philosopher, to locate
his thought with respect to Hegel’s is as for the weaver to install his loom
prior to attaching or removing the cloth that will be woven and rewoven.”

28 Among the long succession of master thinkers in French philosophy, those
most important for an understanding of Heidegger’s emergence as the leading
French philosopher in the postwar period are Descartes, Hegel, and Kojève.
Besides Marx, who weighed heavily in the turn to Heidegger and has
influenced the French debate via Hegel, Kojève, and the French Communist
Party, Hegel and Kojève were the most influential thinkers in French
philosophy from the 1930s until the rise of Heidegger at the end of the Second
World War.
Hegel’s position, like that of other major philosophers, has been interpreted
from different, often incompatible points of view. The main approaches to
Hegel are already apparent in the dissolution of the Hegelian School after his
death in 1831. On the one hand, there were the Young Hegelians, including
Marx, who tended to reduce or even to eliminate the religious element in
Hegel’s thought; the Right Hegelians, on the other hand, stressed its religious
aspects; and in between, the Old Hegelians were fighting a losing battle to
maintain the middle ground.
French interest in Hegel began in his lifetime in Victor Cousin’s discussion
of the Phenomenology of Spirit in his courses at the Collège de France in
51 Cousin met Hegel in Heidelberg in 1817 and 1818, became interested
in his work, and remained in correspondence with him. 52 In Cousin’s wake,
French Hegel studies continued in a desultory manner, although until
relatively recently the influence of his thought in French circles was never
more than minor.
In the last decade of the nineteenth century, Lucien Herr contributed a
short, neutral presentation of Hegel’s life and thought.
53 At the beginning
of this century, Hegel’s thought was discussed by a number of French writers.
Such discussions include several chapters in a work by Victor Basch on
classical German views of political philosophy
54 and a monograph by Paul
Roques, the first such work in French devoted to Hegel. 55 Slightly later, in a
series of lectures at the Sorbonne, which were eventually published in book
form, the Kant scholar Victor Delbos mentioned Hegel in the context of a
discussion of “Kantian factors in German philosophy from the end of the
eighteenth to the beginning of the nineteenth centuries.”
56 In a comprehensive
work on scientific explanation, Emile Meyerson wrote at length on Hegel’s
philosophy of nature (Naturphilosophie).
57 The neo-Kantian Léon
Brunschvicg contributed a violently critical chapter on Hegel in his account
of consciousness in Western philosophy.
Owing to his influence, Brunschvicg’s attack on Hegel was important in
establishing an unsympathetic climate toward his thought. Brunschvicg, like
Husserl, regarded Hegel as part of the romantic reaction to Kant. He described
Hegel as “the master of contemporary scholasticism.”
59 For Brunschvicg,
Hegel suffered the worst fate that could befall a thinker: he proposed a
metaphysics of nature that was an anachronism even prior to its formulation.
Brunschvicg further maintained, from a clearly Cartesian perspective, that

29 the absence of an appropriate method in Hegel’s theory “renders his
philosophy of history as inconsistent and feeble as his philosophy of nature.”
French interest in Hegel received a decisive new impetus through Wahl at
the end of the 1920s 62—it has been said that Wahl’s important study of Hegel
and Kierkegaard began the Hegel renaissance in France 63—through Kojève
in the 1930s, and through Hyppolite and Kojève in the 1940s. Since then it
has continued strongly, so that at present France is one of the main centers of
Hegel research. Hegel has remained so influential that even non-Hegelians
give careful attention to his thought.
Elsewhere, particularly in English-speaking countries, it has been relatively
easy to ignore Hegel. 65 In a much-quoted passage, which perhaps exaggerates
Hegel’s influence—as it is unclear how Hegel relates to the discovery of
psychoanalysis although his presence in French psychoanalysis is very real—
Merleau-Ponty provides an antidote to this neglect, while at the same time
warning specifically and very aptly against confusing Hegel’s thought with
the uses to which it has been put:

All the great philosophical ideas of the past century—the philosophies
of Marx and Nietzsche, phenomenology, German existentialism, and
psychoanalysis—had their beginnings in Hegel; it was he who started
the attempt to explore the irrational and integrate it into an expanded
reason which remains the task of our century. He is the inventor of that
Reason, broader than the understanding, which can respect the variety
and singularity of individual consciousnesses, civilizations, ways of
thinking, and historical contingency but which nevertheless does not
give up the attempt to master them in order to guide them to their own
truth. But, as it turns out, Hegel’s successors have placed more emphasis
on what they reject of his heritage than on what they owe to him.

The importance of Hegel’s thought in the French discussion, as perhaps
elsewhere, cannot be measured by the number of his students. The number of
people directly concerned with Hegel’s thought in France or elsewhere has
never been large. Yet, because of the forceful, insightful way in which his
writings, particularly the Phenomenology, have been read by his most
important French students, Kojève and Hyppolite, it has been exceedingly
influential virtually throughout French culture. Those influenced by Hegel’s
theory include poets like Stéphane Mallarmé or Raymond Queneau,
psychoanalysts like Lacan,
67 and philosophers whose main preoccupations
lie elsewhere, such as Foucault and Althusser—they both wrote on Hegel for
their DES, nowadays known as a Maîtrise de philosophie, or master of
philosophy—as well as Derrida, who has written extensively on Hegel.
Since the 1930s, 69 a small but lively tradition of Hegel studies has
developed in France. Its main characteristics, besides the continuing interest
in the Phenomenology, are a related concern with rationalism, theology,

30 philosophical anthropology, phenomenology, existentialism and Marxism,
all features that accord well with the traditional French emphasis on
Descartes. Through Descartes, the inventor of so-called Cartesian or
continental rationalism, French philosophy acquired a permanently
rationalist thrust. This rationalist tendency continues to express itself in
the ongoing struggle in French thought between rationalism and
irrationalism, in which the latter is linked to a strong interest in such writers
as Freud, Nietzsche and Heidegger, all of whom are read as challenging
reason. The French discussion of Hegel’s thought is largely rationalist, and
mainly concerned to emphasize the historical character of reason as it unfolds
in social, political, and cultural contexts. This adds a historical dimension
to the ahistorical, even antihistorical Cartesian concern with reason, for
which history was only a fabula mundi, a mere story.
French Hegel interpretation is dominated by a religious, or rightwing
reading that corresponds to the strongly Christian impulse in French
philosophy. The Christian inspiration behind Hegel’s thought is unmistakable,
and this in part explains the large number—larger perhaps than in other
national traditions—of Roman Catholic thinkers in particular among Hegel
scholars in France.
70 The interest in philosophical anthropology is a further
development of the conception of subjectivity launched by the Cartesian cogito
that according to Heidegger transformed all of philosophy into anthropology.
There is a subtle or not so subtle critique of theology implicit in the French
concern with philosophical anthropology in general, and in particular in the
master-slave discussion central to Kojève’s interpretation.
French Hegel interpretation stresses the relation of Hegel’s theory to
phenomenology and to its stepchild existentialism. The typical emphasis on
the continuity between the Cartesian impulse and the phenomenological
approach to Hegel is supported by two factors. First, there is the obvious
continuity between the theories of Descartes and Husserl manifest in the
latter’s effort to depict his own theory as a continuation of the Cartesian
73 Second, Hegel too calls attention to the link between his theory
and the Cartesian view. In suggesting that, had Kant been successful, he would
have resolved Descartes’s problem, and in further indicating his own concern
to complete the Kantian philosophical revolution, Hegel implies that his
position prolongs the Cartesian impulse.
The phenomenological reading of Hegel’s theory common in French
philosophy has at least four levels. One level emphasizes, as noted, Hegel’s
Phenomenology. A second level insists on the phenomenological aspect of
Hegel’s thought.
74 Third, there is the relation between Hegel’s thought and
other, more recent forms of phenomenology, particularly Husserlian
75 Kojève, for example, makes use of insights borrowed from
Husserl 76 and Heidegger 77 as well as from Marx to interpret Hegel, while
Hyppolite reads Hegel in part through Husserl’s thought. 78 If existentialism
is understood as an offshoot of phenomenology, then the fourth level is the

31 related existentialist reading of Hegel. This reading is mainly due to two
disparate sources: Heidegger’s impact on Kojève’s interpretation
79 and Sartre’s
impact on Hyppolite’s interpretation. 80 If the existentialist readings of Hegel
are diverse, it is because the very term “existentialism” is understood in
obviously diverse ways and applied to quite disparate authors from
Dostoyevsky to Sartre, including writers such as Rilke, Kafka, and Camus,
and philosophers such as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Jaspers, Heidegger, and
81 Since Wahl’s study of the relation of Kierkegaard to Hegel, French
Hegelians have routinely stressed the existential aspect of Hegelian
Hegel’s thought has provoked political controversy since the dissolution
of the Hegelian School at his death. Marx was a Young Hegelian or member
of the Hegelian left wing, and Marxism has always had a close if uneasy
relation to Hegel. The Marxist approach to Hegel’s thought is especially
appealing in France where until recently the Communist Party played an
important political role. From the end of the Second World War to the French
student revolution in the late 1960s, nearly every French intellectual of any
significance had at one time been a member of the French Communist Party,
interested in Marxism, or at least knowledgeable about it.
Until recently, the Marxist approach was a main component of the French
Hegel discussion. His advocates included Marxists and non-Marxists alike,
ranging from Kojève, the committed Marxist, over Roger Garaudy,
82 a member
of the French Communist Party, and Jacques D’Hondt, an eminent French
Hegel scholar with a similar political commitment,
83 to more neutral observers
such as Hyppolite, who played an important role in the typically French
effort to understand Marx through Hegel and Hegel through Marx.
84 Lukács
develops a Marxist reading of Hegel throughout his Marxist writings. 85 In
his important study of The Young Hegel, Lukács interprets Hegel as a reader
of Adam Smith who in a sense anticipates Marx’s own theory. Examples
include Hegel’s statement of the tendency of wages to diminish, his view that
capitalism turns on the constant tendency of value to expand, his attention
to the rise of poverty, and so on. Hyppolite, though not himself a Marxist,
follows Lukács in his discussion of Lukács’s reading of Hegel.
Like other major philosophers, Hegel is studied differently in different
national traditions. Put simply, if somewhat misleadingly, the English-
language discussion has long been concerned with the Phenomenology,
whereas the German-language discussion tends to focus on the Science of
Logic, and more recently on the early writings, unpublished during Hegel’s
lifetime, and on the Philosophy of Right. The French discussion of Hegel
now centres on his early writings and his Logic, but until relatively recently,

32 with some exceptions,
87 its main emphasis and contribution concerned
the Phenomenology. 88
In the context of the French discussion, the views of Hegel and Kojève are
inextricably intertwined. Although Kojève did not inaugurate French interest
in Hegel’s work—the credit for that must go to Charles Andler
89—his seminal
reading of the Phenomenology lent immense momentum to the Hegel
renaissance and has continued to influence not only French Hegel studies,
but the French philosophical debate as a whole for several decades; it also
helped shape the initial reception of Heidegger’s thought.
Thanks to Kojève’s famous reading of the Phenomenology, Hegel became
a central figure in French philosophy, 91 and Kojève himself became a force in
French philosophy. Kojève’s lecture series transformed a slow but steady
interest in Hegel’s thought
92 to the point where Hegel quite literally emerged
as a master thinker in the French discussion, in which he continues to occupy
a distinct philosophical niche.
Ironically, Kojève’s lectures on Hegel led to a reversal similar to the one
Hegel describes in his brilliant analysis of the master-slave relation in the
Phenomenology, the very relation strongly emphasized in Kojève’s reading
of this work. In his analysis, Hegel famously contends that the truth of the
relationship is that the slave is the master of the master and the master is the
slave of the slave.
93 This same dialectical logic seems to be at work in Kojève’s
own relation to Hegel. For through a strange quirk indicating the curious
status of the master thinker, Kojève, the interpreter, became for a while even
more important in French philosophy than the author whose text he construed.
Kojève, who presented himself as a mere reader of the thought of one of the
most powerful of all philosophical minds, while simultaneously presenting
his own views as those of the master, for a short time achieved a prominence
within French philosophy greater than Hegel’s, as perhaps its greatest master
thinker in this period. When the definitive history of French thought in this
century is written, it will not be surprising if the most influential “French”
thinker of the period between the two World Wars turns out to be Alexandre
Kojève who, as Alexandre Kojevnikov, even before he was naturalized,
captivated a generation of future leaders of the French intellectual world in
his famous lectures on Hegel.
To appreciate Kojève’s impact in the French discussion, we need to consider
both his charismatic personality and his work. Kojève was a complex,
mysterious man of unusual intellectual gifts, with deep interests in oriental
thought—he studied Chinese, Tibetan, and Sanskrit—and physics as well as
philosophy. After fleeing his native Russia in the wake of the Russian
Revolution, apparently in order to continue his education, he retained a lifelong
sympathy for Marxism. He studied in Germany for years, earning a doctorate
in philosophy under Karl Jaspers in Heidelberg with a dissertation on the
thought of Vladimir Soloviev, the Russian religious thinker, before emigrating
to France. Obliged finally, after dissipating his fortune, to earn a living, through

33 the intervention of Alexandre Koyré,
94 his friend and fellow Russian emigrant,
he began to give courses on Russian philosophy at the Ecole pratique des
Hautes Etudes. He also wrote paid reviews of books covering a bewildering
variety of topics for Recherches philosophiques, a journal that Koyré had a
hand in founding.
When Koyré has to interrupt his courses on Hegel’s philosophy of religion
(la philosophie religieuse de Hegel), Kojève stepped into the breach with his
own lectures on Hegel’s Phenomenology from 1933 to 1939. He seems to
have had a mesmerizing effect on his students.
95 The extraordinary list of
regular auditors at his courses included such future leaders of French
intellectual life as Raymond Queneau, Jacques Lacan, Georges Bataille,
Pierre Klossowski, Alexandre Koyré, Eric Weil, Maurice Merleau-Ponty,
Raymond Aron, Gaston Fessard, Aron Gurwitsch, Henry Corbin, Jean
Desanti, and André Breton.
At the end of his lectures, in which he proclaimed the end of history, 98
lectures which paradoxically ended even as the Second World War erupted
to show that history had not ended, Kojève was mobilized into the French
army. Without academic ambition—his famous book on the
Phenomenology is no more than the transcript of his lectures edited by
Raymond Queneau, the French poet
99—he later became an important
French civil servant, negotiating on behalf of his adopted land, confining
his work in philosophy to his leisure time. In a final irony, he died in 1968
during a meeting of the Common Market in Brussels, at a moment when
France was caught up in the student revolution that nearly toppled the
Gaullist government to which Kojève, justly regarded as a revolutionary
intellectual and perhaps even as an intellectual revolutionary, had devoted
his working life.
There is a close, still not fully clarified relation between the Hegel
interpretations of the two Russian immigrants to France, Koyré and Kojève.
Koyré was a member of Husserl’s Göttingen circle in 1910. 101 He later regarded
Husserl, who knew little about the philosophical tradition, as a decisive
influence on his own approach to the history of philosophy.
102 But in Göttingen
his main teacher was Adolf Reinach. 103 When he emigrated to France, Koyré
brought with him an unorthodox form of Husserlian phenomenology. 104 His
unorthodoxy manifested itself in various ways, for example in his course on
Hegel’s philosophy of religion at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes from
1931–1932, in which he concentrated mainly on Hegel’s Jena writings at a
time when they were still relatively unknown.
Kojève’s lectures were intended to continue the main themes of Koyré’s
course through a study of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. He read the
Phenomenology as a description of human existence
105 from an antireligious,
atheistic perspective 106 including a critique of the extension of dialectic to
nature 107 and an antidialectical view of method as basically the same in Husserl
and Hegel. 108

34 Kojève believed that the religious themes could not be isolated from the
philosophical anthropology that, in his interpretation, characterizes the work
as a whole.
109 This has been taken as suggesting that his views of Hegel were
mainly, perhaps overwhelmingly, derived from Koyré. 110 Yet although Kojève
took over Koyré’s course on Hegel and his problems, it is not possible to
deduce or otherwise to anticipate his own reading of Hegel from Koyré’s.
Koyré may have held similar views of Hegel; but it is Kojève’s statement of
these views, not Koyré’s, that influenced subsequent generations of French
It is admittedly difficult to evaluate Kojève’s reading of Hegel’s theory. All
observers agree on the importance of Kojève’s Hegel interpretation, but
opinions about what it represents vary widely. At the heart of the controversy
is the question of whether Kojève offers insight into Hegel’s thought, in perhaps
the most important book ever written on Hegel,
112 or whether he silently
substitutes his own view for Hegel’s. 113
Since Kojève himself was a controversial figure, it will come as no surprise
that in the French discussion, too, opinions are sharply divided. Vuillemin,
who sees Kojève as an atheistic existentialist, claims that one cannot exaggerate
the importance of Kojève’s study, which shows that Marx’s Capital is the
real commentary to Hegel’s Phenomenology.
114 According to Bataille, Kojève
understood that Hegel had already reached the outer limits of thought, which
led him to renounce the idea of an original theory in favor of the explanation
of Hegel’s.
115 For Jean Lacroix, Kojève was simply the only real Hegelian of
his time. 116 Henry sees Kojève’s denial that dialectic applies to nature—also
urged by Hyppolite—as unfaithful to Hegel’s position. 117 According to
Elizabeth Roudinesco, the French historian of psychoanalysis, Kojève’s reading
lies somewhere between history and fiction.
118 Aron—who remarks that one
can admire various insights in Kojève’s interpretation that, regarded as a
whole, cannot be defended—holds that Kojève presents his own theory under
the cover of a reading of Hegel’s.
119 According to Patrick Riley, Kojève simply
had no intention of presenting an accurate reading of Hegel. 120 Descombes,
who studies Kojève in more detail, to the point where Kojève and Hegel seem
to merge in one giant intellectual figure, simply refuses to address the question
of the link between Kojève’s account of the Phenomenology and Hegel’s
original work.
121 Others, more critical, distinguish between Kojève’s
commentary on, and his interpretation of, Hegel’s Phenomenology. 122 For
Pierre Macherey, Kojève was in effect a conceptual terrorist. 123 He maintains
that Kojève abused the right of the commentator in presenting his own theory
under the guise of an interpretation of Hegel’s text.
There is an evident disparity between the views of Kojève and Hegel,
between Hegel’s text and Kojève’s reading of that text. For a time, this disparity
was effectively covered up within the French philosophical debate, and the
Marxist Kojève—who, like Lukács,
125 has been described as trying to be more
Hegelian than Hegel 126—briefly seemed to loom larger than Hegel. It was

35 possible to study the complex nature of the philosophical debate in the middle
of this century as if it were determined mainly by Kojève in isolation from
Hegel, who existed only, or mainly, as seen through Kojève’s eyes.
127 Ye t
French Hegel scholarship, which Kojève helped to foster, was later to free
itself largely or even wholly from Kojève’s reading through a more standard
interpretation introduced by Hyppolite.
128 The latter attended Kojève’s lectures
before going on to develop his own reputation as a major Hegelian scholar. It
is fair to say that contemporary French Hegel scholarship is largely shaped
by the views of Hyppolite, not those of Kojève. The paradoxical result is
that, although Kojève provided a decisive influence for the French Hegelian
tradition, his influence fostered an indigenous tradition of French Hegel
scholarship that no longer or at most only rarely makes reference to him and
that mainly functions as if he had never written.
We need to distinguish between Hegel’s theory, which Kojève regarded as
the final possible position, and Kojève’s own position. Although the two are
obviously linked, they are different and should not be conflated. Hegel is a
great philosopher, one of the great thinkers of the Western philosophical
tradition, a master thinker both in the French discussion and throughout
philosophy since the beginning of the nineteenth century. Kojève is at most
an important Hegel interpreter, one of the most authoritative readers of Hegel’s
thought in a long line of important Hegel interpreters, with Lukács one of
the two main Marxist readers of Hegel, one of the best known and certainly
most influential French Hegel students.
In a letter, Kojève himself stresses his silent revision of essential Hegelian
doctrines in his reading of the Phenomenology.
130 His interpretation stresses
a number of ideas, some of which have been very influential, but not all of
which can simply be ascribed to Hegel. Claiming to derive his position from
Hegel, Kojève proclaims the end of history.
131 According to Kojève,

Hegel was able to bring the history of philosophy (and, hence, history
in general) to an end and to initiate the era of wisdom (whose light
already shines on us, but also burns us, more than it warms us, which
sometimes seems to us to be revolting) in identifying the Concept
and Time.

This idea has been widely echoed, for instance in Derrida’s view of “absolute
knowledge as closure or as the end of history.”
133 Yet Hegel never claims to
bring philosophy to an end in his system; in fact, he explicitly disclaims this
possibility in his insistence that philosophy, which comes after the fact, is
condemned to meditate on previous forms of thought.
134 If textual
interpretation is still relevant, then it is worth while pointing out that
nowhere in Hegel’s texts is there any evidence for Kojève’s famous claim
that Hegel saw the end of history
135 in the figure of Napoleon at the battle
of Jena—actually, Hegel only wrote in a letter that he had seen the world-

36 soul on horseback.
136 And there is absolutely nothing in Hegel to support
Kojève’s enigmatic revision of that claim—an instance of his Stalinism that
so irritated Aron
137—to the effect that the end of history arrived not in
Napoleon but in Stalin. The closest Hegel ever comes to this sort of assertion
is in his comment in the Phenomenology that we are now assisting at the
birth of a new period.
138 Indeed, he seems to take back even that claim later
on, in the Philosophy of Right, when he insists that the owl of Minerva, or
philosophy, flies only at dusk.
We can usefully compare Kojève’s Hegel interpretation to that of his
onetime student Hyppolite. 140 Kojève, and Hyppolite are well known for their
important, but strikingly dissimilar studies of Hegel’s Phenomenology. 141
Hyppolite’s study of Hegel is widely regarded, even by those not sympathetic
to it, as a model of objectivity and detachment in which there is considerably
more Hegel than Hyppolite.
142 Hyppolite was a major, but considerably more
orthodox Hegel scholar. He taught Hegel’s theory to students who later
became important in French philosophy such as Michel Foucault, Gilles
Deleuze, Louis Althusser, Jacques Derrida
143 and Michel Henry. Kojève was
even more important for an earlier generation of French intellectuals who
became distinguished in an enormous range of cultural fields stretching from
philosophy over political science, sociology and literature to Islam.
Kojève’s famous interpretation of Hegel’s theory is further comparable to
Lukács’s slightly less famous, equally insightful, and equally arbitrary Marxist
reading of Hegel’s Phenomenology. Working within the general framework
of leftwing Hegelianism, both offer readings downplaying the religious side
of Hegel’s thought and stressing its anthropological aspect.
144 Unlike Lukács,
who, after he became a Marxist, prided himself on his fidelity to Marxism,
Kojève’s Marxism was never orthodox. In his lectures, Kojève, despite his
Marxist leanings, denied the Marxist application of dialectic to nature as
well as its Hegelian origin.
It has been said that Kojève’s influence came into being when his study of
Hegel appeared in 1947 with its strange mixture of Hegel, Heidegger and
146 But his impact on the wider public, though certainly facilitated by the
publication of his course notes in the form of a book, had already been set in
motion by his influential Hegel lectures. His rise to prominence was at least
partly due to his unusual intellectual gifts, including his philosophical brilliance.
For Aron, Kojève was more impressive than Koyré and Weil, more intelligent
than Sartre,
147 someone who either had already thought or was capable of
thinking any idea of his own. 148 Gadamer considered Heidegger to be only
slightly less important than Kant and Hegel; Aron is reported to have had a
similar opinion of Kojève.
149 Yet Kojève’s personal brilliance is not sufficient to
explain his rise not only to prominence but even dominance in the often dazzling
intellectual atmosphere of the French philosophical discussion. His rapid
ascendance depends as much on his foreign origin, his mesmerizing style, the
work he made central to his own thought, Hegel’s Phenomenology, on his

37 view, which met a sympathetic reception in France, that history had come to
an end with Napoleon, and the particular historical moment.
They say that le style, c’est l’homme. Even if this is not always the case, it
clearly helped Kojève in the struggle for influence in the French philosophical
discussion. Others, particularly Weil, who knew Hegel’s text in similar detail,
never attracted as much attention.
150 Hegel himself was apparently a poor
lecturer, whose dry delivery was enlivened only by the power of his thought.
Kojève’s reading of Hegel, by contrast, was carried out in a virtuoso manner
that fascinated his audience. Here is Aron’s description:

Kojève translated, to begin with, several lines of the Phenomenology,
stressing certain words. Then he spoke, without notes, without ever
tripping over a word, in impeccable French to which a Slavic accent
added an originality and charm. He fascinated an auditorium of
superintellectuals inclined to doubt or to criticize. Why? The talent, the
dialectical virtuosity were part of it. I do not know if his oratorical
capacity remains intact in the book that depicts the last year of the
course; but this capacity that had nothing to do with eloquence, was
due to the topic and to his person. The subject was both universal history
and the Phenomenology. Through the latter, the former was explained.
Everything acquired a meaning. Even those who were skeptical about
historical providence, who suspected artifice behind art, did not resist
the magician; at the moment, the intelligibility that he accorded to time
and to the events functioned itself as a proof.

Beyond his foreign origins and his mesmerizing style, the single most important
philosophical factor in Kojève’s emergence as a French master thinker was
undoubtedly his choice of topic. The Phenomenology, a philosophical
masterpiece, is Hegel’s first major work. It is unusual in that Hegel, who
conscientiously revised everything, did not see fit to revise it, and on some
accounts it is Hegel’s most significant study. Yet for a variety of reasons,
including the rapidity with which it was composed, it is a very dark work
that requires detailed commentary. In the French intellectual context, Kojève’s
lectures had the result of making available the main work of a major
philosopher that was still unavailable in translation.
In virtue of its acknowledged importance, the Phenomenology has long
attracted commentators but repulsed translators. Hegel is exceedingly difficult
to translate. Obscure even in German, his discussion is even more difficult to
follow in another language. The book was first translated into English in
152 but unavailable in French before Hyppolite’s translation, which only
appeared well after Kojève had finished his lectures. The mastery of foreign
languages, which all French students are required to study in secondary school,
has traditionally been rare. Kojève, who left the Soviet Union in 1919, spent
years studying philosophy in Heidelberg. When he arrived in France in 1928,

38 he was equipped with a thorough grounding in Hegel and in the German
153 This and his mastery of French made him uniquely suited to
provide an intelligent discussion of a fundamental, untranslated philosophical
work, a work, moreover, that introduced reason to history at a time of
historical ferment as France and all of Europe were moving uneasily towards
the Second World War.
As we have already noted, Kojève’s Hegel interpretation also appealed to
the French because of his extraordinary claim, somewhat at odds with his
emphasis on the historical component in Hegel’s thought, to perceive through
it the end of history. The related claim that philosophy has come to an end in
Hegel’s thought has long been popular with leftwing Hegelians, and
particularly with Marxists ever since it was made by that first Marxist,
154 Kojève widens this claim to encompass the end of human being as
well, a notion that runs through recent French philosophy, notably the views
of Foucault and Derrida.
155 According to Kojève, here influenced by Marx,
the end of history 156 is also the end of human being, the end of the free,
historical human individual, following from the end of wars, revolutions and
The resolutely leftwing character of Kojève’s reading of Hegel also
attracted attention in the politically polarized French intellectual context.
Leftwing Hegelians, who uniformly devalue the religious element in
Hegel’s thought, privilege finite over infinite views of subjectivity as well as
the anthropological concept of human being over ideas of God. The key to
all socalled leftwing readings of Hegel’s thought, including Kojève’s
discussion of the Phenomenology, is the stress on the anthropological
approach. Kojève maintains this approach, if necessary even against Hegel,
when he insists that the Phenomenology is philosophical anthropology
whatever Hegel may have thought.
158 From his anthropological angle of
vision, Kojève emphasizes the priority of the interaction between subject
and object,
159 in particular the complex relation between master and slave
whose natural resolution lies in their reconciliation 160 at the end of
history when all oppositions will have been overcome.161 Hegel, argues
Kojève, is not the first philosophical anthropologist: he is preceded on
that path by such Christian thinkers as Descartes, Kant, and Fichte from
whom he differs in his essentially pre-Christian, pagan conception of
human being.
Kojève’s impact on the French discussion was further heightened by the
particular historical moment that turned attention toward history and, by
extension, toward historical rationality. His lectures coincided with the period
of tremendous social instability from the moment that Hitler took power
until the outbreak of the Second World War. The decline of the Weimar
Republic, the rise of National Socialism in Germany, and the unstable political
and economic situation in France—shortly to culminate in the front populaire
(1936)—each called attention to a philosophical work intended to comprehend

39 historical rationality, the historical character of reason and the rational
character of history, the same theme that animated Marxism.
And lastly, there is a wonderfully dramatic, even fateful aspect to Kojève’s
reading of Hegel. Philosophers have long stressed the indispensable character
of their stock in trade. At the dawn of the Western tradition, Plato maintained
that philosophy was the minimal condition of the good life. In a famous
passage in the Phenomenology Hegel suggested that history was at a turning
163 In his discussion of being, Heidegger grew more and more confident
that this was the central problem of human history. And he maintained that
through his account of metaphysics he was able to interpret the present and
even the future.
164 An assiduous reader of both Hegel and Heidegger, Kojève,
in a time of historical crisis and in terms recalling Heidegger’s view of being,
melodramatically draws attention to the link between the historical moment
and Hegel’s texts: “In the final analysis, perhaps the future of the world, and,
hence, the meaning of the present and the comprehension of the past depend
on the way in which we today interpret Hegel’s writings.”



As part of the effort to understand Heidegger’s emergence as the master thinker
of recent French philosophy, preceding chapters have studied the anatomy of
French philosophy in general with an eye toward those features predisposing
it toward a favorable reception of Heidegger’s thought. Particular attention
has been given to the important phenomenon of the master thinker in the
French philosophical debate. This chapter will extend the effort to grasp
Heidegger’s appeal to French philosophy through remarks on the theme of
the subject, or subjectivity.
A common interest in subjectivity is an important factor in the
rapprochement between French philosophy and Heidegger. Subjectivity has
been an important theme throughout much of the history of philosophy. It
already looms large in the thought of such premodern writers as Augustine
and Pico della Mirandola, and with the writings of French thinkers such as
Montaigne and Descartes it becomes one of the problems of philosophy.
Modern philosophy has made the question of subjectivity one of its main
Modern French philosophy has often been understood, for instance by
Heidegger, as deriving from the Cartesian concept of subjectivity, the
conception of the cogito that is basis of Descartes’s theory. Subjectivity is
further a main component of Heidegger’s position, whose initial formulation
depends on a highly original analysis of Dasein, or human being concerned
with being, as the clue to being. Heidegger’s rejection of the Cartesian position
and, in his later thought, of metaphysics and philosophy in favor of so-called
thinking can be understood through his rejection of the Cartesian view of-
the subject.
This chapter will discuss some main modern approaches to the vast area
of subjectivity. To avoid misunderstanding, let me clearly state that it is not
my intention to provide a general history, or even an outline, of the conception
of subjectivity in modern philosophy, or even recent French philosophy. The
purpose of this chapter is merely to point to the importance of this theme for
an understanding of Heidegger’s role in recent French philosophy.

Although the concern with subjectivity is much older, it emerges as an explicit
theme only in modern philosophy. It arises in the context of, and is determined
by, an interest in the problem of knowledge as early as Parmenides. In modern
philosophy, as part of the continued focus on knowledge, there is a shift in
emphasis from the object to the subject of knowledge. Any claim to know
obviously requires a conception of the knower, the subject that knows, and
of the object that is known, or subjectivity and objectivity.
2 Philosophers
concerned with the theory of knowledge tend to comprehend subjectivity
and objectivity as functions of the requirements imposed by their respective,
normative conceptions of knowledge.
In terms of the subject-object distinction, it is fair to say that ancient
philosophers mainly stress the object pole. Plato and Aristotle share a
similar commitment to a conception of knowledge as objective. Plato’s
conception of ideas and Aristotle’s conception of ousia satisfy a normative
requirement for an invariant object understood as a necessary condition
of knowledge.
In ancient thought, issues surrounding the nature and possibility of objective
knowledge are mainly discussed without explicit reflection on the problem
of the subject to whom knowledge is communicated, or through whom
knowledge comes to be. Yet a concept of the subject is silently presupposed
in ancient theories of knowledge as well as throughout Greek culture: in
artistic depictions of the ideal human form and in Greek literature, where the
relation of human beings to the gods is a frequent topic, as in the Homeric
poems or the Oresteia. An idea of the subject looms large in Greek philosophy,
for instance in the Republic, in Plato’s discussion of the ideal state modeled
on the structure of the mind, and in Aristotle’s view of ethics that explicitly
invokes a philosophical anthropology.
The rise of the modern view of the subject is dependent on the concept of
the individual, which is still lacking in Greek thought.
3 This concept only
enters the philosophical tradition in later Christian thought, for instance in
the attribution of individual human responsibility for the fall from divine
grace. This conception of individual responsibility presupposing the notion
of individuality is already present in the writings of Augustine.
Numerous writers have stressed the continuity between the Augustinian
and Cartesian views of the subject. 5 Post-Cartesian epistomology emphasizes
knowledge-claims which are resistant to sceptical objections of any kind.
The modern concern with epistemological objectivity is not diminished but
strengthened through a shift to a concept of the subject as the condition of
objective knowledge. This shift is equally apparent in the Cartesian cogito
and the Kantian transcendental unity of apperception, in the Hegelian
substance becoming subject, in Husserl’s transcendental ego, and in
Heidegger’s Dasein. Each of these concepts is introduced to support a claim

42 to know not in a subjective but in an objective sense, a claim raised and
sustained through an idea of subjectivity as the key to objectivity.
There is a reciprocal relation between scepticism, which is younger than
the concern with knowledge to which it responds, and the proposed solutions
that scepticism attempts to defeat. Descartes’s theory has routinely been
understood against the background of the Pyrrhonian scepticism reintroduced
into the modern philosophical discussion by Montaigne. Descartes can be
regarded as succeeding, or from another perspective, as failing in the effort
to defeat the new Pyrrhonism, as gloriously rescuing or as heroically failing
to save knowledge from scepticism.
The Cartesian theory of knowledge turns on a conception of the cogito as
an indubitable ground with clearly Augustinian roots. Augustine is neither a
philosopher nor concerned with epistemology in the modern sense. But his
work offers important philosophical insights for the theory of knowledge. In
discussing freedom of the will, he aims to resolve the problem of evil
encountered in his own progression from Manichaeism to Roman Catholicism.
In his decision to go back into himself to find objective truth instead of going
forth into the world, in his development of the idea of inner sense, he gives
new meaning to the Delphic motto, “Know thyself.”
7 He further adumbrates,
although not under that name, the Cartesian idea of the cogito. As Descartes
will later do, Augustine argues for the existence of God from his own existence,
presented as indubitable. An anticipation of what will later become the
Cartesian cogito is manifest in at least two passages in his analysis of freedom
of the will. He writes: “Since it is clear that you exist, and since this would
not be clear to you unless you lived, it is also clear that you are alive. So you
understand that these two points are absolutely true.”
8 And he adds:
“Furthermore, it is very certain that he who understands both is and lives.” 9
Descartes did not initially possess a conception of the cogito. In the “Rules
for the Direction of the Mind” (1628), his earliest philosophical work, he
insists on “sound and correct judgments,” “sure and indubitable knowledge,”
not on conjecture but on “what we can clearly and perspicuously behold and
with certainty deduce,” and on “the need of a method for finding out the
10 In the “Rules,” he elaborates his conception of method through the
proper ordering of the objects of knowledge, beginning from the simple, and
rising to the complex, constantly relying on intuition, being careful to omit
nothing, and so on.
The introduction of the cogito in the “Discourse on Method” is a decisive
new step in the formulation of the Cartesian view on method. The method
secures a privileged source of certain knowledge through a strategy that has
come to be known as foundationalism, or epistemological foundationalism.
The foundationalist view of knowledge dominates the philosophical discussion
in the modern period.
There are different ways to understand “foundationalism” and its
denial, or “antifoundationalism.”
12 In his influential, original formulation

43 of his strategy for knowledge, Descartes recognizes only mental intuition
and deduction.
13 He insists that knowledge is possible only through self-
evident intuition and necessary deduction. 14 From this perspective,
“Cartesian foundationalism” can be understood as the assertion that
“indubitable knowledge is possible if and only if there is an epistemological
ground or foundation that can be known with certainty and from which
true statements encompassing the entire domain of what is to be known
can be rigorously derived.”
In his idea of the cogito, Descartes transforms the Augustinian return
into the self into the path to universal knowledge. In the fourth part of
the “Discourse,” appealing to a normative conception of knowledge as
that which is beyond any reasonable doubt, he introduces the cogito as a
concept of the subject that can be thought of as entirely certain, or
indubitable. According to Descartes, since the claim to think cannot be
denied, it can serve as the basis of his philosophy. In an important passage,
he states that

whilst I thus wished to think all things false, it was absolutely essential
that the “I” who thought this should be somewhat, and remarking that
this truth “I think, therefore I am” was so certain and so assured that
all the most extravagant suppositions brought forward by the sceptics
were incapable of shaking it, I came to the conclusion that I could
receive it without scruple as the first principle of the Philosophy for
which I was seeking.

Descartes’s approach combines an antitraditional attitude with the effort
to establish certain, or indubitable, foundations for knowledge. The cogito,
or claim that when I think that I am I cannot deceive myself or be deceived,
is, and is explicitly recognized as such by Descartes, here and elsewhere,
the answer to his concern to elicit the foundation of all of his positive claims
to know.
In the first of the Meditations he voices his conviction “that I must
once for all seriously undertake to rid myself of all the opinions which I
had formerly accepted, and commence to build anew from the foundation,
if I wanted to establish any firm and permanent structure in the sciences,”
This same antitraditional attitude is still present in his last work on “The
Passions of the Soul,” where he feels “obliged to write just as though I
were treating of a matter which no one had ever touched on before me.”
Through his conception of the cogito as an Archimedean point, he validates
the appeal to clear and distinct ideas as necessarily true. Further following
Augustine, he also turns to the proof of the existence of a greater perfection,
or higher being.
18 Here and in his later writings, the capacity to prove the
existence of God is acknowledged as the key to acquiring other, further

There is a crucial difference between a theory of knowledge and an account
of the nature of human being. A concept of subjectivity that follows from a
normative conception of knowledge obviously cannot be employed without
qualification to describe a human subject. Descartes fails to clarify, in fact
tends to confuse, the issue in his description of the cogito as in effect an
epistemological placeholder postulated in order to satisfy an epistemological
condition of knowledge.
From an idea of subjectivity invoked to sustain a normative view of
objective knowledge, no inferences follow with respect to the nature of human
being. On the basis of the Cartesian cogito, it is not possible to describe or
otherwise characterize human subjects any more than it is possible to
characterize human individuals on the basis of the Kantian view of subjectivity
as the transcendental unity of apperception. Descartes’s description of himself
as a thing which thinks, or thinking being, must not be misunderstood as a
description of people who obviously both think and have bodies.
20 The
perspective of epistemological theory, in which we wonder with Descartes
whether men passing in the street are robots, is not that of ordinary life.
Human beings are both active and passive, joyous and sad, hungry and sated.
In the “Discourse,” the Cartesian allusion to man as “the spectator of all,” 22
the basis of his famous spectator theory of knowledge, does not refer to
human being but rather to a view of the problem of knowledge, more precisely
the claim to know an independent, already constituted object in terms of
clear and distinct, or self-validating perceptions.
The Cartesian view of the subject as an abstract epistemological posit,
and as a passive spectator rather than as active, follows directly from his
normative view of knowledge. Building on others’ views, Descartes insists on
subjectvity as a requirement for objective knowledge. Kant follows Descartes’s
idea that objectivity, or objective knowledge, depends on subjectivity.
The Kantian conception of subjectivity differs in two main ways from
the Cartesian view. First, Kant, unlike Descartes, carefully distinguishes
between subjectivity and the human subject, between the requirements of a
rigorous theory of knowledge and the very different task of arriving at a
viable comprehension of human being. Second, Kant transforms what in
Descartes’s view is a mere passive spectator into an actor as the condition
of knowledge. This Kantian move, which in the critical theory is known as
the Copernican Revolution, is basic to any form of modern idealism. It is
still not widely known that the move itself did not originate with Kant, but
had been widely anticipated elsewhere, for instance in Vico’s early form of
anti-Cartesianism that depends on the idea that verum et factum
Kant’s interest in the problem of human being is linked to his well known
interest in Rousseau. In an early work, Rousseau differentiates the problem

45 of enabling man to realize himself through his own efforts from the more
important but also more difficult problem of the nature of man.
24 Kant’s
interest in comprehending human being is evident in his corpus on many
different levels. In a letter, he remarks that nothing is more useful than
consideration of the problem of man if there is to be the least possibility of
making progress in this direction.
25 He further taught a course in
anthropology that resulted in a book, Anthropologie in pragmatischer
Hinsicht (1798). In this work, Kant contends that man can only be studied
from two perspectives: from the physiological point of view—what would
now be called the biological perspective—to see what nature has made of
man; or from the pragmatic vantage point, under the presupposition that
man is a freely acting being (frei handelndes Wesen), to see what man can,
ought, or in fact does make of himself.
Kant distinguishes sharply between his anthropological and his
epistemological concerns. In his epistemological writings, he typically
expresses interest in, but warns against, the attempt to respond to questions
about the nature of human being understood as a subject. In a well known
passage in the Critique of Pure Reason, he famously refers to three questions
as combining the interests of reason.
26 In his Introduction to Logic, he
reproduces and supplements this passage through the addition of a fourth
question, “What is Man?,” which he describes as the most useful but also
the most difficult one.
27 In his work on logic, he insists that metaphysics,
the topic of the Critique of Pure Reason as well as of the Prolegomena, is
confined only to the problem of what we can know. And in the same text he
analyzes the limits of our knowledge of human subjectivity in his discussion
of the paralogisms. In his distinction between logic and psychology, he
specifically warns against what Husserl would later call psychologism,
roughly a confusion between the conditions of the possibility of knowledge
and what we in fact do.
28 Logic, including transcendental logic, which is
central to the critical philosophy, abstracts from all content and is a priori;
psychology is a posteriori, or experiential.
Kant understands metaphysics as epistemology, not as a claim about
ontology. For Kant, metaphysics is solely concerned with answering the
question of what we can know.
30 Following Descartes’s view that knowledge
requires a subject, Kant sketches his view of the abstract subject of knowledge,
or “I think,” that must be able to accompany all representations, in his concept
of the original synthetic unity of apperception.
31 The continuity between the
Cartesian and Kantian conceptions of subjectivity is as obvious as it is
instructive for an understanding of the critical philosophy. It is, then, surely
no accident that Kant’s “I think” (ich denke [denken=to think]) is an exact
translation of Descartes’s (cogito [cogito, cogitare=to think]).
Kant follows Descartes in understanding the epistemological subject, not
as a human being, but through the requirements of a normative conception
of knowledge. His break with the Cartesian conception of the subject as

46 passive is determined by the Copernican Revolution, the basic epistemological
insight in the critical philosophy. In claiming that knowledge is impossible if
intuition must conform to the constitution of objects, Kant rejects in principle
the effort, common to rationalism and empiricism, to know an independent
32 According to Kant, knowledge is possible only on the supposition
that objects conform to our knowledge, 33 since, as he also says, reason can
know only what it produces. 34 Yet if the epistemological subject can know
only what it produces, then it is not passive but necessarily active as a condition
of the possibility of knowledge.
With respect to Descartes, Kant’s epistemogical innovation results in a
dissimilar view of the subject of knowledge. Two main differences concern
revisions in the nature of the subject and of its relation to the object. Kant’s
understanding of the subject as active is a basic theme not only in the Critique
of Pure Reason but throughout the critical philosophy. His three Critiques
can be regarded as analyses of the possibility of theoretical, practical, and
aesthetic knowledge, whose possibility depends on three types of reason, or
rational activity, attributed to the knowing subject. Descartes’s insistence
on the subject as the key to knowledge is accompanied by a view of the
object as already constituted and, hence, as independent of the subject.
Kant’s idea that we know only what we produce reaffirms the importance
of subjectivity for objectivity while forging epistemological and ontological
links between them. To assert that we know what we produce is to say that
epistemology is grounded in ontology. We can know what we produce since
we are its producers, and what we produce is transparent to the structure
of the mind.
We have so far identified three distinct views of the subject of knowledge:
a Greek approach de-emphasizing, or at least not stressing, the subject in
order to concentrate on objectivity, in one reading the self-manifestation
of objectivity that Heidegger much later makes central to his disclosure
theory of truth; and the modern, Cartesian and Kantian approaches to
objective knowledge that respectively stress concepts of subjectivity as
passive and as active.
Each of these approaches to the subject of knowledge has been influential
in the later philosophical debate. Thinkers in the German idealist tradition
mainly tend to follow Kant’s view of subjectivity as active in whole or in
part, whereas more recent German thinkers tend to return either to Descartes’s
view of passive subjectivity or to what I have called the Greek view. Husserl’s
theory is influenced by Kant’s, but his conception of the subject of knowledge
is closer to Descartes’s. Heidegger’s understanding of the subject reflects a
variety of influences. Simplifying somewhat, one can say that Heidegger

47 follows both the Cartesian and the Greek conceptions of subject-ivity in
different periods of his thought; and that under Heidegger’s influence, recent
French philosophy has tended to follow a modified Greek view of subjectivity.
The famous Kantian Copernican Revolution leads to an anti-Cartesian
conception of the subject widely influential in later German idealism. If
knowledge is possible if and only if the subject produces what it knows, then
the Copernican Revolution commits Kant to an active view of subjectivity as
well as to a relation of identity between subject and object. If the subject
produces what it knows, then in knowing the subject obviously knows what
it has produced. In other words, objectivity is cognizable by, or transparent
to, the subject, hence knowable, since objectivity depends on, and is identical
with, subjectivity. The identity between the knower and the known, subject
and object, subjectivity and objectivity, which Hegel called “the principle of
35 runs like a red thread from the critical philosophy through
later German idealism, the so-called philosophy of identity
(Identitätsphilosophie), including Marx’s theory.
As Hegel acknowledged, the principle of speculation is present in Fichte’s
theory, which Hegel regards as capturing the spirit of Kant’s critical
36 specifically in Fichte’s identification of subjectivity and
objectivity. 37 It is also present in Hegel’s famous description of substance
becoming subject in the Phenomenology. And it is present in Marx’s theory.
Marx’s concepts of alienation and of value, two fundamental themes in his
position, presuppose a relation of identity between the worker who produces
a commodity, or product destined for sale, and the product thus produced.
According to Marx, value is generated in the process of production when the
worker concretizes his work in the form of the product. But the worker can
only be alienated in virtue of the fact that he can be separated from his product,
that is, since the product can be regarded as himself in the form of externality,
as separated from himself.
Although all the later German idealists, including Marx, are influenced by
Kant’s theory, none follows the Kantian conception of active subjectivity in
more than a loose fashion. Later ideas of subjectivity in German idealism
and in much of later philosophy choose one of two alternatives: either they
respond to and elaborate further alternative approaches present in a state of
uneasy coexistence within Kant’s critical philosophy, or they attempt a
qualified return to alternatives rejected by the critical philosophy.
The various views of the subject in later German idealism are influenced
by tensions in the Kantian view of subjectivity. Kant inconsistently combines
his interest in a transcendental analysis of knowledge through an abstract
view of the subject with an interest in real human being. In the critical
philosophy, the idea that the subject produces what it knows as a necessary
condition of knowledge clearly has, but is just as clearly not meant to have,
an anthropological ring. Kant rigorously isolates epistemological and
anthropological elements within his position. Although his theory of pure

48 reason is intended to identify the conditions of knowledge whatsoever without
regard to the nature or limits of human being, it inevitably has an
anthropological aura that is finally destructive to the view he defends. It is
unsatisfactory to claim that the subject is necessarily active unless one also
elucidates the nature of this activity. Kant’s failure to do so, for instance in
his notoriously obscure allusion to an unknown capacity hidden within the
human soul,
38 suggests the need to reconceptualize the subject in other, more
human terms as a human being.
The post-Kantian evolution of the idea of the subject can be understood as
a series of reactions to the Kantian view. Since Kant’s rejection of the Cartesian
spectator theory in favor of the subject as an actor remains within the
framework of the Cartesian alternatives, the latter, including the
reinterpretation of activity in anthropological terms, provides the boundaries
of the ensuing debate. In the simplest terms, in German idealism after Kant,
there is a gradual move away from the idea of the subject as an abstract
epistemological placeholder, a mere principle assumed for purposes of
knowledge, toward a rival view of the subject as a human being rooted in the
social, political and historical world. Typically this move is not completed
within the German idealist tradition since none of the main theories, including
Marx’s, which is most clearly committed to an anthropological perspective,
is based solely on a conception of the subject as a human being. In post-
Kantian German idealism, the main views of subjectivity all exhibit a tension
between the abstract view of the subject as active that Kant proposes and the
concrete view of the human being as the real subject toward which his theory
implicitly refers. These aspects, in principle separable, are in practice
intertwined within all later German idealist positions. Later forms of German
idealism invariably emphasize either one or another of these aspects of his
view (Fichte, Marx), or both at once (Hegel).
The post-Kantian moment in German idealism offers a complex discussion
turning on the relation of the finite and the infinite, or absolute views of
knowledge and subjectivity. Schelling, who understood the finite subject
through the infinite, or absolute, differs as a special case from other major
German idealists in that regard. If, for present purposes we ignore the
distinction between Marx’s supposed materialism
39 and German idealism in
order to understand his theory within the German idealist movement, it is
tempting to see a progression from abstract (Fichte), through abstract and
concrete (Hegel), to exclusively concrete (Marx) views of the subject. Yet
such a classification would finally be inaccurate since each of the views
combines finite and infinite dimensions, or an understanding of the subject
as both a real human being rooted in the real world and an abstract
epistemological principle. The difference between them, then, is a matter of
degree, or emphasis. For in each case, the German idealists, including Marx,
offer dualistic appreciations of human being as a finite, concrete, human
subject as well as an infinite, abstract view of subjectivity.

49 Marx’s supposed materialism has mainly been understood, above all in
the Marxist tradition, as the antithesis of idealism, above all as the antithesis
of its Fichtean variety. Yet Fichte’s abstract conception of subjectivity has
clear parallels with Marx’s own view. Through his critique of Hegel’s view of
the subject, Marx clearly moves in Fichte’s direction.
40 Both Fichte and Marx
initially base their theories on a view of the subject as active; both identify
subjectivity and human being; and both are later driven through the logic of
their respective theories beyond the initial view of the finite subject to a
transfinite or absolute subject.
Most important philosophers are misunderstood, but Fichte more than
most. A grasp of his theory is not helped by his hermetic style or his exaggerated
claims, rebuffed by Kant, to be the only correct interpreter of the critical
philosophy. Fichte’s view of the subject is closely Kantian in two main ways.
First, he insists on a conception of the subject, in his language the self (das
Ich), as active.
41 In this way, he inverts Kant’s argument. Kant analyzes types
of knowledge and experience through types of activity, but he is unable to
think the conception of a unified subject other than in the abstract sense of a
transcendental unity of apperception. Fichte begins, then, with the result
toward which Kant points in the critical philosophy but cannot attain. Second,
in his theory of the self he develops the consequence of Kant’s insistence on
the original synthetic unity of apperception. The three fundamental principles
of the Science of Knowledge (Grundlage der gesamten Wissenschaftslehre,
1794) Fichte’s first and most influential statement of his position, develop
the consequences of Kant’s view of apperception through a conception of the
subject, or self, the object, or not-self, and their interrelation.
Hegel’s view of subjectivity features a revised view of the absolute and a
surprisingly fragmented analysis. The term “absolute,” which Kant regarded
as one of the few words that we cannot do without,
43 reappears in Fichte’s
absolute self, or self understood in hypothetical isolation from all context,
and in Schelling’s indifference point (Indifferenzpunkt). Hegel, who criticizes
Schelling’s featureless view of the absolute,
44 is often read as following
Schelling’s ontological reinterpretation of it. For Hegel, the absolute is a result
that only fully is in the end.
45 The Phenomenology famously provides a three-
fold analysis of the subject of experience as the immediate subject, then as all
humanity rising to consciousness through the spiritual odyssey that Hegel
describes, and finally as substance becoming subject, or the absolute.
Despite the strongly synthetic thrust to Hegel’s thought, he ultimately fails
to bring together the three different aspects of his conception of subjectivity,
unable, just like Kant, to think the unitary subject of experience. Marx’s
critique of Hegelian idealism from the angle of so-called real human being is
afflicted by a similar difficulty. Marx studies subjectivity on three interrelated,
but different levels: in early writings, such as the Economic and Philosophical
Manuscripts, through a concept of human being; in the German Ideology
and elsewhere through the idea of class, a concept that he never really defines;

50 and in later, more economic writings, including Capital, through a theory of
capital as the “real” subject of capitalism. The Marxist assertion that Marx
advances beyond Hegel and philosophy in general to discover the real subject
of human history in the concept of the proletariat
46 presupposes a unified
Marxian view of subjectivity that Marx in fact never formulates.
What I am calling the pre-Kantian conception of subjectivity represents a
qualified return either to the “Cartesian” view as in the theories of Husserl
and the early Heidegger, or to a “Greek” view as in the later Heidegger. With
the important exception of Husserl, later German idealism has continued the
Kantian stress on the subject as active while making a slow transition away
from the epistemological placeholder version of subjectivity advanced by
Descartes and restated by Kant. Some writers stress Husserl’s relation to
47 Not surprisingly, in virtue of his insistance on the continuity between
his own position and Descartes’s, Husserl retreats from various Kantian and
post-Kantian changes in the conception of the subject to a pre-Kantian, more
closely “Cartesian” view.
Husserl’s never sharply delineated view of subjectivity combines Kantian
and Cartesian elements. Like Kant and Descartes, he sharply distinguishes
the subject of knowledge from human being. In the second edition of Ideas in
1913, he introduces the phenomenological reduction that he continues to
regard, in all his later writings, as the cornerstone of phenomenology.
48 Owing
to his commitment to transcendental phenomenology, Husserl insists on the
difference between the empirical and the transcendental ego. It is from the
perspective of the latter that eidetic phenomenology is possible.
Husserl’s retreat from the Kantian view of the subject to a more Cartesian,
even Augustinan view leads to an ultimately ambiguous understanding of
the relation between the subject and object of knowledge. Husserl wavers
on the Kantian claim that knowledge is possible if and only if the subject
produces its object. He employs the term “constitution” to refer to the
relation between subjectivity and objectivity. Yet this neutral word, which
is apparently never clearly defined, reflects his own inability to clarify this
key aspect of his theory.
There is no point in attempting here to settle a dispute between Husserl
scholars about the proper interpretation of his theory. Yet as late as Cartesian
Meditations, where he stresses the many connections between his own view
and the Cartesian position, Husserl’s conception of phenomenological
constitution was either systematically ambiguous or at least undefined. For
he held that transcendental phenomenology is the systematic analysis of the
contents that constitute themselves in consciousness, of what is constituted
in us; and he also held that the subject constitutes itself and its objects.
51 At

51 the very least, Husserl appears to retreat in a Cartesian direction from Kant’s
view that we know only what we produce.
The frequent, but mistaken claim that Heidegger has destroyed the modern
theory of subjectivity
52 misreads the genuine continuity between his own view
and the preceding philosophical tradition. To comprehend his view of
subjectivity, it is helpful to consider the relation of Heidegger’s theory to
Husserl’s. In Being and Time, Husserl’s influence is apparent in specific
commitments to phenomenological truth as transcendent truth (veritas
53 and to a form of a priorism as the genuine meaning of
philosophical empiricism. 54 The Husserlian retreat from the Kantian view of
active subjectivity is accelerated in Heidegger’s thought: initially through a
qualified return to the Cartesian spectator view, and later through a so-called
decentering of the subject. Despite Heidegger’s publicly anti-Cartesian stance,
his initial view of the subject as Dasein is both Cartesian and anti-Cartesian.
By contrast, Heidegger’s later effort to decenter the subject, so influential in
recent French thought, is resolutely pre-Cartesian, closer to the Greek concern
with knowledge in the absence of any explicit reflection on the subject.
Heidegger’s suggestion that the only positive influences on his thought lie
in the ancient Greek tradition tends to cover up its many links to modern
philosophy. The two main periods in the evolution of Heidegger’s position
are separated by what he later called a turning (Kehre) in his thought, a topic
to which I will return below. What I am calling Heidegger’s “Cartesian”
view of subjectivity is central to his earlier, better known view of
phenomenological ontology formulated in Being and Time (1927), his first
and most influential philosophical work. The evolution of Heidegger’s view
of subjectivity is explicable through his lifelong fascination with being. As
his view of being changed, it required a change in the view of the subject
through which the concern with being is raised.
In Being and Time, Heidegger recasts Husserlian phenomenology, as he
understands it, for his own ontological purposes. Heidegger’s main theme—
for Heidegger, an important thinker has only a single concern
55—is the problem
of being running through his entire corpus. In Being and Time, he poses the
question of the meaning of being,
56 where being, or being in general, is
distinguished from beings, or entities. Heidegger identifies phenomenology
with ontology. He writes: “Philosophy is universal phenomenological ontology,
and takes its departure from the hermeneutic of Dasein, which, as an analytic
of existence, has made fast the guiding-line for all philosophical inquiry at
the point where it arises and to which it returns.”
The term “Dasein” is an ordinary German word that is routinely used by
philosophers within the German tradition to mean “existence,” as in Kant’s

52 discussion of the existence (Dasein) of God.
58 “Dasein” is Heidegger’s term
for human being as well as for man’s being. “As ways in which man behaves,
sciences have the manner of Being which this entity—man himself—possesses.
This entity we denote by the term Dasein.
59 The result is a three-valued
ontology including entities, or things, being in general, or the being of beings,
and Dasein, or human being that mediates between beings and being.
In Being and Time, Heidegger stresses the connection of Dasein with
existence and being. According to Heidegger, Dasein is concerned with and
understands being, at least in a preliminary way.
60 It understands itself in
terms of its own existence. 61 And its various ways of being exhibit a
concern with its being. 62 The main claim that Heidegger advances in this
work is that being is time. But the entire treatise is devoted to an analysis of
Dasein in two parts: the preparatory fundamental analysis of Dasein, and
the later analysis of Dasein and temporality. Just as for Plato human being
is the middle term between appearance and reality, so for Heidegger
human being or Dasein is the link between beings and the comprehension
of their being.
Being and Time strongly criticizes Cartesian ontology, including Descartes’s
failure to investigate the being of the cogito.
63 Heidegger’s view of Dasein as
existence follows from an anti-Cartesian, anti-anthropological view of
subjectivity. On the basis of his own anti-anthropologism,
64 Husserl mistakenly
thought that Heidegger had relapsed into basing a philosophy on
65 Heidegger’s agreement with Husserl’s basic anti-
anthropologism is clear in his effort to distinguish his own analysis of Dasein,
or subjectivity, from anthropology as well as psychology and biology, the
three sciences of human being.
66 His continued opposition to philosophical
anthropology of any kind is frequently reiterated throughout his later
67 The point of calling Heidegger’s early view of Dasein “Cartesian”
is to indicate that, despite his anti-Cartesianism, he continues the Husserlian
retreat toward a modified Cartesian spectator view of the subject.
The “Cartesian” dimension in Heidegger’s view of Dasein is particularly
noticeable in his idea of truth as disclosure.
68 According to Heidegger, the
disclosure view of truth is doubly rooted in Dasein: in Dasein’s disclosedness,
and in Dasein as both in truth and untruth.
69 Disclosure to the subject of
knowledge consists in bringing to light what is hidden since “the entities of
which one is talking must be taken out of their hiddenness; one must let them
be seen as something unhidden (alethes); that is, they must be discovered.”
In saying that the early Heideggerian conception of the subject is
“Cartesian,” I am not saying that one view can be reduced to the other.
Heidegger differs from Descartes and Husserl in his insistance on the way
that Dasein, whose name literally means “existence,” is rooted in the world.
Heidegger stresses the opposition between the Husserlian and Cartesian
views of the subject as conscious and of Dasein as existence. 72 This opposition
is, and is meant to be, fundamental. In thinking the subject through its

53 existence, Heidegger intends to break with the modern philosophical
tradition that he regards as beginning in Descartes, as continuing in Kant,
and as reaching a new peak in Husserl. Yet Heidegger’s view of subjectivity
as the source of ontological truth remains strongly “Cartesian” since for
Heidegger, as for Descartes but unlike either Husserl or Kant, the object of
knowledge is already constituted independent of the subject. Just as the
Cartesian cogito scrutinizes the contents of consciousness in order to
determine which ideas are clear and distinct, so Dasein discloses truth by
wresting uncoveredness from entities.
After the turning (Kehre) in his thought, at some point after the appearance
of Being and Time in 1927, perhaps as early as that year but in all probability
after 1930, Heidegger abandons his earlier effort to know being through
Dasein in favor of a view of being as self-disclosing. This change is linked to
a deepening of Heidegger’s anti-Cartesianism, manifest in a gradual turn
against metaphysics and philosophy. Kant had rejected bad metaphysics in
order to ascertain the conditions of metaphysics as a science.
73 In Being and
Time, Heidegger tries to recover a supposedly authentic, ancient Greek form
of metaphysics that was covered up in the later philosophical tradition.
Heidegger later came to believe that the effort to revive a genuine form of
metaphysics was misguided. In his later thought, he equates Descartes’s theory
with Western metaphysics, or philosophy. For Heidegger, the introduction of
the cogito inevitably transforms philosophy into philosophical anthropology
that can only be overcome by overcoming Western metaphysics.
74 In a famous
passage, meant to offer an alternative to the subject of the Meditations,
Heidegger writes:

Being subject as humanity has not always been the sole possibility
belonging to the essence of historical man, which is always beginning
in a primal way, nor will always be. A fleeting cloud shadow over a
concealed land, such is the darkening which that truth as the certainty
of subjectivity—once prepared by Christendom’s certainty of salvation—
lays over a disclosing event [Ereignis] that it remains denied to
subjectivity itself to experience.

This passage signals a fundamental change in Heidegger’s view of subjectivity
from a “Cartesian” to a qualified Greek conception, from a view that we
can only comprehend being by analyzing Dasein to a view that being simply
discloses itself to us. If being discloses itself, it is no longer necessary for
human beings to disclose it. In this way, Heidegger retains his view of truth
as disclosure—now modified only in the change from truth as disclosed
through Dasein in favor of the view that truth is disclosed to Dasein—
while avoiding the “Cartesian” error of an anthropological conception of
the subject.

Heidegger’s view of subjectivity has influenced French Hegel scholarship,
French existentialism, and French structuralism. Heidegger’s theory began
to affect French views of subjectivity as part of the Hegel revival in the
1930s. Although Wahl
76 and Koyré 77 each wrote articles on Heidegger’s
position, it did not significantly influence their readings of Hegel’s thought.
Yet in his collection of essays on James, Whitehead, and Marcel, Wahl’s
reading of Heidegger’s thought served as a philosophical benchmark
against which to consider rather different views.
78 Heidegger’s influence
is stronger in the views of Hyppolite and above all Kojève. Hyppolite
developed a momentary interest in Heidegger after his views on Hegel
had taken shape. Kojève’s reading of Hegel, by contrast, and in particular
his conception of subjectivity, was from the outset strongly influenced by
Heidegger’s thought.
Hyppolite’s most important work on Hegel, including his translation
and study of the Phenomenology, was in print before the end of the 1940s.
His early work on Hegel is entirely exempt from any Heideggerian influence.
He later wrote at least three articles on Heidegger.
79 The detection of a
slight Heideggerian influence in a later study of Hegel’s logic 80 has been
used to argue that Hyppolite later shifted his attention from Hegel’s theory
to Heidegger’s, or from humanism to being.
81 There are indeed a couple of
passages where Hyppolite employs Heideggerian terms. 82 Yet his influence
on Hyppolite’s work is obviously transient, hardly even worthy of the name.
For in Hyppolite’s very next study of Hegel’s view, Heidegger’s name and
terminology are wholly absent.
We have already noted that Kojève’s Hegel interpretation is influenced
by both Heidegger and Marx. Heidegger’s influence on Kojève’s
interpretation of Hegel’s thought is often underestimated. Kojève
understands Heidegger’s theory in an anthropological way widely present
in the initial French reception of his thought but later explicitly rejected by
Heidegger in his “Letter on Humanism.” Heidegger influences Kojève’s
Hegel interpretation in two specific ways: in his anthropological reading of
the Phenomenology, and in his concentration on the theme of death.
Kojève particularly stresses the significance of the concept of death for
Hegel’s position. Hegel has little directly to say about death either in the
Phenomenology or in other writings. Yet death is a major theme in Heidegger’s
early work.
84 Following Heidegger, Kojève emphasizes this theme in his reading
of the Phenomenology. 85 Since to understand man as free is to understand
him as finite, Hegel’s anthropological theory is essentially a philosophy of
86 The difference between Christian anthropology and Hegel’s view
lies in Hegel’s introduction of the idea of death. 87 According to Kojève,
Heidegger returns to Hegel’s ideas about death although he neglects the related
themes of struggle and work; Marx insists on struggle and work while

55 neglecting the problem of death; and both Heidegger and Marx fail to perceive
the importance of the Hegelian theme of revolutionary terror.
Existentialism is a diverse movement grouping together a wide variety of
writers, including, depending on the interpretation of “existentialism,” Søren
Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Miguel de Unamuno, Heidegger, Jaspers, Rudolf
Bultmann, Paul Tillich, Sartre, Albert Camus, Beauvoir, Merleau-Ponty, and
89 Heidegger’s impact on existentialism, particularly French
existentialism, is important, in part because of the widespread, persistent,
but mistaken French view of Heidegger as an existentialist putting forward a
philosophical anthropology. It is always arbitrary to assign fixed temporal
limits to a conceptual movement, but clearly French existentialism predates
Sartre’s main work, Being and Nothingness, which only appeared in 1943.
If, as has been suggested, French existentialism came into its own as early as
90 then it clearly overlapped with Kojève’s lectures on Hegel.
There is a link on several levels between French existentialism and
Heidegger’s thought. Vuillemin follows the interpretation of Heidegger as an
existentialist in his argument that the transition from phenomenology to
existentialism is parallel to, in fact coincident with, the reinterpretation of
Kant’s critical philosophy.
91 Lévinas points to the anthropological
interpretation of Heidegger. He remarks that, with the possible exception of
Marcel, French existentialism largely derives from phenomenology. And he
further points out that existentialism is not only due to the anthropological
side of his position that Heidegger himself rejected.
Heidegger’s impact is visible throughout French existentialist writings. One
obvious link is the persistent insistence on existence, for instance, in Sartre’s
phenomenological ontology, and later in Merleau-Ponty’s critique of Sartre’s
still Cartesian view of subjectivity as inadequate for a concrete view of
93 Merleau-Ponty is aware of Heidegger, but his strongest
phenomenological influence lies in Husserl’s thought. Among French
existentialist writers, it is Sartre, prior to his Marxist turn, whose view of
subjectivity is most clearly influenced by Heidegger’s theory. Sartre’s main
philosophical influences include the theories of Hegel, Heidegger and Husserl.
Sartre claims that Heidegger taught him the meaning of authenticity and
historicity just when these concepts were rendered necessary by the outbreak
of the Second World War.
95 He appeals to what he curiously calls Heidegger’s
“free assumption of his historical moment” 96 for help in assuming the burden
of a French soldier in 1940. 97
Heidegger influenced Sartre directly through the latter’s reading of
Heideggerian texts and indirectly through the views of others, particularly
Kojève. The numerous Heideggerian influences in Being and Nothingness
include the ideas of engagement and responsibility, both of which are modeled
on the Heideggerian view of resoluteness (Entschlossenheit), which Sartre
interprets in a concrete sense; Sartre’s analysis of temporality as three ecstases
recalls Heidegger’s similar analysis; his conception of nothingness also derives

56 from Heidegger via Kojève’s reinterpretation;
98 Sartre’s idea of the
phenomenon is reminiscent of Heidegger’s own analysis, and so on.
Heidegger’s effort to comprehend being through Dasein leads naturally
to an anthropological misreading of his fundamental ontology. Being and
Time culminates in §74 in a “Cartesian” conception of the subject obliged
to choose to be authentic, to choose itself. In Sartre’s Being and Nothingness,
everything happens as if the subject were understood on a “Cartesian”
model. There is a clear parallel between an anthropological reading of
Heideggerian Dasein as existence—in Sartrean language in situation, or
according to Heidegger confronted with the resolute choice of itself—and
Sartre’s view of human being condemned to choose to be authentic. The
prominence of “Cartesian” subjectivity, what Sartre later called its
99 is a major factor in existentialism of all kinds, for instance in
Merleau-Ponty’s view of the subject as the lived body that is the basis of
100 and in his critique of Sartre’s perceived antihumanism. 101 Ye t
it is conspicuous by its absence in structuralism.
Conceptual movements are rarely uniform, or homogeneous, but
structuralism is even more heterogeneous than most.
102 The very span of
structuralism is indicated by the way that it ranges from mathematics, over
natural and social sciences, including psychology and linguistics, to
103 Structuralism is obviously concerned with “structures”; but
what this means has been understood in different ways: as a relational rather
than substantial approach to the objects of the human sciences;
104 or as the
view that structures can be grasped in terms of concepts of totality,
transformation, and auto-regulation;
105 or again as the relation of meaning
to truth and being. 106 Sartre increasingly dominated the French cultural context
from the early 1940s, when Being and Nothingness appeared, until the rise
of what came to be known as structuralism in the 1960s. The French
structuralist movement has been understood as a widespread revolt against
Sartre’s influence leading to a broadly antiphenomenological stance.
The main source of structuralism was Saussure’s linguistics, but Heidegger’s
theory also played an important role. Structuralism arose at a time when
Heidegger was central to French philosophy. Heidegger’s position directly
influenced some of the French structuralist thinkers and indirectly influenced
others. Recalling the later Heidegger’s concern with being as self-manifesting,
various structuralists aim to elucidate structures by minimizing or even wholly
avoiding recourse to a conception of the subject. Although some structuralists,
such as Lévi-Strauss, owe nothing discernable to Heidegger’s thought, others,
such as Lacan, or, depending on one’s view of structuralism, Derrida, are
deeply influenced by it. With the exception of Derrida, whose view of
deconstruction, which has been seen as a form of structuralism, originates in
108—structuralism in general gives the impression that,
following the break with first Sartre and then phenomenology there has been
a turn from a “Cartesian” view of the subject to a disembodied,

57 epistemological placeholder view of subjectivity,
109 similar to the decentered
conception of subjectivity featured in the later Heidegger.
Although any number of French structuralist figures, including Barthes,
Derrida, Deleuze, Piaget, Goldmann,
110 and others could be mentioned, this
point can easily be illustrated through the theories of Lévi-Strauss, Althusser
and Foucault. Piaget, who is typical of structuralists in that regard, is concerned
to avoid a conception of the subject that has anything to do with lived
111 Barthes substitutes a concept of the author writing for the
concept of the person. 112
The structural anthropologist Lévi-Strauss advances a conception of history
independent of human being, in which history is the starting point but not
the end point of a quest for intelligibility.
113 In the Critique of Pure Reason,
Kant makes the possibility of knowledge dependent on an unconscious and
unknowable activity through which a conceptual subject produces the
knowable object of experience.
114 Lévi-Strauss takes a similar line in
maintaining that all culture can be understood as a result of the unconscious
imposition of form by the human mind that is basically the same in all times
and places.
115 This view has been taken to imply the claim, for instance, that
although there are myths there are no authors. 116
Althusser’s so-called theoretical antihumanism is on display in his
structuralist Marxism 117 that refuses any form of anthropology. His
antihumanism is intelligible against the background of the Marxist debate
roughly since Lukács’s brilliant History and Class Consciousness. The
emphasis on alienation in Lukács’s book, which was later confirmed by the
publication of several unknown, early Marxian texts, led to the idea of a
Marxist humanism.
118 The formulation of a humanist, anthropological,
resolutely philosophical reading of Marx’s position threatened the Marxist
view of Marx, current since Engels, as transcending philosophy in a science
of history and society.
119 Althusser’s intervention in the debate was meant to
defend the Marxist view of Marxism as a science by admitting the existence
of Marx’s early philosophical writings—once they were published it was hard
to deny this fact—while denying their importance.
120 His antihumanist reading
of Marx, more precisely his claim that Marx breaks with the very idea of a
universal essence of man in favor of a specific analysis of levels of human
121 is intended to show that in his mature work Marx moves beyond
anything resembling a conception of the subject in order to carry out a scientific
study of practice. His intent, which cannot be understood apart from the
political struggle to maintain Marxist orthodoxy, is to abolish the subject as
Marx understood it in order to “save” the Marxist view of Marx.
Foucault’s relation to Heidegger’s thought is important for an
understanding of his own theory. Although he indicates that Nietzsche is
more important to him than is Heidegger—a Nietzsche read through
Heideggerian lenses—he sees the latter as the essential philosopher.
Foucault’s attack on a certain conception of human being is exceedingly

58 radical. Yet it is misconceived as an attack on human being as such, or as
antihumanism, since it is limited to an analysis of the concept or the
representation of human being.
123 Foucault’s aim in his early works is in part
to show how human being became an object of science in the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries.
124 And his later work centers precisely on tracing
various forms of human practice. 125
Among the structuralists, Lévi-Strauss and Althusser put subjectivity into
parentheses in order to constitute structuralist anthropology and Marxism
as social sciences. If, as has been claimed, “structuralism” is nothing but a
superficial effort to formulate a general methodology for the human sciences,
then Foucault is not a structuralist. He objects to the very idea of social
science as in principle mistaken. Social sciences are not only false sciences;
they are not even sciences at all since they rely on a conception of human
being that cannot be known, that cannot be the object of a science.
Influenced by both Kojève 128 and Heidegger, Foucault maintains that the
conception of human being is “finished” (fini). 129 It came into being in the
eighteenth century between two types of language, when human being gave
itself a representation in the interstices of language temporarily in fragments.
Our task today is to think the disappearance of human being since it is now
in the process of disappearing. As Foucault later put it, the result is an
anonymous system without a subject that marks a return to the seventeenth
century; but man has not been put in the place of God since there is only “an
anonymous thought, knowledge without a subject, theory without identity…
131 Like the later Heidegger, in a famous passage Foucault emphasizes the
impermanence of the conception of human being. Just as the conception of
human being arose in a change in the situation of knowledge, so a further
change may see human being “erased, like a face drawn in the sand at the
edge of the sea.”



