Posts filed under ‘02. Articles in English’
Heidegger’s Notion of “Being”
Heidegger has established a duality between Being (Sein) and man. There is a “relationship” between Being and man, with Being as prior to and independent of man and representative of that conditioning the entity which allows man to be man. Indeed, there is no “relationship” between Being and man; but man stands in relation to Being, which, as such, is the key to understanding the nature of man and, thereby, the nature of Being. Heidegger’s Being does not have a historical foundation or a historical character. Rather than being based on man’s libertarian and creative practice, it is a givenness independent of man and the world, which means it has a phenomenological character.
According to Heidegger, man can be the “neighbour” and the “shepherd of Being”, but not its creator. It is only through such a relationship of man to Being that Being can be Being, which means that only as the „shepherd of Being“ can man be man. Man, being the „shepherd of Being“, is actually the shepherd of his authentic (tragic) existence and thus the caretaker of the world, which is the house of Being. Indeed, Heidegger’s Being is a form in which man becomes alienated from himself as a social, creative, libertarian, historical and, thus, a visionary being. Man’s need to fulfill his real human potential as a concrete social and visionary being is replaced with the „need“ for an abstract „Being“.
In Heidegger, the truth is not inside, but outside of man. Instead of being guided by humanism and emanating an aura (Benjamin) that illuminates the path leading to the future, man is human only when he is illuminated by the light emanating from Being, a gleaming that is at once above and beside man. Heidegger postulates humanism with a metaphysical nature, which means that it is independent of man. It becomes a mirror in which man can recognize his image. Heidegger’s interpretation of Hölderlin is very indicative of that. Instead of directing his gaze towards another man and the future, man should direct his gaze towards the sky, like early seafarers who navigated only by the stars.
Heidegger: “What is Being? Can we ask of Being what it is? Being remains self-explanatory and unquestioned and, therefore, unthought. Being persists in the long forgotten and fathomless truth.”
The purpose of fundamental ontology is to abolish the very possibility of questioning the nature of Being, because, according to Heidegger, it inevitably amounts to the objectification of Being and thus to the abolishment of the tragic, which is the essence of human existence. By personifying Being, Heidegger indicates that man cannot establish an immediate relation to Being by way of reason, which, by questioning its nature, conceptualizes and thus objectifies Being. In other words, reason makes it impossible for man to experience Being and to dwell in its neighbourhood.
Heidegger abolishes the possibility of an unobjectifying rational relation to Being. His fundamental ontology therefore does not seek to create a mode of thinking that would be able to think of Being without reducing it to an object, but rather seeks to abolish thinking as a mediator between man and Being, which means between man and his existence. „Poetically man dwells“ – Heidegger cites Hölderlin. This is the „long forgotten and fathomless truth where Being persists“. The truth cannot be attained by thinking, but by living a life based on the experience of Being.
Heidegger fell into the trap that he, himself, had set. If Being “remains self-explanatory and unquestioned and therefore unthought”, why does Heidegger mention being as “something”? Moreover, Heidegger declares Being to be a non-conceptual phenomenon and then determines its specific concept, reducing it thereby to an object. The specificity of Being as “something” lies, according to Heidegger, in that we cannot comprehend it, can only experience it. Also, Being has a personal nature and we cannot ask of it “what it is”. Furthermore, “Being remains self-explanatory and unquestioned and therefore unthought”. And, “Being persists in the long forgotten and fathomless truth”.
Just as with theology, naming and personifying produces a „God“, with Heidegger’s philosophy, naming and personifying produces a „Being“. Being, however, does not exist; there is only a notion of „Being“, which is the product of Heidegger’s philosophical (religious) imagination and exists in Heidegger’s philosophical language. Just as the word „God“ denotes the synthesis of a specific and absolutized view of the world, man, ruling order and future, Heidegger’s expression „Being“ denotes a specific and absolutized ideological model of the world, man and future. Being is a givenness that is not thought because the ruling order is a givenness that cannot be questioned. Heidegger’s philosophical relation to Being is actually a theological relation to the ruling order. Instead of turning to the future, man turns towards Being, which is an instrument for deifying the existing world.
Heidegger confronts the mind because it creates concepts that mediate between man and his existence, but Heidegger must name Being, personify it and determine its concept because, without it, man cannot have a notion of Being and relate to it. In other words, it is only through the notion of Being, which is the product of Heidegger’s philosophy, that man can believe that Being exists and to „relate“ to it by experiencing it. By his philosophy, Heidegger personifies and conceptualizes Being, providing the illusion of its existence: „something“ that is an ideological product acquires the dimension of real existence. The peculiar quality of Heidegger’s philosophy is not the ideology it produces, but the way in which it does so.
Heidegger proclaimed the flaw in his thinking to be the flaw in thinking itself. However, it is Heidegger’s philosophy rather than thinking that turns a phenomenon into an object. Heidegger posed the question on the nature of “what” in an objectifying manner. What gives Heidegger’s thinking the objectifying qualify is his phenomenological relation to man and history. Rather than departing from dialectical thinking, according to which “what” has a historical nature, Heidegger departs from the kind of thinking that produces phenomenological abstractions. “What” is an object if it is reduced to a givenness and thus separated from the creative practice of man as a historical being. Indeed, “what” is not that what is, but that what can be. Its essence is not grasped by serving Being, but through a creative practice which can give life to his emancipatory potential. It is only in the context of creating a new world that “what” can overcome objectification and thus the danger of falling into the metaphysical. In that sense, revolution is the most radical form of the abolishment of thinking as the production of objectification.
The essence is not in the question but in questioning. By posing questions, man establishes a relation to the world, whereby he changes both the world and himself by becoming an authentic creative being. By questioning the world, man indicates that the world is not a givenness and that he is not merely a part of the world, but an authentic creative being, whereas the world is the product of his libertarian and creative practice. The relationship between man and the world is dynamic and has a dialectical and thus a historical character. In the historical process of man’s becoming a creative being, “what” loses its objectifying and acquires a historical dimension. The posing of questions is such a relation to the world that indicates its limits and opens up spaces for a possible future.
Heidegger calls for the abolishment of all that mediates between man and his existence and then, by way of his philosophy, postulates Being, which he proclaims is the unquestionable entity mediating between man and the world. This is the basis for man‘s being a “shepherd of Being”. The indisputable loyalty to Being is the basic presupposition of man’s co-existence with Being. Any doubt in Being or a critical relation to Being are excluded. Man does not have a questioning but an idolizing relation to Being. He does not relate to Being as an emancipated citizen, but as a loyal subject. Man has a religious relation to Being.
Why does man have a need for Being if he is thrown into the world where Being is forgotten? Heidegger, actually, does not address Being; he addresses man. His demand that man be a “shepherd of Being” is meaningful only if man already has a need for Being, and if he is ready and willing to be the “shepherd of Being”. Heidegger does not problematize this question, since it opens the possibility of coming to the conclusion that man, who has a need for Being and who is ready and willing to be the “shepherd of Being”, does not actually need Being. In other words, man is already that which, according to Heidegger, he is only to become as the “shepherd” and the “neighbor” of Being. Ultimately, man’s need for Being conditions man’s relation to Being and thereby the possibility of Being as Being.
In order to be the “shepherd of Being”, man, according to traditional philosophy, must know what Being is and must have a notion of Being. For Heidegger, this is an obsolete way of thinking, preventing man from having a more immediate relation to his existence and thus to Being. According to Heidegger, man’s relation to Being is based on the immediate experience of his tragic existence arising from the fear of death. Because of his fear of death, man acquires a need for Being that enables him to conquer death and experience eternal life. Man’s return to Being is actually man’s return to his immediate existence with a tragic character.
What does the “oblivion of Being” mean? Does it mean that modern man has lost his notion of Being or that he has lost his need for Being? If we have in mind Heidegger’s insistence that man has to become the “neighbor of Being” and that his relation to Being is not based on his thinking of Being, but on its experience, we can conclude that, for Heidegger, the “oblivion of Being” means that modern man has lost his need for Being. Departing from that conclusion, to insist that man should become the “shepherd” and the “neighbor” of Being becomes meaningless. According to Heidegger, in spite of falling into the abyss of nothingness created by the world of technology, man is a mortal being and the fear of death is awakened in him over and over again, creating a need for Being. The experience of the fear of death is the path leading man from the abyss of nothingness to Being.
Heidegger’s abstract Being is a mediator between man and the world, which means a mediator between people. For Heidegger, sociability does not have any importance whatsoever with respect to man’s confrontation with death, since human beings as human beings cannot conquer death and thus abolish their tragic existence. A need for people is therefore replaced with a need for Being. Being becomes the essence of man, who is deprived of authentic sociability.
Trying to determine Heidegger’s Being in a rational way is the same as trying to capture clouds with a fork. The indeterminability of Being represents its primary property. Being manifests its indeterminability when we attempt to determine it. Indeterminability is actually the expression of the elusiveness of Being. Man’s relation to Being is similar to that between a child and a ball: whenever a child tries to catch a ball, it bounces back. Heidegger attempted to establish a relationship between man and Being that will enable man to grasp Being in such a way that it remains elusive. Man cannot determine Being rationally and through his creative practice, however, he can experience Being. This is the starting point for the creation of a new thinking that insists on poetry and involves the overcoming of philosophy as a pure ratio. Instead of the thinking of Being, the dominant feeling should be a closeness with Being. That is why Heidegger insists on a “neighborhood with Being”.
