Tom Rockmore-On Heidegger's Nazism and Philosophy-University of California Press (1997)

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On Heidegger's Nazism and Philosophy
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Preferred Citation: Rockmore, Tom. On Heidegger's Nazism and Philosophy. Berkeley: University
of California Press, c1992 1992.
On Heidegger's Nazism and Philosophy
Tom Rockmore
Berkeley · Los Angeles · Oxford
© 1991 The Regents of the University of California
Preferred Citation: Rockmore, Tom. On Heidegger's Nazism and Philosophy. Berkeley: University
of California Press, c1992 1992.
― v ―
I owe an important debt to the increasing number of scholars, some of them with a considerable
investment in Heidegger scholarship, who continue to seek the truth, even when it contradicts
Heideggerian strategies for dealing with Heidegger's Nazism. To this general debt I would add more
specific ones incurred to two anonymous readers of the manuscript, to Michael Zimmerman for helpful
comments on the initial draft, to Debra Bergoffen, who read a draft of the chapter on Nietzsche, and to
Theodore Kisiel, who commented on the entire final draft. None of them is responsible for the views
expressed here. But I gratefully acknowledge that their attention to detail has saved me from
numerous slips and in general helped me to strengthen the argument.
I gratefully acknowledge as well that discussion with Joseph Margolis has provided insight useful in
writing this book. His willingness to collaborate in bringing Farias's study of Heidegger and Nazism into
English started me on the road that led to this book. Nicolas Tertulian initially called this problem to
my attention. Edward Dimendberg, Philosophy Editor at the University of California Press, whose faith
in this project made it possible, has been a constant pleasure to work with. His own insightful
suggestions have improved the manuscript. I am grateful as well for the excellent copyediting by
Nicholas Goodhue, which generally improved the manuscript and detected several errors. As always, I
am deeply indebted to my family in ways that I cannot simply or even adequately express.
― 1 ―

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Introduction: On Heidegger's Nazism and Philosophy
This book considers the nature and philosophical significance of the controversial relation between
Heidegger's philosophy and his Nazism. The significance of this relation is clear in virtue of the
importance of Heidegger's philosophical thought and its widespread influence not only in the
philosophical discussion but throughout the cultural life of this century. Heidegger's supporters and
even his most ardent critics agree that Heidegger's thought is important and cannot merely be
dismissed. Heidegger is often held to be one of the most important contemporary philosophers, even
the most important philosopher of this century, maybe even one of the small handful of truly great
philosophers in the history of the philosophical tradition.
Heidegger is certainly the most influential philosopher of our time. Heidegger's influence is widely
felt in contemporary philosophy: in negative fashion in Husserl's final phase; in the positions
[1] of
Gadamer and Derrida, his two closest students; in the thought of Herbert Marcuse, the first
Heideggerian Marxist; in the phenomenological theories of Jean-Paul Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty,
Emmanuel Levinas, and Paul Ricoeur; and more distantly in the writings of Foucault, Apel, Habermas,
and Rorty, as well as in those of a host of other figures such as Hans Jonas, Hannah Arendt, and
Leszek Kolakowski. The Heidegger literature has by now taken on such proportions that no one, not
even the most industrious student, can possibly read it all. Heidegger is now
― 2 ―
widely present in the discussions in Germany, even more so in the United States, but above all in
France, where for several decades he has functioned as the main "French" philosopher, the
unacknowledged but omnipresent master thinker whose thought continues to form the horizon of
French philosophical thinking.
Heidegger's influence, which is by no means limited to philosophy, is widely apparent throughout
the recent discussion: in theology in the work of Paul Tillich, Rudolf Bultmann, and Karl Rahner; in
psychoanalysis in the work of Jacques Lacan, Ludwig Binswanger, and Medard Boss; in literary theory
through Paul de Man; in feminism through Gayatri Spivak; in ecology through Albert Borgmann and
Wolfgang Schirmacher; in political theory through Fred Dallmayr; and so on. The list of those
influenced by Heidegger, which is impressive, rivals in scope that of such other conceptual giants of
this century as Freud and Weber.
Obviously, the impressive nature of Heidegger's thought and its extraordinary influence do not
diminish but rather only raise the stakes of the present discussion. In view of the growing knowledge
of the historical record and the ongoing publication of Heidegger's writings, one can overlook, or
choose to ignore, but can no longer deny, the relation between his Nazism and his philosophy. To
"bracket" this issue, simply to turn away from the problem, to refuse to confront it, is silently to accept
what a number have seen as the totalitarian dimension in one of the most important theories of this
century, itself largely marked by totalitarianisms of the right and the left, a theory apparently lacking
in the resources necessary to come to grips with totalitarianism. In confronting Heidegger's Nazism,
one inevitably questions as well the philosophical and wider intellectual discussion of our time and its
ability to think the connection between philosophy and politics.
The link between Heidegger's thought and politics has been known for many years. Its discussion
began in the 1940s in the pages of the French intellectual journal, Les Temps Modernes , in a
controversy initiated by Karl Löwith, Heidegger's former student and later colleague.
[2] The initial
phase of the debate ended quickly, but the theme has continued to resurface at intervals. It has
recently received a fresh impetus in publications by Ott
[3] and Farias. [4] The merit of Farias's book, in
part based on Ott's research, is that for the first time it has brought the Heidegger affair to the
attention of the wider intellectual readership.
Since a relation between Heidegger's thought and his Nazism has been known for more than half a
century, one must ask why it has not been studied earlier in greater depth. The reasons include the
relative success at what can charitably be described as damage control on the part of his most fervent
admirers—those for whom he can apparently do
― 3 ―
no wrong, or at least none of lasting consequence for his thought—as well as a lack of insight into its
philosophical significance. But the recent discussion has provided sustained attention to the series of
issues surrounding Heidegger's thought and politics. It is now too late to put the genie back in the
bottle, to deflect attention away from this relation, since the publications by Farias and Ott raise this

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issue in a way that in good faith cannot simply be ignored.
Everything about this relation is subject to dispute. It has been asserted that it is philosophically
insignificant, since the struggle concerning Heidegger is merely symptomatic of a weakness of
contemporary thought. It has been claimed that Heidegger was not a Nazi, or at least not in any
ordinary sense. It has been suggested that we must differentiate between Heidegger the thinker and
Heidegger the man, for the former cannot be judged in relation to the latter. It has been argued that
information recently made available is not new and was already known to any serious student. It has
been held that everything that Heidegger ever did or wrote was Nazi to the core. It has been
maintained that Heidegger's only problem was that he never said he was sorry, that he never excused
himself or asked for forgiveness. Finally, it has been maintained with all the seriousness of the
professional scholar, in a way recalling many a theological dispute, that Heidegger's thought is so
difficult that only one wholly immersed in it, at the extreme only a true believer committed to his
vision, could possibly understand it. Yet if it can only be comprehended by a "true" believer, then
Heidegger's Nazism is beyond criticism or evaluation of any kind, since no "true" believer will criticize
The view of the present study is that all of the above claims about the relation of Heidegger's
thought and his Nazism are false. Attention focused on Heidegger's Nazi inclinations by Farias, Ott,
and others (e.g., Pöggeler, Marten, Sheehan, Vietta, Lacoue-Labarthe, Derrida, Bourdieu, Schwan,
Janicaud, Zimmerman, Wolin, Thomä, etc.) has created a momentum of its own. It has been realized
that Heidegger's Nazism raises important moral and political issues that cannot simply be evaded and
that must be faced as part of the continuing process of determining what is live and what is dead in
Heidegger's thought. It is not inaccurate to say that as a result of recent discussion, at least two
things have become clear: First, the problem cannot simply be denied since one can no longer even
pretend to understand Heidegger's philosophy, certainly beginning in 1933, if one fails to take into
account his Nazism. In a word, serious study of Heidegger's thought can no longer evade the theme of
Heidegger's Nazism. Second, the issues posed by Heidegger's unprecedented turn to Nazism on
philosophical grounds,
― 4 ―
and the way the theme has been received in the discussion of his thought, point beyond his position to
raise queries about the nature of philosophy and even the responsibility of intellectuals.
The complex topic of Heidegger's thought and politics concerns what we know about his actions
and philosophy as they bear on his Nazism, including Heidegger's own explanation of his turn toward
National Socialism, as well as the roots of that turn in his position and the later development of his
thought. It includes as well the way in which this theme has been received in the Heidegger discussion
over many years, in an often bitter dispute between his partisans and detractors, between those who
invoke special rules for a German genius (e.g., Gadamer), and those who maintain the same rules for
all. It further includes the significance of this affair for the philosophical discipline itself. We must
inquire whether Heidegger's turn to Nazism is sui generis, an aberration uncharacteristic of the
discipline, which hence casts no light at all on it, or whether, on the contrary, it in some sense
illuminates philosophy.
This question is actually a series of questions, one of which can be stated as follows: Did
Heidegger's effort to lead the German nation fail in 1933-1934 because he misjudged the
appropriateness of National Socialism, or rather because philosophy is inapt to play a political role, or
rather finally because, as Heidegger later came to believe, it is simply not useful? It is also relevant to
inquire how and why he turned to Nazism. The obvious fact that—as Rorty, Habermas, and others
have pointed out—Heidegger was an important thinker but a Nazi requires scrutiny. We cannot merely
dismiss it, since it is as close to true as any claim about a philosopher can be; but we cannot act as if
it were unimportant, since our view of Heidegger's position cannot ignore his own statement that he
turned to National Socialism on the basis of his philosophical thought. This admission leads to a
provocative question: can a theory be great which leads to the political abomination of National
Socialism? Since Heidegger is not just any thinker but by all standards an exceptional one, his Nazism
is exceptionally troublesome. In Heidegger we have an example of a supposedly great philosopher,
according to Levinas, the author of the most important treatise since Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit
[5] Then there is the light that Heidegger's turn to Nazism and its reception in the literature throw on
the philosophical discipline: what is the social relevance of philosophy if it can and in fact does lead to
such ends? In other words, how can great thought lead to great evil? Or is it that in the claim of
conceptual greatness, we are greatly mistaken?
The interpretation of the link between Heidegger's philosophy and Nazism points toward the

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relation between thought and time. It has been usual in the philosophical tradition to maintain that
philosophy is
― 5 ―
in but not of time, since it is independent of its context. On the contrary, Marxism argues that
philosophy can be reduced to its context. The present work denies these two antithetical claims in
favor of a third, more difficult approach according to which philosophy is in part dependent on, and in
part independent of, the context in which it arises. This view accords with Heidegger's understanding
of Dasein as existence and as transcendent. It will be applied here in order to comprehend Heidegger's
Nazism in terms of his philosophical thought, and his thought as dependent on and reflective of its
social, historical, political, and philosophical background. A main theme of this book is that Heidegger's
philosophical thought and his Nazism are interdependent and cannot be separated, more precisely,
that he turned to National Socialism on the basis of his philosophy and that his later evolution is
largely determined by his continuing concern with Nazism.
Not unnaturally, some of Heidegger's closest students, following Heidegger's lead, have long
sought to conceal the Nazism lodged in his thought. The present effort to reveal and to consider the
nature and philosophical significance of Heidegger's Nazism will need to break sharply with all the
various ways in which Heidegger and his students have sought to conceal this aspect of his thought. It
will rely on three general principles. To begin with, it will part company with the view that in order to
discuss Heidegger at all one must be an expert in his thought, a master of his position able to quote
chapter and verse at the drop of a manuscript, even capable on demand of adducing unpublished
material in support of an argument.
Unquestionably, it is necessary to be informed about Heidegger's thought in order to comprehend
the nature and philosophical significance of his Nazism. But the work to follow will not seek to imitate
the massively detailed commentaries on the main thinkers in the tradition, or the equivalent analyses
of Heidegger's thought. If the requirement of detailed expert commentary does not always function as
a strategy to preclude significant criticism, in the main it only helps to foreclose the possibility of
raising the significant philosophical issues. I am convinced that the relevant issues of Heidegger's
Nazism, and probably any basic aspect of his thought, can be addressed in the intersubjective
conceptual space common to the majority of philosophers and many intellectuals of all kinds. In this
specific sense, whatever the peculiarities of Heidegger's position, which should not be denied, it is
"available" to discussion in roughly the same way as others.
Second, we must refuse the distinction, cherished equally by Heideggerians and philosophers of all
kinds, between Heidegger the thinker and Heidegger the man, Heidegger the great philosopher and
Heidegger the intellectual's peasant solidly rooted in the soil of his beloved
― 6 ―
Schwarzwald. The supposed distinction between Heidegger and his thought obviously reflects a
separation of theory from practice, well rooted in traditional philosophical theory and practice. In virtue
of their concern to separate what they think from what they do, philosophers resemble those in other
lines of work, who are frequently unwilling to act on their views. The result is a peculiar form of
inaction, or insistence on theory, which philosophers from Aristotle over Hegel to Heidegger have often
identified with action, even with its highest form. Philosophers, who speak eloquently of the truth, are
only rarely willing to break a lance for truth. The example of Socrates, who died for an idea which he
regarded as more important than life itself, is overshadowed by the more typical case of Spinoza, who
prudently refused to descend into the arena lest he compromise his freedom of thought.
In the discussion of Heidegger's Nazism, the distinction between Heidegger the man and
Heidegger the philosopher is frequently invoked by his students in order to save, if not the man, at
least his thought. This distinction underlies the frequent admission that Heidegger was a rather
dreadful person, a concession that functions strategically to protect his thought against the defects of
his character. Yet if Heidegger's philosophical thought and his turn to Nazism are continuous in any
ordinary sense, if one admits that his identification with National Socialism was motivated by his
philosophical theory, as Heidegger himself suggests, then a critique of his actions immediately reflects
on his view.
It is relatively easy to criticize Heidegger's identification with Nazism since on the practical plane
there is nothing to distinguish it from that of anyone else, with the exception of its possible
relation—still contested by many, on occasion still even denied—to the position of an important
thinker. If one thinks that there is something reprehensible about a close association with Nazism, or

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denouncing one's colleagues as politically unreliable, or trying to devise a Nazi theory of higher
education, or maintaining a theoretical commitment to Nazism as an ideal after National Socialism had
failed in practice, then it is important to return from the actions themselves to the view behind them.
On the contrary, if we are willing to admit that theory is divorced from practice, as Heidegger's
students insist, then the defense of his thought is simplified. For one can simply admit that Heidegger
was not a very nice man, that he did a number of reprehensible things in connection with Nazism,
while denying that any of his actions reflect on his position. And we can further express our dismay
that Heidegger never simply excused his Nazi connection or expressed shame for his own past, since
his stoic refusal to admit any involvement at all would, then, be the only problem.
I will resist the effort to drive a conceptual wedge between Heidegger the man and Heidegger the
thinker for two reasons. On the one hand,
― 7 ―
theory and practice are never wholly separate and hence cannot be disjoined. At least implicitly,
practice of any kind always reflects a theoretical perspective. In all cases, action follows from, and is
on occasion justified by, an attitude, a reason, an intention, an aim, or even a passion. Even such
extreme views as the conviction of the Italian Fascists that one should act first and create a
justification for the actions after the fact, or the German Führerprinzip according to which the will of
the Führer is a sufficient justification for any action at all, make action depend on a prior theory.
On the other hand, the defense of Heidegger's position in terms of an alleged split between the
man and his thought is inconsistent with Heidegger's own view of the matter. Obviously, it contradicts
his clear claim that his theory must be judged by his actions. It further runs counter to the
understanding, basic to his fundamental ontology, of Dasein as existence. In Being and Time , he
repeatedly affirms the priority of existence, or the practical dimension in the wider sense of the term,
over theory of any kind on the grounds that the precognitive dimension is prior to, and provides the
basis for, the cognitive level. Heidegger's insistence that theory is meaningful only within the practical
framework precisely denies the kind of separation of theory from practice which some of his followers
introduce in order to defend his position in spite of his Nazism. In short, this defense must be resisted
since if it succeeds it fails, because the condition of its success is precisely to deny a fundamental
aspect of the position it is invoked to defend.
Further, we will consider Heidegger the thinker as in part a man of his times, whose times offer
insight into his theory. Now Heidegger can be construed as deflecting attention from the relation of his
thought to time, in particular to his own time, in his repeated insistence that his own thought is limited
to the problem of Being, the Seinsfrage . Certainly, many writers on Heidegger have understood his
position in this way, including the vast majority of commentators who discuss Heidegger's thought
merely in terms of his texts without reference to the wider context that forms their background. In this
sense, those who discuss Heidegger are repeating the view, itself a staple of the philosophical tradition
at least since Plato, that thought is in time but not of time, as if a philosopher were somehow able to
escape from time itself.
I believe this deflection should be resisted. To begin with, there is the general point, mentioned
above, that all thought, including Heidegger's, is related to time. Thought cannot easily, in fact
perhaps never wholly, be isolated from time. Perhaps even such familiar assertions as 7 + 5 = 12 are
not devoid of reference to time and place. Certainly, Heidegger's own view is specifically related to the
period in which it arose, and cannot adequately be understood merely through attention to factors
― 8 ―
supposedly independent of the historical context, such as the problem of the meaning of Being. I am
convinced that Heidegger's theory reflects a variety of contemporary influences, some of which he may
not have been fully aware of, such as the role of a conservative, nationalistic form of Roman
Catholicism in southwestern Germany in his youth, stressed by Ott, Farias, and most recently
[6] the widespread concern, which he seems to have shared, for Germany, the defeated party
in the First World War, to recover as a nation and to assume what many thought was the manifest
German destiny; the reintroduction of destiny as an explanatory factor of historical change by
Spengler; the interest in the concept of the Volk as it was developed in nineteenth-century Germany;
and Heidegger's own desire to assume an ever-greater role in the German university system as the
central thinker of his day, even to reform the university system according to his own view of higher
education. These and other factors are ingredient in Heidegger's theory, and knowledge of them offers
insight into Heidegger's position. Conversely, to follow the traditional philosophical view that thought is
independent of time, in this case to fail to take these and other factors into account, is to close off

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important roads of access to Heidegger's position.
Heidegger's own insistence on the contextuality of thought within existence, in which it arises, and
by which it is limited, suggests that his own philosophical theory can fairly be understood in this way
and cannot be understood otherwise. There is an obvious analogy between Heidegger's understanding
of the contextuality of thought and Hegel's view of philosophy as its own time captured in thought.
Hegel sees philosophy as both immanent and transcendent, as an analysis of what occurs on a higher
conceptual plane. This duality of immanence and transcendence is reproduced in Heidegger's position
in his understanding of Dasein, or human being, as existence and in his insistence on the dimension of
transcendence. As early as his dissertation and in later writings, Heidegger continued to insist that
human being was not only present in but also able to transcend its situation. But Heidegger goes
further than Hegel in an important respect, since he follows Husserl's concept of the horizon, for
instance in his insistence in Being and Time on the world as in effect the horizon for all interpretation.
The point is not to perform a reduction on Heidegger's position by reducing it to its situation, since no
philosophical theory is merely a reflection of the circumstances in which it arises. But since theories
are also not independent of such circumstances, one can—in fact, in my view, one must—utilize an
awareness of the role of that situation in the constitution of the theory as a clue to its interpretation.
As concerns Heidegger, an awareness of such factors is helpful to understand his position in ways that
might not be as evident if we restrict ourselves merely to the Seinsfrage .
― 9 ―
Although it is my intention here to study Heidegger's Nazism, I do not intend to provide a study of
Nazism as such. For present purposes it is unnecessary to consider the nature of Nazism in detail,
which, as an amorphous collection of doctrines that never assumed canonical shape, is in any case
notoriously difficult to define.
[7] It will be sufficient to center this discussion on a doctrine which
Heidegger shared with National Socialism as well as preceding forms of Volk ideology: the historical
realization of the German Volk . I am less interested in Heidegger's acceptance of the Führer principle,
an important element in the legal framework of the Nazi state, such as it was, than in the constant
presence of a metaphysical commitment to the German Volk as a central historical goal in his thought,
a commitment which, like the theme of a fugue, is consistently renewed at regular intervals beginning
in 1933. It is, I believe, this concern—in conjunction with Heidegger's underlying interest in
Being—which drew him to National Socialism. This concern remains constant throughout his career
and determines the later development of his position, the evolution of which cannot otherwise be
The present inquiry into Heidegger's Nazism conflicts in two ways with the reigning temper of
philosophy. On the one hand, it associates philosophy with history, whereas a major current in the
modern tradition is to drive a wedge not only between philosophy and the history of philosophy but
also between thought and history. Although there are exceptions, such as Hegel, most philosophers
adopt a nonhistorical perspective on the grounds that truth is not historical. Yet if philosophy is to tell
us about the world as given in experience, if it is to make good on its claim to grasp the nature of
experience as a historical process, it must in some sense emerge within it and actually be historical.
Philosophy cannot, then, sever the link to history and pretend to know it. Hence, in a deep sense a
discussion of Heidegger's Nazism cannot be successful in isolation from a study of the link between his
thought and his times.
On the other hand, the skepticism about truth as historical has given rise to skepticism about
historical truth. The rise of deconstructionism, clearly influenced by Heidegger's position, is a form of
skepticism with obvious historical implications. The very idea of historical truth has recently been
placed in doubt by one of Heidegger's admirers, Paul de Man, who was notoriously concerned to
conceal his own political past:
[I]t is always possible to face up to any experience (to excuse any guilt), because the experience always exists
simultaneously as fictional discourse and as empirical event and it is never possible to decide which one of the two
possibilities is the right one. The indecision makes it possible to excuse the bleakest of crimes because, as a fiction, it
escapes from the constraints of guilt and innocence.
― 10 ―
The implication of de Man's view—which is by no means unprecedented, since it is common also, say,
to Stalinism—is that we can treat the past as a fiction that can be rewritten at will in order to correct
or even to erase what has taken place, to expunge inconvenient events from the historical record. But
Heidegger's very idea that revealing is accompanied by concealing implies the obverse doctrine, that

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concealing is linked to revealing, or at least to its possibility. Despite Leopold von Ranke, it may not be
possible to recover the past as it really happened, whatever that means. Yet in my view, there is
indeed a kind of historical truth, a possibility of determining the historical record which justifies a
refusal of historical skepticism and undercuts the efforts of many to conceal the past. A premise that
underlies the present discussion is that despite Heidegger's lengthy effort to hide, to distort, and to
misrepresent the nature of his commitment to Nazism, his very deception reveals itself as a deception
as well as the truth about it if we will only examine his thought with sufficient care.
The discussion of the nature and philosophical consequences of Heidegger's Nazism unfolds in
eight chapters. The first chapter, which is procedural, considers the proper approach to reveal the
Nazism concealed in his thought. It is argued that his Nazism is concealed in his philosophy; it is
further argued that through an "official view" of the matter Heidegger and a number of his followers
have contrived to conceal his Nazism in a manner similar to that in which, in his belief, the original
Greek insight into Being was later covered up. Chapter 2 studies in detail the famous rectoral address,
in which Heidegger turns publicly to Nazism and seeks to ground politics in philosophy, in order, as
Jaspers and, following him, Pöggeler have said, to lead the leaders. The speech, which is more often
mentioned than analyzed, is studied in continuity with such background factors as the romantic
reaction against the Aufklärung , the völkisch intellectual movement, the decline of the Weimar
Republic, and Heidegger's view of inauthentic boredom as the predominant mood at the end of the
Weimar period. The intrinsic link between Heidegger's philosophical thought and his turn to politics is
analyzed in terms of concepts of authenticity, resoluteness, Being-with, destiny, fate, and so on. There
is detailed attention to the quasi-Platonic aspect of Heidegger's understanding of the relation between
politics and philosophy, his reliance on von Papen, his crucial misrendering of a Platonic text, and other
relevant factors.
The third chapter discusses the effort, ultimately rooted in Heidegger's own fabrication of an
"official" view of his relation to Nazism, to contain the damage to his reputation. The "official" view
provides the basis for Heidegger's largely successful effort to minimize his Nazi turn
― 11 ―
as transitory whereas it was permanent, as unrelated to his thought from which it in fact followed
closely, as unimportant for the later turning in his thought which it basically influenced, and so on.
This phase of the discussion is mainly devoted to careful scrutiny of Heidegger's detailed account of his
relation to Nazism as rector of the University of Freiburg in a posthumously published article, "The
Rectorate 1933/34: Facts and Thoughts." Heidegger's discussion of his political turn is more often
invoked than discussed. Analysis of this text, crucial for an understanding of Heidegger's political turn,
shows that it reveals what it is meant to conceal: an enduring commitment to Nazism on the basis of
his thought. Attention is given to the nature of Heidegger's philosophical attachment to Nazism, and its
grounding in his concept of the destiny of the German people. Heidegger's sophistical effort to
reinterpret the idea of Kampf , which he related to Clausewitz in the Rektoratsrede , and by implication
to Mein Kampf , as a disguised allusion to Heraclitus is studied carefully.
Chapters 4 and 5 provide detailed discussion of Heidegger's first Hölderlin lecture series; of his
recently published, unfinished work, for some his masterpiece, Contributions to Philosophy (Beiträge
zur Philosophie ), composed in 1936-1938 during his Nietzsche lecture courses; and of the Nietzsche
lectures themselves. Following Heidegger's own suggestions, some of his followers (e.g., Aubenque,
Vietta) maintain that in these places Heidegger decisively criticizes National Socialism. Yet close
analysis of these texts reveals that Heidegger criticizes Nazism not as a political practice but for its
alleged insufficiency as an ontological theory, that is, as a grasp of Being as such. It further reveals his
continued insistence on the realization of the historical destiny of the German Volk , a point that
originally led him to Nazism and which he never abandoned. Here, we find the emergence of a new
conception of silence as no longer an authentic aspect of speech but the ground of authentic speech, a
change tending to justify his own silence about Nazism and the Holocaust. Detailed discussion of the
famous turning in his thought shows that it is composed of a series of elements, including, as part of
his later "post-metaphysical" antihumanism, a turning away from personal responsibility—earlier
stressed in the notion of resoluteness—in the later emphasis on Being as the ultimate historical agent.
The sixth chapter takes up the genesis and nature of Heidegger's theory of technology, which
some writers (e.g., Caputo) see as his permanent legacy. Attention is focused on Heidegger's
conception of technology as an effort to carry further a supposedly incomplete attempt by National
Socialism to confront technology and modernity. The discussion, which criticizes Heidegger's
nonanthropological understanding of modern technology as inadequate, shows that Heidegger does
not break

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― 12 ―
with, but carries further, his view of Nazism in his writing on technology. It further demonstrates the
inadequacy of Heidegger's grasp, even after the Second World War, of National Socialism as a
response to technology.
It is perhaps understandable on human grounds that Heidegger concealed his relation to Nazism.
But since relevant material has long been available, no credit can be accorded to his followers for their
continued obstruction of efforts to understand this relation. The seventh chapter reviews the reception
of Heidegger's Nazism, with special attention to the obscurantist tendencies of the French discussion.
In the discussion of Heidegger's politics, the French debate stands out as an ongoing effort, over many
years, to examine, but mainly to defend, Heidegger's position. It is argued that Heidegger's thought
has come to form the horizon of French philosophical thought, which has in turn obstructed the
concern to understand the philosophical component of his Nazism.
The conclusion affirms an "organic" relation between Heidegger's philosophical thought and his
commitment to real and ideal forms of Nazism. It compares the "organic" interpretation to other
interpretations of the link between Heidegger's thought and politics. It considers the problem which
the reception of Heidegger's political engagement poses for the reception of his thought, for
philosophy in general, and for the responsibility of intellectuals. It is stressed that Heidegger's
philosophy ought not to be rejected merely in terms of his political engagement but that his thought
also cannot be understood apart from that engagement, which must figure prominently in the
reception of his theory of Being. It is further stressed that Heidegger shares with Nazism an interest in
authenticity, interpreted as the destiny of the German people, which he did not and literally could not
renounce without renouncing an aspect of his thought unchanged in its later evolution, or turning.
Heidegger's insensitivity to human being, which he apparently found meaningful only as a means to
the authentic thought of Being, appears as a philosophical component of his insensitivity to Nazism.
The book ends with a reflection on the paradox of Heidegger, an important thinker, perhaps a great
philosopher, but unable to discern the character of National Socialism, a leading example of absolute
evil. It is suggested that Heidegger's example calls in question the widely held view of the socially
indispensable character of philosophic reason. If the ethical component is not present in the beginning,
it will not be present at the end; and it was not present in—in fact, it was specifically excluded from—
Heidegger's "antihumanist" meditation on Being. The concern to respect nature but the insensitivity to
human being, the turn to Nazism, the continued adherence to the destiny of the German Volk ,
Heidegger's antihumanism and inability to understand Nazism even after the Second
― 13 ―
World War, all follow from his nearly obsessive care about the authentic thought of Being.
It is appropriate to anticipate two related objections. On the one hand, there is the obvious
criticism, long a staple of the Heideggerian defense of Heidegger's thought, that whoever criticizes the
master is insufficiently versed in the position. Let me immediately concede the strategic strength of
this defense, to which, in my opinion, there is no fully satisfactory response. It is appropriate to
acknowledge the permanent possibility of skepticism about the analysis of a philosophical position. Any
effort to allay doubts about the grasp of a theory can always be met by raising further doubts. But at a
certain point, criticism cannot merely be evaded by suggestions that the critic is insufficiently versed in
the topic and must be met directly. Readers will need to decide whether on balance this essay
demonstrates a grasp of Heidegger's position sufficient to permit the analysis developed below.
On the other hand, there is the objection based not on lack of knowledge but possible prejudice,
such as prejudice with regard to Heidegger's thought, even the imputation of prejudice for raising the
question of the philosophical significance of Heidegger's Nazism.
[9] The possibility of prejudice is
certainly enhanced in a discussion of Nazism. I have no illusions that my rereading of these texts will
convince all observers, some of whom will certainly find—indeed, how could it be otherwise?— that my
discussion reflects my own prejudices. The issue of how to react to possible prejudice is an important
hermeneutical theme. In reaction to the Enlightenment concern with pure reason, Gadamer,
Heidegger's closest student, has tried to rehabilitate the concept of prejudice (Vorurteil ) through the
Hegelian move that we should be prejudiced against prejudice. In this case, I hold that nothing is to
be gained by being open to prejudice, mine or that of anyone else. There can be no guarantee that all
prejudice has been overcome. But if one must be prejudiced, which I do not concede, let us at least,
with Aristotle, be prejudiced in favor of the truth.
The link between Heidegger's Nazism and his philosophical thought is the topic of an expanding
literature in a variety of languages. It is necessary to present a reasonably broad account of the
debate about Heidegger's politics, especially the discussion in languages other than English, for the

On Heidegger's Nazism and Philosophy
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reader to have a sense of the complex, controversial issues at stake and the relevant texts. It is useful
to pull together the wider debate that has now become so broad as to be difficult to survey quickly if
at all. The importance of an awareness of the prior discussion of the topic is brought home by a
strategy to defend Heidegger now emerging in the American discussion, as well as elsewhere, which
consists in
― 14 ―
bracketing the entire literature on the relation between Heidegger's philosophy and his Nazism in order
to discuss his position in total isolation from his politics,
[10] and his political turning in independence of
what is now known about it. [11] In the same way as Heidegger later urged the idea of a Verwindung of
metaphysics, the idea clearly is to confront the problem posed by the discussion of Heidegger's
Nazism, not by responding to the available discussion and textual analyses, but by simply turning
one's back on it.
[12] Now only a philosopher could possibly hold that knowledge is irrelevant to
judgment [13] or even prevents one from arriving at a proper understanding. Yet others, deeply
committed to Heidegger's thought, have properly seen that Heidegger's receptivity to Nazism requires
careful study since at this late date we cannot continue business as usual if we desire to understand
Heidegger's thought.
In the present case, the relevant material includes not only Heidegger's exoteric writings, in which
he set out his official view of the matter, but his esoteric texts, including pertinent portions of his
published writings and of his lectures and correspondence, certain background materials, and the full
range of writings by Heidegger's defenders and critics. Hence, one criterion on which to judge this
essay is its relative success in presenting a representative sample of the relevant materials, including
materials that contradict my own reading of the issues as well as the main features of the previous
debate. Another criterion is an appropriate treatment, not of Heidegger's thought in general, surely an
enormous task, but of those portions of Heidegger's corpus which bear on the problem at issue here.
Finally, one must consider the degree of insight offered by the overall conceptual framework proposed
here into the wider theme of Heidegger's Nazism and philosophy. It is one thing to collect themes in
the secondary discussion and in Heidegger's writings relevant to a grasp of the link between his
Nazism and philosophy, and something else to weave the various strands together in an appropriate
fabric, a comprehensive theory. A measure of the usefulness of this essay is its capacity to embrace
and explain, but not to explain away, all that is now known, and to provide a place for what as yet
remains unknown about Heidegger's turning toward National Socialism and the permanent place
thereafter of Nazism in the further evolution of his philosophical thought. If it is not too much to ask, it
is my hope that in this way it will be possible to focus the debate, not on a careless word or a phrase,
as a means of evading the issues, but on a careful discussion, as serious as the serious nature of the
theme permits, of the many issues raised by the deeply rooted, permanent commitment to National
Socialism in the philosophical position of one of the most important thinkers of our time.
― 15 ―
Revealing Concealed Nazism
The concern of this book is not with Heidegger's position as a whole, but with the link between his
Nazism and that position. Now the theme of his Nazism is only in part visible, because it is mainly
hidden, or concealed, in Heidegger's philosophy. An important part of our task will be to reveal
Heidegger's Nazism in a way that also preserves the capacity for critical judgment. Much of the
Heidegger literature is limited to exegesis in which his disciples, who routinely forgo criticism, expound
the "revealed truth."
[1] On the contrary, the aim of this essay is to describe, to interpret, and, when
necessary, to criticize this aspect of his thought.
We can begin with the description of some of the main obstacles impeding access to Heidegger's
philosophical thought—in particular, access to his Nazism. Heidegger was concerned to conceal what
he was not obliged to reveal about his Nazism, to provide what can charitably be described as an
indulgent, even a distorted view of the historical record and of his thought. Some of Heidegger's
closest students, above all Karl Löwith, Otto Pöggeler, and more recently Thomas Sheehan, Theodore
Kisiel, and Dominique Janicaud, have scrupulously attempted to disclose the nature and significance of

On Heidegger's Nazism and Philosophy
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his Nazism. Others, convinced of the importance of Heidegger's thought, have on occasion confused,
even clearly identified, allegiance to Heidegger's thought and person with the discovery of the truth. In
consequence, a certain number of obstacles, conceptual and otherwise, have arisen which impede an
objective discussion of Heidegger's Nazism. In order to discuss this topic, it will be useful to identify
the main obstacles. Accordingly, this chapter,
― 16 ―
whose intent is prolegomenal, will be devoted to clearing away some of the conceptual underbrush
that has in the meantime grown up around the link between Heidegger's Nazism and his philosophy in
order to expose this theme for more detailed study.
Concealing and Revealing
In the modern tradition, two of the best-known views of concealment are found in Marx and Freud. On
the one hand, there is the Marxian concept of ideology, not to be identified with its Leninist cousin, or
any of the myriad variant forms, according to which what Marxists call "bourgeois thought" tends to
conceal the true state of society in order to prevent social change.
[2] On the other, there is Freud's
view of repression based on the complex libidinal economy of psychoanalysis. Now these two forms of
concealment may or may not be relevant to Heidegger's thought. The dual insistence by both Ott and
Farias on the significance of Heidegger's background depends on a form of the Freudian claim, not
obviously inconsistent with Heidegger's own concept of Dasein, that thought is the conscious tip of an
unconscious iceberg. Heidegger never tires of repeating that, as existence, Dasein is prior to a rational
approach, which emerges only within existence.
To these two forms of concealment Heidegger opposes his own phenomenological view of the
problem in the context of his focus on the problem of the meaning of Being, or Seinsfrage . In Being
and Time , Heidegger maintains that there is nothing "behind" phenomena, although in the main,
phenomena are not given and hence must be elicited by phenomenology.
[3] He regards what he calls
covered-up-ness, literally concealment, as the counterpart of the phenomenon. [4] Phenomenology in
his view is then nothing more than the rendering visible of that which is not visible because covered up
or hidden, which in turn leads to his characterization of phenomenological description as
interpretation, that is, the hermeneutic that elucidates the authentic structures of Being.
For Heidegger, phenomenological hiddenness, perhaps even hiddenness as such, is either
accidental or necessary. A necessary form of hiddenness is grounded in the very being of what is to be
elucidated. According to Heidegger, a phenomenon is what shows itself and phenomena can in his
words be "brought to light," or shown.
[5] In Being and Time , Heidegger develops a view of truth as
disclosure (Erschlossenheit ) based on the idea that the phenomenon shows itself. [6] He maintains
that an assertion of truth presupposes the uncovering of the entity as it is in itself. [7] According to
Heidegger, what he calls Being-uncovering (Entdeckend-sein ) must be literally wrested from the
[8] He sums
― 17 ―
up his view in two points: First, truth belongs to Dasein. Second, Dasein is fundamentally in truth and
in untruth.
The theme of concealment remains important in Heidegger's later writing.
[9] He further develops
his doctrine of concealment in an important essay "On the Essence of Truth" first published in 1943.
Here, in the context of the exposition of his view of truth as disclosure, he maintains that concealment
is undisclosedness, hence the untruth intrinsic to the essence of truth.
[10] Unlike Hegel, Heidegger
does not regard untruth as essentially privative. Heidegger maintains that untruth or concealment is
inherent in the nature of truth itself, so that disclosure, which reveals, also conceals. He insists that
Dasein is marked by a preservation of untruth as mystery, as well as the flight from mystery toward
what is readily available, which he designates as errancy. It is only in his late essay, "The End of
Philosophy and the Task of Thinking," which appeared in 1964, that the doctrine of truth is denied, or
at least basically revised. Here, as part of the effort to leave metaphysics and philosophy behind, he
argues that uncovering is not truth but makes truth possible:
Insofar as truth is understood in the traditional "natural" sense as the correspondence of knowledge with beings
demonstrated in beings. but also insofar as truth is interpreted as the certainty of the knowledge of Being, aletheia ,
unconcealment in the sense of the opening may not be equated with truth. Rather, aletheia , unconcealment as opening.
first grants the possibility of truth.

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Concealing in Heidegger's Thought
The present effort to elucidate the hidden dimension and philosophical significance of Heidegger's
Nazism need not be, but in fact is, consistent with Heidegger's own view of concealment. Now
Heidegger's thought is not distinguished by the very need as such to reveal it, since the study of other
positions, particularly original theories, often encounters obstacles, linguistic, conceptual, or other,
that impede their comprehension. What distinguishes Heidegger's thought is its link to Nazism, which
is unprecedented among thinkers of the first rank and even among important philosophers in this
In virtue of its novelty, Heidegger's thought in general, not just the link between his thought and
his Nazism, is concealed in a variety of ways. In an obvious sense, a thinker who has something
importantly new to say, a novel doctrine to propose, a theory that differs in some significant way from
other views, cannot be understood quickly. The reason is simply that ideas are always comprehended
against a conceptual hori-
― 18 ―
zon, a background that acts as its frame of reference. As soon as a position breaks with the familiar
conceptual frameworks, either through the introduction of a new form of thought, the denial of an
essential element of what we thought we knew, or the reordering of accepted conceptions, then the
usual background that serves to promote comprehension is lacking. If a novel view is quickly
"understood," then invariably it is misunderstood. Certainly, one should not confuse the claim that a
new idea has been grasped with the grasp itself.
[12] It is likely that anyone who can be understood
immediately is not a novel thinker, although the converse claim does not hold. It is even more likely
that a thinker who makes an original contribution is misunderstood in the short run and only
understood, if at all, at a later date, at a temporal remove, when the work necessary to revise the
established categories, to open the discussion to new ways of thinking, has had the time to occur.
Since Heidegger is a genuinely novel thinker who breaks with established patterns of thought, he is
difficult to understand. It is possible that Heidegger's particular philosophical contribution has not yet
been understood, or rather has so far been largely misunderstood.
[13] Indeed, one of the aims of this
discussion is to suggest that despite the immense literature concerning Heidegger's position, the
intrinsic political dimension of his theory of Being has not so far been clearly seen.
The novelty of Heidegger's position is only one of the obstacles to its comprehension. The difficulty
of Heidegger's language is legendary. Other philosophers, such as Whitehead, have devised novel
terms to describe their basic insights, but Heidegger carries this practice to unusual, perhaps
unprecedented, lengths. He frequently coins new words to express his ideas, or imparts technical
meanings to available vocabulary—which he often uses in odd ways in accordance with the allegedly
original meanings supposedly covered up by the later evolution of the language—or even employs a
dash or other devices to highlight a part of the word. The result is a vocabulary that often has no usual
equivalent in German and even more frequently has no easy rendition into English. An example among
many is the term "Ent-fernung " for the ordinary German "Entfernung, " which Macquarrie and
Robinson translate by the neologism "deseverance."
[14] The fact that many of Heidegger's
formulations are at best unclear only heightens the difficulty of understanding.
Heidegger's thought is also difficult to comprehend in part because of the unfinished nature of
Being and Time , his main treatise. It is well known that the published fragment is part of a much
larger work, which never appeared. The extant fragment is difficult to interpret since Heidegger
published his study before he had had a chance to give it a final form. A close reading of the text
reveals ways in which he changed his
― 19 ―
mind on fundamental points during the writing of the book. For instance, he insists on a concept of
truth as veritas transcendentalis ,
[15] similar to the Husserlian version of the traditional philosophical
view of truth, before introducing an obviously incompatible hermeneutical notion of truth. [16] The
incompatibility lies in the inability to make out a claim for the traditional philosophical notion of truth
as absolute on the basis of the relativistic terrain of hermeneutics.
[17] After the book was published,
and in particular after Heidegger resigned his post as rector of the University of Freiburg in 1934, he
increasingly devoted himself— perhaps under the influence of the intervening political events—to
re-interpreting his main text in a long series of later writings. The result is that an already difficult
book, bristling with strange neologisms and novel ideas, is rendered even more difficult by Heidegger's
repeated efforts to construe his thought from an increasingly greater remove.

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Heideggerian Concealment and the History of Philosophy
Heidegger's analysis of Being further conceals its relation to the history of philosophy. Now in part the
relation of philosophy to its history has long been concealed through the normative view of philosophy
current in the modern tradition. A main impulse at least since Descartes has been the preference for
systematic over historical forms of thought. The result is the effort to begin again, finally to make a
beginning, finally to make an acceptable beginning in virtue of the preference for a priori over a
posteriori types of knowledge, succinctly formulated in Kant's insistence, following Leibniz, on cognitio
ex principiis over cognitio ex datis .
As the title of a well-known book about Heidegger suggests, [19] his entire philosophical career is
focused to an unusual degree on a single project, initially identified as the question of the meaning of
Being. The term "Being" refers to "Being in general," or the "Being of beings," as distinguished from
beings, or entities, such as shoes or ships or sealing wax. Heidegger's conviction that since the early
Greeks this question has been forgotten, or covered over, so that he needs to destroy later
metaphysics in order to return to the original, and solely valid, form of the question, points both
toward and away from the importance of the history of philosophy for Heidegger's position. His
assertion that the Seinsfrage , or at least the Seinsfrage in its authentic form, has been forgotten since
early in the philosophical tradition strongly suggests that his own thought cannot depend on other
views in the history of philosophy which he seeks to "destroy" as the condition of freeing up the proper
approach to Being.
[20] Heidegger is unquestionably equipped with
― 20 ―
a deep, in fact unusual, command of the historical tradition; yet his own argument implies that his
theory is independent of the history of philosophy, more precisely of anything that happened in the
tradition after the pre-Socratics, or at the latest Aristotle.
The implication that Heidegger's own thought is independent of the history of philosophy since the
Greeks—which derives from a strategic move on his part to open the path leading to Being—tends to
insulate his position from critical scrutiny. In effect, as a result of this move Heidegger contends that
his thought is not only original but sui generis. If it differs not only in degree but in kind from any
others, that is, all the other views in earlier and contemporary philosophical discussion, then obviously
it cannot be understood or evaluated through comparison with them.
Heidegger's references to later thinkers, particularly in Being and Time , are mainly negative.
Partly for this reason, Heidegger has been accused of distorting, in fact deliberately concealing, his
dependence on previous writers, for instance Kierkegaard.
[21] Others have suggested a wider
philosophical debt including Nietzsche, [22] Jünger, [23] and others. My own view is that there is a
strongly Kantian component in his thought. I think that his study of Being as present under the mode
of absence can be regarded as a variant of the Kantian dualistic analysis of noumenon and
phenomenon, mediated by such neo-Kantian thinkers as Rickert and Lask. This claim implies that
Heidegger's view of Being is circumscribed by the dualistic Kantian framework that structures most
later discussion in the German tradition.
Heidegger's strategy to free his position from dependence on the preceding philosophical
discussion, a strategy that is neither convincing nor original, impedes the comprehension of his
position. An example, among many, of the effort to break with the prior philosophical tradition is
Kant's claim, in the famous passage on the Copernican Revolution, that his own position represents a
clean break with prior thought.
[24] The grounds for Kant's introduction of the Copernican Revolution is
that all previous efforts at knowledge have failed and that we need to invoke a new approach,
represented by him as systematic. If "critical" means, as it does in Kant's thought, "not dogmatic" but
"demonstrable," then we can inquire about the nature of the proof. Now a proof of the critical
philosophy is not forthcoming on the a priori, systematic plane it favors, since its claim rests in part on
the alleged failure of prior views, that is, on a reading of the history of philosophy. Even Kant's effort
to establish the transcendental conditions of the possibility of any knowledge whatsoever is historically
tinged, dependent on its relation to other theories in the philosophical tradition.
Heidegger's position is highly dependent on a wide variety of modern
― 21 ―
philosophers and even some nonphilosophers, such as Hölderlin, Jünger, and others. The dependence
of Heidegger's thought on the preceding philosophical tradition is apparent in at least three ways.
First, and most generally, we have already noted that all positions depend on prior thought for their

On Heidegger's Nazism and Philosophy
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evaluation, for their claim to advance the discussion. Second, Heidegger's argument depends on the
history of philosophy since he needs to carry out his "destruction" of metaphysics in order to
demonstrate the assertion that forms of ontology later than those of the Greeks have taken an
incorrect turning in the road to Being. If he cannot show that later views of ontology are incorrect,
then his claim to recover the only correct approach to Being, which has meanwhile lain hidden, is
undercut. Third, his desire to return to origins, in this case the proposed return to the hidden
beginnings of the philosophical discussion of Being, is merely another form of the widespread modern
philosophical interest in bringing about an end to the discipline. In that precise sense, Heidegger's
view is largely traditional.
Heidegger's Nazism and the Expert Commentator
An account of obstacles to an appreciation of Heidegger's Nazism needs to address the role of the
Heidegger discussion in an enormous and still rapidly growing literature. Obviously, the justification for
the debate concerning any thinker, including Heidegger, can only be to illuminate and ultimately to
evaluate the position in question, which it must seek to reveal rather than to conceal. Unfortunately,
the fact that this principle is often honored in the breach because of the evolution of the philosophical
discipline itself has contributed in a powerful way to impeding access to Heidegger's thought,
particularly to his Nazism.
Philosophy feeds on itself as the condition of its further progress. Despite the recent insistence on
the independence of system from history, it is rather obvious that philosophy relies, indeed has always
relied, on its preceding tradition for insight and impetus. Now the great philosophers are rarely if ever
specialists in the interpretation of one or another body of thought, although their positions often
depend on their understanding of a preceding position, as Aristotle depends on Plato, Spinoza depends
on Descartes, Kant depends on Leibniz and Hume, and Fichte depends on Kant. But the recent
development of philosophy has seen the emergence of the expert commentator, the person whose
career is closely linked to the knowledge and interpretation of a single position, whose works he or she
tends to know intimately and whose details loom large in the interpretation. This phenomenon is now
almost pandemic in
― 22 ―
the academy, where whole careers are built upon superior knowledge of Dickens, or Proust, or
Mozart's music.
The phenomenon of the expert commentator figures largely in the role of Heideggerians in the
interpretation of the master's thought. Heideggerians have always claimed, rightly in my view, that
Heidegger's thought presents unusual difficulties. Heideggerians have tended to seize on the
difficulties of Heidegger's thought in order to make of its interpretation an almost mystical, hieratic
process. The result, in imitation of Heidegger's own strategy, is to shield Heidegger's thought from any
attempt at criticism.
If the only person who is acknowledged as sufficiently versed in a position, say Heidegger's, is
someone whose entire professional career centers on the position in question, then philosophy is no
longer the affair of philosophers in general. In modern times, certainly until relatively recently, through
the time of the British empiricists, at least until Kant, virtually anyone, such as gifted amateurs like
Descartes or Locke, could participate in the discussion on an equal footing. But this changes if the
discussion is restricted to experts only, that is, to specialized students of a particular thinker, a
particular question, a particular period. The result is to exclude not only the gifted amateur but even
the professional philosopher whose lack of the most intimate knowledge of the position is taken to
mean that it is in principle beyond his or her grasp.
It is obvious that the rise of the expert commentator tends to reduce or even to eliminate
criticism. Here we need to distinguish between the way into philosophy through the study of a position
and the professional expert commentator. It is often the case that one will write a dissertation, or
even a first book on a given thinker, say on Wittgenstein, about whom one is enthusiastic, and then
later change one's mind and reject that view as part of the maturation process of developing one's
own point of view. This is very different from the approach of the expert commentator, who is much
less likely to reject that about which he or she is expert. Someone whose career is built on detailed
knowledge of a given position, for instance a Platohist who really "knows" Plato and the Plato literature
in a thorough way, is exceedingly unlikely to offer fundamental criticism that places the entire theory,
or even a part of it, in jeopardy. The obvious fact that Heidegger experts inevitably have a heavy
professional investment in the importance, even the correctness, of his position explains their

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widespread reluctance to call it in question in any but the most timid manner.
The reduction of criticism due to the rise of the expert commentator is now widespread in the
philosophical discipline at the present time. There is now increasing stress on the creation of
specialized societies, with specialized publications, accompanied by specialized professional meetings,
― 23 ―
as philosophy, in imitation of nearly all forms of academic research, continues to fragment itself. The
result is to inhibit philosophical change, even to impede philosophical progress. Obviously, philosophy
advances through the scrutiny of previous views, which later thinkers find wanting in one respect or
another and which they eventually seek to improve or replace. If the scrutiny of previous views is
reduced to minute textual observations, then philosophical progress, such as it is, tends to diminish,
even to come to an end. It is not privileged information that at present it is easier to advance in the
profession by hanging around well-known colleagues and massaging their egos than by an effort at
articulating a fundamental disagreement. Marxists talk about Marxists, Quine scholars dialogue with
Quine scholars, Husserlians meet among themselves. But although the contact of experts, a frequent
form of the manifestation of the rise of the expert commentator, often produces useful discussion, it
inevitably tends as well to reduce the type of basic criticism that enables the discussion to progress
beyond the particular view, even the particular form of the particular, under consideration.
There is a pronounced tendency among Heideggerian scholars to limit the Heidegger discussion to
themselves. As a consequence the discussion becomes less adventurous, but perhaps more
surefooted. This possible advantage is, however, dissipated by the transformation of what at best is a
strategy for access to Heidegger's position through expert analysis into a strategy intended to prevent
those outside of the Heideggerian fold from criticizing his thought. This tactic, which is much in
evidence in the debate on Heidegger's Nazism, takes a number of different forms, including stress on
the difficulty of rendering Heidegger's terminology, admittedly difficult by the standards of ordinary
academic German, into other languages. I well remember a lecture of one and a half hours I attended
devoted merely to the translation of the term "Gestell " into French. More recently, the undoubted
linguistic unease in the translation of key terms has been transformed into a watershed question, in
which defenders of the faith protect the master thinker through the claim that others are incapable of
comprehending the central terms of his position. A particularly uncompromising form of this tactic
consists in the denial that an outsider either does or possibly could understand the Heideggerian
position. Examples include De Waehlens's assertion that Löwith, Heidegger's former student and later
colleague, was not sufficiently versed in the thought of the master to criticize it, and Derrida's claim
that Farias, who spent a dozen years writing a book about Heidegger's Nazism, could not possibly have
spent more than an hour studying Heidegger's thought. A more general form of this tactic is to
characterize whatever one says about the master thinker as metaphysics on the theory that Heidegger
has somehow gone beyond it. This is
― 24 ―
tantamount to claiming that, as Ryle used to say, there is a category mistake since a metaphysical
statement cannot possibly apply to Heidegger's view.
The tendency to limit the Heideggerian discussion to Heidegger scholars works to preserve the
Heideggerian view from prying eyes by rendering it invisible to any but the orthodox believer. To
accept this requirement is to place a nearly insuperable obstacle in the path of any effort to come to
grips with Heidegger's Nazism. With rare exceptions, the orthodox Heidegger scholar is highly unlikely
to offer such criticism, since to do so is to admit that a professional career is focused on a thinker
whose relentless pursuit of Being was centrally related to Nazism; and anyone who seriously objects
can simply be dismissed as not knowledgeable enough to pass judgment. In effect, Heidegger's
thought, like Plato's reality, then becomes a secret visible to men of gold only, something which only
they can know and about which others can at best have no more than opinions. In this way,
Heidegger's position can be worshiped but not evaluated as philosophy transforms itself into theology.
Heidegger's Nazism
In practice, the discussion of Heidegger in the literature has often constituted a major hindrance to an
appreciation of the extent and significance of his Nazism. The obstacles that specifically impede a
comprehension of Heidegger's Nazism are of three kinds: those due to Heidegger's largely successful
effort to manipulate the discussion of his writings through the presentation of an "official" view of his

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Nazism and its relation to his thought; those due to the affirmation and development of what I am
calling the official view as a specialized aspect of the enormous Heidegger secondary literature; and
finally those which are not strictly philosophical at all. Heidegger's own understanding of his Nazism is
displayed in an article written in 1945, in the famous Spiegel interview, and in hints scattered
throughout his later texts. Heidegger's closest followers have developed Heidegger's own view of the
matter in the course of the lengthy, often intense debate that continues to oppose Heidegger's critics
and, defenders on the theme of Heidegger's political views. The concern by some to defend
Heidegger's person and thought at all costs has in practice led to further impediments to a grasp of his
Nazism that are not always of a strictly philosophical nature, including simple problems of securing
appropriate access to the texts.
What we can call "the facts" about Heidegger's Nazism have been known at least in part since the
end of the Second World War. They are still not fully known since despite strenuous efforts by a small
group of writers, most prominently Schneeberger, Ott, and Farias, efforts are
― 25 ―
under way to protect Heidegger, or his reputation, by hindering the release of factual material known
to exist, above all in Marbach, where the Heidegger Archives are still closed to scholars.
We can begin with that part of the factual material which is not in dispute and which is accepted
by all observers. From a factual perspective, we know at least the following: Heidegger initially took up
a position at Marburg, and when Husserl retired, Heidegger assumed his chair at the University of
Freiburg. In 1933, Heidegger was elected to the post of rector of the University of Freiburg by his
colleagues and became a member of the Nazi party. In the spring of that year, on the occasion of
taking his position as rector, he gave the rectoral address (Rektoratsrede ). In 1934 he resigned his
position as rector and returned to teaching. After the Second World War, he was interrogated by the
Allies and, mainly on the recommendation of Karl Jaspers, prevented from resuming his position in the
university, although he was not formally charged with any war crimes. He was later permitted to
resume teaching. He continued to write and occasionally to teach until the end of his life. Although he
was often asked about the rectoral period, he avoided explicit comment except for two occasions: a
posthumously published article, written in 1945; and an interview in 1966 with a popular weekly
magazine, Der Spiegel which, on his explicit request, was published only ten years later when he died.
If this were all there were to say, Heidegger's Nazism would not be interesting, certainly not more
than faintly so, above all not philosophically interesting. There were many, including a distressing
number of philosophers, those strange masters of blindness and insight, who had a brief relation to
Nazism for a variety of reasons. Heidegger's relation was, however, different from other such
encounters, in fact in some ways unprecedented. Let us now provide a partial enumeration of some of
these differences. An obvious factor is the fact that Heidegger stands absolutely alone among the
major thinkers of this century as a voluntary adherent of Nazism.
[27] If there were no other reason,
then the fact that Heidegger was the only important philosopher to become a Nazi is worthy of
But this is not the only factor, since although Heidegger refused to comment publicly on his
Nazism, his writings contain a series of cryptic hints concerning this episode. In his usual ambiguous
style, Heidegger indicates that he confronted National Socialism in his writings and left it behind him,
something Heideggerians like to stress.
[28] Heidegger implies that he has come to grips with Nazism
in several texts, including the account of the turning (Kehre ) in his thought in the "Letter on
[29] and the remark in the Spiegel interview that his initial course on Hölderlin and his
courses on Nietzsche were a confrontation (Ausei-
― 26 ―
nandersetzung ) with National Socialism.
[30] I believe that Heidegger's version of his Nazism is overly
indulgent, tendentious, and misleading. In my view, Heidegger's presentation of his Nazism as
essentially meaningless occludes, or conceals, its deep significance for the understanding and
evaluation of his view of Being. I hold that the study of the texts themselves presents a rather
different view of the matter less favorable to Heidegger and in fact damaging to his thought.
One impediment to a comprehension of Heidegger's Nazism is the misleading series of hints about
it in Heidegger's texts, hints that taken together constitute his own "official" view of the situation. In
Heidegger's wake, a certain number of his followers have presented a version of events which at most
denies, at least minimizes, and in any case further distorts Heidegger's Nazism as well as its relation to
his thought. The result has been an effort, extending now over several decades, to construe

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Heidegger's turn to National Socialism in a way that is not harmful, or at least no more than minimally
harmful, to the philosopher. Writers engaged in this task include some of his most important French
students, but a number of others, all of whom follow Heidegger's own lead in an effort at what—in
language more familiar from the political realm, but appropriate here, since the aim is clearly
political—can charitably be called damage control.
A strong statement tending to call in question the life and thought of a major thinker requires
strong evidence. One factor is Heidegger's scandalous refusal to comment on his Nazism during his
lifetime over a period of more than forty years. Then there is Heidegger's infamous stress on the
supposedly misunderstood essence of National Socialism in a work republished in 1953.
[32] Further,
there is the exchange of letters with Herbert Marcuse, in which Heidegger seemed to justify Nazism, as
well as the comparison, in an unpublished lecture on technology, between the Nazi extermination of
the Jews and agricultural technology.
Attention to these and other passages in his writings suggests that Heidegger did not engage in a
confrontation with National Socialism; on the contrary, he sought to conceal the nature of his original
and continued interest in Nazism. His writings, then, call in question his own publicly stated view of the
matter and suggest that the "official" view, due to Heidegger and propagated by his disciples, is
incomplete, inaccurate, or both. This suggestion is further supported by the role of the Heidegger
family in controlling access to his Nachlass . Germany, until recently West Germany, has long
maintained exceedingly strict restrictions on unauthorized publication. It is, then, relevant to note that
the Heidegger family has consistently refused publication of a number of important documents
concerning Heidegger's Nazism and restricted access to Heidegger's unpublished work.
[34] This
restriction even extends to the publica-
― 27 ―
tion of Heidegger's collected works, now under way. The collected works of a major thinker usually,
perhaps even always, contain the extant correspondence. In Heidegger's case, his correspondence
would almost certainly provide important evidence for an evaluation of his Nazism, especially through
the publication of his correspondence as rector of the University of Freiburg. It is, hence, significant
that the edition of his collected works now in preparation, in a clear departure from the practice for the
writings of a major thinker, will omit his letters.
The aim of this chapter has been to identify some of the obstacles impeding responsible study of
Heidegger's Nazism. It is not meant as, and cannot take the place of, a detailed discussion of the texts
themselves. This chapter has shown that the scrutiny of Heidegger's Nazism presents formidable
obstacles due to the peculiar nature of his thought, as well as the efforts consistently deployed by
himself, certain students, and even his family, to prevent an accurate understanding of his Nazism
from emerging and to propagate an interpretation that is more charitable to Heidegger than to the
truth. We can add to this complex situation the fact that more than forty-five years after the end of
the Second World War many, including a number of Heidegger's disciples, are less than eager to
engage in a dispassionate analysis of a difficult period, in which they were personally involved, and to
which their relationship remains ambiguous. There is, hence, reason to believe that after some four
decades of discussion beginning in the 1940s we still do not fully comprehend the nature of
Heidegger's Nazism nor understand its relation to his philosophical thought. The remainder of this
essay will be devoted to an elucidation and interpretation of Heidegger's Nazism and an evaluation of
its significance for his philosophy, even for philosophy in a wider sense.
― 28 ―
The Nazi Turning and the Rectoral Address
The preceding chapter, which was prolegomenal, identified obstacles tending to impede a
comprehension of Heidegger's Nazism, above all the smoke screens propagated by Heidegger and his
closest followers. This chapter will provide the difficult transition to study of the relevant textual
material. It is relatively easy to identify impediments to an understanding of Heidegger's Nazism. It is
much more difficult to analyze Heidegger's Nazism and its relation to his philosophical thought. It is an
indisputable fact that in the period after the publication of Being and Time , the magisterial statement

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of his fundamental ontology, Heidegger turned to Nazism. The problem that arises can be stated in
question form: How are we to understand Heidegger's turn to Nazism? In asking this question, my aim
is not to determine the role that Heidegger could conceivably have played in the difficult situation in
the later 1920s in Germany in Hitler's rise to power.
[1] On the contrary, I am interested in the
opposite question: how is Heidegger's Nazi turning related to his philosophical position? It is not
sufficient merely to aim at a total explanation of human behavior, at a total grasp of human being.
If we are to understand the nature and significance of Heidegger's political turning for his philosophy,
then we must study the importance of his philosophy of Being for his Nazism, for his political practice.
The difficulty, which is real, is that we do not understand in general how thought relates to practice. In
order, then, to understand the link between Heidegger's philosophy and politics, between his
fundamental ontology and his Nazism, it will be necessary to devise an explanatory framework.
What I am calling Heidegger's Nazi turning is a complex process that
― 29 ―
is not reducible to any single event nor even to the endorsement of a single doctrine. Heidegger's
private embrace of National Socialism apparently occurred as early as 1931, well before the electoral
victory of the NSDAP. His public turn toward Nazism obviously occurred when he joined the Nazi party
on 1 May 1933. On a philosophical plane, his Nazi turning took place in the rectoral speech delivered
on the occasion of Heidegger's formal assumption of the rectorate of the University of Freiburg. It is
important to distinguish between the turn to Nazism and the basis for its occurrence. I believe that
Heidegger's Nazi turning can be understood as the result of factors external and internal to his
thought, that is, factors that impinged upon him and others in the period toward the end of the
Weimar Republic, as well as his philosophical position that arose in this political, social, and historical
setting. This chapter will study factors within and outside of Heidegger's fundamental ontology leading
to Heidegger's turn toward National Socialism; it will further examine a crucial exoteric document: the
rectoral address.
Extraphilosophic Factors in Heidegger's Nazi Turning
Heidegger's turning to Nazism is not explicable through any single factor or type of factor. It has been
held that his Nazi turn is due merely to his philosophy or merely to nonphilosophical reasons. [3] In
fact, it is the result of both philosophical and extraphilosophical—or, for want of a better term,
"existential"—factors. Among the many factors that are cited as influencing the rise of Nazism, beyond
Adolf Hitler, are "German philosophy, romantic mysticism, anti-Semitism, the 'stab in the back'
argument aimed at the Weimar Republic, German big business, the German economy in the wake of
the Versailles treaty, the Prussian tradition, insidious occultism associated with 'ariosophy,' and the
threat of Stalinist communism."
[4] Factors that led to National Socialism were part of the social,
political, and historical background when Heidegger turned to Nazism. Among the many factors
ingredient in the wider background in which Heidegger's philosophical position emerged and in which
he turned to Nazism, three are particularly important for his own political evolution: the decline of the
Weimar Republic, the prevailing conservative political thought, and the Volk ideology it expressed.
Historical Background: the Weimar Republic
Since a political engagement does not occur in a social, political, and conceptual vacuum, it is useful to
indicate, at least in outline, some of
― 30 ―
the main features of the social context when Heidegger became rector.
[5] The Nazi accession to power
occurred against the background of German history. Under Bismarck, the minister of war for Wilhelm
I, Germany was unified, Schleswig-Holstein was wrested from Denmark, and Prussia took the place
previously occupied by Austria. Germany successfully waged war against France, increased its imperial
power, and acquired foreign colonies. The expansion and consolidation of German power came to an
abrupt halt with the end of the First World War, culminating in the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919,
which was widely perceived as a humiliation by the defeated German population.
The Weimar Republic arose and can be understood against the background of more than a half
century of imperialist expansion through war.
[6] It was proclaimed on 9 November 1918 in
Weimar—the site of the intellectual circle centered around Goethe, one of the greatest humanists in
the history of European culture—by the Social Democrat Philipp Scheidemann. The Weimar Republic

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prospered during the golden twenties, which culminated in the world economic crisis in 1929. [7] The
history of the Weimar Republic describes a short period of hope symbolized by the introduction of a
republican form of government, in an obvious reaction against the consequences of German
imperialism, which then quickly degenerated into one of the worst tyrannies the world has ever known.
Whether the hope was ever justified, whether the period of the Weimar Republic was more than a
failed effort at the introduction of a liberal democratic form of goverment in the interregnum between
two world wars, is a topic of scholarly debate.
Even before the outbreak of economic depression, the Weimar Republic suffered from a series of
deep ideological, social, political, and economic problems. The world economic crisis that arose in 1929
led to enormous inflation and staggering unemployment, among other social problems. It was
accompanied by an almost palpable sense of decay in the university and many other areas of German
[8] In Heidegger's philosophy, the influence of this particular problem is visible in Heidegger's
analysis, in a lecture course, of the prevailing mood as one of boredom and in the rectoral talk in his
concern to defend what he refers to as the essence of the German university. There was further a
clear sense of instability, a belief that things could not just continue on the same course, a conviction
that something needed to be done, a longing for a solution, even a radical measure to transform the
situation in steady deterioration. The final part of the Weimar period has been aptly described,
immediately before Hitler took office, as follows: "This, then, was the Weimar Republic in 1932: clear
vision and political impotence, fear, suspicion, and moments of irrational hope, among the politi-
― 31 ―
cians of the middle, politics as usual, but with everyone else, a sense of emergency."
The reasons for the demise of the Weimar Republic are still not clear. One possibility is the failure
to comprehend the growing threat of the imperialism of German monopoly capital. [10] Another is the
concern with political freedom as the means to an end rather than an end in itself. [11] Yet another is
the perpetration of a conservative revolution from the right. [12] Still others include the polarization
between various right- and left-wing extremes, the idea of a democracy not itself democratic—both of
which suggest that "the people" in a collective sense was in some sense responsible for the Republic's
end—the fascist seizure of power, the interplay of certain forces, and so on.
[13] What is known is that
the outbreak of a world economic crisis destabilized a weak government, exacerbating social and
political tensions, which in turn contributed to an unexpected Nazi electoral victory in July 1932. The
end of the Republic less than a decade and a half after it began was hastened when von Papen
persuaded Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as chancellor. It finally ended with the resignation of Kurt von
Schleicher on 28 January 1933 and the assumption of power by Adolf Hitler on 30 January of that
year, which led straight into Nazi tyranny.
The complex series of events that led to the Nazi assumption of power is different from its
significance. [15] The German revolution that began in 1933 and led to a second defeat of Germany
was only the continuation of the historical process begun under Bismarck, which came to a temporary
halt, during the Weimar period, at the end of the First World War. If this is true, then the rise of
National Socialism can be regarded as an effort to win a war that had already been lost, to renew with
a political approach the momentum temporarily suspended during the Weimar Republic, which
unsuccessfully sought to lead Germany in another direction, to restore German self-esteem and
confidence—in short, to bring about the historical realization of the German people.
Conservative Political Thought
Heidegger's concern with the contemporary situation can be understood in the context of the interest
of German intellectuals in general with modern life. He was one of a large group of German
intellectuals who found change unsettling and who in various ways longed for a return to an earlier,
more stable social structure.
[17] He shared the widespread conservative worldview that emerged after
the loss of the First World War, including conservative revolutionary tendencies, visible in his Nazi
turning, and the rejection of the liberal democratic conception
― 32 ―
embodied by the Weimar Republic. He further shared the anticapitalist romanticism that emerged
toward the end of the nineteenth century and that can be symbolized by the opposition between Kultur
and Zivilisation , according to which culture in the deep sense required a rejection of modernity.
This view is evident in Heidegger's writings in his cult of Greek thought as the true form of philosophy.

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Yet it is important not to confuse the widespread conservativism of this period with support for
National Socialism, which at the peak of its electoral success in the elections of April and July 1932
garnered no more than 37 percent of the popular vote.
Heidegger shared the growing sense of unease widely felt by German intellectuals in the waning
days of the Weimar Republic. [20] This intellectual sense of dismay found expression among German
intellectuals in a concern to "locate" human being with respect to the present. Two extremes can be
represented by Max Scheler, the phenomenologist and Jewish convert to Catholicism, whose thought
influenced Heidegger's, and Karl Mannheim, a prominent sociologist who studied with the Marxist
Lukács and with Heidegger. In 1928 in the "Author's Preface" to his last uncompleted book,
significantly entitled Man's Place in Nature , Scheler writes in reference to contemporary work in
philosophical anthropology: "In spite of this, however, man is more of a problem to himself at the
present time than ever before in all recorded history."
[21] Only one year later, from a radically
different angle of vision, Mannheim observes that it is "imperative in the present transitional epoch to
make use of the intellectual twilight which dominates our epoch and in which all values and points of
view appear in their genuine relativity. We must realize once and for all that the meanings which make
up our world are simply an historically determined and continuously developing structure in which man
develops, and are in no sense absolute."
Heidegger further shared the rejection, following from the concern to seek a third way between
liberal democracy and Bolshevism, of modernity as such. Heidegger is already opposed to
Cartesianism, a central form of modern philosophy, as early as 1919. Yet modernity is not a problem
in Heidegger's fundamental ontology, either in Being and Time or in his other early writings. So far as I
know, the word "modernity" does not even occur in the book. The question, however, of what
Blumenberg has felicitously called the "legitimacy of the modern age" is in retrospect an obvious issue
for Heidegger's philosophy.
[23] As became clear in the later evolution of his thought—in his rejection
of both metaphysics or modern theory and technology or modern practice—his conception of ontology
brought him into conflict with anything modern as such. A typical instance is his later comment in a
lecture course that
― 33 ―
the danger we face lies not in the decline of the West but in the acceptance and development of the
idea of modernity.
Heidegger's embrace of National Socialism is exceptional only for the importance of his thought
and the depth of his commitment. But his failure to oppose Nazism is typical of the behavior of
German philosophers in general. It is not well known, in part because German philosophy during the
Nazi period has not often been studied, that German philosophy played an equivocal role at this
[25] It has been said that German philosophy failed in three different ways: in removing or even
weakening the barriers against National Socialism, in creating an intellectual atmosphere propitious to
it, and in apologizing for it.
[26] Certainly, German philosophers both collectively and individually did
little to prevent the rise of Nazism.
When one reads the texts from this period, the widespread insensitivity among philosophers to the
specific currents, such as anti-Semitism, that shortly led to National Socialism is striking. An example
among many is Heidegger's remark in a letter of 1926 to Jaspers, who was married to a Jewish
woman, about the concern in the University of Marburg to appoint a non-Jew and if at all possible a
German nationalist, a remark that typically evoked no protest from Jaspers.
[27] It has been pointed
out that many Germans unsympathetic to Hitler's anti-Semitism were willing to cooperate with him to
revise the Versailles treaty and in general to strengthen Germany's position in Europe.
[28] Indeed, it is
a mistake to consider anti-Semitism as the single crucial problem, or maybe even as crucial at all,
since it was not one of the central themes in Hitler's rise to power.
Once Nazism had taken power, German philosophers typically either rushed to ingratiate
themselves with the National Socialist movement, or at least failed to reject it. When they did reject it,
they mainly did so in an ineffectual manner, for instance in Husserl's noble but pathetic call to defend
the ancient Greek distinction between knowledge and opinion in order to resist the rise of Nazi
[30] In retrospect, however, Husserl's rejection of National Socialism, weak as it
unfortunately was, shines like a beacon in comparison with the more typical philosophical effort to
embrace, or at least to cooperate with, Hitler's movement, above all by Martin Heidegger. It is a
matter of record that there is no important protest against Nazism by the German philosophical
[31] Although this has been explained through the unpolitical nature of German
philosophers, in fact many German philosophers who represented themselves as unpolitical were
intensely political beings, including Heidegger. In 1933, when Heidegger issued his claim as the rector

On Heidegger's Nazism and Philosophy
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of the University of Freiburg to be the philosophical Führer of National
― 34 ―
Socialism, he was only one of numerous philosophers each of whom claimed to provide the only
correct idea of the new Nazi state through his own philosophy, including Krieck, Bauemler, Rothacker,
Gehlen, and others.
Although Hitler only came to power in 1933, as early as the presidential elections in early 1932 a
manifesto of personal support for Hitler was issued by six professors, including a philosopher, Carl
August Enge, professor of law (Rechtsphilosophie ) in Jena and scientific director of the Nietzsche
Archives in Jena.
[33] Between this initial manifesto and the election of the Reichstag in November
1933, there were no fewer than four other manifestos in which a progressively greater number of
philosophers participated.
[34] On the occasion of the vote for the Reichstag in November 1933, no
fewer than a thousand professors, after an address by Heidegger, publicly acknowledged their support
for Hitler and the National Socialist state, including Heidegger, N. Ach, O. F. Bollnow, O. Dittrich, K.
Graf Dürckheim, H. Freyer, H.-G. Gadamer, A. Gehlen, J. E. Heyde, E. Jaensch, G. Krüger, F. Krueger,
K. Leese, P. Lersch, H. Lipps, F. Lipsius, T. Litt, D. Mahnke, H. Noack, K. J. Obenauer, J. Ritter, H.
Sauer, W. Schingnitz, H. Schneider, H. Schwarz, and W. Wirth.
In fact, philosophical support for Hitler began even earlier. For instance, Ernst Krieck, professor of
pedagogy, with whom Heidegger later collaborated on the National Socialist reform of German higher
education, was disciplined for a pro-Nazi speech in 1931; and when he joined the NSDAP on 1 January
1932, he was suspended. Until the end of 1932, slightly more than 1 percent of the German academic
establishment had publicly taken a position for Hitler, including eight philosophers: Enge, Schwarz,
Krueger, Krieck, Baeumler, Rothacker, Bornhausen, and Jaensch.
[36] Apparently the numbers would
have been even larger had other philosophical colleagues, like German academics in general, not held
back for tactical considerations.
[37] The awareness of political consequences was not misplaced, since
a number of academics, including more than thirty philosophers, quickly lost their positions in
[38] Among the philosophers, in April, Max Horkheimer, Karl Mannheim, Paul Tillich, and
Siegfried Marck; then in July Ernst von Aster was fired and August Messer and Hans Driesch were
forcibly retired; and Bernhard Groethuysen was chased out of the university.
[39] Other philosophers
who were let go in 1933 include Richard Hönigswald, Ernst Cassirer, Jonas Cohn, Arthur Liebert,
Dietrich yon Hildebrandt, Helmuth Plessner, Martin Buber, and Theodor Adorno.
From a political perspective, Heidegger largely shared the conservative tendencies prevalent after
the First World War, including the basic acceptance, or at least tolerance, of National Socialism with
the exception
― 35 ―
of its biological anti-Semitism, which was declined by most academics, and his participation, surprising
for Heidegger, who seems to have had few or no personal heroes, in the Hitler cult. Heidegger followed
other conservative intellectuals in rejecting both Bolshevism and liberalism of all kinds. But he carried
his cooperation with Nazism further than most other academics, certainly further than any philosopher
with the exception of Ernst Krieck. The main difference between Heidegger and all other philosophers,
including Krieck, was his impressive ability to express his conservative worldview, itself typical of the
conservative mood of the times among intellectuals, in a series of philosophical doctrines. These
doctrines, all of which are deeply rooted in his philosophy of Being, include: the rejection of a
democratic form of government as antithetical to modern life, particularly evident in the Spiegel
interview; the philosophical reworking of Schmitt's conception of decisionism, the basis of the Führer
principle, in his own conception of resoluteness;
[41] the rejection of modernity itself in his espousal of
Nietzsche's diagnosis of nihilism and European nihilism; and his own later rejection of technology.
The Volk and German Romanticism
The concern of conservative German intellectuals, including a large proportion of German academics,
to seek a third way between the failed liberalism incarnated by the Weimar Republic and the
Bolshevism which they unanimously feared was motivated by both historical and conceptual factors.
On the one hand, it was motivated by such historical circumstances as the concern to redeem the
German defeat in the First World War, to restore German honor and pride. But it was also spurred on
by the reactionary tradition of German Volk -thought, with its stress on the historical realization and
exaltation of the Germans as German, which impelled both the imperialist movement stemming from
Bismarck and the National Socialist conception of the German nation. In Mein Kampf , Hitler clearly

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stressed the fact of belonging to the German Volk , namely the conception of nationality (Volkstum ,
from Volk ), as more important than the state, which was merely a means to the achievement and
preservation of the higher form of human being.
The Volk perspective, which is older than Nazism, was already an important current in
nineteenth-century German thought. It emerged as a romantic response to the general problem of
human being in modern society, the so-called condition humaine , with important ties to German
romanticism and conservative thinking. The völkisch perspective, like romanticism with which it is
allied, represents an approach to the problems of modern life which eschews rational solutions of any
kind, includ-
― 36 ―
ing economic analysis, social reform, and so on, in favor of an emphasis on human being in an often
mystical sense. It differs from romanticism, which places primary emphasis on the individual, in the
appeal to supraindividual, mystical forces and the stress on the people writ large. The importance of
the individual is limited to the belonging to the group, typically the nation or the race, or both. Unlike
romanticism, which is often apolitical, völkisch thought is typically related to extreme forms of political
conservatism and the most virulent types of nationalism.
Völkisch ideas were typically advanced in order to counter widespread alienation held to be
characteristic of modern society. The conception of alienation, understood as separation, say the
separation of human being from its essence, or essential nature, is older than modernity. It has a long
theological lineage, for instance in the idea that Adam and Eve, and human beings in general, were
separated from God. In this view, which dominates Christianity, the purpose of human life is to
overcome one's separation from the divine by finding the way back to God. This view receives a
secularized development in the effort of modern thinkers to "think" the problem of the modern human
being. It can be illustrated in a passage about labor that Hegel cites from Adam Smith:
But the value of labor decreases in the same proportion as the productivity of labor increases. Work becomes thus
absolutely more and more dead, it becomes machine-labor, the individual's own skill becomes infinitely limited, and the
consciousness of the factory worker is degraded to the utmost level of dullness. The connection between the particular
sort of labor and the infinite mass of needs becomes wholly imperceptible, turns into a blind dependence. It thus
happens that a far-away operation often affects a whole class of people who have hitherto satisfied their needs through
it; all of a sudden it limits [their work]. makes it redundant and useless.
The concern with alienation as the condition of human being in modern society is a frequent theme
in modern thought in an almost bewildering variety of ways, in literature, art, and philosophy, but also
in psychology, psychiatry, sociology, and other disciplines. All of these disciplines are concerned with
the recognition and analysis of the phenomenon of alienation and the diagnosis of ways to achieve
reconciliation, to heal the perceived dichotomy. This concern is widely present in modern political
philosophy, for instance in Hobbes's view of the social contract as a necesssary evil, and in Rousseau's
espousal of a political reformulation of society to reach a simple human community that is neither the
state of nature nor civilization as we know it. In the period after the French Revolution, the diagnosis
and supersession of alienation becomes a main theme in the thought of Hegel.
[44] The dual concepts
of alienation
― 37 ―
and reconciliation are important to the views of his main successors: Marx, Kierkegaard, and
[45] Alienation is further a main theme in Heidegger's early position and, under the guise of
a concern for the historical realization of the German people, a persistent aspect of all his later
The philosophical concern with the diagnosis and supersession of alienation runs parallel to a
similar concern in the romantic movement, including literature, art,
[46] and politics. Political
romanticism found expression in such diverse tendencies as romantic traditionalism, romantic
humanitarianism, and romantic nationalism. In reaction to the French Revolution, a specific form of
political romanticism was created in Europe by the fear of revolutionary ideology in the writings of
Edmund Burke, Joseph de Maistre, and L. G. A. de Bonald. Philosophically, romanticism has been
described as a loosely related set of views consisting in the rejection of rationalism, of the Locke-Hume
philosophical axis.
[47] Romanticism is said to be typified by a cluster of beliefs including idealization of
social relations in contrast with the Enlightenment view, the idea of the state as a social organism,
opposition to the thought of the French Revolution, sympathy for Roman Catholicism, and
[48] It has further been observed that in all its varieties, romanticism celebrates the

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self. [49]
The idea of the Volk features a characteristic romantic response to the problem of the separation,
or alienation, supposedly typical of life in modern society. The general idea of Volksgeist , or spirit of a
people, which cannot be equated with Volk ideology, its degenerate, reactionary form, appears in
historical investigations, in the writings of such diverse thinkers as Burke, Montesquieu, Hume, and
Voltaire. The intellectual genesis of this concept has been traced to three writers.
[50] Herder, who
refers to the Geist des Volkes, Geist der Nation , and Nationalgeist ; Hegel's coinage of the term
"Volksgeist, " in the course of early meditations on popular religion and Christianity;
[51] and the
controversy involving E K. Savigny and G. F. Puchta, in the historical school of law, about the relation
between the national spirit and the legal system. Rotenstreich points out that the idea of a Volksgeist
provided "a descriptive concept as well as a normarive demand of faithfulness"
[52] influential in
politics, literature, law, and philosophy, as well as the distinction between peoples and their traditions.
The idea of a Volksgeist need not, but can, be used for specifically conservative purposes, as
witness the later Nazi confusion of the distinctions between Volksgeist and race. The concept of the
Volk is difficult to define, but important to grasp as a central factor in Heidegger's turn toward Nazism.
According to Bourdieu, who mainly bases himself on Mosse, the völkisch perspective is an attitude
toward the world, which
― 38 ―
resists any objectification, englobing literary, historical, and philosophical sources, as well as biological
and philological forms of racism, including a series of confused views regarding phantasms,
technology, workers, the elite, the people, and concerning history and country.
[53] Mosse stresses the
filiation leading from romanticism to the idea of the Volk , which he regards as similarly irrational and
emotional. He adduces a series of traits as characteristic of right-wing, völkisch thought, including the
Volk as a desired unity beyond contemporary reality, "a more tangible vessel for the life force that
flowed from the cosmos," a romantic pantheistic concept of nature, a view of the spirit as limited to a
national entity, and a concept of man as not vanquishing or overcoming nature but as living in
harmony with it.
[54] Heidegger's later exaltation of allegedly misunderstood nature as physis through
his conception of Gelassenheit is, with the exception of the philosophical formulation, typical of the
Volk perspective. From a quasi-philosophical perspective, the Volk point of view reached its dubious
high point in the insistence of Alfred Rosenberg, the chief Nazi ideologist, in his analysis of the alleged
myth of the twentieth century, on soul as the interior form of race and the racial soul as the effective
motor of history.
Romantic thought is essentially antirationalist, directed against the Enlightenment and its
legitimate achievements in the defense of reason. Whereas the Enlightenment thinker seeks a rational
solution to the problems of society, founded on faith in reason, the disillusioned romantic
[56] typically
eschews reason in an effort to return into oneself to seek the proper attitude to life and reality. There
is a clear connection between the intrinsically romantic effort to resolve the great social and political
problems of the day through essentially magical solutions and the essential antirationalism common to
all forms of totalitarian thought. Berlin's account of the antirationalistic, romantic approach to human
life and action, including the problem of alienation, in the writings of Joseph de Maistre, an early
forerunner of fascism, is an accurate description of the Volk -ideological approach to modern life which
influenced Heidegger's own Nazi turning:
Human action in his [i.e., Maistre's] sense is justified only when it derives from that tendency in human beings which is
directed neither to happiness nor to comfort, nor to neat, logically coherent patterns of life, nor to self-assertion and
self-aggrandizement, but to the fulfillment of an unfathomable divine purpose which men cannot, and should not try to,
fathom— and which they deny at their peril.
In his own way, Heidegger echoes this concern in his steadfast insistence throughout his entire
career on the importance of Being. It is literally
― 39 ―
through uncognizable Being, which in his view towers over beings, or mere entities, and human being
alike, that he sought to comprehend all questions concerning human being now and in the future.
Intraphilosophic Factors in Heidegger's Nazi Turning
Fundamental Ontology, Nazism, and Political Philosophy

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The account of external factors in the background has identified factors that impinge on, form the
background of, and are reflected in Heidegger's fundamental ontology. There can be no doubt that
Heidegger's personal and philosophical position reflect the decline of the Weimar Republic and the
intensely conservative tendencies of the period. Both of these factors impelled many other German
intellectuals of this period, including numerous German philosophers, toward National Socialism. Yet
Heidegger was neither an ordinary German nor even an ordinary German philosopher. Since he
differed from all other Germans, including all other German philosophers, in the possession of a
philosophical position of unusual importance, we must inquire whether there are still other factors,
factors internal to Heidegger's thought, that led him in the direction of Nazism.
As a first step, it is helpful to recall the traditional philosophical view of the relation between
philosophy and politics. We owe to Plato the idea that philosophy is a necessary condition for the good
life. Philosophy, on this view, differs from other disciplines such as shoemaking or chemistry, in that
while the other disciplines contribute to a good life and are useful to that end, philosophy is not only
useful but moreover indispensable, for philosophers and only philosophers possess unique insight into
reality. To put the point more strongly, the good life may well be possible without shoemakers or
chemists; but, according to the traditional view, it is not possible without philosophers. It is, then,
different if a businessman or a philosopher turns to Nazism. One cannot demand that a businessman
possess knowledge that leads beyond the business world. But a philosopher can be held responsible
for his political actions since philosophy is intended to afford insight into the political realm.
It is difficult to square the claim for the specific insight of philosophy into reality, including politics,
with the actions of philosophers. The actions of philosophers in times of crisis provide no comfort to
those who hold that knowing and doing are intimately related. If Nazism is evil, then it is troubling that
German philosophers lined up to become members of the NSDAP. Either philosophy was insufficient to
― 40 ―
the truth in such political circumstances, for instance through a misidentification of Nazism as the
good, or knowledge of the truth was insufficient to influence actions as German philosophers flocked to
enlist in this cause. Despite philosophical claims for the political utility of their discipline, philosophers
have at best an indifferent political record. There is no reason to believe that philosophy as such is
either politically indispensable or the source of political insight. Philosophers have certainly not been
the model citizens that their superior insight would suggest, although the link between their thought
and their actions is often rather tenuous. For instance, Frege's well-known, vicious anti-Semitism
seems unrelated to his fundamental contributions to modern logic.
[58] On the contrary, the relation
between Heidegger's philosophy and his politics is by no means merely contingent, or limited to the
impact of external factors, since it follows as well from factors internal to his thought.
The link between Heidegger's thought and his politics is a form of the wider problem of the relation
between theory and practice. It is no accident that Heidegger turned to politics, since his philosophy is
intrinsically political. Now the claim that fundamental ontology is not only a theory of Being but also
political is obviously controversial. The way to understand the relation of Being and Time to
Heidegger's politics has sharply divided students of his thought. Aubenque has argued that
Heidegger's turn to National Socialism is not a political act since it cannot be deduced from his
[59] Janicaud, following Aubenque, does not deny that fundamental ontology is implicated
in Heidegger's politics but insists on the necessarily apolitical status of his thought. [60] On the
contrary, Wolin has described Heidegger's political philosophy in detail. [61]
If fundamental ontology is basically political, then there is an intrinsic connection between
ontology, as Heidegger understands it, and politics. Since Heidegger never tired of praising the virtues
of ancient Greek thought, not surprisingly it provides obvious antecedents of the political dimension of
Heidegger's position. Plato's Republic describes an ideal state based on the self-realization of the
individual through what he or she does best.
[62] Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics treats of the good for
its own sake, that for the sake of which all actions are taken, which belongs to the science of politics.
According to Aristotle, the end of politics is the good for man.
Being and Time is an intensely political book in an Aristotelian sense of the term "politics." It is a
book concerned with the good in itself, understood as the concern with fundamental ontology.
Heidegger rejects the Aristotelian view of human being, although he accepts the general Aristotelian
understanding of practical philosophy.
[64] According to Heidegger, concern with the problem of Being
is indispensable for the good for human being. For both Aristotle the author of the Ni-
― 41 ―

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comachean Ethics and Heidegger the author of Being and Time , the aim is not merely a theoretical
treatise but a work with practical intent. Just as ethics belongs to politics, so Aristotle's account of
human affairs points beyond itself to the state that completes it.
[65] Similarly, fundamental ontology
demands a response to the question of the meaning of Being which cannot leave human being
indifferent. Being and Time , which does not offer a series of political injunctions, is not political in the
sense of, say, Machiavelli's The Prince or Hobbes's Leviathan , or even Kant's "To Perpetual Peace: A
Philosophical Sketch." But it is political in another, more basic sense, concerning the realization of
human being in the human context. It is, then, no accident that the entire discussion of "Being" in this
work culminates in an analysis of historicality (Geschichtlichkeit ), Heidegger's term for the authentic
conception of history, since fundamental ontology and political life are intimately related.
[66] Even
some thirty years later, after his period as rector, the turning in his thought, and the loss of the
Second World War, Heidegger held the same view of the political consequences of the concern with
Being. He ends his lectures on the law of sufficient reason with the statement:
Does the specified criterion, that man is a rational animal, exhaust the essence of man? Is it the last word concerning
Being, that Being means ground? Does not the essence of man, does not his belonging to Being, does not the essence of
Being itself remain still and ever more urgently worthy of thought? . . . That is the question. That is the world question
[Weltfrage] of thought. Its answer will decide what becomes of the earth and of the existence of man on this earth.
The turn to politics in general, including real and ideal forms of Nazism, is obviously rooted in
Heidegger's philosophical thought. It is not necessary, nor is it my intention, to demonstrate that
fundamental ontology necessarily led to National Socialism as its only possibility. This kind of
argument, which is sometimes made in political theory, say to explain the relation between Marx, or
Marxism, and Stalinism, is difficult at best.
[68] My point is rather that fundamental ontology
necessarily leads beyond itself to political practice, and that National Socialism represents one of the
types of politics acceptable to Heidegger's philosophical perspective. To put the same point differently,
I hold that the link between Heidegger's philosophy and his politics is not necessary, but I also hold
that it is not contingent.
It is a matter of record that Heidegger, the philosopher of Being, did turn to Nazi politics. This
political turning is not contingent since it was inscribed in the essence of his theory, which called for,
even demanded, political practice. The fact that his political turn took the form of Nazism
― 42 ―
is neither contingent nor necessary, but hardly surprising. It was not necessary in any strict sense and
could not therefore be "deduced" since he could possibly have accepted another form of politics. But
what in practice took the form of a turning to Nazism was also not contingent, a mere accident as it
were, an unfortunate incident, even essentially meaningless as Heidegger later claimed, since the
political practice called for by his philosophy in fact suggested either National Socialism or something
like it. It is not surprising that Heidegger's philosophy in practice led him toward a Nazi form of
political practice. For his position reflected in philosophical dress the same political and social
influences of his time which themselves led to Nazism. In short, Heidegger's Nazi turning represents a
rather obvious historical confluence, something that comes about at a particular historical moment, a
coming together as it were between the external influences on his thought, which also led to Nazism,
and his own turning in that direction because of his thought.
Fundamental Ontology and Politics
This general account of factors influencing Heidegger's turn to politics is insufficient without specific
textual analysis. As an aid in grasping the specific connection between Heidegger's philosophy and
Nazism, we can differentiate three aspects of his thought: his initial philosophical position as described
in Being and Time , its evolution in the period between Being and Time and the Nazi turning, and the
political application of his philosophical thought in the rectoral address.
Now it is difficult to describe a philosophical position adequately. In virtue of its original character,
no simple description is adequate to the complex nature of Heidegger's thought. It is also not possible
to attempt anything like a full description of Heidegger's position.
[69] Fortunately, that is not
necessary for our purposes here. Since the present discussion is concerned with the relation of
Heidegger's thought to Nazism, we can restrict our account of fundamental ontology merely to those
concepts which form the background of his turn to practical politics, including the question of Being, or
Seinsfrage ; Dasein, the distinction between authenticity and inauthenticity; and historicity.
Fundamental ontology is intended as a new theory of ontology which takes up the unanswered

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question of the meaning of Being through a demonstration of "the Interpretation of time as the
possible horizon for any understanding whatsoever of Being." [70] Heidegger's investigation is based on
the ontological difference between Being in general and beings, or entities. The question of the
meaning of Being concerns the Being of beings, or entities. "Dasein" is Heidegger's name for human
[71] According to Heidegger, as a being human being, or Dasein,
― 43 ―
differs from other entities, either animate or inanimate, since its understanding of Being is
characteristic of it.
In rapid succession, Heidegger sketches the outlines of a view of Dasein. Dasein's way of
"Being-ontological" is not tantamount to possessing an ontology, since it is "pre-ontological," that is, a
"way that one has an understanding of Being."
[73] Dasein always comports itself in terms of its
existence, defined as "a possibility of itself; to be itself or not itself." [74] There is, accordingly, a close,
in fact a reciprocal, link between Dasein and the Seinsfrage . Since existence is the defining trait of
Dasein, the analysis of Dasein requires that existence be considered initially. But since Dasein's
existence concerns its Being, an analysis of Dasein requires a prior analysis of the question of the
meaning of Being.
[75] Hence, an understanding of human being rests on a conceptually prior grasp of
Being. On the contrary, the Seinsfrage requires as its condition the analysis of human being. Since
Dasein belongs essentially to a world, it possesses an equally primordial understanding of "world" as
well as of the entities within it.
[76] It follows that the way to respond to the question of the meaning
of Being is through an analysis of Dasein: "Therefore, fundamental ontology , from which alone all
other ontologies can take their rise, must be sought in the existential analytic of Dasein. "
So far we have uncovered the reciprocal relationship, the hermeneutical circle so to speak, in the
connection between Dasein and Being. Heidegger's thought here and in succeeding works is resolutely
centered on Being, not on human being. He does not intend to provide a philosophical anthropology,
much less a complete ontology, of Dasein.
[78] In fact, Heidegger's interest in human being is confined
solely and wholly to its role in providing access to Being. That this is so is shown in two ways in
Heidegger's thought. On the one hand, it is visible in the fact that, following the so-called turning in his
thought, he later gives up the idea that we can accede to Being through Dasein in his turn away from
human being. In the later phase of his thought, he resolutely attempts to think Being without human
being. On the other hand, philosophically speaking, his political turn is not motivated, as might be
thought, by a basic concern with human being, since this is never Heidegger's fundamental
philosophical interest. From a philosophical perspective, it is rather motivated by the underlying
concern with Being, which itself leads to politics.
In Being and Time Heidegger has not yet arrived at the idea that Being can be thought without
human being. Here, he insists strongly that Dasein is the clue to Being. Since at this stage of his
thought the way to Being necessarily runs through human being, fundamental ontology cannot wholly
free itself from "philosophical anthropology," which it needs to address. For that reason, Heidegger
inquires into the essential
― 44 ―
structures of Dasein, which he describes in a preliminary way.
[79] Among these essential structures,
none is more fundamental than Dasein's understanding of itself in terms of its existence.
According to Heidegger, existence, or the way in which Dasein always understands itself, concerns
the possibility to be or not be to itself. He develops this idea in his analysis of the difference between
authenticity and inauthenticity. This facet of his view provides a rigorous philosophical statement of
the concern with alienation expressed in the traditional German concern with traditional Volksideologie
. It further offers an alternative to the Marxist conception of alienation.
[80] Heidegger's main
predecessor in his understanding of authenticity is Kierkegaard. [81]
"Authenticity" can mean "what is really intended." [82] As applied to human being, authenticity
concerns a conception of self-realization through a choice of oneself. Heidegger identifies two basic
characteristics of Dasein: "the priority of existentia over essentia and the fact that Dasein is in each
case mine."
[83] Unlike entities, or mere things, Dasein is intrinsically directed toward the future. It is
essentially characterized by the fact that its" 'essence' lies in its 'to be' [Zu-sein]." [84] The Being of
Dasein which is in question is in every case its own. On this basis, Heidegger infers that for Dasein the
Being that is at issue is its ownmost possibility, namely its possibility either to be or not to be what it
essentially is. In an important passage, he asserts that whether Dasein will be or not be its possibility
is a matter of choice.