Having identified a number of factors likely to have facilitated Heidegger’s
rise to importance within the French philosophical discussion, we now need
to consider how Heidegger’s rise to prominence in fact occurred.
This will be the first of three chapters dealing with the role of humanism
in Heidegger’s emergence as the master thinker of recent French philosophy.
In examining aspects of the humanist misreading of Heidegger’s thought, as
well as the broader theme of humanism in French philosophy and Heidegger’s
theory, the intention is to identify a link between the traditional French concern
with humanism and the French Heidegger reception. This chapter will show
how the revival of the French interest in humanism naturally led toward
Heidegger. The next chapter will consider the effect of Heidegger’s “Letter
on Humanism” on the French reception of his thought. Finally, a third chapter
will examine the relation between Heidegger’s political involvement and
humanism. We shall see that many French philosophers turned to Heidegger
in the mistaken belief that he shared their humanist concern.
There is a difference between the specifically philosophical concerns that
dominate a given philosophical position, those that lead to its initial
formulation and later reformulation, and those often quite different concerns,
which may or may not be philosophical in nature, that lead to its rise to
prominence in the discussion. Attention to Heidegger’s theory in Germany
after the publication of Being and Time (1927) was independent of any
capacity to awaken a widespread interest in his claim, underlying his initial
position, that the problem of being had been forgotten. With the possible
exception of a few philosophical colleagues, almost no one in the immediate
discussion was clearly awaré of, or even prepared to deal with, this assertion.
On the contrary, Heidegger’s theory become prominent in contemporary
German cultural life because of his remarkable ability to capture widespread
contemporary concerns in philosophical language that appealed widely to
his philosophical colleagues.
In the particular historical situation, dominated by the decline of the Weimar
Republic, the deepening of a worldwide economic depression, the search for
a third way between a liberalism commonly thought to have failed and a

60 Bolshevism so widely feared, and the rise of National Socialism, Heidegger
was able to translate his technical ideas into language that expressed the
contemporary Zeitgeist. Examples include themes of authenticity, resoluteness,
being with others, anxiety, and so on, all existential themes in a Germany
struggling to preserve self-respect and to assert individuality in a difficult
period between two world wars. Heidegger’s enormous rhetorical capacity
to capture in philosophical language the spirit of the times is above all on
display in the famous rectorial address delivered in May 1933 when Heidegger,
who had just publically joined the Nazi party, solemnly assumed office as the
rector of the University of Freiburg.
Heidegger’s thought attracted attention in France as early as the late
1920s and early 1930s, but it was only later that it suddenly became central
to the French discussion. This did not happen when Hegel became an
important factor in French philosophy, in large part through Heidegger’s
influence on the French appropriation of Hegel’s thought. Nor did it happen
as soon as Heidegger’s writings began to be available in French translation
in the early 1930s. Nor again did it happen when writers such as Sartre
made use of Heidegger’s fundamental ontology in the formulation of their
own positions. It only finally happened when, in the aftermath of the Second
World War, the problem of humanism was raised again in the French
philosophical context. The ensuing debate led to a turn toward Heidegger’s
theory that has since become one of the few relatively stable points in the
volatile French cultural context.
Humanism is an unclear concept, used in many, often incompatible ways.
4 It
apparently has no natural or non-normative meaning. Philosophers have often
rejected the association between philosophy and humanism on the grounds
that humanism is incompatible with rigorous philosophical thought.
5 But it
is compatible with philosophy, or at least some forms of philosophy. In the
“Letter on Humanism,” the same text in which he attempts to drive a wedge
between philosophy and humanism, Heidegger insists on the humanist
character of his own theory.
There is a long, but still not clarified link between philosophy and
humanism. European humanism did not spring into being in a particular
theory or in a particular text, but has emerged only gradually over a long
period. A concern with humanism is already present in the Roman tradition.
Cicero and Varro distinguish between humanitarianism, or the love of
humanity in general, and humanism (humanitas), understood in the sense of
the Greek paideia, meaning education. Following Cicero and Varro, Benda
distinguishes two senses of “humanism”: the desire to know human being
animating Kant, Goethe and other Enlightenment figures; and the more general

61 concern with knowledge.
7 In the latter sense, humanism is associated with
the discovery of the idea of human being in the Renaissance, 8 and the
emergence of various kinds of individuality 9 in the second part of the fourteenth
century. The idea of human being is an idea that later spread throughout
Europe, and that is often taken to mark the end of the Middle Ages. Yet as
the older view of classical studies did not disappear when the conception of
human being emerged, this whole period is marked by a continual oscillation
between the revival of the humanist tradition and the emergence of a
philosophy of human being.
“Humanism” is notoriously difficult to define since it means different things
to different observers. For example, Höffding writes: “Humanism denotes,
then, not only a literary tendency, a school of philologists, but also a tendency
of life, characterized by interest for the human, both as a subject of observation
and as the foundation of action.”
11 Höffding’s definition usefully evokes the
return to classical studies as well as the novel Christian conception of human
being that emerges in the wake of Augustine’s attention to the notion of
personal responsibility. Yet it omits a central philosophical element of
humanism: the self-congratulatory, broadly humanist understanding of
philosophy as indispensable for the good life.
Discussion of humanism often tends to equate the genus with one of its
12 For present purposes, three forms of “humanism” can be
distinguished: the revival of classical letters; the stress on human being; and a
claim for the social relevance of philosophy.
Understood as the revival of classical letters, humanism is the effort to
develop the rational faculties without regard to discipline. This conception is
manifest in the educational reform undertaken in Bavaria by Friedrich
Immanuel Niethammer, Hegel’s friend and sometime patron, who was
appointed as Central School Counselor in 1808. Niethammer represented a
so-called new humanism (Neuhumanismus) that aimed to provide a general
development of human faculties through the study of the ancient world, in
particular through the revival of classical letters.
13 When Hegel became rector
of the Egidium Gymnasium in Nuremberg, no less than 13 of the 27 weekly
class hours were devoted to Greek and Latin materials.
Understood as the concern with human being, humanism is specifically
influential in a long line of philosophical positions. This view of humanism,
which can be illustrated in the writings of Pico della Mirandola and Ludovicus
Vives, naturally ranges widely over such themes as freedom, naturalism,
historical perspective, religion, and science. In a famous passage, Pico della
Mirandola stresses the idea of human freedom:

I have given you, Adam, neither a predetermined place nor a particular
aspect nor any special prerogatives in order that you may take and
possess these through your own decision and choice. The limitations
on the nature of other creatures are contained within my prescribed

62 laws. You shall determine your own nature without constraint from
any barrier, by means of the freedom to whose power I have entrusted
you. I have placed you at the center of the world so that from that point
you might see better what is in the world. I have made you neither
heavenly nor earthly, neither mortal nor immortal so that, like a free
and sovereign artificer, you might mold and fashion yourself into that
form you yourself shall have chosen.

Humanism is often regarded as central to the Enlightenment. Pope’s famous
couplet is frequently taken as a motto of Enlightenment interest in the study
of man: “Presume not then the ways of God to scan/The proper study of
mankind is man.” Yet treatment of the Enlightenment in terms of humanism
is by no means a universal tendency. Foucault, for instance, usefully
distinguishes between the Enlightenment as an event and humanism as the
decision to focus on a theme or given set of themes.
16 Observers differ widely
in the importance they attach to humanism as a theme in the Enlightenment
period. As knowledgeable a writer as Ernst Cassirer managed to compose a
detailed discussion of the period in which he scarcely even mentions humanism
other than to refer to Pope;
17 on the contrary, in Peter Gay’s books on this
topic, humanism figures prominently. 18
Philosophy, which is only one of the many strands in the growth of culture
during the Enlightenment period, tends to stress an anthropological approach.
This tendency is particularly evident in Hume’s writings. In A Treatise of
Human Nature, David Hume writes: “Human Nature is the only science of
man; and has been hitherto the most neglected.”
19 Clearly anticipating Marx’s
famous claim that all the sciences are sciences of man, Hume asserts: “’Tis
evident, that all the sciences have a relation, greater or less, to human nature.”
He further writes:

He straightforwardly holds that all scientific questions are finally
questions about man: There is no question of importance, whose decision
is not compriz’d in the science of man; and there is none, which can be
decided with any certainty, before we become acquainted with that
science. In pretending therefore to explain the principles of human
nature, we in effect propose a compleat system of the sciences, built on
a foundation almost entirely new, and the only one upon which they
stand with any certainty.

It is precisely this science of man that Hume intends to construct through
empirical observation: “As the science of man is the only solid foundation
for the other sciences, so the only foundation we can give to this science itself
must be laid on experience and observation.”
Hume’s anthropological approach to philosophy is further strengthened
in modern German philosophy. Here the Enlightenment stress on reason is

63 accompanied by an increasingly secular, even Promethean view of human
being as central to the world and as the master of human fate. Thinkers like
the Danish writer Kierkegaard, who understand human being as authentic
only through a particular relation to God, are an exception to this tendency.
Although Kant famously seeks to limit knowledge to make room for faith,
his position throughout is rigorously secular. He continually stresses reason
as the main, in fact the only admissible, component in his analyses of various
types of experience. Even his discussion of reason is conducted within the
bounds set by reason that, from his very rationalist viewpoint, cannot be
rationally transgressed.
The anthropological element in Kant’s critical philosophy is partly traceable
to Hume’s well known influence in awakening him from his self-described
dogmatic slumber.
24 In his theory of ethics, Kant insists on freedom as the
necessary but indemonstrable presupposition for ethics through a conception
of human being as wholly free from external influences, hence able to
determine the principles of action in an entirely rational fashion. He stresses
a similar concept in his famous definition of the Enlightenment as “man’s
emergence from his self-imposed immaturity.”
25 In his writings on history,
Kant emphasizes that human being matures through history in the progressive
internalization of the moral law.
A closely Kantian insistence on human being as rational and free is a main
theme in later German idealism. Although Kant develops a theory of history in
his minor writings, he is never able to integrate it into his view of reason, which
remains resolutely ahistorical.
26 With respect to the critical philosophy, post-
Kantian German idealism differs mainly in an ever increasing awareness of the
historical character of reason. Here Kant’s Copernican turn, invoked for strictly
epistemological reasons in order to account for the possibility of knowledge in
general, is given a historical, even a historicized reading. Fichte’s view of striving
(Streben), Hegel’s idea of freedom as the goal of history, and Marx’s conception
of the emergence of genuine individuality at the beginning of human history
are different versions of the way in which human being expands the range of
human activity in social, cultural, political, and historical surroundings.
After Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Christian Wolff, modern German
philosophy grows increasingly secular, as reflected in the importance of secular
humanism. Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel were all deeply influenced by
Protestantism; there is a strongly religious element in each of their positions,
especially in Fichte’s after the celebrated controversy on atheism
(Atheismusstreit) that cost him his teaching position. Unlike Schelling’s
thought, which cannot be understood from a secular perspective, the views
of Fichte and Hegel can be read in an entirely secular manner.
27 This is further
the case for Marx’s theory where a disinterest in religion—which in Marxism
has often taken the rather different form of a frank attack on religion—is
combined with a secular stress on human action as the mode of human
development through a secular idea of salvation.

64 Philosophy itself can be regarded as broadly humanist in inspiration due
to its claims for intrinsic social relevance. Socrates’ idea that the unexamined
life is not worth living is transformed by Plato into the double claim that only
philosophy yields knowledge and that philosophical knowledge is socially
indispensable. The latter idea has often met with resistance. Aristotle’s view
that philosophy satisfies wonder only, Hegel’s insistence that philosophy
always comes too late, the Marxist contention that philosophy is ideology, or
false consciousness, inadequate to resolve the problems that are solved by
Marxist science, and Wittgenstein’s effort to show that philosophical problems
arise from the misuse of language are only some of the manifestations of a
widespread philosophical uneasiness about this claim. Nonetheless, many
philosophers support the broadly humanist view of the philosophical discipline
as not only useful but essential for the good life initially formulated by Plato.
A broadly Platonic conception of the social utility of philosophy echoes
through the modern philosophical tradition. Kant, the apostle of pure reason,
comprehends philosophy, or reason’s highest form, not only as the condition
of ethics understood as a pure science
28 but as a conception of the world
intrinsically concerned with the ends of human being. Kant’s disarmingly
simple but also simplistic depiction of philosophy as “the science of the
relation of all knowledge to the essential ends of human reason (teleologia
rationis humanae)”
29 and of the philosopher as “the lawgiver of human
reason” 30 is widely followed. Any short list of variations on the Kantian
conviction of the intrinsic social utility of philosophy would include Husserl’s
notion of transcendental phenomenology as the concealed secret of all
modern times
31 as well as Heidegger’s conviction that human being depends
on the problem of being.
With important exceptions, French philosophy is basically humanist. The
most varied aspects of French thought routinely lay claim to the humanist
label. Recent examples include Hyppolite’s study of Hegel’s view of human
32 Mikel Dufrenne’s defense of the concept of human being 33 and Roger
Garaudy’s humanist dialogue with such distinct tendencies as existentialism,
Catholic thought, structuralism, and Marxism.
The emergence of a secular philosophical approach in German philosophy
is often seen as the result of Luther’s influence. 35 In France, where there has
been no Lutheran Reformation, where the natural tie between theology and
philosophy remains strong, the situation regarding humanism is more complex.
In other countries and literatures, the dissociation of the temporal and the
eternal, the rational and the religious, is often incomplete. Perhaps this
separation has never been fully carried out. Philosophy and religion are
strongly interrelated in the positions of later German idealists. In our own

65 time, no one has gone further toward the elaboration of an atheistic philosophy
than Sartre, although even he understands human being through a conception
of an absent God.
In the United States, which broke away from Great Britain in part to
secure religious freedom, reason has never been strongly associated with
religious faith. In France, where the tendency to dissociate reason and faith
has been relatively weak, certainly weaker than in Germany, there is a
permanent tension stretching over centuries between competing secular and
religious conceptions of humanism. This tension can be regarded as an
opposition on many levels between an understanding of the world centered
on a view of human being, and a view of the world and of human being
centered on a religious commitment, hence as a difference between essentially
irreligious, or pagan,
37 and religious, or antipagan conceptions of man. In the
French discussion, the antireligious thrust of secular humanism is often rejected
from the point of view of religious humanism as a negation of human being
and as anti-Christian. In a typical passage, Henri de Lubac writes:

Positivistic humanism, Marxist humanism, Nietzschean humanism:
much more than atheism in the strict sense, the negation of what is at
the base of each of them is an antitheism, and more precisely an anti-
Christianism. As opposed as they are to each other, their implications,
hidden or manifest, are numerous, and although they share a foundation
in their rejection of God, they also have the same consequences, above
all the crushing of the human person.

In French thought, the well known opposition between competing forms of
humanism is sometimes regarded as a struggle pitting the views of the
Encyclopedists, as well as all free thinkers of the rights of man, and the
enthusiasts of universal reason against those of the spiritualists, often of
Christian inspiration.
39 The competition between incompatible humanist
conceptions results in a struggle between secular humanists, who regard
Christianity, particularly the Roman Catholic Church, as a major obstacle to
the new doctrine and as a source of obscurantism,
40 and the Church, which
has always sought to combat secular humanism as representing a fall away
from true Christian doctrine.
It has been claimed that the Enlightenment was only possible because at
the time Christianity was moribund.
41 In reality the situation has always been
more complex, since even those strongly committed to organized religion are
often equally committed to the Enlightenment view of human being. For
instance, Pierre Gassendi, who today is chiefly known as the author of the
fifth set of objections to Descartes’s Meditations, a Catholic priest whose
orthodoxy is not suspect, shared a commitment to humanism, as indicated in
Diderot’s remark: “Never was a philosopher a better humanist, nor humanist
such a good philosopher.”

66 The French humanist tradition follows rather than precedes the Italian
43 The revival of classical letters is emphasized by Rabelais in
1532 in Pantagruel. Gargantua’s famous letter to his son Pantagruel mentions
the restoration of humanistic studies, the importance of learning the ancient
languages, especially Greek, the role of the art of printing, and so on.
44 At
least as much as in Italy, humanism in France was associated with the
philosophy of human being.
Philosophical humanism begins in France as early as Montaigne who, rather
than Descartes, is sometimes regarded as the founder of modern philosophy.
Montaigne is renowned as a sceptic, above all for the ideas expressed in his
famous “Apologie de Raymond Sebonde.” Yet he is centrally concerned with
human being. His work can be read from different perspectives: as a theory
of knowledge, suggested by his concern with scepticism, or as a philosophy
of life.
46 The main theme of his celebrated Essays is himself, a theme that has
evoked widely different attitudes from his readers. 47 He says in the preface:
“Thus, reader, I am myself the content of my book [Ainsi, lecteur, je suis moy
mesme la matière de mon livre]”.
48 The third book of his essays is concerned
with his ego, his thoughts, his moods, and so on. It has been suggested that in
his writings, “humanism” takes on a new meaning concerning what is fully
49 Even his scepticism has been read as leading to the view that truth
must be founded on the subject, on himself. 50
In the same way, Descartes’s theory can also be read from epistemological
or humanistic angles of vision. In the Anglo-Saxon discussion, Descartes is
mainly studied as the prototype of the modern epistemologist, as the founder
of foundationalism,
51 as the discoverer of a method to secure knowledge
against scepticism. Yet the French tradition, while preserving an
epistemological emphasis, links it to a reading of the Cartesian theory as the
basis of modern philosophical humanism, even as anticipating later
52 In France, emphasis is often placed on the link in the Cartesian
theory between science and human being, between knowledge and the human
mastery over the world, on the thinker who substitutes reason for prejudice.
French discussions emphasize a humanist view of Descartes as the thinker
who answered Montaigne’s question of “what can I know? [que sais-je?]” by
demonstrating the limitless possibilities for progress of the human spirit.
53 In
French circles, Descartes is understood less as an epistemologist than as a
humanist whose idea of reason dominates the later Enlightenment debate
culminating in Kant’s critical philosophy and continuing to our own time.
If we acknowledge the humanist aspects of Montaigne’s and Descartes’s
theories, we must also acknowledge the continuity between them. Montaigne’s
scepticism requires a turn to the self in order to found knowledge. His
Pyrrhonian scepticism profoundly influences Descartes’s later effort to
overcome scepticism of all kinds through the cogito. There are echoes of
Montaigne’s thought throughout the Cartesian corpus, especially in the
“Discourse on Method.” His celebrated conception of human being as the

67 spectator of all
54 and his resolve to make himself the subject of study 55 both
continue Montaigne’s similar concerns.
Descartes’s interest in humanism is clear in the title of his first text, “The
Treatise on Man”, which was completed in 1633 and immediately suppressed.
His more famous “Discourse on Method” from 1637 depends on a turn to
the subject that is only reinforced in his refusal of the analogy between human
beings and machines,
56 an analogy later exploited by the philosophical
materialist Julien Offray de La Mettrie. The “Meditations on First Philosophy”
were originally meant to be called “Project of a Universal Science Able to
Bring Our Mind to Its Highest Point of Development [Projet d’une science
universelle qui puisse éléver notre esprit à son plus haut degré de perfection].”
Descartes’s humanist impulse is still present in his last work, the “Passions of
the Soul [Les passions de l’âme]” written in 1645–1646, where he stresses
that, with respect to the free will, a person is similar to God.
Descartes’s influence was immediate and profound on both the secular
and the religious strands of French humanism. The secular strand of French
humanism is already present in the Cartesian emphasis on the idea of progress
that follows his stress on the supremacy of reason and the invariability of the
laws of nature.
58 His emphasis on reason as distinguished from faith set the
tone for the later discussion. The Enlightenment grouped together such widely
disparate thinkers as the mechanist Bernard Fontenelle, the theist Voltaire,
the materialist Claude Adrien Helvétius, and others, all thinkers who, within
the climate of Cartesian reason, shared the Cartesian commitment to reason,
to the scientific method, and to evidence.
59 It was further developed in the
Encyclopedia, whose tone was set by Diderot’s statement in the article
“Encyclopedia” that everything begins and ends with man. Confident of reason
as the only guide, Diderot writes:

For this reason we have decided to seek in man’s principal faculties the
main divisions within which our work will fall. Another method might
be equally satisfactory, provided it did not put a cold, insensitive, silent
being in the place of man. For man is the unique starting point, and the
end to which everything must finally be related if one wishes to please,
to instruct, to move to sympathy, even in the most arid matters and in
the driest details. Take away my own existence and that of my fellow
men and what does the rest of nature signify.

The idea of limitless human progress, of the perfectability of human being
initially mentioned by Rousseau,
61 inspired Kant. It was given a gigantic
helping hand in the practical sphere by the French Revolution which sought
to realize the famous ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity, as well as
democracy and progress. It was worked out in much greater detail in
Condorcet’s writings, in his related ideas of human being as indefinitely
perfectible and of human perfection as basically limitless. Taking a stance

68 against Rousseau, in his famous study of human progress Condorcet
emphasizes “destruction of the inequality between nations, the progress
towards equality in a single people, finally the real perfection of man.”
The secular humanism represented by Condorcet and others is in permanent
tension with religious humanism. This tension is certainly not confined to the
French context. It can be illustrated by two philosophers writing in reaction
to Hegel: Ludwig Feuerbach and Kierkegaard. Feuerbach, a leftwing Hegelian,
privileges the anthropological over the religious aspect in Hegel’s thought.
Kierkegaard, who insists on existence against Hegelian idealism, can be
located, through his insistence on the religious dimension, within rightwing
Hegelianism. Secular humanism tends to deny God in order to make room
for human being, for instance in Feuerbach’s inversion of the usual conception
of the dependence of human being on God in favor of a dependence of God
on human being.
63 Human being seeks its salvation through its own works.
Religious humanism takes the contrary view, expressed by Kierkegaard, that
human salvation must be sought in the return to God.
The tension between starkly opposed, mutually exclusive forms of
humanism runs through French thought and society on many different levels.
It is present, for instance, in the struggle between innovation and tradition,
between those who favor the maintenance of a strong centralized state closely
tied to the Roman Catholic Church and those who oppose it. The same
French Revolution that attempted to realize the social contract theory by
proclaiming the rights of man before violating them in the terror that
followed, abolished the privileges of the nobility and restricted the Church.
The effort to found government on the will of the governed aimed at equality
before the law against hierarchy and liberty against the traditionally divine
right of kings. The predictable result was a tension that has lasted over
more than two hundred years. It features irreconcilable views, opposing
those who regard the French Revolution as a permanent contribution to
the development of human freedom, bought at the price of loosening the
ties between Church and state; and those who regard it as a betrayal of the
human rights it invoked,
65 a view represented ouside the French discussion
by Edmund Burke. 66
The desire for autonomy that fueled the French Revolution was only
partially realized in an event that eventually substituted one form of
autocratic centralism for another through Napoleon’s rise to power. Since
that time, the problem has remained unresolved as France has continued to
maintain a strong central state with centralized institutions. In practice,
French political centralization has given rise to a resistance to central
direction that occasionally verges on anarchism. Not surprisingly, anarchism
is a political doctrine that has long been popular in France.
67 Like so many
other institutions, French education is highly centralized, rigid, and
autocratic. It is, then, not surprising that the 1968 French student revolution
has been regarded as merely a further attempt to gain autonomy, as

69 symbolized by a systematic questioning of traditional educational methods,
of the relations between students and teachers, and so on.
Both sides in the tense struggle between proponents of secular and religious
humanism rely on the same Cartesian theory that can be read either as supporting
or as challenging the link between religion and philosophy.
69 It is not by chance
that Descartes’s writings were quickly placed on the Index. For as he was aware,
notwithstanding his efforts to disarm possible religious opposition, the very
attempt “to build anew from the foundation”
70 in order to secure scientific
knowledge presupposes a radical break with authority and tradition in the
name of self-subsistent reason. Despite his explicit disclaimer, his very concern
to study questions about God and the Soul—as he puts it in an inopportune
statement from the dedication preceding the Meditations intended to still possible
disquiet—“by philosophical rather than theological argument”
71 does not
comfort, but rather threatens revealed theology.
The dispute between secular and religious humanists frequently concerns
the proper attitude toward tradition. Traditionalists like Heidegger or,
following him, Gadamer frequently resist the effort to separate tradition from
reason, bending their efforts to preserve tradition. On the contrary, Descartes
and others like him regard the break with tradition as a necessary condition
for the beginning of science, as a necessary prerequisite to the liberation of
human being through reason and the domination of nature.
The tension between the modern commitment to reason that mandates a
break with tradition and the traditional commitment to authority, often to
religious authority, separates thinkers into different, incompatible camps. This
complex tension is present on occasion in the thought of an individual writer,
such as Pascal,
73 a writer who, in that respect, is divided against himself.
Pons has perceptively noted an unresolved conflict between Pascal the man
of science and Pascal the believer. This is a tension between Pascal who accepts
the Enlightenment idea of infinite progress, including the Baconian idea of
the perfection of human being over time, and the same Pascal who deplores
the illusion of human progress since, despite the apparent changes, human
being remains inalterably the same.
74 This is the Pascal whose commitment
to reason leads to his acceptance of Pyrrhonian scepticism that in turn leads
him back to his religious faith.
75 And this is the same Pascal, who, despite his
important contributions to mathematics, insists, following Augustine and
Aquinas, on the separation between the objects of sense, or reason, and of
faith, the three principles of our knowledge.
If Heidegger is a humanist at all, he is not a humanist in any ordinary sense of
the term. For he rejects many usual humanist ideas, such as the ideas of progress

70 and human perfectibility as well as the so-called metaphysical conception of
humanism. Yet Heidegger does not break, but rather reforges, the philosophical
link to humanism from the perspective of his concern with being.
Both the initial interest in Heidegger’s position at the beginning of the
1930s and the broad turn to his theory immediately after the war were fueled
by its perceived relevance to humanist themes. Beyond the traditional French
interest in humanism, broadly conceived, at least five further factors called
attention to Heidegger’s thought from a humanist perspective at this time.
First, there was the worldwide economic collapse that affected the social and
political structure throughout Europe, including France. This difficult
economic situation drew attention to existential factors of all kinds in a way
that some saw as corresponding to Heidegger’s “existentialism.”
Second, there was traditional French Roman Catholicism, including
philosophical interests in Thomism and spiritualism of various kinds, as well
as an incipient personalism associated with Emmanuel Mounier. Heidegger’s
political conservatism attracted support to his position by those concerned
to refute other, more liberal views of a philosophical or political nature.
Third, there was a lengthy French socialist tradition. Thinkers in this
tradition have long been interested in the full development of the human
individual. French socialism has long taken a variety of forms, including,
after the Russian Revolution, the emergence of a powerful French Communist
Party. In France as in Germany and elsewhere, the concern to resist Bolshevism
was a strong motivating factor in the turn toward rightwing theories, including
conservative philosophical views.
Fourth, there was the renewed attention to Hegel, including the emergence
of a leftwing form of Hegelianism.
78 Although all these factors played a role
in the French appropriation of Heidegger’s thought under the sign of
humanism, the precipitating factor was undoubtedly the leftwing form of
Hegelian interpretation elaborated by Kojève.
Fifth, there was the ambiguity in Heidegger’s own texts that permitted, in
fact even suggested, an anthropological misreading of his theory. In §10 of
Being and Time, he explicitly distinguishes his analysis of Dasein from any
form of human science. Yet as will emerge in the discussion below, this same
paragraph inconsistently leaves open the possibility of an anthropological
misreading of his thought.
Being and Time, Heidegger’s first major publication brought him to the
attention of German philosophers in 1927. Until around 1930, Heidegger’s
theory was known at most to only a few French scholars. It started to become
better known in France in the early 1930s in various ways, directly through
articles on Heidegger’s thought and through translation of some of his writings,
indirectly through the influence of his theory on the renewed French interest
in Hegel’s thought.
Translations have always been particularly important for French
philosophers. Unlike Germans, who are often fluent in English, although less

71 often in French, French philosophers share the Anglo-Saxon lack of language
background. Except for the views of Wittgenstein and Frege, Anglo-American
analytic thinkers are by and large uninterested in other cultures and tradition.
French philosophy, as already noted, developed a deep interest in German
thought early in the nineteenth century. At the present time, the French
discussion of German thought has a strongly philological perspective. Yet
until relatively recently, since the French philosophical command of German
tended to lag well behind the interest in German philosophy, French
philosophers were highly dependent on translations into French.
Heidegger’s thought first appeared in French translation in a rendering of
his celebrated lecture, “What Is Metaphysics?,” delivered on assuming
Husserl’s chair in Freiburg in 1929. As early as the same year, Henry Corbin,
who later attended Kojève’s famous Hegel seminar and made a name for
himself as a leading French Islamist, offered a translation to the NRF.
Corbin’s translation, which was initially rejected, finally appeared in the
journal Bifur with a short preface by Alexandre Koyré. This was quickly
followed by a rendering of “Vom Wesen des Grundes” under the title “De la
nature de la cause” in April 1931 in the first issue of a new journal, cofounded
by Alexandre Koyré, Recherches philosophiques.
Koyré’s preface set the tone for the initial Heidegger reception in France.
Koyré begins by describing Heidegger as “one of the great metaphysical geniuses
whose thought determines that of an entire period.”
81 For Koyré “the philosophy
of existence” will not only determine a new philosophical stage but constitute
the beginning of an entirely new part of the discussion.
82 Heidegger’s theory,
which is important as the first one after the war to have spoken to us of ourselves,
is concerned with a double theme: consciousness of oneself, and the revelation
of one’s own being to oneself.
83 Heidegger’s most important contribution is to
insist, against those who are religiously or mystically inclined, that nothing
comes from nothing. In this way, he acknowledges “the solitary grandeur of
human finitude thrown and plunged into nothingness.”
Although Heidegger consistently maintains that his thought is solely
concerned with the problem of being, Koyré neglects this problem in order to
concentrate on Heidegger’s conception of human being understood solely
through itself. Koyré thus anticipates the view of Heidegger’s theory as
philosophical anthropology that dominates the early French Heidegger
reception. Koyré’s identification of Heidegger’s thought as a philosophy of
existence further anticipates Sartre’s effort immediately after the war to
identify his own brand of existentialism and Heidegger’s fundamental ontology
as both humanist.
Koyré only returned to Heidegger in an article that appeared some fifteen
years later.
85 Yet his brief introduction to Corbin’s translation was immediately
influential. Jean Wahl followed Koyré’s claim for the importance of
Heidegger’s thought in Vers le concret (1932) that provided a detailed
discussion of Heidegger’s relation to Kierkegaard’s position.
86 Meanwhile, in

72 1938 Corbin offered a volume of Heidegger translations, including a preface
by Heidegger.
87 Hence, as early as the late 1930s, there was a growing literature
on Heidegger in French and his thought was beginning to be made available
to the French public.
Many of the earliest publications in French concerning Heidegger were
due to émigrés to France with access to the German texts. Koyré, a Russian
emigrant, studied in Germany before emigrating to France. Other publications
on Heidegger by foreign-born scholars include a book by Georges Gurvitch
who also spent time in Germany before emigrating to France;
88 a detailed
article by Emmanuel Lévinas 89 who, after his emigration to France, studied
with both Husserl and Heidegger in 1928–1929, and finished his dissertation
on Husserl’s thought;
90 and a number of reviews by Kojève of books directly
or indirectly about Heidegger. 91
Kojève’s often caustic reviews invariably give the impression that he knows
the material better than the author. An example is his remark that Alois
Fischer’s study of Heidegger’s conception of being neglects the concept of
time, basic for fundamental ontology, resulting in a critique of a position that
has no common link with Heidegger’s.
To rely on the publication of translations of Heidegger’s texts and
articles on his thought would produce an inaccurate reading of Heidegger’s
initial French reception; for it would fail to reveal the widespread tendency
to approach Heidegger’s thought as a form of anthropological humanism.
For instance, in a survey of recent German philosophy, Georges Gurvitch
typifies the emerging anthropological reading of fundamental ontology,
as well as later tendencies to seek an ethics in this view or to conflate it
with existentialism: “Heidegger’s moralism offers itself in precisely this
manner, leading to a cult of humanity as the basis of the being of
This anthropological approach is already present in Lévinas’s study of
Heidegger’s ontology, one of the first to appear in French. 94 Lévinas provides
an excellent discussion of Heidegger’s ontology keyed to his conception of
human being as Dasein. He maintains that the modern analysis of the subject-
object relation resulting in the idealist destruction of time for a subject is not
surpassed in Heidegger’s posing of the question of being in relation to time.
Heidegger inverts the familiar starting point in consciousness since human
being is essentially its existence; and for Dasein to be is to understand being.
Instead of the usual intellectual effort to achieve the unity of the subject,
Heidegger describes the unity of human being within existence.
In a later article on Heidegger’s temporal ontology, Lévinas correctly notes
that Heidegger’s understanding of human being through being yields a tragic
vision of finite human being devoid of support in the eternal.
95 His focus on the
Heideggerian conception of human being is typical in the early French debate,
unusual only in the depth and precision of his discussion. Although Lévinas
avoids a conflation between Heidegger’s conception of Dasein as existence

73 and an anthropological form of philosophy, he focuses attention on the
conception of human being following from Heidegger’s concern with being.
The anthropological reading of Heidegger is further underscored in the
French revival of Hegel studies. Now this is clearly ironic since, despite
repeated efforts, Heidegger never comes to grips with Hegel’s dialectical
position, basically different from his own nondialectical theory.
96 In § 82, the
penultimate section of Being and Time, Heidegger compares Hegel’s
supposedly radical version of the ordinary conception of time with his own
97 Heidegger’s discussion of the Hegelian concept of time reads like an
invitation to dialogue between two major thinkers that never took place, in
fact could not occur since Heidegger was neither well versed in nor sympathetic
to Hegel’s position.
98 Although never uninteresting, Heidegger’s later texts
on Hegel’s thought reflect an embarrassing inability to comment on more
than isolated aspects of the Hegelian system.
In the French context, the anthropological approach to Heidegger was
greatly reinforced through Kojève’s famous lectures on Hegel’s
Phenomenology of Spirit. Except for the reference to Hegel, Kojève agrees
with Lévinas in understanding Heideggerian Dasein as a conception of man
without God, finally as an atheistic conception of human being. Like other
leftwing interpreters of Hegel’s theory, Kojève emphasizes human being at
the expense of the Absolute. We have already noted Kojève’s claim that
Heidegger’s “remarkable authentically philosophical” philosophical
anthropology “finally adds nothing new to the anthropology of the
Phenomenology of Spirit.”
99 Through Kojève’s influential Hegel seminar, his
anthropological reading of Heidegger’s thought was indirectly transmitted
to numerous students who later figured prominently in French culture.
Kojève’s anthropological reading further directly affected the translation
of Heidegger’s thought. Heidegger contends that through translation, through
the transposition of thought from one language to another, it is inevitably
100 This view can be illustrated by the French translation of the
term “Dasein,” a key concept in Heidegger’s early thought. The word
“Dasein,” based on the adverb “da”, meaning “there,” and the verb “Sein”,
meaning “to be,” occurs often in German philosophy, for instance in Kant’s
discussion of God’s existence (Dasein Gottes), where it means “existence.”
But this word is difficult to translate into other languages, including French. 102
In his initial Heidegger translation, Corbin, following precedent, translates
“Dasein” as “existence.” In his volume of Heidegger translations that appeared
in 1938 and that served as the fundamental source of Heidegger’s writings in
French translation for the first phase of the French Heidegger discussion,
he replaces the earlier rendering of “Dasein” as “existence” by the neologism
“réalité—humaine.” The result was to deepen the typically French,
anthropological misreading of Heidegger’s thought.
Corbin was a student in Kojève’s seminar. His revised translation of
“Dasein” as “réalité-humaine” can be traced to the influence of Kojève’s

74 view of Heidegger. On the first page and thereafter throughout his book,
Kojève writes of “human reality”, for instance in the second paragraph when
he remarks, in support of Hegel and in criticism of alternative theories, that
an analysis of thought, of reason, and so on, “never discovers the why or the
how of the origin of the word “me” and, following it, self-consciousness,
that is to say human reality [la réalité humaine].”
Corbin, who added a hyphen but otherwise followed Kojève on this point,
justifies this particular rendering in some detail in the preface to his volume
of translations. In Being and Time, Heidegger distinguishes between the
fundamental, or existential, structures of human existence that concern its
existentiality, and the particular, or existentiell, ways in which human being
105 In a remark presumably directed against his own earlier translation
practice, Corbin contends that the result of translating “Dasein” as
“existence” is to conflate Heidegger’s distinction between the existential
and the existentiell although Heidegger’s Existenzphilosophie (philosophy
of existence) does not intend to return to the old debate between essence
and existence. In substituting “réalité-humaine” for “existence” as the proper
translation of “Dasein,” Corbin intends to provide the basic technical
vocabulary needed to translate Heidegger’s texts into French.
106 He further
reinforces the anthropological reading of Heidegger’s theory when, at the
close of his preface, he speaks of the “hommage” to an author arising from
a genuine “understanding that grounds human reality, which makes human
coexistence possible.”
Corbin’s influential translation of this key Heideggerian term and his
classification of Heidegger’s thought were singularly important in the context
of a French discussion largely dependent on translations for access to
Heidegger’s thought. His classification of Heidegger’s view as a philosophy
of existence was later influential in French existentialism. It pointed toward
the conflation between the views of Heidegger and Sartre that the latter
exploited immediately after the Second World War in his depiction of
existentialism, in response to his critics, as a humanism.
Sartre’s reading of Heidegger was always overly generous. He consistently
attributes to Heidegger’s theory doctrines that were his own, on occasion
doctrines even incompatible with Heidegger’s. An example among many is
his classification of Heidegger’s position as existentialist, a description which
Heidegger later pointedly rejected in his “Letter on Humanism” in a
determined effort to distance himself from Sartre’s thought.
The tendency to classify Heidegger as an existentialist affected other, more
critical writers, including Jean Beaufret, who was to become Heidegger’s
main spokesman in the second phase of the French Heidegger debate.
Following Heidegger’s lead, Beaufret later rejected any perception of a positive
link between Heidegger’s philosophical thought and a modern philosophical
theory. Yet in an early article he had no hesitation in analyzing Heidegger’s
theory as one of the forms of existentialism.

75 Corbin’s rendering of “Dasein” as “human reality,” his claim that “the
being of man” is precisely “the human reality in man,”
110 reinforced the
emerging anthropological reading of Heidegger’s thought that dominates the
first phase of the French Heidegger discussion. This led to the evident
conflation that Heidegger had been at pains to anticipate in Being and Time
between the subject of phenomenological ontology and the very different
subject of the human sciences.
In principle, Heidegger’s insistence on a radical distinction between
phenomenological ontology and the sciences of human being—be they
anthropology, psychology, or biology—excluded this identification. Yet the
introduction of the French term “réalité-humaine” for “Dasein” was regarded
as authorizing an anthropological conception of subjectivity within philosophy
and science. In his Esquisse d’une théorie des émotions (1939), Sartre follows
Corbin’s suggestion when he writes:

Now man is a being of the same type as the world. It is even possible
that, as Heidegger, thinks, the concepts of world and of “human-reality”
[“réalité-humaine”] (Dasein) are inseparable. Precisely for this reason
psychology must resign itself to missing human-reality, if at least this
human-reality exists.

This same tendency also infected French sociology. In his summary of a paper
by Michel Leiris, Jean Wahl evokes the future constitution of “a science of
human realities”.
112 The use of the term was still current as late as 1960,
when Beauvoir employed it. 113
In the French humanist misreading of Heidegger, Jean Wahl played an
important role. An early, enthusiastic, but critical student of Heidegger’s
thought, Wahl taught and wrote on Heidegger over many years. In a paper
delivered in 1937 before the French Philosophical Society, he suggested that
the relation of Heidegger’s and Jaspers’s views to Kierkegaard’s is similar.
At the time, he saw important parallels between the views of Heidegger and
Jaspers. 115 Later he became more critical of Heidegger’s thought. In a book
from the early 1950s, he suggested that it is incorrect to regard Heidegger as
a philosopher of existence.
116 Still later, he came to the conclusion that
Heidegger’s meditation on being is fundamentally sterile. 117
Wahl’s role as one of the best French Heidegger scholars is recognized,
for instance, by Pöggeler, one of the best German Heidegger specialists.
According to Pöggeler, although Wahl makes a real effort to understand
Heidegger, he finally fails to grasp how Heidegger interprets the problem

76 of being.
118 This view was further shared by Heidegger himself. In a letter
to the French Philosophical Society (Société française de philosophie) in
1937, following Wahl’s paper, Heidegger protests against the existentialist
reading of his thought.
Sartre did not invent the familiar existentialist misreading of Heidegger’s
thought. Yet he played a decisive role in helping to propagate it. Sartre, who
followed Kant in stressing absolute freedom as absolute responsibility, acquired
great intellectual fame, exceedingly rare for a philosopher, after the publication
of Being and Nothingness in 1943, in then occupied France, through his
insistence that we are always utterly and irrevocably free to choose. He
maintains this view not only on the theoretical but also on the practical level.
In a typical passage about the lot of the French during the German occupation,
Sartre writes:

Never have we been as free as during the German occupation. We had
lost all our rights, beginning with the one of speaking; we were insulted
everyday and we had to shut up; we were deported en masse, as workers,
Jews, political prisoners; everywhere on walls, in newspapers, on the
screen we found that bland and repulsive face which our oppressors
wanted us to have of ourselves: because of all that we were free. Since
the Nazi venom snuck even into our thoughts, every correct thought
was a conquest; since an all-powerful police tried to keep us silent,
every word become precious like the weight of commitment…. The
choice that each one of us made was authentic since it was made in the
presence of death, since it could always be expressed in the form of
‘Rather death than….

Had Sartre been unknown, had he remained simply an obscure writer
fascinated with words, someone whose verbal virtuosity was equally manifest
in his philosophical fiction and his philosophy, his influence would have been
minimal. In virtue of his enormous prestige, the captivating effect his writings
had on so many readers, his dependence on Heidegger’s theory, and his
misreading of it, Sartre played a decisive role in the initial phase of the French
Heidegger reception. This connection was only magnified in Sartre’s famous
lecture, Existentialism is a Humanism when, immediately after the War, he
again drew attention to Heidegger’s conception of human reality in a
discussion of atheistic existentialism, freedom, commitment, and responsibility.
Sartre’s influence, his status as a master thinker, even as a kind of intellectual
guru, weighs heavily in the French interest in three major philosophers that
continues to this day: Husserl, Heidegger, and Hegel. In the French context, it
is fair to say that Sartre reinforced the rising interest in Hegel, that he provided
an important impetus to the concern with Husserl,
121 and that—in virtue of the
overwhelming importance of Heidegger’s theory for Being and Nothingness—
he offered an even more influential, basically incorrect reading of Heidegger.

77 From this angle of vision, Sartre’s influence in French philosophy has proved
surprisingly durable. French philosophy has long since turned away from
Sartre’s thought. With the exception of Merleau-Ponty, who was extremely
critical of his existentialist colleague, Sartre has no major follower in later
French philosophy. But French philosophy has yet to escape from Sartre’s
influence in its continued fascination with the “three Hs” that remain
dominant, above all as concerns Heidegger.
Although an original thinker, often unjustly demeaned in the swing away
from his thought beginning with the rise of French structuralism, Sartre was
also heavily dependent on others. His early position is heavily indebted to the
views of Husserl, Heidegger and Hegel, and his later thought is equally
beholden to the theories of Marx and Marxism. After the appearance of
Being and Nothingness, his first major work, Sartre’s prestige was a factor in
calling attention to Husserl, Hegel, and above all Heidegger as thinkers in
the background of his position. Beaufret, the French Heideggerian most
responsible for the shape of the second phase of the French Heidegger
discussion, is typical of many others in having initially been drawn to
Heidegger through Sartre: “[F]or a long period I thought of Heidegger only
as the background of what seemed to me to be of major importance: Sartre.
And when I made the trip to Freiburg, I was still motivated by my curiosity
about what could have made Being and Nothingness possible.”
Sartre’s intellectual dependence on prior thinkers is paradoxical since he
rarely read anyone else with care, rarely studied the texts, preferring either to
assimilate ideas that were in the air or through haphazard readings. Even if
we acknowledge that Sartre is an original thinker without scholarly
pretentions, we must concede that his careless use of others’ ideas inevitably
results in distortion, even radical distortion. His relation to Hegel’s thought
is a case in point.
124 For Juliette Simont, Sartre had not read Hegel when he
wrote Being and Nothingness, although he later studied the Phenomenology
of Spirit with care.
125 Christopher Fry, who has provided a detailed
examination of Sartre’s relation to Hegel, contends that the former never
read the latter in a more than desultory manner. He says that Sartre’s view is
an “alchemical caput mortuum” of Hegel’s and that there is no name for
Sartre’s use of Hegel.
Sartre devoted considerable study to the works of Husserl and Heidegger.
Yet he persistently misunderstood Heidegger’s thought, or rather always
grasped it through the lens of his own preoccupations. Heidegger stresses the
links between his position and the pre-Socratics, whereas Heidegger scholars
point to the influences deriving from his reading of texts by Aristotle, the
neo-Kantians, and so on. Sartre viewed things rather differently. According
to Beauvoir, he drew a connection between Heidegger and the French author
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
Like French philosophy since Descartes, Sartre’s thought is dominated by
the problem of humanism. His main concern from beginning to end, including

78 both his earlier existentialism and his later Marxist period, is the concept of
the human subject, including human freedom. His early study of the Husserlian
idea of the subject in the Transcendence of the Ego, his analysis of the For-
itself (Pour-soi) in Being and Nothingness, his offer of the existential concept
of human being to prevent the collapse of Marxism in Search for a Method,
the popularized version of his view he presented in Existentialism is a
Humanism, his study of human praxis in the Critique of Dialectical Reason,
and his enormous study of Flaubert in The Family Idiot are all aspects of
Sartre’s continuing interest in human being as his central philosophical theme.
Sartre was not only interested in human being; he further desired to ground
his philosophical theory in philosophical anthropology. An indication among
many of Sartre’s concern to base his philosophy on a conception of human being
is provided by a passage from his Marxist period. In a discussion of the Marxist
concept of praxis, after a remark on Heidegger, he states that “any philosophy
that subordinates the human to the other than human, be it an idealist
existentialism or Marxist, is based on and leads to the hatred of human being.”
Sartre’s position, certainly in its earlier existentialist period, presupposes a
fundamental conflation, even an amalgamation, between two philosophers
of freedom at the antipodes of the intellectual universe: Descartes and
Heidegger. We can illustrate this point through the ruminations of Sartre, the
intellectual soldier in search of himself. While others were engaged in fighting
a war to the death with fascism, he was busy keeping a diary,
129 writing
plays, and preparing his philosophical magnum opus. Raising the problem of
humanism in November 1939, Sartre rejects the idea of human being as a
species as no more than an abasement of human nature. Since Heidegger’s
position offers a unitary conception of the subject that is not essentialist, it
can be said to surpass the Cartesian theory to reach a common goal. In a
passage that refers backward to his realist criticism of Husserl’s transcendental
ego and forward to his own conception of human being as free, Sartre writes:

Nothing shows better the urgency of an effort like Heidegger’s and its
political importance: determine human nature as a synthetic structure, as
a totality devoid of essence. Certainly, it was urgent at the time of Descartes
to define spirit through methods inherent to spirit itself. In that way it
was isolated. And all the later efforts to constitute the whole man by
adding something to spirit were destined to fail because they were only
additions. Heidegger’s method and those [of the thinkers] that can come
after him are at the bottom the same as Descartes’: study human nature
with the methods inherent to human nature itself; know that human
nature is already defined by the way in which it questions itself.

Sartre consistently sought to comprehend human being through the theme of
freedom that Kant regarded as the indemonstrable presupposition of
131 Sartre’s famous account of freedom in Being and Nothingness,

79 the longest single section in the book, develops a view of human consciousness
as independent of its surroundings,
132 and of human being as possessing a
freedom that forces the individual to choose. 133 According to Sartre, one can
only be wholly determined or wholly free, and human being is wholly free. 134
As in his account of human being, so in his view of human freedom Sartre
brings together Descartes and the anti-Cartesian Heidegger. In a letter to
Simone de Beauvoir, written during his captivity, he typically writes that he
has “read Heidegger and never felt so free.”
Sartre’s feeling of freedom derived from Heidegger had little to do with
Heidegger’s own view. For Heidegger, freedom is essentially a conservative
notion whose authentic expression requires the repetition of the past in the
future in order to conserve rather than to depart from tradition.
136 Here and
later, Sartre regards freedom, not from a traditional angle of vision, but rather
as the entirely unencumbered choice of oneself and others. For Sartre, freedom
entails a responsibility to choose and authentic choice accepts this
The idea that one can assume responsibility for oneself and everyone has
always attracted two groups of equally unrealistic supporters: young people
who are not yet enmeshed in such social relationships as commitments to spouses
and children, and philosophers who typically consider philosophical thought
as wholly independent. Arthur Danto, who in this regard is typical, was
sufficiently charmed by Sartre’s idea to suggest that Sartre led an exemplary
life and perhaps achieved authenticity.
137 Although Sartre later modified his
understanding of freedom to take account of circumstances, 138 he regarded his
view of total human freedom as the recuperation of Descartes’s view and as
the essential basis of humanism. In an important essay on “Cartesian Freedom”
he writes: “Two centuries of crisis will be necessary—spiritual crises, scientific
crises—for human being to recuperate the creative freedom that Descartes gave
to God and to suspect this truth, the essential basis of humanism, human being
and being whose appearance causes a world to exist.”
Important theories can never be reduced to those of their predecessors. Since
Sartre is an important thinker, it is a mistake to overestimate the dependence
of his own theory on Heidegger’s. Early on, Sartre was aware of and annoyed
by this dependence.
140 Yet Sartre’s position cannot simply be understood as a
variant of Heidegger’s, or indeed of any other predecessor’s, but needs to
stand on its own. Yet the perception of that dependence popularized a
misapprehension of Heidegger’s thought dominant in the first phase of the
French Heidegger reception.
Even in France, the wider public does not read philosophy, certainly not
such technical philosophical treatises as Being and Nothingness. Sartre had

80 an enormous capacity to attract attention to his writings and, through them,
to himself. The link between Heidegger’s and Sartre’s thought present in that
work was considerably strengthened in the latter’s famous public lecture,
Existentialism is a Humanism, where he publicly enlisted Heidegger in the
cause of his own existentialism, now characterized as humanism.
Although Sartre follows the early Heidegger in his focus on human being,
they comprehend it in basically different ways. Heidegger focuses on human
being in terms of the problem of being that was never a Sartrian concern.
Heidegger’s interest in being is certainly one of the reasons behind his turn to
Nazism, for instance, in the “Rectorial address” where he straightforwardly
insists on the need to found National Socialism in fundamental ontology, not
only for its own sake, but ultimately for the sake of being.
142 He understands
responsibility in the first instance as leading to an authentic repetition of the
past and then as the realization of the German people as the heirs to authentic
metaphysics in order to know being. On the contrary, Sartre insists on political
commitment conjoined to the choice, not only of oneself, but, distantly
following Kant, of all human beings, for each of us is responsible for the
whole world, so to speak. Heidegger is an anti-Cartesian whose rejection of
Cartesianism deepens in his later thought, above all in his effort to decenter
the subject. Sartre begins as and finally remains a Cartesian
143 whose effort
to understand human being in situation, even in his Marxist phase, never
abandons its Cartesian roots.
There is, then, a deep and finally unbridgeable chasm between Heidegger’s
and Sartre’s conceptions of human being. Unquestionably Sartre’s thought
was influenced by Heidegger’s, and for a time Sartre seems genuinely to have
thought that Heidegger had anticipated some aspects of his own humanism.
Yet if Heidegger is a humanist, his humanism is very different from Sartre’s.
And although Sartre discerned a close relation between his conception of the
human individual and Heidegger’s, he in fact offers a different, or at least
basically revised notion of subjectivity.



French philosophy since the sixteenth century has been concerned with
humanism understood as a philosophy of human being in a broad sense.
The preceding chapter showed that and how the initial phase of the
French Heidegger reception stressed an interpretation of Heidegger as a
humanist thinker.
Heidegger’s thought is not humanism in any obvious, ordinary sense,
although he suggests—and his suggestion is widely followed—that his theory
is a new form of humanism. The term “humanism” (Humanismus) does
not occur in Being and Time. From Heidegger’s angle of vision, the French
humanist reading of his thought relies on an uncritical assumption of the
traditional understanding of humanism.
This assumption, suggested by Kojève, reaches a peak in Sartre’s
enthusiastic, erroneous, but highly influential conflation between his own
existentialism and Heidegger’s thought.
1 Kojève was never popular with more
than a small intellectual circle, but Sartre was popular with the general public.
His enthusiastic embrace of Heidegger’s thought on the basis of his own
humanism helped to popularize Heidegger’s theory through a false
interpretation that quickly spread throughout the French discussion. Yet
around the same time that Sartre’s humanist misreading of Heidegger emerged
into public view in Sartre’s public lecture, a reaction against any
anthropological reading of Heidegger’s theory was also beginning to emerge.
The first and second phases of the French reading of Heidegger’s theory
agree in their insistence on its basic humanism. The difference between
them does not concern the approach to Heidegger’s theory as humanism
that remains constant throughout the French reading of Heidegger’s theory
but rather the association of humanism with philosophical anthropology.
In general terms, the first reading ignores the transcendental side of
Heideggerian phenomenology in favor of philosophical anthropology in
the interpretations of Kojève, Wahl, Sartre, and others. On the contrary,
the second reading, intended as a revision, or course correction, restores its
transcendental side at the price of a calculated retreat from philosophical
anthropology while still maintaining the view of Heidegger’s theory as

82 humanism, albeit in a novel sense. This chapter will study the second phase
of the French Heidegger reception as a reaction against the initial humanist
reading of Heidegger’s thought.
For more than fifteen years dating from the appearance of Being and
Nothingness until the emergence of structuralism, Sartre increasingly
dominated French philosophy and the intellectual context in general.
Dominant thinkers attract detractors, those who rebel against their thought,
and Sartre attracted more than his share. During his life, Sartre’s person
attracted not only attention but strong emotions.
According to John Gerassi, a recent biographer, who devotes a whole
chapter to the topic, no one was more hated than Sartre.
3 Those who
hated Sartre ranged from those who denounced him, say, for collaboration
with the enemy (André Malraux) or being a foreign agent (François
Mauriac), to Pope Pius XII who placed Sartre’s writings on the Index in
1948, extending even to two abortive efforts to assassinate him in 1962.
Others, aware of Sartre’s repeated pleas for intellectual engagement, 5 were
annoyed by his decision to continue to publish in occupied France,6 or
believed that his celebrated commitment was mainly a commitment to
In this respect, Foucault’s reaction is instructive. Foucault, who was earlier
a member of the French Communist Party, later turned against communism
and Marxism as Sartre moved in that direction, eventually writing his Critique
of Dialectical Reason. Foucault spoke for others when in an interview he
satirized Sartre as a man whose thought belonged to an earlier period: “The
Critique of Dialectical Reason is the magnificent and pathetic effort of a man
of the nineteenth century to think the twentieth century. In this sense, Sartre
is the last Hegelian and, I would even say, the last Marxist.”
Yet Sartre’s thought was highly influential. If the two main movements
of French postwar thought are existentialism and structuralism, then it is a
measure of the importance of the man and his continued influence on French
philosophy that French existentialism is largely identified with his theory
and that French structuralism can be understood as a concerted effort to
throw off its shackles.
9 The desire to break free of Sartre’s claustrophobic
influence as a monstre sacré was a strong motivating factor in French
intellectual life immediately after the war. For the young Foucault, Sartre’s
journal, Les Temps Modernes, represented a form of intellectual terrorism.
According to Didier Eribon, the end of Sartre’s intellectual hegemony on
French intellectual life was only signaled by Lévi-Strauss’s direct attack on
his thought in La Pensée sauvage.
11 Significantly, Pierre Bourdieau
understood this work as indicating a new, different route to follow. 12

83 Humanism was not originally a central theme in Sartre’s philosophical
thought. In his first novel, Nausea, where he emphasizes the absurdity of
life, he satirizes the humanist as the gay narrator who blindly loves man
but hates individuals.
13 In Being and Nothingness, where he stresses personal
commitment, humanism is still not an explicit theme. He only turned
explicitly to humanism in the aftermath of the war when a similar concern
swept through France.
Although different observers understood this word in different senses,
humanism became a central theme at this point in time virtually throughout
French life: in Sartre’s existentialism, in Marxism as well as in religion. 15 In
politics, this theme figures in the exchange in 1945 between French socialist
leaders. Léon Blum appealed to the transformation of the human condition
through a humane socialism, and Guy Mollet objected to an erroneous
16 It is exemplified in literature in André Malraux’s famous novel
about La Condition humaine.
From the humanist perspective, Sartre’s growing inclination to Marxism
at the end of the war was problematic. Marxism, especially as linked to the
French Communist Party, was dominant in France over about a dozen
years from 1944 until the the short-lived Hungarian Revolution and
subsequent Soviet invasion in 1956.
17 Although some Catholics, such as
Emmanuel Mounier and his colleagues at Esprit maintained close ties to
Marxism and the French Communist Party,
18 Marxism long attracted two
kinds of opposition: from those concerned with or members of organized
religion, particularly Roman Catholics, who were troubled by the official
Marxist commitment to atheism; from some intellectuals, such as
Raymond Aron, Albert Camus, or Maurice Merleau-Ponty. These were
some of the many writers and intellectuals who either initially or later
feared the link between Marxism and Bolshevism or Leninism. Merleau-
Ponty, for instance, Sartre’s former colleague on Les Temps Modernes,
turned from an initial enthusiasm about political Marxism
19 to a sober
concern to distance himself from it. 20 In France as in Germany, although
there were many intellectuals who were genuinely enthusiastic about
fascism, others turned to fascism on the grounds that it was a lesser evil
than international communism.
In the aftermath of the war, questions were also raised about the quality of
Sartre’s humanism, say, the extent of his commitment to the French resistance
22 It seems clear that Sartre’s political engagement was mainly
theoretical until rather late in his career. This point has a clear existential
significance. During the war, while Sartre was busy furthering his intellectual
career, other French intellectuals, such as Paul Nizan,
23 his former room mate
at the Ecole normale superieure, Georges Politzer, the communist sociologist, 24
Marc Bloch, an important historian and co-founder of the Annales, the famous
historical journal, and Jean Cavaillès, 25 a brilliant young philosopher of science,
were paying for their commitment to freedom with their lives.

84 Sartre’s ambiguous position did not go unnoticed. Representing the French
communist party, Roger Garaudy denounced existentialism, with a violence
inhabitual even in the French context, as exemplary of “the sickness when
thought is separated from action” and in the claim that “the rich and well
born [la grande bourgeoisie] are titillated by the intellectual fornications of
Jean-Paul Sartre.”
26 Slightly later, Jean Wahl, who was philosophically more
sophisticated, wrote that “existentialism has become not only a European
problem but a worldwide problem.”
Sartre, who was aware of these criticisms, chose to answer them on the
philosophical plane through an identification of his own theory with
Heidegger’s. This was the kind of anthropological misreading of the master’s
position that Heidegger rejects in Being and Time and later explicitly
proscribes in a letter to Jean Wahl in 1937.
28 Sartre’s famous lecture,
Existentialism is a Humanism, was initially delivered to the Club Maintenant
on Monday, October 28, 1945, and published, in slightly modified form, in
March 1946.
29 This lecture immediately attracted the widespread attention
that Being and Nothingness, published during the War, failed to attract. As
a short, accessible version of Sartre’s more technical thought,
30 indeed a
travesty of it, it was widely and easily accessible in a way that his main
philosophical contribution was not.
Sartre begins his lecture on existentialism by reviewing some of the more
salient objections to his philosophical theory. Medieval thinkers, such as
Thomas Aquinas, traditionally make existence dependent on essence.
According to Sartre, who inverts the relation of these categories, all
existentialists agree that existence precedes essence. 32 He classifies
existentialists in terms of Catholicism, such as Jaspers and Marcel, or
atheism for Heidegger and himself. Sartre identifies his own atheistic
existentialism with Heidegger’s view of human reality, or the idea that
fundamentally human being exists.
33 This leads to a theory of total
commitment (engagement) 34 that alone accords dignity to human being. 35
He rejects the traditional form of humanism centered on human being as
an end in itself, 36 for instance in Kant’s theory, in favor of a view of human
being as a constant project outside itself that causes its own existence. 37
Against criticisms that he professes a quietism allied to a contemplative
view of philosophy, such as the Cartesian “I think,” 38 he stresses action
beginning with Cartesian certainty. 39
Sartre’s view attracted many objections, for instance from Gabriel Marcel,
the proponent of Christian existentialism, made uneasy by Sartre’s emphasis
on absolute freedom and the inherent meaninglessness of human existence.
In his lectures, Sartre responds by emphasizing the importance of a coherent
40 since God’s possible existence is irrelevant 41 to human being. Yet
his lecture did not allay but only increased doubts about his theory. His silence
with respect to the limitations to human freedom imposed by the social and
political context was attacked as antihumanism by Jean Kanapa, his former

85 student turned communist, and Henri Lefebvre, another communist who was
later expelled from the French Communist Party.
Kanapa, who criticizes Sartre, not wholly unfairly, as an intellectual
opportunist, regards existentialism as a covert form of anti-Marxism. He
opposes any form of Christian humanism in which human being is made to
capitulate before God
42 and argues that humanism is meaningful only as
Marxism. 43 For Kanapa, humanism entails the struggle for human being.
Although the existentialists present themselves as revolutionaries, they are
finally only an ineffectual bunch of bourgeois intellectuals.
44 He further
stigmatizes the existentialist claim that human being is free as a return to
Bergsonism and as a modern form of sophistry.
Kanapa, the editor of La Nouvelle critique, was a staunch Stalinist. His
inflammatory pamphlet, mainly directed against Sartre, is less impressive
than Lefebvre’s philosophically more mature study of existentialism. Lefebvre
correctly regards Sartre as self-inflated. He begins his book with an interesting
autobiographical account that usefully mentions many of the future
intellectuals of his generation, in the process of explaining how he, who earlier
adhered to existentialism, became a Marxist and a communist.
According to Lefebvre, in 1946 existentialism is less a movement than a
new form of academic thought 47 that has the advantage of attracting a few
cultural stars and assorted snobs.48 Following orthodox Marxism, he depicts
existentialism as the concentration on the individual following the breakup of
Hegelian idealism.
49 Husserl preaches a form of abstract rationalism, in which
the phenomenological reduction corresponds to the isolation of the individual. 50
Heidegger transforms Husserlian rationalism into an irrationalism in his
metaphysics of the Grand Guignol. Heidegger is a profascist philosopher, whose
exaltation of destiny and death provide a Hitlerian “affective tonality.”
Sartre, who does not rate a chapter of his own in Lefebvre’s study, is
discussed within the chapter on Heidegger. Here his theory is simplistically
depicted, much as he himself depicts it in his lecture, as the continuation of
Heidegger’s. The latter’s existentialism is a form of adventurism, and in Sartre’s
theory being and nothingness are separated by Heideggerian existentialism.
Sartre, who closely follows Heidegger, mixes together literature and
philosophy. His theory is continuous with Heidegger’s philosophy in the style
of Hitler’s SS. Sartre’s initial thought adds nothing either to Husserl’s or to
53 His inconsistent view is located somewhere between a
philosophy of inhumanism and a concern for the human. 54
Heidegger and Karl Jaspers both became well known in France after the war,
although Heidegger more so than Jaspers.
55 Heidegger was not yet the main
“French” philosopher, although he quickly achieved this status when the war

86 came to a close. At the end of the war, there was a very broad range of
attitudes toward Heidegger. These included those indifferent to his thought,
those concerned to study it from a careful, increasingly critical perspective,
such as Wahl, those whose own positions were influenced by Heidegger’s,
such as Lévinas and Merleau-Ponty, those who appropriated it, often on the
basis of a superficial reading, such as Sartre, or Gilson, and those, the
Heideggerians, such as Henri Birault and Beaufret, who identified with
Heidegger’s thought, even, in extreme cases, with Heidegger himself.
After the war, French Heideggerians were under pressure from several
sides, including the anthropological misunderstanding of the master’s thought
that reached its height in Sartre’s conflation of his own existentialism with
fundamental ontology and humanism, and the effort by French communists,
who consistently opposed Sartre, to focus attention on Heidegger’s allegiance
to National Socialism. Sartre’s facile lecture exhibited his verbal capacity
more than his ability for strict philosophical reasoning on display in Being
and Nothingness and in other technical philosophical writings. His lecture
failed to placate but only annoyed his philosophical critics.
Responses followed from the right and the left, from Christians and
communists, from other existentialists and from their opponents. Etienne
Gilson, the noted French Thomist, attempted to divide and conquer in claiming
that Thomism is only existentialism properly understood.
56 This suggests that
existentialism is finally an imperfect form of Thomism. Gilson held that the
initial premise of Sartrean existentialism, in his view the premise that human
being is only what it does, is a purely gratuitous affirmation.
Sartre’s equally facile philosophical embrace of Heidegger’s doctrine only
enraged the growing ranks of Heidegger’s French adherents. Among French
Heideggerians, the annoyance generated by Sartre’s identification with
Heidegger continued to rankle over time. The writings of Beaufret and Derrida
illustrate the reaction to Sartre’s uncritical embrace of Heidegger by French
In a sense, relative rank is not a concern among French Heideggerians
who, like the philosophically orthodox in all times and places, subordinate
themselves to the “orthodox” reading of the master thinker’s thought. Yet
just as Althusser became centrally important in French Marxist circles for his
identification of the “correct” form of Marxism, so in the legions of French
Heideggerians, several figures stand out for their service to the Heideggerian
“cause.” More than anyone else, Jean Beaufret worked successfully to correct
the anthropological reading of Heidegger dominant in the first phase of the
French Heidegger discussion. After Beaufret’s death in 1982, Jacques Derrida,
his onetime student, became the central French Heideggerian. In the highly
charged political atmosphere of the French Heidegger discussion, roughly
since the middle 1960s François Fédier has for many years been Heidegger’s
most important defender against any attempt to link his philosophical thought
to his politics.

87 Right after the war, Beaufret, Lévinas, and Birault were among the most
important figures to speak up for Heidegger’s theory. Beaufret was not the
only orthodox French Heideggerian in this period, but he was certainly the
most visible and most orthodox of them all. Lévinas, although never an
orthodox Heideggerian, perhaps never even a Heideggerian at all, was
distinctly favorable to Heidegger’s thought at this time. In an article in the
Revue de métaphysique et de morale from 1951, he went so far as to claim
that in Heidegger’s position the problems of the present and the abstract
question of being come together.
58 Birault, in an article in the same issue,
presented a detailed, uncritical reading of Heidegger’s thought that served as
the model for many young students in the 1950s unable to read Heidegger’s
as yet untranslated writings.
59 He maintained this orthodox perspective many
years later in his book, Heidegger et l’expérience de la pensée, intended to
show how to think with Heidegger.
In his early, influential article, Birault affirms without qualification the status
of Beaufret as the most authorized interpreter of Heidegger’s thought in France. 61
Beaufret closely follows the model of Heidegger, who typically declines to
“criticize” others. Unlike many French writers, Beaufret is not polemical,
preferring to “correct” expressed views rather than to confront his opponents.
Beaufret’s analysis of the views of Sartre and Heidegger changed radically
over time. In a long article from 1945,
62 he gives credit to Sartre for leading
him to Heidegger’s theory that Sartre understands better than anyone even if
he expresses his understanding of it inadequately.
63 The translation of “Dasein”
as “human reality” (réalité humaine) adopted by Sartre fails to grasp the
eruption of presence.
64 Existentialism pushes phenomenology to existence,
the human condition, whose analysis depends on Heidegger’s conception of
At this point, immediately after the war, when Sartre’s star was at its
zenith, before the reaction had reached its peak, Beaufret’s attitude towards
Sartre was respectful but increasingly critical. Only two years later in another
66 he distanced himself from Sartre on behalf of Heidegger. Sartre’s
analyses have a merely psychological validity that lacks Heideggerian
67 Heidegger’s view of Dasein is not, as Heidegger says, a means to
avoid the cogito whose presupposition it reveals. 68 Heidegger’s notion of
existence as the essence of human being is unlike Sartre’s conviction that
subjectivity inexhaustibly reinvents itself.
In his later writings, Beaufret further increases his view of the distance
between Sartre and Heidegger. Heidegger’s return to the Greeks is “a little
too rustic” for the contemporary sages headed by Sartre.
70 The latter’s
conviction that Husserl has freed us from interior life (la vie intérieure) is
only half true, since this requires a return with Heidegger behind the cogito
to Dasein.
71 In accepting Marxism as the source of contemporary knowledge
(savoir), Sartre uncritically accepts the traditional view of philosophy. 72 Sartre’s
existentialism is no more adequate than Husserlian phenomenology to

88 dialogue with Marxism.
73 For Sartre fails to see the point of considering
Nietzsche as a philosopher.74 Sartre resembles Karl Löwith, Heidegger’s first
graduate student, in his failure to understand the master thinker’s thought. 75
Heidegger’s “Letter on Humanism” forms the second phase in an offensive
undertaken by Heidegger to attract attention in the French discussion and, I
believe, to distract attention from his commitment to National Socialism.
The full dimensions of Heidegger’s allegiance to real National Socialism
as it in fact existed are still unknown since relevant portions of his Nachlass
have still not appeared and the Heidegger Archives in Marbach are not open
to the public. It is also significant that the ongoing edition of his Collected
Works will not include his letters, since the letters from his period as rector of
the University of Freiburg could reasonably be expected to shed light on his
precise relation to the NSDAP and his view of real Nazism.
In the immediate postwar atmosphere, information about Heidegger’s
precise link to Nazism was even scarcer than at present. Later, after the war,
when Heidegger began to devote extensive attention to creating his own
legend, he sought above all to disguise the nature and extent of his commitment
to real and then to an ideal form of National Socialism, a commitment that
began prior to Hitler’s rise to power and continued, even after the war, until
the end of his life.
Writing in 1947, Wahl, who was sympathetic to Heidegger, notes that
when Hitler came to power Heidegger “made a resolute decision to join the
Nazi leaders.”
76 Wahl, who attributes Heidegger’s adherence to Nazism to
the merely formal character of fundamental ontology, is willing to face the
problem posed by Heidegger’s turning to National Socialism on the basis of
Heidegger’s philosophical thought. Others in the French discussion take a
much harder line. In the discussion following Wahl’s talk, Georges Gurvitch
describes Heidegger as a basically dishonest thinker who employs a form of
existentialism to effect a transition from his original scholastic philosophy to
the Nazi philosophy.
Our immediate concern is less with Heidegger’s Nazism than with its
influence on his turn towards toward France and French philosophy.
Elsewhere I have argued in detail that Heidegger’s philosophical and political
views are inextricably intertwined.
78 After the war, the dimensions of
Heidegger’s commitment to Nazism were only partly known, although
enough was known to raise serious questions for some observers. Yet it is
only possible to understand Heidegger’s appeal to French philosophers if
we note that in France his thought was accepted in isolation from his political
commitment. Paradoxically, although a long line of French intellectuals,
including French philosophers, have been directly engaged on the political

89 level, Heidegger’s theory achieved a preeminent status in part through
abstraction from its political dimension.
In the present context, there is no need to rehearse the details of
Heidegger’s commitment to National Socialism. Suffice it to say that in
1933, almost immediately after Hitler came to power Heidegger was elected
rector of the University of Freiburg i. B. by his academic colleagues. In May
of that year, he delivered the notorious “Rectorial Address” in which he
publicly placed his philosophical resources in the service of National
79 At that time, Ernst Röhm was head of the SA (Sturmabteilung)
opposed to the SS (Schutzstaffel) led by Hermann Göring. After the
assassination of Röhm on June 30, 1934, with whom he may have been
80 Heidegger resigned from his post as rector and returned to teaching.
At the end of the war, like other Nazi collaborators in the German academy
Heidegger was called to account for his actions. He immediately took steps
directed at self-exculpation, or at least at damage control, that he and his
some of his closest followers continued until the end of his life, and that his
followers have still not abandoned.
Despite his antipathy to Descartes, Heidegger twice turned toward France,
in “Ways to Discussion [Wege zur Aussprache],” a short text written in 1937,
that is in the period between Heidegger’s resignation from the rectorship and
the beginning of the war, and later in the “Letter on Humanism.” The former
is a little known text,
81 written after the end of the Weimar Republic, when
Hitler had come to power, as Germany was slowly proceeding down the path
toward what was to become the Second World War.
At present, when France and Germany are together striving to live
together in the framework of the Common Market, relations between the
two continental neighbors are exceedingly good. In retrospect, Heidegger’s
little text is surprising in the context of then politically difficult relations
between France and Germany that have often been only slightly better on the
philosophical plane. Since Heidegger’s antipathy to Descartes runs
throughout his thought from beginning to end, it is surprising from a
philosophical point of view that in “Ways to Discussion” he turns toward
France and French philosophy. Heidegger’s appeal to a neighboring country
is more comprehensible from the political perspective. It was something that
was in the air at the time, for instance in the art historian A.E.Brinkmann’s
appeal for cultural collaboration between European peoples.
In his text, Heidegger ostensibly reexamines the Hegelian theme of the
conditions of agreement between the French and the Germans. He maintains
that any agreement must be based on mutual respect whose conditions are
listening to each other and the courage for “proper self-limitation [eigenen
83 In the second paragraph of this essay, he states his view of
understanding among peoples in a description of the authenticity of a people,
in a startling passage that requires full quotation:

90 Authentic [Echtes] understanding among peoples [Völker] begins and
fulfills itself on one condition: this is in a creative reciprocal discussion
leading to awareness concerning the historically shared past and present
conditions. Through such awareness each of the peoples is brought back
to what is ownmost to it [je Eigene] and grasps it with increased clarity
and resoluteness [Entschiedenheit]. The ownmost in a people is its
creativity [Schaffen], through which it grows into its historical mission
[in seine geschichtliche Sendung hineinwächst] and so first comes to
itself. The main feature [Grundzug] of its mission has been indicated
for the historically cultured peoples in the present world situation
[Weltstunde] as the rescue of the West [Rettung des Abendlandes]. Rescue
here does not mean the simple maintenance of what is already present
to hand [Vorhandenen], but rather signifies the originary, newly creating
justification [Rechtfertigung] of its past and future history. Reciprocal
understanding of neighbor peoples in their most ownmost means rather:
for each the ownmost task [je eigene Aufgabe] is to know how to give
oneself the necessity of this rescue. The knowledge concerning this
necessity springs all the more from the experience of need, which arises
with the innermost menace of the West, and from the power of the plan
concealing [Kraft zum verklärenden Entwurf] the highest possibilities
of Western man [abendländischen Daseins]. Just as the menace of the
West drives toward a full uprooting and general disorder [Wirrnis], so,
on the contrary, the will to the renewal from the ground up must be led
through the final resolutions [Entscheidungen].

