Democracy and Class Struggle discovered this book many years ago and found it refreshing and a million miles away from the subjectivism of Lukacs History and Class Consciousness which the Left embraced but the Destruction of Reason a more profound and useful work was basically ignored - but its time will come - in fact it may be coming.
The Ash Wednesday of Parasitical Subjectivism
Scheler's tempered feelings of uneasiness about the contemporary situation burst into the open in the philosophy of his younger fellow-pupil, Martin Heidegger.
With the latter, phenomenology came to occupy the centre of the German intellectuals' philosophical interest for the time being.
But it now turned into the ideology of the agony of individualism in the imperialist period.
Already the 'consolidation' of Scheler's philosophy echoed only faintly that self-awareness which imperialistic subjectivism had voiced in the philosophy of Dilthey and above all Simmel.
It was just extreme relativism which seemed to account for the sovereign assurance of this self-awareness: everything solid resolved into a matter of subjective viewpoint, and all objectivity into a purely relative function or relation conditioned by the subject.
This meant that, for all the relativistic resignation, the subject appeared to itself as creator of the spiritual universe, or at any rate as the power creating - in line with its own model, own assessmen and own inner needs - an ordered cosmos out of an otherwise senseless chaos, bestowed on it a meaning to its own greater glory, and appropriating it as the realm of its experiences.
Vitalism, even Simmel's, expressed this general feeling more cautiously than did imaginative literature in the imperialist period (we are thinking chiefly of the lyric poetry of Stefan George and Rilke).
The grim years of the First World War, which were full of abrupt changes of fortune, and the ensuing period brought a marked change of mood. The subjectivistic tendency remained, but its basic tenor, its atmosphere was completely altered.
No longer was the world a great, multi-purpose stage upon which the I, in ever-changing costumes and continually transforming the scenery at will, couuld play out its own inner tragedies and comedies. It had now become a devastated area.
Before the war, it had been possible to criticize that which was mechanical and rigid about capitalist culture from a lofty vitalistic angle.
This was an innocuous and safe intellectual exercise, for the being of society appeared to stand undisturbed and to guarantee the safe existence of parasitical subjectivism.
Since the downfall of the Wilhelmine regime the social world had started to constitute something alien to this subjectivism; the collapse of that world which subjectivism was continually criticizing, but which formed the indispensable basis of its existence, was lurking at every door.
There was no longer any firm means of support. And in its abandoned condition, the solitary Ego stood in fear and anxiety.
As a rule, relatively similar social situations produce relatively similar tendencies in thought and feeling. Before the outbreak of the 1848 revolution, which was an international, European event, Romantic individualism went to pieces for good.
The most important thinker during its crisis and fall, the Dane Soren Kierkegaard, formulated in the most original way the philosophy of the then current Romantic-individualistic agony.
No wonder that now, when this depressed mood was already starting to make itself felt - years ahead of the actual crisis - as a foreboding of future gloomy events, a renascence of Kierkegaard's philosophy was proclaimed by the new phase's leading minds, Husserl's pupil Heidegger and the former psychiatrist Karl Jaspers.
Of course they did so with up-to-date modifications. Orthodox Protestant relgiosity and Kierkegaard's strictly Lutheran faith in the Bible were of no use to present needs.
But in Kierkegaard's critique of Hegelian philosophy, as a critique of all striving for objectivity and universal validity by reasoned thought, and of all concepts of historical progress, acquired a very strong contemporary influence.
So did Kierkegaard's argumentation of an 'existential philosophy' from the deepest despair of an extreme, self-mortifying subjectivism which sought to justify itself in the very pathos of this despair, in its professed exposure of all ideals of socio-historical life as mere vapid and vain ideas, in contrast to the subject which alone existed.
The altered historical situation did, of course, dictate far-reaching changes. Again, these lay chiefly in the fact that Kierkegaard's philosophy was aimed against the bourgeois idea of progress, against Hegel's idealist dialectics, whereas the renovators of existential philosophy were already principally at odds with Marxism, although this seldom found overt and direct expression in their writings; at times they attempted to exploit the reactionary aspects of Hegelian philosophy on behalf of this new campaign.
That in Kiergegaard existential philosophy was already no more than the ideology of the saddest philistinism, of fear and trembling, or anxiety, did not stop it conquering wide intellectual circles in Germany on the eve of Hitler's seizure of power and the nihilistic period of so-called heroic realism.
On the contrary: this pretentiously tragic philistinism was precisely the socio-psychological reason for the influence of Heidegger and Jaspers.
It was this mood of despair, and not deep-seated programmatic differences, which distinguished existential philosophy from the rest of vitalism.
Admittedly, it was more than a matter of chance or merely terminology that the emphatically used catchword of 'life' was succeeded by an emphasis on 'existence'. Although the difference was one of mood far more than philosophical method, it nevertheless expressed something new in content and not trivial: the intensity of the loneliness, disappointment and despair created a new content.
The emphatic stress on 'life' signified that conquest of the world through subjectivity; hence the fascist activists of vitalism, who were about to succeed Heidegger and Jaspers, revived this catchword, although they gave it a new content once more. 'Existence' as a philosophical leitmotif implied the rejection of a great deal that vitalism had elsewhere approved as 'alive', and this was now presented as inessential, non-existential.
Certainly this mood was not unknown in pre-war vitalism. It is obvious in Nietzsche, although in his case the selection from 'life', the rebuttal of a portion of 'life' suggests rather the militant vitalism of fascism and pre-fascism.
But Dilthey and Simmel were no strangers to such moods either. Let us remember Simmel's 'tragedy of culture' and his cynically resigned attempts at solving it. And even Dilthey stated once: 'And the contemporary analysis of huyman existence fills us all with a feeling of fragility, of the might of the dark impulses, of being afflicted with obscure visions and illusions, of the finiteness in everything that constitutes life, even where these things give rise to the highest constructions of communal life." [Collected Works, Chap VII, p.150]
But it would be wrong to see only a quantitative difference here, a difference of accent. Granted, in order to recognize that the social and psychical motives which existentialism engendered were operative from the start, it is important that we heed the communal foundation, the being of society in the imperialist period. It is equally important, on the other hand, not to overlook what was specifically new about it. We might say that the same motives now appeared iin different proportions, thus bringing us closer to that which was new.
For the basic philosophical mood of existentialism is expressed in just this qualitative change of proportion. Whereas the earlier vitalism had been mainly concerned with rejecting the 'moribund formations' of social being and confronting them with the vivacity of total subjectivity as organ of the conquest of 'life' the cleft now appeared within the subject.
Whereas before, - in the context of the aristocratic epistemology this necessarily entailed - human beings were divided to some extent into two classes, the one living oiut life and the other torn from it, now the life of each human being, life in general was considered at risk.
And the peril was expressed in the very feeling of becoming inessential, of succumbing to the un-living. The emphatic stress on existence instead of life, even in contrast to life, expressed precisely this fear of life's becoming inessential in general; and it indicated a search for that core of genuineness in subjectivity which, it was hoped, man could still endeavour to rescue from the imminent general destruction. So the pathos of the new orientation expressed the yearning to rescue naked existence from a universal collapse, and therein lay this basic mood's affinity with Kierkegaard's.
