As more people in today’s postmodernist, social justice movement embrace violence as a valid means of political expression (and change), the similarities between this movement and Nazism are becoming more striking. So I found it quite interesting when I stumbled upon this article yesterday, where Mark Musser highlights the ironic fact a program at Evergreen State University is using a book whose author who was an apologist for a Nazi philosopher. Musser writes:
One of the mainstay courses at the recently newsworthy Evergreen State College is an all-year course entitled “The Human Condition.” This 36-credit course has its inspiration from a book of the same name written by Hannah Arendt (1906-75). Arendt was an assimilated German Jewess student in the Weimar Republic before the rise of National Socialism. In the 1930s she was forced to move around Europe before finally leaving for America in 1941 as World War II initially exploded in Germany’s favor. Considered one of the most important social theorists of the 20th century, much of Arendt’s worldview was absorbed from German existentialism that was presaged by Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), but essentially rooted in the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), and Karl Jaspers (1883-1969).
Heidegger himself was an actual Nazi who never repented of his fascist activities during the 1930s. In fact, Heidegger positioned himself to become the interpreter of Nietzsche for National Socialist consumption that continued until late in the war. More telling, Heidegger was a vehement anti-Semite.
The point about Heidegger was also raised by philosopher Stephen Hicks:
Heidegger is notorious for the obscurity of his prose and for his actions and inactions on behalf of the National Socialists during the 1930s, and he is unquestionably the leading twentieth-century philosopher for the postmodernists. Derrida and Foucault identify themselves as followers of Heidegger. Rorty cites Heidegger as one of the three major influences on his thinking, the other two being Dewey and Wittgenstein.
Back to Musser:
One of the most conspicuous existential truths of the 20th century is how young Hannah Arendt had a torrid affair with her teacher Martin Heidegger in the mid-1920s. The fallout of this adulterous relationship has yet to be sorted out in the postmodern academic Western world that they essentially established together after the war. While the affair came to an end, and Arendt was later shocked by Heidegger’s Nazi passions, like so many lovers’ quarrels that are so existentially rooted in the ups and downs of everyday emotions, she reconciled with him after the war. Arendt even became Heidegger’s apologist by downplaying his earlier Nazi commitments as an aberrant misjudgment of weakness that had nothing to do with his philosophy. In so doing, Arendt managed to rehabilitate Heidegger back into Western academia. According to Dr. Richard Wolin, Arendt essentially became “Heidegger’s de facto American literary agent, diligently overseeing contracts and translations of his books.” This allowed Heidegger’s brand of Nazi existentialism to seep back into western philosophy and leftist political, historical, and literary circles that laid the cornerstone for what today is called Postmodernism.
I’m going to have to look into this some more.