Heidegger attempted philosophically to “resolve” the question of God as the embodiment of values that serves as a bulwark and prevents man from falling into the abyss of nothingness. His fundamental ontology was meant to be the basis for a new way of thinking that turns theology into ontology. God moves from Heaven to the Earth. He is no longer an abstract entity to which man relates by way of a religious dogma and the church, but a being living in man’s neighborhood, illuminating him and filling him with warmth. The experience of the presence of Being and the co-existence with Being, without the mediation of reason based on the objectification of man’s existence that leads to a doubt which is the source of nihilism, is the most important point connecting Heidegger’s philosophy to the philosophy of Kierkegaard.
In the analysis of Hölderlin’s poetry, Heidegger points out the presence of God. Talking about God and Heaven, he creates the impression of a warm certainty that brings calmness into people’s lives. Homelessness and the fear of vanishing are gone… Through science and technology, man has created a false image of himself and has acquired a false sense that he has become the master of life and death – thus creating an inauthentic existential condition. He is “thrown into the world” ruled by nihilism, which is his home only in a technical sense. Heidegger propounds an authentic existence ruled by the fear of death, since it is only on the basis of such fear that man can have a need for God, offering him a possibility to conquer death and ensuring eternal life. The “oblivion of Being” is based on the oblivion of this Earthly temporariness, and it is only relative to this oblivion that a need for Being is possible.
It is no accident that Heidegger cites Hölderlin, whose poetry brings God into people’s homes. The language of poetry connects man with Being. It becomes the language of praying: the way of addressing God is not a calling forth, but appealing to God. The poetical, which corresponds to the ancient poiesis, is the construction of the home of Being, whose roof is the sky as the divine firmament. God has returned to man’s home at this poetical call, whereby man is assured eternal life in God’s world. In his co-existence with Being, man becomes a god-man. Dasein is a deified man.
Translated from Serbian by Vesna Todorović (Petrović)
English translation supervisor Mick Collins
Heidegger and Nazism
We would be incorrect to try and establish a direct relationship between Nazi ideology and Heidegger’s philosophy, particularly if we were to look for the basis of Heidegger’s thought in Nazi ideology. Heidegger’s philosophy and Nazi ideology are closely related in as much as they both come from the same source. They are branches on a tree growing from German expansionism.
In the lecture delivered on 8 April 1936 in fascist Rome, and entitled “Europe and the German Philosophy” (“Europa und die deutsche Philosophie”), Heidegger clearly indicates the strategic political goals of German philosophy. Its primary task is to “shield European people” from “the Asiatic” by overcoming the “rootlessness and disintegration” of the European nations. Heidegger advocates a “transformation of the historical survival” of Europe, which cannot be achieved as a “blind pushing forward into an indeterminate future”, but “only as a creative confrontation with the whole of history up to now”. He ends his war-mongering speech with Heraclitus: “War is the father and king of all: some he has made gods, and some men; some slaves and some free…” It is easy to see who was supposed to be turned into slaves by the imminent war and who would be masters.
Heidegger actually presented German philosophy with the task of removing from the history of European people all that can impede their integration into a Nazi “new European order”. It is a Gleichschaltung, a process meant to destroy the emancipatory heritage of European people and use them in the realization of Germany’s most important strategic task: the annihilation of the Slavs and the invasion of their living space (Lebensraum). Heidegger’s philosophy provided the philosophical grounds for the basic existential interests of German capitalism and became a strategic platform for German colonial expansion. Heidegger supported the idea of a „Greater Germany“, an idea that long predates Hitler. For Heidegger, the Nazi regime was but one of the historical forms through which this idea was to be realized. Even after the collapse of Nazi Germany, Heidegger remained faithful to the idea of a „Greater Germany“ and, in that context, to the strategic goals of the Nazi regime.
To express it in a more popular, contemporary jargon, Heidegger appears an “expert on strategic issues”. This is the main reason why Heidegger was adamant that his philosophy not have a political nature. His thought is not concerned with temporary political events, but with the “increase of Being”, which manifests itself in the development of the conquering abilities of the Germans as a master race. Heidegger’s philosophy appears to be in the essential sphere, however, for the essence of “Being” is not freedom and justice, but the existential interests of the German capitalism.
If we tried to establish the political doctrine that rises from Heidegger’s fundamental ontology, we might conclude that it is fundamentally totalitarian. In Heidegger’s philosophy, all social spheres are alienated from man and are but the means for man’s integration into the ruling order. Man does not create the world, he is “in the world”; he does not create history, he is “in history”; he does not create a language, he is “in the language”… Heidegger does not offer freedom to man; he offers him “eternity” in the shade of “Being” – provided he pledges unquestioning loyalty to the ruling order, which deprives him of everything that makes him human. Heidegger embalms man. Deprived of any humanness, man travels to “eternity” as a mummy.
Heidegger’s philosophy represents the basis of a political strategy which seeks to build not only a totalitarian state, but also a totalitarian society. In that context, Heidegger sets out to create a “new man”, one deprived of all the properties that enable him to create a humane society. Instead of insisting on the development of a dialectical mind, enabling man to create a humane world, Heidegger insists on the experience of a tragic existence with a fatal character and, based on that, on a faith in “Being”, representing the idealized essence of the existing world.
Is the abolishment of man’s reasonable relation to his existence and the world and the shifting of the question of “Being” to the sphere of an instrumentalized mysticism the strongest bond connecting Heidegger’s philosophy to the Nazi ideology? Both doctrines try to bring themselves into favour with the mystic powers that rule the world. The darkness of “nothingness” becomes the source of the “will to power”. A mystical language penetrates the dark labyrinths of sub-consciousness and enables suppressed needs to be projected, by verbal manipulation, into illusions, which by means of a political indoctrination turn into spectres that will devour the world. Heidegger was among those who fed the demons growing in the murky depths of the German petty-bourgeois sub-consciousness.
Guided by the ruling political logic, Heidegger strives to turn the misery experienced by man on a daily basis into the active power of the ruling order. His philosophy attempts to convert the existential anxiety of the Germans into the driving force of German expansionism. At the same time, he sees in the Germans the organic part of a “folk community”, whose active will is based on the myth of “racial superiority” and is institutionalized in the form of the ruling (Nazi) order. The ultimate goal of Heidegger’s philosophy is to turn German society, as a politically and culturally pluralistic community of emancipated citizens, into the “German nation”, which is “united” under one (totalitarian) political banner and which, based on a fanatical mythological consciousness, has the “feeling of intrinsic superiority” and as such is ready to fulfill its “historical mission”. The militant Greater German fanaticism, with its mythological foundation, becomes the basis of the collective consciousness.
For Heidegger, Germany’s future is on the capitalist horizon, the state being the supreme regulatory mechanism of all social life. Anti-liberalism and anti-communism are the cornerstones of his political doctrine, and his relation to Nazism is based on them. Heidegger seeks to limit the “freedom of the market”, which leads to economic instability and does away with political pluralism, which then leads to political instability. In that context, he seeks to confront the workers’ movement and the idea of socialism (communism) and to integrate workers into the ruling order as members of the “German nation”. Ultimately, Germany’s economic and political stability were meant to ensure its successful colonial expansion. Heidegger’s political doctrine is close to that of Nazism, whose aims, according to Herbert Marcuse, were to “organize monopolistic production”, “shatter the socialist opposition” and “restore imperial expansionism”.
In Heidegger’s philosophy, we can discern a political doctrine underlying the Catholic and fascist vision of the future. It is an “industrial feudalism”, which involves the abolishment of man as an emancipated citizen and thus as a political agent in the establishment of society as a political community; reduction of the state to an instrument of the most powerful capitalist groups in their attempt to establish “social peace”; the abolishment of trade unions and the degradation of workers to industrial serfs and the exaltation of capitalists to feudal masters; the abolishment of a class society by replacing it with a “folk community”; the establishment of a totalitarian political will embodied in a “Leader” and in the ruling order …. “Ein Volk – ein Führer!” – this is the political essence of Heidegger’s fundamental ontology. It is explicitly expressed in Heidegger’s view from 1933, that “the Führer alone is the present and future German reality and the law”.
Heidegger’s open support of the Nazi regime is not only the product of his careerism and cannot be separated from his philosophy, which abolishes the emancipatory legacy of bourgeois society and provides the theoretical grounds for German expansionism. We should remember here the very beginnings of Heidegger’s cooperation with the Nazis. The enthusiasm with which Heidegger, as a professor and rector, endorsed Hitler, supported Nazism and denounced his colleagues, are expressions of his endeavors to become the leading philosopher of Nazi Germany, while his philosophy was to be the generally accepted basis of the Nazi ideology. In Heidegger‘s view, Hitler was the political leader of the Germans, but he reserved to himself the role of their spiritual leader.