Heidegger united Diltheyan tendencies and phenomenology more resolutely and consciously than Scheler. He even brought description and hermeneutics closer together than Dilthey himself had done, and this naturally meant a reinforcement of ovety subjectivism.
He stated: 'The methodical meaning of phenomenological description is interpretation.' [This and following quotes unless otherwise stated are from Being and Time] With him even contemplation and thought appear as 'distant derivatives of understanding. The phenomenological "intuition of the essence" too is based on existential understanding.'
Despite this heightening of subjectivistic tendencies, Heidegger represented perhaps even more strongly than his predecessors the philosophical 'third way': the claim to be above the antithesis of idealism and materialism (which he terms realism).
'That which-is-in-being (Seiendes) is independent of experience, discovered, defined. But being (Sein) "is" only in the understanding of that which-is-in-being, to whose Being belongs something like an understanding of Being.'
This epistemological hocus-pocus, so typical of the whole imperialist period, was carred out by Heidegger such that he always says 'existence' (Dasein), thus giving the impression of an objectivity independent of human consciousness, although by 'existence' he meant nothing more than human existence, indeed only, in the final analysis, its manifestation in consciousness.
Heidegger solved this crucial question of the philosophical 'third way' on the basis of apodictic statement and 'essential intuition'.
He himself was obliged to see that through his position, he was approaching that vicious circle which Dilthey had perceived with alarm in the earlier vitalism. 'But if interpretation must operate within the bounds of the understood and be sustained by it, how then is it to yield scientific results without travelling in a circle, especially if, moreover, the presupposed understanding moves within the general ken of mankind and the world?'
But whereas Dilthey paused to regard the circle with scientifically honest alarm, Heidegger resolutely cut the knot with the aid of 'essential intuition' (with which, because of its irrationalistic arbitrariness, anything at all can be sought out, especially by means of an ontological transition to Being).
For understanding 'proves' (?) to be 'the expression of the existential pre-construction of existence itself...Because understanding, in its existential sense, is the potential Being in existence, the ontological hypotheses of historical perception surmount, in principle, the rigour of the exact sciences. Mathematics are not stricter than history, but only narrower with regard to the radius of the existential foundations pertaining to mathematics.'
The special significance of the historical in Heidegger we shall discuss later. Here it is only important to establish that Heidegger 'ontologically' smuggled 'understanding', i.e., a procedure governed purely by consciousness, into objective Being and thus tried to create, in his own way, just as ambigious a contrast between subjectivity and objectivity as Mach, in his own period, had done with regard to the sphere of apprehension.
Both, in reality, were carrying out the same transference - though in a different form, as befitted their different intentions - of purely subjective-idealistic positions into objective (i.e., pseudo-objective) ones. It is just that the Machists were far more open and straightforward in translating direct observations into the only (pseudo-objective) reality accessible to us, whereas Heidegger was presenting the project of a - professed - special science of pure objectivity, of ontology.
To be sure he was no more successful than the earlier phenemenologists in showing how to find a way from objective reality 'set in parenthesis' to genuine objectivity, independent of consciousness.
On the contrary: he posited a close and organic connection between phnomenology and ontology, allowing the latter to grow out of the former without further ado. 'Phenomenology is the mode of access to and the deciding mode of determining that which is to become the theme of ontology.
Ontology is only possible as phenomenology.'
That this had to do with the intuitivistic (and hence irrationalistic) arbitrariness of 'essential intuition' is indicated by the definition of the object which directly precedes it as: 'Patently that which generally is not immediately manifest, which is concealed in relation to that which generally is immediately manifest, but which at the same time intrinsically belongs to that which generally is immediately manifest, and so as to constitute its meaning and ground.' This is the very 'Being (Sein) of which-is-in-being (Seienden)' : the object of ontology.
The advance in Heidegger's proposition as against Machism lies in the fact that he zealously made the difference between essence and phenomenon his central concern, whereas Machism could only draw overtly subjectivistic ('thought-sparing') distinctions in the phenoomenal world.
But the advance, which contributed much to Heidegger's influence in a period hankering after objectivity, promptly defeated its own ends in the manner of his answers.
For in this method, 'intuition of the essence' alone can decide what is to be comprehended as 'concealed essence' in immediate present reality perceived directly by the subject. Thus with Heidegger too, the objectivity of the ontological materiality remained purely declaritive, and the proclamation of ontological objectivity could lead only to a heightening of the psuedo-objectivism and - owning to the intuitivistic selection principle and criterion - irrationality of this sphere of objectiveness.
But the terminological camouflaging of subjective idealism was exposed each time that Heidegger came to speak of concrete questions. Let us quote just one example: ' " There is" truth only insofar and as long as there is existence ...Newton's laws, the thesis of contradiction, every truth in general, these are only true as long as existence is. Before there was any existence and after there is existence no longer, there was and will not be any truth because, as a thing inferred, a discovery and thing discovered, it cannot then be.'
That is not less subjective-idealistic than theh view of any follower of Kant or Mach-Avenarius. This jugglingh with quasi-objective categories on an extremely subjectivistic basis pervades Heidegger's entire philosophy. He claimed to be arguing an objective doctrine of Being, an ontology, but he then defined the ontological essence of the category most central to his world on a purely subjectivistic basis, with pseudo-objectivistic expressions. He said of existence: 'Ontologically, existence is fundamentally different from all that is present and real. Its "permanency" is grounded not in the substantiality of a substance, but in the "autonomy" of the existing self whose Being was grasped as care.'
And in another place: 'That which-is-in-being' ... is always we ourselves. The Being (Sein) of this which-is-in-being (das Seiende) is always mine.'
The arbitrariness examined above in the transition to (professed) objectivity is voiced quite plainly in some foregoing methodological remarks: 'Higher than reality stands possibility. Phenomenological understanding lies solely in seizing it as possibility.'
For clearly, in any serious attempt to conquer subjectivist-irrationalistic arbitrariness scientifically (and also philosophically, only objective reality can produce a standard for genuine or merely imagined possibility.
Kierkegaard's conscious subjectivism first reversed the philosophical-hierarchical positions and placed possibility higher than reality in order to create room - a vacuum - for the free dedision of the individual concerned with absolutely nothing beyond saving his soul.
Heidegger followed Kierkegaard in this, albeit with a difference which very much impaired the logic and honesty of his philosophizing. For in contrast to his master on this point, he still avowed the objectivity of the categories thus arising (the so-called existentials).
The claim to objectivity is even more marked with Heidegger thann with Scheler, and yet he made the subjectivistic character of phenomonology far more salient. And the Husserlian tendency towards a strictly scientific approach had now already faded completely.
In striving to argue an objective doctrine of Being, an ontology, Heidegger needed to dsraw a sharp dividing line between it and anthropology.
But it turns out that when he came to his central problems and was not engaged in pure, detached methodology, his ontology is in actual facts merely a vitalistic anthropology with an objectivistic mask. (So here again Heidegger was faced with an insuluble dilemma of the kind we have noted with Dilthey.
