In defence of Heidegger

Jonathan Rée in Prospect:

Heidegger-cropThe German philosopher Martin Heidegger died nearly 40 years ago, but his work has never stopped making the headlines: not because of his ideas, but because of his association with Nazism. The latest stage of the controversy (well covered here and here by Jonathan Derbyshire) has been occasioned by prepublication hype for an edition of the Schwarzen Hefte, a 1000 page transcript of the little notebooks bound in black covers, in which he jotted down observations for most of his life. According to the pre-publicity, these notebooks show that Heidegger was a deep-dyed anti-Semite, and suggest that no self-respecting thinker should touch him with a bargepole. I can’t say that I agree.

1. In the first place, it’s common knowledge that, as well as being a member of the Nazi party for many years, Heidegger was an anti-Semite. Not a violent one, but the sort of cultural anti-Semite (DH Lawrence, TS Eliot, Ezra Pound) often found in the 1920s and 30s, not only in Germany but throughout Europe and America. For good measure, I guess he was also a womaniser and a male chauvinist pig. The question is whether these facts are a reason for avoiding his works, or whether we can in fact read him without putting our political purity in danger.

More here.