Friday, June 08, 2018
In the Weekly Standard, Ian Marcus Corbin on dangerous reads.
Beiner treats Heidegger’s thought as a variation on Nietzschean themes, transposing and expounding upon the Nietzschean notion that, in Beiner’s words, “we are bound by an existential obligation to live lives that are untranquilized.” In Heidegger’s case, the raw fact is that existence—both ours and the existence of this planet, tree, rock, or atom—is a wild mystery before which we can do little more than stand in awe. It is also fragile and intrinsically limited, perched always on the edge of annihilation. We tranquilize ourselves by ignoring the wondrousness of our reality, disregarding the most fundamental question of all: Why is there something rather than nothing? Into and around this question Heidegger insinuates a sort of primal, mystical, death-focused vitalism that fit neatly enough with Hitler’s philosophy to get Heidegger an official position in the Third Reich. It would be difficult to find anyone who would deny Beiner’s central claim that Heidegger, like Nietzsche, was not a liberal. But Beiner’s textual analysis—which, in the case of Heidegger, draws largely on Being and Time (1927)—leaves basically untouched the matter of why these ideas are, per his title, dangerous. That is, why are illiberal ideas bad and why would anyone find them appealing?
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