Politics and the Imagination

By Raymond Geuss | Go to book overview

IX
Heidegger and His Brother

THE SMALL TOWN OF Meßkirch lies in the extreme south of the present state of Baden-Württemberg, Germany, roughly halfway between Lake Constance and the Swabian Alps. During the first half of the twentieth century, this region was still overwhelmingly rural and Catholic. Politically Meßkirch and its surrounding villages were a bastion of the (Catholic) Center Party, which, together with the SPD, formed one of the central components of the continuing coalition of parties that kept the Weimar Republic in operation during the 1920s. In the elections of 1932 the Center Party received an absolute majority of the votes cast in Meßkirch, and in the fi nal election before the war (March 1933) it was still the largest single party (45% of the vote; the National Socialists received 35%; other parties the rest) (pp. 48–49).1 In the small towns of this poor and isolated area various traditional practices were retained into the 1960s that had elsewhere disappeared. Thus, Carnival (Fastnacht) was elaborately celebrated as a “Week of Fools” during which people dressed in outlandish costumes, told jokes, and enjoyed some relaxation of the usual rules of moderation, decorum, and social docility. The high point of the week was a banquet at which officially recognized Town Fools gave public speeches from a raised dais in front of the town hall. The speech of a Town Fool was expected to be a virtuoso linguistic display in the local dialect, full of puns, humorous metaphors, and witty juxtapositions of incongruous items. In this ultra-Catholic region, where the Counter-Reformation—and the Baroque aesthetic with which it was often associated—had struck extremely deep roots, the Carnival speeches were directed as if to a particularly crude peasant audience, and they were often informed by a religiously based gallows humor. Why worry about taxes, social advancement, or the harvest when in a quarter of an hour you could all be dead and gone to eternal judgment, and probable damnation, anyway? As in Athenian Old Comedy, the Town Fools’ speeches were also expected to be full of references to local people and

1 This essay originated as a review of Hans Dieter Zimmermann's Martin und Fritz Hei degger: Philosophie und Fastnacht (Beck, 2005). Otherwise unspecified page references are to this book.

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Politics and the Imagination
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • I - Political Judgment in Its Historical Context 1
  • II - The Politics of Managing Decline 17
  • III - Moralism and Realpolitik 31
  • IV - On the Very Idea of a Metaphysics of Right 43
  • V - The Actual and Another Modernity Order and Imagination in Don Quixote 61
  • VI - Culture as Ideal and as Boundary 81
  • VII - On Museums 96
  • VIII - Celan's Meridian 117
  • Appendix 138
  • IX - Heidegger and His Brother 142
  • X - Richard Rorty at Princeton Personal Recollections 151
  • XI - Melody as Death 164
  • XII - On Bourgeois Philosophy and the Concept of "Criticism" 167
  • Bibliography 187
  • Index 193
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