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Heidegger on Modernity vs. Ong or McLuhan

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) March 31, 2014: To what extent did the German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) support the programmatically anti-Semitic ideology of Hitler's Nazis in Germany?


With the recent publication of some of Heidegger's private philosophical notebooks in German, this question is being revisited once again. Jennifer Schuessler has published an informative review of the relevant passages and their resonances with Heidegger's other writings: "Heidegger's Notebooks Renew Focus of Anti-Semitism" in the NEW YORK TIMES dated March 30, 2014.


Schuessler says, "The so-called black notebooks, written between 1931 and 1941 and named for the color of their oilcloth covers, show Heidegger denouncing the rootlessness and spirit of "empty rationality and calculability' of the Jews, as he works out revisions to his deepest metaphysical ideas in relation to political events of the day."


According to Schuessler's article, "Richard Polt, a professor of philosophy at Xavier University in Cincinnati, pointed to the student notes from a seminar that ran from 1933 to 1934 (published in German in 2009 and released in English in December), which showed Heidegger speaking of "Semitic nomads' who will never understand the nature of "our German space.'"


Evidently for Heidegger, "our German space" was supposed to be a kind of refuge from Jews, the "Semitic nomads." So these two key passages can be aligned with Nazi ideology.


For Heidegger, the story of modernity is the story of alleged decline. This alleged decline involves "the dehumanizing effects of modern technology and [of] much the modern philosophical tradition itself" -- to quote Schuessler. This alleged decline involved Heidegger's account of "the nature of being," as Schuessler points out.


According to Heidegger's account of the nature of being, people in the pre-modern past had a sense of being that has somehow been lost in modernity.




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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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