Jeff Malpas on Heidegger’s Black Notebooks

At, via enowning. The first section gives a good summary of the various Heidegger affairs since the post-War period–like a good perennial, it comes back every year, seemingly anew–before giving hermeneutic reasons for separating a thinker and his thought, before finally beginning to broach the topic of the essay: “Situating the Black Notebooks.” Like Peter Trawny, who’s critical monograph is to be published in English this summer, Jeff takes Heidegger’s anti-Semitism to be “cultural” rather than racial, though with some caveats that one can’t delink the two.

Count me on the side of those, like Arendt [I’m thinking of her race-thinking sections of Origins of Totalitarianism] and Foucault [in his “Society Must Be Defended”] who think that such a distinction is implausible. Even Derrida in his last lectures suggests, quoting some of Heidegger from 1935-6 [if memory serves], that Heidegger had a critique of the biopolitical. Which is sort of like saying someone with a Sierra Club bumper sticker driving an SUV is against climate change.

In any case, coming back to Jeff Malpas’s essay, despite some lines that can be polemicized (e.g., his suggestion that in fact Heidegger’s work is often continuous with much of 20th century Jewish thought), he’s right to argue that considerations of historicity, the topographical (in Malpas’s use), and against calculative rationality, are not fascistic even if one is drawing on Heidegger to make those claims. And those who want to make this about all of Continental philosophy weren’t exactly waiting for Heidegger’s Black Notebooks to condemn it anyway. Complicated people can hold two thoughts at the same time: Heidegger was often a truly rancid person, provincial in the extreme (when Malpas writes he was of his time and place–was he ever), anti-Semitic, arrogant, and so on. His writings, though, are often profound and important. It’s why one doesn’t (shouldn’t!) follow Heidegger the person and imitate his life (ah those Heideggerians with their huts in the woods) just to read him.