For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

The Heidegger controversy: A critical reader

by Heidegger, Martin; Wolin, Richard (1992)


This anthology is a significant contribution to the debate over the relevance of Martin Heidegger's Nazi ties to the interpretation and evaluation of his philosophical work. Included are a selection of basic documents by Heidegger, essays and letters by Heidegger's colleagues that offer contemporary context and testimony, and interpretive evaluations by Heidegger's heirs and critics in France and Germany.In his new introduction, "Note on a Missing Text," Richard Wolin uses the absence from this edition of an interview with Jacques Derrida as a springboard for examining questions about the nature of authorship and personal responsibility that are at the heart of the book.Richard Wolin is Professor of Modern European Intellectual History and Humanities at Rice University. He is the author of Walter Benjamin, The Politics of Being: The Political Thought of Martin Heidegger, and The Terms of Cultural Criticism: The Frankfurt School, Existentialism and Poststructuralism.

Key Passage

[Excerpt from Heidegger's Letter to the Rector of Freiburg University, November 4, 1945]-I  was nevertheless absolutely convinced that an autonomous alliance of intellectuals [der Geistigen] could deepen and transform a  number of essential elements of the "National Socialist movement" and thereby contribute in its own way to overcoming Europe's disarray and the crisis of the Western spirit. Three [sic] addresses by a man of no lesser rank than Paul Valery ("The Crisis of Spirit," "The Politics of Spirit," "Our Sovereign Good," "The Balance of Intelligence") constitute sufficient proof of the seriousness, concern, and profundity with which the destiny of the West became an object of reflection outside of Germany during these years. Also, insofar as the will manifested by the free choice of the preponderant majority of the German people affirmed the labor of reconstruction in a  National Socialist direction, I viewed it as necessary and feasible to join in at the university level in order to remedy in a  consistent and effective manner the general confusion and threat that weighed against the West. And it is precisely because in the realm of the sciences and of spirit so-called "impossible" persons strove to assert their power and influence on the "movement" that it seemed to me necessary to emphasize essentially spiritual goals and horizons and to try, on the basis of Western responsibility, to further their influence and reality. I explained my intentions with sufficient clarity in my rectoral address, "The Self-Assertion of the German University" (1933).If I may be permitted to explain the basic spiritual tenor of the address from a twofold perspective: on page 13, with reference to the essential task of spirit, it says: "And the spiritual world of a  people is neither the super-structure of a  culture, nor an attestation of practical knowledge and values .... The greatness of a Volk is guaranteed by its spiritual world alone." For those who know and think, these sentences express my opposition to [Alfred] Rosenberg's conception, according to which, conversely, spirit and the world of spirit are merely an "expression" and emanation of racial facts and of the physical constitution of man. Ac· cording to the dogma of "politicized science," which was then propagated by the National Socialist student organizations, the sciences should serve as a model for vocational goals, and the value or the lack of value of knowledge should be measured according to the needs of "life." In response, the address clearly and unambiguously has this to say:- "Knowledge does not stand in the service of the professions, but the reverse: the professions effectuate and administer this highest, essential knowledge of the Volk concerning its entire Dasein." "The university" is "the locus of spiritual legislation." -All of those who are capable of substantive thought [sachliche Denken] will be able to judge whether the essence of the university can be thought in a  more exalted manner than here. And whether the essence of the various fields of knowledge has, from a spiritual standpoint, been defined in a  more clear or categorical fashion than in this formulation: -"The departments are only departments if they are deployed in a  power of spiritual legislation that is rooted in a capacity consistent with their essence, in order that they might transform the force of Dasein which besieges them into a single spiritual world of the Volk." (p.61)


Heidegger, Germany, National Socialism, Nazi, Twentieth Century, National Socialist Education, Academia, Duty, Work Creation, Letter To The Rector Of Freiburg University


The Self-Assertion of the German University [1933], Heidegger Citations

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