Heidegger and Hitler Proponents Term Paper

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[. . .] Thus, it could be embraced by one and all -- and even by Heidegger, the sometime Catholic sage.

Heidegger's Vision and Hitler's

In Being and Time, Heidegger attempts to recover a metaphysical sense of "being" -- once possessed by him as a Catholic, now lost as a modernist. In Mein Kampf, Hitler attempts to recover a sense of Germanic pride -- once possessed by Germany under during the majestic era in which its leader took the title Holy Roman Emperor, now lost as a country defeated by a new alliance of powers.

Heidegger sought to recover the sense of "being" he once possessed not by embracing the orthodoxy he once accepted but rather by "deconstructing" the philosophies that had clouded the concept of "being" in their attempt to access "being" and define it. In this sense, Heidegger would have been wholly sympathetic to a nation attempting to deconstruct the woeful image the Western world had placed on it. Both Heidegger and Germany were at war with the past.

Heidegger foreshadowed the existentialists and the deconstructionalists. Hitler foreshadowed the uber-nationalistic, neo-romantic, sensationalistic, totalitarian government of today. Heidegger emphasized the rubric of study being "of the Event": "Philosophy can be officially announced no other way, since all essential titles have become impossible on account of the exhaustion of every basic word and the destruction of the genuine relation to words" (Heidegger 5). Hitler emphasized the inability of the masses to form their own system of government: "It's quite clear that the political understanding of the wider masses is hardly developed enough to form definite political views or to select future leaders" (Farias 67). Heidegger discounted the meaning that earlier scholastics (like Aquinas) had given to "Being" because the words no longer meant anything in the modern world. Hitler discounted the views of the public because the public no longer meant anything in the modern world. In both cases, one sees that meaning (or a precise, defined, doctrinal sense of reality) is missing.

Heidegger's metaphysics examines the essence of "being" -- that essence which medieval scholastics like Aquinas and classical Christian theologians like Augustine had examined. In Contributions to Philosophy: Of the Event, Heidegger looks at "being," however, from a radically different position from that of his forerunners. He looks at it from the perspective of the modern world -- a world profoundly separated from the perspective Catholic perspective.

So too did the National Socialists look at politics. They supported a unified Germany, exclusive, superior, modern, powerful and pagan. Heidegger's search for "Being" could easily be found as a manifestation in the National Socialist Party. Heidegger's "Being," like Hitler's Germany, did "not involve the mere repetition of past values but rather the futural transformation of German society in the struggle 'for ownness'" (Farias 65). Heidegger's metaphysical view paved the way for his political view. Had he retained a wholly Catholic view, it is more likely that he would have rejected National Socialism. Pius X, after all, had condemned the separation of church and state as a necessity. Heidegger, distancing himself from the doctrine of the Church, distanced himself from the principles that would have naturally been opposed to the National Socialist Party. In fact, Heidegger's new doctrine -- his new vision of "being" prepared him to embrace the new political system that sought to give a new identity to his nation -- one divorced from the old world identity that had brought it to this point in time. National Socialism was the new expression of the "living tradition." It was just one more expression of Heidegger's "Being."

Just like Hitler mined the lore of German Romanticism to fuel his notion of National Socialism, Heidegger mined the lexicon of Western philosophy in order to make sense of "being" as it had come to be interpreted in the modern era. Heidegger embraced the "revolutionary conservative values of Catholic neo-romanticism," explained away the court of public opinion (just as Hitler did), and reduced the level of lived experience to a matter of illusory impressions which required the correct interpretation -- one unmuddied by those with "inferior powers" (a reference to the Jewish race) (Farias 67).

As Gillespie observes, Heidegger viewed "Being" in dramatic terms -- almost Wagnerian terms: he saw total war as imminent, the only two alternatives left to the Western world being an embracing of "Being" (salvation) or a rejection of "Being" (degeneracy). For Heidegger, the one, the true, and the good would become more apparent as all the world's pretensions were laid bare. This epoch confrontation between "Being" and "Nothingness" (to borrow a dichotomy) put Heidegger in an easy position to sympathize with the aims of Hitler's National Socialist Party, which conjured an epic battle between Germany and the evil Western powers. A spirit of romanticism was imbibed by each. The "Being" that Heidegger sought was not a "Being" that could be confined to Thomistic formulae. Neither was Hitler's National Socialism a political doctrine that could be confined to Germany alone. It had to fight and overcome the whole world. When it failed to do so, Hitler's political doctrine failed. When the political doctrine failed, so too did Heidegger's commitment to it. The philosopher would have to find a new engine for his "Being" -- a new place where "Being" could be manifested, embraced, and exercised.

Heidegger was himself, like Hitler, a revolutionary. Both had departed orthodoxy and both set forth a new vision of "being" that was based on romantic ideology, on modernist principles, and on a kind of "will-to-power" belief system. "The inner truth and the grandeur of the National Socialism," Heidegger stated, was found in its "spirit" -- its guiding light, its ability to lead German society, unite under one banner, proclaim it to the world, and give it something to believe in (Farias 191). Because Heidegger had abandoned his belief in the Church, the State was an ample substitute.

The only problem, as Heidegger learned, was that it was also a merely human substitute -- and not the sort of divine institution he had at one time believed the Church to be. Heidegger's representation of "Being" could not, ultimately, be found in the "inner truth" of National Socialism because the inner truth of the Nazi Party was based on an insufficient measure of true "Being": it was man-made, finite, mortal, self-centered rather than God-centered. Heidegger for all his newfound faith in modernism could not quite shake his belief in God -- and even if he become "knowledge"-centered rather than God-centered, God remained at least in his periphery vision.

Had Heidegger been a die-hard devotee to the National Socialists and to the Fuehrer who led them, he might not have survived the war. But he did, and the fact that he lived to contemplate more deeply the "Being" he sought to find outside the structure of the Catholic Church and, ultimately, beyond the scope of the National Socialists may serve as a testament to his own affiliations. In the end, Heidegger's metaphysics influenced his politics -- but his politics did not, in turn, determine his own end.

Conclusion

If his political views are understood by many scholars as the practical, social application of his philosophy, other scholars debate the validity of the relationship between Heidegger's support of German National Socialism from 1933 to 1945 and his metaphysical ideas. Plato's Republic does nothing if it fails to convince that the political and the metaphysical are intimately intertwined. One might argue that while such may be true for Plato, it has no bearing on Heidegger, whose philosophy of being owes more to the modern sense of the obliteration of all meaning (ala "The Waste Land") than to the encapsulation of all meaning (ala "and the Word was made Flesh").

And, yet, might Heidegger be labeled a Romantic? Certainly Hitler rose to power on the coattails of a deeply romanticized Germanic national pride. Hitler was a devotee of Wagner; his vision was Napoleonic; his worldview based on romantic revolution. How is Heidegger to be separated from this whirlwind of romantic, revolutionary politics coming to the forefront of his nation at the same time that his metaphysics are coming to maturity? Is it true, therefore, that some scholars believe that it is a mistake to attempt to understand Heidegger's metaphysical views apart from his political views? This paper has shown that, yes, in the final analysis, it is a mistake to attempt to understand Heidegger's metaphysics apart from his politics -- for, as Plato suggests, one's politics follows one's metaphysics. Such, at least, certainly appears to be the case with Martin Heidegger.

Works Cited

Farias, Victor. Heidegger and Nazism. PA: Temple University Press, 1987. Print.

Gillespie, Michael Allen. Hegel, Heidegger, and the Ground of History. IL: University… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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