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  • Historical Destiny and National Socialism in Heidegger's 'Being and Time.'
  • Robert C. Scharff
Johannes Fritsche , Historical Destiny and National Socialism in Heidegger's 'Being and Time.'Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. Pp. 356 + xix. Cloth, $60.00.

Focusing on the relatively neglected fifth chapter of Being and Time's Division Two (BT, Sections 72-77), Fritsche argues that BT is an essentially political work. Even Victor Farías, although he talks of "shared attitudes" and "implicit direction," settles for the conclusion that "in no sense can we read National Socialism into Being and Time, but we can identify philosophical beliefs that foreshadow Heidegger's later conviction."(Victor Farías, Heidegger and Nazism, trans. Paul Burrell and Gabriel R. Ricci [Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989], 60.) Fritsche, however, evidently intends to out-Farías Farías. For him, BT just is "a brilliant summary of the politics of the revolutionary Right" (xii; cf., xv, 216).

Following Tom Rockmore, Fritsche insists that by grounding ontological inquiry in a distinction between authentic and inauthentic existence, Heidegger is "committed" to "a political understanding of human being" that "culminates" in the analysis of authentic historicity in Section 74 (29). According to Fritsche, BT proceeds, "in conventional metaphysical fashion," to work out a "hierarchical" presentation of the structures and activities of our existence as a "drama in three acts." The first act is Heidegger's analysis of the conflicted, inauthentic, "downward plunging" condition of everyday life. In act two, there arises out of this condition a "crisis" (of conscience) that calls for a "dramatic solution." The third act "consists in authentic Dasein stepping out of the world in which it has been living as ordinary Dasein, turning back to this world, and canceling it . . . in order to rerealize the past" (x, 29-30).

Fritsche plays BT off primarily against three sources, Richard Wolin's Politics of Being (1990), articles by Peg Birmingham (1991), and Charles Guignon (1992), in order to distance BT from "decisionist," "anarchist," and "politically neutral" interpretations, respectively. Like this selection of foils, Fritsche's comparison of texts often seems merely convenient. In general, if two people use the same term, they probably mean the same thing; and key concepts are typically assumed to have uniform definitions. Hence, if Scheler speaks of a hierarchy of values and Hitler, of a hierarchy of races, they must be employing "the same logic" (108-9). And because vorlaufen [anticipating/running ahead] was the term used by right wing German authors to mythologize the gallant but foolish young "heroes of Langemarck" who "stepped out of their trenches, into the open," and "ran toward" French lines, one should also employ this image a "methodological ideal type to interpret Heidegger's concept of resoluteness" (3, 196, 233). Finally, Fritsche makes no systematic distinction between what an author has once said and what either we or the author might later make of it. Hence, if Heidegger says in 1933 that he is drawing on BT for political purposes, he must have had these purposes in mind when writing it ten years earlier (216ff.). And obviously, choosing "Volksgemeinschaft" to talk of community in BT's Section 74 already unmistakably reveals "Heidegger's option for National Socialism" (217-18).

One need carry no brief for an apolitical Heidegger to see that Fritsche's reading is problematic on several levels. Heidegger's own account of BT's purpose and method is ignored rather than challenged. Numerous Heideggerian notions are construed, without [End Page 455] argument, as "really" being just right-wing political or "conventional metaphysical" usage. Moreover, categories of Left and Right are sometimes handled so loosely that, for example, Scheler writing in 1913, Heidegger writing in 1921-24, and Hitler in Mein Kampf, all must "belong" to the revolutionary Right, because they all privilege traditional Gemeinschaft over modern Gesellschaft. By the same reasoning, Heidegger's concept of historicity is "identical" to Scheler's and Hitler's. This has to be right because "Heidegger's text is just too excellent a summary of the revolutionary rightist notion to be the result of a somnambulistic thinking" (136). Fritsche's handling of technical terminology, when not outright political, often seems poorly...


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