This passage, composed after the rectorate, when Heidegger has returned to
teaching, contradicts his description of the implicitly apolitical character of “a
conversation of essential thinking with itself [Selbstgespräch des wesentlichen
Denkens mit sich selbst].”
85 Although Heidegger gave up his rectorate in 1934,
here and in later writings he continues to insist on an aim common to Nazism
and his own thought—expressed here in Spenglerian terms, on the basis of his
own view of authenticity—for the German people to realize itself in the future
historical context. The mere fact that he here calls upon the French to do likewise
in no sense alters the fact that he continues to mobilize the resources of his
philosophy for an end in view which has not changed.
Heidegger clearly describes his view of the practical, hence political, role
of so-called authentic philosophy. Unlike Hegel, who held a retrospective
view of philosophy which looked back on what had already taken place, for
Heidegger authentic philosophical knowledge is prospective, a form of
anticipation for which the problem of theory and practice does not arise.

By itself authentic philosophical knowledge [Wissen] is never the
backward-looking addition to the most general representations on
already known things, but rather the anticipatory opening through

91 knowledge of the consistently hidden essence of things. And precisely
in this way it is never necessary to make this knowledge immediately
useful. It is effective only mediately in that philosophical awareness
prepares new points of view and standards for all attitudes and
resolutions [Entscheiden].

Heidegger leaves no doubt here of the intrinsic purpose of authentic
philosophy. In the midst of the social, political, and historical circumstances
that were shortly to lead to the Second World War, he takes an aggressive
view of the philosophical task, reminiscent of the early Marx’s insistence on
philosophy as tranforming the masses, as transforming the consciousness of
the people.

If an authentic self-understanding is achieved in the basic philosophical
position [in der philosophischen Grundstellung], if the power and the
will for it can be correspondingly awakened, then the dominant
knowledge [das herrschaftliche Wissen] rises to a new height and clarity.
It prepares the way for the first time for a transformation of the peoples
which is often invisible.

This passage provides an important insight into Heidegger’s adherence to
Nazism as an ideal even after his resignation from the rectorate. Heidegger
here relies on his conception of authenticity, which he applies to philosophy
and to the German Volk. He clearly insists on the revolutionary role of authentic
philosophy in bringing about the realization of the true destiny of the German
89 Like Brinkmann, who insists on German spirituality as a higher
synthesis that justifies and saves the lesser tendencies of so-called French
rationalism and Italian sensualism, so the aim of Heidegger’s proposed dialogue
with French thinkers is to present German philosophy as the conceptual solution
to the existential problems of both the French and Germans.
“Ways to Discussion” is important as the initial phase in Heidegger’s turning
toward France and French philosophy, a turning that he pursued with renewed
vigor, in a second phase, at the end of the war. At about the same time that
Sartre was publicly embracing Heidegger’s theory to justify his claim that
existentialism is humanism, Heidegger was seeking to free his view from this
embrace, to distance it through a clarification of the meaning of the term
“humanism” in his own theory. Heidegger’s “Letter on Humanism” is useful
to understand the later evolution of his thought, but crucial for an understanding
of the emergence in the second phase of the French Heidegger reception of a
nonanthropological, postmetaphysical but humanist reading of his position.

92 The “Letter on Humanism” is the response to a letter from Beaufret carried
to Heidegger by Jean-Michel Palmier, a young German-speaking Alsatian, in
the fall of 1945, immediately after the end of the Second World War.
Heidegger’s initial response to Beaufret, in a letter dated 23 November 1945,
contains a number of flattering comments about Beaufret’s remarks on the
translation of “Dasein” in the latter’s article, “A propos de l’existentialisme.”
He sent Beaufret a longer text in December 1946 in the form of a letter that
he then revised and published in 1947 under the title “Über den ‘Humanismus’.
Brief an Jean Beaufret, Paris.”
Heidegger’s “Letter on Humanism” responds to specific theoretical, or
philosophical and practical, or political imperatives. This text is an important
document in the slow elaboration of Heidegger’s later thought. It is located
approximately halfway between the first phase that reaches an early high
point in Being and Time (1927) and, depending on one’s reading, comes to
an end in “What Is Metaphysics?” (1929) and the later thought leading up to
“The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking” (1964).
Heidegger’s “Letter on Humanism” cannot be understood merely as a
reaction to Beaufret’s letter by which it was elicited. When Beaufret wrote
to Heidegger immediately after the war, he was still an unknown philosopher,
certainly not known for his developing interest in existentialism, known, if
known at all, for his interest in Marxism. It is fair to say that he was not
then, nor did he later become, despite his indefectible allegiance to Heidegger,
someone whose thought was ever important in itself, ever worthy of the
attention of an important thinker for other than strategic reasons.
If it is a mistake to consider the “Letter on Humanism” solely as an
occasional document written with no further intentions, or solely for the
specific occasion of Beaufret’s letter to Heidegger, it is a further mistake to
neglect the political aspects of Heidegger’s text that connect it to the
historical context. One factor is the political maneuvering for advantage
that affects philosophers with about the same frequency and to the same
degree as others. Philosophers are rarely equal to their public
pronouncements. Sartre’s fabled notion of selfless commitment is mainly a
personal commitment, an interest in himself that is fully duplicated by
Heidegger’s constant effort to maneuver in the German academy, in a
difficult period leading up to and later away from the Second World War,
for personal advantage.
Even Heidegger’s most occasional texts have a clearly philosophical side.
Yet texts such as the “Rectorial address” cannot be fully grasped without
considering both the strictly philosophical and the political imperatives that
they express. The same imperatives describe the “Letter on Humanism” as
well. This document elicited by Beaufret’s inquiry, upon which Heidegger
fastened for his own purposes, clearly responds to a number of specific factors
which concerned Heidegger at the end of the war. These include Heidegger’s
desire to correct a misinterpretation of his thought, his effort to seek help in a

93 personally difficult situation, and his concern to forestall the incipient French
debate on his Nazism.
In his initial letter to Beaufret, after his earlier letter to Wahl, Heidegger
insists on the importance of Beaufret’s refutation of the mistranslation of
“Dasein” as “human reality.” As Borch-Jacobsen points out, in this respect
Heidegger’s text is as much a response to Sartre as it is to Kojève, who first
proposed this rendering,
91 and perhaps even to Corbin, whose pioneering
translations of Heideggerian texts initially propagated it.
All thinkers desire to be understood, or at least not too severely
misunderstood. It is, then, not difficult to understand Heidegger’s concern to
correct the prevalent French anthropological misunderstanding of his thought.
Yet there is an obvious disparity between a mere misunderstanding of his
philosophical position that, disagreeable as it was, could not reasonably be
construed as a direct or even a major threat to his life and thought, and other,
more immediate threats in the postwar environment to his life in philosophy
and his philosophical lifework. The mere interpretation of his philosophical
thought pales as a factor when viewed against the background of his
“existential” situation in the aftermath of the Second World War, in which
other, more immediate threats to his person and thought almost certainly
took precedence in his mind.
Obviously, Heidegger was concerned about his difficult personal situation
immediately after the war, when, as Germany’s greatest living philosopher, he
was, like others, as part of the denazification process called to account for his
identification with National Socialism. As a result of this process, Heidegger—
the German philosopher who initially thought of himself as the authentic heir
to the mantle of Plato and Aristotle, and later with Parmenides, Heraclitus and
Anaximander as one of only four real thinkers of being—was excluded from
the university and forbidden to teach. In his time of need, Heidegger appealed
unavailingly to his closest philosophical ally, Karl Jaspers.
92 Heidegger’s
difficulties in the aftermath of the war, including his “rustification” in disgrace,
the loss of his pension rights, the threatened confiscation of his house and
personal library, as well as his failure to find support among other German
academics, naturally led him to seek support elsewhere.
His turning toward France may have been influenced by three specific
factors: his exclusion from the German delegation to the Descartes conference
in Paris in 1937 that rankled sufficiently for him to complain about it as late
as the Spiegel interview in 1966, his apparent inability to accept an invitation
to address the French Philosophical Society at their meeting of December 4,
1937, and the fact that since Freiburg was in the French occupation zone in
the denazification process he had to deal with the French military authorities.
Certainly the latter factor makes it reasonable for Heidegger to have
thought that he had to cultivate, correctly as it turned out, a potentially
fruitful relation to French philosophy. For in appealing to French philosophers
for philosophical dialogue, Heidegger, the anti-Cartesian philosopher, was

94 appealing to his French philosophical colleagues on the level of his own
discipline and, through French colleagues, to the French nation, including
the French occupying forces.
It is possible that in difficult personal straights, even more than his person
or his family Heidegger was concerned to protect his philosophical thought
whose integrity was clearly threatened, in fact is still threatened by his Nazi
turning. If this is the case, then a further factor in the composition of his
“Letter on Humanism” lies in the emergence of the controversy about
Heidegger’s Nazism that, since it began, has gone through various phases
but has never ended. This controversy has long persisted as a threat not
only to his person during the remainder of his life—during his “rustification”
it cost him his livelihood—and after his death as a menace to his thought.
The controversy about Heidegger’s Nazism began immediately in the
wake of his “Rectorial Address,” at the zenith of his ascendancy in Nazi
Germany. From the first, it opposed important thinkers like Jaspers who
congratulated Heidegger for his willingness to act on his convictions
93 and
Benedetto Croce who claimed that he dishonored philosophy.94 The
disagreement between those who condemned and those who praised
Heidegger’s Nazism, those concerned to probe the link between his political
thought and his political turning and those more inclined to absolve his
thought of any political blemish by impeding any such interrogation, did
not, in fact, could not occur in Germany where almost every philosopher
who remained in the German University during the war had inevitably been
politically compromised.
The first, incomplete phase of the debate on Heidegger’s Nazism took place
in France after the end of the war, when attention was focused on Heidegger
through Sartre’s existentialism, in the pages of Sartre’s journal, Les Temps
Modernes. Hence, another reason for Heidegger to address himself to French
philosophers on the subject of humanism was to practice damage control in
the growing French discussion of his Nazism, to protect the integrity of his
thought against probing intended to reveal its political consequences not only
in the French philosophical debate but, as an easily anticipated consequence of
any extended French debate of this theme, in Germany as well.
If Heidegger’s intent in writing his “Letter on Humanism” was not only
further to develop his thought but also to influence the French philosophical
discussion—through correcting the anthropological misinterpretation of his
thought, then through securing allies abroad for his person and thought when
few were available in his own country, and finally through limiting the threat
to his own person and thought represented by the incipient debate on his
Nazism—then he succeeded brilliantly.

95 His success in this regard surpassed any reasonable or even unreasonable
expectation. He was not only able to correct the misreading of his position
and to secure allies in a neighboring country, and, at least for a time to keep
the lid on the debate concerning his Nazism. His success went still further
since he was even able to displace Sartre who, prior to Beaufret, was his main
French disciple, in order to become the master thinker of French philosophy,
the main “French” philosopher in the postwar discussion. And he was able
to influence the French philosophical debate in a durable fashion, in the most
diverse ways, including even Althusser’s Marxist antihumanism.
Heidegger’s “Letter on Humanism” is a complex document, difficult to
interpret. 96 This text has attracted attention in the Heidegger literature, 97
particularly in France, where its importance in the French discussion was
heightened by the relatively tardy appearance of Being and Time. The French,
who are traditionally less able to read texts in foreign languages than the
Germans, also translate relatively little and then usually after a lengthy period.
The complex process of rendering Heidegger into French, arguably more difficult
than into English, was rendered even more difficult by such other factors as the
dispute about the correct translation of “Dasein.” Beaufret’s remark in his
initial article that “if German has its resources, French has its limits”
98 was
significantly praised by Heidegger in his initial response. 99 Despite intense French
interest, the first half of Being and Time was only rendered into French in
100 and 21 years elapsed before further progress was made. Being and
Time was finally only made available for the first time in a full, but pirated
translation in 1985
101 and in an “authorized” translation in 1986. 102
In the absence of a complete translation of Heidegger’s main treatise, his
“Letter on Humanism,” which was quickly available in translation some 32
years before Being and Time, assumed a crucial role.
103 In this text, Heidegger
publicly responds to a series of queries posed by Beaufret: How can one give a
new meaning to “humanism?” What is the relation of ontology to a possible
ethics? How can one save the element of adventure in philosophy? These questions
are significant in themselves. They were particularly significant in the immediate
postwar French context, concerned practically with the restoration of a humane
society in the wake of the Nazi occupation and theoretically with Sartre’s
suggestion that existentialism offers the required conceptual aid. From that angle
of vision, Beaufret’s questions should be read less as a hostile reaction to Sartre
than as an effort to go beyond Sartrean existentialism to the philosophical
background on which it claimed to rely. His questions provide a useful occasion
for Heidegger further to elaborate a position that had already shifted and to
respond through his own position to pressing French concerns.
Three themes dominate the “Letter on Humanism.” First, there is Heidegger’s
public effort to distance his theory from that of Sartre, the reigning French
philosophical guru. More than anything else, his success in vanquishing Sartre
led to Heidegger’s emergence as the master thinker in French postwar thought.
Second, there is Heidegger’s opportunistic concern at a time when this problem

96 had been raised in France to clarify the notion of humanism in his own thought.
This text contains the first and last discussion of this problem in his writings.
Heidegger’s treatment of humanism in this text is even more important since
the debate on his Nazism had raised significant questions about his own
humanism on political grounds. Third, Heidegger indicates a fundamental
evolution, or turning, in his thought. In the highly charged political atmosphere
prevalent in the aftermath of the war, the result was to invest a philosophical
claim, an observation about the development of his philosophical thought,
with political meaning, in effect—the word is not too strong—to “sanitize”
German phenomenology for French philosophical consumption.
Heidegger is unusually aware of other philosophies, indeed of the entire
history of philosophy. He magisterially suggests the uselessness of criticism.
Yet his writings are replete with critical remarks on other views, as in his
comment, in his initial letter to Beaufret, that the supposedly canonical
reference to “Jaspers and Heidegger” is “the misunderstanding par
104 In the “Letter on Humanism,” Heidegger’s criticism of Sartre,
whose effort to compare or even to ally himself to the master thinker is rejected
as entirely misbegotten, is sharp, direct, and devastating. Heidegger’s
discussion reaffirms his conviction, on display in Being and Time and all
later writings, of the primacy of the concern with being. It purports to show
that his theory of being is not only different from but prior to Sartrean
existentialism and all other philosophical theories.
In his response to Beaufret, Heidegger employs Sartre’s own strategy against
Sartre. Both Sartre and Heidegger reject traditional humanism, supposedly
unsatisfactory to respond to social concerns, in favor of a new, socially useful
kind of humanism. In “Existentialism Is A Humanism”—the only work by
Sartre to which Heidegger clearly refers—there is no evidence that he has read
Being and Nothingness—Sartre responds to criticism by affirming that
existentialism, properly understood, offers a new type of humanism that requires
each of us to be responsible for everyone, for the whole world. Heidegger
similarly argues that thinking, the name that has replaced fundamental ontology
as the designation for his theory, is a new form of humanism; but Sartre’s view
is merely another type of the traditional, unsatisfactory humanist genus. It
follows that Sartrean existentialism merely pretends unsuccessfully to be the
new, socially useful form of humanism that is realized in Heidegger’s view.
Heidegger develops his claim in a discussion clearly based on Being and
Time and later texts. His repeated references to Hölderlin and to Nietzschean
nihilism allude respectively to his intervening lecture series on the poet
105 and
the philosopher. 106 In Being and Time, Heidegger approaches being through
human being. Conversely, his view of humanism represents an approach to
human being through being.
This strategy quickly emerges in writings later than Being and Time. For
instance in a lecture series from 1929/30, during the worldwide economic
depression, he contends that various social problems are symptomatic of the

97 turn away from being.
107 He elaborates this idea here in his notion of thinking, or
the authentic thought of being, intended as the alternative to traditional
metaphysics that turns away from being. For Heidegger, the alienation of human
108 has its roots in the “homelessness of modern man,” 109 supposedly
symptomatic of the forgetfulness of being. Marx’s theory is important in addressing
history, although neither he, nor Husserl, nor even Sartre sees the link to being.
Heidegger reserves special treatment for Sartre’s theory that, since it merely
reverses traditional metaphysical categories, remains metaphysical.
110 The
priority of existence over essence justifying the appellation “existentialism”
has nothing in common with Being and Time whose discussion moves on a
deeper plane. Authenticity does not refer to action as opposed to thought but
rather to thought in the light of being that is already action. Human being
cannot be understood in itself but only comprehended through being, in a
word as existence. A metaphysical theory such as humanist existentialism
cannot resolve human problems that require an understanding of human
being beyond metaphysics.
Heidegger’s analysis of humanism presupposes the prior acceptance of his
view of ontology. His binary form of argument resembles the Christian view
of human history as the story of the fall away from and return to God.
Ordinary humanism is metaphysics, and metaphysics turns away from being,
resulting in homelessness and alienation. Conversely, a new humanism reverses
this turn away by turning back, by returning to being, in order to find one’s
home and to overcome alienation. In an important passage, he writes: “To
think the truth of Being at the same time means to think the humanity of
homo humanus. What counts is humanitas in the service of the truth of Being,
but without humanism in the metaphysical sense.”
Heidegger’s new, postmetaphysical humanism based on the return to being is
meant to take the place of the old anthropological, metaphysical humanism.
This new humanism, or thinking beyond philosophy, is in many ways reassuring:
it eschews the materialism associated with Marx and Marxism
112 and even
nationalism; 113 it is not inhumane but precisely humane in thinking man, as
Heidegger says, through the nearness to being; 114 nor is it nihilism; 115 it holds no
opinion at all about God; it further discards views of subjectivity leading to
“biologism” and even “pragmatism.”
116 This new thinking is no longer philosophy
that is concerned with theory and practice but deeper than philosophy, 117 which,
as metaphysics, fails to resolve, in fact contributes to, human problems following
from the turn away from being. “Communism” and even “Americanism” are
related to the forgetfulness of being.
118 Indeed, Heidegger goes so far as to claim
that human destiny is revealed through the history of being. 119
Heidegger’s new humanism was specifically reassuring in the French context
and may even have been formulated with that end in mind. His text can be
read as representing another phase in the slow evolution of his philosophical
thought, or as combining his philosophical concerns with a skillful bid for
influence in the French debate, or as both. Heidegger’s new form of humanism

98 constitutes an attractive alternative to a series of positions jockeying for
influence in the difficult postwar period. These include Sartre’s atheistic
existentialism, leftwing, Marxist Hegelianism with which Sartre was closely
allied, and the French Communist Party that emerged greatly strengthened
from the war, all of which were fundamentally unacceptable to the
overwhelmingly conservative French intellectual community.
Heidegger’s text contains a subtext that spoke directly to conservative French
intellectuals worried by forms of secular humanism influential in the postwar
debate. Although he praises Marx’s attention to history, Heidegger stigmatizes
materialism as another form of metaphysics.
120 He distances himself from the
political activism represented by Sartre and Marxism by praising thought as
121 He further reassures readers concerned by his relation to National
Socialism through the rejection of “biologism,” a danger that he now, in a
wave of the conceptual wand, attributes to Sartre’s attachment to subject
philosophy. Any residual doubt is dissipated through Heidegger’s allusion to a
turning (Kehre)
122 in his thought, a suggestion that he has turned over a new
leaf so to speak, and in this way broken with any objectionable part of his past.
Yet Heidegger also undercuts this suggestion by emphasizing the continuity
between the original position and its later version.
Heidegger’s references to religion in this text are particularly important.
Although he was earlier attracted to Catholicism and at one time desired to
become a Jesuit, he later left the Church when he married a Protestant.
Heidegger is throughout a philosophical atheist. He clearly insists that
philosophy must in principle be atheistic whatever one’s personal religious
123 As Beaufret points out, Heidegger’s philosophical atheism is founded
on a nonidentity of God and being, 124 in essence an anti-Thomistic attitude.
Yet in this text, he is especially careful to distance himself from philosophical
or other forms of atheism—he mentions God no less than twenty-nine times
in this essay
125—by taking a reassuring, neutral stance toward religion, clearly
at odds with his own deeply held conviction. 126
Perceptive readers of Heidegger were clear that his own theory rested on a
separation between philosophy and theology, which it strove to surpass. 127
Yet Heidegger’s apparently friendly attitude to religious belief in this text
could hardly fail to please in largely Roman Catholic France. Henri Birault,
one of the most orthodox French Heidegger commentators, went so far as to
claim that Heidegger, who claimed that atheism is the condition of philosophy,
offered a position that allows us to avoid despair through returning to God.
The central idea of the “Letter on Humanism” is the concept of the turning.
This difficult, controversial concept requires further discussion. It might be

99 thought that the contextualist reading provided here misses or otherwise
distorts a philosophical idea that needs to be understood, as it has mainly
been understood, within the context of Heidegger’s thought, hence without
reference to the wider context. To the best of my knowledge, Heidegger only
addresses his view of the turning in his thought in two passages that are
found respectively in the “Letter on Humanism” and in his letter to William
Richardson, an American Heidegger scholar.
In the “Letter on Humanism,” after distinguishing his new, or other thinking
from that in Being and Time, he writes:

The adequate execution and completion of this other thinking that
abandons subjectivity is surely made more difficult by the fact that in the
publication of Being and Time the third division of the first part, “Time
and Being,” was held back…. Here everything is reversed. The section in
question was held back because thinking failed in the adequate saying of
this turning [Kehre] and did not succeed with the help of the language of
metaphysics. The lecture “On the Essence of Truth,” thought out and
delivered in 1930 but not printed until 1943, provides a certain insight
into the thinking of the turning from “Being and Time” to “Time and
Being.” This turning is not a change of standpoint from Being and Time,
but in it the thinking that was sought first arrives at the location of that
dimension out of which Being and Time is experienced, that is to say,
experienced from the fundamental experience of the oblivion of Being.”

In comparison to his other writings, this passage is extremely clear, as if
Heidegger were going to unusual lengths to get across his view of the turning.
Heidegger maintains a similar view of the turning in his letter to William
Richardson, the American Heidegger scholar. This letter, written in April
1962, was initially published in a Festschrift for Jean Beaufret.
130 Here he
insists that the turning only mentioned in 1947 was part of his work ten
years earlier. He maintains that being as such can only be thought out of the
reversal. He insists that the reversal leading to the study of what was designated
in Being and Time as “Time and Being” was already contained in that work.
And he asserts his earlier view is not left behind but rather contained within
his later position.
Heidegger’s twin accounts of the turning in his thought are straight-
forward, but unsatisfactory. To begin with, there is the discrepancy between
statements that the thinking of the turning was already apparent in 1930,
and that the matter of the turning already moved his thought a decade before
132 hence in 1937. A second series of problems concerns the nature of
this event. Heidegger’s description of his original project in Being and Time
foresaw a turning from being and time to time and being. This suggests a
distinction between the turning foreseen in the original project and another
turning resulting from the difficulty of carrying out that project. What if

100 there were more than two turnings, even turnings not constrained by the
failure of thinking within the original project?
Heidegger’s description of the turning in his thought has been often been
uncritically taken as the main clue in its interpretation.
133 Following Heidegger,
Alberto Resales argues that a contradiction between the basic presuppositions
of Heidegger’s original theory as he worked it out led to the turning.
134 He
maintains that his interpretation is supported by a review of Heidegger’s
relevant writings.
135 For Jean-François Mattéi, the references to the turning
in the “Letter on Humanism” and the letter to Richardson are insufficient to
understand it.
136 He sees the idea of the turning as already present in Plato’s
premetaphysical thought. 137 Jean Grondin distinguishes between the
radicalization of human finitude, the problem of Being and Time, concerned
with the destruction of traditional ontology, and the other turning that in
fact took place in the 1930s. For Grondin, following Rosales, there is, then,
a turning in the turning due to the difficulty in carrying out the turning that
was foreseen in Being and Time.
Rosales, Mattéi and Grondin independently support Heidegger’s claim
for a turning following from the weakness of thought in carrying out the
original project in Being and Time. We can test this Heideggerian view by
consulting the texts. Before we do so, two remarks are in order. First, the
German language is extremely rich in words etymologically or conceptually
linked to “Kehre,” literally “turn or bend,” such as “Umkehrung,” or
“overturning, conversion, reversal, or inversion,” “Umkehr,” or “return,
change, conversion, reversal,” “Bekehrung,” or “conversion,” and so on, as
well as “Drehung,” or “turn, or rotation,” “Umdrehung,” or “turning, or
revolution,” “Eindrehung,” or “turning inward,” and so on. We will need to
be alert to these and other related terms as ways in which Heidegger refers to
the idea of a turning in his thought, in Western philosophy, in being, and so
on. Second, the idea of a turning is frequent in modern philosophy, beginning
with Kant’s famous Copernican Revolution, essentially a turning away from
theory of knowledge as it had so far existed, Feuerbach’s turning of religion
into philosophical anthropology, Marx’s inversion (Umstülpung) of idealism
as materialism, and so on.
Even a rapid survey of Heidegger’s writings will detect a multitude of
turnings in his thought, in and with respect to his original project, other
thinkers, the philosophical tradition, metaphysics, poetry, politics, as well as
a turning by other thinkers, and so on. Attention to these multiple turnings
suggests that the turning is more complex than it initially seems and that to
understand it we must refer both to Heidegger’s writings as well as to his
historical situation.
Although the concept of the turning only becomes prominent in Heidegger’s
thought after the war, it occurs prior to the war and even the appearance of his
main treatise. He refers to this concept in a remark on the transformation of
ontology into ontical metaphysics in a lecture course given during the period

101 when he was writing the book.
139 In § 8 of Being and Time, he provides the
design of the treatise within the framework of a larger project in three parts.
The published portion of Being and Time includes the first and second parts of
the first of two parts. Part two and the third division of the first part have never
appeared. The third division of part one, time and being, was intended to
contain a reversal of the analysis of being and time in the published treatise.
In § 44, Being and Time offers an important analysis of the concept of
truth as disclosure. In the lecture “On the Essence of Truth,” Heidegger
reverses his earlier view of the question of truth that is now held to arise out
of the prior question of the truth of the essence.

The present undertaking takes the question of the essence of truth beyond
the confines of the ordinary definition provided in the usual concept of
essence and helps us to consider whether the question of the essence of
truth must not be, at the same time and even first of all, the question
concerning the essence of truth. But in the concept of “essence”
philosophy thinks Being.

In writings after this point, Heidegger often employs the idea of a turning. So
in his 1936 lecture course on Schelling, he mentions a “turning [Wandel] of
European existence out of a ground that to this day remains dark to us.”
Later in the same text, he writes that “the question concerning the truth of
being…turns [kehrt sich um] into the question concerning the being of truth
and of the ground….”
The idea of a turning is an important theme in Heidegger’s Nietzsche
lectures and in the study that emerged from them. In his study, he mentions
the idea of a turning (Umkehrung) several times in the early chapter on The
Will to Power and in a later chapter concerning truth in Platonism and
143 In the former, Heidegger describes Nietzsche’s nihilism as a
countermovement to nihilism within nihilism. Nietzsche’s procedure, he
maintains, is a constant reversal (ständiges Umkehren).
144 In the discussion
of Nietzsche’s philosophy as an Umkehrung of Platonism, he remarks on the
need to change the order so that the Umdrehung, or turning around, will
become a Herausdrehung, or twisting free, from Platonism.
145 Yet a turning
(Drehung) is not necessarily a reversal (Umkehrung), since, as he later reminds
us, it can rather be a kind of penetration (Eindrehen).
In his Nietzséhe lectures, Heidegger not only considers Nietzsche’s theory
as a failed turning against the Platonic philosophical tradition. He further
suggests that in these lectures he himself came to grips with, hence turned
against, Nazism. In the famous Spiegel interview, he maintains that “Anyone
with ears to hear heard in these lectures a confrontation with National
Following Heidegger, Hannah Arendt maintains that Heidegger’s
turning against Nazism occurred in the transition from the first to the

102 second volume of the Nietzsche lectures, in which Heidegger comes to
grips with “his brief past in the Nazi movement.”
148 Pierre Aubenque
affirms that in 1935 Heidegger tried to save an internal truth of National
Socialism but that beginning in 1936 in the Nietzsche lectures he rejected
Nazism as a possibility.
149 For Silvio Vietta, Heidegger’s analysis of
Nietzsche’s view of nihilism constitutes a recognition of the intrinsic
nihilism of Nazism.
150 Others dispute the very idea that in his study of
Nietzsche Heidegger turned away from National Socialism. Otto Pöggeler,
for instance, maintains that Heidegger’s study of Nietzsche and the pre-
Socratics led him to National Socialism.
We find another turning in the recently published Beiträge zur
Philosophie, a controversial study composed during the period 1936–1938,
while Heidegger was giving his Nietzsche lectures. “Ereignis,” the master
word of this difficult book, is roughly synonymous with “Geschehnis,”
“Erlebnis,” and other terms connoting “an event or an occurrence.” In a
section devoted to the “Turning in the Event [Die Kehre im Ereignis],”
Heidegger writes: “The event [Ereignis] has its innermost occurrence and
its widest result [Ausgriff] in the turning [Kehre].”
152 He further states with
evident hyperbole that the problem of whether “the turning will still become
history is decisive for man’s future.”
The idea of the turning also occurs in Heidegger’s later discussion of
technology. Under the heading “Insight Into What Is,” Heidegger held four
lectures on December 1, 1949 in Bremen. In the fourth and last lecture, “The
Turning [Die Kehre],” he insists on the danger resulting from a turning away
from being, a main theme in his later writings. In a typical passage in this
difficult, poetical text, he writes: “In the essence of the danger essences [west]
and dwells a favor [Gunst], namely the favor of the turning of the forgetfulness
of being in the truth of being.”
If this is a representative sample of the concept of the turning in Heidegger’s
thought, we can distinguish at least the following kinds of turning in
Heidegger’s theory:

1 The turn in Being and Time against the history of ontology and toward
Dasein in order to grasp being as time.
2 The turn in Heidegger’s thought from being and time to time and being
that failed due to Heidegger’s inability to think through the project as
originally conceived.
3 The turn from the essence of truth to the question of the truth of the
essence in the lecture “On the Essence of Truth.”
4 The turn from philosophy to poetry in the first series of Hölderlin lec-
tures as part of the turn beyond philosophy to thought.
5 The turn to Nietzsche in the Nietzsche lectures since he alone has recog-
nized the primordial event that since the beginning determines Western
history and Western metaphysics.

103 6 The analysis of Nietzsche’s failed effort to turn against the Platonic tra-
dition of which, for Heidegger, he is its final member.
7 In the Beiträge zur Philosophie the triple turn from Dasein to being as
self-manifesting, the turn from the first beginning to the other beginning
in the same text, and finally the turn to Ereignis as the master word of
the later writings. In fact, since this term is already prominent in
Heidegger’s first series of lectures in 1919, the turn to Ereignis marks a
return to an earlier concept.
7 The political turn to and later turn away from real National Socialism,
as well as the turn toward the supposedly misunderstood truth and great-
ness of the movement, a philosophical, or ideal form of Nazism.
8 The effort in the “Letter on Humanism” to portray himself as having
turned over a new page, of having turned away from politics while he
nonetheless held fast to what he continued later to describe as the misun-
derstood truth and greatness of the movement.
9 The turn to technology as a fall or turn away from being.

It follows that the turning is not the univocal event determined solely by the
working out of the original position that Heidegger depicts. In fact, that
turning may never have occurred since it is at least arguable that, although
the original view evolved, the basic concern with being remains constant
throughout. Clearly, there is more than one turning in his thought, including
a turning toward Nazism. And although in the “Letter on Humanism”
Heidegger implies that he has turned against National Socialism, this claim is
contradicted by other, later texts in his corpus.



The preceding chapter drew attention to the link between French humanism
and Heidegger’s “Letter on Humanism.” Then as now, Heidegger’s “Letter
on Humanism” is important for philosophical and extraphilosophical reasons.
Philosophically, it offers a way into Heidegger’s later philosophical position;
and extraphilosophically, it represents a way to counter the growing, but for
some unacceptable, influence of secular humanism.
The preceding chapter analyzed factors in the French debate leading to a
strongly positive reception for Heidegger’s “Letter on Humanism.” The
present chapter will consider aspects of the French Heidegger debate under
the influence of this text. In reaction to the anthropological misreading of
Heidegger’s thought dominant in the first phase of the discussion, in its second
phase, influenced by the “Letter on Humanism,” a series of writers, including
Beaufret and Derrida, presented a nonanthropological, postmetaphysical but
still resolutely humanist reading of Heidegger’s theory. The result was to
create a Heideggerian orthodoxy that, in the aftermath of the renewed, often
bitter debate on Heidegger’s Nazism, endures to this day.
The French Heidegger debate is part of the complex process, still under way,
of the assimilation of Heidegger’s theory. Heidegger’s theory is obviously, by
any standard, an unusually important philosophical theory. Now any such
philosophical theory, any philosophical position that breaks with received
wisdom, that departs from previous views in significant ways, that opens a
new chapter in the debate, requires a complex, often lengthy process of
reception, sometimes extending over centuries, in which its insights are made
available and eventually assimilated as part of the philosophical debate.
There is no single way in which important philosophical theories are
received. Philosophy supposes the capacity for disagreement founded in
reasoned discussion. Yet certain philosophical theories create a form of

105 conceptual orthodoxy that precludes disagreement about anything other than
the “correct” interpretation of the position in question. The significance of
Kant’s Copernican revolution in philosophy was widely acknowledged. On
the basis of a shared assumption that there is no more than a single correct
way to read the critical philosophy, a number of writers, including Reinhold
and Fichte, sought to provide the only “correct” interpretation of Kant’s
1 In similar ways, ever since Friedrich Engels, the first Marxist, a series
of Marxists, most prominently Lukács, most recently Althusser, have sought
to determine the “correct” interpretation of Marx’s thought.
The Heidegger debate, particularly in France, has long turned on a total or
nearly total identification with the master thinker. Its uncritical, even
unphilosophical character is at least partially due to the essential Platonism of
Heidegger’s theory reputed for its anti-Platonism. Plato advanced a conception
of truth disclosed only to a few gifted individuals, and then only after appropriate
preparation, a conception astonishingly similar to certain mystical religious
2 A link between the Heideggerian and the Platonic models of truth is
even more apparent in Heidegger’s later writings, where he increasingly stresses
reverence toward being, for instance in the idea of letting be (Gelassenheit)
3 as
the prerequisite enabling being to show itself. If Heidegger, the master thinker,
is the most pious of the pious towards being, and if being can only be known
through intuition, then the master’s disciples must not question but receive and
propagate his privileged insights about being.
To the uninitiated, the Heidegger discussion frequently sounds like a debate
among true believers. The master’s best students implicitly dispute the mantle
of orthodoxy in a vain effort to furnish an absolutely seamless reading of the
master’s doctrine. Heidegger’s students are devoted to the exposition and the
elucidation, but rarely to the critical appraisal of the master’s thought. In the
Heidegger discussion criticism is often timid, even more often nonexistent.
Like members of an organized religious faith, followers of the master are
expected to, and often do, renounce criticism of any kind. For the role of the
true disciple is to follow unquestioningly while restricting criticism to criticism
of others, non-Heideggerians.
The highly orthodox, uncritical nature of the Heidegger literature is not
threatened by the influence of the “Letter on Humanism.” Being and Time,
the central text of Heidegger’s early period, is still the center of Heidegger’s
focus in his later thought. This type of relation between earlier and later
aspects of an important position is fairly standard. Fichte’s later evolution is
largely centered on the restatement of his initial position in new ways through
constant revision of the Foundations of the Science of Knowledge [Grundlage
der gesamten Wissenschaftslehre], his early, major text; similarly Heidegger’s
later evolution is largely composed of a series of rereadings and interpretations,
from an evolving angle of vision, of Being and Time.
Heidegger consistently emphasizes that his thought was in motion, not
arrested, as in the choice of the slogan “Wege, nicht Werke” for his collected

106 works. Since many of his later texts are either based on or presented as
interpretations of Being and Time, his later thought can be regarded as a
series of revisions of that work. The “Letter on Humanism” is one of a number
of such rereadings at a period when Heidegger’s initial view was still under
way, so to speak, as Heidegger continued to rethink his original position.
Yet this text is more than Heidegger’s latest rereading of his initial
position. In the context of his elaborate written response to Beaufret’s
questions, it is a letter from Heidegger to the French philosophical
community. Unlike any other text in Heidegger’s enormous corpus, it is
filled with specific indications as to how to interpret or, as the case may be,
to reinterpret particular passages in Being and Time from his later angle of
vision. Examples include the concept of the “they” in §§ 27 and 35,
4 the
view of language in § 34, 5 the word “essence” from p. 42 of the German
edition, 6 a reference to time and being on p. 88 of this edition, 7 a series of
repeated references to the phrase “The ‘substance’ of man is existence” on
pages 117, 212, 314 of the German text,
8 an allusion to the concept of care
on pp. 226ff. in § 44 of the German original, 9 and so on. These and other
unusually specific references to Heidegger’s main philosophical treatise
suggest that everything happens in this text as if Heidegger were trying to
instruct the French on how to read Being and Time.
Heidegger wrote the “Letter on Humanism,” according to some observers
the best introduction to Being and Time,
10 after the so-called turning in his
thought, after significant changes in the original position. These changes occur
gradually in a series of writings composed after Heidegger’s central text. In
the same passage in which he introduces the conception of the turning,
Heidegger also introduces notions of the forgetfulness of being and thought
beyond metaphysics. If, as Heidegger increasingly came to believe, metaphysics
is philosophy,
11 or at least Western philosophy, then what he calls thinking in
this text is no longer philosophy. If that is the case, then the line of thought
originally presented under the heading of fundamental ontology, as an effort
to recover a question supposedly ignored since the Greeks, is no longer valid,
at least not valid as originally formulated.
If the original formulation of the question of the meaning of Being is no
longer valid, then both the question and the response require revision. Other
changes are demanded by the turbulent times in which Heidegger lived and
wrote as Germany, continuing to suffer from the loss of the First World War,
moved steadily towards the Second World War. Changes in his theory after
Being and Time have become even clearer with the recent publication of the
Beiträge zur Philosophie. Whatever the verdict on this controversial treatise—
alternatively praised as the single most important work in Heidegger’s entire
12 and dismissed as characteristic of his dogmatic, prophetic way of
conducting a seminar without argument of any kind 13 by equally
knowledgeable observers—it is at least clear that this book sounds all the
themes of his later thought.

107 Discussion of the “Letter on Humanism,” has already mentioned such
changes in the original position as the concept of the forgetfulness of Being
(Seinsvergessenheit) that is first mentioned under that name in this text,
15 the
conception of the turning in Heidegger’s thought whose initial public reference
also occurs in this text, and the idea of thinking as beyond metaphysics and
philosophy in general.
In a work solely on Heidegger, the modifications of his later thought would
require detailed discussion. In the present context, it is sufficient to note a
difference in perspective arising in the difference between direct study of his
original position and indirect access to it through the lens of his “Letter on
Humanism.” Being and Time belongs to his early period. The “Letter on
Humanism” belongs to the later evolution of his thought, when his original
philosophical theory had changed to the point where, as he clearly said, it
was no longer philosophy: “The thinking that is to come” he writes, “is no
longer philosophy, because it thinks more originally than metaphysics—a
name identical to philosophy.”
16 The degree of continuity in the evolution of
Heidegger’s position, which should not be minimized, ought not to obscure
the genuine differences between his later and his earlier thought, hence the
different understanding of the position that results when it is viewed
immediately or, on the contrary, mediately through one of its later phases.
There is a French Heidegger, a particular view of Heidegger’s thought
specific to the French philosophical debate that has recently been appearing
with some regularity in English. In France as elsewhere, Being and Time is
and will in all probability remain the central text in Heidegger’s corpus. That
is not in dispute; but since texts do not read themselves but must be read,
there is room for dispute about how this is to be done, how to appropriate
this text. It is one thing to read Being and Time directly on its own terms and
something entirely different to read the same text through the focus provided
by his later thought. If the French Heidegger were mainly attached to Being
and Time understood only in terms of itself, then it would mainly be concerned
with the early Heidegger, Heidegger’s theory before it evolved in a long series
of later writings that eventually took him, at least in his own mind, beyond
philosophy. Since in France Heidegger is mainly read through the lens of his
“Letter on Humanism” and other later writings, it is hardly surprising that
the French reading of Being and Time, hence of Heidegger’s overall position,
occurs mainly from the perspective of the later Heidegger.
In France, Heidegger’s stunningly influential “Letter on Humanism” affected
no one more than Jean Beaufret, to whom it was sent. Before he wrote to
Heidegger, there is apparently little in Beaufret’s biography to explain the
extraordinary devotion—the word is not too strong—that he later manifested

108 for Heidegger’s thought and even his person. In the inbred French intellectual
world, where all the main players in the game have ties, even close links, to
one another, Beaufret did not initially belong to any particular intellectual
circle. When he began his dialogue with Heidegger that was to last to the end
of their lives—Heidegger died in 1976, Beaufret in 1982—he was a young
French philosopher, who had been active in the Popular Front, and was
attracted to socialist ideas, especially Marxism. During the war, after being
captured and escaping, he became interested in phenomenology, eventually
in Heidegger. He turned to Heidegger very early, during the German
occupation, on his own account in 1942 before the end of the war, like Sartre,
after studying Husserl.
17 Perhaps one can say that Beaufret was destined—
one is tempted to say destined by being, since for the later Heidegger thought
is destined by being—to become Heidegger’s main representative in France.
In comparison with Being and Time, Heidegger’s “Letter on Humanism”
was rapidly translated into French. Yet the dozen years between its original
appearance in German and its translation into French sufficed for Beaufret,
whose inquiry provided the official excuse for Heidegger to compose this
text, to acquire a commanding position in the French Heidegger debate. In
retrospect, beyond his growing attachment to Heidegger’s thought, several
factors enabled Beaufret to acquire ascendancy in this debate. One factor
was the politically impeccable past of a soldier captured in the war that helped
to calm a certain political uneasiness about Heidegger’s less than politically
impeccable past, which in turn affected the reception of his theory. Another
factor was Beaufret’s undoubted linguistic ability, including his sensitive
command of German.
Although he did not have the necessary spoken command of the language
to begin with, as indicated by his need to be represented by Jean-Michel
Palmier, he soon acquired it. In France, Beaufret’s ability to read Heidegger
in the original German, combined with the traditional French insistence on
textual analysis (explication de texte), quickly secured for his Heidegger
interpretations a status analogous to Kojève’s Hegel studies. Unlike Kojève,
who later lost his preeminent role in the French Hegel discussion, Beaufret
has maintained his dominant position in the French Heidegger discussion
even after his death. Pierre Bourdieu, who insists on the importance of
Beaufret’s role in initiating his students into the the arcane mysteries of
Heidegger’s obscure texts, describes the general situation of colleagues and
students dependent on the Kojèves and the Beaufrets for access to their authors
of predilection. After noting that there were few translations of the thinkers
in vogue, Beaufret writes:

The most zealous admirers could only receive an often approximative
and deformed understanding ex auditu, through eclectic retranslations
in magisterial-style courses [du cours magistral]. Everything happened
as if the cult fastened by preference on texts and authors who were

109 esoteric, obscure, even, as in the cases of Husserl and Heidegger,
practically inaccessible because of the lack of translations…

Heidegger’s initially lavish praise of Beaufret that was clearly disproportionate
to the importance of the occasion—a simple inquiry from an unknown French
student of phenomenology, unless, as seems likely, Beaufret’s letter was merely
a pretext—only increased in later communication between them.
19 Beaufret,
who was clearly flattered by Heidegger’s attention, became Heidegger’s
disciple to an almost unimaginable degree. He reports that he went to see
Heidegger for the first time in September 1946 and made the decision to
study Heidegger’s writings seriously. This was only the first of many trips
during a “dialogue” between two thinkers on very unequal levels that was to
last some thirty years.
During this period, Beaufret let pass no occasion to demonstrate his loyalty
to Heidegger through what was never less than a relation of utter orthodoxy.
Philosophy differs from religion in its intrinsic unorthodoxy, in its need to
declare its independence, to refuse to submit either to tradition or to dogmatic
assertion, to demand proof instead of assurance, argument instead of
reassurance. In modern philosophy since Kant the idea of orthodoxy has
taken on new proportions.
With the possible exception of Marxists and Freudians, Heideggerians
have no rival for their concern with orthodoxy. Heidegger talked of Dasein
as the shepherd of being; Beaufret was the shepherd of Heidegger’s being, the
most orthodox among the orthodox, a representative whose loyalty was
literally boundless, in some ways even the court fool of Heideggerianism.
Beaufret’s boundless acceptance of, and identification with, the master’s
thought is strikingly illustrated in his four volumes of dialogues with Heidegger,
his interviews with Towarnicki, and his discussion of Parmenides from a
Heideggerian perspective without so much as a single critical remark. Another
illustration is Beaufret’s resistance to the very idea that there could be any,
even the slightest impairment in Heidegger’s thought. If the philosophical
debate does not come to an end in a given theory, then the reception of any
theory that is not wholly rejected can only aim toward a partial appropriation
through the determination of what is living and dead in a given thinker’s
thought. Yet Beaufret, who desires his Heidegger whole, as it were, resists the
distinction, in his words, between “an acceptable Heidegger and an
inadmissible Heidegger” through his rejection of the very idea of a merely
partial recuperation of his thought.
20 Still a further illustration is a seminar in
1948, during the period when Heidegger was banned from teaching in the
University, at which, according to Beaufret, he was the only participant.
Beaufret’s personal relation to Heidegger was an important factor in his
own rise to prominence in the French Heidegger debate. Heidegger scholarship
is marked, some might say marred, by unequal access to the primary texts. It
is difficult to argue with someone who bases an argument on privileged access

110 to the texts, or who possesses a text that is not in the public domain. Beaufret
illustrates this phenomenon in his reference at crucial points to information
available only to him. If, as seems likely, Heidegger utilized his ongoing
dialogue with Beaufret as a means to influence the French discussion of his
thought, then it is plausible to think that Heidegger further provided privileged
information to his French acolyte with the same end in view.
Beaufret began this practice early on, soon after entering into dialogue
with Heidegger. In an article from 1947, the year that the “Letter on
Humanism” appeared, he employs an unpublished letter from Heidegger on
Heraclitus’s fragment 119 to refute Sartre’s reading of Dasein.
22 In an article
from 1958, he writes: “Heidegger once told me, concerning the metaphysics
of Aristotle: “This metaphysics is not at all a “metaphysics,” but a
phenomenology of what is presence.”
23 He continues this practice throughout
his later writing on Heidegger. A particularly flagrant example occurs in a
passage on the quadripartite, where Beaufret enlists Heidegger’s oral comment
to him in 1950 concerning the manner in which “ent-schwindet” disappears
from Heidegger’s later texts without “verschwinden.” Beaufret buttresses
this point through citing a passage seven lines long that, he says, Heidegger
dictated to him in 1952.
24 Slightly later, he avoids even the appearance that
Heidegger’s position is anything other than a seamless web in stating that a
passage omitted from the transcript of Heidegger’s Thor lecture series showed
that Heidegger meant “Ereignis” beginning in the “Letter on Humanism”
although he continued to write the term “Sein.”
The uncritical way in which Beaufret cleaved to Heidegger’s thought was
matched only by Beaufret’s weight in the ensuing French Heidegger debate.
We have already noted that in France the brightest students are identified by
competitive examinations and educated in a parallel system of elite schools.
A teacher in these schools, many of which are in Paris, has an opportunity to
influence unusually capable French students who frequently go on to become
the leaders of French society. After the war, after he turned to Heidegger,
Beaufret taught for 27 years in such Parisian schools. During this period, he
was able, by his own account, to awaken a real interest for Heidegger among
a number of students who later became prominent in the French Heidegger
debate, including François Fédier, François Vézin, Jean-Luc Marion, Jean-
François Courtine, Emmanuel Martineau, Alain Renaut, Dominique Janicaud,
and so on.
26 According to Beaufret, who exaggerates the point, among all
these students there was only one who later “appeared to prefer the legend to
27 in short, on his account, only one who rejected Beaufret’s orthodox
view of Heidegger’s theory.
Beaufret indicates the significance of this remark in a short description
of his teaching methods. He notes that he frequently visited Heidegger and
so remained up to date on the latter’s thought. In his teaching, the accent
was not on “criticizing” Heidegger but on “studying the philosophy by not
stopping at the study of Kant, Nietzsche or Husserl but in going on to a

111 more important point [un point plus brûlant] that my students and I held
for fragwürdig—let us say: problematic [problématique].”
28 For Beaufret,
then, unquestionably Heidegger could not be compared with the greats of
the prior philosophical tradition, whom he surpassed, with whom he finally
had nothing in common. If one had to stop to question, the questioning
could and should be directed only to the elucidation of Heidegger’s thought.
Beaufret transmitted this idea of Heidegger through his uniquely faithful
teaching of the master’s thought that, he himself insists, was unparalleled
in the Parisian postwar environment.
Beaufret, who is aware of the degree of attachment to Heidegger’s thought
that he describes, simply concedes that it was easy to look on the whole as
being “an exercise in teleguided persuasion,”
29 Yet at the very least, it is
clear that he contributed strongly, often decisively, as he clearly desired to
do, to the formation of a generation of Heidegger students, some of whom,
like Beaufret, are no more critical with respect to the master thinker than
their mentor.
Beaufret, the main figure in the second phase of the French Heidegger debate,
is also the main architect of French Heideggerian orthodoxy. Pierre Aubenque,
who correctly notes that Beaufret was not the only one to introduce Heidegger
into France, nor the sole guardian of Heideggerian influence,
30 regards the
French Heidegger reception as normal. 31 Yet it is normal only if it is normal
for the disciple to regard the master’s thought as entirely flawless, as if it
were the revealed truth. If man is the shepherd of being, then it is not too
much to consider Beaufret, as he apparently considered himself, as the
shepherd of Heidegger’s being.
Beaufret’s allegiance to Heidegger’s person and thought is unusual, even
extraordinary. It is questionable whether Heidegger, or indeed any other
thinker, ever had a more loyal disciple than Beaufret, someone who cheerfully
subordinated his entire identity to Heidegger’s needs at a time when this was
not yet popular.
32 In Germany, Heidegger’s leading disciple has long been
Friedrich-Wilhelm von Hermann, the editor of the ongoing edition of his
collected works. If, as has been said, von Hermann’s entire bibliography
consists in a series of variations of Heidegger’s texts, then Beaufret’s writings
after his Heideggerian turn, beginning at least as early as 1947, consist
increasingly in a restatement of the master’s thought in the form of an authentic
repetition, in an echo of revealed truth.
Heidegger took pains to create his own legend in a series of texts. These
include the 1945 article where he depicts his rectorship at the University of
Freiburg as a meaningless episode,
33 the Spiegel interview withheld until his

112 death which can be regarded as a kind of intellectual testament, the “Letter
on Humanism” instructing French philosophers in the interpretation of Being
and Time, the “Letter to Richardson” providing an authorized interpretation
of the notion of the turning,
34 and above all the wholly uncritical edition of
his collected works, following his explicit instructions, now in progress.
Heidegger’s own view of his theory is further available in a series of texts
prepared with his cooperation, often under his explicit direction, in the main
contemporary philosophical languages: in German in von Hermann’s work
on Heidegger’s own self-interpretation
35 and in the initial but not the later
editions of Pöggeler’s early study, 36 in Richardson’s book in English, 37 and in
all of Beaufret’s many writings on Heidegger.
Beaufret’s writings on Heidegger present an accurate, insightful, but wholly
uncritical statement of Heidegger’s own self-interpretation. Although
Heidegger desires to dialogue with great philosophers on their own level,
Beaufret is not a great or even an important thinker. His entire legacy is
bound up with his effort over many years to transmit a particular image of
Heidegger in the French discussion. It is fair to regard Heidegger’s lengthy
dialogue with Beaufret as an effort to provide an authoritative interpretation
of his view that will stand the test of time.
Disciples often devote a number of articles or a volume, sometimes two,
rarely more, to the master’s thought. In this as in other respects, Beaufret is
an exception. His Heidegger interpretation is expounded in numerous places,
including an early introduction to philosophies of existence,
38 four volumes
of dialogue with Heidegger patched together out of many articles and lectures
on various aspects of his thought,
39 a study of Parmenides based on Heidegger’s
interpretation of this thinker, 40 a couple of volumes of interviews concerning
Heidegger, 41 ten radio talks on Heidegger’s thought, and so on. 42
Heidegger’s grasp of the history of philosophy is unusual. In comparison,
Beaufret’s command of the philosophical tradition is shallower, but still
impressive. His writings reflect a thorough knowledge of French and German
thought, as well as scholasticism, with a deep grounding in Greek philosophy.
Beaufret’s writing on Heidegger is consistently characterized by his own
wide philosophical culture. In his early texts on Heidegger, he uses that
culture to understand Heidegger as one among the other important
philosophers. At this point, Beaufret accepts Sartre’s later view that the
only two contemporary philosophies worth taking seriously are
existentialism and Marxism. Beaufret inclined to Marxism prior to his turn
to Heidegger, and there are many knowledgeable, sympathetic remarks on
Marx and Marxism in his works. Perhaps the most unfavorable reference
to Marx in Beaufret’s writings is a remark in passing that Nietzsche
understands Greek thought better than Marx.
Yet when Beaufret enters into dialogue with Heidegger, his attitude
towards Heidegger’s theory changes. After the “Letter on Humanism,” he
accepts without reservations of any kind Heidegger’s claim that he is not a

113 philosopher since philosophy is concerned only with false ideas of being.
This idea consistently forms the cornerstone of Beaufret’s later writing on
Heidegger, where he uses the same wide philosophical culture to argue for
the radical discontinuity between Heidegger’s and other views, for the radical
discontinuity between Heidegger’s theory and philosophy.
There is a conceptual break in Beaufret’s reading of Heidegger’s relation
to other philosophers and to philosophy itself. Like Hegelians and Marxists,
who regard Hegel and Marx respectively as bringing the philosophical
tradition to an end, Heideggerians tend to see Heidegger’s theory as sui
generis, as without significant relation to prior thought.
45 Whereas Beaufret
initially detects continuity with differences in the relation of Heidegger’s
theory to those of earlier thinkers, he later detects only differences. In an
early article, in line with the French tendency to approach Heidegger’s theory
through its link to Husserl’s, he sees Heidegger as building upon Husserl’s
view. In his conception of being in the world (l’être-au-monde), Heidegger
follows Husserl who followed Brentano. Heidegger builds on the Husserlian
notion of intentionality that he transforms through the discovery of our
“irremediable facticity.”
Yet later, after the appearance of the “Letter on Humanism,” Beaufret
regards the effort, parenthetically characteristic of the French Heidegger
discussion, to understand Heidegger’s theory through a purported link to
Husserl’s as mere eclecticism. The change in Beaufret’s perspective reflects
two points that Heidegger raises in his text: his claim to go beyond
philosophy; and his objection to a comparison between his position and
Jaspers’s and, by implication, his position and any other. Following
Heidegger’s self-interpretation, Beaufret rethinks the relation between the
views of Husserl and Heidegger not as a development through continuity
but as a discontinuity, as a conceptual break. Despite the essential relation
of the theories of Heidegger and Husserl, he now holds that to counterpose
them, to consider them on the same level, as in the phrase “Husserl and
Heidegger,” leads to a deep misunderstanding. Husserl’s analysis of the
prehistory of the conception of science is strictly incomparable with
Heidegger’s meditation on the Greek origins of logos. Their views are
radically unlike and, hence, discontinuous since Heidegger subjects to radical
scrutiny what Husserl merely-assumes.
Beaufret steadily refined his reading of Heidegger’s position over more
than thirty years. The final, richest version of his Heidegger interpretation
is presented in two places: in a lecture given in 1977,
48 and in another
lecture given in 1981 at the first French Heidegger conference. 49 His final
view of Heidegger’s theory is later repeated in simplified form, often in the
same words, in a volume of interviews with Beaufret on Heidegger’s thought
arguably intended, like the latter’s Spiegel interview, to present that thought
to the widest possible public.
50 Here Beaufret offers a coherent, interesting
reading of Heidegger’s later position as a lengthy meditation on Greek

114 philosophy, in particular on the Aristotelian idea that it is difficult to grasp
the topos. For Beaufret, then, the central thread running throughout all
Heidegger’s later writings is the nonmetaphysical or postmetaphysical
concern to work out the topology of being that, on his interpretation, was
only beginning in 1927.
Beaufret partly bases his interpretation of Heidegger’s theory on a reading
of the celebrated turning in the latter’s thought. Apparently unaware of
Heidegger’s letter to Richardson, he situates the turning in 1927, in a
transition from the “first beginning” to “another beginning” in “a still
unknown book.”
52 This transition turns on the forgetfulness of being that
is no longer, as in Being and Time, due to a simple human oversight, but is
now attributed to being:

The forgetfulness of Being is no longer a simple inadvertency as the
reader of Being and Time might still believe. It is the concern of Being,
not ours. In other words, the locution: forgetfulness of Being, an objective
genitive, is turned into a subjective genitive. The forgetfulness comes
from Being.

This transformation is communicated initially in public fashion in the lecture
“On the Essence of Truth” in 1930. According to Beaufret, here we find the
theme of all of Heidegger’s later thought.
This simple linguistic observation refers to the change in Heidegger’s theory
according to which being is no longer known through, but rather makes
itself known to, human being. Beaufret interprets the transformation of an
objective genitive into a subjective genitive as a withdrawal of being. And he
further interprets the so-called withdrawal of being as fundamental to history
viewed as an event, or Ereignis.
54 Relying once more on his uniquely close
relation to the master thinker, Beaufret remarks, now citing the master, that
in 1949 Heidegger once told him that “man is penetrated [transi] by Being to
the point of becoming Dasein and this event Ereignis is the truth of Being to
which Dasein essentially belongs.”
Beaufret usefully distinguishes a number of meanings of the term
“Ereignis” that Heidegger regarded as untranslatable. 56 These include
meanings associated with Greek poetry, the birth of Greek philosophy as a
separate entity, and the history of philosophy since this moment until the
point at which it was surpassed through modern technology.
57 The last,
decisive meaning emerges from a long meditation on modern technology as
Ereignis—as the successor of a theme that could always have been studied
but that is only initially studied in Being and Time—with respect to “the
other beginning, the initiating of the step which disengages itself from
metaphysics through moving back….”
There is a difference between the formulation and the dissemination of an
authoritative interpretation of a master theory, and its defense against

115 nonorthodox, or even dissident readings that disagree with the attempt to
establish an orthodox reading. A disciple whose entire career is devoted to a
master thinker, who relies at crucial points in the debate on privileged
information to provide what can only be regarded as the “authorized”
interpretation, is unlikely to welcome interpretations conflicting with his own.
Although Beaufret’s refutations of other Heidegger interpretations can be
regarded as instances of his concern to correct misinterpretations, they are
not only that. Quietly but firmly, Beaufret goes to considerable lengths to
discredit other readings of Heidegger’s thought in the process of asserting his
own preeminence in this domain.
Examples include his refutation of rival interpretations of Heidegger’s
thought due to Renaut, Vuillemin, Merleau-Ponty, Ricoeur, Löwith, and
Pöggeler. Alain Renaut is a former Beaufret student and a Heidegger apostate,
according to Beaufret—who did not live to appreciate the more recent
evolution of the French Heidegger reception in which many of his former
students have now either begun to or already distanced themselves from his
own overly clement interpretation of the master’s thought
59—the only one of
his students to reject his authorized reading of Heidegger’s thought. 60
In an article, Renaut raises questions concerning the French translations
of Heidegger’s seminars at Thor (1966, 1968, 1969) and Zähringen (1973). 61
As for the “Letter on Humanism,” the latter seminar was provoked by a
letter from Beaufret. The manuscripts of both seminars were reconstructed
from notes by Beaufret and translated by Claude Roëls, a collaborator, and
himself. In questioning the relation of these texts to Heidegger’s corpus, the
accuracy of their reconstruction, and the rendering of particular terms, Renaut
implicitly threatens Beaufret’s privileged role in the French Heidegger
establishment and his authorized reading of Heidegger’s thought.
The vigor of Beaufret’s response,
62 nearly twice as long as Renaut’s paper,
indicates how seriously he takes this challenge to his authority. In response,
Beaufret makes four points: He describes Renaut as a disgruntled former
student, by implication not someone whose word about Heidegger should be
given undue weight, certainly not against the view of a ranking French
Heidegger scholar; he provides a brief restatement of the entire development
of Heidegger’s later position in order to demonstrate his own mastery of the
topic; he indicates in detail reasons governing his translations of particular
terms and his translation practice in general while deprecating Renaut’s
competence to object to specific renderings;
63 and he provides a detailed
account of his intimate personal links to Heidegger over many years.
Renaut’s article challenges the latter’s preeminence in the French Heidegger
debate but does not challenge Heidegger’s theory. On the contrary, Merleau-
Ponty, Vuillemin and Ricoeur elicit responses from Beaufret not because they
threaten his preeminence in the French Heidegger debate but because they
challenge Heidegger’s theory. In a well known book, Jules Vuillemin, for
many years professor at the Collège de France, studies the positions of Fichte,

116 Hermann Cohen, the great neo-Kantian, and Heidegger as three responses to
Kant’s Copernican Revolution in philosophy.
For a determined Heideggerian, a study of this kind obviously undermines
the extraordinary importance of the master thinker whose thought, which
by his own claim surpasses philosophy, is literally incomparable, and hence
not comparable with that of even the most important philosophers.
Beaufret’s unusually sharp response can be regarded as an effort to discredit
Vuillemin’s book that he characterizes as “apparently documented,” as “a
novel in which Heidegger is one of the protagonists,” and as belonging to
“the fantasies of erudition” whose faults are easily overcome through “simple
textual study.”
In Beaufret’s eyes, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the important French
phenomenologist, commits a similar mistake. His suggestion that Being
and Time can be seen as no more than an effort to work out the later
Husserlian idea of the life world
66 implies a relation of continuity between
the two positions. Following Heidegger’s rejection of the locution “Jaspers
and Heidegger,” Beaufret resists the “eclecticism” apparent, despite the
“essential connection” of Heidegger to Husserl, in the similar locution
“Husserl and Heidegger.”
67 Once again, Beaufret’s strategy is to insist on
the discontinuity between Heidegger and any other thinker, in this case
Husserl. In a manner recalling Heidegger’s rejection of Cartesian subjectivity
in the 1938 lecture,
68 Beaufret maintains that in Being and Time Heidegger
abandoned “all subjectivity in favor of an earlier question, namely, ek-
sistence [ek-sistence] as the fundamental dimension of the Greek
Paul Ricoeur, the important French phenomenologist, an honored colleague,
is another significant foe whose objections cannot be answered merely through
insisting on one’s own importance or by simple ridicule. In his response, we
begin to see the rather modest limits of Beaufret’s own philosophical capacities
that are inversely proportional to his attachment to Heidegger’s theory. In an
article on the relation between Heidegger and theology,
70 Beaufret refers to
objections brought by Ricoeur against Heidegger’s later effort simply to equate
metaphysics and philosophy,
71 and Heidegger’s supposed “prétention” to bring
the history of being to an end through the notion of Ereignis. 72
Ricoeur’s criticisms touch on the core of Heidegger’s later position, that is
his intention indicated in various ways—through the turning in his thought,
what in the Beiträge zur Philosophie he called the transition from the first
beginning to the other beginning, in short by means of a substitution of a
subjective genitive for an objective genitive and other devices—to bring
philosophy to an end, in short to escape from the philosophical tradition to
something beyond it called thinking.
In response to the first point, Beaufret insists that Heidegger’s crucial
contribution, like Hegel’s, is to restrict the term “philosophy” to thought in
the deepest sense arising out of the Greek tradition.
73 Yet his flattering

117 comparison between Heidegger and Hegel fails to respond to the objection
that, if allowed, simply destroys Heidegger’s effort to transcend metaphysics
and philosophy in general.
Beaufret’s response to the other point raised by Ricoeur is even weaker. In
effect, he changes the subject and introduces a weak ad hominem. In declaring
that Heidegger is not a pretentious person although it is “affected” to accuse
him of affectation and “fatuous” to accuse him of fatuity,
74 Beaufret implies
that Ricoeur is pretentious. This strategy consists in a double transformation
of a philosophical question into a personal one, and a personal question into
a question concerning the questioner. Yet it fails to respond either to the
letter or even to the spirit of Ricoeur’s objection that questions Heidegger’s
success in bringing metaphysics to an end and even the general possibility of
reaching this end.
Beaufret’s attitude towards his French colleagues is influenced by his
concern to protect a favored interpretation of the master’s writings and his
personal struggle for influence in the French Heidegger debate. On the
contrary, his attitude towards his German colleagues, as illustrated through
his remarks on Löwith and Pöggeler, is presumably influenced only by his
concern to maintain Heideggerian orthodoxy.
Karl Löwith, Heidegger’s first graduate student and later colleague, is an
important philosopher. In the French Heidegger discussion, he is further
important as one of Heidegger’s severest German critics as well as the author
of the article that began the French debate on Heidegger’s Nazism in the
pages of Sartre’s journal, Les Temps Modernes.
Beaufret’s attack on Löwith, which is unmotivated by any specific criticism,
is intended to show Löwith’s ignorance of even the most elementary aspects
of Heidegger’s thought, in effect to disqualify him as a critic without, however,
responding to specific objections. In a comparison of Löwith’s and Sartre’s
views of Dasein with Heidegger’s self-interpretation, the same Sartre whom
Beaufret initially regarded as a keen student of Heidegger, Beaufret writes:
“To think otherwise is to miss the departure point, namely, to miss everything
from the beginning, as Sartre does simplistically when, in Being and
Nothingness, he criticizes Heidegger for ‘refusing’ as he says or at least
‘avoiding’ through Dasein the cogito.”
Otto Pöggeler, one of the important German scholars of both Heidegger’s
and Hegel’s theories, is the author of a well known study of Heidegger’s
thought, prepared under the close supervision of the master. It would be
implausible to suggest that Pöggeler is less than deeply familiar with
Heidegger’s thought. It is not implausible to suggest that certain nuances
escape him that are, however, by implication known to Heidegger’s chief
disciple. Beaufret makes this point with respect to Pöggeler’s observation,
which he accepts, that Hölderlin’s poetry led Heidegger to introduce the notion
of the fourfold. For Beaufret, Pöggeler fails to elucidate the choice of Hölderlin.
Relying once more on an oral comment by Heidegger, Beaufret remarks that

118 it is because alone among the poets Hölderlin raises “the problem of the
singular relation of our world to its Greek origins.”
It is obvious that Beaufret will tolerate no criticism of Heidegger in any
form, no deviation from the “authorized” reading of his thought. Someone
concerned to protect Heidegger’s theory is aware that it requires protection
not only against unauthorized, even deviant interpretations but also, especially
in the postwar French environment, against politically motivated criticism
deriving from his turning to National Socialism. Beaufret’s handling of the
political dimension of Heidegger’s thought is a model for later French
discussion. Like those who deny the problem of evil, Beaufret in effect denies
that there is any political problem to be addressed as concerns Heidegger’s
relation to National Socialism.
Beaufret’s infrequent remarks on Heidegger’s political turning are invariably
exculpatory. In an early response to Sartre’s remark that Heidegger rallied to
National Socialism through lack of character, Beaufret demurs, insisting that
it was surely a consciously premeditated act. He wonders if Heidegger turned
to Nazism through the naive view that it was an authentic form of resoluteness
in the face of death, before suggesting that such naïveté is due to a bourgeois
lack of attention to social infrastructure.
79 At this stage, the most that Beaufret
is willing to countenance is a certain naïveté on the part of the philosopher of
being, presumably unaware of, or at least unschooled in, political realities.
In later writings, Beaufret portrays the same Heidegger who perhaps
naively, but honorably rallied to National Socialism as a staunch opponent
of Nazism. According to Beaufret, Heidegger’s lecture on the “Origin of the
Work of Art” delivered several times in 1935 and 1936 was a clear act of
defiance of Goebbels’s Nazi view of culture. Heidegger’s only mistake is “to
have believed that Hitlerism could be overcome through the force of
80 Once more Heidegger is guilty of nothing more than being a
little naive, presumably like all philosophers.
Yet even the minimal admission in texts addressed to philosophical
colleagues that Heidegger is possibly politically naive is taken back in the
harder line formulated in interviews intended for public consumption. Here
Beaufret weaves an absolutely seamless web devoid of flaws of any kind. He
maintains that Heidegger did nothing that could possibly justify the allegations
raised against him and that the political interrogation of his thought reflects
only the philosophical mediocrity of his detractors.
81 Further adopting an
Olympian attitude, he maintains that it is demeaning for a thinker like
Heidegger to respond to criticism and that, following Heidegger’s explicit
wish, he will not do so.
82 Presumably criticism concerning Heidegger’s position
and his politics are on the same plane. Going further, Beaufret suggests, in a
transparent allusion to Marxism, that to accuse an important body of thought
is equivalent to interpreting philosophy as ideology.
Yet as the facts have continued to emerge, it has become ever clearer
that, in Beaufret’s language, Heidegger did a number of things that might

119 justify the allegations raised against him, such as denouncing his colleagues
to the National Socialists.
84 While most of Heidegger’s critics are
philosophically less significant figures, it does not follow that their criticisms
are either incorrect or politically motivated. Yet if political questions cannot
be asked then intellectual responsibility, on which Heidegger insists in his
conception of resoluteness, disappears. And if important theories are not
subject to criticism, then they are literally incomparable, sui generis, beyond
evaluation of any kind, merely an object of admiration. This is perhaps the
deeper message of Beaufret’s determined defense of Heidegger against all
criticism of any kind.
Beaufret’s influential reading of Heidegger’s theory offers a selective
affirmation of the main themes of the “Letter on Humanism” that became
the basis for French Heideggerian orthodoxy. The official pretext of this text
is Sartre’s overly enthusiastic claim to base his own existentialism in
Heidegger’s fundamental ontology. Yet Heidegger, who seems initially to have
believed in his hour of need that his salvation would come from Sartre,
85 was
certainly aware that the stakes were considerably higher.
In Beaufret’s influential reading of Heidegger, three themes predominate:
the approach to Heidegger’s earlier thought through its later evolution; the
idea that Heidegger’s theory is beyond philosophy; and the effort to defend
Heidegger’s position against criticism motivated by his political involvement.
These themes further predominate in the orthodox French Heidegger
discussion that concentrates on a strictly philosophical, anticontextualist
reading of the master’s thought. Following Beaufret’s lead, there is a tendency
to isolate Heidegger’s thought from his political commitment or, if that is not
possible, to present the most favorable view of Heidegger’s politics.
The authoritative Cahier de l’Herne devoted to Heidegger illustrates the
latter strategy.
86 In a presentation of his thought as a whole, it is obviously
not possible to avoid mention of his commitment to National Socialism. Yet
this obvious danger is defused in two ways: through a selective reproduction
of Heidegger’s writings that presents only his side of the issue; and through
the publication of articles in the section on politics that either do not address
his turn to National Socialism
87 or tend to excuse it.
Following Heidegger’s own Spiegel interview, Jean-Marie Veysse discusses
the famous “Rectorial address” as a meditation on the essence of the German
university without consideration of its link to Heidegger’s Nazism.
88 A more
accurate picture of this speech would have been presented by reproducing
the talk. Jean-Michel Palmier, author of a work on Heidegger and politics,
contributes a discussion of Heidegger and National Socialism that refutes
any claim for a connection between Heidegger’s thought and his political

120 turn by the simple device of restricting the discussion narrowly to a very
short chronological period.
The widespread tendency in orthodox French Heideggerianism to
interpret Heidegger’s early writings through his later thought and his thought
through itself produces a strongly conservative approach to Heideggerian
texts. In the analysis of Heideggerian writings, French textual interpretation
sometimes takes on a nearly hierophantic quality in which questions of
truth are bracketed in favor of elaborate, extended, ever more ingenious
textual readings. Everything happens as if for certain views of the sacred
writings Heidegger’s ideas are known to be true and the only relevant
question is how to depict them.
After Beaufret’s death, his mantle as the most important French reader of
Heidegger’s thought was gradually assumed by Jacques Derrida. Unlike
Beaufret, Derrida is an original thinker but he is also distinguished by a deep
devotion to Heidegger’s thought, which he interprets in an almost Talmudic
fashion, often paragraph by paragraph or even line by line.
91 Although he is
deeply influenced by Heidegger, it is a mistake to conflate Derrida’s own
thought with Heidegger’s. Yet as we shall see below, when he has finished
with his intricate reading of Heidegger’s writings, considered as an
interpretation, the result is often indistinguishably similar to the orthodox
form of Heideggerianism established by Beaufret.
We have discussed aspects of French Heideggerian orthodoxy created by
Beaufret. The image of French Heideggerian orthodoxy presented here is
necessarily stereotypical, an ideal type, exhibiting general characteristics
exhibited in different ways by recent French students of Heidegger. It is not
necessary for any single French student of Heidegger’s thought to exhibit all
the features of the later Heideggerian reading of his theory through the lens
of the “Letter on Humanism” to maintain that this cluster of features is
widely exemplified in the French Heidegger discussion.
We can illustrate contemporary French Heideggerian orthodoxy through
the work of Michel Haar, a young French Heideggerian, with solid ties to
orthodox Heideggerian circles in France and abroad. Haar’s work, which is
representative of the best contemporary French Heidegger scholarship, is
distinguished through his grasp of the entire Heideggerian corpus, a solid
knowledge of German, a relatively spare, neutral writing style, unusual in
the Heidegger discussion, a useful capacity, infrequently in evidence in the
Heidegger debate, to contrast Heidegger’s ideas with those of other writers,
and a growing willingness to criticize. Yet in other respects Haar is typical of
the orthodox tendency to approach Heidegger’s initial theory through his

121 later writings, to view that theory as beyond philosophy, and to minimize or
eliminate Heidegger’s political involvement as a factor in judging his theory.
Haar is one of the few French Heideggerians to concentrate on the
Heideggerian concept of human being. He raises this theme in two recent
books, indirectly and less critically in a study of the idea of the earth, that
place where human beings live, from a late Heideggerian perspective,
93 and
more directly and more critically in a study of Heidegger’s concept of human
94 that is, as Haar points out, so strangely silent on the place of the
individual in history. 95
The first book is a study of what the Greeks called physis from the
perspective of the later Heidegger. According to Haar, this concept is absent
in Being and Time. It is initially elucidated in Heidegger’s study, “The Origin
of the Work of Art.” For Haar, following Heidegger, the Greek temple refers
not only to the cultural world but to all of nature. He presents Heidegger’s
theory as a non-Hegelian approach to the history of being from Greek logos
to modern technology that implies something that is not exhibited, that is
held back, in terms of which history is destiny. In this theory, each epoch
forms a unity, but each is also held back with respect to being.
Ereignis is the discovery of this limit of history. Through this idea we can
go out of the history of being in order to grasp it as a finished whole and to
“remember” it without arriving at a Hegelian totalization. Ereignis is, hence,
the condition of acceding to a nonmetaphysical experience of the world that
Heidegger describes as letting be:

Ereignis hence causes to appear the limits and the disposition of the
wordly disposition, thought through its historical provenance, as the
purely metaphysical basis. Is this scientific and technological basis,
derived in a distant and complex manner from the “first principles” of
philosophy, the soil [sol] on which man walks or stands? Certainly not.
Even if man begins to distance himself from the planet towards cosmic
space, he still inhabits this earth that in no sense signifies for him a
“planet” among others (“planet” means etymologically “wandering
star”). Although in the last phase of the History of Being the earth has
already become “planetary,” it however gives to man the originary
experience of place.