Heidegger belonged to the group of German intellectuals who tried to prove that the Germans’ “predestination” to be a “Messianic people” is based on German cultural heritage that makes them superior to other cultures. Long before Heidegger, the myth of the Germans as the “nation of philosophers” had been an integral rationale for German expansionism. In that context, Leonardo da Vinci, Giotto, Buonarroti were all claimed as Germans… At the same time, German intellectuals appropriated the Ancient Greek spiritual heritage and used it to create the myth of “German spiritual superiority”. A typical example is the archaeological excavations in Ancient Olympia, started at the time of Bismarck and finished by Nazi archaeologists (Emil Kunze), with Hitler’s “personal” donation in the amount of 300 000 Reichsmarks. The carrying of the “Olympic Torch”, during the organization of the Nazi Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936, from the “holy Olympia” to the Nazi Berlin, has a special symbolic value and served to prove to the Nazis that they were the legitimate heirs of the cultural legacy of the Ancient Helada, “the spiritual cradle” of Western civilization.
Heidegger’s vision of Germans as a “metaphysical nation” is a political idea par excellence. It is the basis of the political rationale for German expansionism. Philosophy becomes a support, a justification and philosophical foundation for the governing political project. Rather than using the Nazi regime in the realization of his ideas, Heidegger used his philosophy to provide philosophical legitimacy to the Nazi‘s political and economic goals, and ultimately to Nazi practice.
Heidegger is not original. In order to justify German expansionism, he refers to “spiritual values”, in the same manner that imperialist France and England referred to “culture” and “civilization” in their attempts to justify colonial expansion and the eradication of “colored races”. Indeed, Heidegger’s philosophy rejects the emancipatory heritage of German culture, particularly the heritage that opens a space for overcoming colonialism and racism. In view of the events on the contemporary global scene, Heidegger’s philosophy is not only a philosophical expression of an expansionist strategy for the Nazi‘s “new European order”, but also for the expansionist strategy of the American “new world order”. Nothing new on the Western Front.
Considering Heidegger’s authority in the intellectual circles of Nazi Germany, we can safely say that his philosophy created a significant intellectual space for the affirmation of the German ideology. Heidegger’s philosophy greatly contributed to the development of a theoretical foundation for the idea of the Germans as a “master race”. In the concrete political conditions in Nazi Germany, the claim that the Germans have a “superior culture and mind” relative to other nations, inevitably led to nationalism and racism, and it is what the transition from the “leading nation” to the “master race” is based on. The myth of the Germans as the “nation of philosophers” became one of the sources of their racist ideology. German racism was elevated to the throne of philosophy.
Did the German cultural heritage not oblige Heidegger, as well as other German intellectuals, to oppose Nazism? Instead of being the basis for a criticism of the Nazi ideology and practice, German philosophy provided philosophical legitimacy to Nazi barbarism. Scumbags and snitches like Adolf Hitler and Josef Goebbels became the embodiments of the German “philosophical spirit”.
It should be noted here that during the 20th century the torch of the “German philosophical spirit” was carried by Jews (Wilhelm Dilthey, Edmund Husserl, Herbert Marcuse, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Ernest Bloch…), a people who were almost eradicated as a “lower race” by the “philosophical” Germans in the concentration camps of the Third Reich.
It is a sad truth that Adorno and Horkheimer allowed themselves to be used in post-war Germany‘s attempt to conceal the true nature of German “democracy” under the American boot. While they were giving lectures in German philosophy at West German universities to recent fanatical members of the Hitlerjugend, the Americans built an army of 40 000 SS members, still highly loyal to Hitler and led by one of the most notorious of Hitler’s storm troopers, Reinhard Gehlen, a force meant to “protect German democracy from communism” under the American command.
Heidegger’s relation to the German language illustrates the racist and totalitarian intention of his fundamentalism. The German language becomes a prayer language par excellence with which to appeal to the “Being” and establish a “neighborhood” with it, while Heidegger’s philosophy becomes the German “Holy Scripture”. With his fundamental ontology, Heidegger sought to deify the political project of the future he advocated, where the Germans, in the form of the Nazi movement, would take on the role of the “Messianic Nation”.
In addition to being based on a cultural imperialism, Heidegger’s view that the Germans are the “nation of philosophers” and that his philosophy, as manifested in the German language, is the “home of Being”, also indicates that the Germans, as manifested in Heidegger’s philosophy, are the indisputable owners of the truth. This entitles them to be a “chosen people” with the duty of bringing humanity back to the right path. In other words, in spite of being “thrown into a world” ruled by nihilism, the Germans, as the “nation of philosophers”, uniquely possess such mental and spiritual qualities that both enable and entitle them to bring about a spiritual rebirth of humanity.
Since the Germans, as the “nation of philosophers”, are the bearers of the supreme wisdom, a criticism of their (criminal) practices is possible only as their own (German) self-criticism. This is one of the reasons why Heidegger, who saw himself as the most authentic representative of the “German philosophical spirit”, indignantly rejected the very possibility of being questioned about the responsibility of the Germans for the Second World War and the atrocities committed.
Friedrich Nietzsche charged the “new nobility” with the task of “re-evaluating all values” (“Umwertung aller Werte“) and returning humanity to the right track. Heidegger entrusted the same chore to the Germans, whose active power appears in the form of the Nazi movement. The Germans are predestined to be the „master nation“ with an exclusive historical task to return humanity to the track abandoned in Ancient times. How can the crimes committed by the Germans – and never condemned by Heidegger – even compare to this Messianic task? Concentration camps and the eradication of entire nations – all this is nothing compared to the crucial task that Heidegger bestowed upon them. The nature of that task determined the nature of the political practice necessary for its realization. The principle that „the ends justify the means“ obtained, with Heidegger’s philosophy, a fundamental-ontological foundation.
Rather than being an educator, Heidegger is a modern crusader, who sees the Germans as a „master nation“, the active power of which is manifested in the Nazi movement. Heidegger does not call on the Germans to turn to philosophy, but rather to do whatever it takes to assure the ruling position in the world. A return to the „Being“ is not achieved by their enlightenment, but through the submission and eradication of other nations by means of science and technology. Guided by the governing principle of monopoly capitalism, „Destroy the competition!“, the Nazis, openly supported by Heidegger, a staunch critic of technicity, turned Germany into a death factory. What Heidegger has in mind when he refers to „tradition“ is not German culture, but German militarism. Rather than being attained through philosophy and art, „Being“ is attained with a drawn sword.
With regard to Heidegger’s direct cooperation with the Nazis, the general public has an insight only into his censored biography, missing all the “details” indicating that Heidegger’s support of the Nazis was much stronger and more thorough than officially claimed. This is clearly seen in Heidegger’s “Black Diary” (“Die Schwarzen Hefte“) – parts of which appeared in German bookstores in 2014 – which contains Heidegger’s notes and daily commentaries from the period 1931-1941. At the same time, there is a justified concern that some documents, hinting at Heidegger’s cooperation with the Nazis, have been destroyed in attempts to save „philosopher Heidegger“ from compromising „details“ of his past. In any case, „Dossier Heidegger“ is not closed. Only when true anti-fascists in Germany come to power, and the German citizens finally confront their fascist heritage, will the truth about Heidegger’s past come to light.
The „conciliatory“ attitude of official West Germany to Heidegger in the post-war period reflects its attitude toward Nazism. Details surrounding the interview given by Heidegger to the journalist of „Der Spiegel“ Rudolph Augstein, at the end of September 1966, indicate the extent to which Nazism was present in the post-war history of West Germany, which was an allied „occupation zone“ where the Germans’ Nazi past was the most important warrant of their loyalty to the American occupier. It is the only long interview given by Heidegger in his philosophical and political career, and it lasted 100 minutes. The interview was held in Heidegger’s mountain cabin at Todtnauberg. Heidegger agreed to give the interview under the condition that it be published after his death. Heidegger died on 26 May 1976, at the age of 86. Only three days later, „Der Spiegel“ published the interview under the following titles „Der Philosoph und das Dritte Reich“ („Philosopher and the Third Reich“) and „Nur noch ein Gott kann uns retten“ („Only a God Can Save Us“). The interview was attended by Georg Wolff, former German SS soldier, in his capacity as „editor of social sciences“ for „Der Spiegel“. During the Second World War he held the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer and participated in the executions of prisoners in Norway. He prepared the interview for publishing. Sapienti sat.
It should be noted here that Heidegger’s attitude towards the Jews is the most important criterion in the West for determining the extent to which he was close to the Nazi movement. Heidegger is thus accused of not condemning the Nazi Germany’s criminal policy towards the Jews. But what about the attitude of Nazi Germany and Heidegger to the Slavic peoples, who were also degraded to the status of a “lower race”? During the Second World War, the Nazis and the regular German army killed over 35 million Slavs. In Poland, the Germans killed over 6 million people. In the Soviet Union, they wiped out 70 000 villages, 1710 towns, 2766 churches and monasteries, 4000 libraries, 427 museums and 32 000 factories, and executed over 27 million Russians, Belarussians and Ukrainians. In Serbia, German soldiers executed children, while in Croatia, Nazi Germany allowed the Ustasha to kill over 700 000 Serbs. Why does the West not criticize Heidegger for not condemning the numerous atrocities committed by Nazi Germany against the Slavs? To cover-up the German genocide carried out against the Slavs actually means to cover-up the essence of the Second World War.