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And because Dasein is in each case essentially its own possibility, it can , in its very Being, 'choose' itself and win itself; it
can also lose itself and never win itself; or only 'seem' to do so. But only in so far as it is essentially something which can
be authentic—that is, something of its own—can it have lost itself and not yet won itself.
Authenticity and inauthenticity are correlative concepts. Both are grounded in the notion of
mineness. Heidegger is at pains to stress that the difference between authenticity and inauthenticity
does not concern the degree of Being. It follows, although he does not say so explicitly, that the
difference concerns the type of Being, in other words the way that Dasein is itself. Since in principle
Dasein always in a sense understands its own possibility, the way in which one is oneself is a matter of
[86] Although surrounded with numerous precautions to distinguish the analytic of Dasein from
other endeavors, Heidegger's analysis of Dasein is similar to other theories of human
[87] For Heidegger, human being cannot be understood as a rational animal on the
ancient Greek model or in terms of Christian theology; it must be
― 45 ―
grasped through its own existence, or innermost possibility, which it necessarily understands and
either chooses or fails to choose.
Now for Heidegger, a precondition of the thought of Being in an authentic manner is a break with
the established tradition of metaphysical thought. For to follow the tradition on the well-known path of
ontology is to accept precisely the view that must be "destroyed" in order to recover the original,
correct alternative later covered up. Authentic thought of Being, like authenticity in all its forms,
requires a withdrawal from the ordinary, in fact from the public in all its forms, where one mainly
follows others, into the private sphere where one follows only oneself. On the conceptual level, this
requires that one in effect think for oneself as opposed to remaining on paths already marked out.
Hence, if for no other reason, Heidegger's conception of the problem of Being in this work demands
that he bring about human authenticity as a condition of the working out of the problem itself. [89]
Authenticity is obviously a key conception in Being and Time . There is a clear difference between
an idea of authenticity, such as Heidegger's conception, and its practical realization. Special interest
attaches to the transition from an understanding of the nature of an authentic person, namely the
abstract, or philosophical, theory of authenticity, to actually being authentic in a concrete manner.
Heidegger articulates his claim for the transition from a theoretical understanding of human being or
Dasein as possibly authentic to authenticity in practice through a number of concepts, above all the
notion of resoluteness (Entschlossenheit ).
Heidegger's argument depends on his basic understanding of human being. He summarizes his
view of human being through the enumeration of four basic traits.
[90] Disclosedness (Erschlossenheit
), which belongs to the Being of human being, primarily concerns care (Sorge ), that is, being in a
context at all, and being with whatever is in the context, in Heidegger's language Being-in-the-world
and Being alongside entities within-the-world. "Thrownness" is Heidegger's way of indicating that we
are dealing with people in concrete situations, not ideal or idealized concepts that function as the
subjective pole in a theory of knowledge. "Projection," which also belongs to the Being of human
being, is defined as "disclosive Being towards its potentiality for Being."
[91] This is Heidegger's
designation for the capacity, ingredient in his basic conception of a person, to be aware of one's own
capacities, capacities which every individual possesses. "Falling" is the term chosen to indicate that for
the most part individuals are not authentic but inauthentic since, although aware of their own
possibilities, they fail to choose them.
An awareness of one's capacities, which Heidegger insists we all possess, is merely a precondition
to their manifestation. One has to be
― 46 ―
aware of possibilities in order to bring them about, but the awareness itself is not the same as their
manifestation. If a capacity, such as writing music, can only be realized because the person who
possesses it is also aware of the fact, then this awareness is a necessary but not a sufficient condition
for its realization. If Bach is unaware that he has the ability to write cantatas, he is exceedingly
unlikely to do so. Heidegger addresses the problem of the transition to authenticity, given the
imputation of a conception of self-awareness, in a notion of resoluteness.
Resoluteness is the key transitional notion, the way in which Heidegger means to mediate between
authenticity as a theoretical concept, an ideal for human being as it were, and its practical realization.
According to Heidegger, to be resolute is already to be authentic.
[92] There is a faint echo here of
Kant's idea of pure practical reason. For Kant, to determine oneself to act according to a principle

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applicable to every possible rational being is already in a sense to be moral; so for Heidegger, merely
to be resolute is already to be authentic. The difference, on which Heidegger insists, is that unlike
Kant's view of the subject as necessarily separate from the world, for Heidegger a person is already
and necessarily in the concrete context. Resoluteness occurs in the life of a particular person, in a
particular situation, at a particular time.
As elsewhere in Heidegger's theory, there are authentic and inauthentic forms of resoluteness. To
be resolute is to anticipate a possibility, something a person can choose to be, rather like picking out a
lifestyle. Now some possibilities are, in Heidegger's view, inessential because not specifically rooted in
the essence of the person as such. Although they affect the person's Being, they do not do so in a way
that belongs to that person as distinguished from others. Like Plato, Heidegger seems to hold that
there are identifiable characteristics which individuals possess and that they ought to realize these
characteristics in their actions, to concentrate on what is specific to them. Resoluteness is authentic,
then, when it picks out what is uniquely characteristic of that person-in Heidegger's sibylline language,
one's "ownmost authentic possibility."
[93] Heidegger's conception seems to contain something like a
sense of resistance against other temptations or possibilities, almost like Ulysses resisting the
blandishments of the sirens.
The conception of resoluteness invoked in order to account for the practical realization of
authenticity is at least as abstract as the abstract concept it is intended to mediate. To point out that a
person grasps his or her specific potentials is not the same as showing how this is in practice carried
out. We don't have any criteria that allow us to identify what is intrinsic to the individual. Unless one
holds that an individual who is resolute about being authentic cannot go wrong, or unless resoluteness
is itself the authenticity one seeks, then more needs to be said to rule out
― 47 ―
possible incorrect choices of oneself. Heidegger moves closer to the practical level in his account of
historicality, or the authentic conception of history.
Heidegger's convoluted discussion of historicality carries special importance within the book for at
least two reasons. First, it is plausible to hold that the work as a whole culminates in this passage, in
the account of the transition from a manifold account of forms of human authenticity and
inauthenticity to the concretely authentic person or group.
[95] Second, Heidegger understands time as
the indispensable horizon of Being and Dasein as existence. At this point in the analysis existence and
time, human being, and Being come together in a supposedly authentic conception of history.
Heidegger provides additional information about his view of resoluteness in the context of his
discussion of historicality (Geschichtlichkeit ). The idea of authenticity is initially futural in that the
possibility to be realized obviously lies in the future as something that can still come about. Heidegger
now renders this conception more concrete by insisting that the possibility to be realized in the future
is part of the heritage and, hence, lies in the past. Clearly, a heritage is what is transmitted from the
past to later generations. For Heidegger, who here anticipates Gadamer's notion of the tradition as
itself valuable, what is "good" is a heritage, since goodness makes authenticity possible, and goodness
is transmitted in resoluteness.
[96] It follows, since authenticity is understood as the realization of the
possibility that most intimately belongs to the individual person, that such possibilities are by their
nature traditional in character. There is, then, a fiercely conservative strain in Heidegger's view of
self-realization as the free choice of oneself, since to realize oneself, to resolutely seize the most
intimate possibility available to one in choosing oneself, is finally to extend past tradition; for tradition
itself is the vehicle of the "good." In a fundamental sense, the authenticity made possible by
resoluteness is not innovative but repetitive in character; it is not the realization of what is new and
unprecedented, but rather the repetition of a prior tradition which as such embodies "goodness." In a
deep sense, for Heidegger to be authentic is to embrace or to repeat the past in one's own life through
a reinstantiation of the tradition. Since Nazism claimed to embody the values of the authentic German,
of the German Volk as German, there is, then, a profound parallel, providing for an easy transition
without any compromise of basic philosophical principles, between Heidegger's conception of
authenticity through resoluteness and National Socialism.
Heidegger expands on his conception of the transmission of the tradition as intrinsically good by
introducing a series of distinctions concerning heritage and resoluteness. The two basic forms of
tradition are fate
― 48 ―
(Schicksal ), which concerns the individual, and destiny (Geschick ), which affects a group, such as a

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community or people. [97] Heidegger here notes, as he has done before, that authenticity can be either
individual or on the level of the group. What, for lack of a better term, we can call "plural authenticity"
can come about if the group authentically shares its heritage and realizes it.
[98] When the group
shares in an authentic manner that which represents its authentic heritage, then it obviously can be
authentic in a plural sense. It is in this sense that he introduces the German idea of the people (Volk ),
namely a community (Gemeinschaft ), as distinguished presumably from a society, which shares a
common heritage, or destiny.
Heidegger further mentions conceptions of the hero, the moment of vision, and loyalty. The
conception of the hero (Held ) is evoked in relation to the authentic repetition of a possibility. [100] We
can speculate that the hero is one willing to sacrifice or even die for this cause, that is, the destiny of
the Volk . Here, Heidegger stresses the notion of struggle in which the hero acts as a model for others,
who can follow in his footsteps as it were. It is this notion which he later applied, during his period as
rector, in praise of Albert Leo Schlageter, a young man who was earlier hanged for terrorist acts
against French and Belgian troops in the Rhineland and whom Heidegger eulogized as a hero.
Heidegger further links resoluteness with the moment of vision (Augenblick ). [102] Like the theological
conception of kairos , there is a right time, a propitious instant when things come together, so to
speak—a moment when an important action is possible, such as the transition to authenticity in
practice through the grasp and reenactment of one's heritage on both the levels of the individual and
the group. An important aspect of Heidegger's Nazi turning was his conviction that National Socialism
offered the historical moment for the realization of the authenticity of the German Volk .
This account of the basic structure of Being and Time shows that Heidegger's conception of
ontology commits him, as a condition of thinking through the problem of the meaning of "Being," to a
political understanding of human being, that is, to an idea of the person as mainly inauthentic but as
possibly authentic in a concrete fashion. The very concern with fundamental ontology requires a
political turn since an authentic thought of Being can only arise on the basis of concrete authenticity.
Heidegger's concern with the problem of the meaning of Being is not apolitical; nor is it indifferent to
theory and practice in virtue of its concern with the Seinsfrage . Rather, the concern with "Being" is
itself intrinsically political.
My argument to this point can be summarized as follows. Heidegger's turn to National Socialism,
which cannot be denied, was motivated by factors intrinsic and extrinsic to his philosophical position.
― 49 ―
factors include the general sense of despair in the waning days of the Weimar Republic, the concern
with Volk ideology, the desire to recover self-respect in the wake of the disastrous defeat in the First
World War, and so on. These influences, which were in the air, so to speak, at the time he was
working out his fundamental ontology, constitute the wider contemporary context in which his
philosophical theory emerged. These extrinsic factors are not merely part of the background but are in
fact incorporated into Heidegger's thought in various ways—for instance, in his extensive reflection on
the theme of authenticity. The intrinsic factors are those aspects of his philosophical theory which led
him toward politics and which further made it possible for him to accept National Socialism.
Heidegger's understanding of ontology commits him to a turn to politics, centered on the conception of
human authenticity, which demands realization in a political context, as a condition of the authentic
thought of Being. Heidegger's turn to Nazism was an obvious attempt to seize a supposedly propitious
historical moment. The mere fact that Heidegger's attempt to seize the day was a decision for the
darkest night of the human soul should not be invoked to explain his adherence to National Socialism
as a mere error of judgment, as a simple mistake, as the kind of mistake anyone, so to speak, could
make. The reason is obvious: unlike everyone, or his academic colleagues, or even other philosophers,
Heidegger possessed an important philosophical theory, and it is this theory itself which led him from
the ivory tower inhabited by German intellectuals toward the political arena.
Ontology and Existence: On the Way to Practice
The turn from the theory of Being in Being and Time to political practice did not occur immediately,
although it was also not long in coming. Since important thinkers do not always realize the implications
of their ideas, and Heidegger was an important thinker, it is possible that he was not immediately
aware of the political implications of his study of ontology. Nevertheless, he quickly turned to practice
and to politics on the basis of his thought. The initial step out of the ivory tower and into the real world
occurred in his discussion of the crisis faced within Germany in the latter part of the Weimar Republic.
Since Heidegger was officially concerned only with the problem of Being, he has often been portrayed

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as an unpolitical person, as uninterested in or unaware of the surrounding world, as the fictional
absentminded professor. [103] On the contrary, Heidegger was deeply aware of and interested in
contemporary events, as witness numerous references in his lecture courses to happenings of the day.
He was specifically disturbed by the general
― 50 ―
cultural mood prevalent in the later period of the Weimar Republic. His analysis of this existential
situation is doubly interesting: as a phase in the transition from fundamental ontology to National
Socialism through an initial political turning, and as an effort to confront the contemporary political
malaise through his theory of Being.
The significance of Heidegger's remarks on cultural criticism, besides their intrinsic interest, lies in
his concern to apply his theory of Being to the analysis of the current existential malaise at a point late
in the Weimar Republic, as the incipient economic depression is spreading throughout the world, when
all concerned are aware that the experiment in democratic liberalism in the Weimar Republic is in deep
trouble, when powerful forces are emerging to challenge both liberalism and communism through a
conservative revolution from the right.
Heidegger turns to contemporary society in his lecture course of 1929/ 30, at a point located
between the publication of Being and Time and prior to the rectoral speech, shortly before his private
turning to National Socialism in 1931.
[104] The analysis of Being in Being and Time offers a theoretical
reason for the link of fundamental ontology to politics, which is only mandated theoretically but is not
yet carried out. It is in abeyance, waiting to happen so to speak. A transition from theory to practice,
but not yet to politics, in effect a practical intermezzo, occurs in Heidegger's analysis of the
contemporary political situation in his lecture course. Here, we see Heidegger's effort to come to grips
with the really existing social world, in this case the current social situation, from the perspective of his
philosophical theory.
Heidegger's attempt to confront the existential situation through an analysis of mood is an
application of his fundamental ontology. For Heidegger, everyone always has a mood of some kind,
and he understands mood as the actually existing manifestation of the potential for
[105] Heidegger insists that one's state-of-mind, or potential for a given mood, is
significant not only to disclose a person as what he or she is but also as an indication of how an
individual comes into contact with its world.
[106] For this reason, he regards the state-of-mind in
general as providing an important clue for existential analysis. In Being and Time , Heidegger employs
his conception of state-of-mind as a basic clue to elucidate fear and anxiety. In his lecture course,
Heidegger switches his attention from fear and anxiety to boredom. In his analysis of the present
situation, Heidegger insists that the basic mood of the present is boredom induced by the failure to be
an authentic person, which he interprets as a clue to a deeper problem: the problem of Being. In his
reading of the contemporary situation, in his diagnosis of the contemporary dependence on slogans,
Heidegger maintains that no one is really the master of "the inner greatness" (der inneren Grösse ) of
― 51 ―
Heidegger maintains that the deep boredom characteristic of current social life is ontologically
significant. The discussion comes to a head in the final paragraph of the first part (§ 38), which bears
the significant, but rather clumsy title: "Essential need in general, the missing (self-denial) of the
essential distress of our contemporary Dasein as the left-emptiness of the particularly deep boredom."
Heidegger leaves no doubt about his bleak view of the contemporary situation, including the decline of
the Weimar Republic and worldwide economic depression:
Everywhere there are deep shakings [Erschütterungen], crises, catastrophes, needs [Nöte]: contemporary social misery,
political confusion, the powerlessness of science, the emptiness [Aushöhlung] of art, the ungroundedness of philosophy,
the incapacity of religion. Certainly, there are needs everywhere.
In this connection, Heidegger makes five points, each of which contributes to an analysis of the
contemporary social crisis and an identification of the role for philosophy in the practical social sphere.
1. The hidden basic mood of the current situation is deep boredom (tiefe Langeweile ).
[109] This is
his basic diagnosis of the contemporary social crisis through the application of the conceptions of mood
and state-of-mind developed in his fundamental ontology.
2. Everyone is aware of the situation. But others have so far failed to grasp the real nature of the

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problem since they invariably tend to focus on types of need to the neglect of need as such. [110]
Examples of this failure are provided by psychology, including depth psychology and psychoanalysis.
Heidegger here offers a methodological critique of other approaches to the understanding of
contemporary society through an application of his canonical ontological difference, roughly the
difference between the ontological and ontical dimensions.
3. Merely to ask the proper question—more precisely, to raise the question of the basic mood
(Grundstimmung )—is to perform a crucial service. This questioning does not justify or deal with
contemporary human being as human, but rather frees human being's specifically human capacity as
To question concerning this basic mood does not mean to justify and to carry on with the present humanness of human
beings [Menschheit des Menschen], but to free the humanness in human being, the humanness of human being, that is,
to free the essence of human being, to permit Dasein in him essentially to become.
4. Heidegger specifies what Dasein can become by drawing attention to the link between his
concern with the present time of need and the
― 52 ―
question of the meaning of Being raised in his fundamental ontology. To free human being by enabling
it to become Dasein is not to place it in an arbitrary situation. It is rather to divest it of its specific
burden and, accordingly, to free it. "The freeing of Dasein in human being does not mean to put him
into an arbitrary situation [Willkür], but to remove from him his ownmost [eigenste] burden. Only one
who can truly give oneself a burden is free."
5. Heidegger understands the proposed questioning as practically important. The proper
questioning, which is parenthetically only possible from the perspective of fundamental ontology, is
intended to lead us in two directions: to action and to being (zum Handeln und zum Sein ).
Heidegger's conception of how to minister to the malady of the present day provides insight into
his view of human being, including its role in his philosopical theory. His concern is manifest here on
two levels, in respect to (1) the dreadful disintegration of contemporary Germany, and (2) his reading
of the deeper significance of the present mood. It is, then, significant that, despite his linguistic tip of
the hat to the gravity of the momentary situation, his concern is finally not with human being but with
Being. Others are obviously shocked by the grave social situation present in the declining phase of the
Weimar Republic because of an abiding interest in human being. But here and elsewhere, this more
usual humane concern is wholly absent in Heidegger's personal and philosophical perspectives. From a
strictly philosophical point of view, it is fair to say that he fastens on the practical situation in order to
further fundamental ontology.
Since Dasein is that being concerned with Being, in a word the Seinsfrage , to bring about the
fulfillment of Dasein is to create the real possibility to grasp Being. For human being to realize itself
has nothing to do with its present distress, but everything to do with being an authentic human being,
namely that being essentially concerned with Being. It follows that the problem of Being, the center of
theoretical concern in his fundamental ontology, is also doubly implicated in his analysis of the
present-day situation of Germany: as the conceptual framework of the analysis, and as the problem
toward which the contemporary situation points. In short, in rather transparent fashion Heidegger here
substitutes his own philosophical concerns for the existential concerns created by the world economic
collapse and the decline of the Weimar Republic.
The result of this discussion is to point to a clear dualism in Heidegger's analysis of Being. His
fundamental ontology is clearly circular, since the analysis of Being leads to a conception of human
being, which is either inauthentic or authentic. An authentic grasp of Being depends on an authentic
human being. The interest in human being is, then, twofold: perhaps or at least possibly for the sake
of human beings, but
― 53 ―
finally and most basically for the sake of the understanding of Being. To put the same point in other
words, Heidegger's main concern is with Being, not human being; he turns to human being as the way
into the problem of Being. Even in his most concrete moments, such as in his application of his
theoretical framework to the analysis of contemporary society, his main interest lies in the
understanding of Being. This same overriding concern is the main thread of his turn in the rectoral
address to Nazism.

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From Practice to Politics
Heidegger insists on the importance of mood. We can summarize Heidegger's own mood in the waning
period of the Weimar Republic, as revealed in this text, as follows: Obviously, human being is in
trouble and the ordinary solutions seem not to have taken hold. Yet the problematic nature of
contemporary life is finally due to the turn of human being away from its ownmost possibilities of
being, which can only be understood in terms of the problem of Being. For this reason, Dasein must be
forced to listen to that which it has refused to hear, to be forced to take up a burden in order to be
free. For only in this way can Dasein reach its so-called inner greatness.
The problem of Dasein's inner greatness as an authentic possibility in its moment of need is a
precipitating factor in Heidegger's Nazi turning. Everything points to a convergence at this point in
Heidegger's development of his concern with the problem of Being as supposedly manifest in the
contemporary German social context, the various influences arising through the decline of the Weimar
Republic and the strengthened appeal of Volk ideology, the reflection of these themes in Heidegger's
own philosophical theory, which necessarily provokes a turn to practice, and the practical instantiation
of similar themes in National Socialist politics. There is an obvious, profound link between Heidegger's
interest in authenticity, the romantic Volk idea of the realization of the individual in the state as the
true reconciliation of the spirit of the people, and the Nazi idea of the identity or essential unity of the
German state and the so-called Aryan race. The idea of the Volk , which is not precisely translated as
"people," is difficult to define but is important to an understanding of German ideology and
Heidegger's attraction to Nazism. One of its main characteristics, which connects it to the romantic
reaction to the Enlightenment as an alternative solution to the problems of alienation and
reconciliation, is the union, or making whole, of the individual or group with its transcendent spirit, or
This view of the overcoming of alienation through effective historical realization of the spirit of the
Volk provides a clue to Heidegger's turn to
― 54 ―
Nazism. It is not necessary to claim that Heidegger subscribed to a biological theory of race to
perceive that for reasons internal to his philosophy, his analysis of the contemporary situation was
conducive to acceptance of the conservative Volk perspective and the much more extreme National
Socialist program. It is, then, no accident that in the rectoral speech Heidegger strongly stresses the
concept of spirit. For the concept of the spirit of the people, or Volksgeist , of the essence of the
German people, provides the link between Heidegger's view of Dasein in the light of his
comprehension of Being, the conservative völkisch response to the situation of human being in modern
society, and the Nazi program.
Fundamental Ontology and National Socialism: the Rectoral Address
The discussion in this chapter to this point has been prolegomenal. I have argued that Heidegger's
philosophy of Being is intrinsically political. I have further shown that he turned to practice which he
analyzed through the lens of his philosophy. And I have issued a promissory note in the form of the as
yet unsupported claim that his turn to Nazism was based in his philosophy. I now want to redeem that
promissory note, which is so far no more than that, through a reading of the rectoral address,
[115] the
main exoteric document of Heidegger's public identification with National Socialism. Now the idea that
philosophy is the ground of politics is as old as Plato's Republic . I am convinced that Heidegger's
approach to politics in his speech is quasi-Platonic, in fact a form of right-wing Platonism. My aim in
reading this text is to show not only that Heidegger's turning to National Socialism is based on his
philosophical position, but further that his speech can be read in a rather straightforward manner as
an effort to found National Socialism in fundamental ontology.
The rectoral address is the text in which Heidegger for the first time publicly associated his own
philosophy with National Socialism. The so-called Rektoratsrede was a public speech given by
Heidegger, the newly elected rector of the University of Freiburg, on 27 May 1933 on the occasion of
the ceremonial transfer of the rector's office. Heidegger's inauguration as rector of the University of
Freiburg in April 1933 took place immediately after the end of the Weimar Republic when Hitler had
already taken power, at the beginning of the new postrepublican period, symbolizing a return to the
imperialistic form of German politics. Almost immediately thereafter, there was a suspension of the
formal rule of law, of freedom of expression, and of habeas corpus. Civil

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― 55 ―
rights were abrogated and a legal basis was established for a Nazi dictatorship. Dictatorial powers were
voted to Hitler for a period of four years. Most Jews were deprived of civil service jobs, including those
in the university. In March, the first concentration camps were established and publicly announced. On
1 April a boycott of all Jewish establishments was instituted. In May, there was a burning of
"decadent" works by Jews and non-Jews. In the same month, labor unions and then, in July, political
parties were banned. In the early summer, the Vatican entered into a treaty, or Konkordat , with
Hitler, negotiated for the National Socialist government by von Papen, which provided the first official
recognition of Hitler's regime.
Heidegger's speech has already attracted extensive attention. [117] Analysis of this speech from
various perspectives has shown an indebtedness, surprising in this thinker of Being, to some less than
lofty sources, such as H. S. Sommerfeldt's study, Hermann Göring: Ein Lebensbild .
[118] Heidegger
evidently took Göring, the Reichsminister, Innenminister for Prussia, and a leading Hitler associate, as
a model for the new German man.
[119] Here, it will be useful to consider the specifically philosophical
context of Heidegger's speech in order to bring out the relation between his fundamental ontology and
his turn to politics.
Heidegger's talk represents his further effort, after his analysis of the social situation in the latter
days of the Weimar Republic, to apply his philosophical theory in and to political practice. The rectoral
address is a short text, about ten pages in length, elicited by a specific occasion. It is not, however, a
merely occasional text, a few well-chosen words with no intrinsic significance, unworthy of further
consideration. Rather, it is a philosophical discussion of surprising depth, which largely surpasses the
occasion for which it was written, and would be worth studying with care even were it not a main
document in Heidegger's turn to National Socialism. Since the text does not interpret itself, we will
need to provide an interpretation.
The significance of Heidegger's speech is suggested by the various ways in which it has been
interpreted. It has been read from different, even incompatible, perspectives: as a strategic effort to
lead the German university, even to lead the leaders of the Nazi state; as a defense of the German
university; as a defense of the Greek concept of science; and in other ways. One should not deny that
Heidegger's talk is in part intended to perform these tasks, and can hence be described as performing
them; but it is more than that. While recognizing that there are grounds for legitimate disagreement
with the reading to be advanced here, I will interpret the rectoral speech as a coherent philosophical
text in the service of Nazism. I am convinced that Heidegger's talk represents a well-thought-out
philosophical effort to put philosophy as he under-
― 56 ―
stood it in the service of National Socialism in the first place for what he portrayed as the good of the
German people, but ultimately for his own view of Being. In my view, this speech is primarily, and
should be regarded as, an effort to apply a philosophical theory, conceived in independence of Nazism
and before that movement came to power, within a political context for which Heidegger believed his
thought was relevant, indeed essential, in order to bring about a goal Heidegger shared with National
Socialism and Volk ideology—the historical gathering of the Germans—as well as a goal of his own: the
comprehension of Being.
It is, then, reasonable to assume that Heidegger's words on this occasion are not merely strategic,
nor merely limited to the immediate situation, but express his own deepest view of the matter,
drawing on the entire range of intellectual resources at his command. Although concerned with the
alienation of the German Volk , with the opportunity supposedly presented for the coming to being of
what is specifically German, this is only an intermediate end, that is a means to a further, more
important goal, for Heidegger is finally more concerned with Being. It is his ultimate concern with his
ontological preoccupation which made it possible for Heidegger, after the decline of real Nazism, to
remain faithful to a kind of ideal Nazism. He may, as Löwith suggests, have been fascinated by
[120] But his abiding fascination was undoubtedly with Being itself, which called forth his
commitment to National Socialism as a way station on the road to ontology.
The later thrust of Heidegger's philosophy is decidedly anti-Platonic. Yet in the rectoral address,
Heidegger's understanding of philosophy as essential to National Socialism is basically Platonic. There
are divergent ways to interpret the Platonic view of philosophy as the final arbiter of knowlege and as
the foundation of politics. The Platonic view has from time to time animated philosophers in the history
of the tradition, who regarded themselves as responsible for others, even all others, in virtue of their
special claim to knowledge. It animated, for example, Fichte, who claimed a responsibility for all

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And act thou shalt as though
The destiny of all things German
Depended on you and your lonely acting,
And the responsibility were yours.
This Platonic idea of the peculiar responsibilty of philosophers as philosophers can lead in two
directions. It is worth recalling that Fichte's words were cited by Kurt Huber, the only philosopher
executed by the Nazis, whose participation in the White Rose conspiracy against Hitler cost him his
[122] Heidegger used the same idea of the cognitive privi-
― 57 ―
lege of philosophy to argue for philosophy as the foundation of Nazism. For Heidegger, the philosopher
is the necessary component, the conceptual linchpin as it were, for the realization of the National
Socialist program. As for Plato, so in this text for Heidegger as well, the necessary condition of the
ideal or just state is that it be led by a philosopher.
[123] It is, then, consistent to regard his later effort
to reject philosophy in favor of a so-called new thinking beyond "philosophy" as doubly determined by
the internal evolution of his position as well as by his evident inability to lead the leaders, by his
unsuccessful effort to apply philosophy to politics.
Heidegger is not the only philosopher who turned to politics. Perhaps the closest analogy in our
time is with the Hungarian Marxist philosopher Lukács.
[124] Both the Bolshevist Lukács and the
National Socialist Heidegger take a quasi-Platonic stance on the need for philosophy to found politics,
and both place their considerable intellectual resources in the service of totalitarian political practice.
Heidegger's relation to Nazism resembles Lukács's relation to Marxism-Leninism. It has been said that
Lukács provided the philosophical grounding for Leninist politics.
[125] It is plausible to regard
Heidegger's speech as an effort, based in the extension and interpretation of his own thought, to
provide the philosophical grounding for Nazism. In the same way as Lukács turned to politics, from
which he later withdrew after the failure of his attempt to translate his thought into practice, so
Heidegger also was later marked by his unfortunate effort to descend from the philosophical perch into
the political arena. Also like Lukács, Heidegger later abjured the desire to actualize his thought
through political action, although he remained faithful to his original political view.
The title of the speech, "The Self-Assertion [Selbstbehauptung] of the German University," records
a quadruple commitment: a self-justification; a self-defense, in this case the defense of oneself
against the presumed efforts by others to usurp one's place; the self-assertion of the university for a
special role to be played by the university in general and the philosophers in particular; and, finally,
the self-assertion of the German people through the university.
[126] The text begins with the
following, crucial statement:
The assumption of the rectorate is the commitment to the spiritual leadership of this institution of higher learning. The
following of teachers and students awakens and grows strong only from a true and joint rootedness in the essence of the
German university. This essence, however, gains clarity, rank, and power only when first of all and at all times the
leaders are themselves led—led by that unyielding spiritual mission that forces the fate of the German people to bear the
stamp of its history.
― 58 ―
As early as the first sentence, Heidegger lays claim to the traditional role of philosophy in the
statement that in assuming the rectorate he commits himself to the spiritual, or intellectual, leadership
of the institution of higher learning. A view of spiritual leadership presupposes a conception of spirit. In
German philosophy, where the idea of spirit is a leading theme, it refers roughly to a conception of
reason as mediated through the social and historical context as the highest point of culture. Spirit is a
leading theme in modern German philosophy, for instance in the views of Fichte, Hegel, and Dilthey.
For Fichte, the end of life is the development of the spiritual order. In Hegelian idealism, human being
differs from nonhuman being through the spiritual dimension, which is manifested in culture. He
analyzes the spiritual dimension of existence in magisterial fashion in the Phenomenology of Spirit . In
part following Droysen, Dilthey insisted on the difference in kind between natural and social sciences,
or Geisteswissenschaften , literally the sciences of the spirit.
Heidegger develops his claim about the university in the next two sentences by applying his
conceptions of the ontological difference, fate, history, the Volk
[128] or people, truth as disclosure,
and so on, all drawn from his fundamental ontology. For Heidegger, the university is an institution
composed of teachers and students who are rooted in the so-called essence of the German university.
Heidegger names the background for his speech in his reference to the historical fate of the German

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people. The image he describes is that of an unbroken chain whose links are constituted by the
supposed spiritual mission of the Germans within history, the leaders who are led by that mission,
their followers composed of other teachers and students, and presumably all other members of the
In invoking the idea of the essence of the university, Heidegger applies his idea of truth as
disclosure in a Platonic manner. We recall that Plato insisted on a distinction in kind between reality
and appearance and that he further insisted that only philosophers who possessed the inherent mental
capabilities honed by appropriate training were able to perceive reality. In quasi-Platonic fashion,
Heidegger suggests that the university possesses an essence, as distinguished from its appearance,
which he, as a philosopher, is uniquely able to perceive. Others, nonphilosophers, are unable to see
the university's essence and hence unable to lead either it or Nazism. Since from his quasi-Platonic
angle of vision, the philosopher, incarnating the spirit of the university and the German people, is
alone capable of discerning what should be done, Heidegger's demand to lead the university as its
spiritual leader, or spiritual Führer ,
[129] is also a claim that only the spiritual, but not the political,
leader can lead the state to realize the destiny of the German people.
― 59 ―
The Marxist view of the leading role of the party, led by the leader, rests on Marx's conception of the
philosopher as the head of the revolution, so to speak—as one whose intellectual qualities provide him
with a unique task.
[130] Similarly, Heidegger now asserts that the philosopher and only the
philosopher is qualified to lead the German revolution initiated by Nazism.
The idea of the historical fate of the German people rests on the concept of fate introduced by
Heidegger in Being and Time . His appeal to fate and destiny represents a qualified return to the Greek
concept of moira , to an analysis of history in mythical rather than causal terms,
[131] as in the
well-known myth of the three fates reported by Plato. [132] There is a clear continuity between the
analysis of historicality in Being and Time and the initial paragraph of the Rektoratsrede . Heidegger
here adopts a nonbiological but metaphysical theory of racism—an exaltation of the Germans
specifically in virtue of their belonging to the German people, deeply informed by conservative political
thought, including Volk ideology—as concerns the realization of the German people, at the expense of
other peoples if necessary. To this end, he links together two views: his own view of fate and its
realization through the decisive action of a people spurred on to achieve its destiny in the choice of
itself, in effect to be its ownmost possibilities for being as specified through its heritage, on the one
hand; and the Nazi view of the intrinsic destiny of the German people as distinguished from other
peoples on the other. In his choice of the title "The Self-Assertion of the German University" for this
public talk, Heidegger affirms his intention to bend the philosophical resources of his position to a
specific political task in a fourth form of self-assertion: the self-assertion of the German people in the
conscious decision, as voiced by the newly elected rector of the University of Freiburg, to seize their
own destiny. This destiny will be realized through the leadership of the university, particularly through
the central role of philosophy, above all through Heidegger's philosophy within the university. True
Nazism, Nazism in the authentic sense, cannot be left to the National Socialists, the exponents of
"political science"; it requires a philosopher.
The interpretation of the passage "forces the fate of the German people to bear the stamp of its
history" ("Schicksal des deutschen Volkes in das Gepräge seiner Geschichte zwingt") is delicate. In
Being and Time , Heidegger distinguishes between fate, which refers to the individual, and destiny,
which refers to the group, more precisely to the manner in which one relates to others. Heidegger's
application of the term "fate" here to the German people, a plural noun, indicates that he regards the
Germans as a unity, as a group whose members are intrinsically linked together in a particular
manner. What they share is not
― 60 ―
something like belonging to the same club or living in the same neighborhood. For Heidegger, this
linkage is historical; it lies in the common heritage shared by the Germans as German. According to
Heidegger, in virtue of their German origins, the Germans partake of a deep relationship that is
already determined for them by history. He stresses this point in Being and Time with the strong
expression "fateful destiny of Dasein" (das schicksalhafte Geschick des Daseins ), which violates his
distinction between fate and destiny, to designate the way in which a person is related to his or her
[133] What Heidegger in the rectoral address, in reference to the destiny of the Germans,
calls "the stamp of its history" (Gepräge seiner Geschichte ) is a metaphysical claim about what the
Germans are as Germans. For Heidegger, then, the role of the philosopher, what he further designates

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here as "the unyielding spiritual mission" entrusted to him as the Führer of the University of Freiburg,
is nothing other than calling the German people back from its lack of awareness into what it, as
German, inherently is, that is, Germans with a potential to exhibit their Germanity, to realize their past
in their future actions. What I am calling the realization of the Germans as German is Heidegger's
metaphysical understanding of the conception of the destiny of the German people to realize
themselves in history.
As I read this text, its initial paragraph records Heidegger's clear and forceful public declaration of
his intent to provide vital philosophical help and sustenance to the Nazi political program, support
which in his eyes is a necessary condition for its realization. It is possible to read this passage in the
rectoral address differently. There is a linguistic defense available amounting to a denial of Heidegger's
turn toward Nazism in the observation that the word "Führer " appears here in the plural. In response,
we can note that in the context of his rise to the position of rector shortly after Hitler came to power,
Heidegger is proposing to lead the leaders of National Socialism and, finally but unmistakably, Hitler
himself. As Pöggeler, following Jaspers, has seen, Heidegger understood the concept of the
self-assertion of the German university to mean that he would lead the Nazi revolution.
Paradoxically, in his public statement of his desire to bend philosophy to the task of Nazi politics, in his
own peculiar expression of philosophical loyalty to the National Socialist revolution, he at the same
time sows the seeds of discord between himself and official Nazism in his attempted philosophical
usurpation of political hegemony.
[135] For Heidegger characteristically depicts himself not in the role
of the vassal who pledges fealty but in the role of the feudal lord.
The initial paragraph of the talk provides a clear, forceful, unsettling, in fact frightening statement
of Heidegger's intention to ground politics in philosophy by basing Nazism on fundamental ontology.
The initial
― 61 ―
paragraph does not stand alone; it is merely the preamble for the text to follow, which amplifies and
completes the main lines set out in the beginning of the document. In the remainder of his speech,
Heidegger develops the implications of the supposed need to marry philosophy and politics at this
particular moment in German history. He immediately considers the implications of the traditional
claim of the university to self-governance, which, he asserts, requires interpretation in terms of who
one is, namely the essence of the university, which can be revealed through self-examination only.
The university's self-assertion, he states, in a reference to the title of the essay, consists in a common
will to the shared will to realize its essence.
In defense of his claim, Heidegger now forges a link between the acknowledged task of the
university to defend science, the fate of the German people, and the present historical moment. In the
Republic , Plato insists on the task of the philosopher to educate and to discipline the other
philosophers, the guardians and the tradesmen. Like Plato, Heidegger points successively to the role of
the university to ground science as well as to educate and to discipline the leaders and guardians of
the German people, in the present historical moment the German Nazi party. "We understand the
Germany university as the 'high' school that, grounded in science, by means of science educates and
disciplines the leaders and guardians of the fate of the German people.
Heidegger's analysis presupposes a concept of the right time for decisive action, or kairos ,
described under the heading of the moment of vision (Augenblick ) in Being and Time . He insists that
both science— whose contemporary source lies in the German university—and the fate of Germany
must come together in order to respond to the problem of the present moment. Presumably he has in
mind the series of difficulties due to the loss of the First World War, later accentuated by the decline
and fall of the Weimar Republic, the same general situation discussed under the heading of boredom in
the lecture course of 1929/30.
The idea of a historical turning point has ample philosophical precedent. At the time he composed
the Phenomenology , Hegel believed that society was at a turning of world history, a period in which
fundamental social change was possible, a moment in which the old order was coming to an end and
in which it was opportune to seize the day, as it were.
[137] Like Hegel, Heidegger thought that history
had arrived at a propitious moment in which philosophy can play an important social role. Also like
Hegel, Heidegger believes that a people ultimately knows itself in the form of the self-conscious
state—according to Heidegger, in the Nazi state. Like Husserl, Heidegger holds that the university can
respond to the extreme need of the German people at this supposedly historic moment. But Husserl
and Heidegger take diametrically opposed atti-
― 62 ―

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tudes to National Socialism. Husserl opposed Nazism and desired to utilize the resources of philosophy
as science to defeat it; but Heidegger saw philosophical science as a necessary condition to realize the
fate of the Germans through National Socialism:
The will to the essence of the German university is the will to science as will to the historical mission of the German
people as a people that knows itself in its state. Together , science and German fate must come to power in this will to
essence. And they will do so if, and only if, we—this body of teachers and students—on the one hand expose science to
its innermost necessity and, on the other hand , are equal to the German fate in its most extreme distress.
Heidegger next turns to a meditation on the nature of science (Wissenschaft ). Contemporary
science is a mere semblance (Schein ). Science must be understood through its beginnings in Greek
philosophy since all science is philosophy. We need to recapture two fundamental traits of the essence
of the Greek view of science. Since, as Aeschylus represents Prometheus as saying, "knowledge,
however, is far weaker than necessity,"
[139] knowledge must be defiant. Heidegger reinforces this
view through a series of remarks on the Greek view of theory (theoria ) as the highest form of activity
(energeia ). His insistence here that theory in the authentic sense is in fact the highest form of
activity, as described in the Aristotelian conception, highlights his later claim that the translation of the
Greek "energeia " as the Latin "actualitas " results in the loss of the original insight.
[140] Heidegger's
point is consistent with his insistence that after the early Greeks metaphysics is on the wrong track,
since science in the Greek sense of the term no longer exists in later thought. Speaking in his own
voice, he declares that "this active perseverance [that is, science] knows, as it perseveres, about its
impotence before fate [Schicksal]."
The passage cited from Aeschylus and its restatement in Heidegger's own words call for three
remarks: To begin with, Heidegger's translation is suspect. According to standard sources "techne "
does not mean "knowledge."
[142] At best, it refers to a kind of knowledge, roughly that kind required
for "knowing how" as opposed to "knowing that." Second, there is an interesting relation between the
view that theory is in itself the highest form of practice and Heidegger's effort to place his philosophy
in the service of Nazism. Heidegger is not now arguing, as he later will, that his thought is impractical,
of no use.
[143] He is arguing that pure theory is practically relevant, in fact indispensable for the good
life, in the sense that this view is formulated by Plato and restated by numerous later writers. [144]
Further, in retrospect there is a strategic value to Heidegger's insistence that necessity is stronger
than knowledge. On this
― 63 ―
basis, Heidegger later insisted that the failure of his turn to National Socialism did not lie in National
Socialism itself, and perhaps not even in his perception of it, but in Being. The idea that Being, not
human being, controls human destiny forms the basis of his later nonanthropological view of
technology. We perceive, then, in the quotation, and in its restatement by Heidegger, the nascent
possibilty of a strategic retreat which Heidegger later undertook.
The meditation on the essence of Greek science is intrinsic to Heidegger's allegiance to Nazism, as
he proceeds to demonstrate. We need to recover the original Greek view on the premise that if science
is important, its beginning is most important. The original idea of science is significant since its
recovery enables us to bend science to the innermost necessity of our being. Heidegger now
emphasizes the political force of his view of the preeminence of Greek thought in two ways, through a
single sentence that stands apart as a paragraph of its own, and through the appropriate combination
of his concept of Dasein with the traditional philosophical concept of spirit and the Nazi concept of the
people (Volk ): "But if we submit to the distant command of the beginning, science must become the
fundamental happening of our spiritual being as part of a people [dann muss die Wissenschaft zum
Grundgeschehnis unseres geistig-völklichen Daseins werden]."
[145] In less sibylline language,
Heidegger's statement means that we need to return to the original Greek sense of science within the
university, particularly within philosophy, in order to realize the fate of the German nation. If we do so,
then, unavoidably, science will become the fundamental happening, which will bring this destiny about.
The means for science to bring about German destiny is obviously through the realization of Nazism to
which Heidegger has pledged the resources of his thought.
It is striking that Heidegger seems to believe that science in the true sense somehow realizes or
could realize itself in Nazism. Heidegger seems literally to believe that science in the ancient Greek
sense will realize the Nazi goal, which he also shares, of the gathering of what is authentically German.
From this conception it follows loosely that the Greeks would be the authentic forerunners of the
German National Socialists. Heidegger was aware of this inference, which he is at pains to refute,
perhaps because he later changed his mind about the link between the Greeks and the Nazis. In a

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lecture course given in the middle of the Second World War, he twice denies that the Greeks are the
original Nazis on the grounds that this kind of identification fails to grasp the specificity of National
[146] Since Heidegger may then have been under political surveillance, it is also possible
that he did not change his mind but that in drawing this distinction he merely meant to be prudent in
his own way.
― 64 ―
What is it precisely that true, or Greek, science is meant to bring about? Heidegger answers this
question in a meditation on spirit, which dramatically deepens the link between his own philosophical
position and Nazism. According to Heidegger, what he calls the will to the essence of science in the
original sense creates for the people the danger of the spiritual world. Heidegger relies on his
fundamental ontology when he states that spirit is the resoluteness (Entschlossenheit ) to the essence
of Being. Yet he utilizes the Blut und Boden rhetoric of National Socialism
[147] when he writes that the
"spiritual world of a people" is "the power that most deeply preserves the people's strengths, which
are tied to earth and blood powers [seiner erd- und bluthaften Kräfte] as the power of the innermost
and widest shaking of its Dasein."
[148] Now playing on the relation between the German terms
"Marchschritt " and "Schrittgesetz ," roughly "march step" and "law of the step," he emphasizes that
the defense of the spiritual world, to be undertaken by the university, will preside over the march
already begun by the people into its future history. In sum, the authentic way of Being with respect to
German destiny depends on the defense of the ancient Greek concept of science, which alone can and
will make possible the desired future of the German people.
Heidegger's view of theory as itself the highest form of practice is merely a restatement of the
traditional Greek view of philosophy as the highest form of life. Unlike some thinkers, Heidegger does
not maintain that theory is self-realizing, that ideas in some sense literally put themselves into
[149] Heidegger finds the means for the realization of his theory in an analysis of the German
student movement. His view here anticipates by several decades Herbert Marcuse's theory of the
student movement as a radically destabilizing social element.
[150] Further extending his military
metaphor, Heidegger says that the German students are already on the march in the search for the
leaders (Führer ) through whom to realize their own vocation (Bestimmung ).
This statement is both self-serving and explosive. Obviously, Heidegger is pointing toward
philosophers as the custodians of the ancient conception of science and himself as their titular head.
But he is also pointing away from the National Socialist government, above all Hitler, whose leadership
he by inference rejects. For Heidegger, in the final analysis only the German university can defend the
original Greek concept of science in order to realize the fate of the German people. The crucial role of
the students is to bring this goal about. "Out of the resoluteness of the German student body to be
equal to the German fate in its most extreme distress, comes a will to the essence of the
[151] Again like the early Marx, who thought of the philosophers as the head and the
proletariat as the heart of the coming communist
― 65 ―
[152] Heidegger obviously thinks of the philosophers as the leaders and the students as the
followers of the true, philosophically grounded form of the National Socialist revolution.
Heidegger elaborates his view through two further remarks. First, he qualifies the will attributed to
the students as the true will, which he now links to the newly promulgated student law (das neue
Studentenrecht ). We are far from Kant's view of the good will as the only intrinsically good thing.
For Kant, the good will must determine the principle of its action on a wholly a priori and
universalizable basis. For Heidegger, the true will is neither independent, nor free, nor autonomous in
Kant's sense, as unconcerned with empirical considerations. On the contrary, for Heidegger the true
will is subservient to the Studentenrecht intended after 1 May 1933 to apply the so-called
Führerprinzip in the university. Heidegger's understanding of this idea, which decisively linked all
legitimacy to the desires of a single demented individual, is clear in his remarkable proclamation as
rector to the German students, published in November 1933: "The Führer himself and alone is today
and in the future German reality and its law."
Heidegger's acceptance of this principle is significant as an indication of the extent of his
enthusiasm for National Socialism at this point, especially as propagated in fact by Hitler and his party
colleagues. It further indicates Heidegger's deplorable inability, on the basis of his conception of
resoluteness, to distinguish one of its forms from another. In his conception, the important thing is
resoluteness as such. Although in theory resoluteness is the call of conscience, in practice there are
absolutely no criteria that enable one to recognize where conscience lies, to make a rational choice.

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The words and deeds of the Nazi dictator are as good as any other form of resoluteness. For a theory
that insists on resoluteness at all costs, resoluteness about pushpin is as good as that about poetry,
and Nazism is as good as altruism. Heidegger's notion of resoluteness is, then, the ultimate parody of
the Kantian idea of moral responsibility based on intellectual maturity and a wholly rational choice of
moral principles.
Heidegger's acceptance of the Führer principle stands as a clear, unassailable demand to abandon
any velleity of critical thought in favor of political orthodoxy. His later attempt to portray his public
adherence to this principle as one of a series of compromises he knew he would need to make as
rector is unconvincing because it contradicts the idea of free thought, which is a necessary condition of
[155] His later claim that during his period as rector he believed in the possibility of
National Socialism and, for this reason, abandoned the thinker's essential vocation in favor of his work
in an official capacity
[156] is at best a half truth. For when he pledged his thought to the service of
Nazism, he not only
― 66 ―
abandoned his philosophical research and teaching; he also renounced free thought, which is its
proudest possession. If philosophy consists in critical thought, in the demand for the demonstration of
proposed claims, in accepting the Führer principle Heidegger abjures purely and simply his philosophic
calling. There is finally no significant distinction between Heidegger's call for submission to the whim of
the Führer and Lukács's similar betrayal of reason in the service of Stalinism.
[157] As concerns their
voluntary subordination of philosophical criticism to political totalitarianism, both thinkers are
outstanding examples of the betrayal of reason in our time.
Heidegger's renunciation of the critical role of thought is apparent in his peremptory dismissal of
academic freedom. He refers to academic freedom in quotation marks, as inauthentic, in favor of the
highest freedom consisting in the giving of the law to oneself. The obvious echo of Kant's categorical
imperative is misleading here, since for Heidegger "authentic academic freedom" means that "the
German students must give to themselves the new law promulgated by the National Socialist
movement." It is difficult to view this statement otherwise than as an injunction to forgo freedom of
thought in the ordinary sense by voluntarily submitting to the necessity imposed by a new political
reality. In this respect, despite the stress on the call of conscience, there is a less obvious echo of
Spinoza's view of freedom as insight into necessity, where "necessity" means "the law of National
If Heidegger's new concept of the freedom of the German students is the true view, then the
familiar view of academic freedom as the possibility to think and write without constraints is untrue.
Heidegger maintains that his new concept creates a specific obligation for German students. "The
concept of the freedom of the German student is now brought back to its truth. Henceforth the bond
[Bindung] and service [Dienst] of the German student will unfold from this truth."
[158] In a clear echo
of the triadic structure of the Platonic state, Heidegger now dogmatically asserts the existence of three
bonds, which he interprets as services owed by the German students.
First, there is the bond to the community of the people (Volksgemeinschaft ), presumably to those
who share the common German heritage, a bond that is rooted in labor service (Arbeitsdienst ). The
use of the term "Volksgemeinschaft " combines a commitment to the Volk and to the Gemeinschaft ,
to those who share something in common, by opposition to the Gesellschaft , or society. It is overly
charitable to think that Heidegger is concerned with all Germans, for instance those who fail to share
his view of the importance of the German people. A community in this sense is a mere subset of
society composed of those bound together through a common purpose, end, or goal. It follows that
― 67 ―
commitment Heidegger exacts from the students is not to society as a whole, not, for instance, to all
Germans, but only to those who share the common project. Even if we suppose that Heidegger is
interested in people and not only in Being, clearly his interest in the German people is limited only to
those ready and willing to accept a particular view of the situation, namely the one he happens to
share with National Socialism. His idea of the realization of the German people through philosophy as
the ground of National Socialism, hence, includes the familiar National Socialist exclusion of those who
happen to reject this program or, by implication, are rejected by it. Although he doesn't spell out his
exclusion from the destiny of the Germans of those who might be unhappy with this goal, it obviously
is reflected in his peculiar choice of terminology.

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Second, there is the bond to the honor and destiny (Geschick ) of the nation. This is a plural form
of resoluteness that concerns a common future as distinguished from the individual. Heidegger
grounds this possibility in a brief, undeveloped reference to the possibility of authentic being with one
another, evoked in Being and Time .
[160] This bond is now rendered explicit in the third, decisive bond
to the spiritual mission of the German people. For Heidegger, this people influences its own destiny
through its world-shaping powers. In this respect, there is an interesting tension, which perhaps
reflects Heidegger's genuine ambivalence. On the one hand, he now insists on what a people can do to
shape its own destiny, through its adherence to science, the presupposition of Heidegger's call for the
members of the academic community to assume their prescribed role in the transformation of German
reality. On the other hand, earlier in the same text he has insisted on the relative powerlessness of
knowledge before destiny. It is inconsistent to analyze history in terms of destiny and to maintain that
a people can be master of its future. At best, as Heidegger later realized after the turning in his
thought, one can hold oneself open for a possibility which one cannot oneself realize if historical
agency is lodged on some level beyond human being.
According to Heidegger, a people must risk everything in order to be a spiritual people. This idea
recalls his insistence in Being and Time , in his analysis of death, on the recognition of human finitude
as a condition of authenticity.
[161] To drive this point home, he now provides a series of metaphors
expressing concepts of danger, hardest clarity, highest, widest, and richest knowledge, future destiny,
and so on. The effect is to create a sense of struggle in which one's very existence is at stake, a
struggle not necessarily for truth but for life itself in the genuine sense. Heidegger's commitment to an
"existential" struggle for his view of the proper way to live is further evident during this period by his
― 68 ―
tion in the institution of what can be described as camps for scientific reeducation (Wissenschaftslager
) more precisely for the reeducation of students and professors to his view of the true commitment to
National Socialism.
[162] This incident, which recalls the worst excesses of political efforts at mind
control, has many historical precedents. Here, it is specifically interesting as an indication of the extent
to which Heidegger's philosophical conviction led in political practice. It is difficult to perceive the
difference between Heidegger's active cooperation in setting up and running scientific concentration
camps on the basis of his fundamental ontology and the use of such means in our time by dictators
such as Stalin or Mao.
So far in his talk, Heidegger has stressed the preeminent role of the university for furthering
science and, as a consequence, German destiny. He now reinforces this view in three ways:
First, he lists a number of professions. He then states that knowledge does not serve them but
that they serve knowledge, although in doing so they carry out the will of the people concerning its
very being. "Knowledge does not serve the professions, quite the reverse: the professions effect and
administer that highest and essential knowledge of the people concerning its entire being
[163] In the present context, this remark means that the various professions are necessarily
subordinated to the home of philosophy in the university, precisely as in Plato's Republic .
Second, here and elsewhere in the speech Heidegger stresses the equal primordiality of the three
bonds and the three services he has just assigned to the German students. "The three bonds—by the
people, to the destiny of the state, in a spiritual mission—are equally primordial to the German
essence. The three services that stem from it—Labor Service, Armed Service, and Knowledge
Service—are equally necessary and of equal rank."
[164] The effect of this statement is to heighten the
responsibility of the German students to carry out the duties assigned to them by the philosophers.
Third, Heidegger now draws an obvious inference following from his subordination of the students,
members of the professions, and presumably everyone else, including the National Socialist regime, to
philosophy. Once again he clearly insists on the central role of science in the full sense of the
term—here through a self-interpretation of his own term "high school"—because the university alone is
able to pursue the destiny of the German people. "This science is meant when the essence of the
German university is delimited as the 'high' school that, grounded in science, by means of science
educates and disciplines the leaders and guardians of the fate of the German people."
[165] Obviously,
this is an activist view of philosophy. Clearly, Heidegger rejects the traditional idea of philosophy as
disinterested science, as exemplified, say, in Aris-
― 69 ―
totle's view of pure theory, in favor of something like the Leninist concept of partiinost '. According to

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Lenin, following Marx, philosophy is an important means to bring about the proletarian goal of
abolishing the state. Heidegger, who also regards philosophy as a means to an end, understands its
task as to realize German destiny by strengthening the Nazi state.
The stress on science as determined by philosophy presupposes that the university is organized to
reflect that view. Heidegger underlines that need but realistically acknowledges that since it took the
Greeks three centuries to arrive at an appropriate concept of science, it will not be possible to do so in
the current academic year. The distinction of three bonds implicitly raises the question of their
relation. Heidegger responds by stating that the type of university he has in mind depends upon the
coalescence of the three bonds in a single formative force. He interprets this vision to mean that
students and professors alike must necessarily strive toward the essence of science. Through another
military metaphor, he insists that both wills confront each other in battle since battle is unavoidable.
"The two wills [i.e., that of the student body and of the professors] must confront one another, ready
for battle [Kampf].
[166] All capacities [Vermögen] of will and thought, must be unfolded through
battle, heightened in battle, and preserved as battle." [167] Heidegger further heightens his emphasis
on battle with a quotation from Carl yon Clausewitz, the author of the well-known military treatise On
War : "I take leave of the frivolous hope of salvation by the hand of accident."
Heidegger's reference to battle is doubly determined here, by his own philosophical position and
the political reality of National Socialism. In Being and Time , he maintains that the realization of the
German people, on which he insists here, requires a battle. "Only in communication and in struggle
[Kampf] does the power of destiny become free. Dasein's fateful destiny in and with its 'generation'
goes to make up the full authentic happening [Geschehen] of Dasein."
[169] His allusions to battle are,
hence, consistent with his view that authenticity can come about in no other way.
The idea of battle obviously also refers to Hitler as well. Heidegger does not mention Hitler either
here or elsewhere in his speech. But it would be an error to regard the failure to name the Nazi
dictator as either decisive or even significant. A direct reference to Hitler would almost be superfluous
since indirect references are scattered throughout. In the context of Heidegger's assumption of the
rectorate as the spiritual F ührer of the University of Freiburg almost immediately after the Nazi rise to
power, his multiple allusions to battle are also intended as a clear allusion to Hitler's notorious view of
the struggle for the
― 70 ―
realization of the destiny of the German people formulated in Mein Kampf
Heidegger has no doubt about what is correct, about what members of the German academic
community should do at this period of German history, at a moment when the NSDAP has risen to
power. He portrays this moment as a turning point in world history, as an occasion to seize the future,
as it were. In a dramatic passage, fully equal to Spengler
[170] at his best, Heidegger shows why he
believes that the moment has come to act. "But no one will even ask us whether we do or do not will,
when the spiritual strength of the West fails and the joints of the world no longer hold, when this
moribund semblance of a culture caves in and suffocates all that remains strong into confusion and
lets it suffocate in madness."
Heidegger's conception of Nazism as the way to realize the destiny of the Germans presupposes
an ideal of community that can be realized in practice only if each individual contributes to it.
Heidegger underscores the need for each person to decide for or against the historical destiny of the
German people. "Whether this will happen or no depends alone on whether or not we, as a
historical-spiritual people, still and once again will ourselves. Every individual participates in this
decision, even he, and indeed especially he, who evades it."
[172] Since the philosopher speaks for the
people, its political leaders and the state, in short for everyone, it is the philosopher who takes the
fateful decision for the authentic destiny of the German people. The rectoral address is, then, a solemn
pledge before history in the name of the future of the German Volk . The result is a curious reciprocal
relation between philosophy and National Socialism. On behalf of philosophy, Heidegger asserts the
need to lead all others, including the Nazis, who in his view depend on philosophy for their
justification. Having claimed the hegemony of the "movement" in virtue of his thought, from that
standpoint Heidegger unhesitatingly makes a public commitment of his thought and all those
dependent on it, by implication everyone, to National Socialism. Heidegger's speech exhibits a circular
relation between philosophy and politics because philosophy grounds politics, to which it is
unquestionably and unquestioningly committed.
Heidegger justifies his philosophical demand for the leadership of the Nazi movement through the
relation he discerns between philosophy, science, the university, and the will of the people. He now
invokes this relation in an enigmatic comment: "For the young and the youngest strength of the

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people [Denn die jung und jüngste Kraft des Volkes], which already reaches beyond us, has by now
decided the matter." [173] This statement is ambiguous. It is probable that Heidegger is here referring
to the students since throughout he has spoken as if their choice had already been made, as if they
had sought out the professors to lead them
― 71 ―
and not conversely. He is also referring to the Nazi party. Heidegger became a member of the NSDAP
on 1 May 1933, that is, before he became rector. With the exception of biologism, he evidently held all
the views of the ordinary Nazi,
[174] presumably including its proclaimed legitimacy to decide for the
German people.
In general, the entire speech can be regarded as a public affirmation that the philosopher has
rallied to the politics of Nazism on his own terms, namely with respect to the concerns and categories
developed in his fundamental ontology. Throughout the address, Heidegger repeatedly stressed his
conviction, founded in his own view of science, that the Nazi political undertaking requires the
leadership of philosophers who are not themselves to be led. He indirectly reemphasizes the
preeminent role he attributes to philosophy at the end of the speech. "But we fully understand the
splendor and the greatness of this setting [dieses Aufbruchs] only when we carry within ourselves that
profound and far-reaching thoughtfulness that gave ancient Greek wisdom the word: 'All that is great
stands in the storm.' "
His allusion to Plato here, in this crucial passage at the close of his talk, is significant for several
reasons. Certainly, it calls attention to Heidegger's dependence throughout this speech on the
quasi-Platonic view that philosophy founds politics. It also reinforces Heidegger's quasi-Platonic
assertion that only a philosopher can lead the National Socialist revolution through the suggestion that
only one who has understood the Platonic view can understand the present historical moment, with its
possibility in the midst of extreme need to seize the occasion to realize the destiny of the German
nation. Further, through an appropriate rendering of the passage cited, Heidegger now enlists Plato in
support of his own view of the danger inherent in the present moment. It is, then, a matter of some
concern that Heidegger, who was a competent Greek scholar, deliberately distorts the passage from
Analysis of the rectoral address shows that efforts to portray Heidegger's interest in Nazism as
superficial or transitory are refuted by the text. Heidegger's concern with National Socialism at this
point is deep and later remains constant since it follows from a permanent part of his thought. Like
most philosophical theories, Heidegger's thought later evolved, but the initial commitment to the
concept of authenticity, which, in its plural form, underlies his insistence on the realization of the
historical destiny of the German people, never changed. As passages from his later writings show, he
never altered his basic commitment, following from a part of his thought that did not change, to the
goal that apparently led him to Nazism in the first place, the realization in history of the destiny of
German being, as a means to the authentic thought of Being.
― 72 ―
This chapter has sought to understand Heidegger's Nazi turning in terms of factors external and
internal to his thought. It has studied the stages of Heidegger's Nazi turning on the basis of his
fundamental ontology to practice and then to National Socialism. I have argued that Heidegger's
philosophical position is intrinsically political and have shown how Heidegger was led to practice on the
basis of his thought and later was led to Nazism. I have further shown the presence throughout the
rectoral speech of numerous concepts borrowed from Heidegger's fundamental ontology. Now I want
to examine an important possible objection. One could concede that fundamental ontology is political
and that it called for a practical turn but deny that in practice the political nature of Heidegger's
thought called for a turn to Nazism. The point of the objection is to concede that it is not accidental
that Heidegger turned to politics, but it is merely contingent that he turned to Nazism. It follows that
his philosophy is not itself in question in his acceptance of National Socialism since he could have
accepted another form of politics.
In my view, this objection is mistaken. There are various reasons for which Heidegger could have
turned to another kind of political practice, such as the possibility that Nazism might not have existed.
Once it is conceded that fundamental ontology in its very nature calls for a turn to politics, then it
must be noted that Heidegger's theory has no intrinsic resources to prevent him from accepting either
National Socialism or another similar theory. Fundamental ontology calls for completion in a turn from
theory to political practice to bring about authentic Dasein, and, hence, an authentic thought of
[177] Authenticity depends on resoluteness on the part of one who sees beyond appearance into

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the essence of things, on one who is ready and able to choose for himself or herself and even for
others. There is a kind of aristocratic authoritarian-ism built into Heidegger's theory of fundamental
ontology which leads seamlessly to a politically antidemocratic political point of view. As in Plato's
political theory, which is also antidemocratic, only the philosopher finally knows, and the philosopher's
role is to decide for everyone.
[178] Nazism might not have existed. Heidegger could have accepted
another political practice than Nazism. But it was neither an accident that Nazism existed nor that he
turned to it. For the same external factors that influenced the rise of Nazism and the development of
his own thought also limited the kind of political choice he could reasonably accept. In sum,
Heidegger's pursuit of Being, as he understood it, led to Nazism, and could in fact only lead either to
this or another form of antidemocratic, authoritarian political practice. It is, then, no accident that
Heidegger the philosopher of Being became Heidegger the Nazi, since Heidegger the philosopher and
Heidegger the political activist are one and the same person.
― 73 ―
The "Official" View and "Facts and Thoughts"
The rectoral address is a central document for the understanding of Heidegger's Nazism. It is a
detailed, public statement at a moment when Heidegger, the newly elected rector, identified freely and
boldly with a political movement that had only recently come to power and which many people,
including Heidegger, regarded as opening the way to a brighter future for all Germans. It is further a
revolutionary text, the text of a conservative revolutionary concerned to break with the immediate
past and to renew a tradition interrupted by the defeat suffered by Germany in the First World War.
To begin with, the interpretation of Heidegger's speech was not controversial. The nature of the
talk initially appeared clear to all commentators. There were disagreements about the wisdom of the
message, but not about its nature. It was widely received as an explicit declaration of faith in Nazism,
indeed as an effort to realize National Socialist goals within the university by numerous observers.
Heidegger's aim in his rectoral address only became controversial as a consequence of later events, in
the course of which he resigned his position as rector, his relations to the Nazi party became strained,
and Germany finally lost the Second World War. As a result of the German defeat, Heidegger was
called to account for his actions as an activist member of the NSDAP. As part of his defense, he offered
an account of his actions, including an interpretation of the rectoral address. As might be expected,
Heidegger minimized the significance of his rectoral speech as well as other facets of his activity as a
Nazi activist.
― 74 ―
The "Official" View
I have interpreted Heidegger's turning from fundamental ontology to Nazism through the intrinsically
political character of his thought. In my interpretation, Heidegger's political turn is squarely based on,
and follows from, his philosophy. I discern an intrinsic link between his philosophical theory and his
political practice. Heidegger also endorses an interpretation of his political action as deriving from his
thought, for instance, in his acknowledgment that he was led to National Socialism by his conception
of historicality,
[2] in his admission that he regarded the Nazi rise to power as an opportune moment to
seize the destiny of the German people, [3] and so on.
Now it is well known that theories are underdetermined by the facts on which they are based. The
obvious consequence is that it is only rarely that factual material cannot be employed to support
different, even incompatible, interpretations. It is, then, not surprising that the same material which I
have adduced in support of my reading of the link between Heidegger's philosophical thought and
political commitment is construed by others to provide a less damaging, more favorable reading of
Heidegger's life and thought. Whereas I regard Heidegger's philosophy as ingredient in his politics,
Heidegger's defenders are concerned to exonerate his thought from any significant role in his actions.
What I will call the "official" view is propagated not only by Heidegger but by some of his closest

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students. It is the view that, roughly speaking, there is no, or no important, link between Heidegger's
philosophical position and National Socialism. It emerges in Heidegger's writings directly concerned
with the rectoral period as well as in occasional hints scattered throughout his later corpus, and it is
further developed and propagated by some of his closest followers in their own writings. This view was
initially formulated by Heidegger himself at a time when he was threatened with loss of his relation to
the university at the end of the war. Not surprisingly, it is intended to deny or at least to minimize a
durable, profound, or even significant concern with National Socialism.
There is an interesting analogy between what I am calling the official view and Heidegger's later
thought. His writing after Being and Time is largely a series of commentaries on that work, which is
widely considered as his main philosophical contribution. There is an analogy between the efforts by
Heidegger and certain of his followers after the fact to stress a peculiarly favorable interpretation of his
life and thought and Heidegger's own effort to create a kind of Heideggerian orthodoxy. Like Marxism,
which for more than a hundred years has subsisted on the claim of a privileged insight into the
thought of the master thinker, so Heidegger's closest followers continue to dispute his "authentic"
― 75 ―
through differing interpretations of his works and days. When all is said and done, the official view is
vitally important to the orthodox followers of the master thinker, whose careers are inextricably linked
to his, and who are, hence, concerned like the master to deny what can reasonably be denied and to
limit the effect of what must be admitted. The aim in view that motivates both the master thinker and
his disciples is finally the same: to save the phenomena, so to speak, by showing that however
deplorable Heidegger's political engagement and actions might be, they have nothing, or nothing
essential, to do with the master thinker's thought. Depending on the interpretation, it is possible to
hold the master at fault with respect to his politics but not his thought, which, dissociated from him in
a conceptual realm of its own, remains entirely unsullied by either time or circumstance.
The official view is not confined to Heidegger scholars only. An example of someone influenced by
Heidegger, but not in any sense a Heidegger scholar, who also accepted the official view is provided by
Jean-Paul Sartre, in his response to Lukács's critique of Heidegger's Nazism. In a polemical work,
Lukács criticized Heidegger's connection to fascism and described Heidegger as a pre-fascist.
[4] In
response, Sartre objects to Lukács's supposed inability from an orthodox Marxist perspective to
comprehend Heidegger because he simply will not read him; he will not make the effort to grasp the
sentences one after the other. According to Sartre, who admits that he studied Heidegger's thought in
Berlin in 1933 when Heidegger should have been at the summit of his "activism," "Heidegger has
never been an 'activist'—at least not as he has expressed himself in his philosophical works."
Sartre's view that Heidegger is not an "activist" is due, not to his own research into the matter,
but rather to his uncritical acceptance of the "official" view of Heidegger's Nazism, which was already
in evidence in the second half of the 1940s, significantly just around the time when Heidegger
published the "Letter on Humanism." It is present in the first important discussion of Heidegger's
Nazism in the pages of Les Temps Modernes , edited by Sartre. The discussion began with an
important article by Karl Löwith, Heidegger's former student and later colleague. In response,
Alphonse De Waelhens, the Belgian scholar of existentialism and phenomenology, immediately invoked
two aspects of the "official" view: the insistence on a distinction in kind between Heidegger the
philosopher and Heidegger the man; and what we can call the "expert defense," which consists in
invoking the critic's alleged lack of sufficient expertise in Heidegger's thought.
In part, what I am calling the "official" view derives from a clement interpretation of the rectoral
address, the text which, except for occasional hints, remained the only published statement directly
― 76 ―
Heidegger's Nazism from 1933 when it was delivered until his passing in 1976. Further elements of the
"official" view have continued to emerge from Heidegger's Nachlass , including the appearance of the
Spiegel interview immediately after his death and the publication in 1983 of the article from 1945.
Since the official view of Heidegger's Nazism is partly based on his posthumous writings, the record is
incomplete and still subject to change as further texts from his Nachlass appear. Unquestionably, the
view of his Nazism and even of his entire later thought in the period after Being and Time has been
altered by the recent publication, more than fifty years after its composition, of his important Beiträge
zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis ).

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Sartre's remark points to, but does not state, the "official" view. Oddly, there is no official
presentation of the "official" view, which continues to inform the discussion. Although it has more than
one version, it seems appropriate to illustrate it in the form favored by Hermann Heidegger,
Heidegger's son and literary executor (Nachlass-Verwalter ). Although not a philosopher, even in an
extended sense, he is clearly a close follower and defender of his father's life and work; and he
provides an average form of the "official" view in a clear, even transparent fashion.
The version of the "official" view favored by Hermann Heidegger is stated in an extremely brief
foreword to a small work containing the rectoral address and Heidegger's 1945 article on his period as
rector. In his foreword, Hermann Heidegger's comments are limited to these two texts only; but they
suggest a proper way to approach Heidegger's Nazism in general. According to the son, his father's
relation to Nazism, which was at most unimportant, has been largely misunderstood because of the
misrepresentations of his father's rectoral address.
Hermann Heidegger makes this argument in a text of less than a page and a half. The text is
divided into five paragraphs in which Hermann Heidegger describes the circumstances of the
republication of these two texts. The statement of the "official" view is confined to the third and fourth
paragraphs, which I will simply reproduce:
Much has been said about the content of the speech that is false and untrue. From 1945 on down to the most recent
past, even university professors have cited in their publications what were supposed to be statements from the Rectoral
Address, which are not found there. The words "National Socialism" and "National Socialist" do not occur in this address;
there is no mention of the "Führer," the "Chancellor of the Reich," or "Hitler."
At the time, the title of the address alone made people listen more attentively. No doubt, Martin Heidegger was caught
up in the mood that
― 77 ―
seemed to promise a fresh start for the nation, as were also many of those who later became resistance fighters. He
never denied his entanglements in the movement of the time. And to be sure, he made mistakes while rector. He did not
deny his own inadequacies. But he was neither an uncritical fellow traveller, nor an active party member. From the very
beginning he kept a clear distance from the party leadership. This showed itself, for example, in his prohibition of book
burnings and of the posting of the "Jew Notice" in the university; in his appointment of deans, not one of whom was a
National Socialist; and in that as long as he remained rector, he was able to keep the Jewish professors von Hevesy and
Thannhauser at the University.
Let us examine the son's narrative account of the supposed misrepresentations. In support of his
interpretation, Hermann Heidegger offers two incompatible readings of his father's relation to Nazism.
The first reading denies a link between Heidegger and Nazism. The second reading admits the link,
which it then attempts to minimize.
Hermann Heidegger begins by denying Heidegger's Nazism. He asserts that even university
professors have from 1945 until today cited passages in their writings which do not figure in this text.
He then notes that in this text, we do not find any of the following words: National Socialism, der
Führer, der Reichskanzler , or Hitler. The suggestion that Heidegger's view has been misrepresented
by discussion of his rectoral address is strengthened by the further indication, in a passage preceding
the one quoted, in which his son notes that the second edition of this speech was withdrawn from sale
by the Nazi party, or NSDAP, after his father's resignation as rector.
What is the intention of this paragraph? I believe that Hermann Heidegger intends for the reader
to infer that since Heidegger does not refer directly in his speech either to Hitler or to Nazism, his
speech cannot reasonably be construed as evidence that his speech is about National Socialism or that
his thought led to Nazism. If there is nothing in the rectoral speech that identifies it as a statement of
support for National Socialism, then there is obviously no reason to hold that fundamental ontology in
fact led to Heidegger's Nazi turn. It follows that Heidegger's turning to a totalitarian form of political
practice is, then, merely a contingent matter, unrelated to his philosophical theory, just one of those
things, so to speak, but certainly not explicable on the basis of his philosophy, to which it may not
even be related.
The text, which is meant to engender these inferences exonerating Heidegger, is remarkably
vague. Since there is no indication of who cited what passages from this speech incorrectly, we cannot
evaluate Hermann Heidegger's claim. The son is correct that the words listed do
― 78 ―

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not occur in the text. We do not find the word "Führer " in the singular, but only in its plural form. But
Hermann Heidegger's statement fails to consider a number of relevant issues, which we can put in the
form of questions: How did the philosopher intend his speech to be understood? How was it
understood? Was he misunderstood? There is no evidence that any of those who heard this talk,
including Heidegger's followers or even representatives of official Nazism, ever doubted that his
sibylline language referred to those items which, according to his son, he does not name, in fact
precisely Hitler and the Nazi party.
The attempted linguistic defense, limited as it is, is inadequate to deny that Heidegger's thought
was the conceptual basis of his political allegiance. Even Heidegger's son does not seem convinced by
the suggestion that his father's speech has nothing directly to do with Nazism at all. In the next
paragraph, he immediately supplements his implicit denial that the rectoral speech is evidence for
Heidegger's turning to Nazism by admitting his father's implication in Nazi politics which he has just
implicitly denied. His statement of Heidegger's involvement in National Socialist politics is interesting
for several reasons, for instance in Hermann Heidegger's employment now of an indirect form of
reference to Nazism—a form of reference whose significance he earlier disputes in the observation that
neither Hitler nor National Socialism is directly named— through words which unmistakably refer to
what he does not directly name.
He states that the title of the talk already caused one to prick up one's ears at that time.
According to Hermann Heidegger, like many later resistance fighters his father was at that time caught
up in the national mood of renewal (Aufbruchstimmung ), a word that suggests the possibility of basic
change. The comparison to "those who later became resistance fighters" suggests that Heidegger, too,
was later part of the resistance to Nazism. Now employing the word "movement" (Bewegung ), in line
with frequent practice, to refer to Nazi party politics, which he does not directly name, he states that
Heidegger never denied his temporary involvement (vorübergehende Verstrickung ) in the so-called
movement of the time. The son further admits that his father also certainly made mistakes as rector,
which Heidegger never denied. But for the son, his father was never an uncritical fellow traveler nor an
active party member. Hermann Heidegger sees his father's clear distance from the party in
Heidegger's prevention of the book burning and of the hanging up of the "Judenplakat ," in his refusal
to appoint only National Socialists, and in his efforts to retain such Jewish professors as Hevesy and
The time is now long past in which one could simply deny that Heidegger had ever been a Nazi,
that he had joined the Nazi party, that he had
― 79 ―
collaborated with it, that he had even believed in it. It is simply too late to deny rationally what is now
part of the public record. At most, one can now only minimize or otherwise interpret what one can no
longer deny as such. Perhaps for the reason that a simple denial cannot be maintained, in this
paragraph Heidegger's son takes a more realistic line based on the admission of a minimal link
between Heidegger and Nazism. Although still interested in reducing his father's involvement with
National Socialism, he now admits a relation to Nazism which he seeks to minimize rather than to
deny. In his grudging admission that his father did after all have a connection with Nazism, in fact that
like everyone else he made mistakes during that period, something he did not deny, the son creates
the impression of his father as a human being, with human frailties, who was for a short time only
caught up with a dreadful situation and who accepted his errors.
This impression is misleading. Although Heidegger was caught up in Nazism, like numerous later
resistance fighters, it does not follow that he was in fact a "resistance fighter" however conceived.
Despite a number of hints in his writings that he later confronted Nazism, his own "resistance" to
National Socialism is mainly limited to objections to its theoretical adequacy, particularly as a theory of
Being. Although he collaborated with National Socialism, in part because he identified with its goals, in
part no doubt also for opportunistic reasons, he never accepted it as a theory. There is, however, no
evidence, nor does his son cite any, that Heidegger ever resisted such familiar Nazi excesses as the
efforts to acquire world hegemony or to exterminate whole populations.
These remarks on Hermann Heidegger's account of Heidegger's Nazism can be summarized as
follows: Hermann Heidegger illustrates two common forms of the "official" view of Heidegger's Nazism:
on the one hand, an extreme form consisting in the denial of Heidegger's relation to National
Socialism, for instance by denying that the rectoral speech in fact refers to this political movement; on
the other hand, a more moderate form consisting in the denial of a more than minimal relation
between Heidegger and Nazism. Common to these two variants of the "official" view is the claim that
Heidegger's relation to Nazism was at most transitory and not centrally rooted in his thought.