The book is divided into three parts, concerning being and the earth, the
limits of history, and art and the earth. In the first part, after some remarks
on animality, Haar takes up the question of human being through the idea
of mood (Stimmung). The third section discusses the primacy of mood over
the corporeal character of Dasein. Haar concedes that Being and Time has
no analysis of what Husserl’s Ideas, II or the early Merleau-Ponty describe
as the original site of truth under the names of Leib, Leiblichkeit, corps
propre, chair, corporéité, and so on.
97 Yet this is not a defect, since mood

122 and thrownness (Geworfenheit), themes that Heidegger analyses in detail,
are prior to the body.
98 In fact, mood reveals thrownness. It is also the basis
of all emotions. He follows Heidegger in differentiating mood and basic
mood (Grundstimmung). “The Grundstimmung not only reveals the
situation in the world, but the situation of the world concerning the earth,
the divine and history.”
In this book, written prior to the raging discussion on Heidegger’s politics
that took place in France in 1987–1988, Haar is respectful of Heidegger,
including Heidegger’s view of human being, concerned to expound and defend
rather than to criticize, as close as possible to Heidegger’s own view as he
reads it. His approach evolves in his more recent study, written after the
discussion of Heidegger’s politics, which is squarely centered on Heidegger’s
theory of human being.
In the later book, Haar rapidly dismisses Heidegger’s political turning as
due merely to a moment of “voluntarism”
100 without inquiring into its effect
on the later theory. This aspect of the discussion is uncritical. Haar simply
claims that Heidegger declined both racism in virtue of its biologism and the
Führerprinzip because of its elitism. Yet there is now reason to believe that, if
anti-Semitism is racism, Heidegger may have been a racist after all,
101 and his
public support of the Führerprinzip is a matter of record. 102
Haar’s treatment of Heidegger’s political turning is excentric, not central
to his book. It is only significant in virtue of his unwillingness to be more
than faintly critical of Heidegger, critical in a way that basically challenges
the theory on any single point. He is slightly more critical of Heidegger’s
conception of man. Yet the criticism is muted by the fact that it presupposes
rather than intends to question the bases of the Heideggerian edifice. Whereas
some writers exaggerate the importance of their criticism, Haar minimizes
his. He seems to want to question, but not to place in question Heidegger’s
conception of the essence of man.
According to Haar, Heidegger’s analysis of Dasein innovates through a
concept of man’s unitary essence that is independent of the prior discussion.
Echoing Sartre’s view that Marxism requires the existentialist concept of
man, Haar contends that the traditional metaphysical view of being as presence
requires Heidegger’s concept of Dasein as a finite being.
104 Haar identifies
three Heideggerian motives: to refuse the traditional philosophical idea of
man as a rational animal, including the identification-of a metaphysical essence
with an animal grasped as a thing, the idea that reason (logos, ratio)
understood as a simple faculty loses its link to being, and the idea that human
being is only a special case of the metaphysics of subjectivity.
Haar’s critique of Heidegger’s essentialist conception of human being is
developed punctually in the discussion, notably with respect to the idea of
being-toward-death. He defends Heidegger against the charge of antihumanism
due, he contends, to a misreading of Heidegger’s antianthropologism.

123 What is sometimes unreflectively [étourdiment] called “antihumanism”
is principally a radical rupture with the anthropocentrism that dominates
since the dawn of Modern Times. Man does not produce himself. He
does not create being. He does not possess the final possibility of his
own capacities. He does not master the provenance or the secret necessity
of the structures of the world. He can only administer them. He only
perceives rarely and dimly the possibility of the Earth that is received
through art.”

This passage toward the end of the book confirms that Haar basically accepts
Heidegger’s conception of man as Dasein, man as defined through his relation
to being, man as a dependent being. This is a view of human being that has
lost the modern humanist insistence on such characteristics as freedom or
naturalism, as in the idea that man is part of nature, characteristics that have
been replaced by the idea that man depends on and can point to being.
The book ends with two critical remarks concerning Heidegger’s
“excesses.” First, Heidegger suppresses not only the metaphysical subject
but its individuality.
106 Through his concern with being, Heidegger fails to
preserve what is particular about different human beings, what makes them
artists, or poets, and so on. Second, Heidegger pretends that “being would
have the force to manifest itself spontaneously, by and through itself.”
107 For
Haar, Heidegger’s later effort, after decentering the subject, to approach being
directly, is unintelligible without the subject to which being manifests itself.
In reference to Heidegger’s late essay, “The End of Philosophy and the Task
of Being,” where he discusses the idea of the clearing (Lichtung), Haar writes:
“If one follows Being and Time, it is Dasein itself that is the Lichtung!”
Haar, who addresses the limits of Heidegger’s conception of human being
from an angle of vision located within Heidegger’s thought, does not draw
the conclusion of his remark that is simply devastating for the later evolution
of Heidegger’s theory and for the theory itself. If we follow Haar, the later
development of Heidegger’s thought, including the decentering of the subject,
the emphasis on being as self-manifesting, in short the content of the
celebrated turning, is in fact a turning away from the valid kernel of his
theory. If it is excessive to regard being as self-manifesting, and if being can
only manifest itself to human being, then Heidegger should not later have
turned away, but rather held fast to the analysis of Dasein, the central insight
of his fundamental ontology.
Haar could accept this point, since his purpose seems to be to call attention
to what he regards as valid in Heidegger’s early thought. What he could
not accept is the further implication of his remark. For if the earth precedes
the world, if human beings raise the problem of being, then it is mistaken to
understand human being through being. Hence, the wider implication of
Haar’s analysis is simply to question the foundations of Heidegger’s original
analysis of human being as the clue to being. Although this is not his

124 intention, his discussion of Heidegger’s view of the essence of human being
threatens that view as well as the deeper concern, animating his entire theory,
with being.
French Heideggerianism is a form of philosophical orthodoxy that, like
orthodoxy in general, turns on uncritical fidelity. This orthodoxy stands in
for the critical examination of truth claims that are presupposed but rarely if
ever tested. In the orthodox French reading of Heidegger, orthodoxy is assured
by the reading of Heideggerian texts anticontextually, that is without regard
to time and place, in abstraction from their genesis, merely in terms of
themselves. When stress is placed on the interpretation of an author, any
author, merely through that author’s texts, then the resultant reading lacks
ordinary standards of comparison required to evaluate theories of any kind.
An approach to Heidegger’s early writings through the focus of their later
development, useful in revealing reasons for the transformation of the initial
position, is also philosophically conservative in precluding any assessment of
the theory. The resultant reading of Heidegger’s theory through the focus of
his own “Letter on Humanism” tends to apply his own reverential attitude
towards the authentic repetition of tradition to the reverential repetition of
his view of his own thought.
The orthodox character of the French Heidegger discussion, as illustrated
by Beaufret, serves to render a master thinker immune to criticism.
Heideggerians everywhere employ techniques designed to sacralize the master
thinker while impeding evaluative discussion. Yet it would be illusory to regard
philosophical orthodoxy as confined to Heidegger’s students or to French
thought. This practice is unfortunately widespread in the philosophical
discussion in France and elsewhere that continually evades even the most
determined effort to measure its claims, especially its persistent claims for
social utility, against the reality of the situation.
It will be useful to end this chapter with a brief note about the influence of
French Heideggerianism in American circles. French Heideggerianism,
including its orthodox variant, like French wine, is a product that travels
well, that can be exported to other countries, particularly to North America.
It was introduced, popularized and disseminated by important scholars active
in America interested in Heidegger, such as Reiner Schürmann,
109 but above
all through the growing American reputation of Derrida. The latter acquired
an American audience for his thought, including his particular brand of French
Heideggerianism through his association with a group of Yale literary critics
with philosophical inclinations, including J.Hillis Miller, Geoffrey Sammons,
Harold Bloom, and especially Paul de Man. Although with the exception of
de Man none of these writers is particularly Heideggerian, there was at least

125 a receptivity, and in the case of de Man, an active concern with certain
Heideggerian themes
110 that helped create an interest in Derrida. This interest
was quickly increased through translation of his writings as well as through
his frequent teaching forays to the United States.
There is an increasing penetration of French Heideggerian orthodoxy in
American cultural circles, including departments of literature, French,
comparative literature, and philosophy. This tendency is stronger in France,
where its influence is felt in the Collège international de philosophic and in
the publications of Editions Galilée. Those in France under Derrida’s influence,
that is paradoxically weaker than in America, include Jean-Luc Nancy, Philippe
Lacoue-Labarthe, Françoise Dastur, Sarah Kofman, and others. In America,
those who take an orthodox French Heideggerian line mediated through the
influence of Derrida, that is mediated through John Sallis’s journal Research
in Phenomenology and his book series at University of Indiana Press, Studies
in Continental Philosophy, include Sallis, David Krell, and Charles Scott. As
in French Heideggerian orthodoxy, the common thread linking together all
these writers is the triple concern to turn away from or at least severely to
minimize Heidegger’s political commitment, to read the earlier Heidegger
through the later writings, and to consider Heidegger’s writings either without
reference to the philosophical tradition or mainly, even solely, through his
own reading of it.
At present, when the rise of French Heideggerian orthodoxy is still under
way, it is difficult to predict the outcome. It is too early to say whether like
wine it will continue to improve with age over a fairly long period or whether
like cheese it will ripen and then quickly spoil. Yet it is likely that the emergence
of detailed discussion of Heidegger’s political misdeeds will eventually lead
to a revision of the rather too charitable, uncritically orthodox French reading
of his thought in French and American philosophical circles. In fact, this may
already be happening. As the recent publication of Krell’s critical study of
Heidegger makes clear, even his staunchest supporters are now revising their
view of Heidegger and Heidegger’s theory.



A master thinker is influential with respect to the ensuing discussion that, on
one interpretation, takes form in the horizon formed by the master’s thought.
Precisely this status was claimed for Heidegger in Koyré’s introduction to the
initial translation of Heidegger’s writings into French. This claim is meaningful
only if it can be shown that Heidegger’s theory exerts a dominant influence
in the contemporary French philosophical debate. This is the first of two
chapters that will demonstrate the dominant influence of Heidegger’s theory
within contemporary French philosophy.
Suggestions of influence are easy to grasp but difficult to evaluate.
“Influence” is intrinsically vague. Virtually any relation between two thinkers
might be construed as indicating the influence of one on the other. Yet many
forms of influence are unimportant, certainly philosophically unimportant.
Although Hegel saw Napoleon on horseback at the Battle of Jena, it is
philosophically unimportant to know the color of the horse. Yet it is
philosophically important to understand how Hegel’s observation of Napoleon
relates to the Hegelian concept of the role of the great man in history.
To illustrate Heidegger’s influence in contemporary French philosophy, it is
useful to distinguish between three types of philosophical discussion: that devoted
mainly or even solely to Heidegger’s theory; that which makes use of Heideggerian
insights as an aid in studying the philosophical tradition; and that so-called creative
philosophical work that draws on Heideggerian insights to develop a position
that may or may not remain within the Heideggerian orbit.
Heidegger specialists, whose work is devoted to preparing editions of his
writings, to their translation, and to interpretation of his ideas, obviously
tend to be influenced by his theory. Here the relevant factor is the very size of
the French Heidegger debate in which in recent years as many as fifteen or
more books on the master’s thought have been published each fall. It is easy

127 to pick out a Heidegger scholar, or at least no more difficult than it is to pick
out, say, a Plato scholar. Frequently those whose work consists in scrutinizing
texts in the closest possible way are reluctant to do more than that, particularly
reluctant to criticize. There seems to be an inverse relation between detailed,
expert knowledge of any philosopher’s thought, especially Heidegger’s, and
the desire or willingness to raise, or even to entertain, objections to the position.
It must be highly unusual for someone to devote himself to detailed
exegesis of the thought of a writer held to be less than first rank. Those
whose theories receive and merit such scholarly devotion are usually the
very few thinkers of the highest philosophical importance. One way to
measure Heidegger’s influence in contemporary philosophy is through the
sheer number of philosophers engaged mainly or wholly in some form of
Heideggerian exegesis in the wider sense of the term, those who regard
their primary or perhaps sole philosophical task as preparing the texts or as
getting out the Heideggerian message.
In French philosophical circles, those committed to Heideggerian exegesis
seem more numerous than elsewhere. In part, we have already considered
Heideggerian exegesis through the instructive example of Jean Beaufret who,
in many writings devoted to Heidegger’s theory, presents an insurpassably
orthodox view of the master’s own theory, including his reading of selected
figures in the philosophical tradition. But there are many others who, while
they may not adopt the seamlessly orthodox interpretation that Beaufret
favors, are close, often very close to it. They include, in no particular order,
such writers as François Fédier, Emmanuel Martineau, Henri Birault, Jean
Greisch, Alain Boutot, François Vézin, in certain of his moods Jacques Derrida,
and others.
Heidegger’s theory is at best difficult to understand. There is certainly
room for a faithful effort to explain the main lines of a difficult theory without
criticism. Such careful explanation is different from a further, more orthodox
effort at what can fairly be called philosophical hagiography. An admittedly
extreme, recent example is provided by the short presentation of Heidegger’s
thought due to Boutot,
1 who earlier published a study of Heidegger and Plato. 2
Even when we take into account the fact that this little study is written mainly
for the wider public, it exhibits an extreme type of orthodoxy simply
antithetical to philosophy that has here been replaced by a kind of
philosophical cult of personality.
In his book, Boutot simply reproduces the usual clichés of orthodox
Heideggerianism without criticism of any kind. Examples include the idea
that Heidegger is incontestably one of the major thinkers, even the major
thinker of this century, that his thought moves through all the controversies
it has engendered without any damage whatsoever, that the history of
philosophy since the early Greeks is the history of the forgetfulness of being,
that we still have not begun to think, and that Heidegger’s thought is one of
those rare views that end up by transforming all of human existence.

It is not difficult to pick out those who specialize in Heideggerian exegesis. It
is more difficult to distinguish between those employing Heideggerian insights
to read other views and those employing such insights to so-called original
philosophy. In practice this distinction is mainly honored in the breach, for
instance in Heidegger’s theory which, like Hegel’s and many others, combines
insights borrowed from the philosophical tradition with systematic discussion.
It is likely, then, that no firm distinction between the history of philosophy
and systematic philosophy can be drawn since this distinction is at best relative
and never absolute.
3 In fact, many French philosophers present interesting,
original theories in part through the guise of a novel reading of prior
philosophy, most recently in Dominique Janicaud’s discussion of the
theological transformation of French phenomenology.
Heidegger’s influence in French cultural life is wider than the philosophical
discussion. It includes, for instance, the views of the psychoanalysts Julia
Kristeva and Jacques Lacan. The latter’s peculiar form of Freudianism is
influenced directly by his reading of Heidegger and indirectly through
Heidegger’s influence on Kojève’s Hegel interpretation. Lacan’s well known
thesis that “the unconscious is structured like a language,”
5 deriving from
the later Heidegger’s turn to language, 6 is understood by him as a form of
anti-Hegelianism. 7
Heidegger’s impact on contemporary French studies of the history of
philosophy is difficult to overestimate. An example is the interpretation of
Kierkegaard, whom some writers regard as the first important existentialist
thinker. For Lévinas, who acknowledges that Henri Delacroix and Victor
Basch already studied Kierkegaard at the beginning of the century, we owe to
Heidegger the philosophical reading of Kierkegaard.
In France, Heidegger is still commonly regarded as a phenomenologist.
Heidegger profoundly influences French interpretation of phenomenology,
as well as the development of the French phenomenological tradition. French
studies of Husserl may overlook Heidegger,
9 but even in the most orthodox
treatment Husserl’s theory invariably or nearly invariably figures in the works
on Heidegger’s.
10 In part through Lévinas’s continuing influence, French
Husserl studies have never been free from a certain Heideggerianism.
According to Paul Ricoeur, a major contributor to French phenomenology
as well as a scholar and translator of Husserl’s thought, French Husserlian
studies were literally founded by the appearance of Lévinas’s first book,
Théorie de l’intuition dans la phénoménologie de Husserl in 1930.
11 This
work, which was Lévinas’s dissertation, is ostensibly devoted to Husserl. Yet
Lévinas, who studied with both Husserl and Heidegger, was never only a
Husserlian. In fact, he has always provided a somewhat violent reading of
Husserl’s thought,
12 with important Heideggerian components.

129 The Heideggerian element in French Husserl studies is stronger in the
writings of those closer to Heidegger, including former Beaufret students
Jean-François Courtine, Jean-Luc Marion,
13 and above all in the works of
Jacques Derrida. 14 Courtine and Marion are both exceptions to the frequent
French philosophical tendency, encouraged by Heidegger and practiced by
Beaufret, to consider Heidegger’s thought as beyond comparison with
philosophical theories. With others, such as Jacques Taminiaux
15 and
Marion, Courtine has for years been concerned with careful discussion of
the relation of the views of Heidegger, particularly the early Heidegger, and
16 Marion, as will emerge below, has recently devoted intensive
study to the relation of the early Heidegger and Husserl in the process of
working out his own position.
Heidegger’s impact on Sartre’s theory is arguably even more significant.
Sartre’s thought continues to attract attention elsewhere, particularly in the
United States.
18 His near total eclipse in France at present is directly traceable
to his loss of the philosophical battle with Heidegger for influence in the
philosophical discussion.
Sartre was characteristically generous in assimilating his thought to
Heidegger’s, and in minimizing the importance of Heidegger’s turning to
National Socialism for the latter’s position.
19 In view of Sartre’s well known
political commitment, his clement—some would say his overly clement—
attitude toward Heidegger’s Nazism, unusual in a thinker who quarreled
with virtually everyone with whom he came into contact, is attributable to a
double failure on his part.
On the one hand, there is his superficial reading of Heidegger’s thought—
precisely the point that Heideggerians constantly raise—typical of a thinker
who apparently rarely read anyone’s work with care. On the other hand,
there is his questionable attachment to Heidegger’s theory precisely when
the latter was most overtly politically active, during Heidegger’s period as
rector of the University of Freiburg. Sartre, the apostle of intellectual
responsibility, was simply not responsible enough to examine the link between
Heidegger’s theory and his Nazism with any care.
What I am depicting as Sartre’s double failure significantly enabled him
at the end of the Second World War to invoke Heidegger as someone who
held views relevantly similar or even identical to his own. This is something
he could not have done had he been willing to put into question either his
blindness to Heidegger’s political activism or its link to Heidegger’s
Sartre, who was not disinterested, was generous in his appraisal of
Heidegger’s position; but Heidegger and the Heideggerians, who are also not
disinterested, have not been generous to Sartre. After a period in which Sartre’s
theory was dominant in the French philosophical debate, particularly in French
20 its influence quickly declined. This decline was helped by
at least three factors. One was Sartre’s death in 1980 that brought to an end

130 his phenomenal intellectual productivity. Another was the attack on his
thought launched by Heidegger in the “Letter on Humanism”, and later
prolonged by Beaufret, Derrida and others. Finally, there is the emergence of
French structuralism, with existentialism one of the two most significant
French philosophical movements in the postwar period, in the revolt against
Sartre’s intellectual hegemony.
Heidegger’s influence on the French reading of the history of philosophy
is not confined to phenomenologists such as Husserl and Sartre, but extends
to numerous other figures, including Nietzsche, Schelling, Descartes,
Suarez, Aristotle, and Parmenides. The French discussion of Nietzsche
began in the late nineteenth century. His writings were translated into
French by Eli Halévy and Henri Albert as early as the end of the last
21 His thought influenced many French writers, including Gide
and Valéry.22
Although there was a steady stream of works in French on Nietzsche’s
position, and an occasional book concerning Nietzsche’s thought was even
translated into French, his theory was not always held in high esteem. At
the beginning of the century, for example, Emile Faguet suggested that
Nietzsche was not a very original philosopher since all his views could be
entirely reconstructed from those of La Rochefoucauld, Goethe and
23 The early French appreciation of Nietzsche was so coarse grained
that as late as 1927 Julien Benda could refer in passing to Nietzschean
24 and even later in 1946 Henri Lefebvre could classify him as
an existentialist. 25
Heidegger and Jaspers were both interested in Nietzsche. Jaspers’s study
of Nietzsche’s thought attracted notice in the French discussion. 26 Yet the
ongoing French Nietzsche discussion 27 was transformed by the publication
in 1961 of Heidegger’s two volume study of Nietzsche. The appearance of
this study led to a revival of French interest in Nietzsche. This revival was
fueled by a number of factors, including the relatively rapid translation of
Heidegger’s massive Nietzsche study into French in 1971, the impact of
Nietzsche’s theory, particularly as interpreted by Heidegger, on Pierre
28 the translator of Heidegger’s study, as well as on Gilles
Deleuze 29 and above all on Michel Foucault.
In the wake of Heidegger’s study of Nietzsche’s thought, the French
philosophical interest in Nietzsche ran wide and deep.
30 Vincent Descombes
believes that the entire generation of the 1960s in France was dominated by
a Nietzschean perspectivism.
31 Most recently, a series of writers have used
the vehicle of a collective work on Nietzsche to free themselves from the

131 French philosophical assault during the 1960s, under the influence of
Heidegger and then Derrida, on the ideals of the Enlightenment.
In France, all observers agreed with Heidegger that Nietzsche was an
important figure, although few follow Heidegger’s tendency to read
Nietzsche’s theory with the same seriousness as if it were, say, Aristotle’s.
Nietzsche’s aphoristic style is at least partly responsible for the very wide
range of opinions concerning his thought. Philippe Raynaud distinguishes
three recent forms of French Nietzscheanism due respectively to Deleuze,
Foucault, and to Nietzsche’s wider impact on French culture.
34 Certainly,
Nietzsche is a central theme in the writing of Georges Bataille. 35 An
incomplete sample of recent French debate on Nietzsche includes a
rightwing effort to recuperate Nietzsche on behalf of so-called
36 an interpretation of Nietzsche as completing the
Copernican Revolution, 37 a study of Nietzsche and metaphor, 38 and so
on. Many, but not all French students of Nietzsche are more or less strongly
influenced, both positively and negatively, by Heidegger’s Nietzsche
As could be anticipated, as always Heidegger’s closest follower was Jean
Beaufret. As early as his first book concerning Heidegger’s theory, Beaufret
contends that since most French writers on Nietzsche incorrectly see him as
having surpassed Platonism—although for Heidegger Nietzsche reestablished
a form of Platonism—most French Nietzsche scholars have failed to
understand either Heidegger’s reading of Nietzsche or Nietzsche’s thought.
Beaufret develops Heidegger’s reading of Nietzsche’s theory in detail
throughout his four volumes of dialogues with Heidegger. Beaufret’s reading
of Nietzsche’s theory has recently been restated in briefer fashion by Courtine.
Others who contest Heidegger’s reading of Nietzsche’s theory in various ways
include François Laruelle, who criticizes Heidegger’s supposed reduction of
Nietzsche to an imperialist thinker in favor of an interpretation of Nietzsche
as an antifascist,
41 and Derrida, who tries several times to “save” Nietzsche
from Heidegger’s interpretation. 42 In fact, Derrida can be said to attempt to
turn Heidegger’s interpretation of Nietzsche against Heidegger in maintaining
that despite his later opposition to metaphysics Heidegger also remains a
metaphysical thinker.
Francisco Suarez, the Spanish philosopher of the sixteenth century, is a
key link in Heidegger’s reading of the philosophical tradition. In Being and
Time, he remarks that through Suarez’s Disputationes metaphysicae the Greek
metaphysical impulse is transmitted to modern philosophy, determining even
Hegel’s position.
43 Heidegger amplifies this statement in a lecture course from
the same period. He claims that Suarez, whom he regards as more important
than Duns Scotus or even Thomas Aquinas, provides a system for Aristotelian
metaphysics that determines all the later discussion up to and including
44 Heidegger points to Suarez’s distinction between metaphysica
generalis, or general ontology and metaphysica specialis, or special ontology,

132 including the theories of the world, nature, psychology, and God. He points
out that this distinction recurs widely in later thought, for instance, in Kant’s
Critique of Pure Reason.
Courtine applies this Heideggerian scheme in a detailed, recent study
of Suarez. The aim of the work, he tells us, is to situate Suarez in the
history of metaphysics, or in still more Heideggerian language, to determine
“the nature and the significance of the turning, ‘the historicality,’” of
Suarez’s contribution.
46 Echoing Heidegger’s view that Suarez is the author
of the system lacking in Aristotle’s Metaphysics—precisely that system
that permitted its later influence in the modern philosophical tradition as
well as the Heideggerian idea of ontotheology—Courtine states his desire
“to contribute…to the general study of the system of metaphysics, that is
the stages of its systematization, through the guiding thread of an
elaboration, which is historical, of the logic of its ontotheological
47 In his conclusion, more than 500 pages later, Courtine
offers the hypothesis, again following Heidegger, that the problem of the
analogia entis is, as Heidegger seems to have suspected, unthought within
metaphysics. And he underlines the importance of not conflating various
Heideggerian distinctions.
Throughout his career, Heidegger derives an important source of
inspiration from his meditation on Greek philosophy and Greek poetry. In
a sense, Being and Time is the form taken by a book on Aristotle originally
planned by Heidegger but never written. Many of Heidegger’s fundamental
concepts can be understood as revisions of Aristotelian concepts.
Heidegger’s interpretations of selected Greek philosophers, like other aspects
of his thought, are controversial and have attracted criticism from some
50 Others, particularly French writers, regard them as casting an
important new light on ancient Greek philosophy.
In France, a Heideggerian approach to the interpretation of Greek
philosophy has been fostered by Beaufret, who, unceasingly orthodox in all
things Heideggerian, devotes an entire volume of his Dialogues with
Heidegger to the latter’s views of Greek philosophy,
51 and Pierre Aubenque,
the influential Aristotle scholar. Aubenque was aided in making his case for
a Heideggerian approach to Greek philosophy and to philosophy in general
through his own important studies of Greek thought, his chair in Greek
philosophy at the Sorbonne, and his presence in several key committees
that influenced philosophical appointments in the highly centralized French
educational system.
Aubenque’s works on Aristotle’s views of being
52 and prudence, 53 on
which his scholarly reputation is mainly based, reflect more than a simple
awareness of Heidegger’s theory. Although frequently critical of
Heidegger’s specific readings of particular texts, he accepts a broadly
Heideggerian approach to Greek thought. His study of the problem of
being in Aristotle significantly begins with a citation from Heidegger

133 about metaphysics as a designation for the philosophical predicament.
Following Heidegger’s concern to destroy the history of ontology, his aim
is nothing less than, as he writes, “to unlearn all that the tradition has
added to the primitive Aristotelianism.”
55 He holds that “the restitution of
the living Aristotle” is important since the way in which Aristotle’s
thought was understood has decisively influenced its interpretation.
Heidegger’s understanding of Greek philosophy becomes even more
important in Aubenque’s later writings. In a recent article on the
contemporary significance of Aristotle’s thought, he describes its manifold
influence on a series of propositions basic to later Western views of the
world. These propositions form a structure that, following Heidegger,
he labels ontotheological. 58 And he follows Heidegger’s view that the
contemporary interest in metalanguage is the consequence of Aristotelian
Aubenque acknowledges Heidegger’s concept of ontotheology as an
appropriate appellation for the metaphysical framework deriving from
Aristotle’s thought. Rémi Brague, the most important younger Aristotelian
scholar in France today, presupposes Heidegger’s concept for his discussion
of Aristotle’s idea of the world. With respect to Heidegger’s understanding
of Greek philosophy, the difference between these two Aristotelian scholars
is that Aubenque was closer to his mature understanding of Aristotle before
he encountered Heidegger whereas Brague—a student of Aubenque and
the author of the most important French study of Aristotle since
Aubenque’s study of Aristotle’s view of being—encountered Heidegger’s
view of Greek philosophy at an earlier point in his career, before his own
views were fixed.
Brague draws insight from Heidegger’s study of ontology to interpret Greek
philosophy. Heidegger criticizes the traditional view of ontology, based on
what he calls presence-to-hand (Vorhandenheit) in favor of his own alternative
conception. For Brague, Heideggerian phenomenology is a mode of access to
Greek philosophy, and Heidegger’s corpus can be regarded as an effort to
work out the original conception of ontology lying behind the ontology
historically attached to Aristotle’s name.
Brague’s study of the question of the world in Aristotle’s thought applies
Heidegger’s conception of the world to the interpretation of the ancient
Greek tradition. As part of his critique of Descartes, Heidegger develops a
lengthy analysis of thé worldhood of the world that he understands as neither
the entities in the world, such as tables and chairs, nor as the being in
general of these entities.
61 For Brague, Aristotle’s position can be grasped
through a relation of coimplication among concepts of ontology,
anthropology, and cosmology within a presupposed but unthematized
concept of the world. “World” is understood in a Heideggerian
phenomenological sense as “that in which we are,”
62 a concept that Greek
philosophy presupposes but does not explore. 63

134 In a lengthy study that maintains a constant dialogue with Heidegger,
Brague utilizes this concept unthought by Aristotle but explicated by
Heidegger to illuminate the Aristotelian corpus. He discerns a deep parallel
between Heidegger’s ontotheology, or the name for traditional metaphysics,
and what he calls, in an untranslatable neologism of his own devising,
64 The latter concept, which is wider than
ontotheology, is present as well within the various domains of Aristotelian
65 In Brague’s Heideggerian reading of Aristotle, the domains
of ontology, anthropology and cosmology revolve around a central point
running “from presence to the present, from being to the entity.”
66 In short,
Brague’s reading of Aristotle’s presupposes Heidegger’s ontological
difference, or a basic distinction between being in general and entities.
According to Brague, the conception of being in the world, or Dasein, that is
never thematized but latent in Aristotle, forms a whole with the
“kathological-protological” structure of Aristotelianism.
We can end this section on Heidegger’s impact on the French study of the
philosophical tradition with a remark on Beaufret’s orthodox Heideggerian
reading of Parmenides. In Being and Time, Heidegger indicates that his
characteristic doctrine of truth as disclosure derives finally from Parmenides’s
thought. According to Heidegger, for whom Karl Reinhardt has finally solved
the vexed problem of the unity of Parmenides’s poem,
68 Parmenides’s assertion
of the identity of thought and being yields the thesis that truth is the beholding
that founds Western philosophy.
69 Heidegger later elaborates his view of
Parmenides’s theory in a number of places, including a lecture course in 1942–
70 and a lecture in 1957. 71
In his writings on the master, Beaufret dwells frequently on Heidegger’s
reading of Parmenides’s poem, most explicitly in two articles in the first
volume of his Dialogues.
72 Beaufret asserts that it is not possible either to
summarize or to expound Heidegger’s thought. 73 This claim, if true,
undermines the intention, even the possibility of his “dialogues” with
Heidegger over some thirty years, “dialogues” intended to make available
Heidegger’s own view of his thought to the French. He develops a
Heideggerian reading of Parmenides’s view in detail in a translation and
commentary on the latter’s poem.
Beaufret’s introduction frequently adverts directly to Heidegger’s
interpretation, or defends it against possible misreadings. He dwells at
length on why the overwhelming Platonism of the philosophical tradition
impeded the correct understanding of the unity of Parmenides’s poem
until, as Heidegger notes,
75 Reinhardt’s breakthrough. 76 For Beaufret,
following Heidegger, there is an original unity of thought and being in
Parmenides’s poem prior to any artificial separation and later
77 Parmenides presents the view of truth as disclosure 78
foreshadowed in the “Letter on Humanism” and developed elsewhere, the
ideas that entities are sent to us, that they are literally mittances of Being. 79

Heidegger’s impact is strongly felt in the the positions of contemporary
French philosophers. Numerous French philosophers are uninterested in
Heidegger’s theory; others oppose it, even frankly oppose it, often for reasons
linked to his Nazi turning, including Nicolas Tertulian, the well known
Lukács specialist, Luc Ferry and Alain Renaut, two young anti-establishment
thinkers, Christian Jambet, a former nouveau philosophe, and others. Still
others, sometimes after an initial enthusiasm, take a more nuanced, often
critical line, including Janicaud, Ricoeur, Henry, Marion, perhaps Courtine,
and in some of his moods Derrida. Yet it is fair to say that the vast majority
of French philosophers since the war have been marked by their encounter
with Heidegger, including, in no particular order, such well known thinkers
as Lévinas, Kojève, Koyré, Hyppolite, Lyotard, Foucault, Janicaud, Brague,
Courtine, Aubenque, Deleuze, and others.
Virtually everywhere one looks in the contemporary French
philosophical debate, one espies ideas that owe something, often more
than just a little, for some thinkers even the essence of their positions, to
a “postmodern” reading of Heidegger’s thought. Like others influenced
by Heidegger’s position, Lyotard is an original thinker, whose position is
more than a pale copy, a simple restatement, an echo however distant of
Heidegger’s thought, but which takes shape in the horizon formed by
Heidegger’s study of being.
“Foundationalism,” the main epistemological strategy of modern times,
can be succinctly characterized as “the view, most prominently illustrated in
Descartes’s position, that knowledge can be based on an initial point known
with certainty and from which the remainder of the theory can be deductively
80 In Being and Time, Heidegger stakes out an antifoundationalist
theory, consistent with his anti-Cartesianism, in his analysis of the hermeneutic
circle of the understanding, in which knowledge in the classical philosophical
sense yields to interpretation.
81 In his later studies of Nietzsche, he consistently
interprets the slogan “God is dead” as signifying the advent of modern
82 In his study of the modern condition, Lyotard, who seems immune
to Heidegger’s view that truth rests on the disclosure of being, carries forward
the basic Heideggerian insight that knowledge in our time must assume another
form, including another form of justification.
For Lyotard, a science is modern in virtue of its concern to justify itself.
The history of modern science is a series of crises concerning the various
overarching justifications (grands récits) proposed. Philosophy is nothing
other than scientific discourse aimed at the justification (légitimation) of
claims to know.
83 In the postmodern period, by implication that period
beyond philosophy where perfect epistemological justification is no longer,
or at least no longer thought to be, possible, knowledge has also changed.

136 At this late date, no overarching justication of any form is still credible.
Yet a science that is not justified is no more than an ideology that represents
a certain form of power. 86 Since in the postmodern period scientific
knowledge is self-validating through immanent rules, by implication
philosophy is over.
87 Even the idea of a common justification must be
abandoned since the different forms of knowledge deriving from different
language games have nothing in common.
In his own way, Foucault argues a similar point. He is sometimes
classed as a structuralist, and structuralism is widely thought to dispense
with subjectivity, even to be “the philosophy of the death of man.”
89 Yet,
as his exchange with Derrida makes clear, Foucault does not so much
dispense with as offer a novel analysis of the subject. In a typically lengthy
discussion of Foucault’s remark in passing on Descartes’s thought,
Derrida objects, thereby adumbrating his own later view of textuality
(textualité), that on Foucault’s reading of Descartes there could be
something outside of, or prior to, the realm of philosophical discourse.
Foucault’s response, criticizing Derrida for reducing “discursive practices
to textual traces,” 92 points to the need to go beyond the texts, or abstract
philosophical discussion, through analysis. For Foucault, who is
influenced by Nietzsche, this leads to analysis of the mechanisms of power
within which the ideas of truth and of subjectivity are meaningful. Since
truth is relative to the domain of power,
93 and since there is nothing
outside of power structures, the problem is not to change people’s
consciousness but rather to change the regime that produces the truth
within the particular relations of power.
Heidegger’s view that philosophy since Descartes has tended to privilege
the subject at the expense of the object, by inference to make objectivity
dependent on subjectivity, leads to his effort to decenter the subject.
95 For
Foucault, the mechanisms of power are prior, not only to the analysis of
truth, but also to subjectivity. He sees the alternatives as the idealist view of
the subject as constitutive, for instance in the Kantian or Marxian senses,
and the phenomenological view of subjectivity, even in historicized form,
in which the subject evolves over time. His insistence that one needs to
dispense with the constituent subject would lead to the death of subjectivity
only if there were no other alternative. In an important passage linking his
genealogical analysis to subjectivity, he insists on the need “to arrive at an
analysis which can account for the constitution of the subject within a
historical framework.”
96 The result is to make subjectivity genuinely
historical by inverting the relation between subjectivity and objectivity or
history. Foucault continues:

And this is what I would call genealogy; this is a form of history which
can account for the constitution of knowledges, discourses, domains of
objects, etc., without having to make reference to a subject which is

137 either transcendental in relation to the field of events or runs in its
empty sameness throughout the course of history.

A student of French philosophy does well to remember the importance of
religion, particularly Catholicism, throughout French life, including French
philosophy. Perhaps because of the similarity between Heidegger’s idea of
being that in Being and Time took shape as an analysis of the meaning of the
being of beings,
98 and the Thomist thesis that the being of beings is God,
Heidegger has a special attraction for philosophers positively inclined towards
Roman Catholicism. This natural attraction has only been strengthened by
the theological turning in French phenomenology, including such important
phenomenologists as Michel Henry, and Jean-Luc Marion, that Janicaud traces
to Lévinas.
99 Janicaud’s thesis receives indirect support in a recent collective
volume on phenomenology and theology, presented by Courtine, and offering
essays by Henry, Ricoeur, Marion, and Jean-Louis Chrétien.
Although still not as well known as Lyotard, Foucault, and Derrida, Henry
is certainly one of the most original contemporary French thinkers. 101 Like
Sartre, Henry is both a successful writer as well as a philosopher. 102 A number
of elements of his strikingly original material phenomenology are already in
place in his first major work, The Essence of Manifestation.
103 His position
can be described as resulting from a radicalization of the Cartesian theory,
initially under Heideggerian and Husserlian influences
104—although more
Husserlian than Heideggerian—that later develops, in reaction against
Heidegger, in a resolutely Husserlian direction. In his more recent thought,
Heidegger’s influence figures negatively in Henry’s theory, as a kind of
antithesis that he strives to surpass.
The views of Heidegger and Henry describe parallel, but separate
trajectories in reaction to Descartes. Heidegger, who criticizes the Cartesian
cogito ergo sum for neglecting the sum, addresses this problem in his theory
of being through a conception of Dasein. Henry addresses the being of the
cogito in order to describe the meaning of subjectivity. The problem of the
being of the cogito belongs to first philosophy, which Henry identifies with
universal ontology. The Cartesian beginning point is insufficiently radical,
since it presupposes a more radical foundation that it does not explicate.
Henry’s theory of the subject can be regarded as an effort to overcome the
dualism following from Descartes’s inability to make the transition from the
representation to the represented, from the transcendent to the immanent
106 More generally, Henry deepens phenomenology through a theory of
affectivity. He holds that entities manifest themselves only in the form of an
“effective phenomenological offer” within a horizon. Since the manifestation
of an entity supposes a horizon, its affect on us, in fact “all ontical affection
presupposes an ontological affection and finds within it its foundation.”
107 Ye t
Henry goes further when he maintains that in the various “tonalities” of
existence, such as despair or suffering, the absolute is constituted and revealed.

138 In his many writings, Henry works out his theory through studies of the
body, Marx, psychoanalysis, Kandinsky, socialism, and so on. In a recent work
he defines the task of material phenomenology as a radicalization of
phenomenology intended to “interrogate the way in which it [i.e. pure
phenomenality] originally [originellement] phenomenalizes its substance, its
stuff, the phenomenological matter of which it is made—its pure
phenomenological materiality.”
109 For Henry, the foundation of pure
phenomenality is life understood not as a thing, but as the principle of everything
that Heidegger is unable to capture in his ontological categories. In his study of
The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology, Husserl
argues that Kant’s theory presupposes the unthematized concept of the life
110 Similarly, Henry understands his own material phenomenology as
engaging the absence in Husserlian phenomenology of “a phenomenology of
transcendental life” that apparently founds it.
Marion is one of the most prolific and most interesting of the younger French
philosophers. His work, like that of such younger scholars as Brague and
Courtine, exemplifies a qualified return to the best traditions of French
philosophical scholarship that have never ended but were temporarily suspended
during the existentialist, structuralist and poststructuralist movements.
Marion has been influenced by Henry, Heidegger, Derrida, Husserl and
Lévinas, as well as others. Like Henry, whose work he especially
112 he is engaged in working out what can loosely be characterized
as a phenomenology of the invisible, in his case a theory with Heideggerian,
Cartesian, and religious components. Again like Henry, there is a distance to
Heidegger, in Marion’s case through his own theory of being.
Marion’s writings can be said to fall into three main categories, including
works on God and love, as well as technical philosophical studies. 114 The latter
include historical investigations as well as his own theory. In his scholarly writing,
Marion has contributed important studies of Descartes, a traditional topic in
French philosophy. His Descartes studies, among the very best in France at
present, are distinguished by their quality and their frequent reference to
More recently, he has published an impressive discussion of the problem
of phenomenology in Husserl and Heidegger up to 1926, the year prior to
the appearance of Being and Time, where his own ideas frequently intrude.
Here he exploits the obvious connection between the theories of Descartes,
Husserl, and Heidegger to examine the relation between Husserl and the
early Heidegger, albeit from a perspective closer to the later Heidegger. He is
concerned with the nature and significance of their respective attitudes toward
116 and toward intentionality. 117
Marion’s own phenomenological thought concerns the problem of
givenness. 118 Simplifying enormously, we can say that what Henry calls
affectivity Marion calls givenness (donation). Phenomenology from his
perspective is nothing other than the analysis of the given as it is given in

139 order to complete metaphysics.
119 Marion locates the relation of Heidegger
to Husserl in a further elaboration of the latter’s critique of objectivation.
The problem, then, is whether the return to things, or to things themselves,
leads to their objectivity or to their being, or, as Marion also formulates the
question, to a transcendental subject or to Dasein.
His most original idea concerns the relation of reduction and givenness.
For Marion, an appearance (apparition) suffices for being only if, in appearing,
it gives itself perfectly. Yet that entails a direct relation between reduction
and givenness.
120 On this basis, Marion differentiates no less than three forms
of reduction: a first, or transcendental reduction; a second, or existential
deduction following from entities and concerning being, with obviously
Heideggerian overtones; and a third reduction whose “call however does not
come from the horizon of being (or objectification) but from the pure form
of the call.”
121 Like the later Heidegger who desires to be open to being,
Marion wants to be open to the call that questions us.
In comparison with others discussed in this chapter, a more extended treatment
of Derrida is warranted because he is presently better known, certainly better
known in the United States than other contemporary French philosophers.
Like Lacan before him, for some years Derrida has been inventing his own
persona in a series of carefully crafted, difficult texts, strewn with multiple
distinctions and linguistic puns that often simply cannot be satisfactorily
rendered into another language. Although Derrida’s view must be addressed, it
is probably not possible to do so in a way that will satisfy his readers, particularly
those, always more numerous in the US than in France, who are his disciples.
In any discussion of Derrida, certain caveats are in order. I will leave to
one side the difficult, but tangential question of whether Derrida is a
philosopher or only a philosopher
122 in order to concentrate on his texts. Any
discussion of what goes on in them is open to objection, hence must remain
tentative, since Derrida prefers to apply his view rather than to describe it
unambiguously. It might be thought, particularly by a Derridean, however
that is defined, that I have failed to grasp Derrida’s theory, even described it
incorrectly. But that is hardly to be avoided since a central theme in Derrida’s
practice is precisely the effort to avoid being pinned down to any definite
view or set of views. Such a reaction is all the more easy to understand since,
if I am correct, Derrida is specifically concerned to provide a negative answer
to the problem of reference, so important to analytic philosophy and which
analytic philosophy has arguably failed to resolve,
123 and that he apparently
regards as an impossible quest.
Suffice it to say that Derrida’s relation to Heidegger requires special
treatment in virtue of the size of Derrida’s corpus—at present more than

140 forty volumes—the attention it evokes, and its extreme complexity. His relation
to Heidegger clearly overflows the artificial distinction in use in this chapter.
For in an obvious way he is devoted to Heidegger’s theory; he makes use of
Heideggerian insights in his reading of the history of philosophy; and he is
also a creative thinker.
This rarely studied
124 relation is highly controversial. From this angle of
vision, Derrida’s theory has been characterized as simple imitation differing
only in Derrida’s peculiar style, described as “Heidegger+Derrida’s style”
and as leading to a highly original view whose very fidelity to Heidegger’s
theory paradoxically results in an opposition more important than any other
Although the nature of the relation of Derrida’s theory to Heidegger’s is
controversial, no one denies its existence. Our task will be to make a beginning
toward an understanding of that relation, to show how it might be understood
in more detail. In this respect, it is useful to look to the history of philosophy.
It is not sufficiently noticed that chronologically later thinkers, who criticize
their predecessors, often remain committed to their projects. Although Hegel
is an original thinker of great power, his own position is inconceivable without
Kant’s. There is evidence that the young Hegel intended to develop further
and even to complete Kant’s Copernican Revolution in philosophy.
In the same way, it is consistent to regard Derrida, despite his criticisms of
Heidegger’s theory, as finally remaining within the Heideggerian orbit. The
point is neither to deny the originality of Derrida’s theory nor to make of
Derrida a sort of latter-day Beaufret. It is, then, consistent to acknowledge
that Derrida has criticized Heidegger on a number of grounds, such as
valorizing unity over difference, gathering over dispersal, nostalgia over the
violence of the past, presence over representation, meaning over dissemination,
and so on, while still regarding Derrida as committed to a form of the basic
Heideggerean project.
Derrida’s theory cannot be understood merely through its relation to
Heidegger’s. Suffice it to say that it is triply determined by the positions of the
“three Hs” in recent French philosophy: Husserl, Heidegger, and Hegel. Derrida
interacts with Heidegger’s theory on at least four levels: as a reader and then as
a defender of Heidegger’s texts, as a critic of others from a Heideggerean angle
of vision, and in the way that he draws on it in his own theory.
To begin with, Derrida is an unusual reader of the texts of many writers,
including Heidegger. After Beaufret’s death, Derrida maintains a similar
fascination with Heidegger’s thought that he continues to subject to the
most careful textual analysis.
128 His analysis of the idea of sexual difference
(Geschlecht, différence sexuelle) in a recent article indicates that, when he
is finished reading Heidegger’s texts, often nothing is challenged, nothing
is changed.
After noting that Heidegger speaks rarely if at all of sex, 130 Derrida proposes
to study sexual difference through the word “Dasein.”131 In Derrida’s

141 discussion, there is not even a single word devoted to a justification or
explanation of the utility of this approach as if it were self-evident that
Heidegger’s theory provides the adequate basis for an understanding of sexual
difference. Yet this assumption is implicitly challenged by his acknowledgment
that Heidegger never directly addresses the topic. Typically, the entire article—
which never mentions either men or women, whose relation is in question, or
other writers specifically concerned with this question, or indeed any other
theory, including a philosophical theory, that might bear on the theme—is
solely taken up with the elucidation of the question of sexual difference from
a Heideggerian standpoint through the analysis of Heideggerian texts.
The conclusion of Derrida’s article raises more questions than it resolves.
According to Derrida, who implicitly accounts for Heidegger’s failure to
consider problems relating to human sexuality, Dasein is a being without sex
since for Heidegger sexual difference must be thought through the structures
of Dasein.
132 Heidegger’s texts do not contain more than the most elliptical
references to sexual difference since his thought moves on a deeper level than
merely existential concerns.
This conclusion is comforting to an orthodox Heideggerian although
perhaps not to anyone else. Derrida is unperturbed by the utter lack of any
comment that might be relevant to the issue that concerns him in Heidegger’s
text. Yet someone who holds that the master thinker must speak to every
issue might be troubled, say, by Heidegger’s apparent failure to comment
specifically about the social world, or about men and women other than in
the most general terms, or even by his failure to comment on sexual
Derrida’s conclusion is consistent with Heidegger’s remark in the “Letter
on Humanism” that his thinking is prior to theory and practice.
Heidegger’s humble claim disclaiming anything so mundane as a practical
motivation for “thinking” points to its utter irrelevance for the problem
that is Derrida’s concern in this text. Now if one’s concern is sexual difference
from a Heideggerian perspective, the realization that Heidegger’s thinking
is so deep as not to raise the question is hardly reassuring. This is still
another example, if one is needed, of the incapacity of philosophical thought
to find a way to take up the problems of the world in which we live, to
which it prefers such topics as the worldhood of the world.
134 Someone
who is not an orthodox Heideggerian might read the same inference as
revealing the inability of the master thinker to say anything useful about
the problem. What is startling is Derrida’s own seeming lack of awareness
that the master thinker has nothing to contribute to the topic of the
discussion, no way to illuminate the problem, since there is nothing in his
theory that is specifically relevant to the problem of sexual difference.
Second, Derrida is capable, as Beaufret was not, of defending Heidegger
on a high philosophical plane as distinct from using ridicule to cast doubt on
his opponents’ views. Derrida is especially concerned to defend Heidegger

142 for actions linked to his Nazi turning. In the famous Vienna lecture that grew
into the Crisis, Husserl suggests that Western philosophy is basically
135 Derrida, who is interested in this idea as early as his own edition
of Husserl’s essay on “The Origin of Geometry,” 136 later used it in an invidious
defense of Heidegger. He claims that although Heidegger has been criticized
for his apparent abandonment of Husserl, from the spiritual perspective of
European man not Heidegger but Husserl was at fault.
137 As we shall see in
the next chapter, Derrida further utilizes the spirit of Heidegger’s theory to
defend it against its letter.
Third, Derrida presents a generally Heideggerian critique of other theories.
This critique, inspired by the spirit of Heidegger’s theory, is directed against
other theories, including Heidegger’s. For instance, Derrida’s attack on Sartre
in “Les Fins de l’homme”
138 creatively repeats, but repeats nonetheless, points
previously raised by Heidegger in the “Letter on Humanism.”
In his remarks on Sartre, whom he evidently respects, Beaufret is mainly
concerned to draw an ever clearer, more radical distinction between Heidegger
and his French admirer. The relative calm of Beaufret’s remarks pales before
the violence of Derrida’s attack that manifests no respect and yields no quarter.
Derrida has said that although none of his work would have been possible
without Heidegger,
139 in everything that he writes there is a distance with
respect to Heidegger’s own themes. 140 Yet here the reputed distance is literally
invisible in the midst of a veritable catalogue of Sartre’s faults arising from
an alleged failure to understand Heidegger’s theory.
Derrida’s lecture can be regarded as an application of Heidegger’s effort,
namely the effort to distance his own theory of Dasein from the sciences of
human being, to the French philosophical concern with anthropological
humanism at the end of the War. His point is simply to recall, against the
initial French anthropological reading of Heidegger, Heidegger’s own
proscription of any conflation between philosophy and anthropology.
In his “Letter on Humanism,” Heidegger responds to Sartre without ever
coming to grips with any single Sartrean text. Following Heidegger in his
lecture, Derrida offers an excoriating, clearly Heideggerian reply to Sartre,
again without ever coming to grips with any single Sartrean text.
The title of the lecture contains a triple reference to the humanist concept
of man, as Derrida makes clear through three quotations placed in exergue
concerning: Kant’s view of human being as an end in itself, Sartre’s remark
that ontology enables one to determine the ends of human being, and
Foucault’s comprehension of human being as the result of a recent movement
whose end is perhaps near. At the end of the war, Derrida notes, the French
philosophical discussion was dominated by the humanist theme. Humanism
peaks in Sartre’s position based on “the monstruous translation” of Dasein
as “human reality” adopted—according to Derrida, who momentarily forgets
Kojève—under Sartre’s influence, as a warrant of the tendency to read or not
to read Heidegger.

143 Following Heidegger’s objection to Descartes, Derrida contends that Sartre
fails to question the unity of human being and, worse still, collapses the
distinction between the philosophical and the human subject. In this way,
humanism and anthropology, the themes common to existentialists of all
stripes, Marxists, spiritualists, as well as social democrats and Christian
democrats, are linked to an anthropological reading of Hegel, Husserl and,
“perhaps worst of all [un contresens, peut-être le plus grave]” to Heidegger.
Derrida has written widely on the positions of Husserl, Heidegger, and
Hegel. His writings on the theories of Hegel and Husserl apply Heideggerian
insights, often very critically, to their positions. Being and Time presents
incompatible views of transcendental phenomenological truth (veritas
144 and a hermeneutical conception based on the circle of
the understanding.145 If truth is based on a hermeneutical circle, traditional
philosophical claims for absolute truth cannot be sustained. In Derrida’s
writings on Hegel, one of the main themes is the application of this
Heideggerian insight to questioning Hegel’s idea of absolute knowledge.
There is a strongly Heideggerian thrust to all of Derrida’s writings on
Husserl. An example is the lengthy introduction to his edition of Husserl’s
manuscript on the “Origins of Geometry,”
147 with which Derrida first broke
into print. A prominent theme here is his complaint that Husserl fails to
“problematize” history.
148 Another is his “Saussurian” approach 149 to the
problem of the sign in Husserl’s thought, centering on the question—present
in the later Heidegger, prominently in the “Letter on Humanism”—of whether
Husserlian phenomenology escapes or could even conceivably escape from a
metaphysical presupposition.
In Being and Time, Heidegger notes the traditional approach to being as
“presence” (Anwesenheit).
150 He amplifies this point in a late essay through
the remark that metaphysics thinks entities in a representational manner
through presence.
151 In a lengthy passage, in which the Heideggerian genealogy
of his analysis of Husserl is manifest, Derrida writes:

The most general form of our question is thus indicated: does
phenomenological necessity, the precision and the subtlety of Husserlian
analysis, the demands to which it responds and that we must take into
consideration, nevertheless dissimulate a metaphysical presupposition?
Don’t the demands hide a dogmatic or speculative adherence which,
surely, would not keep phenomenological criticism outside itself, would
not be a remainder of unthought naïveté, but would constitute
phenomenology in its interior, in its critical project and the instituting
value of its own premises: precisely in what it will soon acknowledge as
the origin and guarantee of all value, the “principle of principles,” that
is the originarily given evidence, the present or presence of meaning in
a full and originary intuition. In other terms, we will not ask if this or
that metaphysical inheritance was able, here or there, to limit the

144 vigilance of a phenomenologist, but whether the phenomenalogical form
of this vigilance is not already ordered by metaphysics itself.

Derrida’s reading of Heidegger’s theory as a nonanthropological humanism
presupposes Husserl’s objection to the conflation of philosophy and
anthropology as psychologism. In this respect, the main difference between
Heidegger and Derrida is that the latter generalizes the problem of how to
read the former’s theory to the positions of Hegel and Husserl as well. The
anthropological reading that is incorrect for Husserl’s, for Hegel’s, as well
as for Heidegger’s views only echoes Husserl’s misapprehension of Being
and Time as “an anthropological deviation from transcendental
153 The result, despite progress in the French discussion, is
to amalgamate the positions of Hegel, Husserl, and Heidegger as instances
of the recurrence of humanist metaphysics. On behalf of Heidegger, Derrida
affirms that “the thought of what is specific to human being is inseparable
from the question or the truth of Being.”
154 For Heideggerian humanism
rejects an anthropological approach to human being that is properly
understood in terms of being.
Derrida’s various criticisms of Hegel and Husserl
155 depend on the later
Heidegger’s view that metaphysics and, for that reason philosophy, has
come to an end. Heidegger develops this view in a number of places, notably
in “The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking,” where he maintains
inter alia that metaphysics thinks beings as a whole, that metaphysics thinks
presence through representational thinking, that metaphysics is Platonism,
and that metaphysics, hence, philosophy, has come to an end.
156 Derrida’s
critique of Husserl in La Voix et le phénomène is intended to show that
Husserlian phenomenology is vitiated by the metaphysical presupposition
of presence.
Hegel criticizes the critical philosophy while remaining true to its spirit in
order to complete Kant’s Copernican Revolution. Derrida has a similar relation
to Heidegger’s theory. In his criticisms of Heidegger’s writings, Derrida
invariably judges the letter of the theory by its spirit. In his examination of
Heidegger’s destruction of traditional ontology, Derrida maintains that despite
Heidegger’s intention, he nonetheless remains faithful to traditional
158 In Derrida’s reading, Heidegger fails to realize the intrinsic
aim of his own theory. Derrida makes the same point again, on a different
level, in his defense of Heidegger’s theory against its association with Nazism,
when he concedes that, despite Heidegger’s critique of metaphysics,
Heidegger’s early thought remains metaphysical. This critique of Heidegger’s
early theory means in essence that it is not consistent with its own intention,
that Heidegger was untrue to his central insight; but it should not be taken as
the suggestion, veiled or otherwise, that Heidegger’s central insight is untrue.
Fourth, Derrida advances his own position that is consistent with,
arguably inspired by, his understanding of the spirit of Heidegger’s theory.

145 Derrida, of course, is not a philosopher in any usual sense. He just never
says anything as straightforward as “here is my position,” or “here is the
view that I mean to defend against all objections,” or “here are the arguments
that suppport my view.” In fact, he could not do so since part of his strategy
is to avoid taking a definite stance that, in turn, could be relativized with
respect to the ongoing discussion. So in conjunction with Bennington’s recent
study of his thought, Derrida provides a text intended to show that it
overflows, hence “evades,” the ideas that the scholar of his view employs
to “capture” it.
Nonetheless, Derrida’s writings contain ideas and practices that can be
loosely labeled as his rather than someone else’s. What we can informally
refer to as Derrida’s position is composed of close exegesis of Heidegger’s
writings, criticism of other theories in terms of the spirit of those writings,
as he interprets it, and a number of characteristic doctrines that are invariably
either borrowed from, consistent with, or extensions of Heideggerian
Here we see clearly the limits of the analogy between Hegel’s relation to
Kant and Derrida’s to Heidegger. Despite the Kantian impulse in his thought,
Hegel finally moves very far beyond Kant on any reasonable reading, as in
his reinterpretation of the thing-in-itself in a way that arguably contradicts
not only the letter but also the spirit of the critical philosophy. This is also
the case for Gadamer, aside from Derrida the other important contemporary
Heideggerian. Although in some ways, Gadamer remains very close to
Heidegger, in other ways he transforms Heidegger’s theory into its opposite.
In the working out of implications of the hermeneutic circle, Gadamer is
led to revalorize the tradition that Heidegger precisely devalorizes in his
supposed destruction of the history of ontology. Yet this is never the case
for Derrida, whose ideas never conflict with the spirit of Heidegger’s later
It is not easy, despite the very number of Derrida’s writings, to specify
even their main theme. Certainly, a persistent theme is his attack on so-called
logocentrism that he, like Heidegger, associates with the metaphysical
tradition. Derrida’s ongoing attack on the very idea of logocentrism is waged
through his deconstruction of texts within the metaphysical, logocentric
tradition. The practice of deconstruction rests on a concept that remains
elusive since it has never clearly been stated in any of his many texts, but has
clear precedents.
There is major difference of opinion about the idea of deconstruction in
Derrida’s writings. Some writers regard Derrida as taking over and developing
the Heideggerian idea of deconstruction.
161 Others point to Derrida’s
inconsistent claims and practice concerning the translation of “Abbau” as
162 At least one observer regards deconstruction as a basically
Kantian enterprise.163 Another is impressed by the way that deconstruction
breaks down the distinction between philosophy and literature. 164

146 In the present context, I will emphasize the phenomenological background
that seems the most prominent component in Derrida’s thought. Suffice it to
say that the idea of deconstruction (Abbau)
165 has solid roots in the writings
of the later Husserl 166 and throughout Heidegger’s thought. 167 In Being and
Time, Heidegger insists on the importance of the destruction of the history of
168 In lectures from the same year in which his main treatise appeared,
Heidegger maintains that phenomenological method consists of three basic
components: reduction, construction, and destruction. Heidegger describes
his proposed deconstruction of metaphysics as a de-construction (Abbau).
He speaks of “destruction” as “a critical process in which traditional concepts
that at first must necessarily be employed are deconstructed down to the
sources from which they were drawn.”
Derrida’s own view of deconstruction can be understood as an effort to
carry out the proposed destruction of the history of metaphysics in a way
that escapes the problems of Heidegger’s own effort, compromised in Derrida’s
eyes by its residual metaphysical character. Were he to be successful, he would
carry out the intended Heideggerian critique of the Cartesian dream of self-
founding and self-justifying philosophy in a way that circumscribes its limits
from a place beyond it.
With respect to philosophy, Derrida is a sceptic if scepticism is understood
as the claim that theory of knowledge and knowledge are impossible within
the framework of the philosophical tradition as it has been understood until
now and as it can possibly take shape. He is, however, not a sceptic from a
postmetaphysical, later Heideggerian stance located somewhere beyond
philosophy. His characteristic doctrine of textuality extends Heidegger’s rather
traditional form of textual deconstruction in new ways intended to realize its
intrinsic aim: through the assertion that everything is a text or can be
represented in textual terms adumbrated in his objection to Foucault’s reading
of Descartes, and in the related assertion that texts cannot yield knowledge.
He argues for the first claim by maintaining that there is nothing outside the
text, that writing has primacy over speech, and that texts refer only to other
texts. He argues for the second claim by attempting a deconstruction ranging
over any possible statement in a text.
The latter amounts to an attack on referentiality, never so far as I know
simply stated but rather exemplified. This attack is multiply determined by
the views of Hegel, Husserl, and Saussure, among others. These and other
thinkers take up a continental analogue of the problem of reference. In the
first chapter of the Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel argues against sense
certainty as knowledge, roughly on the grounds that you cannot say what
you mean or mean what you say.
171 Saussure’s theory of language rests on
the distinction between the signifier and the signified. Like Frege, who created
the analytic form of the problem, Husserl distinguishes between sense (Sinn)
and reference (Bedeutung).
172 His theory turns on the possible correlation of
one with the other.

147 It is apparently inspired in the first instance by the Hegelian view that
language is inadequate to refer. Starting with his published text, his edition
of Husserl’s essay on the “Origins of Geometry,” Derrida similarly argues
that any effort to refer to a real object turns out to refer to an unknowable
absolute origin as well.
173 Through his reading of Husserl’s theory from a
Heideggerian perspective, he comes close to the point that Hegel makes about
sense certainty, a point that he then generalizes to cover any effort to know
on the basis of his view of the failure of metaphysics, construed as
In sum, although Derrida correctly regards himself as questioning
Heideggerian ideas, and although he depicts his reading of the master’s
doctrines as a form of dissidence to the point of claiming that in everything
he writes there is “a separation [écart] with respect to the Heideggerian
174 he remains mainly, perhaps even wholly within the
Heideggerian fold. For if he occasionally rejects the letter of Heidegger’s
position, he invariably accepts its spirit as he understands it. In Derrida’s
writings, as in so many writings of orthodox French Heideggerians, everything
happens as if Heidegger’s thought and Heidegger’s thought alone formed the
horizon of the “philosophical” enterprise in general, of thinking as it is
supposedly still possible after Heidegger in the space delimited by his thought.



This is the second of two chapters 1 intended to provide a concrete account of
Heidegger’s influence in recent French philosophy. The preceding chapter
provided a selective account of the impact of Heidegger’s thought in the
postwar French debate. Heidegger’s theory influences recent French
philosophy on three levels, including the small army of philosophers occupied
with the exegesis of his thought; the frequent tendency to appropriate
Heideggerian insights in the reading of various theories in the philosophical
tradition; and as a source of insight informing the positions of leading French
The present chapter will further demonstrate the influence of Heidegger’s
theory in postwar French philosophy through an account of the current state
of the French phase of the ongoing controversy raised by Heidegger’s turning
to National Socialism. The French phase of the discussion of this problem
will be understood in a wide sense as including not only French writers but
also those occasional non-French participants, such as Karl Löwith, a German,
Georg Lukács, a Hungarian, and above all Victor Farías, a Chilean, whose
intervention provoked a heated response from French writers.
The problem posed by Heidegger’s political turning is unique. It is without
parallel in the prior philosophical tradition; no other major philosopher turned
to National Socialism. Even Lukács’s support of Stalinism,
2 which might be
said to mirror Heidegger’s endorsement of German fascism, does not really
compare for a variety of reasons:

– although an important thinker, arguably the most important Marxist
philosopher, Lukács is less important;
– although long committed to orthodox Marxism, his Stalinist episode came
to an end through explicit criticism of Stalin whereas Heidegger, who
never clearly broke with Nazism, despite vague claims by himself and his

149 closest supporters that he did so, apparently remained committed at least
to an ideal form of Nazism;
– Lukács did not later organize an effort to conceal the nature and extent
of his attachment to Stalinism as Heidegger did for his own continuing
attachment to Nazism;
– unlike Lukács, whose Stalinism has been routinely acknowledged and
sharply criticized even by his close supporters,
3 a number of Heidegger’s
followers, most recently Nolte, have long sought to deflect any criticism
based on Heidegger’s Nazism.