And here again the same contrast between the two holds good: Dilthey shrank from the dilemma and tried to evade it, whereas Heidegger cut the knot in a loftily declarative, overtly irrationalisitic manner.) Characteristic, for example, are his efforts to prove the underlying anthropological bias in Kant's 'transcendal logic', efforts intended to make Kant just as much a forefunner of existential philosphy as Simmel had made him out to be a forerunner of vitalism.
Over and above his reading of Kant, however, Heidegger expressed this tendency at every point. Anthropology today, in his view, is not a special discipline, 'but thee word signifies a basic tendency of man's present attitude to himself and to the whole of that which-is-in-being (das Seiende).
In accordance with this basic attitude, something is only perceived and understood if it has found an anthropological explanation. Anthropology not only seeks the truth about man, but now lays claim to decide what truth can signify in general. [Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics] And he clarified his attitude, which implied a factual indentity between his ontology and anthropology, by saying that while no age had known as much about man as the present one, it was also true that 'no age knew less what man is than the present age. To no age has man become so questionable as to ours.'
This plainly expressed the negativity of Heidegger's philosophical tendencies. For him philosophy was no longer the detached 'strict' science of Husserl, but also no longer the path to a concrete world-outlook, as vitalism from Dilthey to Spengler and Scheler had been. Its task was rather: 'to keep the investigation open by means of questions'. [Kant...] With a pathos reminiscent of Kierkegaard, Heidegger expounded his position as follows: 'Does it make sense and are we entitled to comprehend man as "creative" and hence as "infinite" on the basis of his intrinsic finiteness - the fact that he needs "ontology", i.e., understanding of Being -, when it is just the idea of infinite essence that rebuffs nothing so radically as an ontology? ... Or have we already become all too much the dupes of organization, industry and speed for it to be possible for us to be familiar with the essential, simple and permanent ...? [Kant...]
Thus what Heidegger termed phenomenology and ontology was in reality no more than an absractly mythicizing, anthropological description of human existence; in his concrete phenomonological descriptions,however, it unexpectedly turned into an - often grippingly interesting - description of intellectual philistinism during the crisis of the imperialist period. Heidegger himself admitted this to a certain degree.
His programme was to show that which-is-in-being 'as it immediately and mostly is, in its average everyday state'. Now what is really interesting about Heidegger's philosophizing is the extremely detailed account of how 'the human being', the supporting subject of existence, 'immediately and for the most part' dissipates and loses himself in this everyday state.
Here reasons of space, apart from anything else, prevent us from retailing this account. Let us stress just one element, namely that the unauthenticity of the Heideggerian everyday existence, that which he calls the 'fallen state' (Verfallensein), is caused by social being.
According to Heidegger, man's social character is an 'existential' of existence, which he regards as a term in the sphere of existence equivalent to categories of thinking.
Now, social existence signifies the anonymous dominance of 'the one' (das Man). We need to quote at some length from this account in order that the reader can receive a concrete picture picture of Heidegger's ontology of the everyday state:
The Who is not this person or that person, not oneself and not several and not the sum of all. The 'Who' is the neutral, the one (das Man) ... It is by being inconspicuous and incapable of being pinned down that 'the one' evolves his actual dictatorship. We enjoy and amuse ourselves in the way one enjoys himself; we read, view and judge literature and art in the way one looks and judges; but we also withdraw from the 'great mass' of people in the way one withdraws; we find 'outrageous' whatever one finds outrageous. The one, which is no specific person and all persons, although not as the sum of them, dictates the type of being of the everyday state
... Each is the other and nobody is he hinself. The one, the answer to the question as to the Who of everyday existence, is the nobody to which all existence in teh being-among-one-another (im Untereinandersein) has already delivered itself up.
In the ontological characteristics of everyday being-anong-one-another on display: staleness, mediocrity, levelling, public life, shedding of being and acquiescence lies the nearest 'permanence' of existence ... One is in the mode of non-independence and unauthenticity. This mode of being does not signify any reduction in the facticity of existence, any more than 'the one' as nobody is a cipher.
On the contrary, existence is, in this ontological type, an ens realissimum, provided that 'reality' is understood as being governed by existence. To be sure, 'the one' is as little present as is existence in general. The more obviously 'the one' behaves, the more incomprehensible and latent it is, but it is also all the less of a nought. To unprejudiced ontic-ontological 'vision' it will reveal itsself as the 'most real subject' of the everyday state.
Such descriptions constitute the strongest and most suggestive part of Being and Time, and in all likelihood they formed the basis of the book's broad and profound effect.
Here, with the tools of phenomenology, Heidegger was giving a series of interesting images taken from the inner life, from the world-view of the dissolute bourgeois mind of the post-war years.
These images are suggestive because they provide - on a description level - a genuine and true-to-life picture of those conscious reflexes which the reality of post-war imperialist capitalism triggered off in those unable or unwilling to surpass what they experienced in their individual existence and to go further towards objectivity, i.e., towards exploring the socio-historical causes of their experiences.
With these tendencies, Heidegger was not alone in his time; similar tendencies were expressed not only in Jasper's philosophy, but also in a large part of the imaginative literature of the period (it will suffice, perhaps, to mention Celine's novel, Journey to the End of the Night, and Joyce, Gide, Malrsaux, etc.)
However, even if we acknowledge the partial accuracy of these accounts of spirtual states, we must ask how far they square with objective reality, how far their descriptions go beyond the immediacy of the reacting subjects.
Of course this question is chiefly of philosphical moment; imaginative literature operates within far more elastic limits, although its stature is still determined by the comprehensive concreteness and depth of the representation of reality. But to treat the problems arising from this is not within the scope of these studies.
Heidegger's descriptions are related to the spiritual conditions prompted by the crisis of power-war imperialistic capitalism.
There is evidence for this not only in the influence exercised by Being and Time, far beyond the sphere of the really philosophically-minded - it was repeatedly singled out for praise and censure by philosophical critics.
What Heidegger was describing was the subjective-bourgeois, intellectual reverse side of the economic categories of capitalism - in the form, of course, of a radically idealistic subjectifying and hence a distortion.
In this respect Heidegger was carrying on Simmel's tendency 'to construct a basement underneath historical materialism', professedly in order to render visible the philosophical, indeed, metaphysical hypotheses of this doctrine.
The difference, however, tells us more than the affinity. It is a difference expressed in both the nethodology and the mood of Heidegger's work.
Methodologically, in the fact that, in constrast to Simmel, who was expressly criticizing historical materialism and trying tso 'deepen' it through personal reinterpretation,
Heidegger did not give the least indication of doing anything similar. Not only is the name of Marx absent from Being and Time, even from allusions where it is patently relevant. The content also dispenses with all objective categories of economic reality.
Heidegger's method was more radically subjectivistic: without exception his descriptions pertain to spiritual reflexes to socio-economic reality. Here we have manifested in practice the inner identity of phenomenology and ontology, the purely subjective character of even the latter in spite of all declared objectivity.
Indeed it is even manifest that this shift to ontology - an allegedly objective ontology - rendered the philosophical view of the world still more subjectivistic than it was at the time of the overtly radical subjectivism of a thinker like Simmel.
For the latter, there are at least glimmers of objective social reality with its contours distorted, whereas iin Heidegger this reality is reduced to purely a series of spirtual states described phenomenologically.