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Heidegger's relation to Nazism is either denied or conceded, but a relation of Heidegger's thought to
Nazism is denied.
This reading of Heidegger's relation to Nazism as merely contingent and, hence, unrelated to his
thought draws support from two main sources. There is the understandable concern of those whose
careers are based on Heidegger's thought to minimize or even to deny its role in his turn to National
Socialism. This concern overlaps with Heidegger's own interest, which cannot be denied, in attempting
to save his thought from
― 80 ―
being discredited by his Nazi turning. It is a matter of record that he was able to escape responsibility
for his actions. For the most part, at least until the recent publications by Farias and Ott, Heidegger
and his followers were able to deny a link between his philosophical thought and his politics, to carry
on philosophical business as usual with only occasional attention to the outside world. One must
simply concede that the official view of Heidegger's Nazism has been largely successful up to this point
in avoiding, or at least minimizing, damage to Heidegger and his thought. At this late date, if the effort
at damage control has come undone as the issue has finally escaped from the arid domain of
professional philosophy and reached the wider public, it is because a few courageous writers were
unwilling to participate in the ongoing whitewash of the relation between Heidegger's Nazism and his
"Facts and Thoughts"
The "official" view is rooted directly or indirectly in Heidegger's own efforts to help himself by
presenting his own interpretation of the rector-ate. His defense of his actions was developed in two
later texts, at a time when his first enthusiasm for Nazism had inevitably been tempered by an
awareness of the historical consequences to which it led: an article written in 1945,
[9] but only
published later, and the well-known Spiegel interview.
For historical reasons, there is no "natural" order in which to consider these two texts. Both the
article and the interview were only published after Heidegger's death. The article appeared for the first
time in 1983, some thirty-eight years after it was written, at the same time and in the same small
volume as the republication of the rectoral address. The interview, which took place in 1966, was
published only ten years later after Heidegger's death. It follows that the interview which took place
more than twenty years after the article was written, in fact appeared in print considerably earlier. It
contributed more than the article to shaping opinion about Heidegger. In fact, it is reasonable to
assume that this was its intended task, that Heidegger intended his interview to shape the public view
about his thought and himself after his passing, that he meant it to function as a kind of intellectual
testament intended to "correct" the public record for generations to come. Otherwise, it is difficult to
understand why he withheld publication until after his death. The aim of the article is different. Since
the article is more technical and hence less accessible than the interview, it was probably not meant to
shape public opinion in general. It is likely that Heidegger wrote it to influence the immediate situation
in which he found himself, at a time in
― 81 ―
which he was obliged to answer for his actions before the military authorities immediately after the
end of the Second World War.
It will be useful to concentrate on Heidegger's article since it is philosophically more substantive
and less well known than the Spiegel interview. The rectoral speech has often been studied and the
Spiegel interview is frequently mentioned, but to the best of my knowledge Heidegger's article on the
rectorate has not yet been analyzed in detail. To begin with, it is helpful to place the article in
historical context.
[10] The French occupation, which began in the region of Freiburg on 25 April 1945,
led to a process of denazification. As early as the beginning of May 1945, Heidegger's house was
"confiscated" in virtue of his Nazi activity, which in practice meant that he and his family were required
to share it with another family. Measures were further taken to confiscate his personal library. On 23
July 1945, Heidegger was obliged to appear before a commission composed of five professors. In his
time of need, Heidegger turned to two people, Archbishop Conrad Gröber, who had helped to launch
his academic career, and Karl Jaspers, his distinguished philosophical colleague and personal
[11] The commission, basing itself in part on a largely negative report submitted, in response to
an invitation, by Jaspers, insisted on the incompatibility between Nazi doctrine and Heidegger's
[12] but it proposed in September 1945 that Heidegger be retired on pension with the right to

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teach. [13] The committee's report was submitted to the university senate, which took up the question
on 17 October 1945. The verdict was that Heidegger was to be retired without the right to teach, and
he was also forbidden to participate in any public way in the university. This decision was further made
even more rigorous by the military authorities, who subsequently suppressed Heidegger's pension
As could be expected, in order to defend himself Heidegger reacted against these measures as
vigorously as possible. On 16 July he wrote to the Oberbürgermeister in order to protest the decisions
to "confiscate" his house and his library. It has been pointed out that already in this letter we find the
basic elements of the line of defense which Heidegger continued to maintain in numerous ways in a
variety of later writings.
[14] Heidegger's defense included claims that the actions taken against him
amounted to discrimination against himself and his work since he never held office in the Nazi party
and never was active in its various instances; that his work has constantly brought attention to the
University of Freiburg and that he has constantly declined offers of positions elsewhere to remain in
Freiburg; and that the actions taken against him were based on accusations whose content and origins
were not known to him, and are of a type which so far have only been brought against important
― 82 ―
party functionaries, with whom he was neither in personal political contact either during or after his
period as rector.
Unquestionably, Heidegger did bring attention to the University of Freiburg. He willingly chose to
remain there when he received offers to go elsewhere.
[15] The actions taken against him were not,
however, based on anonymous accusations since the key document was the report, to which he had
access, written by Karl Jaspers. In his report, Jaspers noted that:
— For personal reasons, as a friend of Heidegger, he would have preferred not to intervene.
— Heidegger's actions with respect to individuals were inconsistent, since he denounced
Baumgarten as unworthy to be a National Socialist and as one who consorted with Jews, but helped
his student Brock—who was in fact Jewish—emigrate to England.
— It is important that Heidegger, as Germany's most important thinker, be able to continue to
— Heidegger was one of the few German professors who actively collaborated with the Nazis.
— Heidegger is finally not a political person, but his reported change of heart in 1941 is
meaningless since it would only have been meaningful immediately after 30 June 1934.
Jaspers recommended that Heidegger be offered a pension to continue his work, that he be
suspended from teaching for several years, and that he be reinstated only after an inspection of his
publications during that period and consideration of new academic conditions. In its report, based on
Jaspers's recommendations, the commission stated:
Before the upheaval in 1933, philosopher Martin Heidegger lived in a fully unpolitical intellectual [geistigen] world, had,
however, friendly relations (also through his sons) with the student movement of that period and certain literary leaders
of the German youth, such as Ernst Jünger, who foresaw the end of the bourgeois capitalist period and the coming of a
new German socialism. He expected from the National Socialist revolution a spiritual renewal of German life on a völkisch
basis, [and] simultaneously, like many educated Germans, a reduction of social contradictions and a salvation of Western
culture from the dangers of communism. He had no clear idea of the political-parliamentary antecedents which preceded
the coming to power of the NSDAP, and he believed in the historical mission of Hitler who would bring about a basic
political change.
― 83 ―
Both Jaspers and the commission, which acted on his report, dissociated Heidegger the thinker from
Heidegger the man. Both described Heidegger as characterized by a lack of political insight and grave
psychological and character flaws, in particular his effort to turn the Nazi rise to power to personal
advantage, which he shared with Alfred Baeumler and Carl Schmitt. But both Jaspers and the
commission sought to preserve Heidegger's philosophical achievement, which they regarded as
untarnished by his turning to Nazism. Jaspers's own inability to perceive the extent of the link between
Heidegger's acceptance of Nazism and his fundamental ontology is apparent in his congratulatory note
to Heidegger after the talk, in which he praises Heidegger as someone who, unlike Nietzsche, will
realize his philosophy in practice.
[17] He differed in that respect from Croce, a more perceptive
observer, who immediately grasped the significance of the connection between fundamental ontology
and Nazism in his remark that Heidegger's action dishonored philosophy.
It is in these difficult personal circumstances that Heidegger wrote his essay, "The Rectorate

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1933/34: Facts and Thoughts." Our task now is to interpret Heidegger's text, intended to justify his
actions as rector during a prior period at a moment when he has been called to account for that
association. Heidegger undertakes to defend himself in an article slightly more than twenty pages
long. In an obvious manner, more so than for the Rektoratsrede , the article from 1945 is indeed an
occasional text, a document composed in the most extreme personal need, the kind of need which
Heidegger in 1933 had previously attributed to the German people as a whole.
Like the rectoral address, this is more than an occasional text, although it is that as well. It offers
the most important statement in Heidegger's corpus of his actions during the rectorate. Heidegger's
analysis is embedded in a philosophical discussion that foreshadows the later evolution of his thought.
Unlike the rectoral speech, which is mainly a philosophical argument elaborated on a significant
occasion, his account of the rectorate is largely of a factual nature. The talk possesses a deliberately
incantatory quality, which builds to a climax in the repeated invocation of history, fate, struggle, and
the destiny of the German people in a time of need. In comparison, his account of the rectorate is
more restrained, devoid of the "conceptual frenzy" that marked the speech. It is divided in an
apparently arbitrary manner into three sections: an unnamed section that begins the article, followed
by a long passage whose heading reads, "The aim and attitude of the rectorate are stated in the
Rektoratsrede of May 1933," and ending in an account titled "The Time after the Rectorate."
Heidegger is usually a self-assured writer, who confidently states his
― 84 ―
view in an economical, apodictic manner. Uncharacteristically, his account of his rectorate is confused
and confusing, with multiple repetitions of the same or similar points within a single, short text.
Because of the repetitious nature of the discussion, it is more than usually difficult to describe the
relation among its various constituent parts. As a guess, one can understand the articulation of the
article as follows: the first section, or introduction, provides a general orientation to the so-called facts
and Heidegger's thoughts about them; the second section offers a more detailed consideration of
specific points of the rectoral address and the rectorate; and the last section indicates Heidegger's
view of the "discrimination" he suffered during the Nazi period, that is, after his period as rector.
Since this is not a historical work, it is not necessary to consider the historical accuracy of
Heidegger's self-interpretation in detail. It is sufficient to indicate that the so-called factual material is
controversial and need not be accepted without scrutiny. Here a single, significant instance will suffice
to make this point. For instance, Heidegger claims that he was not a party member and he only
became one, as a matter of form, after his first several weeks in office in order to respond to the
perceived interest of the university, although it was understood that he would not be active in any
This statement is important in the context of Heidegger's interpretation of the meaning one can
attribute to his period as rector. Heidegger does not deny that he was a member of the NSDAP;
rather, he employs a slight shift in the date of his adherence to suggest that his membership was not
voluntary, or not wholly voluntary, in order to minimize its significance. The effect is to deny any
concern with National Socialism as such, although we have seen that the rectoral speech provides a
wholly different picture. On the contrary, it is known that, prior to becoming rector, at a time when he
was already actively involved in planning with the Prussian Kultusministerium , Heidegger held that it
would give other colleagues a free hand to act against him were he to become a member of the
[22] And it is further known that he in fact became a party member prior to his inauguration as
rector. [23]
In defense of Heidegger, one could point out that he was not a professional historian or explain
this divergence as due to his reliance on an untrustworthy memory. Yet in the context of his effort to
justify his actions as rector, this and other such factual errors in this text, as well as in other writings,
tend to present a better case for Heidegger's side of the story than is warranted by the facts. It is
entirely plausible to infer that Heidegger, who evidently carefully planned his decision to adhere to the
NSDAP, later exercised similar care to disguise the nature and depth of this adherence, with respect to
the original date and the entire
― 85 ―
period after the rectorate. This is merely one instance of Heidegger's two-track approach in which he
insists on the inner necessity of his thought while presenting a systematically misleading account of
the Nazi turning in his thought.
Heidegger begins his account, in the first section of his paper, by drawing a connection between

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four apparently disparate elements: his statement that he was unanimously elected rector despite his
own hesitation to assume the job, his lack of relation to the Nazi party, his concern over whether the
university would cooperate with him to discover and to shape its own essence, and the connection of
the latter task with his inaugural address:
In April 1933 I was elected rector by the unanimous vote of the plenum of the university.... I had no contact with the
relevant government and party agencies, was myself neither a member of the party, nor had I been active politically in
any way. Thus it was uncertain whether those at the center of political power would listen to me with respect to what to
me seemed to be the necessary task [als Notwendigkeit und Aufgabe vorschwebte]. But just as uncertain was the extent
to which the university would actively join me to discover and to shape its own essence in a more primordial manner.
Already in my Inaugural Address [Antrittsrede], delivered in the summer of 1929, I had presented this task to the
In his reference to the task of discovering and shaping the essence of the university, Heidegger in
part names the central theme of the rectoral address. What he excludes is as significant as what he
includes, because his defense of himself turns on this point. Heidegger's representation of his task as
the defense of the essence of the university against all dangers is inaccurate in a deep, essential
sense. His description of his task in the rectoral address differs from the main thrust of the talk, which
is not the defense of the university as an end in itself but rather as a means to other ends of a political
and philosophical nature. His aim in the speech is only incidentally the defense of the German
university, or even the Greek idea of science, since his further goals include the coming to being of the
German people as authentically German and, finally, the problem of Being that is the central theme in
his position. Attention to the essence of the university differs fundamentally from attention to the
essence of the university for a further purpose. In the first case, the defense of the university is an
end in itself, whereas in the second case it is a means to another end or ends.
[26] In his statement
that he was concerned with the university as such, Heidegger by implication transforms what in the
rectoral speech he presented as his concern with the university in order to realize the destiny of the
German people and, I believe, his overall philosophical goal, into a simple defense of the German
― 86 ―
against whatever threatened it from without. The result is a stunning, self-serving distortion of the
main stated theme of the rectoral address: the affirmation that the German people wills itself to be
itself—in a word, it assumes its own historical destiny—through the newly elected rector's assumption
of the leadership of the "movement."
If this interpretation is accurate, we need to explain Heidegger's inaccurate depiction of his talk. A
point made by Jaspers, the former psychiatrist, whose testimony proved most damaging in the
deliberations of the committee, is relevant here. "He [i.e., Heidegger] does not perceive the depths of
his earlier mistake, which is why there is no real change in him but rather a game of distortions and
[27] Heidegger's discussion of the rectorate is an example of the evasive self-justification
which Jaspers reports, and which is on display elsewhere in Heidegger's later efforts to shift
responsibilty and to minimize his involvement in Nazism. In Jaspers's terminology, there is a game of
distortions and erasures in evidence in the slight shift in language, but enormous shift in meaning,
from Heidegger's statement—in the opening sentences of the Rektoratsrede —that he undertook to
defend the essence of the university in order to realize the destiny of the German people to the later
claim—in his article about the rectorate—that in fact he only undertook to defend the essence of the
The contrast between the rectoral address and Heidegger's discussion of this period is further
apparent on a variety of levels. Heidegger's earlier formulation, in the speech, of what he refers to as
a necessary task contradicts his later effort, in the article, to portray his earlier concern as limited to
the defense of the university. It is plausible to argue for the defense of the university as a necessary
task. It is less plausible, indeed odd, to refer, as he does in his later discussion, to this task as a
necessity. In German the term "necessity" ("Notwendigkeit ") derives from "necessary" ("notwendig
"), which is roughly synonymous with such words as "erforderlich," "unentberhrlich," "unvermeidlich ,"
"zwangsläufig," "vorgeschrieben," "dringend," "unbedingt ." It refers not only to what is demanded, or
not to be missed, but also to what is unavoidable, obligatory, foreordained, pressing, and unlimited. In
German, a necessity is something that relates to fate or to destiny, precisely the task he described in
his speech with respect to the German people, but which can scarcely be attributed to what he here
describes as the defense of the university.
It is normal for Heidegger, in difficult circumstances, to take steps to save his philosophical work
by dissociating it from his political activity. It would not be normal not to make this effort, not to use

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every means at his disposal to defend himself. Our role is to scrutinize the available historical and
philosophical record with a view to determining whether
― 87 ―
Heidegger's thought is compromised by his political actions. There is a distinction between the
conclusion that his politics reflect on his thought and the determination of the accuracy of his
interpretation of his thought and actions during the rectoral period. I have already argued that his
thought is ingredient in his Nazi turning. His entire retrospective discussion of the rectorate is an effort
to deny or to minimize the nature of his "political mistake" by subtly transforming what took place into
something superficially similar, but in fact very different. A careful scrutiny of this text needs to
determine whether it provides a faithful, or even an acceptable, reading of this situation and further to
determine whether the interpretation provided is sufficient to refute the criticisms brought against his
thought through the analysis of the rectoral talk.
Heidegger begins his defense by calling attention to his inaugural lecture, "What Is
[28] This lecture, which was delivered in 1929, was later supplemented by an afterword
added to the fourth edition in 1943 and by an introduction added to the fifth edition in 1949. Just as
the writings after Being and Time often serve to interpret and reinterpret that work as Heidegger's
view (and accordingly his view of Being and Time ) changed, so the afterword and introduction
Heidegger later added serve to interpret and reinterpret the inaugural lecture from a different, later
The lecture sketches Heidegger's understanding of metaphysics, his main theme, in a version close
to the position of Being and Time .
[29] Heidegger mentions the unfolding of the metaphysical inquiry,
the elaboration of the question, and an answer to it. [30] In remarks on metaphysics, he develops a
conception of nothing [31] in response to Leibniz's famous question: why is there something rather
than nothing? In a way that recalls Kant, Heidegger maintains that metaphysics is a basic occurrence
of Dasein and Dasein itself.
[32] In the afterword, his view has progressed beyond philosophy toward
thought in order to surpass metaphysics. He suggests that in thinking the ground of metaphysics,
thought is no longer metaphysical.
[33] He closes with a comparison between the thinker (Denker ) and
the poet (Dichter ). For Heidegger, in saying the thinker names Being, and in naming the poet names
the holy.
[34] In the introduction, added still later, he provides a temporal framework for metaphysics,
which he locates in a tradition running from Anaximander to Nietzsche, in which the nature of Being is
The differences in the successive versions of Heidegger's inaugural lecture reflect the evolution of
his thought. In a move indicating the philosophical roots of his political turn, in the article Heidegger
now draws attention to a link between the initial version of the lecture and his rectoral address by
citing the "introductory sentences" of his inaugural lecture.
― 88 ―
We question, here and now, for ourselves. Our being (Dasein)—as members of a community of scientists, teachers, and
students—is determined by science. What essential thing is happening to us from the very bottom of our being (Dasein),
when science has become our passion? The fields of science lie far apart. They approach their subject matter in
fundamentally different ways. Today this fragmented multiplicity of disciplines is held together only by the technical
organization of universities and faculties, and retains some importance only because of the practical aims pursued by the
different specialties. But the roots of the sciences in their essential ground have withered.
He correctly states that his lecture was widely translated and that everyone knew that he then
thought that the most pressing concern of the German university was to renew itself by withdrawing
from its present concern with a pseudo-unity.
Everyone was in a position to know what I thought about the German university and what I considered its most pressing
concern. It was to renew itself by returning to its essential ground, which is also the essential ground of the sciences;
that is to say, by returning to the essence of truth itself instead of persisting in a technical organization-institutional
pseudo-unity, it was to recover the primordial living unity that joins those who question and those who know.
Obviously, the point of citing the passage from the inaugural lecture is to suggest a continuity
between that lecture and the rectoral address at the small cost of admitting the philosophical
dimension of the address itself. The aim is to suggest that the address is not political, because it, like
the lecture, is focused on the defense of the university. The argument is, however, misleading. To
begin with, the passage cited is not from the opening sentences, but rather constitutes the fifth

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paragraph of the lecture, which occurs on the second page of the text. It occurs in the course of a
transition from metaphysics in general as a problem to Dasein which raises the problem of the
nothingness named in Leibniz's question. The cited passage is incidental to the main theme of the
lecture. It was, hence, unlikely to be generally known as Heidegger's position, even if a sharp-eyed
reader would have noticed it. It was hardly likely to be known to everyone, since few people, with the
exception of professional philosophers, and certainly few of the scientists to whom the lecture was
delivered, were in a position to understand it.
The argument is further misleading in a deeper sense, since it exaggerates the continuity in order
to hide the change that has taken place in Heidegger's thought in the intervening period. At some
point after the lecture, a turning (Kehre ) occurred in Heidegger's thought, including a
― 89 ―
move away from Dasein as the access to Being, a withdrawal from the transcendental philosophical
approach employed by fundamental ontology, and even a withdrawal from philosophy. There is no hint
of politics in the inaugural lecture. But politics is a main theme in the rectoral address. The unity of the
university is not the main theme in either the lecture or the speech, but Heidegger misleadingly
represents it as the main theme in both the lecture and the speech in his effort to defend himself.
Heidegger states that he hesitated to assume the rectorate since he knew that he would run into a
conflict with the "new" and the "old," namely "political science" (politische Wissenschaft ), based on a
falsification of the essence of truth, and the tendency to advance a particular specialty in isolation from
reflection on the essence of science.
[38] Both points are Platonic in inspiration. His objection to the
idea of a special science proceeding without reflection on the essence of science in general is an
application of Husserl's quasi-Platonic objection to the supposed objectivism of the nonphilosophical
[39] Heidegger earlier accepted this Husserlian point in Being and Time and in the speech.
Husserl's view of objectivism follows Plato's well-known view that, as the science of sciences,
philosophy grounds the other sciences and itself.
[40] Here, Heidegger rejects the idea that a university
should consist of separate departments whose relation to each other and to the implicit concept of
science, the essence of the university, remains unthought.
The remarks about "political science" are more difficult to construe. Heidegger mentions "political
science" on four occasions in this short essay, initially, as we have noted, in connection with the
"new." He qualifies this comment in three later passages: in an assertion that "lilt was never my
intention to realize only party doctrines and to act in accord with the 'idea' of a 'political science,"'
in an observation that the talk rejects the idea of political science "proclaimed by National Socialism as
a cruder version of Nietzsche's understanding of the essence of truth and knowledge," [42] and again in
a statement that "the ministry expressed ever more clearly the desire that the idea of 'political science'
be taken far more seriously at the University of Freiburg than had so far happened."
[43] The translator
suggests in a footnote that Heidegger has in mind the politicization of science, in which truth is based
in the Volk .
This suggestion is only partly correct. If Heidegger is indicating his opposition to the politicization
of science, then his opposition is qualified by his admission that he never intended to realize only party
doctrines. In this way, he admits that as rector he was also concerned to attain the goals of the party.
The identification of a dual intention during the rectoral period helps to explain the curious duality in
the rectoral speech where he insists both on the defense of science in the original
― 90 ―
sense and the link of the defense of science to the destiny of the German people.
On a deeper level, Heidegger supports "political science." The talk exhibits a form of Platonism in
politics, according to which pure theory is practically relevant, indeed practically indispensable as the
condition of the "just" state. Among other things, the rectoral speech is meant to recall that
philosophy is the foundation of politics.
[44] But if philosophy founds politics in a quasi-Platonic sense,
then Heidegger cannot object to the politicization of philosophical science in general, but only to the
way in which the National Socialists have carried this out. For the "Platonist" that he still was at the
time of the rectoral address, pure theory is intrinsically political because it is practically relevant. He
can only object to the transformation, or rather degradation, of theory to merely political ends, as in
the discredited effort of Lyssenko in Marxist-Leninist biology or in the equally discredited idea of a Nazi
physics. Yet Heidegger participated in an analogous endeavor. Certainly, his public acceptance of the
Führer principle seems to indicate that at the time, for him the final arbiter of truth was Hitler, the
German dictator.

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Heidegger clearly rejects a vulgar, inauthentic form of "political science" in favor of the authentic
variety. His opposition to the politicians and political scientists involved in the Nazi revolution has three
aspects that need to be distinguished: To begin with, he opposes the attempted usurpation of the
legitimate role of philosophy in politics, the same view that subtends his expressed desire to lead the
leaders of the Nazi state. He further criticizes the scientific pretensions of a "science" which, from his
reading of Greek thought, is not worthy of the name of philosophy. Finally, he is reacting against the
crude, or vulgar, reading of Nietzsche proposed by Nazism, to which he opposes his own supposedly
authentic interpretation.
[45] On the contrary, a correct understanding of Nietzsche, adumbrated in
Jünger, is invaluable for metaphysics and history. [46] If official Nazism depends on a crude version of
Nietzsche, whose thought requires a deeper reading, then the critique of "political science" points
beyond itself in the anticipation of an authentic form of National Socialism based on a more secure
grasp of Nietzsche's position.
Heidegger admits only to assuming the rectorate as part of his "plan of founding the essence of
the university in a primordial manner."
[47] He offers three reasons for his decision:
(1) I saw in the movement [Bewegung] that had gained power the possibility of an inner recollection and renewal of the
people and a path that would allow it to discover its historical vocation in the Western world. I believed that, renewing
itself, the university might also be called to con-
― 91 ―
tribute to this inner self-collection of the people, providing it with a measure [mass-gebend mitzuwirken].
(2) For this reason I saw in the rectorate an opportunity to lead all capable forces—regardless of party membership and
party doctrine—back to this process of reflection and renewal and to strengthen and to secure the influence of these
(3) In this manner I hoped to counter the advance of unsuited persons and the threatening hegemony of party apparatus
and party doctrine.
Heidegger here links together his perception of a historical opportunity he sought to seize, the way
in which it could be realized through the rectorate, and the advantage to be gained by assuming the
office of rector. This explanation is coherent; but it conflicts with the view that he became rector to
defend the German university, and it fails to mention an essential point. Obviously, if Heidegger had a
further political aim in mind, as he admits here, then his defense of the university is at most a piece in
the puzzle but not the whole puzzle. His statement of his intentions here undermines his effort to
distance himself from any political intentions through his desire to save higher education from
disintegration. This noble intention, which all academics presumably share, should not be allowed to
obscure Heidegger's political interest in assuming the rector-ate. He fails, however, to mention his
conviction, which he seems never to have abandoned, that the German people possesses a Western
historical vocation that requires realization.
[49] Significantly, his failure to mention this idea conceals a
main link between his own view and Nazism: the shared belief that the unrealized essence of the
German people would be realized through National Socialism. In revealing his belief in a kairos
associated with Nazism and the university's part in it, he covers up an essential element: his continued
adherence to the underlying idea which, from his perspective, brought Nazism and philosophy
Heidegger's remark that in assuming the rectorate he hoped to counter unsuited people, the party
apparatus, and party doctrine requires a comment. He cannot simply mean that he was in favor of
maintaining a certain level of quality in the university, since that would imply that he was concerned to
differentiate gifted from ungifted Nazis. He also cannot simply mean that he was opposed to party
doctrine in general or to the party apparatus as such. For he cooperated at least in part with that
apparatus and willingly propagated its doctrine. Perhaps he means that he desired to maintain the
ability of the university to determine itself. A reading of this kind is doubly persuasive. It fits
comfortably with the idea of self-assertion in the title of the talk, which points to a refusal of
― 92 ―
any form of external direction of university affairs. It is further consistent with the broadly Platonic
reading of the speech advanced here.
The more difficult question is why Heidegger believed that Germany was at a historical turning,
why the time had come for philosophers to lead the state. The answer seems to lie in the evolution of

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his understanding of the Seinsfrage through his reading of Nietzsche and Jünger. Heidegger apparently
not only believed with Plato that philosophy provided the ground of politics. [50] He further believed
that his metaphysical perspective could see into history and included a capacity to discern the shape of
the future, almost like a seer or prophet of Being. This conviction helps to explain some of the stranger
passages in his corpus. For instance, in a request to the dean of the University of Freiburg to be
relieved of all duties for the winter semester 1943/44 in order to carry out his research, Heidegger
wrote: "The request I am making does not arise from a personal interest in the promotion of my own
work, but from a knowledge of the historical limits of German philosophical thinking with regard to the
future of the West."
[51] Heidegger seems literally to have thought that the future of the West
depended on the proper understanding of metaphysics, supposedly presented in his own thought. In
other circumstances, someone who advanced such ideas would be a candidate for psychiatric
treatment. It is a measure of the loss of perspective of contemporary philosophy that it accords such
delusions serious consideration.
Heidegger hints at this understanding in his remarks on Nietzsche and Jünger. These remarks
develop ideas barely sketched in the important lecture course, An Introduction to Metaphysics ,
delivered in 1935. Here, almost in passing, he suggests that, although misunderstood, Nietzsche is
crucial to a grasp of the problem of Being. To grasp Nietzsche's view correctly, we need to unfold what
is contained within it.
[52] In a crucial passage, he then asserts a basic connection between the
forgetfulness of Being, to which he holds that Nietzsche offers an essential clue, and the decline of
nations and traditions:
Is it the fault of Being that it is so involved? is it the fault of the word that it remains so empty? or are we to blame that
with all our effort, with all our chasing after beings, we have fallen out of Being? And should we not say that the fault did
not begin with us, or with our immediate or more remote ancestors, but lies in something that runs through Western
history from the very beginning, a happening which the eyes of all the historians in the world will never perceive, but
which nevertheless happens, which happened in the past and will happen in the future? What if it were possible that
man, that nations in their greatest movements and traditions, are linked to Being and yet had long fallen out of Being.
without knowing it, and that this was the most powerful and most central cause of their decline? (See Sein und Zeit ,
paragraph 38, in particular pp. 179f.).
― 93 ―
The references here to the early approach to the Seinsfrage in Being and Time and to Nietzsche show
how Heidegger transformed his original analysis of the meaning of Being into an explanation of world
history. We recall that he proposed an authentic theory of historicality (Geschichtlichkeit ) in Being and
Time in the context of his theory of Being.
[54] As strange as it seems, Heidegger here extends what
was earlier a philosophical analysis of the idea of history to the interpretation of historical events now
and in the future.
His remarks here on Nietzsche further develop ideas raised in the inaugural lecture. Even in the
amended version of the lecture, Nietzsche figures merely as an end point, a terminus ad quem of the
metaphysical tradition begun by Anaximander. Heidegger now makes two further points. First,
recalling his earlier reference in the talk to Nietzsche's statement that God is dead, he comments that
this has nothing to do with atheism; rather, it indicates the loss of historical efficacy of the
supersensible world, particularly the Christian God.
Heidegger glosses this claim through further remarks, beginning with a reference to a lecture,
delivered in 1943, concerning Nietzsche's statement. [56] This lecture was intended as an introduction
to the topic of nihilism. [57] Heidegger now argues that the suggestion that God is dead and the
reduction of value to will, or nihilism, can be understood only in terms of the will to power, in his view
the central concept of Nietzsche's philosophy.
[58] Nietzsche's insight is now said to provide a reflection
beyond metaphysical thinking, that is, beyond the whole of Western metaphysics. [59] But Nietzsche
deludes himself in thinking that this overturning of metaphysics is an overcoming of metaphysics,
which merely recurs in his thought in a different fashion. "Nietzsche holds this overturning of
metaphysics to be the overcoming of metaphysics. But every overturning of this kind remains only a
self-deluding entanglement in the Same that has become unknowable."
Second, Heidegger expands his view of how metaphysics enables us to understand politics through
remarks on Ernst Jünger. [61] He states that he twice formed discussion groups (in 1932 and in
1939/40) to discuss Jünger's writings. He claims that these misunderstood writings offer a
fundamental insight into Nietzsche's concept of metaphysics as a way to understand history, which is
empirically confirmed, and which underlies the speech:
Together with my assistant Brock, I discussed these writings in a small circle and tried to show how they express a
fundamental understanding of Nietzsche's metaphysics, in so far as the history and present of the Western world are

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seen and foreseen in the horizon of this metaphysics. Thinking from these writings and, still more essentially, from their
― 94 ―
we thought what was coming, that is to say, we attempted to counter it, as we confronted it. At the time many others
also read these writings but together with many other interesting things that one also read, one laid them aside without
comprehending their far-reaching import. Later, in the winter 1939/40, I discussed part of Jünger's book The Worker
once more with a circle of colleagues; I learned how even then these thoughts still seemed strange and put people off,
until "the facts" bore them out. What Ernst Jünger thinks with the thought of the rule and shape of the worker and sees
in the light of this thought, is the universal rule of the will to power within history, now understood to embrace the
planet. Today everything stands in this historical reality, no matter whether it is called communism, or fascism, or world
The remarks on Jünger provide a crucial link between Heidegger's view of the rectorate and his
interpretation of world history in terms of the Seinsfrage . We can reconstruct the chain of argument
as follows. The problem of the meaning of Being yields a concept of authentic history
(Geschichtlichkeit ), including the interpretation of present and future history which are confirmed by
experience. The argument rests on claims to grasp the views of Nietzsche and Jünger in an authentic
manner. Nietzsche, who is misunderstood, provides an analysis of history as ruled by the will to
power. Jünger, who is also misunderstood, sheds important light on Nietzsche through his view of the
worker, which is empirically verified. Heidegger claimed to possess this seerlike insight during the
rectorate since, as he states, "From the vantage point of this reality of the will to power I saw even
then what is ."
The link Heidegger now proposes between metaphysics and history raises a series of issues about
what he believed during the rectorate. With respect to the rectorate, there is a less obvious, more
significant end in view. It is insufficient to paint the descent into the political arena from a Platonic
angle of vision. Since Heidegger is moving now to reject Platonism in all its forms, to invoke it as a
motivating factor during the rectorate would also be to deny that there was anything positive to begin
with in the turn to real Nazism. Now this line of defense is not open to him if for no other reason than
that he now believes that Nazism did not fail him but that Hitler and the other Nazis failed Nazism. He
seems never to have regretted his adherence to National Socialism for the purpose of realizing the
essence of the German people, or to further the understanding of Being, ends that he still accepts as
valid. On the contrary, he recognizes—how could he deny it?—that this adherence has failed to
produce the intended result. The "solution" is to attribute the attraction to politics to another factor of
permanent value. If his political turn was motivated by metaphysics, then he can attribute the failure
― 95 ―
his political insight, which is clear to him at the end of the war in the midst of the ruins of the Third
Reich, to Being; and he can also defend the validity of his original concern with the destiny of the
German nation as a valid concern.
The proposed shift from a concept of history, at the level of fundamental ontology, to the
interpretation of history in terms of this concept raises the problem of the transition from theory to
practice. Heidegger argues for this transition roughly as follows: Everything is now dominated by the
will to power that holds sway in the space left through the withdrawal of Being, now present only in
the mode of absence. Heidegger grounds his claim that everything stands in the historical reality of
the will to power in the logically prior assertion that Being has somehow withdrawn. This is the deeper
meaning of his reading of Nietzsche's proposition that God is dead. Beyond the claim about the loss of
efficacy of the Christian God, Heidegger has in mind what he calls "the supersensible world," namely
Being. For Heidegger, then, what has occurred and what will occur in the future is explicable on the
basis of the withdrawal of Being, an "event" that in turn has in the past enabled and in the future will
continue to enable the will to power to flourish unchecked. He expresses his reliance on this
explanatory model in the form of two related questions about the past: "Had things been different
[that is, if Being had not withdrawn so that everything is now subject to the will to power], would the
First World War have been possible? And even more, had things been different, would the Second
World War have been possible?
It is difficult to make a case for the relation Heidegger discerns between a withdrawal of Being, the
will to power, and the occurrence of two world wars. Since we know no more about Being than about
the thing-in-itself, claims for a link to its "withdrawal" cannot be based on direct knowledge, or
experience, or anything other than an apparently "mystical insight" into what is. There is no reason to

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hold that the will to power flourishes because of the absence of Being since, apart from Heidegger's
statement, there is no way to know the relation between Being and this Nietzschean concept. Even
were it the case that Being had withdrawn, it is unclear how, otherwise than through the prophetic
powers he now attributes to himself, Heidegger could possibly be aware of this occurrence. This
assertion, then, appears to be nothing more than an ad hoc claim now made to explain such
inconvenient "facts" as the evident failure of the rectorate and the turning to Nazism. It is important to
note this rather obvious point since Heidegger's mystical insistence on the mythological event of the
withdrawal of Being is a constant element in his later thought. And even if we grant Heidegger's claim,
it is diffi-
― 96 ―
cult to see how Heidegger can reasonably claim, other than in merely arbitrary fashion, that a
withdrawal of Being is more significant for the Second than for the First World War.
Heidegger's proposed interpretation of movements as different as communism, fascism, and world
democracy is vague in the extreme. These are obviously disparate political movements, each of which
obeys a different intrinsic logic commanding its historical development. In theory, there is a clear
interpretative advantage to be gained by considering the entire political spectrum in terms of a single
explanatory factor. In practice, this approach is questionable since it is so general as to fail to explain
the phenomena and fails to acknowledge what is different in the various political movements. It is
intuitively obvious that an approach of such great generality—unable to recognize what separates
communism, fascism, and democracy—cannot take the place of more concrete explanation.
Heidegger appeals to, but does not ground, the will to power as a central explanatory factor in the
political domain. Even if this will exists and functions in the political arena, we need to know why it is
more than one among a multitude of political determinants. It does not follow that if Nietzsche sheds
light on metaphysics, he also sheds light on history. History and metaphysics are different since
historical explanation, but not metaphysics, needs to respect pragmatic criteria. Theories of historical
explanation should only be revised on pragmatic grounds to account, or to account better, for the
observed phenomena. Now there are various traditional approaches to historical phenomena, including
the appeal to demographic, economic, political, and social forms of explanation. Unless and until
Heidegger can show that the will to power can usefully supersede such other explanatory models, the
only reason to accept his favored view of the will to power is simple philosophical fiat. One can do so
arbitrarily, but not on rational grounds.
Heidegger's substitution of a metaphysical problem for historical reality exemplifies the well-known
philosophical tendency to substitute itself for the special sciences. This tendency follows from the old
Platonic view that all the sciences derive their justification from philosophy, which further justifies
itself. Without doubt, philosophy has an important secondary role to play in the clarification and
critique of the basic concepts of the sciences. But it is a frequent error for philosophers to offer their
"science" in place of the first-order disciplines. Heidegger's mistake lies in the dogmatic assertion that
metaphysics, or his view of it, provides an adequate explanation of experience. It is possible that a
philosophic concept is useful in a first-order discipline like history. It is also possible that such a
concept is not relevant, or is weaker than the available explanatory frameworks. In any case, a
determination of the signifi-
― 97 ―
cance of a second-order concept for a first-order discipline needs to be made within the first-order
discipline itself since it cannot be made from within philosophy. In sum, a transition from theory to
practice cannot be consummated within theory alone, prior to and apart from practice.
The explanatory framework which Heidegger introduces here figures prominently in his later
thought. His later discussion of technology (Technik ) presupposes the hegemony of the will to power
in the void created by the withdrawal of Being.
[65] His discussion is a transparent effort to read this
aspect of his view, which arose only after the rectorate, backward into that period.
Was there not enough reason and essential distress to think in primordial reflection towards a surpassing of the
metaphysics of the will to power and that is to say, to begin a confrontation with Western thought by returning to its
beginning? Was there not enough reason and essential distress, for the sake of such reflection on the spirit of the
Western world, to awaken and to lead into battle [ins Feld zu führen] that place which was considered the seat of the
cultivation of knowledge and insight—the German university?
The passage cited provides a misleading reading of the nature of the so-called "battle" which

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Heidegger then desired to wage. [67] If we accept the rectoral speech as a faithful account of
Heidegger's aims, then this comment provides an inaccurate account of Heidegger's intentions as
rector. Further, the battle for science in the ancient Greek sense was not, as Heidegger earlier
suggested, directed only to that end, nor, as he now adds, toward an overcoming of metaphysics,
which was not then his goal. At the time, his effort was directed toward a renewal of metaphysics,
since it is only later, with the deepening interest in Nietzsche, that he saw the need to overcome
metaphysics. Finally, we have already noted that at the time Heidegger regarded the university as a
means to an end, not as an end in itself.
His effort to relate the rectorate as a whole to what might have happened is less controversial.
Heidegger here imagines what might have been if those in a position to do so had brought Nazism
under control. "What would have happened and what would have been prevented, had, around 1933,
all capable forces aroused themselves and joined in secret in order gradually to purify and moderate
the 'movement' that had come to power?"
[68] This transparent speculation about what might have
been provides Heidegger with the opportunity to make several observations clearly intended to
attenuate his personal responsibility.
To begin with, he admits that he failed to foresee what would later come to pass. This admission is
significant since it is the basis of the effort later developed by Fédier, Heidegger's most orthodox
― 98 ―
supporter at present, to argue that at the time of the rectorate no one could have foreseen what
would later occur.
[69] Heidegger's admission obviously contradicts his earlier assertion that he knew
even then, namely during the rectorate, that everything can be interpreted as a function of the will to
power. If he possessed a historical crystal ball during the rectorate, then he should have foreseen the
future of Nazism. Since he admits that he did not foresee later developments, then either the will to
power is insufficient to understand the entire range of political phenomena, despite Heidegger's explicit
claim, or he did not have it available to him in 1933/34. In fact, both alternatives seem likely.
The speculation on what might have been suggests that had Heidegger's efforts been followed by
others, the outcome might have been different. This is an adumbration of the idea that, after all, and
in his own way, Heidegger was a "resistance fighter" against Nazism, perhaps even from the very
beginning, or that his own relation to National Socialism was merely contingent. Now in view of the
brutal nature of Nazism, there is no reason to believe that an attitude of the kind Heidegger describes
ever could have been successful. There is no evident reason to credit Heidegger's rectorate as part of
an effort to resist Nazism in more than the barest sense. It is known that Heidegger did oppose certain
excesses, such as the posting of the "Jew notice."
[70] But there is no indication, least of all in his talk,
that he ever disagreed with the common end in view: the realization of the historical fate of the
German people.
The suggestion that one could gradually moderate and purify Nazism is troubling. It implies that
another, more moderate, even nicer form of National Socialism would be worthy of support, in fact an
acceptable vehicle to realize political aims. This inference is suspect since Nazism in all its forms is at
the very least unacceptable, certainly a paradigm of political evil. Through the implication that some
form of National Socialism might be acceptable, Heidegger unwittingly opposes efforts by others to
portray him as an unwilling participant, as later opposed to Nazism. He immediately undercuts this
kind of reading when he writes that "first of all the positive possibilities that I then saw in the
movement had to be underscored and affirmed in order to prepare for a gathering of all capable forces
in a manner that would be grounded not only in the facts, but in what mattered."
[71] It is difficult to
understand what could be meant by a purified, moderate form of Nazism other than a purified,
moderate form of evil.
The "Official" View and "Facts and Thoughts"
The portion of the discussion of the rectorate discussed so far serves to introduce the middle portion of
the article, officially devoted to the
― 99 ―
rectoral talk. In the same way as Heidegger called for the "destruction" of the history of ontology in
Being and Time in order to make out the claim for his interpretation of the meaning of Being, so
Heidegger here undertakes to "destroy," to deconstruct, what otherwise appears evident in his speech.

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In the process, he sketches the main lines of what we have called the "official" view, intended to deny
what can be denied, to reinterpret what cannot reasonably be denied in the most favorable light, and
in general to preserve as much of his thought as possible from the taint arising from his Nazism.
Heidegger's deconstruction of his talk, his official reinterpretation of its stated purpose, has been
largely successful in providing a more flattering reading of his life and work than they merit on the
available evidence mainly because it has rarely been subjected to direct scrutiny. We need now to
deconstruct Heidegger's deconstruction, his own effort to refute the rather obvious interpretation of
the Rektoratsrede presented above. In this respect, my intention is to defend my interpretation of that
text against Heidegger's own view of it, to defend a moderate reading of the talk as an effort to place
philosophy in the service of Nazi politics against the rather more violent Heideggerian claim that this
was not his intention at all.
Heidegger insists that "interpretation" means "to capture the Being of the entity despite its
tendency to cover things up."
[72] He maintains that an existential analysis constantly does violence to
the claims of a so-called everyday interpretation. It will be necessary to do violence, not to
Heidegger's speech, but to Heidegger's interpretation of it in order to bring out what is covered up in
his text. The effort to do violence to Heidegger's auto-interpretation is designed to show that his
reading provides a false appearance obscuring the essence of the text, which remains hidden.
Heidegger's reading of his talk is based on his view of interpretation. He remarks that for this text
as with the spoken word, everything depends on something like interpretative goodwill as a
precondition to the grasp of what is essential. "To be sure, in this case, as is the case with every
spoken word, everything depends on the interpretation [Auslegung] and on the readiness to enter into
what is essential and to get it into view."
[73] This passage recalls Heidegger's well-known view that
understanding projects possibilities, whose development Heidegger calls interpretation. For Heidegger,
interpretation is never presuppositionless, but is always grounded in advance in a prior conception
located in the fore-structure of the understanding, what Gadamer usefully calls a Vorverständnis .
According to Heidegger, the process of the development of an understanding is always the working out
of a prior, incomplete grasp of the whole phenomenon in view.
Here, the reference to interpretation has a strategic value. In calling
― 100 ―
attention to his theory of interpretation at the beginning of the crucial section of the discussion, whose
announced purpose is to show that the aims of the rectorate are expressed in the rectoral address,
Heidegger is careful to present a favorable view of the matter. Since he holds that all interpretation
consists in the development of an initial preconception, Heidegger is concerned to supply a global
statement of his purpose to serve as a guide, as the conceptual horizon, of the discussion to follow. As
he wants the reader to accept his interpretation, everything depends on the formulation of an
acceptable prior conception as the basis for the further development of the initial, incomplete
Obviously, we need not uncritically accept Heidegger's proposed prior understanding of the
rectorate. We need only accept it if it provides what one can roughly describe as a faithful account of
the rectoral address. On a reasonable reading of this portion of the text, his argument consists of ten
elements, including:
1. a statement of the aim of the Rektoratsrede ;
2. a reinterpretation of the idea of battle in a supposedly authentically Greek sense;
3. a rejection of the obvious interpretation of the talk as inauthentic;
4. the assertion that official Nazism was displeased by the talk;
5. a statement of the tenuous nature of his relation to official Nazism;
6. a claim for the incompatibility between his view of the university and that of National Socialism;
7. a description of his decision to resign to protect the university;
8. an attribution of what occurred to metaphysics, which has become technology in the age of
9. an acknowledgment of his conviction in the possibility represented by National Socialism;
10. an affirmation of the possibility to overcome nihilism through poetry.
These themes are main elements in Heidegger's defense through the simultaneous "destruction" of
the obvious interpretation of his Nazism and the redescription of its main elements in order to conceal
them within the "official" view of his relation to National Socialism. The fourth point is a purely factual
matter, which falls to a historian. Point 5 has already been broached several times in the preceding

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discussion. Finally, the sixth point is a conclusion that either follows or fails to
― 101 ―
follow from the other points, and hence need not be addressed directly apart from the elements that
compose the remainder of the argument. I turn now to the other points of Heidegger's defense.
A beginning can be made through scrutiny of Heidegger's view of the purpose of the talk, which he
states on no less than three occasions. In successive paragraphs, he twice maintains, using the same
term, that "the heart [Kernstück]" of the address is "the exposition [Darlegung] of the essence of
knowing and science; the university is to be grounded on that essence; and on that ground it is to
assert itself as German university"
[75] and that it serves "the interpretation of the essence of knowing,
science, and profession that is based on training in science." [76] In a third, later passage, he remarks,
in a somewhat different description of his intent, that "the atmosphere of confusion" prevented him
from carrying out "those efforts that were my sole concern and that had moved me to assume the
office: reflection on the ethos that should govern the pursuit of knowledge and on the essence of
teaching [die Besinnung auf die Wissenshaltung und auf das Wesen des Lehrens]."
Heidegger's characterization of his intent in the speech requires scrutiny. A closer look reveals that
instead of a single, univocal description, he proposes in fact three descriptions related through a kind
of family resemblance. These three ways of depicting the essence of the speech are similar, but not
identical. It is one thing to provide an exposition of the essence of science and learning in order to
further the German university, for instance through its "self-assertion." It is something else to
interpret the essence of knowing, science, and the profession to which it leads.
Since Heidegger claims to capture the essence in the initial description, then he can desire to
ground (gründen ) the university upon it. A description of the essence is apparently sufficient only for
an explanation (Erläuterung ). Presumably a statement of the essence captures, in Aristotelian
language, what it is to be that thing, whereas an interpretation provides a description of that thing. By
implication the essence is unique and admits of one exposition only, although there is presumably
more than one possible interpretation of something. An exposition and a description of the essence
coincide only if a description is univocal. But since different descriptions are possible, which do not
coincide, obviously they do not describe the same essence in the same way. In short, different
descriptions from different perspectives provide different views of what, in terms of the description,
appears to be different.
The two descriptions of the heart of the matter as the essence that grounds and as an explanation
present similar but subtly different views. The difference is greater with respect to the third description
of the rectoral address as a meditation on the ethos of knowledge and the
― 102 ―
essence of teaching. The word translated here as the "ethos of knowledge" (Wissenshaltung )
combines two terms that literally mean "the pose, posture, or attitude" and "knowledge," and that
together signify "the attitude of knowledge." In his third description, Heidegger is primarily concerned
with getting clear about the attitude one should take toward knowledge and the essence of teaching.
What these three characterizations have in common is a certain average assertion that the talk is
about the essence of science and knowledge as it concerns the university, which should be understood
from this angle of vision.
Now "Kernstück, " the word translated as "heart," is composed of two terms "Stück " and "Kern "
meaning respectively "piece," "lot," "stretch," "distance," and so on, and "kernel," "core," and so on.
The single, composite term can be rendered as the "central part" or "central portion" of the talk.
Heidegger's claim, then, can be paraphrased as the assertion that the central portion of the speech is
a meditation on the essence of knowing and science, and its relation to the university. Here we need
to distinguish between an interpretation according to the letter and one according to the spirit.
[78] As
Kant complained, an interpretation can be literally correct with respect to the letter but fail to capture
the spirit.
Heidegger's claim about the heart of his rectoral address is false with respect to its spirit but
literally true. Heidegger is literally correct that the central portion of his talk concerns the essence of
science and the German university. A passage on this topic occurs toward the middle of the talk. But
his literal description of the Rektoratsrede does not describe it adequately; it fails to capture the spirit
of a speech which it describes without regard to the context. The hidden motivation of this
misdescription is not deeply buried. Since the rectoral speech was on the public record, it could not
simply be denied. Heidegger's obvious intent, in a period when he is being called to account for his

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connection to Nazism, is to place it in a more favorable light than would otherwise be the case. For in
calling attention to the meditation on knowing, science, and the university, he focuses on these topics
to the exclusion of the surrounding remarks on the need to realize the destiny of the German nation
through the Nazi state.
It is important to be clear about the present claim. The main point is that in calling attention to the
central part of the talk in a way that is literally true, Heidegger distorts its spirit. In effect, he takes the
part for the whole by concentrating on the portion that occurs in the center of the talk, but which is
eccentric to its main purpose. Hence, at the beginning of his defense, and despite his assertion of the
importance of entering into the essential, of first getting the whole into view, Heidegger
― 103 ―
misleadingly substitutes the part for the whole in a way that covers up the whole by focusing on the
Heidegger's reading of his speech is an instance of inauthentic hermeneutics, of an interpretation
in bad faith whose aim is to conceal what he knows. As soon as we see that, despite his statement in
the first sentence of this section, Heidegger's strategy is not to enter into what is essential and to
avoid getting it into view, it becomes easy to see that what he says about the so-called heart of his
talk is literally true but false to the spirit of the speech. One must be less sanguine about his qualifying
remarks concerning the two descriptions of the heart of the talk, which are untrue to the spirit of the
speech and even literally untrue, at the very least a clear misreading intended to change the sense of
the talk.
A prominent aspect of the Rektoratsrede was Heidegger's insistence on the three forms of service:
labor, defense, and knowledge in relation to the community of the people, the honor and destiny of
the nation among other peoples, and the spiritual mission of the German people.
[80] In the talk, he
further described them as equiprimordial. [81] Now the insistence on the equiprimordiality of the three
forms of service obviously strains Heidegger's claim to have concerned himself merely with knowing,
science, and the university. Perhaps for that reason, Heidegger now maintains, despite his explicit
statements in the speech, that knowledge is prior to the other forms of service. For the future
university is to be grounded on the essence of knowing and science which allows it to assert itself as a
German university.
[82] Here, Heidegger's chauvinism is apparent in the implied limitation of an
authentic relation of the essence of knowing and science to the German university only. He seems to
believe that at best this relation is intrinsically inauthentic elsewhere. Here and in other writings,
Heidegger's chauvinism is evident in his repeated insistence on German philosophy as the sole
legitimate heir of Greek thought. Every other form of philosophy is, then, inauthentic, by implication
not worthy of the name.
After his remark on the future university, Heidegger immediately presents a revisionary
interpetation obviously meant to qualify his claim in the rectoral address about the equiprimordiality of
the three forms of service:
Knowledge Service is named in third place, after Labor Service and Armed Service, not because it is subordinated to the
former, but because knowing is what is authentic and highest, that unto which the essence of the university and
therefore reflection gathers itself. As far as Labor Service, named in second place, is concerned, it may be permitted to
remind the reader that long before 1933 this "service" grew out of the distress of the time and the will of the young,
which gave it its shape. "Armed
― 104 ―
Service," however, I mentioned neither in a militaristic, nor in an aggressive sense, but understood it as defense in time
of need [als Wehr in der Notwehr gedacht]. [83]
This statement betrays a visible unease. Heidegger's initial assertion that knowing is not
subordinated to labor and defense is literally correct since they are equiprimordial, hence on the same
level; but it is also false, since what is highest cannot be on the same level as anything else. In other
words: either there was never an equiprimordiality, in which case knowing can be highest; or there
was an equiprimordiality and knowing as a form of service is not higher than labor or defense. One
should further be careful about the description of knowing as the highest since that emphasis runs
counter to the effort, basic to Heidegger's fundamental ontology, to deconstruct the rationalistic
emphasis in philosophy represented prominently by Descartes.
[84] One should finally be hesitant
about the description of knowing alone as authentic, since, then, nothing else, such as defense or

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work, can be authentic. In other words, and in Heidegger's terminology, it appears that only those
engaged in knowing, by extension only members of the academy, are or possibly can be authentic. It
is as if, in a strange version of the Platonic view that only philosophers can finally claim to know,
Heidegger were to depict representatives of German philosophy as the only possible form of authentic
human being.
Heidegger's reference to the historical origins of work service does not dispel the asymmetry
between his depiction of the three pillars here and in the speech. For the explicit approval in the
Rektoratsrede of the bond that binds into "the community of the people,"
[85] he now substitutes a
note as to how this form of service came about. But the most significant change is the effort to
reinterpret, to deconstruct—in a word, to interpret away—his earlier understanding of defense.
Unquestionably, Heidegger's present, literal comprehension of defense as defense in need-defense,
perhaps more accurately defense in time of need, is meant to provide a reading of his intentions
basically distinct from the Nazi military machine.
We recall that in his talk, Heidegger discussed armed service as a bond binding the student to "the
honor and destiny of the nation" as a "readiness ... to give all."
[86] Heidegger's present effort to
provide a different view of his understanding of defense occurs in two stages, including a description of
the content of the talk and a reading of the term "battle." In the first stage, he proposes an elaborate,
fourfold characterization of the content of the talk as:
(1) The grounding of the sciences in the experience of the essential region of their subject matter.
― 105 ―
(2) The essence of truth as the letting be of what is, as it is.
(3) Preservation of the tradition that has handed down to us the beginning of our Western way of knowing in the Greek
world. (Compare my two hour lecture course of the summer semester 1932: The Beginning of Western Philosophy.)
(4) In keeping with this, our responsibility as part of the Western world.
Even a cursory glance at this list shows that its items are not equally relevant to the rectoral
address. The first item is neither stressed in, nor consistent with, the quasi-Platonic thrust of the talk.
At the time, Heidegger underscored the manner in which the various forms of knowledge are finally
grounded in philosophy, for instance in his claim that all science is philosophy, from which it draws its
strength and essence.
[88] On the contrary, in his present post-Platonic phase he now insists that
science grounds itself in its subject matter. The second item, the essence of truth as letting be, refers
to a view of truth as disclosure already prominent in Heidegger's early work, but not central to the
rectoral address.
[89] The theme of the preservation of the Western view of science originating in
ancient Greece, which Heidegger names in third place, is certainly a main current of the speech. This is
also the case for the so-called responsibility as part of the Western world.
Heidegger offers the second stage of his reading of the concept of defense service in a detailed
series of remarks on the term "battle" (Kampf ). The relation of this term to Hitler's Mein Kampf in the
immediate period leading up to the Second World War is difficult to overlook even now, and was even
more obvious at the time. Heidegger's analysis develops a line of argument already broached in 1935,
a mere two years after the rectoral address, in the lecture course published as An Introduction to
Metaphysics . Here, Heidegger sketches the analysis of Heraclitus's fragment 53, which is the basis of
his later attempt to "deconstruct" the word "battle." Already Heidegger argues that the word "polemos
" means "conflict" in the sense of "Aus-einander-setzung, " literally "setting apart."
Heidegger now makes use of his earlier analysis of "polemos " to draw attention from the clear link
between "Kampf" and Mein Kampf . [91] Heidegger's remarks are obviously meant to deflect attention
from the clear, but implicit, reference to Hitler—consistent with his overall effort in this text to
minimize attention to his interest in National Socialism—through the simple expedient of reinterpreting
the term "battle" to substitute another referent. This phase of the argument depends on an attempt to
invoke an author's privileged access to his intentions. He insists that when he used the German term,
he meant "battle" in a
― 106 ―
specifically Greek sense associated with Heraclitus's thought, in which the word "polemos " does not

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mean "battle." We can paraphrase the intent of the argument as an effort to show that despite the
apparently ordinary manner in which he used "battle" in the rectoral address, in fact he meant by this
word something other than "battle." The claim, then, is that on the testimony of the author we learn
that on occasion he uses ordinary words in extraordinary ways that do not mean what they say. The
presupposition of this kind of interpretation is that sense and reference can just be separated at will,
since in any given instance a new sense and/or reference can be substituted without regard to the
usual way of using the term. Carried to the extreme, the practice to which this argument refers would
obviously render not only textual interpretation, but even communication, impossible.
Heidegger begins by saying that he understands "episteme " and "aletheia " in their Greek senses;
and similarly "battle," too, is understood here in not just any way. "Battle" is thought in the sense of
Heraclitus, fragment 53.
[92] He then goes on to make two points, based on his revised reading of the
word "polemos, " or battle. To begin with he remarks that "polemos " should not be understood as
"war" ("Krieg ") but rather as "eris, " or "strife" ("Streit "), in the sense of "confrontation"
("Aus-einander-setzung, " Heidegger's emphasis). For Heidegger, one can also render "battle" ("Kampf
") as "mutual recognition" ("sich annerkennende Sichaussetzen ") and as "being-exposed"
("Ausgesetztheit ").
This point is doubly difficult to accept. On the one hand, if Heidegger had had a specific Greek
meaning in mind, it is at least odd that he did not specify his reference unless he meant intentionally
to mislead. On the other hand, if he was thinking of Heraclitus's view of strife, then it is further odd to
preserve the second, or alternative, meaning of "battle" as "mutual recognition." The presence of this
second meaning of "struggle" undermines Heidegger's claim. It immediately calls to mind the
well-known struggle for mutual recognition in the master-slave analysis which Hegel employs to
understand the rise of self-consciousness within modern society.
[93] The unexpected use of a Hegelian
concept in this context, where Heidegger is pleading to be understood in terms of the hidden Greek
roots of his thought, points to a different interpretation. For Heidegger's emphasis in the Rektoratsrede
on the need for the German nation to struggle for the realization of its destiny is obviously more
closely related to the struggle for mutual recognition, as Hegel depicts it, than to Heraclitus's supposed
doctrine of polemos as eris .
Heidegger is, of course, aware that his interpretation is nonstandard. In the second stage of his
argument, he protects himself against the more obvious reading of Heraclitus's concept of polemos ,
which he
― 107 ―
regards as a misinterpretation. "Not only should we not think polemos as war and, furthermore, appeal
to the supposedly Heraclitean proposition 'War is the father of all things' to proclaim war and battle as
the highest principle of all being and thus to offer a philosophical justification of the warlike."
[94] The
expression "war is the father of all things" is contained in the usual—for Heidegger,
incorrect—rendering of Heraclitus's fragment 53. Heidegger insists that it would be a further error to
provide a philosophical interpretation of the warlike (das Kriegerische ). Not surprisingly, he says
nothing about a philosophical justification of war, which he earlier offered in the rectoral address in his
reference to Clausewitz.
[95] He maintains that the essential meaning of "polemos " combines the
terms "to show" and "to produce." "The essence of polemos lies in deiknumai , to show, and in poiein ,
to produce, as the Greeks say, to make-it-stand-out in open view. This is the sense of 'battle' thought
philosophically, and what is said in the address is only thought philosophically."
This argument is strained with respect to Heraclitus; it is even more strained in the context of an
effort by Heidegger to minimize his association with National Socialism. Heidegger's revisionary
interpretation of "polemos " turns on his claim of superior insight into the authentic meaning of the
word. A standard reading of the Heraclitean passage in question renders this word as a so-called
"metaphor for the dominance of change in the world."
[97] Heidegger is entitled to read the term as he
would like. But there is no reason to accept his reading as better than or even equal to the standard
view. There is even less reason to accept Heidegger's present claim that he in fact was thinking of a
specific interpretation of Heraclitus's doctrine of polemos when he employed the word "battle" in his
speech. For all signs point to the more obvious association of "battle" with the struggle for German
destiny, which on Heidegger's view of fate in Being and Time requires a battle, through
Nazism—apparent in the unexpected use of the concept of "mutual recognition"—which is the main
theme of the rectoral speech.
Heidegger's ineffective effort to "destroy" the obvious understanding of the term "battle" as
meaning "battle" fails to convince. Heidegger's line of argument is intrinsically flawed since the
assertion about the rectoral speech is independent of his view of Heraclitus. On grounds of

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interpretative indeterminacy, we must reject the presupposition underlying Heidegger's remarks on
Heraclitus, that is, that we can determine the correct interpretation of his or indeed any other position.
What is the correct interpretation of Plato's Republic? We need only to formulate the question to see
that it cannot be answered. In the present case, the attempt to interpret Heraclitus's position is further
complicated by the enormous temporal distance, the uncertainty of the texts, and so on.
― 108 ―
Even if Heidegger were correct about Heraclitus, he would not be entitled to draw the conclusion he
does. It cannot be denied that Heidegger is the author of his own speech. But this fact does not give
him interpretative privilege with respect to the reading of this text. He still needs to show the
plausibility of his reading by comparison with other possible readings in situ . His ingenious reading of
the word "Kampf " as "to show" and "to produce" is simply unconvincing alternatives for the passages
in the Rektoratsrede , in which this word is more easily rendered in standard fashion as "battle" or
Here, Heidegger's awareness that it is plausible to understand the speech as a proclamation of his
faith in National Socialism and not as the defense of the university is a motivating factor in his effort to
present a different interpretation. In the same way as he has argued with respect to a single word that
"Kampf " in fact did not mean what it says, he now maintains that his address in general was not what
it seemed to be, and that it was what it was not. His argument is based on the concept of reflection,
which he sees as central to philosophy in the full sense of the term. The argument begins with a claim
for philosophical reflection as the sole determinant of truth in the full sense. For Heidegger, the
essence of the university cannot be determined on political or other grounds, distinct from reflection
From out of such reflection on the totality of the sciences, the university carries itself, by its own strength, unto its
essential ground, a ground accessible only to the knowing that it cultivates. Its essence can therefore not be determined
from some other place, from the standpoint of "politics" or of some other established goals [aus der "Politik" oder
irgendeiner anderen Zwecksetzung].
This is a version of the well-known Platonic doctrine that philosophy justifies the truth claims of all
the sciences, including itself. But even in the rectoral address, Heidegger's quasi-Platonic insistence
that philosophy founds politics was mitigated by other non-Platonic, even extraphilosophic concerns, in
particular his basic commitment to German destiny in a time of need. For instance, in the initial
paragraph of the speech, in a comment on the essence of the German university, he writes: "This
essence, however, gains clarity, rank, and power only when first of all and at all times the leaders are
themselves led—led by that unyielding spiritual mission that forces the fate of the German people to
bear the stamp of its history."
Heidegger applies his understanding of philosophy as determined by philosophical reflection only
to the interpretation of the speech. For Hei-
― 109 ―
degger. the very title of the address already indicates the role within it of genuine philosophical
reflection. "In keeping with this fundamental conception and attitude [i.e., philosophical reflection] the
address bears the title: 'The Self-Assertion [Selbstbehauptung] of the German University.'"
[100] But
this name was mainly misunderstood and covered up by the widespread failure to exercise genuine
reflection in order to go beyond mere idle talk (Gerede ). "Only a very few understood clearly what this
title alone, taken by itself, meant in the year 1933, because only a few of those whom it concerned
took the trouble to think through what is said, to do so clearly and without mystification, cutting
through idle talk."
This statement requires qualification. To begin with, the statement is unclear, since, as we have
already noted, "self-assertion" can be understood in different ways. The claim is further doubtful since
the "German university" obviously does not, did not, and could not assert itself, whatever the locution
means in this context. Obviously. there is no German university as such, although there are German
universities. The concept of the German university is an abstract designation for its constituent
elements. Moreover, universities do not assert themselves nor can they do so, although individuals
acting on their behalf can claim to act in this way. In the talk, Heidegger, newly elected as the rector
of the University of Freiburg, acted on behalf of his own university as well as all other German
institutions of higher learning. It is important to make these points, although they may seem obvious,
since Heidegger complains that in the main he has been misunderstood.

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As concerns his speech, Heidegger asserts that few have gone beyond idle talk. In Being and Time
, this locution designates an inauthentic form of speech, as a form of the everyday being, or
fallenness, of Dasein.
[102] On this basis, Heidegger now claims that the most obvious way of
understanding his speech is the product of an ordinary failure to think through the situation, due even
to malevolence, in short the result of a lack of reflection which fails to penetrate to the essence of the
One can excuse oneself from reflection and hold onto the seemingly obvious thought that here, a short time after
National Socialism had seized power, a newly elected rector gives an address on the university. an address that
"represents" ["vertritt"] "the" National Socialism ["den" Nationalsozialismus] and that is to say proclaims the idea of
"political science," which, crudely, means: "True is what is good for the people." From this one concludes, and indeed
rightly, that this betrays the essence of the German university in its very core and actively contributes to its destruction;
for this reason the title should rather be: "The Self-Decapitation [Selbstenthauptung] of the German University."
― 110 ―
In this passage, Heidegger directly confronts the particular reading of his speech which is most
dangerous for him. The comment on the view of truth as utility calls attention to a pragmatic
approach, which Heidegger here attributes to a Nazi form of political science. Now in his fundamental
ontology, he argued that the objects of experience are understood as they are in terms of the use to
which they can be put. This is the point of his basic distinction between the readiness-to-hand and
[104] In that sense, his early theory in Being and Time can fairly be understood as a
transcendental form of pragmatism. [105] It is possible to read this objection as directed against his
own earlier transcendental pragmatism as well as against an allegedly Nazi form of political science.
In retrospect, Heidegger's statement offers a remarkable anticipation of his persistent
identification, present throughout his later writings, with a kind of ideal Nazism, distinguished from its
real, Hitlerian form. By enclosing the words "represents" and "the" (as in "the" National Socialism) in
quotation marks, Heidegger distances himself from a type of Nazism, namely that type which in fact
existed and waged and lost the war, leading to his present predicament. In putting distance between
himself and a variety of the genus, he is careful not to reject all types of Nazism. The extraordinary
manner in which Heidegger here leaves open the door to further forms of National Socialism in the
most obvious way only further undermines his effort to portray his rectoral talk as merely concerned
with a defense of the German university.
Heidegger's attempt to refute the obvious, but supposedly superficial, reading of the rectoral
address is unconvincing. He puts the problem as one of the representation of National Socialism. When
formulated in this way, the claim is obviously ambiguous. As the rector of the university, Heidegger in
fact represented National Socialism although he did not represent it as he thought he ought to, that is,
as the leader entitled to lead the leaders, as the leader of the wider "movement." In sum, Heidegger
simply fails to refute the obvious way of reading his speech as a claim to represent Nazism, and the
failure of his effort inadvertently, but clearly, reveals his continued interest in a form of' Nazism
"better" than the Hitlerian variety.
Heidegger goes on to observe that his address was understood neither by those to whom it was
addressed nor by the Nazi party. He reports that Otto Wacker, the Staatsminister für Unterricht und
Kultus in Baden, complained that the talk advanced a form of private National Socialism, not based on
a concept of race, and that the rejection of "political science" was unacceptable. Wacker's reported
reaction is certainly close to the mark. Heidegger did not explicitly base his talk on the concept of race,
and he further mentioned neither Hitler nor the Nazi party.
[106] But
― 111 ―
this is not in itself unusual. The decision to join a political party or to practice a religion is only rarely
based on a total acceptance of the views in question. Moreover, there never was a Nazi credo, a set of
minimal beliefs to which one needed to subscribe in order to be considered a Nazi in good standing.
Like many other academics, Heidegger was unenthusiastic about the Nazi program of racial hatred.
Since Heidegger never accepted, and presumably rejected, elements of the party program, such as its
biologically based form of race hatred, it is correct to describe even the view in the rectoral address as
a private form of National Socialism.
[107] Heidegger further objects to the failure to consider what he
had in mind for "the sake of the inner renewal of the university." [108] But this "failure" is to be
expected if, as in the present case, attention was directed toward the realization of the Nazi program
and toward the university only as it contributed to that end.
Heidegger devotes a paragraph to removing any suggestion of anti-Semitism. This issue is
significant since it has often been argued that Heidegger not only was not a racist but was especially

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well disposed to his Jewish students. [109] Heidegger has been accused of [110] and defended against
the charge of anti-Semitism. [111] He responds to this accusation by twice pointing out that he refused
to post the so-called "Jew Notice" in the university. [112] Among Heidegger's defenders, the question
of Heidegger's anti-Semitism is confused by related issues, such as the concern to differentiate
anti-Semitism from anti-Judaism.
[113] Recently, the efforts undertaken to protect Heidegger against
this charge have been refuted through the publication of a previously unknown letter, written by
Heidegger in 1929, that is, before the Nazis came to power, which clearly shows his anti-Semitism in
his pointed rejection of the" 'Jewification' of the German spirit [Verjudung des deutschen
[114] In the context of Heidegger's Nazism, the definitive refutation of the effort to protect
Heidegger against the charge of anti-Semitism is important for what it tells us about Heidegger, who
can no longer be protected against this accusation. It is further important since it effectively
undermines the continued efforts of Heidegger's closest supporters to defend his life and thought
through a supposedly deeper understanding of his position.
Heidegger's opposition to biologism is sometimes invoked to distance him from Nazism.
[115] Yet
the antibiologism which Heidegger shared with many other intellectuals is compatible with
anti-Semitism and Nazism. Biologism was not as important to Nazism, at least until well after National
Socialism came to power, as the traditional anti-Semitism strikingly present in, for instance, Luther's
[116] and even in speeches before the German Reichstag, or parliament. [117] There is a
distinction between biologism and anti-Semitism. The Nazi view that only a member of the community
(Volksgenosse ), or someone with German blood,
― 112 ―
can be a citizen, promulgated as early as 1920, was made explicit in 1933 in the so-called "Aryan
paragraph" (Arierparagraph ). This defined "Aryans" as people with no Jewish ancestors and
"non-Aryans" as those with at least one Jewish parent or grandparent.
[118] Since the sole criterion for
categorization as Aryan or non-Aryan was religion, not race, the anti-Semitism common among
German academics, and espoused by Heidegger, is not antithetical to, but compatible with, Nazism.
Heidegger accords special attention to when and how he joined the Nazi party.
[119] His aim is to
show that he was only minimally interested in official Nazism. In this respect, he makes three points.
First, he states that when he was already in office, it was called to his attention that the minister
thought it important for rectors to belong to the party. Second, he accepted this invitation only on the
explicit condition not to undertake any political activity. Third, as rector his membership remained pro
forma only and he did not play any substantive role in the party.
This portion of the discussion represents at best a series of half-truths. It is false that Heidegger
became a Nazi party member after he took office since it is known that he already belonged to the
party at that time.
[120] In fact, his sympathies for National Socialism go back at least to 1931, that is,
before the Nazi party came to power. [121] It is also known that Heidegger voted for Hitler. Even
sympathetic observers agree that he placed his hopes in Hitler in 1933. [122] It is further known that,
even after his decision to resign as rector, Heidegger remained a party member until the end of the
Second World War. It is fair to say that although Heidegger gave up his post as rector, there was
never a break with official Nazism during this period.
[123] In sum, despite his effort to minimize the
relation to National Socialism, it is clear that Heidegger's interest in Nazism clearly antedated and
survived his period as rector.
Heidegger now turns to a description of the end of his rectorate. He describes his resignation as
forced by an increasing pressure exerted on him to compromise his professional principles. He lists two
instances, which he presents as threats to the university that arose in the second, or summer,
semester of 1933. First, he says that it was made clear to him that the faculties required a National
Socialist leadership, which entailed appointing deans based on political reliability as opposed to
scholarship or teaching ability.
[125] Second, he reports an effort, in accordance with the views of the
medical, legal, and teaching professions, to divide the university into professional schools, which he
viewed as threatening the unity and mode of academic training he favored.
It is not clear why Heidegger resigned his position as rector. His description of his reaction to the
twin dangers threatening the university is difficult to reconcile with his own claim to have assumed the
rectorate only to protect the university. If he really desired to protect the univer-
― 113 ―
sity, then he had even more reason to remain as rector when the threat increased. Although we
cannot discount Heidegger's genuine desire to bring about a form of university grounded in his

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understanding of Greek science, this factor alone is insufficient to explain his decision to resign. It has
been suggested, in reference to Heidegger's determination to achieve power in the university, that the
resignation was provoked by the violent elimination of Röhm and the SA leadership, Heidegger's
supposed allies.
[127] Heidegger's desire to achieve hegemony in the academy, illustrated in the
rectoral talk by the quasi-Platonic claim to lead the leaders, is evident in the present text in two ways:
the repeated rejection of "political science" and a comment in passing on Krieck's spreading influence
in connection with the need to install a National Socialist leadership in the different faculties of the
[128] It would be odd for Heidegger to object to the promotion of a National Socialist
leadership in the university since as rector he ran the university, as its leader (Führer ), according to
the Nazi Führerprinzip . The objection to Krieck's spreading influence is plausible when we remember
Heidegger's increasing dismay at Krieck's criticism of him.
[129] But despite that dismay, Heidegger
continued to collaborate with Krieck until September 1934, that is, even after he resigned as rector.
[130] Still another reason is the evident indifference of official Nazism to philosophy in whole or in part.
Although a number of philosophers, including Heidegger, made impressive efforts to achieve
philosophical hegemony within National Socialism, the Nazis seemed rather unconcerned with
philosophy in general.
[131] The Nazi indifference to philosophy, of which Heidegger may only later
have become aware, would have been difficult for him to accept since he took his own philosophical
contribution with utmost seriousness, even to the point of insisting that without it Nazism could not be
Heidegger presents his resignation as due to an incompatibility between his own and the Nazi view
of the university and science, as well as between the National Socialist Weltanschauung and his own
In my meeting with the minister, who immediately accepted my resignation, it became clear that a discrepancy
[Zwiespalt] separated the National Socialist conception of the university and science from my own, which could not be
bridged. The minister declared that he did not want this opposition, which to be sure [wohl] rested on the incompatibility
of my philosophy with the National Socialist Weltanschauung . to reach the public as a conflict between the University of
Freiburg and the ministry.
This description has an air of unreality. It is difficult to imagine a Nazi minister telling an important
official about to tender his resignation that to do so would enable him to recover his freedom of action.
Heidegger is
― 114 ―
correct to point to differences, or points of disagreement, between his and the Nazi views of the
university and science. Such differences include the respective views of race, "political science," the
quality of appointments, and perhaps the professionalization of the university. But these points of
disagreement, some of which were already described in the rectoral address, were not new, and
certainly did not come into being during Heidegger's short period as rector. Since these differences
were in part already known to Heidegger and neither prevented his adherence to Nazism or his
assumption of the rectorate, it is difficult to regard them as later motivating his resignation from the
Heidegger traces the suggested incompatibility between his and the Nazi views of the university
and science to the supposed incompatibility between his philosophy and the National Socialist
"Weltanschauung. "
[133] Heidegger's use of the term to characterize National Socialist thought recalls
Husserl's attack on Weltanschauungsphilosophie , associated with Dilthey, and historicism as two
forms of relativism, which leads to skepticism.
[134] It points as well to Heidegger's rejection of the
Nazi effort to develop a National Socialist Weltanschauung and even to reject philosophy in favor of a
Weltanschauung .
[135] In his application of this locution to the National Socialist view, Heidegger
implies its inadequacy as a philosophy, the same point he made in the speech in his suggestion that it
required genuine philosophical grounding;
[136] and he further implies that it leads to skepticism and
nihilism. Yet Heidegger overstates the degree of incompatibility between National Socialism and his
own thought, since it was the area of agreement and not the disagreements which enabled Heidegger
to turn to Nazism.
In the final part of this section, Heidegger reflects on the significance of his rectorate through a
comment on its connection to modern science. This passage is important as a summary of his defense
of his actions as rector and as an indication of the later evolution of his thought. "Unimportant as it is
in itself, the case of the rectorate 1933-34 would seem to be a sign of the metaphysical state of the
essence of science, a science that can no longer be influenced by attempts at its renewal, nor delayed
in its essential transformation into technology [Technik]."
[137] After noting that he only came to

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realize this afterwards, Heidegger refers to his 1938 lecture "The Age of the World Picture." [138] He
then writes, in language that for the first time in this text directly recalls that of the rectoral address:
The rectorate was an attempt to see in the "movement" that had come to power, beyond all its failings and crudities,
something that reached much farther and that might some day bring about a gathering of what is German unto the
historical essence of the West. In no way shall it be denied
― 115 ―
that at the time I believed in such possibilities and for this reason renounced the thinker's most proper vocation in order
to help realize them in an official capacity. [139]
This reflection is obviously intended to place the rectorate within the context of Heidegger's
single-minded concern with ontology. For Heidegger, science is being ineluctably transformed into
technology. This view implies that Heidegger's failure can be imputed to the ontological process itself,
to Being, and not to his own failings, such as his failure to perceive the nature of National Socialism,
his mistaken evaluation of its chances for success, his misunderstanding of the real possibility of
leading the movement or reforming the university, and so on. Now the implied shift in responsibility is
plausible only if in fact there is a fated transformation under way of science into technology. But it
does not follow that the ontological process, or metaphysics, or history is ineluctable because
Heidegger "failed." It is plausible to consider his "failure" as deriving from some rather more ordinary
factors, such as a difference of opinion between Heidegger, who represented Nazism in the university,
and other Nazi officials about the nature of the university and science, the increasing influence of
Krieck, and so on. These are factors unrelated to the supposed transformation of science into
Heidegger's effort to attenuate his own responsibility rests on a doubtful thesis about the link
between technology and science. Obviously. there are different ways of understanding technology and
its relation to science. In Heidegger's model, what once was science in the Greek sense gave birth to
technology, which is in the process of devouring its father. But this reduction of modern science to
technology is an inaccurate description. Many forms of modern science are unimaginable without
technology; but this is not true of modern science as such, which cannot simply be reduced to
technology. It is more accurate to say that modern science and modern technology interact, although
neither can be reduced to, nor explained in terms of, the other.
Heidegger's statement that in 1933 he believed that German destiny could be realized through a
turn to National Socialism is an accurate account. It is entirely consistent with the spirit and letter of
the rectoral address and with the first element of his threefold consideration in assuming the
[141] But it is inconsistent with his repeated claim elsewhere in this text that the heart of the
rectoral speech is a concern with the essence of science and knowing. [142] The result is to call
attention to a deep ambiguity in his overall aim in turning to Nazism. Here, Heidegger stresses his
concern with the university as an end in itself; yet study of the rectoral address clearly shows that in
his speech his concern with the university was subordinated to the destiny of the German Volk ;
― 116 ―
and he never tires of proclaiming that his single concern is finally the problem of Being.
Heidegger's remark on the rectorate suggests that science is metaphysical. His observation
presupposes a standpoint "beyond" metaphysics. Heidegger ends his reflection on the rectorate with a
comment on how to surpass metaphysics linked to the so-called turning (Kehre ) of his later thought,
including his transition from philosophy to thought, and indicating his growing attention to the
importance of poetry.
What is essential is that we are caught up in the consummation of nihilism, that God is "dead," and every time-space for
the godhead covered up. The surmounting of nihilism nevertheless announces itself in German poetic thinking and
Heidegger's point is that, like science, all of modern life is caught up in the nihilism following from
metaphysics—precisely the theme of his Nietzsche lectures—although a way beyond nihilism and,
hence, metaphysics can be glimpsed in poetry.

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After the Rectorate
The shorter third, and final, section of the text bears the German title: "The Time after the Rectorate."
It mainly concerns Heidegger's complaints about perceived professional slights after his resignation.
He objects in passing to criticism voiced by Ernst Krieck, the Nazi pedagogue, and Alfred Baeumler,
apart from Heidegger the most prominent German philosopher to identify publicly with Nazism.
Heidegger complains as well that he was under surveillance and that his best students (Gadamer,
Krüger, Bröcker) were kept back in their academic careers. He finally indicates unhappiness about the
difficulty in publishing his writings and his exclusion from official German delegations to international
philosophical congresses.
From a strictly philosophical perspective, this section is more historical and thus less interesting
than the preceding ones. Four passages require comment. The first one is a remark Heidegger makes
in passing about a philosophical meeting in Berlin to which neither he nor Jaspers was invited, but
which apparently resulted in an attack on "existential philosophy." "In this case, too, as already during
the rectorate, and notwithstanding the oppositions that divided them, my opponents demonstrated a
strange willingness to ally themselves against everything by which they felt spiritually threatened and
put into question."
[145] This remark illustrates Heidegger's almost petulant view that he received
insufficient attention, that he wasn't taken seriously enough.
― 117 ―
Second, there is Heidegger's comment, also in passing, that he had no illusions about the possible
consequences of his actions after he resigned from office.
I had no illusions about the possible consequences of my resignation from office in the spring of 1934; after June 30 of
the same year, these consequences became completely clear. Anyone who after that still assumed an administrative
office in the university was in a position to know beyond the shadow of a doubt with whom he was bargaining.
This passage is ambiguous. It might mean that after he resigned, for that reason Heidegger felt
that he ran a personal risk, as was made clear with the physical elimination of Röhm and the S.A.
leadership. Or it might conceivably mean that the realization of the kind of people with whom he was
dealing led Heidegger to reassess his support for their common ends.
It is, however, unlikely that until 30 June 1934 Hitler's intentions were not clear. According to
Fédier, the most unrelenting of Heidegger's defenders, the essence of Nazism was not clear until 1938.
[147] Jaspers accepts the view that the Nazi intentions became clear only gradually, since he remarks
in his report on Heidegger, where he doubts the extent of Heidegger's change of heart, that anything
less than a radical turn away from Nazism after 30 June 1934 is of lesser worth.
[148] But he remarks
pertinently elsewhere that despite the lack of precise information, the general lines of Nazism, its lies,
its criminality, were known to any one who desired to know.
[149] In a letter to Jaspers, Heidegger
admits that in 1933 and even earlier the "Jews and the left-wing politicians" already knew. [150]
Indeed, somebody must have known since at the time Heidegger became rector in the spring of 1933,
concentration camps were already being built in the region of Freiburg. It is absurd to maintain that
Heidegger had not understood the main thrust of Nazism since Hitler had repeatedly made it perfectly
clear in Mein Kampf and elsewhere. And Heidegger relied in part on this work, which he cited in his
public praise of Schlageter as a kind of Nazi saint, as a hero in the sense identified in Being and Time
Third, there is a further remark on the significance of the rectorate, which Heidegger now
describes in Nietzschean terms in a final effort to free himself from any responsibility. Whereas in the
talk, he exalted the importance of the rectorate, he now demeans it as essentially meaningless.
"Taken by itself, it [i.e., the rectorate] is as unimportant as the barren rooting in past attempts and
measures taken, which in the context of the entire movement of the planetary will to power are so
insignificant that they may not even be called tiny."
[152] This description of the
― 118 ―
rectorate's significance is only apparently inconsistent with its earlier description through the supposed
metaphysical transformation of science into technology. Common to both is Heidegger's conviction
that the reign of metaphysics can be understood as ongoing development of the will to power whose
most advanced form is the increasing encroachment of technology. Once again, it is difficult to
overlook Heidegger's implicit self-exculpation in the face of the domination of what he now calls the
planetary will to power.

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Fourth, we can note the dark statement which ends the essay. "But these events, too, are only a
fleeting appearance on waves of a movement of our history, of whose dimensions the Germans have
as yet no inkling, even now that catastrophe has engulfed them."
[153] Once again Heidegger makes
the familiar, but unverifiable claim of superior insight into history, including the future, following from
his basic distinction between authenticity and inauthenticity. This statement is further interesting for
the obvious transformation of the revolutionary enthusiasm of the rectoral speech, where Heidegger
thought he stood at a turning point in German history, into a kind of conceptual dark night of the soul
where the real possibility for a radiant future has disappeared.
This chapter has been devoted to an examination of Heidegger's selfjustificatory, indulgent
interpretation of the Rektoratsrede in a time of personal need. Heidegger's defense consists in an
effort to demonstrate that his rectoral address was directed toward the defense of the university with
respect to knowing and science. Although this is literally true in part, it is insufficient as a description
of the text as a whole, and false as an account of its spirit. For Heidegger's concerns with the
university and with science as the rector, or educational Führer , of the University of Freiburg were
means to other ends, including the grounding of Nazism in fundamental ontology; the realization of
the Germans as German, the goal he shared with National Socialism; and further insight into Being.
The central insight that emerges from this inspection of Heidegger's self-interpretation of the
rectoral address is the tension between his claim to be concerned only with the defense of the
university and his continued stress on the destiny of the Germans and on Being. The latter concerns,
which derive from Being and Time , remained constant throughout his later thought. We have already
noted that Heidegger's remark that he did not renounce his thought in his effort, in an official capacity,
to realize the essence of what is German, is significant.
[154] This statement should be recognized as
what it is, as a clear admission of a seamless web, a direct link, between his own thought, as he
understood it, of the concept of authenticity applied to the Germans as a whole and his turn to Nazism
as presenting a propitious moment, a kairos , to realize this goal.
― 119 ―
"Ways to Discussion"
Heidegger's position later evolved, but it remained unchanged in important ways, including the
concern with Being, the central theme in his thought early and late, and as concerns the authentic
realization of the German people, based on his original concept of authenticity. An important
statement of that point is available in a little-known, as yet untranslated text, published in 1937, that
is, after the Rektoratsrede but before the essay about it. In his text, titled "Ways to Discussion,"
Heidegger ostensibly reexamines the Hegelian theme of the conditions of agreement between the
French and the Germans.
[155] He maintains that any agreement must be based on mutual respect,
which he suggests can only come about through listening to each other and the courage for their
"proper self-limitation [eigenen Bestimmung]."
[156] 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:
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 for an enlightening plan [Kraft zum verklärenden Entwurf] of 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

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― 120 ―
character of "a conversation of essential thinking with itself [Selbstgesprách des wesentlichen Denkens
mit sich selbst]."
[158] Although Heidegger gave up his rectorate, he continued to share the 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 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 awarenesss 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 role of philosophy, strongly 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 den philosophischen Grundstellung],
if the power and the will for it can be correspondingly awakened, then the dominating 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 people.
[162] If
we accept Heidegger's asser-
― 121 ―
tion that his turn toward Nazism was motivated by the desire to realize German authenticity which he
believed was made possible through National Socialism, then we can infer that his withdrawal from his
official capacity does not represent an abandonment of his view of the revolutionary role of true
philosophy or of the end in view; at most it represents an awareness that Nazism as it exists is ill
adapted, in fact has failed, to achieve this goal.
We see the full significance of this point when we recall that in 1947, in the "Letter on Humanism,"
Heidegger suggested that in virtue of its inconsequential nature, after the so-called turning in his
thought his view surpasses practice. "[T]hinking is a deed. But a deed that also surpasses all praxis.
Thinking towers above action and production, not through the grandeur of its achievement and not as
a consequence of its effect, but through the humbleness of its inconsequential accomplishment."
Is he saying that thinking is deeper than thought concerned with action and production? Is thinking
inconsequential because, looking backward to the rectorate, it failed in its task? This is unclear. What
is, however, clear is that this self-description of his thought is misleading since Heidegger never
abandoned his attachment to Being, his concern with the realization of the destiny of the German
people, and his stubborn conviction that his own thought has a key role in bringing about these ends.
Heidegger's thought, even after his supposed turning beyond philosophy, was and remained political in
this specific sense. Heidegger claimed to have assumed the rectorate in order to defend the university;
but this was in fact merely a secondary end. For his deeper intention, as a close reading of the texts
shows, was and remained the realization of the authentic essence of the German people and the
furtherance of the thought of Being.
― 122 ―

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The History of Philosophy: Nietzsche and the History of Ontology
Provisional Results
The discussion has so far focused on the two texts most directly connected to Heidegger's turn to
Nazism: the Rektoratsrede of 27 May 1933, in which the newly elected rector of the University of
Freiburg publicly identified himself, the university he represented, and the German university in
general with National Socialism; and the article from 1945, posthumously published only in 1983, in
which Heidegger, personally beleaguered after the defeat of Germany, sought to distance himself from
real National Socialism.
This inquiry into Heidegger's Nazism has taken seriously his statement that the hermeneutical
process needs to defend against semblance and disguise—in a word, to snatch entities out of their
hiddenness. I have scrutinized the Rektoratsrede and the 1945 essay with some care since these
writings, particularly the latter, are more often mentioned than studied in detail. Study of these texts
reveals that despite denials by some of Heidegger's staunchest defenders, and despite his refusal to
accept certain elements of the heteroclite series of doctrines known as National Socialism, Heidegger
identified, in fact deeply identified, with Nazism; but he later sought to mask this identification, in
particular through the formulation of what I have called the "official" version of his relation to National
Socialism, which was later developed and spread by his followers.
With respect to Heidegger's Nazism, the above discussion has demonstrated the following points
inter alia .
― 123 ―
— Heidegger turned to Nazism on the basis of his philosophical position.
— Heidegger's theory of Being, or fundamental ontology, includes a political dimension that can
only lead to Nazism or something like Nazism—in short, a totalitarian political movement.
— Heidegger shared with National Socialism a common goal of the realization of the essence of the
German Volk .
— Heidegger's concern with authentic human being, ingredient in the Nazi turning, is inseparable
from his deeper interest in the problem of Being.
— Heidegger's stress on philosophy as the ground of politics is a further form of the Platonic view
that philosophy is indispensable for the good life.
— In the context of his effort to realize the essence of the German Volk , Heidegger insisted on the
defense of the university, in particular of science in the Greek sense and knowing.
— The defense of the university and of the Greek conception of science was an intermediate goal,
not an end in itself, although he later portrayed it as the final end of his action as rector.
— Heidegger later sought to distance himself from National Socialism, in particular through an
"official" explanation tending to deny what could be denied and to minimize what could not be denied
in order to represent his philosophy as untainted by his politics.
— Heidegger's later claim that in 1933 he turned to National Socialism only in order to defend the
university is indefensible; in fact, even as he seeks to deny an interest in Nazi politics, he continues to
acknowledge that in 1933 he indeed believed that National Socialism represented a historic turning
point in the destiny of the German nation.
— Heidegger's assumption of the rectorate also reflected his effort, like Krieck and Baeumler, to
use the rise of National Socialism for his own personal advantage.
This list, which is not exhaustive, is helpful to focus the relation between Heidegger's thought and
Nazism. Heidegger's relation to Nazism can be represented as a series of three turnings: a turning
toward real National Socialism when he became rector of the University of Freiburg and attempted to
found Nazi politics through his philosophy of Being; a second turning away from real Nazism when he
resigned as rector; and a third, simultaneous turning toward an ideal form of Na-
― 124 ―
zism. The first turning is based in his fundamental ontology. His theory of Being is intrinsically political,
since it requires a turn to the political plane in order not only to comprehend, but to realize
authenticity and, as a result, to further the grasp of Being. The second turning is a turning away from

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really existing Nazism for reasons that are not clear but that may well include Heidegger's tardy
awareness of the evident failure of his effort to lead the leaders. During the period when he was
rector, Heidegger went to considerable lengths to reform the university in order to bend it in the
direction of Nazism. But in the end, he was not widely followed in this endeavor. It is a little as if, to
vary the well-known fable, the king had no clothes on and he finally realized it. For although Heidegger
sought to lead, few desired to follow him. The third turning is Heidegger's continued allegiance after
the rectorate, not to Hitlerian National Socialism, which in reality did not measure up to Heidegger's
idea of it, but its ideal form which Heidegger continued to favor.
This list indicates that Heidegger's relation to Nazism was founded in his philosophical thought,
hence not a merely contingent occurrence due to his misperception of the political situation, lack of
knowledge of the world, or uncritical acceptance of others' suggestions. It further indicates that,
despite his withdrawal from the rectorate, he did not alter his conviction of the importance of National
Socialism. Now this latter claim is controversial. As part of the effort at damage control, Heidegger and
his followers have stressed that after the rectorate he withdraw into the isolation of the solitary thinker
who continued to struggle with the thought of Being until the end of his life. It has typically been
suggested, following Heidegger's own view of the matter, that his relation to Nazism was merely a
transitory episode, a short and philosophically meaningless period that should not be exaggerated
and was in fact independent of his thought. Moreover, Heidegger has suggested, and his followers
have affirmed, that in his later writings he came to grips with, in fact criticized, National Socialism. [2]
We need, now, to address the question of how Heidegger's Nazism, whose existence can no longer be
doubted, impacts on his later thought. Only in this way will it be possible to determine whether his
later position is unaffected by his Nazism, or whether in his later writings he in fact confronts National
Socialism, or, finally, whether he continues to maintain his interest in Nazism.
To make this determination, we will need to consider relevant portions of Heidegger's later
writings. In a way, all of Heidegger's corpus is relevant since traces of the theme that concerns us
here run throughout his thought from beginning to end. An example among many is Heidegger's
recurrent opposition to any form of Weltanschauungsphilosophie , an objection he brings against
National Socialism in the essay on the rectorate. The theme of the relation between philoso-
― 125 ―
phy and Weltanschauung , as well as further themes of university reform, prominent in the rectoral
talk, and the relation of the theory of value to phenomenology, strongly criticized in 1935 in An
Introduction to Metaphysics immediately after the rectorate,
[3] are the three main topics of
Heidegger's first lecture series in 1919. [4] In the motto he chose for the edition of his collected
writings—Wege, nicht Werke —Heidegger justly emphasized the continual change of his thought. But
there is an astonishing continuity in his position since the themes that initially attracted his attention
are still there at the end.
In view of the size of Heidegger's corpus, it will be necessary to focus the discussion on those
writings most relevant to the present discussion. Among his writings after the rectorate, in my view
the most important texts for his later thought and for a grasp of his Nazism include his Nietzsche
lectures, the recently published Beiträge zur Philosophie , and his essays on technology. If Heidegger
later left Nazism behind, if he confronted National Socialism, this change will, or at least should, be
visible in these texts. On the contrary, if Heidegger's turn away from real National Socialism were
simultaneously a turn to an ideal form of Nazism, then it should be possible to point to passages in his
writings which justify this reading of his later thought. In both cases, the time has come to go beyond
unsubstantiated claims about what Heidegger may or may not have thought, what he may or may not
have said, to examine the texts themselves as the final arbiter of the position without special pleading
of any kind, in the same way as one would for any other thinker.
The Rektoratsrede and, to a lesser extent, Heidegger's discussion of the rectorate are exoteric
writings, directed to the wider public and not specifically intended for the philosophical community.
Heidegger's lectures on Nietzsche, his Beiträge , and the essays on technology, come under the
heading of his esoteric writings, specifically directed to his students or to his philosophical peers, in
which Heidegger sought to work out his own position. The task of this chapter is to carry the
discussion of Heidegger's Nazism further in order to determine whether, and how, his own thought
changed in the wake of his encounter with National Socialism, in particular the sense in which he
comes to grips with Nazism in his later position. Heidegger suggests that his "first Hölderlin lecture"
and his "Nietzsche lectures" were "a confrontation with National Socialism."
[5] Following Heidegger, it
has been claimed that from the moment of the lectures on Nietzsche "National Socialism ceases to
become a historical recourse against errancy. It becomes, in its idea and in its reality , the most
crepuscular form of errancy itself."
[6] It has further been claimed that "with Nietzsche, Heidegger

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recognized the nihilism of real National Socialism." [7]
― 126 ―
Heidegger's First HöIderlin Lecture Series
The initial series of Hölderlin lectures are important in themselves and for a consideration of
Heidegger's Nazism. They occurred in 1934/ 35, in close proximity to his resignation from the
rectorate and immediately before the lecture series published under the title An Introduction to
Metaphysics .
[8] The first Hölderlin lecture series was later followed by two others, which have also
been published, given in the winter semester of 1941/42 and in the summer semester of 1942. [9]
Heidegger's first series of Hölderlin lectures is titled Hölderlin's Hymns Germania and the Rhine
. [10] Although there is a good deal of Hölderlin interpretation in this text, the lectures are mainly
devoted to an appropriation of the poet for the purposes of Heidegger's own theory. Here in the wake
of the rectoral address, and the failure of the rectorate, Heidegger turns to poetry several years before
he embarks on a great cycle of Nietzsche lectures. Heidegger's discussion of Hölderlin has evoked
sustained critical discussion.
[11] Our concern here is less with the extent to which Heidegger
contributes to Hölderlin scholarship than with the importance of his Hölderlin discussion for his own
position. The immediate problem is to understand how poetry relates to Heidegger's evolving
conception of the question of Being, which remains his central interest, and the effect of that turn to
poetry on the relation between his thought and Nazism. We need to ask: does Heidegger free himself
from, or loosen the ties to, National Socialism in the first cycle of Hölderlin lectures?
In order to understand Heidegger's use of Hölderlin, we need to characterize the point of
development reached by Heidegger's thought in the immediately preceding period. Heidegger himself
calls attention to the relation between the rectoral address and the inaugural lecture, "What Is
Metaphysics?" As late as the inaugural lecture, Heidegger still maintained a version of the traditional
view of philosophy as transcendental science. His increasingly overt turning toward Nietzsche was
visible in the rectoral talk in his insistence on Nietzsche's proposition of the death of God and the idea
of a confrontation with Western thought through a return to its beginnings. The consequence, which
was played out in the Nietzsche lectures, the "Letter on Humanism," the Beiträge zur Philosophie , and
other later writings, is the effort to move beyond philosophy.
This entire effort represents a strengthening of the antirationalist, even gnostic side of Heidegger's
thought. Heidegger's original position combines rationalistic and antirationalist aspects. The rationalist
― 127 ―
is evident in Heidegger's insistence in his writings through the period of the inaugural lecture on a
version of the traditional view of philosophy as transcendental science. The incipient antirationalist side
of his position is already evident in Being and Time in various ways, for instance in his insistence on
the analysis of Dasein as prior to and apart from the various sciences (§ 10), in the antiscientific
perspective of the work in general which Jaspers, for example, found objectionable,
[12] in the
abandonment of the Husserlian conception of transcendental truth, on which Heidegger insisted early
in the book (§ 7) in favor of the view of truth as disclosure (§§ 44, 68), and in the idea of resoluteness
(§ 74). The conceptions of truth as disclosure and resoluteness are basically antirational since there
are no criteria to discern the correctness of either one.
The evolution of Heidegger's thought after Being and Time basically weakens its initial rationalistic
side in favor of a growing antirationalism leading finally to the turn beyond the philosophical tradition.
An antirationalist, quasi-gnostic side of Heidegger's thought is already evident in the rectoral address.
It may even be directly related to Heidegger's mistaken identification of National Socialism as offering
an occasion to seize the future realization of the Germans. Heidegger's perception of the advent of
Nazism as a historical turning point depends on the ability to see into history. This is an application of
the conception of truth as disclosure, a mainstay of Heidegger's position as early as Being and
[13] and at least until the late essay, "The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking," [14] to the
interpretation of historical phenomena. As early as the rectoral talk, Heidegger claimed to use
Nietzsche's thought, mediated by his own study of Jünger, literally to see into history, to grasp the
essence of what is with respect to the present and future. In the wake of his coming turn away from
philosophy to thought, Heidegger could no longer maintain this point in the same way. In his turn to
poetry, specifically to Hölderlin, he maintained his antirationalist claim for insight into history and the

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future through a reference beyond the philosophical tradition.
Heidegger turns to Hölderlin's poetry as a source of extraphilosphical truth. His concern to
appropriate Hölderlin's poetry for his effort to find truth in a realm beyond philosophy is apparent as
early as the short "Preliminary Remark" (Vorbemerkung ) preceding the first series of Hölderlin
lectures. In this and other writings, Heidegger adopts the pose, based on his conception of
authenticity, that readings of prior theories which differ from his own are inauthentic. He applies this
claim to the interpretation of Hölderlin. For Heidegger, to misinterpret "Hölderlin and his Gods" is to
reduce this "poet finally to ineffectualness [Wirkungslosigkeit]."
[15] In approaching Hölderlin in this
― 128 ―
manner, one misses the "essential," namely, that "he founded the beginning of another history, the
history that begins with the struggle about the decision on the coming or flight of God."
Several words in this statement are suggestive, including "history," "God," "struggle," "beginning,"
and "decision." If we recall Heidegger's earlier attention, in the rectoral address, to Nietzsche's
aphorism about the death of God, as well as his remark in the Spiegel interview that only a God can
save us,
[17] we can note Heidegger's stress on the need to struggle concerning a decision about the
future arrival or departure of God. Here, Heidegger is preparing to use Hölderlin to forward his own
view of himself as a seer of Being, he who sees into the future, including the possibility of the future of
the Germans as German.
As the title of the lecture course suggests, it is divided into two parts, each of which is ostensibly
devoted to the analysis of a poem by the great German poet. Taken as a whole, the discussion is very
repetitive; Heidegger frequently returns to the same ideas, often in the same or closely similar
formulations. An example, among many, is the pathetic statement—which in the wake of the rectorate
has an autobiographical ring—repeated several times, that we do not know who we are.
[18] The virtue
of Heidegger's repeated treatment of the same, or similar, themes is to accord them an almost
pedagogical emphasis, appropriate for a course, in order to permit the final view of a particular theme
to emerge gradually—by accretion, so to speak.
Heidegger insists that his aim is not to interpret Hölderlin but to create a space for poetry in our
historical being.
[19] He understands his task as surpassing metaphysics, hence implicitly going beyond
philosophy itself, "in developing the question concerning the origin and basis of Hölderlin's poetry as
the poets of poets."
[20] The reason for the concern with Hölderlin's poetry, great as it is, is not a mere
hermeneutics of poetical texts. Hölderlin's poetry is important for reasons beyond its mere poetic
qualities, as providing a way to respond to the historical situation, the situation in which, for
Heidegger, the hour of our history has struck.
As is his fashion, Heidegger never directly argues his view, although his writing is full of concealed
arguments. We can reconstruct his view by following along in the text. We do not know who we are, a
point Heidegger repeatedly urges, in most striking fashion in the statement that "the gods have flown,
[and] who man is, we do not know."
[22] Heidegger insists that poetry can help us in our time of need.
For Heidegger, poetry is a way of literally making present a kind of saying of revelation, [23] both the
most harmless and the most fearful. [24] More to the point, Heidegger tells us that the historical
existence of peoples springs from poetry, from which authentic philosophical knowledge derives as
well, and that from
― 129 ―
both follows the realization of the existence of a people as a people in the state, or politics. "We have
already heard... that the historical existence of people, the rise, peak, and fall, spring from poetry and
from this authentic knowledge in the philosophical sense, and from both the realization of the
existence of a people as a people through the state— politics."
For Heidegger, then, poetry is deeper than philosophy, which derives from it. A role earlier
attributed to philosophy, namely the authentic gathering of the German Volk , is now displaced to
poetry since philosophy depends on it. Consistent with his view that truth lies beyond philosophy,
Heidegger now locates truth in poetry, which makes possible the historical repetition of the German
heritage. Whereas before philosophy was shown to be political, now both poetry and philosophy are
regarded as intrinsically political, since they lead to historical destiny in a political context. In the
rectoral address, Heidegger presented a version of the Platonic idea that philosophy founds politics,
but poetry was not a factor. Heidegger now attributes a fundamental political role to poetry. For
Heidegger, poetry founds philosophy as its ultimate source, both are intrinsically political, and both are

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necessary for the Germans to finally be German in the full sense. What Heidegger in the rectoral
address saw as the possibility for the realization of the German people through philosophy is now
depicted as a realization finally dependent on poetry.
Heidegger develops his claim for poetry through a complex analysis of the relation between poetry
on the one hand and Being, history, and a people on the other. For Heidegger, poetry gives (stiftet )
Being. Or, as he also says, poetry is the most originary language of a people.
[26] Heidegger expands
this view slightly when he says that poetry is the basic framework of historical being and that language
is the basic event of historical existence.
[27] His point is that we literally are language or constituted
by a discussion, but that poetry provides the most basic form of language in which our being as
human beings is made available to us. The effect is to privilege poetry as a means to deliver us to
ourselves—as beings defined through our use of language—from within the poetic dimension.
If this were the goal of Heidegger's view of poetry, it would not be very interesting. It would, in
spite of his disclaimer, turn out to be a kind of romanticism preaching poetry as the source of who we
are. Yet Heidegger is no mere romantic, although he is also that. In the rectoral address, he argued
for philosophy as the condition of the gathering of the Germans in an authentic sense. Here, where
poetry has taken on the role of philosophy, he makes a similar point with respect to poetry. The
significance of poetry is that it captures the historical being of a people,
― 130 ―
its basic mood.
[28] In fact, since "the fatherland" is Being, and the poet is the voice of Being,
Heidegger concludes, in a passage that sounds suspiciously like Nazi propaganda, at a time when he
has supposedly broken with Nazism, that through the poet the Being of the fatherland is experienced
as the authentic and sole being.
This [i.e., the fatherland] does not play the external role of a closely related case, in terms of which the passing away
and coming to being in the passing away can be illuminated in an exemplary fashion; on the contrary, the Being of the
fatherland [Seyn des Vaterlandes], that is, the historical existence of its people [des Volkes], is experienced as the
authentic and sole Being, from which the basic orientation to beings in general arises and wins its structure [Gefüge].
The upshot of the claim is that the authentic way of Being of the fatherland, hardly an innocent
term in the midst of the Third Reich, is lodged nowhere else than in poetry. The simultaneous result is
again to deny the legitimacy of official Nazism, this time in reference to poetry, and to point toward
the achievement of the Nazi goal.
Heidegger further emphasizes Hölderlin's role, the link between Being and poetry, and the
future-oriented nature of poetry itself. For Heidegger, Hölderlin is the giver of German being,
[30] or
again "As the poet of poets Hölderlin is the poet of the future German and the only one." [31] His claim
to deliver the German destiny to the Germans, to enable them to become fully German by reclaiming
their heritage, rests on the fact that he has presumably seen farther than other poets. But that he has
been able to see into the future at all is not due to him alone. In a mystical remark, Heidegger
maintains that the poet as seer is possible only because Being lets it happen, because Being opens
itself to the poet. "Being permits poetry to emerge, in order in an originary way to find itself within it
and hence in it in a closed manner [verschliessend] to open itself up as a secret."
[32] Heidegger's
point is that Being is the cause of its own manifestation in a guarded way within the framework of
poetic language. Left unclear is how Heidegger could possibly be privy to the secret of Being. What is
clear, however, is that Heidegger now holds that Being, which was earlier depicted as the theme of the
discussion in Being and Time , as that which is common to entities, has now taken on the causal
character of something that stands behind beings and lets them be, so to speak.
Heidegger's discussion culminates in a series of related claims about Hölderlin's poetry and the
future of the Germans, not as Greeks, but as German. Despite Heidegger's attachment to Greek
thought, for Heidegger Hölderlin represents the future of the Germans. "Hölderlin is not
― 131 ―
Greece, but the future of the Germans."
[33] Heidegger emphasizes, now reaffirming the fundamental
character of his own philosophical concern before all else, that a historical people must necessarily
base itself on Being. "Only a historical people [Volk] is really a people. It is only historical, however, if
it occurs on the basis of the center of Being."
[34] Referring now to the task of the historical destiny of
the German Volk , Heidegger insists that the central and ownmost task for a people is to realize their
national being (das Nationelle ) as a nation. "In this struggle and only in it a historical people reaches
its highest [level]."