Heidegger’s decision to affiliate with National Socialism has been the topic
of often heated discussion over many years that still continues.
4 It is useful to
distinguish between the facts as they are now known, a situation which is
obviously subject to change as new material emerges, and Heidegger’s reaction
to them. In a remark about a lecture course on Nietzsche, already noted,
Heidegger claimed that the course itself was intended to confront National
5 Yet he never publicly distanced himself from Nazism. In 1945, he
composed an article, published only posthumously, in which he claimed that
his period as rector was meaningless.
6 In an interview with the German weekly
Der Spiegel in 1966 7 that was withheld at his request until his death ten years
later, he maintained that after 1934 he no longer made favorable statements
about Nazism. Earlier favorable statements include his public endorsement
of the Führerprinzip, in Heidegger’s version the acknowledgment that the
Führer alone is “the source of all German reality and its law now and in the
8—after 1934.
On the basis of this scant information about what Heidegger thought and
did on the political plane, there is a widespread view that after an initial
enthusiasm he later turned against Nazism. This view of the matter, due to
Heidegger himself, what we can call the official view, has since gained currency
in the debate on his philosophy and his Nazism, and has been maintained in
various ways by his closest supporters. Yet the facts do not support that
Heidegger’s indication that his Nietzsche lectures were intended as a critique
of National Socialism is contradicted by evidence of a continued enthusiasm
that belies this claim. Statements apparently favorable to Nazism were removed
from notes of later lecture courses when they were later published. Although
textual interpretation is always subject to disagreement, a number of passages
clearly indicate Heidegger’s continued commitment to Nazism well after the
war. The most prominent and clearest example is a statement in a lecture course
published with his cooperation in 1953: “The works that are being peddled
about nowadays as the philosophy of National Socialism but have nothing
whatever to do with the truth and greatness of this movement…”
Observers have further been troubled by Heidegger’s continued silence
about this entire period, including his silence about the Holocaust, and what

150 even his closest followers have on occasion seen as his insensitivity to the
problems of the Holocaust. Many writers have been especially bothered by
Heidegger’s claim, excised from the published version of a lecture delivered
in 1949, that “agriculture is now a mechanized food industry, in essence the
same as the manufacturing of corpses in gas chambers and extermination
camps, the same as the blockade and starvation of nations, the same as the
production of hydrogen bombs.”
10 The most obvious thing to say about
Heidegger’s failure to distance himself from the Holocaust or even to take a
clear position on the Holocaust is that from the perspective of his theory it
was not possible to do so.
The facts of the matter are not inherently controversial. The interpretation
of the link between Heidegger’s philosophical thought and political action is
exceedingly difficult and highly controversial. This interpretation, an
important exercise in hermeneutics, has led to a special cottage industry in
the Heidegger literature centered on this and allied problems. Heidegger’s
turning to National Socialism raises problems on a least three distinct levels,
including the interpretation of his thought, its reception in an already enormous
and steadily growing literature, and the traditional, normative philosophical
view of philosophy.
One problem concerns the link between Heidegger’s philosophical thought
and his political engagement. Although certainly deplorable, it is not
philosophically interesting to know that Heidegger became a Nazi since many
other Germans, including the vast majority of the philosophers who remained
in Germany during the war, joined the German Nazi party.
12 Yet Heidegger
was neither an ordinary German, since he was a philosopher, nor even an
ordinary German philosopher. Obviously, he was distinguished from all the
other German Nazis as the author of an unusually important philosophical
theory. It becomes philosophically significant if a link can be shown between
Heidegger’s philosophical position and his political commitment. It is
important to know whether Heidegger’s turning to National Socialism follows
from, or is in some way motivated by, his philosophical position; or whether,
on the contrary, it is merely a contingent fact unrelated to or at least not
dependent on his philosophical position.
A second cluster of problems concerns the reception of Heidegger’s turn
to Nazism, including its reception in the French philosophical discussion.
Heidegger had numerous grounds to disguise the reasons for as well as the
extent of his adherence to National Socialism, including the understandable
desire, in personally difficult circumstances, to conceal his continued adherence
to his personal vision of Nazism even after real Nazism was defeated. Other
factors arguably include his alleged personal moral weakness, the supposed
“inauthenticity” of his life, and assorted character flaws.
In defense of Heidegger, one might argue that his life was inseparable
from the difficult historical period in which he lived. This argument, which is
possible on Heidegger’s behalf, although not necessarily convincing, is neither

151 convincing nor even possible with respect to Heidegger’s later students, those
who, after the war, turned to his thought. It is disturbing that at this late
date, when so much is known about Heidegger’s political engagement, when
sordid details have emerged about his denunciation of colleagues,
13 so many
writers interested in his thought are hesitant, reluctant, unwilling to take up
the matter, concerned to warn against the very idea of studying the link
between his thought and his political commitment.
Such well informed writers as Jean Wahl believe that although we need to
be aware of Heidegger’s political misdeeds, his thought can be separated from
his Nazism.
15 Yet Heidegger’s Nazism is not irrelevant but precisely relevant to
an appreciation of his philosophical theory. It is always difficult to come to
grips with a novel body of thought. Novel theories require a process of reception
before they can be assimilated and evaluated. On occasion this process can
extend over centuries, for instance in the ongoing efforts to come to comprehend
Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and Hegel’s Phenomenology, to say nothing of
his Science of Logic, surely the darkest work of German idealism. It is difficult
enough to comprehend an important new theory; but it is impossible to do so
if a fundamental, or even a significant, element in that theory is hidden from
view. And it is difficult to take the Heidegger discussion seriously to the extent
that it handles the problem of the relation of his philosophical thought and
political commitment through such strategems as sheer denial, mere silence, or
even admonitions not to raise the problem at all.
A third set of problems concerns the normative self-image of philosophy.
There is a longstanding controversy within philosophy about its social
16 This controversy opposes those who maintain that philosophy is
socially irrelevant and those who maintain the contrary opinion. On one view
of the matter, philosophy is the source of truth and knowledge in an absolute
sense and absolutely indispensable for the good life. This flattering view of
philosophy is placed in jeopardy by the political engagements of such powerful
thinkers as Lukács the Stalinist but above all by Heidegger the Nazi. A
philosopher cannot be indifferent to the fact that an apparent philosophical
genius like Heidegger adhered to Nazism. There is an obvious paradox that
reflects on philosophy’s flattering view of its own social relevance. For ordinary
statements such as that Heidegger is a great philosopher, that philosophy is
socially indispensable or at least socially useful, and that National Socialism is
evil, the clearest example of absolute evil in our time, statements that appear
true in isolation, are clearly incompatible with each other.
At the close of the Weimar Republic, many Germans, including many German
intellectuals, turned to Nazism as a purported third way between the twin
evils of liberalism and Bolshevism. Heidegger’s turning to National Socialism

152 was not exceptional, exceptional only in virtue of his unusual philosophical
status as the author of an unusually important philosophical theory. Like the
general banality of evil, Heidegger’s Nazism was and seemed to be
unremarkable. It only began to attract attention after the war when he was
called to account for his actions and sought to defend himself. It is at that
point that a philosophical debate about Heidegger’s Nazism began that initially
was largely conducted among members of the philosophical corporation, a
rather exclusive society composed of those masters of blindness and insight.
It is only recently, in the wake of the publication of Victor Farías’s study,
Heidegger and Nazism (1987)
17 that the debate has been brought to the
attention of the wider intellectual public.
The problem—roughly how to understand the link between Heidegger’s
philosophical position and his allegiance to National Socialism—is simple to
state. Yet its analysis, like that of most philosophical problems, is endlessly
complex as each facet of the argument calls forth a counterargument. The
resolution of philosophical concerns, reputedly like psychoanalysis, is
As an aid in grasping a complex controversy, a distinction can be drawn
between Heidegger’s critics, who think that the problem is real and significant,
and his defenders, who think there is less than meets the eye. Heidegger’s
critics discern more than an accidental relation between Heidegger’s
philosophical thought and political commitment, and hence criticize
Heidegger’s thought for what seem to be its political consequences. His
defenders maintain that Heidegger’s philosophy and his politics have no more
than an accidental relation so that his political misadventures reflect neither
favorably but certainly not unfavorably on his philosophical position.
This disagreement illustrates the venerable concern with the relation of
theory and practice that has aroused widespread discussion but no agreement
throughout the philosophical tradition. The many variations put forward in
the debate on Heidegger’s Nazism can be collected around two main
assertions: either the relation between Heidegger’s thought and his political
commitment, more precisely between fundamental ontology and National
Socialism, is purely contingent, in which case there is no substantive problem,
certainly no specifically philosophical problem; or the relation derives from
his philosophy, in which case there is a serious philosophical problem on
various levels, beginning with the way that his commitment to Nazism, on
the assumption that Nazism is evil, reflects on his philosophy. Although
Heidegger never wrote an ethics, in fact rejected the very idea of the
philosophical analysis of values,
18 there would be a clearly ethical problem,
whatever the philosophical interest of his theory, if it could be shown that his
philosophical theory is linked in some basic way to fascist politics.
It is a matter of fact that up to now the debate on Heidegger’s Nazism has
mainly occurred in France. In retrospect, the French debate on Heidegger
and politics occurred in three main phases or waves.
19 We can distinguish

153 between the factual issue of who intervened in the debate, at what point, in
which way, and what, for want of a better term, we can call the dialectic of
the ensuing discussion.
The initial wave occurred in 1946 and 1947 in the pages of Les Temps
Modernes, a leading French intellectual journal, founded and edited by Sartre
and his close associates. The discussion included contributions by Karl Löwith,
Maurice de Gandillac and Alfred de Towarnicki. Löwith, who was Heidegger’s
first graduate student and sometime colleague, is well known for his own
philosophical work. Gandillac, who may have been the first French colleague
to come in contact with Heidegger after the war, was later a professor of
philosophy at the Sorbonne. Towarnicki is a journalist who was later close to
Beaufret. They were answered by Eric Weil, a former assistant to Ernst Cassirer,
and Alphonse De Waelhens. Weil, an emigrant to France from Nazi Germany,
later had a distinguished career in French philosophy. De Waelhens, a Belgian
phenomenologist, published the first French language study of Heidegger in
20 The discussion temporarily ended with rejoinders by Löwith and De
With respect to ongoing discussion of the problem, the importance of this
initial wave of the discussion resides in the pioneering identification of some
main issues and strategies that run throughout later phases of the ensuing debate.
We can differentiate between contingentist and necessitarian analyses, roughly
the claims that the link between Heidegger’s fundamental ontology and his
Nazism is merely contingent or not contingent but in some sense necessary.
In the first stage of the discussion, the contingentist reading of the relation
between Heidegger’s thought and politics is represented by Gandillac and
Towarnicki who maintain that Heidegger was politically naive and only
unknowingly attracted to National Socialism. They imply that Heidegger
was drawn to Nazism because of his basically untutored lack of awareness of
the outside world. This line of argument relies on the familiar view of the
philosopher as uninterested in or at least unaware of social reality, a view
illustrated early on by Aristotle’s account of Thales’s supposed fall into a
well while looking at the stars, appropriate for a thinker who claims that all
is water. On this view, the philosopher is competent only in the library. A
similar view has recently been restated by Gadamer, who claims that a
philosopher not only has no comparative advantage, in fact is actually at a
disadvantage, in understanding politics.
In the initial phase of the discussion, the contrary, necessitarian reading is
represented by Löwith. He holds that Heidegger’s turning to National
Socialism is explicable only through a main principle of his position: existence
reduced to itself reposes only on itself in the face of nothing. This is precisely
the view that Koyré identified as Heidegger’s basic contribution in his
introduction to the first French translation of a Heideggerian text.
In response to Löwith, De Waelhens unveils a main defensive strategy in
asserting that Heidegger’s detractors are insufficiently familiar with his theory.

154 From this angle of vision, finally only specialists in Heideggerian exegesis,
precisely those concerned only to explain but not to judge the master’s thought,
are capable of evaluating it.
In practice, most scholars of Heidegger’s thought steadfastly reject any
effort to associate his political convictions with his philosophy. Criticisms
raised by such obvious defectors from the Heideggerian fold as Thomas
23 Rainer Marten, 24 Michael Zimmerman, 25 and to a lesser degree
Otto Pöggeler 26 and Dieter Thomä 27 are countered by such equally
knowledgeable Heidegger defenders as Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann in
Germany, in the United States by William Richardson, and above all in France
by Beaufret and a host of others, including François Fédier and Pierre
Aubenque, and in a restricted sense Jacques Derrida and Philippe Lacoue-
Labarthe. In France, to the best of my knowledge at present Dominique
Janicaud is the only philosopher strongly identified with Heidegger
28 who
has taken an openly critical stance. 29
In the space of a year, with the exception of Löwith’s paper, the first wave
unfolded as a calm debate among French colleagues. In retrospect, the very
calmness of the initial phase of the French discussion was surprising in a
country that was defeated in the Second World War by Nazi Germany with
which Heidegger clearly identified. In comparison to the compact, civil, well
defined nature of the first wave, the second wave of the French discussion
was more amorphous, less compact, more international, and considerably
more strident. Its limits can arbitrarily be fixed between 1948, when Lukács’s
belligerent, even bellicose defense of Marxism against the perceived threat of
existentialism appeared in French, and 1968 when Jean-Michel Palmier’s
examination of Heidegger’s political writings, the first such volume in French,
was published.
30 Lukács criticized Heidegger’s Being and Time as prefascist
in the initial edition, 31 before expounding this criticism at greater length in a
discussion of the “Letter on Humanism” later added in an appendix. 32
In the initial wave of the French debate, the normally abstract character of
philosophical discussion is compounded by relatively sparse reference to the
relevant Heideggerian writings and their complete inaccessability in French
translation. In the second wave, more than a dozen years later this lacuna
was corrected by Jean-Pierre Faye. Faye, who was later derided by Beaufret
as a mere sociologist,
33 published several Heideggerian texts relevant to any
debate on the philosophical import of Heidegger’s political turn. These include
Heidegger’s rectorial address, his public homage for Albert Leo Schlageter, a
German executed for terrorist acts who was later transformed into a kind of
Nazi saint,
34 and Heidegger’s famous remark on supposedly authentic
National Socialism. 35
Obviously, academic careers were at risk in the commitment to the theory
of a major philosopher. Since the personal stakes were high, it is not surprising
that the second phase of the French debate on Heidegger’s Nazism was tough,
even unyielding, at a point in time before the relevent materials were readily

155 accessible. It quickly assumed a more personal, ad hominem character when
pertinent Heideggerian writings were made available in translation. The
intensity of the debate was heightened by Faye and Fédier, who represent
opposing points of view. Faye noted close parallels between Heidegger’s
language in the translated materials and Nazi terminology, due to the alleged
Nazification of the German language. François Fédier rebutted perceived
attacks on Heidegger.
At this point in the mid-1960s, Heidegger had for all intents and purposes
already been naturalized as a “French” thinker. Fédier’s defense was directed
against writings due to three foreign writers: Guido Schneeberger, Theodor
W.Adorno and Paul Hühnerfeld.
36 With the possible exception of Pierre
Aubenque, at this late date, after the death of Beaufret, Fédier remains as the
main, perhaps even the only important, proponent of the idea that from the
appropriate perspective every objection raised against Heidegger’s politics
can be explained away.
In hindsight, the second wave of the debate produced an extension of the
expert defense first raised by De Waelhens. This is the view that only a Heidegger
expert is entitled to criticize Heidegger. In France, where mastery of the German
texts provides a distinct comparative advantage, acceptance of this view has
often led to the attempt to show that critics of Heidegger’s turning to National
Socialism are insufficiently versed in German, or in Heidegger’s admittedly
peculiar use of the German language. In appealing to this strategy, Heidegger’s
defenders are guided by the conviction that when we examine the texts it
becomes apparent that what his critics have seen as problematic is only
apparently so.
37 Fédier, for instance, routinely poses as someone who knows
German in the appropriate manner, presumably but improbably better than
such native German speakers critical of Heidegger as Löwith, or later Pöggeler,
Marten and Thomä. Fédier suggests that a “real” translation of the rectorial
address will remove the traces of Nazism injected into it.
Heidegger’s deep influence in French philosophy has led to an explicit
tendency, naturally strongest among Heideggerians, to identify French
philosophy with Heidegger’s thought. Fédier, at present Heidegger’s most
uncritical representative in France after Beaufret’s death, spoke for others as
well in stating that “the interest for philosophy today is inseparable from the
interest for Heidegger.”
The third, most recent wave of the French debate began with the
publication of Victor Farías’s study Heidegger et le nazisme in French in
the fall of 1987. Numerous French philosophers regarded this work as
tantamount to an attack on French philosophy. Hugo Ott, the author of a
critical biography of Heidegger, accurately captured this reaction in the
observation that “in France a sky has fallen in—the sky of the
40 This reaction is understandable for two reasons: the extreme
extent to which French philosophy since the end of the war has continued
to identify with Heidegger’s thought, and the well known French reluctance

156 even now to reopen wounds caused by the war. It is common knowledge in
France that at the end of the war there was in effect a tacit agreement
among representatives of all political tendencies not to address the French
defeat in 1940 and not to address the moral failures of the collaborationist
Vichy government.
41 This desire has led to what has often been seen as a
French inability to confront this phase of French history. An example among
many is the recent decision of the French court system, later reversed, to
reject an indictment for crimes against humanity brought against Paul
Touvier, a French war criminal who was twice condemned to death in
absentia and later pardoned.
Since the third wave of the French debate may still be under way, any
description must remain provisional, subject to change, as further publications
emerge. What is clear is that it contains two subphases: an initial phase lasting
several months, including an almost immediate, passionate, often raucous
and strident series of reactions to Farías’s study by writers who attacked and
defended the book, Heidegger, and even each other; and a later subphase,
still under way, in which scholarly studies have been appearing in response to
the renewed controversy. Farías’s study obviously changes the debate on the
link between Heidegger’s thought and political commitment. It transforms
what was initially a staid, austere discussion, mainly between philosophers,
differing from other such discussions only in that its theme was unusually
important, into what for academic circles, even for French academic circles,
is a very violent debate.
This part of the third wave was mainly played out in daily newspapers,
as well as weekly and biweekly journals. It was provoked, even incited by
the sharply worded preface to Farías’s book by Christian Jambet, a former
nouveau philosophe. Through a reference to the film Night and Fog (Nuit
et brouillard), he drew a connection between Heidegger’s thought and
Nazi concentration camps: “Heidegger has the merit of making ontology
the question of our time. But how can we accept that philosophy, born of
Socrates’s trial for leading a just life, ends in the twilight where Heidegger
wanted to see the end of the gods, but which was only the time of Night
and fog?”
The other subphase of the third wave is represented by a remarkable series
of books devoted to the theme of Heidegger’s thought and his politics. In
retrospect, this phase can be held to begin in 1975 in the publication of a
solid study by Pierre Bourdieu, of Heidegger’s so-called political ontology
against the background of the historical context. Farías’s book was published
in October 1987. After the shock caused by this event that rapidly became
l’affaire Farías, Bourdieu quickly updated his work.
In an extraordinary fit of French philosophical creativity, in the short period
running from that October 1987 until May 1988, unusually short by
philosophical standards, no less than five other books appeared on the general
theme of Heidegger and politics. These books were due respectively to

157 Lyotard,
45 Ferry and Renaut, 46 Fédier, 47 Derrida, 48 and Lacoue-Labarthe. 49
Since that time only Janicaud’s book 50 on this theme has been published,
although occasional journal articles have continued to appear as the
controversy continues to simmer.
Farías’s controversial study forms an important link in the ongoing French
debate on Heidegger’s Nazism. It presents a form of the more general
necessitarian thesis advanced earlier by others, such as Löwith, in the French
Heidegger debate. Like Löwith, Farías sees a relation of continuity between
Heidegger’s life and times, his thought, and his political engagement.
Yet Farías’s discussion differs in several main ways from Löwith’s. One
difference is that he is considerably less successful in drawing attention to,
and certainly less able to analyze, the claimed continuity between Heidegger’s
philosophical thought and politics. Another difference is that through
extensive archival research he was able to discover numerous, relevant
details. Together with Ott’s important biographical study, the result is to
disclose a fuller, more rounded—and, in virtue of the comparatively richer
detail, particularly in Ott’s work, an even more disturbing—picture of the
relation of Heidegger’s political commitment and philosophical theory to
his sociocultural background in a small town in Southwestern Germany in
the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Then there is the difference
in tone between Löwith’s sober discussion, on the usual high plane of
philosophical abstraction, intended to link Heidegger’s theory of being and
his commitment to Nazism, and Farías’s similar effort, in what has been
described as the style of a criminal dossier. As a result, Farias has become a
kind of official enemy for Heidegger’s defenders in which attacks on his
book tend to replace a careful consideration of the many issues arising
from the link between Heidegger’s philosophy and politics.
The new phase of the debate, its most concentrated, philosophically richest
form to date, is to an important extent composed of a series of reactions to
Farías’s book. In this debate, the works by Lyotard on the one hand and
Ferry and Renaut on the other address peripheral issues. Lyotard’s strangely
vague book scores some points against other participants in the French debate
concerning what he strangely insists is a French problem.
52 This suggestion is
correct if taken to imply that it is above all a topic that has attracted attention
in France. Yet it is difficult to comprehend if it is meant to suggest that France
or French philosophy were separately or collectively somehow responsible
for the Heideggerian entanglement of philosophy and Nazism.
As in some of their earlier studies,
53 the book by Ferry and Renaut is
intended to call attention to a supposedly antihumanist tendency in recent
French philosophy and French thought in general, based on a reading of

158 structuralism as a form of antihumanism. Yet this line of argument is
problematic. For instance, Ferry and Renaut fail to analyze or even to
acknowledge the differences in the various, so-called structuralist views of
subjectivity that lead to the questionable classification, say, of Foucault not
only as a structuralist, an appellation he explicitly contests,
54 but as an
The five remaining books can be grouped into three broad categories as
variant analyses of the relation of Heidegger’s philosophical thought and of
his politics as either contingent or necessary. In general terms, Fédier maintains
that this relation is merely contingent whereas Bourdieu and later Janicaud
independently argue that it is necessary. A compromise in the form of a more
limited version of the necessitarian analysis is sketched in related fashion by
both Lacoue-Labarthe and Derrida.
The allergy of orthodox Heideggerians to Sartre’s theory is matched,
even exceeded, by their aversion to Farías’s study. Fédier’s discussion consists
of two parts: a lengthy attack intended to refute every significant objection
raised by Farías against Heidegger, and an alternative analysis intended to
explain Heidegger’s adherence to Nazism in a way that does not incriminate
his philosophical theory. In Sartrean terminology, we can say that Fédier
attributes Farías’s critique simply to bad faith. His own, alternative
explanation innovates in introducing a form of scepticism to account for
the supposed inability in 1933, when Heidegger joined the Nazi party, to
foresee what it would later become.
55 He strongly, but unconvincingly asserts
that how Nazism would later evolve was clear only on September 1, 1939. 56
Yet this line of argument is problematic since the likelihood that Nazism
would develop as it in fact did was considerably clearer than, say, the famous
Aristotelian problem of whether a sea battle will occur tomorrow.
57 The
main thrust of Nazism was already clear in the party program in 1920,
restated in detail in Hitler’s Mein Kampf and elsewhere, and, as Heidegger
later explicitly conceded, understood by Jews and “liberal” politicians.
And if the standard for moral responsibility is anything resembling divine
fore-knowledge then no one, perhaps not even deus absconditus, is ever
responsible for anything.
Bourdieu and Janicaud carry further the contextualist effort to understand
Heidegger’s Nazi turning against his sociocultural background and his
philosophical position. In retrospect, Bourdieu’s discussion that provided early,
but important corrections on a number of details, including Heidegger’s anti-
Semitism that can now no longer be denied,
59 is doubly distinguished. One
point is his methodological decision to refuse the distinction between
philosophy and politics in favor of a double reading (double lecture) of
Heideggerian texts. For Bourdieu, Heidegger’s texts are elaborated and must
be read as “inseparably political and philosophical through the reference to
two social spaces to which correspond two mental spaces.”
60 Bourdieu’s refusal
to isolate the philosophical and political components of Heidegger’s corpus

159 enables him—this is the other point—to provide an interpretation of
Heidegger’s thought against its sociocultural background. In this respect, he
continues the task undertaken by Löwith, Farías, Ott and others, but rarely
pursued in the French discussion, of providing a unitary interpretation of
Heidegger’s life and thought.
Bourdieu, who relates the political and philosophical aspect of
Heidegger’s corpus, is comparatively stronger in analyzing the former
aspect. Janicaud, who also seeks to grasp Heidegger’s thought in its
context, is comparatively stronger in analyzing the texts themselves. For
Janicaud, Heidegger’s failure to elaborate a political doctrine—like many
others in the French debate, such as Aubenque, he holds that Being and
Time is not a political but an apolitical book
61—is philosophically and
politically significant, leading to the effort to found an authentic politics. 62
This effort is pursued in the rectorial address that Janicaud analyzes in
detail. Janicaud sees the later Heidegger’s radicalization of his earlier
thought, roughly the destinal theory of being announced in the “Letter on
Humanism” and other later writings, as impeding an understanding of the
lessons following from his turn to Nazism.
On the deepest level, as Fichte recognized, philosophy is a matter of personal
commitment prior to rational justification. For that reason, it is about as
amenable to change through reasoned argument as is religious conviction.
When so much is known—except for a few philosophical dinosaurs, such
Heideggerian true believers as Beaufret, Fédier and Aubenque in France,
Richardson in America, von Herrmann and from a different perspective
Gadamer in Germany, or Vattimo in Italy—for even the most ardent
Heideggerian it is now too late simply to maintain that Heidegger never did
anything that could justify the objections raised against him or that those
who criticize him are simply mediocre thinkers.
64 In comparison, the works
by Derrida and Lacoue-Labarthe represent a new effort by philosophers
strongly influenced by Heidegger’s position to find a way to “save,” if not
the man, or his entire theory, at least his later thought that has long been
influential in French philosophical discussion.
There are levels of possible Heideggerian interpretation of the link between
his thought and politics, of which the first, suggested by Heidegger himself,
is that his political episode is simply meaningless. Derrida and Lacoue-
Labarthe, close students of Heidegger who disagree with him in regarding
this episode as meaningful, exploit Heidegger’s suggestion of a turning in his
thought to “save” his later thought.
Heidegger suggests that through the radicalization of his concern with
being he was led beyond metaphysics that is identical with philosophy, hence
led beyond philosophy. This suggestion clearly bears on the proper
interpretation of the continuity or discontinuity of Heidegger’s position as it
develops over time. Where Heidegger sees continuity with difference in the
development of his position through the later elaboration of his original

160 beginning as the other beginning, Derrida and Lacoue-Labarthe see difference
without continuity, in other words a conceptual break. Their respective
analyses turn on the reading of National Socialism as metaphysics—in Lacoue-
Labarthe’s case as metaphysical humanism—and the supposition that
Heidegger’s early thought, but not his later thought, was also metaphysical.
From this angle of vision, each maintains that Heidegger’s Nazi turning
followed from the metaphysical character of his early thought that is left
behind in the turning.
67 For both, as Heidegger turns away from metaphysics,
he also turns away from National Socialism.
Derrida and Lacoue-Labarthe both follow the same line of argument. Both
attempt to “save” Heidegger’s later theory by reading it, against Heidegger’s
own self-understanding, as reflecting a basic discontinuity. Both rest their
defense of Heidegger’s later theory on the supposition of a break between
Heidegger I and Heidegger II, between his early metaphysical theory and his
later nonmetaphysical or postmetaphysical theory.
The line of analysis elaborated by Derrida is first stated by Lacoue-Labarthe
who in turn later reworks it after it is taken up by Derrida. In a recent collection
of papers,
68 Lacoue-Labarthe maintains that the rectorial address is an effort
to found the conservative Nazi political revolution in philosophy. Heidegger’s
political engagement, leading to the collapse of Heidegger’s fundamental
ontology, was metaphysical, and his effort to lead National Socialism was
basically spiritual.
Lacoue-Labarthe’s less radical version of the same basic strategy accords
full responsibility to Heidegger for the link between fundamental ontology
and Nazism based on the hegemony of the spiritual and philosophical over
the political
69 rooted in his early thought. 70 To an even greater extent than
Derrida, Lacoue-Labarthe discerns a discontinuity between Heidegger’s early
and later texts in which he supposedly broke with Nazism.
According to Lacoue-Labarthe, the link between Nazism, humanism and
the early Heideggerian theory is not difficult to discern. He goes so far, in a
simply incredible statement, as simplistically to equate Nazism and humanism.
Although philosophers have made all kinds of wild statements over the last
two and half millenia, Lacoue-Labarthe, not to be outdone, straightforwardly
claims that “Nazism is a humanism in that it rests on a determination of
humanitas that it sees as more powerful, that is more effective, than any
72 If this is the case, then in basing the humanism in his early view on
a determinate view of humanitas, what Heidegger calls the traditional,
metaphysical view of humanism, Heidegger and Nazism naturally came
together. Yet it is exceedingly difficult to see how Nazism can reasonably be
understood as humanism, anymore than, say, Stalinism is humanism. And to
call Nazis humanists without qualification, in effect to equate humanism and
Nazism, is to imply that anyone interested in another, more traditional form
of humanism, such as Sartre, is a Nazi, or at least a potential Nazi. This is an
obvious error. Further, this overly general way of using the concept of

161 humanism fails either to explain how and why Heidegger turned to Nazism
or to identify anything typical of Nazism.
Even more than Lacoue-Labarthe, Derrida illustrates the widespread
tendency to separate Heidegger the thinker from Heidegger the Nazi
enthusiast. Derrida, who has long portrayed himself as a member of the
intellectual left wing, has recently used his important intellectual position to
restrict discussion about the political involvements of both Paul de Man and
Heidegger. In his recent writings, he has attempted to downplay the anti-
Semitic leanings of Paul de Man as insignificant.
73 He has threatened legal
action to prevent the republication of an interview he gave concerning
Heidegger’s Nazism.
74 And in a recent controversy played out in the pages of
the New York Review of Books, he has raised a series of obstacles to
publication of relevant materials, such as denying the threat of legal action
and calling attention to points of translation, that taken together have the
effect of deflecting attention away from the deeper, more important issue of
Heidegger’s Nazism.
Derrida elaborates the supposedly limited connection between Heidegger’s
early theory and National Socialism—that is a connection limited to the early
phase of his theory only—by emphasizing what he regards as a basic difference
between Heidegger’s early concern with metaphysics and later concern with
postmetaphysical thought. According to Derrida, closely following Heidegger,
there is a difference in kind between Heidegger’s initially metaphysical position
and the later position that is no longer philosophy. Derrida’s variant of this
line of argument turns on a reading of Heidegger’s conception of spirit. In an
ingenious meditation on Heidegger’s use of the terms “Geist,” “geistig,” and
76 he contends that Heidegger’s spiritual commitment to Nazism
was later overcome, for instance in an essay on Trakl, 77 by transcending
metaphysics. 78
Derrida’s version of this argument is exceedingly radical since he holds
that even in 1933 when Heidegger adhered to Nazism the latter understood
this political movement in a spiritual sense. This is, I believe, at least partially
correct since study of Heidegger’s writings, such as the infamous rectorial
address, shows Heidegger’s frequent emphasis on the link between his own
theory, philosophy, National Socialism, and the realization of the essence of
the German people. The latter idea derives from the concept of the Volk that
the Nazi ideologists took over from nineteenth-century, rightwing German
Volksideologie. Yet there is clearly a political aspect to Heidegger’s Nazi
turning as we’ll, for instance in his public acceptance of the infamous
Führerprinzip, what may have been his adherence to the Hitler cult, his
conviction that there is anything like an authentic essence of Nazism that the
Nazis failed to realize and may not even have perceived, and so on.
For Derrida, the problem is simply Heidegger’s spiritual concern with
Nazism that is later overcome. Yet this adherence is not confined to his early
writings, to his thought prior to the turning. For it is demonstrably present in

162 his later thought as well. Derrida simply fails to realize that there are abundant
references of the same kind, for instance in the Beiträge zur Philosophie,
after Heidegger supposedly broke with Nazism, that is after he resigned as
rector of the University of Freiburg and after the first series of Nietzsche
79 Further, it is inconsistent for Derrida to portray the early Heidegger
as concerned with spirit, and, by inference, with the problem of humanism.
For the basis of his attack on Sartre, as noted above, is his objection to Sartre’s
humanist reading of Heidegger’s theory.
The French debate on the link between Heidegger’s philosophy and politics
amply illustrates the influence, even the fascination that his theory has long
exerted on French philosophy. This is doubly apparent: in the ease with which,
despite widespread awareness of his Nazi turning, he became the leading
French philosopher of the postwar period; and the capacity of his theory to
counter objections based on its link to his politics.
The “Letter on Humanism,” as has been pointed out, is a key element in
understanding how Heidegger became and continues to be the French master
thinker of this period. Above it was pointed out that Heidegger’s concept of
the turning in his thought is usually regarded from an anticontextualist angle
of vision. But if we remember Heidegger’s difficult personal situation when
he wrote this text, then the turning appears in a different light as responding
to both philosophical and political imperatives, in short as a mainly strategical
move determined by his then difficult political situation as well as his continued
adherence to a form of Nazism. Heidegger’s suggestion in this text that he
had turned away from any political commitment is in effect a simple but
simply misleading reassurrance in the face of his apparently continued
commitment to Nazism. But it was effective in France where the majority of
intellectuals, like the population as a whole, were disinclined to rake over the
coals of the recent past and also perhaps overly willing to accept on faith the
idea that like other philosophers Heidegger was not worldly wise.
The philosophically interesting question, we have said, is not whether
Heidegger was naive, which is possible, or a Nazi, since by any ordinary
standard that point can no longer be reasonably denied, but rather whether
his Nazism can be said to follow from, or to be based on, his philosophy. The
Heidegger Archives in Marbach are not open to the public and his Nachlass
is controlled by his family. Heidegger’s defenders are well placed to obstruct
the release of documents, to “censor” what has been released by removing
politically incriminating passages, particularly in writings after the rectorate
to perpetuate the fiction that Heidegger later broke with Nazism, and generally
to impede efforts to arrive at a balanced judgment based on full and fair
access to the relevant materials.

163 In the French debate to date, the two major lines of defense that have so
far emerged include the related claims that Heidegger’s detractors are
insufficiently versed in his thought or in the German language. The latter
claim explains the otherwise incomprehensible, vigorous struggle, with clear
political implications, over the proper translation of key terms in Heidegger’s
theory. This type of linguistic defense is possible in France or in the US but
not in Germany. It is further possible to hold that some of Heidegger’s critics
misunderstand him in whole or in part, although this must be shown in detail.
Textual interpretation is difficult at best and Heidegger’s texts present unusual
interpretative difficulties. Yet it is implausible to contend that authorities on
Heidegger’s thought—such as Sheehan, Zimmerman and Kisiel in the US,
Löwith, Pöggeler and Marten in Germany, and Janicaud in France—simply
base their criticism on misunderstandings of it.
Efforts to demonstrate a merely contingent link between Heidegger’s
thought and politics are problematic. At this late date, it is about as convincing
as suggestions that the earth is flat to maintain that there is no substantive
link between Heidegger’s thought and his political commitment. Defenders
of this view have a doubly difficult task. First, it is necessary to clear away
the obstacle raised by textual analyses pointing to a link. Second, even if
adequate rejoinders could be found to objections raised by Janicaud, Bourdieu,
Tertulian and others who identify the suggested link, no argument could
demonstrate the nonexistence of a relation between Heidegger’s philosophical
theory and his political commitment.
Despite the improbable nature of the claim that Heidegger the Nazi
philosopher is wholly without blame, it continues to be urged by some of his
staunchest defenders. Heidegger’s unconditional defenders, for whom he in
effect can do no wrong, in the French discussion writers such as Beaufret,
Fédier and Aubenque, attempt to do too much. They wish to rescue
Heidegger’s entire thought and life by insisting on a reading of Heidegger the
thinker and Heidegger the man as wholly unrelated and each as wholly free
from blame. If Heidegger’s thought is not the source of his politics, then one
cannot reason backward from his politics to impugn his thought. And if his
greatest fault is to be naive in the way that all philosophers are supposedly
naive, as conceptual country bumpkins visiting at the city slickers’ carnival
of life, then Heidegger the man is no more responsible for his adherence to
Nazism than anyone else who was similarly deceived.
The comparatively more modest attempt, put forward in the French debate
by Lacoue-Labarthe and Derrida in effect candidly concedes that his early
thought leads to Nazism. Yet although this weaker, fallback claim by some of
Heidegger’s most ingenious defenders might seem advantageous in view of
its concessions, its willingness to defend a smaller amount of terrain, it is
open to significant objections.
One problem concerns the assumption of a difference—an assumption
made by Derrida and Lacoue-Labarthe, for example—not only in degree but

164 in kind between the earlier and later forms of Heidegger’s theory as respectively
metaphysics and nonmetaphysics or postmetaphysics. The two stages of
Heidegger’s position are separated by a period of development during which
the initial statement of the position, or fundamental ontology, is transformed
by him into his later theory, or thinking, where the thinking that is to come is
understood as being no longer philosophy. Through his distinction between
the first beginning and the other beginning Heidegger insists on a radical
change in his position; but his very distinction between these phases of his
theory supposes a deeper level of continuity underlying its transformation.
Since authors do not have hermeneutical privilege with respect to their
writings, it is conceivable that Heidegger misunderstands his texts. A number
of existential factors might have led Heidegger to misrepresent the later
development of his thought and its link to his early position. Yet since there
is no single instance in the philosophical tradition of a conceptual rupture in
the position of any important thinker, it is implausible to contend that there
is a conceptual break, a radical discontinuity between Heidegger’s early and
later phases of Heidegger’s thought as Lacoue-Labarthe and Derrida suppose.
The other problem concerns an assumption about textual interpretation.
Lacoue-Labarthe and Derrida illustrate in practice a theory of textual
interpretation formulated by Derrida and others. For Derrida there is nothing
outside of texts and texts call forth other texts.
80 From a hermeneutical angle
of vision, this is a version of the anticontextualist view that philosophical theories
can be understood apart from and without reference to the contexts in which
they emerge. To allow this thesis is tantamount to restricting the comprehension
of a position, any position, merely to textual study since there is, literally, nothing
else. Yet if this move is allowed, it leads to the removal from consideration of a
whole host of factors possibly relevant to the study of any position but surely
relevant to an understanding of Heidegger’s thought and Nazism.
If no position, including Heidegger’s, can be reduced to the circumstances
in which it emerges, neither can it be wholly understood in isolation from its
sociocultural context. Heidegger belongs to a generation of thinkers whose
entire life and thought are circumscribed by the series of events leading up to
and leading away from the Second World War. This is a point that is often
clearer to historians such as Ott and Nolte than to philosophers who, in
order to maintain the fiction of philosophy as the source of transhistorical
truth, often deny its dependence on contextual factors. Ott exhibits the
importance of a contextual approach in his study of Heidegger.
81 Following
Ott, Nolte, unlike Ott a strong Heidegger defender, simply concedes the crucial
need to interpret Heidegger’s position, including his turning to National
Socialism, from both a textual and a contextual perspective since each
illuminates the other.
82 Further, a contextual approach to understanding
Heidegger’s thought is precisely Heideggerian. The Heideggerian perspective
subordinates abstract theory to human existence within which it constitutes
an aspect and against which it must be comprehended. From this angle of

165 vision, the very idea of an interpretation of Heidegger’s thought of being that
fails to consider his own being is deeply mistaken.
Heidegger was, in Löwith’s apt phrase, a thinker in a time of need (Denker in
dürftiger Zeit),
83 whose theory emerged in the specific historical circumstances
of the Weimar Republic: after the defeat suffered in the First World War, in a
time of resurgent industrial development and increasingly strident nationalism,
in a historical moment when many Germans sought to recover from the defeat
by a new awakening of the German people; and he turned to Nazism as the
Weimar Republic foundered, when National Socialism appeared to many to
offer a viable third way between Bolshevism and discredited liberalism, as the
German economy was reeling under the worldwide economic catastrophe. To
fail to acknowledge this, not to relate Heidegger’s thought and actions to the
spirit of his times, to grasp his thought in isolation from its historical context, to
consider Heidegger as Beaufret and some of his other students do as a thinker
unrelated to his time or indeed to any other time, surely corresponds to the view
that some thinkers like to hold of philosophical thought as in but not of time. But
such an approach is also largely mythological. For it overlooks Heidegger’s own
view of the matter in his concept of Dasein as existence, as well as his rare
statements after the second defeat of Germany, and, finally, the reality of
Heidegger’s own situation.
The deeper problem endemic in the French discussion of Heidegger’s Nazism
is the failure, widespread elsewhere as well, to consider its specific nature. It is
widely but incorrectly assumed that Heidegger’s commitment to Nazism was
unremarkable and transitory. Writers as diverse as Fédier and Aubenque,
orthodox Heideggerians, or Lacoue-Labarthe and Derrida, whose views are
more nuanced, and even Janicaud, who is more overtly critical, uncritically
assume that Heidegger’s Nazism comes to an end with his service as rector of
the University of Freiburg i. B. in 1934. This approach has the advantage of
freeing his later thought from any political taint. But it is simply unable to
account for the known facts. In particular, it cannot explain Heidegger’s
continued membership in the German Nazi Party until 1945, his later
reaffirmation of his faith in Nazism in the Introduction to Metaphysics, his
effort to develop further the supposed Nazi confrontation with technology in
his own writings, and the disturbing remarks about the concept of the Volk in
his Beiträge zur Philosophie.
84 And it cannot account for his continued silence
on Nazism and the development of his later thought that is literally
incomprehensible without an acknowledgment of his steady, stubborn
commitment to his Own ideal form of National Socialism.
The main concern of this book is neither the proper analysis of Heidegger’s
Nazism, nor the link between his philosophical thought and his commitment

166 to National Socialism, but the reception of his thought in postwar French
philosophy. Had the situation been normal, Heidegger’s influence in postwar
French philosophy would have been usual not unusual. Yet the situation was
not normal but abnormal in virtue of the unprecedented affiliation of an
exceptionally powerful philosopher with National Socialism.
The unusual extent of the influence of Heidegger’s theory in French
philosophy is manifest not only in its impact on contemporary French philosophy
as well as his capacity to emerge and to remain as the master thinker in postwar
French philosophy. It is manifest as well in the inability within the French
philosophical discussion, still so strongly influenced by Heidegger’s theory, for
most thinkers to come to grips with the issues raised by the link between his
theory and his Nazism in other than Heideggerian terms.
There is a parallel between Derrida’s initial approach to the problem of
sexual difference, on which Heidegger has nothing whatsoever to say, and
the French analysis of the issues concerning the link between Heidegger’s
theory and his Nazism. The effort of Derrida the Heideggerian to grasp the
problem of sexual difference is at least initially undermined by his decision
to remain within the framework of Heidegger’s theory. Similarly, it is striking
that most efforts in the French discussion to understand the link between
Heidegger’s theory and his Nazism remain within the framework of
Heidegger’s own theory. The most striking example of all are the closely-
related efforts by Derrida and Lacoue-Labarthe to come to grips with this
link through Heidegger’s own concept of the turning without any effort to
situate this concept in Heidegger’s own existential background.
We need to distinguish between Heidegger’s philosophical position and its
reception in French philosophy. There is a distinction to be drawn between
Heidegger’s position prior to and then after his adherence to National
Socialism. There is a further, more complicated series of distinctions to be
drawn between Heidegger’s initial influence in French philosophy at the
beginning of the 1930s prior to his adherence to National Socialism, then his
emergence after the war as the master thinker of postwar French philosophy
when his turning to Nazism was known and the French debate on the
significance of his political turning was under way, and finally the more recent
phase, roughly since Farías’s book appeared, when there has been extensive
debate on Heidegger’s politics.
Heidegger is known to have turned toward Nazism as early as 1931 but
he did not become a member of the NSDAP before 1933. The initial reception
of Heidegger’s theory in France occurred prior to his official membership
in the National Socialist movement; it is, then, unrelated to his political
turning. At this point, his theory was widely misunderstood, for instance
by Sartre, Beauvoir and their associates who oddly attributed their own
concern with responsibility based on freedom to their reading of Heidegger.
Although concerned in Being and Time with responsibility, there is no
evidence that Heidegger ever held anything like the Sartrean theory that

167 each of us is responsible for everyone. In Being and Time, where his
understanding of the relation to others is highly undeveloped, Heidegger
places the main emphasis on responsibility toward oneself, say, in his theory
of authenticity.
In the immediate postwar period, Heidegger’s thought and politics were
widely misconstrued since his thought was taken out of context. In postwar
France, the potential danger posed by Heidegger’s Nazism was temporarily
neutralized although not permanently defused for three main reasons:
Heidegger’s reassurances concerning his politics that were repeated by his
supporters, above all Beaufret, and uncritically accepted; the lack of knowledge
of the nature and extent of Heidegger’s commitment to Nazism that was
never clear and certainly not terminated at the end of the war; and the French
disinclination to face up to Heidegger’s National Socialism in order to avoid
coming to terms with their own past. Certainly, the ability of Heidegger’s
supporters to make a convincing case for what was presented as a turning
away from or even against Nazism rested on the way that his thought was
literally read in isolation from its context.
If this analysis is correct, we can attribute Heidegger’s rise to prominence
in the French discussion to the perceived importance of his philosophical
thought, the widespread appeal to the traditional anticontextual approach
to philosophy as not linked to its time and place in the reading of Heidegger’s
theory, and a series of contingent factors. Together these factors made it
plausible to ignore or at least to bracket Heidegger’s association with Nazism.
It then became plausible to accept as valid without scrutiny declarations
intended merely to reassure. An example is Gilson’s unsupported, unclarified,
demonstrably incorrect remark that Heidegger’s interest in politics was merely
86 This situation, favorable to Heidegger, in which his
reassurances were accepted either as given or as reformulated by his closest
supporters, no longer obtained when Heidegger’s Nazism began to be
subjected to increasing scrutiny and the question of its possible link to his
philosophy was raised.
In France, where the debate has been extremely vigorous, it is fair to say
that the peculiar role of Heidegger’s thought has not so far been seriously
“damaged” or called into question by renewed attention to his Nazism.
Philosophers have long insisted on the social importance, indeed the
indispensability of what they do for the good life. Yet few philosophers in
France or anywhere else are more than casually concerned with an external
world that, if certain deconstructionists are to be believed, does not even
exist outside the texts. It is, then, not surprising that now as before there are
those willing to accept Heidegger’s reassurances, or their second-hand
repetition by his closest students, without further scrutiny. Yet it is striking
that as the historical events become more distant and recede increasingly into
the past, as the information now available about Heidegger’s Nazism increases
and is examined, and as its possible links to his philosophical thought are

168 probed, there is not the slightest hint that Heidegger’s preeminence in French
philosophy has so far been counterbalanced, destabilized, or even threatened.
That Heidegger’s thought has so far been able to maintain its preeminence in
French philosophy in a situation significantly altered by the resurgent debate
on his Nazism is another, striking indication, even more striking than his
emergence as the central philosopher in France after the war, of his profound,
indeed profoundly durable influence in contemporary French philosophy.



This book has been concerned with the reception of Heidegger’s
philosophical position in France, particularly in the postwar period when
he became the master thinker of French philosophy. In modern times, a
number of important positions have influenced, even strongly influenced,
the course of philosophical debate, sometimes even for decades, but rarely
more than that. Examples include the theories of C.S.Peirce, William James
and John Dewey in American philosophy, G.E.Moore, Bertrand Russell,
Gottlob Frege and Ludwig Wittgenstein in analytic philosophy, Georg
Lukács in Marxism, and Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger in
phenomenology. Yet in modern philosophy there are only four unusually
influential philosophical theories that have continued to shape the debate
not only over decades but throughout this entire period: those of Descartes,
Kant, Hegel, and Hume.
Different thinkers exert their influence differently. For an exceedingly brief
moment, Karl Leonhard Reinhold dominated the post-Kantian debate before
rapidly receding, well within his lifetime, into obscurity. Peirce attracted the
attention of James but few others during his lifetime although since his death
his reputation has continued to grow. Nietzsche’s philosophical reputation
has been acquired almost entirely since his passing. Heidegger’s theory that
attained almost mythical dimensions during his lifetime has become even
more important since his recent death. It is too early to determine if, like the
views of others, say Fichte and Bergson, the influence of his theory will like a
supernova shine intensely, even incandescently but relatively briefly only, to
be nearly extinguished after a short moment, or whether, like the single star
he claimed to follow in his lifelong concern with being, his thought will remain
fixed in the philosophical firmament, to serve as a beacon for others as long
as the philosophical discussion continues. It is too early, then, to know whether
Koyré was correct in contending that Heidegger’s theory is not only an
important new step in the discussion but rather marks the inception of a new
phase of the discussion.

An understanding of the way that any philosophical theory, including
Heidegger’s, is taken up in the philosophical tradition presupposes an
understanding of the concept “philosophical tradition.” It might seem that
the writings in that tradition and the tradition itself are fixed, or stable entities,
since they are in a sense always and necessarily already there as a necessary
precondition for later discussion. In order to discuss the critical philosophy,
there must already be a series of texts in which this theory is stated. And the
Kantian tradition in philosophy presupposes the Kantian theory.
Both the writings that compose the philosophical tradition and the
philosophical tradition itself are variables. Texts change, for instance when a
particular text is accepted as genuine or rejected as spurious, or when better,
philologically more adequate, even critical editions appear that in turn may
influence the understanding of philosophical theories.
Our understanding of Heidegger’s position may well change as the texts
change. A complete edition of Heidegger’s writings is now in progress that,
since it is not being edited according to the current views of what is a critical
edition, will need later to be redone. In this edition passages omitted from
texts already published, including politically sensitive remarks, have been
restored. An unexpected change has occurred with respect to Heidegger’s
second doctoral thesis, or Habilitationsschrift, concerning the text “De modis
significandi” that was earlier attributed to Duns Scotus. Heidegger’s text is
called “Die Kategorien- und Bedeutungslehre des Duns Scotus.” Today we
know that the author of the text on which Heidegger comments was not
Duns Scotus but Thomas of Erfurt.
Such changes indicate that the past to which the writings belong and the
writings themselves are not congealed, frozen as it were. If the very content
of the philosophical tradition is never fixed but always mutable, then it takes
on a strangely amorphous quality, as an admittedly extreme example will
show. Reference to “The Question Concerning Technology” needs to specify
which form of this text is intended: the censored, published version where
Heidegger simply states that “Agriculture is now the mechanized food
2 or the still unpublished, uncensored version, in which these five
words begin a longer, arguably scandalous passage, already quoted above.
For a text analyzing modern technology from the perspective of being is not
the same as one that, in the course of such an analysis, simply equates
agriculture and extermination camps.
Our understanding of this text obviously changes when the censored
passage is restored. A text offering an apparently innocuous, not particularly
interesting observation about contemporary agriculture as motorized, or
better mechanized, is neither insightful nor controversial. It might be taken
as an indication that Heidegger has nothing much to say about agriculture
from his perspective. A very different text that adds the comparison of

171 mechanized agriculture to extermination camps is arguably also not
insightful; but it is apparently so controversial that, although this
incriminating passage has been in the public domain for nearly a decade,
the original manuscript of the lecture has never been published and is still
not available to scholars. The latter version of this passage raises issues
about Heidegger’s scandalous insensitivity to extraordinary human suffering
and the Holocaust in general; and it raises further questions about his
capacity, through his analysis of being, to comment intelligently on the
tragic events of the century and, by extension, on modernity.
Even more obviously than the texts themselves, their understanding is a
historical variable that is always subject to further modification. As our
understanding of philosophical theories changes, our short list of the few
significant philosophical texts composing the philosophical canon, so to speak,
also changes. As we approach the end of this century, there has never been
less agreement on the main thinkers or the most influential works of this
period or about the wider philosophical tradition.
It has been said that the three most important philosophical works of this
century are Heidegger’s Being and Time, Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, and
Lukács’s History and Class Consciousness.
3 Yet Husserl scholars might prefer
to include Husserl’s Logical Investigations or Ideas I, or Cartesian Meditations,
or even the Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendental
Phenomenology. Wittgenstein scholars, who are often critical of his early
writing, prefer his later thought. Lukács’s thought, which was controversial
even within Marxism, is now likely to attract less attention after the collapse
of official Marxism. Since Ryle’s early review of Being and Time,
4 Heidegger
has long been regarded within Anglo-American analytic philosophy as an
unusually obscure German thinker, for Carnap the author of a classic
illustration of the meaningless use of language.
5 Yet philosophical modes
change. Analytic thinkers (e.g. Hubert Dreyfus, John Hoageland, Mark
Okrent, Robert Brandom, and others) are now turning to Heidegger in
increasing numbers.
Not only the content but even the idea of the philosophical tradition is a
historical variable. This idea, as now understood, is relatively recent, and
seems to have been invented by Hegel. He was apparently the first writer to
regard the history of philosophy as a sort of Platonic dialogue extending
through time, in which later thinkers build, or attempt to improve, on earlier
theories. Hegel-maintains that philosophy has always been concerned with
the problem of knowledge. He seeks to avoid the appearance of favoring a
particular perspective by favoring them all. He implies that his own view of
the philosophical tradition is without perspective, or aperspectival. Although
Hegel claimed to take an aperspectival attitude towards prior thought in
order to take up into his own anything of value, in practice he could only
appropriate ideas compatible with his own.
6 He typically omits from
consideration the views of the later Fichte 7 and the later Schelling. 8

172 Hegel’s underlying assumption of a single philosophical tradition concerned
with the problem of knowledge is insightful, interesting, but finally mistaken.
Although we can read the prior philosophical tradition through the problem
of knowledge, other perspectives are possible. There are numerous theories
in the history of philosophy, such as Heidegger’s analysis of being, that are
not primarily, on occasion not even remotely, assimilable to a theory of
knowledge. Further, different views of knowledge lead to vastly different
readings of the history of philosophy, and point toward vastly different ideas
of the philosophical tradition.
Hegel’s assumption of a single philosophical tradition is apparently shared
by Heidegger. His proposed destruction of the history of ontology is meant
to free up the original insights concerning being to which he means to return.
This proposed return to the beginning of the philosophical tradition seems to
presuppose a spatial understanding of the history of philosophy. Now it is
only possible to return to early Greek thought if it is possible to go back
behind the philosophical tradition as one can later return down a path one
has traveled in order to take another turning in the forest. Yet it is simply
mistaken to suppose that one can, from a later vantage point, strip away the
veil constituted by some two and half millenia of discussion to grasp the
original insights in their pristine form; even the urge to do so follows from a
perspective based on the experience of the later discussion. Moreover, the
underlying, rationalist assumption about the nature of the philosophical
tradition as akin to a single path is mistaken; for it is more like a series of
paths that cross at irregular intervals and angles.
The reception of important philosophical theories—roughly the way that
they enter into the philosophical discussion in order to become part of the
philosophical tradition—is rarely if ever based on anything as simple as correct
interpretation or even on strictly philosophical criteria. If Heidegger’s theory
is typical, the reception of an important position invites, perhaps even
presupposes, and probably cannot avoid a certain misunderstanding.
There is a distinction to be drawn between the texts that compose the
philosophical tradition, the process of the reception of theories as they are
taken up in the philosophical discussion, and their reading and rereading
over a period of time in the complex debate that constitutes philosophy.
Wittgenstein’s lectures that led his students in effect to debate his unwritten
doctrines represent a special case. Philosophical theories are mainly described
in print prior to and as a condition of their being taken up into the wider
philosophical debate. This process obviously requires interpretation and, if
the texts are deemed sufficiently important, successive reinterpretations over
a period of time.

173 If a “correct” reading is possible at all, then it is most likely to occur for
those rather ordinary positions that merely add an idea or two but otherwise
leave “everything in place.” Yet it more difficult to understand the idea of
a “correct” reading for a more novel position that creates a fundamental
change in the debate. It is still more difficult to comprehend what a so-
called “correct” interpretation would be for the unusual case of a theory
that departs radically from the ongoing discussion by innovating in some
deep manner and, for that reason, requires for its understanding a process
of reception in which new ideas are assimilated and often even new
vocabulary to express them is developed.
Moreover, even for the most banal philosophical writings, the very idea of
a single, univocally-correct reading, like that of the philosophical tradition,
dissolves under scrutiny. We can sometimes exclude proposed interpretations
as insufficiently supported by, even as incompatible with, the texts as we
know them. Yet there is usually a range of possible readings that, insofar as
they find what can vaguely be called “adequate” support in the texts, are
admissible, and, hence, can be said to be “correct.” Different interpretations
of the same theory or text obviously highlight different aspects and reflect
different viewpoints, different evaluations, and so on.
In general important philosophical texts are notoriously difficult to
interpret, arguably impossible to read in a single “correct” fashion. Typically,
there is not and clearly could not be a single, univocally-correct reading either
of Plato’s theory or of Plato’s Republic. The history of Plato scholarship
consists in a series of readings of his thought from different angles of vision.
There is probably no example of an important philosophical position or
philosophical text for which a univocally correct reading can be specified.
The very idea of the “correct” reading of an important philosophical theory
or philosophical text is questionable. Rather than the “conservative” view of
text reading like a problem in mathematics for which there is a “right” answer
that excludes all others, there seems to be no alternative to espousing a more
liberal view of interpretation according to which, like child rearing or politics,
there is more than one, even many “correct” possibilities.
Even the most original thinker cannot simply begin again at the beginning.
At most one can provide a departure from the prior discussion. It follows
that even the most novel philosophical position must be read against the
background of the philosophical tradition. Since one can only reinvent a new
way of continuing the ongoing debate, new philosophical ideas necessarily
arise in reaction to, and represent a departure from, prior debate. Descartes,
Kant and Husserl, three of the most radical philosophical thinkers of modern
times, share a basic dissatisfaction with the entire preceding philosophical
tradition. Although each is a highly original thinker, each finally offers new
ways to reinvent, but not to invent, philosophy.
Now it is not the unimportant but the important philosophical positions
that structure the philosophical discussion and, for that reason, the

174 philosophical tradition. Since important positions by definition innovate with
respect to the debate, they are difficult to interpret and routinely misconstrued.
If this is the case, it follows that at least initially the philosophical tradition is
mainly based on substantive misunderstandings or misreadings.
This idea clearly runs against the grain of the traditional view of philosophy,
widely propagated by philosophers themselves, hardly a disinterested party.
Ever since Plato, philosophers have argued that philosophy is not only the
unique source of absolute truth and knowledge, but a strictly rational
enterprise, in fact the only example of reason itself. The view of philosophy
as intrinsically rational, as the main form of rationality, runs throughout the
entire modern philosophical tradition. It is formulated in the Cartesian view
of ahistorical reason, and later dominates the Enlightenment period. It reaches
its highpoint in the Kantian theory of pure reason, a wholly theoretical analysis
carried out in utter abstraction from all practical concerns, in a form of reason
unsullied by any admixture that Kant held to be intrinsically practical.
Perhaps the most persuasive argument for philosophy’s rational self-image
lies in its fascination with science going back into the Greek tradition. If
science, particularly mathematics, is the embodiment of reason, and if
philosophy is science in a sense deeper, say, than the particular sciences, then
philosophy is the embodiment of reason. The conviction that philosophy is
not only scientific or rigorous but actually is science is everywhere in modern
thought. It extends from Kant’s idea of philosophy as systematic science, and
Hegel’s conception of phenomenology as the science of the experience of
consciousness, to Husserl’s notion of philosophy as rigorous science and to
Heidegger’s early view of philosophy as the science of being.
Husserl and the early Heidegger are exceptions. For there is now widespread
agreement that although philosophy must be rigorous, it cannot be science.
Since the traditional view of philosophy as pure reason can no longer be
defended through any version of the claim that philosophy is more than
rigorous, the precarious distinction between philosophy and a
Weltanschauung, or worldview, takes on an added importance.
Kant understood philosophy as a worldview, or conceptus cosmicus
(Weltbegriff), intrinsically relevant to the ends of human being.
9 Yet Schelling
is already close to the modern idea of worldview in his distinction between
intelligence as either consciously or unconsciously productive, as in a
10 More recently, the notion of a worldview is the theme of a dispute
between Jaspers, Dilthey, Husserl, and Heidegger. Jaspers identifies a world
view as composed of subjective ideas about life experience, and so on, as well
as objective ideas about the shape of the world.
11 On one interpretation,
Dilthey seems to identify philosophy with a worldview, for instance when he
evokes “the task of coming to terms with the incessant need for ultimate
reflection on being, ground, value, purpose, and their interconnection in a
12 This idea is strongly opposed by Husserl and, following
him, Heidegger. In response to Dilthey, Husserl maintains that as the source

175 of truth philosophy is incompatible with either a worldview or naturalism.
His view is echoed in Heidegger’s insistance that philosophy is not the
construction of a worldview, but at most the basis of one. 14
Apparently following Jaspers, Heidegger understands a worldview as a
matter of coherent conviction that arises for a particular individual, as
distinguished from universal science independent of any historical person.
He correctly points out that if the task of philosophy is to construct a
worldview, then there is no distinction between them. 16 Yet the French
reception of Heidegger’s theory indicates that philosophy is not independent
of the sociohistorical context. Although the evolution and reception of
Heidegger’s position cannot be reduced to the context in which it emerged,
neither can it be understood in isolation from this context.
Through his concept of Dasein as existence, Heidegger insists on the
contextuality of all thought, including his own. Yet there is a pronounced
tendency in the Heidegger literature to ignore the background against which
his theory emerged and evolved, in part to maintain the fictitious, but useful
distinction between Heidegger the great philosopher and Heidegger the
ordinary Nazi.
17 Like other philosophical theories, Heidegger’s cannot be
understood without reference to others that influence it or to which he desired
to respond, or to the background in which it emerged. We cannot grasp his
initial position without reference to the period of the Weimar Republic in
which it was formulated; and it is even more difficult to grasp the later
evolution of his thought without an awareness of his own existential situation
at the end of the Second World War, his steady commitment to his own private
form of Nazism, and so on.
Philosophers like to regard the philosophical discussion as responding
merely to philosophical imperatives, to other philosophical ideas only. Yet
like everyone else philosophers are children of their times, to which they
respond in their own abstract ways. The distinction between philosophy and
Weltanschauung is not absolute, for it is not possible to separate cleanly or
finally between views held to be true and the existential conditions in which
they are formulated. The formulation, evolution, and French reception of
Heidegger’s theory amply contradict his restatement of the traditional,
theoretically-desirable, but practically-indefensible view of philosophy as
utterly distinct from a worldview. Although philosophy likes to regard itself
as the product of a wholly free, entirely rational activity, it is rooted at every
remove in social existence.
It does not follow, because it is usually, perhaps always impossible to provide
a single correct reading of important philosophical theories, that they cannot
be read incorrectly. In fact, this is a frequent occurrence. Early on,

176 Heidegger’s view of the subject was read incorrectly in the French debate.
The French reception of Heidegger’s theory illustrates how difficult it is to
comprehend a novel philosophical position in a more than fragmentary
manner. The initial French appropriation of Heidegger’s thought through a
reading of fundamental ontology as philosophical anthropology ran counter
to his own reading of his position and the position itself. It is clear that
although an anthropological interpretation of fundamental ontology has
textual support, it is simply inadequate. In terms of the Kantian distinction
between the spirit and the letter of a theory, although arguably faithful to
the letter of the theory, an anthropological reading of fundamental ontology
is simply not faithful to its spirit.
The early misreading of Heidegger’s theory as philosophical anthropology,
hence as anthropological humanism, contradicts his consistently
antianthropological stance. Yet it correctly identifies the anthropological
component of the theory of subjectivity as existence that Heidegger presents
under the heading of Dasein. It follows that the initial French misreading of
Heidegger’s position points to the basic incoherence of his conception of
the subject.
Heidegger was never interested in human being for its own sake. If we
take Heidegger at his word, his entire position is dominated through his single-
minded, some would say obsessive, concern with being. Even when he seems
to be most interested in human beings, as in his occasional suggestion that
Nazism will bring about an authentic gathering of the German people,
arguably the central theme of the rectorial address, his main interest is being.
His lengthy analysis of Dasein in Being and Time is not meant to elucidate
human being; it is rather meant to elucidate human being understood through
being as the vital clue to an understanding of being.
Since Heidegger’s initial view of human being reaches a crisis as early as
§10 of Being and Time, this paragraph merits detailed discussion. Here the
anthropological misreading current in the early French reception of his thought
appears as one aspect of an obviously dualistic conception of human being.
The French reaction to the translation of “Dasein” as “réalité humaine,”
apparently a simple misrendering of a key term in his position, is hardly that.
Derrida’s pointed objection to this translation as “monstrous” is not just an
excited Gallic reaction, although it is that as well. But above and beyond
that, it signals the inadvertent identification of a fundamental inadequacy in
Heidegger’s position that is not overcome in its later evolution.
In Being and Time, in his analysis of Dasein, or Daseinsanalytik, Heidegger
exploits his claim that all people have a nonspecific, unanalyzed conception
of being as his clue to disclose being in general. “Dasein” designates human
being as well as what it is about human being that is concerned with being.
Heidegger’s problem is to offer a theory of the subject adequate to his concern
with being that avoids the problems he discerns in other views of subjectivity.
In § 10, in a discussion of the distinction between his own analysis of Dasein

177 and the sciences based on a conception of human being, Heidegger argues
for a difference in kind between his view of the subject and rival theories
based either on philosophical anthropology or the Cartesian view.
A key to understanding Heidegger’s position at this point is to realize that
he is closely following as well as criticizing Husserl’s general approach as he
understands it. In remarks here on contemporary thinkers concerned with
human being, he notes the agreement between Scheler and Husserl, and further
notes Husserl’s critique of Dilthey. For Heidegger, Husserl’s basic view of
personality (Personalität) is apparent in his famous Logos article, “Philosophy
as Rigorous Science,” and carried further in Ideas, I. Heidegger contends
that Husserl correctly saw that a person is not an entity but a unity. He
insists on the further elaboration of the Husserlian approach, or the “a
priorism” that is “the method of all scientific philosophy” that must now be
applied to the analysis of the everyday (Alltäglichkeit).
Since Heidegger explicitly accepts the Husserlian a priori approach, he
cannot simultaneously accept a merely empirical approach, for instance the
empirical approach of philosophical anthropology starting from a proximally
given subject. Husserl draws a distinction between empirical psychology and
transcendental phenomenology. Similarly, Heidegger differentiates between
concrete anthropology, the thematically complete ontology of Dasein,
19 other
views that he rejects, and what he calls an existentially a priori anthropology. 20
Heidegger’s claim that the sciences presuppose an unanalyzed conception
of subjectivity applies the Husserlian idea that the sciences lack a reflexive
dimension provided only in philosophy.
21 His objection that the Cartesian
theory fails to examine the “sum” is directed against the idea of a
transcendental subject in abstraction from experience as well as its restatement
in the views of Kant and Husserl. Against Descartes and those influenced by
him, Heidegger maintains that since Dasein literally is existence, it is only on
this basis that we can examine the theme of being. Yet he refuses any view of
the subject as proximally given, as still presupposing the unexamined
conception of the subjectum, or hypokeimenon. For Heidegger, Scheler and
Dilthey understand that the subject is not an entity. And he notes that the
problem of human being is covered up by philosophical anthropology, such
as the ancient Greek or later Christian views of man.
If this is an accurate summary of Heidegger’s view, then four points follow.
To begin with, it is obvious that its early French readers construed it
anthropologically, as philosophical anthropology, since this is the obvious
reading. Philosophical anthropology has attracted many philosophers,
including Max Scheler, the author of an important work from an
anthropological perspective, Man’s Place in Nature.
22 “Philosophical
anthropology” has been understood as “an attempt to construct a scientific
discipline out of man’s traditional effort to understand and liberate himself.”
In §10 of Being and Time, an anthropological reading of Heidegger’s
position is suggested by such factors as the distinction between theoretical

178 and practical approaches to the subject, the concept of Dasein as human
being, the interpretation of Dasein as existence, and so on. This reading
amounts to construing his conception of subjectivity as a form of
anthropology, or philosophical anthropology, albeit of a new kind, one that
raises the question of being.
Heidegger’s analysis of Dasein with respect to its average everydayness
sounds suspiciously like philosophical anthropology.
24 Heidegger specifically
invites precisely an anthropological reading, more precisely an anthropological
misreading of his view, through his remarks on what he refers to as traditional
anthropology rather than on anthropology. In § 10, in rapid succession he
objects no less than three times to traditional anthropology but significantly
never to anthropology as such. To begin with, he objects to the understanding
of human being through traditional anthropology in the ancient world and
in Christian theology.
25 Then he objects to traditional anthropology that
forgets the question of being. 26 Finally, he objects, in an apparent conflation
between traditional anthropology and the Cartesian view—he later develops
this point in his claim that the Cartesian conception of the cogito leads to
modern anthropology—to the failure to reflect on the ontological foundations
of anthropology.
If Heidegger meant to protect his theory against an anthropological reading,
then he did not do nearly enough to rule out that possibility. The fact that in
§ 10 he objects to traditional anthropology but not to anthropology as such
leaves the door open to an anthropological reading of his own view that
could fairly be read as a nontraditional form of anthropology.
In later passages scattered throughout Being and Time, Heidegger only
complicates the effort to insulate his view against an obvious reading as
philosophical anthropology. His remark that a complete ontology of Dasein
is needed for a philosophical anthropology suggests that in that respect his
own effort is at best partial.
28 In a passage already identified he notes that
although his aim is the study of being, what he has so far done could be
extended as an existential a priori philosophical anthropology.
29 In later stating
his desire to go beyond an existential a priori anthropology, he implies that
this is the result so far of his analysis of Dasein.
30 A comment that the analysis
of Dasein is not aimed at laying the ontological basis for anthropology does
not rule out the compatibility between his analysis and that task.
31 This
impression is only strengthened in the remark that we need to pass over
anthropological, psychological and theological theories of conscience based
on the concept of Dasein.
An anthropological misreading of his position is further fostered by other
factors as well. It is directly suggested in the next chapter of his book,
comprising §§13–14, that is entirely devoted to “Being-in-the-world in general
as the basic state of Dasein.” This anti-Cartesian, even anti-Husserlian view
implies a conception of human being as in the world, not as transcendent to
it. Yet in virtue of his acceptance of the Husserlian phenomenological view as

179 basically correct, Heidegger is committed to a conception of the
phenomenological subject as transcendent with respect to the world.
An anthropological interpretation of Heidegger’s theory is indirectly
suggested within § 10 by the remark on Descartes developed later in the
book in a detailed critique of the Cartesian theory. The objection that Descartes
fails to consider the nature of the “sum” of the cogito is misconstrued as a
refusal to conceive the subject as a strictly theoretical entity. For Heidegger
does not refuse but in fact welcomes a strictly theoretical approach to
subjectivity. He only refuses to accept a view of subjectivity, theoretical or
otherwise, in which its being is unexamined.
An anthropological interpretation of Heidegger’s theory is again
suggested from a Cartesian angle of vision, familiar to Heidegger’s French
readers. For a Cartesian, there are only two possible approaches to
subjectivity: as either theoretical or practical, passive or active, as a
spectator or as an actor. Heidegger’s refusal of the Cartesian conception of
the subject as a strictly theoretical entity, in Cartesian terms the spectator
view of subjectivity, appears to commit him a view of the subject as an
actor, as basically practical.
Second, this obvious, anthropological reading of Heidegger’s theory is
just as obviously mistaken. For it conflates Heidegger’s opposition to an
unexamined conception of subjectivity that fails to examine the being of the
subject with an opposition, erroneously ascribed to Heidegger, to a theoretical
conception of subjectivity. Heidegger specifically suggests the need to develop
an analysis of what he calls the being of the whole man.
33 His own view
suggests the need to combine practical and theoretical elements in a more
general theory of human being. Understood as existence, human being is the
topic of philosophical anthropology; understood in relation to the analysis of
being, human being is the topic of a transcendental phenomenological analysis
of being. But there is no way to combine these two perspectives within a
single conception of subjectivity.
In retrospect, an anthropological reading of Heidegger’s theory exaggerates
the disagreement between Heidegger and Husserl. The key problem is the
theme of psychologism running throughout the first volume of Husserl’s
Logical Investigations. We recall Husserl’s concern to avoid psychologism,
or roughly the confusion between the philosophical and the psychological
dimensions of experience, and Heidegger’s contention that Husserl fell back
into psychologism.
To accept a view of the subject or subjectivity as merely human being in
an anthropological sense is to be guilty of psychologism. Husserl thought
that psychologism and phenomenology were incompatible. Heidegger agrees
with Husserl on this point. It follows that to allow psychologism, to propose
an anthropological view of subjectivity, is tantamount to suppressing the
very possibility of phenomenology. For this would amount to suppressing
the phenomenological analysis of the everyday world in the extended

180 Husserlian sense that Heidegger still accepts, and that, he maintains, is
required to understand being.
Third, it follows that Heidegger’s view of subjectivity is radically
inconsistent since he thinks Dasein as both immanent, hence as existent, and
as transcendent. From the latter angle of vision, Dasein is able to do all the
usual work of the transcendental subject, such as performing an analysis of
Dasein, including an analysis of average everydayness, in short to disclose
being that is transcendent through phenomenological knowledge.
Yet it is inconsistent to interpret Dasein as existence and as the subject of
phenomenological truth, or veritas transcendentalis. Heidegger fails to unify
human being as immanent and transcendent, a posteriori and a priori, practical
and theoretical. For he fails to show that a being essentially defined as existence
is capable of phenomenological truth. Husserl introduces the idea of
phenomenological reduction in order to explain how it is possible to reach
phenomenological truth, to go to the things themselves. Heidegger retains
this Husserlian goal for which he substitutes the analysis of being. Yet
Heidegger fails to address the central methodological point, roughly how it
is possible to elicit phenomenological truth.
Fourth, it is just as obvious that Heidegger needs to deemphasize the
immanent side of his concept of the subject in order to protect his
phenomenological approach to the theory of being. For a claim to provide
anything like a phenomenological disclosure of truth requires a view of the
subject as transcendent. Husserl sees the minimum requirement for
phenomenological truth as the ascent to the transcendental plane through
the phenomenological reduction. In this way, Heidegger renews with a
traditional view stretching from Plato over Descartes, Kant and many others
to Husserl.
From Heidegger’s distantly Husserlian perspective at this point,
phenomenological truth rests on a double condition: an authentic reworking
of the problem of being in the ancient Greek formulation that is scarcely
accessible to the ordinary person; and a concept of the subject that discloses
the a priori that, following Husserl, he regards as the meaning of the
authentically philosophical “empirical” (Empirie). In other words, for
Heidegger as for Husserl phenomenology, in Heidegger’s case the
phenomenological approach to being, requires a transcendental subject.
As his position evolves, Heidegger rethinks his conception of subjectivity
in a way that brings it into line with the requirements of his own approach to
being while eliminating any anthropological residue through the celebrated
decentering of the subject. Yet this revision of his original theory in order to
alleviate a basic problem merely creates another fundamental problem. In
suggesting that the subject is passive in respect to being as active, Heidegger
does not so much break with his early thought as refine or “purify” it by
further refining one of its strands. In Being and Time, he already understands
“phenomenology” as concerned with “that which shows itself.”

181 Heidegger’s later decentering of the subject protects his phenomenological
analysis of being only at the enormous cost of an evident and total collapse
of his view of subjectivity. If the subject is merely transcendent but not
imminent, then there is a unified view of subjectivity as that to which being is
or can be disclosed. Yet if the precondition of the analysis of being is a unified
view of a person, or a unified view of the whole man, in his decentering of the
subject Heidegger has tacitly acknowledged his failure to grasp human
subjectivity. If nowhere else, in Heidegger’s later thought, in the decentering
of the subject, in the turn away from the existential dimension of human
being, Heidegger in effect bases his later theory of being on the death of man.
It is clear that Heidegger is not a humanist, and his theory is not humanism
in a traditional, anthropological sense. The early French reading of his theory
as anthropological humanism—ingredient in Kojève’s reading of Hegel’s
theory, influenced by the views of Heidegger and Marx, and taken up by
Sartre—as philosophical anthropology, is a clear misreading. It remains to be
seen whether Heidegger is, as he claims to be, a humanist in some other, say,
postmetaphysical sense, whether his theory can fairly be called humanism, or
whether, as some have said, it is antihumanism. I will argue that Heidegger’s
remarks on humanism are inconsistent and that his description of his theory
as humanism is incompatible with the very idea of humanism.
In the French context, at least three factors suggest that Heidegger’s theory
is humanist: the initial French philosophical turning toward fundamental
ontology, Heidegger’s early thought, understood as a philosophical
anthropology, or anthropological humanism; Heidegger’s “Letter on
Humanism,” where he distinguished between traditional, metaphysical forms
of humanism, such as Sartre’s, and his own humanism, in which human being
is understood through being; and the recent effort by some of his followers,
such as Derrida and Lacoue-Labarthe, to defend his later thought by simply
conceding that his early thought was a form of metaphysical humanism.
To understand Heidegger’s view of humanism, we will need to sketch its
development in his writings. Humanism is not discussed in Being and Time. To
the best of my knowledge, this term does not occur in the book. The two main
texts where Heidegger discusses this theme are his well known lecture, “The
Age of the World Picture” and the “Letter on Humanism.” In “The Age of the
World Picture,” Heidegger criticizes humanism that he links with anthropology
as a mere worldview (Weltanschauung). Heidegger here rejects both
anthropology as well as the idea of a worldview to which he links humanism.
In “The Age of the World Picture,” Heidegger’s objection to humanism is
consistent with his objections to traditional anthropology in Being and Time.