Just as the idea of “American superiority” serves to justify the imperialist policy of the USA in the contemporary world, Heidegger’s idea of the Germans as a “superior nation” served to justify the German “thrust towards the East” (Drang nach Osten) – i.e., the conquest of „living space“ (Lebensraum) and the extermination of the Slavic peoples. Heidegger’s philosophy is based on the totalizing principle of monopoly capitalism, „Destroy the competition!“, and on the expansionist nature of German capitalism, which regarded the conquest of „living space“ as an indisputable existential imperative. This gives vitality to Heidegger’s philosophy in contemporary Germany, where we are witnessing a dramatic biological demise of the Germans and the environment. It is the source of a totalitarian-integrative and expansionist political doctrine, which continues to live in the consciousness of the German petty bourgeoisie.
Heidegger never condemned the Nazi regime and its crimes primarily because he did not want to jeopardize the political foundations of his philosophy. Heidegger saw his philosophy as the indisputable source of the German self-consciousness. In spite of the defeat of the Nazi regime, the Germans were to preserve their self-consciousness through Heidegger’s philosophy as a “superior nation” preordained for the leading role in the world. For Heidegger, the defeat of Nazi Germany was but one of the defeats experienced by the German people in their fight for a “Greater Germany” and not a lost war for the future. Hitler’s defeat and the collapse of Nazism were not to call into question the strategic interests of German imperialism. We should not forget that Nietzsche’s idea of the “eternal recurrence” (“Die Ewige Wiederkunft”) is the alfa and omega of Heidegger’s conception of the future.
In his post-war correspondence with Marcuse, Heidegger tries to present the Germans as the victims of the Second World War. Indicatively, he does not make a distinction between the Nazi regime and the German people, particularly not between the ruling class of Junkers and capitalists, on the one hand, and German peasants and citizens on the other hand. This only goes to show the extent to which the Nazis managed to integrate the Germans into the Nazi regime and how much the Germans identified themselves with the Nazi regime.
Heidegger’s refusal to condemn the Germans for starting the Second World War and for committing atrocities, and his belief that the real victims of the war were actually the Germans, give rise to a political climate in contemporary Germany similar to the climate of the period following the First World War. The Nazi regime resulted from the myth that Germany was the victim of the First World War. Revanchism was used as a psychological instrument for fanaticizing the Germans and inciting war-mongering hysteria. Heidegger laments the fate of the Germans who were expelled from the East and thus creates a political atmosphere that should give rise to a new call for the German people to “return” to the East.
It should be pointed out here that the political instrumentalization of the idea of the Germans as a “superior nation” was based on the German defeat in the First World War; on the collapse of the German Empire; on the humiliation of the Versailles peace treaty; on Germany’s political instability; on the economic crisis of capitalism and mass unemployment… The “need” to conquer and exterminate the “lower races” came from the fear of survival created by capitalism and was a compensation for the misery experienced by “ordinary” Germans in their everyday life. The existential fear in contemporary capitalism that, with the growing destruction of the European nations and their ecosystems’, turns into an existential panic, represents the spiritus movens of a revived fascist barbarism.
Heidegger’s thought is a philosophical mask covering the racist ideology and Nazi practice. However, as it is multi-layered, it can appear in a “pure” philosophical form. That the mask itself acquired the form of a living image is the most important ideological quality of Heidegger’s philosophy. Heidegger’s followers therefore can easily “deprive” his philosophy of its political content. The Nazi ideology similarly had a magical philosophical veil interspersed with the expressions symbolizing the common human values: “peace”, “happiness”, “well-being”… The same can be said for the American “new world order”, covered with the blood-stained veil of “democracy”. Over and over again, bourgeois philosophy appears as a “humanist” mask over the criminal capitalist practice. Instead of trying to demystify a philosophy that turned into an ideology, bourgeois philosophers are turning an ideology into a philosophy.
To “defend” Heidegger against the charge of Nazism actually means to try to preserve the illusion of autonomy and thus of “objectivity” of philosophy – Heidegger being its most important representative in the XX century. Heidegger has become a mythological character “defended’” against the charge of Nazism by his reputation as the “last great philosopher”. If Nazi Germany had won the war, Heidegger’s philosophy would have demonstrated its true potential and Heidegger his true character. The entire philosophical content of Heidegger’s thought, creating the illusion of a political unbiasedness, would have then slid into one blood-stained Nazi swamp. Drawing on Heidegger’s philosophy, the Germans, as a “metaphysical nation”, would have become the “saviours of humanity” and their “Führer“ would have obtained a divine aura. Heidegger’s philosophy would have become the “Bible” of the Third Reich.
Translated from Serbian by Vesna Todorović (Petrović)
English translation supervisor Mick Collins
Heidegger’s Fear of Death
In his endevours to confront man as a libertarian being and emancipated citizen, Heidegger imputes a fear of death to man as the basis for his tragic existence. If man’s relation to existence derives from his own immediate experience, then the basis for his authentic existence is not a fear of death, but his experience of life. Death is merely an abstraction for man as long as he is not directly faced with it. Man can only reflect on death; he cannot “live” it.
A fear of death does not derive from the experience of death, but from the experience of life. Since Heidegger does not postulate thinking, but rather experience, as the basis for determining authentic existence, the basis for authentic existence in Heidegger is also not a fear of death, but a fear of loss of life. Man, therefore, has no need of a Being that would enable him to conquer his fear of death through an illusion of “eternal life”; he has need of life and, thus, of people with whom he can fight for his life and for humanity’s survival.
In order for man to experience his mortality in a tragic way, he must have a need to live and a vision of the kind of life that can satisfy that need. Rather than death, the basis of a tragic existence is the kind of life that does not enable man to realize his humanness, which means to becaming a human being. Tragicality does not appear in the relation with an “eternal” heavenly life, but in relation to the actual possibilities of man becoming a human being in this earthly existence, which involves faith in a humane world and a fight for such a world.
Tragicality does not have a fatal character. Man can abolish his tragic existence if he changes the life he lives, which means, if he abolishes capitalism and creates a world that will be the expression of his authentic human powers as a social and visionary being. With respect to that, man is willing to risk his life to prevent global destruction and create a world where people will be safe and free.
Instead of being based on a fear of death, life should be based on a faith in life. Not a fear of death, but a joy of living should be the pivot of man’s entire existence. By his insistence on a lonely individual’s fear of death, Heidegger deprived man of the joy of life and human warmth. He reduced man to a walking corpse.
Interestingly, in spite of being a great “magician” with words, Heidegger calls man a “mortal”, but it does not occur to him that, presupposing man as a living being, he might call him a “living-being”. Indeed, man is a living being in his role as a life-creating being. Not only is he a living-being, he is also a life-creating being.
Death and man’s relation to death have a historical nature. Fears faced by man, just as the very nature of fearing, are historically conditioned. Modern man’s existence and his perception of this existance are essentially different from those of the Ancient Greeks, and, by the same token, death and modern man’s perception of death are essentially different from those of Ancient man. Modern man experiences fear in an essentially different way from his Ancient counterpart, and, consequently, his response to fear is essentially different. Traditionally, man percieved and experienced the world as a divine givenness and all that befell him as the product of a divine will. Hence he did not have an activistic-changing, but rather a passive-submissive relationship to the world. A confrontation with that fear was manifested in the form of a submissive relation to divinities.
Thanks to the development of his cognitive and creative capabilities, modern man percieves and experiences himself as the creator of the world and hence perceives and experiences the world as his own creation. This is what his fear of death is based on. Rather than kneeling before gods, man confronts death through his understanding of the concrete nature of fear and by eradicating the underlying causes thereof. Instead of a religious-submissive consciousness, the dominant consciousness is active and changing, and is shaped into a libertarian-changing practice based on man’s life-creating capabilities as an emancipated natural and social being.
Modern man, as a self-conscious historical being, can relate to the Ancient world and can understand his relation to the fear of death as a specific, historically conditioned relation. While for Ancient man there is no future, but only an idealised past, modern man perceives his existence and death relative to a future expressed in the idea of progress, meaning that he relates to death in the context of the emancipatory potential created in modern society, a possibility for the realization of a new world.
The abolishment of a speculative mediation between man and his existence abolishes the possibility of his critical-changing relation to the world, and reduces him to a non-human. The abolishment of thought as a mediator between man and his existence leads to man relating to his existence through a world that devalues him as a human being. “A need for God”, for suffering, a fear of death instead of a joy of life – these are all psychological responses of a man deprived by capitalism of his libertarian and creative dignity, of an authentic sociability and thus an authentic humanness.
The ruling order, which conditions the nature of the world, has objectified man, who is to experience his existence without posing the question of the true human beingness, which is the basic postulate for the evolvement of the critical and visionary consciousness that will enable the creation of a world where man will bring to life his humanness. The ruling order insists on the abolishment of man’s reflective relation to his existence and the creation of the ideal of human-beingness man should strive for, imposing at the same time a philosophy that becomes the basis for man’s self-perception and a mediator between man and his existence. This philosophy springs from a world where a human is reduced to a non-human.