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Heidegger's remarks on Hölderlin in the first cycle of Hölderlin lectures invite discussion on three
levels: the contribution to Hölderlin scholarship; the displacment of his earlier view of philosophy in
favor of poetry; and with respect to the link between his thought and Nazism. This is not the place to
review Heidegger's contribution to the discussion of Hölderlin. We have already noted the significance
of Heidegger's decision here to privilege poetry over philosophy as a source of truth. In this way, he
rehabilitates poetry, in eclipse as a mere imitation of an imitation since Plato. For he rehabilitates the
earlier Greek idea, criticized by Plato, for instance in both the Ion and the Republic , of the poet as
inspired by and the interpreter of the gods, in Heidegger's case as offering the necessary hint to
knowledge of Being.
[36] Yet, as a result of the adoption of this conception of the power of inspiration,
he abandons the traditional philosophical view, widely present in the philosophical tradition since Plato,
as well as in Heidegger's own earlier position, that philosophy is the final, most adequate, in fact solely
adequate source of truth.
For present purposes, the most important question is whether and how Heidegger's relation to
National Socialism changes in this text. Heidegger's depiction of the first series of his Hölderlin lectures
as a confrontation with Nazism is unwarranted. If we compare this text with the rectoral address, then
the differences between their respective views of National Socialism are too slight to justify that
conclusion. One obvious difference is a shift in emphasis consistent with the change from a public
lecture on a ceremonial occasion in which Heidegger assumed the rector-ate to a lecture course for
students on the writings of a major German poet. Heidegger's repeated emphases in the talk on
struggle, the leaders, and "political science" have no equivalent in the lecture course, although their
omission here hardly seems decisive. Neither text directly mentions either Hitler or the Nazi party. In
fact, Heidegger's claim in the rectoral address to lead the leaders, which is not repeated here, is
clearly more antagonistic to National Socialism than the lack of reference in lecture course.
One of the difficulties in determining whether and how Heidegger
― 132 ―
later shifted his view of Nazism is the unclarity surrounding its original hold on his thought. It is
possible that the attachment he earlier felt for Hitler began to fade or even vanished. But his link with
National Socialism certainly surpassed whatever he may have felt for the person of Hitler. In the
rectoral address as well as in later writings, including Heidegger's discussion of his rectorate and the
Spiegel interview, he insists on the opportunity he then saw for the German people as German. This
interest, even obsession, which he publicly expressed in the rectoral talk, is maintained in the initial
series of Hölderlin lectures, which in this specific sense fully overlap with the rectoral address, for
instance in Heidegger's insistence here on the realization of a people in a historical manner, on the
idea that the hour of history has struck, on the need for a decision, on the assumption of destiny, on
the extreme difficulty of the realization of national destiny, and so on.
If we take Heidegger at his word that his preoccupation with German destiny led him to Nazism,
then there is no basis for his claim that his initial cycle of Hölderlin lectures represents a confrontation
with National Socialism. With respect to the rectoral address, the most significant change lies in the
means to the end, not the end itself. In the speech, Heidegger uncritically took a Platonic approach in
grounding politics in philosophy in order to bring about the gathering of the Germans as German. Now,
after the failure of his rectorate—which has not escaped Heidegger's notice—he still desires to attain
the same end but now through a different means. Above all, he is clear that it no longer suffices to
ground politics in philosophy. Philosophy still has a role to play, although its role is now indirect. The
task of the philosopher is not to bring about the destiny of the German people directly, but to point to
poetry, above all Hölderlin's poetry, as the means to realize that task.
For strategic reasons, as part of his effort to construct his own legend, to influence the reception
of his life and thought, we can understand that Heidegger may have desired to portray his initial
Hölderlin lectures as in fact coming to grips with Nazism. But the text, which does not support that
interpretation, in fact reveals that he has not changed his mind about National Socialism or even about
the shared concern to bring about German authenticity. He has merely changed his mind about the
role of philosophy in bringing it about. It is false to claim that in the first series of Hölderlin lectures
Heidegger either came to grips with, or weakened, his allegiance to this aim. At most, in the turn to
poetry he came to grips with the failure of the rectorate, for his later writing, including the first
Hölderlin lecture series, reveals a renewed determination to attain the same goal.
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The History of Philosophy and the Nietzsche Lectures
There is no reason to believe that that Heidegger confronts National Socialism in his first cycle of
Hölderlin lectures. There is no significant criticism of Nazism in these lectures; in fact, Heidegger here
reaffirms his support for the historical gathering of the Germans, the very concern that is ingredient in
his original Nazi turning. But perhaps Heidegger confronts National Socialism in his Nietzsche lectures.
Heidegger's insistence that like the first Hölderlin lecture series, the Nietzsche lectures record his
confrontation with National Socialism is accepted by a number of commentators. We need now to
explore this claim in detail.
Heidegger's Nietzsche courses exhibit his approach to the history of philosophy. As a first step
toward an appreciation of his reading of Nietzsche's thought, it is useful to characterize Heidegger's
attitude toward prior philosophy. In general terms, Heidegger shares a form of the antihistorical bias,
characteristic of the modern tradition, against the philosophical tradition. He is not biased against the
history of philosophy as such, since he clearly borrows from it with great frequency in the process of
working out his own thought. Yet in virtue of his approach to Being, in principle for Heidegger as for
the majority of modern philosophers who maintain the separation between the history of philosophy
and philosophy, the history of philosophy is a series of mistakes. The difference is that whereas most
other thinkers reject the history of philosophy in general, at least initially Heidegger believes that he
can return to certain insights in early Greek thought through his more limited rejection of the history
of ontology since the early Greeks.
Most thinkers who devalue the history of philosophy simply do not know much about it. Examples
are Descartes, Kant, and Husserl. Heidegger, who provides a stunning counterexample to the lack of
historical knowledge typical of modern thinkers, is distinguished by his knowledge of the history of
[37] Like Hegel and few others in the modern period, Heidegger exhibits a truly
comprehensive, encyclopedic grasp of the length and breadth of the philosophical tradition.
Heidegger's unusual grasp of prior philosophy was apparent in Being and Time , which already exhibits
a wide awareness of the history of philosophy from the pre-Socratics to the present. His interest in the
history of philosophy is even more apparent in his later thought, which often takes the form of a series
of commentaries on important philosophical predecessors, commentaries that Heidegger describes as
an effort to dialogue with them on their own level.
Heidegger's knowledgeable approach to prior philosophy bears com-
― 134 ―
parison with Hegel's. Heidegger explicitly credits Hegel with inventing the concept of the history of
[38] Hegel's discussion exhibits a profound grasp of the history of philosophy, but he is not
a historian of philosophy if that implies a concern to study prior philosophy in independence of
philosophy; and, for the same reason, neither is Heidegger. Yet Hegel and Heidegger differ radically in
their respective approaches to the philosophic tradition. As concerns prior thought, Hegel's concern is
epistemological whereas Heidegger's is ontological. Hegel considers prior thought from an
epistemological perspective, as a unitary phenomenon composed of related efforts, which build upon
earlier positions, in order finally to demonstrate the alleged unity of thought and being. From his
ontological angle of vision, Heidegger maintains that the initial pre-Socratic insight into Being was later
obscured and covered up by a turn away to another, mistaken approach, which continues to dominate
the discussion of metaphysics until Hegel and Nietzsche. Heidegger's effort is directed toward a
recovery of the initial pre-Socratic view of Being which supposedly lies hidden behind the later
metaphysical tradition.
Hegel and Heidegger exhibit opposite attitudes to philosophy itself. Hegel is positively disposed
toward the history of philosophy, which demonstrates ever greater progress in the study of the
conditions of knowledge, and which finally reaches its traditional aim in his own theory. Heidegger
holds that since the pre-Socratics philosophy has been engaged in a long, difficult, and finally
meaningless metaphysical exercise. Heidegger's bleaker assessment that philosophy has historically
failed to, and in fact cannot, realize its aim is widely shared by others in the modern tradition. In his
later effort to move beyond philosophy, Heidegger came to accept a version of the view held in
different but related ways by, among others, Wittgenstein, Kierkegaard, the Marxists, and
Nietzsche—each of whom desired to surpass philosophy—that philosophy as such is inadequate to
respond to its concerns. He further accepted a version of the Young Hegelian view that the
philosophical tradition comes to an end in Hegel, which he restates as the claim that the history of
metaphysics terminates in Nietzsche.
Heidegger's thought is often understood in terms of figures in the historical tradition. Although he

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himself emphasizes his attachment to pre-Socratic thought, it is usual to classify his position in terms
of possible sources in modern philosophy. [40] His historical interest developed in his early thought,
even before Being and Time . His dissertation on the idea of judgment in psychologism, which
concerned logic,
[41] was followed in the second dissertation, or Habilitationsschrift , by a study of the
categories and view of meaning of Duns Scotus. [42]
Heidegger's writings exhibit a wide acquaintance with prior philo-
― 135 ―
sophical thought. In no particular order, his corpus exhibits detailed study and knowledge of
Parmenides, Anaximander, Heraclitus, Plato, Aristotle, Duns Scotus, Descartes, Kant, Schelling, and
Nietzsche. His early concentration on ontological themes partly explains the nearly complete lack of
attention to English-language writers, including all of Anglo-American analytic philosophy, and the
relative inattention to such writers as Socrates, Fichte, Marx, Augustine, Thomas, and Husserl. Even
Hegel, who is discussed often, is handled in a curiously incomplete manner, as if Heidegger were
finally unable to come to grips with his thought.
In general terms, inspection of Heidegger's writings reveals a progression from systematic
discussion—presupposing extensive historical analysis, which is initially mainly absent—to less
systematic, more historically oriented discussion. Being and Time , the main work of Heidegger's early
period, is highly systematic, based on thorough knowledge of the history of philosophy, with the
exception of English-language sources. In the English translation, the index of proper names contains
eighty-two names, not a large number, mainly philosophers, as well as an occasional theologian, the
New Testament, and so on. There are no references to English-language writers. But there are
extensive references to a variety of important philosophers, including most prominently Aristotle,
Augustine, Descartes, Dilthey, Hegel, Husserl, Kant, Parmenides, Plato, Scheler, Simmel, and Thomas.
Other writers whose influence on Heidegger's position is significant, even decisive, are scarcely
mentioned. These include Kierkegaard, whose thought certainly provides a basic influence on the
formation of Heidegger's view of human being as Dasein,
[44] Luther, [45] and perhaps Nietzsche.
Not surprisingly, since the view Heidegger expounds in this book is basically anti-Cartesian, it
contains a detailed account and critique of Descartes's thought.
[46] Heidegger further studies aspects
of numerous other positions, such as Kant's refutation of idealism,[47] the relation of his own view of
historicality to the theories of Dilthey and Yorck, [48] and Hegel's view of time and its relation to
spirit. [49] In addition, there are numerous generalizations about the history of philosophy. An example
is the assertion, as early as the first page of the work, that the view of Being put forward by Plato and
Aristotle remained basically unchanged until Hegel.
[50] Yet the historical interpretation underlying
such interpretative generalizations is mainly absent in the work itself.
Although Being and Time mainly lacks specific historical analyses, Heidegger specifically indicates
his view of the history of philosophy in his account of "The Task of Destroying the History of
[51] To provide for a radical new interpretation of Being as time, he desires to reappropriate
the history of ontology in a way that frees, or makes
― 136 ―
available, possibilities that, in his opinion, have been covered up at least since the early Greeks. His
aim is to take up the tradition but not to fall prey to it,
[52] to prevent it from, in his words, blocking
"our access to those promordial 'sources' from which the categories and concepts handed down to us
have been in part quite genuinely drawn."
[53] His ultimate goal is to interrogate the history of Being in
order to return, beyond it, to the original experiences which determine it.
We understand this task as one in which by taking the question of Being as our clue , we are to destroy the traditional
content of ancient ontology until we arrive at those primordial experiences in which we achieved our first ways of
determining the nature of Being—the ways which have guided us ever since.
Heidegger's approach to the history of philosophy changes significantly in later writings. The Basic
Problems of Phenomenology , the text of Heidegger's lecture course from spring semester 1927, the
year in which Being and Time appeared, provides extensive historical interpretation within the
systematic framework characteristic of Heidegger's position before the turning in his thought. The
Basic Problems of Phenomenology takes up the central theme of the third section of part 1 of Being
and Time , that is, the question concerning the meaning of Being through the demonstration that time
is the horizon of all understanding of Being. According to the outline, the lecture course—it was
organized as a book according to Heidegger's suggestions
[55] —is divided into three main parts: a

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"phenomenological-critical discussion of several traditional theses about the meaning of Being in
general," "the fundamental-ontological question about the meaning of Being in general," and "the
scientific method of ontology and the idea of phenomenology."
[56] In fact, the text of the course
covers only the four chapters of the first part and the initial chapter of the second part. Roughly the
last third of the work provides a purely systematic account of what Heidegger here calls "The
fundamental ontological question of the meaning of Being in general." Roughly the first two-thirds of
the book consists of a systematic treatment in detail of four traditional theses about Being.
Heidegger's systematic treatment of the different historical theses about Being is at least as
comprehensive and relatively more detailed than the historical sections of Being and Time . He devotes
fifty pages, for instance, to the analysis of Kant's thesis that being is not a real predicate in an analysis
divided into three parts. The first part, devoted to "The Content of the Kantian Thesis," contains a
detailed description of the Kantian exposition of his view in a precritical essay, "The Sole Possible
Argument for a Demonstration of the Existence of God," and later in the
― 137 ―
two editions of the Critique of Pure Reason . The account of the Kantian thesis demonstrates a
mastery of the relevant details, such as an effort to trace Kant's use of the term "reality" over
Baumgarten to scholasticism,
[57] a remark on the difference between Kant's conception of objective
reality, and reality as elucidated,[58] and so on. The depth and breadth of Heidegger's approach to
Kant's thesis is equaled by his treatment of the other historical theses he considers. Heidegger's other
early writings often contain historical generalization, but among them this volume stands out in virtue
of Heidegger's willingness to provide the historical analyses that underlie his sweeping judgments
about prior thought.
Heidegger's inaugural lecture, "What Is Metaphysics?," delivered in 1929, is a systematic analysis
nearly devoid of attention to the history of philosophy. In the same year, he published Kant and the
Problem of Metaphysics , a work based on lectures presented in the fall semester of 1925 and at
Davos in March 1929.
[59] Heidegger's interpretation of Kant is a by-product of his work on the second
part of Being and Time .[60] Beyond the specific discussion of the critical philosophy, this book is
valuable for the light it sheds on Heidegger's approach to the history of philosophy.
There is a clear link between the book on Kant and Being and Time . In his proposed destruction of
the history of ontology, Heidegger represents his own position as the completion of the intention
animating Kant's critical philosophy. He states that Kant is his only predecessor, although for reasons
intrinsic to his approach Kant was unable to complete his study of the link between time and the "I
think," which ultimately, for Kant, did not even appear problematic.
[61] Heidegger discerns the key to
this problem in Kant's doctrine of the schematism. Heidegger argues for his interpretation through an
exposition of selected parts of the critical philosophy, beginning with an effort to establish what he
calls the problematic of temporality. He attributes Kant's inability to reach the "correct" result, for
Heidegger's own view of the temporal nature of Being, to two reasons. First, Kant neglected the
problem of Being, and the analysis of Dasein, to which he preferred the Cartesian position. Second,
although he brought time into the subject, he took over the traditional view of time. Now although
Being and Time established the problematic of temporality, it does not contain Heidegger's analysis of
the Kantian doctrine of the schematism, which is provided in Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics . In
that sense, independently of the light it casts on Kant's position, this book represents a vital, further
link in the chain of Heidegger's effort to provide his view of Being as time with "true concreteness"
through a destruction of the prior onto-logical tradition.
In his study of Kant, Heidegger considers the critical philosophy as an incomplete anticipation of
the problem of Being. He presents the Cri-
― 138 ―
tique of Pure Reason as an effort to found metaphysics, which, accordingly, is revealed as a problem of
fundamental ontology. The title of the Kant book, which is ambiguous, can be understood from two
perspectives: as the question concerning being (Seiende ) as such in its totality, and as an inquiry into
the problem of metaphysics.
[63] The discussion is divided into four main parts, including an analysis of
the foundation of metaphysics, its carrying out, its originality, and its repetition. [64]
Any interpretation needs to reflect on its relation to what it interprets. This problem is especially
acute in Heidegger's discussions of the history of philosophy since he never considers other views for
their intrinsic merits, and always considers them in terms of his own project. Although his book sheds
considerable light on Kant's position, it would be a mistake to read it merely as a study of Kant.
[65] In

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the foreword to the translation, Thomas Langan, who closely follows Heidegger on this point, insists
that the result is an "authentic Kantian commentary," in effect a model for all dialogue between
thinkers, although he simply concedes that Heidegger is not concerned with what Kant meant or
The very idea of a dialogue between thinkers is problematic since it is not clear what
"commentary" means in this sense. The book, which documents an encounter of one powerful thinker
with another, is not a dialogue, or at least not so in any simple sense because the encounter is clearly
one-sided, a kind of monologue. Kant does not, and indeed could not, answer Heidegger either directly
or through his writings since Heidegger makes no pretense at concentrating on what is either implicit
or even explicit in the critical philosophy. And there is more than a hint that a commentary that
concentrated on such matters would be inauthentic, by implication less valuable than one that did not.
Heidegger, who is aware of these issues, responds to them briefly in two places, which further
illuminate his approach to the history of philosophy.
[67] In the discussion of Kant's conception of the
ground, he states that his work is concerned to bring out what Kant intended to say. [68] He points to a
passage in which Kant talks about the need to go beyond what is said to the intention, and then adds
that for this reason every interpretation is necessarily violent.
[69] For Heidegger, a violent
interpretation is not arbitrary since it is guided by a central insight, which is confirmed by its utility.
"The directive idea itself is confirmed by its own power of illumination."
[70] But this justification is
unsatisfactory. In practice, it is obviously difficult to decide whether a given interpretation is in fact
confirmed, since opinions will differ with respect to the significance of a given reading. It is further
mistaken to believe that an interpretation that provides insight, and is, therefore, confirmed, is not
merely arbitrary. An example, among many, is Kojève's justly celebrated, insight-
― 139 ―
ful, but demonstrably arbitrary reading of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit .
As if unsatisfied by his remark on the limits of interpretation, Heidegger returns to the issue of
violent textual interpretation in a new preface added to the second edition of the work. He notes that
he has been correctly criticized for the violence of his interpretations. In response, he argues that, in
the discussion of prior views, one must choose between two mutually exclusive alternatives: what he
calls the method of historical philology, from whose perspective, by implication, the objections to his
approach are justified; and what he calls an inquiry that is both historical and philosophical, whose aim
is, in his words, "to set in motion a thoughtful dialogue between thinkers."
Since in the second edition, Heidegger is willing to admit that some, but not all, interpretations are
violent, his task becomes the justification of violent interpretations. At this point, he silently drops the
claim to elicit the hidden aim of Kant's position. In fact, he no longer makes any claim to follow the
text as written in any strict sense, since presumably that is the appanage of the philological approach
which he rejects. The resultant views of violent textual interpretation are independent of each other. It
could be the case that an interpretation captures the intent of a text even if, in practice, it would be
difficult to agree on a claim to that effect; and it could also be the case that a given reading sets in
motion a dialogue between two thinkers in Heidegger's sense although it demonstrably contradicts, or
at least fails to grasp, the intention behind a particular text on a reasonable interpretation of it.
We can infer that Heidegger regards his study of the prior tradition as respecting the historical and
philosophical, but not the philological, approach; we can further infer that Heidegger feels justified in
ignoring such criteria as fidelity to the text and the intent of a thinker, what Kant would call the letter
and spirit of a view, in order to bring about what he regards as dialogue.
[73] The criterion, then, of the
degree of success of Heidegger's dialogues with previous thinkers is not, and cannot be, the fidelity of
his interpretations or even the extent of the light he throws on their positions, since he has in effect
insulated his discussion against any evaluation in terms of its relation to the texts; the criterion lies
wholly and solely in the way in which Heidegger is able to make use of a prior position in order to
argue for and advance his own thought. It follows that, as Langan admits, what he regards as an
authentic commentary and a model for dialogue between thinkers is in fact freed of all textual
constraints, and, hence, merely arbitrary.
These remarks, added to the second edition of Heidegger's study of Kant, usefully indicate
Heidegger's awareness, and attempted justification, of the problematic nature of his approach to the
history of philoso-
― 140 ―
phy. Heidegger studies the history of philosophy increasingly in his later writings, although he only

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rarely reflects explicitly on his practice. Two exceptions occur in An Introduction to Metaphysics . [74]
In a passage on the origin of philosophy among the Greeks, Heidegger remarks that being (Seiende )
was called physis , which is usually translated as "nature," from the Latin natura , which means "to be
born, birth."
[75] Heidegger regards this displacement as neither innocent nor innocuous but rather as
an instance of the general problem that in the translation from Greek into Latin the original Greek
philosophical impulse was lost. All later philosophy is based on the translation of Greek thought into
Latin, as a result of which philosophy has lost its original inspiration. This idea grounds Heidegger's
persistent effort, through the interrogation of terms, to recover the earlier, allegedly "correct"
meanings, which have supposedly been "covered" up in the later discussion, in order, as he says, "to
skip over this whole process of deformation and decay and attempt to regain the unimpaired strength
of language and words."
The thesis underlying Heidegger's linguistic retrieval of philosophical insight is problematic. We
cannot establish, and there is no reason to believe, that earlier is better, so to speak, that the
so-called original meaning—even if it could be determined in a leap behind the tradition to its origins,
which is highly doubtful—is in general closer to the truth of the matter, or more productive of
philosophical insight. Even if translation often, even inevitably, results in a displacement of meaning, it
does not follow that the result is a general loss of significant philosophical insight. To know how
Aristotle employs the term "ousia " provides insight into his ontology; it provides insight into a correct
view of ontology only if Aristotle's ontological view is correct. In principle, Heidegger's linguistic
approach offers a way to retrieve elements of earlier views; but it cannot justify the claim that to
retrieve earlier views is to retrieve the truth of the matter.
What I am calling Heidegger's attempted linguistic retrieval of original philosophical insight yields
two views, both of which are problematic: the claim that there is an original insight that has somehow
been covered up, and the related claim that what has been covered up can now be appropriately
uncovered. These views are obviously independent of each other. It could turn out that there is an
original philosophical insight that has later been covered up but which we cannot retrieve since we
cannot determine the original, correct meanings of the words; it could further turn out that we can
determine the original meanings of the words but no original philosophical insight is revealed; it could
finally turn out, as Heidegger maintains, that to determine the original meanings of the words, by
returning behind their subsequent linguistic displacement, enables us to grasp original philosophical
― 141 ―
Now ordinarily translation provides the way to recover a meaning in a language that has later
changed, either through intralinguistic translation, in which we consult a manual, dictionary, or lexicon
of some kind to determine, say, how an English word was earlier expressed, for instance in Middle
English or even in Anglo-Saxon, or through interlinguistic translation, such as through the use of a
Greek-English lexicon to determine the meaning of a Greek term. In recent years, translation has
come under attack as in principle arbitrary.
[77] In virtue of his claim that a linguistic displacement has
occurred in the translation of the original texts, Heidegger cannot rely on any later discussions. But if
he needs in each case to determine the so-called original meaning without appealing to the available
scholarly apparatus, he must find a way to guard against the charge of mere arbitrariness.
Heidegger attends to this problem in the course of a second, lengthy passage from the same work
on the relation of thought to being in early Greek philosophy. He concedes that his interpretation must
appear as an "arbitrary distortion"
[78] with respect to the prevailing types of interpretation. He further
concedes that he is correctly accused of reading in what cannot be exactly determined. But, he asks
Which interpretation is the true one, the one which simply takes over a perspective into which it has fallen, because this
perspective, this line of sight. presents itself as familiar and self-evident; or the interpretation which questions the
customary perspective from top to bottom, because conceivably—and indeed actually—this line of sight does not lead to
what is in need of being seen.
No doubt it is always useful, and sometimes unavoidable, to examine critically what we think we
know, to scrutinize the habitual as a possible source of error. But it does not follow that, this having
been done, the resultant textual interpretation avoids, or that Heidegger avoids, new forms of error,
such as reading into the texts what one wishes to find there, which he here refers to as "what is in
need of being seen."
Even in Heidegger's most systematic writings, such as Being and Time , the history of philosophy,
especially the history of ontology, is never far from his mind. In the long period after this work,

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Heidegger directly considers historical themes with increasing frequency. This relative change in
emphasis can be illustrated in various ways. For instance, the three collections of essays Heidegger
published between 1950 and 1967 are largely concerned with historical topics.
[80] A better index is
furnished by Heidegger's lecture courses from 1923 on, namely volumes 27-55 inclusive in his
collected works, now being published. Of these twenty-eight volumes, nine are devoted to systematic
and nineteen to
― 142 ―
historical topics. It follows that Heidegger gave rather more attention to historical themes than to
systematic ones in his lectures, although the proportion was inverted in his published writings. Now if
we take Heidegger's 1935 lecture course as a fictitious dividing point, we note a clear change in the
relative attention to historical subjects around this point. Prior to 1935, there are a total of eleven
lecture courses, including four on systematic and seven on historical questions. After 1935, there are
fifteen lecture courses, including one or at most one and a half on systematic issues;
[81] but all the
rest concern historical topics. Hence, there is not only an increasing, but even a predominant, concern
with historical matters after 1935, at least in the lecture courses.
Heidegger's Nietzsche Lectures
Partly because of Heidegger's concern with the history of ontology, Heidegger was increasingly
concerned with Nietzsche after 1935. Heidegger's increased interest in Nietzsche's thought is apparent
in an enumeration of the historical topics Heidegger treats in his lecture courses after 1935. There is
one course each on Kant, Parmenides, and Heraclitus. There are two each on Schelling and Hölderlin.
But no fewer than six are devoted to Nietzsche.
[82] Hence, one can infer that starting in 1935 he
devoted a very large fraction of his work in the classroom to direct study of Nietzsche's thought. [83]
This inference is further strengthened by inspection of Heidegger's publishing during this period, which
includes several articles directly concerned with Nietzsche's thought, [84] as well as two large volumes
on Nietzsche quarried by Heidegger from his lecture courses. [85]
Heidegger, of course, was not the only thinker interested in Nietzsche, who almost immediately
became exceedingly influential after his death in 1900. According to David Krell, Nietzsche was a
literary phenomenon whose thought was widely seen, by those who came to maturity in the First
World War, as correctly predicting the ruin of Germany.
[86] Peter Gay points to widespread instances
of Nietzsche's literary influence during the Weimar Republic, including his impact on Aby War-burg, the
founder of the Warburg Institute, who took Nietzsche, Burckhardt, and Usener as his models; the
circle around the poet Stefan George, which was attracted to Nietzsche, especially in the work by Ernst
Bertram, for his celebration of Hölderlin; and Thomas Mann, who admired Nietzsche as well as Wagner
and Schopenhauer, each of whom influenced Buddenbrooks .
[87] Others associated with the
George-Kreis who wrote on Nietzsche include Ernst Gundolf and Kurt Hildebrandt. [88]
Nietzsche's philosophical impact was considerable. In 1901, Wilhelm Windelband, the neo-Kantian
historian of philosophy, still thought of
― 143 ―
him as a poet.
[89] A long stream of others discussed Nietzsche as a philosopher. With Goethe, Oswald
Spengler considered Nietzsche as one of his two models. [90] As early as 1902, the Kantian Hans
Vahinger published a book on Nietzsche, which was followed in 1911 by a chapter in his main
[91] In 1907, the sociologist and neo-Kantian philosopher Simmel brought out a study of
Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. [92] In fact, there was so much attention to Nietzsche in the discussion
at this time that one can even differentiate between cultural, life-philosophical, and existential
approaches to his thought.
[93] Still a fourth approach is represented by the interest in the relation of
Nietzsche and Christianity. [94]
Heidegger's relation to Nietzsche is complex. [95] There are at least six ways in which Nietzsche
functions in Heidegger's thought, including (1) the constitution of Heidegger's own original position;
(2) Heidegger's desire to contribute to knowledge of Nietzsche's thought through collaboration on the
critical edition and the interpretation of Nietzsche's position; (3) within the framework of the study of
the history of ontology, as a subset of the history of the philosophical tradition; (4) in the transition
from the first beginning to the other beginning through the turning in the Beiträge and other writings,
hence as a link between the early fundamental ontology and the later critique of technology; (5) as
part of Heidegger's defense of his claim to philosophical hegemony within the Third Reich, through the
refutation of other readings of Nietzsche; and (6) in Heidegger's claimed confrontation with National

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It is easier to document the role played by Nietzsche's thought in Weimar culture and National
Socialism than in the constitution and later evolution of Heidegger's position. When Nietzsche began to
exert a pull on Heidegger's thought is a matter of debate. As early as 1960, Gadamer suggested that
Heidegger's true predecessor in raising the problem of Being against the whole direction of the
Western tradition is Nietzsche. For Gadamer, the aim of raising Nietzsche's criticism of the Platonic
tradition to the level of the tradition, of confronting Western metaphysics on its own level, is already
implicit in Being and Time , even if Heidegger only realized this afterward.
[96] Other observers tend to
place the turn to Nietzsche after the development of fundamental ontology. Although Heidegger
attended Rickert's lectures on Nietzsche, for Pöggeler Nietzsche's influence on Heidegger only becomes
decisive in 1929-1930.
[97] Arguing against Pöggeler, Krell dates the concern with Nietzsche to
Heidegger's student days in 1909-1914 and sees traces of Nietzsche's influence in Heidegger's early
thought, prior to Being and Time , including the Habilitationsschrift and the subsequent venia legendi
[98] Nietzsche is mentioned three times in Being and Time . [99] Taminiaux has recently used
Heidegger's extensive reference to Nietz-
― 144 ―
sche's "Second Untimely Meditation" to argue that of all those to whom Heidegger refers in this work,
Nietzsche is the only earlier thinker whose position he seeks to make his own.
These writers do not differ about whether Nietzsche influenced Being and Time ; rather they differ
with respect to the extent of that influence. There seems to be a clear link between Nietzsche's
distinction between the overman, or superman, and ordinary mortals, for instance in Beyond Good and
Evil , and Heidegger's canonical distinction in Being and Time between authenticity and inauthenticity.
Heidegger's increasing interest in Nietzsche's thought after Being and Time is based on his conviction
of its importance for his own position. Between 1927 and 1935, when the Nietzsche lectures began,
Nietzsche's influence on Heidegger's thought quickly assumes major proportions. Nietzsche is already
present in an important way in Heidegger's rectoral address. Here, in his habitual rhetorical style,
Heidegger asks what if Nietzsche is right that God is dead.
[101] In the article on the rectorate, he
insists on the significance of Jünger in providing access to Nietzsche's thought, which in turn offers the
possibility to think and even to foresee the history and present of the Western world in terms of
[102] Nietzsche's precise impact on the constitution of Heidegger's fundamental ontology
is unclear; but in 1935, it is clear that Heidegger had come to see his metaphysical task as gaining a
true grasp of Nietzsche and of fully developing Nietzsche's thought.
This conviction underlies Heidegger's collaboration with the Nietzsche Archives in the preparation
of a new version of Nietzsche's collected works and his own reading of Nietzsche's thought. According
to Marion Heinz, Heidegger was already in contact with the archives in the late 1920s.
[104] He became
a member of the editorial board in May 1934. Along with H. J. Frank and Alfred Rosenberg, head of the
Amt Rosenberg, he took part in a commission charged with publishing a critical edition of Nietzsche's
work and letters. From a letter to Leutheusser dated 26 December 1942 it is clear that he was further
active in the preparation of the new edition of the Will to Power (Der Wille zur Macht ). It seems that
he visited the archives twice a year during the period 1936-1938 as a member of the editorial
commission. It is further known that in the preparation of his lectures on Nietzsche, he consulted Karl
Schlechta, the editor of Nietzsche's collected works. It is not clear what his relation to the archives was
after 1939. Heidegger did not participate in the meetings in 1941. The same letter to Leutheusser
indicates that he resigned from the commission. It seems that Heidegger justified his decision in terms
of the dispute in 1938 between the Nietzsche Archives and the Reichsschriftumskammer , which
rejected the first volume of the new edition of the collected works, from which it with-
― 145 ―
drew its support. There is extant a notification by the office, on which Heidegger wrote by hand: "This
was to be expected: afterward work in common with the commission impossible; only work for
Nietzsche's works—in independence from the edition."
Heidegger's interest in Nietzsche's thought continued after he ended his collaboration with the
Nietzsche Archives. His attention to Nietzsche is the main example of his effort to "dialogue" with
another thinker on his own level in order to bring out what the latter supposedly wanted to, but could
not, say, and to carry the discussion further than the point at which it was left. This "dialogue" is
carried out at enormous length over a period of years, first explicitly—out loud, so to speak—in a
series of lectures and articles, and then later in silent form, after the Nietzsche lectures, in many of
Heidegger's later writings. We have already noted this "dialogue" in the Nietzsche lectures given

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between 1936 and 1940, in the lecture course planned but not given in the academic year 1941/42,
and in several articles. Significantly, Nietzsche is still prominent in Heidegger's lecture course in the
first semester of the academic year 1951/ 52, when he was permitted to resume teaching.
[106] But
Nietzsche is not discussed explicitly in the spring semester of this same lecture course. After the early
1950s, Nietzsche recedes into the background as an explicit theme, but what Heidegger learned from
this encounter continued to shape his own thought in the years ahead.
To appreciate Heidegger's discussion of Nietzsche, it is useful to contrast it with his discussion of
Descartes and Kant. In theory, Heidegger's treatment of thinkers after the pre-Socratics—that is, after
what he discerns as the early turn away from the original, correct approach to Being—should be
negative, although in practice this is not always the case. Heidegger's treatment of prior thinkers is
sometimes less strict than his simple bivalent framework requires. Heidegger himself suggests that his
attitude toward the past is not simply negative. "But to bury the past in its nullity is not the purpose of
this destruction; its aim is positive ; its negative function remains unexpressed and indirect."
[107] The
criterion for Heidegger's specific attitude seems to reside in his conviction about the utility of a given
position for his own purposes.
The often positive aspect of Heidegger's reaction to other thinkers is entirely lacking in his reading
of Descartes. Simply stated, Heidegger consistently treats Descartes in a wholly negative manner, as
the arch-villain of the philosophical tale. His negative approach toward Descartes is already in evidence
in Being and Time in the passage on the destruction of the history of ontology. Here, Heidegger argues
that in the Middle Ages, Greek ontology becomes a fixed body of doctrine that is transmitted by
Suarez, Descartes, and others, in basically unchanged fashion in later thought up to and including
[108] Descartes plays a
― 146 ―
key role in the transmission of an unexamined doctrine in the form of an ontology irreconcilably
different from Heidegger's own view, based on the ontological difference. "In Descartes we find the
most extreme tendency toward such an ontology of the 'world,' with, indeed, a counter-orientation
toward the res cogitans —which does not coincide with Dasein either ontically or ontologically."
[109] A
similarly negative attitude toward Descartes and Cartesian thought is maintained in later writings, for
instance in Heidegger's rejection of all forms of the humanist, anthropological approach.
The discussion of Kant is more complex. On a superficial level, the treatment is equally negative,
as in the suggestion that, except for the omission of an ontology of Dasein, Kant merely took over the
Cartesian ontology in dogmatic fashion.
[111] Yet Heidegger's reading of Kant's position is finally more
nuanced. Heidegger discusses the critical philosophy on four occasions in Being and Time , with
respect to the concept of time, the problem of Being, the refutation of idealism, and the
transcendental unity of apperception.
(1) In an early reference to temporality, Heidegger indicates that the establishment of this
problematic, the task of the second division of the book, will show that Kant took over the Cartesian
view dogmatically, and hence neglected the problem of Being and the analysis of Dasein. The result
was that Kant's concept of the schematism did not penetrate to the central ontological problem.
The implicit suggestion that Kant's approach can be carried beyond Kant is worked out in Heidegger's
study of the relation between the critical philosophy and metaphysics. In an obvious departure from
the more usual epistemological readings, Heidegger interprets Kant's position as an incomplete effort
to lay the foundation of metaphysics which, through an appropriate repetition, can be completed.
(2) In a discussion of the concept of "world" in Descartes and Kant, Heidegger maintains that the
latter's rejection of being as a real predicate is an uncritical restatement of the problematical Cartesian
view in a manner indicative of a failure to master the basic problem of Being.
[114] This same claim is
formulated in a more graceful but conceptually equivalent manner in the more detailed treatment of
the Kantian thesis in the parallel lecture course.
[115] For Heidegger, Kant's analysis fails because it
lacks an explicit theory of Dasein. [116] In a later passage, Heidegger explicitly suggests that under
appropriate conditions Kant's approach can be salvaged for the problem of Being. Here, Heidegger
remarks that the four theses examined in this book, including Kant's, represent aspects of a unity
toward which he is striving through their examination. "The four theses formulate only externally and
still covertly the systematic unity of the basic ontological problems, toward
― 147 ―
which we are groping by way of the preparatory discussion of the theses."
(3) Heidegger further analyzes Kant's Refutation of Idealism as an example of Dasein's supposed

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tendency to bury "the external world" before proving its existence. [118] He maintains that Kant's
alleged confusions manifest Dasein's falling and resultant comprehension of the "world" as mere
presence-at-hand. Although he claims that the neglect of the existential analytic of Dasein impedes the
establishment of the phenomenological problematic, he concedes the partial validity of each of the
various approaches to the "problem of reality.
(4) Heidegger studies Kant's transcendental unity of apperception under the heading of the self.
He objects to Kant's view as an ontologically inappropriate description of the self in terms appropriate
for a res cogitans , as something always present-to-hand.
[120] He insists against Kant that the self is
not a being-in-the-world in this sense. According to Hei-degger, the self can finally only be discerned
through the phenomenon of care, or the authentic potentiality for being one's self.
In Being and Time , the central thread of Heidegger's treatment of Kant is the claim to carry
Kant's position beyond the point at which it was left to its intended conclusion. Heidegger believes that
Kant's theory lacks an analysis of Being and of Dasein, and hence fails to achieve its goal; and he
further believes that his own analysis of Dasein enables us to see the critical philosophy as valuable for
the problem of metaphysics. In this respect, there is a limited analogy between Heidegger's view of
Kant and Sartre's view of Marx.
[122] Both are concerned with the completion, through an aspect
supposedly supplied by his own thought, of an important but supposedly incomplete theory. The
difference is that whereas Sartre holds that Marxism is unsurpassable as the philosophy of our time,
Heidegger holds only that the critical philosophy is at best an incomplete anticipation of his own.
There is a significant difference in Heidegger's treatments of Kant and Nietzsche. With respect to
Kant, Heidegger points to the critical philosophy as solidly ensconced within, and, for that reason,
limited by, the philosophical tradition, which it uncritically accepts. Heidegger believes that this
dogmatic acceptance of the prior tradition is the reason why Kant is unable to carry out the intrinsic
aims of his thought. Even if Heidegger applauds Kant's intentions, he finally rejects the critical
philosophy as a whole. With respect to Nietzsche, Heidegger applauds the effort as a whole, which he
does not reject. To a degree unlike that of any thinker since the pre-Socratics, Heidegger thinks of
Nietzsche as anticipating in incomplete form his own thought as he later came to understand it.
There is, of course, ample precedent for the idea that a later theory
― 148 ―
takes up the central theme of and completes an earlier position. Heidegger's relation to Nietzsche
partially resembles Hegel's relation to Kant. Like Fichte and Schelling, the young Hegel accepted the
intent of Kant's position as basically correct. Hegel held that there was only one system of philosophy;
and he regarded the views of Fichte and Schelling as further modifications of the critical
[123] Hegel's position is an effort to develop the Kantian speculative insight in accord with
the spirit, but not the letter of the Kantian philosophy. [124] Similarly, in Nietzsche Heidegger finds a
concern with two basic characteristics of his own thought: the problem of Being, and the revolt against
the Platonic tradition following from this problem. Just as in his own position Hegel thinks with Kant
against Kant, so in his own position Heidegger thinks with Nietzsche against Nietzsche in order to
complete the proposed revolt against the Platonic tradition. Now Hegel's thought literally took form in
his debate with Kant and such "Kantians" as Fichte and Schelling. Despite Heidegger's awareness of
Nietzsche, his original position was already in place before he entered into "dialogue" with Nietzsche.
For Heidegger, Nietzsche's importance does not lie in the constitution of his own thought; it lies rather
in the later evolution of the original position. In fact, it would be an exaggeration to claim that, despite
Nietzsche's influence on Heidegger's thought, Heidegger was ever, even for a brief period, a true
disciple of Nietzsche. As for Hölderlin and the other writers he studies, Heidegger is never a disciple in
any obvious sense, and always attuned to the possibility of using another body of thought for his own.
Beyond his strict contribution to Nietzsche scholarship, or work for Nietzsche's works, Heidegger's
Nietzsche discussion has a triple function in his thought: to assert his own role in German philosophy
by refuting other extant readings, to contribute to his own study of the history of ontology, and further
to develop his analysis of Being. Like other philosophers, Heidegger was constantly concerned with the
struggle for influence in the university, especially the German academy. In the Third Reich, this
struggle was circumscribed by two additional factors: the normal academic disagreements concerning
Nietzsche's thought, and the relation between Nietzsche and National Socialism.
Nietzsche functioned during the Third Reich for both political and philosophical goals. Baeumler
points to a parallel in the views of Nietzsche and Hitler.
[125] Enge, who was the head of the Nietzsche
Archives in Weimar, stated that he owed "the interpretation and evaluation of the Hitler movement to
the study of Nietzschean ideas concerning blood and the decline of cultures and my own observation of
social phenomena."
[126] Algermissen insists on the concern of both Hitler and Mussolini with

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Nietzsche. [127] Mussolini published and lectured on Nietzsche, and
― 149 ―
understood fascism as the realization of Nietzsche's thought. When he was twenty, Mussolini published
an article on Nietzsche, in which he wrote: "In order to attain the ideal picked out by Nietzsche a new
type of free spirit must arise, spirits which are hardened by war, and loneliness, and in great danger,
spirits which will free us from love of our neighbor."
[128] On 29 July 1933, his fiftieth birthday, the
Nietzsche Archives sent him the following telegram:
To the most masterful son of Zarathustra, of whom Nietzsche dreamed, the genial awakener of the aristocratic values of
Nietzsche's spirit, the Nietzsche Archives sends on his fiftieth birthday a telegram, in testimony, that he is faithful to the
master's work and has consciously come to grips with it.
And on 26 May 1934 Mussolini held a two-and-a-half-hour speech in the Italian parliament in
which he took up Nietzsche's slogan from Zarathustra: "War first only makes a man, as childbearing a
[130] Hitler also thought of his political work as the realization of Nietzsche's aims. Even before
1933, he visited Weimar often. In 1938, he paid for a temple to be erected to Nietzsche's memory. In
August 1943, he sent his friend Mussolini a specially printed collection of Nietzsche's complete
writings. And the Nietzsche Archives reciprocated the attention in its ceremonial presentation to him of
Nietzsche's Stockdegen .
In the Third Reich, both pre-Nazi and Nazi thinkers were concerned with Nietzsche's thought.
Klages, who is a transitional figure, published a work on Nietzsche's psychology.
[131] Baeumler
studied Nietzsche as philosopher and politician. [132] Nietzsche's appropriation by Nazi thinkers for
their own purposes is well known but not well studied.[133] Two exceptions are provided by Lukács
and Stackelberg. Lukács devotes a long chapter to Nietzsche as a leading irrationalist in the so-called
imperialist period in the context of his lengthy study of the rise of irrationalism from the later Schelling
and Kierkegaard to Hitler.
[134] For Lukács, fascism is the logical successor of vitalism, which draws the
conclusions of the work of Nietzsche and Dilthey. [135] Nietzsche is present in the background in
Stackelberg's balanced account of the road from Volk theory to Nazism, [136] but he is entirely absent
in Cassirer's study of the state. [137]
We have already noted that Nietzsche was widely discussed in Germany starting even before
1900. In his review of sixty years of the Nietzsche discussion, Löwith describes no fewer than twelve
important interpretations identified with the names of L. Andreas-Salomé, O. Ewald, G. Simmel,
Bertram, Ch. Andler, Klages, A. Baeumler, E. Emmerich, Th. Maulnier, K. Jaspers, L. Giesz, and
[138] If we except Giesz, who wrote after this period, in entering into the field of
― 150 ―
Nietzsche interpretation Heidegger joined battle with no less than ten rivals, eight of whom wrote in
In his lectures, Heidegger was most concerned with the approaches of Jaspers and Baeumler, but
for different reasons. Jaspers was an anti-Nazi, an important philosopher, an existentialist whose
thought in part resembled Heidegger's, and a personal friend, to whom Heidegger unavailingly turned
for support in a time of need. Baeumler was an unoriginal thinker, a Nietzsche specialist, but not a
philosophical rival in any real sense. Jaspers reports that C. Schmitt, Heidegger, and Baeumler were
three very different professors, each of whom sought to reach the peak of the National Socialist
[139] It is known that Baeumler, one of the first professors appointed by the Nazis, was
linked to Alfred Rosenberg even before they came to power in National Socialism. Beginning in the
summer semester of 1933, Baeumler was Professor for Political Pedagogy in the University of Berlin.
Heidegger knew Baeumler well from the Nietzsche discussion. At the beginning of the Third Reich, in
1933, Heidegger collaborated with both Baeumler and Krieck, although in each case, as early as the
end of that year or the beginning of the next year the relationship had been transformed into open
opposition, even something approaching hate.
[140] Baeumler remained close to Rosenberg and
National Socialism in general after Heidegger's resignation as rector.
Heidegger's Reading of the Will to Power
Heidegger's discussion of Nietzsche is mainly centered on a complex interpretation of The Will to
Power . [141] This work has come down to us as a series of notes Nietzsche composed in the period

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1883-1888. Heidegger's Nietzsche lecture courses present Heidegger's reading of Nietzsche's
long-projected, finally unwritten work. The series of lecture courses is composed of two volumes in the
version Heidegger worked over for publication,
[142] and of four volumes in the English translation of
selected portions of the lecture courses, which also incorporates other material. [143] For present
purposes, I will rely on the English translation, which I will supplement, as necessary, with references
to the reworked, published version and to the original lectures. Heidegger's lecture courses on
Nietzsche covered five semesters. At present, only two of the five lecture courses as originally given
have been published.
Heidegger indicates his overall aim in a series of programmatic statements in the first volume,
containing material from the first lecture course. For Heidegger, Nietzsche is misinterpreted as a
poet-philosopher or as a philosopher of life.
[145] Like those students of Plato con-
― 151 ―
cerned to interpret Plato's thought through his unwritten texts, Heidegger holds that Nietzsche's main
philosophical contribution lies in the text he did not write.
[146] Heidegger points out that the work was
planned over many years but never written; and he further points out that it was intended to name
"the basic character of all beings.
[147] He regards this book as Nietzsche's chief contribution, the work
in which Nietzsche decisively confronts all earlier Western thought. Heidegger believes that the
confrontation with Nietzsche has not yet begun and its conditions have not yet even been realized. For
Heidegger, then, Nietzsche marks the end of Western metaphysics and the beginning of another
question of the truth of Being.
[148] He sums up this very large claim about the main doctrines in
Nietzsche's position in hyperbolic language and melodramatic fashion:
Now, if we do not thoughtfully formulate our inquiry in such a way that it is capable of grasping in a unified way the
doctrines of the eternal return of the same and will to power, and these two doctrines in their most intrinsic coherence as
revaluation, and if we do not go on to comprehend this fundamental formulation as one which is also necessary in the
course of Western metaphysics, then we will never grasp Nietzsche's philosophy. And we will comprehend nothing of the
twentieth century and of centuries to come, nothing of our own metaphysical task.
This passage does not demonstrate any of Heidegger's claims about Nietzsche's thought. Rather, it
deflects attention from Heidegger's specific claims through a gigantic assertion about the importance
of Nietzsche's position for philosophy, for history, even for all human being. This passage provides a
reaffirmation of Heidegger's pretense, familiar since the rectoral address, to be able to interpret the
present and even the future through Nietzsche's metaphysics. Now we have also seen that he makes a
similar assertion in his discussion of Hölderlin. Perhaps, then, the basic idea is less the utility of a given
body of thought to comprehend all of history, including what is yet to come, than Heidegger's
attribution to himself, in his description of his ability to grasp what will yet be, of a clearly prophetic,
magical power, supported by no analysis at all, to see into time. The general idea is that a close
scrutiny of the writings of a major thinker or poet—and it doesn't seem to matter which it is—is an
adequate substitute for a crystal ball in the interpretation of the future.
In the crucial fourth chapter, Heidegger turns to the content of The Will to Power in order to
demonstrate the claimed unity of Nietzsche's position. This chapter has a dual function in Heidegger's
discussion: to present Heidegger's interpretation of what he regards as Nietzsche's
― 152 ―
crucially important but misunderstood position, and to rule out a supposedly incorrect reading of
Nietzsche's view. As the title to the chapter makes clear, Heidegger's own reading is centered on
Nietzsche's doctrines of the eternal return of the same and the will to power. He notes that at present
the prevalent interpretation does away with the doctrine of the eternal return of the same and, hence,
excludes a fruitful grasp of Nietzsche's metaphysics.
Two issues, which arise in the fourth chapter and should immediately be addressed, are
Heidegger's unusual approach to the contemporary discussion of Nietzsche's thought and the relation
of his interpretation to the Nazi reading of Nietzsche. Heidegger himself introduces the issue of his use
of other interpretations. Early in his initial lecture course on Nietzsche, he states that he will not refer
to the massive Nietzsche literature since none of it can help his endeavor.
[151] We are meant to
understand that his own approach is so distinctive as to set aside all other discussion of Nietzsche's
thought, which need not be taken into account. This is a version of his conceit, on frequent display in
his interpretation of prior philosophical views, that only his own readings are authentic. In place of the
secondary literature, he recommends "the courage and perseverance" to read Nietzsche's own

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writings. [152]
Heidegger's stress on the need to study Nietzsche in preference to writings about Nietzsche is
good advice on the premise that in most cases it is preferable to read the original texts rather than the
discussion about them. Yet Heidegger's remark is misconstrued as implying that Heidegger in fact
abstracted from the Nietzsche literature in the development of his own reading of Nietzsche's thought.
His Nietzsche lectures contain occasional remarks on other interpretations; and he unexpectedly
devotes a chapter in part to the available Nietzsche literature, with special attention to the writings of
Jaspers and Baeumler,
[153] which he treats as examples of an incorrect way to understand the
doctrine of the eternal return of the same. [154]
The relatively circumspect treatment of Baeumler, an insignificant thinker, is probably due to his
status as a well-known Nietzsche specialist, whose general interpretation of The Will to Power
Heidegger apparently made the basis of his own. Certainly, when Heidegger's lectures were worked
over for publication well after the end of the Second World War, Heidegger had nothing more to fear
from Baeumler's close connections to the Nazi party.
[155] Heidegger objects to Baeumler's
interpretation of Nietzsche on three grounds: Baeumler's assertion that the idea of eternal recurrence
expresses a personal "religious" conviction; Baeumler's claim that both the doctrines of the eternal
return of the same and the will to power cannot be correct on pain of contradiction; and finally the link
drawn between the former doctrine and Heraclitus's thought.
― 153 ―
In response, Heidegger makes the following points. [157] He denies the correctness of Baeumler's
reading of Heraclitus. He uncharacteristically states that even if there is a contradiction, that is merely
a demand to think a difficult thought, which cannot therefore be assimilated to religion. And he adds,
plausibly in view of Baeumler's role as a professor of political pedagogy, that the latter rejects the
importance of the concept of the eternal recurrence for Nietzsche's position on political grounds.
Baeumler's interpretation of Nietzsche is less important than Jaspers's. Jaspers is widely regarded
as a significant philosophical thinker, and his reading of Nietzsche's thought, and its relation to
Heidegger's, has attracted attention.
[159] Heidegger's remarks on Jaspers are briefer, but more
pointed. [160] In comparison with Baeumler, Heidegger believes that Jaspers has a better grasp of the
function of the idea of the eternal return in Nietzsche's thought. Yet Heidegger complains that Jaspers
fails to bring the idea of the eternal recurrence in contact with the grounding question (Grundfrage ) of
Western philosophy, which is Heidegger's basic philosophical concern. Heidegger attributes this failure
to Jaspers's view that there is "no truth or conceptual import in philosophy," in effect that philosophy
is impossible, which causes him to underestimate the vital importance of Nietzsche's idea.
[161] It is,
then, interesting to note that Jaspers believed not only that Heidegger did not understand science in
his fundamental ontology but that Heidegger's theory was no more than a modern form of gnosticism
and of magic.
Jaspers's stature, unlike Baeumler's, as a worthy philosophical adversary explains Heidegger's
unease at Jaspers's supposed rejection in general of the possibility of philosophy; it perhaps also
explains the unusually sharp remark on Jaspers in a passage omitted from the lectures as reworked for
publication, now available in the publication of the original lectures. In a passage in a postface, entitled
"The Falsification of Nietzsche's Philosophy up to Now," Heidegger writes: "The greatest falsification—if
one finds all and each in his [reading] and makes the 'so well as also' into a principle, and utilizes the
whole only as existential clarification [Erhellung] and as 'psychological phenomenon.' Jaspers!"
Heidegger's rapid remarks on Baeumler and Jaspers, and occasional comments on other Nietzsche
interpreters, [164] do not constitute an adequate response to the large and varied Nietzsche literature
of the time. Heidegger's treatment of the available lines of interpretation is overly selective. On
balance, it is obvious that he fails to accord satisfactory attention either to the Nietzsche discussion as
a whole—with which he may not have been deeply familiar and which he proposes merely to
bracket—or even to the views of Baeumler and Jaspers. Heidegger's account of Jaspers's views of
Nietzsche, which he acknowledges as philosophically more significant, is especially brief, schematic,
and, hence,
― 154 ―
unsatisfactory. But the insufficiency of Heidegger's hasty account of Nietzsche readings that he
regarded as competing with his own is not due to his inability to discuss matters in more detail.
Rather, it is probable that for Heidegger the approaches of Baeumler and Jaspers to Nietzsche were
merely instances of the contemporary juggling with "transmitted concepts" which, being uncritical,

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failed to come to grips with ontology on a fundamental level. [165] Heidegger probably thought that it
was sufficient to keep open the possibility of his own, "deeper" interpretation of Nietzsche by calling in
question those among the available approaches which tended to close off the lines of inquiry he
intended to pursue.
The relation of Heidegger's interpretation of The Will to Power to Nazi interpretations of this work
is important. It has been suggested that Heidegger's reading of Nietzsche prevented Nietzsche's
incorporation into the Nazi pantheon.
[166] Yet Heidegger's overall approach to Nietzsche is redolent of
the Nazi line, including his preference for The Will to Power as the height of Nietzsche's art and his
treatment of it as a systematic analysis. According to Walter Kaufmann, the two main false readings of
the book are both due to Nietzsche's sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche: the view that it represents
Nietzsche's crowning achievement, prominently represented by Baeumler; and the contrary view that
the work is not worth reading at all, due to Karl Schlechta.
[167] Baeumler formulates his view
The Will to Power is Nietzsche's philosophical magnum opus . All the basic results of his thinking are brought together in
this book. The aversion of its author against systematizers should not prevent us from calling this work a system.
Nietzsche only objected to the artificial, logically conclusive form of spinning out systems [Systembauerei]. For he well
knew that all true philosophical thought is internally systematic, namely, it has a creative central point, which defines and
supports the whole. Nietzsche is a systematic thinker in this sense as Heraclitus is, or Anaximander, whose systematic
spirit we recognize from a single sentence that remains extant.
Heidegger's reading of The Will to Power can be regarded as developing Baeumler's approach with
respect to his own theory of Being. Since Nietzsche completed five books in his last active year, 1888,
and another two in the two immediately preceding years, a case needs to be made that this particular
work represents the key to Nietzsche's position.
[169] Heidegger not only insists without apparent
reason on The Will to Power as the peak of Nietzsche's thought, but further appears to adopt a version
of the Nazi reading of that work in his approach to Nietzsche. It is, then, difficult to regard Heidegger's
Nietzsche interpretation as "saving
― 155 ―
Nietzsche from a Nazi distortion," whatever that phrase means, since Heidegger uncritically takes over
Baeumler's variant of the Nazi view of The Will to Power as the basis of his own.
Heidegger's Nietzsche lectures occur at a crucial moment in his evolution, when he is in the
process of making a transition from fundamental ontology to a new version of his position, supposedly
beyond philosophy. Heidegger's view is always labile, but particularly so during this period. In virtue of
the unstable nature of Heidegger's thought at this time, his attitude toward Nietzsche is deeply
ambivalent. As he does for other views, in the lectures Heidegger studies Nietzsche's thought within
the context of the history of ontology. For Heidegger, Nietzsche's "system" is the source of a radically
new thesis about Being which, in its novelty, returns back behind the tradition to the early Greek
thought of Being.
Heidegger's position evolves between Being and Time and the lectures on Nietzsche. Yet the
modifications—which are reflected in such important intervening texts as the work on Kant or An
Introduction to Metaphysics —remain, or at least mainly remain, within the overall framework of
fundamental ontology. Heidegger's familiar claim that previous thought merely incompletely
adumbrates his own, illustrated in his study of Kant, is still present, although to a lesser degree in his
lecture course on metaphysics, in such themes as the so-called fault of Being,
[170] the unique
philosophical status of the Greek and German languages, [171] repetition [172] grounding, [173] and so
on. But there is also a beginning displacement, evident in the emergence of new themes—some of
which receive a considerable development in later writings, and which seem to surpass the conceptual
armature of fundamental ontology in the direction of something new—such as the uneasy position of
Europe between Russia and America,
[174] the full unfolding of Nietzsche's thought, [175] and techne as
neither art nor technology. [176]
In the Nietzsche lectures, Heidegger's position transgresses fundamental ontology, however
understood, to something beyond it. Heidegger's view of the importance of an unfolding of Nietzsche's
thought dominates his Nietzsche lectures, where Nietzsche functions as a further development of the
original thought of Being and as a transition toward a new form of the original thought. These lectures
reflect both a residual permanence and an incipient change in Heidegger's position, the coexistence of
the original position, as it developed in the interval between its formulation and these lectures, and the
transition to another view, closely based on, but different from, its predecessor, toward which
Heidegger moves through what, for want of a better word, is a displacement.

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Both the continued presence of the original view and the slow transi-
― 156 ―
tion to the new form of the original theory, or the new theory that will arise out of the original
position, are visible in the crucial fourth chapter of the initial lecture series where Heidegger comes to
grips with other interpretations and begins to state the outlines of his own reading of Nietzsche's
thought. Not surprisingly, since Nietzsche functions here to complete the original framework and to
point toward a new one, this chapter can be read from either of two angles of vision: from the
philosophical perspective of the history of ontology, or as pointing beyond that history to a new form
of thought purportedly beyond philosophy.
Here, Heidegger indicates the link between his reading of Nietzsche and the history of ontology.
He begins the chapter by reformulating in other words the statement with which the previous chapter
ends, cited above, about the unity of Nietzsche's position and its importance for present times and for
the centuries yet to come. For Heidegger, the term "will to power" names what is basic to any being.
He then introduces an important distinction between the supposedly first, essential question of
philosophy and its final preliminary question (Vorfrage ). Nietzsche's doctrine, Heidegger says,
answers the final preliminary question but not the first, essential question. To ground this assertion,
Heidegger maintains that here, at the end of Western philosophy, the decisive query is not the basic
character of beings, but that of Being itself, the meaning of Being.
The expression "will to power" designates the basic character of beings; any being which is, insofar as it is, is will to
power. The expression stipulates the character that beings have as beings. But that is not at all an answer to the first
question of philosophy, its proper question; rather, it answers only the final preliminary question. For anyone who at the
end of Western philosophy can and must still question philosophically, the decisive question is no longer merely "What
basic character do beings manifest?" but "What is this 'Being' itself?" The decisive question is that of "the meaning of
Being." not merely that of the Being of beings.
This passage is helpful to an appreciation of the later development of the Nietzsche lectures and
their significance for Heidegger's thought. It is evident from the distinction between the first essential
question and the final preliminary question that Heidegger is continuing to operate within the wider
context of the fundamental ontology developed in Being and Time . Heidegger signals his intention
here to demonstrate the unity of Nietzsche's thought through an appropriate reading of its basic
concepts, precisely that unity which he has claimed but not so far demonstrated. At this point he
further advances a thesis not present in Being and Time in his observation that we have now arrived at
the end of Western philosophy. This new thesis is not a change in the basic position;
― 157 ―
it is rather a description of the philosophical tradition as a whole from the perspective of fundamental
ontology, whose consequences have now become clearer to Heidegger in his reflection on the position
developed in Being and Time . In restating the view advanced in his fundamental ontology according
to which the important question is not the nature of beings but the meaning of Being in general, he
associates Nietzsche with his basic question. The result is to call attention to a relation between
fundamental ontology and Nietzsche's position which was not present, or at least not clearly present,
in Being and Time , and which has perhaps only become apparent to Heidegger in the years after he
composed this book. Heidegger now depicts Nietzsche as responding not to the question itself but to a
condition for its response, which, in turn, opens the way to a possible response to the basic question
of all philosophy, a response that has supposedly become possible only now at the end of the Western
philosophical tradition.
The history of ontology belongs to a negative approach to the previous discussion of metaphysics
intended to free the ground for a positive appropriation of a hidden insight from early Greek thought.
The justification of the negative moment of the projected destruction of ontology was to make possible
a positive reappropriation of ancient doctrine, which has been covered up in the subsequent but
erroneous discussion of Being. In principle, Nietzsche belongs to this discussion as the author of a
theory of Being that must be taken into account in any effort to destroy the history of ontology. Since
Nietzsche's most important contribution to this history occurs in a book that was never written,
Heidegger's effort to destroy the history of ontology requires him to treat as history, and hence in the
past, something which literally never took place. In that sense, his discussion is nothing more than a
mythical interpretation of a mythical treatise.
From within the perspective of fundamental ontology, and through the interpretation of
Nietzsche's unfinished, in fact unwritten, study, a putative masterpiece, Heidegger sees Nietzsche's

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key contribution to the history of ontology as the conception of the will to power. He insists that
Nietzsche's other interpreters, say, Baeumler and Jaspers, have not grasped the importance of this
doctrine. For Heidegger, Nietzsche's doctrine is a definitive response to the question of the being of
beings as beings. Since Heidegger interprets "will to power" as meaning "the eternal recurrence of the
[178] he objects to the reading of this concept presupposed in the usual association of
Nietzsche with Heraclitus.
As a view of the being of beings as beings, Nietzsche's conception of ontology addresses a specific
issue which, for that reason, does not respond to Heidegger's own, more general concern with the
meaning of Being. A concern with truth occupies an increasingly central position in
― 158 ―
Heidegger's later thought, including the Beiträge . He states that "meaning" is what makes it possible
that "Being in general can become manifest as such and can come into truth."
[179] But Nietzsche's
view must not be ignored, since it is essential to respond to the question of Being preceding the
question with which Heidegger is concerned, and so make an answer to the latter question possible.
Even if Nietzsche's ontological view falls short of Heidegger's, for Heidegger it nonetheless surpasses
all other views, which he stigmatizes collectively as a mere playing with concepts. "What is proffered
today as ontology has nothing to do with the question of Being proper; it is a very learned and very
astute analysis of transmitted concepts which plays them off, one against the other.
Heidegger argues for the importance of Nietzsche's thought of Being against the background of
Western philosophy. In reference to Heraclitus, he maintains that becoming is grounded in Being.
According to Heidegger, through the idea of eternal recurrence Nietzsche returns behind the later
tradition to the Greek beginnings of Western thought. He believes that Nietzsche takes up the
beginnings of Western philosophy in the customary manner, despite his otherwise original grasp of
pre-Socratic thought. Nietzsche's view is revolutionary, Heidegger maintains, not because it overturns
another, but rather because it uncovers what has previously been covered up. Heidegger now
attributes to Nietzsche the thought of the essence of time.
Thinking Being, will to power, as eternal return, means thinking Being as Time. Nietzsche thinks that thought but does
not think it as the question of Being and Time. Plato and Aristotle also think that thought when they conceive Being as
ousia (presence), but just as little as Nietzsche do they think it as a question.
Heidegger's discussion of Nietzsche's ontological view collapses an important distinction, which
Heidegger apparently overlooks. There is a difference between thinking the being of beings as beings
as the will to power and the thought of Being as time. For Heidegger, the view of the being of beings
as beings as the will to power is a usual but mistaken approach to ontology repeated erroneously
throughout the metaphysical tradition. On the contrary, the thought of Being as time is the view which
Heidegger opposes to the metaphysical tradition, and which he wants to recover in pre-Socratic
thought. It is the view which he prepares in the entire second division of Being and Time and to which
he alludes in later writings. His view of the relation of time to Being is clearly expressed at the outset
of his lengthy account of "Dasein and Temporality": "Within the horizon of time the projection of a
meaning of Being in general can be accomplished."
― 159 ―
Heidegger reads the "idea of the will to power as eternal recurrence" to mean the "inner character of
beings, that is, the basic character of anything insofar as it is," what he refers to as the "final
preliminary question," and as "the idea of Being as time." The latter is, of course, an idea which
Heidegger also "finds" in Plato and Aristotle, and which Nietzsche "rediscovers." For Heidegger, the
idea of Being as time is no longer that of the final preliminary question. This idea, hence, goes beyond
beings as beings to address at least implicitly the question of the meaning of Being—not, as Heidegger
says, to the book in which this question is raised, but to its question.
In sum, Nietzsche's thought of Being is important for Heidegger's concern with the history of
ontology for at least four reasons. First, it provides the definitive account of the being of beings as
beings. Second, it raises the thought of Being as time. Third, it points to the problem that occupies
Heidegger in Being and Time and in all his subsequent writings, to which he alludes here in terms of
the question of the meaning of Being. Fourth, it closes the circle of the ontological tradition in
returning to the early idea of being which was later covered up and which Nietzsche helps to uncover
through his metaphysical revolution. In a word, with respect to the history of ontology, Nietzsche
stands out as "destroying" the received approach. He offers a different view that "solves" the final

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preliminary question and calls attention to, but does not pose, the basic question. Nietzsche's thought
of being differs from the views of previous thinkers, such as Descartes, Kant, and even Hegel, thinkers
whom Heidegger regards as having dogmatically repeated the usual but erroneous view of being,
which they fail to examine and merely restate. Only Nietzsche opens the way to a new thought of
being, which Heidegger regards as a very old thought present in early Greek philosophy.
We have reviewed the way in which Heidegger considers Nietzsche's thought of being, against the
history of ontology, within the framework of fundamental ontology. But we can also read the same
passage, from a different angle of vision, as opening the way, through study of Nietzsche's thought, to
a version of Heidegger's position lying beyond fundamental ontology. This reading is suggested by
Heidegger in many places in his lectures on Nietzsche, for instance in an appendix to the first volume
of the lectures, added in May 1937 but not taken up in the version reworked for publication. Here, in a
comment on Nietzsche as a transitional figure, he notes that the transition leads to a new beginning:
"A transition [Ein Übergang], the transitions [Übergänge] introduce a second beginning.
Heidegger further brings in a number of distinctions discussed in detail in the Beiträge , at which he
was at work from 1936 to 1938, that is, during the period of the Nietzsche lectures, includ-
― 160 ―
ing the concepts of Grundfrage and Leitfrage, Gefüge , and so on, all of which relate to his conception
of the other beginning.
This passage in the fourth chapter offers a series of hints that separately and together point to the
way in which Heidegger made use of his Nietzsche lectures in the evolution of his position beyond its
original formulation and subsequent development to another, later form. So against the view that a
revolutionary merely destroys, Heidegger maintains that as a revolutionary Nietzsche reveals what lay
concealed. With respect to Nietzsche's activity, he writes: "But what is essential in the revolutionary is
not the overturning [Umwendung] as such; it is rather that in overturning he brings to light what is
decisive and essential."
[185] The fruit of Nietzsche's revolutionary activity is his thought of being,
namely, his thought of being as time. But like Plato and Aristotle, who also had this thought, Nietzsche
failed to think it as the question of Being and time, that is, he failed to anticipate Heidegger's
This characterization of Nietzsche as a philosophical revolutionary who does not merely destroy is
as interesting for what it does not say as for what it says. Unlike his remarks on Descartes, Kant, and
all other modern thinkers, Heidegger does not depict Nietzsche as someone who simply perpetuates a
traditional but erroneous view of being. In Heidegger's remarks, Nietzsche is promoted to the level of
the twin pillars of the Greek tradition, outshining all other thinkers in modern philosophy, whose
thought dogmatically continues what since the time of the Greeks has no longer been thought.
Nietzsche's limitation is that he fails to question what calls for a question, namely the view of Being as
time. In that sense, despite the positive import of his philosophical revolution, like Plato, Aristotle, and
all others he falls below the level of Being and Time .
Heidegger is convinced that despite the limitations of Nietzsche's system, Nietzsche's thought of
being is decisive and necessary. Since Heidegger collaborated with others on the critical edition in
order to improve on the available versions of Nietzsche's texts, we know that he was not satisfied with
the editions already available. He correctly points out that we cannot know how Nietzsche would have
modified the work we possess had he been able to complete it. He further maintains that we possess
the presuppositions to think Nietzsche's authentic philosophical thought.
[187] Once again, Heidegger
distinguishes between a so-called genuine interpreter and the crowd of uninformed readers, in practice
all others who are supposedly unable to grasp Nietzsche's authentic philosophical thought (Nietzsches
eigentliches philosophisches Denken ), or at least are unable really to think it.
How is one to think Nietzsche's thought? For Heidegger, it is not sufficient merely to follow the
aphorisms in the order in which they are
― 161 ―
disposed, since, as he concedes, the order is arbitrary; this is only possible by thinking through the
movement of the thought of the questioning of the authentic questioning (Denkbewegung des Fragens
der eigentlichen Fragen heraus ). In this way Heidegger promises to accomplish two crucially
important tasks. First, he intends to hear Nietzsche himself, something which, he implies, no one else
has so far been able to do. This implication follows from the conjunction of a pair of claims already
mentioned: that with respect to ontology Nietzsche towers above anyone else since Plato and Aristotle,
and that contemporary ontological thought is quite literally worthless. Second, Heidegger does not

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merely want to hear Nietzsche. For he does not intend merely to receive another position in passive
fashion, even that of Nietzsche; and his goal is not to learn the nature of Nietzsche's thought for itself.
Rather, he wants to hear Nietzsche's thought of being in a critical way in virtue of his own conviction
that it is essential to Western philosophy. "Still, in all this what remains decisive is to hear Nietzsche
himself; to inquire with him and through him and therefore at the same time against him , but for the
one single innermost matter that is common to Western philosophy."
Nietzsche's thought enabled Heidegger to progress beyond his own initial view in a later
development which is more than another form of fundamental ontology. The result, paradoxically, is
not to go beyond metaphysics to nonmetaphysics, since Heidegger cannot abandon metaphysics in his
abandonment of philosophy.
[189] If he did, then he would have to admit the nonphilosophical status of
early Greek thought, whose importance never changes in his eyes. Like Kant, who desired to leave
behind bad metaphysics at the same time as he specified the condition of metaphysics to come as a
[190] Heidegger intends to throw off the bad metaphysics which he sees as pervading the
Platonic tradition, and philosophy itself, which he identifies with bad metaphysics, in order, finally, to
build correctly on pre-Socratic thought to grasp Being as such in what can only be authentic
Heidegger's and Nietzsche's respective contributions can be assessed in terms of what Heidegger
here refers to as the innermost matter (innerste Sache ) of Western philosophy. Heidegger insists that
Nietzsche ends metaphysics, and attributes to him a special status as the last metaphysical thinker.
Yet he explicitly denies that Nietzsche fulfills metaphysics, for instance by bringing it to a close or
successfully completing the metaphysical quest.
[191] To see this point, to comprehend that with
Nietzsche the metaphysical discussion has in a sense come to a limit, is to move beyond that limit and
toward the completion of metaphysics. But to do so is also to move beyond the position of Being and
Time where, depending on one's reading of this text, Nietzsche was either absent or not explicitly
appreciated. Since Nietzsche brings this philosophical
― 162 ―
movement to an end, since his thought stands at the outer reaches of Western metaphysics, it also
stands beyond it as a theory that points beyond the limits and indicates the direction to be taken.
The shift in Heidegger's position enabling him to grasp the dimensions of Nietzsche's contribution
is an integral part of the evolution of his own thought. Heidegger regards his own contribution to
Nietzsche scholarship as twofold. On the one hand, we have noted that Heidegger literally believes
that unlike others he can not only listen to but even hear Nietzsche.
[192] This mystical faith in his own
hermeneutic capacity should be illustrated by his capacity to think through Nietzsche's problem, which
is not the same as simply reading the aphorisms. In that sense, Heidegger means to suggest that he
understands not only the letter but the spirit of a position which has so far escaped its other readers.
But there is no basis to evaluate Heidegger's claim to be the authentic interpreter of Nietzsche's
thought, and it is even unclear—just as it is unclear in respect to Kant's position—what an authentic
reading would look like.
On the other hand, Heidegger holds that he can and must continue the process of unfolding
Nietzsche's thought beyond the point at which Nietzsche left it, by thinking it through with and against
Nietzsche in order to unfold it against its letter, even against Nietzsche's understanding of its spirit. In
the same way as Hegel believed that he could think Kant's revolution in philosophy through to the end
and complete the Platonic tradition, Heidegger believes that he can think Nietzsche's system through
to the end and complete the pre-Platonic thought of Being beyond Platonism in order to respond to the
innermost philosophical task. In this respect, there is an exact analogy between Hegel's dependence
on Kant and that of Heidegger on Nietzsche: in both cases the former desired to complete the latter's
position in a way perhaps foreign to its spirit, and certainly foreign to its letter, but without which it
cannot be grasped and could not initially have been formulated.
The impact of Nietzsche on Heidegger's thought is not exhausted by the Nietzsche lectures.
Heidegger's later thought continues to unfold his perceptions of the consequences of Nietzsche's
position, as he reads it, in the effort to move decisively beyond the Western tradition in the authentic
thought of Being. In this effort, Heidegger depicts Nietzsche from two angles of vision: as one who
closes the Western discussion of metaphysics by returning to an earlier view, and as one who in the
closing opens another era of authentic ontology.
[193] Through the dialogue with Nietzsche in his later
thought, Heidegger extends his initial rejection of modern philosophy to englobe Platonism in all its
forms and, to the extent that fundamental ontology is insufficiently radical, his own earlier thought as

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― 163 ―
A measure of the change in Heidegger's position with respect to his earlier writings lies in the various
themes he studies in his discussion of Nietzsche's thought. Often these are themes not present in his
earlier writings, or not present in the same way, or which take on a different role in later writings.
These themes, which Heidegger in every case associates with Nietzsche, include the will to power, the
eternal return of the same, and revaluation—the three basic ideas Heidegger identifies in Nietzsche's
thought—as well as nihilism and the reversal, or turning. The result is a change of emphasis and, in at
least one case, that of the turning, the emergence of an important new idea.
Further Discussion of Heidegger's Nietzsche Lectures
Heidegger's views of Nietzsche have attracted attention in a specialized literature. As in the case of
any original text, it is difficult, perhaps not possible, to provide more than an incomplete idea in a
[194] Since we are concerned here with Heidegger's Nazism, a few very brief remarks will
suffice to delineate some main themes of his lectures on Nietzsche. [195]
We have already noted that early in the initial lecture series Heidegger twice asserts the unity of
Nietzsche's basic concepts of the eternal return of the same and the will to power in the transvaluation
(Umwertung ) of all previous values. The first volume is divided into three large discussions concerning
"The Will to Power as Art," "The Eternal Return of the Same," and "The Will to Power as Knowledge."
In the account of "The Will to Power as Art" Heidegger brings together his interest in the link between
art and truth and his concern with Nietzsche's position.
[196] He presents Nietzsche's view as an
inverted Platonism, culminating in a relation between the will to power as art, and as a way to
understand the unity of Being and becoming.
Art as will to semblance is the supreme configuration of will to power. But the latter, as the basic character of beings, as
the essence of reality, is in itself that Being which wills itself by willing to be Becoming. In that way through the will to
power Nietzsche attempts to think the original unity of the ancient opposition of Being and Becoming. Being, as
permanence, is to let Becoming be a Becoming. The origin of the thought of "eternal recurrence" is thereby
Heidegger regards the eternal return of the same, which he discusses in a lengthy section, as
Nietzsche's basic metaphysical position. He sees this concept as a confrontation with the
Platonic-Christian mode of
― 164 ―
thought characteric of the Western tradition. The discussion culminates in three points. First,
Nietzsche's idea constitutes the end of metaphysics.
[198] Second, Nietzsche's effort to eliminate the
fundamentally Platonic position through its inversion in his own system fails, and in fact confirms
[199] Third, Nietzsche's failure, at the end of metaphysics, to go beyond it can function as
the opening to transcending it if we adopt a questioning attitude toward his guiding question: what is
[200] In other words, we can use Nietzsche's effort to transcend Western thought, by thinking
with him and against him, to carry out what he meant to accomplish.
The account of "The Will to Power as Knowledge" occupies the last part of the first volume. Here,
from the vantage point of his view of Nietzsche as the last metaphysical thinker, Heidegger explores
Nietzsche's idea of truth as an "illusion." He interprets Nietzsche's doctrine of the return as pointing to
a view of truth based on value, related to correctness.
[201] In the same way as he refused to accept
Nazi biologism, Heidegger refuses the appellation of "biologism" for Nietzsche's thought, [202] although
he maintains that in Nietzsche's system correctness refers ultimately to life itself. [203] From an
epistemological point of view, Heidegger regards Nietzsche as favoring permanence over change in the
idea of the eternal return of the same, which finally refers to life.
The second volume contains seven smaller accounts of the "The Eternal Return of the Same and
the Will to Power," "European Nihilism," "Nietzsche's Metaphysics," "The Ontological-Historical
Definition of Nihilism," "Metaphysics as the History of Being," "Sketches of the History of Being as
Metaphysics," and "Memory in Metaphysics." The most important passage, which takes up roughly half
of the second volume, concerns the topic of European nihilism.
[205] Heidegger's discussion here of
nihilism is neither unprecedented nor even unusual. To the best of my knowledge, this theme is not
discussed in his corpus, or at least not discussed under that title, prior to the Nietzsche lectures. But
nihilism was a frequent topic in the German-language discussion of the period.
[206] The theme is
further anticipated in Heidegger's earlier writings under the heading of nothing (das Nichts ).
The idea of nothing is discussed by Heidegger in several early texts. In Being and Time , in a

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remark on authenticity and inauthenticity Heidegger describes inauthenticity as not nothing but as
average; [207] and in a later passage, he states that nothing functions as that in the face of which we
are anxious.[208] Here, nothing is related to value, as values that can be realized in authentic
comportment, that can fail to be realized in inauthenticity, and that can be definitively lost in death.
Heidegger brings out another dimension of nothing in "What Is Metaphysics?" by reemphasizing the
relation to human being and adding an explicit link to
― 165 ―
metaphysics. In the inaugural lecture, nothing, which science has supposedly failed to analyze,
becomes an explicit theme. According to Heidegger, "Dasein" literally means "being held out into the
[209] Nothing here is presented as transcendence, or the Being beyond beings, as the
nihilation of nothing that is human being. [210] Heidegger goes on to claim that when we reflect on
nothing, it leads to the metaphysical question of the meaning of Being. [211]
Heidegger's discussion of nothing continues his earlier reflections on this theme. In Being and
Time , he was concerned with the individual and with falling as a basic kind of being that belongs to
everydayness, or inauthentic Dasein. A similar concern is visible in the rectoral address, where
Heidegger mentions Nietzsche's statement that God is dead and asks about the consequences for
science in the Greek sense given the abandonment of today's man in the midst of beings.
[212] In the
Nietzsche lectures, he provides a historical interpretation of Nietzsche's view as a determination of a
fall away from Being as such. He further refers to a passage in Being and Time , in which falling is
described relative to the potentiality for being-in-the-world.
In An Introduction to Metaphysics , Heidegger brings together his prior analyses of nothing in
relation to value and metaphysics in an explicit meditation on history from Nietzsche's perspective. He
now provides what can only be regarded as a mythical explanation of the source of fallenness through
an equally mythical happening. In an important passage, which largely anticipates the discussion of
nihilism in the Nietzsche lectures, he writes:
And should we not say that the fault did not begin with us, or with our immediate or more remote ancestors, but lies in
something that runs through Western history from the very beginning. a happening [ein Geschehnis] which the eyes of
all the historians in the world will never perceive, but which nevertheless happens, which happened in the past and will
happen in the future? What if it were possible that man, that nations in the greatest movements and traditions, are
linked to Being and yet had long fallen out of Being, without knowing it, and that this was the most powerful and most
central cause of their decline?
In comparison with earlier discussion of this theme, the account in the course on metaphysics
differs in the dual emphasis on an event linking metaphysics to history and on a grasp of that event in
respect to Nietzsche's thought. Nietzsche is said to be important in that he alone has grasped the fall
away from Being which supposedly determines all of Western history and which is now manifested in
the decline due to the fall out of Being. This same decline is visible in Europe's being pinched between
Russia and America, in the rise of modern technology, and in
― 166 ―
the spiritual decline affecting Germany, that most metaphysical of nations, which needs to realize its
vocation through an authentic renewal of the fundamental question of metaphysics.
[215] Once again,
Heidegger is merely stating his obviously mystical belief in the salvific power of a renewal of
philosophy for the future history of the world.
Heidegger believes that the importance of Nietzsche's insight into history goes beyond merely
getting metaphysics right after several thousand years. This new understanding means that we can
now make another beginning, a beginning beyond the old beginning which will not merely be a
continuation of what has previously occurred. "To ask: 'How does it stand with being?' means nothing
less than to capture, to repeat, the beginning of our historical-spiritual existence, in order to transform
it into the other beginning."
[216] All of these themes, including metaphysics, technology, modernity,
are now decisively linked by Hei-degger to his understanding of the unfolding of Nietzsche's thought
with respect to the decisive event described as the fall away from Being.
The discussion of nihilism in the lectures on Nietzsche records Heidegger's effort, in a lectures
series given in 1940, to come to grips with the fall away from Being. In comparison with his earlier
writings, his Nietzsche lectures innovate through a detailed study of Nietzsche's grasp of this so far
unnamed but fateful event, the introduction of a partially novel terminology to refer to the event and
its consequences, and the statement in allusive fashion of the outlines of the position he began to

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develop in the Beiträge in the period immediately preceding this lecture course.
The term "nihilism" occurs in previous writers, but Heidegger believes that Nietzsche uses it in a
different way to designate a phenomenon he was the first to identify. For Heidegger, Nietzsche
concentrates the meaning of the concept in the statement "God is dead," interpreted as the loss by the
"Christian God," or the "transcendent" in general, of any meaning for beings and for human being.
Nietzsche uses nihilism as the name for the historical movement that he was the first to recognize and that already
governed the previous century while defining the century to come, the movement whose essential interpretation he
concentrates in the terse sentence "God is dead." That is to say, the "Christian God" has lost His position over beings and
over the determination of man.
Heidegger now argues for a connection between an ongoing event in which the transcendent loses
its sway and the history of ontology. If Nietzsche's metaphysics is the fulfillment of Western
metaphysics, then we can only confront the former if we confront the latter.
[218] In Being and
― 167 ―
Time , the history of ontology was the series of incorrect views which, through their dogmatic
reproduction, continue to dominate the metaphysical tradition deprived of access to the original Greek
insight into Being. Here, the history of ontology is revealed as coextensive with the ongoing process of
the loss of transcendence symbolized by the death of the "Christian God."
Nihilism is that historical process whereby the dominance of the "transcendent" becomes null and void, so that all being
loses its worth and meaning. Nihilism is the history of being itself, through which the death of the Christian God comes
slowly but inexorably to light. In his recognition of the ongoing process of nihilism, the history of being. and metaphysics
itself, has come to an end.
But since history continues, the task at present is to reflect on the significance of the end of
metaphysics as symbolized by the statement of the death of God.
The end of metaphysics discloses itself as the collapse of the reign of the transcendent and the "ideal" that sprang from
it. But the end of metaphysics does not mean the cessation of history. It is the beginning of a serious concern with that
"event" [Ereignis]: "God is dead."
Heidegger makes a number of further points to indicate the significance of nihilism for his own
thought. His remarks on Nietzsche's relation to Descartes reflect an acute embarassment. This is an
illustration of Heidegger's arbitrary, often violent reading of views in the philosophical tradition to
follow his prior explanatory framework instead of adapting his framework to the views. Since
Heidegger's view of Being depends on the rejection of Descartes, in virtue of his conviction of
Nietzsche's importance it cannot be that Nietzsche accepts the Cartesian philosophy. Heidegger
provides a strained, unconvincing effort to demonstrate that Nietzsche only seems to accept the
Cartesian theory since he fails to grasp it. Although Heidegger concedes that Nietzsche adopts
Descartes's fundamental philosophical position,
[221] that Nietzsche is in fact admittedly rigorously
committed to the Cartesian concept of subjectivity,[222] Heidegger nevertheless maintains that
Nietzsche holds a different view, [223] since Nietzsche misunderstands the relation of his own view to
the Cartesian view. [224]
Heidegger ends his discussion of nihilism with a reaffirmation of the significance of Nietzsche's
insight. As in the rectoral address, he maintains that Nietzsche's metaphysical view is insightful for the
present historical period. Heidegger here attempts a transition from the thought of Being to a
characterization of social being. Unlike Sartre, who held
― 168 ―
that Marxism is the philosophy of our time, Heidegger believes that this age is defined by Nietzsche's
[225] The leading characteristic of this period is an indifference to the true thought of
Being, which has given way to a worldview (Weltananschauung ) concerned with beings as opposed to
Being, the decline of metaphysics in the legitimate sense of the term, and the increasing dominion
over beings.
In Heidegger's terminology, "worldview" is antithetical to metaphysics in the true sense since
through the conjunction of ideas and values the essence of Being, even the distinction between Being
and beings, has been lost. For Heidegger, contemporary metaphysics has become a meaningless echo

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of true metaphysics. The rise of the dominion over beings has only been rendered possible by the
emergence of the concept of the worldview at the end of metaphysics. But this result is not due to
human being; rather, according to Heidegger it is due to Being itself, which is the cause of the history
of being and, as a result, of human history. In the last paragraph, Heidegger writes:
The age of the fulfillment of metaphysics—which we descry when we think through the basic features of Nietzsche's
metaphysics—prompts us to consider to what extent we first find ourselves in the history of being. It also prompts us to
consider—prior to this—the extent to which we must experience history as the release [Loslassung] of being into
machination [Machenschaft]. a release that Being itself sends, so as to allow its truth to become essential for man out of
man's belonging to Being.
Heidegger's Nietzsche Lectures and the Turning (Kehre)
Heidegger's stress on the historical importance of a mythical withdrawal of Being provides insight into
two further themes: the relation of the Nietzsche lectures to the Beiträge , and the important but
obscure concept of the turning in his thought. The central concept of the Beitr äge is the concept of
the event (Ereignis ). Now the German language has a number of words which mean "event,"
including "Erlebnis," "Geschehnis, " and "Ereignis. " It has been suggested that in writings prior to the
first series of Nietzsche lectures, Heidegger routinely employs the word "Geschehnis " to refer the
so-called crucial event of Western history.
[227] In the crucial passage in the discussion of
metaphysics, cited above, in both the published version and in the original lecture course Heidegger
uses the word "Geschehnis " to designate the event which Nietzsche was allegedly the first to
[228] whereas in parallel passages referring to the "death of God" in the rewritten and original
lecture versions of the Nietzsche course he employs the term "Ere-
― 169 ―
ignis ."
[229] In writings after this period, he consistently reserves "Ereignis " to designate the
particular historical event and he utilizes "Geschehnis " to refer indiscriminately to other events.
Heidegger's change in terminological emphasis is accompanied by a conceptual alteration of his
position, which undergoes a transformation or deepening, but not a rupture, in the so-called turning in
his thought. After a passing reference in the "Letter on Humanism," the difficult concept of the turning
(Kehre ) came to dominate discussion of the relation between the earlier and later phases of
Heidegger's thought.
[230] The concept of a turning is well-known in German thought, for instance in
Marx's obscure suggestion that his own theory can be regarded as the inversion (Umkehrung ) of
Hegel's idealism.
[231] Marx's suggestion, which has been seen as fundamental to an interpretation of
his position by generations of students, implies that his position grows out of a fundamental
transformation of, but not a break with, Hegel's position. Hei-degger employs the concept of the
turning in order to suggest an analogous transformation in his view, whose later form develops in a
fundamentally new way, but does not fully leave behind, his earlier thought. In a comment on Being
and Time , Heidegger remarks that his standpoint is not changed, but deepened;
[232] and in another
comment on Sartre he remarks that the latter reverses or inverts (umkehrt ) the traditional order in
the relation of essence and existence.
The German language is particularly rich in etymologically related terms to express the idea of
turning and related concepts. There is a clear etymological link between "Kehre " and "Umkehrung "
through "Umkehr." "Umkehrung " can be rendered as "overturning," "reversal," "conversion," or
"inversion," whereas "Kehre " means a "turn" or "bend." Both are further related to "Umdrehrung ,"
that is, "turning" or "revolution." In the first series of Nietzsche lectures, Heidegger mentions the idea
of an Umkehrung in a number of places, in particular the early chapter on The Will to Power and in a
later chapter concerning truth in Platonism and positivism.
[234] 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 ).
[235] 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 from Platonism, or twisting free.
But a turning (Drehung ) is not necessarily a reversal (Umkehung ), as he later reminds us; it can
rather be a kind of penetration (Eindrehen ). [237]
Heidegger thinks of Nietzsche as attempting a turning within nihilism in order to overturn and go
beyond Platonism. It is, then, reasonable to see in this concept an earlier version of Heidegger's own
later effort,

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― 170 ―
through a turning, to progress beyond his own earlier thought, Nietzsche, Platonism, and
[238] Both the idea and the date of the turning are controversial. It is possible that there
is not a single turning, an isolated event, but rather several turnings, or types of turning, in
Heidegger's thought. This way of reading the turning is plausible since even the most labile positions
do not change suddenly or in discontinuous fashion, but rather undergo shifts in emphasis over time.
If this is the case, then the term "turning" does not designate a single event, such as a sudden shift or
a break, but rather refers to the process of the evolution of Heidegger's position from the original
phenomenological ontology, with its stress on a transcendental analysis of the problem of Being in
terms of Dasein, to a later, nontranscendental analysis of this problem which no longer depends on
It is unclear why the turning, or turnings, took place. The process may have been set in motion by
a renewed encounter with Nietzsche, more precisely through the growing awareness, which can be
traced through the texts, of the importance of the idea manifested in the slogan "God is dead," which
finally gives rise to the extensive meditation on nihilism. If we accept this hypothesis, then we can
plausibly understand the turning as a number of related elements in Heidegger's position arising out of
his meditation on the supposed withdrawal of Being, through Nietzsche's insight, over a period of
years beginning no later than the early 1930s.
One precipitating factor seems to have been Heidegger's later realization that later philosophy did
not simply fall away from Being, leading to the emergence of an inauthentic metaphysics. There is,
hence, a reversal in Heidegger's understanding of the concept of falling, which in Being and Time was
ascribed to Dasein's inauthenticity, or failure to choose itself authentically, but which is later ascribed
to the mythical event in which Being withdraws. If this is the case, then the turning in Heidegger's
thought represents his effort to think what is no longer, or at least no longer primarily, a suppposed
infidelity to Being, but what he later comes to see merely as the hand that Being has dealt us.
In general, we can discern at least the following features as constiturive of the turning in his
thought. First, there is a turn away from Dasein to Being, since Being, not Dasein, is the source of its
own occultation. This explains the eclipse of Dasein, or the analysis of Dasein, and the later disinterest
in authenticity, elements that are no longer relevant to the thought of Being. Second, there is the new
focus on the loss of the thought of Being as an event due to Being itself. Although Being and Time
pointed toward the thought of Being as time, it turns out that the problem of the meaning of Being
needed to be rethought in terms of an initial event which, in a sense, creates the problem. Third, there
is a turn
― 171 ―
to Nietzsche since he alone, on Heidegger's view, has recognized the primordial event which since the
beginning determines Western history and Western metaphysics. This explains the realignment of
Heidegger's fundamental ontology after 1935, perhaps even before, as an attempt to unroll the
consequences of Nietzsche's thought of Being. Fourth, there is a decision to deepen the earlier
approach, which is no longer tenable, or at least not tenable as originally understood. When Heidegger
says that we need to recapture or to repeat the beginning of our historical epoch in order to transform
it into another beginning, it is significant that he characterizes such repetition as "anything but an
improved continuation with the old methods of what has been up to now.
[240] In this sense, the
celebrated turning, or the turn to another beginning, represents an effort to push the questioning back
to a deeper level, to begin again on a prior remove, finally once and for all to make a true beginning.
It is the desire to make a deeper, truer, in fact finally true beginning which is manifest in the detailed
effort in the Beiträge to think another beginning from the perspective of the so-called event.
Fifth, there is a political turn that does not precede but follows from the turning in Heidegger's
thought. In the lecture course on metaphysics, after he resigned as rector and severed his official
connection to National Socialism, Heidegger repeats his call to follow the political lead of metaphysics
in order to undo, if not for the world, at least with respect to Germany, the ravages supposedly
wrought by the withdrawal of Being in the mythical event. His effort to lead the leaders is, and is seen
by him as, an attempt to seize the propitious moment in which this supposedly most metaphysical
nation can arrest its decline and assume its historical destiny. Heidegger reemphasizes this point in his
statement of the necessity for Germany to act on behalf of itself and the history of the West in order
to avoid catastrophe through decisive action.
All this implies that this nation, as a historical nation, must move itself and thereby the history of the West beyond the
center of their future happening [Geschehens] and into the primordial realm of the power of Being. If the great decision
[Entscheidung] regarding Europe is not to bring annihilation, that decision must be made in terms of new spiritual

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energies unfolding historically from out of the center. [241]
Yet this statement after the rectoral period does not record a new or even a substantially different
conviction; rather it restates in almost equivalent language a familiar view, a muted echo of the
essential message of the rectoral addresss, a conviction Heidegger continues to hold, and which he
expressed in his speech noting the importance of Nietzsche's slogan "God is dead" and calling for the
realization of German
― 172 ―
destiny. There is an obvious continuity between Heidegger's claim in the rectoral address to lead the
leaders, to realize the ends which he shares with Nazism, and the statement in the lectures on
metaphysics of the need for decisive action to realize German destiny. In both cases, the call for
action, for the translation of metaphysics into politics, follows from a turning in Heidegger's thought
based on his reading of Nietzsche's slogan.
The Nietzsche Lectures and Nazism
The turning in Heidegger's thought was not a single event, but a series of transformations of which he
only later became aware. Among the turnings, there is Heidegger's political turning, on the basis of his
understanding of metaphysics, to National Socialism. But perhaps there is also another turning, or at
least another part to the turning, such as a turning against National Socialism? The view that
Heidegger later turned against Nazism has often been expressed by Heidegger and his followers. In a
remark on his lecture course from 1944/45, Heidegger states that his Nietzsche lectures were a
confrontation with Nazism. In reference to his lectures on "Poetizing and Thinking," he writes: "This
was in a certain sense a continuation of my Nietzsche lectures, that is to say, a confrontation
[Auseinandersetzung] with National Socialism."
The view that Heidegger later turned against the "movement" is widely accepted by Heidegger's
followers. For instance, Arendt locates a turn against Nazism between the first and second volume of
the Nietzsche lectures, in which Heidegger purportedly comes to grips with "his brief past in the Nazi
[243] Aubenque affirms that in 1935 Hei-degger tried to save an internal truth of National
Socialism but that beginning in 1936 in the Nietzsche lectures he rejected Nazism as a possibility. [244]
Krell states imprecisely that in lectures and seminars after 1934 Heidegger began to criticize the Nazi
ideology of Blut und Boden more and more openly. [245] For Vietta, Heidegger's analysis of Nietzsche's
view of nihilism constitutes a recognition of the intrinsic nihilism of Nazism. [246]
In order to determine whether Heidegger confronted National Socialism in his Nietzsche lecture
series, it is useful to note some of the differences between the lectures from this period as given and
as prepared by Heidegger for publication. Examination of the text shows that in the published versions
Heidegger sought to conceal his reliance on Nietzsche's concept of nihilism in order to draw political
conclusions. So in the lectures on Schelling in the spring semester of 1936, immediately prior to the
Nietzsche lectures that began that fall, in the context of a
― 173 ―
remark on knowledge Heidegger suddenly interjects a statement to the effect that the efforts of Hitler
and Mussolini to react against nihilism were determined by Nietzsche:
It is known in this respect that Mussolini as well as Hitler, both men who in different ways in Europe have introduced
contrary movements concerning the political shape of the nation and of the people, are again in different ways essentially
limited by Nietzsche, although it is not the case that in this way the authentic metaphysical region of Nietzschean
thought immediately received its value.
Since it was known that both Mussolini and Hitler were interested in Nietzsche, the interest of the
omitted passage is that Heidegger here signals that both were in fact determined by what they failed
fully to comprehend. And in the first series of Nietzsche lectures, again in a passage omitted in the
version revised for publication, Heidegger once more insists on the importance of his evocation of
Nietzsche's slogan in the rectoral address: "'God is dead' is not an atheistic proposition, but rather the
formula for the basic experience of the event [des Ereignisses] of Western history. I consciously put
this statement in my Rektoratsrede of 1933."
[248] Here, Heidegger correctly emphasizes the
continuity between his attitude toward Nietzsche both during and after his service as rector of the
University of Freiburg.

