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        inhumanity of global imperialism
Considerations, 1941 | vol. 14, no. 243
March 12, 2016    
        gary e. davis  
     
     


The wartime entry has four sentences, mentioning ‘world Jewry’ twice. More than one scholar I’ve exchanged views with quotes only one instance from this entry, extracting it from context (i.e., from the sentences directly preceding it), alleging that it’s self-evidently antisemitic. But it’s not. Taken out of context, it’s not, which I’ll show. And putting the instance into context makes a reading of antisemitism ridiculous. I’ll put the instance into context, too (which might seem tedious). Anyway, we must keep in mind that Heidegger was writing for himself, not to anyone else. Nothing in the notebooks is intended as clear presentation for others. Therefore, if a passage can be plausibly read in good faith, reading otherwise (without further context-relevant evidence) incriminates the reader, not Heidegger.

I’ll proceed piecemeal, because others have found doing so suitable; then I’ll quote the entire entry near the end here. So, first, “everyone’s” favorite extraction, which begins “…The question of the role of world Jewry is not a racial question, but the metaphysical question about the kind of humanity that…”

People who “find” antisemitism there believe that referring to world Jewry is stereotyping, thus buying into antisemitism. In fact, though, the diaspora refers to themselves (itself?) as world Jewry. Here’s a headline from The Times of Israel, July 23, 2015: “World Jewry ever more uneasy with Israel, major study finds.” Google search ‘world Jewry’, you find the American Council for World Jewry whose URL is “world-jewry.org.” Another top result is The Jewish Federation of America. Search that site for ‘world Jewry’, you get a page pledging to “support and strengthen Jewish life wherever Jews live around the world.... We’ve built and sustained programs in more than 70 countries.” These are national organizations which define themselves in world/global terms, 67 year after the founding of Israel.

Considering the above partial sentence by Heidegger in isolation, one might think that Heidegger has in mind a question of what kind of humanity world Jewry is, thus singling out Jews, which would be suspect. But that reading has no credibility, given the context that the sentence is extracted from, which is about imperialism!

But for the moment, let’s ignore that and suppose incredibly that the above sentence fragment exists in isolation for Heidegger. This would require implying that Heidegger is satisfied with a sentence fragment as fair representation of a complex position, viz., a metaphysical question about Jews. But that’s not what the fragment states. It states “the” metaphysical question, not a metaphysical question. So, the reader is required to have a sense of what the question is. It’s “about the kind of humanity that, without any restraints…,” which is emphasized. Who’s free to operate without any restraints in 1941, two years after Kristallnacht? Imperialism, as we will see, from Heidegger’s earlier sentences in the four-sentence entry.

Continuing the sentence: “…without any restraints, can take over the uprooting of all beings from being as its world-historical ‘task.’” Clearly to me, there is nothing mystical about referring to beings and being. Heidegger is overtly working his vocabulary “down” into a critique of ideology. His midland political point here, so to speak, would be sufficiently represented, as mere critique of political ideology, by referring to the uprooting of all persons from their humanity through imperialism’s phony epochality (“world-historical” so-called “…‘task’.”). Quite obviously in 1941, it’s the Third Reich that is declaring world-historical entitlements, but Heidegger is locating the phoniness in imperialism, a global machination.

Richard Polt thought (mid-August 2014) that Heidegger was saying that the Jews are taking up the world-historical task. That has no plausibility, as we'll see. Then, I’ll return to Polt’s remark (made to a large discussion group of Heidegger scholars).

Heidegger’s 4-sentence entry begins:

“Why are we recognizing so late that in truth, England is and can be without an Occidental stance? [In other words, England is not the enemy?] Because only in the future will we grasp that England began to erect the modern world, but according to its essence, modernity is directed to the unfettering of the machination of the entire globe….”

Machinational modernity merely began with England, as anything begins somewhere, but the essence of modernity is a global emergence. The essence does not originate from the apparent enemy. That becomes a philosophical issue of the “nature” (metaphysics) of modernity in 1941, which—to Heidegger’s mind—is globalist machination.

“…Even the thought of an agreement with England, in the sense of a division of imperialist ‘jurisdictions,’ does not reach the essence of the historical process…”

Historical process—which has an essence: globalist machination.

“…the historical process that England is now playing out to its end within Americanism and Bolshevism,…”

One might presume that “within” is a typographical error by the translator, but apparently not, because the sentence ends: “…and this at the same time means within world Jewry.”

So, we have a logical conundrum here: It’s presumably not Heidegger’s contention that England is playing out the historical process within Americanism and Bolshevism. The credible contention would be that the historical process is playing itself out within all three, “…and this at the same time means within world Jewry.” An historical process of modernization applies to world Jewry, too; but that implies that what appears to especially apply to world Jewry ("common sense" among Germans?) is not especially applicable to world Jewry (Heidegger's point). The point would pertain to anyone who thinks that world Jewry is the cause of the problem, rather than a mirror of it, culpable for anything as world Jewry, rather than merely embodying, too, a global problem. Heidegger’s explicit concern is that a global historical process of machination—which, obviously, the Jews are in no position to compel!—is taking place within world Jewry, too.

