Saturday, May 22, 2010

On "enemies" and extermination: Heidegger, Schmitt and Strauss

    Paul Stucky, a fine graduate student who has spent some time previously studying Being and Time, is taking a seminar with me on Hegel and Heidgger. Normally, I spend more time in this seminar – it is only 10 weeks – on the Philosophy of Right which is a more striking work in political and social theory – the foundation of a decent modern democratic theory, even though Hegel is oddly, perhaps, fearing persecution by the authories, more likely, because he feared the class struggle in England in which he saw little possibility of decency or universality from the regime, a monarchist – and hard for most of us to take in the structure of. I have met only two people whose minds work like Hegel’s, who get the argument theoretically – follow the unfolding of the concept - without much effort. The rest is spent on Being and Time or on What are Poets for? [Wozu Dichter?]. This year, however, I suggested – and the whole class agreed - to focus the second part of the course on Heidegger’s 1943 The Essence of Truth: Plato's Cave-Metaphor and the Theaetetus. Paul not only did a fine talk on Being and Time, but has dug around in Heidegger’s earlier lectures on Greek thought, which feed into the 1943 lectures.

       Four days ago, while I was away in Portland, the class met, and Paul brought in a ferocious citation from Heidegger during his earlier 1933-35 lectures on The Essence of Truth, for which he usefully provides the English and the German below. This citation is also in Emmanuel Faye, Heidegger: the Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy, p. 168. Faye says some important things about it - notably about its link to the Nuremburg anti-semitic laws of 1935 and the Gleichshaltung [Nazi coordination of German life and blacklisting of Jews], but does not fully explore either its striking relation to Carl Schmitt’s The Concept of the Political or its further relationship to Leo Strauss’s critique, one which strengthens Schmitt’s argument as a fascist. In the context of my current posts on Heidegger’s vision of Plato’s cave-metaphor, Strauss's hinting assertion at the conclusion of his remarks - to get beyond the horizon of Hobbes and "liberalism" - takes on a frightening new resonance. The despised liberalism turns out to be roughly any worries about individuals or individuality at all. Instead, Strauss seeks a return, following Heidegger, to the Greeks as the supposed realm of a national (for Heidegger, racial) collective and destiny. For Strauss, of course, a national revolution should have included assimilated or German Jews. 

       Strauss's phrase about returning to the Greeks set in motion Heinrich Meier’s insistence – as well as that of other followers – that Strauss was yet to “become Strauss,” that is, to become a Plato and Xenephon scholar in America with a few casual and quickly taken back allusions to “constitutional democracy.”

       But actually, as I have shown in these posts here and here (and will post more on the 1943 Essence of Truth shortly), Heidegger had already moved to the Greeks. Strauss admired Heidegger as "the one great thinker" of our era. Strauss’s supposed “becoming Strauss” was nothing but his "esoterically" becoming Heidegger, the national socialist (minus only, after 1940, Hitler's explosive enmity toward Jews; anything less genocidal from Hitler Strauss surprisingly seems to accept – see Shadings: "they consider me a 'Nazi' here" - Leo Strauss, December 3, 1933 here and Blitzkriegs here). 

             On August 22, 1933, Heidegger wrote Schmitt a letter, inviting collaboration in the struggle or war (polemos), the coordination (Gleichshaltung) of the University as a tool of the Nazis, the firing of Jews, the sole focus on World War. On Nazi authority, Heidegger extended the Fuehrer-prinzip to the university, naming himself Rektor-Fuehrer:

“Most honored Mr. Schmitt,

       I thank you for having sent me your text, which I already knew in the second edition [Schmitt had sent the 3rd edition of The Concept of the Political] and which contains an approach of the greatest importance. I would be most appreciative if I could speak with you about this viva voce [with a living voice] some day. On the topic of your quotation of Heraclitus, I especially appreciated the act that you did not forget the basileus [king], which alone gives the whole saying its full content, when it is fully interpreted. For years I have had such an interpretation ready, concerning the concept of truth – edeixe and epoicse [reveals and makes], which appear in fragment 53.[1] But I now find myself also in the middle of the polemos [war] and the literary projects must give way. I would only like to say to you today that I am counting very much on your decisive collaboration, when it comes to the entire rebuilding, from the inside, of the Faculty of Law, in its educational and scientific orientation. Here the situation is unfortunately quite hopeless. The gathering of spiritual forces, which should lead up to what is coming [i.e. aggression, world war, genocide] becomes increasingly urgent. I conclude today with my friendliest salutations.

Heil Hitler!