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One can admit the existence of a controversy with National Socialism in the Nietzsche lectures but
deny that Heidegger here turns against Nazism. Obviously, a disagreement on one point is compatible
with agreement, even a large measure of agreement, on other points. Those who follow Heidegger's
description of the Nietzsche lectures as a controversy with National Socialism need to answer two
questions: what is the nature of the controversy with National Socialism within the Nietzsche lectures?
In what sense does it constitute a turning against Nazism? It is difficult to evaluate Krell's imprecise
statement since it does not refer to a specific passage or text. Arendt's claim is not sustained by the
inspection of the texts. Even were there a shift in tone, as she claims, between the first and second
volumes of the Nietzsche lectures, it would follow neither that the second volume represented a
confrontation with Nietzsche
[249] nor that Heidegger here severed his connection with Nazism.
In different ways, Aubenque briefly and Vietta in more detail both correctly point to Heidegger's
controversy with Nietzsche and National Socialism; but both incorrectly conclude from the existence of
an objection to the metaphysical acumen of Nazism, a complaint about it as theory, that Heidegger
rejects Nazism as politics or its political goals. The controversy with Nietzsche, mentioned above,
includes related cri-
― 174 ―
tiques of such topics as his supposedly confused view of values, his allegedly unsatisfactory effort to
come to grips with Platonism from which he is said to fail to escape, his questionable understanding of
his relation to the Cartesian philosophy, and so on.
[250] But a critique of Nietzsche, or even of Nazism
as a theory or theoretical entity, is not the same thing as a rejection of the political aspect of National
In the rectoral address, Nazism is never named, although the reference to it is unmistakable. To
the best of my knowledge, in the Nietzsche lectures National Socialism is never directly named and
hence never overtly criticized. But Heidegger does criticize Nazism as an approach to Being, and more
obliquely as a political movement that springs from an incorrect form of metaphysics. The controversy
with National Socialism is perhaps most evident in brief remarks at the end of the long discussion of
nihilism, where Heidegger opposes so-called authentic metaphysics, which rests upon the ontological
difference, to an inauthentic metaphysics, or worldview. If the statement about the worldview is an
allusion to National Socialism, then Heidegger's statement that "dominion over beings can develop
only with the beginning of the fulfillment of metaphysics" is a veiled description of the way in which
Nazism has become possible in the age defined by Nietzsche's metaphysics.
[251] Heidegger's
objection, then, is that as a mere worldview National Socialism represents an inauthentic metaphysics,
which must be rejected. In this way, Heidegger distances himself from every inauthentic form of
metaphysics, including National Socialism, supposedly thrown up by nihilism.
It is probable that Heidegger here rejects Nazism as a theory of Being. Yet he does not object to
the political consequences of National Socialism. A political rejection of National Socialism would only
follow if he believed that a metaphysically bad theory is, in virtue of that fact, politically unacceptable.
In my view there are two reasons to refuse this interpretation. First, although when Heidegger
accepted the rectorship he allied himself with National Socialism as the Führer of the university, he
never accepted the political hegemony of Nazism. Heidegger's refusal of Nazi political leadership is
clear in his determined argument in the rectoral speech from a Platonic perspective that philosophy,
not "political science," must lead the state. Second, in the rectoral address, in the lectures on
metaphysics, in the lectures on Nietzsche, and in all his later writings, Heidegger maintains the goal,
which he shares with Nazism: the realization of the destiny of the German Volk .
In sum, in his critique of National Socialism Heidegger apparently rejects its mistaken
interpretation of Being. Yet he does not distance himself here or, to the best of my knowledge,
anywhere else in the Nietzsche lectures or in other writings on the history of philosophy from political
Nazism as such. In the limited sense that he criticizes National
― 175 ―
Socialism as a theory of Being, Heidegger is correct to claim that his Nietzsche lectures represent a
confrontation with Nazism; but the confrontation is mainly limited to Nazism as a form of metaphysics
in the age of nihilism. It is obviously incorrect to interpret this limited confrontation with Nietzsche or
with the metaphysical capacity of National Socialism as a turn against Nazism. There is nothing in the
texts to show that Heidegger's turning is a turning against the political consequences of Nazism and
even less to show that it is a turning against Nazism as such. In fact, since Heidegger apparently never
accepted official, or real, Nazism with which he colloborated, and to which he belonged as an official
member of the Nazi party, it would indeed have been difficult for him later to turn against it.

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― 176 ―
Nazism and the Beitrage zur Philosophie
Heidegger's Beiträge
The single most important text for the relation between Heidegger's later position and his Nazism is a
still little-known, recently published treatise composed in the period immediately following the
rectorate: Contributions to Philosophy (On the Event) (Beiträge zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis )). The
Beiträge , one of Heidegger's most difficult but most important works, is a highly technical
philosophical study, unlike the semipopular texts and lectures so far considered.
In turning to the Beiträge , we enter uncharted territory. The speech and the essay we have
studied above are available in English translation; they are at least well known and often mentioned,
and the speech although not the essay has often been discussed. Although the Hölderlin lectures are
not yet translated, Heidegger's Nietzsche lectures are available in English; the worked-over German
version has been in the bookstores for many years, and the original lectures are now being published.
With the exception of a few colleagues who possessed copies of the original manuscript, the Beiträge is
not well known, even to the large circle of Heidegger enthusiasts. It was published only in January
1989. It is at present untranslated, and is still rarely mentioned outside of the circle of Heidegger
Any discussion of the Beiträge must face difficulties specific to this unfinished, difficult text. The
Beiträge is the only major Heideggerian work that has not yet been discussed in detail in the
enormous Heidego ger secondary literature. In writing about a work, especially one that is
― 177 ―
not well known, there is a natural tendency to cite passages, in fact to cite with more than usual
frequency, in order in this way to make the work available to the scholarly public. This is useful in
order to acquaint the reader with this difficult, little-known text as much as possible in Heidegger's
own words. Yet even to write about this work requires one to undertake the perilous effort, which
cannot be successful, in Kant's words a vergeblich Versuch , to put into standard English or at least
into English a treatise that is scarcely in German, at least as measured by standard German. We do
not possess a standard philosophical vocabulary to render Heidegger's difficult terminology in this
work, unusually difficult even by Heideggerian standards. The difficulty in presenting Heidegger's
thought in the Beiträge begins with the crucial term "Ereignis, " the master word of Heidegger's later
thought, which, in the absence of received practice, I shall arbitrarily translate here as "event."
Since there is as yet no translation of the work as a whole or even any agreed-on way to render key
terms, the passages cited will be rendered in literal fashion, with closer attention to meaning than to
English style.
Although Heidegger is never an easy thinker, the Beiträge is especially difficult to comprehend. It
is as if Heidegger, who in the wake of Being and Time increasingly thought of himself as the most
important thinker of modern times, perhaps since the pre-Socratics, were forced here, in the wake of
the failure of the rectorate, to come to grips with himself and his philosophy in the midst of a Nazi
Germany heading rapidly toward a world war. There is a sense of urgency and confusion in this text, a
feeling of the embarrassment of thought before the present day and history, a palpable confusion,
present in none of Heidegger's other writings. There is an existential dimension in this text, equally
present in the rectoral address, but with none of the self-confidence, conceptual hubris, even
overweening pride evident in the speech.
Important philosophical works resist easy summary. It is not possible to describe the Beiträge in
simple fashion since the thought it contains is of extraordinary complexity. As this text has only
recently been published, there is no standard, or even well-known, way to understand it, so that any
reading literally has to forge its own route. In the absence of guidelines, or extensive prior discussion
against which to react, with respect to the Beiträge this chapter will concern itself with two tasks: a
general description of some main lines of this difficult text, as a sort of first effort to relate it to
Heidegger's corpus, without which a more detailed discussion would be literally out of context;
[3] and
a more specific scrutiny of its connection to Heidegger's Nazism.

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In view of its recent appearance, it is both easy and difficult to write about this text. It is easy to
do so since the Beiträge has only recently
― 178 ―
appeared. Accordingly, there is almost no discussion that needs to be taken into account. It is for that
reason also difficult to write about, since there is no well-traveled path to follow; and, with a single
exception, there is not even a well-developed view of the precise relation of this work to the question
of Heidegger's Nazism. In order to prepare for an analysis of the link of this book to National
Socialism, it will be useful to provide some general remarks about the treatise.
The text of the book was handwritten by Heidegger during the period 1936-1938 and transcribed
by his brother, Fritz Heidegger, in typewritten form.
[4] The original manuscript, which was compared
by Heidegger with the typescript prepared by his brother, is described by the editor as consisting of
933 handwritten pages, mainly of the size known as DIN A5.
[5] It appeared for the first time in 1989,
in the year of Heidegger's hundredth anniversary, as volume 65 of his collected works, in a version
edited by Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann.
[6] The whole is divided into eight parts and 281 numbered
paragraphs of uneven length.
The Beiträge is obviously unfinished.
[7] Although much of the work is rather polished, even
complete, there are numerous passages that lack final form. These include discussions embedded
within other discussions, and even "sentences" that lack verbs.
[8] The terminology is particularly
laborious: many words are written in hyphenated form, presumably in order to indicate their
etymologies; Being is no longer written as Sein but now appears as Seyn , and Dasein occurs as
Dasein; and there are numerous neologisms that render translation even more perilous than usual.
The reading is unusually difficult, even by Heideggerian standards. Although the parts of the book
cohere internally, they do not form a single whole, and the overall line of argument is difficult to
Little about the published book is clear, perhaps including the proper ordering of its parts. In a
handwritten note, dated 8 May 1939, Heideg-ger complains that the discussion of Being, the second
part of the typewritten manuscript, is not at its proper place and indicates that his manuscript requires
another revision.
[10] The editor reports that he placed the discussion titled "Das Seyn," at the end of
the published version.[11] He justifies this decision through the remark that Heidegger renumbered
the pages in such a way as to suggest this reordering of the manuscript. But a revision is more than a
change in the numbering of the pages or the ordering of the parts of the work which Heidegger carried
out. It is an open question whether a finished, or even a further-revised, manuscript would have
presented its constituent elements in the same or a different order.
In part because the book has so recently been published, there is little literature and even little
agreement about it. Pöggeler—for many years,
― 179 ―
one of the few to have a manuscript of the text—has always believed that it is Heidegger's Hauptwerk
[12] ` This opinion was quickly contested by others after the work appeared. In response to Pöggeler,
Alexander Schwan characterizes the Beiträge as Heidegger's second great philosophical work. [13] He
insists that it refutes Farias's thesis that Heidegger remained a convinced National Socialist. [14] For
Schwan, the Beiträge indicates a clear withdrawal from the interrelation of philosophy and politics in
[15] Schwan maintains that the Beiträge does not lead to a criticism of National Socialism but to
a renunciation of practice. [16] Von Herrmann, who takes a weaker line, describes the Beiträge as
merely one of Heidegger's main works. [17] Vietta regards this book as Heidegger's most important
Hauptwerk after Being and Time , a view that continues to give primacy to the early study of
fundamental ontology.
[18] He makes extensive use of this text to examine what he describes as
Heidegger's critique of National Socialism and technology. [19] More recently, Pöggeler has insisted
that the Beiträge presents a sharp critique of National Socialism, as well as liberalism and
[20] Thomä states without elaboration that the Beiträge continues Heidegger's critique of
Nazism as it exists. [21] On the contrary, Tertulian maintains that in the Beiträge Heidegger
manipulates the history of ontology in order to conceal fascist political goals. [22]
Obviously, this book is not only a key document in Heidegger's position; it is also a key document
for a grasp of Heidegger's comprehension of Nazism after the rectorate. For this reason, the Beiträge
is itself caught up in the political struggle now under way. It opposes defenders of Heidegger's life and
thought, who for generations have resisted full access to the Heidegger Archives and sought to
prevent the appearance of damaging material, and those who are less concerned to defend Hei-degger

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than to uncover the truth. This political struggle concerns the Beiträge in three ways. First, and most
obviously, there is the scholarly interpretation of the text itself, the kind of hermeneutical struggle that
occurs in any learned enterprise. Second, there is the prior problem of the establishment of the text,
the object of interpretation, the determination of what is available for scrutiny. It is, then, a matter of
some concern that a question has been raised about the completeness of the present published
version of this text.
[23] It is fair to say that the text we now have is probably incomplete, and we do
not know what has been omitted from it. Obviously, it is important to have a full version of the text on
which to base an informed judgment, and just as obviously, that is probably not the case at present.
Third, there is the present struggle, unusual in scholarly circles, recently under way between those
who control the ongoing edition of Heidegger's collected writings in German and the American
publishers to find a translator acceptable to both parties to
― 180 ―
render this text into English. In view of the political stakes, and the history of Heidegger scholarship,
in which even noted scholars are frequently personally implicated in sustaining a particular
interpretation, one can anticipate efforts to control even the wording of politically sensitive passages in
the English translation.
Interpretation of the Beiträge
The approach in Being and Time to the problem of the meaning of Being through Dasein is later
transformed through a turning (Kehre ), or reversal, announced in the "Letter on Humanism," in which
everything is reversed, through a new thinking which abandons subjectivity.
[24] Hei-degger describes
his new thinking as "no longer philosophy, because it thinks more originally than metaphysics—a name
identical to philosophy."
[25] The precise nature of the turning in Heidegger's thought is a matter of
scholarly dispute. [26] Yet it is clear that the Beiträge belongs to an effort to make a new beginning, to
effect a transition from philosophy to the so-called new thinking—in short, through questioning in
another track, which will arise from the transition from that followed by Western thought.
A feature of Heidegger's consistent emphasis on the problem of Being and his later turn away from
subjectivity is a change in his view of truth. Following Heidegger's suggestion that his book must be
understood in terms of his notes from his lectures (Vorlesungen ), von Herrmann points to Heidegger's
lectures from the 1930s, particularly the volume titled Basic Question of Philosophy: Selected
"Problems" of "Logic" (Grundfragen der Philosophie: Ausgewählte 'Probleme' der 'Logik ') from the fall
semester of 1937/38, above all the appendix (Arthang ) under the title "From the First Draft" ("Aus
dem ersten Entwurf").
[28] For von Herrmann, the relation between these two texts centers around the
theme of truth as disclosure.
This suggestion is supported by Heidegger's repeated mention in the Beiträge of two lectures
(Vorträge ) concerning truth from this period: "On The Essence of Truth" ("Das Wesen der Wahrheit")
and "The Origin of the Work of Art" ("Die Ursprung des Kunstwerkes"). In Being and Time , Heidegger
proposed an ontological view of truth as both objective and subjective. He insisted on the objective
component of truth in his claim that a true assertion signifies the essence of the object. "To say that
an assertion 'is true ' signifies that it uncovers the entity as it is in itself."
[29] He stressed the
subjective component of truth through his conception of Dasein, as in the assertion "that truth, in the
most primordial sense, is Dasein's disclosedhess, to which the uncoveredhess of entities belongs."
Here, Heidegger carried his emphasis on the subjec-
― 181 ―
tive component of truth to great lengths, for instance in the claim that truth only is as long as there is
[31] so that Newton's laws literally were neither true nor false prior to Newton, through whom
the laws became true. [32]
In his later writing, consistent with the deemphasis of Dasein, and the decentering of the subject,
Heidegger turns away from the subjective element while continuing to stress a view of truth as
disclosure. Now he depicts truth as the disclosure that reveals an aspect of what still lies concealed.
"Philosophical thinking is gentle disclosure that does not renounce the concealment of being as a
[33] In the Beiträge he carries this view still further by underscoring the event of that which is
to be disclosed. So in the one-page section preceding the work, he stresses the verbs "to occur" or "to
happen" ("ereignen "), as in the "event" ("Ereignis "). This stress preserves a clear etymological link to
Heidegger's earlier insistence on the ownmost (eigen ) as the basis of authenticity (Eigentlichkeit

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The passage preceding the book is mainly devoted to comments on its subtitle: "Concerning the
Event" ("Vom Ereignis"). [35] For Heidegger, in the historical period (Zeitalter ) of the transition from
metaphysics to the historical thought of Being (das seynsgeschichtliche Denken ) [36] one needs to
think the truth of Being from out of a more basic approach. This suggests his intention to differentiate
between an earlier metaphysical, and a later, post-metaphysical period, characterized by a new form
of thought, different in kind from its predecessors, and based on a historical perspective lacking in
metaphysics. The new form of thought, in the post-metaphysical period toward which, in Heidegger's
opinion, we are now tending, will be historical in a way that earlier thought was not.
Future thought is a thought-process , through which the as yet in general hidden realm of the becoming of the essence
[Wesung—literally, essencing] of Being passes and so is first illuminated [gelichtet] and reached in its ownmost character
of an event [in seinem eigensten Ereignischarakter].
Heidegger makes it clear that he regards his new approach as breaking with the past, perhaps
including his own past, in a way that carries forward his earlier basic insights. It is no longer a case, he
points out, of expounding something objective, but of hewing to (übereignet ) the event. The result is
an essential change in the concept of human being from that of a rational animal to that of Da-sein.
Pointing now to his subtitle, he writes: "From the event occurs [ereignet] a thoughtlike-saying
listening to Being and in the word 'of' ['des'] Being."
As the title suggests, the entire work is concerned with the theme of
― 182 ―
Ereignis . The book is divided into eight sections, whose connection remains unclear: The Preliminary
Glance (Der Vorblick), The Trace (Der Anklang), The Handing Over (Das Zuspiel), The Jump (Der
Sprung), The Ground (Die Gründung), To-come (Die Zu-künftigen), The Last God (Der letzte Gott),
and Being (Das Seyn). Being, which was earlier written in the modern German manner as Sein , is
now written as Seyn , presumably in order to set off the new beginning from the first beginning.
The unfinished, repetitive, even obsessive character of the work can be indicated by the fact that in
the first section, which is divided into forty-nine numbered paragraphs, no fewer than five bear the
title "Vom Ereignis"
[40] and two others are titled "Das Ereignis." [41] In addition, in this same section
there are ten paragraphs concerning beginning thought (das anfängliche Denken ) [42] and seven
about the decision (Entscheidung ). [43] A similar situation is repeated in the other parts of the work.
Despite its unsystematic nature, the Beiträge has a rich, almost polyphonic, fugue-like
[44] It is without doubt a key text for a grasp of the thought of the later Heidegger. To the
best of my knowledge, without exception all of the themes that later emerge in Heidegger's writings
are sounded here. These include the overcoming of metaphysics, the rejection of Platonism, the
critique of modernity, the interpretation of Nietzsche, Hölderlin and poetry, the turning (die Kehre ),
the last god, thought as distinguished from philosophy, the enframing (das Gestell ), the critique of
technology, silence, nihilism, Gelassenheit , and so on. Accordingly, this text plays a double role: as a
key mediating link between the early and late phases of Heidegger's position, and as a key indication
of the interrelation of the many motifs that emerge in his later thought.
Important insights are scattered throughout the work. An example is the perhaps untranslatable
description of Machenschaft as "[d]er Bezug der Unbezüglichkeit," roughly "the relation of that which is
beyond relation," which aids in understanding the perhaps equally untranslat-able concept of
enframing (das Gestell ).
[45] Another instance is the repeated reference to the difficult idea of the
turning (die Kehre ), which Heidegger mentions on virtually every second page, for example when he
The event has its innermost happening [Geschehen] and its widest scope [Ausgriff] in the turning. The turning that
comes to be in the event is the hidden ground of all others, subordinated, with respect to their provenance, dark, easily
taken as "final" turnings, [geometrical] circles [Zirkel] and circles [Kreise].
― 183 ―
The importance Heidegger attaches to the concept of the turning is apparent in his further remark that
only future history will tell whether the insight thus gained into the hiddenmost events will remain
open or be closed forever to human being.
Since Heidegger here rejects system, and since his discussion is not systematic, it cannot be
described in a systematic manner without doing violence to it, without distorting its antisystematic
character. The nature of the work as a whole can be indicated through selective commentary on some

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themes raised in the first section, in the lengthy "Preliminary Glance." [48] Since this section comprises
about a fifth of the entire book, and functions as its introduction, it is reasonable to treat it as a
preface, not only to this particular work but also to Heidegger's later thought in general.
As the Beitr äge belongs to the transition to the other beginning. we can expect Heidegger to be
critical of even the most refined instances of the first beginning. His remark that "[t]he time of
'systems' is past"
[49] suggests that earlier "systems" were never fully systematic and that, to the
extent that he himself earlier adopted this aim, he was mistaken. In his pursuit of the distinction
between the two forms of thought, he differentiates (1) the question of Being (Seinsfrage ), or the
basic question (Grundfrage ) as concerns the truth of Being conceived from a new, historical point of
view, and (2) the prior philosophical question concerning beings, now designated as the leading
question (Leitfrage ).
[50] There is a suggestion that fundamental ontology, which was still determined
by the leading question, was insufficiently radical, since it had failed to penetrate beyond the later
tradition to its roots.
The other beginning, like the first approach, can only be stated in language. Heidegger maintains
that the thoughtful saying of the other beginning is a pointing out (Weisung ) but not a teaching
(Lehre ).
[51] He stresses the difficulty of his new thought in an odd, pathetic statement, which may
also have a political resonance: "No one understands what 'I' am thinking here." [52] If we note that
here as elsewhere, Heidegger intends his thought literally to see into the present and future, we can
understand this remark as another indication that Heidegger feels that his work is not being accorded
the respect that is its due since it is literally misunderstood. Since Heidegger still intends to grasp the
possibility of the historical gathering of the German Volk through his position, there is a political cast
to his remark.
Another constant in Heidegger's thought, despite change in his position, is his continued interest in
Being. Heidegger reaffirms the ontological continuity in his thought by insisting that the question
concerning the "meaning" of Being in Being and Time , "in short, concerning the truth
― 184 ―
of Being , is and remains my question, in fact counts as the really only one [denn sie gilt ja dem
Einzigsten]. "
[53] Since in his initial Hölderlin lectures, Heidegger has in the meantime turned to
poetry as a fundamental source of truth, he now signals a turn away from transcendental
phenomenology toward the supposedly peculiar ability of the poet to respond to this question.
Heidegger differentiates his new thought from the initial thought, or transcendental
phenomenological ontology, which thinks Being as presence out of the presencing. "The thought of
Being as event is the beginning thought, which as a controversy with the first beginning prepares the
way for it."
[55] His new thought, hence, does not break with, but rather goes behind, and founds, or
deepens, the initial thought. For Heidegger, his new thought depends in part on a concept of history
which is not a region of beings but a glance in the essencing (Wesung ) of Being itself.
[56] The result
is to distinguish between his own earlier effort to grasp the Being of beings, stated at length in Being
and Time , and the effort begun here to grasp Being directly. The new approach requires a
reconceptualization of the basic concepts of the first approach, which cannot simply be taken up
unaltered in the new thought. For instance, care, which was earlier described as "[t]he totality of
[57] is now conceived, in difficult terminology, as the anticipatory resoluteness to
the truth of Being as well as the apprehension in the there. [58]
If the first beginning was philosophical, then the other beginning presumably reaches backward
beyond philosophy. Heidegger addresses the question of how the new thought relates to philosophy in
a series of remarks. "Philosophy as self-reflection [Selbst-besinnung] in the indicated way is first
realizable [vollziehbar] as the beginning thought of the other beginning."
[59] The new beginning, while
no longer philosophy, is intended, then, to realize philosophy. One thinks of other such claims, for
instance the well-known Marxist view that Marxism is the realization on the plane of science of the
aims of philosophy.
As the Marxists frequently do with respect to Marxism, Heidegger stresses in various ways that his
proposed new beginning is not philosophy. "In the region of the other beginning there is neither
'ontology' nor in general 'metaphysics.' "
[61] There is no ontology, since the leading question does not
circumscribe any domain; and there is no metaphysics since the new thought no longer takes its
departure from beings present to hand, as in the Cartesian position, or known objects, as in idealism.
In a further return to the question of system, now linked to an implicit rejection of Cartesianism, he
observes that this theme can only be raised from within a tradition dominated by mathematical
thought. "This thought and the order based on it remains outside the question of

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― 185 ―
whether it belongs to a system or not. 'System' is only possible in the wake of the dominance of
mathematical thought (in the wide sense of the term)."
[62] Obviously, then, although Heidegger need
not abandon conceptual rigor, he cannot present the new phase of his thought in systematic form; in
his view, the very idea of system arises only within a deficient form of metaphysics.
The result is an essential clarification of the Seinsfrage that continues to preoccupy Heidegger. In
terms of his distinction between the old Leitfrage and the new Grundfrage , he remarks:
The leading question defined from the Greeks until Nietzsche the same approach to the question concerning "Being." The
clearest and greatest example for the unity of this tradition [Überlieferung] is Hegel's Logic . On the contrary, for the
basic question Being is not an answer and a region of an answer, but the most questionable [Frag-wüdigste].
It is not the answering of the question of Being but the widening of the questioning, the
awakening and the clarification of the power of the question (Fragekraft ) in respect to this question,
which still only springs from need and the upswing of Being-there (Da-seins ).
[64] The result,
according to Heidegger, is the repetition of what must occur ever more decisively since the end of
metaphysics is neither a "teaching" nor a "system" but rather "must become the authentic history and
consequently the most hidden."
Heidegger insists that the truth of Being which this thought captures is identical with the essence
of Being.
This truth of being is certainly not different from Being, but is rather its ownmost essence [eigenstes Wesen]; and
therefore it lies in the history of Being, whether this truth gives itself [verschenkt] or fails to give itself [verweigert]; and
so first authentically brings the unfathomable [das Abgründige] into its history.
He sees this new thought as successful where "theory of knowledge" fails. "The 'theory of
knowledge' is, however, only the form of the lack of awareness [Ratlosigkeit] of modern metaphysics
with respect to itself."
[67] This conclusion follows from his view, itself a further form of his idea of
truth as disclosure, that the essential identification of truth and Being is available only to his new
thought. "The truth of Being is the Being of truth."
The Beiträge is a major text in the transition of Heidegger's thought from its original beginning to
another beginning. Now our concern in this chapter is not with the later evolution of Heidegger's
thought as such; it is rather limited to the significance of this evolution for his
― 186 ―
Nazism. Accordingly, I have sought briefly to describe some main themes of the Beiträge in order to
provide a context to consider its relation to Heidegger's Nazism. My limited aim was not to provide a
full, or even an adequate, discussion of this work—a difficult task for any important philosophical
treatise, especially so for this rich, complex, but unsystematic work—but rather to set the stage for a
determination of whether, as has been claimed, in the Beiträge Heidegger confronts Nazism.
Nazism and the Beiträge
It is difficult to address the theme of Heidegger's relation to Nazism in the Beitr äge for several
reasons. Material relevant for an evaluation of this theme is not confined to a single passage or a
single portion of the work, which it traverses from the beginning to the end, from the initial comments,
such as Heidegger's remark, cited above, that he is not understood—which anticipates his later
assertions in the 1945 article on the rectorate that the rectoral address was not understood—to his
suggestion in the final paragraph of the book that speech is grounded in silence.
[69] It follows that this
theme is intimately bound up with, hence inseparable from, the work as a whole.
Naturally, Heidegger's relation to Nazism in the wake of the resignation as rector and the
abandonment of transcendental phenomenology can no longer be precisely the same. In particular,
Heidegger can no longer strive for personal privilege within the academy through his position as
philosophical Führer of the University of Freiburg nor can he continue to legitimate Nazism on the basis
of fundamental ontology, which he has now given up. Yet Heidegger's relation to Nazism exhibits a
remarkable continuity between the exoteric public statements in the rectoral speech and the esoteric
"postphilosophic" view on display in the Beiträge .
The description of of the rectoral address as representing a kind of "private National
[70] to which Heidegger objects in the article on the rectorate, correctly characterizes his

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view of Nazism in the Beiträge . Here, he criticizes its real form as an incorrect means to an end even
as he continues to accept the end in view, for which he again proposes a "philosophical" means.
Although he no longer offers his fundamental ontology in order to lead the leaders, he neither
abandons the relation of "philosophy" to politics nor turns away from Nazism. He no longer proposes
to ground National Socialism in fundamental ontology, yet he continues to insist on his "philosophy," in
this case his new thought to attain the end in view shared with Nazism: the destiny of the
― 187 ―
German people. The relevant difference is that Heidegger's new beginning is no longer understood as a
sufficient means to a political end, which it is intended to achieve only indirectly, through the
justification of the prophetic role of great German poetry. In other words, although Heidegger's
position changes, and although he abandons philosophy for thought beyond philosophy, he does not
abandon, in fact he specifically maintains, the political role of his thought of Being.
The recurrence of Heidegger's stress on the Germans as German at this late date in his thought is
not less, but even more, troubling than before. In his early thought, beyond any strictly political
sympathy with Nazism, Heidegger was pushed in this direction by fundamental ontology that insisted
on Dasein, above all its authentic form, as the way to an authentic thought of Being. As a result of the
turning, and the de-centering of the subject, in this work, Heidegger has already moved away from the
analysis of Dasein as the clue to Being toward a view of Being as self-disclosing. It follows that
Heidegger's continued insistence now as before on the Volk is doubly significant. On the one hand, it
presumably indicates that his effort to decenter subjectivity is only incompletely carried out, since this
concept continues to recur in his thought. On the other hand, to the extent that the ongoing concern
with Being has been uncoupled from Dasein, it clearly shows the persistence of a political preference
for the aim shared with Nazism.
Heidegger's continued acceptance of this political goal, which motivates all his writings after the
rectoral address, is not incompatible with criticism of real National Socialism. To grasp Heidegger's
criticism of National Socialism, it is useful to recall that his thought is limited throughout his corpus to
the problem of Being. Heidegger's continued concern with Being literally prevented him from coming to
grips with or even understanding the nature of Nazism as Nazism, which he seems to have regarded
as an insufficient form of modern metaphysics, in patent disregard of its effects on human being.
In the Beiträge , Heidegger's critical remarks about National Socialism are easily overlooked for
several reasons. First, in keeping with his concern with Being, the critique of National Socialism is
strictly ontological in character and in that respect is unlike other, more standard discussions. It is fair
to say that no one unfamiliar with Heidegger's thought would even recognize that it contained
reservations about Nazism. His rare critical remarks on Nazism in this and other writings invariably
concern its supposed insufficiency as a theory of Being. Here as elsewhere, Heidegger is chillingly
insensitive to the significance of Nazism for human being. For instance, in the most direct comment on
Nazi ideology in this work, in the context of a remark on "blood and race" as
― 188 ―
the "bearers of history," Heidegger is primarily concerned with the defense of his own earlier
distinction between history and historicality, that is, with an adequate concept of history.
Second, the critical remarks directed to National Socialism are always secondary to Heidegger's
main concern in this treatise, which is to sketch the outlines of the other beginning. In the Beiträge ,
Heidegger's reservations about Nazism are intrinsic to his new theoretical posture, the rejection of the
insufficient radicality of his first beginning, which he now regards as a continuation of the metaphysical
movement from Anaximander to Nietzsche. He is, then, critical of his own earlier fundamental
ontology as well as National Socialism and other views as well, all of which from his perspective remain
committed to an approach from which he now seeks to free himself. Since Heidegger's criticism of
National Socialism is of the same generic type as that which he routinely brings against anything
associated with modern metaphysics, his objections to Nazism in no sense grasp its essential nature.
Third, in keeping with the antisystematic character of Heidegger's later thought, there is no single
systematic statement of his objections to National Socialism anywhere in his writings, least of all in the
present work. In part, the unsystematic nature of his criticism is no doubt due to the resolute rejection
of system in this text and in his later writings. In part it may also be due to his inability to confront
directly the consequences of his earlier identification with Nazism on the basis of his thought.
Heidegger's specific objections to Nazism in the Beiträge are consistent with the evolution of his
position since Being and Time . In An Introduction to Metaphysics he continued the turn to Nietzsche

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begun in the rectoral address, and he reaffirmed the significance of Nazism and sketched aspects of
what later became the critique of technology. In "Wege zur Aussprache," he emphasized his interest in
the realization of the ownmost being of the Germans even as he criticized Descartes in order to
comprehend the metaphysical essence of technology. In "The Age of the World Picture"—originally
given as a lecture about the time Heidegger stopped working on the Beiträge —he criticized modern
science and the so-called philosophy of the worldview, or Weltanschauungsphilosophie , and included a
critical remark in passing on National Socialism.
[73] All of these elements now appear in the Beiträge ,
where Heidegger criticizes National Socialism as illustrating the worldview correlated with the rise of
technology in the age of metaphysics, a worldview which he intends to surpass through a turn to the
other beginning.
In the Beiträge , Heidegger's reservations with respect to the theory of National Socialism are
dispersed virtually throughout the work. They
― 189 ―
appear in passages concerning such varied themes as metaphysics, technology,
Weltanschauungsphilosophie , nihilism, the Volk , and, perhaps more surprisingly in the treatment of
transcendental philosophy, the cult of personality, various forms of religion, and silence. Now it is not
easy to describe a series of remarks which the author did not choose to restate as a single connected
discussion. It would be a mistake to provide them with a systematic format when Heidegger now
rejects this approach for reasons intrinsic to his position. The alternative, to be employed here, is to
survey a selection of the ways Heidegger is critical of National Socialism in this work.
The Volk
The discussion of Heidegger's relation to Nazism so far has exposed a triple turning, centered in
Heidegger's acceptance of the National Socialist conception of the realization of the Germans as
German, based in German Volk ideology, both for its own sake and for his concern with Being. The
triple turning is manifest in Heidegger's turn toward real Nazism in his assumption of the rectorate, his
turn away from it when he resigned his post as rector, and his turn toward an ideal form of National
Socialism. The fundamental thread that binds together the three political turnings in Heidegger's
thought, the concern with the Volk , is prominent in the rectoral address and recurs after the rectorate
in the initial lecture series on Hölderlin and in the Nietzsche lectures. It is a recurrent theme
throughout the Beiträge . Attention to Heidegger's remarks on the Volk will offer insight into his
supposed confrontation in this work with National Socialism. It is reasonable to suppose that if
Heidegger desired to break with, or even to distance himself from, Nazism in the period after the
rectorate, his desire would be evident in his treatment of the Volk throughout the book. At the same
time, through the inspection of these passages, we will gain further insight into Heidegger's position in
this work.
The following survey of Heidegger's account of the Volk in the Beiträge does not aim at
completeness; it is intended to provide no more than a representative sample of how he uses this
concept. In the Beiträge , Heidegger discusses, or at least alludes in passing to, the Volk in numerous
passages throughout the work. Taken together, these passages provide an indication of his view of
Nazism during a period in which he is in the process of fundamentally revising his thought in the wake
of the failure of his rectorate. A typical instance of Heidegger's rejection of National Socialism as a
theory occurs in a remark on Volk ideology in a passage on Ereignis , the main theme of the book,
where he objects to the idea of a worldview.
― 190 ―
We have already noted that Heidegger is critical of the idea of the philosophy of the worldview, or
Weltanschauungsphilosophie , as early as his initial lecture series, as well as in his review of Jaspers's
Psychology of World Views (Psychologie der Weltanschauungen ).
[74] In Being and Time , Heidegger
does not discuss the concept of the worldview, to which he returns in his lectures on The Basic
Problems of Phenomenology . Here, he notes that a worldview is a coherent set of beliefs arising in
relation to a particular individual at a given time, but not a theory as such; and he follows Husserl in
arguing for a difference in kind between philosophy and a worldview. "If philosophy is the scientific
construction of a worldview, then the distinction between 'scientific philosophy' and 'philosophy as
worldview' vanishes."
In the Beiträge , in his "postphilosophical" phase, from the vantage point of the other beginning
Heidegger criticizes National Socialism as a mere Weltanschauung like Christianity or liberalism. [76]

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According to Heidegger, both the Christian view of transcendence and its denial in terms of the Volk as
the aim of history are forms of liberalism (Liberalismus ). He further maintains that what today
appears under the heading of a "worldview" is an alloy formed of varying parts of Christianity,
Volk-Ideen , and culture (Kultur ). His objection, which is not clearly formulated, seems to be that a
worldview of any kind presupposes that one already essentially knows what a person is, in terms of
which the transcendent has meaning; but, on the contrary, it is only in terms of the transcendent that
we can know beings, including human being.
As different as these "worldviews" are, and although they openly or covertly oppose each other—if the sending into the
undecided [Sichum-treiben im Unentschiedenen] can still be named a battle—they all agree, without knowing or ruing it,
that human being is posited as that which one essentially knows, as a being [Seiende], as that in respect of which and
from which every "transcendence" is defined and accordingly as that which hence must first define the human being. But
this has been made basically impossible since the human being is already grasped as definable, instead of defining it in
terms of something else, which must be dis-placed [ver-rückt] from the previous determination, in order in the first place
that the initially definable may be defined.
Heidegger objects to the definition of the transcendent in terms of human being since he holds
that human being must be understood in terms of Being in general; but the requirement to do so is
concealed by the forgetfulness of Being. "Or is there the possibility that this displacement
[Verrückung] comes over man? Certainly. And this is the need of the forgetfulness of being."
Heidegger maintains that the awakening of this need is the initial displacement of man into what he
calls the be-
― 191 ―
tween, characterized as an openness, that is, an openness in which Being occurs.
This "betweenness" ["Zwischen"] is, however, not a transcendence with respect to man, but on the contrary is the
openness [jenes Offene], to which man as the founder and Wahrer belongs, in that he as Da-sein occurs [er-eignet] is
from being itself [vom Seyn selbst], which does not essence [west] otherwise than as occurrence.
In light of Heidegger's concern with Ereignis as the dominant theme of the other beginning, we
can paraphrase his muted objection to Volk ideas as well as his own form of the first beginning as
follows: Any explanation of the transcendent from an immanent perspective overlooks the fact that the
immanent is explicable only in terms of the transcendent in the same way as Being in general is the
"ground" of beings. One must, then, reject any form of the "anthropological" approach to ontology,
such as the Cartesian position, the approach to Being in terms of Dasein featured by his own
fundamental ontology, or a philosophy based on a worldview, or even the assumption of the Volk as
the goal of history. Note, however, that Heidegger's continued interest in the Volk is compatible with
his own rejection of its teleological claim since, from his ontological angle of vision, the end in view is
not the Volk but Being.
Heidegger is not more critical of the Volk approach in this and other passages because his main
concern does not lie in the rejection of National Socialism as such, but rather in the transition from the
first to the other beginning. There is another example in Heidegger's lengthy analysis of the concept of
decision at the end of the first section of the book. Heidegger's discussion here suggests his continued
concern with the realization of the destiny of the German people, the theme so prominent in the
Rektoratsrede . In a passage on the "decision," Heidegger emphasizes a point made at the beginning
of the initial Hölderlin lecture series:
[80] the decision is either for history or for its loss. [81] According
to Heidegger, there is a commission to carry out the innermost need arising out of the abandonment
of Being. This decision occurs through the so-called gift or the staying away from that which is
designated as the future directed.
How does the decision occur? Through the gift [Geschenk ] or the staying away [den Ausbleib] from the excellently
symbolized [jener ausge-zeichneten Gezeichneten], which we call "the future-directed" ["die Zukünftigen"] in
contradistinction to the many kinds of as you please and unrelenting later considerations [Späteren], which have nothing
more ahead and nothing more behind themselves.
― 192 ―
Heidegger provides a list of five forms of Gezeichneten . The fourth form includes individuals, namely,
the few and the many, understood not numerically but in terms of their symbolic function. In a
manner similar to Sartre's later view, Heidegger describes this form as possessing a hidden agreement
(Einverständnis ) which, for historical reasons, can suddenly appear, thereby causing individuals

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suddenly to become a Volk . [83] In the fifth point, Heidegger affirms that the Volk is defined by the
uniqueness of Being, whose task it is to ground. "This people [Dieses Volk] is in its origin and
definition only according to the onetime occurrence [Einzigkeit] of Being itself, whose truth it must
ground in a single place [in einer einzigen Stätte] in a single moment [in einem einzigen
[84] Here, Heidegger repeats his revolutionary view of the Volk that comes together in a
propitious historical moment. With respect to the rectoral address, an important difference is that
Heidegger is no longer interested in the destiny of the Volk for itself, but as a way to ground Being. In
this way, he obliquely suggests that his turn toward Nazism was not only intended to bring about a
gathering of the Germans as German, hence, not only for the perverse humanism whose highest form
is National Socialism. Rather, his Nazi turning is also, perhaps above all, for the purpose of realizing
his own authentic thought of Being.
Another reference to the Volk occurs in one of Heidegger's numerous remarks on the so-called
abandonment of Being (Seinsverlassenheit ). In a section on a supposedly enduring problem, he
suggests that this phenomenon corresponds to the prevalent understanding of Being, which fulfills and
hides its forgetfulness.
[85] Attention to such traits as generality and contemporaneity concern beings,
but not Being as such. According to Heidegger, the ground of the historical uprooting of Being is due to
Being itself, which withdraws before beings.
The innermost ground of the historical uprooting is essential, grounded in the essence of Being [im Wesen des Seyns
gründender]: Being [Seyn] withdraws before being [dem Seienden] and it is hence then as "being" ["seiend"] and even
as "in the process of being" ["seiender"] that it lets itself appear [erscheinen lässt].
Heidegger offers a list of no fewer than sixteen ways in which the forgetfulness of Being
announces itself (sich meldet ). [87] The first form of the forgetfulness of Being is a decided
insensitivity to the ambiguous character of the essential.
The full insensitivity with respect to the ambiguous [das völlige Unempfindlichkeit gegen das Vieldeutige ] in that which
is regarded as essential. Ambiguity occasions [bewirkt] the powerlessness and the displeasure
― 193 ―
concerning an effective decision. For instance, whatever "Volk" means: the social, the racist, the lower [das Niedere] and
the below [das Untere], the national, the remaining [das Bleibende]; for instance, whatever is called "godly"
In a word, Heidegger here is objecting to the dogmatic, theoretically insensitive character of
Nazism, apparent in its insensitivity to the manifold forms of Seyn as Seiende . [89] In sum, Heidegger
is unhappy that the National Socialists are unaware of his own ontological difference. What is
surprising is that Heidegger should be either surprised or dismayed to learn that the Nazis were less
than fully absorbed, were in fact uninterested, in his own approach to Being, in the same way that
they were also uninterested in the effort of Rosenberg, the well-known Nazi "philosopher," to bring
about a profound spiritual renewal.
[90] Heidegger's objection reveals, then, an astonishing lack of
awareness of the nature of Nazism.
There is another remark on the Volk in a passage on "The Occurrence [Das Erlebnis] and
'Anthropology.' "
[91] Here, Heidegger affirms that "anthropology" has today become the center of the
scholasticism of the worldview (Weltanschauungsscholastik ). He restates his rejection of the approach
to Being from a person-centered perspective, before remarking that the differences between the
various forms of the anthropological approach are insignificant; for the significant question is whether
one attempts a transition to another beginning or desires to continue the Platonic tradition.
The anthropological hairstyle [Frisur—i.e., the particular type], whether Enlightenment-moral, or psychological-scientific,
or social scientific-personalistic, or Christian, or folk-political [politisch-völkische], is all the same: the question, that is,
whether it questions [erfragt] about another beginning, or whether one continues to insist on the decline under way since
Plato, which is only still possible if one talks oneself into taking one's lack of awareness as the overcoming [Überwindung]
of the tradition [Überlieferung—literally, what is handed down].
This passage is mainly significant for Heidegger's insistence that the anthropological perspective,
which he earlier connected to the influence of Descartes, is in fact rooted in the Platonic tradition
[93] In this way, he extends his earlier objections to Descartes to the origins of philosophy in the
Greek tradition. Once again, it is clear that his objection to the Volk approach lies in its supposed
theoretical indebtedness to the first beginning illustrated by Platonic philosophy.

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We find several further references to the Volk in a discussion of nihilism as the absence of ends in
Nietzsche's ateleological sense. [94] We
― 194 ―
have already noted that one of Heidegger's favorite hermeneutical strategies is to assert that he and
he alone comprehends a particular position or body of thought. In the article on the rectorate, he
made this claim with respect to Jünger's position. Here, Heidegger remarks that Nietzsche's view of
nihilism has still not been understood. For Heidegger, the moral and idealistic interpretations of this
concept are preliminary since nihilism must be comprehended as the result of the abandonment of
Being. He holds that it is a sign of the incomprehension of Nietzsche to consider Nietzsche's "teaching"
of "nihilism" as a form of cultural psychology. Since there is a refusal to acknowledge the lack of goals,
one "has" goals again.
Then, the insightful reflection runs about as follows: what would we come to if this were true or would become true? And
one does not imagine that even this reflection , that is, the attitude and conduct toward being [zum Seienden]. is the
authentic nihilism. And hence one suddenly "has" goals again, even if it is only rather a means for the establishment
[Zielaufrichtung] and observance [Verfolgung] of goals: for instance, the Volk .
Once again, the Volk view is invoked as an illustration of the refusal to accept his own view of
thought beyond philosophy.
In still another critique of Cartesianism, Heidegger comments on the Volk in a passage on "The
abandonment of Being and 'science.' "
[96] For Heidegger, science is unable to understand the essence
of Being. The abandonment of Being follows from the interpretation of the being of beings (Seiendheit
des Seienden ), the main theme of thought. In modernity, truth has been sought in the form of
certainty with respect to beings, particularly in the realm of science (Wissenschaft ). In order to
progress toward the other beginning, we need to reflect on modern science. In a clear rejection of the
concept of a ground associated with Cartesian foundationalism, he writes:
Every kind of theoretico-scientific (transcendental) grounding [Grund-legegung] has therefore become as impossible as
an "attribution of meaning" ["Sinngebung"] which assigns a Volk -political [völkisch-political] or any other anthropological
determination of goals [Zwecksetzung] to the present at hand [vorhandenen] and accordingly essentially
[Wesensbestand] unmodifiable science and its operation [Betrieb].
Heidegger's point is that henceforth any form of foundationalism is impossible since
foundationalism as such presupposes a concept of science as grounded in a ground that is not a
ground. The idea of a Volk worldview figures here, in a restatement of Husserl's view of objectiv-
― 195 ―
ism, as a deficient form of science which is not reflective about its own conditions.
The conception of the Volk recurs in incidental fashion in one of the longest sections of the
Beiträge . This section follows a short paragraph on the Greek conception of the idea (Idea ),
which Heidegger regards as an interpretation of truth leading to the entire later interpretation of being
(Seiendheit ) as objectivity (Gegenständlichkeit ). For Heidegger, it is only from the vantage point of
the other beginning that the question of the original meaning of the concept of truth can be raised. He
develops this point in a detailed reflection on "The Idea, Platonism, and Idealism,"
[99] which is
curiously divided into different subsections. This section contains a lengthy, untitled meditation in
twenty-seven numbered points, which is interrupted between points 14 and 15 by two smaller
passages: a short discussion, in ten points, titled "Hegel's concept of the idea and the first possibility
of a philosophical history of philosophy from its first beginnings"; followed by a shorter discussion,
composed of four points, called "What belongs to the concept of 'idealism.'"
Throughout the Beiträge , as part of his transition to the other beginning Heidegger rejects
Platonism in all its forms. In this section, he criticizes its occurrence in contemporary thought. In point
21, he identifies six clusters of contemporary Platonism: "ontology," which presumably means any
ontological approach concerned with being (Seiende ) as opposed to being as such (Seyn ); all
teachings concerning "values" or "meaning" concerning "ideas" and ideals; as well as views that deny
them, such as positivism and biologism; all types of "life" philosophy ("Lebens"-philosophie ), such as
Dilthey's view; various combinations of the preceding; and Nietzsche's view, which, in its concern to
transform Platonism, falls back into it.
Heidegger immediately amplifies his understanding of Nietzsche's understanding of Platonism in

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the next point. Here, the concept of the Volk appears in Heidegger's rejection of still another form of
worldview, in what he calls Platonism for the people. Returning now to a theme present since the
rectoral address, Heidegger argues that philosophy provides the key to history. For Heidegger,
Nietzsche is the first to have understood the key role and importance of Platonism for the history of
the West. "On the other hand, Nietzsche is the one who for the first time recognized the key role
(Schlüsselstellung ) of Plato and the importance of Platonism for the history of the West (the rise of
[101] Heidegger credits Nietzsche with grasping the significance of Plato between the
pre-Platonic and post-Platonic moments, although he objects that Nietzsche mistakenly understood
pre-Platonic thought in a Platonic way and not in terms of itself. Now invoking his own turn to the
other beginning, Heidegger attributes Nietzsche's mistake to a supposed failure to recog-
― 196 ―
nize the Leitfrage as such and to complete the transition to the Grundfrage . In essence, then,
Heidegger finds that Nietzsche is guilty of failing to anticipate the evolution of Heidegger's later
position. Heidegger then remarks: "But it is even more important that Nietzsche detected Platonism in
its hiddenmost forms: Christianity and its Verweltlichungen are everywhere 'Platonism for the people'
['Platonismus fürs Volk']."
There is a further reference to the Volk in a passage on various aspects of Da-sein. [103] The
precise relation between human being and Dasein is difficult to determine. In Being and Time and
subsequent writings, Heidegger sometimes clearly identifies human being and Dasein, or uses the
terms as near synonyms, and sometimes appears to differentiate between them. Distinguishing here
between human being (der Mensch ) and Da-sein, understood as existence, Heidegger suggests that
the man is grounded in existence.
[104] He describes human being as one who is needed by Being for
the "essencing" of the truth of Being.[105] In this sense, human being plays a role in Heidegger's view
of Being similar to its role in some versions of Christian theology. Turning now to Dasein and the
people in another short paragraph, Heidegger remarks that the essence of a people can only be
understood in terms of Da-sein, and then adds that the people can never be a goal or aim as in the
Volk worldview or in commerce.
The essence of the people [des Volkes ] can only be understood from Da-sein and this means at the same time that the
Volk can never be a goal or aim, and that such an opinion is only a Volk-type extension [völkische Ausweitung] of the
"liberal" thought-of-the-"I" [des "liberalen .... Ich"-gedankens] and of the commercial view of the maintenance of
Heidegger's assertion here that a Volk can be understood only in terms of Da-sein is an extension
of the claim that Da-sein grounds human being. Heidegger's insistence that a people can never be an
aim or goal is consistent with the rejection of teleological thought in the other beginning.
Heidegger's objection to a Volk -extension of "liberalism" and of a "commercial" approach to life,
which is clearly limited to the way in which the concept of the Volk is formulated, is not directed
against the conception as such. In the remainder of the passage, he reformulates this conception
through a quasi-Platonic view of insight possessed by only some members of the group. For
Heidegger, who here draws on his earlier discussion of the concept of mood,
[107] the essence of a
people lies in its voice understood, not as arising in a natural way, but only occasionally and in the
― 197 ―
But the essence of the people is its "voice" [Stimme]. This voice does not , however, speak, in a so-called immediate
flood [Erguss] of the common, natural, undistorted, and uneducated "person" [unverbildeten und ungebildeten
"Mannes"]. Then this chosen witness [Denn dieser so angerufene Zeuge] is already very distorted and no longer moves
in the originary relation to being [zum Seienden]. The "voice" of the people speaks seldom and only in the few [in
Wenigen], if it [i.e., the voice] can be brought to sound [zum Klingen].
If the "voice" of the people does not speak through everyone, but only through the few, and the
latter are not associated with National Socialism or other forms of "liberalism," then this passage can
be read as a further form of Heidegger's quasi-Platonic view in the rectoral address that finally only the
philosopher can secure the good life for the people. Heidegger's continued faith in the supposedly
exceptional, indeed unique, capacity of philosophers to discern political truth is inconsistent with his
concern in the Beiträge to reject Platonism in all its forms. His insistence on the superior insight of the
selected few, even as mediated through Nietzsche, a constant feature of all his later thought, including

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the discussion of technology, is clearly quasi-Platonic.
The short, sixth section of the book, devoted to what is to come, prepares the way for another
short discussion concerning "The Last God."
[109] In the sixth section, there are two consecutive
paragraphs concerning the Volk . [110] From the perspective of the other beginning, Heidegget
describes the "last god," a theme that later recurs in the Spiegel interview, as beyond all reckoning,
hence, beyond such terms, associated with the first beginning, as "monotheism," "pantheism," or
[111] The language of the discussion of what is to come recalls that of such writers as
Nietzsche and Spengler. In Nietzschean terminology, Heidegger evokes future beings (die Zukünftigen
) as slow and long-listening founders of the essence of truth.
[112] In Spenglerian terms, he describes
"the hour of the fall of the West," interpreted philosophically, but not politically, as the end of the age
of metaphysics.
[113] Once again, Heidegger insists on his mystical pretense, a steady theme in his
thought after the rectoral address, to interpret the present and future through his superior insight into
In his remarks on "The essence of the people and Da-sein," Heidegger returns to his conviction
that only the few can provide a people with its identity.
[114] For Heidegger, who here makes use of a
notion of plural authenticity originally mentioned in Being and Time , [115] a people only is one when it
receives its unifying idea and so returns to Being. In this way, a people bypasses the danger of merely
turning on its own axis, or of falling prey to the false god of one's unlimitedness. Heidegger main-
― 198 ―
tains that the idea that unifies a people can only be discovered through those who listen silently, that
is, by those who are the true ground of the Being of these beings.
A Volk is only a Volk if it receives its history through the discovery of its god, through the god, which, through history,
compels it in a direction [hinwegzwingt] and so places it back in being [es so in das Seiende zurückstellt]. Only then does
it avoid the danger of turning only on its own axis [um sich selber zu kreisen] and that which is only a condition of its
maintenance, falsely honoring its unlimited [zu seinem unbedingten zu vergötzen]. But how can it [i.e., a Volk ] find the
god otherwise than if those who seek silently for it and as these seekers even apparently [sogar dem Anschein nach]
must oppose the still not volkhafte "Volk"! However, these seekers must be themselves first; they are to be prepared as
being [seiende]. What is Da-sein other than as the ground [Griündung ] of the being of these beings, of the future beings
of the last god.
Heidegger now sums up his view of this relation in a single sentence describing the essence of the
people as grounded in the historicity of those who seek to listen from their relation of belonging to the
last god. "The essence of the people is grounded in the historicality of those listening to themselves
[Sichgehörenden] on the basis of [aus ] the relation of belonging to the god."
This passage provides another clear indication of Heidegger's refusal to accept the hegemony of
National Socialism and his assertion of the practical significance of his thought in bringing about the
future of the Germans, both constant features in his writings beginning with the rectoral address.
Heidegger's remark on the need to oppose the still not volkhafte "Volk " is difficult to construe. By
placing the term "Volk " in quotation marks, he points out that it is not yet a Volk in his sense, since it
has not yet been unified in an authentic manner around its own essence. If this passage refers to the
German people, then Heidegger is disputing the success of National Socialism as far as bringing about
the historical realization of the essence of the Volk is concerned. Here, in other language, Heidegger
reaffirms his intimate conviction that the "philosopher" is the essential link for the authentic gathering
of the German people. This passage provides a qualified restatement, from a point "beyond"
philosophy, of the ancient Platonic claim that finally only a philosopher, only one attuned to the
problem of Being in general, can lead the German people with respect to its own destiny.
With respect to Platonism and his own earlier writings, here the relevant difference is Heidegger's
effort to combine his insistence on the political import of his own theory with his acknowledgment of
modern nihilism. In light of Heidegger's conviction that nihilism follows from
― 199 ―
Nietzsche's statement that God is dead, we can regard Heidegger's view of the last god, to be
discovered by the philosopher, as a necessary political corrective, as a way to provide a new sense of
direction to society. For Heidegger as for Nietzsche, the essence of the people is grounded in the few
exceptional human beings. Like Kant, who held that the philosopher is the lawgiver of human
[118] Heidegger apparently believed that only a "philosopher" could provide a new sense of
direction in the age of nihilism. For only a thinker, one who meditates in silence, can discern the last

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Heidegger continues this line of argument in the next paragraph, entitled "Da-sein and the future
beings of the last god." [119] This passage provides a transition to his account of the last god. Now
further developing his mythological account, he describes this imaginary concept as a kind of historical
vademecum at the beginning of a new history beyond history. For Heidegger, the last god will
introduce a series of contradictions as paths which, when followed by the people, will lead it back to its
essence and enable it to create its own history. "This god will set up the simplest, but farthest
contradictions [Gegensätze] over his Volk as the paths over which they wander outward in order to
find its essence again and to exhaust the moment of its history [und den Augenblick seiner Geschichte
[120] The concept of the last god functions here as an organizing principle to enable a
people to find and to realize its essence within history. Heidegger's conception of history beyond
history echoes Marx's well-known view of the distinction between prehistory and history in the human
sense, which only begins in and through the transition from capitalism to communism.
[121] If we
distinguish between authentic and inauthentic forms of history, as correlated to the essential and
distorted forms of a Volk , then Heidegger's point is that in the other beginning, through its relation to
the last god, the people will finally reach historical authenticity. Once again, the philosopher appears
as the one who points the way to an authentic historical realization of the essence of the Volk .
The final comment on the Volk we will mention occurs appropriately in the last part of the book, in
the discussion of Being in general (das Seyn ) in a passage on being (das Seiende ).
[122] Once again
Heidegger offers a description of an inauthentic people, whose lack of authenticity he indicates by
enclosing Volk in quotation marks. This passage follows an earlier discussion of being (Seiende ) and
calculation in which Heidegger maintains that a result of the drive to master the environment in
quantitative terms is the loss of the relation to being (Seiende ).
[123] In his following remarks on
being (das Seiende ), he unsystematically examines different aspects of the phenomenon.
Heidegger's comment on the Volk in this context is interesting for the
― 200 ―
link he identifies between Greek thought and German romanticism. Ever attentive to Greek thought,
Heidegger asserts that "nature" ("Natur ") is a debased form of the Greek "physis " and then raises the
idea of a theoretical reformulation of Goethe's ideas of "earth" and "life." For Heidegger, a rooting
around (Wühlen ) in the irrational is required to complete the modern period. He remarks that
Romanticism has not yet reached its end, since it still seeks an "unclarification" (Verklärung ) of being
(Seiende ) which it opposes to other views. He maintains that the resultant lack of clarification
manifests the effort to renew culture that is uprooted from the people. "The historical renovation of
'culture' is invited to this raising up [Verklärung] and its uprooting is practiced in the 'VoIk ' [im 'Volk'
betrieben] and striven to communicate it to everyone."
The Volk and Silence (Schweigen)
This chapter has considered the evolution of Heidegger's Nazism in that huge, as yet only partially
explored continent known as the Beiträge zur Philosophie . To test the claim that Heidegger here
breaks with, or at least distances himself from, National Socialism,
[125] we have examined
Heidegger's scattered remarks throughout the work on the concept of the Volk . Consideration of his
Nazism in terms of this concept is justified by its central role in the amorphous series of doctrines
collectively known as the National Socialist worldview and in his own turn to Nazism. It is reasonable
to suppose that any turn away from Nazism would be visible in his treatment of this concept.
Heidegger's criticism of National Socialism in the Beiträge is based on a perspective that is
astonishingly foreign to that revolutionary movement. Whatever else Nazism was, it was mainly,
centrally concerned with the practical problem of world domination. On the contrary, here as
elsewhere Heidegger considers Nazism from his own theoretical vantage point, in terms of the criterion
of a theory of Being. In the few instances where Heidegger objects to Nazism, it is invariably because
of its supposed failure, as a form of worldview, to achieve full theoretical status through a transition to
the other beginning that he sketches in this book. Heidegger does not reject National Socialism as
such in this work, and certainly not because of the practical consequences to which it led; rather he
objects to it for its theoretical deficiencies from his ontological vantage point, for its supposed failure
to provide an adequate theory of Being.
The Beitr äge is indispensable to comprehend the interrelation between Heidegger's Nazism and
the evolution of his position in the period after the rectorate. With respect to National Socialism,

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― 201 ―
other beginning is continuous with his earlier thought in three main ways. First, there is a further
stress on the destiny of the German people which remains to be realized in history, a commitment that
Heidegger continues to share with National Socialism. Second, now as before, Heidegger holds that
what he earlier stigmatized as "political science" and still rejects as a mere worldview is inadequate to
achieve its end in view. In a word, although Heidegger accepts the Nazi goal, which was ingredient in
his turn toward National Socialism, he continues to reject Nazism as an adequate means to that end.
Third, in the Beiträge Heidegger reaffirms the point made in rectoral address: the German people need
finally to be led to their destiny by Heidegger's thought since it cannot realize itself as German through
National Socialism. The difference, of course, is that in the meantime Heidegger's thought has evolved
beyond philosophy to the other beginning, in virtue of which Heidegger has come to believe that
"philosophy" cannot lead directly to the gathering of the German as German. It can only point to that
goal whose realization lies through the turn to poetry, in particular to the thought of Hölderlin.
In sum, Heidegger's thought has changed, but its relation to German destiny remains unchanged.
Heidegger remains convinced of his own messianic role in bringing about the destiny of the German
people within history. Further, he remains convinced that Nazism is not finally conducive to that
shared end. In his later thought, Heidegger does not reject a political role for "philosophy," for his new
thought beyond the Platonic tradition, although he rejects philosophy. Even in his rejection of
Platonism, Heidegger retains his confidence—characteristic of the hubris often restated since Plato by
others, and perhaps characteristic of philosophy itself—that the thought of a philosopher, in
Heidegger's view the view of thinker of Being, is a necessary condition of the good life.
Heidegger's critique of Nazism in this work cannot be denied, although its extremely limited extent
should be stressed. Here, his objection to National Socialism is always limited to its failure as a theory
of Being. Heidegger's failure to object to the political consequences of the Nazi worldview is significant,
since it suggests an incapacity of his thought—that is, the thought of a great thinker, in the opinion of
some observers the most important thinker of this century—to grasp the political specificity of National
Socialism. It is an error to hold that after the rectorate Heidegger breaks with Nazism on a political
plane. Even in the rectoral address, his commitment to National Socialism was tempered by his refusal
of the hegemony of politics, which he intended to found in philosophy. In the Beiträge his view has not
changed, since he continues to accept the point he has always shared with Nazism: insistence on the
authentic gathering of the Germans.
― 202 ―
We can end this chapter with a comment about Heidegger's silence.
[126] It is well known that in his
writings, Heidegger never publicly spoke to the problem of the Holocaust, about which he remained
silent. The Beiträge suggests an interesting reason for this attitude, for Heidegger's failure to assume
the moral consequences of his commitment to a worldview whose well-known excesses have been
decried by history.
[127] In Being and Time , Heidegger in passing describes silence (Schweigen ) and
hearing as possibilities of discursive speech. [128] He characterizes the possibility of authentic silence
in genuine discourse, as distinguished from mere silence. [129] In the discussion of conscience, he
maintains that the call of conscience is silence. [130] In the initial cycle of Hölderlin lectures,
immediately after the rectorate, he modifies this view in maintaining that we are a conversation, which
means as well that we are silence.
[131] He further inverts the relation between silence as a form of
speech and speech in order to ground speech in silence. [132] Heidegger exploits this revision of his
view of silence in his discussion of Nietzsche. Here, he states that the highest form of saying lies in
being silent (verschweigen ) about what must be said; the saying of thought is being silent (ein
Erschweigen ).
[133] Heidegger's revised understanding of silence suggests that to be silent is not only
possible in an authentic manner; in fact, silence is the most authentic form of speech. In a word, to be
an authentic person requires that one in effect be silent.
Heidegger raises the theme of silence in two places in the Beiträge . In a pair of passages in the
first part, he examines the silence (Erschweigung ) of Being in general as a Sigetik . [135] This term is
a neologism coined by Heidegger, formed from the Greek "sigao, " whose infinitive form means "to be
silent or still, to keep silence."
[136] Heidegger uses this term to refer to those who still think according
to a "logic" used to fit what is thought into compartments. His point is that this "logic," which belongs
to the first beginning, is inadequate to grasp the Ereignis , which is the theme of the other beginning.
In this sense, one can say that Being in general is silent with respect to the thinking effort to depict it.
Heidegger returns to the theme of silence in the last paragraph of the book, in a comment on the
origin of speech.
[137] Now following the revised understanding of silence announced in the initial
Hölderlin lectures, he maintains that speech is grounded in silence. According to Heidegger, silence is
the measure, since it first provides the standard. "Speech is grounded in silence. Silence is the

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hiddenmost holding to the measure [verborgenste Mass-halten]. It holds the measure [Mass], in that
it first provides the standards [Maßstäbe]." [138]
This passage in the Beiträge suggests an interesting philosophical explanation for Heidegger's later
silence, unrelated to personal psychological weakness, or moral insufficiency, or the effort to preserve
― 203 ―
honor. On the basis of this text, we can infer that in the face of the mere chatter of supposedly
inauthentic beings, Heidegger kept silent at least in part on philosophical grounds, for the reason that
to do so is supposedly to engage in an authentic form of genuine discourse, to maintain the standards
of rigorous thought based upon silence.
Heidegger's idea of silence should be put in perspective. His point differs from Wittgenstein's view
that one should be silent about what cannot be expressed in speech.
[139] Heidegger is not willing to
take a skeptical stance, for instance by asserting that one should say nothing about what one cannot
know. Rather, Heidegger's revised doctrine of silence—a view which, like its original formulation, is
presented without any effort to justify the change—is intended to point to silence as the highest level
of speech. The modification is, however, significant, even "convenient" in the present context, after
the failure of the rectorate. For this revised view of silence provides Heidegger with a reason, rooted in
his thought, to remain silent in an authentic manner, to refuse on philosophical grounds to say
anything, anything at all, to decline in virtue of his theory to take a public position on the Holocaust,
on Nazism, or on his view of Nazism. But one must wonder whether a form of thought can be
authentic or even rigorous if this means to remain silent before the Holocaust whose central meaning
it can neither express nor grasp.
― 204 ―
Nazism and Technology
The Spiegel Interview, Technology, and Nazism
In the context of the present inquiry, Heidegger's view of technology is important because of claims
that it functions as a critique of National Socialism. Heidegger's conception of technology has received
extensive attention.
[1] The focus of the present discussion is not this conception as such, which has
already been studied in the literature, but rather its relation to his Nazism. Yet it is not possible to
analyze the connection between Heidegger's view of technology and his Nazism unless we understand
his conception of technology. Accordingly, this chapter will need to devote substantial attention to an
analysis of Heidegger's complex interpretation of technology.
The link between Heidegger's view of technology and Nazism is controversial. With a single
exception, most observers consider Heidegger's view of technology as indicating his distance from
National Socialism.
[2] Heidegger himself calls attention to the relation of his theory of technology to
Nazism in the well-known Spiegel interview. Heidegger's Spiegel interview is more significant than its
designation as an interview suggests. It was not the result of a simple meeting with a journalist, but
the product of careful planning, whose text was later worked over before publication. The interview
records Heidegger's largely successful effort to influence the way in which his person and thought
would be regarded after his death. Now the single most important theme of this interview consists in
Heidegger's comments on the theme of technology which
― 205 ―
emerges in his later thought. It is, then, useful to examine the text of his interview as an initial
indication of the relation between his view of technology and his Nazism.
Heidegger's interview with Der Spiegel offers a simplified but not inaccurate access to his difficult
theory of technology. In the course of the interview, Heidegger makes a series of points about
technology, which are clearly related to his later thought:

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1. His understanding of technology changed from the early idea of the confrontation between
human being and planetary technology, in his lecture course on metaphysics, to the later idea of
enframing (Gestell ).
[3] Enframing is roughly a conception of horizon, as the limits within which
something occurs. For Heidegger, the limit of modernity is technology.
2. The force of global technology as a factor in determining history can scarcely be
[4] This is a further form of the view, which emerges in Heidegger's later thought, that
human being is powerless before Being.
3. At present, he is unconvinced that democracy is adequate as a political system in a
technological age.
[5] Heidegger here draws the political consequence of his later conception of Being
as the real historical agent.
4. Human being is unable to master or to respond adequately to the essence of technology.
This idea is the corollary of the view that ultimate agency is lodged in Being.
5. The age of technology has brought forward a series of technological relationships in which man
is uprooted from his tradition and his home.
[7] Heidegger here returns to a form of his idea of
authenticity, which he later develops in the direction of an authentic form of life. [8]
6. Metaphysical thinking, which ends in Nietzsche, is unable adequately to think technology. [9]
7. The essence of technology lies in the concept of enframing. [10] This is an indication of how
Heidegger understands technology.
8. The situation of human being with respect to technology is not one of fate and it is possible to
prepare for a reversal (Urnkehr ).
[11] Heidegger holds out in this way the prospect of emerging from
the hegemony of technology. This signals a residual role for thought beyond philosophy.
9. National Socialism was moving in the direction of reacting against technology although it fell
short of the goal.
[12] Heidegger
― 206 ―
now disputes the view that Nazism was itself a simple manifestation of technology, or only that, since
he insists that Nazism intended to react against the hegemony of modern technology.
10. We can prepare to counteract technology, although only a god can save us, through a new
appropriation of the European tradition in which thinking transforms thinking.
[13] This is a further
formulation of Heidegger's conviction that after the death of God, which Nietzsche has announced,
after the end of the old mythology, we require a new mythology.
There is a clear connection between Heidegger's Nazism and his approach to technology.
Heidegger describes his theory of technology as an effort to go further down the road traveled by
National Socialism, understood as an initial but intrinsically insufficient effort to come to grips with the
problem of technology.
[14] Numerous commentators have insisted on the role of technology in
Nazism, in particular on the integral way in which it furthered Nazi genocide. [15] Heidegger takes a
completely different, in fact opposite line. For Heidegger, National Socialism opposes the rule of
technology; but in virtue of its supposed incapacity to think, Nazism is unable to break away from
[16] Heidegger presents his own thought as an improvement on the "inadequate" effort of Nazi
thinkers to face technology. In answer to a question raised during the interview, Heidegger states:
It seems to me that you are taking technology too absolutely. I do not see the situation of man in the world of global
technology as a fate which cannot be escaped or unravelled. On the contrary, I see the task of thought to consist in
helping man in general, within the limits allotted to thought, to achieve an adequate relationship to the essence of
technology. National Socialism, to be sure, moved in this direction. But those people were far too limited in their thinking
to acquire an explicit relationship to what is really happening today and has been underway for three centuries.
Here, in his own way, Heidegger is signaling, as clearly as he can—candidly, and accurately—that
his theory of technology is meant to carry out the ideas which the National Socialists were too limited
to develop through a theory of technology with political consequences. What does it mean, in the era
of technology, to achieve an adequate relationship to the essence of technology, an explicit
relationship to what is happening today and has been under way for three centuries? One thing it
means is to confront modernity. Now in the period after Being and Time , most explicitly in the
Nietzsche lectures, Heidegger came to
― 207 ―
understand his own thought of Being as confronting modernity, and the rule over beings, in the name
of Being. Nazism, too, he tells us in this passage, made a similar attempt, although it fell short in its

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inability—which Heidegger criticizes in a variety of texts, such as the Nietzsche lectures and the
Beiträge —to think Being authentically. Now part of the authentic thought of Being is authentic human
being, or Dasein, as the vantage point from which to comprehend Being. Authentic human being is
what Heidegger since the rectoral address has in view through the idea of the historical realization of
the Germans as German. Although Heidegger has undertaken to deconstrust subjectivity in order to
consider Being without Dasein, in another sense Dasein is still central to his thought in his concern
with resistance to the loss of tradition and of the place to dwell.
If this is correct, we can anticipate that Heidegger's theory of technology, which he intends as a
carrying out of the confrontation of technology which the Nazis were too crude to perform, continues
to share the insistence on the authentic gathering of the Volk . Like his theory of Being, the theory of
technology which derives from the theory of Being is intrinsically political, where politics is directed
toward the authenticity of the Germans and, beyond the Germans, toward knowledge of Being. To
miss this point, to understand his theory of technology merely as an analysis of technology, even more
precisely as a scrutiny of the essence of technology, is simply to miss the central thrust of Heidegger's
I have brought together Heidegger's remarks on technology in his interview in the form of a
connected argument. Taken together, these remarks yield an informal sketch of Heidegger's later
understanding of technology as an all-encompassing, global phenomenon, beyond the control of
human being, including the metaphysical form of thought said to end in Nietzsche; these comments
further provide an insight into Heidegger's insistence that the spell of technology can be broken, or
reversed, by a form of thought, such as Heidegger's, different from metaphysics, which goes further
than National Socialism in order to reappropriate the Western tradition in a new way.
According to Heidegger, a reversal can only come about through a thorough rethinking of the
Western tradition. He states that
it is my conviction that a reversal can be prepared only in the same place in the world where the modern technological
world originated, and that it cannot happen because of any takeover by Zen-Buddhism or any other Eastern experiences
of the world. There is need for a rethinking which is to be carried out with the help of the European tradition and of a
new appropriation of that tradition. Thinking itself can be transformed only by a thinking which has the same origin and
― 208 ―
The view of technology sketched in Heidegger's interview, and which only appears in Heidegger's later
work, has an obvious connection to his preceding writings. Ideas that reappear now in this extension
of his position include the concern with Being, the supposed incapacity of ordinary thought to
comprehend the "situation," the claimed need to break with the metaphysical tradition which
purportedly draws to a close with Nietzsche, the reference to fate, the alleged connection between
nihilism and technology, and Heidegger's suggestion that he intends to carry further the effort begun,
but not completed, by National Socialism. Since the roots of Heidegger's concept of technology lie
deep within his earlier writings, we will need to consider its emergence within the position as a whole
before we turn to its mature form. A grasp of Heidegger's understanding of technology will enable us
to envisage its relation to his Nazism.
On the Background of Heidegger's View of Technology
To begin with, it is useful to recall in outline the development of the theme of technology in
Heidegger's position. This theme is not explicit in his early philosophy and only becomes explicit after
the turning in his thought as a by-product of his attention to nihilism. Technology is not an important
theme in Being and Time . To the best of my knowledge, the only explicit mention of technology is in a
single sentence in § 69, in the course of a lengthy discussion of "The Temporality of
Being-in-the-World and the Problem of the Transcendence of the World." In part b of this paragraph,
clumsily titled "The Temporal Meaning of the Way in Which Circumspective Concern Becomes Modified
into the Theoretical Discovery of the Present-at-Hand Within-the-World," Heidegger writes: "Reading
off the measurements which result from an experiment often requires a complicated 'technical' set-up
for the experimental design."
Yet if not the theory of technology, at least the basic conceptual framework from which it will
emerge is already in place as early as Being and Time . So in the famous discussion of equipment from
a clearly pragmatic angle of vision, Heidegger draws the well-known distinction between
readiness-to-hand (Zuhandenheit ) and presence-to-hand (Vorhandenheit ). He then writes, in a
reference to what nature is in itself:

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Here, however, "Nature" is not to be understood as that which is just present-at-hand, nor as the power of Nature . The
wood is a forest of timber, the mountain a quarry of rock; the river is water-power, the wind is wind "in the sails." As the
"environment" is discovered, the "Nature" thus discovered is encountered too. If its kind of Being as ready-to-hand is
― 209 ―
disregarded, this "Nature" itself can be discovered and defined simply in its pure presence-to-hand. But when this
happens the Nature which "stirs and strives," which assails us and enthralls us as landscape, remains hidden. The
botanists' plans are not the flowers of the hedgerow; the "source" which the geographer establishes for a river is not the
"springhead in the dale."
In this passage, Heidegger, who does not yet possess a developed concept of technology, presents
the dark side which, he believes, technology tends to hide or to cover up. To see this point, we need to
dig a little deeper than the official concern in this paragraph with the relative priority between
presence-to-hand and readiness-to-hand which defines entities "ontologico-categorially."
[21] For
Heidegger, the initial access to entities is solely in terms of an "in order to" structure, through a
possible use to which they can be put. It follows, then, that a pragmatic intention structures the world
and its contents as they are revealed to us. If the way in which we turn to the world structures what
we find there, by implication the particular structure we impart to the world removes from it certain
aspects that cannot be found because they are literally rendered invisible by the kind of utilitarian
perspective one adopts, or even the utilitarian perspective itself. This is the deeper meaning of
Heidegger's remark, in the passage cited, that beyond the botanists' plants and the geographers' river
there are the flowers of the hedgerow and the springhead in the dale. Heidegger's point, then, is that
at the same time as modern technology, illustrated in such sciences as botany and geography, reveals
a world called into being by different forms of technological perspective, it also tends to hide or to
occult another, more "natural" world.
This passage, which is not yet a theory of technology, points toward the need for an explanation of
how, under circumstances associated with nihilism, technology itself, in principle meant to improve
life, works against the realization of that aim. In Heidegger's succeeding writings, the theory of
technology gradually emerges until he focuses on it directly. This topic is already on his mind in the
lecture course on metaphysics. Here, in the context of his meditation on metaphysics, he interprets
the Greek root of the German word often rendered as technology ("Technik ") against the background
of the ancient Greek tradition.
In a remark on the relation of "physis " and "techne, " he translates the latter as denoting neither
art nor technology but knowledge. By "knowledge" he understands "the ability to plan and to organize
freely, or to master institutions."
[22] Heidegger later amplifies his understanding of techne as
knowledge in the context of a lengthy discussion of Sophocles' Antigone . In an interpretation of the
word "deinon, " he employs the
― 210 ―
term "Machenschaft, " from "machanoen, " to describe "the power, the powerful, in which the action of
the violent one moves," to refer to the "machination . . . entrusted to him."
[23] If we take Heidegger's
comments on techne as adumbrating his later doctrine of technology, we can perceive in this remark a
foreshadowing of what he regards as the essential passivity of human being with respect to a violent
phenomenon not under human control. If knowledge requires effective transparency, or control, then
such knowledge is accompanied by a constitutive opacity, or lack of control.
Heidegger amplifies the manner in which techne as knowledge presupposes an active aspect in
further comments on the link between techne and art. For Heidegger, knowledge is not mere
observation, but involves a looking beyond what is given at any time. He further stresses the
forward-looking, prospective aspect of techne by noting that it is the Greek term for art, which allows
the emergence of what is concealed, which, then, realizes, which accomplishes in the form of an
Because art in a pre-eminent sense stabilizes and manifests Being in the work as an entity, it may be regarded as the
ability, pure and simple, to accomplish, to put-into-the-work [ins-Werk-setzen]. as techne . This accomplishment is a
manifesting realization [Erwirken] of being in the entity.
But if Being manifests itself in technological production, then the human role is overshadowed by
that which so to speak makes use of it. Technology is not, or is not only, the employment of a means
to reach an end in view; technology, as in the Greek sense of art, is the revealing of what reveals itself

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through technology in independence of us. [25]
In later writings composed during the 1930s, Heidegger begins to develop various aspects of his
view of technology. In the Beiträge , through the concept of machination Heidegger emphasizes the
relation of technology to calculability and to the modern period. For Heidegger, calculation originally
becomes possible through the application of scientifically grounded mathematical technique.
[26] Yet in
Heidegger's eyes, technology is at best a mixed blessing. Heidegger stresses its negative aspect in a
later remark, in a protest against the way in which the familiar insistence on the expansion of
technology, in the rise of mere number, of simple gigantism, brings about a transformation of human
Heidegger finds the origins of modern technology in early Greek philosophy. In a remark about
Plato, Heidegger attributes the difficulties of modernity to the central figure in the Western
philosophical tradition. On the basis of a concept of techne , Plato's supposed preference for entities,
mere beings, made possible the rise of modern technology,
― 211 ―
whose result is seen in an alleged forgetfulness of Being and a supposed denial of history.
[28] In this
way, Heidegger establishes to his satisfaction that modern technology, and by implication the whole
modern period, is only possible because of the turn away from an authentic comprehension of Being.
The double consequence of Heidegger's analysis is to forge a metaphysical link between the question
of Being and technology, and to uncover a metaphysical ground to oppose technology and modernity.
Heidegger's disparaging comment on Plato is consistent with Heidegger's later effort to reject
metaphysics and philosophy for another form of thought beyond philosophy. It points to the deep
connection between Heidegger's view of technology and his rejection of all metaphysics since the
The connection of technology with modernity and metaphysics, to which Heidegger alludes in the
Beiträge , is strengthened in subsequent writings. In an important essay on representation, Heidegger
insists on the link between technology and modern science while seeming to distance himself from his
earlier claim about the relation of calculation and technique. Heidegger now maintains that technology
is as important as modern science, since it is an autonomous domain; but technology cannot be
understood as an application of a mathematical form of physical science.
One of the essential phenomena of the modern age is its science. A phenomenon of no less importance is machine
technology. We must not, however, misinterpet that technology as the mere application of modern mathematical physical
science to praxis. Machine technology is itself an autonomous transformation of praxis, a type of transformation wherein
praxis first demands the employment of mathematical physical science. Machine technology remains up to now the most
visible outgrowth of the essence of modern technology, which is identical with the essence of modern metaphysics.
This passage uncovers an important new aspect of technology, which is now revealed as the
ground of modernity and, for that reason, as the continuation of the metaphysical turn away from an
authentic grasp of Being. For Heidegger, metaphysics grounds an age by giving it a specific viewpoint,
and ours is the age of technology. Modern technology, which is so far most visible in so-called machine
technology, is modern metaphysics. Since Heidegger also holds that the metaphysical tradition carries
with it a false understanding of Being, modern technology is a phenomenon that we need to surpass if
we are to return to a true metaphysics. The technological conquest of the world, produced through the
appearance of the gigantic, and the attachment to quantity,
― 212 ―
although perhaps a special kind of greatness, only signifies a metaphysical decline.
Heidegger further contributes to his nascent view of technology in a brief passage in the "Letter on
Humanism." The passage begins with a meditation on homelessness, which he sees as resulting from
the turning away from Being by beings. For Heidegger, homelessness is becoming the destiny of the
world (Weltschicksal ).
[30] He sees Marx's concept of alienation as the analysis of a phenomenon due
to, and covered up by, metaphysics. From Heidegger's perspective, Marx's specific contribution lies in
his understanding of the relation of alienation to history, an insight so far unmatched by later thinkers
who fail to enter into dialogue with him, which is possible only if one grasps the essence of
These claims require careful consideration. It is unclear that Heidegger has avoided the danger of
facile statements about materialism, about which he warns us. His assertion that no one has so far
been able to dialogue with Marx in virtue of the inability to think history is possibly accurate for

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Husserl but more questionable for Sartre. [32] One must also question Heidegger's dogmatic
assumption of the Marxist myth that Marx's position is fairly described as materialism. [33]
Heidegger's basic claim is that in order to think history, we must think Being in the authentic
sense. His remarks on technology, meant to support his stress on the priority of the question of Being,
reveal the importance he attaches to this phenomenon. Heidegger insists that the essence of
materialism, the position he attributes to Marx, is concealed in technology. The result is in effect to
reverse what he, following the standard Marxist reading of Marx, understands as Marx's effort to think
technology through "materialism," that is, as an outgrowth of the concentration of capital in modern
society. Since Heidegger believes that technology can only be understood in terms of the forgotten
history of Being, Marx's position, although deeper than others, is nonetheless superficial when
measured by this standard. In this way, Heidegger transforms Marx's question concerning the nature
of modern life, which Marx studies in terms of the institution of private property and human being, into
his own question concerning Being.
Heidegger argues for his rival theory of Being as the key to modern society by drawing a link
between technology and the contemporary historical moment. For Heidegger, technology is a mode of
the manifestation of the truth of Being in the ancient Greek sense; through technology, the history of
metaphysics appears. From Heidegger's perspective, technology is merely the visible aspect of
metaphysics. Now making a difficult transition from technology as a manifestation of Being to political
doctrines, he asserts that the latter as well derive from Being. The problem is that thought, which is
determined by Being, is inadequate
― 213 ―
either to grasp Being or to conceptualize the present historical moment. Metaphysics cannot think the
present era, in which it is the dominant mode of thought. Heidegger's assertion that politics depends
on Being is further important for an understanding of his turning toward Nazism. If ontology leads to
politics, as Heidegger now maintains, then it is reasonable to suppose, as the discussion has previously
shown, that his view of Being could also induce a political turning, including a turning to Nazi politics.
In an important passage that ties together different themes of his overall position with his concept
of technology, Heidegger writes:
The essence of materialism is concealed in the essence of technology, about which much has been written but little has
been thought. Technology is in its essence a destiny within the history of Being and of the truth of Being, a truth that lies
in oblivion. For technology does not go back to the techne of the Greeks in name only but derives historically and
essentially from techne as a mode of aletheuein , a mode, that is, of rendering beings manifest. As a form of truth
technology is grounded in the history of metaphysics, which is itself distinctive and up to now the only perceptible phase
of the history of Being. No matter which of the various positions one chooses to adopt toward the doctrines of
communism and to their foundation, from the point of view of the history of Being it is certain that an elemental
experience of what is world-historical speaks out in it. Whoever takes "communism" only as a "party" or a
"Weltanschauung " is thinking too shallowly, just as those who by the term "Americanism" mean, and mean derogatorily,
nothing more than a particular lifestyle. The danger into which Europe as it has hitherto existed is ever more clearly
forced consists presumably in the fact above all that its thinking—once its glory—is falling behind in the essential course
of a dawning world destiny which nevertheless in the basic traits of its essential provenance remains European by
definition. No metaphysics, whether idealistic, materialistic, or Christian, can in accord with its essence, and surely not in
its own attempts to explicate itself, "get a hold on" this destiny yet, and that means thoughtfully to reach and gather
together what in the fullest sense of Being now is.
This passage is important for several reasons. First, Heidegger indicates that a theory of
technology needs to take a historical approach. He credits Marx's view as an advanced example of this
approach. Second, he stresses, as he did in Being and Time , that history can only be thought in terms
of Being. Third, from this perspective, Heidegger maintains that a theory of technology which explains
the phenomenon of technology in terms of modern society and not conversely is unacceptable. The
result is to maintain his insistence, consistent in his works, on the primacy of the question of Being.
Fourth, he insists on the inseparable link
― 214 ―
between technology and metaphysics or the history of ontology. In this way, Heidegger signals his
intention to utilize his concern with Being as the crucial insight to understand technology. Fifth, he
brings out the fateful consequence of the understanding of technology in the escape from
homelessness which afflicts modern man and the return to Being from the forgetfulness of Being. This
is again a signal that, despite the later effort to decenter subjectivity, Heidegger still maintains the
emphasis, present as early as Being and Time , on the link between Being and authenticity.

