Heidegger’s ‘Black Notebooks’

Martin Heidegger’s philosophy centered around the increasing rootlessness, and subsequent alienation, endemic to modernity. Newly released Heidegger notebooks have ignited a debate over whether Heidegger was an anti-semite, when the real debate should center on Heidegger’s perspective on the ‘rootlessness’ of Jews and the historical Jewish propensity for internationalism. Is the latter a sound theoretical construct (or empirical phenomenon?) Furthermore, to what extent did Heidegger assign blame to Jewish consciousness for the acceleration of modernity’s loss of identity? Might it be the case that Heidegger’s thoughts on Jewish consciousness and its unique role in shaping modernity is akin to Yuri Slezkine’s influential The Jewish Century, a book that isn’t called “anti-semitic” but rather wins awards? From the Chronicle of Higher Education (“Release of Heidegger’s ‘Black Notebooks’ Reignites Debate Over Nazi Ideology“):

In his will, Heidegger, who died in 1976, stated the order in which his unpublished writings were to be released. That drawn-out process is why the 1,200 pages of the 1930s and 1941 notebooks are being published only now.

The new material “is something very surprising, something we’ve never seen before,” says Mr. Trawny, director of the Martin Heidegger Institute at the University of Wuppertal. The scholar was chosen by the Heidegger family to edit the three volumes of the leather-covered black notebooks.

“In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Heidegger was very angry,” says Mr. Trawny. By then, he says, the philosopher realized that both Nazi ideology and his own philosophical mission, which was predicated on a national revolution and Germany’s dominance in Europe, were going to fail. “In this anger, he makes reference to Jews, including some passages that are extremely hostile. We knew that he had expressed anti-Semitism as private insights, but this shows anti-Semitism tied in to his philosophy,” says Mr. Trawny…

The editor says Heidegger’s references to a controlling “world Jewry” and to a collusion of “rootless” Jews in both international capitalism and communism…

Moreover, many of Heidegger’s key concepts appear to overlap with those of fascism—though experts have never, until perhaps now, seen them linked explicitly to Jews. For example, the philosopher is scathing in his criticism of modernity’s wayward drift, the soullessness and ahistoricity of the cosmopolitan, and the rule of technology and science. He believed that the answer to this crisis of civilization lay in the revolutionary empowerment of the ethnic nation, or Volksgemeinschaft. And not just any Volk could pull mankind off its destructive path, but rather specifically the German Volk.

“We regularly see terms in Heidegger’s work like das Volk, ‘homelessness,’ ‘uprootedness,’ and ‘worldlessness,’” says Florian Grosser, a Heidegger expert in the philosophy department of the University of St. Gallen, in Switzerland. Such terms, he notes, were the standard vocabulary of Europe’s anti-Semitic right, regularly applied to Jews. But in Heidegger’s published work, “it’s not Jews he’s talking about, but rather the fate of modern man. So, if indeed he goes further in the notebooks, Mr. Grosser says, “we’re going to have to look at exactly how he connects these concepts to Jews. It could be very problematic.”

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