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Heidegger's hut has become a place of pilgrimage 

An innocent just arrived in this small mountain resort would notice the landscape and the modern church and consider a room with en-suite bathroom, satellite TV and parking. These mixed assets would define Todtnauberg, were it not for the name Martin Heidegger, the German who blackened 20th-century philosophy.

For more than 50 years, he worked up here in his hut at a simple desk looking east. He has a street named after him, with urban pavements and lighting, which shows even mountain tops are not safe from town planning. There's also a Martin Heidegger Walking Tour. The village, once isolated, now easily reached by bus or car, curls steeply up the mountain at 1,100 metres. The tour, the Rundweg, starts beside the large brick youth hostel and follows the contour line some 200 metres higher. Designed by the family in 2002, it displays information which represents their considered view.

"Wer groß denkt, muß irren. A great thinker is bound to make mistakes," Board Number One quotes him. Heidegger, the man whose philosophy came very close to the Nazi spirit in the 1930s, is notorious for not apologising for the Holocaust and not removing offensive passages. Accused in his 1929 book on Kant of forcing German philosophy into an alien mould, he insisted postwar on the unaltered text, since "everyone keeps accusing me of force" and "thinking people learn all the better from their mistakes". If this is one of a number of indirect "apologies", it seems grudging. Much of the problem was character. He hated confrontation. As his supercritical student Karl Löwith put it: "The natural expression of his face included a working forehead, veiled face, and lowered eyes, which now and then would take stock of a situation with a short and swift glance. If someone temporarily forced him into a direct look by speaking to him, then this extremely disharmonious face, jagging angularly in all its features, would become somewhat reserved, wily, shifting and downright hypocritical...What was natural for it was the expression of cautious mistrust, at times full of peasant cunning." The emotionally hopeless letters Heidegger wrote to Hannah Arendt, the Jewish political philosopher with whom he fell in love when she was his student, are a key. Evasive in love, he was stubborn in achievement and recalcitrant by nature. Like his semi-literate parents, he was a head-down, uncommunicative type in the old rural mould. The extraordinary thing is that he also gave this stubborn, self-concealing character to truth and philosophised on that basis. 

There's still snow on the northern slope of this glacial valley beneath the 1,493-metre Feldberg peak. Underfoot, patches of compacted, glistening snow scattered with pine needles invisibly feed gullies of slush. There's no one else around to share the assertion on Board Two that Heidegger resigned as the Nazi Rector of Freiburg University over the dismissal of two colleagues. However, Hugo Ott in his Martin Heidegger: A Political Life (Fontana Press, 1988) disagrees. Heidegger fully commended the spirit of 1933. When he resigned a year later, the Nazi Party had rejected him as not malleable enough. Meanwhile, he took on board the required anti-Semitism in academic life. 

Most Heideggerians have to wrestle with themselves here and say, yes, but his lifetime's work is not worthless. Indeed not. As Board Two adds, "Something primeval and an obsession with the origins of being" inspired it. He came to Todtnauberg to think about Being. Cue for this visitor to amble down the steep slope behind the famous work hut and place her hand unthinkingly on its flank, as if it were a sick beast. Some of the silvery wooden shingles have fallen off over winter, leaving a vulnerable patch beneath the green-painted shutters and blue-painted window frames. The family insist on privacy because they still use the hut, but there are no fences and no people. 

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J. Truth
July 11th, 2011
2:07 PM
The analogy with Oppenheimer's physics is false because physics does not provide a basis for ethics whereas a philosophy either should show the basis of ethics or at least show why there can be no basis of ethics. Heidegger was not a nihilist and his ontology has ethical implications. To put it as simply as I can: Jews are. That should have been enough to warrant efforts to protect them from Hitler. Its obvious. And the fact that it is obvious makes it something important to study. Why did he miss the obvious? Why did he feel no sympathy? No empathy? It is ironic because the Jewish traditions are so strong on the necessity of justice. Where was Heidegger on that? You don't need to love. Just be fair. Even remotely fair. The gulf between the conditions required for a good thinker, or a good artist and a those required for a good man is indeed disturbing and instructive for any that aspire to the latter. Heidegger's actions are forgetful of being based on his own ontology. He was guilty of treason. He betrayed the Jews who were deserving of his effort to protect them not because they were Jewish but precisely because they were Dasein. Jews are human sentients. That is all he needed to know. He should have derived the rest. Why didn't he? Therein lies a question that must be asked. If it was just a personal failing that is no problem. If not then there is a danger in there somewhere. I suspect there is something blinding in his way of thinking. Some seduction he submitted to in his ontology that blinded him to the humanity around him. Historicity grossly misinterpreted. In the end I think that Heidegger's actions were nihilistic and not based on what he understood ontologically. But I cannot escape the conclusion that that is incorrect because it was such and obvious and flagrant mistake. The blood instinct can blind one to the true fellowship of being with. The question is why and how?

Question
December 21st, 2010
5:12 AM
Does one question the validity of Oppenheimer's physics because it was employed to create the atom bomb? Should one?

Charles Lutsky
October 16th, 2009
10:10 PM
Heidegger was in no way an anti-intellectual. He was, rigtly so, anti-intellectualism. Heidegger himself was an intellectual interested in poetry philosophy and history, especially ontological history. His quarrel with intellectualism was that he rejected the idea that the mind is the arbitrator of all knowledge. Heidegger believed we come to know the world through awareness of our being-in-the world. It is as much experiential as it is intellectual. He was not morbid about death. His interest in death was to cause us to focus on our limited time, to accept death and to turn our attention to authentic existence which is a heightened awareness that our actual life is all that we have. He was opposed to ideas and values which attempt to ignore that the end will come. Somehow wealth, fame, youth, and beauty are all ways that we can use to to add to our unspoken suspicion that we are immortal.

Wannabe Amazonian
October 4th, 2009
4:10 AM
Martin Heidegger was the son of Roman Catholic peasants. He studied for the Catholic priesthood for 2-3 years, but was asked to leave. We still do not know why. He lost his faith but remained curiously Catholic in his habits of mind. He is quite popular in Catholic universities in Spain and Latin America. I simply do not understand the Heidegger cult. Like many German language philosophers, Heidegger was a pompous bad writer. Heidegger had the common man's fascination with strength, power, and authority. He had the traditional European peasant suspicion of economic and technological change. Heidegger disliked the industrial revolution, but was unwilling to do anything to translate that dislike into a political or social programme, much less an effective one. So he scribbled oblique thoughts. I have time for German science and math. For German scholarly attention to detail. For German music, especially Brahms. For German thinkers like Lichtenberg and Ernst Cassirer. For German polymaths like Goethe. But I do not have time for pompous obscurantists like Heidegger, whose gut instincts were authoritarian. For a man who refused to see or acknowledge that mass murder is the central immoral fact of our time.

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