[lit-ideas] Re: Heidegger's Spenglerism

  • From: John McCreery <john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 20 Nov 2009 14:41:43 +0900


Just wanted to say thank you for this series of posts. Very educational.


On Fri, Nov 20, 2009 at 2:29 PM, Lawrence Helm

>  *enowning* <http://www.blogger.com/profile/12287486840371546648> left the
> following comment in regard to the post "*Heidegger influenced by Spengler
> *<http://www.lawrencehelm.com/2009/11/heidegger-influenced-by-spengler.html>
> ":
> Heidegger references Spengler in dozens of places. He was probably the most
> popular German intellectual in the 20s.
> Indeed, and one can’t help but wonder why Emmanuel Faye chooses to ignore
> that fact.  I am off to a rocky start in reading Faye’s book.  Faye is
> calling Heidegger a Nazi in the years before Hitler created the Nazi party.  
> He
> doesn’t see Heidegger embracing the sort of “National Socialism” (even if
> it can be called* that*) in the early 20s.  For Faye there is only one
> political enterprise that Heidegger embraced and it is the Nazism of
> Hitler.   Nuance of politics doesn’t seem to be one of Faye’s concerns.
> Bearing in mind that* The** Decline** of the West* was first published in
> 1920 and was therefore being written by Spengler as World War One was
> concluded and in its immediate aftermath, consider the conclusion to his
> 19th chapter, where he discusses how Liberal Democracy must of necessity
> fail and be replaced by a Caesar-like ruler:
> “Through money, democracy becomes its own destroyer, after money has
> destroyed intellect.  But . . . men have learned that in the realm of
> reality one power-will* can be overthrown only by another* . . . there
> wakes at last a deep yearning for all old and worthy traditions that still
> lingers alive.  Men . . . hope for salvation from somewhere or other, for
> some true ideal of honour and chivalry, of inward nobility, of
> unselfishness and duty.  And now dawns the time when the form-filled powers
> of blood . . . reawaken in the depths.  Everything in the order of
> dynastic tradition and old nobility that has saved itself up for the
> future, everything that there is of high money-disdaining ethic,
> everything that is intrinsically sound enough to be, in Frederick the Great
> ’s words, the* servant* – the hard-working, self-sacrificing, caring*
> servant* – of the State – all this becomes suddenly the focus of immense
> life forces.  Caesarism* grows* on the soil of Democracy, but its roots
> thread deeply into the underground of blood tradition.  The Classical
> Caesar derived his power from the Tribunate, and his dignity and therewith
> his permanency from his being the princeps.  Here too the soul of old Gothic
> wakens anew.  The spirit of the knightly orders overpowers plunderous
> Vikingism.  The mighty ones of the future may possess the earth as their
> private property – for the great political form of the Culture is
> irremediably in ruin – but it matters not, for, formless and limitless as
> their power may be, it has a task.  And this task is the unwearying care for
> this world as it is, which is the very opposite of the interestedness of the
> money-power age, and demands high honour and conscientiousness.  But for
> this very reason there now sets in the final battle between Democracy and
> Caesarism, between the leading forces of dictatorial money-economics and the
> * purely political* will-to-order of the Caesars.”
> Is it more reasonable  to imagine that Heidegger was influenced by Spenglerian
> diatribes such as this one, or that he had launched himself and his
> philosophy, solely from his on mind, on the path that led to Adolf Hitler
> and his holocaust?
> This isn’t to say there was nothing wrong in Heidegger accepting Spengler’s
> political philosophy, but it is to say that Faye (at least as far as I’ve
> read) has gotten has glossed over way too much history.  He forces us to
> take our attention from the real problem (Spengler and the Ideas of 1914)
> and focus on an unreality, Heidegger as the prototype of Nazism.
> Faye’s arguments have a certain plausibility, but  he goes too far in
> blaming Heidegger for Hitler and the Holocaust.  Heidegger was influenced by
> the ideas of 1914 and as enowning says above, by Spengler, “who was
> probably the most influential intellectual of the 20s.”  That is where we
> should be looking, not way out at the end of the argument that resulted in
> Hitler and his holocaust.  And not as though Heidegger sprang full-grown
> without antecedents.
> But am I then saying that Heidegger should be excused because he wasn’t
> the true creator of the political philosophy that led to Hitler?  I hope I
> am not saying that.  I don’t intend to.  Heidegger should be blamed, or at
> least disagreed with, but let’s do it for the correct reasons.  He
> embraced a political philosophy that was as fully experimental as Marxism.
> Heidegger should be faulted, just as we should fault the Russian
> Communists for believing too long in their ideal.  He and they were on the
> wrong track.  Their experiments failed and we should learn lessons from th
> ose failures.
> Communism and National Socialism were begun by idealists.  Not all were,
> but some were, the most interesting intellectuals were, and Heidegger was
> one of those.  He believed in the ideal.  What we should look for (rather
> than the things Faye seems to be looking for) is the point when Heidegger* 
> should
> have known* that National Socialism was a failed experiment.  Perhaps he
> realized that during the war, but if so what must his thoughts have been
> and what conclusions could he have drawn?  He would still have believed
> that Capitalism was a dead end (Spengler probably convinced him of that);
> so what were his choices?  He may have thought Communism (a political
> philosophy he opposed as strongly as he opposed Liberal Democracy) was
> going to win out.  Did this mean he should have turned to Communism as so
> many in France did?  He was an old and tired 56 when the war ended and not
> about to turn against all he had written and thought.
> For, after all, did the Nazi-form of National Socialism (rather than the
> Spengler form) inform his philosophy?  Perhaps not.  Faye tells us that it
> did, but I don’t trust Faye’s grasp of logical argument.  For Faye there
> is only the one form of National Socialism and it isn’t the ideal that
> Thomas Carlyle and Oswold Spengler wrote about.  It was the form put into
> action by Adolf Hitler, and Heidegger was associated with it.  And therein
> lies the fault of Faye’s argument as I see it.  His form of argument is “Guilt
> by association,” which is, as arguments go, fallacious.  He can’t just say (to
> exaggerate only a little) “look at the Swastika on Heidegger’s arm,
> therefore his philosophy is shot through with Nazism.  He needs to prove the
> connection in Heidegger’s philosophy, and my impression from the
> sloppiness of argument I’ve seen thus far is that Faye isn’t up to it.
> Lawrence Helm
> *www.lawrencehelm.com* <http://www.lawrencehelm.com>

John McCreery
The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN
Tel. +81-45-314-9324

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