This shift of method is intimately connected with the change in the basic mood. Simmel was philosophizing in the very hopeful early days of vitalism.
Despite establishing a 'tragedy of culture', and for all his critique of capitalist civilisation, he still considered money, as we may recall, the 'guardian of inwardness'. I
n Heidegger, these illusions had crumbled long ago. The individual's inner life had long since renounced all world-conquering plans; no longer was its social environment regarded as something prolbematical in itself, but in whose domain pure inwardness could nonetheless lead a free life.
The surrounding world was now an uncanny, mysterious permanent threat to everything that would constitute the essence of subjectivity. This again, to be sure, was not a new experience for bourgeois man under capitalism; Ibsen, for example, had portrayed it many decades earlier in the famous scene where his Peer Gynt - symbolising the problem of the essentiality, or lack of it, in his own life - peels an onion and finds no core, only peel.
In Heidegger, this expression of the ageing and despairing Peer Gynt became the determining maxim of his descriptions. This is the meaning of the dominance of 'the one' (translated back into the language of social life: of bourgeois-democratic public life in the imperialist period, and thus, say, the Weimar Republic): '
But the understanding of existence in "the one" perpetually overlooks itself, in its projects, in respect of the genuine ontological possibilities.'
For Heidegger, this was something akin to an ontological proof for anti-democratism. And he amplified this idea in a graphic concept:
'Existence hurtles out of the him-self into the it-self, into the bottomlessness and nothingness of the unauthentic everyday state.'
It is just this that is concealed through public life and is manifested as 'concrete life'. But this is a deceptive whirlpool. 'This continual breaking losse from authenticity while always simulating it, at one with the perocess of tearing into "the one" ... Accordingly the average everyday state of existence may be disclosed as the falsifying-disclosed, dejected-projecting (geworfen-entwerfend) state of being-in-the-world, concerned with its intrinsic ontological potential in its being with the "world" and in it co-being with others.'
This makes it clear that with Heidegger, the transition from phenomenology to ontology was, at root, as much directed against the socialist perspective on social development as the irrationalistic method of all leading bourgeosi thinkers since Nietzsche. Germany's post-war crisis and the class struggles exacerbated as a result of it - with, in the background, the existence and growing strength of the socialist Soviet Union and, among both the working class and intelligentsia, the spread of a Marxism taken a stage higher than Lenin - impelled all men into making a personal choice far more strongly than was the case in quieter times.
Heidegger, as we have noted, did not explicitly contest the economic doctrines of Marxism-Leninism of the political consequences they entailed - neither he nor the caste he represented was capable of it.
He attempted rather to avoid the necessity of drawing social conclusions by 'ontologically' branding all man's public activity as 'inauthentic'.
Bourgeois man's sense of becoming inessential, indeed a nonentity, was a universal experience among the intelligentsia of this period.
Hence Heidegger's complicated trains of thought, his labourious phenomenological introspections struck upon the material of experiences widespread among this class and found an answering chord.
Heidegger was here preaching a retreat from all social dealings just as much as Schopenhauer, in his time, had proclaimed a withdrawal from the bourgeois idea of progress, from the democratic revolution.
Heidegger's retreat, however, implies a reactionary stand far stronger than that to be found in Schopenhauer's quietism. At the height of the revolution, to be sure, even this quietism could, within the thinker advocating it, all too easily tilt over into counter-revolutionary activity, and Nietzsche demonsztrated how easily a counter-revolutionary activism could be evolved from Schopenhauer's hypotheses on the philosophical level as well.
One may say without undue exaggeration that in the period of the imperialistic bourgeoisie's struggle against socialism, Heidegger was related to Hitler and Rosenberg as Schopenhauer, in his own day, was related to Nietzsche.
All the same, events never repeat themselves mechanically - not even in the history of philosophy. The human emotional emphasis in the withdrawing process was totally different, indeed opposed, in Schopenhauer and Heidegger.
With the latter, the felling of despair no longer left he individual free scope for a 'beatific' aeshetic and religious contemplation as in Schopenhauer.
His sense of peril already encompassed the whole realm of individual existence. And although the solopsism of the phenomenological method may have distorted the depiction of it, it was still a social fact: the inner state of the bourgeois individual (especially the intellectual) within a crumbling monopoly capitalism, facing the prospect of his downfall.
Thus Heidegger's despair had two facets: on the one hand, the remorseless baring of the individual's inner nothingness in the imperialist crisis; on the other - and because the social grounds of for this nothingness were being fetishistically transformed into something timeless and anti-social - the feeling to which it gave rise could very easily turn into a desperate revolutionary activity. It is certainly no accident that Hitler's propaganda continually appealed to despair.
Among the working masses, admittedly, the despair was occasioned by their socio-economic situation. Among the intelligentsia, however, that mood of nihilism and despair from whose subjective truth Heidegger proceeded, which he conceptualised, clarified philosphically and canonized as 'authentic', created a basis favourable to the efficacy of Hitlerian agitation.
This everyday state of being, dominated by 'the one', was therefore actually non-being. And in fact Heidegger defined Being not as immediately given, but as extremely remote: 'The state of being (das Seiende) in which each of us rests is ontologically the remotest state.' This most intrinsic part of man, he mjaintained, was forgotten and buried in everyday life; and it was precisely the task of ontology to rescue it from oblivion.
This programmatic attitude towards life (the social life of his period) determined Heidegger's whole method. We have already indicated, more than once, the unsurmountable subjectivism of the phenomenology, the pseudo-objectivity of the ontology. But only now that Heidegger's world picture stands before us in a certain concreteness with regard to both content and structure is it plain that this method, for all its objective fragility, was the only possible one for his purposes.
For in Heidegger's conception, man's life in society was a matter not of a relation between subjectivity and objectivity, not of a reciprocal relationship between subject and object, but of 'authenticity' and 'unauthenticity' within the same subject.
Only in appearance, in the methodological expressions, did the ontological surpassing of objective reality 'set in parentheses' tend towards objectivity; in actual fact it was turning to another, purportedly deeper, layer of subjectivity.
Indeed it may be said that with Heidegger, a category (an existential) expressed Being all the more genuinely and came all the closer to Being the less it was uncumbered by the conditions of objective reality. For that reason his defining terms (mood, care, fear, summons, etc.) were without exception of a decidedly subjective character.
But for that very reason, Heidegger's ontology was bound to grow more irrationalistic the more it developed its true nature. Admittedly, Heidegger was constantly trying to shut himself off from irrationalism. Here too it was his aim to elevate himself above the antithesis of rationalism and irrationalism, to find a philosophical 'third road', just asin the question of idealism and materialism. But for him it was impossible.
He repeatedly criticized the limits of rationalism, but would then add to his critique: 'No slighter matter, therefore, is that falsification of phenomena which banishes them to the refuge of the irrational. Irrationalism - as the counterpart of rationalism - speaks only squintingly of that to which the latter is blind.'
But since, in Heidegger's eyes, this blindness lies in the fact that rationalism takes into account the observable facts and laws of objective reality, a loss of all real possibility results from his exclusion of irrationalism.
