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10

Heidegger, History and the Holocaust

tendencies to convict or acquit Heidegger either on the basis of his Nazi involvement
or the aspects of his thought which seem to resonate with National Socialist ideology.
The frenzied, triumphalist delirium with which certain commentators lift segments of
Heideggers writings and lectures and amplify within them resonances with features
of Nazi ideology is horrifically irresponsible. Bourdieu, however, looks to demonstrate
that instead of characterizing Heideggers work as that of a Nazi ideologue, we should
rather see evidence of the cultural revolutionary context from which he emerged.
There is no question that this contextualizing of Heideggers thought is crucial, and
Zimmerman himself expands on this question in Heideggers Confrontation with
Modernity. Aspects of Heideggers thought then that are inflated into full-blown Nazi,
biologically racist tendencies need rather to be pursued backwards into the context
Heidegger shared with a whole host of German mandarins in the Weimar and postWeimar era. That National Socialism arrogated some of those notions as part of their
dreadful ideological rhetoric is not to expose all of these German intellectuals to blame
for biological racism or antisemitism. However, even though aspects of Heideggers
writings and thought, both political and non-political, share certain trace elements
with a class of German intellectuals, that is not to say that Heideggers thought in its
entirety simply reduces to German conservative nationalist rhetoric either. And, it is
precisely for this reason that Bourdieus proposed approach to Heideggers work in
the light of his political activities ultimately fails. While Bourdieu avoids the excessive
tendencies of the apologists and the accusers, locked as they are in their own mutually
sustained stand-off, he precipitously characterizes Heideggers philosophy as a series of
conservative revolutionary views hiding behind an abstruse idiolect. Even as one reads
his interview some years later when his avowed approach in The Political Ontology
of Martin Heidegger seemed rather prophetic, insofar as it identified accurately the
manner in which the debate would polarize into two camps, one still finds Bourdieu
refusing to acknowledge Heideggers importance as a philosophical thinker. One hears
him instead damn Heideggers thought with such faint praise as being highly professional, Heidegger himself as having an extraordinary capacity to maintain forms
an incredible sense of the game of philosophy but he refuses to acknowledge that
Heidegger is a serious philosopher.19 He essentially identifies Heideggers thought as
negligible along with his Nazism which circumvents the problem if Heidegger is not
a great thinker, the question of whether or not he was a Nazi and the extent to which
he was ideologically committed to National Socialism becomes considerably less
important. Thus, with little left with which to navigate our way through this minefield,
we find ourselves stranded amidst the volleys of accusation and counter accusation
from the acolytes and the accusers. Unfortunately, on a battlefield teeming with
agendas, everything tends to get lumped together and put upon the hazard. And it is
as a result of this sorry state of affairs and with the perhaps nave hope of ameliorating
this situation that this project has been undertaken. If we can begin to even sketch the
outlines of the discussions that those interested in Heidegger and this particular affair
should be having then that will suffice for the time being.