Academic journal article Philosophy Today

From Polemos to the Extermination of the Enemy

Academic journal article Philosophy Today

From Polemos to the Extermination of the Enemy

Article excerpt


Dear Professor Fried,

For some time now I have adopted the policy of not publishing individual responses to the many critical reviews and written discussions of my book on Heidegger in numerous countries. But when you sent me the first version of your open letter, it seemed to me, as I read your selfcriticism at the beginning of your letter and the deep reflection shown by your remarks - unusual on the part of Heidegger commentators - that the preconditions for a serious discussion were in place. You acknowledge with great honesty that after having read my book it would no longer be possible for you to write that Heidegger was a multiculturalist opposed to global imperialism, and that there was nothing orthodox about his National Socialism. This sort of retractatio is too rare not to be deserving of recognition. That is why, somewhat imprudently, I promised to reply to your letter once it was published. Now that Philosophy Today has offered to publish your text together with my response, I cannot but keep my word. So I have just devoted my full attention to a careful reading of the completed version you recently sent me.

Before discussing certain theses and analyses of mine, you bring up in an extremely interesting and instructive way the hardships your father's side of the family suffered under the Nazis, and your own intellectual journey. Given these circumstances, it may be that you (as well as the readers of our correspondence, since this is a public exchange) expect me to proceed in a similar fashion. But in fact that would be difficult for me to do, since for me the Heidegger problem is not a personal one. It is a question that confronts philosophy today in a general sense. And it is when I see today's worthy students being taken in by Heidegger that I have, for a little more than ten years now, resolved to try to clarify the situation, on the basis of hitherto unpublished texts. Certainly the way was paved for me by the example of Jean-Pierre Faye. But, contrary to what you seem to think, the thesis or main argument of my work has not been borrowed from anyone else. The international reception of my book proves,1 if such a proof were necessary, that neither the conception, nor what I believe to be the truth of that thesis depends narrowly on the history of the reception of Heidegger in France - although Tom Rockmore's preface to my book, albeit very didactic and in that sense useful - might lead the reader to think so. What I wanted to show, with the texts to back it up, was that the basis of Heidegger's work is too deeply grounded in the racist and exterminatory project of National Socialism and Hitlerism to make up a philosophy properly so called. If that thesis is true, the conclusion I draw from it is legitimate: namely, that the place for Heidegger's Gesamtausgabe is not among works of philosophy, but rather among the annals of the history of National Socialism, alongside the works of Alfred Baeumler, for example. I am speaking, of course, of a symbolic transfer, and not of a "placing on the index," and even less of a desire for censorship. On the contrary, the purpose of all my efforts is to make available to the public texts that, as a result of restrictions imposed on critical research by the literary heirs who control access to the archives, are hard to obtain. But I should probably begin by clarifying the question of Heidegger's relation to philosophy, a theme to which you return frequently in your letter, and with good reason.

Heidegger and Philosophy

Martin Heidegger was a professor at Freiburg University. He gave courses on Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, and others during his entire career. He had had his teachers, and was to have his own disciples and adversaries. In this sense, he does indeed have his place in what Pierre Bourdieu calls the academic "field of philosophy" of the twentieth century, and no one can change that fact. …

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