For if one removes from a concrete state every condition relevant to observable reality, if this concrete state arises solely in the inner life, it is inevitable that the consequent findings will take on an irrationalistic character.
This was already so with Kierkegaaard. The latter, however, although able to work with theological categories and hence to attain a quasi-rationality or quasi-dialectic, did not shrink from the most extreme conclusions and spoke, with regard to precisely the decisive questions of 'existence', of the paradox, i.e., irrationality. Heidegger lacked, on the one hand, the possibility of resorting to overtly theological categories, and, on the other, the courage openly to declare his allegiance to irrationalism.
Yet every one of his ontological statements shows that the de-reification of all conditions of objectivity in reality - however we may phrase this - leads to irrationalism. Let us give a single example. Heidegger writes of 'mood' (Stimmung). This is realised in principle in its Why, Whence and Whither. 'This ontological character of existence which is shrouded in its Whence and Whither, but which is all the more openly revealed to existence itself, this "That it is" we call the throwness (Gewortfenheit) of this state of being in its There, and this means that it constitutes the There qua being-in-the-world.'
But the resulting 'facticity is not the matter-of-factness of the factum brutum of something which is present, but an ontological character of existence which, although at first forced away, had been taken up into existence.' As long as Being - in Heidegger's 'project' - intervenes or intends to intervene, the findings (and the road to obtaining them) can only be irrationalistic. The road to Being means casting aside of all objective conditions or reality. At all times, Heidegger's ontology imperiously demanded this in order that man (subject, existence) might escape the power of 'the one' that rendered him unauthentic and took away his essence.
We thus see that, inadvertently, Heidegger's ontology was turning into a moral doctrine, indeed almost a religious sermon; this ethico-religious epistemological shift also shows the determining influence of Kierkegaard on Heidegger's propositions and method.
The gist of the sermon is that man should become 'essential' and make ready to hear and understand 'the call of conscience' in order to mature to 'resolution'.
Heidegger gave a very detailed account of this process too; again, we can give only a brief outline of it here. The disclosure of the nothingness concealed in the 'fallen state' (Verfallensein) is achieved through ontology: 'The essence of the originally nullifying nothing lies herein: it begins by putting being-there (Da-sein) before the state of being (das Seiende) as such ... Being-there means: bound immancency (Hineingehaltenheit) in nothingness.' [Was ist Metaphysik?]
That is the essence of Heidegger's 'existence', and men were deemed to differ merely in respect of whether or not they were conscious of it. The attainment of awareness took place through the conscience: 'Conscience is the call of anxiety from the uncanniness of being-in-the-world, summoning existence to it most intimate potential state of guiltiness ... Understanding of the summons initiates personal existenc into the uncannincess of isolation.'
The understanding of this summons brought man to a state of resolution. Heidegger stressed the significance o this 'existential' witih great pathos. After what has gone before, it comes as no surprise when he strongly denies that 'resolution' (Entschlossenheit) in respect of man's surroundings might bring about even the slightest change; not even the dominance of 'the one' is disturbed.
'The "world" close at hand does not become another "in substance", and the circle of the "other ones" remains unchanged ... The irresolution of "the one" still holds sway, only it is incapable of combating resolute existence.'
Here, the methodology and content of Heidegger's philosophy are expressing in an extremely complicated (but above all, mannered) terminology the intellectual phistine's feelings in a time of severe crisis: the threat to personal 'existence' is so deflected as to prevent its giving rise to any obligation to alter one's living conditions or indeed to collaborate in transforming objective social reality. Difficult though Heidegger may be to grasp, this much was correctly read out of his philosophy.
So the only result arrived at here was the insight that existence as such is to blame. And the authentic life of theh resolution man now constitued a preparation for death; 'a foreshadowing of the possibility', in Heidegger's terminology. Here again there are traces of Kierkegaard, though without the pronounced Protestant theology.
Like every vitalistic philosophy, this Heideggerian theology without positive religion or a personal God was, of course, bound to contain a new doctrine of time of its own. This too was a methodological necessity. For the rigid opposition of space and time was one of the weakest points of undialectical rationalism.
But whereas a true way of surmounting that opposition must lie in the dialectical interaction of space and time founded in objective reality, irrational vitalism had alwayas directed its sharpest attacks against the rationalistic time-concept, taking time and space - like culture and civilization in the realm of social philosophy- as diametrically opposed, indeed warring principles.
To conquer time was very important to vitalism in a positive respect - this is the reverse side of the aforesaid polemical intention - because the indentification of experience and life (existence) crucial to its pseudo-objectivism was only possible if there was a subjectified, irrationalistic conception of time to meet this demand.
Heidegger laid much weight on this. He sharply divorced himself from Bergson whom he condemned - along with Aristotle and Hegel - as representing the 'vulgar' view of time. This 'vulgar' time was the accepted one that knows past, present and future; the time of the 'fallen' world of the 'one', the time of measurement, clock-time etc. Genuine time, on the contrary, knew no such sequentiality: 'The future is not later than that which has come to pass, and the latter not earlier than the present. Temporaneity proceeeds as futurity which has come to pass and is bringing to pass (gewesende-gegenwartigende Zukunft).'
Epistemologically, the contrast to Bergson (but not to Aristotle and Hegel) was merely a difference of nuance. For each of them -Berson and Heidegger - posited a subjectively experienced time as authentic time in opposition to real objective time. Only, in the case of Bergson, who in the essence of his epistemology was a pre-war figure whose thought shows many affinities with Simmel and with pragmatism, experienced time was an organon of the subjective-individualistic conquest of the world.
In Heidgger's diseased philosophy, however, 'real' time is de-secularized and becomes devoid of content, theological, concenrated purely on the element of personal decision. Hence Bergson aimed his sallies chiefly against 'spatial' time, against concepts formed in the exact sciences, and his 'real' time was oriented to aesthetic experience, whereas with Heidegger, vulgar time corresponds to an existence that has fallen foul of 'the one', and real time points towards death. (Here again it can be easily spotted that the difference between Heidegger's and Bergon's view of time was of a social character and determined by their respective adversaries.
In essence Bergson was polemicizing against the scientific-materialistic world-view obtaining during the rise of the bourgeoisie. Heidegger, even with regard to the theory of time and the reading of historicity closely associated with it, was chiefly attacking the new adversary, historical materialism whose influence was felt in all areas of life.)
In both cases, however, this antithesis within the concept of time was a means to setting up an irrationalistic philosophy. Granted, Heidegger did 'discover' that time played a hitherto unobserved role in Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, above all in the chapter on schemata or essential forms. The central position of time, Heidegger stated, 'thus disrupts the dominion of reason and understanding. "Logic" has lost its long-standing primacy in metaphysics. Its idea is becoming questionable.' [Kant...] Thus Kant becomes, for Heidegger, one of the fathers of modern irrationalism.
In view of this interpretation of time Heidegger's second chief programmatic point, proof of the elementary historicality of 'existence' as a basis for comprehending history, turns out to be pure shadow-boxing. Heidegger was right in making a stand against the neo-Kantians who were trying to argue historicality from a 'subjective' setting, and in indicating that Being must be historical in order for there to be any historical science. As on many points, vitalism was here preempting the collapse of undialectical idealism.