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A Note on Technology and Heidegger's Wider Position
So far we have been considering the genesis of Heidegger's understanding of technology in a series of
texts in which it is at most an occasional theme. This is not the same as an analysis of the view of
technology within Heidegger's wider position. Although there is an occasional reference to technology
in earlier writings, this theme only engages Heidegger's attention in a central way after the onset of
the turning in his thought, a process already under way at the time of the rectoral address. The date in
question is obviously important. If the turn to Nazism is prior to the turning in his thought, then, for
strategic reasons concerning the defense of Heidegger's thought, it is convenient to depict the turning
as a turning against Nazism.
[35] If the turning occurs before or during the rectoral period, then this
claim is no longer plausible.
The complex evolution of Heidegger's position known collectively as the turning requires an
understanding of the way that, for Heidegger, the decline of the thought of Being is linked to the rise
of a form of society which not only turns away from, but actually impedes, a comprehension of Being.
We can spell this point out as follows: One of the consequences of the turning is that Heidegger to his
satisfaction establishes a connection between a mythical event at the onset of Western history and the
decline of authentic metaphysics. For Heidegger, Nietzsche's contribution is to identify the ongoing
phenomenon of nihilism which Heidegger reads as the turn away from Being. Heidegger goes beyond
Nietzsche in order to maintain that modernity itself, more precisely the modern concern with entities,
is both a symptom of and contributes to the occultation of Being. From the perspective of the turning
in his thought, Heidegger understands the rise of technology as the essence of modernity following
from the withdrawal of Being. In sum, the turning in Heidegger's thought requires a further turn to a
theory of modernity which can only turn out to be a further consequence of his basic concern with
― 215 ―
If the turn to technology is a further aspect of the lengthy turning in Heidegger's thought, we can
understand the specific influences that shaped his conception of technology and its relatively late
emergence as integrally related to his wider position. The turning occurs in part during Heidegger's
effort to come to grips with Nietzsche, during Heidegger's effort to evolve a new mythology in the new
space created by Nietzsche's nihilism, the idea following from Nietzsche's proclamation that God is
dead. Accordingly, we can expect Nietzsche to influence Heidegger's concept of technology as well. We
can further expect the concept of technology to assume its mature form only after a point when
Heidegger himself becomes aware, and publicly acknowledges, that a process of development is taking
place in his position—namely in the "Letter on Humanism"—and begins to consider how to carry that
process forward. An understanding of technology is not important in the initial form of the position,
which features an abstract analysis of Being as time unrelated to a specific historical context; but it is
important, indeed essential, for the revised version of the position which comprehends the problem of
Being as a function of a specific historical event, which in turn requires an analysis of the present
historical period.
Influences on Heidegger's View of Technology
Heidegger's pessimistic assessment of technology echoes a disillusionment about technological
advances widely felt by others as well. [36] A deep unease about the relation between technology and
philosophy surfaced early in the nineteenth century, in the wake of Hegel's system. In the middle of
the century (1857), in a well-known study of Hegel, Haym complained that the time for system was
past since the very bases of physical and spiritual life were in the process of being transformed by the
triumph of technology.
Hegel's system and its hegemony was after the brilliant period of our classical poetry the last great and universal
manifestation on the purely spiritual plane which our fatherland has produced. Nothing like that has occurred since that
time. In fact, much to the contrary. We find ourselves for the moment in a great and almost universal shipwreck of the
spiritual and of belief in spirit in general. Let us look at the most recent facts of naked truth! An unprecedented and
simply decisive change has taken place. This is no longer a time for system, no longer a time for poetry or philosophy.
This is instead a time in which, thanks to the great technical discoveries of this century, matter seems to have come
alive. The most basic underpinnings of our physical and our spiritual life are being ripped apart and transformed by this
triumph of technology [Technik].
― 216 ―

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Nor was the distrust of technology confined merely to nineteenth-century thinkers. In 1931, toward
the close of the Weimar Republic, Jaspers, who typically insisted on the importance of science, spoke
for many others in evoking the threats posed by technology and the machine, as well as tensions
between technical organization and existence.
The breadth of Heidegger's reading means that his conception of technology could have been
influenced by any number of writers. Here, it will suffice to mention merely Nietzsche, Jünger, and
Spengler. Heidegger's interest in Nietzsche precedes, in fact necessarily precedes, Heidegger's theory
of technology, which presupposes his reading of Nietzsche's view of nihilism. There is a natural
progression in Heidegger's thought from his attraction to Nietzsche's idea that God is dead, to the
nihilism it supposedly signifies, and the relation of nihilism to technology. Between the rectoral
address, where he stressed the nihilistic implications of the alleged death of God, and the final series
of lectures on Nietzsche, Heidegger's understanding of nihilism changed radically. The relative
optimism present when he became rector was later transformed into a bleak pessimism about the
possibility of surpassing what Heidegger, in the rectoral address, describes as "the forsakenness of
modern man in the midst of what is."
A darker understanding of nihilism emerged during Heidegger's lectures on Nietzche. Heidegger's
theory of technology relates the technological phenomenon to nihilism. If the decisive step is the
connection between nihilism and technology, it is not surprising that Heidegger only worked out his
theory of technology when he possessed his reading of nihilism.
When Heidegger staked his claim to the hegemony of Nazism, he thought that in order to rescue
modern man it would be sufficient to resurrect the authentic Greek idea of science in the ontological
form of his fundamental ontology. At the time, he believed there was a single common solution to
rescue modern man and to defend the university from the encroachment of, or the threat posed by,
the so-called "Christian-theological interpretation of the world and the mathematical-technological
thinking of the modern age."
[40] Several years later, at the close of the Nietzsche lectures, Heidegger
no longer thought that it was possible to cast off nihilism with ease, if at all. Heidegger turns toward
technology to formulate an aspect of his increasingly pessimistic reading of the pervasive and
persistent nature of nihilism that surrounds us.
In an important passage at the close of the Nietzsche lectures series, Heidegger points briefly to
his understanding of the connection between nihilism and modern technology. For Heidegger, the
mythical event of the withdrawal of Being results in the ongoing nihilism perceived only by Nietzsche.
Heidegger diagnoses the result of nihilism within the tradi-
― 217 ―
tional binary framework of theory and practice. On the theoretical level, there is a decline of the
thought of Being manifest in what passes for metaphysics and in the theory of the worldview. On the
practical level, there is a disappearance of the distinction between Being as such and beings manifest
in the concern to rule over beings. For Heidegger, technology can be understood as the extension of
the rule of human beings over beings, which occurs in the space created by the turn away from Being.
He insists that with the completion of metaphysics and the decline of the thought of Being, technology
flourishes as never before. "This is the basis of the fact that complete, unlimited, undisturbed and
confused hegemony over being [Seiende] can develop only with the beginning of the fulfillment of
Ernst Jünger's influence on Heidegger's conception of technology, which has been studied in the
secondary literature, [42] is visible in a number of Heidegger's texts. We have already noted more than
once that in his discussion of the rectorate Heidegger invokes Jünger as a mediator in order to
understand the past and present in terms of Nietzsche's metaphysics.
[43] Heidegger confirms this
point in his article "Zur Seinsfrage"—originally intended as a contribution to a festschrift for Jünger on
his sixtieth birthday—where further he credits Jünger with a description of European nihilism in the
period after the First World War.
[44] Heidegger specifically acknowledges the debt of his own thought
on technology to Jüger's success, not in describing an already known phenomenon, but in making
available "a new reality."
Jünger described the so-called new reality in his book, The Worker: Hegemony and Form (Der
Arbeiter: Herrschaft und Gestalt ). [46] This book was originally published in 1932, several months
before the National Socialists seized power in the beginning of 1933. In the foreword to the first
edition, Jünger describes his intention, in quasi-phenomenological terms, as an effort to describe the
form of the worker, beyond party perspectives and beyond theory. Jünger perceived a new reality, in
which the worker actively determined history and a changed world.
[47] In the foreword to the second
edition, more than thirty years later, looking backward, Jünger described his work as an effort to find a

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way to understand the present at a moment when the forces of change have clearly signaled the
advent of a new period. [48] He further insisted that if the main actors had acted according to the
principles he sketched, much could have been avoided, even the use of armed force. [49]
Jünger's book reads like a kind of mad Spinozism in which determinism is freedom and the worker
is free in submitting to a centrally organized dictatorship. The work is written in a tedious style and is
certainly tedious to read. It mainly consists of a series of statements which, since they rarely develop
to the stage of argumentation, are difficult to summa-
― 218 ―
rize. Jünger develops his idea of the worker in opposition to bourgeois liberalism and, to a lesser
degree, to Marxism.
[50] Jünger's principal theme is the overwhelming importance of the worker as the
key to a new form of society. He describes the Führer as the first soldier or first worker, and he further
suggests that the contract is to be replaced by an organization along the lines of an army.
Accepting an organic theory of the state, popular among conservative thinkers, Jünger maintains that
rule and service are one and the same. [52] Glorifying the importance of the worker, he asserts that
the rise of the worker signifies the rise of the new Germany. [53] For Jünger, the possibility of reaching
a deeper, richer, more fruitful world lies in an awareness of the superiority of the worker over the
citizen (Bürger ).
[54] On his view, the task of the worker is to show a total engagement (die totale
Mobilmachung ), which is the will to submit to total dictatorship. [55] Jünger further stresses the
emphasis on obedience in his claim that the demand for freedom is at the same time a demand for
Jünger's book is intellectually very weak, difficult to take seriously, worthy of consideration here
only because of its impact on Heidegger. It is hard to imagine that a thinker of any importance, much
less someone often classified as one of the great thinkers of our time, could be influenced by the work
of an intrinsically insignificant writer such as Jünger, much less form a group to devote considerable
time to the study of his "thought." Heidegger is generous in crediting Jünger's influence on his own
theory, although Heidegger appears to owe more inspiration than insight to Jünger's work.
The article Heidegger contributed to Jünger's festschrift is an occasion to rethink some aspects of
his view of Being in reference to Jünger's writings. In his article, Heidegger concentrates his attention
on Jünger's understanding of nihilism in relation to work (Arbeit ). Heidegger simply denies that we
emerge from nihilism when we become aware of it.
[57] For Heidegger, the fulfillment of nihilism is not
its end, but rather its beginning. [58] Heidegger assimilates Jünger's problem to his own by comparing
the work in which the form of the worker receives its meaning to the Being of beings. [59] We are
meant to understand Jünger's view of technology as following from the mobilization of the world
through the form of the worker—which Heidegger further reads as offering insight into the newly
emerging metaphysics of the will to power—as basically connected to the problem of Being. Heidegger
further links the question of how one emerges from nihilism with the question of how one knows
Being. He suggests that the overcoming of metaphysics lies in getting over, or in recovering from
(Verwindung ), it, roughly in turning one's back on the problem;
[60] and he equates this result with
the healing of the forgetfulness of Being (Seinsvergessenheit ). [61]
― 219 ―
The third influence on Heidegger's comprehension of technology is Oswald Spengler. Heidegger's
interest in Spengler, which has not often been studied in detail, is significant in the genesis of his
[62] Heidegger lectured on Spengler as early as 1920. [63] His repeated references to Spengler
in his early lecture courses in Freiburg have been interpreted as one of the factors impelling Heidegger
to transform his interest in individual authenticity in Being and Time to the authenticity of the Volk in
his turn toward Nazism.
[64] Spengler's concern with technology, already apparent in his well-known
account of the decline of the West, is more sharply focused in his study of the connection between
human being and technology.
Heidegger's concern with Spengler can in part be attributed to a shared pessimism widely felt in
German circles at the end of the First World War, just prior to the onset of the Weimar Republic. We
have already noted that Spenglerian themes resonate throughout the rectoral address.
[66] Such
themes include the concern that Germany become the subject of history, the claim to understand the
present and to foresee the future, the conception of the present as fraught with danger, German
destiny as decisive for world history, and so on. Spengler's influence is equally obvious in Heidegger's
theory of technology. A short list of themes concerning technology which Heidegger shares with
Spengler would include at least the following: the relation between technology and the destiny of
human being; the link between technology, culture, and history; the analysis of technology in terms of

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the concept of the instrument; the idea of struggle, including technological struggle, as ennobling;
care as future-directed; the conviction that we have now arrived at a historical turning point, within
which technology is a main component; and a condemnation of our enslavement by machines and
technology. With respect to technology, the main difference between Heidegger and Spengler lies in
Heidegger's resolutely antianthropological perspective, the result of his insistence on the question of
Being and later move away from Dasein. For this reason, Heidegger declines to follow Spengler's
generally anthropological perspective, apparent in Spengler's concern to study technology and the
decline of the West in general in terms of the historical origins of man.
Consideration of the influences on the formation of Heidegger's understanding of technology yields
three results. First, here and elsewhere in his position Heidegger borrows, and, if necessary, rethinks,
ideas that were in the air at the time. This in turn suggests the usefulness of knowledge of the
immediate intellectual context for an understanding of Heidegger's thought. Second, it has been noted
that Heidegger's view of technology emerges as a result of his long discussion of Nietzsche's view of
nihilism. Third, we see that his understanding of technology is derived
― 220 ―
from—or inscribed, so to speak, within—the framework of his pursuit of the question of Being.
Technology is not a phenomenon Heidegger studies for itself, because of his concern with technological
problems, or through an interest in the ongoing discussion concerning them. For Heidegger is never
interested in technology as such, and always interested in it only against the background of his
obsessive concern with Being.
Heidegger's Mature Theory of Technology
A discussion of the origin and influences on Heidegger's understanding of technology would be
incomplete without an account of his mature view of technology. Now there is no single major text in
which Heidegger develops his mature conception of the technological phenomenon. Rather, there are a
number of works of varying size in which technology is a theme. These texts culminate in a
four-lecture cycle, titled "Insight into What Is," given at the end of 1949 and repeated in 1950.
[68] Of
these lectures, one remains unpublished and nearly inaccessible. [69] A second one, which is published
and available in English translation, is only minimally connected to the problem of technology. [70]
Both of the remaining lectures are directly concerned with technology. [71] Both address the same, or
similar material in related ways and both are from the same period. Since Heidegger subsequently
reworked his discussion of "The Question concerning Technology," since it is more substantial, and
since it concerns the "essence" of technology, it is representative of his mature understanding of
The essay to which we now turn is difficult, even in comparison with Heidegger's other writings.
For whatever reason, Heidegger's considerable capacity to communicate his meaning seems suddenly
to have been bracketed, placed in parentheses as it were. He has further not been helped by a
translation into English which is often even odder than Heidegger's frequently odd German text.
This is especially regrettable since Heidegger's thought, which normally depends on the analysis of
language, is even more than usually dependent on etymological commentary in this essay.
One difficulty in presenting Heidegger's theory of technology is that it seems to follow squarely
from his claims about the German language. We can start to describe his view by pointing to the
parallel between this essay and Heidegger's persistent concern with the problem of Being. As in Being
and Time , where he inquires into the meaning of Being, so in this essay he raises the question of the
meaning of technology, or more precisely its essence. Here, after his turn away from the philosophical
tradition, he claims to understand "essence" in a supposedly nonmeta-
― 221 ―
physical sense. For Heidegger, the essence of technology is different from technology and not itself
something technological.
[73] This assertion depends on his understanding of "essence." Heidegger
clarifies his understanding of "essence" and the essence of technology by pointing to the Latin words
"quidditas " and "genus. " "Essence," or we can say the essence of essence, is something which, to
reproduce his own terminology, endures, holds sway, administers itself, develops and decays. In this
connection, he calls attention to the etymological relation of the term "essence" ("Wesen ") to the verb
"währen " and to Goethe's use of the "mysterious" word "fortwähren ."
[74] Perhaps what he has in
mind is the distinction between something that just is, for instance a fixed property, and the
Aristotelian concept of energeia , which denotes that which not only is but is also in act.

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Heidegger's strategy is to insist that an approach to technology that is not squarely based on
Being—in a word, any approach other than his own—falls short of the phenomenon. Heidegger does
not deny that technology is partly instrumental, although he denies that instrumentality is central to it.
For Heidegger, everyone "knows" the "instrumental or anthropological statements about technology,"
that is, that technology is a means to an end and a human activity.
[76] Whether or not everyone
believes these statements to be true, certainly some observers, for instance Spengler, accept roughly
this approach.
[77] For Heidegger, the usual instrumental or anthropological conception of technology
picks out something true about technology but misses its essence, which is neither instrumental nor
anthropological. His solution is to address the noninstrumental, nonanthropological aspect of
technology through a reflection on a concept which, in his view, is presupposed by both instrumental
and noninstrumental, or essential, views of technology.
Heidegger's reflection links technology to teleology and, through teleology, to a Greek view of
causality. Since he holds that ends and means relate to causality,
[78] he attempts to show the
noninstrumental essence of technology through a discussion of causality, as illustrated by Aristotle's
familiar fourfold analysis. If technology results from human intentional actions, then it is normal
enough to interpret it teleologically. Since Heidegger maintains an antianthropological angle of vision,
he cannot invoke a human form of teleology. His solution is to invoke a conception of Being as the final
agent. Since Being and Time , Heidegger has consistently argued that Being is what is sought by
human being as the central concern and central question of human existence. Heidegger now
supplements his quasi-Aristotelian view of Being as what is sought with a causal analysis of Being as
causally active, as the real historical subject, based on the Aristotelian conception of causality.
Heidegger begins by pointing out that there is no corresponding
― 222 ―
Greek word for what has become known as causality. Heidegger interprets the corresponding Greek
concept as ways of responsibility (Verschulden ) for bringing something into appearance, of letting
something come forward as present (An-Wesen ).
[79] By deliberately employing a term incorporating
the German for "essence" ("Wesen "), he smuggles his own conception of truth as disclosure into his
reading of the ancient Greek view of causality. Heidegger goes on to maintain that the process of
rendering present, or presencing, transfers from concealment to unconcealment within what he
designates as the revealing (das Entbergen ). Since for Heidegger, revealing corresponds to what the
Greeks called aletheia , his analysis leads to his familiar view of truth as disclosure.
We can summarize Heidegger's complex line of reasoning as follows. Technology, which is mainly
understood instrumentally, is not only instrumental in nature. An analysis of the original Greek concept
of causality, understood as a means of bringing into presence, suggests that the Greeks understood
"causality" as "a revealing in general, or disclosure." Since disclosure is another name for truth,
technology cannot be understood in an essential manner as instrumental; for it is essentially
concerned with revealing, or truth. "Technology is therefore no mere means. Technology is a way of
[80] It follows that the essence of technology does not consist in instrumentality since
technology is a form of disclosure, or manifestation of truth.
We have been following Heidegger's teleological analysis of technology as a form of disclosure.
Now this point is not tangential, but central, to Heidegger's view of technology. In order to tie the
phenomenon of technology to the problem of Being, he needs to demonstrate that technology is the
form in which Being manifests itself. The stakes are high since he needs to find a way to maintain his
claim, central to his thought since Being and Time , that the problem of Being is prior to all other
concerns. In order to make out this assertion, Heidegger must be able to develop a theory of
technology on the basis of his theory of Being. The assimilation of technology to disclosure is intended
to bring the phenomenon of technology within the orbit of his conception of Being.
The structure of the argument is clear, impressive, but finally unconvincing. Heidegger's analysis
falters on a crucial point. His demonstration that technology is not merely instrumental rests on the
analogy he invokes between the supposedly original meaning of causality in ancient Greek thought and
modern technology. Now it is unclear that Heidegger's linguistic analysis of the meaning of the
corresponding Greek term is correct. But if, for purposes of discussion, we grant that Heidegger has
correctly captured the original meaning of the Greek idea of causality, it
― 223 ―
does not follow that his ancient Greek model essentially or even accurately describes modern
technology. In the absence of an explicit justification of this analogy, which Heidegger does not

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provide, we need not grant Heidegger's point, central to his analysis, that technology is a mode of
disclosure. Although Heidegger might be correct, nothing he says about modern technology justifies
this crucial inference.
In the remainder of his essay, Heidegger supposes this crucial, but undemonstrated, assertion:
technology is essentially concerned with truth as a way of revealing. To begin with, he relies on the
Greek etymology of the word "technology" ("Technik ") to make two points. First, techne belongs to
poiesis as a mode of bringing forth (Her-vorbringen ). Here, Heidegger follows Aristotle's own
discussion of the relation between techne and poiesis . Second, in ancient Greek thought techne is
linked with episteme as a mode of knowledge. In effect, Heidegger conflates two different forms of
knowledge, namely episteme , or science, and techne , or art. The basic difference, which is spelled
out in Aristotle's discussion,
[81] is roughly that between knowing how and knowing that. For Aristotle,
only knowing in the full sense, either episteme or sophia , could be understood as a disclosure of an
essence. In Aristotle's position, techne falls under the heading of practical theory, which does not
reveal an essence. Following his earlier, pragmatic analysis of readiness-to-hand in Being and Time ,
Heidegger, however, insists that techne , and, hence, technology, concern the disclosure of essences.
From this line of reasoning, based on the interpretation of the way the term "techne " figures in Greek
philosophy, Heidegger again reaches the conclusion that technology is a mode of revealing, hence
essentially associated with truth.
The obvious objection is that Heidegger's view of techne is not descriptive of technology in the
modern epoch. Heidegger concedes that his conclusion only partially applies to modern technology. He
maintains that modern technology, which is also a revealing, is further characterized as a challenging
(Herausfordern ). For Heidegger, modern technology specifically differs from its earlier forms in its
formulation of unreasonable demands placed on our surrounding world. The unreasonable nature of
the requirements put upon nature lie in the concern to extract and to store energy.
The revealing that rules in modern technology is a challenge which puts to nature the unreasonable demand [das
Ansinnen] that it supply energy that can be extracted and stored. But does this not hold true for the old windmill as well?
No. Its sails do indeed turn in the wind; they are left entirely to the wind's blowing. But the windmill does not unlock
energy from the air currents in order to store it.
― 224 ―
Heidegger understands this demand put to nature as disclosing, exposing, and as perpetuating itself in
a further series of demands.
This putting upon [Stellen], put to the energy of nature, is a promotion [Fördern] in a two-fold manner. It promotes
[fördert] in that it unlocks and exposes. Yet that demanding is always itself directed toward demanding something else,
i.e., driving forward to the maximum utility at the least expense.
Heidegger's sketch here of modern technology as consisting in an unlimited series of demands for
energy put to nature calls for two comments. First, this view recalls the passage cited above from
Being and Time , in which Heidegger calls attention to the idea of accepting nature as it is, as allowing
nature to show itself, so to speak. Both passages seem to indicate a kind of vague ecological
consciousness manifest in the assertion that our demands put to nature are unreasonable. We are
meant to infer that when nature is required to respond to us on our terms only, something is covered
up or at least left hidden.
Second, there is an equally vague recognition that modern technology is linked to a
self-perpetuating economic process that feeds on human beings and the entire surrounding world, as
described, say, by Marx. Now Heidegger does not here or elsewhere endorse an economic
interpretation of the modern world. In fact, he obviously cannot invoke this form of explanation since
it runs counter to his reliance on Being as the ultimate explanatory factor. But equally obviously, the
description of modern technology as an open-ended effort to extract and to store energy from nature
is not meaningful in itself; it is meaningful only in the context of the self-perpetuating, increasing
demands for ever-expanding economic activity typical of modern industrialized society.
Heidegger develops his view of technology as a form of disclosure by introducing Aristotelian
concepts of potentiality and agency. Following Aristotle, he maintains that when disclosure occurs, a
potentiality is actualized. He employs the term "Bestand "—the past participle of "bestehen ," meaning
"to be permanent, or to persist"—to designate the potentiality to be actualized, more precisely to refer
to the way in which what is concealed becomes unconcealed, or becomes present (an-west ).
[86] He
further invokes the specific conception of agency contained in his teleological view of technology as
disclosure to assert the difficult point that human being, which provides the necessary avenue for

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disclosure, for instance in conceiving, acting, or doing this or that, does not itself control the process
of disclosure. "But man does not have control over unconcealment itself, in which at any given time
the real shows itself or withdraws."
― 225 ―
Heidegger's appeal to a transhuman form of agency is not in itself novel. There is considerable
precedent for this kind of explanation, not only in theology, but virtually throughout the philosophical
tradition— in modern German thought, in Hegel's concept of the absolute and Marx's idea of capital.
Like Marx, who turns to capital to explain modern industrial society, including technology, Heidegger
also relies on a transhuman explanatory principle to ground modern technology. If there is a
transhuman causality at work, then human being is not the subject, or agent of the process, or at best
human being possesses limited agency only. Heidegger obscurely expresses this point when he writes
that "modern technology as an ordering revealing, is, then, no merely human doing."
If technology is not a human doing, then Heidegger must describe the agent of the process. He
characterizes the essence, but not the agent of technology under the heading "enframing [Gestell]."
Heidegger deliberately uses this word, which ordinarly means "a piece of apparatus," in a nonstandard
way to designate "the essence of technology."
[89] We recall Heidegger's insistence that technology is
a form of disclosure, or revealing of what is to be revealed. We further recall his conviction that the
essence of technology is not itself technological. He now relates both points to his conception of
enframing as the essence of technology in a formulation that seems more complex than what it means
to say. "En-framing means the collection of that demanding that puts upon man, i.e. challenges him,
to disclose the real, in the mode of ordering, as potential. Enframing means that way of disclosing
which obtains [waltet] in the essence of modern technology and which is nothing technological."
Heidegger's view of essence appears to conflate essence with the causal interpretation of agency
he favors in this essay. An essence is what it is to be something, whereas a causal agent is a principle
that is the source of an event. For instance, a match may cause a fire in a specific set of
circumstances, but it is essential to the match to be able to burn, whether or not it causes a fire in
something else. Heidegger, who fails to observe this distinction, employs his conception of enframing,
which he identifies as the essence of technology, as a causal agent. If human being is not responsible
for technology, it must be enframing that puts the so-called unreasonable demand to nature to yield
energy that can be stored. And it must be enframing that reveals truth in the process of disclosure
that transcends the instrumental aspect of modern technology.
For Heidegger, science depends on technology and not conversely. An obvious objection to
Heidegger's analysis follows from the fact that modern science, for instance, mathematical physics, is
some two centuries older than modern technology. It is natural to believe, as has often been believed,
that modern technology is dependent upon the rise of
― 226 ―
modern science, and hence to be explained in that way. Heidegger responds that modern natural
science does not prepare the way to technology, but only to modern technology. He maintains that in
physics the so-called demanding disclosure that typifies technology already rules, so that physics is
merely the messenger, so to say, of enframing. For Heidegger, it only appears that modern physics
makes modern technology possible since the essence of modern technology has long been hidden. He
sums up his claim that modern technology must be understood through enframing, not through
modern science, as follows:
Because the essence of modern technology lies in enframing, modern technology must employ exact physical science. In
this way, the deceptive illusion arises that modern technology might be applied natural science. This illusion can assert
itself only as long as neither the essential origin of modern science nor the essence of modern technology is sufficiently
found out.
Heidegger obviously intends to defend his view that technology derives from Being. His defense
consists of the unsupported statement that enframing, which he regards as the essence of technology,
was manifest in physics before it became manifest in modern technology. Now it follows that it is
illusory to regard modern technology as applied science only if one accepts Heidegger's assertion
about enframing as true without supporting evidence. Heidegger's analysis is further questionable
since it is unclear that modern science, which frequently makes use of technology, is essentially
technological. Although technology plays an important role in modern science, there are exceptions,
types of theoretical physics, say, which do not depend on technology. Heidegger's point is, hence, not

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descriptive of modern science as a whole; at best, it applies to part of modern science only. In sum,
we may refuse to accept Heidegger's suggestion, through remarks on the Greek concept of causality,
that enframing is the essence of technology. We should refuse to accept Heidegger's assertion that
modern science depends on technology since he does not argue this point and it is apparently false.
Heidegger is apparently convinced that he has met the challenge posed by the widespread
interpretations of technology as instrumental and as applied science. In the remainder of his essay, he
repeats material already presented and further discusses his conception of enframing through
connections drawn to destiny, danger, and art. The link to destiny recalls Heidegger's remarks in Being
and Time , to which we have frequently referred, on fate (Schicksal ) and destiny (Geschick ).
Heidegger returns to the notion of destiny in a series of remarks on the connection between enframing
and disclosure. The first step is the com-
― 227 ―
ment, following from the idea of enframing as a revealing, that the essence of technology brings man
on the way to disclosure. This leads to the second step, contained in the further comment that "to
bring on the way" ("auf einen Weg bringen ") is equivalent to the locution "to send" ("schicken "). On
this fragile, linguistic basis, Heidegger describes destiny as a collective sending. "We shall call that
collective sending [versammelde Schicken] which first sends man upon this way of revealing destiny
Heidegger links destiny to history, production, and disclosure. He maintains that we understand
the essence of history in terms of destiny. Or, as he also says, it is through the sending
(geschickliches ) that it becomes historical (geschichtlich ).
[93] He further describes destiny as a
bringing forth (Her-vor-bringen ) or producing, that is, as poetic, where "poetic" is understood in terms
of the Greek "poiesis ." And he maintains that the destiny of disclosure rules man and not conversely,
although he denies—using another word for destiny or fate (Ver-hängnis —that this is a compulsion
(Zwang ). For Heidegger, who now distantly echoes his conception of freedom as submission to
authority in the rectoral address, freedom is unrelated to will in any way. He insists that one becomes
free in belonging to the area of destiny as someone who listens (ein Hörender ) not as someone who
obeys (ein Höriger ). Since revealing is a process of concealment, he also says that freedom rules over
the free in the sense of what is lit up (Gelichteten )—even perhaps illuminated—or disclosed
(Entborgenen ).
Heidegger's remarks on the connection between enframing and destiny are based on his
impressive capacity—some would say his abuse of the language—to draw attention to linguistic
analogies. The etymological similarities he notices between sending (Schicken ), destiny (Geschick )
and history (Geschichte ) are a slender reed upon which to connect technology and these other
phenomena. If history is a collective happening, it does not follow that history can be understood as
reflecting human destiny in the Heideggerian sense of the term. One must further question the
interpretation of destiny as poetic. This inference follows only if the possibilities that a person or a
people might desire to incarnate or take on are firmly located in the past, as Heidegger maintains. Yet
tradition as such is not necessarily desirable, and, hence, worthy of repetition; only some traditions
Finally, the description of human freedom on display in the role of the listener is a qualified
restatement of Heidegger's view of Dasein as concerned with the meaning of Being. Although
enframing is related to destiny, it is not akin to moira in the Greek sense, as something which could
not be otherwise. Heidegger rejects the idea of technology as fate "where 'fate' means the
inevitableness of an unalterable course."
[94] Hei-
― 228 ―
degger is concerned to keep open the possibility that a qualified observer—perhaps even a philosopher
who has now gone beyond philosophy, such as Heidegger—can free us from technology. Once again,
he affirms a quasi-Platonic view of philosophy, in this case his post-metaphysical thought, as the
condition of true politics. His clear aim is to preserve a social role for his new thinking which is no
longer philosophy. But his account of human freedom in the face of technology need not be accepted.
For Heidegger does not justify his insight, which he rather seems to "deduce" from his prior theory.
The remark on danger is associated with the possibility of freedom from technology. Heidegger
develops this point through further consideration of the idea of disclosure. Returning to his claim that
the essence of technology is enframing, he notes that disclosure imposes a choice between what is
disclosed and what is not disclosed and hence remains hidden. For Heidegger, the choice between

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these possibilities endangers human being with respect to destiny. In his view, as destiny disclosure is
itself danger. "The destiny of disclosure is not any form [of danger] but the danger." [95] Heidegger
makes a determined effort to convince us that he is concerned not only with types of danger but with
danger itself in a series of examples. One form of danger lies in the possible misinterpretation of what
is disclosed, or revealed. Examples of this phenomenon are said to include the reductive interpretation
of God as an efficient cause, as in the concept of the God of the philosophers supposedly prevalent in
theology; and the possibility, in an apparent reference to modern science, that in the midst of correct
determinations "the true withdraws from the correct."
For Heidegger, who now introduces a distinction between forms of danger, the destiny of
disclosure is danger as such; but the destiny that obtains in enframing is the supreme danger.
Heidegger believes that the so-called supreme danger manifests itself in two ways: through human
demands addressed to nature, and in the delusion that everywhere human being encounters only
human being. As concerns enframing, Heidegger obscurely holds that when a person puts demands to
nature, one fails to see that it is the person who is being addressed. This remark is a reformulation of
Heidegger's earlier point in Being and Time , that in putting demands to nature we fail to attend to
nature and cannot perceive what our very demand occults. The statement that we fail to grasp that it
is the person who is being addressed is a further statement of Heidegger's conviction that Dasein is
defined by its concern with Being. It is also a hint that by coming to grips with technology, the
authentic gathering of the German people may occur. In that case, the obscurely expressed danger,
on which Heidegger insists in this essay, is nothing more than the possibility that people, particularly
the German people, will fail
― 229 ―
to realize the Nazi goal. If this reading is correct, then through his attention to the danger of disclosure
Heidegger is insisting again on the point central to the rectoral address: only if he leads the leaders
will it be possible to bring about an authentic gathering of the German Volk . For even at this late date,
after he has turned against philosophy, Heidegger, who thinks of himself as possessing insight even
into the future, continues to believe in the political destiny of his view of Being; for his
post-metaphysical thought is the only way to realize German authenticity.
Heidegger sees danger as following from the mysterious concept of enframing. He maintains that
it is enframing that shunts man into the kind of revealing that derives from making demands to nature
and which, he believes, conceals other types of disclosure, even the disclosure of truth. It follows that
it is not technology but rather its essence that is the danger. "Destiny, that sends to ordering, is the
most extreme danger. Technology is not dangerous. There is no demonry of technology; on the
contrary, there is the mystery of its essence. As a destiny of disclosure, the essence of technology is
the danger."
[97] Heidegger's point, consistent with his objection, is that metaphysics, namely an
inauthentic thought of Being, blocks access to the thought of Being. Since for Heidegger technology
prolongs metaphysics, then its essence impedes access to Being. Because an authentic view of Being
is the prerequisite for authentic human being, the consequence is to prevent the manifest German
Heidegger regards the danger as great but not as irremediable. In a reference to Hölderlin, he
maintains that danger and what he calls the saving power are entwined. In order to expound the sense
in which technology harbors a so-called saving power, Heidegger interprets the verb "to save" ("retten
") in a causal sense, consistent with his analysis of the Greek notion of causality, to mean "to cause
the essence to appear."
[98] Heidegger's reading of "to save" is consistent with an interpretation of the
entire essay and Heidegger's theory of technology as part of a continuing concern with German
destiny, in the present case through overcoming the danger of technology. We are meant to infer that
the essence of technology, which is itself a great danger, has within itself the possibility of disclosing
its essence. But we still need to understand the term "essence." Turning now to the usual senses of
the term, Heidegger maintains that enframing is not the essence of technology if that means
something like "a common genus," since it is rather a way of disclosure. For Heidegger, it is
technology itself which demands that we think the concept of essence in another manner.
On this basis, Heidegger considers anew the concept of essence which the Greeks already
understood as permanence. Like the Greeks, Heidegger also stresses permanence, since what he calls
― 230 ―
(Wesende ) endures. In this respect, he invokes the idea of an initial agency in order to grasp
permanence as relative to that which is itself its source and so to speak atemporally permanent. In a

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passage difficult to render into English and to interpret, which Heidegger italicizes in order to stress its
importance, he writes: "Only the granted endures [das Gewährte währt]. The initially enduring out of
the early [period] is the granting [das Gewährende ]."
[99] Heidegger may have nothing more obscure
in mind than his familiar idea that the destiny of the Volk is permanently present as a possibility to be
seized within history through appropriate insight. We are familiar with his insistence that human being
cannot seize its own possibility by itself since the capacity to do so must in effect be granted by a
suprahuman agent, presumably Being, which is responsible for the historical process. In this way,
Heidegger can maintain that the original granting, in respect to which enframing comes to be, also
sends along with it a so-called saving power within technology itself. The result, once again, is to cast
himself, as the one who understands technology, in the familiar, quasi-Platonic role of the thinker
indispensable to the good life.
Heidegger's interpretation of technology as either a danger or a sign of salvation lies in the link he
seeks to establish between technology and Being, his main concern, and the role now attributed to
Being as a causal agent. The danger derives from the turn away from Being, in which technology
prolongs bad metaphysics. His positive point is that if only we will turn back to Being, technology can
be overcome. On this basis, it is easy to infer that the saving power will in the first instance be due to
the thinker who finally is not led astray but has insight into Being, namely Heidegger himself. Although
technology tends mainly to turn us toward the formulation of ever new demands to be put to nature,
we can break through the fascination due to the instrumental approach to technology to seize its
Everything, then, depends upon this: that we ponder this arising and that, recollecting, we watch over it. How can this
happen? Above all through our catching sight of what comes to presence in technology, instead of merely staring at the
technological. So long as we represent technology as an instrument, we remain held fast in the will to master it. We
press on past the essence of technology.
There is a possible tension between Heidegger's quasi-Platonic insistence on the decisive character
of philosophic insight and his anti-Cartesian rejection of an anthropological approach to technology.
Heidegger is careful not to accord too much weight to insight into technology in order to preserve the
claim that technology is not a human doing
― 231 ―
and hence not under human control. To do so would, to overstate the case for his grasp of technology,
even the possibility to grasp it, only undercut his own view that technology follows from the turn away
from Being. He notes that the essence of technology is ambiguous, since it is associated with danger
and with the so-called saving power. He states that the question concerning technology, formulated in
the title of his essay, is the question concerning the event (Ereignis ) of revealing and concealing in
which truth appears. In this way, he maintains, we are not yet saved, although by facing danger hope
grows. "Might there then be granted a beginning disclosure, a saving in its initial appearance [zum
ersten Scheinen] in the midst of danger, which in the age of technology rather hides than
This passage suggests a vague sense of hope, just as Kant invoked the postulates of God and
immortality to entertain the possibility of happiness as following from moral action. [102] Heidegger
immediately moves to dispel any false optimism by a series of remarks on the Greek concept of art
suggested by "techne ," the root of the word "technology." He utilizes his conviction of the superiority
of Greece over modernity to suggest an alternative view of technology. According to Heidegger, in
ancient Greece art served to manifest the true as the beautiful, as a form of disclosure. Once again
rejecting any velleity of human agency, he states that we cannot now tell "whether art may again be
granted this highest possibility of its essence,"
[103] namely the capacity of revealing truth, presumably
insight into Being useful for human being. Since human being is not the final agent, it cannot itself
effect the return to the original sense of art. At best, it can reflect on the nontechnological essence of
technology from the basis of art concerned with truth, precisely the stance Heidegger takes in this
We can summarize the main lines of Heidegger's mature understanding of technology as follows.
His approach to technology follows from his concern with Being, in particular through application of his
theory of truth as disclosure. His view is marked by a fourfold rejection of technology as a human
doing, as instrumental, as applied science, or as a form of progress. (1) To begin with, Heidegger
rejects the anthropological approach to technology since in his view technology derives from Being and
not from human being. (2) Heidegger also rejects the widespread views of modern technology as
essentially instrumental on the grounds that technology is not only instrumental; rather, it is

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connected with the appearance of truth, hence, with problem of Being. (3) Heidegger further rejects
the interpretation of technology as applied science on the grounds that modern science presupposes
the essence of technology. (4) Finally, Heidegger rejects the idea that modern technology represents
progress. On the contrary, modern technology is fundamentally danger-
― 232 ―
ous because it has turned away from the manifestation of truth which was the function of the Greek
view of art. Heidegger holds that technology induces a particular way of relating to the world revealed
under this perspective which simultaneously conceals it in other ways.
Toward Criticism of Heidegger's View of Technology
Heidegger's theory of technology is primarily interesting as an extension of his theory of Being. But if
it is only secondarily a theory of technology, we need to ask whether his understanding of technology
needs to be taken seriously. To put the question somewhat differently: is Heidegger's view of
technology important only, or mainly, in order to understand the later evolution of his theory of Being?
or is it also important, even central, to any grasp of modern technology? This question has added
significance in view of the claim that much in Heidegger's writings has begun to pale, perhaps even to
seem mythological, but his view of technology deserves to be taken most seriously, to be seen as the
most powerful part of his corpus, where everything comes together.
In my view, the interest in Heidegger's theory of technology can only lie in an effort to elaborate
an antianthropological conception of modern technology, but not in any insight into specific
technological phenomena. The early Heidegger insists on the importance of the analysis of concrete
phenomena, but one will look in vain in his writings for a detailed discussion of specific technological
issues, such as the inventions of the weight-driven clock, paper, or gunpowder. Despite his early
quasi-Husserlian emphasis on the concrete, Heidegger simply fails to engage the discussion of
technology in a specific manner.
Heidegger's attention to the link between modern technology and its earlier anticipation in ancient
Greece and his awareness that technology limits, or tends to exclude, certain possibilities are
important points worth developing. With respect to ancient Greece, unfortunately Heidegger seems
more interested in how ancient Greek thought understood the etymological root of "technology" than
in the link between historically different technological stages. In his essay, he has nothing at all to say
about ancient machines and other earlier forms of technology. In comparison, his essay falls below the
level of Being and Time , where, for instance, he repeatedly mentions the relation between clocks and
[105] Here he further omits any discussion of other technological stages, for instance the
technologies of ancient Egypt or ancient China. The result is a severely foreshortened view that fails to
reflect the proper role of ancient Greek technology among other important predecessors of medieval
and modern technological developments. As concerns the relation
― 233 ―
between modern and ancient Greek technology, Heidegger is perhaps misled by an imperfect analogy
between philosophy and technology. It is plausible to hold that modern philosophy emerges from its
origins in the Greek philosophical tradition since the Western form of philosophy arises in the Platonic
tradition. But it is not plausible to maintain that technology as we know it arises within, or can be
understood in terms of, ancient Greek technology, which was only one of the important sources of
modern technology.
Heidegger is correct in saying that a commitment to technology tends to divert attention from
what is not technologically useful. Yet he seems unaware that even the decision to listen to nature in a
supposedly nonviolent manner consists in imposing an interpretative framework upon it. It is not the
case that the alternative consists in a choice between a technological explanatory matrix or none at all
since to decide for the latter is to effect a choice. Although it might be desirable to comprehend nature
without violence, this is clearly not possible if to do so requires one to abandon any structure of
interpretation. Heidegger's own interpretative structure is clearly evident in his constant recourse to
the categories of Being.
Heidegger's suggestion of a form of the Greek concept of art as an alternative to modern
technology is unsatisfactory. The obvious objection is that technology is not art. Although art on
occasion relies on forms of technology, for instance in the casting necessary to create a bronze statue,
types of art entirely dispense with technology of any kind, such as drawing in the sand on a beach.

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Further, Heidegger gives no indication that he has ever considered the obvious social cost necessary to
realize his idea of technology. To return to something like the Greek view that Heidegger favors would
require the abandonment of more familiar forms of technology, which are deeply embedded in modern
industrial society. Since the capacities to feed and clothe the population depend on modern
technology, were one to take seriously Heidegger's technological vision, were one to attempt to put it
into practice, modern life as we know it would have to be abandoned. There is something very utopian
about such an idea.
The main defect of Heidegger's theory of technology lies in his arbitrary, unjustified assumption of
a particular theory of agency as its basis. The problem of agency, or subjectivity, is an important
philosophical theme. The part of the modern philosophical tradition stemming from Descartes can be
understood as an ongoing effort to comprehend the subject, initially as a kind of epistemological
placeholder, an ultimately bare posit, such as the Cartesian cogito or the Kantian transcendental unity
of apperception, and later as a social being in the views of Fichte, Hegel, and Marx. Heidegger's
nonanthropological analysis of technol-
― 234 ―
ogy differs in a fundamental way from the average interpretation of technology, whether as
instrumental or applied science, which presupposes that technology yields to an anthropological
approach. In his early thought, Heidegger utilizes the concept of Being as a pole of attraction, much as
the Aristotelian God, which acts in that it is desired. In his later thought, Heidegger rethinks Being as
an event (Ereignis ) acting upon us, for instance as sending or granting various capacities to art,
technology, and so on.
Heidegger's extension of his theory of Being to the phenomenon of technology is problematic. A
line of argument acceptable within the context of his thought of Being is not necessarily acceptable
when considered on its own merits. Even if, for purposes of argument, we grant the correctness of
Heidegger's later view of Being against the background of his position, and the correctness of his
extension of his view of Being as a theory of technology, it does not follow that we need accept his
view of technology. Heidegger "derives" his understanding of technology from his understanding of
Being, but he provides no reason to accept his view of technology as such. The view of Being as agent
which follows from the evolution of his position is not supported by his analysis of technology. To put
the same point differently: Heidegger holds that phenomenology is concerned with disclosing what is
concealed; unfortunately, Heidegger does not disclose his transhuman concept of Being as agent
within, but rather imposes it upon, technology.
Heidegger's arbitrary conception of agency leads to a number of difficulties in his understanding of
technology. First, there is an evident inability to differentiate forms of technology. A theory of
technology must be able to distinguish among different forms of technology. There are obvious
differences between the horse-drawn plow and the tractor, the spear and the atom bomb, the abacus
and the computer, the movable-type printing press and the linotype machine, and so on. Each pair
illustrates the difference between an earlier and a later way to perform the same or similar tasks. In
each case, later technology builds on and improves the performance of earlier types of technology.
The chronologically later kinds of technology in these examples are also technologically more
sophisticated and, in that sense, technologically more advanced. Since Heidegger apparently
condemns modern technology as such, he does not, and in fact is unable to, introduce such routine
distinctions. But such distinctions are not merely a useless finesse; they are rather necessary in order
to make a choice of the means as a function of the end in view.
Second, his nonanthropological interpretation of technology is problematic. Heidegger's claim does
not follow from a critique of the rival view or views, which he simply rejects in virtue of his prior
― 235 ―
to Being as the ultimate explanatory factor. A prior commitment helps to explain why Heidegger
analyzes technology as he does, but it does not justify his analysis. In order to make out his
nonanthropological technological view, Heidegger needs to supplement his analysis, for instance
through a demonstration that the anthropological and nonanthropological approaches exhaust the
possible ways to understand technology, an indication of the basic flaws leading to a rejection of the
so-called anthropological approach, or an argument in favor of his own rival view. It is not sufficient to
point out that Heidegger's theory successfully accounts for the transhuman agency exhibited by
technology unless it can be shown that technology has a transhuman dimension, something Heidegger
merely asserts but does not demonstrate.

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Third, Heidegger exaggerates the differences between theories of technology which differ not in
kind, but in degree only. A reference to Heidegger's and non-Heideggerian readings of technology as
respectively authentic and inauthentic reflects his conviction that the exclusive authenticity of his own
approach is guaranteed by its link to Being. Yet Heideggerian and non-Heideggerian views of
technology are not mutually exclusive, but overlap. An example is the status of Marx's theory, which
Heidegger praises for its concern with history while criticizing its purported failure to subordinate the
essence of materialism to the history of being.
[106] Now Marx's position is a form of philosophical
anthropology that can be understood as an analysis of technological society in terms of a theory of
capital formation.
[107] Marx's theory of modern society in part relies on the anthropological
perspective of human activity, and in part relies on a transpersonal concept of capital as the agent of
[108] Since Marx's position combines both human and transhuman concepts of agency,
Heidegger is incorrect to regard his own appeal to a transhuman form of agency as an exclusive
alternative to other views of technology.
Fourth, there is the weakness of Heidegger's effort to show the plausibility of his interpretation of
technology as a form of disclosure. Heidegger simply does not demonstrate that technology is more
than instrumental; he rather "deduces" that this must be the case from his prior commitment to
Being. According to Heidegger's line, if technology depends on Being, then it must be that it discloses
that which, according to Heidegger, sends it. Heidegger's only argument that technology is a form of
disclosure rests on the fragile link provided by the etymology of the term, in order to draw connections
between art (techne ), technology (Technik ), destiny (Geschick ), history (Geschichte ), and sending
(Schickung ).
Heidegger's use of etymology is arbitrary and unjustified. It is not obvious why he could not have
used the same play of etymologies to
― 236 ―
draw connections between technology (Technik ), the science of technology (Technologie ), and reason
(logos ) as well as chic (schick ), chicness (Schickheit ) and the quality of being chic (Schicklichkeit ).
If etymology is the clue to truth, then there are no obvious limits at all to it since Heidegger is at
perfect liberty to make the words say what he wants to find in them. The example, already discussed,
of his "deconstructive" reading of battle, or Kampf , as polemos , and then as eris , exemplifies the
manner in which the skillful use of a willful form of etymology can lead from a to b no matter how a
and b are chosen. Like Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass , Heidegger employs his willful
form of etymology as if the relevant question were less the truth of the words than who is to be
master. Heidegger is aware of this problem, of the frequent accusation of reading things into texts
and, by extension, reading the words in order to confirm his predetermined view.
[109] But his position
has no way to respond to this objection.
Heidegger's argument rests on an unwarranted assumption that etymological relations between
words further disclose relations of reference. Obviously, words refer beyond themselves to what they
designate. Etymological analysis is sufficient to establish a connection between words, but it is
insufficient to establish a connection between their designations. It does not follow because the
etymology of "technology" yields "techne ," the Greek word for art, that technology was once a form of
disclosure of the truth or that modern technology ought to become a form of art in the Greek sense.
Even if we grant, for purposes of argument, that the ancient Greek concept of art designated by
"techne " referred to disclosure, it does not follow that the earlier view is true and the later view is
false unless one also assumes that what is older is also correct. An etymological connection based on
meaning says nothing at all about a possible relation based on reference.
Fifth, Heidegger's understanding of technology is overly abstract. Technology presupposes a
multiply determined environment, with social, political, historical, and other components. Heidegger
offers us a theory of technology as such. But there is no technology in general; there are only
instantiations of forms of technology, such as those required to produce steam engines, lasers,
supersonic airplanes, and so on. Technological achievements need to be grasped in the wider context
in which they arise. One does not need to be a technological nominalist to hold that if anything like a
general theory of technology is possible, it can only be based on the concrete analysis of specific
technological forms. Heidegger is concerned with the history of ontology, but he is apparently
unconcerned with the historical manifestation of technological being.
Sixth, Heidegger provides an inadequate analysis of the relation of
― 237 ―

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technology and applied science. In response to the tendency to interpret technology as applied
science, Heidegger asserts that applied science already depends on technology. Certainly, modern
science makes use of modern technology. Biological research requires a centrifuge just as the study of
microparticles requires some form of particle accelerator or astronomy various types of telescopes. Yet
it follows that modern science presupposes the concealed essence of technology only if enframing is
the essence of technology and if it is concealed. These are points that Heidegger asserts but does not
demonstrate. Further, modern technology is largely dependent on applied science, which utilizes ideas
borrowed from so-called pure science in practical ways, such as the theory of relativity, whose
formulation is partially responsible for thermonuclear devices as well as the harnessing of the atom in
order to generate electricity.
Seventh, Heidegger's understanding of technology is incompatible with a commitment to
democracy, democratic values, and what is called the democratic way of life. Heidegger reminds us of
this consequence in both word and deed: in his statement, quoted above, that he is not convinced that
democracy is the best political system; and in his turning in the early 1930s to National Socialism, a
main example of political totalitarianism. Democracy is problematic, but at this late date it is still the
best political means to attain and to defend the goal of human freedom. Other thinkers have rejected
democracy, most notably in Plato's embrace of the concept of aristocratic government.
[110] But there
is a significant difference. Plato rejects the democratic type of government on the basis of a
commitment to the state as a whole, hence to human being. Yet Heidegger rejects democracy because
of his commitment to Being, but not to human being, also manifest in his nonanthropological theory of
technology. Heidegger's antimetaphysical theory of technology is by definition antidemocratic; it
presupposes as a leading characteristic the rejection of the anthropological viewpoint that is the
foundation of democracy.
The ethical implications of Heidegger's view of technology are perhaps less visible but even more
important than the political ones. There is a continuous line of argument leading from the
Enlightenment commitment to reason to the insistence on responsibility as the condition of morality,
which peaks in Kant's ethical theory.
[111] When Heidegger attributes ultimate causal authority to
Being, he clearly reverses the Enlightenment view that through the exercise of reason human being
can attain dominion over the world and itself. In the final analysis, if Heidegger is correct, human
actions depend on the gift of Being, hence on a suprahuman form of agency. Heidegger's insistence on
Being as the final causal agent signals an abandonment of the idea of ethical responsibility. If
responsibility presupposes autonomy, and autonomy presupposes free-
― 238 ―
dom, then to embrace Being as the ultimate explanatory principle is tantamount to casting off the idea
of ethical responsibility, the possibility of any moral accountability whatsoever.
Heidegger's rejection of the idea of responsibility other than through the commitment to Being is
incompatible with the assumption of personal moral accountability. This consequence, which follows
rigorously from his position, calls for two comments. First, it in part explains his failure ever to take a
public position on the well-known atrocities perpetrated by the Nazi movement to which he turned. If
one's ontological analysis does not support the concept of personal responsibility, then one does not
need to react on the personal level to what, from Heidegger's perspective, can be attributed to Being.
Second, Heidegger's rejection of personal responsiblity in his later thought denies a fundamental tenet
of his own earlier position. In Being and Time , Heidegger maintained that authenticity required a
resolute choice of oneself. But if choice depends on Being, then in the final analysis, as Heidegger
clearly saw, the only choice is the choice for or against Being.
Technology and Heidegger's Nazism
The discussion of the origins and nature of Heidegger's theory of technology provides the background
necessary to grasp its relation to his Nazism. One observer has seen Heidegger's inability to come to
grips with Nazism as deriving from his view of technology.
[112] But others, Heidegger's defenders,
while aware of these passages and others as well, have accepted as correct his own statements that
he broke with National Socialism in 1934 and that his later thought, in particular his analysis of
technology, represents his effort come to grips with National Socialism. One qualified observer
maintains that Heidegger's break in 1934 with his political engagement was total, and further
maintains that Heidegger's thought around the period of the Beiträge was already in opposition and
contradiction to Nazism.
[113] Another observer even regards Heidegger's critique of technology as
following from his critique of Nazism. [114]

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The view that Heidegger broke with politics in general or Nazism in particular through his view of
technology is not supported by an examination of the texts. As in his other writings, Heidegger's
criticism of National Socialism as a theory is balanced by visible sympathy for its political goal,
construed narrowly as the gathering of the Germans as German. The Spiegel interview clearly records
Heidegger's conviction that the Nazi effort to confront technology was in principle correct, although
― 239 ―
the Nazis were too unsophisticated to carry it out. Heidegger's suggestion that his own view of
technology can be understood as an extension of the National Socialist effort to confront this
phenomenon has been amply supported by examination of Heidegger's "The Question concerning
Heidegger's suggestion in the Spiegel interview that the Nazis were correct to confront the
hegemony of modern technology was not an isolated comment in his corpus. A similar passage,
among the most controversial in his entire corpus, occurs in his lecture course on metaphysics. The
lecture course in which the remark occurs was originally given in 1935 and was published in altered
form in 1953. Heidegger's comment is embedded in a longer remark about values, in which he
characteristically criticizes any approach to philosophy in terms of the concept of value before turning
to the philosophy of National Socialism. His comment, which was reproduced in the version of the
lecture course which appeared in 1953, gave rise to a well-known polemic, which can be briefly
summarized as follows.
[115] Prior to publication, Heidegger was advised to change the passage in
question. [116] After the revised version of the lecture course appeared, Heidegger was attacked by
Habermas [117] and was defended by Lewalter. [118] In a letter to the editor, Heidegger
uncharacteristically defended himself and claimed, contrary to fact, that the passage had not been
[119] He repeated this claim in a letter to S. Zemach, [120] and again in the Spiegel
interview. [121]
According to Petra Jaeger, the editor of Heidegger's Introduction to Metaphysics , the original text
probably contained still another sentence, which Heidegger omitted in the revised version. [122] The
initial version is unavailable and, hence, unverifiable, since the page of the manuscript containing this
passage is missing in the Heidegger Archives. In the revised version, presumably modified in order to
obscure his continued attachment to an ideal form of Nazism, Heidegger seems to have altered the
passage in two ways: in the substitution of "movement" for "N.S.," which might perhaps lead one to
think that he had some other movement in mind; and in the addition of the passage in parentheses to
indicate the continuity between technology and National Socialism, which one qualified observer reads
as imparting a negative cast to the concept of greatness.
[123] The revised passage reads
The works that are being peddled about nowadays as the philosophy of National Socialism but have nothing whatever to
do with the inner truth and greatness of this movement (namely the encounter between global technology and modern
man)—have all been written by men fishing in the troubled waters of "values" and "totalities.
― 240 ―
The revised version of this passage is singularly important for an understanding of Heidegger's Nazism
after the rectorate, including its link to his theory of technology. Here, with great clarity, in 1953, well
after the end of the Second World War, at a point when Heidegger, who has returned to teaching, no
longer has anything to fear from the Nazis or anyone else, he states his appreciation for the
supposedly misunderstood essence of National Socialism, in virtue of the so-called movement's
important effort to confront global technology. Heidegger publicly affirms his conviction in Nazism, not
the real Nazism of Adolf Hitler, but an ideal kind that has not yet been and still might occur.
Heidegger's remark is not a strategic claim, an effort to curry favor, to protect himself or his family,
but in all probability a sincere statement of his conviction. We are already familiar with Heidegger's
frequent assertions, common in claims of orthodoxy, with respect to the views of Kant, Nietzsche, and
Jünger, that only he, Heidegger, has understood them. Here, he makes a similar claim with respect to
Nazism. For Heidegger evidently thought of himself as the only "orthodox" Nazi, as the only one able
to understand the essence of National Socialism.
This passage further stresses the connection, later emphasized in the Spiegel interview, between
Heidegger's Nazism and his theory of technology. As in the interview, here as well, Heidegger insists
on the importance of National Socialism in confronting the rule of technology. Heidegger's statement in
1953 is fully consistent with the later statement in the Spiegel interview in 1966. In both instances, he
underlines his conviction that National Socialism is a valuable, but finally incomplete, effort to counter
the effects of modern technology. Although his view of technology later changed, his appreciation of

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Nazism's role remained constant. It is, then, appropriate to consider Heidegger's theory of technology
as a revised, reworked, better formulation of the unsuccessful Nazi effort, as Heidegger understands it,
to free us from the rule of technology.
In the accounts of Heidegger's Nietzsche lectures and the Beiträge , it was possible to point to
passages in which he criticized the failures of Nazism regarded as an ontological theory. To the best of
my knowledge there is nothing in the public record to suggest that Heidegger was at all sensitive to
the human suffering wreaked by Nazism, in fact sensitive to human beings in more than an abstract
sense. The best that Vietta, currently the staunchest German defender of Heidegger, can do is to point
to a diary entry by Heribert Heinrichs recording a discussion in which Heidegger supposedly described
Hitler as "the robber and criminal of this century"—certainly a mild judgment in view of the enormity of
the evidence—and further claimed to have totally revised his own view of National Socialism after
[125] Yet the available evidence contradicts this view, since Heidegger's own writings after that
date reveal a
― 241 ―
continued sympathy for National Socialism, namely for the Nazi effort to confront technology, and a
lack of concern for the crimes committed by the Nazis.
Heidegger's failure to denounce, or even to acknowledge, Nazi practice can be interpreted as an
oblique resistance to the practical consequences of his theoretical commitment. He was obviously
unwilling to acknowledge the failure of his turn to Nazism, not for mere psychological reasons, but on
good philosophical grounds; for his turn to Nazism was grounded in his own theory of Being, which he
never abandoned. For the same reason, he was also unwilling to abandon National Socialism, or at
least an ideal form of it, because of his continued interest in certain points where his thought
converged with Nazism, including the coming to be of the Germans as German and the confrontation
with technology. Heidegger's insensitivity to the effects of Nazism in practice is coupled, then, with a
residual theoretical enthusiasm for a form of Nazism in theory.
In Heidegger's writings on technology, at least two passages indicate a striking insensitivity to
human suffering. Heidegger, who understood technology as a form of disclosure, was careful to
conceal and not to reveal some of his most deeply held views about the technological process. There is
a passage in the original version of Heidegger's essay, "The Question concerning Technology," which
originated as a lecture in 1949 under the title "Enframing" but which was altered in the version
published in 1954.
[126] In the version published during Heidegger's lifetime, the text, which was
clearly changed to conceal an earlier formulation, retains only seven words in the translation, five in
the revised text: "Agriculture is now the mechanized food industry."
[127] This banal point hardly
reveals the startling claim embedded in the original manuscript, which only became available some
seven years after Heidegger's death. The original passage reads as follows: "Agriculture is now a
mechanised 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."
From a strictly Heideggerian point of view, this passage is literally correct, since he maintains that
all of modernity suffers from the turn away from Being which leads to the hegemony of technology.
Yet this passage is disturbing, in part because of Heidegger's manifest insensitivity, in a period when
he emphasizes the Ereignis , to the most catastrophic moral Ereignis of our time: the Holocaust.
Heidegger, who is sensitive to Being, is startlingly insensitive to human being. There is further a
manifest conceptual mistake in simply considering all forms of technology as indistinguishably alike.
For Heidegger has failed to consider, and certainly failed to comprehend, the relation of technology to
― 242 ―
the event of the Holocaust: the unparalleled way in which all available technological resources were
harnessed, and new ones were invented, specifically to commit genocide. No amount of liberal
handwringing at this late date should be allowed to obscure Heidegger's incapacity, not only to
respond to, but even to comprehend, the Holocaust through his theory of technology.
[129] His theory,
hence, fails the test of experience.
Another passage occurs in a still unpublished lecture on technology, delivered in 1949. The
manuscript reads:
Hundreds of thousands die en masse. Do they die.'? They succumb. They are done in. Do they die.'? They become mere
quanta, items in an inventory in the business of manufacturing corpses. Do they die? They are liquidated inconspicuously
in extermination camps. And even apart from that, right now millions of impoverished people are perishing from hunger

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in China.
But to die is to endure death in its essence. To be able to die means to be capable of this endurance. We are capable of
this only if the essence of death makes our own essence possible.
Heidegger's obvious insensitivity to the suffering wrought by the Second World War is also
exhibited in another context, in a letter to Herbert Marcuse. Marcuse, Heidegger's former doctoral
student, as a Jew early emigrated to escape persecution by the Nazis. He later corresponded with
Heidegger about Heidegger's role in National Socialism. In answer to a letter from Marcuse, dated 20
January 1948, Heidegger replied in part:
To the severe and justified reproaches formulated "over a regime that has exterminated millions of Jews, that has made
terror a norm and that transformed everything connected to the concepts of spirit, freedom, and truth into its opposite,"
I can only add that instead of the "Jews" one should put the "East Germans," and that is even more the case for one of
the Allied Powers, with the difference that everything that has happened since 1945 is known to all the world, while the
bloody terror of the Nazis in reality was kept secret from the German people.
This chapter has examined the link between Heidegger's Nazism and his view of technology.
Heidegger's supporters have suggested that Heidegger confronted Nazism through his theory of
technology, or even that his theory of technology arises out of his confrontation with Nazism. Study of
Heidegger's texts presents a different, darker picture of Heidegger, a thinker stubbornly committed to
the metaphysical racism he shared with Nazism and to a revised version of the supposed Nazi effort to
oppose technology. Heidegger's theory of technology is, then, not a
― 243 ―
confrontation with Nazism but a confrontation with technology from a Nazi perspective. Heidegger's
theory of technology only extends, but does not free him from, his concern with National Socialism.
The account of Heidegger's conception of technology closes the second phase of this discussion.
The initial phase considered Heidegger's turning to National Socialism on the basis of his philosophical
thought. The second phase discussed Heidegger's understanding of the rectorate and the later
evolution of Heidegger's position as philosophy and beyond philosophy in relation to Nazism.
Heidegger's defenders maintain that in his Nietzsche lectures, in the Beiträge , or in his writings on
technology, he confronted Nazism. Yet inspection of Heidegger's texts shows that although Heidegger
did criticize National Socialism as an unsatisfactory theory of Being, the same criterion he brought
against philosophical positions, such as Kant's and Descartes's, he did not criticize its political practice.
Study of the texts has further shown Heidegger's continued acceptance of certain aspects of National
Socialism, such as its supposed insight into technology. Heidegger continued as well to maintain his
steadfast conviction in the metaphysical racism he shared with both the real and ideal forms of
National Socialism. Now the effort to defend Heidegger, above all his thought, has mainly been
conducted in abstraction from Heidegger's texts, which inconveniently tend to undermine efforts to
defend Heidegger's life and thought. In the third and final phase of the discussion, we need to examine
the Heidegger reception itself.
― 244 ―
The French Reception of Heidegger's Nazism
Heidegger's relation to Nazism raises questions on two distinct levels. On the one hand, there is the
theme, analyzed in preceding chapters, of what Heidegger did and thought, and how that relates to his
own thought, initially in his philosophical phase, to his fundamental ontology, and later in his so-called
post-philosophical phase, to his new thinking. Heidegger's Nazism is obviously central for an
appreciation of his position. One of the aims of this essay is to show that a distinction can no longer be
clearly drawn between Heidegger's "philosophy" and his Nazism, for the two are deeply intertwined.
On the other hand, there is a further theme—parasitic, so to speak, on the preceding one—concerning
the reception of Heidegger's Nazism. Since the philosophical tradition consists in the ongoing effort to
understand and to evaluate the available philosophical positions, it is important to address the manner

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in which scholars have attempted to come to grips with the complex series of problems posed by
Heidegger's Nazism.
Reception of Heidegger's Nazism
The reception of Heidegger's Nazism is a part of the continuing reception of his thought in an
enormous and rapidly growing literature. The reception of Heidegger's Nazism, although not always
under that name, has been under way for several decades, at least since the 1930s
[1] Heidegger was
sympathetic to Nazism before he became a member of the NSDAP. If we date Heidegger's Nazism
from his official adherence to the Nazi party, then its reception began in the reaction in newspaper
― 245 ―
reports and by his philosophical colleagues to his rectoral address in May 1933.
From the beginning, the reaction to Heidegger's Nazism was sharply divided between those who
condemned the association of philosophy and Nazism and those who were able to perceive something
good even in the turn to the clearest example of absolute evil in our time. Among the earliest
reactions by colleagues, we have already noted Croce's complaint that Heidegger dishonored
philosophy in the rectoral address
[3] and Jaspers's congratulatory note to Heidegger on receipt of the
text of the speech. [4] These were isolated reactions. The first philosophical debate between
representatives of different views of Heidegger's Nazism began only about a decade and a half later, in
the second half of the 1940s in the pages of the French intellectual journal Les Temps Modernes .
[5] In
the main, the debate has often been as heated as it was uninformed. The uninformed nature of the
debate is due to the successful efforts of determined Heidegger enthusiasts even now to exclude
material, important for an informed judgment, from public and even scholarly access. The first study
of the available information was provided in 1960 by Guido Schneeberger in a bibliography, whose
appendixes attracted attention.
[6] Two years later Schneeberger published a reader of relevant
materials. [7] In both instances, he was forced to publish his works privately in order to escape the
restrictions of German copyright law with respect to material for which he could not receive permission
to publish.
Until recently the reception of Heidegger's Nazism developed in a largely desultory fashion,
attracting little attention, with occasional bursts of activity. Significantly, as late as the mid-1970s, in a
detailed study of Heidegger's political thought, an observer could state that only three books required
[8] Although the reception of Heidegger's Nazism was never as tranquil as ordinary scholarly
debate, it was burst asunder, literally transformed, by two publications in the late 1980s: Farias's
resolute effort under difficult conditions finally to study Heidegger's Nazism in a wider historical
[9] and Ott's historically more careful but even more damning effort toward a Heidegger
biography.[10] Farias's book served as a catalyst for a strident debate virtually across western Europe,
which now gives signs of spreading, in more scholarly, less virulent form, to the United States. [11] It is
a measure of the subversive character of Farias's assault on the Heideggerian establishment that
although he lives and teaches in Germany, he was only finally able to publish his book in France.
In the multiple phases of the discussion of Heidegger and politics, the controversy in France stands
out for several reasons, including its extension over some four decades, the passion with which it has
been conducted, the sense of importance it has been accorded, and the degree of
― 246 ―
attention it has aroused. It further stands out for the clear way in which the lines have been drawn,
unusual in scholarly debate, for or against Heidegger. At present, the main defense of Heidegger, as
well as the main attack, are both being waged within the limits of the French-language discussion of
his thought. For this reason, the French discussion of Heidegger's Nazism provides the outstanding
example of how later philosophers have confronted the multiple problems posed by the Nazism of one
of the main philosophical thinkers of this century. Accordingly, the aim of this chapter is to come to
grips, not with the French reception of Heidegger,
[12] but with the more limited topic of the French
reception of Heidegger's Nazism. [13] In view of the scope of the French discussion, major stress will
be placed on an understanding of the significance of the main lines of the controversy as distinguished
from an encyclopedic presentation of all the material.
The Master Thinker in French Philosophy

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In order to understand the particular, indeed peculiar, nature of the French reception of Heidegger, it
is helpful to provide a brief characterization of the French intellectual context, above all French
philosophy. Philosophy in general is not given to rapid changes, since it often takes centuries for
problems to be formulated, for ideas to attain wide appeal, for shifts in emphasis to occur. Just the
opposite is the case in French thought as viewed on a certain level. In the last two decades, an
exceedingly short period by philosophical standards, French philosophy has considered and later
discarded options proposed by structuralism, post-structuralism, the nouveaux philosophes ,
hermeneutics, existentialism, semiology. postmodernism, and so on. There is obviously no guarantee
that the latest mode on the scene, deconstruction, which is better known and more influential in the
United States than in France, will survive, or survive more than the proverbial fifteen minutes during
which each of us will supposedly be famous.
The rapid pace in which the various aspects of French thought come into being and pass away
suggests that French philosophy—which gave rise to the postmodernist theory according to which
there is no ground, no overarching single tale that locates all its variants—in itself is
[16] One could easily infer from what by philosophical standards seems to be the
nearly instantaneous rise and fall of competing points of view that, to parody Yeats, things have
indeed fallen apart since the center does not hold, in fact fails even to exist.
[17] But these
appearances are indeed deceiving since to a perhaps unsuspected extent there is an intellectual center
in French intellectual life, which underlies and makes
― 247 ―
possible the profusion and confusion of swirling ideas only in its various manifestations.
France is not alone in possessing an intellectual noumenon . Another example is the increasingly
precarious dominance of analytic thought in Anglo-American philosophical circles, which has begun
now to loosen through the realization of some of its main practitioners that it was no longer possible,
or even productive, to continue to exclude other forms of thought.
[18] For different reasons, a similar
phenomenon can be observed in eastern Europe, where the long political hegemony of Marxist
orthodoxy has clearly given way to philosophical perestroika , in Soviet philosophy and elsewhere in
eastern Europe.
Although French thought may seem to be the philosophical analogue of the Maoist injunction to let
a hundred flowers bloom, from a historical point of view it has long been dependent on a single main
component. After the French Revolution, which in principle guaranteed fundamental rights, including
religious rights, to all, France remained, and still remains, a mainly Roman Catholic country:
[20] to a
scarcely lesser extent French thought has been dominated over several hundred years by forms of
[21] It is hard to imagine and difficult to describe the extent of Descartes's influence on
French intellectual life, which descends even to the level of a correctly written paper, the so-called
dissertation , in the lycée . It is not without reason that Sartre has been called the last of the
Cartesians and Merleau-Ponty, his younger colleague, has been hailed as the first non-Cartesian
French philosopher. For in France over the course of several hundred years, Descartes has played the
role of the master philosopher, le maitre penseur , whose thought furnished the central organizing
principle of all intellectual life.
In the period since the 1930s the two main philosophical developments in French thought, namely
the attention to Hegel and then to Heidegger, can both be explained with respect to the dominant
Cartesian-ism. The introduction of Hegel in France has been aptly, although not entirely accurately,
traced to the influence of Alexandre Kojève's famous seminar on the Phenomenology during the late
[22] Although a brilliant thinker in his own right, a major star in the philosophical firmament,
and indeed critical of Descartes, Hegel is also in numerous ways a neo-Cartesian, who perpetuates the
well-known Cartesian concerns with certainty, truth in the traditional philosophical sense, metaphysics,
first philosophy, and so on.
[23] The importance of Hegel's influence on French thought in this century
should not hide the extent to which, in reacting against Hegel as the maítre du jeu , the master of the
game, later French thinkers were reacting through Hegel to the continued influence of Descartes.
This reaction is in part prolonged in the more recent turn to Heidegger, a notorious anti-Cartesian.
― 248 ―
Roughly since 1945, and increasingly in recent years, French thought has been increasingly dominated
by Heidegger.
[25] To understand the turn to Heidegger in French philosophy, two factors are
important. First, there is Heidegger's well-known anti-Cartesianism, which conveniently meshes with
the continued reaction against the father of French philosophy, in a form of conceptual parricide
stretching over more than three centuries. Heidegger's thought is inseparable from its anti-Cartesian

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bias, which only grows deeper in his later turn away from Dasein in part in order to expunge any
residual Cartesianism. [26] Heidegger's attempt to dismantle modern metaphysics resembles French
philosophy itself. The introduction of his thought within the French context as part of the reaction
against Hegel, or rather the French form of Marxist Hegelianism, only showed the persistence of the
difficult effort to throw off the Cartesian background.
Second, there is the more immediate antihumanist reaction to the prevailing left-wing Marxist,
humanist form of French Marxism, associated with such writers as Kojève in the first place, as well as
at various times Camus, Nizan, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Garaudy, Foucault, perhaps Lévi-Strauss,
Barthes, and others, which bothered, in fact offended, those concerned to maintain the traditional
French value-system. Heidegger's self-proclaimed antihumanism, in fact an effort to found a new
humanism surpassing the old variety, provided a convenient way to throw off the yoke of Hegel's
influence, which to many seemed merely a stand-in for Marxism, including its political dimension.
Jean Beaufret later played a main rô1e, but at least initially Jean-Paul Sartre was mainly
responsible for creating the French fascination with Heidegger. Sartre's Being and Nothingness , which
was doubly dependent on both Hegel and Heidegger, focused attention on both thinkers during the
Second World War, reinforcing the interest in Hegel and turning attention to Heidegger. Sartre's dual
interest in Heidegger and Hegel was seen by many as problematic. The form of Hegelianism current in
France, to which Sartre also subscribed, was a left-wing Marxist humanism pioneered by Kojève.
Heidegger's own self-described antihumanism was, to begin with, perceived as humanism, particularly
in the extensive discussion of Dasein in Being and Time . Heidegger's thought was in part seen as a
necessary course correction to what, certainly from a Roman Catholic religious point of view, was
perceived as a form of antihumanism associated with Sartre's atheistic form of existentialism.
[27] The
point is that although Heidegger left the seminary and later the church, and his link to Nazism was not
an expression of humanism in any ordinary sense, his thought was perceived as a moindre mal , a
lesser evil, by those appalled by Sartre's own form of existentialist humanism.
What is the extent of Heidegger's influence in French philosophy?
― 249 ―
There is a measure of truth in Heidegger's famous boutade that when the French begin to think, they
think in German.
[28] To an important extent Heidegger's thought now forms the horizon of French
philosophy. The dominance of Heidegger in French philosophy can be illustrated by the startling fact,
certainly unprecedented in any other country with a major role in the Western philosophical tradition,
that at the present time the three main younger scholars of Aristotle (Rémi Brague), Descartes
(Jean-Luc Marion), and Hegel (Dominique Janicaud) in France can all be described either as
Heideggerians or as basically influenced by Heidegger's thought. French Heideggerianism is a
flourishing industry, perhaps the most important contemporary source of studies of Heidegger's
thought in the world today. Within France, Heidegger's influence has in the meantime penetrated in
other directions as well. It is no exaggeration to say that at present Heidegger and Heidegger alone is
the dominant influence, the master thinker of French philosophy, and that his thought is the context in
which it takes shape and which limits its extent. It is, then, no wonder that in the recent resurgence of
controversy about Heidegger's link to Nazism, French philosophy has tended to equate the attack on
Heidegger with an attack on French philosophy.
Origins of the French Discussion of Heidegger's Politics
This incomplete account of the source and extent of Heidegger's influence in French philosophy is
intended to make possible a closer look at the French discussion of Heidegger's Nazism. This complex
discussion, which is still under way, has so far unfolded in three separate moments, or waves. These
include a short, initial debate (1946-1948) shortly after the end of the Second World War, in which the
topic was examined in a cursory manner; a rapid revival of the same debate in the mid-1960s after,
indeed partly as a result of, the publication of certain documents calling attention to Heidegger's
Nazism; and more recently in the direct, ongoing reaction to the publication in French translation of
the Spanish manuscript of Farias's already classic study.
Even before we examine the debate on Heidegger and Nazism in France, we can note in passing
three significant features that distinguish it from other portions of a discussion that has by now largely
exceeded the limits of a single country or language. First, there is a certain well-known parochialism,
long characteristic of French thought of all kinds, which traditionally proceeds as if it formed the entire
conceptual universe whose center and nearly sole focus was Paris. Just as, with selected exceptions,
French thinkers are mainly, even cheerfully, unaware of non-French forms of thought, so the debate

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on Heidegger's relation to
― 250 ―
National Socialism has largely occurred without consideration of the discussion under way elsewhere.
To be sure, there are occasional references to Hugo Ott, the Freiburg historian, or to Otto Pöggeler,
the author of an influential study of Heidegger's thought; but for the most part, to a degree unusual in
the ever-smaller cultural world, the French debate concerns mainly, often only, itself.
Second, in contrast with the widespread French cultural and political xenophobia, we can note that
a number of the most important participants in the French debate on Heidegger's relation to National
Socialism are either foreign-born French, or not French at all, for example, Farias, Weil, Löwith,
Tertulian, Lukács. This extra-French influence, which has throughout tended to calm and to refocus an
often wildly passionate, occasionally irrational debate, was present even at the beginning.
Third, there is a particular philosophical focus due to the contingent fact that until several years
ago, when a pirated translation of Being and Time was published, only the first half of the book was
available in French. Even access to this part of the text was severely restricted by the dependence on
a single, strategic Heideggerian essay as the way into fundamental ontology.
[30] The French reception
of Heidegger has for many years been focused through Heidegger's "Letter on Humanism." This text is
Heidegger's response to a letter addressed to him on 10 November 1946 by Jean Beaufret, the French
philosopher, who later became the main figure in the introduction of Heidegger's thought in France, a
tireless proselytizer for the Heideggerian point of view. Heidegger replied to Beaufret's letter in
December 1946 and then reworked his response for publication.
The resultant text is both philosophical and strategic in character. Although this text is a serious
philosophical study, it is also a masterly effort by Heidegger to attract attention to his thought in a
neighboring country at a time when he was seriously beleaguered in his native Germany. As an open
letter to a figure on the French philosophical scene at a time when Heidegger was in eclipse because of
his association with the Nazi regime, there was an obvious strategic value to the claim that there had
been a turning (Kehre ) in his position, by implication a turning away from his earlier view which was
also a turning away from Nazism. Understood in this way, the concept of the turning appears as a
tacit, even graceful admission of an earlier complicity, combined with a suggestion of a fresh start,
untainted by earlier transgressions, and a suggestion to provide a reasonable alternative to Sartre, a
perhaps objectionable French guru. These are all characteristics that quickly raised Heidegger's stock
in French intellectual thought and may even have been calculated to do so. Significantly, although at
the time Heidegger had already moved far from his original position, his "Letter on Humanism" has
― 251 ―
been described by a French commentator as the best introduction to Being and Time .
In other texts from his later writings, Heidegger continues to insist on the uniqueness of the
Germans; but not by accident in the "Letter on Humanism" Heidegger opposes nationalism of any kind
as metaphysically anthropological and subjective.
[32] His stated opposition here to biologism, a
doctrine to which Heidegger seems never to have subscribed, limits the dimensions of Heidegger's
admitted political error.
[33] Heidegger's opposition here to Sartrean existentialism and humanism of all
sorts as metaphysical [34] is balanced by his careful description of his alternative as the only one able
to think "the humanity of man," as an attempt to "think the essence of man more primordially" in
order to restore its original sense, and as a view that "in no way implies a defense of the inhuman but
rather opens other vistas."
[35] Heidegger's depiction of his form of nonmetaphysical humanism as
more meaningful than its better-known alternative is clearly stated: "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."
The fact that, for contingent reasons, the French reading of Heidegger has largely proceeded from
an antimetaphysical humanist focus explains the relative ease with which Heidegger displaced not only
Sartre but Hegel as well in French thought and the violent reaction to the appearance of Farias's book.
Beyond his status as an important thinker, Heidegger's implicit claim to be a true humanist smoothed
the way for the displacement of views frequently regarded as either antihumanistic or associated with
antihumanism. The shocking revelation that what many had long regarded as essentially humanism in
the deepest sense was possibly no more than a false appearance is basic to the French reaction to
recent revelations about Heidegger's politics. It is, then, not by chance, that the French discussion of
Heidegger's political thought has been so heated since the debate revolves around the essentially
political question of whether, as Heidegger and his followers claim, Heidegger's position is a new

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antimetaphysical humanism or whether, on the contrary, as others have held, it is a metaphysical
form of racism, based on a durable commitment to the superiority of the German people.
In France, the intellectual debate on Heidegger's Nazism began in the pages of Les Temps
Modernes , one of the best-known French intellectual journals. This journal was founded by Sartre and
his colleagues when France was liberated from the Nazis and later edited by him for many years. The
early existentialist Sartre is well-known as the author of the view, which to some, including the later
Sartre, appeared to ignore the constraints of real life, that we are always and essentially radically
― 252 ―
free. The initial phase of the debate, which includes texts by Karl Löwith, Alfred de Towarnicki, Eric
Weil, Alphonse De Waelhens, and Maurice de Gandillac, is preceded by an editorial note. Here,
immediately prior to the publication of the famous "Letter on Humanism," an unnamed editor, in all
probability Sartre, draws a comparison between Heidegger and Hegel. Just as the latter's later thought
led him to compromise with Prussia, so Heidegger the man and Heidegger the political actor are one
and the same; and his political choice follows from his existential thought. In the same way as an
analysis of Hegel's position removes any suspicion with respect to dialectical thought, the writer
suggests that a similar analysis will do the same for Heidegger, in fact will demonstrate that an
existential view of politics is at the antipodes of Nazism.
The First Wave
The initial phase of the French discussion comprises no fewer than three subphases, including articles
by Karl Löwith, Maurice de Gandillac, and Alfred de Towarnicki, followed some time later by articles by
Eric Well and Alphonse De Waehlens, and ending with responses by Löwith and De Waelhens.
Gandillac, who was apparently the first French philosopher to come in contact with Heidegger after the
war, went on to an important career as a professor at the Sorbonne. Löwith is a former student, later
colleague of Heidegger, who spent the war in exile. He is well-known for his own work as well as for an
interesting study of Heidegger which attempted to understand why and how Heidegger achieved such
philosophical importance.
[38] Weil, a Jew who was the assistant of Cassirer, himself a Jew, early
emigrated to France where he achieved prominence as an original thinker, above all for an important
analysis of philosophical categories.
[39] De Waelhens was a well-known Belgian scholar of
phenomenology and existentialism, the author of important studies of Heidegger, Husserl,
Merleau-Ponty, and others. Towarnicki is a journalist who is still active.
Here as in the later debate, it is instructive to regard the discussion as a series of dialectically
interrelated analyses of the same phenomenon from diverse points of view. Both Gandillac and
Towarnicki embroider various themes of the "official" view of Heidegger's Nazism, due finally to
Heidegger himself. Gandillac provides a short account of a visit to Heidegger's home which from the
present perspective makes two interesting points.
[40] On the one hand, he presents with sympathy
Heidegger's view that Hitlerism was the historic manifestation of a so-called structural disease of
human being as such. It is significant, since Heidegger later insists on the misunderstood essence of
Nazism, that in Gandillac's
― 253 ―
account he refuses to incriminate the fall of the Germanic community, whose true sense of liberty he
still desires to awaken. On the other hand, several times in the article we are told that Heidegger was
seduced like a child by the exterior aspects of Hitlerism, that he was induced to enroll in the Nazi party
by his children, and so on. Taken together, these two points tend to indicate that Heidegger was
unaware of the consequences of, and hence not responsible for, his political actions, while holding
open the possibility, which he later never renounced, of the true gathering of the metaphysical Volk .
Towarnicki's version of the official view is at least partly false.
[41] He suggests that Heidegger was
unanimously elected rector, although that is now known to be untrue. Towarnicki quotes Heidegger to
the effect that the death of Röhm opened his eyes to the true nature of Nazism, which he later
criticized in his courses on Nietzsche; but we know that Heidegger continued to affirm his belief in an
authentic form of National Socialism. The article ends with an affirmation, in the form of a direct
quotation, of Heidegger's emotional proclamation of the spiritual importance of France to the world.
When we recall that Heidegger also justified his turn to Nazism through the concern with the spiritual
welfare of the German people, this remark appears less uplifting.
Löwith's discussion, which was written outside Germany in 1939, hence at the beginning of the

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war that was to devastate Europe, is still surprisingly complete. [42] It mentions topics that continue to
occur and recur in the later debate, such as the link between Heidegger's turn toward Nazism and his
famous description of resoluteness in paragraph 74 of Being and Time , an analysis of the
Rektoratsrede , Heidegger's praise of Schlageter, Heidegger's relation to the students of Freiburg, the
role of E. Jünger, and so on. Löwith's analysis can be summarized as follows: In the final analysis
Being and Time represents a theory of historical existence. It was only possible for Heidegger to turn
toward Nazism on this basis since an interpretation of his thought in this sense was possible. Further,
Heidegger's turn to National Socialism follows from his prior philosophy, in fact is squarely based on a
main principle of his thought: existence reduced to itself reposes only on itself in the face of nothing.
Finally, this principle expresses the identification of Heidegger's thought with the radical political
situation in which it arose.
Löwith's analysis is a clear attempt to understand Heidegger's Nazism as following from
Heidegger's position, and his position as the expression of the historical situation, in Hegelian terms as
the times comprehended in thought. Löwith contradicts two points maintained by all subsequent
defenders of Heidegger: Löwith denies that Heidegger's philosophy can be understood otherwise than
through its social and political context. Accordingly, he contradicts in advance the well-known "tex-
― 254 ―
tualist" approach, especially prevalent in French circles, to Heidegger's writings without reference to
the wider social, political, and historical context in which they arose. He further denies the "official"
view of Heidegger's National Socialism—most prominently represented in the French debate by Fédier
and Aubenque, and from a different perspective by Derrida and Lacoue-Labarthe—which tends to
minimize, even to excuse, Heidegger's turn toward Nazism as unfortunate, temporary, and above all
contingent with respect to Heidegger's thought.
At the outset of the French debate, the opposition between Löwith on the one hand and Gandillac
and Towarnicki on the other already symbolizes the two basic alternatives in their respective readings
of Heidegger's Nazism as either necessary or contingent. Every other, later debate both within and
without the French context only varies, but does not fundamentally modify, these two main options.
Obviously, these two extremes are incompatible. Since Löwith traces Heidegger's actions to his
thought and Heidegger's thought to the historical context, Löwith disputes Towarnicki, who regards
Heidegger's link to National Socialism as temporary, regrettable, and unmotivated by the underlying
position; and Löwith disputes as well Gandillac's assertion that Heidegger was unaware of what he did.
The disagreement gave rise to a debate. In the debate Weil, who correctly qualifies Towarnicki's
article as a plea for Heidegger, or as he says rather by Heidegger, intervenes against the necessitarian
thesis, whereas De Waelhens defends the contingency view. Weil criticizes Heidegger for a supposed
failure to assume the responsibility of his acts and as the sole important philosopher who took up
Hitler's cause.
[43] But he denies the necessitarian thesis on the grounds that even by Heideggerian
standards the link between Heidegger's thought and National Socialism is illegitimate. According to
Weil, what he incorrectly calls Heideggerian existentialism is intrinsically defective since it leads to a
decision in general, but not to any particular decision. From this perspective, Weil claims that
Heidegger has falsified his own thought in merely pretending a contrario that a political decision could
be derived from his apolitical thought. Although it is correct to point to the open-ended quality of
Heidegger's view of resoluteness, this does not impede the derivation of a political consequence from
another aspect of Heidegger's position, such as his conception of authenticity.
This effort to deconstruct the necessitarian reading is peculiar—not because of the amalgam
between Heideggerian phenomenology and existentialism, which Heidegger took pains to deny in the
"Letter on Humanism," nor in virtue of the denial that Heidegger is a privileged interpreter of his own
thought, since there is no need to accord him this interpretative privilege—but because it fails to
address the claim that a
― 255 ―
clear political decision follows from Heidegger's view of authenticity. Now Alphonse De Waelhens—who
also identifies Heidegger's thought as an existential phenomenology—suggests, through an attack on
the necessitarian thesis, that the theme of Heidegger's fidelity to his own position is less significant
than its possibly intrinsic relation to National Socialism.
De Waelhens's attack on the necessitarian thesis is remarkable for two reasons. On the one hand,
he raises the issue of who really understands Heidegger as a precondition for the critique of the latter's
thought. Later in the discussion, even when the defenders of Heidegger are led to acknowledge that

