Speaking against Number: Heidegger, Language and the Politics of Calculation

By Stuart Elden | Go to book overview

Taking the Measure of the Political

Following the Allied victory, Heidegger was brought before a denazification commission at the University of Freiburg. He was forbidden to teach and refused Emeritus status. The details of the tribunal, the evasions he gave to try to hold onto his job, and the damning letter from Karl Jaspers that probably swayed the decision have been well explored in numerous works, and need not concern us here.1 Although Heidegger's sentence is insignificant compared to the enormity of the crimes and punishments of Europe as a whole, the denial of an audience for his ideas was surely considerable for one who so clearly valued teaching as a means to research. We should note that almost all of Heidegger's published works after Being and Time derive from lecture material.

But Heidegger did not retreat into silence. Not long after the war, in late 1946, while his position was still undecided, and recognising the impact his ideas were having, particularly in France – Sartre's Being and Nothingness appeared in 1943; Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception in 19452 – he agreed to respond to some questions posed to him by Jean Beaufret, who had been a correspondent since 1945.3 This text, the Letter on Humanism, is one of Heidegger's most interesting pieces, a tour-de-force of clarification, summary and future programme, particularly orientated around positioning himself against the 'existentialist' interpretation. If a detailed reading will be eschewed here, one particular passage neatly illustrates a number of the problematics that this book has been concerned with.

Following an orientation of the European problem around the alternatives of Communism and Americanism, Heidegger declares

Every nationalism is metaphysically an anthropologism, and as such
subjectivism. Nationalism is not overcome through mere internationalism;

-170-

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Speaking against Number: Heidegger, Language and the Politics of Calculation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Introduction 1
  • One – Speaking: Rhetorical Politics 17
  • Two – Against: Polemical Politics 72
  • Three – Number: Calculative Politics 116
  • Taking the Measure of the Political 170
  • Subject Index 185
  • Index of Names 191
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