But Heidegger still lagged far behind the neo-Kantians in the concrete definition of his 'existential' historicity. As a consequence the primary phenonmena of history was, for him, existence, i.e., the life of the individual, the 'universal coherence of life between birth and death'. And this too - quite in accordance with the Diltheyan vitalistic method - was defind from experience: 'It (this coherence, G.L.) consists of a sequence of experiences "within time"'. The result was a double distortion. Firstly, Heidegger did not take the historical data in Nature as the 'originals' (Kant-Laplace theory, Darwinism, etc.), but presented the coherence of human experiences far removed from the 'original state' as the starting-point, the 'primal phenomenon'.
Secondly, he failed to observe that his 'primal phenomenon' was derivative: a consequence of that social Being and praxis of men in which alone such a 'coherence' of experiences could come about at all. As far as he did notice a link, he rejected it as belonging to the domain of the 'one'. In so doing, he not only isolated a distorted derivate of human social praxis - as an historical 'primal phenonmenon', as 'original' - from real history, but also set them up as antinomies. The tendency to falsify in this way the structure of reality graphically exporesses the pre-fascist character of Heidegger's thinking. Now since the primary historicality was 'ontologically founded' on this basis, the automatic product of it was Heidegger's crucial distinction between 'authentic' and 'unauthentic' history. 'In keeping with the rooting of historicality in anxiety, existence exists as authentically historical or unauthentically historical, all depending.'
But according to Heidegger's reading of history, it was precisely real history that was unauthentic, just as real time is the 'vulgar' kind. In giving history an apparently ontologically reasoned basis, Heidegger actually took away any kind of historicality, whilst acknowledging as historical only a philistine's moral 'resolution'. In his analysis of everyday existence, Heidegger had already rejected all human orientation towards objective facts or treands in socio-economic life. There he stated:
One would completely mistake phenomenally what mood (Stimmung) reveals and how it does so, were one aiming at collating witih the revealed material that which existence, in the given 'mood', knows about and believes 'simultaneously'. Even if existence is 'secure' in the belief of its 'Whither', or thinks it is rationally enlightend about the Whence, none of this affects the established phenomenal fact that teh 'mood' confronts existence with the That of its There, a remorselessly sphinx-like sight. Existentially-ontologically, one has not the least right to suppress the 'evidence' of the existing state thorugh judging by the apodictic certainty of a theoretical perception of that which is purely present.
The illumination of existence can come only from within, for every (to Heidegger's mind: purported) objectively directed perception brings about a casting down (das Verfallen), a state of surrender to the 'one' and unauthenticity. Thus it was only logical for Heidegger, in positing the historicality of existence, to refute equally firmly everything objectively historical; Heidegger's historicality, then, has nothing to do with the point 'that existence occurs in a "world-history"'. Here he was polemicizing - quite rightly to some extent - against the old idealistic argumentation of the theory of history. The 'location of the historical problem', he said, 'must not be sought in history as a science of history ... How history may become a possible object of history (in the absract) can only be inferred from the ontological character of the historical,, from historicality and its rootedness in temporaneity.' Here again Heidegger was pre-empting the collapse of idealism, not unskillfully, by giving the impression that he planned to make the historical nature of existence itself the starting-point of history. But on one breath he was giving his existence itself, as we have observed, a thoroughly subjectivistic definition, while in the next he radically 'purged' the original historicality of existence of all relation to real, objective history. For: 'In accordance with the rooting of history in anxiety, existence existes as either authentically or unauthentically historical.' From this we may logically conclude that 'the authentic being-unto-death, i.e., the finiteness of temporaneity is the latent ground for the historicality of existence'.
From Epilogue [Heidegger's post-war service to US imperialism]
...But the problem of conconformity goes deeper. In his Empirio-Criticism Lenin had already shown that the academics' various individual epistemological nuances, furiously attacked and defended as they were, are no longer distinguishable when considered from the angle of the really crucial epistemological question: idealism or materialism? This applies on a heightened scale to ideological problems today. Anyone giving his attention to teh really decisivie philosophical problems will discern an alarmingly conformist montony in the - at first sight - incommensurable chaos of individual nuances.
We have indicated, for example, the close proximity of Wittgenstein and Heidegger (beween whom there is no mutual influencing) when regarded from this viewpoint. The situation is exactly the same in ethics, in interpretation of history, in the stance taken towards society, and in aesthetics. And also, of course, in literature and art themselves.
Precisely the most individualistic, most radically non-conformist tendencies involve a radical levelling down of this kind. For objectively (and hence artistically as well) 'the real richness of the individual' depends 'wholly on the richness of his real relations' (Marx), and the more defiantly modern art focuses on the purely sefl-sufficient personality detached from society and from social relationships, the greater the similarity will be between figures outwardly so extraordinarily diverse, until there is no perceptible difference. For objectively (and hence artistically as well) the world of culturally evolved human relations is incomparably more varied than the bare world of the instincts. And this is why an art concentrating on the latter with almost dogmatic insistence is careering inevitably towards monotony and levelling down.
How alike Aeneas and Dido are to Romeo and Juliet in their copulation, whereas the differences in erotic feelings determined by their society and culture have created genuine and enduring individuals. The solipsistic, abstract approach of the majority of modern nonconformists has brought about an inhuman levelling in the standards of creative work. Thus an (involuntary) inner regimentation we have indicated above on the part of monopoly capitalism. Ernst Fischer, the distinguised Austrian thinker, rightly said at the Peace Congress in Wroclaw that modern nonconformists are as alike as peas in a pod.
The loader and rowdier the proclamation of nonconformity, the shallower, more uniform and standardized the personality will be. The structure, as reflected in artistic creation and its audience, is an objective fraud which inevitably springs up from the soil of monopoly capitalism; subjectively it is very often a case of self-deception, a delusion. This is the general character of the 'free world' today. It was already thus under Hitler. But in Hitler's day, the fraud was concealed from some people by a gaudy veil of myths, while others thought that Hitler's demagogy and tryanny (and not the character of of advanced monopoly capitalism, of which Hitler was a mere tool) constituted the only obstacle, and that with its elimination, nonconformist individualism would come into its own. Now the veils have beenh removed, and the delirium is over. Today, everyone must see that the precondition of a tolerated nonconformity is an obligatory apologetic of the capitalist system, and this in its present aggressive and bellicose form. Room for manoeuvre in this world is becoming increasingly narrow, and the presecribed content to be promulgated increasingly meagre and fraudulent. It is hard to believe, but true. Cold War ideology has entailed a drop in standards even in comparison with the Hitler era. One has only compare Hans Grimm with Koestler, or Rosenberg with Burnham.
The causes we have already revealed. They stem from the collapse of indirect apologetics, which at least offered ideologists the illusory semblance of a link with the people. However much effort modern 'brains trusts' devote to the task, they are incapable of devising a form for their central content - the struggle against communism - that could really win the people's enthusiasm. The fraud is becoming bigger and bigger, its mode of appearance less and less attractive and appealing. Hitler was still able to sum up everything reactionary accruing from the irrationalist developments of a century and a half and, as we have noted, to take irrationalism out of polite society on to the streets. Today, the socially determined necessity of direct apologetics renders this too impossible.
