Heidegger, Nihilism, the Sunset of the West (in 3 paragraphs)

From First Things, 1993, via a random tweet, wherein

Several members of the Philosophy, History, and Political Science faculties at the University of Tulsa recently completed a Martin Heidegger reading group, which read and discussed the principal writings of this important German philosopher. Among the many topics discussed was whether Heidegger’s philosophy is related to his membership in and support of Germany’s National Socialist Party during his tenure as Chairman of the Philosophy Department and Rector at the University of Freiburg in the 1930s.

As a basis for discussion, the group assigned William Hughes, a “civilian” member of the reading group and a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in Boston, to present the case against Heidegger. What follows, in the form of a prosecutor’s closing argument, is his summation. The argument is based on Heidegger’s philosophical works (principally Being and Time and What Is a Thing ) and on lectures and interviews given by Heidegger before and after the war.


First, the defense will argue that the individualism of the defendant’s ethic of self is fundamentally inconsistent with the corporatism of National Socialism. But we know from our modern experience that an ethic of self, if anything, increases the state’s intrusions into the private life of individual man: an ethic of self first weakens and then destroys the institutions and group norms of society, creating a vacuum soon filled by the power of the few through a state they control, unimpeded by any coherent voice in opposition or by any principle of obligation owed by one man to another.


I have read very little Heidegger because he’s very dense, very long-winded and life is short – I’d rather read more Aristotle. But I do think that some influential writers need to be read and understood because they are terrible. So, if my personal life is long enough and my eyesight hangs in there, maybe someday….

Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: