A Hegelian angle on Heidegger

Published on Friday January 15th, 2010

Ian Parker in Slavoj Žižek: A Critical Introduction:

While Heideggerians might sometimes be sniffy enough about any particular existing community, Žižek’s argument is that they will eventually be seduced by one that seems powerful and all-embracing enough, for they operate on the assumption that beneath, behind or before technologically-distorted forms of Being-in-the-world there is some way of Being in which we are genuinely at one with others. The merely empirical ‘ontic’ things of the world are insufficient for Heideggerians because they yearn for the real thing, the real things with deep ‘ontological’ weight, things that inhere in our very Being. There is, then, a paradoxical substantialisation of Truth as Truth, something that would one day wipe away error. A community that would promise to retrieve the Truth of Being would thus be truly great. Heideggerians are ‘eternally in search of a positive, ontic political system that would come closest to the epochal ontological truth’. This is ‘a strategy which inevitably leads to error’, but the Heideggerians will never learn the lesson that the fact of error does not necessarily portend the disclosure of deep Truth. Heidegger’s ‘mistake’ in hailing the ‘greatness’ of Nazism, then, was deeper and more dangerous than it seemed. Bad enough as an endorsement of Hitler, Heidegger’s mistake revealed how the lure of a substantive coherent community would always be operative for a philosophical system that was waiting for some authentic Volkish rebellion against inauthentic modern life.

A Hegelian attention to the ‘reflexive determination’ of phenomena – that we constitute as objects for us those others we relate to – is useful here. Heidegger was looking for the Nazis, for something like them. To understand this fatal flaw in Heidegger, then, we need ‘to grasp the complicity (in Hegelese ‘speculative identity’) between the elevation above ontic concerns and the passionate “ontic” Nazi political engagement’. Heideggerians in Yugoslavia, and particularly in Slovenia, could see that the fascination with the German Volk was an ‘error’, but they could not resist the lure of another apparently more genuine community – one with an essence worthy of self-defence – and so their identification with that community led to defence of it against those seemingly inauthentic elements that disrupted it. The Hegelian attention to reflexivity, then, needs to be augmented with an emphasis on negativity, something Heidegger had attempted to seal over, for what he lacked was ‘insight into the radically antagonistic nature of every hitherto communal way of life’.


Readers of this post have also read

February 13th, 2011

A Steam Engine Has No Character

A person whose desires and impulses are his own—are the expression of his own nature, as it has been developed and modified by his own culture—is said to have a character. One whose desires and impulses are not his own, has no character, no more than a steam-engine has character… --J.S. Mill…

Read more →
January 10th, 2011

Uncommitted Sins

Oscar Wilde in The Critic as Artist: After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed, and mourning over tragedies that were not my own. Music always seems to me to produce that effect. It creates for one a past of which one has been ignorant, and fills one with a sense…

Read more →
March 2nd, 2010

Beauty & Madness

This is, admittedly, a strange theory: that the psychological structure of beauty and mental illness are mirror images of each other. So how can this be true? I'll go through the table above line-by-line. The Fundamental Illusion Obviously in reality, a supermodel is an ordinary person who happens to be uncommonly beautiful. She will eventually get wrinkles, get sick, her body…

Read more →

Recent Popular Posts

February 13th, 2014

Left Activism Goes Corporate

One of the most tedious features of the Silicon Valley Hype Machine is its endless repetition of progressive sounding marketing slogans about democracy and freedom, all while promoting a pro-business agenda. But it's too easy to read this as a sinister corporate ploy to co-opt the language of activists and twisting…

Read more →
December 20th, 2013

Civility: A Distance That
Brings Us Together

Just in time for the holidays, Apple's marketing department released Misunderstood, an ad about a surly teenager absorbed in his iPhone in the midst of scenes of his family's idyllic Christmas togetherness. But he surprises everyone when he reveals that the whole time he was making a touching video for everyone to document their familial bliss, moving them to tears. A…

Read more →
January 26th, 2014

Ten Parenting Lessons
I Learned from Franz Kafka

Here's an adage which I think is true: every theory of parenting is implicitly a theory of society. It follows that even if you aren't a parent now, nor ever intend to be one, if you're interested in society and culture, you ought to be interested in the topic because the problems that we parents face (or believe we face) is…

Read more →