Sunday, September 23, 2012
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The Shadow of Heidegger

In Freiburg, territory in which not everyone forgets, the memory of minor player Dieter Müller is dearer, more respected than that of the eminent Martin Heidegger, who was Rektor, in 1933, and that still, in 1935, spoke of the truth and greatness of National Socialism. Further, from what I can gather, many remember my father’s obedience as an exercise in tameness, absolutely devoid of creativity. I’ve been told that he monotonously recited his lessons, as if bored, and, undoubtedly, distant, very far from any partisan passion. Perhaps it’s been idealized, from wishing to forgive him, to go on liking the very dear Dieter Müller. I say this because he, Dieter, judged himself more severely and there is no one better than him to judge the passion or apathy of his classes. We shouldn’t, at this point, lighten my father’s responsibility, as that would make his death another mistake, pointless; an excess of the good from Dieter, who never understood anything very well. No, I deny myself. If Dieter Müller judged himself so harshly it is because his classes were not (or weren’t always) apathetic, boring. There was, I know, passion in them. And there had been in those luminous moments when he could impede the crude aspirations of the Rosenberg Office with the ontological plans of Master Heidegger, whom Dieter admired and understood as few others did. Because my father, Professor Heidegger, that minor philosopher, was one of your best students and one of best and most rigorous expositors of your thought. One reaches those heights, your logos, in Freiburg, he made his way between the obstacles of partisan bureaucracy and he lit up with the ontological passion of communitarian Dasein. You had convinced him since he was very young. Since the Rektorat Speech and even since the final paragraphs of Being and Time, Dieter Müller was a National Socialist just like Heidegger. Tame, fearful (Who wouldn’t be in the middle of the Third Reich?) he taught the Viking Catechism of the Rosenberg Office. But, whenever he could, he inserted amongst that clumsiness his Master’s ontology. There, without a doubt, he lit up. And there, his students, much as Jürgen Habermas says of yours, professor, they transformed into officers. Don’t get up. Erase that violent shine from your eyes. I won’t mention Habermas again.

There is a point that good old Jürgen grants you. You see, if I insist with him it is to tell you something, at least, he’s conceded to you. He confesses or admits that interpreters after the event, of your compromise with National Socialism – some are so decided to condemn you – cannot know if in a situation similar to yours they wouldn’t have fallen for the same. Gosh, Master! What more can you ask from Habermas? He’s a German that knows deeply what the Third Reich was and what terror is. Who can know how they would have reacted before the terror of Germany in 1933? But Jürgen knows what he is saying and why he is saying it. He’s not demanding your bravery, heroism during the years of death. I saw him a couple years ago. He told me, and he said so with anger, with pain but without pity, “What annoys me”, he said.

What really annoys me, emphasized Habermas, is that will of iron, that stubbornness of Heidegger’s, that obstinate, Olympic sized pride; that stubbornness that offends us all, that decision to not confess, after the end of the Nazi regime, after the explicit, absolute knowledge of the atrocities, not even with a single phrase, to his enormous mistake, so pregnant with political consequences.

We were in Paris. I lived in that city (that you all so enjoyed and punished) between 1962 and 1964. There, on a café table, an autumn afternoon, warm, so terse it allowed us to swallow and speak in truth, and watch the Parisians move about with their carefree pride, with that pride that finds its highest point when they judge the French one talks, as if we should, all, be impeccable in the art of the language that purrs. There, Habermas concluded:

Listen, young Müller (Habermas too would call me young Müller), what’s annoying is the repression of his own guilt.

What a concept, Professor Heidegger! Is your silence the repression of your own guilt?


I try to imagine what it would be like to know that, no matter what you said, it would be misinterpreted. Just to keep on saying anything would require stubbornness.
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