182 The result is to clarify the ambiguity in his discussion of Dasein in his initial
book, where Heidegger left open the question of its anthropological status.
Heidegger now insists on the nonanthropological status of a concept of the
subject, taking Greek thought as his model. Forgetting the obvious humanist
implications of Socratic questioning, he inconsistently maintains that
humanism could never have gained ascendancy in Greek thought. Humanism
has an essential connection with philosophical anthropology as revealed by
the understanding of man and the world through man: “It [i.e. humanism]
designates that philosophical interpretation of man which explains and
evaluates whatever is, in its entirety, from the standpoint of man and in relation
to man.”
35 Humanism, he claims, is anthropology, when “anthropology” is
understood as resting on an unreflective, dogmatic assumption concerning
the nature of man.
In “The Age of the World Picture” Heidegger links so-called traditional
humanism to a worldview, or a philosophy of the worldview, as distinguished
from postmetaphysical thinking. He suggests without argument that the
traditional, or metaphysical form of humanism arises within metaphysics, or
philosophy, that is in fact nothing more than a worldview, but not philosophy.
Postmetaphysical thinking, although beyond metaphysics, is no longer a
worldview. If the alternative lies in the choice between a worldview and
philosophy, then postmetaphysical thinking, which is allegedly beyond
philosophy, is only beyond that kind of philosophy not worthy of the name
that fails to surpass a mere worldview. For postmetaphysical humanism,
defined in terms of being, is intrinsically linked to thinking, or philosophy
that is not a mere worldview.
In the “Letter on Humanism,” Heidegger retreats from the view that
philosophy culminates in his theory as part of his retreat from philosophy to
thought. Here, at a point when Heidegger has abandoned any claims to
philosophy, he does not exploit the implicit claim that in declining
anthropology his own theory avoids the status of a mere worldview to realize
philosophy. Yet the view of humanism that he now proposes is clearly
inconsistent with his earlier criticism of humanism.
The inconsistency lies in the earlier rejection of humanism that he later
claims for his own theory. In “The Age of the World Picture,” he criticizes
humanism as anthropology that fails to grasp the essence of human being.
This criticism, which is consistent with the view in Being and Time, suggests
a clear incompatibility between the grasp of human being and anthropology.
Human being cannot be understood anthropologically, but only from a deeper
remove, from the perspective of fundamental ontology.
Heidegger’s description of his theory as a new, postmetaphysical form of
humanism is inconsistent with his view of anthropology. In refusing
anthropology that supposedly yields only a superficial view of human being,
Heidegger refuses humanism as well. In suggesting in “The Letter on
Humanism” that his own theory is humanism, Heidegger takes a line

183 inconsistent with his discussion in “The Age of the World Picture.” It remains
to be seen whether this line is consistent or inconsistent with the original
position sketched in Being and Time.
In the “Letter on Humanism,” Heidegger maintains that humanism
necessarily implies metaphysics, and metaphysics fails to think man through
man’s essential human element, his humanitas.
37 If traditional humanism has
so far failed to grasp man correctly, the solution is not to abandon humanism
but to invoke a new humanism already available in fundamental ontology,
namely a type of humanism that does not think metaphysically.
38 Returning
now to his view of Dasein in Being and Time, Heidegger suggests that man is
not merely human if this means “rational”; he is more than human since he is
defined by his relation to being.
39 Heidegger sums up his new, nonmetaphysical
view of humanism as a replacement for the old, allegedly metaphysical type:

But—as you no doubt have been wanting to rejoin for quite a while
now—does not such thinking [i.e. his own theory] think precisely the
humanitas of homo humanus? Does it not think humanitas in a decisive
sense, as no metaphysics has thought it or can think it? Is this not
“humanism” in the extreme sense? Certainly. It is a humanism that
thinks the humanity of man from the nearness to Being. But at the same
time it is a humanism in which not man but man’s historical essence is
at stake in its provenance from the truth of Being. But then doesn’t the
ek-sistence of man also stand or fall in this game of stakes? So it does.

Rather than a new position, or a new version of his position, in this passage
Heidegger presents a reinterpretation of his original position as stated in
Being and Time. Heidegger’s claim now that his original position, earlier
described as fundamental ontology, is humanism rests on a series of
dichotomies, or exclusive alternatives, between: his early theory and his later
theory, metaphysics and nonmetaphysics, humanism and nonhumanism,
Nazism and non-Nazism, and so on.
It is obviously inconsistent for Heidegger to reject humanism as such and
later to claim that his own theory is a form of humanism. If we grant that
Heidegger’s depiction of his theory as humanism in the “Letter on Humanism”
is opportunistic and inconsistent with his depiction of humanism in “The
Age of the World Picture,” the more interesting question is whether, despite
Heidegger’s probable opportunism, he was correct in describing his theory
as humanism.
There is a difference between Heidegger’s later interpretation, in the “Letter
on Humanism,” of his original position in Being and Time and its redescription
as humanism. What Heidegger calls a nonmetaphysical view of humanism in
the “Letter on Humanism” is consistent with his original view of Dasein in
Being and Time as human being understood through being. Yet it is
misdescribed as humanism.

184 If Heidegger’s reinterpretation of his original position is allowed to stand,
then his thought was never metaphysical since it was always postmetaphysical.
In other words, if his reinterpretation is correct then the break between his
thought and metaphysics does not occur in the course of the evolution of his
position, or in the later evolution of his thought. Rather, it occurs in the
original formulation of his position that has always been beyond the
metaphysical pale.
Heidegger’s proposed reinterpretation of fundamental ontology creates
more problems than it resolves. In Being and Time, Heidegger tries to
return to the early Greek origins of the problem of ontology, or
metaphysics, in order to carry it further than the point at which it was left
in the Greek tradition. This concern is clearly inconsistent with the later
effort to suggest that his theory has never been metaphysical. Either his
concern with ontology commits him to metaphysics, as he still implied in
his study of Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, where he read his own
theory as continuing the critical philosophy; or his theory is
postmetaphysical and he was never concerned to renew the early Greek
philosophical tradition. It cannot be both.
If we accept Heidegger’s view of his position as outlined in the “Letter on
Humanism,” it follows that the effort by such French Heideggerians as Derrida
and Lacoue-Labarthe to defend Heidegger’s later theory by conceding the
metaphysical status of his earlier view derives from a basic misreading of
Being and Time. Yet to concede that Heidegger’s later view of his theory as
humanism after the so-called decentering of the subject is consistent with his
original position but does not resolve and only deepens the problem which
the supposed break in his thought was intended to resolve.
The problem is the well known political turning to Nazism. It is no longer
possible to hold that since Being and Time is an apolitical book, a point on
which all observers agree, it is not the basis of his attraction to Nazism. It is
only possible to maintain that his later thought is unrelated to his earlier
Nazism if the earlier theory was metaphysical, if the later theory is
nonmetaphysical, and if there is a break between them. Yet it can no longer
be denied that Heidegger was attracted to National Socialism and that this
attraction was based on his theory. The implicit claim underlying the efforts
of Derrida and Lacoue-Labarthe to show that Heidegger’s development can
be neatly separated into an early position, that of Heidegger I, and a later
position, that of Heidegger II, was meant to show how Heidegger could
become a Nazi in virtue of his theory, although his later theory was not
thereby affected.
Heidegger’s reinterpretation of his original position as beyond
metaphysics and authentically humanist is internally consistent. Yet this
way of reading Heidegger’s theory fails to explain his attraction to Nazism.
On his own account, metaphysics leads to “biologism,” precisely the point
that Derrida and Lacoue-Labarthe suggest. However, this kind of

185 postmetaphysical reading of the Heideggerian theory is unsatisfactory. For
if Heidegger’s conception of Dasein is postmetaphysical, then his view of
Dasein in terms of being can consistently be described as humanist in his
special sense; but his turning to Nazism cannot be explained through his
thought and remains inexplicable.
Heidegger’s later description of his theory as postmetaphysical humanism
is not inconsistent, although it fails to explain his attraction to Nazism. I
believe that the interpretation of his position that Heidegger puts forward in
the “Letter on Humanism” is self-consistent, not inconsistent, but unacceptable
since at this late date any interpretation of Heidegger’s position needs to
understand the relation of his thought to National Socialism.
The suggestions by Aubenque or Fédier that Heidegger’s turning to Nazism
is due merely to his political naïveté or even, as Gadamer would have it, the
political incompetence of philosophers in general, are inadequate since they
fail to recognize the special status of a philosopher, particularly a singularly
important philosopher. Heidegger’s self-interpretation clearly fails if it is
necessary to account for his political turning on the basis of his thought.
Although I regard the efforts by Derrida and Lacoue-Labarthe as mistaken,
they at least have the virtue of going beyond Heidegger, whose self-
interpretation leaves his Nazi turning as inexplicable, to propose an
explanation where Heidegger offers none.
Heidegger’s later description of his theory as humanist is problematic. He
is obviously free to define “humanism” as he desires since this term is solely
normative. Yet this approach that might be open to someone else is not open
to Heidegger since he claims consistently to grasp the essence, in this case the
essence of human being, through his effort to think man’s humanity with
respect to being. It is appropriate to ask: does Heidegger grasp man’s historical
essence? Does he comprehend the essence of human being?
Although Heidegger’s theory is superficially humanist, on a deeper level it
is not humanist at all. The humanism of Heidegger’s theory lies in stress on
the importance of classical studies, particularly Greek literature and Greek
philosophy, a theory of human being, and a version of the traditional claim
for the social indispensability of philosophy. All of these features are stressed
in the “Letter on Humanism.”
The German philosophical embrace of Greek antiquity under way as early
as the mid-eighteenth century, for instance in Johann Joachim Winckelmann’s
famous studies of Greek art, reached an early peak at the beginning of the
nineteenth century in Hegel’s thought.
41 Heidegger offers an extreme form of
the typical German philosophical graecophilia. His familiar claim that the
problem of being, originally raised in Greek philosophy, was later covered up
leads to a series of other claims, including his conviction of the importance of
the Greek conceptions of science and technology, his insistence that a defective
translation of Greek philosophical terms into Latin deprived the later
philosophical discussion of fundamental Greek philosophical insights, and

186 so on. In a typical passage, after objecting to the situation in which
“metaphysics persists in the oblivion of Being,” he adds that

the same thinking that has led us to this insight into the questionable
essence of humanism has likewise compelled us to think the essence of
man more primordially. With regard to this more essential humanitas
of homo humanus there arises the possibility of restoring to the word
“humanism” a historical sense that is older than its oldest meaning
chronologically reckoned…. “Humanism” now means, in case we decide
to retain the word, that the essence of man is essential for the truth of
Being, specifically in such a way that the word does not pertain simply
to man as such.

Heidegger’s theory is humanist according to its letter but not according to its
spirit. We can distinguish between humanism, antihumanism, and
nonhumanism. If humanism is basically concerned with human being, then
antihumanism opposes it, and nonhumanism is merely indifferent to, neither
for nor against, human being. Consider, for a moment, the following passage
on humanism taken from an article by Fernand Braudel, the great French
historian. Braudel writes:

Humanism is a way of hoping, or wishing men to be brothers one with
another, of wishing that civilizations, each on its own account and all
together, should save themselves and save us. It means accepting and
hoping that the doors of the present should be wide open to the future,
beyond all the failures, declines, and catastrophes predicted by strange
prophets (prophets all deriving from black literature). The present can
not be the boundary, which all centuries, heavy with eternal tragedy,
see before them as an obstacle, but which the hope of man, ever since
man has been, has succeeded in overcoming.

Braudel’s view of humanism is typical, typical of the use of the term to refer to
an approach to the world and ourselves from an anthropological perspective.
There are many types of humanism, but humanism of all kinds is, as the term
suggests, oriented toward human being. All ways to understand “humanism”
basically center on human being. Any other way of understanding this term is
non-standard, different from, eventually unrelated to the way it has traditionally
been understood in all the major Western languages.
If “humanism” is understood as essentially focused on human being, then
Heidegger is not a humanist, despite his appeal to this term. For he employs
the word in a way that breaks with its essential meaning for which he
arbitrarily substitutes his own meaning. Heidegger’s theory is oriented early
and late, as he repeatedly claims, toward the problem of being. At no time in
his long career, stretching over some six decades, was he concerned with

187 human being other than as the clue to being. As early as his course on the
hermeneutics of facticity in 1923, he argued that philosophy as such had no
warrant to concern itself with universal humanity and culture,
44 and called
for a reexamination of the misunderstood Greek view of being.45 In Being
and Time, his main work, he provides a theory of Dasein that he understood
as concerned with being. In his infamous rectorial address, when he joined
the Nazi party and in other documents of the period, he insisted on the
realization of the German as German, “on the will that our people fulfill its
historical mission.”
46 This chauvinistic claim, which echoes National Socialist
rhetoric, would be misconstrued as an interest in human being in general,
since Heidegger’s main concern is still being. Later, in the famous lecture on
“The Age of the World Picture” he decenters the subject when he comes to
believe that being does not need to be revealed since it reveals itself. Still
later, in the “Letter on Humanism,” he affirms that in his theory he thinks
“the humanity of man from nearness to being,”
47 and reaffirms the message
of his lectures on the hermeneutics of facticity in insisting that his theory is
completely unrelated to practice.
According to Heidegger, there is a reciprocal relation between revealing
and concealing. In Being and Time, he maintains that covered-up-ness, literally
concealment, is the counterpart of the phenomenon. In “On The Essence of
Truth,” he insists that concealment is undisclosedness, so that untruth is
inherent in the notion of truth itself.
This view can be applied to Heidegger’s theory and its French interpretation.
The proposed link between Heidegger and humanism conceals more than it
reveals. The fact that Heidegger is an unusually important thinker explains
the widespread interest in his theory, including the interest among French
philosophers. The perception that he is a humanist thinker goes further in
specifically explaining his emergence as the master thinker in France in a way
and to an extent unparalleled elsewhere.
The humanist reading of Heidegger’s theory, so important in the French
discussion, is obviously mistaken. If “humanism” is used in a way that retains
a link with the Western humanist tradition, then it refers to “a way to understand
human being centered on human being.” Although Heidegger can use the term
“humanism” as he wishes, his use of it has nothing other than the name in
common with the term as used in the Western intellectual tradition. And wild
claims that traditional humanism is Nazism meant to exculpate Heidegger’s
continuing commitment to a form of National Socialism do not justify a reading
of his theory early or late as humanism in any recognizable Sense of the term.
For Heidegger’s main commitment, as he indicates, is to being, hence not to
human being, or to human being only as it concerns being. For this reason,
Heidegger is not and should not be understood as a humanist thinker.
Sartre and other French readers of Heidegger have long been overly
generous in detecting a convergence between Heidegger’s theory and their
own concerns around the theme of humanism when there is none. This

188 supposed convergence is based on a misunderstanding of Heidegger’s theory,
initially as philosophical anthropology, or anthropological humanism, and
later as postmetaphysical humanism. Yet in the final analysis Heidegger is
neither an anthropological or metaphysical, nor a postmetaphysical humanist,
in fact not a humanist at all; and the French reading, based as it was on the
letter but not the spirit of the theory, misperceived a similarity between it and
Heidegger’s nonhumanistic thought.
In writings after Being and Time, Heidegger rejects the early French reading
of Dasein as philosophical anthropology. The later French reading of
Heidegger as a postmetaphysical humanist significantly overlooks, in fact
blocks access to, a central insight: his conception of human being as Dasein,
or existence. In Heidegger’s writings, being, his official topic, finally
remains remarkably vague since he never tells us much about it. In his
early writings, however, he does tell us a great deal, much of it still useful,
about human being.
Postmetaphysical humanism is incompatible with philosophical
anthropology, with the approach to the subject as a human being rooted in
the world as the legitimate basis for an understanding of the world and
ourselves. This insight, broached within Heidegger’s concern with being, is
important whether or not we are concerned with the problem of being. Yet it
is lost in the later French reading of Heidegger as a postmetaphysical humanist.
Since Heidegger later equates humanism with metaphysics, a postmetaphysical
humanism goes beyond his insight into human being as existence, beyond the
anthropological dimension of his insight into human being and human
In his later theory, Heidegger decentered the subject in order to concentrate
on being that simply reveals itself. But as Descartes and Kant already knew,
knowledge of all kinds, including phenomenological knowledge, can only be
revealed to a subject. If this is correct, then the later Heidegger moved away
from a central insight that has been simply overlooked in the more recent,
poststructuralist reading of Heidegger as a humanist.
My suggestion is that it is useful, if necessary by reading Heidegger against
himself, to make a qualified return to Heidegger’s early view of Dasein
read, as the early French Heidegger readers read it, from an anthropological
angle of vision. This view carries forward the idea of human subjectivity
that is the valid kernel in the theory of the subject that pervades modern
philosophy. Heidegger is not a humanist, since he is basically unconcerned
with human being. And although early thought, his Nazi turning and later
thought, are inseparably linked, this is not a reason to reject his theory as a
whole. Yet neither should his theory be accepted as a whole in uncritical

189 fashion. Rather, it should be interpreted, as his own contextual approach
to human being suggests, against the background of his life and times. When
this is done, it will be seen that there are aspects of Heidegger’s theory that
still speak to us in powerful ways. An example is his early, insightful
conception of human subjectivity through the lens of its existence, which
points to a useful way to develop the traditional, anthropological conception
of humanism that has never been more necessary than at present, in the
wake of Heidegger’s own theory.


1 Martin Heidegger, Aus der Erfahrung des Denkens (Frankfurt/M.: Vittorio
Klostermann, 1983), p. 76.
2 See Stephen W.Hawking, A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black
Holes (Toronto: Bantam, 1988), pp. 91–92.
3 See Michael S.Roth, Knowing and History: Appropriations of Hegel in Twentieth-
Century France (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988), p. 60.
4 See Tom Rockmore, On Heidegger’s Nazism and Philosophy (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1992).
5 Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, La Fiction du politique (Paris: Bourgois, 1987), p. 138.
6 See Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith (New
York: Macmillan, 1961), B xiii, p. 20.
7 See Otto Pöggeler, Neue Wege mit Heidegger (Freiburg: Alber, 1992), p. 11.
8 Alexandre Koyré, “Qu’est-ce que la métaphysique?,” Bifur, no. 8 (1931), p. 5.
9 See François Fédier, Heidegger: Anatomie d’un scandale (Paris: Robert
Laffont, 1988).
10 Cited in Frédéric de Towarnicki, “Traduire Heidegger,” Magazine Littéraire,
no. 222 (September 1985), p. 75.
11 See Victor Farías, Heidegger et le nazisme (Paris: Verdier, 1987). See also Victor
Farías, Heidegger and Nazism, ed. Joseph Margolis and Tom Rockmore
(Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989).
12 See “William James as Philosopher,” in Arthur O.Lovejoy, The Thirteen
Pragmatisms and Other Essays (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press,
1963), pp. 88–89.
13 For recent discussion of Heidegger’s politics, see The Heidegger Case: On
Philosophy and Politics, ed. Tom Rockmore and Joseph Margolis (Philadelphia:
Temple University Press, 1992).
14 For the most recent discussion, see Thomas Sheehan, “A Normal Nazi,” The
New York Review of Books, vol. 11, no. 1–2 (January 14, 1993), pp. 30–35.
15 See Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (New York: Cambridge
University Press, 1989).
16 This point is suggested by Sallis. See John Sallis, Echoes: After Heidegger
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990), p. 11.
17 For this argument, see Being and Time, tr. John Macquarrie and Edward
Robinson (New York: Harper & Row, 1962),
§§ 31–33, pp. 182–195.
18 See Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, Lacan: Le maître absolu (Paris: Flammarion, 1990).

19 See Michel Foucault, Les Mots et les choses: Une archéologie des sciences
humaines (Paris: Gallimard, 1966).
20 See Jacques Derrida, L’Ecriture et la différence (Paris: Seuil, 1967), p. 95.
21 See Alexandre Kojève, Introduction à la lecture de Hegel: Leçons sur la
“Phénoménologie de l’Esprit” professées de 1933 à 1
939 à l’Ecole des Hautes-
Etudes, ed. Raymond Queneau (Paris: Gallimard, 1947).
2 2 Jean-Paul Sartre, L’Existentialisme est un humanisme (Paris: Nagel, 1964).
2 3 See e.g. Jean Grondin, Le Tou rnant dans la pensée de Martin Heidegger (Paris:
Vrin, 1987).
24 For a Heidegger defender who makes this point, see Ernst Nolte, Heidegger: Politik
und Geschichte im Leben und Denken (Berlin: Propyläen, 1992), pp. 147, 153–
25 Martin Heidegger, An Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. Ralph Manheim (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1977), p. 199.
26 See Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (New
York: Harper & Row, 1960), p. 63.
27 See Benedetto Croce, What Is Living and What Is Dead in Hegel?, trans. Douglas
Ainslie (New York: Russell & Russell, 1969).
1 This statement occurs in the context of a remark on the adequacy of lang
to philosophy:
I have in mind especially the inner relationship of the German language
with the language of the Greeks and with their thought. This has been
confirmed for me today again by the French. When they [i.e. the French]
think, they speak German, being sure that they could not make it with
their own language.

“Only a God Can Save Us: Der Spiegel’s Interview with Martin Heidegger,”
Philosophy Today, vol. 20 (Winter 1976), p. 282.
2 For Heidegger’s overture toward French philosophy, see “Wege zur Aussprache,”
in Martin Heidegger, Aus der Erfahrung des Denkens, ed. Hermann Heidegger
(Frankfurt/M.: Vittorio Klostermann, 1983) pp. 135–139.
3 The main example is his discussion in Being and Time. See Martin Heidegger,
Being and Time, tr. J.Macquarie and E.Robinson (New York: Harper & Row,
§§ 14–15. See also “The Age of the World Picture,” in Martin Heidegger,
The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, tr. William Lovitt
(New York: Harper & Row, 1977), pp. 115–154.
4 See “The Letter on Humanism,” in Martin Heidegger, Basic Writings, ed. David
Farrell Krell (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), pp. 189–242.
5 For instance, in a recent collection of essays on the fiftieth anniversa
ry of Husserl’s death, fully four of the sixteen articles directly consider Heidegger an
d Husserl,
and this relation is discussed in passing in others as well. See Phänomenologie
im Widerstreit: Zum 50. Todestag Edmund Husserls, ed. Christoph Jamme and
Otto Pöggeler (Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, 1989).
6 Pascal receives a canonical treatment in this work. On the uses of Pasca
l in this
book, see Antoine Arnauld and Pierre Nicole, La Logique ou l’art de penser,
intr. Louis Marin (Paris: Flammarion, 1970), pp. 17–18. See also the di

of the infinite, in the first chapter of the fourth part that was inserted in the
book in the edition published in 1664. Pascal was a Jansenist as were Arnauld
and Nicole. For a discussion that relates Pascal’s thought to Jansenism, see
Nannerl O.Keohane, Philosophy and the State in France: The Renaissance to
the Enlightenment (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), ch. 9:
“Authority and Community in the Two Cities,” pp. 262–282. For a recent
discussion that examines the philosophical status of Pascal’s thought, see Vincent
Carraud, Pascal et la philosophie (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1992).
7 See “Philosophy as Rigorous Science,” in Edmund Husserl, Phenomenology
and the Crisis of Philosophy, tr. Quentin Lauer (New York: Harper, 1965).
8 In this respect, there is a parallel with the German classification of philosophy
as a Geisteswissenschaft, a term that is often rendered as “human science” or
“social science.”
9 For a discussion of the concept of the French intellectual from the time of the
Dreyfus affair to the present, see Pascal Ory and Jean-François Sirinelli, Les
Intellectuels en France de l’Affaire Dreyfus a nos jours (Paris: Armand Colin,
1986). For a history of French philosophers in context, see Jean-Louis Fabiani,
Les Philosophes de la république (Paris: Minuit, 1988).
10 V.Descombes, Le Même et l’autre: Quarante-cinq ans de philosophic française
(1933–1978) (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1979), p. 17.
11 It has been argued that the effort devoted to philosophy in the last years of the
lycée and the first years of the university can usefully be seen as an attempt to
indoctrinate all French students. See François Châtelet, La Philosophie des
professeurs (Paris: Grasset, 1970).
12 See Stanley Hoffman, cited in Deidre Bair, Simone de Beauvoir: A Biography
(New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990), p. 548.
13 This concern is easily apparent to foreigners. In a letter to Ralph Ellison (August
18, 1945), Richard Wright, who was then living in France, reports: “France is
in ferment. Their discussion of the artist’s responsibility surpasses anything I’ve
ever seen.” Cited in Bair, Simone de Beauvoir, p. 412.
14 See Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: A Phenomenological Essay in
Ontology, tr. Hazel E.Barnes (New York: Washington Square Press, 1973),
especially the discussion of “Freedom and Responsiblity,” pp. 707–711.
15 Henri Bergson, La Philosophie (Paris: Larousse, 1915), pp. 5ff, cited in Franz
Böhm, Anti-Cartesianismus: Deutsche Philosophie im Widerstand (Leipzig: Felix
Meiner, 1938), p. 25 n5.
16 See René Descartes, The Philosophical Works of Descartes, vol. I, ed. and tr.
Elizabeth S.Haldane and G.R.T.Ross (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1970), p. 145.
17 See Michel Foucault, Histoire de la folie (Paris: Gallimard, 1972), pp. 56–59.
18 See “Cogito and Histoire de la folie,” in Jacques Derrida, L’Ecriture et la
différence (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1967), p. 95.
19 For a study of Descartes’s influence on French literature, see Gustave Lanson,
“L’Influence de la philosophic cartésienne dans la littérature française,” Revue
de métaphysique et de morale, vol. 4 (1896).
20 Ernst Cassirer, The Philosophy of the Enlightenment, tr. Fritz C.A.Koelln and
James Pettegrove (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968), p. 28.
21 A recent example is provided by the career of Jean-Luc Marion. Marion, who
has also done much other work, has attained an impressive position in French
philosophy in large part on the strength of his important studies of Descartes.
See Jean-Luc Marion, Sur l’ontologie grise de Descartes (Paris: Vrin, 1981); Sur
la théologie blanche de Descartes (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1981);
Sur le prisme métaphysique de Descartes (Paris: Presses universitaires de France,

1986); René Descartes: Règles utiles et claires pour la direction de l’esprit en la
recherche de la vérité (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1977); Index des “Regulae ad
directionem Ingenii” de René Descartes, in collaboration with J.-R.Armogathe
(Rome: Edizione dell’Ateneo, 1976); Questions cartésiennes (Paris: Presses
universitaires de France, 1991).
22 See Heidegger, Being and Time, pp. 122–134.
23 See “The Age of the World Picture,” pp. 115–154.
24 See e.g. G.W.F.Hegel, Faith and Knowledge, tr. Walter Cerf and H.S.Harris
(Albany: State University of New York Press, 1977).
25 See Jules Vuillemin, L’Héritage kantien et la révolution copernicienne (Paris:
Presses universitaires de France, 1954), p. 301: “Or la philosophic moderne,
que nous faisons commencer a la Revolution copernicienne, ne fait que décrire
ce déplacement caractéristique d’une pensée théologique dans un monde athée.”
26 See Cassirer, Philosophy of the Enlightenment, p. 134.
27 For a discussion of the relation between religion and philosophy in French philosophy,
see Etienne Gilson, “La notion de la philosophic chrétienne,” paper presented to
the Société franchise de philosophic on March 21, 1931. The idea of philosophy in
the light of faith is perfectly normal in the French context. See, for example, Etienne
Gilson, Introduction à la philosophie chrétienne (Paris: Vrin, 1960).
28 For a recent example of this rightwing approach to Hegel, see Quentin Lauer,
Hegel’s Concept of God (Albany: SUNY Press, 1982).
29 For Hegel’s view, see G.W.F.Hegel, Werke in zwanzig Bänden, vol. XX:
Vorlesungen über die Geschichte der Philosophie 3, ed. Eva Moldenhauer and
Karl Markus Michel (Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, 1971), pp. 49–50.
30 See ibid., p. 120.
31 Ibid., p. 123.
32 See his treatment of religion in the chapter on “Absolute Knowledge” in
Phenomenology of Spirit, tr. A.V.Miller (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977).
33 See Tom Rockmore, Hegel’s Circular Epistemology (Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 1986).
34 For contrasting views of Roman Catholicism in France, see Antoine Arnauld,
Apologie pour les cathologiques (Paris, 1651) and Pierre Bayle, Ce que c’est que
la France toute catholique, (Paris, 1686, rpt. Paris: Vrin, 1973).
35 Phenomenology is presently the main French philosophical tendency. For an
analysis of the religious element in French phenomenology since the death of
Merleau-Ponty in 1951, see Dominique Janicaud, Le Tournant théologique de
la phénoménologie française (Combas: Editions de l’Eclat, 1991).
36 See Rémi Brague, La Voie romaine (Paris: Editions Criterion, 1992).
37 See e.g. Marion’s analysis of the ontological proof, “L’argument relève-t-il de
l’ontologie?,” in Marion, Questions cartésiennes, pp. 221–258.
38 In the thirteenth of his Principles, he answers the question of in what sense the
knowledge of all other things depends on knowledge of God with the statement
that the mind “can have no certain knowledge until it is acquainted with its
creator.” Descartes, Philosophical Works, I, p. 224.
39 See Martial Gueroult, Descartes selon l’ordre des raisons, vol. II (Paris: Aubier-
Montaigne, 1968), p. 272:

D’abord réduit à un point au milieu de la nuit du doute, la lumière du
Cogito, grandissant en quelque sorte sur elle-même, rencontre enfin le
Dieu infini, autre que moi-même, qui détruisant la ténébreuse fiction de la
trompérie universelle, illumine tout le ciel, d’un horizon à l’autre, par la
splendeur souveraine de la véracité absolue.

40 See e.g. the fourth part of the Discourse on Method, where he writes:

For to begin with, that which I have just taken as a rule, that is to say, that
all the things that we very clearly and very distinctly conceive of are true,
is certain only because God exists, and that He is a Perfect Being, and that
all that is in us issues from Him.
(Descartes, Philosophical Works, I, p. 105)
He makes a similar point in the Reply to Objections II, for instance in his denial
that an atheist can really know:

That an atheist can know clearly that the three angles of a triangle are
equal to two right angles, I do not deny, I merely affirm that, on the other
hand, such knowledge on his part cannot constitute true science, because
no knowledge that can be rendered doubtful should be called science.
(Descartes, Philosophical Works, II, p. 39; Descartes’s emphases)
41 See Arnauld and Nicole, La Logique ou l’art de penser, p. 33.
42 See Alexandre Kojève, Introduction à la lecture de Hegel: Leçons sur la
“Phénoménologie de l’Esprit” professés de 1933 à 1939 à l’Ecole des Hautes-
Etudes, ed. Raymond Queneau (Paris: Gallimard, 1947).
43 For discussion of his view of religion, see George Kovacs, The Question of God
in Heidegger’s Phenomenology (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1990);
see also Richard Schaeffler, “Heidegger und die Theologie”, in Heidegger und
die praktische Philosophie, ed. Annemarie Gethmann-Siefert and Otto Pöggeler
(Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, 1988), pp. 286–309.
44 See Etienne Gilson, L’Etre et l’essence (Paris: Vrin, 1987), pp. 372, 376.
45 This thesis is developed by Sluga. See Hans D.Sluga, Gottlob Frege (London:
Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980).
46 See Richard Rorty, Essays on Heidegger and Others (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1991), p. 21.
47 See e.g. Jacques Rivelaygue, Leçons de métaphysique allemande, vol. I: De Leibniz
à Hegel (Paris: Grasset, 1990), and vol. II: Kant, Heidegger, Habermas (Paris:
Grasset, 1992).
48 On this point, see V.Descombe’s useful study, Le Même et l’autre: Quarantecinq
ans de philosophie française (1933–1978) (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1979).
49 See Michel Henry, Phénoménologie matérielle (Paris: Presses universitaires de
France, 1990).
50 This is the view of Marion, who writes: “A l’évidence, depuis que la métaphysique a
trouvé sa fin, soit comme un achievement avec Hegel, soit comme un crépuscule avec
Nietzsche, la philosophie n’a pu se poursuivre authentiquement que sous la figure de
la phénoménologie.” Phénoménologie et métaphysique, ed. Jean-Luc Marion and
Guy Planty-Bonjour (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1984), p. 7.
51 For a brief account see Jean Hering, “Phenomenology in France,” in Philosophic
Thought in France and the United States, ed. Marvin Farber (Buffalo: University
of Buffalo Publications in Philosophy, 1950), pp. 67–86. For a more detailed
account, see H.Spiegelberg, The Phenomenological Movement: A Historical
Introduction (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1982), pp. 425–452.
52 As recently as 1976, it was possible to publish an introduction to phenomenology
that considered only Husserl’s Cartesian Meditations. See Jean T.Desanti,
Introduction à la phénoménologie (Paris: Gallimard, 1976).
53 The French-language Husserl discussion began quite early. For an early discussion
of Husserl’s opposition to psychologism, see L.Noël, “Les frontières de la logique,”
Revue néoscolastique, no. 17 (1910), pp. 211–233. Some time later, a fuller

discussion of Husserl’s theory was provided by Gurvitch. See Georges Gurvitch,
Les Tendances actuelles de la philosophie allemande: E.Husserl, M. Scheler, E.Lask,
N.Hartmann, M.Heidegger (Paris: Vrin, 1930). Gurvitch describes Husserl as “le
fondateur de la philosophie phénoménologique,” and considers Heidegger’s
philosophy as both irrationalist and dialectical (ibid., pp. 11–66, 228).
54 See Emmanuel Lévinas, Théorie de l’intuition dans la phénoménologie de Husserl
(Paris: Vrin, 1977). Derrida has edited Husserl and written widely on his thought.
See Edmund Husserl, L’Origine de la géométrie, tr. and intr. Jacques Derrida
(Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1962, 1974); Jacques Derrida, La Voix
et le phénomène (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1967); Jacques Derrida,
Le Problème de la génèse dans la philosophie de Husserl (Paris: Presses
universitaires de France, 1990). Lévinas is a cotranslator of Husserl’s Cartesian
Meditations into French.
55 For some examples, see “Husserl et Heidegger,” in Jean-François Courtine,
Heidegger et la phénoménologie (Paris: Vrin, 1990), pp. 161–282; Jean-Luc
Marion, Réduction et donation: Recherches sur Husserl, Heidegger et la
phénoménologie (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1989); Emmanuel
Lévinas, En découvrant l’existence avec Husserl et Heidegger (Paris: Vrin, 1988).
56 For recent discussion between the relation of Husserl and Heidegger, see the
articles by Manfred Riedel, Aldo Masullo, Otto Pöggeler, and Pier Aldo Rovatti
in Jamme and Pöggeler, Phänomenologie im Widerstreit.
57 See Otto Pöggeler, Martin Heidegger’s Path of Thinking, tr. Daniel Magurshak
and Sigmund Barber (Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press, 1989), p. 61.
58 On the question of the relation between Husserl and Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty

Voudra-t-on lever ces contradictions en distinguant entre la phénoménologie
de Husserl et celle de Heidegger? Mais tout Sein und Zeit est sorti d’une
indication de Husserl et n’est en somme qu’ une explicitation du
“natürlichen Weltbegriff” ou du “Lebenswelt” que Husserl, àZ la fin de
sa vie donnait pour théme premier à la phénoménologie.
(Phénoménologie de la perception, Paris: Gallimard, 1945, p. 1)

59 See “My Way to Phenomenology,” in Martin Heidegger, On Time and Being, tr.
Joan Stambaugh (New York: Harper & Row, 1972), pp. 74–82.
60 For an argument that Heidegger’s later thought remains phenomenology, see
“Réduction phénoménologique-transcendentale et différence ontico-
ontologique,” in Courtine, Heidegger et la phénoménologie, pp. 207–248.
61 For Wahl’s claim that Hegel’s logic is phenomenological, see Jean Wahl, La
Logique de Hegel comme phénoménologie (Paris: Centre de documentation
universitaire, 1969).
62 For Derrida’s claim, see Husserl, L’Origine de la géométrie, p. 158.
63 For an instance of the French tendency to consider Hegel and Heidegger together,
see Denise Souche-Dagues, Hégélianisme et dualisme: Réflexions sur le
phénomène (Paris: Vrin, 1990).
64 The outstanding example of this in Heidegger’s corpus is his dialogue with
Kant. See Martin Heidegger, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, tr. Richard
Taft (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990).
65 See Heidegger, Being and Time,
§ 82, pp. 480–486.
66 See Michel Foucault, Histoire de la folie (Paris: 10/18, n.d.).
67 See “Joseph de Maistre and the Origins of Fascism,” in Isaiah Berlin, The Crooked
Timber of Humanity, ed. Henry Hardy (London: John Murray), 1990, pp. 91–174.

68 See Joseph-Arthur Gobineau, Essai sur l’inégalité des races humaines (Paris,
69 It has become standard to emphasize the appeal of German philosophy for
French thinkers. Against this tendency, Stoekl has recently stressed the importance
of Emile Durkheim’s thought for an understanding of contemporary French
philosophy and literature. See Allan Stoekl, Agonies of the Intellectual:
Commitment, Subjectivity, and the Performative in the Twentieth-Century French
Tradition (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992), esp. ch. 1: “Durkheim
and the Totem Act,” pp. 25–56.
70 See François Marie Arouet de Voltaire, Lettres philosophiques (Paris:
Flammarion, 1964), esp. letters 13–17, pp. 81–117.
71 Hippolyte Taine, Histoire de la littérature anglaise, vol. V (Paris: Hachette, 1863–
1864, 12th edn., 1911) p. 243, cited in Léon Brunschvicg, Le Progrès de la
conscience dans la philosophie occidentale (2 vols., Paris: Félix Alcan, 1927),
vol. II, p. 395.
72 See Luc Ferry and Alain Renaut, La Pensée 68: Essai sur l’anti-humanisme
contemporain (Paris: Gallimard, 1988), p. 125.
73 See Eric Weil, Logique de la philosophie (Paris: Vrin, 1974).
74 See Fabiani, Les Philosophes de la république, p. 9.
75 See e.g. Paul Nizan, Les Chiens de garde (Paris: Rieder, 1932).
76 There is a large literature on the French system of elite schools. See R.J.Smith,
The Ecole normale supérieure and the Third Republic (Albany: State University
of New York Press, 1982). For further bibliography, see Pierre Bourdieu, La
Noblesse d’état: Grandes écoles et esprit de corps (Paris: Editions de Minuit,
1989), pp. 329–330.
77 The École normale is a main source of future philosophers. For a detailed study
of normaliens around the year 1920, see Jean-François Sirinelli, Génération
intellectuelle: Khagneux et normaliens dans l’entre-deux-guerres (Paris: Fayard,
1988). For a series of articles by former students, see Alain Peyrefitte (ed.), Rue
d’Ulm, Chroniques de la vie normalienne (Paris: Flammarion, 1963).
78 For comparative data, see Gustave Lanson, L’Ecole normale supérieure (Paris:
Hachette, 1926), pp. 48–49.
79 This is the opinion of George Pompidou:
On est normalien comme on est prince de sang. Rien d’extérieur ne le
marque. Mais cela se sait, cela se voit, qu’il soit poli, et même humain de
ne pas le faire sentir aux autres… Cette qualité est consubstantielle. On ne
devient pas, on naît normalien, comme on naissait chevalier. Le concours
n’est que l’adoubement. La cérémonie a ses rites, la veillée d’armes se déroule
dans des lieux de retraite placés comme il convient sous la protection de
nos rois: Saint-Louis, Henri IV, Louis-le-Grand. Les gardiens du Saint-
Graal, dont l’assemblée prend pour l’occasion le nom de jury, reconnaissent
leurs jeunes pairs et les appellent à eux.
(G.Pompidou, cited in Pierre Bourdieu, La Noblesse d’état, p. 534n)
80 See Pierre Bourdieu, “Epreuve scolaire et consecration sociale,” Actes de la
recherche en sciences sociales, no. 39 (September 1981), p. 30:
On ne peut comprendre complètement les caractéristiques les plus significatives
des “ecoles d’élite” (dans le cas particulier, les classes préparatories aux Grandes
écoles et les Grandes écoles elles-mêmes) qu’à condition d’apercevoir que la
transformation qu’elles ont à opérer n’est pas seulement technique mais aussi
sociale ou, si l’on veut, magique. Toutes les opérations techniques du processus

éducatif sont surdéterminées symboliquement parce qu’elles remplissent
toujours par surcroît une fonction de consécration (ou de sociodicée) et
qu’elles peuvent done être décrites comme autant de moments d’un rituel de
consécration: la sélection et aussi “l’élection” des “élus,” l’examen est aussi
“épreuve,” la formation “ascèse” et la compétence technique, compétence
sociale et qualification charismatique.
81 On unconditional loyalty to the system of which they are a product, see Pierre
Bourdieu, Homo Academicus (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1984), p. 134:
Issus pour une très forte part du corps enseignant, et surtout de ses couches
inférieures et moyennes, presque tous passés par la khagne et par l’Ecole
normale supérieure, où ils enseignent encore très souvent, souvent mariés
à des enseignantes, les professeurs canoniques des disciplines canoniques
accordent à l’institution scolaire qu’ils ont choisie parce qu’elle les a choisis,
et réciproquement, une adhésion qui, d’être si totalement conditionnée, a
quelque chose de total, d’absolu, d’inconditionnel.
82 Bourdieu points out that for this reason, although Ricoeur and Hyppolite were
on a roughly equal philosophical level, Hyppolite, the normalien, attracted many
more doctoral students than did Ricoeur, who did not have this distinction. See
Bourdieu, Homo Academicus, pp. 124–127, 201–203.
83 This criticism is unjust. See “Hegel and the Social Function of Reason,” in Tom
Rockmore, Hegel and Contemporary Philosophy (Atlantic Highlands, NJ:
Humanities Press, forthcoming).
84 For the concepts of authentic choice and destiny, see Heidegger, Being and Time,
§ 74, pp. 434–439. For an analysis of the relation between Heidegger’s
philosophical thought and his Nazism, see Tom Rockmore, On Heidegger’s
Nazism and Philosophy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992).
1 Passmore signals his awareness of the dominant roles played by Davidson and
Dummett by devoting special consideration to their views and their views only.
See John Passmore, Recent Philosophers (LaSalle: Open Court, 1990).
2 Heidegger is reported to favor speech over writing as part of his preference for
the oracular utterance that is to be heard but neither interpreted nor tested. See
Rainer Marten, Heidegger Lesen (Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 1991), p. 7. This is
also a persistent theme in Derrida’s corpus. See e.g. Jacques Derrida, L’Ecriture
et la différence (Paris: Seuil, 1967).
3 Kripke writes:
In January of 1970, I gave three talks at Princeton University transcribed
here. As the style of the transcript makes clear, I gave the talks without a
written text, and, in fact, without notes. The present text is lightly edited
from the verbatim manuscript.
(Saul A.Kripke, Naming and Necessity, Cambridge: Harvard University
Press, 1980, p. 22; Kripke’s emphasis)
Another example is Kojève’s famous work on Hegel, which consists of the
stenographic record of a course delivered orally and without notes. See Alexandre

Kojève, Introduction à la lecture de Hegel: Leçons sur la “Phénoménologie de
l’Esprit” professées de 1933 à 1939 à l’Ecole des Hautes-Etudes, ed. Raymond
Queneau (Paris: Gallimard, 1947).
4 See Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche, vol. I (Pfullingen: Neske, 1961), p. 450.
5 This problem is a major concern in Derrida’s work. See Jacques Derrida, De la
grammatologie (Paris: Minuit, 1967).
6 One should distinguish between a maître à penser, which has a positive ring,
and a mâitre penseur, a term that has a negative overtone. For a discussion of
the latter, see André Glucksmann, Les maîtres penseurs (Paris: Grasset, 1977).
7 Descombes insists on Hegel as the master of the philosophical game. See Vincent
Descombes, Le même et l’autre: Quarante-cinq ans de philosophie française
(1933–1978) (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1979).
8 For this model, see Nicholas Rescher, Strife of Systems (Pittsburgh: University
of Pittsburgh Press, 1979).
9 Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (New
York: Harper & Brothers, 1960), p. 16.
10 See Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, tr. Norman Kemp Smith (New
York: Macmillan, 1961), B 860, p. 653.
11 See David Hume, An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding, ed. Charles
W. Hendel (Indianapolis: LLA, 1955), pp. 29–30.
12 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, B 802, pp. 654–655.
13 Ibid., B xliv, p. 37.
14 For Fichte’s view of this discussion, see “Ueber Geist und Buchstabe in der
Philosophie,” in Fichtes Werke, vol. VIII, ed. Immanuel Hermann Fichte (Berlin:
Walter de Gruyter, 1971), pp. 270–300.
15 For a reading of the later German idealist tradition as an effort to complete the
Kantian revolution in philosophy, see Tom Rockmore, Hegel’s Circular
Epistemology (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), chs. 2–3, pp. 16–
16 See Martin Heidegger, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, tr. Richard Taft
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990), p. xviii.
17 This is the theme of his well known study of Kant. In a reference to Kant’s
critical philosophy, he writes: “The task of the laying of the ground for
metaphysics, grasped in a more original way, is therefore transformed into the
elucidation of the inner possibility for the understanding of Being.” Heidegger,
Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, p. 154.
18 See Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, B 370, p. 310.
19 Jean-Paul Sartre, Search For a Method, tr. Hazel E.Barnes (New York: Vintage,
1988), pp. 5–6.
20 Sartre, Search For a Method, p. 7.
21 This claim has often been made, but never in a more penetrating fashion than
by Heine: “Our philosophical revolution is concluded; Hegel has closed its great
circle.” Heinrich Heine, Religion and Philosophy in Germany, tr. John Snodgrass
(Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986), p. 156.
22 See Sartre, Search For a Method, p. 7.
23 In a recent interview with Jean-François Lyotard, Hegel was characterized as
“[l]e maître incontesté de la philosophie moderne.” Le Figaro Littéraire,
(September 30, 1991), p. 6.
24 According to Lévinas, besides Being and Time, the most important philosophical
works include Plato’s Phaedrus, Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, Hegel’s
Phenomenology of Spirit, and Bergson’s Time and Free Will. See Emmanuel
Lévinas, Ethique et infini: Dialogues avec Philippe Nemo (Paris: Fayard, 1982),
pp. 27–28.

25 For a recent discussion that stresses Wittgenstein’s mesmerizing influence on
the Cambridge University philosophers, see Ray Monk, Ludwig Wittgenstein:
The Duty of Genius (New York: Free Press, 1990).
26 On the concept of a black hole, see Stephen W.Hawking, A Brief History of
Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (Toronto: Bantam, 1988), pp. 81–82.
27 See Whitehead, Process and Reality, p. 63.
28 For recent discussion, see Antifoundationalism Old and New, ed. Tom Rockmore
and Beth Singer (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991).
29 For analysis of post-Hegelian philosophy as a series of reactions to Hegel, see
Richard J.Bernstein, Praxis and Action: Contemporary Philosophies of Human
Activity (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1971).
30 In my view, Miller’s tendency to see Foucault as assuming Sartre’s mantle and
as dominating French thought overstates the case. See James Miller, The Passion
of Michel Foucault, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992).
31 For a critical discussion of his views, see “Le Marx d’Althusser,” in Leszek
Kolakowski, L’Esprit révolutionnaire (Brussels: Ousia, 1978), pp. 158–185.
32 For his discussion of Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason, see “Histoire et
dialectique,” in Claude Lévi-Strauss, La Pensée sauvage (Paris: Plon, 1962), pp.
33 After Foucault’s untimely death, Paul Veyne, a respected intellectual and an
intimate friend, wrote: “L’œuvre de Foucault me semble être l’événement de
pensée le plus important de notre siècle.” Cited in Didier Eribon, Michel Foucault
(Paris: Flammarion, 1991), p. 352.
34 For a highly favorable reading of Foucault’s corpus after his death by an
important contemporary philosopher, see Gilles Deleuze, Foucault (Paris:
Editions de Minuit, 1986).
35 For this claim, see Elisabeth Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan and Co.: A History of
Psychoanalysis in France, 1925–1985, tr. Jeffrey Mehlman (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1990), p. 117. According to Borch-Jacobsen, Lacan ruled over
French psychoanalysis like an absolute master. See Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, Lacan:
Le Maître absolu (Paris: Flammarion, 1990). He incarnated in the French
psychoanalytic movement the view of the thinker as a tyrant. For Kojève’s famous
claim that there is no essential difference between a philosopher and a tyrant, see
Alexandre Kojève, Tyrannie et sagesse (Paris: Gallimard, 1954), p. 252. For the
resonance of this remark in recent French philosophy, see Descombes, Le Même et
l’autre, pp. 27–28.
36 See Edward S.Casey and Melvin Woody, “Hegel, Heidegger, Lacan: The Dialectic
of Desire,” in Psychiatry and the Humanities (New Haven: Yale University Press,
1983), vol. 6, pp. 75–111.
37 For the most recent and fullest discussion of Lacan’s thought and life, see Elisabeth
Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan: Esquisse d’une vie, histoire d’un système de pensée
(Paris: Fayard, 1993).
38 On this point, see Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan and Co., pp. 298–299.
39 See P. van Haute, “Lacan en Kojève: het imaginaire en die dialecktiek van de
meester en de slaaf,” in Tijdschrift voor Philosophie, 48 (1986), pp. 391–415.
40 See Jacques Lacan, “L’Etourdi,” Scilicet, vol. I (Paris: Seuil, 1986), p. 33.
41 For an analysis, see Borch-Jacobsen, Lacan: Le maître absolu, p. 110.
42 See Dominique Auffret, Alexandre Kojève: La Philosophie, l’état, la fin de
l’histoire (Paris: Grasset, 1990), pp. 274–278.
43 For a recent account, see “Paris: l’existentialisme est arrivé,” in Annie Cohen-
Solal, Sartre, 1905–1980 (Paris: Gallimard, 1985), pp. 325–353.
44 Husserl’s thought was already known in France when Sartre began to study. In the
mid-1920s, Groethuysen devoted a chapter to Husserl in his presentation of

contemporary German philosophy. See “Husserl,” in Bernard Groethuysen,
Introduction à la pensée philosophique allemande depuis Nietzsche (Paris: Librairie
Stock, 1926), pp. 88–103.
45 See Jean-Paul Sartre, La Transcendance de l’ego: Esquisse d’une description
phénoménologique, ed. Sylvie LeBon (Paris: Vrin, 1966).
46 See Jean-Paul Sartre, Les Carnets de la drôle de guerre, Novembre 1939–Mars
1940 (Paris: Gallimard, 1983), pp. 225–227.
47 See Christopher M.Fry, Sartre and Hegel: The Variations of an Enigma in “L’Etre
et le Néant” (Bonn: Bouvier, 1988); see also Klaus Hartmann, Sartre’s Ontology:
A Study of Being and Nothingness in the Light of Hegel’s Logic (Evanston:
Northwestern University Press, 1966).
48 Auffret, who insists that Sartre did not attend Kojève’s lectures, reports that
Sartre was influenced by an article Kojève published in Mesures. See Auffret,
Alexandre Kojève, p. 238n.
49 Emmanuel Lévinas, “Un langage qui nous est familier,” in Les Cahiers de la
nuit surveillée, no. 3 (1984), p. 327, cited in Emmanuel Lévinas, La Mort et le
temps (Paris: L’Herne, 1991), p. 139.
50 For a sketch of the main approaches, from a mainly rightwing perspective, see
Emil L.Fackenheim, The Religious Dimension in Hegel’s Thought (Boston:
Beacon Press, 1970), pp. 75–105.
51 See Victor Cousin, Cours de philosophie: Introduction à l’histoire de la
philosophie (1825, 1841, rpt.) (Paris: Fayard, 1991). For an account of Cousin’s
rationalist reading of Hegel without the conception of dialectic, see Roudinesco,
Jacques Lacan and Co., pp. 136–137.
52 For a discussion of the relation of Cousin to Hegel, see Jacques d’Hondt, Hegel
in His Time, tr. John Burbidge with Nelson Roland and Judith Levasseur
(Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview, 1988), pp. 132–161 and passim.
53 See Lucien Herr, “Hegel,” in La Grande Encyclopédie Larousse (Paris: Larousse,
1890–1893), rpt. in Lucien Herr, Choix d’écrits, II: Philosophie, Histoire,
Philologie (Paris: Editions Rieder, 1932), pp. 107–140. For Queneau, Herr’s
discussion was the only decent one available at the time. See Raymond Queneau,
“Premières confrontations avec Hegel,” Critique, nos. 195–196 (1963), p. 694.
54 See Victor Basch, Les Doctrines politiques des philosophies classiques de
l’Allemagne (Paris: F.Alcan, 1904, 1927).
55 See Paul Roques, Hegel, sa vie et ses oeuvres (Paris: F.Alcan, 1912).
56 See Victor Delbos, “Les Facteurs kantiens de la philosophie allemande de la fin du
XVIIIe siècle et du commencement du XIXe siècle, in Revue de Métaphysique et
de Morale, nos. 26 (1919), pp. 569–593, 27 (1920), pp. 1–25, 28 (1921), pp. 27–
47, 29 (1922), pp. 157–176, 32 (1925), pp. 271–281, and 35 (1928), pp. 529–
551. The discussions in nos. 28 and 32 deal most closely with Hegel’s thought.
57 See Emile Meyerson, De l’explication dans les sciences (Paris: Payot, 1921). For
a summary of Meyerson’s reading of Hegel, see Koyré, Etudes d’histoire de la
pensée philosophique, pp. 215–220.
58 Léon Brunschvicg, Le Progrès de la conscience dans la philosophie occidentale
(2 vols., Paris: Alcan, 1927). See vol. II, pp. 382–401.
59 See Brunschvicg, Le Progrès de la conscience, II, p. 396.
60 See ibid., II, p. 398.
61 See ibid., II, p. 395.
62 See Jean Wahl, Le Malheur de la conscience dans la philosophie de Hegel (Paris:
Rieder, 1929).
63 See Jean Hyppolite, “Discours d’introduction,” in Hegel-Studien, supplement 3
(1964), p. 11: “je dois dire que le premier choc veritable est venu de M.Jean
Wahl et que la lecture de la Conscience malheureuse dans la philosophie de
Hegel a été une sorte de révélation.”

64 In his important study of appearance, Michel Henry, for instance, whose main
influences are Husserl and, to a lesser extent, Heidegger, discusses Hegel’s
conception of appearance in detail. See Michel Henry, “Appendice: Mise en
lumière de l’essence originaire de la révélation par opposition au concept hégélien
de manifestation (Erscheinung),” in L’Essence de la manifestation (Paris: Presses
universitaires de France, 1990), pp. 863–906.
65 Despite the important tradition of English Hegel studies, Findlay begins his
own study of Hegel with a comment that casts light on the comparative lack
of attention to Hegel’s thought: “[Prof. Ayer] has made me spend over two
years in the close and constant company of one of the greatest and least
understood of philosophical minds.” J.N.Findlay, Hegel: A Re-examination
(New York: Collier, 1962), p. 6.
66 “Hegel’s Existentialism,” in Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Sense and Non-Sense, tr.
Hubert L.Dreyfus and Patricia Allen Dreyfus (Evanston: Northwestern University
Press, 1964), p. 63. This idea is later echoed by others. According to Philippe
Sellers, Nietzsche, Bataille, Lacan, and Marxism-Leninism result from
“l’explosion du système hégélien.” Philippe Sollers, Bataille (Paris: 10/18, 1973),
p. 36, cited in Descombes, Le Même et l’autre, p. 23 n5.
67 For a discussion of Lacan’s relation to Hegel, see Catherine Clément, “Lacan et
l’obsession hégélienne,” Magazine littéraire, no. 293 (November 1991), pp. 57–59.
68 See Jacques Derrida, Glas (2 vols., Paris: Denoël/Gonthier, 1981) Derrida goes
so far as to claim unambiguously that it is impossible to finish reading Hegel
and that, in a sense, that is all he is doing. See Jacques Derrida, Positions (Paris:
Editions de Minuit, 1972), p. 103.
69 For a semipopular account of the rediscovery of Hegel in France, see Mark
Poster, Existential Marxism in Postwar France: From Sartre to Althusser
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975), pp. 3–35.
70 See e.g. Claude Bruaire, Logique et religion chrétienne dans la philosophie de
Hegel (Paris: Seuil, 1964).
71 See “The Age of the World Picture,” in Martin Heidegger, The Question
Concerning Technology and Other Essays, tr. William Lovitt (New York: Harper
& Row, 1977), p. 140: “With the interpretation of man as subiectum, Descartes
creates the kind of metaphysical presupposition for future anthropology of every
kind and tendency.”
72 This implication has been clearly seen. For a critical analysis of the Hegelian view of
the master-slave relation, see Gwendoline Jarczyk and Pierre-Jean Labarrière, Les
Premiers Combats de la reconnaissance: Maîtrise et servitude dans la “Phénoménologie
de l’Esprit” de Hegel (Paris: Aubier-Montaigne, 1987). This analysis is intended, as
the authors candidly point out, to refute Kojève. See ibid., pp. 9–12.
73 See Edmund Husserl, Cartesian Meditations: An Introduction to Phenomenology,
tr. Dorion Cairns (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1960).
74 See e.g. Jean Wahl, La Logique de Hegel comme phénoménologie (Paris, 1965).
75 This analogy is developed in the French discussion by Kojève, Hyppolite, and
Derrida. For Derrida’s view, see his long introduction to Edmund Husserl,
L’Origine de la géométrie, tr. and intr. J.Derrida (Paris: Presses universitaires de
France, 1962, 1974), p. 58n.
76 Kojève provides an overly “Husserlian,” descriptive interpretation of Hegel’s
view of phenomenology since he mistakenly regards Hegel’s phenomenological
method as a mere passive contemplation of the real. According to Kojève, thought
only reflects a real that is itself dialectical. See Kojève, Introduction à la lecture
de Hegel, p. 38. He goes so far as to identify the conceptions of method in Hegel
and in Husserl. See ibid., p. 470.

77 His interpretation of Heidegger’s relation to Hegel is curious and never uncritical,
but he criticizes Heidegger for neglecting such themes as struggle and work
found in Marx. See Kojève, Introduction à la lecture de Hegel, 566n and 575n.
Auffret concludes that Kojève cannot be considered a Heideggerian reader of
Hegel. See Auffret, Alexandre Kojève, p. 382.
78 Hyppolite limits the analogies he presents between Hegel and Husserl (see e.g.
Jean Hyppolite, Genèse et structure de la Phénoménologie de l’Ésprit de Hegel
(2 vols., Paris: Aubier Montaigne, 1946), vol. I, p. 15) and Hegel and
existentialism (see ibid., I, p. 16). Like Kojève, he stresses the descriptive side of
Hegelian phenomenology and underplays the dialectical aspect of Hegel’s theory.
79 In a statement concerning the structure of Hegel’s Phenomenology, Kojève
La PhG est une description phénoménologique de l’existence humaine.
C’est dire que l’existence humaine y est décrite telle qu’elle “apparaît”
(erscheint) à celui-là même qui la vit. En d’autres termes, Hegel décrit la
conscience de soi de l’homme qui est dominé dans son existence soit par
une des attitudes existentielles types qui se retrouvent partout et toujours
(1re Partie), soit par l’attitude qui caractérise une époque historique
marquante (2e Partie).
(Kojève, Introduction à la lecture de Hegel, p. 576)
In Kojève’s interpretation, the fifth chapter of the Phenomenology, officially
entitled “Reason,” is in fact concerned with the description of “les attitudes
existentielles concrètes.” Ibid., p. 583.
80 There is a direct line running from Kojève’s to Hyppolite’s own existential
approach to Hegel. Hyppolite applies Sartre’s definition of human being in
Being and Nothingness to Hegel’s conception of man. See Poster, Existential
Marxism in Postwar France, p. 33–34. Kojève strongly influenced Sartre. See
Descombes, Le Même et l’autre, pp. 50, 64–70.
81 For this kind of all-inclusive view of “existentialism,” see Walter Kaufmann,
Existentialism From Dostoyevsky to Sartre (New York: Meridian, 1956).
82 See Roger Garaudy, Dieu est mort: Étude sur Hegel (Paris: Presses universitaires
de France, 1962).
83 D’Hondt stresses the interconnection of the views of Hegel and Marx to an
unusual extent, as in the following passage: “Sa gloire posthume, Hegel la doit
pour une grande part à Marx, parce que celui-ci ne renia jamais sa dette. Si
Hegel apporta beaucoup à Marx, celui-ci le lui rend maintenant au centuple.”
Jacques D’Hondt, Hegel et l’ hégélianisme (Paris: Presses universitaires de France,
1982), p. 54.
84 See Jean Hyppolite, Studies on Marx and Hegel, tr. John O’Neill (New York:
Harper, 1969).
85 For discussion, see Tom Rockmore, Irrationalism: Lukács and the Marxist View
of Reason (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992), chs. 5 and 7.
86 See “Alienation and Objectification: Commentary on G.Lukács’s The Young
Hegel” in Hyppolite, Studies on Marx and Hegel, pp. 79–80.
87 See e.g. Alexandre Koyré;, “Hegel à Iéna,” Revue d’histoire et de philosophie
religieuses (1934), rpt. in Etudes d’histoire de la pensée philosophique (Paris:
Armand Colin 1961), pp. 247–289; see also Jean Hyppolite, “Les Travaux de
jeunesse de Hegel d’après des ouvrages récents,” Revue de métaphysique et de
morale, vol. 42, nos. 3–4 (1935), and Jean Hyppolite, “Vie et prise de conscience
de la vie dans la philosophie hégélienne d’Iéna,” Revue de métaphysique et de
morale, vol. 45, no. 1 (1938).

88 The two main studies of Hegel’s Phenomenology in French are by Kojève and
Hyppolite. For a more recent reading, see Pierre-Jean Labarrière, Structures et
mouvement dans la Phénoménologie de l’Esprit de Hegel (Paris: Aubier-
Montaigne, 1968).
89 Andler gave two courses on Hegel at the Collège de France in 1928–1929. One
course concerned Hegel’s philosophy of religion; the other was apparently an
analysis of the German text of Hegel’s Phenomenology. For a brief description of
Andler’s courses, see Koyré, Etudes d’histoire de la pensée philosophique, pp.
90 Apart from Kojève’s work, the most significant Marxist study of Hegel is Georg
Lukács’s The Young Hegel: Studies in the Relations between Dialectics and
Economics, tr. Rodney Livingstone (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1976). For discussion
of Lukács’s reading of Hegel, see Tom Rockmore, Irrationalism, pp. 153–174.
91 For a short, but objective account of Hegel in France, see Iring Fetscher, “Hegel
in Frankreich,” Antares, no. 3 (February 1953) pp. 3–15.
92 For a detailed summary of French interest in Hegel up to 1930, i.e. prior to
Kojève’s famous lectures, see Alexandre Koyré, “Rapport sur l’état des études
hégéliennes en France,” in Verhandlungen des ersten Hegel-Kongresses (The
Hague, 1930, Tübingen, 1931), rpt. in Alexandre Koyré, Etudes d’histoire de la
pensée philosophique (Paris: Armand Colin, 1961), pp. 205–230.
93 See G.W.F.Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, tr. A.V.Miller (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1977), pp. 111–118.
94 Koyré was also interested in Hegel. For an appreciation of his role in French Hegel
studies, see Jean Wahl, “Le rôle de A.Koyré dans le développement des études
hégéliennes en France,” in Hegel-Studien, supplement 3 (1964), pp. 15–26.
95 For a discussion of Kojève as a teacher, see Jean Desanti, “Hegel est-il le père de
l’existentialisme?,” in La Nouvelle Critique, vol. 6, no. 56 (June 1954), pp. 91–
109. According to Desanti, reading Hegel through the eyes of Kojève retarded
his own intellectual development. See ibid., p. 93.
96 On Bataille’s complicated relation to Hegel, see Bruno Karsenti, “Bataille anti-
hégélien?,” Magazine littéraire, no. 293, (November 1991), pp. 54–57. For a
recent discussion of Bataille as a reader of Hegel, see Allan Stoekl, Agonies of
the Intellectual (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992), pp. 283–301.
97 Different writers provide different lists. This composite list is drawn from Borch-
Jakobsen, Lacan: Le Maître absolu, p. 285 n3. For a complete list of the
participants in the seminar, year by year, see Michael S.Roth, Knowing and
History: Appropriations of Hegel in Twentieth Century France (Ithaca: Cornell
University Press, 1988), pp. 225–227. A somewhat different list is provided by
Auffret, who denies that Sartre ever attended Kojève’s lectures, but includes
Jean Hyppolite. See Auffret, Alexandre Kojève, p. 238.
98 This theme has recently been revived in Fukuyama’s thesis that the collapse of
communism signifies the end of history. See Francis Fukuyama The End of
History and the Last Man, (New York: Free Press, 1992).
99 For a discussion of Queneau’s relation to Kojève, see Pierre Macherey, “Queneau
scribe et lecteur de Kojève,” Europe, nos. 650–651 (June–July 1983), pp. 82–91.
100 See, on this topic, Auffret’s remarks on “La Dette envers Koyré,” in Auffret,
Alexandre Kojève, pp. 232–241.
101 See H.Spiegelberg, The Phenomenological Movement: A Historical Introduction
(The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1982), p. 167.
102 See ibid., p. 193.
103 See ibid., pp. 191–192.
104 Hering’s suggestion that Koyré was an orthodox Husserlian is certainly mistaken.
See Jean Hering, “Phenomenology in France,” in Philosophic Thought in France

and the United States, ed. Marvin Farber (Buffalo: University of Buffalo
Publications in Philosophy, 1950), p. 70.
105 See Kojève, Introduction à la lecture de Hegel, p. 527.
106 See ibid., pp. 75–76, 114, 119, 162f, 197f., 527.
107 See ibid., pp. 485f., 490.
108 See ibid., p. 470.
109 See ibid., p. 57.
110 In a recent article, Baugh argues that Koyré’s Hegel interpretation anticipates
Kojève’s. See Bruce Baugh, “Subjectivity and the Begriff in Modern French
Philosophy,” The Owl of Minerva, vol. 23, no. 1 (Fall 1991), p. 75.
111 Despite the resemblance between their respective views of Hegel, it was not
possible, according to Auffret, to deduce Kojève’s reading from Koyré’s. See
Auffret, Alexandre Kojève, p. 234.
112 See Stanley Rosen, “Review of A.Kojève, Essai d’une histoire raisonnée de la
philosophie paienne,” Man and World, vol. 3, no. 1 (February 1970), p. 120.
113 For an objective, detached discussion, see Jean Wahl, “A Propos de l’Introduction
a la lecture de la Phénoménologie de Hegel par A.Kojève,” Deucalion 5(1955),
pp. 77–99.
114 See Jules Vuillemin, “Compte rendu de Kojève,” Revue philosophique de la
France et de l’étranger, vol. 40 (1950), pp. 198–200.
115 See Georges Bataille, “Hegel, la mort et le sacrifice,” Deucalion 5 (1955), p. 21n.
116 See Auffret, Alexandre Kojève, p. 9.
117 See Henry, L’Essence de la manifestation, p. 871.
118 See Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan and Co., p. 134.
119 See Raymond Aron, Mémoires (Paris: Juillard, 1984), p. 94.
120 See Patrick Riley, “Introduction to the Reading of Alexandre Kojève,” Political
Theory, vol. 9, no. 1 (1985), pp. 5–48.
121 See Descombes, Le Même et l’autre, p. 41.
122 For a critical article first published in 1948, see Georges Canguilhem, “Hegel en
France,” reprinted in Magazine littéraire, no. 293, (November 1991), pp. 36–39.
123 See Pierre Macherey, “Queneau scribe et lecteur de Kojève, p. 90.
124 See Pierre Macherey, “Kojève l’initiateur,” Magazine littéraire, no. 293,
(November 1991), p. 52.
125 For Lukács’s later description of his famous breakthough to Marxism as “an
attempt to out-Hegel Hegel,” see his preface to the new edition of Georg Lukács,
History and Class Consciousness, tr. Rodney Livingstone (Cambridge: MIT Press,
1971), p. xxiii.
126 For this description, see Auffret, Alexandre Kojève, p. 244.
127 In his otherwise excellent discussion, Descombes never seems to resolve or even
to attend to the differences between Hegel and Kojève, or between Hegel and
Hegel as read by Kojève, or, finally, between the views of Hegel and those of
Kojève presented by the latter as a mere reading of Hegel. See Descombes, Le
Même et l’autre.
128 For his important reading of Hegel, which remains influential in the French
discussion, see Hyppolite, Genèse et structure de la Phénoménologie de l’Ésprit
de Hegel.
129 Two examples will illustrate this point. In his list of works on Hegel, D’Hondt,
a well known Hegel specialist, does not even list Kojève’s book. See Jacques
D’Hondt, Hegel et le hégélianisme, p. 126. Similarly, in his lengthy, authoritative
introduction to the French translation of the Enyclopedia, Bourgeois, another
well known Hegel specialist, does not even mention Kojève. See G.W.F.Hegel,
Encyclopédie des sciences philosophiques: La Science de la logique, tr. Bernard
Bourgeois (Paris: Vrin, 1979).

130 The letter was addressed to Tran Duc Thao in 1948. See Auffret, Alexandre
Kojève, p. 249.
131 For a discussion of this concept, see Besnier, La Politique de l’impossible, pp.
59–70. See also Barry Cooper, The End of History: An Essay on Modern
Hegelianism (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1984).
132 Alexandre Kojève, “Le Concept et le temps,” in Deucalion 5 (1955), p. 18.
133 See Jacques Derrida, La Voix et le phénomène (Paris: Presses universitaires de
France, 1967), p. 115.
134 See e.g. G.W.F.Hegel, Werke in zwanzig Bänden, vol. XX: Vorlesungen über die
Geschichte der Philosophie, 3, ed. E.Moldenhauer and K.M.Michel (Frankfurt/
M: Suhrkamp, 1971), pp. 460, 476.
135 For a study of this theme, see Reinhart Klemens Maurer, Hegel und das Ende
der Geschichte (Freiburg i. B.: Karl Alber, 1980). For commentary on Kojève’s
view, see ibid., “Auseinandersetzung mit Kojève,” pp. 139–156.
136 See Hegel’s letter to Niethammer dated October 13, 1806, in Hegel: The Letters,
tr. Clark Butler and Christiane Seiler (Bloomington: Indiana University Press,
1984), pp. 114–115.
137 See Aron, Mémoires, p. 96.
138 See Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit,
§ 11, p. 6.
139 See G.W.F.Hegel, Philosophy of Right, tr. T.M.Knox (London: Oxford University
Press, 1967), p. 13.
140 For a discussion of Kojève’s and Hyppolite’s readings of Hegel’s Phenomenology,
see Mikel Dufrenne, “Actualité de Hegel,” in Esprit, (September 1948), pp.
141 For comparison, see Gaston Fessard, “Deux Interprètes de la Phénoménologie
de Hegel, Jean Hyppolite et Alexandre Kojève,” in Etudes, no. 255 (1947), pp.
142 See Findlay, Hegel: A Re-Examination, p. 5.
143 See Poster, Existential Marxism in Postwar France, p. 19.
144 Lukács continued to grapple with Hegel’s thought throughout his lengthy
Marxist period from 1918 to his death in 1971. In History and Class
Consciousness, he emphasized the Hegelian roots of Marx’s thought. In The
Young Hegel, he stressed the economic element in Hegel’s thought while
emphasizing the anthropological element. In his last, uncompleted work, Zur
Ontologie des gesellschaftlichen Seins, he underscored the tension in Hegel’s
thought between the commitment to conflicting forms of historical analysis
based on philosophical anthropology and on logic. For discussion of Lukács’s
views on Hegel, see Tom Rockmore, Irrationalism, chs. 6, 7, and 9.
145 Engels’s last, unfinished work deals with the dialectic of nature. See Friedrich
Engels, Dialektik der Natur, in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Werke, vol.
XX, ed. Institut für Marxismus-Leninismus beim ZK der SED (Berlin: Dietz
Verlag, 1975).
146 See Aimé Patri, “Dialectique du maître et de l’esclave,” Le Control social, vol.
5, no. 4 (July-August 1961), p. 234, cited in Alexandre Kojève, Introduction to
the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the “Phenomenology of Spirit”, ed. Allan
Bloom, tr. James H.Nichols, Jr. (New York: Basic Books, 1969), p. vii. Auffret
claims that it is incorrect to regard Kojève as a Hegelian disciple of Heidegger.
See Auffret, Alexandre Kojève, p. 178. In fact, Kojève was a Heideggerian and
Marxian disciple of Hegel.
147 See Aron, Mémoires, p. 94.
148 See ibid., p. 731.

