Thursday, July 10, 2008
I got the June 27 TLS today. It has a neon H on the cover. George Steiner reviews Daniel Morat's Von der Tat zur Gelassenheit: Konservatives Denken bei Martin Heidegger, Ernst Jünger und Friedrich Georg Jünger 1920-1960.

It starts:
Acts of constant questioning

Even computerized bibliographies cannot keep pace. Martin Heidegger's life and works have already occasioned more than a thousand books and articles. In recent years, the Heidegger industry has overtaken research on Plato and Aristotle. Attempts to elucidate Heideggerian ontology, or the celebrated, if debatable, Kehre or "turnabout" between his early and his later teachings, keep commentaries and exegesis busy in numerous languages and cultures. He is the object of fervent study in Japan. From the epistemological treatises of Sartre to the hermetic language games of Derrida, from Levinas to Lacan and Foucault, Heidegger and Heidegger's ambiguous relations to Husserl's phenomenology animate existentialism, post-structuralism and deconstruction. A recent survey of "Heidegger in France", already rendered incomplete, fills two ample volumes. The Heideggerian presence in Italy, via such voices as Massimo Cacciari's and Giorgio Agamben's, increases steadily. "The century of Martin Heidegger" has become almost a cliche.

The impact and aura of Sein und Zeit extend far beyond philosophy in either a technical or a general sense. Artists such as Anselm Kiefer look to Heidegger for direct inspiration and seek to illustrate his idiom, albeit ironically. Heidegger's idiosyncratic but profoundly suggestive readings of poetry, from Pindar to Trakl, have generated vivid echoes. Heidegger is present in René Char, as in Paul Celan (a tireless reader and annotator of Heidegger's publications). Architects cite Heidegger's meditations on the relations between buildings and the earth. All this secondary work, moreover, remains provisional. It is only lately that seminal texts, those of the pre-1925 lectures and seminars, or those composed but left unpublished during the 1940s, have become available. The collected edition, which is expected to exceed eighty volumes, is still in progress. It continues to generate disturbing uncertainties as to editorial method. Has there been "cleansing" on political grounds? A praetorian guard surrounds Heidegger's prodigal, sometimes fragmentary legacy.

What makes this situation bewildering, perhaps unprecedented, is the polarization of opinion as to Heidegger's stature. To many, his name can be set confidently next to those of Plato or Kant. To Gadamer he was simply "the greatest of thinkers". His sometime lover and publicist, Hannah Arendt, and his dissenting critic Leo Strauss hailed him as "incomparable". To others, he is an impene-trable, loquacious charlatan, a mystificateur pouring forth vatic, rapturous tautologies. Analytic philosophers, those whose habits of mind derive from Wittgenstein, are especially allergic to Heideggerian incantations. From Carnap to Jacques Bouveresse, professional logicians and academic cognitive philosophers (categories Heidegger despised) have regarded Heidegger's tomes as hectoring verbiage fatally tainted by and inwoven with his politics.
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