Saturday, December 29, 2012
In the LA Review of Books, Costica Bradatan asks about philosophers' lives.
Today a philosopher can in principle live like a pig and still be seen capable of producing immortal works of philosophy. If he is to be criticized for anything, it is not the lack of harmony between what he says and what he does that concerns his critics, but the flaws of his work, the weakness of its arguments, the lack of internal consistency.
However, things are not always that simple. In 1927 Martin Heidegger published Sein und Zeit, one of the most influential philosophical works of the twentieth century; some say the most important one. Only a few years later Heidegger joined the Nazi Party. His political involvement is often cited as one of the most serious mistakes a philosopher can ever make. We are shocked, and rightly so. And, yet, where does our shock come from? From the fact that some German called Martin Heidegger joined the Nazi Party or rather from the fact that a great philosopher by that name did it? If the latter, why exactly are we upset? Isn’t there at work, in our disappointment with Heidegger’s lamentable political options, an expectation, if an obscure one, that a philosopher’s life should be lead philosophically?
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