Oh Martin !

Reading Time: 3 minutes

About reading Heidegger

Just finished reading “Was heißt denken” by Martin Heidegger. Initially the text is in pleasant ways not only challenging but also made me smile as being inherently witty. Later on, Heidegger gets hooked on explaining Nietzsches “Übermensch” in order to connect his assumption that “we still do not think” (“Das Bedenklichste ist, dass wir noch nicht denken“) – where the word “we” (Wir) on some pages is used in an inflationary way – to Nietzsches monumental legacy. My “Take-Away” from the reading is a kind-of explanation of what Nietzsches highest idea on future mankind: living in a world dominated by technology – quite visionary I must say! – might bring, but Heidegger’s text does not answer its promising title: What means to think. (Was heißt denken? – It is the printed version of a lecture from the early 1950ies).

Looking up Heidegger about his Nazism I found a lengthy article on Wikipedia dedicated to this subject. Despite my sympathy for Heidegger’s language, his way of thinking and discussing along etymological traits of German words, which sometimes verge into word-play and often seeks proof in ancient greek (which looks to me as some people over-stress a noble ancestry and bears eerie similarity to the Nazi’s “Arierpass”, while on the same time balancing between formats of philosophy and poetry, the Wikipedia article heavily tainted my idea about the philosopher. Although Heidegger’s interest in Hölderlin as a philosopher expressing his ideas in poetry, cherishing poetry as the essential method describing the world – which is a very fascinating idea indeed! -; it is inexcusable to me that such a high mind can be so narrowminded to adhere to stupid concepts and utterances of Nazism and Hitler’s hypertrophic Germanism. I can’t say – as I don’t research the subject – how such narrow-mindedness occurs in the mind of a great and “open-minded” thinker simultaneosly. – One tiny detail from Heidegger’s biography nevertheless gave a hint to answer his question: When in the last days of World War II Heidegger was drawn to the Nazi-German “Volkssturm” he apparently tried to get away from action as fast as possible. This is most understandable for “ordinary” people. But it is in stark contrast to how Heidegger hailed the German heroic character earlier on in his writings. The bravery and force of everything smelling German (as promoted by Nazi ideology) did not find a mirroring reality in the life of this healthy, then 55 Martin H.

Insofar Heidegger discusses Schopenhauer’s “Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung“, and muses at length about the “Wille” and the “Wollen” in the context of a mental dichotomy of reality and idealism (just in the same way as Schiller did a few years earlier on in “Briefe zur ästhetischen Erziehung des Menschen“) there is a notable lack of courage in Heidegger. It is to me just simply and plainly morally disappointing. More than that, I even find it tragic, not only regarding Heidegger’s biography as a whole, but in my personal perception, coming to know about the not only moral but philosophical erring of a person who I thought should know better. He has no other idea then a pyramidal “Führer-Prinzip”, even in philosophy. He never (at least in “Was heißt denken?”) touches on the subjects of cooperation or democracy, on group-work or social ties in a constructive manner. The only “group” he is talking is unfortunately the obnoxious word “Volk” (“the people”) which in German has a deprecated meaning, to say at least.

What do I learn from this? Sapienza non è Saggezza. We need in the first place wisdom (Weisheit, saggezza) , in the second place knowledge (Wissen, sapienza). Having both might be the best fit as a life-long challenge for a human being. Isn’t it?

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