A typical example can be found in Kierkegaard’s thought. His philosophy is that of a desperate man, doomed by capitalism to solitary hopelessness. As a victim of capitalism, Kierkegaard seeks the meaning of life in a spiritual sphere deriving from his solitary misery. His philosophy is not based on reason, but on unreasonableness. “A need for God” is the product of the spiritual desolation created by capitalism and not a reasonable response to man’s suffering. “God” is the product of a desparete man’s imagination, one who cannot bring his humanness to life in the existing world. Kierkegaard’s philosophy does not purport to abolish the world that produces a miserable man; it rather builds a stairway beyond the clouds. And when the clouds disperse, man faces utter emptiness ruled by absolute nothingness.
Heidegger bases his notion of the tragic on man having an existential fear. Instead of pointing out concrete social causes of this existential fear, Heidegger imputes to man a fear of death, which becomes a projected sublimation of the concrete existential fear experienced by man on a daily basis. The existential fear in the contemporary world, however, springs not from a fear of death, but from a fear of capitalism. With capitalism’s increasingly ruthless confrontation with people and nature, the fear of capitalism has an increasingly devastating effect on man and leads to disastrous forms of social pathology.
The fear of losing the basic means of survival is a “Sword of Damocles” hovering over the heads of people whose livelihoods depend on their work and is the most important instrument in guaranteeing people’s submission. In developed capitalist countries, a majority of people live in debt slavery and in fear that they will not be able to pay off their loan and that their family will end up in the street or in prison. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people commit suicide because they cannot repay their debts.
In contemporary capitalism, man has a concern with a specific historical character: a concern over the survival of life on the planet and thus a concern over the survival of humankind. This concern is a product of capitalism and, with the growing destruction of life, it acquires an increasingly dramatical character. If humankind does not stamp out capitalism in due course, if it does not establish a production aimed at satisfying genuine human needs and does not start treating nature in a more rational way, this concern will turn into an existential panic, which, after a possible nuclear devastation, will reduce the world to an ash heap.
Since death is inevitable, Heidegger placed the tragic into a sphere beyond man as a libertarian and creative being. Man has no other option but to resign to his tragic existence and resort to illusions which are meant to compensate for his tragic life. Hence the need for the metaphysical as an active mediator between man’s “temporary” earthly existence and the “eternal” heavenly world. When man’s life is reduced to meaningless suffering, then the fear of death turns into faith in “eternal life”, producing a religious imagination that breeds illusory worlds.
By abolishing man’s rational relation to his existence and by reducing man’s relation to his existence to its experience, Heidegger separated the existence of man from the existence of humankind, creating the possibility for man to perceive his existence regardless of what is befalling humankind – i.e., to become an abstract being and in an abstract manner. For man’s existence to be concrete, it must be viewed in terms of the concrete existential situation in which the world finds itself. In other words, man’s existence is inseparably bound up with the existence of the world. If man is to experience his concrete existence, he has to have an idea of the existential prospects of humankind.
A starting point for people’s mutual struggle against capitalism should not be a fear of death, but the growing destruction of life on the planet and the resulting concern for global survival. By becoming a totalitarian and global order of destruction, capitalism has placed all people on the planet in the same existential situation. We are all sailing on a ship heading for an abyss – regardless of our way of life and the way in which we relate to human and humankind’s existence. If man is not capable of reasonably assessing the increasingly dramatic existential situation brought about by capitalism, his relation to his existence will be based on a mental state leading to escapism and madness.
The euphory of consumerism is the most widespread and the most devastating form of escapism from humanity’s concrete existential situation. This escapism actually comes down to man’s cooperation in global destruction. It represents the most direct embodiment of the destructive spirit of capitalism. This escapism from destruction produces the destruction of man as a destructive being.
Death is not necessarily the source of tragicality. A fear of death is but one possible way in which man relates to death. The nature of one’s relation to death is conditioned by the nature of one’s life: the experience of death is conditioned by the experience of life. For a man who gambled away his life – death is the worst punishment; for a man who lives in hopeless misery – death is salvation; for a man who had a rich and creative life – death is a deserved repose…
In Heidegger, man does not have a conscious relation to death. Actually, a conscious relation to death and man’s sociability are the basic presuppositions of a fear of death. Tragicality is possible from the very moment man becomes aware of his mortality. A child is not aware that he/she will die, nor is an animal. They cannot have a tragic existence. On the other hand, man can have a fear of death only as a social being. Man cannot experience his death, he acquires an idea of his (human) mortality only through the death of another human being.
Heidegger abolishes man’s emancipated (reasonable) relation to death because such a relation questions the idea of the tragicality of human existence on which his philosophy is based. Death is the basic presupposition of the totality of human activism. Without death, there can be no wish or will to live. If man were immortal, life would be absolutely meaningless. A happy life is possible precisely because of its finitude. An „eternal life“ is the greatest curse.
As did Christian theologists, Heidegger imputed to man a fear of death. Death, by itself, is not the source of the tragic; it becomes such only if it involves man’s vanishing. Although this is implied by Heidegger‘s thought, eternity is not as sured through man’s creative practice as a social and historical being, but through co-existence with Being.
A fear of vanishing means that man fears he will fall into oblivion after death, which actually means that his life devalues him to such an extent that it is not worth mentioning. A worthless life makes man a worthless being. This devalued life wipes man from human memory by preventing him from leaving behind any legacy through which he might be remembered. He does not vanish as a human being, but as an individual who failed to become a human being. Death is tragical in so far as it finally deprives a man of the possibility of becoming human. By depriving him of life, death deprives man of the possibility to realize his humanness.
Those who are not capable of a great achievement in their lifetime will mark their lives by means of the grave. For a man who did not leave a trace behind him, the grave becomes the only proof of his previous existence. The grave is a life turned into stone. A destroyed man appears in the form of indestructible stone. The grave is not a trace of the joy of life. It is a stony misery.
As long as we remember our ancestors and respect their legacy – they are alive. As long as their creativeness permeates our life – they are alive. As long as their libertarian struggle inspires us to fight on – they are alive. As long as our noble ancestors can be discerned in our grandchildren – they are alive. As long as a tear appears in our eye when we look at a family photograph and see the caring look in the eyes of our dear parents – they are alive…
Not only does Heidegger not make a distinction between death and vanishing, he does not make a distinction between death and destruction, either. What faces modern man as a concrete, natural, historical and social being, is not just a fear of death, but a fear of the destruction of humanity and all life on the Earth. Man is scared of a possible nuclear war; he fears climate change; he fears viruses that might wipe out humanity; he fears fanatics ready to kill billions of people. Instead of imaginary fears based on religious illusions, he has real fears produced by capitalism.
With capitalism becoming a totalitarian destructive order, man’s creative potential has turned into a destructive power in the form of science and technology. Instead of enabling man to provide for his existence and further develop his creative potential, science and technology, misused by capitalism, have become tools for global destruction and, as such, are a means for the production of an existential fear that is slowly becoming an existential panic.
By abolishing man as a social being, Heidegger overlooked the fact that what makes man human is his responsibility for the lives of others. An atomized man lacks the most vital life forces: love and respect. As a human being, he has nothing to lose as he is deprived of the very thing that makes him human. Man is not miserable because he is mortal, but because he is discarded as a human being and cannot realize his humanness as a social being. This moment is dominant in Kerkegaard: despair over being discarded. His tragic thought is the hopeless cry of a desperate man lost in the icy land of capitalist nothingness. It should be pointed out here that truth is not to be found in philosophy, science, art and religion, but in the eyes of a child begging for help.
By reducing man to an abstract being and by abolishing reason as a mediator between man and his existence, Heidegger abolishes man as a valuable being. Man’s tragicality in capitalism is based on his evaluating himself through a value model that depreciates him as a human being and on his attempts to provide for his existence through an existential sphere that calls into question the very survival of humanity and nature. If we consider the nature of man’s existence as a concrete historical (social) being, which is the concrete existence of man in capitalism, then man’s very existence has an anti-existential character.
Heidegger’s accounts of man’s tragic existence lead us to the conclusion that a “happy life” in a miserable world is but a fake existence, specifically, an existence based on lies. Only by way of experiencing the tragic existence can man set out to find a way out of everyday nothingness – instead of resorting to the destructive hedonism offered by capitalism in the form of “consumer society”. However, Heidegger deprives man of faith in a happy life and thus of any possibility of happiness. A fear of death is deeply set in man’s soul and prevents him from being happy. The anxiety created by the fear of death is a primary effect on how man experiences his existence. Instead of the joy of life, the fear of death becomes the basis of human self-recognition. Striving for a happy life leads to the oblivion of death and thus to the obliviation of Being.
For Heidegger, the true source of anxiety is death, rather than slavery, oppression, humiliation, increasingly threatened life, lack of love and respect, lack of possibility for man to realize himself as a creative and social being … Everything that shows the anti-libertarian, oppressive, exploitive and destructive nature of capitalism is removed from the scene. The reduction of man’s authentic existence to a fear of death and strivings for Being serves Heidegger by doing away with the peculiar human qualities that make man a libertarian and creative being.
