The role of ‘World Jewry’ in the
‘uprooting of all being from Being’
Inner Circle Seminar No. 239
Sunday 9 July 2017
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In today’s seminar we step back even further and look at Heidegger’s Black Notebooks. It is here that, according to his brother Fritz, Martin Heidegger is most authentically himself and his real philosophy is to be found. Yet twenty-six short entries in these Notebooks have been the occasion of yet another Heidegger scandal.
It has long been known that Heidegger was a paid-up member of the Nazi party from 1933 to 1945; that he was Nazi Rector of Freiburg University; that he told students: ‘The Führer alone is the present and future German reality and its law’; and that in 1949 he said: ‘Farming is now a motorised food-industry, in essence the same as the manufacture of corpses in gas chambers and extermination camps.’ Was he ‘philosophically’ trivialising Nazi mass murder? But did he not have warm relationships, and even at least one love affair, with Jewish students and colleagues? Granted, he complained about the ‘Jewification’ of
The Black Notebooks with their sprinkling of remarks about Jews have shaken this view. What are we to make of his assertion that his discussion of the role of ‘Weltjudentum’ (‘World Jewry’) is not to do with ‘race’, but is ‘a metaphysical questioning of the kind of humanity that can with downright abandon undertake the uprooting of all being from Being’? He denounces ‘antisemitism’ as ‘reprehensible’, and he attacks Nazi ‘racial’ doctrine as itself part of the same destructive ‘calculative’ ‘machination’ and ‘uprooting’ of which he accuses not only ‘World Jewry’ but also the Bolsheviks, the Americans, the English. But he sees his teacher Husserl, a convert to Christianity, as ultimately precluded from true insight by the inescapable fact that he is, still, a Jew. Is Heidegger, then, an ‘antisemite’ after all? If so, in what sense? What is this all about?
In this seminar we try to get beyond simplistic categories. How does Heidegger’s critique of ‘World Jewry’ differ from Nazi ‘racial’ ‘antisemitism’ or, for instance, the religious anti-Judaism of T. S. Eliot (who also denounced ‘antisemitism’ but also insisted it was a ‘sin’ in the eyes of the Church)? What is the reality of Christian and post-Christian anti-Judaism? How did it prepare the ground for Nazi ‘racism’ and for Heidegger’s opposition to both Nazi ‘racism’ and ‘World Jewry’?
And what, if any, are the implications of all this for the everyday practice of psychotherapy? Can Heidegger’s thinking help us improve our practice, as the Zollikon seminars make clear he hoped? It would seem so. But is he correct that psychoanalysis is in essence ‘calculative machination’, as many existential psychotherapists seem to think? In the Black Notebooks he writes of it in these terms, but in the Zollikon seminars he is more nuanced, presumably under Boss’s influence. But existential therapists generally seem closer to his Black Notebooks position. If ‘calculative machination’ is all they can see in psychoanalysis, are they not by that token guilty of it themselves? Indeed, is this not a hitherto unacknowledged anti-Judaic tendency of existential therapy in general?
The leading Daseinsanalyst Gion Condrau expressed irritation that people still mentioned what he called Heidegger’s ‘political error’. Condrau told me that Boss told his trainees they must not, in the Zollikon seminars, question Heidegger about his Nazism. But Heidegger’s so-called ‘political error’ was grounded in his philosophical thinking. How can we be sure that existential or daseinsanalytic therapy, also grounded in his philosophical thinking, is not a ‘therapeutic error’? And is ‘error’ the right word for a grave moral wrong? These questions become even more urgent in the light of the Black Notebooks. Your contribution to the discussion will be warmly welcomed.
The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen in 1996 as an ethical, existential, phenomenological search for truth in psychotherapy. They have been kindly described by Thomas Szasz as ‘Institute for Advanced Studies in the Moral Foundations of Human Decency and Helpfulness’. But they are independent of all institutes, schools and universities.