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Nazism is central to his position, Derrida and others, including numerous writers outside the French
debate, continue to insist that only someone deeply steeped in Heidegger's thought, by inference an
unconditional adherent, is possibly competent to measure its defects. On the other hand, De Waelhens
formulates a kind of transcendental argument meant to demonstrate that Heidegger's political turning
could not have followed from his philosophy. According to De Waelhens, who has obviously been
contradicted by history, an analysis of Heidegger's conception of historicality shows that its author
could not accept fascism, a doctrine incompatible with the ideas of Being and Time . And he disposes
of Löwith's version of the necessitarian thesis through a rapid but unconvincing effort to demonstrate
that Heidegger's former colleague did not always possess a sufficient grasp of the master's texts.
When we compare the views of Weil and De Waelhens, we see at once that since both deny that
Heidegger's thought bears an intrinsic relation to Nazism, each is obliged to interpret what Heidegger
thought and did as an instance of Heidegger's infidelity to Heidegger's own position. Yet since
Heidegger rapidly abandoned an "inauthentic" type of Nazism in favor of an "authentic form" which he
never forsook, the effort to defuse the necessitarian thesis undertaken by Weil and De Waelhens is
insufficient to demonstrate that the relation in question is contingent. At best, their respective
arguments could show only that Heidegger was mistaken on the basis of his thought in turning toward
National Socialism as it in fact existed, which he himself later admitted, but not that he was mistaken
on the basis of his thought in turning toward National Socialism as he desired it to exist, that is, from
the futural perspective intrinsic to his position.
De Waehlens is more radical than Weil since he does not assert that Heidegger misunderstood his
own thought, but rather claims—a point widely asserted in the later discussion—that the action of the
individual Heidegger is without philosophical interest. Perhaps for that reason, he drew a response by
Löwith, who does not take up the issue of who is capable of judging Heidegger.
[45] This omission is
important, since it is always possible
― 256 ―
to claim that a criticism, any criticism at all, is based on an insufficient awareness of the position.
Rather, Löwith restates his own conviction that Heidegger's relation to Nazism is a necessary
consequence of Heidegger's philosophy of existence. He further affirms that it is curious to defend
Heidegger against Heidegger's own voluntary political engagement. In his rejoinder
[46] De Waelhens
insists that his attempt to show that Heidegger's political action did not, and cannot, follow from the
latter's philosophy is only a specific instance of the more general claim that one cannot deduce a
particular political stance from a philosophy.
De Waelhens's rejoinder invokes a principle, which, if followed, would effectively suppress the
possibility of analyzing the relation between thought and action. His principle, which contradicts the
entire ethical tradition, whose unexpressed premise is that reasons can be causes, is false for at least
two reasons: First, throughout history, at present in eastern Europe, millions of people have been
motivated to political action on behalf of ideas. This is a point De Waehlens can accommodate only on
pain of denying that such ideas are philosophical. Second, De Waelhens calls on us to abandon the
political act of an analysis of the link between Heidegger's philosophy and politics, which precisely
assumes the political efficacy of philosophy he is concerned to deny.
The initial phase of the French discussion of Heidegger's relation to Nazism records a calm,
scholarly exchange. In retrospect, this exchange is interesting as a clear statement of the
necessitarian and contingent analyses, and for the anticipation of later variants of the effort to
"deconstruct" the necessitarian thesis on a priori grounds. These include the effort to construct an a
priori impossibility argument and the related claim—from the perspective of conceptual
orthodoxy—that whoever criticizes is uninformed. It is notable that the two attempts to deconstruct
the necessitarian thesis canvassed here, due to Weil and De Waelhens, avoid a direct analysis of the
relevant passages in Heidegger's texts in favor of more general statements. This is specifically the
case for the arguments advanced by De Waehlens—including his a priori argument against the very
possibility of an intrinsic link between philosophy and politics as well as his assertion that any possible
criticism is impossible because based on insufficient knowledge—each of which responds to any and all
criticism in general without engaging the criticism on its merits.
The Second Wave
The initial phase of the debate sets the stage for all later discussion of this theme in France and
elsewhere. The second phase of the French debate differed in numerous ways from its predecessor. To
begin with, it

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― 257 ―
is less compact, and for that reason more difficult to delimit. It occurred over a number of years,
roughly from 1948, when the French first edition of Lukács's book appeared, to the publication of
Jean-Michel Palmier's study in 1968, the year of the French student uprising. It further includes
articles by François Fédier, Jean-Pierre Faye, François Bondy, Alfred Grosser, Robert Minder, Aimé
Patri, and others, and journals such as Médiations and Critique . Another difference is the increasingly
international character of the second phase of the debate, which makes greater reference to materials
published in languages other than French. Further, the discussion now takes on an increasingly
heated, often overheated, on occasion even strident character, which surpasses the generally polite
nature of traditional scholarly discussion. One can speculate that the excited character of the debate
indicates the political stakes of the critique or defense of Heidegger's form of National Socialism.
The remarkable change in tone is arguably due to a variety of factors. On the one hand, in the
inital phase of the discussion a number of those who took part, including Löwith and Weil, were not
native French, but those who intervene in the next stage of the debate are mainly of French origin. It
is a fact that debate in French intellectual circles tends to be noisier and more strident than elsewhere.
On the other hand, in the meantime the full effect of Heidegger's "Letter on Humanism" had begun to
be felt. As a result, Heidegger had already begun to acquire a commanding presence in French
intellectual life, whose horizon was increasingly constituted by his thought. The greater identification of
French thought with Heidegger even as his position displaced Hegel's in the role of the master thinker
meant that French scholars on occasion acted as if they were as much engaged in defending French
thought as in defending Heidegger's position. Further, the appearance in the meantime of Guido
Schneeberger's collection of relevant documents, as well as other studies, such as those due to Adorno
and Hühnerfeld, meant that Heidegger's philosophy, and not only his personal reputation, was now at
risk. Finally, France was then approaching a political crisis that would nearly paralyze the country for a
number of months beginning in March 1968.
Although in his "Letter" Heidegger implicitly admits his culpability in his stated desire to turn over
a new leaf, Beaufret took a more extreme line, which developed only slowly. As early as 1945, when
he was close to Marxism, he described Heidegger's adherence to National Socialism as the result of a
naïveté linked to a bourgeois character.
[47] But Beaufret rapidly abandoned his youthful flirt, common
in France at least until 1968, with revolutionary thought. In his letter to Heidegger, he mentions his
concern with the relation of ontology to the possibility of an ethics. Beaufret later provided a curious
answer to his own concern in
― 258 ―
two ways: through the denial of a more than casual relation between Heidegger and National
Socialism, itself a form of the contingency thesis,
[48] but above all in his own later turn to a form of
revisionist history in which he simply denied that anyone was murdered in Nazi gas chambers, in effect
by denying the very existence of Nazi extermination camps!
[49] Taken to its extremes, the result is to
deny that there could be a problem in the link between Heidegger and National Socialism, which, on
Beaufret's demonstrably false reading of history, was intrinsically unproblematic. In a word, Nazism
was not Nazism! This is surely the most extreme possible form of the deconstruction of the
necessitarian thesis, since from this angle of vision it is fully possible to accept that Heidegger was led
by his thought to Nazism but to deny that the acceptance of Nazism is problematic.
We can deal separately with the works by Georg Lukács and Jean-Michel Palmier. Lukács, the
important Marxist philosopher and literary critic, is the author of History and Class Consciousness , a
celebrated book that almost alone created the Hegelian approach to Marxism widely influential in later
Marxist discussion.
[50] His study of Marxism and existentialism, written during his Stalinist phase, was
a consciously polemical intervention in the debate, intended to dismiss existentialism, from an
orthodox Marxist perspective.
[51] Here, he applied Engels's depiction of the relation between thought
and being as the watershed question of all philosophy to oppose the possibility of a putative third way
supposedly sought by existentialism between idealism and materialism. According to Lukács,
existentialism is merely a form of subjective idealism linked to the defense of bourgeois class interests.
In passing, he specifically attacks Heidegger's position as pre-fascist. He developed this criticism at
length in an appendix, "Anhang: Heidegger Redivivus"—in direct response to the publication of
Heidegger's "Letter on Humanism," the same document that cemented Heidegger's relation to French
philosophy—added to the German edition of his book.
Lukács's book seems to have affected the French discussion of Heidegger only marginally, mainly
through its influence on Merleau-Ponty and Sartre. Lukács was in part later answered by
Merleau-Ponty, who, in a famous discussion, identified Lukács as the founder of so-called Western

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Marxism. [53] And Lukács clearly influenced Sartre's later turn to Marxism. Writing two decades later,
Palmier, a careful student of Heidegger, casts himself in the role of a defender of the master against
the various attacks which, for perhaps the first time in the French discussion, he attempts to parry
through detailed textual analysis. Palmier's study, which appeared at the close of the sharp exchange
between Fédier and Faye, is intended by its author as an initial approach to Heidegger's
― 259 ―
writings from April 1933 to February 1934, that is, during his period as rector.
[54] But by casting his
net so narrowly, Palmier perhaps unintentionally takes this period, which he recognizes as belonging to
Heidegger's oeuvre, out of context, since he renders it exceedingly difficult to grasp the degree of
continuity between it and the later evolution of Heidegger's thought. Perhaps for this reason, despite
the serious nature of Palmier's study, it seems not to have attracted attention in the later debate.
In order to characterize the second phase of the discussion, whose conceptual and chronological
limits fall between the books by Lukács and Palmier, we do well to turn to the polemic between Fédier
and Faye. Unlike the initial phase of the discussion, which began with a defense of Heidegger, the
opening shot was fired by an attacker who was met after a short interval by a committed defender,
determined to repulse any assault on the house of Being. This phase of the attack, in fact the second
battle of the conceptual war concerning Heidegger, was launched by Jean-Pierre Faye in 1961
through the publication of the French translation of certain Heideggerian texts, notably the
Rektoratsrede and the homage to Schlageter. In a short presentation preceding the texts, Faye notes
the violence of Heidegger's revolutionary language, particularly in the rectoral speech, and its link to
Nazi terminology. In a further article
[57] in the same journal, Faye reproduces the famous passage on
the essence of authentic Nazism from An Introduction to Metaphysics , as well as Heidegger's
endorsement—in a letter to Die Zeit dated 24 September 1953—of the effort by Christian E. Lewalter
to explain away Heidegger's apparent concern with Nazism—published in the same journal on 13
August. Here, Faye develops his earlier discussion by insisting on the relation between Heidegger's
views and those of Ernst Krieck. Faye also took the occasion, prodded by Aimé Patri, to correct his
earlier translation of Heideggerian texts.
In retrospect, Faye's articles did not break new ground. His main contribution was to make
available material that tended to cast doubt on the contingency analysis. The initial intervention by
François Fédier, Heidegger's most ardent defender in the French philosophical discussion after
Beaufret's death, occurred only some five years after Faye's articles. Even then, Fédier's ire was
mainly directed toward other targets. Fédier turns to Faye only when the latter dared to respond to his
impassioned defense of Heidegger against all comers. Since that time, Fédier has maintained his
visible role—which now after the death of Beaufret, his former teacher, is nearly his alone—as the
self-appointed official spokesman for the contingency thesis, determined to deconstruct any and all
forms of the necessitarian analysis. With the exception of
― 260 ―
Aubenque, at present no other prominent French defender of Heidegger argues that the link between
Heidegger's philosophy and politics is merely contingent.
Fédier's initial article
[58] was prompted by his perception of attacks on Heidegger by Guido
Schneeberger, Theodor Adorno, and Paul Hühnerfeld. Instead of a response to a polemic, the author
describes his intent as an examination of the presuppositions of so-called hostile arguments. In each
case, Fédier shows to his satisfaction that the writer in question is methodologically incapable of
comprehending Heidegger's Nazism before describing what he calls reality through a simple statement
of the "main facts" of the case. According to Fédier, who does not examine other, later evidence, with
the exception of the Spiegel interview, an analysis of Heidegger's courses between 1934 and 1944
suffices to perceive the exact meaning of Heidegger's opposition to Nazism and, for the same reason,
to understand why he desired in 1933 to contribute to the realization of something other than what
Nazism became.
It is noteworthy that none of the works to which Fédier responds here is due to a French author or
published in French. Fédier's discussion, which is a form of the contingency thesis, specifically a further
version of the claim that the critics of Heidegger are insufficiently familiar with the object of their
criticism, is innovative only as an early attempt within the French context to respond to foreign
criticism of Heidegger. Although Fédier's défense tous azimuts did not even consider the nascent
French effort to come to grips with the problem, it is not surprising that he was quickly answered by
three French writers, including Patri, Minder, and Faye, which in turn evoked a rapid rejoinder from

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Fédier is defended by Patti. In his short paper, he argues in support of Fédier and against Faye
that—on linguistic grounds alone—one cannot identify a relation between Heidegger and Nazism, since
the adjective "völkisch " was already used by Fichte, who was not a member of the SS.
[59] This
version of the attack on the necessitarian thesis because the critic is allegedly misinformed was
immediately contradicted in another short paper by Minder, who asserts that even a cursory
examination of Heidegger's language supposes an acceptance of some fundamental principles of the
Third Reich.
[60] He further notes, as Farias and especially Ott later argue in detail, that Heidegger was
strongly influenced by a certain rustic but politically reactionary form of Roman Catholicism.
The latter point is a form of the necessitarian thesis interpreted in a historicist manner directly
counter to the evolution of Heidegger's thought after the famous turning. For the claim that anyone,
including the author of fundamental ontology, is not in part a product of the surrounding environment
precisely contradicts Heidegger's own claim that we are all determined by the modern world, by
technology, ulti-
― 261 ―
mately by metaphysics, even by Being. In his response, Faye returns to the attack with a perceptive
comment on nascent right-wing Heideggerianism.
[61] He notes in an ironic remark that there is at
present a Parisian sect devoted to protecting its masters in the way that the ASPCA is devoted to
protecting animals! He provides a discussion of the history of the term "völkisch " and its relation to
racism, in particular anti-Semitism, later developed by Bourdieu, before turning his critical gaze on the
difference, crucial in his eyes, between being in the world and transforming it.
Faye's article could only have been perceived as it was in part intended: as a provocation. In his
article, Faye commits a strategic error, since he attempts to show that he has the appropriate
knowledge which Fédier accuses him of lacking. The argument cannot be won on such terms, since it
is always possible to maintain that the critic knew some things but not others, and the other things are
relevant, indeed crucial. In short, it is always possible to claim and in effect to make out the claim that
one who opposes a doctrine, any doctrine, is not sufficiently informed. This insight was not lost on
Fédier, who quickly responded in this way in order to show that après tout Faye was uninformed, in
any case not sufficiently informed to criticize such a difficult thinker as Heidegger, since he did not
know German sufficiently well. This is a technique which Fédier has continued to employ with
frequency in his now numerous attempts to defend the "sacred" cause.
In his response, Fédier concedes that Heidegger did use certain incriminating expressions over a
ten-month period, but he denies that as a result Heidegger's thought is compromised in any way. In
the course of a veritable demonstration of why no translation is safe from "deconstruction," which
anticipates Derrida's use of this method in his best days, Fédier goes so far as to say that a "real"
translation of the rectoral address will remove the vestiges of Nazism which Faye has "injected" into it.
He further advances a claim—which he later developed at length in a book—that although Heidegger
was mistaken in 1933 in his allegiance to Hitler, it was impossible to understand at the time what
Hitler would become. He closes with a triple criticism of Heidegger's failure: to foresee the
consequences of Nazism, to measure the powerlessness of thought with respect to Nazism, and to
grasp that thought could not modify what was under way. The latter two points are different versions
of the same idea of the weakness of thought, which represent an application of Heidegger's own later
view, in the "Letter on Humanism" and elsewhere, of thought as different from and opposed to
For present purposes, Fédier's argument is interesting as the basic statement of the contingentist
attack on the necessitarian analysis. More than twenty years later, one can no longer doubt in good
faith the
― 262 ―
existence of a form of right-wing Heideggerianism determined to save Heidegger at all costs, even if to
do so on occasion requires one to deny the clearly evident. At this early stage, with the exception of
Beaufret, Gandillac, and De Waelhens, and to a lesser extent such secondary figures as Patri, Fédier
was virtually isolated as the keeper of the grail of Being. But as early as his first skirmish, he identified
the basic form of his response to any form of the necessitarian argument.
Fédier's strategy is obviously dependent on that of such pioneer defenders of Heidegger in the
French-language discussion as De Waelhens, who formulated the initial version of the attack on the
necessitarian thesis for insufficient evidence. Now De Waelhens's version of this gambit was
unconvincing since it was no more than the claim, which can always be made, that the critic is

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uninformed. But this claim was unconvincing, or at least not sufficiently convincing to be acceptable to
such a truly knowledgeable observer as Löwith. Yet if he does not perfect this strategy, Fédier at least
takes it much further by developing it into a coherent defense, much as in chess the difference
between an isolated move and a viable defense consists in the articulation of the various elements.
Fédier's counter consists in the following elements, all calculated to make it difficult, even impossible,
to make out a claim for a durable, or even a transitory, link between Heidegger and Nazism: the
assertion that Heidegger was naive, but not culpable since he did not, or could not, know the nature of
Nazism; the intimation that the critic is inadequately informed, for instance about Heidegger, as
concerns the German language, and so on; and the pretension that a simple statement of the "facts,"
including a look at the statements of others who were there and hence by implication know the "real"
story is sufficient to separate the "real" Heidegger from the mythic figure who is the target of his
critics. Combined in different ways, all of these elements later return in the third phase of the French
debate on Heidegger and National Socialism.
The Onset of the Third Wave
The third, most recent phase of the French debate began when Farias's study burst onto the
intellectual scene in the fall of 1987. Any account of this phase needs to distinguish between the
immediate reaction to Farias's book in French circles and the more measured but often still heated
discussion that followed and at the present time is still under way. The immediate French reaction to
Farias's book was part of a rapid response which, it is fair to say, swept over western Europe. The
major newspapers and many magazines in all the major European countries
― 263 ―
carried articles concerning this study, often with a kind of concealed amusement directed at the French
reception of the work.
Two examples from the West German press and one from an Italian newspaper are typical. In an
article in a well-known liberal German daily, the author, apparently unaware of the preceding
discussion, comments that the question of the negative influence on Heidegger's thought will
henceforth be raised in France as well as in Germany.
[63] In a respected intellectual German weekly,
another writer concludes that Heidegger's letter to Jean Beaufret did not remain without a response,
since it led to French postmodernism, although none of the postmodernists, who are all staunchly
antitotalitarian, can be simply assimilated to Heidegger in a political manner.
[64] Both of these articles
are cautious and, in the best German sense, sachlich , concerned more to report than to pass
We find a much sharper, less journalistic reaction in an Italian daily newspaper which
counterposes articles by two well-known Italian philosophers: Roberto Maggiori, an anti-Heideggerian;
and Gianni Vattimo, a well-known Heideggerian. Responding to an earlier review by Vattimo of the
Farias book, Maggiori criticizes Vattimo's view that the whole "affaire Heidegger " is an operation
directed against certain Parisian thinkers. In a sharp response, which recalls Beaufret's estimate of
Heidegger as a conceptual giant among pygmies, Vattimo dismisses Farias's work as of little historical
The sharp exchange between Maggiori and Vattimo is similar in content, but not in tone, to the
often much sharper character of the French discussion. The immediate reaction, what in French is
aptly called the réaction à chaud , was precisely that, namely heated, in fact overheated to a degree
unusual even in French intellectual circles. This phase of the controversy, which was more
symptomatic of the depth of feeling than of insight into the problem, was uncharacteristically played
out in the pages of the daily papers, the weekly magazines, in art and literary journals, on television,
and so on—in short, through forms of communication not often associated with the measured tread of
philosophical debate. It involved such well-known figures on the French intellectual scene as Derrida,
Finkielkraut, E. de Fontenay, Baudrillard, Levinas, Aubenque, Blanchot, Bourdieu, Renaut, Ferry, Daix,
and so on, as well as a large number of less well known figures, all of whom felt called upon to
comment on the situation; it involved as well foreign scholars imported for the occasion such as
Gadamer. What had earlier been a philosophical debate, a disagreement between scholars on a theme
concerning a famous but obscure German thinker, quickly became a kind of intellectual free-for-all in
which opinions, even frank accusations, were voiced in rapid fashion. The result was to guarantee a
succès de scandale for a book that rapidly became a cause célèbre .

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― 264 ―
One way to indicate the amplitude of the immediate reaction, which lasted for weeks in certain cases,
is by a simple list, in no particular order, of some of the newspapers and journals that ran articles,
sometimes numerous articles, on the topic: Art Press, La Quinzaine Lit-téraire, Le Monde, Le Matin,
Libération, La Croix, Le Quotidien de Paris, Le Figaro, Le Magazine Littéraire, Le Canard Enchainé , and
so on. The tone of the debate to follow was given by the opening shot, fired by Christian Jambet, a
former nouveau philosophe , in his preface to the French edition of Farias's work. His sharply worded
preface begins with a reference to the traditional belief in the virtue of philosophy for life, before
building to remarks on the manner in which Heidegger allegedly identifies authentic existence with a
mere semblance, itself representative of the politics of extermination. Jambet ends with a statement
intended to sum up Heidegger's thought in a reference to a well-known film, Night and Fog (Nuit et
brouillard ) on the 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' 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 ?"
In his preface, Jambet raises the question of the specific difference that opposes, or seems to
oppose, Heidegger to the entire philosophical tradition through the relation between his own thought
and absolute evil. Yet Jambet does not raise the other theme, highly relevant in the French context, of
the specific link between Heidegger's philosophy and French thought. Certainly, the latter topic is
partially responsible for the inflamed, passionate character of the immediate French reaction. Perhaps
Hugo Ott, the Freiburg historian, caught the mood best in the opening comment of his review of
Farias's book: "In France a sky has fallen in—the sky of the philosophers ."
Even a small selection will communicate the sheer breadth of opinion in the immediate response to
Farias's study in French circles. In a sober article, Roger-Pol Droit states that as a result of his study
Farias has dismantled the "official" view of Heidegger's merely contingent relation with National
Socialism, long maintained by Beaufret and other friends.
[68] According to Droit, who clearly denies
De Waelhens's claim, in the future it will be impossible to separate Heidegger the philosopher from
Heidegger the man, and it will be necessary to think the link that unites them. Georges-Arthur
Goldschmidt, a French refugee from German Nazism, welcomes Farias's study for swelling the meager
ranks of those bothered by Heidegger's Nazi past; he regards Farias's book as a means to impede the
normal business of the Parisian Heideggerians, henceforth obliged to confront the issues.
[69] In a
response, Emmanuel Martineau, the author of the pirated translation of Being and Time, a
― 265 ―
friend and student of Beaufret, admits that the latter became part of Heideggerian fascism, which he
regards as matched by a hystericial anti-Heideggerian fascism. He accuses Goldschmidt of falling prey,
not to the hate of Nazi cruelty, but purely and simply to the hatred of thought.
Alain Finkielkraut complains that in noting the connection between Being and Time and Mein
Kampf , there is a concealed risk of promoting a kind of fascist reaction against philosophy. [71] In a
response to Finkielkraut, Goldschmidt suggests that in France there is little real knowledge of Nazism;
there is further an incapacity to see that a kind of Nazism rooted in German thought since Fichte is
central to Heidegger's thought.
[72] Jean Baudrillard observes that the so-called necrological discussion
concerning Heidegger has no intrinsic philosophical meaning. He maintains that this discussion only
betrays a transition from the stage of history to the stage of myth in which events, which we cannot
grasp on the plane of reality, give rise to a convulsion indicative of a loss of reality.
Martineau's version of the lack of critical competence, already in evidence in earlier discussions, is
further developed by Jacques Derrida in an interview. [74] According to Derrida, then on the point of
publishing a book coincidentally concerned with Heidegger and politics, the so-called facts discovered
by Farias are not new for anyone seriously interested in Heidegger; and the interpretation of their
relation to the master's thought is so insufficient as to raise the question of whether Farias has
devoted more than an hour to reading Heidegger. Yet Derrida also concedes the need to show the
deep link between Heidegger's thought and actions to the possibility and reality of what he calls all the
In the face of Derrida's claim that Farias is not a competent reader of Heidegger's texts, Farias's
enumeration, in his response, of a list of facts, supposedly brought to the attention of scholars for the
first time, seems vaguely unsatisfactory.
[75] A still more radical response is furnished by Pierre
Aubenque, the well-known Aristotle scholar, who in a bitter article [76] simply denies all the relevant
points, including the relevance of Farias's book, the intellectual honesty of his analysis, the need for a
study of this kind, and the lack of a significant connection between Heidegger's thought and Nazism.

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Aubenque's analysis is supported by Pascal David, who ends a review of Farias's study with a quotation
from Abraham a Santa Clara—the Augustinian anti-Semite whom Farias regards as influential on
Heidegger—to the effect that God loves fools, not foolishness.
In his article, Aubenque refers approvingly to Derrida, but the difference between their respective
readings of Heidegger's Nazism places them in different camps. Although infinitely more clever than
Fédier, in his avowal of a version of the contingency thesis Aubenque is finally
― 266 ―
close to Fédier's wholly unyielding defense, which simply denies that there is a problem worthy of
consideration. In comparison, Derrida's response is more innovative in "deconstructing" the opposition
between representatives of the necessitarian and contingentist analyses. In essence, Derrida proposes
that we can acknowledge the intrinsic link between Heidegger and Nazism, although he continues to
insist that only the anointed few can comprehend it in the correct manner.
The result is to concede the main point of the necessitarian approach but to restrict its
development by continuing to insist, as the contingentists have all along, that only the "orthodox," or
more precisely the "orthodox" critic of Heidegger, can measure the problem. An appropriate analogy is
the claim made by a former Stalinist that only Stalin's victims can legitimately judge his crimes. This
new standard of criticism, which couples an admission of the problem—which can no longer be denied,
and is in fact no longer denied in any straightforward fashion by any observer with the clear exception
of Fédier and Aubenque, who continue to represent the original form of the contingentist view—with
the insistence on expert knowledge of Heidegger's thought as a precondition for valid discussion of
Heidegger's Nazism, represents a significant evolution in the scholarly French discussion of this theme.
As a result, the gap between the discussants has narrowed considerably since the point at issue is no
longer whether there was a real and durable link between Heidegger and Nazism—something perhaps
only Aubenque among the more significant French intellectuals still denies—but rather how to
understand this link, in particular how to understand its significance for his philosophy.
In philosophy, because of the length of the gestation period the debate normally unfolds rather
slowly, over a period measured at best in years and more often in decades or centuries. Now in French
circles, where the half-life of a theory is very short, the debate usually unfolds more quickly since to
publish slowly would be to run the risk of being able to comment on a topic only as it was in the
process of disappearing from the intellectual scene. Until recently, that is, until the publication of
Farias's work, with the exception of Palmier's study, no books wholly, or even mainly, centered on the
theme of Heidegger and Nazism had appeared. This lacuna, if it is one, was now rapidly corrected, at a
speed extraordinary even by the standards of the French intellectual discussion. Farias's book was
published in October 1987. From that period until the following May, even as a steady, but steadily
diminishing, stream of articles devoted to the topic continued to pour out, in an extraordinary burst of
scholarly creativity no fewer than six studies devoted to this theme appeared.
[78] Not surprisingly, in
most cases they
― 267 ―
reflected the new consensus that there was a problem, although they differed widely on its description
and analysis.
The Third Wave
Let us discuss these books in the order in which they appeared, which corresponds at least roughly to
the order of their composition. We can begin with three rather different studies by Pierre Bourdieu, by
Jean-François Lyotard, one of the main representatives of the postmodern tendency in French
philosophy, and by Fédier. Bourdieu's discussion of what he, following Heidegger's concern with Being,
calls Heidegger's political ontology, is the second edition of a text originally published in 1975,
rewritten and adapted to recent revelations about Heidegger. Lyotard's study is the apparent result of
the desire, or at least the felt need, of every well-known Parisian intellectual who desires to avoid
regression to the state of mere anonymity to comment rapidly on any major topic. Fédier's work is a
further example of his continued effort, which in the meantime has lost any semblance of scholarly
credibility, to maintain the contingentist thesis in its original but now outmoded form. These three
disparate works nicely illustrate the range of the next strand in the scholarly discussion by those
whose relation to Heidegger is either tangential or, if the relation is on the contrary close, at least
tangential to the further evolution of the Heidegger debate.

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In a short introduction to his short study, Bourdieu, a well-known Marxist sociologist, indicates
that his analysis of methodology has been updated in the footnotes and by placing at the end three
chapters concerning the analysis of Heideggerian language.
[79] In an evident reference to the first
edition of his book, he remarks—with a certain self-approval—that, despite the image of sociology, a
close reading of Heidegger's work already revealed such themes as anti-Semitism, his refusal to break
with Nazism, his ultrarevolutionary conservative tendencies, as well as his disappointment in the lack
of recognition of his revolutionary aspirations as the philosophical Führer .
[80] In a clear allusion to the
prior debate on Heidegger and politics, Bourdieu states that the failure to understand what has
occurred was aided by Heidegger's erection of a wall between anthropology and ontology,
[81] although
we need now to examine the intrinsic blindness of these "professionals of lucidity." [82]
Bourdieu is prescient in his allusion to Heidegger's anti-Semitism, which has only recently been
established. [83] His comments are significant in raising the second-order question of how so-called
professionals of lucidity are able to respond to a situation of this kind. He provides an answer as to
how one ought to proceed in a manner that reveals the
― 268 ―
politically conservative thrust of purely textual analysis, favored most prominently in the current
French discussion by Derrida and other so-called deconstructionists. According to Bourdieu, even the
most determined adversaries of Heidegger have missed some of the signs concerning his Nazism since
they unfortunately accept the form of immanent textual hermeneutics on which others, that is,
Heidegger's epigones, insist. An approach of this kind, even its most radical form, can at best be only
partially successful since it concerns certain presuppositions only.
[84] In fact, this sort of approach is
dangerous since when rigorously applied it has the effect not only of sanitizing what is unsavory but of
turning attention away from the political dimension to which the texts in question, even by their failure
to state their aim, nonetheless refer. A striking example provided by Bourdieu concerns the manner in
which a variety of participants in the French discussion, for example Beaufret, Lefebvre, Châtelet, and
Axelos—in fact those who accept Heidegger's own effort in the "Letter on Humanism" to measure his
thought in terms of Marx's—see a convergence between Heidegger and Marx.
Bourdieu insists that we must abandon the separation between a political and a philosophical
interpretation in order to institute a double reading (lecture double ) that is both political and
philosophical for Heideggerian texts characterized by an intrinsic ambiguity.
[86] His aim is to break out
of the circle formed by an exclusively immanent reading of the text, doubly confined within the text
and to professionals, such as professional philosophers, or even confined to those philosophers who
profess allegiance to Heidegger.
[87] He regards Heidegger as representative of extremely conservative
revolutionary tendencies that arose in Germany between the two world wars. And he agrees in part
with the tendency of French defenders of Heidegger to discern two basically different stages in his
thought. According to Bourdieu, Heidegger II constitutes a series of commentaries on Heidegger I in
which, as the master himself notes, nothing is abandoned but, in Bourdieu's words, the celebrated
author now absolutizes his practical choices in philosophical language.
[88] He regards Heidegger's
denial of a relation between his and any other position as an exercise in negative political ontology. [89]
In Bourdieu's view, only those sensitive to the situation beyond the internal approach to the reading of
the text can finally decode it. [90]
Bourdieu is in part correct that Heidegger refused to explain his relation to Nazism since to do so
would have been to admit that the essential thought never thought the essential, since Heidegger did
not and could not grasp Nazism on the basis of his thought of Being. Bourdieu's error, which reveals a
problem in his methodology, is to trivialize Heidegger's position by reducing it merely to an
― 269 ―
component which it supposedly later erects as a philosophical standard. Yet when we consider
Heidegger's texts, not only in the context of his position but against the social and political
background, we clearly have access to a dimension not accessible if we limit ourselves to a more
immanent textual approach. Bourdieu's point tends to undermine various forms of immanent
hermeneutics, including the celebrated view of intertextuality. It further reveals a conscious or
unconscious strategy on the part of some right-wing Heideggerians, the reason for its relative success,
and the way in which, as Bourdieu's own essay demonstrates, one can surpass its limits.
Bourdieu's book is a significant effort, altogether too rare in the discussion, to come to grips with
the political dimension of Heidegger's thought against the historical background. The limitation of his
account is that he mainly relies on an essay already in hand with only minor changes to react to more

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recent discussion. Although both Lyotard and Fédier make greater efforts to confront the latest
research, their books are less impressive. Like Bourdieu, Lyotard also refuses to amalgamate
Heidegger's thought and his politics.
[91] Yet in comparison with Bourdieu's book and his own earlier
writing, Lyotard's essay appears hasty and unsatisfactory. Bourdieu's work is saturated with references
to English and German discussion and is particularly rich in allusions to the constitution of the Weimar
ethos against the nineteenth-century German background. Bourdieu's analysis of the relation between
Heidegger's thought and the historical, cultural, and political background is still unsurpassed in the
French discussion. With the exception of the obligatory tipping of the hat to Freud and Kant, Lyotard is
exclusively concerned with French sources, something unsurprising since he holds that the "problem"
is essentially French.
Despite Habermas's effort
[92] to portray him and his colleagues as cryptoconservatives, Lyotard's
approach reveals a fashionable, postmodernist form of liberalism. The term "Jews" ("les juifs") in the
title refers not only to the Jews but to all those who in Europe have always been assimilated to them.
This slight volume is divided into two chapters, respectively titled "The 'Jews'" and "Heidegger."
According to Lyotard, who seems to like quotation marks, what he refers to as the Heidegger problem
is a "French" problem.
[93] He holds that "the Jews," those outcasts of society, demonstrate that man's
misery is constitutive of his being. [94] Lyotard insists on the need to think the Heidegger problem [95]
without accepting the modish view that Nazism can either be deduced from Being and Time or that
this book arose from an ethos that was already Nazi or pre-Nazi. [96] After stating that both Farias and
Derrida are correct, Lyotard asserts that there is, however, something unforgettable
― 270 ―
but still forgotten that constitutes the real problem—that is, that Heidegger could possibly have
thought that in and through his collaboration with the Nazi party a real opportunity existed.
Lyotard is close to Bourdieu with respect to the famous turning, which he describes in difficult
language as "the amnesiac meditation of what will occur in Heideggerian 'politics.' " [98] He suggests
that Being and Time makes possible, but does not require, Heidegger's political engagement, [99] as
witness the political reading Heideggger gave of his own thought during the rectoral episode. [100] The
remainder of the book consists in a serial critique of the views of other French commentators,
including Derrida, Lacoue-Labarthe, and Nancy. For Lyotard, all of them fail to grasp that—as Lyotard
notes in a comment on Heidegger's "Essence of Truth"—in Heidegger's turn toward Being and, by
inference, away from the Jews, or "Jews," Heidegger's thought commits a cardinal "fault" since it is
still the hostage of the Law (la Loi ).
This discussion is perhaps most enlightening as an undeveloped but correct suggestion: although
not an overtly political book, Being and Time could be and in fact was read by Heidegger in a political
sense as the basis of his turn toward Nazism.
[102] The suggestion that the basic flaw in Heidegger's
thought resides in its relation to the Law, perhaps by extension in its dependency on the
nondifferentiated other, or other than itself, calls attention to a possible relation to the German idealist
tradition; but it is unfortunately too vague to state clearly, much less to evaluate. This is not the
defect of Fédier's work, which could hardly be clearer in its intent or weaker in its arguments.
Fédier's book
[103] is the latest—and final, one hopes—expression of his unremitting faith as an
orthodox Heideggerian not swayed, or even chastened, by new information or the intervening debate.
He displays this point of view in his study with increased ardor even as he becomes the most
prominent and certainly most persistent representative of this angle of vision, a sort of living dinosaur.
Like the mythical author in Camus's La Peste , the entire bibliography of certain writers is wholly
composed of multiple versions of a single text, which they write again and again in different forms.
Fédier's scenario follows in detail the meanders of his initial defense of the master in articles published
more than two decades ago. The relevant difference is that here the rappel des faits , meant to
exonerate Heidegger, is not due to Fédier and does not follow but precedes the discussion. In a
"biographical essay" ("essai biographique ") that begins the work, and which opens and closes with
comments on the tranquil little city of Messkirch where Heidegger was born and is buried, François
Vezin declares that the period of the rector-ate is no more than a parenthesis in Heidegger's life.
Like the earliest forms of the contingentist analysis, Fédier's book is
― 271 ―
intended to defend Heidegger by attacking his detractors, in particular Farias. In the course of a
difficult defense, the author is compelled to take extreme measures. Two examples worth noting are
the tortured distinction introduced between anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism,
[105] and the defense of

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the German bishops for their 1933 decision to remove the interdiction that prevented Roman Catholics
from adhering to National Socialism. In his introduction, Fédier indicates that his book is meant as an
apology in a supposed Socratic sense in order to dispose of the charges.
[106] Like a good defense
lawyer, he begins by exaggerating the "crime" in order to show that his client could not possibly be
guilty of it. According to Fédier, who perhaps had Adorno in mind, Farias holds that Heidegger never
said nor thought essentially anything other than Nazism, a charge which Fédier affirms to be a
This attempted defense is problematic, since neither Farias nor anyone else has ever criticized
Heidegger as broadly as Fédier pretends. Although he is concerned to refute all the charges brought
against Heidegger, Fédier mainly concentrates on the rectoral period. He claims that whereas it is
permissible to accuse Heidegger of adherence to Nazism in 1933-1934, it is slanderous to describe the
adherence as total, since he never adhered to biological racism and so on.
[108] But, then, by this
standard there never were many total adherents of Nazism, especially among German academics,
since few wholly accepted all aspects of the doctrine. Fédier's main argument consists in a perverse
form of skepticism, according to which in 1933 it was not possible to foresee the future of National
[109] He even asserts that the definitive form of Nazism was not known prior to 1
September 1939. [110] But although many aspects of what would occur were indeed unclear in 1933,
and by definition the future is what has not yet happened, the situation was already sufficiently clear
then, well before the outbreak of the war, for many, including numerous Jewish philosophers, such as
Cassirer, Marcuse, Weil, Benjamin, Löwith, Arendt, and others, to choose exile. For instance, as early
as the Nazi party program, formulated in July 1920, the fledgling political party insisted that a Jew
could not be a member of the German community,
[111] and Hitler left no doubt of his intentions
toward Jews in Mein Kampf . In fact, even Fédier is not convinced by his argument, since he also
concedes that when Heidegger took up the cause of a National Socialism it already carried with it the
signs of an essential perversity.
The first part of Fédier's discussion, entitled "Un pseudo-événement," is a long attack on Farias's
book because of what Fédier alleges to be its inquisitorial tone, [113] obfuscation, [114] unconscious
appeal to Freudian mechanisms of condensation and displacement, [115] failure to respect the rules of
honest scientific procedure, [116] and so on. Alone at this late
― 272 ―
date, when so much is known, indeed when even such croyants as Derrida claim incorrectly that
everything is known, Fédier explains Farias's study as a sheer invention (montage ) of which almost no
page can withstand serious study.
[117] In the second part of the discussion, entitled "Heidegger et la
politique," having disposed of Farias to his satisfaction, Fédier provides his own analysis of the problem
raised by the rectoral period, which he attributes to Heidegger's impatience.
In the course of his defense, Fédier makes the following controversial points: the rectoral address
does not show an acceptance of Nazism but only a concern to defend academic science in the
[119] Heidegger later distinguished himself in his opposition to Nazism, [120] the source of
his action lies in a philosophical error leading to a need to modify the position, [121] and Heidegger's
later silence is to be respected after the martyrdom he endured. [122] Yet unfortunately the rectoral
address shows not only an interest in the defense of science but an explicit concern, which Heidegger
underlines here and specifically admits in the article on the rectorate, to utilize the university to attain
a common goal shared with the Nazis: the destiny of the German people; and Heidegger's silence is
neither honorable nor acceptable. And examination of Heidegger's texts refutes Heidegger's own claim
to have confronted Nazism in his later writings.
Fédier's most interesting point is his claim in passing that a philosophical error necessitates a
modification of the position, which suggests, reasoning by modus tollens , that if a position leads to an
incorrect form of action there is something mistaken in its very heart. In different ways this theme is
developed in three further books on Heidegger and politics, due to Jacques Derrida, Philippe
Lacoue-Labarthe, and Luc Ferry and Alain Renaut. Derrida requires no introduction. Lacoue-Labarthe,
Derrida's former student, is a well-known Heidegger specialist who has worked closely in the past with
Jean-Luc Nancy, another of Derrida's close associates.
[123] Ferry and Renaut are two young
antiestablishment philosophers who have collaborated on several other works. Derrida's book, which
coincidentally appeared almost immediately after Farias's study, caused a stir in Heideggerian circles.
Lacoue-Labarthe's work is an effort to think through the problem in a manner related to, but also
significantly different from, Derrida's analysis, itself apparently dependent on Lacoue-Labarthe's earlier
writing. The study by Ferry and Renaut is an attack on French right-wing Heideggerianism as a form of
antihumanism due ultimately to Heidegger.

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Derrida is an important thinker as well as presently the leading Heideggerian in France. His
thought is deeply marked by, in fact inconceivable without, the encounter with Heidegger; he has also
commented on Heidegger's position in numerous writings.
[124] His influential but unortho-
― 273 ―
dox Heideggerianism is itself an important form of Heideggerian "orthodoxy," especially in France.
Derrida's study, which can be viewed as a long meditation on Heidegger, is thoroughly Heideggerian
since it proposes to thematize the concept of spirit, something Heidegger never does, in fact avoids. It
can be read from at least two perspectives: as a Heideggerian analysis of Heidegger; and as an
indirect, but pointed response to the theme of Heidegger and politics.
Derrida's defense of Heidegger, like so much of the French discussion of Heidegger, rests on a
creative use of the "Letter on Humanism." Derrida applies Heidegger's remark that humanism is
metaphysical to characterize Heidegger's own Nazism as a metaphysical humanism which, in his later
writings, he supposedly overcomes in a nonmetaphysical, deeper form of humanism announced in this
text. This analysis presupposes on the one hand that the later Heidegger, but not the early Heidegger,
is antimetaphysical, or more precisely beyond metaphysics in any ordinary sense—precisely what
Heidegger himself claimed in his later writings, such as the Beiträge —and on the other hand that
there is a break between the early and later phases of Heidegger's thought.
As a defense of the importance of Heidegger's thought while acknowledging the clear, undeniable
link to Nazism, Derrida's strategy is reminiscent of a form of "orthodox" Marxism, most clearly
represented by Althusser and his associates, which argued for a break situated within Marx's thought.
On this reading—already foreshadowed in Marx's view of the break between prehistory and human
history in the transition from capitalism to communism—Marx's thought allegedly decomposes into two
chronologically separable positions, the first of which can be described as philosophy but not yet as
science, and the second of which breaks with philosophy in order to assume the form of science that is
supposedly beyond philosophy. Althusser, who was obliged by the tardy publication of Marx's early
writings to acknowledge the philosophical tenor of the early position, sought to defend the
nonphilosophical, allegedly scientific character of the later theory, that is, the supposedly mature form
taken by Marx's theory after it broke with philosophy. In a similar manner, apparently relying on the
concept of the turning in Heidegger's thought, which he does not, however, discuss, Derrida correlates
the initial Heideggerian critique of metaphysics with Heidegger's supposedly still metaphysical
philosophy, which then later gives way to what Heidegger later describes as an antimetaphysical view
of thinking beyond philosophy. According to Derrida, in his still metaphysical phase Heidegger turned
to Nazism, which he renounced in his later move away from metaphysics and beyond philosophy.
Derrida's Heidegger interpretation takes shape as a meditation on the terms "Geist," "geistig ,"
and "geistlich " in Heidegger's thought.
― 274 ―
His defense of Heidegger includes a reading of Heidegger's supposed deconstruction of spirit (Geist )
and its significance for an appreciation of Heidegger's relation to National Socialism.
[128] Derrida
points out that in Being and Time Heidegger warns against the use of Geist , which he puts in
quotation marks; but twenty-five years later in an essay on Trakl
[129] he speaks freely of the same
term, which he now employs without quotation marks. [130] Derrida's hypothesis is that for Heidegger
this term refers to such supposedly metaphysical concepts as unity (l'Un ) and gathering
(Versammlung ).
[131] According to Derrida, for Heidegger spirit is neither pneuma nor spiritus , but
finally a flame more originary than either the Christian or the Platonico-metaphysical concepts. [132]
He maintains that even in 1933, for instance in the rectoral address, Heidegger rejected the reduction
of spirit to reason [133] in order to spiritualize Nazism, [134] as can be seen in the role of spirit in the
rectoral address. [135] It follows, then, that Heidegger's Nazism was metaphysical, and that he
overcame it when he overcame the metaphysical element in his own thought.
This attempted defense is problematic for various reasons. To begin with, in his self-described
Heideggerian effort to think the unthought, Derrida exaggerates the importance of a concept which
Heidegger never thematizes precisely because it is not fundamental but ancillary to or even
insignificant in his position. Derrida is unconvincing in his claim that spirit is central to Heidegger's
thought, in which this concept seems at best a minor concern. Derrida unfortunately trivializes
Heidegger's commitment to Nazism as following from a residually metaphysical turn of mind, in effect
by reducing a practical political engagement to a philosophical commitment from which it apparently
followed but with which it cannot reasonably be equated. A form of thought that makes it possible to
accept a particular political approach, no matter of what kind, must not be confused with its

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consequence. Obviously, metaphysics as such does not necessarily lead to Nazism, since there are
many metaphysicians who did not become Nazis. Yet when Heidegger renounced metaphysics after
the turning in his thought, he did not give up Nazism. Further, Derrida is obviously incorrect if he
means to suggest that when Heidegger employs the term "Geist " without quotation marks in the 1953
article on Trakl, Heidegger has overcome both metaphysics and Nazism. For in the same year he
republished An Introduction to Metaphysics in which he publicly reaffirmed his commitment to a form
of Nazism present, in Heideggerian terminology, under the mode of absence. At most, Heidegger
turned away from Nazism as it was, although there is no evidence that he ever accepted it without
reservations, but he never turned away from it as he still desired it to be. Finally, the interpretation of
the turning in Heidegger's thought, on which Derrida's defense of Heidegger rests, is basically
mistaken if
― 275 ―
judged by Heidegger's texts. As the Beiträge zur Philosophie shows in detail, the turning is not
intended to indicate a break or discontinuity between phases of Heidegger's thought; rather, it is
intended to point to further progress from a first beginning to another, deeper beginning more
originary than, and a condition of, his initial but more superficial starting point. Since there is, then, no
break in Heidegger's thought, his position cannot fairly be defended in this way.
Lacoue-Labarthe presents a clearer, even more extreme, less acceptable form of a similar
argument. Lacoue-Labarthe's consideration of "la question " antedated Farias's book. In a recent
[136] he includes two earlier papers concerning Heidegger and politics which preceded and
obviously influenced both his and Derrida's later discussions of Heidegger and politics: "La
transcendance finie/t dans la politique" from 1981, and "Poétique et politique" from 1984. In the
former, he poses the question of the possibility of a politics that takes into account Heidegger's
thought. Here, he examines the rectoral speech in order to show its link to the destruction of the
history of ontology and, by extension, to the effort to rethink the problem of the meaning of Being. In
this paper, he makes two points: the rectoral speech is not an occasional document but a reflection on
science, which is metaphysics as such; and this speech is intended as a philosophical foundation of the
political. According to Lacoue-Labarthe, Heidegger's political engagement in 1933 was metaphysical
and its basic result is the collapse of Heidegger's fundamental ontology. In the latter paper, in an
examination of the question why the poetical dimension arose within political discourse, he argues that
Heidegger's effort at the leadership (Führung ) of National Socialism was essentially spiritual.
There is an obvious, striking continuity between the views of Derrida and Lacoue-Labarthe in their
joint insistence on the metaphysical nature of Heidegger's turning toward Nazism and the spiritual
component of Heidgger's view of politics. But there is an even more important difference in
Lacoue-Labarthe's stress on the link between the political and the philosophical in Heidegger's thought,
in virtue of which Heidegger's original philosophical project is compromised by the political action to
which it led. The assertion that Heidegger's effort at fundamental ontology was irreparably
compromised by his turn to Nazism derives from the recognition—now rarely denied, and explicitly
affirmed by Heidegger—that at least his initial enthusiasm for National Socialism followed from his
position. This insight is significant for an understanding of the link between Heidegger's thought and
Nazism. It leads to a conclusion which Lacoue-Labarthe does not draw, and which Heidegger means to
deny in his description of the rectoral episode as meaningless (beudeutungslos ): the later evolution of
the Heideggerian position, per-
― 276 ―
haps even the famous turning in his thought, must be understood, in fact cannot be understood
otherwise than, in relation to Heidegger's Nazism.
I stress this unstated but important consequence of Lacoue-Labarthe's article since he mainly
develops other themes from his earlier analysis of the relation of poetry and politics, less menacing for
the faith of a Heideggerian, in his later treatment of the political as fiction.
[138] Unlike some others in
the French discussion, who are concerned mainly, or even solely, to defend Heidegger at all costs, and
hence unconcerned to present a full record, Lacoue-Labarthe does not hesitate to mention items rarely
evoked in the French debate, such as the problem of anti-Semitism, the comments by Löwith and
Jaspers, Heidegger's denunciation of Baumgarten, Heidegger's meditation on the nature of the
Holocaust, and so on. It is especially significant, in view of the author's obvious identification with
Heidegger as incontestably the best thinker of our time,
[139] that he does not hesitate clearly to
denounce Heidegger's failure to decry the Holocaust, which, from Heidegger's conception of history as
the unfolding of metaphysics, supposedly constitutes a metaphysical event.

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In his book, Lacoue-Labarthe modifes his earlier analysis. According to Lacoue-Labarthe,
Heidegger's political engagement in 1933 was based on the idea of the hegemony of the spiritual and
the philosophical over the political
[141] —a stance in obvious continuity with Being and Time [142] and
coherent with all his earlier thought [143] —which cannot be explained as an error [144] but must be
viewed as a consequence. [145] Now abandoning his earlier insistence on the significance of the
rectoral speech, Lacoue-Labarthe argues for a caesura (césure ) in the sense of Hölderlin. [146]
Heidegger's understanding of the political does not lie in his texts from 1933, including the rectoral
address, but in writings after the break with Nazism, specifically those on technology. In this respect,
Lacoue-Labarthe makes two important points: On the one hand, he suggests that there is a beginning
of the Verwindung of nihilism in the poet's thought,
[147] since for Heidegger art opens the possibility
of the historicity of Dasein; [148] on the other hand, he maintains that Heidegger's discourse on art
throws light on the essence of Nazism as a national-estheticism. [149]
These suggestions are independent of each other and must be discussed separately.
Lacoue-Labarthe is certainly correct that Heidegger never abandoned his concern to seize the destiny
of the German people, and that he later linked this possibility to an interest in the alethic qualities of
poetry. Yet this point is inconsistent in two ways with his own analysis. For whereas he insists on a
break in Heidegger's position, this point requires an acknowledgment of the essential continuity of
Heidegger's thought over time as concerns the destiny of the Dasein. And as a
― 277 ―
further, direct consequence, it requires an acknowledgment of a conceptual kinship with Nazism, which
Lacoue-Labarthe strongly denies in his critique of Adorno's well-known claim that Heidegger's thought
was Nazi to its core.
[150] It is further inaccurate to regard Heidegger's discussion of art or technology
as illuminating the essence of Nazism. One can concede a certain perverse aestheticism in Nazi
ideology, for instance in the writings of Albert Speer, the Nazi architect. But one must resist the idea
that the massive political phenomenon of German fascism is solely, or even mainly, or essentially,
The usefulness of Lacoue-Labarthe's book is limited by the depth of his own commitment to
Heidegger's thought. As a result of his basic acceptance of Heidegger's position, Lacoue-Labarthe is
unable to draw the consequences of his own critique of it. For instance, Lacoue-Labarthe cites a
passage from an unpublished conference on technology, already cited above, where Heidegger likens
agricultural technology to the Nazi gas chambers.
[151] Despite his criticism of the patent inadequacy
of Heidegger's dreadful comparison, Lacoue-Labarthe, the Heideggerian, is unable to perceive the full
implication of Heidegger's statement in at least two ways: in his quasi-Heideggerian claim that this
phenomenon somehow reveals the essence of the West,
[152] which Heidegger allegedly failed to
perceive, which in turn supposes the Heideggerian view that technology is the extension of
metaphysics; and in his inability to draw the obvious consequence of his own indictment of Heidegger's
failure, due to the inadequacy of fundamental ontology, to grasp the essence of the Nazi phenomenon.
Lacoue-Labarthe's analysis—patient, sober, careful, informed, considerate of other points of
view—exhibits virtues unsurpassed in the present French Heidegger debate. This comprehension and
tolerance gives way in Ferry and Renaut's work to an accusatory, pamphletary, confrontational style,
more characteristic of recent French philosophy. In their attack on the separations between various
forms of French Heideggerianism as in effect distinctions without a difference—which they
paradoxically represent as an effort to surpass mere polemics
[153] —they deny the shared
assumption, common to Derrida and Lacoue-Labarthe, of a break in Heidegger's thought. Their book is
the successor of their earlier work on contemporary antihumanism, centered mainly on French
varieties of Heideggerianism.
Ferry and Renaut are most original in their effort to develop Lyotard's suggestion of the link
between the defense of Heidegger and French philosophy. They draw attention to the parallel between
the French controversy about Marxist antihumanism in the 1970s and the current Heidegger
[155] Their aim is to diagnose a link between Heidegger's antihumanism, which they
comprehend as the rejection of
― 278 ―
[156] and the supposed erreur par excellence of contemporary French philosophy. [157] They
illustrate this error by Lacoue-Labarthe's strange, even wild comment, in the course of his attempt to
differentiate the later Heidegger from the earlier Nazi enthusiast, that "Nazism is a humanism."
After some remarks on the significance of Farias's book in the context of the French debate, Ferry

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and Renaut develop their indictment of contemporary French philosophy through the identification of
the common thread of various forms of French Heideggerianism. They isolate three variants: the
so-called zero degree, represented by Beaufret, which simply denies any relation between Heidegger
and Nazism; Heideggerian orthodoxy, which admits, by playing Heidegger II off against Heidegger I,
that in 1933 the master was not yet free of the metaphysics of subjectivity; and Derridian, or
unorthodox, Heideggerianism, which relies on Heidegger's purported later deconstruction of the
concept of spirit. According to Ferry and Renaut, in the final analysis there is no difference between
Derridian and orthodox Heideggerianism since at best the Derridian approach innovates on a strategic
plane only.
Apart from their remarks on Farias's work, the main contribution of Ferry and Renault lies in their
survey of various factions of the French debate about Heidegger's politics. They are most helpful in
their suggestion of a relation between French postmodernism, or antihumanism, and Heidegger's own
Nazi proclivities. They usefully relate Heidegger's well-known reading of modernity as the reign of
technology to his view that democracy and totalitarianism are similar in their domination by
subjectivity, and his further adherence to the possibility of a good form of National Socialism
[160] as
by inference postmodernist and anti-modernist. [161] They criticize Heidegger's general incapacity to
think subjectivity [162] because of an inability to think humanism in a nonmetaphysical manner, [163]
an inattention to the plural character of modernity, [164] and the inconsistency in his rejection of a
humanist vision of man in his view of Dasein in terms of Being. And they invoke a certain humanism in
his view of man as transcendental in order to criticize Nazi biologism and racism.
These criticisms are well taken in virtue of Heidegger's identification of humanism with
metaphysics. The relation of postmodernism and "antihumanism" in the work of recent French thinkers
such as Derrida, Lyotard, Foucault, and Lévi-Strauss among others is too well-known to require
detailed commentary. The most original point is insistence on Heidegger's supposed inability to
differentiate the various forms of modernity while implying the point, clearly articulated only by
Lacoue-Labarthe among Heidegger's French disciples, that Nazism is humanism of a different,
supposedly acceptable kind. Beyond its indictment of the
― 279 ―
French identification with the Heideggerian rejection of Cartesian subjectivity—manifest in the ongoing
effort to decenter the subject— the most important result of this work is to question Heidegger's
conception of the subject as transcendence, a theme present throughout his writings from his
dissertation on Duns Scotus onwards.
After the Third Wave
The French discussion of Heidegger's relation to politics is still under way. Its most recent phases
include a continuing debate that has most recently opposed Fédier to Nicolas Tertulian, the well-known
Lukàcs specialist,
[167] Janicaud's sober, insightful discussion of the intrinsic link between Heidegger's
conception of Being and Heidegger's Nazism, [168] and aspects of Meschonnic's discussion of
Heidegger's language. [169] The primary lesson of this review of the French debate on Heidegger's
Nazism concerns the delicate relation between thought and the context in which it arises. We do not
know how a philosophical theory takes shape; but we do know that it can be neither reduced to nor
separated from the context in which it emerges, including the social and political context on the one
hand and the network of competing views against which it strives on the other. Heidegger's
position—despite his repeated but apparently strategic claims, clearly meant to create his own legend,
by stressing a positive relation of his position to pre-Socratic thought only—needs to be understood
against the complex background of theology, Kant's thought, German neo-Kantianism, particularly
Lask, and medieval Aristotelianism, as well as the social, political and historical situation in Germany
between the two world wars.
The French debate offers a particularly interesting example of the delicate relation between
thought and its context. With the exceptions noted, it is distinguished by its concern even now to
defuse the problematic relation between Heidegger's thought and politics by arguing for a discontinuity
between Heidegger's early and later position in order to "save" his thought and—insofar as the French
discussion is dependent on Heidegger's theory—itself. Yet Heidegger only turned against one form of
Nazism, not Nazism as such. To fail to see this point, to confuse his withdrawal from the historical
form of National Socialism with an unproven rejection of the essence of a movement Heidegger
continued to embrace, is to fall victim to the problem of the emperor's new clothes.
Now French philosophers are not less intelligent or well informed than those elsewhere. How can

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we explain their reluctance to see that the emperor has no clothes on? I believe that the reason lies in
a persistent, unhealthy degree of identification of contemporary French philosophy with Heidegger's
position, which literally forms its horizon. We can
― 280 ―
formulate what is clearly an existential predicament in the form of a paradox: to the extent that the
horizon of contemporary French philosophy is constituted by Heidegger's thought, it cannot examine
Heidegger's link to Nazism without putting itself in question, that is, without simultaneously criticizing
the Heideggerian position. In a word, Heidegger's French connection prevents, or impedes, the French
thinkers from perceiving that the emperor has no clothes.
The French example is unusual for the extent to which Heidegger's thought dominates French
philosophy. The result of this domination is to remain attentive to the unthought in Heidegger's
position, at the cost of obstructing any attempt to place the Heideggerian horizon into question. This
consequence is useful to the extent that French philosophy remains within the Heideggerian orbit, but
it is also philosophically dangerous. For at least since Plato philosophy has consisted in the refusal to
accept undemonstrated assumptions, in the constant effort to examine itself in order to clarify,
demonstrate, or eliminate what it merely presupposed, in order to move forward by moving backward
through an examination of its presuppositions.
The recent effort of some dissident French thinkers, especially Bourdieu, Janicaud, Tertulian, and
from another angle of vision Ferry and Renaut, to examine the roots of French Heideggerianism, to
reflect on the so-called French problem, is a healthy sign. Despite Heidegger's oft-cited claim that
when French philosophers begin to think they think in German—or by implication think about
Heidegger, or even within the ambit of Heidegger's thought—it indicates that French thought will be
even more robust, and accordingly able to grow in new and different ways, when it has finally
examined its own Heideggerianism. For to the extent that Heidegger still forms the horizon of French
philosophy, to appreciate the limits of his thought is to go beyond Heidegger and hence beyond French
philosophy. But this move beyond Heidegger is, however, necessary if French thought is to advance
beyond its present level.
The French discussion is an extreme example of the problem posed by the reception of
Heidegger's Nazism. For a variety of reasons, philosophers in general, not just Heideggerians, have
been slow in confronting Heidegger's Nazism. Now the process of the understanding of the thought of
any important thinker, of someone who breaks new ground in a significant sense, cannot be
immediate since new ways must be found to comprehend the genuinely novel aspects of the position.
But Heidegger's Nazism is deeply rooted in, indeed basic to, his philosophy, which cannot be
comprehended in isolation from his political turning. At least since De Waelhens, a number of
Heideggerians, particularly in France, although elsewhere as well, have insisted that the link between
Heidegger's philosophy and politics can be understood only by someone so
― 281 ―
deeply versed in Heidegger's thought as to be a follower of the master. If we accept this claim, then
the result is still another paradox, which can be formulated as follows: only a Heideggerian can grasp
Heidegger's thought, including the relation between Heidegger's Nazism and his philosophy; but as our
discussion of the French debate illustrates, the link between Heidegger's Nazism and his philosophy
can only be grasped from a vantage point located outside of Heidegger's position. It follows, then, on
this Heideggerian hypothesis for the understanding of Heidegger's thought, that Heidegger's political
engagement is literally beyond criticism: for either it can only be understood by Heideggerians, who
cannot confront the problem within the framework of Heidegger's own theory, to which they are
committed; or it must be understood by non-Heideggerians who, according to the Heideggerian claim
about understanding Heidegger, also cannot understand it. The result, then, of the Heideggerian view
of Heidegger is to render this aspect of Heidegger's thought strictly unknowable, a kind of thing in
itself, a theory about which anything can be believed but nothing can be known.
This result, which follows from the Heideggerian approach to Heidegger, is obviously
unsatisfactory, since it suggests that in the final analysis a careful, responsible, but critical reception of
the complex issues raised by Heidegger's turning on the basis of his thought to National Socialism is
impossible. On the contrary, I believe that we can best, and perhaps only, understand Heidegger's
position, including his Nazism, if we are informed about it but also not committed to it as in principle
correct. The preceding discussion has shown that Heidegger's thought cannot be understood apart
from his Nazism, but that his Nazism cannot be comprehended by those unconditionally committed to
the truth of his thought. If Heidegger's Nazism cannot be grasped by someone already committed to

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his thought and if his Nazism is integral to his philosophy, then his philosophy, including his Nazism,
can finally best be understood, and perhaps only grasped at all, by someone prepared, without
presuppositions or prior commitments, to let the conceptual chips fall where they may, but not by
someone whose main investment is in the defense of Heidegger's thought.
― 282 ―
Being, the Volk, and Nazism
Interpretations of Heidegger's Nazism
In this book we have examined the nature and significance of the relation between Heidegger's Nazism
and philosophy. There is a maximally wide range of opinion encompassing virtually all possible views
of this relation. While aware of the various views, I have attempted to steer an independent course
through examination of the full range of Heidegger materials now available for scholarly study.
At present—leaving aside the widespread idea that the best way to deal with the problem is to
ignore it—we can isolate six main lines of analysis
[1] of Heidegger's philosophy and Nazism in the
Heidegger literature: First, there is Adorno's extreme view that everything that Heidegger ever said
and did was Nazi to the core.
[2] Second, there is the conviction that Nazism is not Nazism, most
prominently associated with Beaufret, through his acceptance of the French historian Faurisson's
radical form of historical revisionism, in fact a denial of the historical reality of National Socialism.
Third, there is the idea, now most prominently represented by Fédier, that Heidegger is not
responsible for the political consequences of Nazism since they could not have been foreseen. [4]
Fourth, there is the belief, following Heidegger's own view of the matter, that Heidegger's Nazism was
merely an insignificant moment in his biography unrelated to his thought, developed by Aubenque [5]
and Vietta, [6] and hinted at by Habermas [7] and Rorty, [8] based on a distinction in kind between
― 283 ―
the thinker and Heidegger the man. Fifth, there is the claim—rooted in Heidegger's conception of the
turning in his thought—due mainly to Derrida
[9] and Lacoue-Labarthe, [10] that Heidegger's early
thought led to Nazism, but his later thought led away from it, a reading presupposing a break between
the earlier and the later Heidegger. Sixth, there is the organic analysis, presented by Löwith,
[11] and
more recently by Bourdieu, [12] Janicaud, [13] Zimmerman, [14] Wolin, [15] Thomä, [16] and myself,
according to which Heidegger's philosophical thought and his Nazism are inseparable.
With the exception of Beaufret's effort, quite mad at this late date, to deny the historical reality of
Nazism, the various lines of analysis tending to exculpate Heidegger's Nazism were suggested by
Heidegger as part of his effort after the Second World War to limit the damage to himself and to his
thought, and then only later adopted by his followers. The views that Heidegger is not responsible for
his adherence to Nazism, that his Nazism was meaningless, or that he later moved away from Nazism
are all claims that he himself raises. The central point at issue, of course, on which all of these
explanatory models divide, is how to understand the relation between Heidegger's Nazism and his
philosophical thought. My basic response is to argue that any interpretation of Heidegger's Nazism
which denies the intrinsic link between his theory of Being and his Nazi politics is unable to
comprehend the origin of his Nazism, which becomes a merely inexplicable, contingent fact; and it is
unable as well to comprehend the later development of Heidegger's thought, specifically including its
turning beyond philosophy. In short, whatever their respective virtues, the other lines of analysis all
fall short of accounting for central items required in any comprehensive interpretation of Heidegger's
Nazism and philosophy.
It is important to be clear about what is being said, since one of the favorite strategies to defend
Heidegger's thought consists in equating any criticism of it with a simple dismissal of its value in
general in order then to dismiss the criticism of the position. This protective mechanism should be
seen for what it is: an effort to remove Heidegger's position from critical evaluation, to prevent it from
being addressed in the normal course of discussion as part of the process of reception of an important

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body of thought. There is no suggestion here that Heidegger's thought can merely be reduced to his
Nazism or even to politics. What I am suggesting is that for Heidegger, ontology and politics are
basically conjoined. For a denial of the historical reality of Nazism, which underlies the second
approach, is simply not credible, no more so than assertions that the earth is flat. If the exculpation of
Heidegger's Nazism depends on the demonstration of the unreality of Nazism, then it would seem that
no such argument can reasonably be made.
The third and fourth approaches, which are variations on the theme
― 284 ―
of the supposed difference in kind beween Heidegger the man and Heidegger the thinker, are refuted
by examination of Heidegger's texts. Study of his thought, and what he says about it, shows that
Heidegger was also led to Nazism on the basis of his philosophical position, as he himself admitted. His
Nazi turning is, then, not merely due to external factors, such as the decline of the Weimar Republic,
and the concern with reactionary German Volksideologie , nor to his inability to comprehend politics,
nor even to his psychological need to achieve a powerful position in the German university. None of
these factors should be omitted from a comprehensive analysis. Yet from the narrow philosophical
perspective, the decisive point is the political nature of Heidegger's ontology which led him into the
realm of practice, and toward Nazism as an authoritarian political conception compatible with, and
made necessary by, his own view of Being. The effort to pry apart Heidegger the thinker and
Heidegger the man should further be rejected on Heideggerian grounds as inconsistent with the theory
it intends to defend. It is because there is an intrinsic link between Heidegger's philosophical position
and his Nazism that from a philosophical perspective nothing, nothing at all would have been altered
had Heidegger simply said it was all a mistake, that he was sorry about his acceptance of Nazism, that
it was all a dreadful mistake in judgment, and so on. Heidegger's acceptance of Nazism is surely a
contingent fact, since it might have been the case that Nazism had not existed. Yet his thought literally
demands some type of antidemocratic, totalitarian politics in virtue of his own conception of Being. For
Heidegger's ontology and politics are intrinsically and inseparably linked through his conception of
authenticity, his lifelong quasi-Platonic understanding of the political vocation of the thinker of Being,
and his commitment to the destiny of the German Volk , all aspects of his understanding of Being.
The fifth line of analysis, which is particularly prominent in the French discussion, depends on a
supposed discontinuity in the evolution of Heidegger's position, based on the interpretation of the
turning in his thought as a break. This approach, which is presently the most philosophically
sophisticated alternative to the organic approach favored here, presents a subtle restatement of
Heidegger's own effort to protect his thought by invoking the conception of the turning, understood as
turning over a new conceptual leaf, so to speak. But the suggestion that the turning represents a
break between Heidegger's early and later thought, between Heidegger I and II as it were, is clearly
refuted through the obvious continuity of his intellectual development and through his own
understanding of the turning as a deepening of his theory of Being beyond the original beginning
through the introduction of a new beginning.
― 285 ―
In arguing for a break in Heidegger's thought—similar to the supposed, but finally fictitious, break in
Marx's development recently popular in French Marxism—Heidegger's French adherents take seriously
Heidegger's suggestion in the "Letter on Humanism" that there has been a turning in his thought, in
fact a reversal. There is an obvious analogy between the view that Heidegger's turning constitutes a
fundamental break and Marxism's traditional view of Marx's supposed materialism as the reversal of
Hegelian idealism, as a break between Marxism and philosophy. Yet Marx's thought does not reverse
Hegel's, and Marx's later position develops further but does not break with his own earlier theory.
Similarly, Heidegger's later theory of Being carries further, develops, modifies, transforms, but does
not break with, his earlier thought. As study of Heidegger's texts show, above all the recently
published Beiträge zur Philosophie , Heidegger understood the concept of the turning as a further
development but not as a break in his thought.
Heidegger's thought exhibits a continuous development, but certain aspects of his position remain
virtually unchanged. The idea of the Volk as an authentic community, which Heidegger takes over from
German Volksideologie and grounds philosophically in Being and Time in his conception of plural
authenticity, remains a permanent part of his position throughout its later development. Beginning
with the rectoral address, Heidegger continues to hold one or more versions of the venerable Platonic
view that philosophy can found politics as the necessary condition of the good life, as the real
presupposition of the radiant future. Heidegger never abandoned the familiar philosophical conviction

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in the cognitive privilege of philosophy, what after the turning in his position became new thought,
with its familiar link to antidemocratic, totalitarian politics.
I favor the sixth, organic line of analysis of Heidegger's philosophy and politics as integrally, in fact
inseparably, connected. In my view, none of the other approaches to this theme can provide a
satisfactory account of what is now known, above all the durable nature of Heidegger's concern with
the destiny of the Germans, his tardy insistence when it was no longer even advantageous on the
misunderstood essence of Nazism. In their own ways, each of the other approaches to this problem
also overestimates the importance of Heidegger's connection to National Socialism, that is real Nazism.
There is a widespread tendency in the debate about Heidegger's politics to analyze its relation to
Nazism mainly or solely in terms of his link to real National Socialism. Yet this tendency is wrong on
two counts. For it fails to consider the possibility that Heidegger's allegiance to Nazism was always to
his own, idiosyncratic idea of Nazism. And it further ignores Heidegger's later, more consistent, and
certainly deeper fidelity to an ideal form of Nazism.
― 286 ―
It is important to understand the limits of Heidegger's initial, enthusiastic commitment to National
Socialism. Although Heidegger became a member of the NSDAP and a Nazi in that sense, starting in
1933 he continued to insist on the cognitive privilege of his "philosophy," to found authentic politics.
Even after his resignation as rector, he never abandoned, or even dampened, the enthusiasm about
destiny of the Germans, which he initially shared with real National Socialism, and which he continued
to seek in his ideal concept of National Socialism. Derrida is correct that Heidegger's thought is open
to a whole variety of Nazisms,
[17] both real and imaginary. Yet Derrida does not appear sufficiently
aware of Heidegger's later writings, especially the important Beiträge zur Philosophie . This explains
his failure to realize that Heidegger's Nazism did not disappear in Heidegger's later thought, in which it
remained a central component in imaginary, ideal form.
Even real Nazism is more present in Heidegger's later thought than is often understood. Stress on
the later development of Heidegger's theory is often employed to suggest a clean break with real
Nazism. Yet Heidegger's later view of Being after the turning conserves important elements of
continuity with some National Socialist views. Consider, for example, the following passage from an
article by Ernst Krieck, a leading philosophical theoretician of the Nazi Weltanschauung :
The revolutionary upheaval made itself known in a dispacement of emphasis. Instead of the individual person, the
völkische whole is central, as a result of which the basic reality of life comes into view.... The individual does not arrive at
his worldview through reason according to his individual situation and inclination to arbitariness and choice. Rather, we
are subject to the movement of forces over us and directed in common. We do not seize, but we are seized and
If we overlook the idea of a Weltanschauung , which Heidegger consistently rejected, common
elements between this Nazi view and Heidegger's later thought, after the supposed turn away from his
earlier thought and Nazism, include a displacement of emphasis from the individual to the group taken
as a whole, the reliance on extrarational forces which we do not choose, but which choose us and
operate through us, and so on.
Heidegger invokes and never abandons the destiny of the Germans in virtue of his theory of Being.
His position, even in its later formulation, turns on the authentic thought of Being. According to
Heidegger, metaphysics, his later name for an inauthentic form of ontology, tends to cover up, or to
hide, an authentic understanding of Being. If the authentic thought of Being requires authenticity, if
authenticity is defined as the
― 287 ―
acceptance of one's being as defined by the concern with Being, and if the only metaphysical people is
the German people which alone can know Being as the true heirs of the Greeks, then there is an easy,
obvious transition from Heidegger's ontology to the concern with the German Volk . Heidegger's
position, Nazism, German Volk ideology, and the interest throughout the Weimar Republic in the
resurrection of a Germany still suffering from the effects of the First World War come together in the
desire for a vibrant development of the German people. The problem is not due to Heidegger's political
naïveté; nor can it merely be ascribed to a casual interest in a political phenomenon; nor is it due to a
change from his initial view of Being to a view of Being as historical and destinal, to a change in the
initial view; rather it is due to the initial view itself as Heidegger understood it. Perhaps Heidegger's
theory of Being can be interpreted in different ways; perhaps one can argue, as he himself argued

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about others' theories, that Heidegger did not understand his own theory or that others failed to
understand it; but this is the way in which Heidegger comprehended it, in my view correctly
understood it.
The conception of the German Volk , which Heidegger stressed, means different things from
different perspectives. What for the Nazis was a step to world domination was for the average German
a way to restore self-esteem, a means to correct the perceived injustices of the First World War, even
a way to win back what was lost in the war and perhaps finally to win the war. For Heidegger, it is
mainly a means for the authentic thought of Being. Hence, the problem does not lie in Heidegger's
Nazism but in his ontology, on whose soil his Nazism flourished. Specifically, the problem follows from
his assumption that genuine ontology required a certain purity of mind, what he called authenticity, an
effort to be oneself, not in order to overcome alienation, for that was never Heidegger's goal, but
rather in order authentically to think Being. Heidegger's Nazism should not be excused as merely
momentary or meaningless. For it was not momentary, a mere incident; and it is philosophically
meaningful within the context of his ontology. Yet the basic problem does not lie in Heidegger's
Nazism, which is an effect of a deeper cause, but in his theory of Being, which requires for its
realization an authentic subject.
Heidegger is an important, perhaps even a great thinker. Yet if Nazism is significant, his thought is
fundamentally flawed. The problem of Being has no necessary connection with Nazism, but
Heidegger's view of the problem points directly to this or similar kinds of political practice. It is not a
simple accident, a merely contingent fact that Heidegger's effort to reawaken the long-forgotten
question of Being leads seamlessly to Nazism and his consistent but finally grotesque comprehension
of Na-
― 288 ―
zism as a necessary step to the authentic comprehension of Being. If human being is important, if at
this late date human being is more important than Being, then the project of the authentic thought of
Being is intrinsically compromised. It is time, then, to reaffirm human being, which Heidegger
sacrificed in the name of the thought of Being. For we need to hold fast to humanism, if necessary
even by renouncing an antihumanism intended to lead to Being through the way station of Nazi
barbarism, hence to renounce a thought of Being which denies and necessarily denies human Being.
This problem is not ameliorated but only complicated by the character of the Heidegger reception,
which has not always been worthy of the reputation of philosophy as the main form of the search for
truth. While some have sought for truth in disinterested fashion, others have sought to protect
themselves, their reputations, their investment in what must be true to uphold their views of
Heidegger and of themselves. Still others have routinely reaffirmed the traditional philosophical claim
that philosophical theories occur in time but are not of time, that if they are determined by anything at
all, it is only by other theories in a form of epistemological behaviorism. It is held that philosophy, say
Heidegger's philosophy, has nothing to do with the type of person one is. Heidegger, we are told, was
a bad person, a terrible man, ein richtiges Schwein , but his thought is completely independent of who
he was.
This fashionable "liberal" approach is based more on a reaffirmation of the traditional dogma of
philosophy as independent of the context in which it arises than on careful study of the Heideggerian
texts. It avoids coming to grips with the harder issues that arise as soon as one realizes that thought
in general belongs to time. For Heidegger contributes powerfully to the demise of the traditional
philosophical dogma of the independence of thought and time, and the depths of Heidegger's own
thought literally can only be plumbed against the background of the period in which it arose.
At this late date, at least two things should be clear to anyone who examines the relevant
writings: Heidegger's theory, like that of most important thinkers, was never static, never fixed in final
form, always under way. Yet as examination of Heidegger's writings has shown, Heidegger's Nazism is
deeply seated in his thought, so profoundly rooted as to remain unchanged throughout evolution of his
position over forty-two years from the end of his rectorate to the end of his life; and the philosophical
discussion of his political engagement both during and after the rector-ate has often contrived to
conceal rather than to reveal his Nazism. The remaining task is to build on this knowledge, to examine
the philosophical significance of Heidegger's Nazism and the complex discussion to which it has given
rise both for Heidegger's thought and for philosophy.
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Heidegger's Nazism and the Limits of His Philosophy
Heidegger's Nazism and the failure to confront it are philosophically significant for Heidegger's
philosophy, for its reception, and for philosophy itself. At a time when some are still concerned to deny
the existence of the Holocaust, in effect to deny that Nazism was Nazism, and many still deny that
Nazism had a more than tangential appeal to one of the most significant theories of this century,
merely to assert the philosophical significance of an abject philosophical failure to seize the historical
moment for the German Volk and Being is not likely to win the day. Yet there is something absurd,
even grotesque about the conjunction of the statement that Heidegger is an important, even a great
philosopher, perhaps one of the few seminal thinkers in the history of the tradition, with the realization
that he, like many of his followers, entirely failed, in fact failed in the most dismal manner, to grasp or
even to confront Nazism. If philosophy is its time captured in thought, and if Heidegger and his
epigones have basically failed to grasp their epoch, can we avoid the conclusion that they have also
failed this test, failed as philosophers?
Since even those thinkers who hold that we need to begin again, to begin from the beginning, rely
on a reading of the history of the philosophical tradition, philosophy is inseparable from its past. If
philosophy is a historical discipline, then it is unavoidably under obligation to come to grips with what
has come before in order to progress. Yet it is significant that after some twenty-five hundred years of
practice, there are no widely accepted standards as to how to judge prior philosophical views. In the
absence of clear guidelines, we can measure the failure of Heidegger and some of his students to
come to grips with Nazism in his thought or even with Nazism as it existed, parenthetically like so
many other philosophers and academics in general, against the idea of the philosophical pursuit
offered by the philosophers themselves.
At the dawn of the Western tradition, a flattering view of philosophy was formulated as the
ultimate source of truth and social goodness, as the only way to know in an ultimate sense and as
indispensable for the good life. The question of what philosophy can know finds a partial response in
an assessment of what Heidegger in fact knew and what he claimed to know. He claimed to know how
to go about arriving at an authentic thought of Being, and perhaps how to think Being, as well as to be
able to interpret the present and even the future through Jünger's reading of Nietzsche's philosophy.
At the end of the Second World War, he foresaw difficult times ahead; but by then he was scarcely
alone in that perception. He was also hardly isolated in his initial enthusiasm for Nazism as the express
route to German greatness, a misapprehension
― 290 ―
widely shared by the literati—among them candidates for the title of master thinker, heirs to the great
German philosophical tradition in our time—and the illiterati, the uneducated, many of whom were
equally mistaken about the prospects of the Nazi movement. It is sobering to realize, despite
Heidegger's claims as a philosophical seer, a prophet of Being, that his theory was of no comparative
advantage when it came time to confront the present and to foresee its consequences. Although
Heidegger reacted against nihilism as early as the rectoral address, in the same talk he publicly threw
in his lot with a leading example of nihilism in our troubled century.
There is an old view that the thinker needs to preserve a distance, to be alienated from reality in
order to know it. Supposedly, it is because one is distant from what one wants to know, not caught up
within it, that objectivity becomes possible; out of the distance one is paradoxically nearer to what one
seeks to know. Similarly, Heidegger insists in his own way that the thinker needs to withdraw, to be
oneself alone, in order to be able to know Being. Yet if we discount bad faith as an explanation, in
which case anything is possible, Heidegger genuinely did not seem to know, never seemed to
recognize, that there was something absolutely new about Nazism, which made it different in kind
from, and for that reason literally incomparable with, anything else. Here and there one can point to a
word, even a sentence in his wider corpus, that perhaps indicates an obscure awareness of the
problem. But even to allow this kind of interpretative license, in order retrospectively to isolate in
Heidegger's voluminous writings a passage or two in his works that might charitably be read as
showing a minimal sensitivity to the issues, is in effect to confirm the essential poverty of his
understanding of the entire Nazi phenomenon.
The problem posed by Nazism is a human problem in the most basic meaning of the term
"human." It is widely known that Nazism posed a decisive threat to values, to human beings, to the
democratic form of life, to the idea of human and racial equality, to concepts of mutual tolerance—in
short, was a menace to the small advances of human beings concerned to realize, as Hegel put it, the
idea of freedom. Heidegger either could not understand or was unconcerned with the problem posed
by Nazism to human beings since he consistently offered the main role to Being. Heidegger's

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philosophy is rooted in his antihumanistic subordination of human being to Being, to which he
subordinated his own entire life, and to which his students on occasion seem willing to subordinate
themselves and others in the increasingly unavailing effort to excuse Heidegger the philosopher and
sometimes even Heidegger the man. Heidegger's understanding of the problem of Being required him
― 291 ―
to reject values and anything linked to value as incompatible with thought in the deepest sense, which
is limited to contemplation of the idea of Being. According to Heidegger, any concept of value is
inextricably linked to the philosophies of the worldview which are philosophy in name only, since they
fall below the genuine thought necessary to think Being.
It is often said by Heidegger's supporters that his later thought is a confrontation with Nazism.
Heidegger himself makes this claim more than once. It is also possible that Heidegger's claim
expressed his deep conviction and not merely what it was convenient to state, that it was not finally a
statement of what the many in their unwisdom desired to hear from him. Heidegger may sincerely
have believed that he was confronting Nazism. But he did not and could not since his thought of Being,
as he understood it, required him to turn away from human values and human being. Yet Nazism's
threat to human values and human beings cannot be usefully understood through the lens provided by
technology or even inauthentic metaphysics. The reason why Heidegger's critique of Nazism is limited
precisely and solely to its philosophical status, its character as a Weltanschauung that falls short of
philosophy as he conceives it, is that this is the only aspect of the problem which falls within the
domain of "philosophy" or authentic thought as Heidegger understood it. In a position that puts Being
before human being, and argues that Being is literally the only question, there is literally no way to
differentiate the extermination of people in gas chambers from agricultural technology. As his
statement of this point makes clear, Heidegger's position simply does not possess the conceptual
resources necessary for this end. If to name reality is the paramount philosophical task, Heidegger's
thought suffers from its paradoxical incapacity, despite its emphasis on concreteness, to do so.
Heidegger's philosophical insight is accompanied by a pervasive blindness to what perhaps is
visible to almost everyone, with the possible exception of those rare individuals who at this late date
continue to deny the existence or the importance of the Holocaust. A novel philosophical position
offers a perspective that uncovers whole new regions of thought, vast domains that become salient
through the formulation of new ideas that circumscribe and give meaning to regions they literally
render visible. Heidegger's thought, as he repeatedly emphasized, was limited to the single task of
thinking Being. In Heidegger's wake, a whole cottage industry of philosophers has arisen who share his
view that Being is the central question of the discipline. But the same perspective that has uncovered
the problem of Being for our time also conceals while it reveals, covering up from view what for most
of us is so starkly
― 292 ―
visible. It is difficult to know what is more important: Heidegger's insight in uncovering Being or his
blindness to Nazism which lay concealed to his ontological gaze.
Heidegger's embarrassment reflects the limits of his thought. A painter might reasonably be
expected to focus on painting and all that pertains to it, as would a literary critic with literary topics.
An issue such as Nazism falls outside the immediate ken of painting or literary criticism. Yet it would
be surprising if either a painter or a literary critic not only did not but in fact could not find a way to
evoke the most significant example of moral and political evil in this century. If philosophy were
peculiarly handicapped in this regard, we would need to think seriously about what we could expect
from the love of wisdom. Fortunately, this strange forgetfulness has not afflicted the entire community
or even very many among us. Heidegger objected to the forgetfulness of Being (Seinsvergessenheit ).
Yet if attention to Nazism is the criterion, he is the only major thinker who seems to suffer in a
serious, incurable way from an even more important lapse of memory: the forgetfulness of human
being (Menschensvergessenheit ). One need not hold that philosophy is as rigid and unconnected with
reality as schizophrenia
[20] to conclude that something is basically amiss in philosophy if a major
representative neither notices nor can notice the series of issues raised by Nazism.
Heidegger's claim for the significance of his thought is based on the idea that in Being he has
uncovered the forgotten, central question of philosophy. Yet Heidegger's approach to metaphysics is
preferable to others, such as those defended in our time by Kant and Hegel, only if we accept it as
normative. His view of Being is an illustration of the contemporary thought of Being, more precisely
the contemporary reading of what he regarded as the recapturing of the original insight into Being. But
there is a difficulty in Heidegger's inability to engage the contemporary epoch in a more direct way.

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The Socratic view of philosophy is intended to respond to the felt need to examine life. But Heidegger's
position fails the Socratic test since, despite its frequently repeated claims about insight into concrete
human being, life is merely a secondary theme that must inevitably be sacrificed for a deeper concern.
Heidegger later realized that his thought required him to reject not only Cartesianism but
Platonism in all its forms. But we need to reaffirm the value of the Socratic stress on critical thought
about human existence. A lesson of the behavior of intellectuals in this century is that it is too easy to
invoke mitigating circumstances in which intellectuals account for the abandonment of the critical
intellectual role, such as the supposed political incompetence of philosophers.
[21] What an intellectual
of any kind needs to do, including a philosopher, even in difficult circumstances, is to contribute to
separating the intellectual wheat from the
― 293 ―
rhetorical chaff, to continue, as philosophers have always done, to separate good arguments from bad
ones. In his thought, Heidegger claimed to be critical with respect to a tradition that covered up and
hence served to obscure genuine insights about Being. We in turn need to be critical about this claim
in order to judge it on its merits since not to do so is to contribute to the consequences of this
thought, albeit unwillingly, and to abnegate our intellectual responsibility.
What we can hope for from philosophy depends as much on the way we exercise our intellectual
responsibility as on philosophy itself. It is becoming ever clearer, if it was not clear already, that
philosophy is not what it seems and seems to be what it is not and cannot be. Despite the flattering
image of their discipline which philosophers have long presented, it is not in itself a source of perfect
knowledge, nor intrinsically linked with virtue. It is merely one way among others, with no particular
cognitive privilege of any obvious kind, to contribute to the truth and perhaps to serve the good.
Despite the urging of others in the discussion, we cannot simply turn away from Heidegger's turn
to Nazism—that is, not if we still desire to understand his thought. Heidegger obscurely held that his
thought went back behind the distinction of theory and practice,
[23] although he continued to insist
even in his later position on the political relevance of his thought. Yet Heidegger's view of thought as
retaining the relevance of pure theory, which satisfies our desire to know, nonetheless falls below the
standard supposedly ingredient in all the other sciences: the human good. For even if we accept the
idea of a good for the German people, a good that is one only for them is obviously not the general
human good. And how are we to make out the claim that the question of Being is the central question
of human history?
Heidegger's Thought, Its Reception, and the Role of the Intellectual
A different point, concerning the responsibility of intellectuals, needs to be made about the frequent
failure in the Heidegger literature to come to grips with Heidegger's Nazism. [24] The French discussion
is an extreme example of the problem posed by the reception of Heidegger's Nazism. Philosophers in
general, not just Heideggerians, have been slow in confronting this theme for all the reasons already
cited. Although certainly less gifted than the master, Heidegger's interpreters have a comparative
advantage which they need to exploit. Philosophy as such is essentially critical since its role is not to
celebrate but to know. Yet philosophy only remains critical in the continual effort to uncover
― 294 ―
and to evaluate previously undisclosed presuppositions. Heidegger manifests his commitment to this
view in two ways: in his effort, in confronting another thinker's thought, to think what is unthought, to
bring to light what is still obscure within it; and in the long conceptual journey, leading from what he
later came to call the first beginning to the other beginning, which is in fact a journey back behind the
original formulation of his thought of Being through its presuppositions to a deeper approach to Being.
When philosophers fail even to make this attempt, they cross the fragile line separating their
discipline from theology, the study of revealed truth. Like all positions, Heidegger's reflects and
embodies themes current in the context in which it took shape. Obviously, the capacity of any thinker
to engage the surrounding conceptual framework is limited by one's very nearness to the themes that
prevail at any given moment. It is difficult even for a gifted thinker to come to grips with ideas and
concepts that shape one's consciousness at any given moment but of which one may be at most only
dimly aware. But philosophy demands that one who would interpret Heidegger do battle with what is
unthought in his position—with an idea or ideas, as Kant would say, which he knows how to employ
but which he may not have been able to make clear to himself or analyze correctly.

