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191361 Ontology of Freedom

191361 Ontology of Freedom

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Published by: Kiwi Brown on Sep 20, 2009
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06/21/2011

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http://www.jstor.org
Ontology of Freedom: Heidegger and Political PhilosophyAuthor(s): Fred R. DallmayrSource:
Political Theory,
Vol. 12, No. 2, (May, 1984), pp. 204-234Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.Stable URL:
Accessed: 15/07/2008 01:56
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ONTOLOGYOFFREEDOMHeideggerandPoliticalPhilosophy
FREDR. DALLMAYRUniversityofNotreDame
HETHEME ANNOUNCEDin the titleof this essaycontainsaparadoxorrathera numberofparadoxes.As is well known,Heideggerneverhasdevelopedor elaboratedapoliticalphilosophyproperlyspeaking;onthecontrary,he has denied explicitlyanysuchintent.However,it is preciselypolitics-morespecificallyHeidegger'spre-sumedpoliticaloutlook-thatfor many complicatesor obstructsaccessto his work.Thusanopuslargelydevoidof overtpoliticalambitionscuriouslyis encumberedbya heavypoliticalmortgage.Atthesametime,the term"freedom"asusedinmodern philosophicaldiscussionstendstodenoteahumanpropertyandcapacityforspontaneousinitiativedivorcedorseveredfromontologicalmoorings,justas"ontology"is assumedwidelytoimplyadenialof free humanchoice.The mortgageencumberingHeidegger'swork datesbackto theyears1933-1934,that is,to thetimeofhisserviceas rectorof theUniversityofFreiburg.Theepisodehas beenrecountedfrequentlyintheliterature-not alwayswith asoberattentionto factualdetails.'Heidegger'sendorsementof theNaziregimeat thetime is undeniable;butthe precisecharacterof hismotivesandexpectationsis hardtopinpoint.Probablyan arrayof factorsinfluencedhisattitudeduringthatperiod:amongthema distasteforthechaoticconditionof thelateWeimarRepublic;the desire fora politicalreorientationor rebirth beyondthespectrumoftraditionalideologies;perhapsalso-asOttoPdggelersuggests-thehopefora strengtheningofcentralEuropeanda"great(European)politics"as acounterpointtothe emergingtechnologicalsuperpowersntheEast andtheWest.'Thatsuchexpectationswereegregiousmisjudgmentsorelsethe outgrowthof grosspoliticalnaiveteisbeyondquestion.Still,in viewof the relativebrevityof his officialrole as rector
POLITICALTHEORY, Vol.12No. 2,May1984204-234
?1984Sage Publications,Inc.
204
 
Dallmayr /ONTOLOGY OFFREEDOM 205
(altogethertenmonths)and his vastproductivityboth beforeandafterwards,anexclusivefocus on theepisodeseems to me bothlopsidedandunfair.The chorus of accusationsand condemnationsalmost butnotentirely has beenabletodrownoutmorebalancedandconciliatoryvoices. Alreadyin 1953thephilosopherMaxMullerremarkedaboutHeidegger's politicalventure: "We encounter here the limits ofhisconcrete political judgment-limits which,in theend,do notjeopardizehis philosophicalstature and theintegrityof hisendeavors."Almosttwodecades later,at the time of hiseightieth birthday,HannahArendtplaced the episodeinto thegentle lightofpersonalcatharsisandabsolution.
Now we all know [she wrote at the time] that Heidegger, too, once succumbedtothe temptation to change his "residence"andto get involved in the world of humanaffairs. As to theworld,hewas served somewhatworse thanPlato,becausethetyrant and his victims werenotlocated beyondthesea,but inhisowncountry.Asto Heidegger himself, I believe that the matter stands differently. He was stillyoungenoughto learnfromthe shock ofthe collision,which after ten shorthecticmonths37years agodrovehimbacktohisresidence,andtosettle inhisthinkingwhathehad experienced. What emerged from this was the discoveryofthe will as "thewilltowill"and hence asthe "will topower."3
Arendt's phrase ofthenative "residence"angestammter Wohnsitz)sofcourse areferencetophilosophicalreflectionorthephilosophiaperennis. What renders the exclusive emphasis on 1933frequentlyannoyingisits complicity with a strategyofavoidance:thetendencytoignore or bypass Heidegger's philosophy in favor of atime-bound setofpolitical speeches.Thistendency was noted by Bernard Willms in1977,shortlyafterHeidegger's death, when he portrayed thefascination with1933as an attempt "to circumvent the confrontationwith the thoughtandphilosphy of Martin Heidegger." As he added: "The superficialdisputeaboutthe topic 'Heidegger and the Nazis'or-seemingly morepenetrating-'Heidegger and fascism' only solidifies ideological pre-occupations; it does not unlock a single politicalproblem, including theproblem of politics or 'the political' in Heidegger'sphilosophy. To probethelatter, however, is far from unimportant."4 Adecade earlier,FrancoisFedierhadformulatedasimilaropinion perhapsevenmorepoignantly. Following a critical review of somepolemical books onHeidegger's politics, Fedier reached this conclusion."The first stepwhich noone canskip"hewrote,"isthe serious studyof Heidegger's

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