It goes without saying that all these tendencies, which we have outlined so far chiefly as they occur in the prevailing American ideology, are also to be found in Western Germany. Here, admittedly, they occur wtih specific variations, and in view of the immediate importance of Western Germany's role, it is certainly worth at least taking a look at these.
The main point to observe is that Western Germany is the seat of former Hitlerian fascists. Naturally the occupying powers have done nothing to uproot Nazism in the organizational and ideological sense. On the contrary, they did all they could to salvage and preserve for the furture those elements in the Nazi movement and its mental ambit that could be used in the campaign against the Soviet Union.
Nevertheless a certain mental adjustment - in both external and internal respects - we needed in order for a henchman of Hitler to become an ideologist of Truman or Eisenhower. It will suffice to recall those differences in ideological structure we have indicated in their basic outlines, for all the affinities as regards the principal questions. This issue is of particular development which has been undertaken in the American period by ideologists who played a leading part in preparing and establishing Hitler's dominion.
The situation is simplest when it comes to those who - either of their own accord or because of chance personal circumstances - did not themselves participate in Hitler's regime directly although, considered from an objectively ideological angle, as extreme developers of irrationalism they blazed an intellectual trail for Hitler and led a quiet, secure life under his rule. Jaspers is the chief representative of this type. Today the well-tried principle of his philosophizing still holds good: to go along with fashionably reactionary trends all the way, while at the same time accommodating them to the tepid juste milieu of a petty-bourgeois salon of intellectuals. Since Jaspers was an existentialist, irrationalist, Kierkegaardian and Nietzschean, nobody in Hitler's time could raise a concrete objection to him. Now, after Hitler's downfall, Jaspers discovers ... reason. This is natural: today 'reason' is dedicated to refuting Marxism as irrationalism was previously. It begins in an 'original' wasy by alleging that Marxism is actually a pseudo-scientific kind of magic: 'The destructive element is the creative element. When nothingness is introduced, Being appears automatically. But in the process of comprehension and action this is, in fact, a rehearsal of magical dealing in the guise of a pseudo-science. Corresponding to this magic is the Marxist claim to command a higher knowledge.' Jaspers's pretended originality consists in the use of a vogue word like 'magical', whicih was meant to give Marxism a devastatingly compromising ring in the age of semantic logic.
This apart, the same argument has been already advanced seventy-five years previously by Duhring, and its rebuttal may be easily located in Engel's Anti-Duhring. Here ignoring the ABC of Marxism, Jaspers triumphantly repudiates inventions of his own creating.
As a good remedy for the 'superstition of knowledge' that Marxism supposedly presents, Jaspers recommends his own, fashionably up-to-date irrationalism: we must revert to the 'original deed' of fashionable so-called ontology. 'Then the language of all things becomes discernible, and myth meaningful; poetry and art become the "organon of philosophy" (Schelling). But the language of myth is distinct from a cognitive content. What is perceived in contemplation and is then animating in practice may neither be extinguished nor acquire the character of cognition when reason compels the test of truth. This verification is not a test by experience but a test against one's own intrinsic nature, by whether it causes an upsurge or decline in selfhood (Selbstsein), by the extent of our love.'
And in association with this Jaspers now defines as follows the connection between his old and new philosophy: 'Decades ago I spoke of existential philosophy, and I added that we were dealing not with a new or a particular philosophy but with the one perennial philosophy, which may, for an instant or abandonment to the merely objective realm, be accentuated with Kierkegaard's basic idea.
Today I would prefer to call philosophy rational philosophy because it seems incumbent on us to emphasize its ancient essence.
If reason is lost, philosphy itself will be lost.' To stress the predominance of reason is the sole possible guarantee of the origin of genuine myth: 'Thus myth is the inescapable language of transcendent truth. The creation of genuine myth is true illumination. This myth conceals reason inside it and is controlled by reason. Through myth, image and symbol we acquire our profoundest insight at the ultimate point.' Where this safeguard is lacking, veneration will inevitably arise. The danger here, according to Jaspers, is that there then comes about not an 'impotent nothingness' but a 'potent enchantment.'
Jaspers thus employs the ancient distinction between white and black magic to introduce into philosophy the line pursued by the leaders of the Cold War. That is to say, the 'experience' of the criminal Munich policy is supposed to be a reason for rejecting as appeasement any serious negotiations with the Soviet Union.
So what Jaspers had neglected to contribute to the ideological rebuttal of Nazism, he now makes up for as an anti-Marxist campaigner. The parallels are all the more valid in that Chamberlain's political proximity to Hitler was no less than the philosophical proximity of Jaspers's irrationalism to its Nazi slant.
The emphasis on myth does not affect Jaspers's contact with semantics. We can already say this because his constant invocation of Kant is just as agnosticist and irrational as the basic philosophical position of semantics; let us remember the irrationalism of Wittgenstein. Both give expression, under a flimsy mask of rationality, to a despair over reason, to the impotence and dissolution of reason. For Jaspers 'reason' is, for example, a priori unhistorical (because Marx recognizes the rationality of history, Jaspers calls him a relativist), and it forms an antithesis to causal perception - 'causally I recognize only the non-rational,' he writes. Thus it is bound to be completely powerless in the face of reality. What Jaspers thus understands as a philosophy of reason is the old irrationalism in a garb matching modern American needs. It is the same philosophy of no exit as before, again tailored to the spiritual and moral comfort of a self-sufficient petty-bourgeois intelligentsia.
For Heidegger, it was far harder to engineer a transition of this kind. He had not only helped ideologically to bring Nazism about but had also made a direct and active stand on Hitler's behalf. To obtain an amnesty in such circumstances as well as a a leading role once more, in order to assist the renewed barbarization of philosophy, and to do so by associating with the professed combatants of Hitler, but without conceding the 'achievements' gained in paving the way for Hitler intellectually - in other words, to present a public image changed and unchanged at the same time - is a more difficult task. How does Heidegger solve it? The Kierkegaardian arsenal offers an outstanding weapon for these purposes: an incognito. This is central to Heidegger's thinking today. With Kierkegaard himself, to be sure, the situation was relatively simple. Objectively, because in his case the incognito followed logically from the anti-rationality, the anti-humanity of the relationship to God; personally, because he had nothing compromising to hide.
Heidegger - unworldly, world-despising thinkers are often very practical in the conduct of their private lives - knows very well that atheism is not a going commodity whilst there exists an alliance between the Vatican and Wall Street. He draws from this the appropriate consequences. Not, of course, in the form of an overt break with the atheism and nihilism of Bring and Time, but simply be stating apodictically that his chef d'oeuvre was neither atheistic nor nihilistic. But in spite of this concession to present day religious trends, he cannot render Kierkegaard' s theology of immediate use to his personal aims. He attempts, on the contrary, to deduce a dogmatic incognito as the essence of all historicity from an extension of the familiar theory of history and time. (In its intrinsic content, it must be admitted, this is still only an up-to-date variant of Kierkegaard's thesis that there is a world-history only in the sight of God.) For Heidegger, history is now a realm of errancy (Irre), of the dogmatic, ontological incognito:
Being withdraws by enclosing itself in that which-is-in-being (das Seiende). In this way Being confuses what-is-in-being, while clarifying it, with errancy. What-is-in-being has been realized in errancy, in which Being misleads it and thus creates ... error. Error is the essential arena of history. In it, the essential matter of history passes its likeness by ... From the epoch of Being comes the epochal nature of its destiny, in which authentic world-History consists. Every time that Being holds fast in its destiny, world is an abrupt, unexpected event. Every epoch in world-history is an epoch of errancy.
