On Heidegger

Should not such writing be subject to punishment?
–Thomas Mann, after reading Martin Heidegger

In grad school, I liked reading about Heidegger more than I liked reading Being and Time. I could tell, though, that great ideas lurked in the long, convoluted, translated-from-German sentences, which, apparently, weren’t any easier to read in German. The idea of an individual plunging into and out of the “them” of society held me in thrall. Later forgotten, that idea rose up the first time I saw The Matrix, and said, “Remember me?” I pulled down Being and Time, blew off the dust, and thumbed through for familiar sentences.

Heidegger, deservedly more than even Nietzsche, was often dismissed and derided in later academia because of his collaboration with the Nazis. This disturbing alliance also troubles Leland de la Durantaye, in an essay for Cabinet Magazine online. (link from Arts and Letters Daily) M, who blogs at Mental Multivitamin, has long favored considering work separately from its creator. Can Heidegger’s work–how can his work?–be considered apart from the political environment in which he created it? The thoughtful beauty in it, though, begs recognition on its own terms.

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