Your Heidegger"

[Reproduced in Faye, p. 155]. Schmitt did not respond to Strauss’s letters because the latter was a Jew. But apparently, he didn’t answer this letter either (the leading legal official in Nazi Prussia, he no longer busied himself so much with the Faculty of Law).[ii]

Schmitt’s The Concept of the Political was initially published in the same year as Being and Time (1927). Heidegger read it carefully, and his own version of politics, also centered on “the enemy,” was, by 1933, openly anti-semitic and genocidal compared to Schmitt’s book. But The Concept of the Political could easily fit into Nazi rhetoric; Schmitt soon gave the argument this turn as Prussian Reichskanzler under Hitler. Nonetheless, the pre-Nazi version refers more clearly (except perhaps for references to Lenin’s “annihilating sentences on the bourgeoisie”) to external conflict. 

       In the passage Paul emphasizes, Heidegger takes up the central idea in The Concept of the Political. Everything – all social life - is to be geared in the light of having an enemy. Heidegger makes Schmitt (and Strauss’s remarks on Schmitt's text) more precise. One needs an internal enemy, and one must create such an enemy if she does not appear – note the genocidal provocation.

      "The enemy is not necessarily the outside enemy, and the outside enemy is not necessarily the most dangerous. It may even appear that there is no enemy at all."

      One must find or create an enemy:

      "The root requirement is then to find the enemy, to bring him to light or even to create him [oder gar erst zu schaffen]..."

      One must smoke out this enemy for otherwise life will become stumpf (Paul translates this "apathetic"):

      "in order that there may be that standing up to the enemy, and that existence not become apathetic [und das Dasein nicht stumpf werde]."

By stumpf, Heidegger means the life of the “last men” (with Nietzsche and Strauss), but he also concurs with Schmitt (the life of entertainment is the life of Satan – see here). 

      Note the effort that the state must exert to isolate and crush the weak. [iv] Every aspect of Heidegger’s phony masculinity, his breathlessness about others risking death for the fatherland, his costuming himself as a peasant – who is it who needs to be “authentic”? - his use of his powerful position to destroy Jews including his students, is here on exhibit. Nietzsche was a visionary psychologist. Heidegger is as lacking in psychological insight, let alone self-insight, as it is possible for a modern person, especially someone who wrote 4 volumes of commentary on Nietzsche, to be (Strauss is a close second).

      Nonetheless, Heidegger’s philosophy is mysterious, uncanny, leads to deep ecology (if one stops and makes an alternative move quite early in its development) or to authentic mit-sein or being with (say, the American civil rights movement or the Warsaw Ghetto uprising or Sophie Scholl of the White Rose), incorporates personal mortality, has some references to Buddhist enlightenment (he joins with Zen Buddhists, has conversations with D.T. Suzuki), also pointing toward the “unsayable” (Plato’s shining idea of the good).[iii] 

      In his posthumously published Glossarium, Schmitt espouses a grotesque Medieval Catholic anti-semitism (one which made me physically ill to take in). Even Friedrich Stahl, the famous Prussian conservative whom Schmitt praised in the twenties, becomes “the Jew Stahl-Jolson.” See Enmity and Tyranny here. Schmitt offers the thought – the word loony is not fierce enough, perhaps psycho gets to its quality – that every position offered by a Jew is an enigmatic mask which shifts arbitrarily – given the Satanic shape-shifting of the “evil ones” – into something else.[v]

      In this respect, Heidegger, a lapsed Catholic, offers an analogous “thought” 50 years before Glossarium was publiItalicshed (Schmitt was, however, also already a Nazi leader, Heidegger perhaps not quite so original in depravity):

      "The enemy may have grafted himself onto the innermost root of the existence of a people, and oppose the latter's ownmost essence [eigenem Wesen], acting contrary to it. All the keener and harsher and more difficult is then the struggle, for only a very small part of the struggle consists in mutual blows; it is often much harder and more exhausting to seek out the enemy as such, and to lead him to reveal himself,..."

        In Jung’s sense, this is pure projection. It is Heidegger and Schmitt who wear the masks of important people – the university Rektor-Fuehrer, the chief Nazi lawyer – who murder the weak, the unprotected, the victimized. Heidegger goes in and out of fascist or Nazi mode in the most interesting ways (with careful writing and even speaking, he fools a few students like Marcuse and Arendt; he did not fool nor did he intend to fool Strauss or Heyse or Becker – the latter, both Heidegger's students are two of the 6 leading Nazi philosophers; Heidegger and these two made up half the leaders of Nazi philosophy). Perhaps by example, he taught Strauss to distinguish a political inner circle from other students whom he encouraged to go their own way.[vi] 

       Note the image of the Jews assimilating: “the enemy may have grafted himself onto the innermost root of the existence of a people and oppose the latter’s ownmost essence.” This is nothing but Schmitt’s thought in the Glossarium (entry for September 25, 1947)

       "Jews remain always Jews. While Communists can better themselves and change. That has nothing to do with the Nordic race, etc. The assimilated Jew is especially the true enemy [Gerade der assimilierte Jude ist der Wahre Feind]." See Enmity and Tyranny here. 