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Heidegger's responsibility in his unquestioning acceptance of many of the themes of the Weimar
Republic is tempered by the way in which his personal fate was inextricably linked to the events of the
time. But the immediate proximity that hinders Heidegger's appreciation of his surroundings cannot be
invoked by later interpreters of his thought, who enjoy the advantage of a temporal and cultural
remove. The recent discussion of Heidegger's Nazism provoked by Farias and Ott is not a mere
episode in the reception of his thought, a trend we are at liberty to accept or reject as we like.
Obviously, all is not yet known and may never be known about Heidegger's Nazism. Nonetheless,
enough is now known to make it less than fully philosophical, even intellectually irresponsible, to
continue as before, to go on reading Heidegger's texts without so much as acknowledging the
significance of his Nazism.
Ironically, the desire to understand Heidegger in an apolitical way by putting his Nazism in
parentheses threatens the possibility of the comprehension it wishes to preserve, the comprehension
of his thought of Being. If it is ever the case that philosophy and politics are separable, it is not true
with respect to Heidegger, since his political commitment and his thought are inseparable. Obviously,
someone who has important new ideas cannot be understood immediately since a way must be found
to comprehend a position that differs significantly from previous views. If this is true, then no original
thinker is ever grasped without an inter-
― 295 ―
vening process of reception since a claim to instant comprehension can only be based on a
misunderstanding. Perhaps, then, we have not yet fully grasped Heidegger's thought. Perhaps his view
is so original that we still lack adequate ways to understand it. Whether or not this is true, it is obvious
that no one's thought can be comprehended if an essential element is omitted. In Heidegger's case,
his Nazism is indeed an essential element, without which his position is literally incomprehensible. It
follows that those who are concerned to protect Heidegger's position by any conceptual means at all
often do not, in fact cannot, fully understand what they intend to shield. Their actions indicate more a
commitment on faith than a grasp of the ideas.
The failure to come to grips with Heidegger's Nazism is further important for philosophy. The only
difference between the reception of Heidegger's position and others lies in the public controversy to
which his Nazism has given rise. If our reading of the prior tradition, our reception of earlier views,
merely provides what we wanted to believe, then it is mainly useful as a form of reassurance.
Certainly, in that sense the failure to engage Heidegger's Nazism stands for the incapacity of
philosophy as some have understood it to make good on its promise to supply truth and, accordingly,
to be useful in a general sense.
Can we speak of guilt with respect to or following from Heidegger's Nazism? If we employ
Jaspers's useful fourfold distinction,
[26] we must immediately exclude criminal guilt since, to the best
of my knowledge, there is no evidence that Heidegger ever violated a criminal statute. If one is
responsible for the form of government under which one lives, certainly Heidegger, although not
necessarily his defenders, must bear the responsibility of voluntarily submitting to Nazism. Heidegger
must also accept the moral guilt deriving from certain questionable acts committed because of his Nazi
affiliation, such as the denunciations of Baumgarten and Staudinger, perhaps also his questionable
behavior in respect to Husserl. Since definitive proof of Heidegger's anti-Semitism, which his followers
have denied for decades, has only recently come to light,
[27] we cannot exclude the possibility that
other revelations may yet be forthcoming.
There is further a deeper, more pervasive so-called metaphysical guilt shared by Heidegger and
those followers who excuse his Nazism for whatever reason. If one can speak of solidarity among
human beings, then whoever identifies in any fashion with a movement that exalts one group above
another, unquestionably the aim of Nazi ideology, shares a metaphysical guilt. If it is wrong to
comprehend Heidegger's thought in a reductive fashion, to reduce it to Nazism, then it is equally
wrong to exempt him from responsibility and blame for what he did in his turning toward National
Socialism. And if it is important to comprehend the
― 296 ―
Nazi constituent of his thought in order to maintain solidarity with everyone excluded by the Nazi
option, then all of us concerned with Heidegger bear a responsibility to examine this aspect and a
blame for failing to do so.
Heidegger interpreted Nietzsche's racism as not biological but metaphysical.
[28] Whatever his own
racial views may have been, one must wonder if Heidegger's concern with the German as a distinct

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historical entity is a form of philosophical, even metaphysical "racism" based on the exaltation of this
people alone among all others. In his "Letter on Humanism," Heidegger maintained that "every
humanism is either grounded in a metaphysics or made to be one,"
[29] and he further offered his own
"humanism that thinks the humanity of man from nearness to Being."[30] If all humanisms are
metaphysical, then so also is Heidegger's. His specific attachment to the Volk as a potentially authentic
community presupposes an intrinsic superiority of the Germans as German above all other
contemporary peoples. What I am calling Heidegger's metaphysical "racism"—which is neither
[31] nor anti-Semitic as such— surpasses a merely nationalistic attachment to the German
people in his conviction that the Germans are the true heirs to undistorted Greek metaphysics, the
idea that philosophy in the deepest sense can only be thought in German, the claim that only the
Germans can save us from the decline of the West, and so on, in short in the conception of the
specifically German as a different and better human species, alone adequate to Being, and in his
implicit denigration, for the same reasons, of others.
What are we to say about Heidegger's view of Nazism? There is a tendency, since Heidegger is
also a powerful philosopher, to accord disproportionate respect to his ideas in areas where he has no
comparative advantage. Certainly, one of these areas is his conception of Nazism, and his related
claims to understand the present and to foresee the future. In this crucial respect, Heidegger's
correspondence with Jaspers is illuminating. In a letter to Jaspers, he finally admits that in 1933 and
earlier the Jews and the left-wing politicians, who were directly menaced by events, saw further than
he did; and he privately accepts the existentialist conception of blame for the acts of the individual. In
respect to Stalin, Heidegger writes:
Stalin does not need to declare war any more. He wins a battle every day. But "one" does not see it. For us there is no
possible evasion. And every word and every text is in itself a counterattack, if all this does not play itself out in the
sphere of the "political," which is itself long since outwitted through other relations of Being and leads [only] a false
― 297 ―
And he continues:
Despite all, dear Jaspers, despite death and tears, despite suffering and horror, despite need and torment, despite
landlessness and exile, in this lack of a homeland it is not that nothing occurs; here is hidden an Advent, whose most
distant hint we can perhaps experience and must take up in [the form of] a mild [wind] blowing, in order to preserve it
for a future, which no historical construction, above all not the contemporary one, most certainly not one that thinks in
technical ways, will decipher.
Jaspers's response, written by a fellow philosopher and friend, who unfortunately greeted the
rectoral address as a conceptual breakthrough surpassing Nietzsche, is important. After quoting the
passage about Stalin, Jaspers writes in part:
To read something like this frightens me. If you were in front of me, as decades ago so today you would experience my
flood of words in anger and plea for reason. I find the questions urgent: Is [not] such a view of things through their
imprecision the promotion of ruin? Isn't the possibility of doing whatever is possible spoiled by the appearance of the
greatness of such visions? . . . Isn't the power of evil in Germany also what has steadily grown and in fact prepared the
victory of Stalin: the covering up and the forgetting of what has occurred, the new so-called nationalism, the return to
the old ways of thought and all the ghosts, which, although null and void, ruin us? Is not this power the imprecision in all
thought (imprecise because it accompanies the life and activity of the thinker)? Is not a philosophy, which one perceives
and composes in such propositions in your letter, that which brings about the vision of the monstrous, again the
preparation of the victory of the totalitarian in that it separates itself from reality?
And Jaspers continues, after citing Heidegger's passage on the Advent, as follows:
My fright grew as I read this. It is, so far as I can think, pure fantasy, in line with so many other fantasies, which, each
"in its own time"—has made fools of us during this half century. Do you mean to come forward as a prophet, who shows
the transcendent from hidden knowledge, as a philosopher, who was misled through reality? Who neglects the possible
for fictions? The same questions can be put to your views of full power and preservation.
I submit that Jaspers's alarmed reaction to Heidegger's troubling view of social reality is
essentially correct. There is something irrational, fantastic, and frightening in Heidegger's conviction
that the future of the
― 298 ―

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German people could be attained through real National Socialism, even more in his later insistence on
an ideal form of Nazism. Beyond Heidegger's psychological inability to confront his mistake, present
even in his continued insistence on what Jaspers correctly diagnoses as Heidegger's
self-characterization of himself as a prophet of Being, whose errors are due to reality itself, there is
Heidegger's obvious inability to provide the concrete analysis of experience, especially social
experience, for which he increasingly substituted a complex mythology.
Despite his undeniable philosophical capacities, Heidegger's thought is weakened by his evident
failure to understand the world in which he lived, for which he increasingly substituted a rich fantasy
that he presented as ultimate reality itself. Whatever the merits of Heidegger's original position, its
later evolution is also an increasing turning away from the concrete analysis of the world he sought in
his fundamental ontology, whose grasp was increasingly impeded and imperiled by the conceptual
framework meant to interpret it. There is no reason to believe that anyone, including a philosopher,
even a gifted philosopher has direct access to "reality," however that term is understood. Yet if
philosophy still has meaning for the good life, it must continue to strive to name reality, mindful of the
danger that what appears most evident and even true might still be illusion. The role of the
philosopher and all intellectuals can only be to speak the truth as best we can, to defend the
distinction between blindness and insight, to refuse the dangerous confusion between fact and fiction
which has lately become fashionable.
[36] For in the final analysis, we can only do this, we can only
play a responsible role as intellectuals, we can indeed only construct a philosophical theory of social
value on the basis of a true grasp of the world in which we live.
Heidegger's thought finally remains paradoxical. Ever since its origins in ancient Greece, there has
been a flattering view about philosophy making the rounds, which numerous philosophers have been
content to repeat. According to this view, philosophy is the source of reason in the highest sense,
productive of truth and intrinsically linked to goodness. Yet Heidegger failed to come to grips with
Nazism, the main instance of evil in our time, toward which his own thought led. If the true is good
and Nazism is evil, then by implication it is also false, certainly false as a political option. Heidegger's
thought is not useful, and certainly not true when evaluated by its capacity effectively to confront
Nazism. The consequence is a paradox, since it is paradoxical to acknowledge that Heidegger is a
powerful, perhaps even a great philosopher on the one hand and a proponent of Nazism on the other.
But unless we merely overlook Nazism and turn away from a central moral problem of our epoch, it is
not possible to maintain that great philosophy preserves the link between truth and goodness and to
describe Heidegger as a great philosopher.
― 299 ―
Conclusion: On Heidegger's Nazism and Philosophy
For obvious reasons, the present discussion is, in fact must be, provisional. As part of our inability to
understand the relation between thought and action, we do not comprehend the link between
Heidegger the man and Heidegger the thinker. Any effort to elucidate this connection is forced to
develop its own way of going about things, since there is no well-established procedure or even a firm
idea of what that would look like. This discussion is further limited by the unfortunate fact that, even
now, portions of Heidegger's corpus are still unavailable for scholarly study. We cannot exclude the
possibility that writings or documents may later emerge which will alter our present picture of what we
now know about Heidegger's Nazism. Since the documents are held by Heidegger's closest admirers,
presumably everything is already released which tends to exculpate the master. It is more likely that
future publication will chip away little by little at the surrounding wall his unconditional defenders have
erected to shield him from critical discussion. A likely source of incriminating evidence is Heidegger's
correspondence from his period as rector. It is no accident that perhaps alone of all the major
thinkers, the publication of Heidegger's complete works will not include his correspondence.
The basic claims of this essay are that Heidegger's Nazism is influenced by a series of
contemporary factors, particularly German Volk ideology, but is finally based on his philosophy; and
that the later evolution of his philosophy in the period after his service as rector of the University of
Freiburg cannot be understood without, in fact must be understood through, his continued interest in
an ideal form of Nazism. Heidegger stressed the concept of the turning to describe the evolution of his
thought. The relation between his philosophical thought and his Nazism can be understood as a series
of three turnings: an initial turning on the basis of his philosophy to National Socialism as it existed, a
turning in which social, political, and historical factors, including German Volk ideology, and
Heidegger's own philosophy of Being come together; a second turning away from really existent

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National Socialism when Heidegger became aware that the rectorate had failed; and a third
turning—still based on his personal and philosophical acceptance of the manifest destiny of the
German Volk —toward an ideal form of Nazism, from which he never later averted his gaze, and whose
acceptance influenced the later evolution of his theory of Being.
The framework proposed here provides a coherent, plausible reading of the relation between
Heidegger's philosophical thought and his own philosophy. Yet in the present, overheated atmosphere,
in which the
― 300 ―
political stakes are high, in which scholarly careers are tied to the defense of Heidegger the man and
above all Heidegger the thinker, no reading can be judged squarely on its merits. It would be illusory
to anticipate that even best possible study could produce widespread assent, least of all among those
Heidegger scholars who, following the master's lead, have already worked out various strategies for
damage control. Just as Heidegger repeatedly hinted at a confrontation with Nazism but in fact finally
never addressed it otherwise than as a rival theory of Being, there is no reason to forecast that
Heidegger's closest supporters will confront the issues raised by the link between Heidegger's thought
and his Nazism. In short, like the master himself, whenever possible they will continue business as
[37] Yet to do so, to fail to confront this problem, clearly reflects badly not only on Heidegger's
philosophy but on philosophy in general.
As the materials about Heidegger's Nazism continue to accumulate, as the discussion expands, as
more and more philosophers become aware of the complex issues, as we become ever more cognizant
that the Holocaust is a central event of our time from which we cannot simply turn away, it becomes
increasingly difficult, even for Heidegger's closest admirers, simply to pretend that his fateful decision
for National Socialism was, is, or even could be essentially meaningless, or that it might be sufficient
merely to deplore it. The point is emphatically not to discard Heidegger's philosophy, to consign it to
the dustheap of history, as he so candidly consigned the history of ontology he intended to "destroy."
It is rather to understand what remains of value in his thought through a thorough evaluation
comprising all the relevant factors, including his attachment to Nazism.
As the master conception of his later thought is the event, it is appropriate to utilize the event of
his lengthy adherence to Nazism as the turning point for a detailed examination of his entire corpus, to
sift his ideas, to measure their worth, cognizant of the intrinsic link in his philosophical thought
between ontology and politics. The effort to analyze and evaluate the basic concepts is a necessary
part of the arduous process of coming to grips with the theory of an important thinker, someone who
introduces new ideas. In that sense, what is necessary for Heidegger is what is required for any novel
thinker. The difference, however, is that unlike any other philosopher in this century, Heidegger clearly
and unambiguously, on the basis of his philosophical thought, identified with Nazism.
It is too late to expunge Heidegger's Nazism from the historical record or from the interpretation
of his thought. Examination of Hei-
― 301 ―
degger's corpus shows that Heidegger's Nazism, real and ideal, is a permanent feature of his thought
beginning in 1933. To fail to take his Nazism into account in the interpretation of his philosophical and
"postphilosophical" thought, to endeavor to be more friendly to Hei-degger than to the truth, is finally
to distance oneself from the concern with truth.
― 303 ―
Introduction: On Heidegger's Nazism and Philosophy
1. To avoid any ambiguity, "philosophical position" will be understood throughout this book to be roughly synonymous with a
given "philosopher's thought" or "philosophy."
2. See Karl Löwith, "Les implications politiques de la philosophie de l'existence chez Heidegger," Les Temps Modernes 2, no. 14
(novembre 1946): 343-360.
3. See Hugo Ott, Martin Heidegger: Unterwegs zu seiner Biographie (Frankfurt a.M. and New York: Campus, 1988).
4. See Victor Farias, Heidegger and Nazism , ed. Joseph Margolis and Tom Rockmore, French materials trans. Paul Burrell with
the advice of Dominic Di Bernardi, German materials trans. Gabriel R. Ricci (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989). The
original French edition of this work appeared in 1987.
5. For Levinas's view of Heidegger, see Emmanuel Levinas, É thique et infini: Dialogues avec Philippe Nemo (Paris: Fayard,

On Heidegger's Nazism and Philosophy
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1982), pp. 27-34.
6. See Dieter Thomä, Die Zeit des Selbst und die Zeit danach: Zur Kritik der Textgeschichte Martin Heideggers 1910-1976
(Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1990), pp. 31-35.
7. The disagreement is instructive. Janicaud, for example, proposes a so-called iron triangle consisting of the Führerprinzip ,
anti-Semitism, and imperialistic nationalism, none of which he finds in Heidegger's position. See Janicaud, L'ombre de cette
pensée. Heidegger et la question politique (Grenoble: Jérôme Millon, 1990), chap. 2, esp. pp. 35-50. Others have denied that
anti-Semitism is central to Nazism as Hitler originally conceived it. For Baum, the main themes were "sovereignty of the German
people . . .; a national community without
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class conflict; militant anti-Marxism; the leadership principle; a flank espousal of meritocratic principles whereby, as in
contemporary Western societies, rank was to be attained by achievement and talent rather than birth; chauvinism and
glorification of war; and, of course, the antidemocratic stance." Rainer C. Baum, "HOLOCAUST: Moral Indifference as the Form of
Modern Evil," in Echoes from the Holocaust: Philosophical Reflections from a Dark Time , ed. Alan Rosenberg and Gerald E.
Myers (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988), p. 67. For a wide-ranging survey of fascism in general, see Eugen Weber,
Varieties of Fascism: Doctrines of Revolution in the Twentieth Century (Malabar, Fla.: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company,
8. Paul de Man, Allegories of Reading: Figural Language in Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rilke, and Proust (New Haven and London: Yale
University Press, 1979), p. 293.
9. See, e.g., Karsten Harries's introduction to Martin Heidegger and National Socialism: Questions and Answers , ed. Günther
Neske and Emil Kettering, trans. Lisa Harries and Joachim Neugroschel (New York: Paragon House, 1990), p. xii.
10. See, e.g., John Sailis, Echoes: After Heidegger (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1990). Sailis
employs the now familiar view that we have to let Heidegger's texts speak to us in order to suggest that when we take into
account Heidegger's politics we cannot do so and, literally, cannot think. See ibid., p. 11.
11. See Charles E. Scott, The Question of Ethics: Nietzsche, Foucault, Heidegger (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana
University Press, 1990). Scott considers ethics while suspending the very idea of its practical application, surely a questionable
approach since ethics has always been understood as concerning proper action. See ibid., p. 4. Since he refers to none of the
prior discussion concerning Heidegger's application of his philosophical thought to political practice, Scott at this late date is able
to read the rectoral address without noticing Heidegger's concern in it to put his thought at the service of Nazism. See ibid., pp.
9. See, e.g., Karsten Harries's introduction to Martin Heidegger and National Socialism: Questions and Answers , ed. Günther
Neske and Emil Kettering, trans. Lisa Harries and Joachim Neugroschel (New York: Paragon House, 1990), p. xii.
10. See, e.g., John Sailis, Echoes: After Heidegger (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1990). Sailis
employs the now familiar view that we have to let Heidegger's texts speak to us in order to suggest that when we take into
account Heidegger's politics we cannot do so and, literally, cannot think. See ibid., p. 11.
11. See Charles E. Scott, The Question of Ethics: Nietzsche, Foucault, Heidegger (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana
University Press, 1990). Scott considers ethics while suspending the very idea of its practical application, surely a questionable
approach since ethics has always been understood as concerning proper action. See ibid., p. 4. Since he refers to none of the
prior discussion concerning Heidegger's application of his philosophical thought to political practice, Scott at this late date is able
to read the rectoral address without noticing Heidegger's concern in it to put his thought at the service of Nazism. See ibid., pp.
9. See, e.g., Karsten Harries's introduction to Martin Heidegger and National Socialism: Questions and Answers , ed. Günther
Neske and Emil Kettering, trans. Lisa Harries and Joachim Neugroschel (New York: Paragon House, 1990), p. xii.
10. See, e.g., John Sailis, Echoes: After Heidegger (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1990). Sailis
employs the now familiar view that we have to let Heidegger's texts speak to us in order to suggest that when we take into
account Heidegger's politics we cannot do so and, literally, cannot think. See ibid., p. 11.
11. See Charles E. Scott, The Question of Ethics: Nietzsche, Foucault, Heidegger (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana
University Press, 1990). Scott considers ethics while suspending the very idea of its practical application, surely a questionable
approach since ethics has always been understood as concerning proper action. See ibid., p. 4. Since he refers to none of the
prior discussion concerning Heidegger's application of his philosophical thought to political practice, Scott at this late date is able
to read the rectoral address without noticing Heidegger's concern in it to put his thought at the service of Nazism. See ibid., pp.
12. Löwith already noted this tendency in the foreword to the second edition of his study of Heidegger, which elicited almost no
real discussion in the literature. "Desgleichen hat des Verfassers Schrift zwar Ärgernis und Zustimmung erregt, aber keine
kritische Entgegnung bekommen." Karl Löwith, "Vorwort zur zweiten Auflage," Denker in dürftiger Zeit , in Karl Löwith, S ä
mtliche Schriften , ed. Klaus Stichweh and Marc de Launay (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1984), 1:124.
13. For Rawls's view of the veil of ignorance, see John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,
14. Blitz is correct to write: "The peculiar need to analyze Being and Time is even more obvious when we remember that
Heidegger collaborated with the Nazi regime in the first year of its power. Many argue that Heidegger's 'politics' is completely
irrelevant for understanding his thought. This argument is useful because indignation seriously interferes with understanding.
Ultimately, however, this dismissal of Heidegger's politics is both philosophically ridiculous and
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politically dangerous. The precise nature of the connection between a thinker's thought and his practical speeches and
deeds is a difficult and revealing subject, hardly to be dismissed with the prejudice that no connection is relevant. It would be
both philosophically strange and politically frightening to discover that the thought of the deepest thinkers does not, cannot,
inform their practical concerns." Mark Blitz, Heidegger's Being and Time and the Possibility of Political Philosophy (Cornell:
Cornell University Press, 1981), p. 18. See also Karsten Harries's introduction to Martin Heidegger and National Socialism:
Questions and Answers , pp. xviii-xix.
1 Revealing Concealed Nazism
1. On this point, see Richard Wolin, The Politics of Being: The Political Thought of Martin Heidegger (New York: Columbia

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University Press, 1990), p. xi.
2. For the locus classicus of Marx's view of ideology, see Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology, Part One , ed. C.
J. Arthur (New York: International Publishers, 1970). For a form of Marxism that maintains Marx's claim that ideology tends to
conceal the state of society which would otherwise be transformed as a result of becoming aware of it, see Georg Lukács, History
and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics , trans. Rodney Livingstone (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1971).
3. See Martin Heidegger, Being and Time , trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (New York and Evanston: Harper and
Row, 1962), pp. 60ff.
4. See ibid., p. 60.
5. Ibid., p. 51.
3. See Martin Heidegger, Being and Time , trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (New York and Evanston: Harper and
Row, 1962), pp. 60ff.
4. See ibid., p. 60.
5. Ibid., p. 51.
3. See Martin Heidegger, Being and Time , trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (New York and Evanston: Harper and
Row, 1962), pp. 60ff.
4. See ibid., p. 60.
5. Ibid., p. 51.
6. For Heidegger's theory, which is crucial to his entire view of Being, see Being and Time , § 44, "Dasein, Disclosedness, and
Truth," pp. 256-273. For criticism of Heidegger's supposed confusion of disclosure with truth, see Ernst Tugendhat, "Heideggers
Idee von Wahrheit," in Heidegger: Perspektiven zur Deutung seines Werkes , ed. Otto Pöggeler (Köln and Berlin: Kiepenhauer
and Witsch, 1969), pp. 286-297. See also Ernst Tugendhat, Der Wahrheitsbegriffbei Husserl und Heidegger (Berlin: Walter de
Gruyter, 1967).
7. See Heidegger, Being and Time , p. 260.
8. See ibid., p. 264.
7. See Heidegger, Being and Time , p. 260.
8. See ibid., p. 264.
9. For discussion of the conception of concealment in Heidegger's theory, see Hans-Georg Gadamer, Philosophical Hermeneutics
, trans. and ed. David E. Linge (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1977), p. 234.
10. See Martin Heidegger, Basic Writings , ed. David Farrell Krell (New York: Harper and Row, 1977), p. 132.
11. Martin Heidegger, On Time and Being , trans. Joan Stambaugh (New York: Harper and Row, 1972), p. 69; Heidegger's
12. Kant held that an original thinker is likely not to be aware of the nature of his or her own thought, which is only later
established by epigones who bring out ideas applied but not completely understood by the original thinker. See
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Immanuel Kant, Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason , trans. Norman Kemp Smith (London: Macmillan and New York:
St. Martin's Press, 1961), B 862, pp. 654-655.
13. Heidegger's main work concerns, as its title suggests, the relation of Being and time. Although there is an immense literature
concerning his thought, Dastur says that with the exception of a single dissertation, apparently none of it, besides her own
recent work, directly addresses the topics of the temporality and of time. See Françoise Dastur, Heidegger et la question du
temps (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1990), p. 126.
14. See Heidegger, Being and Time , pp. 138-139.
15. See ibid., p. 62.
16. See ibid., § 32, pp. 188-194.
14. See Heidegger, Being and Time , pp. 138-139.
15. See ibid., p. 62.
16. See ibid., § 32, pp. 188-194.
14. See Heidegger, Being and Time , pp. 138-139.
15. See ibid., p. 62.
16. See ibid., § 32, pp. 188-194.
17. This problem is ingredient in much of the later hermeneutic discussion, for instance in the work of Gadamer. See Hans-Georg
Gadamer, Truth and Method , trans. Garrett Barden and John Cumming (New York: Crossroad, 1988).
18. See Kant, Critique of Pure Reason , B 864, p. 655.
19. See Heinrich W. Petzet, Auf einen Stern zugehen: Begegnungen mit Martin Heidegger 1929-1976 (Frankfurt a.M., 1983).
20. For Heidegger's view of "destruction," see Martin Heidegger, Being and Time , § 6, "The Task of Destroying the History of
21. See John D. Caputo, Radical Hermeneutics: Repetition, Deconstruction, and the Hermeneutic Project (Bloomington and
Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1987), pp. 82-83. According to Dreyfus, Heidegger incompletely acknowledges his debt to
Kierkegaard. See Hubert L. Dreyfus, Being-in-the-WorM: A Commentary on Heidegger's Being and Time, Division I (Cambridge,
Mass., and London: MIT Press, 1991), p. 298. Dreyfus provides an extensive discussion of the relation of Heidegger to
Kierkegaard. See Dreyfus, Being-in-the-World , pp. 283-340.
22. See Jacques Taminiaux, "La présence de Nietzsche dans 'Etre et Temps.' "in " Etre et Temps" de Martin Heidegger. Questions
de méthode et voies de recherche , ed. Jean-Pierre Cometti and Dominique Janicaud (Marseilles: Sud, 1989). pp. 59-76.
23. See Michael Zimmerman, Heidegger's Confrontation with Modernity. Technology, Politics, Art (Bloomington and Indianapolis:
Indiana University Press, 1990).
24. See Kant, Critique of Pure Reason , trans. Smith, B xiii, p. 20.
25. For Ryle's view of a category mistake, which may well be derived from Heidegger, whose thought he admired, see Gilbert
Ryle, The Concept of Mind (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1949).

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26. For instance, in a recent letter to me Prof. Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann specifically denied permission to see the
manuscript of a lecture on technology, "Die Gefahr," delivered by Heidegger in Bremen in 1949, and already cited in the
literature, on the grounds that none of Heidegger's Nachlass could be seen prior to publication. Heidegger's Beiträge zur
Philosophie , his longest work, has recently been published. See Heidegger, Gesamtausgabe , vol.
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65, Beitr ä ge zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis ), ed. Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann (Frankfurt a.M.: Vittorio Klostermann,
1989). According to Thomä, there are at least two other unpublished manuscripts of comparable size in the Heidegger Archives.
See Thomä, Die Zeit des Selbst (see introd., n. 6), pp. 761-762.
27. Nazism is a form of totalitarianism. Heidegger is certainly not the only major thinker to adhere to totalitarianism. An example
that comes readily to mind is the adherence of the Hungarian philosopher, Georg Lukács, to Stalinism. His justification of his
adherence to Stalinism on the grounds that it was necessary to defeat Nazism is the obverse of hints in Heidegger's writings that
Heidegger's Nazism was partially motivated by anticommunism. Heidegger's anticommunism was typical among conservative
intellectuals and also part of National Socialist ideology.
28. For instance, Derrida's limitation of his recent study of Heidegger's Nazism to Heidegger's relation to official, Hitlerian
Nazism, simply excludes from consideration Heidegger's later interest in an ideal form of Nazism. See Jacques Derrida, De
l'esprit: Heidegger et la question (Paris: Éditions Galilée, 1988). If for no other reason, Derrida's explanation that in 1933
Heidegger was himself prey to the metaphysics which he had not yet overcome in his Fundamen-talontologie is unconvincing in
its failure to explain Heidegger's continued concern with Nazism in later years.
29. For the concept of the turning, which Heidegger applies to his own thought, see ''The Letter on Humanism,'' in Heidegger,
Basic Writings , p. 208. Derrida's interpretation of Heidegger's Fundamentalontologie as still not having overcome metaphysics
represents the application to Heidegger's position of the critique that in this text Heidegger applies to humanism, particularly to
30. See "Only a God Can Save Us: Der Spiegel's Interview with Martin Heidegger," Philosophy Today 20 (Winter 1976): 275: "I
gave a lecture course with the title, Poetizing and Thinking . This was in a certain sense a continuation of my Nietzsche lectures,
that is to say, a confrontation with National Socialism."
31. For the most recent, full-scale defense, see Silvio Vietta, Heideggers Kritik am Nationalsozialismus und an der Technik
(Tübingen: Niemeyer Verlag, 1989). Wolin identifies an example of the politically evasive ways in which some Heideggerians
describe their own actions in a review of Hans-Georg Gadamer's Philosophical Apprenticeships . See Sheldon Wolin, "Under Siege
in the 'German Ivory Tower,' " New York Times Book Review , 28 July 1985. p. 12.
32. For the passage in question, see Martin Heidegger, An Introduction to Metaphysics , trans. Ralph Mannheim (New Haven and
London: Yale University Press, 1977), p. 199.
33. See Wolfgang Schirmacher, Technik und Gelassenheit (Freiburg: Alber, 1983), p. 25: "Ackerbau ist jetzt motorisierte
Ernährungsindustrie, im Wesen das Selbe wie die Fabrikation von Leichen in Gaskammern und Vernichtungslagern, das Selbe wie
die Blockade und Aushungerung von Läindern, das Selbe wie die Fabrikation von Wasserstoffbomben."
34. For instance, Schneeberger's book, which is the first documentary study, was published by the author himself in order to
protect against legal action from
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the Heidegger family. See Guido Schneeberger, Nachlese zu Heidegger: Dokumente zu seinem Leben und Denken (Bern,
2 The Nazi Turning and the Rectoral Address
1. Steiner sees this as the question which Heidegger's critics, including Adorno and Habermas, have failed to answer. See George
Steiner, "Heidegger, abermals," Merkur 43, no. 2 (February 1989): 95.
2. Sartre seems to have thought that in principle a total explanation of human behavior was indeed possible. See Jean-Paul
Sartre, L'idiot de la famille: Gustave Flaubert de 1821 à 1857 , 3 vols. (Paris: Gallimard, 1971).
3. The distinction between philosophical and nonphilosophical analyses of Heidegger's turn to Nazism neatly divides the French
discussion of his politics into two camps. On the one hand, there are those who regard his Nazism as an isolated episode,
unrelated to his position, such as Fédier and Aubenque. On the other, there are those, such as Derrida and Lacoue-Labarthe,
more sophisticated, who accept a link between his thought and Nazism, which, they argue, is overcome in the later evolution of
his thought.
4. For this list and discussion, see Gerald E. Myers, "The Psychology of Man after Auschwitz," in Echoes from the Holocaust (see
Introd., n. 7), p. 313. Myers insists on the role of Hitler as a central cause of the Holocaust.
5. This information is derived from Fritz Stern, Dreams and Delusions. National Socialism in the Drama of the German Past (New
York: Vintage, 1989), pp. 130-131.
6. For a classic formulation of this argument, see Franz Neumann, Behemoth: The Structure and Practice of National Socialism
1933-1944 (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1944), p. 3.
7. For a recent effort to present a synthetic view of the Weimar Republic in its entirety, see Reinhard Kühnl, Die Weimarer
Republik: Errichtung, Machtstruktur und Zerstörung einer Demokratie (Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1985).
8. Löwith reports a series of articles that appeared in the Frankfurter Zeitung in December 1931 by Paul Tillich, Eduard Spranger,
Karl Jaspers, and others under the title "Gibt es noch eine Universität?" See Karl Löwith, Mein Leben in Deutschland vor und nach
1933: Ein Bericht (Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer, 1989), p. 24.
9. Peter Gay, Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider (New York: Harper and Row, 1970), p. 144.
10. See Neumann, Behemoth , p. 14.
11. See Leonard Krieger, The German Idea of Freedom: History of a Political Tradition (Boston: Beacon, 1957), p. 467.
12. For a discussion of the rise of Nazism as a conservative revolution, see Jeffrey Herf, Reactionary Modernism: Technology,
Culture, and Politics in Weimar and the Third Reich (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), chap. 2, "The Conservative
Revolution in Weimar," pp. 18-48.
13. For a presentation of these possibilities, see Kühnl, Die Weimarer
Republik , pp. 8-9. He argues that like the First World War, the demise of the Weimar Republic is due not to economic
determinism but to conscious action on the part of those who controlled the economic levers of power. See ibid., "Nachwort," pp.

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12. For a discussion of the rise of Nazism as a conservative revolution, see Jeffrey Herf, Reactionary Modernism: Technology,
Culture, and Politics in Weimar and the Third Reich (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), chap. 2, "The Conservative
Revolution in Weimar," pp. 18-48.
13. For a presentation of these possibilities, see Kühnl, Die Weimarer
Page 309
Republik , pp. 8-9. He argues that like the First World War, the demise of the Weimar Republic is due not to economic
determinism but to conscious action on the part of those who controlled the economic levers of power. See ibid., "Nachwort," pp.
14. For a short summary, see Peter Gay, "A Short Political History of the Weimar Republic," in Gay, Weimar Culture , pp.
15. For a discussion of the Nazi assumption of power, see Karl Dietrich Bracher, Wolfgang Sauer, and Gerhard Schulz, Die
nationalsozialistische Machtergreifung: Studien zur Errichtung des totalitären Herrschaftssystems in Deutschland, 1933-1934
(Cologne: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1960).
16. Löwith has expressed a similar view. "Die deutsche Revolution von 1933 begann mit dem Ausbruch des Weltkriegs. Was seit
1933 in Deutschland geschieht, ist der Versuch, den verlorenen Krieg zu gewinnen. Das Dritte Reich ist das Bismarcksche Reich
in zweiter Potenz und der 'Hitlerismus' ein gesteigerter 'Wilhelmismus,' zwischen denen die Weimarer Republik nur ein
Zwischenakt war." Löwith, Mein Leben in Deutschland , p. 1.
17. For an account of German intellectuals up to the Nazi seizure of power, see Fritz Ringer, The Decline of the German
Mandarins: The Academic Communit)' 1890-1933 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1969).
18. For a discussion of romantic anti-capitalism, see Michael Löwy, Georg Lukács-From Romanticism to Bolshevism , trans. by
Patrick Camiller (London: New Left Books, 1979), pp. 22-66.
19. See Rainer Lepsius, cited by Baum "HOLOCAUST" (see Introd., n. 7), p. 63.
20. See Dagmar Barnouw, Weimar Intellectuals and the Threat of Modernit y (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana
University Press, 1988), p. 18. For a good survey of the attitude of German intellectuals toward the Weimar Republic, see ibid.,
pt. 1: "Tempted by Distance: Intellectuals and the Grey Republic," pp. 11-42.
19. See Rainer Lepsius, cited by Baum "HOLOCAUST" (see Introd., n. 7), p. 63.
20. See Dagmar Barnouw, Weimar Intellectuals and the Threat of Modernit y (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana
University Press, 1988), p. 18. For a good survey of the attitude of German intellectuals toward the Weimar Republic, see ibid.,
pt. 1: "Tempted by Distance: Intellectuals and the Grey Republic," pp. 11-42.
21. See Max Scheler, Man's Place in Nature , trans. Hans Meyerhoff (Boston: Beacon, 1961). p. 4.
22. Cited in Barnouw, Weimar Intellectuals , p. 2.
23. See Hans Blumenberg, The Legitimacy of the Modern Age , trans. Robert M. Wallace (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1985).
24. See Martin Heidegger, Heraklit: Freiburger Vorlesungen Sommer-semester 1943 und Sommersemester 1944 , ed. Manfred
S. Frings (Frankfurt a.M.: Vittorio Klostermann, 1987), p. 181.
25. For exceptions, see W. F. Haug, ed., Deutsche Philosophen 1933 (Hamburg: Argument, 1989), and Thomas Laugstien,
Philosophieverhaltnisse im deutschen Faschismus (Hamburg: Argument, 1990).
26. See Helmut Kuhn, "German Philosophy and National Socialism," in Encyclopedia of Philosophy , ed. Paul Edwards (New York
and London: Macmillan, 1967), 3-4:310.
27. See Martin Heidegger to Karl Jaspers, Marburg, 2 Dec. 1926, in Martin Heidegger-Karl Jaspers, Briefwechsel 1920-1963
, ed. Walter Biemel and Hans Saner (Frankfurt a.M., München and Zürich: Vittorio Klostermann and Piper,
1990), p. 69. Jaspers seems to have become aware of the problem of anti-Semitism very late. For instance, in a letter of
20 April 1933 to Heidegger, when Hitler had already come to power and Heidegger was about to become the philosophical Führer
of the University of Freiburg, after a visit to Berlin Jaspers routinely distinguished between Jewish and German nationalist
intellectual circles. See ibid., p. 153.
26. See Helmut Kuhn, "German Philosophy and National Socialism," in Encyclopedia of Philosophy , ed. Paul Edwards (New York
and London: Macmillan, 1967), 3-4:310.
27. See Martin Heidegger to Karl Jaspers, Marburg, 2 Dec. 1926, in Martin Heidegger-Karl Jaspers, Briefwechsel 1920-1963
, ed. Walter Biemel and Hans Saner (Frankfurt a.M., München and Zürich: Vittorio Klostermann and Piper,
Page 310
1990), p. 69. Jaspers seems to have become aware of the problem of anti-Semitism very late. For instance, in a letter of
20 April 1933 to Heidegger, when Hitler had already come to power and Heidegger was about to become the philosophical Führer
of the University of Freiburg, after a visit to Berlin Jaspers routinely distinguished between Jewish and German nationalist
intellectual circles. See ibid., p. 153.
28. See George M. Kren, "The Holocaust as History," in Echoes from the Holocaust (see Introd., n. 7), pp. 37-38.
29. For discussion of Ian Kershaw's view, which omits anti-Semitism from Hitler's main themes in his rise to power, see Baum,
"HOLOCAUST," pp. 66-67.
30. See Edmund Husserl, The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology: An Introduction to
Phenomenological Philosophy , trans. David Carr (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1970), p. 12.
31. See Laugstien, Philosophieverhältnisse , p. 52.
32. See ibid., p. 79.
33. See ibid., p. 25.
34. See ibid., p. 202.
35. See ibid.
36. See ibid., p. 27.
37. See ibid.
38. See ibid., p. 90.
39. See ibid., pp. 85-86.

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40. See ibid., p. 90.
31. See Laugstien, Philosophieverhältnisse , p. 52.
32. See ibid., p. 79.
33. See ibid., p. 25.
34. See ibid., p. 202.
35. See ibid.
36. See ibid., p. 27.
37. See ibid.
38. See ibid., p. 90.
39. See ibid., pp. 85-86.
40. See ibid., p. 90.
31. See Laugstien, Philosophieverhältnisse , p. 52.
32. See ibid., p. 79.
33. See ibid., p. 25.
34. See ibid., p. 202.
35. See ibid.
36. See ibid., p. 27.
37. See ibid.
38. See ibid., p. 90.
39. See ibid., pp. 85-86.
40. See ibid., p. 90.
31. See Laugstien, Philosophieverhältnisse , p. 52.
32. See ibid., p. 79.
33. See ibid., p. 25.
34. See ibid., p. 202.
35. See ibid.
36. See ibid., p. 27.
37. See ibid.
38. See ibid., p. 90.
39. See ibid., pp. 85-86.
40. See ibid., p. 90.
31. See Laugstien, Philosophieverhältnisse , p. 52.
32. See ibid., p. 79.
33. See ibid., p. 25.
34. See ibid., p. 202.
35. See ibid.
36. See ibid., p. 27.
37. See ibid.
38. See ibid., p. 90.
39. See ibid., pp. 85-86.
40. See ibid., p. 90.
31. See Laugstien, Philosophieverhältnisse , p. 52.
32. See ibid., p. 79.
33. See ibid., p. 25.
34. See ibid., p. 202.
35. See ibid.
36. See ibid., p. 27.
37. See ibid.
38. See ibid., p. 90.
39. See ibid., pp. 85-86.
40. See ibid., p. 90.
31. See Laugstien, Philosophieverhältnisse , p. 52.
32. See ibid., p. 79.
33. See ibid., p. 25.
34. See ibid., p. 202.
35. See ibid.
36. See ibid., p. 27.
37. See ibid.
38. See ibid., p. 90.
39. See ibid., pp. 85-86.
40. See ibid., p. 90.
31. See Laugstien, Philosophieverhältnisse , p. 52.

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32. See ibid., p. 79.
33. See ibid., p. 25.
34. See ibid., p. 202.
35. See ibid.
36. See ibid., p. 27.
37. See ibid.
38. See ibid., p. 90.
39. See ibid., pp. 85-86.
40. See ibid., p. 90.
31. See Laugstien, Philosophieverhältnisse , p. 52.
32. See ibid., p. 79.
33. See ibid., p. 25.
34. See ibid., p. 202.
35. See ibid.
36. See ibid., p. 27.
37. See ibid.
38. See ibid., p. 90.
39. See ibid., pp. 85-86.
40. See ibid., p. 90.
31. See Laugstien, Philosophieverhältnisse , p. 52.
32. See ibid., p. 79.
33. See ibid., p. 25.
34. See ibid., p. 202.
35. See ibid.
36. See ibid., p. 27.
37. See ibid.
38. See ibid., p. 90.
39. See ibid., pp. 85-86.
40. See ibid., p. 90.
41. Löwith insists on the relation between Schmitt's view of resoluteness and Hitler's rise to power. "Das Pathos der
Entscheidung für die nackte Entschiedenheit hatte zwischen den beiden Weltkriegen einen allgemeinen Anklang gefunden. Es hat
die Entscheidung für Hitlers Entschiedenheit vorbereitet und den politischen Umsturz als 'Revolution des Nihilismus' möglich
gemacht." Karl Löwith, "Der okkasionnelle Dezisionismus von C. Schmitt," in Löwith, Sämtliche Schriften (see Introd., n. 12),
42. Hitler wrote: "So ist die Voraussetzung zum Bestehen eines höheren Menschentums nicht der Staat, sondern das
Volkstum, das hierzu befähigt ist." Cited in Thomä, Die Zeit des Selbt (see Introd., n. 6), p. 559. Thomä points to the way in
which Heidegger's view that the state can only be understood on the basis of the Volk coincides with Hitler's view. See ibid., p.
41. Löwith insists on the relation between Schmitt's view of resoluteness and Hitler's rise to power. "Das Pathos der
Entscheidung für die nackte Entschiedenheit hatte zwischen den beiden Weltkriegen einen allgemeinen Anklang gefunden. Es hat
die Entscheidung für Hitlers Entschiedenheit vorbereitet und den politischen Umsturz als 'Revolution des Nihilismus' möglich
gemacht." Karl Löwith, "Der okkasionnelle Dezisionismus von C. Schmitt," in Löwith, Sämtliche Schriften (see Introd., n. 12),
42. Hitler wrote: "So ist die Voraussetzung zum Bestehen eines höheren Menschentums nicht der Staat, sondern das
Volkstum, das hierzu befähigt ist." Cited in Thomä, Die Zeit des Selbt (see Introd., n. 6), p. 559. Thomä points to the way in
which Heidegger's view that the state can only be understood on the basis of the Volk coincides with Hitler's view. See ibid., p.
43. G. W. E Hegel, Jenaer Realphilosophie I: Die Vorlesungen von 1803/4 , ed. J. Hoffmeister (Leipzig, 1932), p. 239, cited in
Shlomo Avineri, Hegel's Theory of the Modern State (London: Cambridge University Press, 1972). p. 93.
44. Lukács has shown that alienation is a central theme in Hegel's thought. See Georg Lukács, The Young Hegel: Studies in the
Relations between Dialectics and Economics , trans. Rodney Livingstone (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1976).
45. For a discussion of this point, see Karl Löwith, From Hegel to Nietzsche :
Page 311
The Revolution in Nineteenth Century Thought , trans. David E. Green (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1967).
46. Bürger has argued that the difference between aestheticism and the avant-garde lies in the latter's concern to erect a theory
of art into a theory of life. See Peter Bierget, Theory of the Avant-Garde , trans. Michael Shaw (Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press, 1984).
47. See Craine Brinton, "Romanticism," in Encyclopedia of Philosophy , ed. Edwards, 7-8:209.
48. See Jacques Droz, "Romanticism in Political Thought," in Dictionary of the History, of Ideas , ed. Philip P. Wiener (New York:
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1973), 4:205-208.
49. See Herr, Reactionary Modernism (see n. 12), p. 15.
50. See Nathan Rotenstreich, "Volksgeist," in Dictionary of the History of Ideas , ed. Weiner, 4:490-496.
51. See G. W. F. Hegel, "Fragmente fiber Volksreligion und Christentum (1793-1794)," in G. W. F. Hegel, Werke in zwanzig
Bänden , ed. Eva Moldenhauer and Karl Markus Michel (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1971), vol. 1, Frühe Schriften , pp. 9-103,
e.g., pp. 34, 42, etc.
52. See Rotenstreich, "Volksgeist," p. 493.

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53. See Pierre Bourdieu, L'ontologie politique de Martin Heidegger (Paris: Éditions de minuit, 1988), pp. 16-18.
54. See George Mosse, The Crisis of German Ideology: Intellectual Origins of the Third Reich (New York: Grosset and Dunlap,
1964). pp. 14-15. For a description of the conception of the Volk in the context of modern German anti-Semitism, see Lucy S.
Dawidowicz, The War against the Jews 1933-1945 (New York: Bantam, 1986). pp. 23-48.
55. See Alfred Rosenberg, Der Mythus des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts: Eine Wertung der seelischgeistigen Gestaltenkämpfe
unserer Zeit (Munich: Hoheneichen, 1930).
56. For the category of romantic disillusionment, see Georg Lukács, La théorie du roman , trans. Jean Clarevoye (Paris: Éditions
Gonthier, 1963), pp. 115ff.
57. Isaiah Berlin, "Joseph de Maistre and the Origins of Fascism," The New York Review of Books 37, no. 14 (27 September
1990): 64. For a fuller account of Berlin's effort to revise the usual antiromantic reading of Maistre, see Isaiah Berlin, The
Crooked Timber of Humanity (London: John Murray; New York: Knopf, 1991).
58. On this point, see Michael Dummett, Frege: Philosophy of Language (London: Duckworth, 1973), p. xii. Although he died in
1925, Frege was also an early enthusiast of National Socialism. Entries in his Tagebuch (that has not yet been published) from
10 March to 9 May 1924 record: his desire for someone, although not a centrist, to free Germany from French pressure; his
conviction that there were too many Jews in Germany and that he finally understood anti-Semitism; his preoccupation with, in
his words, the "enormous difficulty" of distinguishing Jews from others; his suggestion that when new racial laws are
Page 312
established Jews should wear something that enables one to recognize them as Jews; and so on. (I owe this reference to
Hans Sluga.)
59. See Pierre Aubenque, "Encore Heidegger et le nazisme," Le Débat no. 48 (janvier-février 1988): 119.
60. See Janicaud, L'ombre de cette pensée (see Introd., n. 7), p. 58. But note that Janicaud holds that Heidegger's
rejection of politics is in effect an "apolitic" ( apolitique ), that is, a particular form of political theory. See ibid., pp. 51-76.
59. See Pierre Aubenque, "Encore Heidegger et le nazisme," Le Débat no. 48 (janvier-février 1988): 119.
60. See Janicaud, L'ombre de cette pensée (see Introd., n. 7), p. 58. But note that Janicaud holds that Heidegger's
rejection of politics is in effect an "apolitic" ( apolitique ), that is, a particular form of political theory. See ibid., pp. 51-76.
61. See Wolin, The Politics of Being (see chap. 1, n. 1).
62. See Plato's Republic , trans. G. M. A. Grube (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1974) 1.352, p. 25.
63. See Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics , trans. Martin Ostwald (New York: Library of Liberal Arts, 1962), 1.2.1094b, p. 4.
64. For a discussion of Heidegger's critique of the Aristotelian conception of human being, see Janicaud, L'ombre de cette pensée
, pp. 58-64.
65. See Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics , 10.9.1181b, p. 302.
66. See Heidegger, Being and Time , § 74, "The Basic Constitution of Historicality."
67. Martin Heidegger, Der Satz vom Grund (Pfullingen: Neske, 1957), pp. 210-211.
68. For an example of the argument that Stalinism is contained in Marx's theory, see Leszek Kolakowski, "Marxist Roots of
Stalinism," in Stalinism: Essays in Historical Interpretation , ed. Robert C. Tucker (New York: Norton, 1979); and Leszek
Kolakowski, "Die sogenannte Entfremdung," Zukunft , February 1978. For an analysis, see Tom Rockmore, ''Kolakowski and
Markovic on Stalinism, Marxist and Marx," Philosophy and Social Criticism 6, no. 3 (1979).
69. There is an enormous and rapidly growing secondary literature on Heidegger's position. The best general account of
Heidegger's thought of which I am aware is Pöggeler's classic study. See Otto Pöggeler, Der Denkweg Martin Heideggers
(Pfullingen: Neske, 1963, 3d ed., 1990).
70. Heidegger, Being and Time , p. 19.
71. See ibid., §4, p. 32: "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.' "
70. Heidegger, Being and Time , p. 19.
71. See ibid., §4, p. 32: "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.' "
72. See Heidegger, Being and Time , § 4, p. 32.
73. Ibid.
74. Ibid., § 4, p. 33.
75. Ibid.
76. See ibid.
77. Ibid., § 4, p. 34; see also p. 35.
78. Ibid., § 5, p. 38.
79. See ibid.
72. See Heidegger, Being and Time , § 4, p. 32.
73. Ibid.
74. Ibid., § 4, p. 33.
75. Ibid.
76. See ibid.
77. Ibid., § 4, p. 34; see also p. 35.
78. Ibid., § 5, p. 38.
79. See ibid.
72. See Heidegger, Being and Time , § 4, p. 32.
73. Ibid.
74. Ibid., § 4, p. 33.
75. Ibid.

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76. See ibid.
77. Ibid., § 4, p. 34; see also p. 35.
78. Ibid., § 5, p. 38.
79. See ibid.
72. See Heidegger, Being and Time , § 4, p. 32.
73. Ibid.
74. Ibid., § 4, p. 33.
75. Ibid.
76. See ibid.
77. Ibid., § 4, p. 34; see also p. 35.
78. Ibid., § 5, p. 38.
79. See ibid.
72. See Heidegger, Being and Time , § 4, p. 32.
73. Ibid.
74. Ibid., § 4, p. 33.
75. Ibid.
76. See ibid.
77. Ibid., § 4, p. 34; see also p. 35.
78. Ibid., § 5, p. 38.
79. See ibid.
72. See Heidegger, Being and Time , § 4, p. 32.
73. Ibid.
74. Ibid., § 4, p. 33.
75. Ibid.
76. See ibid.
77. Ibid., § 4, p. 34; see also p. 35.
78. Ibid., § 5, p. 38.
79. See ibid.
72. See Heidegger, Being and Time , § 4, p. 32.
73. Ibid.
74. Ibid., § 4, p. 33.
75. Ibid.
76. See ibid.
77. Ibid., § 4, p. 34; see also p. 35.
78. Ibid., § 5, p. 38.
79. See ibid.
72. See Heidegger, Being and Time , § 4, p. 32.
73. Ibid.
74. Ibid., § 4, p. 33.
75. Ibid.
76. See ibid.
77. Ibid., § 4, p. 34; see also p. 35.
78. Ibid., § 5, p. 38.
79. See ibid.
80. Goldmann has argued that Being and Time is intended as a response to Lukács's History and Class Consciousness . See
Lucien Goldmann, Lukács and Heidegger: Towards a New Philosophy , trans. William Q. Boelhower (London: Routledge and
Kegan Paul, 1977).
81. Heidegger's analysis includes numerous aspects that appear to be based on an appropriation or rethinking of Kierkegaardian
concepts, including fear, death, anxiety, authenticity, repetition, etc.
82. See Heidegger, Being and Time , § 2, p. 24.
83. See ibid., § 9, p. 68.
84. See ibid., § 9, p. 67.
85. Ibid., p. 68.
86. See ibid., p. 69.
87. See ibid., § 10, "How the Analytic of Dasein Is to Be Distinguished from Anthropology, Psychology, and Biology," pp.
81. Heidegger's analysis includes numerous aspects that appear to be based on an appropriation or rethinking of Kierkegaardian
concepts, including fear, death, anxiety, authenticity, repetition, etc.
82. See Heidegger, Being and Time , § 2, p. 24.
83. See ibid., § 9, p. 68.
84. See ibid., § 9, p. 67.
85. Ibid., p. 68.
86. See ibid., p. 69.

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87. See ibid., § 10, "How the Analytic of Dasein Is to Be Distinguished from Anthropology, Psychology, and Biology," pp.
81. Heidegger's analysis includes numerous aspects that appear to be based on an appropriation or rethinking of Kierkegaardian
concepts, including fear, death, anxiety, authenticity, repetition, etc.
82. See Heidegger, Being and Time , § 2, p. 24.
83. See ibid., § 9, p. 68.
84. See ibid., § 9, p. 67.
85. Ibid., p. 68.
86. See ibid., p. 69.
87. See ibid., § 10, "How the Analytic of Dasein Is to Be Distinguished from Anthropology, Psychology, and Biology," pp.
81. Heidegger's analysis includes numerous aspects that appear to be based on an appropriation or rethinking of Kierkegaardian
concepts, including fear, death, anxiety, authenticity, repetition, etc.
82. See Heidegger, Being and Time , § 2, p. 24.
83. See ibid., § 9, p. 68.
84. See ibid., § 9, p. 67.
85. Ibid., p. 68.
86. See ibid., p. 69.
87. See ibid., § 10, "How the Analytic of Dasein Is to Be Distinguished from Anthropology, Psychology, and Biology," pp.
81. Heidegger's analysis includes numerous aspects that appear to be based on an appropriation or rethinking of Kierkegaardian
concepts, including fear, death, anxiety, authenticity, repetition, etc.
82. See Heidegger, Being and Time , § 2, p. 24.
83. See ibid., § 9, p. 68.
84. See ibid., § 9, p. 67.
85. Ibid., p. 68.
86. See ibid., p. 69.
87. See ibid., § 10, "How the Analytic of Dasein Is to Be Distinguished from Anthropology, Psychology, and Biology," pp.
81. Heidegger's analysis includes numerous aspects that appear to be based on an appropriation or rethinking of Kierkegaardian
concepts, including fear, death, anxiety, authenticity, repetition, etc.
82. See Heidegger, Being and Time , § 2, p. 24.
83. See ibid., § 9, p. 68.
84. See ibid., § 9, p. 67.
85. Ibid., p. 68.
86. See ibid., p. 69.
87. See ibid., § 10, "How the Analytic of Dasein Is to Be Distinguished from Anthropology, Psychology, and Biology," pp.
81. Heidegger's analysis includes numerous aspects that appear to be based on an appropriation or rethinking of Kierkegaardian
concepts, including fear, death, anxiety, authenticity, repetition, etc.
82. See Heidegger, Being and Time , § 2, p. 24.
83. See ibid., § 9, p. 68.
84. See ibid., § 9, p. 67.
85. Ibid., p. 68.
86. See ibid., p. 69.
87. See ibid., § 10, "How the Analytic of Dasein Is to Be Distinguished from Anthropology, Psychology, and Biology," pp.
88. Heidegger's view of authentic thought bears a close relation to Kant's idea of maturity, of thinking for oneself as the criterion
of appropriate thought. For Kant's view, see "An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment?" in Immanuel Kant, Perpetual
Peace and Other Essays , trans. Ted Humphrey (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1985).
89. Heidegger does not claim that authenticity must be realized in practice, although it would make sense to do so. Wolin argues
that authenticity is meaningful only if it is in fact realized. But the passage he cites, from Being and Time , p. 312, merely
indicates that Heidegger is concerned at that point with a form of authenticity which is in fact realized, not that authenticity is
meaningful only when this is the case. See Wolin, The Politics of Being , p. 34.
90. See Heidegger, Being and Time , § 44, p. 264.
91. Ibid.
92. See ibid., § 60, p. 344. For a general discussion of resoluteness that does not emphasize the lack of criteria nor discuss
the political consequences, see Charles M. Sherover, "The Hermeneutic Structure of Resoluteness: A Preliminary Exploration," in
Hermeneutic Phenomenology: Lectures and Essays , ed. Joseph J. Kockelmans (Washington, D.C.: Center for Advanced Research
in Phenomenology and University Press of America, 1988), pp. 41-66.
90. See Heidegger, Being and Time , § 44, p. 264.
91. Ibid.
92. See ibid., § 60, p. 344. For a general discussion of resoluteness that does not emphasize the lack of criteria nor discuss
the political consequences, see Charles M. Sherover, "The Hermeneutic Structure of Resoluteness: A Preliminary Exploration," in
Hermeneutic Phenomenology: Lectures and Essays , ed. Joseph J. Kockelmans (Washington, D.C.: Center for Advanced Research
in Phenomenology and University Press of America, 1988), pp. 41-66.

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90. See Heidegger, Being and Time , § 44, p. 264.
91. Ibid.
92. See ibid., § 60, p. 344. For a general discussion of resoluteness that does not emphasize the lack of criteria nor discuss
the political consequences, see Charles M. Sherover, "The Hermeneutic Structure of Resoluteness: A Preliminary Exploration," in
Hermeneutic Phenomenology: Lectures and Essays , ed. Joseph J. Kockelmans (Washington, D.C.: Center for Advanced Research
in Phenomenology and University Press of America, 1988), pp. 41-66.
93. Heidegger, Being and Time , § 61, p. 349.
94. See ibid., § 74, "The Basic Constitution of History."
93. Heidegger, Being and Time , § 61, p. 349.
94. See ibid., § 74, "The Basic Constitution of History."
95. For an expression of this view, see Caputo, Radical Hermeneutics (see chap. 1, n. 21), pp. 88-89.
96. See Heidegger, Being and Time , § 74, p. 435.
97. See ibid., § 74, pp. 435-436.
98. See ibid., § 74, p. 436; see also § 26, p. 159.
99. See ibid., § 74, p. 436.
100. See ibid., §74, p. 437.
96. See Heidegger, Being and Time , § 74, p. 435.
97. See ibid., § 74, pp. 435-436.
98. See ibid., § 74, p. 436; see also § 26, p. 159.
99. See ibid., § 74, p. 436.
100. See ibid., §74, p. 437.
96. See Heidegger, Being and Time , § 74, p. 435.
97. See ibid., § 74, pp. 435-436.
98. See ibid., § 74, p. 436; see also § 26, p. 159.
99. See ibid., § 74, p. 436.
100. See ibid., §74, p. 437.
96. See Heidegger, Being and Time , § 74, p. 435.
97. See ibid., § 74, pp. 435-436.
98. See ibid., § 74, p. 436; see also § 26, p. 159.
99. See ibid., § 74, p. 436.
100. See ibid., §74, p. 437.
96. See Heidegger, Being and Time , § 74, p. 435.
97. See ibid., § 74, pp. 435-436.
98. See ibid., § 74, p. 436; see also § 26, p. 159.
99. See ibid., § 74, p. 436.
100. See ibid., §74, p. 437.
101. In partial defense, it should be noted that not only the National Socialists but other segments of society also, apparently
including Communists as well as Catholics, likewise honored Schlageter's memory. For an analysis of Heidegger's homage to
Schlageter, see Farias, Heidegger and Nazism (see In-trod., n. 4), pp. 87-95. According to Löwith, Heidegger's praise of
Schlageter was based on Tolstoy's "Death of Ivan Ilitch." See Löwith, Mein Leben in Deutschland (see n. 8), p. 36.
102. See Heidegger, Being and Time , § 74, p. 438. This concept has attracted extensive attention in the literature. For a survey
of the main approaches, see Thomä, Die Zeit des Selbst und die Zeit danach (see Introd., n. 6), pp. 153-162.
103. For instance, in the Gutachten that formed the basis for Heidegger's suspension from his teaching functions after the
Second World War, Jaspers stated that Heidegger's personal excuse should be partly acknowledged since Heidegger was by his
very nature not political. See Ott, Martin Heidegger (see Introd., n. 3), p. 316.
104. See Martin Heidegger, Die Grundbegriffe der Metaphysik. Welt — Endlichkeit — Einsamkeit: Freiburger Vorlesung
Wintersemester 1929/30 , ed. Friedrich-Wilhelm yon Herrmann (Frankfurt a.M.: Vittorio Klostermann, 1983). For an analysis of
the significance of this text for Heidegger's Nazism, see Winfried Franzen, "Die Sehnsucht nach Härte und Schwere: Über ein
zum NS-Engagement disponierendes Motiv in Heideggers Vorlesung 'Die Grundbegriffe der Metaphysik' yon 1929/30," in
Heidegger und die praktische Philosophie , ed. Annemarie Gethmann-Siefert and Otto Pöggeler (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp,
105. See Heidegger, Being and Time , § 29: "Being There as State-of-Mind," pp. 172-179.
106. See ibid.. p. 178.
105. See Heidegger, Being and Time , § 29: "Being There as State-of-Mind," pp. 172-179.
106. See ibid.. p. 178.
107. Heidegger's formulation reads in part ( Die Grundbegriffe der Metaphysik , p. 244): "aber keiner ist der Verwalter der
inneren Grösse des Daseins und seiner Notwendigkeiten." This passage calls for two comments. First, it is possible, as
Zimmerman thinks, that Heidegger is here thinking of a F ü hrer . See Zimmerman, Heidegger's Confrontation with Modernity
(see chap. 1, n. 23), p. 33. But it is also equally likely that he is saying that no one is really master of himself or herself. Second,
it is startling to see that Heidegger here employs a locution, viz. "the inner greatness," very similar to the locution employed
after his period as rector, in the Introduction to Metaphysics , where he speaks of the "inner truth and greatness of National
Socialism.'' The significant point, beyond the linguistic similarity, is that in both cases he is referring to the problems of the
authenticity of Dasein and ultimately to knowledge of Being.
108. Heidegger, Die Grundbegriffe der Metaphysik , p. 243.
109. See ibid., § 18c, "Die tiefe Langeweile als die verborgene Grundstimmung der kulturphilosophischen Deutungen
unserer Lage," pp. 111-116.

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110. See ibid., p. 243.
111. Ibid., p. 248; Heidegger's emphases.
112. Ibid.
113. See ibid., p. 249.
108. Heidegger, Die Grundbegriffe der Metaphysik , p. 243.
109. See ibid., § 18c, "Die tiefe Langeweile als die verborgene Grundstimmung der kulturphilosophischen Deutungen
unserer Lage," pp. 111-116.
110. See ibid., p. 243.
111. Ibid., p. 248; Heidegger's emphases.
112. Ibid.
113. See ibid., p. 249.
108. Heidegger, Die Grundbegriffe der Metaphysik , p. 243.
109. See ibid., § 18c, "Die tiefe Langeweile als die verborgene Grundstimmung der kulturphilosophischen Deutungen
unserer Lage," pp. 111-116.
110. See ibid., p. 243.
111. Ibid., p. 248; Heidegger's emphases.
112. Ibid.
113. See ibid., p. 249.
108. Heidegger, Die Grundbegriffe der Metaphysik , p. 243.
109. See ibid., § 18c, "Die tiefe Langeweile als die verborgene Grundstimmung der kulturphilosophischen Deutungen
unserer Lage," pp. 111-116.
110. See ibid., p. 243.
111. Ibid., p. 248; Heidegger's emphases.
112. Ibid.
113. See ibid., p. 249.
108. Heidegger, Die Grundbegriffe der Metaphysik , p. 243.
109. See ibid., § 18c, "Die tiefe Langeweile als die verborgene Grundstimmung der kulturphilosophischen Deutungen
unserer Lage," pp. 111-116.
110. See ibid., p. 243.
111. Ibid., p. 248; Heidegger's emphases.
112. Ibid.
113. See ibid., p. 249.
108. Heidegger, Die Grundbegriffe der Metaphysik , p. 243.
109. See ibid., § 18c, "Die tiefe Langeweile als die verborgene Grundstimmung der kulturphilosophischen Deutungen
unserer Lage," pp. 111-116.
110. See ibid., p. 243.
111. Ibid., p. 248; Heidegger's emphases.
112. Ibid.
113. See ibid., p. 249.
114. Mosse describes this concept as follows:" 'Volk' is one of those perplexing German terms which connotes far more than its
specific meaning. 'Volk' is a much more comprehensive term than 'people,' for to German thinkers ever since the birth of
German romanticism in the late eighteenth century 'Volk' signified the union of a group of people with a transcendental
'essence.' The 'essence' might be called 'nature' or 'cosmos' or 'mythos,' but in each instance it
Page 315
was fused to man's innermost nature, and represented the essence of his creativity, his depth of feeling, his individuality,
and his unity with other members of the Volk." Mosse, The Crisis of German Ideology (see n. 54), p. 4.
115. There are at present two available translations into English due respectively to Karsten Harries and to Lisa Harries in
collaboration with Karsten Harries. See "The Self-Assertion of the German University: Address, Delivered on the Solemn
Assumption of the Rectorate of the University Freiburg [and] The Rectorate 1933/34: Facts and Thoughts," trans. Karsten
Harries, Review of Metaphysics 38 (March 1985): 467-502, and "The Self-Assertion of the German University," in Martin
Heidegger and National Socialism: Questions and Answers (see Introd., n. 9), pp. 5-14. The same volume also has a translation
of Heidegger's article, "The Rectorate: Facts and Thoughts," pp. 15-32. To avoid confusion, and because of the relatively greater
availability of the earlier translations of the speech and the article, I shall refer to Karsten Harries's translations of both the
rectoral address and the article "Facts and Thoughts" as ''Rectoral Address-Facts and Thoughts,'' followed by the page number.
116. On this point, see Karl Jaspers, Die Schuldfrage: Zur politischen Haftung Deutschlands (Munich and Zurich: Piper, 1987), p.
117. For discussion, see Farias, Heidegger and Nazism (see Introd., n. 4), pp. 96-112; Ott, Martin Heidegger , pp. 146-166; and
Reiner Alisch, "Heideggers Rektoratsrede im Kontext," in Deutsche Philosophen 1933 , ed. Haug (see n. 25).
118. For detailed discussion of this speech, see Farias, Heidegger and Nazism , chap. 9, "The Rector's Address: Its Assumptions
and Its Effects," pp. 99-112; Ott, Martin Heidegger , "Das soldatische Umfeld der Rektoratsrede," pp. 146-166; and Alisch,
"Heideggers Rektoratsrede im Kontext," pp. 69-98. For Ott's analysis of Heidegger's use of Göring as a model, see Ott, Martin
Heidegger , pp. 145-148. For a recent analysis which largely follows Heidegger's self-justification of his actions, see Scott, The
Question of Ethics (see Introd., n. 11), chap. 5, pp. 148-172.
119. See Ott, Martin Heidegger , pp. 147f.
120. See Löwith, Mein Leben in Deutschland , pp. 57-58.
121. Cited in Emil L. Fackenheim, To Mend the World: Foundations of Future Jewish Thought (New York: Schocken Books,

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1982), p. 267.
122. See Fackenheim, To Mend the World , pp. 266-267. According to Fackenheim, this was Fichte's sole moment of truth. On
Huber, see also Laugstien, Philosophieverhältnisse (see n. 25), pp. 58ff.
123. The Platonism of Heidegger's turn to politics has been seen, particularly in the French discussion, where stress has been
placed on the metaphysical aspect of Heidegger's political turn in order to argue that his later thought overcomes the
metaphysical dimension by bringing his position in line with its own attempt to "destroy" the history of ontology. See Philippe
Lacoue-Labarthe, L'imitation des modernes. Typographies H (Paris: Éditions Galilée, 1986), pp. 135-200, and Jacques Derrida,
De l'esprit (see chap. 1, n. 28). I am less interested here in the internal consistency of Heidegger's position than in his apparent
reliance on a quasi-Platonic model for the political role of philosophy.
124. The parallels in this respect between Lukács and Heidegger are rarely explored. For an interesting discussion, see István M.
Fehér, "Heidegger und Lukács. Eine Hunderjahrebilanz," in Wege und Irrwege des neueren Urngangs reit Heideggers Werk: Ein
deutsch-ungarisches Symposium (Berlin: Duncker und Humblot, forthcoming).
125. See Leszek Kolakowski, Main Currents of Marxism , trans. P.S. Falla (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), vol. 3, chap. 7,
"György Lukács: Reason in the Service of Dogma," pp. 253-307.
126. Harries helpfully notes the first two senses of " Selbstbehauptung " but apparently misses the third, relevantly philosophical
sense that was presupposed in Heidegger's claim for the role of philosophy in the realization of Nazism. See "Rectoral
Address-Facts and Thoughts," p. 468.
127. Ibid., p. 470.
126. Harries helpfully notes the first two senses of " Selbstbehauptung " but apparently misses the third, relevantly philosophical
sense that was presupposed in Heidegger's claim for the role of philosophy in the realization of Nazism. See "Rectoral
Address-Facts and Thoughts," p. 468.
127. Ibid., p. 470.
128. Thomä, who fails to notice the discussion of the conception of the Volk in Being and Time , sees a shift in position between
the conception of Dasein in Heidegger's fundamental ontology and the conception of the Volk developed here. See Thomä, Die
Zeit des Selbst und die Zeit danach , p. 553.
129. For the term "spiritual leader," see "Ernennung eines Kanzlers an der Universität Freiburg," Der Alemanne.' Kampfblatt der
Nationalsozialisten Ober-badens . . ., Folge 178, 30 June 1933, p. 2, cited in Schneeberger, Nachlese zu Heidegger (see chap. 1,
n. 34), p. 73. For an analysis of Heidegger's Nazism through the concept of leadership ( Fuhrung ) and the leader ( Führer ), see
Hans Ebeling, Geschichte einer Täuschung (W ü rzburg: Königshausen und Neumann, 1990), "Das Ereignis des Führers:
Heidegger's Antwort,'' pp. 9-34.
130. On the leading role of the party, see V. I. Lenin, What Is to Be Done? , trans. Joe Fineberg and George Hanna, ed. Victor J.
Jerome (New York: International Publishers, 1969). For Marx's view of the philosophers as the head of the revolution and the
proletariat as its heart, see "Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right," in Karl Marx, Early Writings , trans. and
ed. T. B. Bottomore (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963).
131. See Ernst Cassirer, The Myth of the State (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1971), p. 290ff.
132. See Plato's account of the Myth of Er, in Plato's Republic , trans. G. M. A. Grube (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company,
1974), 10.616f.. pp. 258f.
133. Heidegger, Being and Time , p. 436.
134. For a good discussion of this point, see Otto Püggeler, "Den Fuhrer führen? Heidegger und kein Ende," Philosophischer
Rundschau 32, no. 1/2 (1985): 26-67.
135. The same reaction was produced by Spengler, who enthusiastically welcomed the Nazi accession to power without ever
mentioning Hitler. See Oswald Spengler, Jahre der Entscheidung, Erster Teil, Deutschland und die welt-geschichtliche
Entwicklung (Munich: C. H. Beck, 1933).
136. "Rectoral address—Facts and Thoughts," p. 471.
137. See Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit , trans. A. V. Miller (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 6.
138. "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," p. 471.
139. Ibid., p. 472.
138. "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," p. 471.
139. Ibid., p. 472.
140. See, e.g., Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche (Pfullingen: Neske, 1961) 2:398, 413.
141. "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," p. 473.
142. Heidegger renders the Greek word "
techne " as " Wissen, " or "knowledge.'' In a recent translation of Plato's Symposium
the term is rendered as "profession," "science,'' and "expertise." See Plato: Symposium , trans. Alexander Nehemas and Paul
Woodruff (Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett, 1989), p. xxvii. According to Liddell and Scott, the Greek term means "art,"
"skill," "craft," "cunning of hand," etc. These are all forms of knowing how, but not knowledge in the ordinary sense of the word.
See Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon , 9th ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), p. 1785.
143. For this argument, related to his turn to the concept of thought ( Denken ) as distinguished from philosophy, see "The
Letter on Humanism."
144. For a classic statement of this reading of Plato's theory, see Werner Jaeger, Aristotle: Fundamentals of the History of His
Development , trans. Richard Robinson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962).
145. "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," p. 474.
146. See Martin Heidegger, Hölderlins Hymne "Der Ister": Freibürger Vorlesung, Sommersemester 1942 , ed. Walter Biemel
(Frankfurt a.M.: Vittorio Klostermann, 1984), pp. 98, 106.
147. On the relation between Heidegger's language, the language of Messkirch, and the terminology of National Socialism, see
Robert Minder, "Heidegger und Hebel oder die Sprache von Messkirch," in Robert Minder, " H ö lderlin unter den deutschen" und
andere Aufsätze zur deutschen Literatur (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1968). For a specific study of Nazi language, see Berel
Lang, "Language and Genocide," in Berel Lang, Act and Idea in the Nazi Genocide (Chicago and London: University of Chicago
Press, 1990), pp. 81-102.
148. "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," p. 475; translation modified.

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149. See for this view Hegel's letter of 28 October 1808 to Niethammer, in Briefe yon und an Hegel , ed. J. Hoffmeister,
Hamburg: Meiner, 1952), 1:253: "Die theoretische Arbeit, überzeuge ich mich täiglich mehr, bringt mehr zustande in der Welt
als die praktische; ist erst das Reich der Vorstellung revolu-tioniert, so hält die Wirklichkeit nicht aus."
150. See, e.g., Herbert Marcuse, Five Lectures (Boston: Beacon, 1970).
151. "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," p. 475.
152. For Marx's view, see "Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right," in Marx, Early Writings , pp. 41-60.
153. See Immanuel Kant, Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals , trans. Thomas K. Abbott (New York: Library of
Liberal Arts, 1949), p. 12.
154. Freiburger Studentenzeitung . . . 8. Semester (15), Nr. 1, 3. November 1933, p. 1, cited in Schneeberger, Nachlese zu
Heidegger , p. 136.
155. See "Only a God Can Save Us" (see chap. 1, n. 30), p. 271.
156. "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," p. 498.
157. See Kolakowski, Main Currents of Marxism 3:307.
158. "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," p. 476.
159. Heidegger's enumeration of three bonds of the German student recalls the appeal in May 1933 by von Papen for the
cooperation of the Nazi movement, "Stalhelm" and "Konservative," which he regarded as "die drei grossen Säulen der nationalen
Bewegung." See Haug, Deutsche Philosophen 1933 (see n. 25), p. 159.
160. See Being and Time , § 26, p. 159. This idea of authentic being with others is never developed by Heidegger either in this
work or in his later writings, although it is presupposed in his conception of the Volk . It apparently serves as the basis of
Sartre's later view of the distinction between seriality and the group in fusion. See Jean-Paul Sartre, Critique de la raison
dialectique (Paris: Gallimard, 1960), trans. Alan Sheridan Smith as Critique of Dialectical Reason (London: New Left Books,
161. See Being and Time , §§ 46-53.
162. This episode is still not fully clarified. For a discussion, see Ott, Martin Heidegger , pp. 214-223.
163. "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," p. 477.
164. Ibid.; see also p. 478 for a restatement of the same theme.
165. Ibid., p. 477.
163. "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," p. 477.
164. Ibid.; see also p. 478 for a restatement of the same theme.
165. Ibid., p. 477.
163. "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," p. 477.
164. Ibid.; see also p. 478 for a restatement of the same theme.
165. Ibid., p. 477.
166. Heidegger's stress on Kampf , in connection with the realization of the Volk , which is one of the most noticeable aspects of
this speech, directly recalls Hitler's view in Mein Kampf See Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (Munich, 1934), p. 418, cited in George
Mosse, Nazi Culture: A Documentary History (New York: Schocken Books, 1981), p. xxiii: "Every world-view, be it correct and
useful a thousand times over, will be without importance for the life of a Volk unless its basic tenets are written upon the
banners of a fighting movement." In this text, neither Hitler nor the National Socialist movement is directly mentioned. But there
is an obvious link between Heidegger's repeated stress on the concept of Kampf and Hitler's book. Heidegger's awareness of this
obvious link is a plausible reason for his determined effort in his article on the rectorate, at a time when he wishes to project the
view that he has officially broken with Nazism of every form, to reinterpret the concept of Kampfin terms of Heraclitus's thought.
167. "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," p. 479.
168. Ibid.
167. "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," p. 479.
168. Ibid.
169. Heidegger, Being and Time , p. 436.
170. The extent of Spengler's influence on Heidegger is not often acknowledged. But it is important, particularly for the analysis
of technology, as will emerge below. See chap. 6.
171. "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," pp. 479-480.
172. Ibid., p. 480.
173. Ibid.
171. "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," pp. 479-480.
172. Ibid., p. 480.
173. Ibid.
171. "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," pp. 479-480.
172. Ibid., p. 480.
173. Ibid.
174. See "Le dossier d'un nazi 'ordinaire,' " Le Monde , 14 October 1988, p. 12.
175. "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," p. 480. Once again, Hei-
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degger appears deliberately to have taken liberties with the Greek, which does not mention a storm and literally reads "the
great [things] are precarious."
176. For a detailed discussion of Heidegger's mistranslation of this passage, see Bernd Martin, "'Alles Grosse ist gefährdet'—Der
Fall Heidegger(s)," in Martin Heidegger und das "Dritte Reich": Ein Kompendium , ed. Bernd Martin (Darmstadt:
Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1989), pp. 3-13.
177. Thomä, who throughout his study relatively deemphasizes the central role of Being in Heidegger's thought, curiously

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insists on the importance of Heidegger's effort to find a solution for the problem of the self, arising out of Being and Time , in the
Nazi turn in 1933: "Die 'Läsung' des Jahres 1933 besteht dann darin, Handeln und Sprache gewaltsam zusammenzuzwingen."
Thomä, Die Zeit des Selbt und die Zeit danach , p. 643. Thomä maintains that Heidegger finally finds the solution he was
seeking in National Socialism in his theory of art. See ibid., p. 704.
176. For a detailed discussion of Heidegger's mistranslation of this passage, see Bernd Martin, "'Alles Grosse ist gefährdet'—Der
Fall Heidegger(s)," in Martin Heidegger und das "Dritte Reich": Ein Kompendium , ed. Bernd Martin (Darmstadt:
Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1989), pp. 3-13.
177. Thomä, who throughout his study relatively deemphasizes the central role of Being in Heidegger's thought, curiously
insists on the importance of Heidegger's effort to find a solution for the problem of the self, arising out of Being and Time , in the
Nazi turn in 1933: "Die 'Läsung' des Jahres 1933 besteht dann darin, Handeln und Sprache gewaltsam zusammenzuzwingen."
Thomä, Die Zeit des Selbt und die Zeit danach , p. 643. Thomä maintains that Heidegger finally finds the solution he was
seeking in National Socialism in his theory of art. See ibid., p. 704.
178. For a well-known attack on the antidemocratic consequences of Platonism, see Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its
Enemies , 2 vols. (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1945).
3 The "Official" View and "Facts and Thoughts"
1. For some representative reactions, see Schneeberger, Nachlese zu Heidegger (see chap. 1, n. 34), pp. 50-51, 76-80, 82-84,
2. See Löwith, Mein Leben in Deutschland (see chap 2, n. 8), p. 57.
3. For Heidegger's admission that he briefly saw the Nazi rise to power as a propitious moment, see "Only a God Can Save Us"
(see chap. 1, n. 30).
4. See Georg Lukács, Existentialismus oder Marxismus? (Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag, 1951).
5. See Jean-Paul Sartre, Search for a Method , trans. Hazel E. Barnes (New York: Vintage, 1968), p. 38; Sartre's emphasis.
6. See "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts" (see chap. 2, n. 115), pp. 468-469. For another short statement of the "official"
view, see Michael Hailer, "Der Philosophen-Streit zwischen Nazi-Rechtfertigung und postmodernner Öko-Philosophie," in Die
Heidegger Kontroverse , ed. Jürg Altwegg (Frankfurt a.M.: Athenäum, 1988), p. 202.
7. See Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts, p. 468.
8. In the United States, a major step in the transition from the arcane level of professional philosophical debate, which obviously
repels rather than attracts wider attention, to the general public was taken by Michiko Kakutani's recent, withering review of the
English-language translation of Antwort: Martin Heidegger im Gespräch (see n. 111 below), which appeared in German closely
after Farias's book was published in French in order to limit the damage, so to speak. See "Friends of Heidegger and the Nazi
Question," The New York Times , 14 December 1990.
9. The 1945 article appeared under the title "Das Rektorat 1933/34: Tatsachen und Gedanken" in the little volume edited by
Hermann Heidegger.
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Curiously, the translator omits the section headings in the translation, although he inserts roman numerals to divide the
text. The result, in the absence of the section headings which the original text contained, is to render the interpretation more,
not less, difficult.
10. For a brief discussion, see "The End of the War and the Beginning of Polemos, " in Farias, Heidegger and Nazism (see
Introd., n. 4), pp. 278-280. For a more detailed discussion, see "Die Auseinandersetzung um die politische Vergangenheit," in
Ott, Martin Heidegger (see Introd., n. 3), pp. 291-327. My brief statement of the historical background is based on these two
11. The relations between Heidegger and Jaspers are highly complex. The best record of their friendship, and of Jaspers's later
disillusionment with Heidegger as a friend and a philosopher, is provided by their letters, which have recently been published.
See Briefwechsel 1920-1963 (see chap. 2, n. 27). For Jaspers's never-completed effort to write a critical study of Heidegger's
thought, see Karl Jaspers, Notizen zu Martin Heidegger , ed. Hans Saner (Muchin and Zurich: Piper, 1989).
12. For Jaspers's Gutachten on Heidegger, which was the basis of the decision, see Ott, Martin Heidegger , pp. 315-317.
13. For the report by the committee, see Ott, Martin Heidegger , pp. 305- 307. For a good analysis of this entire episode,
see ibid., pp. 291-327.
14. See ibid., p. 296.
12. For Jaspers's Gutachten on Heidegger, which was the basis of the decision, see Ott, Martin Heidegger , pp. 315-317.
13. For the report by the committee, see Ott, Martin Heidegger , pp. 305- 307. For a good analysis of this entire episode,
see ibid., pp. 291-327.
14. See ibid., p. 296.
12. For Jaspers's Gutachten on Heidegger, which was the basis of the decision, see Ott, Martin Heidegger , pp. 315-317.
13. For the report by the committee, see Ott, Martin Heidegger , pp. 305- 307. For a good analysis of this entire episode,
see ibid., pp. 291-327.
14. See ibid., p. 296.
15. For Heidegger's own explanation of why he chose to remain in Freiburg, see Martin Heidegger, "Schöpferische Landschaft:
Warurn bleiben wir in der Provinz?" in Martin Heidegger, Gesamtausgabe , vol. 13, Aus der Erfahrung des Denkens 1910-1976 ,
ed. Hermann Heidegger (Frankfurt a.M.: Vittorio Klos-termann, 1983).
16. Ott, Martin Heidegger , p. 305.
17. See Jaspers's letter to Heidegger of 23 August 1933, cited in Ott, Martin Heidegger , pp. 192-193.
18. For Croce's correspondence with Vossler, see Schneeberger, Nachlese zu Heidegger , pp. 110-112.
19. See Martin Heidegger, "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts."
20. That the text is repetitive is easily shown through the almost obsessive recurrence of certain themes, in similar language,
e.g., the problem of science, "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," pp. 481, 497; technology, pp. 482, 497; historical
vocation of the Western world. pp. 483, 497; political science, pp. 483, 496; Nietzsche and the will to power, pp. 485, 498; etc.

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21. Ibid., pp. 492-493.
20. That the text is repetitive is easily shown through the almost obsessive recurrence of certain themes, in similar language,
e.g., the problem of science, "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," pp. 481, 497; technology, pp. 482, 497; historical
vocation of the Western world. pp. 483, 497; political science, pp. 483, 496; Nietzsche and the will to power, pp. 485, 498; etc.
21. Ibid., pp. 492-493.
22. See Hugo Ott, "Martin Heidegger und der Nationalsozialismus," in Heidegger und die praktische Philosophie (see chap. 2, n.
104), p. 67.
23. For a detailed study of how Heidegger was elected, see H. Ott, "Wie Heidegger Rektor wurde," in Heidegger und die
praktische Philosophie , pp. 138-147.
24. I follow Thomä on this point. See Thomä, Die Zeit des Selbst (see In-trod., n. 6), p. 628.
25. "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," p. 481.
26. This is the same difference that Aristotle formalizes in his distinction between activity ( energeia ) and movement ( kinesis ).
An activity is complete in itself and has no end external to it to which it serves as a means; a movement is a means to an end
which is external to it and which is only reached when the means ceases to be. See Aristotle, Metaphysics , 9.6.1048b18-35.
27. Jaspers, Notizen zu Martin Heidegger , p. 18.
28. See Heidegger, Basic Writings , ed. Krell (see Introd., n. 11), pp. 91-112.
29. There is a close link between Heidegger's inaugural lecture, delivered in 1929, and his study of metaphysics in a wide variety
of other writings, including his work on Kant's view of metaphysics and his own introduction to metaphysics. See Martin
Heidegger, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics , trans. James S. Churchill (Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press,
1962). and Heidegger, An Introduction to Metaphysics , trans. Mannheim (see chap. 1, n. 32).
30. See "What Is Metaphysics?" in Heidegger, Basic Writings , p. 95.
31. Carnap held that Heidegger's analysis of nothing was an example of a meaningless statement and argued for the elimination
of metaphysics. See Rudolf Carnap, "The Elimination of Metaphysics through Logical Analysis of Language," in Logical Positivism ,
ed. A. J. Ayer (New York: Free Press, 1959). It is not impossible that Carnap, the apostle of rigorous thought from a scientific
perspective, was put off by Heidegger's view, expressed in his lecture, that such forms of "exact" knowledge as mathematics are
no more rigorous than others. See Heidegger, Basic Writings , p. 96.
32. See Heidegger, Basic Writings , p. 112.
33. Martin Heidegger, "Nachwort zu: 'Was Ist Metaphysik?'" in Wegmarken (Frankfurt a.M.: Vittorio Klostermann, 1967), p. 100.
34. Heidegger, Wegmarken , p. 107.
35. "Einleitung zu: 'Was Ist Metaphysik?'" in Heidegger, Wegmarken .
36. "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," pp. 481-482.
37. Ibid., p. 482.
38. Ibid., pp. 482-483.
36. "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," pp. 481-482.
37. Ibid., p. 482.
38. Ibid., pp. 482-483.
36. "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," pp. 481-482.
37. Ibid., p. 482.
38. Ibid., pp. 482-483.
39. For Husserl's view of objectivism, see Husserl, The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology (see
chap. 2, n. 30), para. 14: "Precursory characterization of objectivism and transcendentalism. The struggle between these two
ideas as the sense of the struggle of modern spiritual history." pp. 68-70. For Heidegger's view that as reflective phenomenology
is deeper than the positive sciences, see Being and Time , § 10, "How the Analytic of Dasein Is to Be Distinguished from
Anthropology, Psychology, and Biology," pp. 71-77.
40. For his view of the relation of the special sciences to philosophical science, see the discussion of the divided line in Plato, The
Republic , bk. 6, 509-511E.
41. "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," p. 486.
42. Ibid., p. 488.
43. Ibid., p. 496.
41. "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," p. 486.
42. Ibid., p. 488.
43. Ibid., p. 496.
41. "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," p. 486.
42. Ibid., p. 488.
43. Ibid., p. 496.
44. I agree with Lacoue-Labarthe on this point, who writes: "Et tel est très
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précisément ce que le 'Discours de rectorat' rappelle : en tous sens, le philosophique est la raison ou le fondement du
politique." Lacoue-Labarthe,
L'imitation des modernes: Typographies II (see chap. 2, n. 123), pp. 156-157.
45. This point is significant, and will be developed in the discussion of Heidegger's own Nietzsche interpretation. It is sufficient to
note at this point that Heidegger's concern to provide an authentic reading of Nietzsche is doubly determined on the one hand by
his view that National Socialism has provided an insufficient interpretation of Nietzsche's thought and on the other by his
dissatisfaction with Baeumler. Jaspers points out that like C. Schmitt and Heidegger, Baeumler also sought to lead National
Socialism. See his letter to Oehlkers of 22 December 1945, reprinted in Ott, Martin Heidegger , p. 317. For Baeumler's Nietzsche
interpretation, see Alfred Baeumler, Nietzsche, der Philosoph und Politiker (Leipzig: Reclam, 1931). For a discussion of
Baeumler's view, which is largely parallel to Heidegger's Nietzsche reading, in particular in the emphasis on the will to power and
the negation and overcoming of the preceding tradition, see Endre Kiss, "Nietzsche, Baeumler oder fiber die Möglichkeit einer

On Heidegger's Nazism and Philosophy
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positiven faschistischen Metaphysik," in Annales 16 (1982): 157-174. For discussion of Nietzsche and Nazism in general, see
Konrad Algermissen, Nietzsche und das Dritte Reich (Celle: Verlag Joseph Giesel, 1947). Heidegger further had a personal
reason to dislike Baeumler because of the latter's vulgarization of the concept of resoluteness ( Entschlossenheit ), developed in
Being and Time , in his own work, Münnerbund und Wissenschaft (Berlin: Junker und Dönnhaupt, 1934), p. 108. On this aspect
of the relation between Heidegger and Büumler, see Karl Löwith. "Der okkasionelle Dezisionismus von C. Schmitt," in Löwith,
Sámtliche Schriften (see Introd., n. 12), 1:64, n. 88.
46. This idea was a commonplace in the Third Reich. In an essay written in 1934, Bauemler portrays Nietzsche as a prophet who
was able to foresee the future. See Alfred Bauemler, "Nietzsche und der Nationalsozialismus," in Alfred Bauemler, Studien zur
deutschen Geistesgeschichte (Berlin: Junker und Dünnhaupt. 1943). p. 282. For a statement of the same idea in the context of
Nietzsche's thought, see also his Nachwort to Friedrich Nietzsche, Der Wille zur Macht: Versuch einer Umwertung aller Werte
(Leipzig: Alfred Kröner Verlag, 1930), p. 705.
47. "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," p. 483.
48. Ibid.. pp. 483-484. The translation of the first passage seems to me not to communicate adequately the strength of
Heidegger's statement, although I am unable to improve on the rendering.
49. One can argue that in the attribution of a vocation to the German people, Heidegger is merely developing the concept
of the vocation of man earlier sketched by Fichte and applied to the German nation. See Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Die Bestimmung
des Menschen , in Fichtes Werke , ed. I. H. Fichte (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1971), 2:165-320, and Reden an die deutsche
Nation , ibid., 7:257-502. For this argument, see André Glucksmann, Les maîtres penseurs (Paris: Grasset, 1977).
47. "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," p. 483.
48. Ibid.. pp. 483-484. The translation of the first passage seems to me not to communicate adequately the strength of
Heidegger's statement, although I am unable to improve on the rendering.
49. One can argue that in the attribution of a vocation to the German people, Heidegger is merely developing the concept
of the vocation of man earlier sketched by Fichte and applied to the German nation. See Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Die Bestimmung
des Menschen , in Fichtes Werke , ed. I. H. Fichte (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1971), 2:165-320, and Reden an die deutsche
Nation , ibid., 7:257-502. For this argument, see André Glucksmann, Les maîtres penseurs (Paris: Grasset, 1977).
47. "Rectoral Address—Facts and Thoughts," p. 483.
48. Ibid.. pp. 483-484. The translation of the first passage seems to me not to communicate adequately the strength of
Heidegger's statement, although I am unable to improve on the rendering.
49. One can argue that in the attribution of a vocation to the German people, Heidegger is merely developing the concept
of the vocation of man earlier sketched by Fichte and applied to the German nation. See Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Die Bestimmung
des Menschen , in Fichtes Werke , ed. I. H. Fichte (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1971), 2:165-320, and Reden an die deutsche
Nation , ibid., 7:257-502. For this argument, see André Glucksmann, Les maîtres penseurs (Paris: Grasset, 1977).
50. This idea was in the air at the time. For instance, Theodor Lessing, a philosopher who was assassinated by the Gestapo on
30 August 1933, shortly
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after Heidegger became rector, with an eye on the evolution of German politics wrote as early as 1925 in opposition to
Hindenburg: "Nach Plato sollen die Philosophen Führer der Völker sein. Ein Philosoph würde mit Hindenburg nun eben nicht den
Thronstuhl besteigen. Nun ein reprásentives Symbol, ein Fragezeichen, ein Zero. Man kann sagen: 'Besser ein Zero als ein Nero.'
Leider zeigt die Geschichte, dass hinter einem Zero immer ein künftiger Nero verborgen steht." Cited in Laugstien,