How so? We’re back to the sentence that was extracted above and discussed. I didn’t note above that ‘world Jewry’ was emphasized by Heidegger. “The question of the role of world Jewry is not a racial question,…” He’s just included world Jewry in a historical process that is begun by England and is working itself out through imperialisms. He has just emphasized a global character of imperialism. But as far as Jewry is partitioned for separate concern—and who in Germany is not partitioning the Jews for “special” concern?—it’s “not a racial question…” It’s a question of the essence of modernity. They who would look to blame the Jews should look to the question of how “We” all are. The question of being is the question of how we are.

Questions of being turn ontotheological for Heidegger! All imperialist pretensions trace back to the ontotheological basis of power. Questions of humanity imply constitutive questions of power globalizing itself through gigantic machinations.

But in 1941, the presumption among Germans was that all Jews would be deported, not exterminated. In retrospect, Heidegger—eight years after a 10-month administrative post in the southwestern-most, quietest corner of Germany—was terribly prescient about the entailments of machination.

Polt wrote: “I do not see any evidence in the text that Heidegger thinks Jews are ‘irrelevant to the problem.’ They are part of the problem.” He’s responding to a remark by me, which was “MH is more than once, in these notes, sketching how to distinguish the presence of the real problem from what's irrelevant to the problem, i.e., world Jewry is not the problem.”

You might think (wrongly) that Polt is being antisemitic there, if you didn’t presume that he’s portraying his reading of Heidegger, i.e., that Polt believes that Heidegger believes that Jews are part of the problem. Polt writes prima facie as if he believes Jews are part of the problem because he can safely presume that his audience presumes that he’s portraying what he takes to be someone else’s view, viz., Heidegger’s. But it doesn’t occur to him that Heidegger is portraying someone else’s view, viz., imperialism’s problem, which is a historical process working itself out through global machination. But such distanced portrayal of a view is par for the course in critique of ideology: One narrates the view that comes into critique. To those who would think that Jews are part of the problem, Heidegger is indicating how that is not the case.

Here’s the entire entry:

Why are we recognizing so late that in truth, England is and can be without an Occidental stance? Because only in the future will we grasp that England began to erect the modern world, but according to its essence, modernity is directed to the unfettering of the machination of the entire globe. Even the thought of an agreement with England, in the sense of a division of imperialist “jurisdictions,” does not reach the essence of the historical process that England is now playing out to its end within Americanism and Bolshevism, and this at the same time means within world Jewry. The question of the role of world Jewry is not a racial question, but the metaphysical question about the kind of humanity that, without any restraints, can take over the uprooting of all beings from being as its world-historical “task.”

Polt writes: “In fact, they [Jews] are an especially menacing part of the problem insofar as they have taken up machination as their “world-historical 'task.’” But that’s false. Imperialism is globalizing machination—but Polt isn’t subscribing to an antisemitic view, despite out of context prima facie appearance. Polt’s extrapolation is properly that Heidegger is sketching how imperialism makes world Jewry an especially menacing part of the problem because imperialism has taken up machination as its “world-historical ‘task.’” Any idiot in 1941 should know that the Jews are literally not in any position to do anything except try to escape Germany, which is impossible in 1941. To imply that Heidegger doesn’t get that is to regard him as rather stupid, when in fact Heidegger is overtly prospecting an implicit interest in philosophical critique of power. In this particular instance, Heidegger is overtly noting (merely so) the basis for not focusing on world Jewry as part of the problem. Rather, a reversal of attention is called for.

Of course, in a tragic sense, when one is being imprisoned (or killed), one is part of the problem. But the problem is the imperialism of global machination.

I’m wringing too much from a short passage by Heidegger: My reading gains more plausibility, the more entries from Considerations that mention Jews that I might discuss (and have examined, summer 2014). I'm discussing one passage now, but in light of dwelling with all of the literally-relevant passages that Richard Polt found suspicious, August 2014 (before he banned me from his group, which would be fun to recount).

Extracting all entries which mention Jewry from the whole of Considerations (as Trawny and Polt did) displaces attention from that whole (let alone Heidegger’s prevailing work) by constellating de-contextualized themes as belonging together essentially (a nominalism?), as if thereby the “essential” constellation contaminates Heidegger’s thinking, rather than a reader’s need to constellate, thereby contaminating (self-concealing) the text’s context—i.e., de-contextualizing text—context which involves monograph-level engagement by Heidegger. A hermeneutics of suspician—Polt and many others—can be uncanny “Da-sein,” which symptomatically performs marginalization or disminishive exclusiveness. What’s the fear? Who knows. Perhaps it’s dependence on career-forming readings from past years. Maybe, it’s dependence on a theological conception of ethnicity that’s subject to critique of ontotheological confidence.

 

 

     
 
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