Martin Heidegger: A Political Life


"Martin Heidegger's Being and Time, one of the most influential philosophical works of the twentieth century, was published in 1927, the same year as the second volume of Hitler's Mein Kampf. The coincidence is appropriate: although Heidegger's is a conspicuously abstract philosophy, delivered in a language whose enigmas often defeat interpretation, it is firmly 'grounded' (one of Heidegger's favourite terms) in its time and circumstances. Heidegger was a private supporter of Nazism from its inception, and in the 1930s made public his personal belief, pronouncing his support for Hitler. But Heidegger was not only a Nazi in his political affiliation: he believed his philosophy to be the spiritual parallel to Hitler's leadership. In 1933 he was made Rektor of Freiburg University, a position which he hoped would enable him to put into practice his political and social views. He became one of the main instigators of the Nazification of German universities, encouraging students to participate in paramilitary exercises, and to salute him as if he were himself the Fuhrer. This was an aspect of the self-mythology to which he was prone: Hannah Arendt, his one-time pupil and lover, said his involvement with Nazism could be attributed 'partly to the delusion of genius, partly to desperation'. His political beliefs also deeply affected his closest personal and intellectual relationships. In the name of the Reich, he turned Gestapo informer, blackening 'un-German' professors as 'political unreliables', and, in an act of betrayal, he stood by as the regime expelled from Freiburg his mentor and friend, Edmund Husserl. A profound influence on Sartre and other existentialists, acknowledged as a guiding inspiration by Foucault, defended by Derrida, Heidegger, since his death, has been and still is a major source of philosophical ideas for intellectuals both in Europe and in America. Hugo Ott's purpose in this scrupulously detailed and balanced biography is not to give his own explication of Heidegger's philosophy but to show that it is no longer possible to read it without considering the politics of its creator. In doing so Ott draws upon letters, archival material and the private papers of Heidegger, his friends, family and colleagues, in many cases for the first time, thereby fundamentally altering our understanding of him. In addition to its elucidation of the complicated but undeniable connections between Heidegger's life and thought, Ott's account is to be valued for the profound questions it raises about the responsibilities of intellectuals in the twentieth century." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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