149 See Auffret, Alexandre Kojève, p. 9. Auffret bases his statement on Aron’s
interview with Brochier. See Jean-Jacques Brochier, “Le regard froid de
l’analyste,” Le Magazine littéraire, no. 198 (September 1983), p. 26.
150 See Aron, Mémoires, 100.
151 Ibid., p. 94.
152 See G.W.F.Hegel, The Phenomenology of Mind, tr. J.B.Baillie (New York:
Macmillan, 1961).
153 His dissertation, written under the direction of Karl Jaspers, was entitled “Die
Religionsphilosophie Wladimir Solowjews.” A version of the dissertation was
later published in French. See Alexandre Kojève, “La métaphysique religieuse
de Vladimir Soloviev,” Revue d’histoire et de philosophie religieuses vol. 14,
no. 6 (1934), pp. 534–544, and vol. 15, nos. 1–2 (1935), pp. 110–152. Roth
maintains that Kojève’s concern in his dissertation to elucidate how a religious
thinker reconciles his concerns with history with a commitment to the eternal
decisively shaped Kojève’s later study of Hegel. See Roth, Knowing and History,
pp. 85–88. This reading of Kojève is explicitly contradicted by Kojève’s own
assertion that his reading of the Phenomenology is inspired by and derived
from Alexandre Koyré’s article on the concept of time in Hegel’s discussion of
the philosophy of nature in the Jena writings. See Kojève, Introduction à la
lecture de Hegel, p. 367
154 See Frederick Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the Outcome of Classical German
Philosophy, tr. C.P.Dutt (New York: International Publishers, 1941). Engels
straightforwardly identifies Hegel’s philosophy with the end of all history. See
ibid., p. 13.
155 See Jacques Derrida, Marges de la philosophie (Paris: Editions de Minuit,
1972), p. 144.
156 See Kojève, Introduction à la lecture de Hegel, p. 434.
157 See ibid., pp. 434–437.
158 See ibid., p. 39.
159 See ibid., p. 454.
160 See ibid., p. 562.
161 See ibid., pp. 95ff, 145, 157.
162 See ibid., pp. 535–536n.
163 See Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit,
§ 11, p. 6: “Besides, it is not difficult to see
that ours is a birth-time and a period of transition to a new era.”
164 Heidegger makes this claim in connection with his interest in Jünger’s reading
of Nietzsche. See Martin Heidegger, “The Rectorate 1933/34: Facts and
Thoughts,” in Martin Heidegger and National Socialism: Questions and
Answers, ed. Günther Neske and Emil Kettering (New York: Paragon House,
1990), p. 17.
165 Alexandre Kojève, Critique, no 2–3 (1946), p. 366, quoted in Descombes, Le
Même et l’autre, p. 21.
1 For an interpretation of Heidegger’s position in terms of his initial view of
subjectivity and later rejection of it, see Dieter Thomä, Die Zeit des Selbst und
die Zeit danach: Zur Kritik der Textgeschichte Martin Heideggers 1910–1976
(Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, 1990).
2 Descartes, for instance, writes: “In the matter of the cognition of facts two
things alone have to be considered, ourselves who know and the objects

themselves which are to be known.” René Descartes, The Philosophical Works
of Descartes, vol. I, ed. and tr. Elizabeth S.Haldane and G.R.T.Ross (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1970), p. 35.
3 See Ernest Barker, Greek Political Theory (New York: Barnes and Noble,
1961), p. 7:
Although, as has been said, the Greek thought of himself as one who
counted for what he was worth in his community—although he regarded
himself as a moment in determining its action—the fact remains that in
the political thought of Greece the notion of the individual is not prominent,
and the conception of rights seems hardly to have been attained.
4 See Saint Augustine, On Free Choice of the Will, tr. Anna S.Benjamin and L.H.
Hackstaff (Indianapolis: LLA, 1964).
5 See e.g. Etienne Gilson, La Liberté chez Descartes et la théologie (Paris: Alcan,
6 See Richard H.Popkin, The History of Scepticism from Erasmus to Spinoza
(Berkeley: The University of California Press, 1979), p. 87:
The wider popularity and application of the ‘nouveau Pyrrhonisme’ brought
out more sharply its implications for both religious [sic] and science. This,
in turn, gave rise to a series of attempts, culminating in the heroic failure
of René Descartes, to save human knowledge by destroying scepticism.
7 See Edmund Husserl, Cartesian Meditations: An Introduction to Phenomenology,
tr. Dorion Cairns (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1960), p. 157.
8 Augustine, On Free Choice of the Will, p. 40.
9 Ibid.; Augustine’s emphases.
10 See the first four of the “Rules for the Direction of the Mind,” in Descartes,
Philosophical Works, I, pp. 1–9 passim.
11 Ibid., pp. 14–22.
12 For a collection of articles on this problem, Antifoundationalism Old and New,
ed. T.Rockmore and B.Singer (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991).
For the distinctions between different forms of foundationalism and their relation
to antifoundationalism, see the introduction to Antifoundationalism Old and
New, pp. 1–12.
13 See Descartes, Philosophical Works, I, p. 10.
14 See ibid., p. 45.
15 Ibid., p. 101; Descartes’s emphases.
16 Ibid., p. 144.
17 Ibid., p. 331.
18 Ibid., pp. 101–102.
19 He makes this point explicitly in the fourth of the Meditations on First
Philosophy. See Descartes, Philosophical Works, I, p. 172.
20 See ibid., pp. 151–152.
21 See ibid., p.155.
22 See ibid., p. 107.
23 See Giambattista Vico, The New Science of Giambattista Vico, tr. Thomas Goddard
Bergin and Max Fisch (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1970),
§ 331, pp. 52–53.
24 See “Discours sur les sciences et les arts,” in Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Du Control
social ou Principes du droit politique (Paris: Garnier, 1962), p. 3.
25 See Kant’s letter to Beck of October 27, 1791, in Immanuel Kants Werke, ed.
Ernst Cassirer (11 vols., Berlin: Bruno Cassirer, 1912–1922), vol. X, p. 98:

“What can be more fitting in addition to that and in fact for an entire lifetime,
than to be concerned with the entire vocation [Bestimmung] of man, if one only
had hope …that the least progress could be made in that regard.”
26 See Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, tr. N.Kemp Smith (New York:
Macmillan, 1961), B 833, p. 635.
27 See Immanuel Kant, Introduction to Logic, tr.Thomas Kingsmill Abbott (New
York: Philosophical Library, 1963), p. 15.
28 The whole first volume of the Logische Untersuchungen is taken up with this
problem. See Edmund Husserl, Logische Untersuchungen, vol. I: Prolegomena
zur reinen Logik (Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 1980). Husserl has been accused
of later falling back into psychologism. See Martin Heidegger, On Time and
Being, tr. Joan Stambaugh (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), p. 76.
29 See Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, B 77–78, pp. 94–95.
30 For an interpretation of Kant’s critical philosophy against Kant’s explicit
intentions as an ontology, see Martin Heidegger, Kant and the Problem of
Metaphysics, tr. Richard M.Taft (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990).
31 See Kant, Critique of Pure Reason,
§ 16, B 131–135, pp. 152–157.
32 See ibid., B xvii, p. 22.
33 See ibid., B xvi, p. 22.
34 See ibid., B xiii, p. 20.
35 See G.W.F.Hegel, The Difference Between Fichte’s and Schelling’s System of
Philosophy, tr. H.S.Harris and Walter Cerf (Albany: State University of New
York Press, 1977), p. 80.
36 See ibid., p. 79.
37 See J.G.Fichte, Science of Knowledge (Wissenschaftslehre) with First and Second
Introductions, tr. Peter Heath and John Lachs, (New York: Appleton-Century-
Crofts, 1970), p. 226; see also Hegel, The Difference Between Fichte’s and
Schelling’s System of Philosophy, p. 81.
38 See Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, B 181, p. 183.
39 For an argument that Marx’s theory is not materialist, see George L.Kline, “The
Myth of Marx’s Materialism,” in Philosophical Sovietology: The Pursuit of a
Science, ed. Helmut Dahm, Thomas J.Blakeley, and George L.Kline (Dordrecht:
Reidel, 1988), pp. 158–203.
40 See Tom Rockmore, Fichte, Marx and the German Philosophical Tradition
(Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1980).
41 See Fichte, Science of Knowledge, p. 97.
42 See ibid.,
§§ 1–3, pp. 97–119.
43 See Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, B 380, p. 317.
44 See G.W.F.Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, tr. A.V.Miller (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1977), p. 9.
45 See ibid., p. 11.
46 See Georg Lukács, History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics,
tr. Rodney Livingstone (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1973), pp. 149–209.
47 See Iso Kern, Husserl und Kant (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1964).
48 Husserl held that the phenomenological reduction enabled him to suspend the
other sciences in order to attain the independence of phenomenology. For his
view of the methodological importance of the phenomenological reduction, see
Edmund Husserl, Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology, tr. W.R.
Boyce Gibson (New York: Collier Books, 1962),
§ 61, pp. 163–165.
49 For Husserl’s view of subjectivity, see the fourth of his Cartesian Meditations,
§§30–41, pp. 65–88.
50 The concept of constitution has attracted attention in the literature. Husserl
scholars hold that there is a transition from an early view that objects constitute

themselves to a later view that the subject constitutes them. For discussion, see
Herbert Spiegelberg, The Phenomenological Movement: A Historical
Introduction (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1982), pp. 130–131. See also
Maurice Natanson, Edmund Husserl: Philosopher of Infinite Tasks (Evanston:
Northwestern University Press, 1973), pp. 93–94.
51 See Husserl, Cartesian Meditations,
§ 41, pp. 83–88.
52 See e.g. the following statement by Ebeling:

Für die Philosophie Heideggers in Sein und Zeit möchte ich die Schlussfolgerung
ziehen: Sie ist der brillanteste Versuch der Vernichtung neuzeitlicher
Subjekttheorie und zugleich auch schon ein autodestruktives Wüten, an dessen
Ende die Zerstörung der Philosophie wie die Zerstörung der Politik steht.
(Hans Ebeling, “Philosophie auf Leben und Tod: Zum Verhältnis von
Selbstbehauptung und Sterblichsein in Heideggers ‘Sein und Zeit’, in
Martin Heidegger—Faszination und Erschrecken: Die politische
Dimension einer Philosophie, ed. P.Kemper (Frankfurt/M.: Campus,
1990), pp. 149–150)

53 See Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, tr. J.Macquarie and E.Robinson (New
York: Harper & Row, 1962), p. 62.
54 See ibid., p. 490 n1.
55 “Denken ist die Einschränkung auf einen Gedanken, der einst wie ein Stern am
Himmel der Welt stehen bleibt.” Martin Heidegger, Aus der Erfahrung des
Denkens (Frankfurt/M.: Vittorio Klostermann, 1983), p. 76.
56 See Heidegger, Being and Time, p. 1
57 Heidegger, Being and Time, p. 62; Heidegger’s emphases. Heidegger emphasizes
the importance of this passage by quoting it again at the end of the book. See
Being and Time, p. 437.
58 See Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, B 611–670, pp. 495–531.
59 Heidegger, Being and Time, p. 32.
60 See ibid., p. 32.
61 See ibid., p. 33.
62 See ibid., p. 83.
63 See ibid., p. 71.
64 This is a frequent theme in Husserl’s texts. For a short text devoted merely to
this problem, see Edmund Husserl, “Phenomenology and Anthropology,” in
Husserl: Shorter Works, ed. Peter McCormick and Frederick Elliston (Notre
Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981), pp. 315–323.
65 “Philosophie gilt mir, der Idee nach, als die universale und im radikalen Sinne
strenge Wissenschaft. Als das ist sie Wissenschaft aus letzter Begründung, oder,
was gleich gilt, aus letzter Selbstverantwortung, in der also keine prädikative
oder vorprädikative Selbstverständlichkeit als unbefragter Erkentnisboden
fungiert.” Edmund Husserl, “Nachwort zu meinen Ideen,” Husserliana, vol. V
(The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1950), p. 139.
66 See Heidegger, Being and Time,
§10, pp. 71–75.
67 For instance, in the published version of the Nietzsche lectures, he maintains
that the anthropological approach is so widespread and deep in modern
metaphysics that it cannot even be thought from within that perspective. See
Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche, vol. II (Pfullingen: Neske, 1961). p. 291.
68 See Heidegger, Being and Time,
§ 44, pp. 256–273.
69 See ibid., p. 265.
70 Ibid., pp. 56–57.

71 This difference has been widely noted. Lévinas, for instance, has emphasized
the opposition between the concepts of subjectivity in Husserl and Heidegger as
turning on the submergence of the Heideggerian subject in existence. See
“L’Oeuvre d’Edmond Husserl,” in Emmanuel Lévinas, En découvrant l’existence
avec Husserl et Heidegger (Paris: Vrin, 1988), p. 25.
72 Lévinas emphasizes the continuity subtending the opposition between views of
the subject as existence and as consciousness, since the former builds on the
latter. See Lévinas, En découvrant l’existence, p. 52.
73 See Immanuel Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, intr. Lewis White
Beck (Indianapolis: LLA, 1950).
74 See “The Age of the World Picture,” in Martin Heidegger, The Question
Concerning Technology and Other Essays, tr. William Lovitt (New York: Harper
& Row, 1977), p. 140.
75 Ibid., p. 153.
76 See Jean Wahl, “Heidegger et Kierkegaard: Recherche des éléments originaux
de la philosophie de Heidegger,” Recherches philosophiques, vol. 2 (1932–1933),
pp. 347–370.
77 See Alexandre Koyré, “L’Evolution philosophique de Martin Heidegger,” Critique
(1946), rpt. in Etudes d’histoire de la pensée philosophique (Paris, 1961).
78 See Jean Wahl, Vers le Concret: Etudes d’histoire de la philosophie contemporaine
(Paris: Vrin, 1932). Wahl provides an interpretation of Heidegger based on his
syncretic appropriation of others’ ideas in his own language and as a type of
protoexistentialist. He understands Heidegger as providing an abstract statement
of the views of Kierkegaard, pragmatism, Dilthey, and Spengler, and as “trying
to join to the feeling of individual existence as experienced, for instance, by
Kierkegaard the feeling of our existence in the midst of things as it has emerged
in contemporary philosophy.” Ibid., pp. 3–4.
79 The three articles, published over a period from 1953 to 1960, are reprinted in
Jean Hyppolite, Figures de la pensée philosophique, vol. II (Paris: Presses
universitaires de France, 1971). See “Note en manière d’introduction à Que
signifie penser?”, ibid., pp. 607–614; “Ontologie et phénoménologie chez Martin
Heidegger,” ibid., pp. 615–624; “Etude du commentaire de l’introduction à la
Phénoménologie par Heidegger,” ibid., pp. 625–642.
80 See Jean Hyppolite, Logique et existence: Essai sur la logique de Hegel (Paris:
Presses universitaires de France, 1953).
81 See Michael S.Roth, Knowing and History: Appropriations of Hegel in Twentieth-
Century France, ch. 3: “From Humanism to Being,” pp. 66–80.
82 See e.g. Hyppolite, Logique et existence, p. 246: “L’être se fonde en lui-même,
il est parce qu’il est possible, mais il est possible parce qu’il est.” If there is a
Heideggerian influence here, it is perhaps transmitted indirectly through Sartre’s
Being and Nothingness.
83 See Jean Hyppolite, Etudes sur Marx et Hegel (Paris: Marcel Rivière, 1955); tr.
Studies on Marx and Hegel, ed. and tr. John O’Neill (New York: Harper &
Row, 1973).
84 See Heidegger, Being and Time, pp. 279–311.
85 See A.Kojève, Introduction à la lecture de Hegel, ed. R.Queuneau (Paris:
Gallimard, 1947), pp. 529–575.
86 See ibid., p. 539.
87 See ibid., pp. 572–573.
88 See ibid., 575n.
89 Descombes’s claim that in France phenomenological existentialism is seen as
beginning with Merleau-Ponty is incorrect since Sartre has always been regarded

as an existentialist. See Vincent Descombes, Le Même et l’autre (Paris: Editions
de Minuit, 1979), p. 72.
90 Hollier says that French existentialism came into its own with the publication
of Jean Wahl’s work, Études kierkegardiennes in 1938. See The College of
Sociology (1937–39), ed. Denis Hollier, tr. Betsy Wing (Minneapolis: University
of Minnesota Press, 1988), p. viii.
91 See Jules Vuillemin, L’Héritage kantien et la révolution copernicienne (Paris:
Presses universitaires de France, 1954), pp. 227, 231.
92 In a reference to the French discussion after the Second World War, he writes:

Et l’existentialisme français—peut-être Gabriel Marcel mis à part—est
largement tributaire de la phénoménologie bien qu’il ne se soit nourri que
de la partie anthropologique de la pensée heideggerienne, de cette
philosophie de l’existence dont Heidegger ne veut pas pour lui.
Lévinas, En découvrant l’existence, p. 5.

93 For his important critique, see “The Battle over Existentialism,” in Maurice
Merleau-Ponty, Sense and Non-Sense, tr. Hubert L.Dreyfus and Patricia Allen
Dreyfus (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1964), pp. 71–82.
94 For Sartre’s account of his apprenticeship in the writings of Husserl and Heidegger,
see Jean-Paul Sartre, Les Carnets d’une drôle de guerre (Paris: Gallimard, 1983),
pp. 225–230. There is no similar account of which I am aware of how Sartre
acquired his knowledge of Hegel’s writings. For an effort to elucidate this problem,
see Christopher M.Fry, Sartre and Hegel: The Variations of an Enigma in “L’Etre
et le Néant” (Bonn: Bouvier, 1988), pp. 3–9.
95 See Sartre, Carnets d’une drôle de guerre, p. 224.
96 Ibid., p. 228.
97 See ibid., p. 229.
98 On the clear link between Sartre’s view of nothingness in Being and Nothingness
and Kojève’s reading of Hegel that does not address the further link between
Kojève and Heidegger, see Descombes, Le Même et l’autre, pp. 64–70.
99 See Jean-Paul Sartre, L’Existentialisme est un humanisms (Paris: Nagel, 1964).
100 For this view, see Maurice Merleau-Ponty, La Phénoménologie de la perception
(Paris: Gallimard, 1945); see also Maurice Merleau-Ponty, “Le Primat de la
perception et ses conséquences philosophiques,” in Bulletin de la Société française
de philosophie, vol. 41 (1947), pp. 119–153.
101 See Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Les Aventures de la dialectique (Paris: Gallimard,
1955), “Sartre et l’ultra-bolchevisme,” pp. 131–271.
102 The heterogeneity of the structuralist movement has led at least one observer to
deny that there is anything in common between so-called structuralists. See
François Châtelet, “Où est le structuralisme?,” in Quinzaine littéraire, no. 31
(July 1–15, 1967), pp. 18–19.
103 For a wide-ranging analysis of structuralism, see Jean Piaget, Le Structuralisme
(Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1968).
104 See Peter Caws, Structuralism: The Art of the Intelligible (Atlantic Highlands,
NJ: Humanities Press International, 1988), p. 1.
105 See Piaget, Le Structuralisme, p. 6.
106 See Michel Foucault, Les Mots et les choses: Une Archéologie des sciences
humaines (Paris: Gallimard, 1966), pp. 220–221.
107 See Descombes, Le Même et l’autre, p. 89.
108 According to Caws, deconstruction is one of the forms of structuralism. See
Caws, Structuralism, p. 162.

109 In his discussion, Piaget distinguishes between the conception of the human
individual as irrelevant and the idea of the “epistemic subject” or “cognitive
nucleus.” See Piaget, Le Structuralisme, p. 120.
110 Any list of structuralists is arbitrary, since there is no agreement about the nature
of “structuralism.” Goldmann can be counted as a structuralist since he calls
his method “genetic structuralism.”
111 See Piaget, Le Structuralisme, p. 58.
112 See Roland Barthes, “Death of the Author,” in Image, Music, Text, ed. and tr.
Stephen Heath (New York: Hill & Wang, 1977), p. 145:
Linguistically, the author is never more than the instance writing, just as the I is
nothing other than the instance saying I: language knows a “subject,” not a
“person,” and this subject, empty outside the very enunciation which defines it,
suffices to make language “hold together,” suffices, that is to say, to exhaust it.
113 See Claude Lévi-Strauss, La Pensée sauvage (Paris: Plon, 1964), pp. 347–348.
114 In a famous passage, Kant described this activity as “an art concealed in the
depths of the human soul….” Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, B 181, p. 183.
115 See Claude Lévi-Strauss, Anthropologie structurale (Paris: Plon, 1962), p. 28.
116 See Paul de Man, Blindness and Insight: Essays in the Rhetoric of Contemporary
Criticism (Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1983), p. 11.
117 On the relation of structuralism and Marxism, see Lucien Sebag, Marxisme et
structuralisme (Paris: Payot, 1964).
118 For a French humanist reading of Marx, see Jean-Yves Calvez, La Pensée de
Karl Marx (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1956, 1970).
119 This view is formulated in many places in his corpus, for instance in Friedrich
Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the Outcome of Classical German Philosophy,
ed. C.P.Dutt (New York: International Publishers, 1941).
120 For a critique of Althusser’s antihumanist structuralism, see “Le Marx
d’Althusser,” in Leszek Kolakowski, L’Esprit révolutionnaire (Brussels: Editions
Complexe, 1978), pp. 158–185.
121 Louis Althusser, For Marx, tr. Ben Brewster (New York: Vintage, 1970), pp.
122 Michel Foucault, Les Nouvelles littéraires, June 28–July 5, 1984, cited in Luc
Ferry and Alain Renaut, La Pensée 68 (Paris: Gallimard, 1988), p. 129.
123 Deleuze, Foucault’s close associate, correctly emphasizes this point. See Gilles
Deleuze, “L’homme, une existence douteuse,” in Le Nouvel Observateur, June
1, 1966, p. 33. In an interview published shortly after this article, Foucault
points out that in Les Mots et les choses, he desired only to point out how the
concept of human being was constituted at the end of the eighteenth and
beginning of the nineteenth centuries. See “L’Homme est-il mort? Un entretien
avec Michel Foucault,” Arts et loisirs, no. 38 (June 15–21, 1966), p. 15.
124 For this reading, see Georges Canguilhem, “Mort de l’homme ou l’épuisement
du cogito,” Critique, no. 242 (July 1967), pp. 599–618.
125 For a recent study of Foucault’s concept of the subject, see Stoekl, Agonies of
the Intellectual (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992), ch. 7: “Foucault
and the Intellectual Subject,” pp. 174–198. Stoekl argues that Foucault is doubly
dependent on both Heidegger and Nietzsche, and that Foucault’s Nietzschean
affirmation of the death of man depends on the indissociable link between
Nietzsche and Hegel.
126 See de Man, Blindness and Insight, p. 5.
127 See Foucault, Les Mots et les choses, p. 378.
128 The “romantic” view of the end of human being disseminated independently by
both Kojève and Heidegger echoed widely throughout French thought of the

period. For instance, Sartre noted in his journal that Simone de Beauvoir thought
that the human species came into being and would pass away at a future time.
See Sartre, Carnets de la drôle de guerre, p.35.
129 See Foucault, Les Mots et les choses, p. 394.
130 See ibid., p. 397.
131 Interview with Michel Foucault, Quinzaine littéraire, no. 5 (May 15, 1966),
cited in Didier Eribon, Michel Foucault (1926–1984) (Paris: Flammarion,
1991), p. 189.
132 See Foucault, Les Mots et les choses, p. 398.
1 Marten has recently stressed Heidegger’s almost mystical rhetorical capacities.
See Rainer Marten, Heidegger Lesen (Munich: W.Fink, 1991).
2 For a version of this argument, see “Heideggers Übersetzung des ‘je eigenen
Daseins’ in das deutsche Dasein,” in Karl Löwith, Mein Leben in Deutschland
vor und nach 1933: Ein Bericht (Frankfurt/M.: Fischer, 1989), pp. 32–42.
3 De Man, who is a seasoned observer of the continental scene, maintains that its
rapid change is a sign of crisis. See Paul de Man, Blindness and Insight: Essays
in the Rhetoric of Contemporary Criticism (Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press, 1983), p. 3.
4 For a general survey, see Kate Soper, Humanism and Anti-Humanism (La Salle,
IL: Open Court), 1986.
5 For discussion, see Ernesto Grassi, Einführung in philosophische Probleme des
Humanismus (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1986), pp. 13–
18. As early as the “Rules,” Descartes drew a distinction between historical and
systematic study in favor of a systematic procedure that in principle excluded
any reliance on what others had previously thought. See the third of the “Rules
for the Direction of the Mind,” in René Descartes, The Philosophical Works of
Descartes, vol. I, ed. and trans. E.S.Haldane and G.R.T.Ross (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1970), pp. 5–8.
6 See “Letter on Humanism”, in Martin Heidegger, Basic Writings, ed. D.F.Krell
(New York: Harper & Row, 1977) pp. 189–242.
7 See Julien Benda, La Trahison des clercs (Paris: Grasset, 1975), pp. 153–154.
8 For a short discussion of Renaissance humanism, see the introduction to The
Renaissance Philosophy of Man, ed. Ernst Cassirer, Paul Oskar Kristeller, and
John Herman Randall, Jr. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971) pp. 1–20.
9 For an account, see Jacob Burkhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in
Italy, ed. Irene Gordon (New York: New American Library, 1960). According
to Grassi, humanism precedes Renaissance philosophy. See Grassi, Einführung
in philosophische Probleme des Humanismus, p. 2.
10 See Jean-Claude Margolin, “Humanism in France,” in The Impact of Humanism
in Western Europe, ed. Anthony Goodman and Angus MacKay (London:
Longman, 1990), p. 164: “In some respects, despite controversies, it might be
accepted that European humanism, especially in Western Europe, oscillated
between an enthusiastic practice of the studia humanitatis and a philosophy of
man based on an acute awareness of his dignity.”
11 Harald Höffding, A History of Modern Philosophy, vol. I, tr. B.E.Meyer (New
York: Dover, 1955), p. 12.
12 Gay, who usefully considers humanism as the revival of classical letters, fails to
devote sufficient attention to its other dimensions. See Peter Gay, The

Enlightenment: An Interpretation, (2 vols., New York: Norton, 1977), vol. I,
pp. 257–322.
13 On Niethammer’s classical humanism, see Hegel: The Letters, tr. Clark Butler and
Christiane Seiler (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984), pp. 138–139.
14 See Roland W.Henke, Hegels Philosophieunterricht (Würzburg: Königshausen
& Neumann, 1989).
15 Pico della Mirandola, Oration on the Dignity of Man,
§ 3, cited in The
Encyclopedia of Philosophy, vol. III, ed. Paul Edwards (New York: Macmillan,
1972), p. 70. For a discussion similar to Mirandola’s, see Ludovicus Vives, “A
Fable About Man,” in The Renaissance Philosophy of Man, ed. E.Cassirer,
P.O.Kristeller, and J.H.Randall, Jr. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971),
pp. 387–393.
16 See Michel Foucault, “What Is Enlightenment?,” in The Foucault Reader, ed.
Paul Rabinow (New York: Pantheon, 1984), pp. 43–44.
17 See Ernst Cassirer, The Philosophy of the Enlightenment, tr. Fritz C.A.Koelln
and James P.Pettegrove (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968).
18 See Gay, The Enlightenment: An Interpretation, and The Party of Humanity:
Essays in the French Enlightenment (New York: Norton, 1971).
19 David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, ed. L.A.Selby-Bigge (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1968), p. 273.
20 Ibid., p. xix.
21 Ibid., p. xx.
22 Ibid.
23 See Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, tr. N.Kemp Smith (New York:
Macmillan, 1961), B xxx, p. 29.
24 See Immanuel Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, intr. L.W.Beck
(Indianapolis: LLA, 1950), p. 8.
25 See “An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment?,” in Immanuel Kant,
Perpetual Peace and Other Essays, tr. Ted Humphrey (Indianapolis: Hacket,
1985), p. 41.
26 See Tom Rockmore, “Subjectivity and the Ontology of History,” in The Monist,
vol. 74, no. 2 (April 1991), pp. 187–205.
27 Olson has recently argued that spirit understood in a specifically Lutheran sense
is Hegel’s central category. See Alan M.Olson, Hegel and the Spirit: Philosophy
as Pneumatology, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992).
28 See Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, B 508, p. 433.
29 Ibid., B 867, pp. 657–658.
30 Ibid., B 867, p. 658.
31 See Edmund Husserl, Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology, tr.
W.R.Boyce Gibson (New York: Collier Books, 1962), p. 166.
32 Hyppolite points to Hegel’s implicit humanism when he writes that
la Phénoménologie a eu dans tous les cas le mérite d’exposer les fondements
du fait humain et de sa rationalité possible, de proposer une voie d’accès à
ces fondements, quand le dogmatisme classique de la vérité éternelle aussi
bien que la notion d’une conscience transcendentale étaient ébranlés par le
devenir historique.
(Jean Hyppolite, “Situation de l’homme dans la phénoménologie
hégélienne,” Les Temps Modernes, no. 19 (April 1947), p. 1289)

33 See Mikel Dufrenne, Pour l’homme (Paris: Seuil, 1968).
34 See Roger Garaudy, Perspectives de l’homme: Existentialisme, pensée Catholique,
structuralisme, Marxisme (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1969).

35 See Heinrich Heine, Religion and Philosophy in Germany, tr. John Snodgrass
(Albany: SUNY Press, 1986).
36 See Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness, tr. by Hazel E.Barnes (New York:
Washington Square Press, 1973), p. 792.
37 For a view of the Enlightenment as centrally concerned with a pagan conception
of human being, see Gay, The Enlightenment: An Interpretation, vol. I: The
Rise of Modern Paganism.
38 Henri de Lubac, Le Drame de l’humanisme (Paris: Cerf, 1983), p. 8.
39 For an illustration of this view, see Roger Daval, Histoire des idées en France
(Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1965), p. 122.
40 See André Bourde, “Les lumières, 1715–1789,” in Histoire de la France de
1348 à 1852, ed. by Georges Duby (Paris: Larousse, 1988), p. 277.
41 See Etienne Gilson, “L’Etre et Dieu,” Revue Thomiste, vol. 62 (April/June 1962),
p. 181: “Il y eut un temps où le christianisme était mort et nul n’en doutait. Ce
fut le temps des philosophies, illustré par le déisme rationaliste de Voltaire et les
athéismes plus ou moins hésitants de d’Alembart et de Diderot.”
42 Denis Diderot, “Epicuréisme,” in Oeuvres, vol. XIV: Encyclopédie, p. 525, cited
in Gay, The Enlightenment, vol. I, p. 305.
43 According to Margolin, in comparison with Italian humanism between 1480
and 1520 the French variety is characterized by a greater degree of continuity
between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and a critical or even hostile
reaction to certain Italian views on art, thought, and style. See Margolin,
“Humanism in France,” pp. 164–165.
44 See François Rabelais, Pantagruel, ed. Pierre Michel (Paris: Librairie Générale
Française, 1972), bk. 2, ch. 8, pp. 119–132.
45 For an interesting effort to understand the views of Descartes and Pascal as
opposing reactions to those of Montaigne, see Léon Brunschwicg, Descartes et
Pascal: Lecteurs de Montaigne (New York and Paris: Brentano, 1944).
46 “Devant ce monde inconnu, l’homme cherche un refuge dans sa propre vie. Sa
vie lui appartient comme une donnée toujours présente.” Bernard Groethuysen,
Anthropologie philosophique (Paris: Gallimard, 1952), p. 264.
47 Referring to Montaigne, Pascal mentions “Le sot projet qu’il a de se peindre.”
Blaise Pascal, Pensées, ed. L.Brunschvicg (Paris: Garnier, 1961), s. 2, no. 62.
Voltaire, on the contrary, evokes “Le charmant projet que Montaigne a eu de se
peindre naivement comme il l’a fait, car il a peint la nature humaine.” Voltaire,
Lettres philosophiques, lettre XXV: “Sur les pensées de Pascal.”
48 Michel Montaigne, Les Essais de Michel de Montaigne, ed. Pierre Villey (Paris:
Presses universitaires de France, 1965), p. 3.
49 See Donald M.Frame, Montaigne’s Discovery of Man: The Humanization of a
Humanist (New York: Columbia University Press, 1955), p. 168:

We may still call him a humanist in his late years. If we do, however, we
are in fact declaring that he has changed the meaning of the term. He has
given it a breadth and scope it had never had before. He has made it, even
as he has made himself, fully human.
50 See Françoise Charpentier, Essais, Montaigne (Paris: Hatier, 1979), p. 50:
Ce problème de la vérité plongera Montaigne dans la plus grave crise de sa
vie, que retrace l’Apologie de Raymond Sebond. C’est pour être passé par
ce tourniquet du doute, pour s’être mis “à rouet” comme il dit, que
Montaigne, ayant compris qu’il n’est d’autre vérité qu’en soi-même,

acceptera de regarder, de cultiver patiemment et doucement ce moi, jusqu’à
devenir enfin capable de l’accepter totalement, d’en “jouir loyalement”:
véritable philosophie de l’existence, au sens même que la pensée moderne
de l’existentialisme donne à cette expression.
51 Descartes provides an original kind of foundationalism, but not the first version
of foundationalism. Bacon says that “the fabric of human reason” is lacking a
“foundation” and recommends “a total reconstruction of sciences, arts, and all
human knowledge, raised upon the proper foundations.” “The Great
Instauration,” in Francis Bacon, The New Organon and Related Writings, ed.
Fulton H. Anderson (Indianapolis: LLA, 1960), pp. 3–4.
52 For a reading of Descartes as a humanist, see Roger Lefèvre, L’Humanisme de
Descartes (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1957). According to Lefèvre,
in virtue of his interest in humanism, Descartes anticipates later French
existentialism. See Roger Lefèvre, La Pensée existentialiste de Descartes (Paris:
Bordas, n.d.), p. 178.
53 See Lefèvre, L’Humanisme de Descartes, p. vii: “On découvre que le cartésianisme
est, et a voulu être—répondant à son époque afin de la dépasser—un effort
d’amélioration de la nature par la culture, un appel à l’épanouissement de la
liberté …”; and ibid., p. 246: “l’Humanisme cartésien appelle les siècles futurs
à relever l’humanité.” For other, recent discussion, see André Glucksmann,
Descartes, c’est la France (Paris: Flammarion, 1987).
54 See Discourse on Method, in Descartes, Philosophical Works, I, p. 107.
55 See ibid., p. 87.
56 See ibid., p. 116.
57 See ibid., p. 401.
58 See “Cartesianism” in J.B.Bury, The Idea of Progress: An Inquiry into Its Origin
and Growth (New York: Macmillan, 1932), pp. 64–77.
59 See André Bourde, “Les lumières,” pp. 269–270.
60 Denis Diderot, Rameau’s Nephew and Other Works, tr. Jacques Barzun and
Ralph H.Bowen (Indianapolis: LLA, 1964), p. 293.
61 Rousseau maintains that the difference between animals and human beings lies
in the fact that human beings can perfect themselves:
Mais, quand les difficultés qui environnent toutes ces questions laisseraient
quelque lieu de disputer sur cette différence de l’homme et de l’animal, il y
a une autre qualité très spécifique qui les distingue, et sur laquelle il ne
peut y avoir de contestation; c’est la faculté de se perfectionner, faculté
qui, à l’aide des circonstances, développe successivement toutes les autres,
et réside parmi nous tant dans l’espèce que dans l’individu.
(J.-J.Rousseau, “Discours sur cette question proposée par l’Académie
de Dijon: Quelle est l’origine de l’inégalité parmi les hommes et si
elle est autorisée par la loi naturelle,” in Du contrat social
(Paris: Garnier, 1962), p. 48)
62 Condorcet, Esquisse d’un tableau historique des progrès de l’esprit humain, ed.
Alain, Pons (Paris: Flammarion, 1988), p. 266.
63 See Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity, tr. George Eliot (New York:
Harper & Row, 1957).
64 See Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling, tr. Walter Lowrie (Garden City:
Doubleday, n.d.).
65 Hegel famously held that the French Revolution was an example of abstract
reason in the social sphere that in practice contradicted its theoretical aims. See

the discussion of “Absolute Freedom and Terror,” in G.W.F.Hegel,
Phenomenology of Spirit, tr. A.V.Miller (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977),
pp. 355–363.
66 Burke argued that the French Revolution was the result of the characteristic
Enlightenment contempt of tradition. See Edmund Burke, Reflections on the
Revolution in France, ed. Thomas H.D.Mahoney, with an analysis by Oskar
Piest (Indianapolis: LLA, 1955).
67 See e.g. Daniel Guérin, L’Anarchisme (Paris: Gallimard, 1965).
68 For a description, see Cornelius Castoriadis, “Les Mouvements des années
soixante,” cited in Luc Ferry and Alain Renaut, 68–86: Itinéraires de l’individu
(Paris: Gallimard, 1987), pp. 50–51.
69 See e.g. Maurice Blondel, “Le Christianisme de Descartes,” Revue de la
métaphysique et de la morale, 4 (1896), pp. 551–567.
70 Descartes, Philosophical Works, I, p. 145.
71 Ibid., p. 133.
72 See Daval, Histoire des idées en France, pp. 29, 38.
73 See the excellent “Introduction” by Alain Pons to Condorcet, Esquisse d’un
tableau historique, pp. 36–37.
74 See ibid., p. 37.
75 See Blaise Pascal, Pensées, ed. Jacques Chevalier, intr. Jean Guitton (Paris:
Librairie Générale de France, 1962), p. 185,
§ 384: “Le pyrrhonisme est le
vrai.” Ibid., § 387: “Le pyrrhonisme sert à la religion.”
76 See Blaise Pascal, Les Provinciales, (Paris: Editions Garnier, 1965), “Dixhuitième
lettre,” pp. 354–380.
77 See Heidegger, “Letter on Humanism”, pp. 193–242.
78 A fifth factor, whose role was probably slight, is Heidegger’s attention to other
philosophical figures, such as Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. The latter’s thought
was introduced into French at the beginning of the century by Henri Delacroix
and Victor Basch. It is, then, significant that the discussion of Wahl’s account of
existentialism in a 1946 lecture turns in part on his account of the relation of
Heidegger and Kierkegaard. See Jean Wahl, A Short History of Existentialism,
tr. Forrest Williams and Stanley Maron (New York: Philosophical Library, 1949).
79 For details, see Georges Bataille, cited in The College of Sociology (1937–
1939), p. 299.
80 See Martin Heidegger, “De la nature de la cause,” tr. A.Bessey, Recherches
philosophiques, vol. 1, no. 1 (1931), pp. 83–125.
81 Alexandre Koyré, “Qu’est-ce que la métaphysique? Introduction,” Bifur, no. 8
(June 1931), p. 5.
82 Ibid., p. 5.
83 Ibid., p. 6.
84 Ibid., p. 8.
85 See Alexandre Koyré, “L’Evolution philosophique de Martin Heidegger,”
Critique (1946); rpt. in Etudes d’histoire de la pensée philosophique (Paris:
Armand Colin, 1961).
86 See Jean Wahl, “Heidegger et Kierkegaard: Recherches des éléments originaux
de la philosophie de Heidegger,” Recherches philosophiques, vol. 2, (1932), pp.
87 See Martin Heidegger, Qu’est-ce que la métaphysique?, tr. Henry Corbin (Paris:
Gallimard, 1938). This volume contains the first complete French translation of
“Was ist Metaphysik?,” a complete translation of “Vom Wesen des Grundes,”
§§ 46–53 and 72–76 of Sein und Zeit, §§ 42–45 of Kant und das Problem der
Metaphysik, and a complete translation of “Hölderlin und das Wesen der Dichtung.”
88 See Georges Gurvitch, Les Tendances actuelles de la philosophie allemande (Paris:
Vrin, 1930).

89 See Emmanuel Lévinas, “Martin Heidegger et l’ontologie,” Revue philosophique,
(May–June 1932), pp. 395–431, rpt. in Emmanuel Lévinas, En découvrant
l’existence avec Husserl et Heidegger (Paris: Vrin, 1988). See also his early essay,
“L’ontologie dans le temporel,” originally published in Spanish, which appeared
in French in 1949 in the first edition of this work.
90 It was published immediately. See Emmanuel Lévinas, Théorie de l’intuition
dans la phénoménologie de Husserl (Paris: Vrin, 1930).
91 See Alexandre Kojève, “Compte rendu de Georg Misch, Lebensphilosophie und
Phänomenologie,” Recherches philosophiques, vol. 2 (1932–1933), pp. 470–
474; “Compte rendu de J.Kraft, Von Husserl zu Heidegger” Recherches
philosophiques, vol. 2 (1932–1933), pp. 475–477; “Compte rendu de La
Phénoménologie: Journées d’études de la Société Thomiste,” Recherches
philosophiques, vol. 3 (1933–1934), pp. 429–431; “Compte rendu de
A.Sternberger, Der verstandene Tod: Eine Untersuchung zu Martin Heideggers
Existentialontologie,” Recherches philosophiques, vol. 4 (1934–1935), pp. 400–
402; “Compte rendu de A.Delp, Tragische Existenz: Zur Philosophie Martin
Heideggers,” Recherches philosophiques, vol. 5 (1935–1936); “Compte rendu
de A.Fischer, Die Existenzphilosophie Martin Heideggers: Darlegung und
Würdigung ihrer Grundgedanken,” Recherches philosophiques, vol. 6 (1936–
1937), pp. 396–397.
92 See Kojève, “Compte rendu de A.Fischer, pp. 396–397.
93 Gurvitch, Les Tendances actuelles de la philosophie allemande.
94 See E.Levinas, “Martin Heidegger et l’ontologie,” in En découvrant l’existence
avec Heidegger et Husserl (Paris: Vrin, 1988), pp. 53–76. This article first
appeared in 1932.
95 See Lévinas, En découvrant l’existence, p. 89.
96 Heidegger is careful to reject any claim for a positive link between Hegel’s thought
and his own. See Martin Heidegger, Hegels Phänomenologie des Geistes, ed.
Ingtraud Görland (Frankfurt/M.: Vittorio Klostermann, 1988).
97 See M.Heidegger, Being and Time, tr. J.Macquarie and E.Robinson (New York:
Harper & Row, 1962),
§ 82: “A Comparison of the Existential-ontological
Connection of Temporality, Dasein, and World-time, with Hegel’s Way of Taking
the Relation between Time and Spirit,” pp. 480–486.
98 For a critical discussion of Heidegger’s remarks on Hegel’s view of force and
understanding, see Denise Souche-Dagues, Hégélianisme et dualisme: Réflexions
sur le phénomène (Paris: Vrin, 1990), pp. 20–32.
99 A.Kojève, Introduction à la lecture de Hegel, ed. R.Queneau (Paris: Gallimard,
1947), p. 527n.
100 See Heidegger’s letter, dated March 10, 1937, to his French translator, Henry
Corbin, in Martin Heidegger, Questions I et II (Paris: Gallimard, 1968), p. 10.
101 For Kant’s analysis of the ontological proof of the existence of God, see Kant,
Critique of Pure Reason, B 620–631, pp. 500–507.
102 Writing after the controversy concerning the proper rendering of Dasein into
French, Aubenque maintains that it is better to leave the term in the original
since any translation runs the risk of falsifying Heidegger’s intentions. See his
“Présentation” of Ernst Cassirer and Martin Heidegger, Débat sur le kantisme
et la philosophie (Davos, mars 1929) (Paris: Beauchesnes, 1972), p. 9.
103 Michel Haar, a respected French Heidegger specialist, remarks in the preface to
a recent edition of Heidegger’s writings, that Corbin’s initial translations provided
the French public with access to Heidegger’s writings. See Heidegger, Questions
I et II, p. 7.
104 Kojève, Introduction à la lecture de Hegel, p. 11.
105 See Heidegger, Being and Time, p. 33.
106 See Heidegger, Questions I et II, pp. 9–17.

107 Ibid., p. 20.
108 See Jean-Paul Sartre, L’Existentialisme est un humanisme (Paris: Nagel, 1964).
109 See “A Propos de l’Existentialisme,” in Jean Beaufret, Introduction aux
philosophies de l’existence: De Kierkegaard à Heidegger (Paris: Denoël/ Gonthier,
1971), pp. 9–63.
110 Heidegger, Questions I et II, p. 14.
111 Jean-Paul Sartre, Esquisse d’une théorie des émotions (Paris: Hermann, 1965),
p. 8; Sartre’s emphases. Sartre maintained this translation of Dasein even in
later writings; in his famous popular lecture on existentialism, for instance, he
speaks of “l’homme ou, comme dit Heidegger, la réalité humaine.” Sartre,
L’Existentialisme est un humanisme, p. 21.
112Le Collège de sociologie (1937–1939), ed. by Roger Hollier (Paris: Gallimard,
1979), p. 187.
113 See Simone de Beauvoir, La Force de l’âge (Paris: Gallimard, 1960), p. 483.
114 See Bulletin de la Société française de philosophie, 1937, p. 168.
115 See ibid., pp. 168–172.
116 See Jean Wahl, La Pensée de l’existence (Paris: Flammarion, 1951), pp. 5–6.
117 See Jean Wahl, Mots, mythes et réalité dans la pensee de Heidegger (Paris: Les
cours de la Sorbonne, 1962), p. 183.
118 See Otto Pöggeler, “Jean Wahls Heidegger-Deutung,” Zeitschrift für
philosophische Forschung, 1958, pp. 437–458.
119 See Bulletin de la Société française de philosophie, 1937, pp. 193–194.
120 Jean-Paul Sartre, “La république du silence,” in Situations, III, pp. 11–12, cited
in John Gerassi, Jean-Paul Sartre: Hated Conscience of His Century (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1989), p. 174.
121 According to Spiegelberg, more than anyone else Sartre created interest in Husserl
in France. See Herbert Spiegelberg, The Phenomenological Movement: A
Historical Introduction (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1982), p. 434.
122 For a short summary of Sartre’s reading of the three H’s, see Sartre, Being and
Nothingness, “Husserl, Hegel, Heidegger,” pp. 315–339.
123 Jean Beaufret, Introduction aux philosophies de l’existence (Paris: Denoël, 1971), p. 5.
124 See Jean-Paul Sartre, Situations, X (Paris: Gallimard, 1975), p. 110.
125 See Juliette Simont, “Sartre et la conscience malheureuse,” in Magazine littéraire,
no. 293 (November 1991), pp. 59–61.
126 See Christopher M.Fry, Sartre and Hegel: The Variations of an Enigma in “L’Etre
et le Néant,” p. 3.
127 See Beauvoir, La Force de l’âge, p. 447.
128 Jean-Paul Sartre, Critique de la raison dialectique (Paris: Gallimard, 1960),
p. 248.
129 Sartre seems on occasion not to be aware of the outside world. In reference to
his journal, he writes: “Le carnet est une tâche, une humble tâche quotidienne
et c’est plutôt avec humilité qu’on le relit.” Jean-Paul Sartre, Les Carnets de la
drôle de guerre (Paris: Gallimard, 1983), p. 90.
130 Ibid., p. 34.
131 See Immanuel Kant, Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals, tr.
by Thomas K.Abbott (New York: LLA, 1949), p. 67.
132 See Sartre, Being and Nothingness, p. 562.
133 See ibid., p. 568.
134 See ibid., p. 571.
135 Jean-Paul Sartre, Lettres au Castor et à quelques autres (2 vols., Paris: Gallimard,
1983), vol. II, p. 301, cited in Gerassi, Sartre, p. 170.
136 For a discussion of tradition, see Heidegger, Being and Time,
§ 74.

137 See Arthur Danto, “Thoughts of a Bourgeois Draftee,” in New York Times
Book Review, March 31, 1985, cited in Gerassi, Sartre, p. 168.
138 According to Sartre, he modified his initial view of absolute freedom by accepting
as early as the early 1940s the idea that freedom is limited by the freedom of the
other. See Simone de Beauvoir, La Cérémonie des adieux, suivi de Entretiens
avec Jean-Paul Sartre (Paris: Gallimard, 1981), p. 453.
139 Jean-Paul Sartre, Situations, I (Paris: Gallimard, 1947), p. 33: Il faudra deux
siècles de crise—crises de la Foi, crise de la Science—pour que l’homme récupère
cette liberté créatrice que Descartes a mise en Dieu et pour qu’on soupçonne
cette vérité, base essentielle de l’humanisme, l’homme et l’être dont l’apparition
fait qu’un monde existe.
140 In a letter to Simone de Beauvoir dated January 9, 1940 he complains that in
rereading his journal he became aware that the clearest ideas were due to
Heidegger. The letter is cited in Annie Cohen-Solal, Sartre (Paris: Gallimard,
1985), p. 202.
141 One should distinguish sharply between Sartre’s technical thought and his
informal, public presentations of it. For a discussion of this lecture, see Thomas
R.Flynn, Sartre and Marxist Existentialism: The Test Case of Collective
Responsibility (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), pp. 31–48.
142 See Martin Heidegger, “The Self-Assertion of the German University,” in Martin
Heidegger and National Socialism: Questions and Answers, ed. G.Neske and
E.Kettering (New York: Paragon, 1990), pp. 15–31. For an analysis of this text,
see T.Rockmore, On Heidegger’s Nazism and Philosophy (Berkeley: Unviersity
of California Press, 1992), chapter 2, pp. 28–72.
143 In his lecture, where he insists on the need for action, he insists on his Cartesianism
when he writes:
Il ne peut pas y avoir de vérité autre, au point de départ, que celle-ci: je
pense donc je suis, c’est là la vérité absolue de la conscience s’atteignant
elle-même. Toute théorie qui prend l’homme en dehors de ce moment où il
s’atteint lui-même est d’abord une théorie qui supprime la vérité.
(Sartre, L’Existentialisme est un humanisme, p. 64)
144 For discussion of the compatibility of Sartre’s thought and Marxism, see Tom
Rockmore, “Sartre and ‘the Philosophy of Our Time’,” Journal of the British
Society for Phenomenology, vol. 9, no. 2 (May 1978), pp. 92–101.
1 Pöggeler, one of the leading German Heidegger scholars, correctly recognized
Sartre’s role in the French Heidegger reception. “Durch den Einsatz Sartres ist
Heidegger zu einem Denker geworden, der die Diskussionen der französischen
Intelligenz entscheidend mitbestimmt”. Otto Pöggeler, “Jean Wahls Heidegger-
Deutung,” in Zeitschrift für philosophische Forschung, 1958, p. 438.
2 For Deleuze’s view of the deep impression made by this work, see James Miller,
The Passion of Michel Foucault (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), p. 40.
3 See J.Gerassi, Jean-Paul Sartre: Hated Conscience of His Century (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1989), p. 30:
No intellectual, no writer, no man is more hated by academics and newsfolk, by
eggheads and politicians on both sides of the Atlantic than Jean-Paul Sartre.
Nor is this new: Sartre has been hated by them for half a century.

4 For a complete list, see Gerassi, Sartre, ch. 2: “L’Adulte Terrible,” pp. 30–37.
5 See e.g. “Plaidoyer pour les intellectuels: Trois conférences données à Tokyo et
à Kyoto en septembre et octobre 1966,” in Jean-Paul Sartre, Situations
philosophiques (Paris: Gallimard, 1990), pp. 219–281.
6 Michel points out that during the occupation, no one could publish without the
approval of the Germans. He provides an impressive list of other writers, including
Camus, Valery, Troyat, Gulloin, Cocteau, Mauriac, Gide and Paulhan who
continued to publish in France rather than abroad, like Wahl and some others,
during the occupation. See Henri Michel, Paris allemand (Paris: Albin Michel,
1981), ch. 9: “L’Activité culturelle: evasion ou soumission?,” pp. 315–346.
7 This is the main message of Joseph’s recent critical study. See Gilbert Joseph,
Une si douce occupation: Simone de Beauvoir et Jean-Paul Sartre, 1940–1944
(Paris: Albin Michel, 1991). For a similar study, mainly devoted to Simone de
Beauvoir, see also Bianca Lamblin, Mémoires d’une jeune fille dérangée (Paris:
Editions Balland, 1993).
8 “L’homme est-il mort?,” Arts et loisirs, June 15, 1966, cited in D.Eribon, Michel
Foucault (Paris: Flammarion, 1991), p. 189.
9 This view is elaborated by Descombes, who usefully relates it to Heidegger. See
Vincent Descombes, Le Même et l’autre (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1979), p. 93.
10 See Eribon, Foucault, p. 297.
11 See ibid., p. 188.
12 See Pierre Bourdieu, Le Sens pratique (Paris: Minuit, 1980), p. 8, cited in Eribon,
Foucault, p. 188.
13 See Jean-Paul Sartre, La Nausée (Paris: Gallimard, 1938), pp. 164–179.
14 Kanapa rightly noted that everyone was for humanism although the different
views of humanism did not necessarily share anything more than the term. See
Jean Kanapa, L’Existentialisme n’est pas un humanisme (Paris: Editions Sociales,
1947), pp. 13–14.
15 “Tous les courants de pensée se recommandaient de l’humanisme au lendemain
de la Seconde Guerre mondiale: Sartre démontrait que l’existentialisme est un
humanisme, les marxistes l’utilisaient aussi à leur profit, et le P.Henri de Lubac
reconnaissait à certains types d’athéisme un caractère humaniste.” Jean-Claude
Margolin, L’Humanisme en Europe (Paris: Presses universitaires de France,
1981), p. 6.
16 See Jean Lacouture, Léon Blum (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1977), pp. 517–523.
17 See Tony Judt, Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals, 1944–1956 (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1992).
18 See Judt, Past Imperfect, pp. 87–88, 90.
19 See Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Humanisme et terreur: Essai sur le problème
communiste (Paris: Gallimard, 1947).
20 See Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Les Aventures de la dialectique (Paris: Gallimard,
21 See e.g. Drieu la Rochelle, Socialisme fasciste (Paris: Gallimard, 1934).
22 Joseph show’s that the myth of Sartre’s actual participation in the resistance
movement is no more than that. See Joseph, Une si douce occupation, pp. 366ff.
For a study of the role of intellectuals, see Jacques Débru-Bridel, La Résistance
intellectuelle (Paris: Juilliard, 1970).
23 See Annie Cohen-Solal, Paul Nizan: Communiste impossible (Paris: Grasset, 1980).
24 See Politzer centre le nazisme, ed. Roger Bourderon (Paris: Editions sociales, 1984).
25 See Gabrielle Ferrières, Jean Cavaillès: Un Philosophe dans la guerre, 1903–
1944 (Paris: Seuil, 1982); see also Georges Canguilhem, Vie et mort de Jean
Cavaillès (Ambialet/Villefrance-Albigeois: Laleure, 1976).

26 Roger Garaudy, Les Lettres françaises, December 28, 1945, p. 89, cited in Cohen-
Solal, Sartre, p. 381.
27 Jean Wahl, Petite Histoire de l’existentialisme (Paris: Club Maintenant, 1947), p. 12.
28 See Bulletin de la Société Française de Philosophie, 1937, pp. 193–194. In
reaction to a paper presented by Jean Wahl, Heidegger writes (p. 193): “Vos
remarques critiques au sujet de la ‘philosophie de l’existence’ sont très instructives.
Je dois cependant redire que mes tendances philosophiques, bien qu’il soit
question dans Sein und Zeit d’ ‘Existenz’ et de ‘Kierkegaard’, ne peuvent être
classées comme Existenzphilosophie.”
29 For an account of the occasion, see Miller, The Passion of Michel Foucault,
pp. 42–44.
30 In respect to Sartre’s lecture, Burnier writes:
l’importance prise par ces pages semble due à la paresse d’un bon nombre
de critiques qui hésitaient à lire l’Etre et le Néant et qui furent heureux de
pouvoir attaquer Sartre sans grande fatigue et avec bonne conscience après
avoir parcouru 141 pages.
(M.A.Burnier, Les Existentialistes et la politique, p. 31,
cited in Michel Contat and Michel Rybalka, Les Ecrits de Sartre:
Chronologie, bibliographie commentée (Paris: Gallimard, 1970), p. 131)

31 See Thomas Aquinas, On Being and Essence, tr. Armand Maurer (Toronto:
Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1949).
32 See Jean-Paul Sartre, L’Existentialisme est un humanisme (Paris: Nagel,
1964), p. 17.
33 See ibid., p. 21.
34 See ibid., p. 62.
35 See ibid., p. 65.
36 See ibid., p. 92.
37 See ibid.
38 See ibid., p. 10.
39 See ibid., p. 64.
40 See ibid., p. 94.
41 See ibid., p. 95.
42 See Kanapa, L’Existentialisme n’est pas un humanisme, p. 27.
43 See ibid., p. 44.
44 See ibid., p. 61.
45 See ibid., p. 88.
46 See Henri Lefebvre, L’Existentialisme (Paris: Le Sagittaire, 1946).
47 For a brilliant French Marxist critique of French academic philosophy, originally
published in 1932, see Paul Nizan, Les Chiens de garde (Paris: Maspero, 1960).
48 See Lefebvre, L’Existentialisme, p. 13.
49 For this perspective in the French discussion, see Georg Lukács, Existentialisme
ou Marxisme?, tr. E.Kelemen (Paris: Nagel, 1948, rpt. 1961).
50 See Lefebvre, L’Existentialisme, p. 191.
51 Ibid., p. 211.
52 See ibid., p. 213.
53 See ibid., p. 221.
54 See ibid., p. 224.
55 For a French study of Jaspers, see Mikel Dufrenne and Paul Ricoeur, Karl Jaspers
et la philosophie de l’existence (Paris: Seuil, 1947).
56 See Etienne Gilson, L’Etre et l’essence (Paris: Vrin, 1987), p. 354.

57 See ibid., p. 361.
58 See E.Lévinas, “L’Ontologie est-elle fondamentale?,” Revue de métaphysique
et de morale, vol. 56 (January–March 1951), p. 89.
59 See Henri Birault, “Existence et vérité d’après Heidegger,” Revue de métaphysique
et de morale, vol. 56 (January–March 1951), pp. 35–87.
60 See Henri Birault, Heidegger et l’experience de la pensée (Paris: Gallimard,
1978), p. 9.
61 See Birault, “Existence et vérité,” p. 39.
62 See Jean Beaufret, “A propos de l’existentialisme,” in Jean Beaufret, Introduction
aux philosophies de l’existence: De Kierkegaard à Heidegger (Paris: Denoël/
Gonthier, 1971), pp. 9–77.
63 See ibid., p. 19.
64 See ibid., p. 16.
65 See ibid., p. 62.
66 See his “Martin Heidegger et le problème de la vérité,” in Jean Beaufret,
Introduction aux philosophies de l’existence (Paris: Denoël/Gonthier, 1971),
pp. 111–146.
67 See ibid., p. 129.
68 See ibid., p. 131.
69 See ibid., p. 136.
70 Jean Beaufret, Dialogue avec Heidegger, vol. II: Philosophie moderne (Paris:
Editions de Minuit, 1973), p. 18.
71 See ibid., pp. 49–50.
72 See ibid., p. 133.
73 See ibid., p. 147.
74 See Jean Beaufret, Dialogue avec Heidegger, vol. III: Approche de Heidegger
(Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1974), pp. 41, 222.
75 See Jean Beaufret, Dialogue avec Heidegger, vol. IV: Le Chemin de Heidegger
(Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1985), pp. 113–114.
76 Wahl, Petite Histoire de l’existentialisme, p. 52.
77 See ibid., p. 69.
78 See Tom Rockmore, On Heidegger’s Nazism and Philosophy (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1992).
79 See “The Rectorial Address,” in Martin Heidegger and National Socialism,
ed. Günther Neske and Emil Kettering (New York: Paragon House, 1990),
pp. 5–14.
80 This thesis is developed by Farías. See Victor Farías, Heidegger and Nazism, ed.
Joseph Margolis and Tom Rockmore, tr. Paul Burrell and Gabriel R.Ricci
(Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989).
81 See “Wege zur Aussprache,” in Alemannenland: Ein Buch von Volkstum und
Sendung, ed. Franz Kerber (Stuttgart: J.Engelhorns Nacht, 1937), pp. 135–139,
rpt. in Guido Schneeberger, Nachlese zu Heidegger: Dokumente zu seinem Leben
und Denken (Berne, 1962), pp. 258–262.
82 Brinkmann developed his analysis of art history, influenced by the racial views
of Hitler and Mussolini, after the collapse of Germany in 1918. He regarded
Italy, France and Germany as the three Führernationen. See Albert Erich
Brinkmann, Geist der Nationen: Italiener-Franzosen-Deutsche (Hamburg:
Hofmann & Campe, 1938), pp. 159–162.
83 Schneeberger, Nachlese zu Heidegger, p. 262.
84 Ibid., p. 258.
85 “Rectorial address—Facts and Thoughts,” p. 497.
86 Schneeberger, Nachlese zu Heidegger, p. 260.

87 For this view in the early Marx, see his essay, “Contributions to the Critique of
Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: Introduction,” in Karl Marx, Early Writings, tr.
T.B.Bottomore (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964), pp. 41–60. Lukács bases his
own influential reading of Marx on the supposed efficacy of class consciousness.
See Georg Lukács, History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist
Dialectics, tr. R.Livingstone (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1971).
88 Schneeberger, Nachlese zu Heidegger, p. 260.
89 Lukács’s own effort to enlist Marxism as a revolutionary form of thought in the
service of oppressed humanity, relevantly similar to Heidegger’s view here, is a
constant in his long Marxist period.
90 See “Lettre à Monsieur Beaufret,” in Martin Heidegger, Lettre sur l’Humanisme
tr. R.Munier (Paris: Aubier, 1964), pp. 179–185.
91 See Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, Lacan: Le Maître absolu (Paris: Flammarian,
1990), p. 32.
92 For Jasper’s report that led to Heidegger’s “rustification” and later rehabilitation,
see Hugo Ott, Martin Heidegger: Unterwegs zu seiner Biographie (Frankfurt/
M.: Campus, 1988), pp. 315–317.
93 See Jaspers’s letter to Heidegger of August 23, 1933, cited in Ott, Martin
Heidegger, pp. 192–193.
94 For Croce’s correspondence with Vossler concerning Heidegger, see Schneeberger,
Nachlese zu Heidegger, pp. 110–112.
95 For Althusser’s admission that his antihumanism was influenced by Heidegger’s
“Letter on Humanism,” see Louis Althusser, L’Avenir dure longtemps suivi de
Les faits, ed. Olivier Corpet and Yann Moulier Boutang (Paris: Stock/Imec,
1992), p. 168. For an effort to come to grips with Althusser in the wake of that
work, see Stanislas Breton, “Althusser aujourd’ hui,” Archives de philosophie,
vol. 56, no. 3, pp. 417–430.
96 Cousineau, who distinguishes four different interpretations of this text, maintains
that it is so difficult to interpret because it is systematically ambiguous. See
Robert Henri Cousineau, Humanism and Ethics: An Introduction to Heidegger’s
Letter on Humanism with a Critical Bibliography (Louvain: Edition Nauwelaerts,
1972), esp. pp. 65–66.
97 See Gerhard Krüger, “Martin Heidegger und der Humanismus,” Studia
Philosophica, no. 9 (1949), pp. 93–129, rpt. in Philosophische Rundschau,
1950, pp. 148–178.
98 Beaufret, Introduction aux philosophies de l’existence, p. 16.
99 See Heidegger, Lettre sur l’humanisme, pp. 182–183.
100 Martin Heidegger, L’Etre et le Temps,
§§1–44, tr. R.Boehm and A.De Waelhens
(Paris: Gallimard, 1964).
101 Martin Heidegger, Etre et Temps, tr. Emmanuel Martineau (Paris: Authentica,
102 Martin Heidegger, Etre et Temps, tr. François Vezin (Paris: Gallimard, 1986).
103 A partial translation by Joseph Rovan of the initial form of the “Letter on
Humanism” was published in Fontaine, no. 63 (1947). A translation of the revised
form of this text, published by Heidegger in 1947, appeared in 1953 in the Cahiers
du sud, nos. 319–320, and was available in a bilingual edition in 1957.
104 See Heidegger, Lettre sur l’humanisme, pp. 182–183; Heidegger’s emphasis.
105 Heidegger delivered three lecture series on Hölderlin in winter semester 1934/
35, in winter semester 1941/42 and summer semester 1942. The first series
is particularly important for an appreciation of Heidegger’s turn to poetry.
See Martin Heidegger, Hölderlins Hymnen “Germanien” und “Der Rhein”,
ed. Susanne Ziegler (Frankfurt/M.: Vittorio Klostermann, 1980). +

106 Heidegger delivered lectures on Nietzsche between 1936 and 1940. For a revised
version of his lectures, see Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche (2 vols., Pfullingen:
Neske, 1961).
107 See Martin Heidegger, Die Grundbegriffe der Metaphysik: Welt—Endlichkeit—
Einsamkeit (Wintersemester 1929/30), ed. Friedrich-Wilhelm von Hermann
(Frankfurt/M.: Vittorio Klostermann, 1985).
108 Heidegger’s insistance on alienation here and in his main philosophical treatise
has led some writers to see an influence of Marxism in his thought. Goldmann
has argued that Being and Time is a response to Lukács’s History and Class
Consciousness. See Lucien Goldmann, Lukács and Heidegger: Towards a New
Philosophy, tr. William G.Boelhower (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1977).
109 Martin Heidegger, “The Letter on Humanism,” in M.Heidegger, Basic Writings
ed. D.F.Krell (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), p. 219.
110 See ibid., p. 208.
111 Ibid., p. 231.
112 See ibid., p. 220.
113 See ibid., p. 221.
114 See ibid., p. 222.
115 See ibid., p. 239.
116 See ibid., p. 231.
117 See ibid., pp. 239, 241–242.
118 See ibid., p. 220.
119 See ibid., p. 221.
120 See ibid., p. 220.
121 Blondel, a philosopher of action, recalls the religious view, illustrated by St.
Jean of the Cross that the true form of action is the thought of God: “L’action
qui enveloppe et achève toutes les autres, c’est de penser vraiment à Dieu.”
Maurice Blondel, cited in André Lalande, Vocabulaire technique et critique de
la philosophie, vol. I (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1926), p. 17.
122 The date and nature of the turning is controversial. Beaufret situates it in 1927
as the other beginning, more radical than the first, after the publication of Being
and Time. See Beaufret, Dialogue avec Heidegger, IV, p. 85.
123 See, for example, his remarks about atheism as intrinsic to philosophy in Martin
Heidegger, Phänomenologische Interpretationen zu Aristoteles: Einführung in
die phänomenologische Forschung, ed. Walter Bröcker and Käte Bröcker-
Oltmanns (Frankfurt/M.: Vittorio Klostermann, 1985), p. 197.
124 See Beaufret, Dialogue avec Heidegger, IV, p. 112.
125 See George Kovacs, The Question of God in Heidegger’s Phenomenology
(Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1990), p. 180 n27.
126 After an initial period of study in a Jesuit seminary, Heidegger’s relation to
organized religion became strained, even hostile. He consistently held that
philosophy cannot be placed on a Christian basis. For a recent study, see Kovacs,
The Question of God. In the French discussion, Beaufret has seen this point.
See Beaufret, Dialogue avec Heidegger, IV, p. 111, and Eryck de Rubercy and
Dominique Le Buhan, Douze questions posées à Jean Beaufret à propos de
Martin Heidegger (Paris: Aubier Montaigne, 1983), p. 32.
127 In his reaction to Jean Wahl’s paper on Heidegger before the French Philosophical
Society in 1937, Lévinas, who has always been concerned to intertwine his
philosophical theory and his religious belief, insisted on Heidegger’s own efforts
to distinguish between them. See “Lettre de M.E.Lévinas,” in Bulletin de la
Société française de philosophie, 1937, p. 194.
128 See Birault, “Existence et vérité,” p. 87. He later changed his mind. In a later
article, he pointedly distinguishes between Heidegger’s ontology and Christianity.

See Henri Birault, “La foi et la pensée d’après Heidegger,” Recherches et débats,
no. 10 (May 1955), p. 132: “Mais la voix de l’Etre n’est pas la Parole de Dieu,
c’est une voix qui nous livre à la stupeur originelle du ‘il y a’ obscur et clair
séjour des dieux et des mortels.”
129 Heidegger, “Letter on Humanism,” pp. 207–208.
130 See L’Endurance de la pensée (Paris: Plon, 1969).
131 See “Preface by Martin Heidegger,” in William J.Richardson, Heidegger: Through
Phenomenology to Thought (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1967), pp. viii–
132 See ibid., pp. xvi, xvii.
133 Those who take a contextualist approach, even among Heidegger’s closest
adherents, are less likely to take over his anticontextualist view of the turning,
to the point of even doubting its existence. See Ernst Nolte, Heidegger: Politik
und Geschichte im Leben und Denken (Berlin: Propyläen, 1992).
134 See Alberto Rosales, “Zum Problem der Kehre im Denken Heideggers,”
Zeitschrift für philosophische Forschung, 38 (1984), p. 243.
135 See ibid., p. 262.
136 See J.-F.Mattéi, “Le Chiasme heideggérien ou la mise à J’écart de la philosophie,”
in Dominique Janicaud and J.-F.Mattéi, La Métaphysique à la limite (Paris:
Presses universitaires de France, 1983), p. 85.
137 See ibid., p. 93.
138 See Jean Grondin, Le Tournant dans la pensée de Martin Heidegger (Paris: Presses
universitaires de France, 1987), p. 121.
139 See Martin Heidegger, Metaphysische Anfangsgründe der Logik im Ausgang
von Leibniz (Sommersemester 1928), ed. Klaus Held (Frankfurt/M.: Vittorio
Klostermann, 1978).
140 Martin Heidegger, “On the Essence of Truth,” in M.Heidegger, Basic Writings
ed. D.F.Krell (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), p. 139.
141 Martin Heidegger, Schellings Abhandlung “Über das Wesen der menschlichen
Freiheit” (1809), ed. Hildegard Feick (Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 1971), p. 38.
142 Ibid., p. 79.
143 See Martin Heidegger, The Will to Power as Art, tr. David Farrell Krell (New
York: Harper & Row, 1979), chs 5 (“The Structure of the ‘Major Work’:
Nietzsche’s Manner of Thinking as Reversal [Umkehrung]”) and (“Truth in
Platonism and Positivism: Nietzsche’s Overturning [Umdrehung] of Platonism”),
pp. 25–33, 151–161.
144 See ibid., pp. 29, 30.
145 See ibid., p. 210.
146 See Heidegger, Nietzsche, p. 654.
147 “Only A God Can Save Us: Der Spiegel’s Interview with Martin Heidegger,”
Philosophy Today, Winter 1976, p. 274.
148 See Hannah Arendt, The Life of the Mind: Willing (New York: Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich, 1978), p. 173.
149 See Aubenque, “Encore Heidegger et le nazisme,” Le Débat, no. 48 (January–
February 1988), p. 121.
150 See Silvio Vietta, Heideggers Kritik am Nationalsozialismus und an der Technik
(Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 1989), ch. 4: “Heideggers Nietzsche-Lektüre: Kritik
der Weltanschauungen und Nihilismusbegriff”, pp. 48–68, esp. pp. 66–68.
151 See Otto Pöggeler, “Heidegger, Nietzsche, and Politics,” in The Heidegger Case:
Philosophy and Politics, ed. Tom Rockmore and Joseph Margolis (Philadelphia:
Temple University Press, 1992), pp. 114–140.

152 Martin Heidegger, Beiträge zur Philosophie, ed. Friedrich-Wilhelm von Hermann
(Frankfurt/M.: Vittorio Klostermann, 1989), p. 407.
153 Ibid., p. 408.
154 Martin Heidegger, Die Technik und die Kehre (Pfullingen: Neske, 1962), p. 42.
155 See Heidegger, Hölderlins Hymnen.
156 See Martin Heidegger, Zur Bestimmung der Philosophie, ed. Bernd Heimbüchel
(Frankfurt/M.: Vittorio Klostermann, 1987), p. 75 and passim.
157 Rockmore, On Heidegger’s Nazism and Philosophy.
1 For discussion of the reception of Kant’s critical philosophy through the general
problem of system, see Tom Rockmore, Hegel’s Circular Epistemology
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), ch. 2: “Epistemological
Justification: System, Foundation, and Circularity,” pp. 16–43.
2 See Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, tr. J.Macquarie and E.Robinson (New
York: Harper & Row, 1962),
§ 44: “Dasein, disclosedness, and truth,” pp.
3 See e.g. the series of essays in Martin Heidegger, Gelassenheit (Pfullingen:
Neske, 1959).
4 See Martin Heidegger, “The Letter on Humanism,” in M.Heidegger, Basic
Writings ed. D.F.Krell (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), p. 197.
5 See ibid., p. 198.
6 See ibid., p. 207.
7 See ibid.
8 See ibid., p. 209.
9 See ibid., p. 210.
10 According to Heidegger’s French translator, the “Letter,” along with the
introduction to the lecture, “What Is Metaphysics?,” is the best introduction to
Being and Time. See Roger Munier, “Introduction” to Martin Heidegger, Lettre
sur l’humanisme tr. R.Munier (Paris: Aubier, 1964), p. 7.
11 The simple identification of metaphysics with philosophy, or Western philosophy,
although useful for Heidegger’s effort to portray his later position as beyond
philosophy, is also controversial. For an objection in the French philosophical
discussion, see Paul Ricoeur, La Métaphore vive, (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1975),
p. 395: “Le moment est venu, me semble-t-il, de s’interdire la commodité, devenue
paresse de pensée, de faire tenir sous un seul mot—métaphysique—le tout de la
pensée occidentale.” For Beaufret’s response to Ricoeur’s criticism, see Jean
Beaufret, Dialogue avec Heidegger, vol. IV: Le Chemin de Heidegger (Paris:
Editions de Minuit, 1974), p. 41.
12 In the “Afterword to the Second Edition” of his well known study of Heidegger,
Pöggeler wrote: “The Beiträge were for me Heidegger’s major work.” Otto
Pöggeler, Martin Heidegger’s Path of Thinking, tr. David Magurshak and
Sigmund Barber (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1987), pp. 286–
287. In a more recent article, written after the publication of the Beiträge, Pöggeler
wrote: “In dieser Einsamkeit schrieb Heidegger 1936–38 sein eigentliches
Hauptwerk, die ‘Beiträge zur Philosophie’.” Otto Pöggeler, “‘Praktische
Philosophie’ als Antwort an Heidegger,” in Martin Heidegger und das “Dritte
Reich”: Ein Kompendium, ed. Bernd Martin (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche
Buchgesellschaft, 1989), p. 85.
13 In reference to this work, Marten writes: “In ihr [that is, the Beiträge] hat er
völlig unverblümt, ohne jeden Versuch zu argumentieren und zu entwickeln,

seinen Überlegungen, Einfällen, Phantasien, prophetischen Vermutungen und
Ahnungen freien Lauf gelassen und sie doch zugleich immer wieder sich selbst
zugespielt. Was herauskommt, ist das philosophisch am wenigsten Überzeugende
und daher Unbefriedigenste, für den Philosophen Heidegger aber Typischste.”
Rainer Marten, Heidegger Lesen (Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 1991), p. 84.
14 For discussion, see Rockmore, On Heidegger’s Nazism and Philosophy (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1992), ch. 5: “Nazism and the Beiträge zur
Philosophie,” pp. 176–203.
15 See Beaufret, Dialogue avec Heidegger, IV, p. 9.
16 Heidegger, Basic Writings, p. 242.
17 See Rubercy and D.Le Buhan, Douze questions posées à Jean Beaufret à
propos de Martin Heidegger (Paris: Aubier Montaigne, 1983), p. 17.
18 Pierre Bourdieu, “Aspirant philosophe: un point de vue sur le champ universitaire
dans les années 50,” in Les Enjeux philosophiques des années 50 (Paris: Centre
Georges Pompidou), p. 23n.
19 For instance, in a letter to Beaufret dated February 22, 1975 about the interviews
with Beaufret on Heidegger’s thought, Heidegger commends Beaufret’s answers
to questions 10 and 11 as “das eigentliche Meisterstück des Ganzen.” De Rubercy
and Le Buhan, Douze questions, p. 74.
20 Beaufret, Dialogue with Heidegger, IV, p. 80.
21 See ibid., p. 21.
22 See Jean Beaufret, “Heidegger et le problème de la vérité, in J.Beaufret, Introduction
aux philosophies de l’existence (Paris: Denoël/Gonthier, 1971), p. 136.
23 Jean Beaufret, “Heidegger et le monde grec,” in Beaufret, Introduction aux
philosophies de l’existence, p. 154; Beaufret’s emphases.
24 See Beaufret, Dialogue avec Heidegger, IV, p. 124.
25 See ibid., p. 126.
26 For a complete list, see ibid., p. 81.
27 See ibid., p. 82.
28 Ibid.
29 Ibid.
30 Pierre Aubenque, “Heideggers Wirkungsgeschichte in Frankreich,” in Martin
Heidegger—Faszination und Erschrecken: Die politische Dimension einer
Philosophie, ed. Peter Kemper (Frankfurt/M.: Campus, 1990), p. 124.
31 See ibid., p. 115.
32 Beaufret notes that his academic career suffered because of his devotion to
Heidegger. See Beaufret, Dialogue avec Heidegger, IV, p. 81.
33 See Martin Heidegger, “The Rectorate 1933/34: Facts and Thoughts,” in Martin
Heidegger and National Socialism: Questions and Answers, ed. G.Neske and E.
Kettering (New York: Paragon, 1990), pp. 15–32.
34 See William J.Richardson, Heidegger: Through Phenomenology to Thought (The
Hague: Nijhoff, 1963, 2nd edn 1967).
35 See Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann, Die Selbstinterpretationen Martin
Heideggers (Meisenheim am Glan: Anton Hain, 1974).
36 See Otto Pöggeler, Der Denkweg Martin Heideggers (Pfullingen: Neske, 1963).
In subsequent editions, Pöggeler acquired a more critical distance.
37 See Richardson, Heidegger. For Pöggeler’s more recent view, see Otto Pöggeler,
Neue Wege mit Heidegger (Freiburg i. B.: Alber, 1992).
38 See Beaufret, Introduction aux philosophies de l’existence.
39 See Jean Beaufret, Dialogue avec Heidegger (4 vols., Paris: Minuit, 1973–1985).
40 See Parménide, Le Poème, ed. Jean Beaufret (Paris: Presses universitaires de
France, 1991).
41 See Jean Beaufret, Entretiens avec Frédéric de Towarnicki (Paris: Presses
universitaires de France, 1984); and de Rubercy and Le Buhan, Douze questions.