       Heidegger cultivated the mask, sadly aided by Arendt, of a philosopher high above Nazi attachments see, here. No, Heidegger was a philosophical monster. No victim, he was the aggressor and urged constant provocation to “seek out the enemy as such and lead him to reveal himself.” He was what he projected onto others. He couldn’t just kick Jews once. He had to kick them, lying on the ground, again and again. He talked of the evils of technology. He became himself almost the perfect mechanical item in thought and politics, kicking the life out of helpless people, kicking, kicking... 

       I should also underline the idea of standing up against the enemy, which Heidegger identifies with Heraclitus’s notion of polemos. He repeats it, almost as a mantra,

       “With grandeur and simplicity, at the beginning of the fragment, there appears the word polemos, war [Krieg]. What is so designated is not the external event or the advance of the ‘military,’ but rather that which is decisive, to stand up against the enemy. I have also translated this as ‘struggle’ to seize the essential, but it is also important to reflect on the following: it is not a question of agon, vying/competition, in which two friendly [freundliche] adversaries measure forces against one another, but of polemos (war [Krieg]), which means that there is something serious in struggle; the adversary is not a partner, but an enemy. Struggle as a holding out in the face of the enemy; more precisely an endurance in confrontation.' Faye, p. 167 [vii] 

      As for Strauss, he hated the prophets, the Jews who spoke truth to power, the proponents of equality. In his 1932 Geistige Lage der Gegenwart (Spiritual Situation of the Present), Strauss says:

       “The end of this struggle is the complete rejection of tradition neither merely of its answers, nor merely of its questions, but of its possibilities: the pillars on which our tradition rested; prophets and Socrates/Plato have been torn down since Nietzsche. Nietzsche’s partisanship for the kings and against the prophets, for the sophists and against Socrates – Jesus neither merely no God, nor a swindler, nor a genius, but an idiot. Rejected are the theorein and “Good-Evil” – Nietzsche, as the last enlightener.”

       “Through Nietzsche, tradition has been shaken at its roots. It has completely lost its self-evident truth. We are left in this world without any authority, without any direction.” (Strauss, Gesammelte Schriften, 2:389; trans. Michael Zank; h/t William Altman).”

Strauss continues insistently: “and even so, the Bible: we can no longer assume that the Prophets are right; we must earnestly ask whether the kings are not right.” Strauss magnifies (as Heidegger did[viii]) Nietzsche’s most reactionary and anti-semitic thought to the Right (Beyond Good and Evil, par 195 [viiia]; all the rest of Nietzsche disappears).

      At the end of this passage Paul brought to class, Heidegger names the “voelligen Vernichtung,” the total annihilation or extermination, which must be visited on “the enemy”:

       "...and to initiate the attack on a long-term basis, with the goal of total extermination [völligen Vernichtung]."

      Heidegger made Schmitt and Strauss (The Concept of the Political and the remarks) even more venemous, focused on a hidden, domestic racial enemy with genocidal intent. The three broadly agreed (Strauss stopped short of extermination). Heidegger as well as Schmitt should have been tried at Nuremberg (see my Enmity and Tyranny here).

       Paul Stucky wrote:

       "Here is the quote I brought to class today. It is from the lectures Vom Wesen der Wahrheit, given in the winter semester of 1933/34 at Freiburg. These would later be revisited in the 1943 work Vom Wesen der Wahrheit."

       "The enemy is one who poses an essential [wesentliche] threat to the existence of the people [des Daseins des Volkes] and its members. The enemy is not necessarily the outside enemy, and the outside enemy is not necessarily the most dangerous. It may even appear that there is no enemy at all. The root requirement is then to find the enemy, to bring him to light or even to create him [oder gar erst zu schaffen], in order that there may be that standing up to the enemy, and that existence not become apathetic [und das Dasein nicht stumpf werde]. 
The enemy may have grafted himself onto the innermost root of the existence of a people, and oppose the latter's ownmost essence [eigenem Wesen], acting contrary to it. All the keener and harsher and more difficult is then the struggle, for only a very small part of the struggle consists in mutual blows; it is often much harder and more exhausting to seek out the enemy as such, and to lead him to reveal himself, to avoid nuturing illusions about him, to remain ready to attack, to cultivate and increase constant preparedness and to initiate the attack on a long-term basis, with the goal of total extermination [völligen Vernichtung]."

         "Feind ist derjenige und jeder, von dem eine wesentliche Bedrohung des Daseins des Volkes und seiner Einzelnen ausgeht. Der Feind braucht nicht der äußere zu sein, und der äußere ist nicht einmal immer der gefährlichere. Und es kann so aussehen, als sei kein Feind da. Dann ist Grunderfordernis, den Feind zu finden, ins Licht zu stellen oder gar erst zu schaffen, damit dieses Stehen gegen den Feind geschehe und das Dasein nicht stumpf werde.
Der Feind kann in der innersten Wurzel des Daseins eines Volkes sich festgesetzt haben und dessen eigenem Wesen sich entgegenstellen und zuwiderhandeln. Um so schärfer und härter und schwerer ist der Kampf, denn dieser besteht ja nur zum geringsten Teil im Gegeneinanderschlagen; oft weit schwieriger und langwieriger ist es, den Feind als solchen zu erspähen, ihn zur Entfaltung zu bringen, ihm gegenüber sich nichts vorzumachen, sich angriffslustig zu halten, die ständige Bereitschaft zu pflegen und zu steigern und den Angriff auf weite Sicht mit dem Ziel der völligen Vernichtunganzusetzen.“ Abteilung II, Band 36/37 of the Gesamtausgabe, pg. 90-91 in section §3 Der Spruch des Heraklit. Der Kampf als Wesen des Seienden a.)Der rest Teil des Spruches. Der Kampf als Macht der Erzeugung und Bewahrung: innerste Notwendigkeit des Seienden.

[i] Heraclitus, 53: "War is the father and the king of all; and some he has made gods and some men, some slave and some free."

[ii] Faye carefully traces his influence on the coordination of the Law Faculty, however,

[iii] At my talk on these matters at Portland State, Joe Clemens, a philosophy student and talk show producer for community radio in Portland, suggested that Zen in China (Chan Buddhism) was also linked to advice to the Emperor. I suspect he is right and there is a whole interesting theme here of Buddhist variants of the Platonic thought – counseling the one ruler, to rule wisely and perhaps not lawlessly, to be explored.

[iv] Schmitt’s and Heidegger’s view (as well as Strauss’s) is actually that of Polemarchos – that justice is helping friends and injuring enemies, in book 1 of Plato’s Republic. But the implication of that view is Thrasymschus – justice is the advantage of the stronger. Imagine Thrasymachus on steroids and one has Schmitt or Heidegger. Contra Strauss, against both Polemarchos and Thrasymachus, Socrates does pose the question: what is justice?

[v] Faye, p. 140, draws an interesting parallel between Hitler’s, Heidegger’s and Schmitt’s use of Satan to refer to jews.

[vi] In Strauss’s case, Stanley Rosen, George Anastaplo, Roger Masters, and Charles Butterworth, inter alia. Robert Goldwin, Joseph Cropsey, Avram Shulsky and perhaps Allan Bloom (more of a Straussian free agent), however, Strauss relied on politically. 

         In Heidegger’s case, neither Arendt nor Loewith nor Marcuse are thought of as Heideggerians. He worked with Jews who distinguished themselves but perhaps Heidegger furthered their distinction by way of a kind of underlying enmity. In this context, of course, Strauss was the unintentionally ironic Jew who followed Heidegger almost all the way down.

[vii] I am indebted to Faye's determined research over many years which has made Heidegger’s Nazism visible even to the New York Times Book Review. 

Note that Heidegger sounds a lot like a Likud activist in Israel talking about the Palestinians. 

[viii] Nietzsche of course opposed gutter Anti-semiterei. There are many other aspects to Nietzsche. So for that matter are there to Heidegger. But Faye definitely gets the anti-individual drift of the racial Gemeinschaft (even in Being and Time) whose authentic historicity or “destiny” is realized, as a collective matter, in the decision of the Fatherland (soon to become the Fuehrer). Heidegger sought a “repeat of World War I,” a fiercer one, in which Hitler would win (achieve Lebensraum – see Faye, pp. 142-44 – or as Schmitt named it Grossraum. See Enmity and Tyranny here. 

[viiia] Paragraph 195 of Beyond Good and Evil is as follows:

        "The Jews ‑ a people `born for slavery' as Tacitus and the whole ancient world says, `the chosen people' as they themselves say and believe ‑ the Jews achieved that miracle of inversion of values thanks to which life on earth has for a couple of millennia acquired a new and dangerous fascination ‑ their prophets fused `rich', `godless', `evil', `violent', `sensual' into one and were the first to coin the word `world' as a term of infamy. It is in this inversion of values (with which is involved the employment of the word for `poor' as a synonym of `holy' and `friend') that the significance of the Jewish people resides: with them there begins the slave revolt in morals."

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