The tragic existence based on a fear of death becomes a non-historical existence and as such an abolishment of history and man as a historical being. By declaring the fear of death the basis of human tragic existence, Heidegger reduces man’s tragicality to a non-historical givenness. The meaning of the tragic as a concrete historical phenomenon can be determined only relative to the concrete historical (social) possibilities of overcoming the tragic, which are based on the emancipatory legacy and life-creating potential of people as social beings.
If Heidegger’s notion of the tragic is viewed in the context of the ever more dramatic destruction of the world, it has an anti-existential character. Heidegger separates man’s existence from the tendency in the development of capitalism toward a destructive totalitarian order and, in that context, from the existence of humanity and nature in a life-creating totality. In view of the existential plight created by capitalism, the most important task before man is not to provide eternal life for the individual by way of an illusory heavenly realm, but to secure humanity’s survival by preserving the earthly life-creating sphere. The indisputable point of departure for the experience of human existence is not an abstract “Being”, but nature as a life-creating entirety. Nature as a life-creating entirety and man as an emancipated natural being and the organic part of nature as a life-creating entirety – this is the basis of human existence.
By becoming a destructive totalitarian order, capitalism compels man directly to confront the increasing threat of destruction. The capitalist zunami has swept through all doors. The smell of death is all around. No longer does man need science or philosophy to be aware of his dramatic existential situation. Man relates to his existence by experiencing it immediately as a growing threat to life on this planet. By becoming a global order of destruction, capitalism has abolished the duality between individual and common interests – between the existential interest of an individual and the existential interest of humanity. By increasingly threatening life on the Earth, capitalism threatens the life of the individual and at the same time the life of the whole of humanity. This is potentially the most important integrative link enabling humanity to unite and become a force capable of destroying capitalism.
It is up to us to initiate this vital historical turn. Instead of a cult of death, we should build a cult of life. Similarly to religious fanatics, guided by the idea of apocalypse, the ideologists of capitalism are creating an existential defeatism and, through an increasingly aggressive production of illusions, offering virtual cosmic worlds as the spaces for humanity’s future existence. The idea of eternity must be brought back from the illusory “worlds” and the vastness of the universe and placed within the framework of our earthly life. People should become aware that the Earth is our only home and the only place in the universe that gives us a chance to survive. This awareness should be the impetus for a will to fight for survival and thereby secure the future of humanity.
Translated from Serbian by Vesna Todorović (Petrović)
English translation supervisor Mick Collins
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Heidegger’s Philosophy in the Light of Life-Creating Humanism
In order for a question to be authentic, it has to be a concrete historical question, which means that it should take into consideration the governing tendency in the development of the world. The question of the nature of Martin Heidegger’s philosophy should also be a concrete historical question. It is one thing when a question is asked in a blossoming field and quite the other when it is asked on the brink of the abyss. The concrete historical question is the following: Does Heidegger’s thought indicate the processes that lead to the destruction of man and nature, and does it offer a possibility to step out from capitalist civilization into a civilization of freedom, where man will live in harmony with nature?
Heidegger’s philosophy should be given a chance to appear as concrete historical thought in the relation of destruction to life-creation, i.e., destructive mindlessness to life-creating mind. Only relative to the mind’s libertarian and life-creating potential can a concrete historical meaning of Heidegger’s philosophy be perceived. Life on Earth is increasingly threatened and everything that possesses a life-creating potential should be included in the fight for survival. The essential criterion to determine whether a thought is reasonable is whether it contributes to the preservation of life on Earth.
A life-creating humanism should become the basis for the mind’s self-reflextion and, as such, the source of the self-consciouness of man as a life-creating being that, through his life-creating practice, should confront capitalism as a destructive totalitarian order. Guided by the life-creating mind and relying on a combative sociability, man should abolish the “consumer society” and “technical civilisation” and create a humane society and a life-creating civilisation, which will be the organic part of nature as a life-creating totality. We are talking about a life-creating pantheism, which creates not only a new life, but a new world.
For Heidegger’s followers, his philosophy is the only framework within which the question of its essence and meaning is possible. Philosophical legitimacy of any discussion of Heidegger’s philosophy is acquired by its becoming a self-reflexion of Heidegger’s philosophy. “Fundamental ontology” becomes a synthesis of everything valuable that appears in the realm of the mind. It acquires the status of the only true philosophy and as such becomes the criterion used to determine the legitimacy of philosophical thought. „Fundamental ontology” becomes the other name for true mindfulness.
Bourgeiois theoreticians seek to analyse Heidegger’s thought departing from philosophy as an „objective“ sphere with a supra-historical character. Thus, Heidegger’s philosophy becomes an abstract thought. They use Heidegger’s philosophy to eliminate the visionary mind and, thereby, any possible spaces for the future. Heidegger’s philosophy heralds the end of history. At the same time, bourgeois philosophers appeal to Heidegger so that, in the shadow of his philosophy, they might obtain philosophical legitimacy for their own writings. They treat Heidegger in the same way Heidegger treats Being (Sein). To be in Heidegger’s „neighbourhood“ ensures „immortality“ in the world of philosophy.
The most important reason for Heidegger’s popularity with the bourgeois intelligentsia is that his philosophy enables the preservation of the elitist status of philosophy and thus the elitist status of the academic intelligentsia. His “fundamental ontology” becomes the philosophical “Holy Scripture”, whereas his “interpretors” become the guardians of the keys of wisdom. Bourgeois philosophy turned Heidegger into a myth and made his philosophy one of the key intelllectual pillars of Western civilization.
The production of the myth of Heidegger and other “great” philosophers serves to create a sectarian single-mindedness and elitist self-sufficiency of the bourgeois intelligentsia. Its members voluntarily accept the ghettoization of the mind at academic faculties and other exclusive „intellectual” domains, since it gives them “freedom” and a comfortable life. Such social position releases them from responsibility for the survival of life on the planet and from the risk that a struggle against the ruling order entails.
The representatives of traditional philosophy base their relation to Heidegger’s philosophy on existential apriorism. By becoming a totalitarian order of destruction, capitalism descredited that point of departure. The insistance on such an approach deprives Heidegger’s thought of a concrete historical dimension and turns the discussion of Heidegger’s thought into intellectual gymnastics with an abstract character. The traditional philosophical approach to Heidegger not only sterilizes the life-creating potentials of his thought, but also averts the mind from the basic existential issues currently facing humankind ever more dramatically. “Consumer society” is the final confrontation with a thought grounded in existential apriorism.
A demystification of Heidegger’s philosophy involves the emancipation of Heidegger’s thought from philosophy, which means discarding the philosophical veil under which his thought loses any concrete historical character and becomes abstract thought. Heidegger must be drawn away from the gloominess of philosophical gibberish into the light of history and treated as a concrete social being, whereas his philosophy should be treated as concrete historical thought. Only then can we discover both its limits and its emancipatory potential. At the same time, a concrete historical discussion of Heidegger’s philosophy is possible only if it does not fall into the trap of his philosophical rhetoric. It is a labyrinth without exit, where, in hopeless wandering, the mind loses its life-creating power.
In addition to ancient Greek philosophy, Heidegger found the source and inspiration for his ideas in the philosophy of St. Augustine, Meister Eckhart, Franz Brentano, Fridrich Schelling, Friedrich Hölderline, Sørene Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Rainer Maria Rilke, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Wilhelm Dilthey, Edmund Husserl, in thaoism and other Far-Easterm religions. In order to grasp the true nature of Heidegger’s philosophy, we should also bear in mind the ideas and political movements relative to which Heidegger sought to build his philosophy.
Rather than in theory, a concrete historical source of Heidegger’s thought is to be found in the reality of life in Germany in the first half of the 20th century. Only when Heidegger’s philosophy is viewed in the context of historical events in which it occurred can we discover its true nature. We are talking about German expansionism; the crisis of capitalism and the First World War; Germany’s defeat and the collapse of the German Empire; the Munich Revolution and the development of the communist movement; the founding and fall of the Weimer Republic; the development of German revanchism and the rise of fascism; the “thrust toward the East” and the collapse of Nazi Germany… Heidegger’s philosophy was only possible on German soil.
There is no denying that Heidegger’s philosophy has an authenticity reflected not only in its specific parlance, but also in the specific treatment of basic philosophical questions. Essentially, Heidegger sought to answer the question of the future of Germany in the form of a philosophical treatise. That is, most importantly, what makes Heidegger a „German philosopher“ and determines both the self-consciousness of Heidegger’s philosophy and Heidegger’s notion of himself as a philosopher. Without such an approach to Heidegger’s thought, we cannot correctly answer the question of the political essence of his philosophy and, in that context, of the nature of Heidegger’s relation to Nazism.
