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I write about technology, psychoanalysis, philosophy, design, ideology & Slavoj Žižek.

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January 15, 2010

A Hegelian angle on Heidegger

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’.

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