3:AM: Why do you say this idea of a world view is so important – beyond any argument between science and philosophy and art and religion etc? Are contemporary positions on politics, religion etc. hooked on this idea of getting the world view right and is this a key to much contemporary conflict?
MG: Yes, I do indeed believe that we live in the age of the world-picture, to borrow another title, this time from Heidegger. However, I entirely disagree with the details of Heidegger’s account and more specifically with the tone of his infamous paper which he originally presented to a Nazi audience in 1938 and later covered up in the post-war publication of a revised version of the original paper.
The lecture from 1938 would be "The Age of the World Picture". The tampering detailed here
3:AM: It’s a key to the post-Kanian position for you that it refuses to transcend finitude isn’t it? Is this one of the reasons for dismissing Heidegger’s notion of ‘Being’?
MG: Well, in some sense this is correct. Of course, Heidegger himself was trying hard not to transcend finitude. In his (generally terrible) Contributions to Philosophy (On Enowning) he constantly speaks of “the finitude and singularity of being”. He thought that the finitude of our understanding was a function of being itself. Being withdraws from our attempts at grasping it. To be a bit polemical here: Heidegger’s being is like a Cartesian evil demon without a demon. It is a blind process (an “it”, which he identifies with the dummy subject in the German expression “es gibt” = there is, literally: it gives) which makes it impossible ever to clearly make sense of reality as a whole without obscuring some of its features. His famous “clearing” is supposed to illustrate this. The clearing is an open region in a forest we happen to come across while strolling through the woods. There is no reason why there is a clearing and why it has this particular shape. It is just there, for no reason, and it gives us a very partial view of the heavens. For Heidegger, finitude is not a feature of subjectivity or of our knowledge, but of being itself, meaning: as things happen to be, we can only ever try to make sense of a given section of what there is, a section revealed to us historically situated thinkers for no specific reason at all. For Heidegger, we cannot ever hope to transcend the finitude of being, as even our apparently quite successful attempts of going beyond our epistemic niche (such as modern science-cum-technology) will ultimately depend on being’s random deliverances. There is always another clearing for him (in terms of a Matrix-style philosophy of science à la recent Chalmers): maybe the universe is a holographic projection of noumenal structures beyond our ken? Maybe it literally is a computer?
On this basis Heidegger committed the fallacy that there is no point in attempting to enlarge the sphere of human knowledge, as he thought that we could never achieve anything on our own unless being made another random turn (what he calls “an event”). He seems to have used this fallacy when it came to his personal justification for his decision for national-socialism in Heidegger’s extremely provincial interpretation of what was going on in Munich first and then in Berlin in the early 30s. He had no adequate conception of political manipulation and power struggles according to which actual agents are able to determine the belief-systems of people over which they have ideological control. When he realized what was going on in actual national socialism, he still came up with a bullshit story (he calls “meta-politics”) according to which the national socialist propaganda and even the second world war are really nothing but ways for technological thinking to realize itself in a historical shape. What is even worse is that in his so called Black Notebooks (which I had to read carefully, as I reviewed them for the newspaper Die Welt) he believes that the forces of being take the shape of national stereotypes represented by historically created races (such as the Jews, the Germans, the English, the French, the Greeks, etc.). He is a racist, albeit not based on pseudo-biological considerations, but based on historically created stereotypes. Having said that, his personal and political fallacies are not entailed by his conception of the finitude of being, which one might share without thereby becoming a Nazi. To the extent to which he might have used his philosophical thinking as a justification for his decision to become a Nazi and live out his resentments, his thought is entangled with national socialism. But this does not invalidate all of the points he was making.