What are we to make of great thinkers who prostrate themselves before tyrants? In ‘Cultural Amnesia’, Clive James argues that Jean-Paul Sartre’s toadying to Stalin was the product of overcompensation. Liberal democracy was for mere mortals, it took a superhero like Sartre to provide intellectual muscle for the thug from Georgia.
Sartre got away with it because nobody understood a word he wrote. James writes: “In Sartre’s style of argument, German metaphysics met French sophistry in a kind of European Coal and Steel Community producing nothing but rhetorical gas.”
The same trick worked for Sartre’s philosophical hero Martin Heidegger. In a book published in the United Kingdom this week, Emmanuel Faye, associate professor at the University Paris-Ouest-Nanterre La Défense, devastatingly demonstrates that Heidegger’s thinking was based on an enthusiastic adherence to Nazi ideology. As I have pointed out in a fuller piece for the Guardian, Heidegger did not flirt with Hitler, this was the real thing.
At the end of his book Faye concludes: “In the work of Martin Heidegger, the very principles of philosophy are abolished. No place is left for morality, which is openly and radically annihilated. Respect for individual human life, the refusal of destruction, the inner scruple of conscience that, turning inwards upon itself and measuring the responsibility for thoughts, words, and deeds, not to mention the generosity and the giving of oneself – all those qualities which are essential to man, and that it is philosophy’s vocation to cultivate and reinforce are removed to make room for the exaltation of the ‘hard race’.”
Faye believes Heidegger’s works ought to be removed from the philosophy sections of libraries and shelved under ‘The History of Nazism’.
If supporters of the British National Party were to stand on the street corners of England spouting Heidegger’s foul ideas in crude street language, they would be prosecuted for hate speech. It’s time the antihumanist windbag was treated with the disrespect he deserves.