42 This information is taken from the “Essai de bibliographie de Jean Beaufret,” in
Jean Beaufret, Introduction aux philosophies de l’existence (Paris: Vrin, 1986,
pp. 171–182).
43 See Beaufret, Dialogue avec Heidegger, IV, p. 82.
44 See Beaufret, Introductions aux philosophies de l’existence, p. 147.
45 Arendt, for instance, typically maintained that Heidegger taught us how to think,
as if no one before Heidegger had ever thought. See Hannah Arendt, “Martin
Heidegger ist achtzig Jahre alt,” Merkur, 1969, pp. 893–902.
46 Beaufret, Introduction aux philosophies de l’existence, p. 62.
47 See Jean Beaufret, Dialogue avec Heidegger, vol. III: Approche de Heidegger
(Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1974), p. 62.
48 See “Le chemin de Heidegger,” in Beaufret, Dialogue avec Heidegger, IV, pp. 88–107.
49 See “En chemin avec Heidegger, in Beaufret, Dialogue avec Heidegger, IV, pp.
50 This impression of a determined effort at hagiography is only strengthened by
the inclusion in that volume of a wholly uncritical biographical note on Heidegger
and of his letters to Beaufret and to the poet René Char. See de Rubercy and Le
Buhan, Douze questions.
51 See ibid., p. 29. See also Beaufret, Dialogue avec Heidegger, IV, p. 94.
52 This sounds like a transparent reference to Heidegger’s Beiträge zur Philosophie,
which Beaufret may have seen or even have had in manuscript form. The only
problem is that the manuscript was composed in 1936–1938, hence well after
1927. But perhaps Beaufret is confusing the movement of thought that began in
1927 with the work in which it is described in detail, which was composed later.
53 Beaufret, Dialogue with Heidegger, IV, p. 93.
54 Ibid.
55 Ibid., p. 126; Beaufret’s emphases.
56 See Martin Heidegger, Identity and Difference, tr. Joan Stambaugh (New York:
Harper & Row, 1969), p. 36.
57 See Beaufret, Dialogue with Heidegger, IV, p. 126.
58 Ibid., p. 127.
59 To take one example, Courtine, a former Beaufret student and who is one of the
best and most faithful French Heideggerians, nevertheless clearly states that
Heidegger’s theory does not permit an analysis of the idea of political community
and that Being and Time represents from one end to the other a real perversion
of ethico-religious categories. See Jean-François Courtine, Heidegger et la
phénoménologie (Paris: Vrin, 1990), p. 348.
60 Beaufret, Dialogue avec Heidegger, IV, p. 82.
61 See Alain Renaut, “La fin de Heidegger et la tâche de la pensée,” Etudes
philosophiques, no. 4 (October–December 1977), pp. 485–492.
62 See “A propos de Questions IV de Heidegger,” in Beaufret, Dialogue avec
Heidegger, IV, pp. 75–87.
63 For Beaufret, Renaut is a better philologist than someone like Jean-Paul Faye, a
“mere” sociologist; according to Beaufret Renaut is so good that he “ne se
trompe que sur les nuances.” Ibid., p. 87.
64 See Jules Vuillemin, L’Héritage kantien et la révolution copernicienne (Paris:
Presses universitaires de France, 1954).
65 See Jean Beaufret, Dialogue avec Heidegger, vol. II: Philosophie moderne (Paris:
Editions de Minuit, 1973), pp. 96–97.
66 See Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phénoménologie de la perception (Paris: Gallimard,
1945), p. 1.
67 Beaufret, Dialogue avec Heidegger, III, p. 62.

68 See Martin Heidegger, “The Age of the World Picture,” in M.Heidegger, The
Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, tr. W.Lovitt (New York:
Harper & Row, 1977), pp. 115–154.
69 Beaufret, Dialogue avec Heidegger, III, p. 57.
70 See “Heidegger et la théologie,” in Beaufret, Dialogue avec Heidegger, IV, pp.
71 See ibid., p. 41.
72 See ibid., p. 43.
73 See ibid., p. 41.
74 See ibid., p. 43.
75 See Karl Löwith, “Les Implications politiques de la philosophie de l’existence
chez Heidegger,” Les Temps Modernes, vol. 2, no. 14 (November 1946), pp.
76 Beaufret, Dialogue avec Heidegger, IV, p. 113.
77 Ibid., p. 121.
78 For a former Beaufret student, who regards the link between Heidegger’s thought
and political commitment as a serious problem, see Dominique Janicaud, L’Ombre
de cette pensée: Heidegger et la question politique (Grenoble: Millon, 1990).
79 See Beaufret, Introduction aux philosophies de l’existence, pp. 30–31.
80 Beaufret, Dialogue avec Heidegger, IV, p. 118.
81 See Beaufret, Entretien avec Fréderic de Towarnicki, p. 87.
82 See de Rubercy and Le Buhan, Douze questions, p. 37.
83 See ibid., p. 38.
84 For a dismaying report on Heidegger’s denunciation of Staudinger, see Hugo
Ott, Martin Heidegger: Unterwegs zu seiner Biographie (Frankfurt/M.: Campus,
1988), pp. 200–213.
85 See Hugo Ott, “Biographical Bases for Heidegger’s ‘Mentality of Disunity’,” in
The Heidegger Case: On Philosophy and Politics, ed. T.Rockmore and J. Margolis
(Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992), p. 109.
86 See Cahiers de l’Herne: Heidegger, ed. Michel Haar (Paris: Editions de l’Herne,
87 This is the case for the articles by Janicaud and Schürmann, which concern
Marxism and ecology, and the conception of action at the end of metaphysics
respectively. See ibid.
88 See Jean-Marie Veysse, “Heidegger et l’essence de l’université allemande,” in
Cahiers de l’Herne: Heidegger, ed. M.Haar, pp. 497–511. A similar
hermeneutical feat has recently been performed by Scott. For his reading of
the rectorial address in much the same spirit, see Charles Scott, The Question
of Ethics: Nietzsche, Foucault, Heidegger (Bloomington: Indiana University
Press, 1990), pp. 178–192.
89 Jean-Michel Palmier, Les Écrits politiques de Heidegger (Paris: L’Herne, 1968).
90 See Jean-Michel Palmier, “Heidegger et le national-socialisme,” in Cahiers de
l’Herne: Heidegger, ed. M.Haar, pp. 409–447.
91 According to Ferry and Renaut, Derrida is typical of the French Heideggerian
tendency to overinterpret minor Heideggerian texts. See Luc Ferry and Alain
Renaut, La Pensée 68: Essai sur l’antihumanisme contemporain (Paris: Gallimard,
1988), p. 153.
92 See Luc Ferry and Alain Renaut, Heidegger et les modernes (Paris: Grasset,
1988), p. 117.
93 See Michel Haar, Le Chant de la terre (Paris: L’Herne, 1985).
94 See Michel Haar, Heidegger et l’essence de l’homme (Grenoble: Millon, 1990).
95 See Haar, Le Chant de la terre, p. 22.

96 Ibid., p. 23.
97 See ibid., p. 81.
98 See ibid., p. 82.
99 Ibid., p. 95.
100 See Haar, Heidegger et l’essence de l’homme, p. 20.
101 See Ulrich Sieg, “Die Verjudung des deutschen Geistes,” Die Zeit, December
22, 1989, p. 50.
102 For Heidegger’s public endorsement of the Führerprinzip, see Guido
Schneeberger, Nachlese zu Heidegger (Berne, 1962), pp. 135–136.
103 See Haar, Heidegger et l’essence de l’homme, pp. 10–11.
104 See ibid., p. 21.
105 Ibid., p. 248.
106 See ibid., p. 249.
107 Ibid., p. 250.
108 Ibid., p. 252.
109 See Reiner Schürmann, Heidegger on Being and Acting: From Principles to
Anarchy, tr. Christine-Marie Gros (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987).
A shorter version of this book was originally published as Le Principe d’anarchie:
Heidegger et la question de l’agir (Paris: Editions de Seuil, 1982).
110 Derrida takes pains to emphasize that de Man was always critical of Heidegger,
and that he cannot be accused of propagating Heidegger’s thought. See Jacques
Derrida, Mémoires pour Paul de Man (Paris: Editions Galilée, 1988), p. 227.
111 See David Farrell Krell, Daimon Life: Heidegger and Life-Philosophy
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992).
1 See Alain Boutot, Heidegger (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1989).
2 See Alain Boutot, Heidegger et Platon (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1970).
3 For critical discussion of the very idea of an absolute distinction between
systematic and historical approaches to the history of philosophy, see Tom
Rockmore, “Quines Witz und die Philosophiegeschichte,” in Annalen für
dialektische Philosophie vol. 9, ed. Hans Jörg Sandkühler (Zürich: Peter Lang,
1991), pp. 219–226.
4 See Dominique Janicaud, Le Tournant théologique de la phénoménologie
française (Combas: Editions de l’Eclat, 1991).
5 Jacques Lacan, Le Séminaire, livre XI: Les quatre concepts fondamentaux de la
psychanalyse, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1973), p. 227.
6 See Martin Heidegger, On the Way to Language, tr. Peter D.Hertz (San Francisco:
Harper & Row, 1982).
7 See Lacan, Le Séminaire, XI, p. 240.
8 This remark occurs in the discussion following Wahl’s lecture on existentialism. See
Jean Wahl, Petite Histoire de l’existentialisme (Paris: Club Maintenant, 1947), p. 83.
9 See, for example, Denise Souche-Dagues, Le Développement de l’intentionalité
dans la phénoménologie husserlienne (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1972). See also Jean
T.Desanti, Introduction à la phénoménologie (Paris: Gallimard, 1976).
10 A recent example by someone close to Heidegger is Courtine’s collection of
essays all of which concern facets of the relation of Heidegger to Husserl. See
Jean-François Courtine, Heidegger et la phénoménologie (Paris: Vrin, 1990).
11 See Paul Ricoeur, A L’Ecole de la phénoménologie (Paris: Vrin, 1986), p. 285.

12 For a recent discussion in French that emphasizes the arbitrary nature of Lévinas’s
Husserl interpretation, see Janicaud, Le Tournant théologique, pp. 26–29.
13 Marion’s first book, Sur l’ontologie grise de Descartes (Paris: Vrin, 1981), is
significantly dedicated to Ferdinand Alquié and Jean Beaufret, the then most
important French Descartes and Heidegger scholars, thereby indicating the two
main sources of his philosophical thought. For a critique of Marion’s position
from a broadly phenomenological perspective, see Janicaud, Le Tournant
théologique, ch. 3, pp. 39–56.
14 Derrida has published extensively on Husserl. See his lengthy introduction to
Edmund Husserl, the size of a small volume (170 pp. in a work of 219 pp.), in
E. Husserl L’Origine de la géométrie (Paris: Presses universitaires de France,
1974); Jacques Derrida, La Voix et le phénomène: Introduction au problème du
signe dans la phénoménologie de Husserl (Paris: Presses universitaries de France,
1967); and his, Le Problème de la genèse dans la philosophie de Husserl (Paris:
Presses universitaires de France, 1990).
15 For his recent work, see “D’une idée de la phénoménologie à l’autre: 1. Husserl; 2.
La réappropriation heideggérienne,” in Jacques Taminiaux, Lectures de l’ontologie
fondamentale: Essais sur Heidegger (Grenoble: Millon, 1989), pp. 17–88.
16 See Courtine, Heidegger et la phénoménologie, which contains fifteen essays on
various aspects of this relation.
17 See Jean-Luc Marion, Réduction and donation: Recherches sur Husserl,
Heidegger et la phénoménologie (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1989).
18 For a good recent study, see William L.McBride, Sartre’s Political Theory
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991).
19 There are at least three instances in which Sartre maintained that there is no
philosophical connection between Heidegger’s Nazism and his philosophical
thought. See “Deux documents sur Sartre”, in Les Temps Modernes, vol. 1, no.
4 (January 1946), p. 713; Sartre’s article “A Propos de l’existentialisme: Mise
au point,” in Action, no. 17 (1944), p. 11; and Jean-Paul Sartre, Search for a
Method, tr. Hazel E.Barnes (New York: Vintage, 1968), p. 38.
20 Although Sartre was not a Husserl scholar, and although French Husserl studies
owe their decisive impulse to Lévinas, half a century later Janicaud still regards
Sartre’s short text on Husserlian intentionality—“Une Idée fondamentale de la
phénoménologie de Husserl: L’Intentionnalité”—as the central French text. See
Janicaud, Le Tournant théologique, pp. 8–11.
21 For a bibliography of Nietzsche, including translations of his works from 1891–
1914, see Gabriel Huan, La Philosophie de Frédéric Nietzsche (Paris:
Boccard, 1917), pp. 345–360.
22 See Jean Beaufret, Introduction aux philosophies de l’existence (Paris: Denoël,
1971), p. 203.
23 See Emile Faguet, En lisant Nietzsche (Paris: Société française d’imprimerie et
de librairie, 1904).
24 See Julien Benda, La Trahison des clercs (Paris: Grasset, 1975), p. 181n. The
original edition of this work was published in 1927. Benda bases his comment
on R.Berthelot, Un Romantisme utilitaire (Paris: F.Alcan, 1911).
25 See Henri Lefebvre, L’Existentialisme (Paris: Editions Sagittaire, 1946), pt 2,
ch. 2: “L’existentialisme magique (suite): Nietzsche,” pp. 143–159.
26 See Jean Wahl, “Le Nietzsche de Jaspers,” in Recherches philosophiques, vol. 6
(1936–1937), pp. 346–362.
27 For a discussion of Nietzsche’s influence on French writers from 1930 to 1960,
see Pierre Boudot, Nietzsche et l’au-delà de la liberté: Nietzsche et les écrivains
français de 1930 à 1960 (Paris: Aubier-Montaigne, 1970).

28 See Pierre Klossowski, Nietzsche et le cercle vicieux (Paris: Mercure de France,
29 See Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche et la philosophie (Paris: Presses universitaires de
France, 1962); and Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche (Paris: Presses universitaires de
France, 1965).
30 For a representative survey of French readings of Nietzsche in the 1970s, see the
proceedings of the Nietzsche colloquium held at Cerisy-la-Salle in July 1972,
published as Nietzsche aujourd’ hui (Paris: UGE, 1973).
31 See V.Descombes, Le Même et l’autre (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1979), p. 218.
32 See Pourquoi nous ne sommes pas nietzschéens, ed. Luc Ferry and Alain Renaut
(Paris: Grasset, 1991).
33 In a recent book, Kofman mocks those who doubt that Nietzsche is less significant
than the “great philosophers.” See Sarah Kofman, Nietzsche et la scène
philosophique (Paris: Editions Galilée, 1986), p. 10.
34 See Philippe Raynaud, “Nietzsche éducateur,” in Pourquoi nous ne sommes pas
nietzschéens, ed. L.Ferry and A.Renault (Paris: Grasset, 1991), pp. 194–201.
35 For an account of Bataille’s work from this perspective, see Allan Stoekl, Agonies
of the Intellectual (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992), ch. 10: “Sur
Bataille: Nietzsche in the Text of Bataille,” pp. 261–282.
36 See Pierre Chassard, Nietzsche: Finalisme et histoire (Paris: Copernic, 1977).
37 See Olivier Reboul, Nietzsche, critique de Kant (Paris: Presses universitaires de
France, 1974).
38 See Sarah Kofman, Nietzsche et la métaphore (Paris: Editions Galilée, 1974).
39 See Beaufret, Introduction aux philosophies de l’existence, pp. 203–205.
40 Courtine recalls Heidegger’s thesis that Nietzsche’s effort to overturn Platonism
makes him the most Platonic of thinkers against a long list of French
philosophers who contest this view. See Courtine, Heidegger et la
phénoménologie, pp. 130–131.
41 François Laruelle, Nietzsche centre Heidegger (Paris: Payot, 1977).
42 See Jacques Derrida, Eperons: Les styles de Nietzsche (Paris: Flammarion, 1978).
43 See Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, tr. J.Macquarie and E.Robinson (New
York: Harper & Row, 1962), p. 43.
44 See Martin Heidegger, The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, tr.Albert
Hofstadter (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982), p. 80.
45 See ibid.
46 Jean-François Courtine, Suarez et le système de la métaphysique (Paris: Presses
universitaires de France, 1990), p. 5; Courtine’s emphasis.
47 Ibid.
48 See ibid., pp. 534–535.
49 For careful study of Heidegger’s reappropriation of the Aristotelian concepts
of poiesis and praxis, see J.Taminiaux, “La réappropriation de l’Ethique à
Nicomaque: Poiesis et praxis dans l’articulation de l’ontologie fondamentale,”
in Taminiaux, Lectures de l’ontologie fondamentale: Essais sur Heidegger
(Grenoble: Millon, 1989), pp. 147–190. See also Jacques Taminiaux,
“Heidegger and Praxis,” in The Heidegger Case: On Philosophy and Politics,
ed. T. Rockmore and J.Margolis (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992),
pp. 188–207.
50 See ch. 5: “Die Griechen,” in Rainer Marten, Heidegger Lesen (Munich: W.Fink,
1991), pp. 153–226. See also Rainer Marten, “Heidegger and the Greeks,” in
The Heidegger Case, pp. 167–187.
51 See Jean Beaufret, Dialogue avec Heidegger, vol. I: Philosophie grecque (Paris:
Editions de Minuit, 1973).

52 See Pierre Aubenque, Le Problème de l’être chez Aristote: Essai sur la
problématique aristotélicienne (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1962,
2nd edn 1966).
53 See Pierre Aubenque, La Prudence chez Aristote (Paris: Presses universitaires de
France, 1963).
54 See Aubenque, Le Problème de l’être chez Aristote, p. 21.
55 Ibid., p. 3; Aubenque’s emphasis.
56 See ibid.
57 For Heidegger’s view of ontotheology, see “The Onto-theological Constitution
of Metaphysics,” in Martin Heidegger, Identity and Difference, tr. Joan
Stambaugh (New York: Harper & Row, 1974), pp. 42–73.
58 See Pierre Aubenque, “La Philosophie aristotélicienne et nous,” in Aristote
aujourd’ hui, ed. M.A.Sinceur (Paris: Unesco and Editions Eres, 1988), p. 321.
59 See Martin Heidegger, Unterwegs zur Sprache, ed. Friedrich-Wilhelm von
Herrmann (Pfullingen: Neske, 1985), p. 160; and Aubenque, “La Philosophie
aristotélicienne et nous,” p. 323.
60 See Rémi Brague, “La Phénoménologie comme voie d’accès au monde grec:
Note sur la critique de la Vorhandenheit comme modèle ontologique dans la
lecture heideggérienne d’Aristote,” in Phénoménologie et métaphysique, ed. Jean-
Luc Marion and Guy Planty-Bonjour (Paris: Presses universitaires de France,
1984), pp. 247–273. See also Rémi Brague, “La Naissance de la raison grecque,”
in La naissance de la raison en Grèce, ed. Jean-François Mattéi (Paris: Presses
universitaires de France, 1990), pp. 23–31.
61 See Heidegger, Being and Time, pt 1, ch. 3: “The Worldhood of the World,”
§§ 14–24, pp. 91–148.
62 Rémi Brague, Aristote et la question du monde (Paris: Presses universitaires de
France, 1988), p. 6.
63 See ibid., p. 47.
64 See ibid., p. 110.
65 See ibid., pp. 513–514.
66 Ibid., p. 514.
67 See ibid.
68 See Heidegger, Being and Time, p. 494.
69 See ibid., p. 215.
70 See Martin Heidegger, Parmenides, tr. Richard Rojcewicz and André Schuwer
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992).
71 See “The Principle of Identity,” in Martin Heidegger, Identity and Difference,
tr. J.Stambaugh (New York: Harper & Row, 1974), pp. 23–41.
72 See “Héraclite et Parménide” and “Lecture de Parménide,” in Jean Beaufret,
Dialogue avec Heidegger, vol. I: Philosophie grecque (Paris: Editions de Minuit,
1973), pp. 38–51, 52–85.
73 See Parménide, Le Poème, ed. and tr. Jean Beaufret (Paris, 1955), p. 7.
74 He thanks Heidegger for “the inestimable help [offered by] several discussions.”
See ibid., p. x.
75 See ibid., p. 27.
76 See ibid., p. 53.
77 See ibid., p. 67.
78 See ibid., p. 69.
79 See ibid., p. 70.
80 For a discussion of “foundationalism,” see Antifoundationalism Old and New,
ed. Tom Rockmore and Beth Singer (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992),
pp. 1–12.

81 See Heidegger, Being and Time, § 32: “Understanding and Interpretation,” pp.
82 See “The Word of Nietzsche: ‘God is dead,’” in Martin Heidegger, The Question
Concerning Technology and Other Essays, tr. W.Lovitt (New York: Harper &
Row, 1977), pp. 53–112.
83 See Jean-François Lyotard, La Condition postmoderne (Paris: Editions de Minuit,
1979), p. 7.
84 See ibid., p. 9.
85 See ibid., p. 63.
86 See ibid., p. 64.
87 See ibid., p. 89.
88 See ibid., p. 105.
89 See ch. 3: “Le Structuralisme: De la méthode structurale à la philosophie de la
mort de l’homme,” in Roger Garaudy, Perspectives de l’homme: Existentialisme,
pensée catholique, structuralisme, marxisme (Paris: Presses universitaires de
France, 1969), pp. 231–250.
90 See Michel Foucault, Histoire de la folie à l’âge classique (Paris: Gallimard,
1972), pp. 56–59.
91 See “Cogito et histoire de la folie,” in Jacques Derrida, L’Ecriture et la différence
(Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1967), pp. 51–97.
92 Foucault, Histoire de la folie, p. 602.
93 See Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings,
1972–1977, ed. Colin Gordon (New York: Pantheon, 1980), p. 131.
94 See Foucault, Power/Knowledge, p. 133.
95 See “The Age of the World Picture,” in M.Heidegger, The Question Concerning
Technology and Other Essays, tr. W.Lovitt (New York: Harper & Row, 1977),
pp. 115–154.
96 Foucault, Knowledge/Power, p. 117.
97 Ibid.
98 See Heidegger, Being and Time, p. 1.
99 See Janicaud, Le Tournant théologique, p. 57.
100 See Phénoménologie et théologie, ed. Jean-François Courtine (Paris: Criterion,
101 For a study of his writings, see Gabrielle Dufour-Kowalska, Michel Henry: Un
Philosophe de la vie et de la praxis (Paris: Vrin, 1980).
102 He is a novelist of distinction. See e.g. Michel Henry, Le Fils du roi (Paris:
Gallimard, 1981).
103 See Michel Henry, L’Essence de la manifestation (Paris: Presses universitaires
de France, 1963, 2nd edn 1990); tr. Gerard Etzkorn (2 vols., The Hague:
Martinus Nijhoff, 1973).
104 Henry perceives a fundamental identity between Husserlian and Heideggerian
phenomenology at a certain level. He specifically claims that “there is no
difference between the philosophy of consciousness and the philosophy of being.”
Henry, L’Essence de la manifestation, p. 118.
105 See ibid.,
§ 1, pp. 1–3.
106 See Jean-Luc Marion, Questions cartésiennes (Paris: Presses universitaires de
France, 1991), pp. 161, 164. For an analysis of Henry’s contribution to Cartesian
studies, see ibid., “La Générosité et le dernier ‘cogito,’” pp. 153–187.
107 Henry, L’Essence de la manifestation, p. 573.
108 See ibid., p. 858.
109 Michael Henry, Phénoménologie matérielle (Paris: Presses universitaires de
France, 1990), p. 6.

110 See E.Husserl, The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental
Phenomenology, tr. David Carr (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970),
§ 28, pp. 103–110.
111 Henry, Phénoménologie matérielle, p. 10.
112 See Jean-Luc Marion, “Le Cogito s’affect-t-il? La générosité et le dernier cogito
suivant l’interpretation de Michel Henry,” in Questions cartésiennes, pp. 153–187.
113 See Jean-Luc Marion, Dieu sans l’être (Paris: Fayard, 1982).
114 For a brief mention of his œuvre, see Roger-Pol Droit, “Les paradoxes de Jean-
Luc Marion,” Le Monde (July 12, 1991), p. 24.
115 See Marion, Sur l’ontologie grise de Descartes; and his Sur la théologie blanche
de Descartes (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1981).
116 See Marion, Réduction et donation, ch. 2: L’ego et le Dasein, pp. 119–162.
117 See Marion, Questions cartésiennes, pp. 158–164.
118 For an overview, see “A propos de réduction et donation de Jean-Luc Marion,”
a special issue of Revue Métaphysique et de Morale, no. 1 (1991).
119 Marion, Réduction et donation, p. 8.
120 See ibid., p. 303.
121 Ibid., p. 305.
122 For discussion, see “Is Derrida a transcendental philosopher?,” in Richard Rorty,
Philosophical Papers, II: Essays on Heidegger and Others (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1991), pp. 119–128.
123 For this view, see Hilary Putnam, Realism with a Human Face, ed. James Conant
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990), p. 51.
124 See e.g. Herman Rapaport, Heidegger and Derrida: Reflections on Time and
Language (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1989).
125 See Luc Ferry and Alain Renaut, La Pensée 68: Essai sur l’anti-humanisme
contemporain (Paris: Gallimard, 1988), pp. 201, 221.
126 See Geoffrey Bennington and Jacques Derrida, Derrida (Paris: Editions du Seuil,
1991), p. 254:
L’originalité de Heidegger serait done en partie produite par Derrida, qui
serait à son tour l’une des originalités de Heidegger. Mais les paradoxes du
même et de l’autre laisseraient soupçonner que la proximité même à
Heidegger implique une altérité plus importante qu’avec tout autre penseur.
127 See Hegel’s letter to Schelling, dated April 16, 1795, in Hegel: The Letters, tr.
C.Butler and C.Seiler (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984), pp. 35–36.
128 See e.g. his statement, in a recent article:
Autre précaution, autre appel à votre indulgence: faute de temps, je ne
présenterai qu’une partie ou plutôt plusieurs fragments, parfois un peu
discontinus, du travail que je poursuis cette année au rhythme lent d’un
séminaire engagé dans une lecture difficile et que je voudrais aussi
minutieuse et prudent que possible de certain textes de Heidegger.
(Jacques Derrida, Heidegger et la question: De l’esprit et autres essais
(Paris: Flammarion, 1990), p. 176)

129 See Jacques Derrida, “Geschlecht: Différence sexuelle, différence ontologique,”
in Cahiers de L’Herne: Heidegger, ed. M.Haar (Paris: Editions de l’Herne, 1983),
pp. 571–594, reprinted in Jacques Derrida, Heidegger et la question.
130 See Derrida, “Geschlecht,” p. 571.
131 See ibid., p. 575.

132 See ibid., p. 594.
133 See Martin Heidegger, “The Letter on Humanism,” in Basic Writings, ed.
D.F.Krell (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), p. 240.
134 See Heidegger, Being and Time, ch. 3: “The Worldhood of the World,”
§§ 14–
24, pp. 91–148.
135 See “Philosophy and the Crisis of European Man,” in E.Husserl, Phenomenology
and the Crisis of Philosophy, pp. 155–158.
136 See Husserl, L’Origine de la géométrie, pp. 45, 120, 162.
137 See Derrida, De l’esprit, pp. 94–100. See also J.Derrida, L’Autre Cap (Paris:
Editions du Minuit, 1991), pp. 36–37.
138 See “Les Fins de l’homme,” in Jacques Derrida, Marges de la philosophie (Paris:
Editions de Minuit, 1972, pp. 129–164. For a recent, critical reading of Derrida’s
influential article, see Stoekl, Agonies of the Intellectual, pp. 209–217.
139 See Jacques Derrida, Positions (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1972), p. 18.
140 See ibid., p. 73.
141 Stoekl not unfairly characterizes Derrida’s attack on Sartre and French
humanism as remarkably naive and thematic. See Stoekl, Agonies of the
Intellectual, p. 209.
142 Derrida, Marges de la philosophie, p. 136.
143 Ibid., p. 139.
144 See Heidegger, Being and Time, p. 62.
145 See ibid., pp. 188–194.
146 See Jacques Derrida, Glas (2 vols., Paris: Denoël, 1981).
147 For an English translation, see Edmund Husserl, The Crisis, appendix 3, pp.
148 See Husserl, L’Origine de la géométrie, p. 8.
149 Saussure was very influential in French philosophy during the structuralist period.
See Ferdinand de Saussure, Cours de linguistique générale (Paris: Payot, 1968).
150 See Heidegger, Being and Time, p. 47.
151 See “The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking,” in M.Heidegger, On
Time and Being, tr. J.Stambaugh (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), p. 56.
152 Derrida, La Voix et le phénomène, pp. 2–3; Derrida’s emphases. For a discussion
of Derrida’s criticism of the metaphysics of presence, see Marion, Réduction et
donation, pp. 33–38
153 Derrida, Marges de la philosophie, p. 140.
154 Ibid., p. 148.
155 For a recent defense of Husserl against Derrida’s criticism, see J.Claude Evans,
Strategies of Deconstruction: Derrida and the Myth of the Voice (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 1992).
156 See Heidegger, “The End of Philosophy,” pp. 55–73.
157 See Derrida, La Voix et le phénomène, p. 3.
158 Derrida, Marges de la philosophie, p. 54.
159 See “Circonfession,” in Bennington and Derrida, Derrida, pp. 7–291.
160 Bennington’s claim that Derrida is finally as opposed to Heidegger as to any
other thinker is mistaken. See Bennington and Derrida, Derrida, p. 255.
161 See Reiner Schürmann, “Que faire à la fin de la métaphysique,” in Cahiers de
L’Herne: Heidegger, ed. M.Haar (Paris: Editions de L’Herne, 1983), p. 473 n2.
162 In La Carte postale, Derrida resists this translation. See Jacques Derrida, La
Carte postale (Paris: Flammarion, 1980), pp. 285–287. In De l’esprit, he employs
this translation without hesitation or further comment. See De l’esprit, p. 35.
For discussion, see Rapaport, Heidegger and Derrida, pp. 3–9.
163 See Christopher Norris, Derrida (London: Fontana, 1987), pp. 94–95.

164 See “Deconstruction and Circumvention” in Rorty, Philosophical Papers, 11,
pp. 85–106.
165 For discussion of Derrida’s idea of deconstruction, see Rodolphe Gasché, The
Tain of the Mirror (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986), pp. 121–254.
166 See Edmund Husserl, Experience and Judgment, tr. James S.Churchill and Karl
Ameriks (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1973), pp. 47–48.
167 The term “Abbau” occurs in lectures delivered in 1927, the year that Being
and Time was published. See Heidegger, The Basic Problems of
Phenomenology, p. 23.
168 See Heidegger, Being and Time,
§ 6.
169 Heidegger, The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, pp. 22–23.
170 See Gasché, The Tain of the Mirror, p. 176.
171 See G.W.F.Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, tr. A.V.Miller (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1977), ch. 1: “Sense Certainty: or the ‘this’ and ‘meaning,’”
pp. 58–67.
172 See e.g Edmund Husserl, Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology,
tr. W.R.Boyce Gibson (New York: Collier, 1962),
§ 124, pp. 318–322. For
discussion of the relation between these two thinkers, see J.N.Mohanty, Husserl
and Frege (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982).
173 See Derrida, L’Origine de la géométrie,
§ 11, pp. 155–171.
174 Derrida, Positions, p. 73.
1 This chapter is based upon, but differs significantly from, my earlier discussion
of this issue. See ch. 7: “The French Reception of Heidegger’s Nazism,” in Tom
Rockmore, On Heidegger’s Nazism and Philosophy (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1992), pp. 244–281.
2 The analogy is limited in several ways, including Lukács’s lesser philosophical status,
and his later efforts to distance himself from Stalinism. Significantly, the study which
Lukács intended to support democracy against totalitarianism was never completed.
See Georg Lukács, Demokratisierung heute und morgen, ed. László Sziklai (Budapest:
Akadémiai Kiadó, 1985). For an analysis of Lukács’s Marxism, with discussion of
his Stalinism, see Tom Rockmore, Irrationalism: Lukács and the Marxist View of
Reason (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992).
3 For strong criticism of Lukács’s Stalinism, see the preface by István Eörsi to
Georg Lukács, Pensée vécue, mémoires parlés, tr. Antonia Fonyi (Paris: L’Arche,
1986), pp. 9–29.
4 For a series of documents concerning Heidegger’s Nazi turning, see Guide
Schneeberger, Nachlese zu Heidegger: Dokumente zu seinem Leben und Denken
(Berne, 1962).
5 For discussion, see Rockmore, On Heidegger’s Nazism and Philosophy, ch. 4,
pp. 122–175.
6 Martin Heidegger, “The Rectorate 1933/34: Facts and Thoughts,” in Martin
Heidegger and National Socialism: Questions and Answers, ed. Günther Neske
and Emil Kettering, intr. Karsten Harries (New York: Paragon, 1990), pp. 15–32.
7 See “Only a God Can Save Us: Der Spiegel’s Interview with Martin Heidegger,”
Philosophy Today, (Winter 1976).
8 See Schneeberger, Nachlese zu Heidegger, p. 136.
9 Martin Heidegger, An Introduction to Metaphysics, tr. Ralph Manheim (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1977), p. 199.

10 The passage cited is given in Victor Farías, Heidegger and Nazism, ed. J.Margolis
and T.Rockmore (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989) p. 287; translation
11 See Tom Rockmore, “Heidegger and Holocaust Revisionism,” in Martin
Heidegger and the Holocaust, ed. Alan Rosenberg and Alan Milchman (Atlantic
Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1994).
12 See George Leaman, Heidegger im Kontext: Gesamtüberblick zum NS-
Engagement der Universitätsphilosophen (Hamburg: Argument Verlag, 1993).
13 See Hugo Ott, Martin Heidegger: Unterwegs zu seiner Biographie (Frankfurt/
M.: Campus, 1988), pp. 201–213.
14 For a recent instance of the latter, see John Sallis, Echoes: After Heidegger
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990). According to Sallis, if we raise
the question of Heidegger’s politics we prevent his texts from speaking to us.
See ibid., p. 11.
15 See his review of Heidegger’s Einführung in die Metaphysik under the title “Déclin
ou floraison de la métaphysique,” Critique, (April 1956), pp. 354–361.
16 For discussion, see Tom Rockmore, “Philosophy, Literature, and Intellectual
Responsibility,” American Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 30, no. 2 (April 1993),
pp. 109–122.
17 See Victor Farías, Heidegger et le nazisme (Paris: Verdier, 1987). See also Farías,
Heidegger and Nazism.
18 For his view of the relation between being and the ought, see Heidegger, An
Introduction to Metaphysics, pp. 196–206.
19 For a factually more detailed account, see Rockmore, On Heidegger’s Nazism
and Philosophy, pp. 244–281.
20 See Alphonse De Waelhens, La Philosophie de Martin Heidegger (Louvain:
Nauwelaerts, 1942, rpt. 1971).
21 See Hans-Georg Gadamer, “The Political Incompetence of Philosophy,” in The
Heidegger Case: On Philosophy and Politics ed. T.Rockmore and J.Margolis
(Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992), pp. 364–372.
22 See Karl Löwith, “Les Implications politiques de la philosophie de l’existence
chez Heidegger,” Les Temps Modernes, vol. 2, no. 14 (November 1946), pp.
23 See Thomas Sheehan, “Heidegger and the Nazis,” The New York Review of
Books, vol. 35, no. 10 (June 16, 1988).
24 See Rainer Marten, Heidegger Lesen (Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 1991).
25 See Michael E.Zimmerman, Heidegger’s Confrontation with Modernity:
Technology, Politics, Art (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990).
26 See Otto Pöggeler, “Den Führer führen? Heidegger und kein Ende,” in
Philosophische Rundschau, vol. 32 (1985), pp. 26–67. See also Otto Pöggeler,
“Heideggers politisches Selbstverständnis,” in Heidegger und die praktische
Philosophie, ed. Annemarie Gethmann-Siefert and Otto Pöggeler (Frankfurt/
M.: Suhrkamp, 1988), pp. 17–63.
27 See Dieter Thomä, Die Zeit des Selbst und die Zeit danach: Zur Kritik der
Textgeschichte Martin Heideggers 1910–1976 (Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, 1990).
28 His change of perspective is considerable and courageous. As late as 1983, he
still maintained that it was too soon to judge Heidegger’s thought. See Dominique
Janicaud and Jean-François Mattéi, La Métaphysique à la limite (Paris: Presses
universitaires de France, 1983), p. 218.
29 See Dominique Janicaud, L’Ombre de cette pensée: Heidegger et la question
politique (Grenoble: Millon, 1990).
30 See Jean-Michel Palmier, Les Ecrits politiques de Heidegger (Paris: L’Herne,
1968). The tendentiously Heideggerian dimension of his earlier contribution

has entirely disappeared in Palmier’s most recent discussion of the same theme.
See Jean-Michel Palmier, “Postface” to Hugo Ott, Martin Heidegger: Eléments
pour une biographie (Paris: Payot, 1990), pp. 379–413.
31 See Georg Lukács, Existentialisme ou Marxisme?, tr. E.Kelemen (Paris: Editions
Nagel, 1948, rpt. 1961).
32 See “Anhang: Heidegger Redivivus,” in Georg Lukács, Existentialismus oder
Marxismus? (Berlin: Aufbau Verlag, 1951), pp. 161–183.
33 See Jean Beaufret, Dialogue avec Heidegger, vol. IV: Le chemin de Heidegger
(Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1974), p. 87.
34 For these texts, see Jean-Pierre Faye, “Heidegger et la révolution,” Médiations,
no. 3 (Autumn 1961), pp. 151–159.
35 See Jean-Pierre Faye, “Attaques Nazies centre Heidegger,” Médiations, no. 5
(Summer 1962), pp. 137–151.
36 See François Fédier, “Trois Attaques centre Heidegger,” Critique, no. 234
(November 1966), pp. 883–904.
37 Scott manages to reread the rectorial address as a document concerning the
German university and science only. See Charles Scott, The Question of Ethics:
Nietzsche, Foucault, Heidegger (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990),
ch. 5: “These violent passions: The Rector’s address,” pp. 148–172.
38 See François Fédier, “A propos de Heidegger: Une lecture dénoncée,” Critique,
no. 242 (1965), pp. 672–686.
39 Frédéric de Towarnicki, “Traduire Heidegger,” Magazine littéraire, no. 222
(September 1985), p. 75
40 Hugo Ott, “Wege und Abwege: Zu Victor Farias’ kritischer Heidegger-Studie,”
Neue “Zürcher Zeitung, no. 275 (November 27, 1987), p. 67.
41 See Lucette Valensi, “Présence du passé, lenteur de l’histoire,” in Présence du
passé, lenteur de l’histoire: Vichy, l’occupation, les Juifs,” Annales, vol. 48, no.
3 (May/June 1993), p. 491.
42 See “French Angered at Ruling on Nazi Collaborator,” The New York Times
(April 15, 1992), p. 5.
43 Christian Jambet, preface to Farías, Heidegger et le nazisme, p. 14.
44 See Pierre Bourdieu, L’Ontologie politique de Martin Heidegger (Paris: Editions
de Minuit, 1988).
45 See Jean-François Lyotard, Heidegger et “les juifs” (Paris: Editions Galilée,
46 See Luc Ferry and Alain Renaut, Heidegger et les modernes (Paris: Grasset, 1988).
47 See François Fédier, Heidegger: Anatomie d’un scandale (Paris: Robert Laffont, 1988).
48 See Jacques Derrida, De l’esprit: Heidegger et la question (Paris: Flammarion,
49 See Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, La Fiction du politique (Paris: Christian Bourgois,
50 See Janicaud, L’Ombre de cette pensée.
51 See-Victor Farías, “Foreword to the Spanish Edition, Heidegger and Nazism”
in The Heidegger Case, pp. 33–34.
52 See Lyotard, Heidegger et “les juifs,” p. 16.
53 See especially Luc Ferry and Alain Renaut, La Pensée 68: Essai sur l’anti-
humanisme contemporain (Paris: Gallimard, 1988).
54 For his objection, see Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews
and Other Writings, 1972–1977, ed. C.Gordon (New York: Pantheon, 1980),
p. 114.
55 See Fédier, Heidegger: Anatomie d’un scandale, p. 37.
56 See ibid., p. 162.

57 See Aristotle, De Interpretation, 9, 19b30–34, in The Complete Works of Aristotle,
vol. I, ed. Jonathan Barnes (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), p. 30.
58 See Heidegger’s letter to Jaspers on April 8, 1950, in M.Heidegger and K.Jaspers,
Briefwechsel 1920–1963, ed. W.Biemel and H.Sauer (Frankfurt/M.: Vittorio
Klostermann 1990), p. 202.
59 In a recently published letter Heidegger complains of the “Jewification
[Verjudung] of the German spirit.” See Ulrich Sieg, “Die Verjudung des deutschen
Geistes,” in Die Zeit, no. 52 (December 22, 1989), p. 50. See also Bourdieu,
L’Ontologie politique de Martin Heidegger, pp. 59 61n.
60 Bourdieu, L’Ontologie politique de Martin Heidegger, p. 10.
61 See Janicaud, L’Ombre de cette pensée, pp. 58–64.
62 See ibid., p. 63.
63 See ibid., p. 159.
64 According to Beaufret, “Heidegger n’a jamais rien fait qui ait pu motiver les
allégations formulées contre lui,” and the political scrutiny of his thought results
from “la conspiration des médiocres au nom de la médiocrité.” J.Beaufret,
Entretien avec Towarnicki (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1984),
p. 87. See also ibid., p. 90.
65 For a recent, critical discussion of Derrida’s view of Heidegger’s politics, see
Stoekl, Agonies of the Intellectual, pp. 217–232.
66 For Stoekl, Derrida is basically unable, in virtue of his Heideggerian approach,
to criticize Heidegger’s politics. See Stoekl, Agonies of the Intellectual (Lincoln:
University of Nebraska Press, 1992), pp. 200, 228–229.
67 For the view that Lacoue-Labarthe makes “humanism the main culprit for
Nazism,” see Agnes Heller, “Death of the Subject?,” in Can Modernity Survive?
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), p. 66.
68 See especially “La Transcendance fini e/t dans la politique” and “Poétique et
politique,” in Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, L’Imitation des modernes (Paris:
Editions Galilée, 1986).
69 See Lacoue-Labarthe, La Fiction du politique, p. 28.
70 See ibid., p. 43.
71 See ibid., p. 64.
72 See ibid., p. 138.
73 See Jacques Derrida, “Like the Sound of the Sea Deep Within a Shell: Paul de
Man’s War,” in Responses on Paul de Man’s Wartime Journalism, ed. Werner
Hamacher, Neil Hertz, and Thomas Keenan (Lincoln: University of Nebraska,
1989), pp. 127–164.
74 See “Un Entretien avec Jacques Derrida: Heidegger, l’enfer des philosophes,”
Le Nouvel Observateur, no. 47 (November 27, 1987). For an account of the
threatened legal action, see “Preface to the MIT Press Edition: Note on a Missing
Text,” in The Heidegger Controversy, ed. Richard Wolin (Cambridge: MIT Press,
1993), pp. ix–xx.
75 For Derrida’s reply to a critical article by Thomas Sheehan and Sheehan’s
rejoinder, see The New York Review of Books, vol. 40, no. 4 (February 11,
1993), pp. 44–45.
76 See Derrida, De l’esprit, p. 11.
77 See “Die Sprache im Gedicht: Eine Erörterung von Georg Trakls Gedicht,” in
Martin Heidegger, Unterwegs zur Sprache (Pfullingen: Neske, 1959).
78 See Derrida, De l’esprit, p. 12.
79 For this argument, see Rockmore, On Heidegger’s Nazism and Philosophy, ch.
5, pp. 189–199 and passim.

80 See Jacques Derrida, De la grammatologie (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1967),
pp. 227.
81 See Ott, Martin Heidegger: Unterwegs zu seiner Biographie.
82 See Ernst Nolte, Heidegger: Politik und Geschichte im Leben und Denken (Berlin:
Propyläen, 1992).
83 See Karl Löwith, Heidegger: Denker in dürftiger Zeit (Stuttgart: J.B.Metzler,
84 For discussion, see Rockmore, On Heidegger’s Nazism and Philosophy, ch. 5,
pp. 176–203.
85 See Simone de Beauvoir, La Force de l’âge, p. 483.
86 See Etienne Gilson, L’Etre et l’essence (Paris: Vrin, 1987), p. 358.
1 See Otto Pöggeler, Martin Heidegger’s Path of Thinking, tr. Daniel Magurshak
and Sigmund Barber (Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press, 1989), p. 247.
2 “The Question Concerning Technology,” in Martin Heidegger, Basic Writings,
ed. D.F.Krell (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), p. 296.
3 See Herbert Schnädelbach, Philosophy in Germany 1831–1933, tr. Eric Matthews
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), p. 1.
4 See Gilbert Ryle, “Review of Martin Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit,” Mind, vol. 38
5 See Rudolf Carnap, “The Elimination of Metaphysics through Logical Analysis
of Language,” in Logical Positivism, ed. A.J.Ayer (Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1959).
6 See “Hegel and the Hermeneutics of German Idealism,” in Tom Rockmore,
Hegel and Contemporary Philosophy (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press,
7 Fichte’s staunchest defender in recent years has been Reinhard Lauth. See e.g.
Reinhard Lauth, Hegel vor der Wissenschaftslehre (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner
Verlag, 1987); see also Reinhard Lauth, Die transzendentale Naturlehre Fichtes
nach den Prinzipien der Wissenschaftslehre (Hamburg: Meiner Verlag, 1984).
8 See e.g. Walter Schulz, Die Vollendung des deutschen Idealismus in der
Spätphilosophie Schellings (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1955).
9 See Immannuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason tr. Norman Kemp Smith (New
York: Macmillan, 1961), B 867, pp. 655–656.
10 See his introduction to Entwurf eines Systems der Naturphilosophie (1799), in
F.W.J.Schelling, Ausgewählte Schriften, vol. I (Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, 1985),
p. 339.
11 See Karl Jaspers, Psychologie der Weltanschauungen (Berlin: Springer Verlag,
1925), pp. 1–2.
12 Wilhelm Dilthey, Gesammelte Schriften, vol. V, ed. Georg Misch (Stuttgart:
B.G.Teubner, and Göttingen: Vandehoek und Ruprecht, 1914–1974), V, p. 416.
See also “Die Typen der Weltanschauung und ihre Ausbildung in den
metaphysischen Systemen,” in Dilthey, Gesammelte Schriften, vol. VIII, pp. 73–
118. For an excellent discussion of Dilthey’s concept of Weltanschauung, see
Rudolf Makkreel, Dilthey: Philosopher of the Human Sciences (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1975), ch. 9: “The Weltanschauungslehre and the
Late Aesthetics,” pp. 345–384.
13 See “Philosophy as Rigorous Science,” in Edmund Husserl, Phenomenology
and the Crisis of Philosophy.

14 See § 2: “The concept of philosophy: philosophy and world-view,” in M.
Heidegger, The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, tr. A.Hofstadter
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982), pp. 4–11.
15 See ibid., p. 6.
16 See ibid., p. 7.
17 This distinction is becoming ever harder to draw. Nolte has recently argued in
effect that there is no distinction, although there is nothing reprehensible about
being a Nazi. See Ernst Nolte, Heidegger: Politik und Geschichte im Leben und
Denken (Berlin: Propyläeu, 1992).
18 M.Heidegger, Being and Time, tr. J.Macquarie and E.Robinson (New York:
Harper & Row, 1962), p. 75n.
19 See ibid., p. 238.
20 See ibid., p. 227.
21 See
§ 14: “Precursory characterization of objectivism and transcendentalism:
The struggle between these two ideas as the sense of modern spiritual history,”
in Husserl, The Crisis, pp. 68–70.
22 Max Scheler, Man’s Place in Nature, tr. Hans Meyerhoff (Boston: Beacon, 1961).
23 See H.O.Pappé, “Philosophical Anthropology,” in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy,
vols. V–VI, ed. Paul Edwards (New York: Macmillan, 1972), p. 160.
24 See Heidegger, Being and Time, pp. 37–38.
25 See ibid., p. 74.
26 See ibid., p. 75.
27 See ibid.
28 See ibid., p. 38.
29 See ibid., p. 170.
30 See ibid., p. 227.
31 See ibid., p. 244.
32 See ibid., p. 336.
33 See ibid., p. 73.
34 Ibid., p. 58.
35 M.Heidegger, “The Age of the World Picture,” in The Question Concerning
Technology and Other Essays, tr. W.Lovilt (New York: Harper & Row, 1977),
p. 133.
36 See ibid., p. 153.
37 See M.Heidegger, “The Letter on Humanism,” in Basic Writings, ed. D.F.Krell
(New York: Harper & Row, 1977), p. 204.
38 See ibid., p. 213.
39 See ibid., p. 221.
40 Ibid., p. 222.
41 See Dominique Janicaud, Hegel et le destin de la Grèce (Paris: Vrin, 1975).
42 Heidegger, “Letter on Humanism,” p. 224.
43 Fernand Braudel, On History, tr. Sarah Matthews (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1980), p. 217.
44 See Martin Heideger, Ontologie: Hermeneutik der Faktizität (Sommersemester
1923), ed. Käte Bröcker-Oltmanns (Frankfurt/M.: Vittorio Klostermann, 1988).
45 See Heidegger, Ontologie, p. 108.
46 “The Rectorial Address,” in Martin Heidegger and National Socialism:
Questions and Answers, ed. Günther Neske and Emil Kettering, intr. Karsten
Harries, tr. Lisa Harries and Joachim Neugroschel (New York: Paragon House,
1990), p. 13.
47 Heidegger, “Letter on Humanism,” p. 222.
48 See ibid., pp. 236–240.

Adorno, Theodor 155
“Age of the World Picture, The” 7,
181–3, 187
Albert, Henri 130
alienation 47, 57, 97
Alquié, Ferdinand 11
Althusser, Louis xvi, 6, 26, 29, 36, 57,
58, 86, 95, 105
Anaximander 93
Andler, Charles 32
Annales, Les 83
Anthropologie in pragmatischer
Hinsicht 45
anthropology see philosophical
anticontextualism xiii–xiv, 164
antifoundationalism 43, 135
antihumanism 57, 58, 158, 181, 186
“Apologie de Raymond Sebonde” 66
“A propos de l’existentialisme” 92
Aquinas, St. Thomas 24, 69, 84, 131
Arendt, Hannah 101
Aristotle 1, 24, 41, 64, 77, 93, 110,
130, 131, 132–4, 153
Arnauld, Antoine 9, 10
Aron, Raymond 33, 34, 36, 37, 83
Aubenque, Pierre 1, 11, 102, 132–3,
135, 154, 155, 159, 163, 185
Augustine, St. 24, 40, 41, 42, 43, 61,
Austin, J.L. 19
Barthes, Roland 6, 57
Basch, Victor 28, 128
Bataille, Georges 33, 34, 131
Beaufret, Jean xii, xvii, xviii, 1, 27, 74–5,
77, 127, 129, 131, 132, 140, 141,
154, 155, 159, 163, 165, 167; and
French counteroffensive 107–11;
and French Heideggerian orthodoxy
119–20; and “Letter on Humanism”
81–103; and rise of French
Heideggerian orthodoxy 111–19
Beauvoir, Simone de 6, 55, 77, 79, 166
being 39, 59, 70, 72, 80, 96–7, 101,
102, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 111,
113, 114, 118, 121, 123, 124, 127,
132, 134, 137, 144, 164, 172, 174,
178, 180, 182, 183, 186, 187, 188
Being and Nothingness 27, 55, 56, 76,
77, 78, 79, 80, 82, 83, 84, 86, 96,
Being and Time xii, xiii, xv, xvii, xix, 7,
10, 11, 12, 13, 17, 51, 52, 53, 59,
70, 73, 74, 75, 81, 84, 92, 95, 96,
97, 99, 101, 102, 105, 106, 107,
108, 112, 114, 116, 121, 123, 131,
132, 135, 137, 138, 143, 144, 146,
154, 159, 166–7, 171, 176, 178,
180, 181, 182, 183, 184, 187, 188
Beiträge zur Philosophie 102, 103, 106,
114, 116, 162, 165
Benda, Julien 60–1, 130
Bennington, Geoffrey 145
Bergson, Henri xvi, 7, 24, 169
Berkeley, George 20
Bifur 71
Birault, Henri 86–7, 98, 127
Bloch, Marc 83
Bloom, Harold 124
Blum, Léon 83
Borch-Jacobsen, Mikkel 93
Bourdieu, Pierre 6, 16, 82, 108, 156,
158–9, 163
Boutot, Alain 127
Brague, Rémi 1, 11, 133–4, 135, 138
Brandom, Robert 171

Braudel, Fernand 186
Brentano, Franz 113
Breton, André 33
Brinkmann, Albert Erich 89, 91
Brunschvicg, Léon 28–9
Bultmann, Rudolf 55
Burke, Edmund 68

Camus, Albert 31, 55, 83
Capital 34, 50
Carnap, Rudolf 171
“Cartesian Freedom” 79
Cartesianism xv
Cartesian Meditations 50, 171
Cassirer, Ernst 7, 21, 62, 153
Cavaillès, Jean 83
Char, René 1
Chrétien, Jean-Louis 137
Cicero 60
cogito 7, 9, 30, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 67,
117, 137
Cohen, Hermann 116
Collège de France 6, 26, 28
Collège International de Philosophie
26, 125
Condition humaine, La 83
Condorcet, Jean Antoine xvi, 68
contextualism xiii–xv, 175
Copernican Revolution xii, 44, 46, 47,
63, 100, 105, 116, 131, 140
Corbin, Henri xvii, 33, 71, 72, 73–5
Courtine, Jean-François 1, 11, 110,
129, 131–2, 135, 138
Cousin, Victor 28
Crisis of the European Sciences and
Transcendental Phenomenology
138, 142, 171
critical philosophy 22, 46, 47, 63, 66
Critique of Dialectical Reason 82
Critique of Pure Reason xii, 2, 22, 45,
46, 57, 132, 151
Croce, Benedetto xix, 94
Danto, Arthur 79
Dasein xiii, xvi, 40, 41, 51–3, 56, 72–5,
87, 92, 93, 95, 103, 109, 110, 117,
120–4, 134, 137, 139, 140, 165,
175–81, 183, 184, 187, 188–9
Dastur, Françoise 2, 125
Davidson, Donald 18
deconstruction 56, 145–6
Delacroix, Henri 128Delbos, Victor 28
Deleuze, Gilles 36, 57, 130, 131, 135
de Gaulle, Charles 14
de Man, Paul 124–5, 161
“De modis significandi” 170
Derrida, Jacques i, xiii, xvi, xviii, 1, 2,
6, 7, 12, 14, 25, 26, 29, 35, 36, 38,
56, 57, 86, 104, 120, 124, 125, 127,
129, 131, 135, 136, 138, 154, 157,
176, 181; and Heidegger 139–47,
159–62, 163–4, 166, 184, 185
Desanti, Jean 33
Descartes, René xiii, xv, xvi, 1, 2, 3, 6,
7, 8, 9, 18, 20, 23, 24, 26, 28, 30,
38, 40, 42, 43, 44–6, 50, 52, 53,
66–7, 69, 78, 79, 89, 130, 135, 136,
137, 138, 146, 169, 173, 177, 179,
180, 188
Descombes, Vincent 34, 130
De Waehlens, Alphonse 3, 153, 154, 155
Dewey, John 169
D’Hondt, Jacques 31
Dialogue avec Heidegger 109, 132
Diderot, Denis 66, 67
“Die Kategorien- und Bedeutungslehre
des Duns Scotus” 172
Difference between Fichte’s and
Schelling’s System of Philosophy,
The 23
Dilthey, Wilhelm 174–5, 177
“Discourse on Method” 42, 43, 44, 67
Disputationes metaphysicae 131
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor 31
Dreyfus, Hubert 171
Dufrenne, Mikel 64
Dummett, Michael 18
Duns Scotus 131, 172

Economic and Philosophical
Manuscripts 49
Einstein, Albert 3
Encyclopedia 67
“End of Philosophy and the Task of
Thinking, The” 92, 123, 144
Engels, Friedrich 38, 57, 105
Enlightenment 62, 63, 65, 67
Entretiens avec Frédéric de Towarnicki
Ereignis 53, 102, 103, 110, 114, 116, 121
Eribon, Didier 82
Esprit 83

Esquisse d’une théorie des émotions 75
“Essai sur la transcendance de l’égo” 27
Essay Concerning Human
Understanding 14
Essays 66
Essence of Manifestation, The 137
existentialism 29, 30, 31, 55, 56, 64,
70, 71, 74–5, 76, 78, 81, 82, 83, 84,
85, 86, 87, 88, 91, 92, 94, 95, 96,
97, 98, 112, 119
Existentialism is a Humanism xvi, xvii,
76, 78, 80, 84, 96
Existenzphilosophie 74
Faguet, Emile 130
Family Idiot, The 78
Farías, Victor xiii, 148, 152, 155, 156,
157, 158, 166
Faye, Jean-Pierre 154, 155
Fédier, François xii, 86, 110, 127, 154,
155, 157, 158, 159, 163, 185
Ferry, Luc 135, 157–8
Fessard, Gaston 33
Feuerbach, Ludwig 68, 100
Fichte, Johann Gottlieb 11, 20, 21, 22,
38, 47, 48, 49, 63, 105, 159, 169,
“Fins de l’homme, Les” 142
Fischer, Alois 78
Fontenelle, Bernard 67
Foucault, Michel i, xvi, 1, 6, 7, 14, 25,
26, 29, 36, 38, 57–8, 82, 130, 131,
135, 136, 142, 146, 158
foundationalism 42–3, 135
Foundations of the Science of
Knowledge (Grundlage der gesamten
Wissenschaftslehre) 49, 105
Frege, Gottlob 2, 11, 24, 71, 146, 169
French Communist Party 25, 31, 70,
83, 84, 86, 98
French Hegelianism 13, 35
French Heideggerianism xviii, 86, 108,
109, 110, 111, 113, 124–5, 147,
172–5; and “Letter on Humanism”
French philosophy 1–17; and
Heideggerian exegesis 126–8, 148;
as politically conservative 15–17;
and religion 8–10, 137; and Roman
Catholicism xv, 15, 65, 137
French Revolution 67, 68
Freud, Sigmund 14, 18
front populaire 38, 108
Fry, Christopher 77Führerprinzip 122, 161
fundamental ontology xix, 56, 71, 72, 80,
86, 88, 119, 152, 160, 164, 176, 183
Gadamer, Hans-Georg 12, 36, 69, 145,
153, 159, 185
Gandillac, Maurice de 153
Garaudy, Roger 31, 64, 84
Gassendi, Pierre 65
Gay, Peter 62
genealogy 136
Gerassi, John 82
German idealism 11, 46, 48, 63
German Ideology 50
Gide, André 130
Gilson, Etienne 11, 86, 167
Giscard d’Estaing, Valéry 16
Gobineau, Joseph-Arthur 14
Goebbels, Joseph 118
Goering, Hermann 89
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang 61, 130
Goldmann, Lucien 57
Gouhier, Henri 11
Greisch, Jean 127
Grondin, Jean 3, 100
Gurvitch, Georges xvii, 72, 88
Gurwitsch, Aron 33
Haar, Michel 120–4
Halévy, Eli 130
Hamann, Johann Georg 2
Hegel, G.W.F. xiii, xvi, xvii, xviii, xix,
1, 11, 12, 13, 17, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24,
25, 27–39, 47, 48, 54, 55, 61, 63,
64, 68, 73, 74, 76, 77, 90, 108, 117,
126, 128, 131, 140, 143, 144, 146–7,
169, 171, 172, 174, 181
Hegelian School 28
Heidegger: and contemporary French
philosophy 126–47; and Derrida
139–47; and French interpretation of
the history of philosophy 130–5; and
French interpretation of
phenomenology 128–30; as “French”
philosopher 1–17, 85, 95, 162, 168,
169; and French philosophy xv, 148–68;
French philosophy and national
socialism xiv, 148–68; French
philosophy and the philosophical
tradition 168–89; and letter to Beaufret
91–4; and “Letter on Humanism” 94–8;
Sartre and French humanism 59–80Sartre
and humanism 79–80; on humanism

Heidegger et l’expérience de la pensée 87
Heidegger and Nazism (Heidegger et le
nazisme) 152, 155, 156, 157, 166
Heidegger’s politics and French
philosophy 151–68
Helvétius, Claude Adrien 67
Henry, Michel 1, 34, 36, 135, 137–8
Heraclitus 93, 110
Herder, Johann Gottfried von 2
Herr, Lucien 28
history 30, 35, 39, 57, 63, 97, 98,
121, 143
Histoire de la folie 7
History and Class Consciousness 57,
Hitler, Adolf 38, 85, 88
Hoageland, John 171
Hölderlin, Friedrich 96, 118
Hölderlins Hymnen “Germanien” und
“Der Rhein” 102
Höffding, Harald 61
Holocaust 149–50, 171
Hühnerfeld, Paul 155
human reality see réalité-humaine
humanism xvii, xviii, 56, 57, 59–125,
142–3; antihumanism and
Heidegger in France 181–9; concept
of 60–4; in French philosophy 64–9;
Heideggerian and French philosophy
69–75, 97; and Heideggerian
humanism 120–125, 160; Sartre,
Heidegger and 82–85
humanitarianism 60
Hume, David 20, 21, 24, 62, 63, 169
Husserl, Edmund xiii, xvii, 2, 12, 19,
20, 27, 28, 30, 33, 46, 51, 52, 53,
55, 64, 72, 76, 77, 85, 110, 113,
116, 128–9, 138, 140, 142, 143–4,
146–7, 169, 171, 173, 174, 177,
179, 180
Hyppolite, Jean 1, 13, 29, 30, 31, 35,
36, 54, 64, 135
Ideas I 13, 50, 171
Ideas II 121
“Insight Into What Is” 102
Introduction aux philosophies de
l’existence 112
Introduction to Logic 45
Introduction to Metaphysics 149, 165
Irigaray, Luce i, 1,

Jacobi, Friedrich Heinrich 2
Jambet, Christian 135, 156James, William xiii, 54, 169
Janicaud, Dominique 1, 110, 128, 135,
137, 154, 157, 158–9, 163
Jaspers, Karl 12, 31, 32, 55, 75, 84, 85,
93, 94, 96, 113, 116, 130, 174–5
Kafka, Franz 31
Kanapa, Jean 84–5
Kandinsky, Vassili 138
Kant, Immanuel xii, xiii, xviii, 2, 8, 11,
17, 19, 21–2, 23, 24, 38, 44–50, 51,
53, 55, 61, 63, 64, 66, 67, 73, 76,
79, 80, 84, 109, 111, 116, 132, 140,
142, 145, 151, 169, 173, 174, 177,
180, 188
Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics 184
Kehre see turning
Kierkegaard, Søren 29, 31, 55, 63, 68,
72, 75, 128
Kisiel, Theodore 163
Klossowski, Pierre 33, 130
Kofman, Sarah 125
Kojève, Alexandre xvi, xvii, 1, 13, 14, 25,
27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 54, 55, 56, 58, 73,
74, 81, 108, 128, 135, 142, 181
Kojevnikov, Alexandre see Kojève
Koyré, Alexandre xii, xvii, 14, 32, 33, 34,
36, 54, 71, 72, 126, 135, 153, 169
Krell, David Farrell 2, 125
Kripke, Saul 19
Kristeva, Julia 128
Lacan, Jacques i, xvi, 26, 27, 29, 33,
56, 128, 139
Lacoue-Labarthe, Philippe i, xi, xviii, 2,
154, 157, 159–61, 163–4, 166, 181,
184, 185
Lacroix, Jean 34
La Mettrie, Julien Offray de 67
Lanson, Gustave 7
La Rochefoucauld, François de 130
Laruelle, François 131
Lefebvre, Henri 84–5, 130
Leiris, Michel 75
Léon, Xavier 11
Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm 20, 63
“Letter on Humanism” xvii, xviii, xix,
54, 59, 60, 74, 134, 141, 142, 143,
181, 182, 184, 185, 187; and
French counter-offensive 107–11,
130, 154, 159; and French
Heideggerianism 104–25, 162; and

French Heideggerian orthodoxy
104–7; and Jean Beaufret 81–103;
and turning in Heidegger’s thought
“Letter to Richardson” 99, 100, 112, 114
Lévi-Strauss, Claude xvi, 25, 26, 56,
57, 58, 82
Lévinas, Emmanuel xvii, 1, 12, 14, 27,
55, 72–3, 86–7, 128–9, 135, 137, 138
Locke, John 14, 20, 23, 24
Löwith, Karl 88, 115, 117, 148, 153,
154, 155, 157, 158, 163, 165
Logical Investigations 13, 171, 179
Logique de Port Royal 9
Lovejoy, Arthur Oncken xiii
Lubac, Henri de, 65
Lukács, Georg 31, 34, 35, 36, 57, 105,
148, 151, 154, 169, 171
Luther, Martin 64
Lyotard, Jean-François 1, 135–6, 157
Macherey, Pierre 34
Maimon, Salomon 21
Maistre, Joseph de 14
Mallarmé, Stéphane 29
Malraux, André 6, 82, 83
Man’s Place in Nature 177
Marcel, Gabriel 12, 54, 55, 84
Marion, Jean-Luc 1, 11, 110, 129, 135,
137, 138–9
Maritain, Jacques 11
Marquet, Jean-François 11
Marten, Rainer 154, 155, 163
Martineau, Emmanuel 110, 127
Marx, Karl xiii, xviii, 14, 22, 23, 25,
28, 29, 30, 36, 47, 48, 49, 54–5, 57,
62, 63, 77, 91, 97, 98, 100, 105,
112, 113, 181
Marxism 13, 26, 30, 31, 38, 57, 63,
64, 77, 83, 85, 86, 87, 92, 97, 108,
112, 118, 122, 148, 154
Marxists 17, 18, 38, 82, 85, 105, 109, 113
master thinker: concept of 18–39, 40,
59, 85, 105, 124, 141; Descartes,
Lacan, and Sartre 25–7; Hegel as
French 27–31; Kojève as 31–9;
Whitehead, Kant, and Sartre on 20–5
materialism 48, 49, 97, 98
Mattéi, Jean-François 100
Mauriac, François 82
“Meditations on First Philosophy” 43,
53, 65, 69,Merleau-Ponty, Maurice xiii, 3, 7, 12,
20, 25, 26, 29, 33, 55, 77, 83, 86,
115, 116, 121
metaphysics xix, 7, 39, 53, 97, 98, 100,
106, 110, 116, 117, 131, 132–4,
144, 146, 159–60, 163, 182, 183,
184, 188
Metaphysics 132, 133
Meyerson, Emile
Miller, J.Hillis 124
Mitterand, François 25
Mollet, Guy 83
Montaigne, Michel de xvi, 40, 66–7
Moore, George Edward 10, 18, 169
Mounier, Emmanuel 70, 83
Myerson, Emile 28

Naming and Necessity 19
Nancy, Jean-Luc 2, 125
Napoleon Bonaparte 16, 35, 68, 126
National Socialism xiii, xvii, xix, 3, 17,
38, 60, 80, 86, 88, 89, 91, 92, 93,
94, 95, 98, 101, 102, 103, 104, 117,
118, 119, 120, 129, 144, 148–68,
175, 183, 184, 185, 187
Nausea 83
Nazism see National Socialism
Newton, Isaac 14
New York Review of Books, The 161
Nicole, Pierre 9,
Niethammer, Immanuel Hermann 61
Nietzsche, Friedrich 14, 29, 31, 55, 57,
88, 101–3, 111, 112, 130–1, 135,
136, 169
Nietzsche 101–2, 130, 162
Nizan, Paul 83
Nolte, Ernst 149, 164
Nouvelle Critique, La 85

Okrent, Mark 171
“On the Essence of Truth” 99, 101,
102, 114, 187
Ontologie: Hermeneutik der Faktizität
Oresteia 41
“Origin of Geometry, The” 142, 143, 147
“Origin of the Work of Art” 118, 121
Ott, Hugo 155, 157, 158, 164
Owen, G.E.L. 11

Palmier, Jean-Michel 91, 108, 119, 154
Pantagruel 66

Parmenides 41, 93, 109, 130, 134
Parmenides 134
Pascal, Blaise 10, 69
“Passions of the Soul” 43, 67
Peirce, Charles Sanders 3, 169
Pensée sauvage, La 82
phenomenology xvi, 11, 29, 30, 31, 50,
55, 56, 64, 87, 96, 108, 110, 128,
133, 137, 138, 144, 174, 179, 180
Phenomenology of Spirit xvi, xvii, 27,
28, 29, 30, 31–9, 47, 49, 54, 73, 77,
146, 151
phenomenological truth 51, 143, 180
Philonenko, Alexis 11
philosophical anthropology i, xi, xvii,
30, 34, 38, 41, 52, 54, 55, 81,
175–81, 182, 188
philosophical tradition 170–2
“Philosophy as Rigorous Science” 177
philosophy of identity
(Identitätsphilosophie) 47
Philosophy of Right 31, 36
Piaget, Jean xvi, 57
Pico della Mirandola 40, 61–2
Plato xviii, 22, 24, 25, 39, 41, 52, 64,
93, 100, 105, 127, 173, 174, 180
Platonic philosophical tradition 101,
Platonism 101, 105
Pöggeler, Otto xii, 12, 75–6, 102, 115,
117–18, 154, 155, 163
Politzer, Georges 83
Pompidou, Georges 16
Pons, Alain 69
Pope, Alexander 62
Pius XII 82
postmetaphysical humanism i, xi
Principia Mathematica 14
“Principle of Identity” 134
Prolegomena to Any Future
Metaphysics 45
Protestant principle 25
psychologism 45, 179
Putnam, Hilary 18
Queneau, Raymond 29, 33
“Question Concerning Technology,
The” 170
Quine, Willem van Orman 18, 19

Rabelais, François xvi, 66
Raynaud, Philippe 131
réalité-humaine 74–5, 87, 93, 142, 176reason 8, 9, 29, 63, 64, 67, 120, 174
Recherches philosophiques 32
“Rectorate 1933/34: Facts and
Thoughts” 111–12
“Rectorial Address” (“Rektoratsrede”)
60, 80, 89, 92, 94, 119, 160, 161
Reinach, Adolf 33
Reinhardt, Karl 134
Reinhold, Karl Leonhard 21, 22, 25,
105, 169
Renan, Ernest 130
Renaut, Alain 110, 115, 135, 157–8
Republic 41, 173
Research in Phenomenology
Revue de métaphysique et de morale 87
Richardson, William 99, 100, 154
Richir, Marc 3
Ricoeur, Paul 12, 115, 116–17, 128,
Riley, Patrick 34
Rilke, Rainer Maria 31,
Roèls, Claude 115
Röhm, Ernst 89
Roques, Paul 28
Rorty, Richard 18
Resales, Alberto 100
Roth, Michael xi
Roudinesco, Elizabeth, 34
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques 45, 67, 68
“Rules for the Direction of the Mind”
Russell, Bertrand 10, 17, 169
Ryle, Gilbert 171
St. Paul 21
Saint-Exupéry, Antoine de 77
Sallis, John 2, 125
Sammons, Geoffrey 124
Sartre, Jean-Paul i, xvi, xvii, 2, 6, 7, 12,
20, 22–4, 27, 31, 36, 55, 56, 59–80,
81, 91, 92, 94, 95, 98, 108, 110,
112, 117, 118, 119, 122, 129, 142,
160, 166, 181; Heidegger and
humanism 82–8, 96
Saussure, Ferdinand de 56, 146
scepticism 42, 66–7, 69, 146
Scheler, Max 177
Schelling, F.W.J. 1, 11, 20, 21, 49, 63,
130, 171, 174
Schellings Abhandlung “Über das Wesen
der menschlichen Freiheit” 101
Schlageter, Albert Leo 154