Translated from Serbian by Vesna Todorović (Petrović)
English translation supervisor Mick Collins
Before the modern era, religion played the most important role in the contemplative life of European peoples. However, the development of artisanship and trade, the appearance of the first towns, the advancement of science and techniques, the appearance of the bourgeois intelligentsia and “The Gutenberg Galaxy”, as well as the development of schools and universities and civil political movements – all that created new sources of thinking. Along with the philosophical mind, the scientific mind started to have an increasingly important role in man’s thinking, throwing off the religious schackles. A new way of life and a new position of man in the world gave rise to a new art, which sought to create its own autonomous thinking. The thinking life in Europe became multi-faceted and multi-layered. It was now based on the capitalist division of labour, which separated manual from intellectual labour and institutionalised spheres of thought wherein people became alienated from their creative powers. At the same time, the dynamics of the thinking life were conditioned by scientific discoveries, conquests of new territories, technical inventions, industrial development, increased literacy of the general population, the introduction of a non-working time, which increased the number of readers and gave rise to the theater, opera houses, galleries and other cultural institutions.
The modern age saw a struggle between different world views, whereas the bearers of religious, scientific, philosophical and artistic thought sought to turn their respective fields into the sum total of all wisdom and the pillar of the thinking life. At the same time, under the influence of political pluralism, there appeared various schools of thought, each of them seeking to make its view the basis of all thought. Rather than being founded on the mind, this tendency to establish a domination of one world view over all others is the consequence of a struggle for power between political and economic centers, which instrumentalised the mind. This is what the idea of fundamentalism is based on. It does not strive for truth, which can be found only by opposing different views, but for the establishment of a centre of power with an indisputable monopoly on the „truth”.
Heidegger’s fundamental ontology is developed in a world divided into spheres that are alienated from and dominant over man. Without that division, a demand for fundamentalism would be meaningless. Fundamental ontology is a synthesized essence of separate areas of suprastructure, where the powers alienated from man are institutionalized, becoming the means by which the ruling order oppresses man and destroys nature. Heidegger does not seek to reconcile the divided world and give man back his powers, those taken from him in the form of alienated spheres of the capitalist suprastructure. He does not seek to abolish the sphere of philosophy by people becoming reasonable beings; to abolish the sphere of art by people becoming artistic beings; to abolish the sphere of technique by turning the conquered forces of nature into the means for satisfying genuine human needs and increasing the likelihood of human survival; to abolish class society by abolishing private ownership over the means of production and the repressive institutions of bourgeois society and by man becoming the agent of social life and the master of his destiny.
Fundamental ontology has an integrative character. It is based on an integrative ontological point, which is the source of thought and is indisputable. If fundamental ontology is the source of overall thinking, then it is not possible to pose an autonomous ontological question about its essence, which means to establish an autonomous critical standpoint, from which it may be brought into question. A discussion of the nature of fundamental ontology is possible as its self-reflexion.
The self-reflexion of fundamental ontology is based on all principal standpoints of thought being contained in it, and through it they obtain their ontological legitimacy. Self-reflexion of the ontological as ontological is possible only via fundamental ontology. In other words, the very nature of the ontological is conditioned by the nature of fundamentalism as a totalizing way of thinking. Every ontological approach that does not correspond to the totalizing intention of fundamental ontology is eliminated. The ontical excludes the struggle of opposites and thus the historical development of society, whereas ontology excludes the confrontation of opposites as a way of finding the truth. Fundamental ontology is opposed to the dialectic of history and the dialectical mind.
For an ontology to justify itself, it should be capable of posing the question of the truthfulness of fundamental ontology. Fundamental ontology is legitimate only as ontology, which means that the self-reflexion of fundamental ontology is possible only through the ontological. Since fundamentalism, as a synthetic-totalizing principle questions the essence of the ontological, fundamental ontology does not have the legitimacy of the ontological. In fundamental ontology, ontology has lost its ontological essence.
Fundamentalism as a principle of thought is opposed to the emancipatory nature of the ontological. It deprives ontology of the visionary. Since the ontological is self-conscious of the ontical, by abolishing the openness of the ontological towards the future, the ontical is deprived of an emancipatory self-consciousness. What should be affirmed instead of the principle of fundamentalism is the principle of ontological openness, which then enables the thought to soar into the future. This is the basic presupposition for the life-creating potential of the ontical to acquire a visionary self-consciousness.
Fundamental ontology is not a thought opening the horizons of new worlds; it is rather a strengthening of the foundations of the existing world. The fact that it is a “path” (Heidegger) does not mean searching for or opening new ontological standpoints, but rather projecting the given fundamental ontological point into the future.
Bearing in mind that the contemporary world is based on a totalitarian destruction, we can conclude that fundamental ontology draws thinking into the sphere of a totalizing anti-existential mindlessness. With capitalism becoming a totalitarian destructive order, the question of the truthfulness of fundamental ontology as a concrete historical question is possible only from an existental and, in that context, a libertarian standpoint.
Heidegger developed a new philosophy which should indicate the essence of human existence. Philosophy is abolished by philosophy. This contradicts Heidegger’s demand that all forms of mediation between man and his existence be abolished. Rather than by replacing all other philosophies with his so that his philosophy becomes the only mode of mediation between man and his existence, Heidegger seeks to abolish philosophy altogether as a mediator between man and his existence. His fundamental ontology does not strive to develop a philosophy, but rather represents the end of philosophy and the birth of the poetic. It does not only carry the seed of a new thought, but also of a new relation of man to his existence.
The essence of Heidegger’s novum is that man’s relation to being is not grounded in the thinking of being, but on its experience. Hence the self-reflexion of Heidegger’s philosophy is not possible through philosophy as wisdom alienated from man, which as such is the criterion for determening its own truthfullness, but rather through a way of life based on immediate experience of a tragic existence and thus on co-existence with Being.
If the basis of its self-reflexion is not thinking but rather the experience of a tragic existence, why then fundamental ontology? Is it a source of wisdom needed for man to understand the nature of his tragic existence and the nihilism into which he is thrown so that new social conditions can be created enabling him to re-experience his tragic existence and return to Being, or is it but a means for eliminating the mind as a mediator between man and his existence?
Heidegger called into question philosophy as a mediator between man and his existence, and this is one of the most significant emancipatory possibilities of his thought. His analysis of the history of philosophy indicates that Post-Socratic philosophy, which mediates between man and his existence by reducing them to the objects of analysis, resulted in the “obliviation of Being”, and this led man to nihilism. Hence we should go back to Pre-Socratic Helada, where man was in unity with Being and where philosophy was a self-reflexion of Being. If this Heideggerian appeal is viewed in light of the fact that capitalism increasingly threatens the survival of life and in the context of a demand to eliminate all forms of mediation between man and world, which was insisted upon by Marx and Nietzsche, he can have not only an emancipatory, but also an existential significance.
Heidegger’s philosophy has a critical undertone and thereby offers the possibility of being present and alive in a world that, inspite of falling deeper and deeper into existential hopelessness, does not seek to overcome capitalism and create a new world. It offers the possibility of being critical without crossing the „red line“ dividing a „politically correct“ thought from a thought that seeks to confront capitalism and step out into the future, where the emancipatory potential of a civil society might be realised. Heidegger’s philosophy is a critique of the capitalist reality that does not bring capitalism into question. It is an anti-visionary critique of capitalism.
Heidegger’s philosophy does not see itself as a concrete historical thought that is conditioned and thus qualified by the nature of the time in which it was developed. Heidegger determines the idea of “fundamental ontology” as the starting point for the self-reflexion of his philosophy. Heidegger’s undestanding of man and his existence, in effect, comes from philosophy as a separate area of the capitalist spiritual sphere. His thought is based on and framed by a capitalistically divided world. Although Heidegger sought to create an impression that his fundamental ontology has a supra-historical character, his philosophy belongs to the capitalist spiritual supra-structure alienated from man. With his philosophical rethoric, Heidegger built a labyrinth for the mind, which is but an addition to the capitalist ideological sphere.
Heidegger gave to philosophy an inadequate social and historical dimension. Ancient Greek philosophers did not determine the nature of the governing thought; it was the governing order that, indirectly and directly, conditioned man’s thinking and the nature of philosophy. The same goes for the modern age. The nature of the governing thought is not conditioned by philosophy, but by capitalism as a destructive totalitarian order. The capitalist ratio, which rules bourgeois philosophy, is but a rational manifestation of destructive capitalist mindlessness. It corresponds with philosophy as a mystificatory skill that sterilizes the life-creating power of the mind and thus confronts visionary consciousness and changing practice. Traditional philosophy fits into this by turning concrete existential issues into abstract theoretical questions.
As with other “great philosophies”, Heidegger’s faces the issue of its logical consistency. Heidegger created specific terms that he sought to “fill up” with notions having a hierarchical order. To create the illusion that this pyramid of notions is non-contradictory, Heidegger had to resort to verbal juggling. As he developed his philosophy, he elaborated and changed the content of the notions with which he set out toward Olympus. On that increasingly strenuous and uncertain trek, the notions behaved as a flock of sheep that the shepherd cannot keep together. Some sheep fell off a cliff, some got lost, and the shepherd had to eat some of them in order to keep moving on. Ultimately, it turned out that the path Heidegger took led not to Olympus but to Auschwitz.
