Sunday, 5 December 2010

Hegel and Emmanuel Faye's 'Introduction du Nazisme dans la Philosophie'

There follows a copy of my review of Emmanuel Faye's Introduction du Nazisme dans la Philosophie (Paris: Michel, 2005) in connection with Hegel, again for the list.

Emmanuel Faye's Martin Heidegger 'L'Introduction du Nazisme dans la Philosophie, now available in English, adds to a debate that's been going in France since Victor Farias' book on Heidegger and Nazism (1987) and at a lower level before that. The debate on Heidegger is particularly intense and informed in France as he was such an influence on philosophy there after Sartre.
For example, Faye refers to Luc Ferry & Alain Renaut's Heidegger et les Modernes as interpreting Farias' book for French readers and observes that Heidegger hasn't been used in the French baccalauréat since 1984 as a result of the subsequent debate. Faye's book has a lot of new information based on readings of Heidegger's Gesamtausgabe, vols 16, 36 and 37 that cover Heidegger's courses in Fribourg from 1933-35, as well as various pertinent complaints about material left out (rightly or wrongly) of the "collected" works edited by his son, Hermann Heidegger that Faye has uncovered from various archives and publications. Faye has a fairly narrow concept of philosophy in his book, but I gather this is expanded in his earlier work on Descartes and the Renaissance.


What does Faye say about Hegel? - you may ask. Well, his book concerns events over a century after Hegel's death, so it is more a question of the history of Hegel's reception than Hegel himself. It is well known that Heidegger and some few others signed up to the National Socialist agenda and later regretted it, which is important, but not necessarily in relation to Hegel. However, Hegel does get a more than a mention, particularly in Heidegger's lectures in 1934-35 and Faye discusses various unbalanced or absurd interpretations of Hegel's philosophy of history and Philosophy of Right that may shed light on how these texts left themselves open to such interpretations.

He describes the debates and publications around the centenary of Hegel's death in 1931. The founder of the International Hegel Society was Richard Kroner (also editor of Logos) who organised three conferences the proceedings of which were published and which featured debates between those who saw Hegel principally as a universalist philosopher and those who saw him as an emanation of a Schwabian-Germanic Volksgeist. