Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger: History of a Love

Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger: History of a Love

Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger: History of a Love

Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger: History of a Love

Synopsis

How could Hannah Arendt, a German Jew who fled Germany in 1931, have reconciled with Martin Heidegger, whom she knew had joined and actively participated in the Nazi Party? In this remarkable biography, Antonia Grunenberg tells how the relationship between Arendt and Heidegger embraced both love and thought and made their passions inseparable, both philosophically and romantically. Grunenberg recounts how the history between Arendt and Heidegger is entwined with the history of the twentieth century with its breaks, catastrophes, and crises. Against the violent backdrop of the last century, she details their complicated and often fissured relationship as well as their intense commitments to thinking.

Excerpt

Over the past several decades the question has often been raised: How could Hannah Arendt have reconciled with Martin Heidegger, whom she knew had joined and actively participated in the Nazi Party when taking over the rectorship of Freiburg University? the same question, asked differently: How could Arendt, a Jewish-German refugee who had fled Germany in 1931, have resumed her relationship with Heidegger, her former teacher, on her first trip back to Germany in 1948, a trip undertaken on behalf of the Commission on European Jewish Cultural Reconstruction to recover stolen Jewish cultural artifacts? Grunenberg’s biography is remarkable in showing that this way of asking the question is too stark and does not capture the ways in which the history of these two major thinkers of the twentieth century is not simply one of a broken intimacy followed by reconciliation; instead, it is a history marked as much by estrangement, breaks, and distance as it is of proximity, reunion, and resumed friendship. the biography reveals that the history of the love between Arendt and Heidegger is best captured in the English idiom “they have a history,” indicating an erotic relationship that is complicated and fraught.

Perhaps the most striking example of the estrangement, distance, and reversals that continued to mark the history between Arendt and Heidegger is the long silence between them that ensued only a few years after the reconciliation in 1948, a silence due not to political or philosophical disagreements—on the contrary, it was personal. the personal silence finds momentary philosophical voice in a note that Arendt sent to Heidegger via her publisher on the occasion of the 1960 publication of Vita Activa, the German edition of The Human Condition: “You will see that the book does not contain a dedication. Had things worked out properly between us—and I mean between, that is, neither you nor me—I would have asked you if I might dedicate it to you; it came directly out of the first Freiburg days and hence owes practically everything to you in every respect.” Arendt’s note on an absent dedication should put to rest the pervasive assumption by many of Arendt’s readers that The Human Condition announced a break with Heidegger’s thinking; it should also cast doubt on the often-repeated claim that Heidegger’s . . .

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