Heidegger's Polemos: From Being to Politics.

Dissertation, The University of Chicago (1994)
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Abstract

This dissertation explores the relation of politics and ontology in the philosophy of Martin Heidegger. My concern does not focus on the historical debate over Heidegger's exact personal ties to the Nazis, as it now seems evident that his attachment was serious and unrepenting. Rather, I ask whether and how the formulation of Heidegger's ontology relates to his political thinking as expressed in his philosophical works themselves. This inquiry begins with Heidegger's interpretation of Fragment 53 of Heraclitus , and particularly with his appropriation of the Greek word polemos. Heidegger's German translation for polemos, commonly rendered as 'war' in English, is Auseinandersetzung, which in ordinary German means 'confrontation'. I contend that Heidegger invests this Auseinandersetzung with broad ontological significance, and that an inquiry into his appropriation of polemos provides important insight into major strands in his thinking, such as his conception of the human being , his understanding of truth, and the so-called turning in his thinking. ;This study asks why Heidegger thinks that the manner in which the "question of the meaning of Being" addresses us as human beings must necessarily be understood as strife and struggle--as polemos and Auseinandersetzung. I argue that in 1933, Heidegger understands Germany's historical situation as the site of a monumental Auseinandersetzung between what he calls the first and the other inception of Western history. For Heidegger, this confrontation of inceptions demands both an ontological and a political revolution through the polemical encounter of Being and human beings--a revolution which Heidegger himself sought to lead philosophically. Heidegger's conception of politics derives from this polemical conception of history and a historical belonging grounded in a distinct people. Heidegger's engagement with National Socialism does not constitute a merely unfortunate lapse from the anti-metaphysical, anti-foundationalist implications of his own project. Rather, Heidegger's politics is continuous with his thought

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