Translated from Serbian by Vesna Todorović (Petrović)
English translation supervisor Mick Collins
Download „Night of the Witches“ – Day of the Idiots
„Night of the Witches“ – Day of the Idiots
The destruction of the mind is the ultimate consequence of the development of capitalism. This destruction of the human scentience is based on the following “logic” : live to work; work to shop; shop to discard; discard to enable the process of global destruction to proceed smoothly…
Capitalism turns people into “good for nothing” petty-bourgoises. Guided by the illusions created by the capitalist propaganda machinery, people become alienated from the processes that determine their destiny and thus the capitalist villains are able to become masters over their lives.
We are currently in the process of erasing the national and, thereby, historical self-consciousness. The world has turned into a container of “coca-cola” idiocy. “Mass events” destroy the mind and sterilise man’s change-creating energy. Sports stadiums and centers have become the cult venues of the modern world. It is no accident that robotised gladiators and circus players are paid enormous amounts for their performances. Instead of looking to the future, young people are fixated on football or basketball ball or the tennis racket or the blood stained boxer’s fist…
“New” forms of “entertainment” designed for the young appear on a daily basis and instead of drawing on cultural heritige, they are copying the “mass production” in the West aimed at destroying the national identity and creating a mondialistic idiocy. The importance attached by the media to manifestations such as “Halloween” (Night of the Witches) shows the extent to which the “public space” has become the property of the capitalist clans, those seeking to woo the West by destroying our culture and consequently eradicating our people from the historical arena.
The space given by the media to illiterate “prophets” instead of educated and wise people also shows the extent to which the mind is degraded in today’s world. This is the culmination of the development of “democracy”.
I remember a neighbor I once had, Granny Novka, who was a professional medium and an amateur “Madame”. Her “predictions” turned out to be completely true. She, for example, correctly predicted the death of our friend, Auntie Ruzica and her husband, Uncle Bata. She also foresaw the death of our dog Luci and that the lavatory in her yard was going to collapse. She correctly predicted that she would get a certificate of virginity in spite of being married for 40 years. She foresaw that the local authorities would demolish her house, which in 1804 used to be the home of one of the first schools in Serbia, and that a local grocery would be erected in its place. She was also correct in saying that keeping pigs in the town and washing them on the Ibar river town beach would be banned. She predicted that she would be run over by a truck and that nobody would attend her funeral. And she was correct in that, too…
Today, Granny Novka would stand a good chance of becoming the president of the country. Considering the people in our political arena and the extent to which people have lost any hope of becoming the masters of their own destinies, many of them would look for a guiding star in the illiterate clairvoyant. We are now “going through a transition,” anyway. What is the end of our journey? Granny Novka would surely know the answer. Once, when she was cross with me, she uttered the words that might become her most relevant prophecy: “You all shall perish!”. If we do not confront the capitalist barbarians, Granny Novka’s words may turn out to be a deadly curse.
“Mondialism” is a global ecocidal and genocidal order with a technocratic character, based on the destruction of nations and national cultures; on the eradication of historical, and thus, libertarian human self-consciousness; on the splitting of countries into “regions” so that the most powerful capitalist concerns can achieve their monstrous goals by bribing the local oligarchs and preventing an organised resistance by the oppressed working people… The true purpose of “mondialism” is the transformation of the world into the object of exploitation and human beings into the means of a destructive capitalist reproduction. This is also the true purpose of the “non-governmental” organisations. They are an exclusive political instrument of the most powerful capitalist groups in the West meant for the destruction of nations, states and democratic institutions, which enable people to express their political will.
As a reaction to this mondialistic barbarism, we see a rise of national movements based on religious single-mindedness. They are also incapable of offering any meaningful solutions as they are all based on the destructive capitalist mindlessness. They are also led by the “horsemen of the apocalypse”. Both of these ideologies are based on the absolutized principles of private property and class society, and both fight against the emancipatory legacy of civil society and the idea of a future based on a life-creating mind and social justice. The only difference is that one of them promises “gardens of Eden” in the existing world, while the other promises them in heaven.
As far as “belief in God” is concerned, are we talking about the “God” of the Catholic church? Or the “God” referred to by the Nazis and featured on the belt buckles of the German SS divisions? Or the “God” of the Americans, whose fascistoid terror-bombing of Serbian villages and towns was cynically called “Merciful Angel”?
And what about the “omnipotent, omnipresent and merciful God” of the Christian colonists who, in the name of “God”, killed millions of American Indian children and almost obliterated the Indians from the Earth. What was the “omnipresent, omnipotent and merciful God” thinking when the American Christians, in his name, whipped African boys to death, castrated and hanged their fathers and raped their sisters and mothers? What was the “omnipresent, omnipotent and merciful God” doing in Auschwitz when, in his name, the German Christians killed the Jewish children in the gas chambers? What was the “omnipotent, omnipresent and merciful God” doing in Jasenovac, when the Christian Ustasha, in his name, butchered Orthodox Serbian children and gouged out their eyes – and while the children were praying for salvation? What was the “omnipotent, omnipresent and merciful God” doing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki when the American Christians, in his name, killed tens of thousands of children with their atomic bombs? What was the “omnipotent, omnipresent and merciful God” doing in Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Chile, Argentina, Serbia, Iraq, Syria, Lybia …. – where the Americans, in his name, killed millions of children, leaving behind only burnt villages and nuclear battlefields? Why doesn’t the “omnipresent, omnipotent and merciful God” respond to the pleadings of millions of children who are asking him for help, and why doesn’t he deal with the capitalist monsters who, in his name, are slaughtering the weak and destroying the world, which is the “work of God”?
As far as “paradise” is concerned, it does not seem to be such a wonderful place as they would like us to believe. No one can possibly be delighted by a “paradise” inhabited by the likes of Hitler, Musolini, Franco, Horti, Pavelic… If we add to the list millions of murderers who have been granted indulgences by the Christian churches so that they can enter the “gardens of Eden”, very little is left of the enthusiasm with which people refer to that “heaven”. Not to mention the prospect of “eternal life” in the company of murderers, which certainly cannot bring us “blissfulness”.
What are the choices offered to man after his earthly life? Is it the “hell”, where he will be burning on a ceaseless fire? Or is it “paradise”, filled with monstrous killers? Is there a place in the universe where man can find peace? I wish there were a planet inhabited only by children. By dear, carefree, happy children… If only there were a place where children lived happily without being tortured, starved, raped and killed, I wouldn’t mind going to “hell” and endure the most brutal torture. Could that place still be our planet Earth?
Translated from Serbian by Vesna Todorović (Petrović)
English translation supervisor Mick Collins
The European “Refugee Crisis“
The ongoing events in the Arab world are just another episode in the global war waged by the West against Russia. The crisis of the Arab world results from the attempts by the ruling capitalist clans in the West to instrumentalize the Muslims in their conflict with Russia.
The first move was the destruction of the Arab states that maintained friendly relations with Russia and had the power to oppose Western policy in the Arab world. The second move was the creation of radical Islamic military formations that would eventually be united under the command of the most powerful Islamic leaders. In that context, the Islamic state gained a leading position among the radical Islamic groups. Its first and foremost task is to eliminate all political forces in the Arab world that cooperate with Russia and penetrate the territory of the former Soviet republics with predominantly Muslim populations. Ultimately, the entire Middle Asia was to become a new Caliphate, which would, with economic aid and military assistance provided by the West, take the Caucasus away from Russia and turn millions of Russian Muslims living against their homeland. To turn Islamic Asia against Orthodox Russia is the primary strategic goal of the West.
Thanks to Russia’s decisive opposition this aggressive Western policy was defeated in the Arab world, and the consequences of the aggression have spilled over into Europe. The “refugee crisis“ arose from the failed attempt by the West to turn the Arab world against Russia.
Europe is a collaborator in the American policy to destroy the Arab states and peoples. The leading European politicians, guided as they were by the economic interests of the most powerful European companies, “failed” because they followed the American policy with docile enthusiasm, underestimating the danger of the crisis spilling over from the Arab space into Europe.
The „refugee crisis” revealed the true nature of Europe. Europe was not ready for the “refugee crisis“ because it was confronted with issues that it could not solve. The “refugee crisis“ is the result of the anti-humane and destructive character of European capitalism. If Europe were based on solidarity, the refugee issue would have been solved long ago. However, Europe is not based on solidarity, but on the ruling principles of monopoly capitalism: “Destroy the competition!“ and “Big fish devour small fish!“. Concentration camps, barbed wire, police, army, attacks on refugees, arson, fascist hysteria … – this is the only response to the “refugee crisis“ that a capitalist Europe, with its ongoing colonial spirit, can offer.
The “refugee crisis“ has brought to light the increasing existential crisis of the European peoples. A panic reaction to the coming of “Others“ indicates the dramatic biological demise of the European people. The spectacular screen of the “consumer society“ conceals the last act of the European existential crisis, with its fatal outcome. The “refugee crisis“ reveals that capitalism has brought the European peoples to the edge of the abyss.
The “refugee crisis“ once again shows that human problems cannot be solved humanely in an inhumane society. It is only in a humane society that human problems can be solved in a humane way.
Translated from Serbian by Vesna Todorović (Petrović)
English translation supervisor Mick Collins