It stands as testament to the philosophical richness of Martin Heidegger's interpretation of Friedrich Nietzsche that three new books concerning this seemingly small area of interest have so little in common. Each book has a distinct approach to the encounter between the two thinkers, which, when taken together, constitute a tableau of the current status of scholarship pertaining to Heidegger's monumental reading.
Framed by Laurence Hemming's introductory claim that the matter of thinking Heidegger "politically" is far from having been put to rest, The Movement of Nihilism: Heidegger's Thinking after Nietzsche collects a series of papers devoted to the task of understanding nihilism—a central concept for the later Heidegger that is intimately bound up with his interpretation of Nietzsche—and its political connotations. The first chapter of the collection, Bogdan Costea and Kostas Amiridis's "The Movement of Nihilism as Self-Assertion," assesses one aspect of Heidegger's interpretation of Nietzschean nihilism, namely "incomplete nihilism" or destructive nihilism, from the viewpoint of the concrete unfolding of the history that lies between him and us. Heidegger is construed as a reader of Nietzsche capable of developing a schema within which we can seek justification and confirmation of Nietzsche's thoughts regarding the decadent character of a nihilistic Europe. This, in turn, aids the development of an understanding of our own "concrete historical condition" (20). Contrasting both Heidegger and Nietzsche with modern cultural theory, Costea and Amiridis conclude that an investigation into nihilism serves to problematize contemporary cultural analysis by showing that the central character of concretized history on which such analysis is founded, namely "modern man," is the very notion put in question by the arch thinkers of nihilism. Disrupting cultural theory's optimistic worldview regarding the products of modern man is seen "to be a source of debate, rather than an endpoint" (22).
The idea that a philosophical-historical account of modernity, such as those provided by Heidegger and Nietzsche (in the polemical form of genealogy), stands in contradistinction to actual, "concrete," "more real" history is developed from a different angle in Thomas Rohkrämer's "Fighting Nihilism through Promoting a New Faith: Heidegger with the Debates of His Time." Using the theme of communal faith, Rohkrämer compares Heidegger to his immediate contemporaries in order to show that he was not as unique or indeed "untimely" as he took himself to be. Rohkrämer does not consider this to be an act of denigration but rather an approach to the thought of Heidegger that shows the ways in which it is not as removed from "today's concerns about environmentalism and fragmenting societies" as we might think. By approaching Heidegger either in terms of his applicability to debates in cultural theory or in terms of his identity with his contemporaries, both Rohkrämer and Costea and Amiridis remain on the outside of Heidegger's thought.
In these two chapters, nihilism is first and foremost seen as a cultural phenomenon. Heidegger's objection to such an idea is clear. In The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics he claims that [End Page 150] contemporary philosophers of culture (including Klages, who Rohkrämer claims is "the closest intellectual predecessor of Heidegger" ) are trapped within philosophical prejudices regarding uncertainty, ambiguity, and terror. Accordingly, in professing worldviews on the basis of which they first diagnose the malaise of modern society and subsequently offer a prognosis and a cure, philosophers of culture operate from within an inherently calculative notion of history. To subject Heidegger's thoughts on Nietzsche and nihilism to justification by treating his philosophical-historical claims as apodictic, empirically verifiable statements is always to operate from within a particular notion of history, one that seeks to...