There’s something about the flare-up over Carlin Romano’s Chronicle of Higher Ed article “Heil Heidegger!” that manages to crystallize both the virtues and the potential utter barrenness of the web as a site for direct philosophical action (i.e., constructive debate that contributes, however marginally, to philosophy).
Romano’s article takes advantage of the forthcoming publication of a translated text by Emmanuel Faye to deliver what he imagines will be a death-blow to Heideggerian studies. Heidegger, Romano claims, was not only a Nazi, in a brief and passing phase of his career, at a time when many Germans were caught up with the political zeitgeist astir in their country and before the really twisted stuff started happening (pogroms and death camps and all). No, he was the philosopher of Nazism, somehow responsible for it through and through.
To anyone who has taken time to study Heidegger, it sounds like a silly argument, or at least a dramatically overdrawn one. So it fails — if one reads the readers’ comments, which at the time of my writing this post have nearly reached a hundred. But if one doesn’t read the comments — which is more likely the case with readers of the Chronicle – or if one reads them with that skepticism that, among American readers, is all too typically directed at pointy-headed philosophers, “continentalists,” theory-headed “academic leftists,” and the like — then the article succeeds. CHE has made its point: Heidegger is out.
The reactions the article has elicited, both in the comments and on other philosophy blogs, have been understandably steaming hot. Reading them makes one feel like a bicyclist silently passing by a massive car pile-up, at which drivers are screaming at each other, taking sides and forming alliances, lobbing pieces of glass and metal at each other, or throwing remains of broken-up cars into a big bonfire and waiting for a cop or an ambulance who, like Godot, will never materialize. It’s a little like the eight-minute traffic jam in Godard’s mock-apocalyptic Weekend (see above).
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