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        the role of Considerations
within his ways
    April 23, 2016
        gary e. davis  

Heidegger’s black notebooks, titled by him Überlegungen (Considerations), were not “Black Notebooks” (in any auspicious sense; they were black, and he referred to them as notebooks that are black). They were, to his mind, supplements to his main work, not exposés of secret fundamentals. “Ways, not works,” he famously said of his estate of publications, lecture courses, etc. This pertained to the notebooks as well: They’re workbooks directly motivated by what was happening during those years, therefore “secreted” to the end of his publication schedule for his Gesamtausgabe (“Total Output” or Collected Works) because they are mere workbooks.

A definitive account of what Heidegger intended with his notebooks is provided by “the ‘senior advisor’ of the Gesamtausgabe, as Martin Heidegger referred to me,” writes F.-W. von Herrmann in his contribution to an anthology in English about the first decade of notebooks, 1931-1941 (notebooks which continued until the early 1970s). English translation of the notebooks from 1931-1938, titled Ponderings II-VI, is now available. [Sept. 2017: The English version of 1938-1941 notebooks became available in 2017).

Von Herrmann's account coincidently supports my earlier-discussed views, which I’m delighted to see.

Heidegger’s notebooks “are companions on [his] main path, and they supplement it,” von Herrmann notes. “Since 1931, Heidegger would jot down in his notebooks occasional thoughts that did not belong in a manuscript in progress.... Heidegger kept pencil and notepad on his bedside table,... which he would carefully write up...the next day.”

I’ve read that MH also carried little notebooks in his coat pocket on walks, then wrote up final versions later. The archival notebooks are elaborations—for himself, working notes, not presentations that try to anticipate misreading (which lecture presentations would have occasion to do).

Von Herrmann asserts that Heidegger intended the notebooks to be supplementary to the “ontohistorical thinking” which is Heidegger’s main work of that period (i.e., Contributions to Philosophy and other monographic work of the late 1930s).

‘Ontohistorical’ is a translation of a German term now standardly translated as “being-historical,” which is an active term (as in: having lasting influence, which philosophy always hopes to achieve). That isn't primarily about historiography or genealogical reconstruction (which is MH’s concern for “history of beyng” as part of his process of emancipatory and originary thinking that Contributions prospects). Heidegger, in his main work, is prospecting ways to express a multi-stage conception of being-historical thinking.

During von Herrmann’s present discussion, Heidegger is quoted: “What is recorded in these notebooks,... least in part... my indications of the most advanced horizons of my endeavors in thought.”

But horizons are not constitutive conceptions. Horizons express the range of pertinence that a conception (domain) can have. These horizons are characterized by Heidegger, according to von Herrmann, as “the spirit of the newest new age and thus the present age,...” to Heidegger (emphasis by MH). The world after 1945 was inconceivable, of course.

Von Herrmann asserts a scathing dismissal of Peter Trawny, who remains unnamed as “the current editor” of the notebooks: “I recommended the current the literary estate [i.e., the Heidegger family] to merely serve as text editor, not as text interpreter.” But Trawny, according to von Herrmann, took the liberty to publish a “distorted and disparaging, deeply corrupt reading of [13 “contaminating”] passages,” which Trawny inflates to allegedly express “an anti-Semitic outlook” allegedly pertaining to Heidegger’s thinking altogether. But, von Herrmann asserts, Trawny’s “ not a seriously sustainable interpretation, but a mere assertion without any accompanying proof.....The editor [in Trawny’s book on the Considerations] leaves out the philosophical dimension of the black notebooks entirely, and pursues his purely ideological-political agenda by completely ignoring the philosophical content of the Considerations and their relation to other manuscripts featuring Heidegger’s ontohistorical thinking....[Trawny’s] approach to the black notebooks is, therefore, through and through distorting and thus deeply untrue.” This also pertains to Trawny’s “Afterword” to the notebooks themselves, which appears at the end of the English translation indicated above. Trawny mostly steps outside of his editor’s role to provide interpretation which doesn’t follow from what is factually indicated (I could easily show).

Anyway, von Herrmann’s view of Trawny’s miscarried role concurs with my own view of Trawny’s book. My general view of Heidegger during the nazi period is that he, like anyone, deserves good faith reading without non-evidentiary insinuation.

The book jacket of the anthology about the notebooks trades in falsehood, which is saddening. It is not true that Heidegger “was an enthusiastic supporter of the Nazi Party in the early 1930s.” He was an enthusiastic supporter of homegrown reform that had nothing to do with the Nazi Party.

It is not true that “the notebooks contain a number of anti-Semitic passages.” I've read all of the passages carefully that mention Jewry and Jews, and I've discussed this analytically at length with other Heidegger scholars. There is no antisemitism in Heidegger's thinking.

A detailed discussion of some Considerations entries follows.

Be fair. © 2016, g. e. davis.