Should philosophers stop philosophizing

Stop with philosophy

In the year he was appointed to Freiburg im Breisgau, "everything started to slide," wrote Martin Heidegger to Hans-Georg Gadamer. Did a slide really begin that year, in 1928? In the winter semester of 1928/29, the philosopher who had returned home gave

In the year he was appointed to Freiburg im Breisgau, "everything started to slide," wrote Martin Heidegger to Hans-Georg Gadamer. Did a slide really begin that year, in 1928? In the winter semester of 1928/29, the philosopher who had returned home gave a four-hour "introduction" to his discipline - with the declared intention of awakening the philosophy "that sleeps in us as it were": "in our existence now and here". In the 1930 summer semester, Heidegger read about the “essence of human freedom” and registered “harbingers and signs of real shocks and shifts in our whole existence”, against which “the individual” can only be concerned “that he hears the new voices, that are silent enough are, do not ignore ».


Three years later, the voices that had become loud demanded their rights through the mouth of the newly elected Rector Heidegger. No “idle and curious brooding” was on the agenda, so the audience of the lecture held in the summer semester of 1933 on the “Basic Question of Philosophy” heard, but a question that was “the highest intellectual commitment” and “the most essential action” in one: “ This questioning, in which our people endure their historical existence, endures through the danger, holds out into the size of their mission, this questioning is their philosophizing, their philosophy. Philosophy is the question of the law and structure of our being. We want to make philosophy a reality by asking this question. . . We want to open up this question here and now, so don't talk about questions, but act questioningly and dare to take action. . . "

Who philosophizes, who asks and acts? Is it "our people"? Is it "we" philosophers? Do both come together, and how? Anyone who turns to volume 36/37 of the Heidegger Complete Edition, in which the Freiburg lectures of the summer semester 1933 and the winter semester 1933/34 can be read, will have to find their way through a tangle of voices. The tangle is characteristic of the philosopher in the year of "awakening". One can easily see a manifestation of the intellectual cramp that Dolf Sternberger diagnosed in the Heidegger who wanted to work at that time from half a century ago.

Such a diagnostic perspective does not blame “that time” for the fact that Heidegger was “deployed”. However, it does not find satisfaction in exposing Heidegger as a Nazi or a fellow traveler or in deciphering his thinking as a whole or in parts as "fascist" or "NS-affine". It focuses more on the question of why Heidegger's philosophizing - rather than philosophizing - "slipped", how it tried to get hold of itself and what, how it wanted to become a wake-up call and how it wanted to become "reality". She also hopes to shed light on the unsettling possibility that philosophizing could be one of the most important of the 20th century, not in spite of, but because it (at times and vehemently) sought proximity to the National Socialist "movement". - After the various debates about Heidegger, none of this is news, but it is still aspects that are worth keeping an eye on if one takes a philosophical, not just a sociological or historical, interest in this "case".

The two lectures, which want to act philosophically, offer - precisely because they want to - illustrative material in abundance. Anyone looking for “key phrases” will find them in abundance. One in which Heidegger's philosophical self-understanding converges with the course of time is formulated in the course of an interpretation of the allegory of the cave by Plato: «The philosopher is not the one who brings his age into philosophical terms afterwards, but who is thrown ahead of his age and who anticipates his fate . " In a pointed antithesis to Minerva's owl, which, according to Hegel's dictum, does not begin its flight until dusk, Heidegger, empowered by a "distant order" from early Greek times, sends his unidentified heraldic animal off at dawn; not only “afterwards”, not only when all decisions - because that's what it's about - have been made.


Heidegger's philosopher, who takes care of the "awakening and assertion of the question of truth", acts - still in the imagery of the Platonic parable - as a "liberator". He loosens the chains of those trapped in ignorance, leads them out of the cave of shadows into daylight and, under danger, returns again and again to the cave to those who remain behind: “The philosopher is not the one who is secure, but one who acts as a liberator in history those who, in terms of being, belong together with him in a community. "

The most important moments of philosophizing, which has "slipped", are already apparent in the few quoted: a mobilization of thinking, which should be action and thus become reality; its escalation to a "decisive" intervention - one could speak of a polemization; furthermore the radical historization of the "truth", the knowledge of which is to be done; Such a situation in the here and now goes hand in hand with a "being-like" communalization: with the transformation of existence, the pre-philosophical as well as the philosophical, into the "German existence".

Heidegger's own gesture of determination and inexorability increases in some places to rabid - verbal - militancy, as is also evident from some "testimonies", especially the public speeches given in 1933, which were published in volume 16 of the complete edition. It takes a breather when you read how Heidegger - spinning Heraklit's word about war (pólemos) as the "father of all things" - imagines an "enemy" who could "have established himself in the innermost roots of a people's existence": difficult be it then "to start the attack in the long term with the aim of complete annihilation". - Hartmut Tietjen, the editor of the volume (who, like all the others in this last edition, is an "uncritical" edition), cannot avoid registering an "approach to contemporary political diction" in his afterword. However, he considers the “gap between Heidegger's basic thinking position and National Socialist ideology” to be “unbridgeable”. - This is certainly window dressing.

It is true that Heidegger turned against rampant biologism and racism in the same lecture, in the winter semester 1933/34, similar to before and after; and otherwise there are already hinted elements of a possible (really only one possible) criticism of National Socialism, which could make its worldview "legible" as the result of a modern metaphysics of machinism. But the difference between philosophy and worldview, which both lectures deal with, is not a strict one in Heidegger's thinking, it does not mark an impermeable boundary. (This applies all the more to the early Heidegger, as evidenced by the generally unproductive correspondence with Heinrich Rickert.) Only Weltbildmacherei, the "Weltanschauung in the sense of the conclusion and the rounding of the conception of things", is rejected; on the other hand, welcomes the radical opening up to what is needed and what is time - without, however, pretending to be able to remain error-free here.

Such thinking suddenly finds itself on the bridge on which the ruling ideologies meet it; on a bridge that it itself carries with it, as a landing stage, so to speak. In other words: It is absolutely a philosophical claim that drives Heidegger out of philosophy, namely the strived for "change in man's essence through and in philosophy". This claim does not necessarily make philosophy what it should be for Heidegger around 1933: the "actual process in the history of a person and a people". As with the late Heidegger, the change of character can also have mystical traits of a - albeit cosmopolitan - serenity.

Of both variants of philosophy coming to reality, the activist as well as the quietist, one could say what Heidegger noted for his lecture in the summer semester: “They are all attempts to stop. . . " And further: «Stop; Listen instead of talking. . . Stop with philosophy - make them submissive to their being. Dismantle and stop. " - What should be added to that?

Martin Heidegger: Complete Edition Volume 36/37: Being and Truth. Lectures in summer semester 1933 and winter semester 1933/34. Verlag Vittorio Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main 2001. 305 pp., Fr. 64.-. - Ders .: Complete edition Volume 16: Speeches and other testimonies of a life path. Ibid., 2000. 842 pp., Fr. 121.-. - Ders./Heinrich Rickert: Letters 1912 to 1933 and other documents. Edited by Alfred Denker. Ibid, 2002. 156 pp. 41.20.