Here Heidegger found the ontological arguments and justification for his behaviour in the Hitler period. In his book on, or rather against humanism this idea receives a more concrete form still. He stresses - through his falsification of Holderlin - that the latter's relation to Greek antiquity is 'essentially different from humanism'. 'Hence the young Germans who knew of Holderlin thought and lived differently in the face of death from what was publicly proclaimed to be German opinion.' Here Heidegger discreetly refrains from saying - evidently this also belongs to the ontologically historical incognito - that those young men were not only in a 'situation confronting death' under Hitler, but took a highly active part in murder and torture, pillage and rape. Evidently he considers it superfluous to mention this, for after all the incognito covers everything up: who can tell what a pupil of Heidegger intoxicated by Holderlin 'thought and lived' when he was pushing women and children into the gas chambers at Auschwitz? Nobody can tell, either, what Heidegger himself 'thought and lived' when he led the Freiburg students to vote for Hitler. There is nothing unequivocally knowable in history as he presents it: it is a general 'errancy'.
Here Heidegger has a threefold aim in view. Firstly, a total denial of responsibility for what he did to give Hitler active support. Secondly, he wants to preserve his old existential standpoint. Thirdly, he wants to make it seem as if all the changes he has effected today to accommodate himself to American policies had always represented his views. Such acrobatic feats can only be accomplished by resorting to scientific dishonesty. His former pupil, Karl Lowith, has exposed the fraud of this kind of Neue Rundschau.
But a contradiction cannot be resolved either by a shift in perspective or one's view or by a dialectical correspondence. In the postface to the fourth edition of Was ist Metaphysik? we read with regard to the truth of Being that Being 'may well' exist without that which-is-in-being, 'but' that what-is-in-being can never exist without Being. In the fifth edition published six years later, the 'but', i.e., the stressing of an antithesis, is left out and the 'well' replaced by 'never', i.e., the whole meaning of the sentence is turned into the opposite, without any indication of this change. What would one say to a theologian who claimed on one occasion that God may well exist without a Creation and on another that he could never exist without it? How do we account for the fact that a linguistic thinker who weights his words as carefully as Heidegger makes such a radical change to so crucial a passage? For obviously only one of the two formulations can be the true and proper one.
Now wither is this philosophy bound? It retains from pre-fascism its extremely anti-rational character. When Heidegger now says, 'Thinking only begins when we have learnt that the reason we have glorified for centuries is thought's most stubborn antagonist,' he is only drawing the most extreme inferences from what was implicit in Husserl's 'intuitive vision' (Wesensschau) from the outset. And since, as we have shown, phenomenology in its origins was closely related to Machism, it is not too tricky for Heidegger - in essence - to come very near to semantics. His terminological peculiarites are well known, as is his verbal hair-splitting. Now, as the crowing of Machism, phenomenology and semantics, he succeeds i making a philosophical method of language. 'Thinking collects language into the simple telling. Thus language is the language of Being as the clouds are the clouds in the sky. With its telling, thinking makes modest furrows in language. They are more modest even than the furrows which a countryman ploughs in a field.' Here we have 'poetic' semantics as a particular German nuance. But in both cases the irrationalist abyss is the same, no matter whether the immediate form of expression is deliberately 'poetic' or soberly prosaic.
The methodological approximation points to an objective proximity. Heidegger's Being (in contrast to what-is-in-being) is not all that far removed from what, according to Wittgenstein, could only be shown and not stated. And a similar method will give rise to similar consequences. In Hitler, Heidegger greeted the dawning of a new age and thereby, to put it mildly, brought enternal disgrace upon himself. Today he is more cautious, at leas in expression, but he seeks to ingratiate himself with today's or tomorrow's rulers as much as with Hitler. He expresses himself with caution, with a deliberate obscurity, but he lets the idea of a new age glimmer through this twilight again.
Are we standing indeed on the eve of the vastest transformation of the earth and of the historical space on which it hinges? Are we on the eve of a night that will precede a different dawn? Are we about to march off into the historical land of this global evening? Will the land of eveningtide emerge first? Is this evening land to become the scene of the coming and more incipiently transmitted history, over and above Occident and Orient and passing beyond the European stage?
Are we contemporaries already occidental in a sense that is only coming to light with our passage into the global dark? How are any philosophies of history that are purely historically measured to account for history if they only dazzle with what is surveyable in material historically inculcated, without ever conceiving the foundations of its explanatory causes from the essence of history, and the latter from Being itself? Are we the latecomers we are? But are we at the same time also attendants on the dawn of a quite different world epoch which will have left our present historical ideas of history behind?
The form of inquiry and pessimistic impressions suggest Germany's situation today. They are indispensible, for without the pessimistic tone one cannot influence the elite, so-called, of the intellectuals - especially German intellectuals - not even today. But we can see or at least glimpse behind this - in an intended twilight - the outlines of the 'American century', of the global State under American command. (Certainly, if a German imperialism should achieve independence at some future date and again aspire to global power, these words from Heidegger's disgrace over Hitler is not enough for him; he needs a second disgrace at all costs. This would be the suitable fulfillment of his philosophy - as a doctrine of 'errancy'.
Naturally the perspective we have drawn is - in immediate terms - the most important feature of these statements by Heidegger. But beside the perspective, the method must no be overlooked completely. We have noted that Heidegger posits an 'authentic' historicity in order to challenge real historicity as 'vulgar' more effectively. This tendency becomes acuter in the post-war period.
Whereas his Being and Time was in character a single great polemic against Marxism, but without revealing this character through as much as a distinct reference, Heidegger now feels already obliged to speak of Marx openly. 'What Marx, deriving from Hegel in a substantial and significant sense, recogniezed as the alienation of man reaches back at root into the homelessness of man in the modern epoch ... Because Marx, in experiencing alienation, delves into an essential dimension of history, the Marxist view of history is taken to be superior to all other versions.' Granted, he promptly reduces Marxism to technics, like all bourgeois vulgarizers of historical perception.
But this statement, of course, already amounts to saying openly that Heidegger regards Marxism as the chief antagonist.
On the one hand all this expresses bourgeois philosphy's universal rearguard action against Marxism: just as Nietzsche, after Schopenhauer's repudiation of all history, was forced to argue a mythical pseudo-historicism, so imperialist phenomenology proceeds from Husserl's a-historicism via Scheler to Heidegger's 'authentic' historicity. And on the other hand, the comments quoted above clearly show that he intends thereby to discredit all real and concrete historical knowledge. For he states: 'How are any philosophies of history that are purely historically measured to account for history if they only dazzle with what is surveyable in material historically inculcated, without ever conceiving the foundations of its explanatory causes from the essence of history, and the latter from Being itself?'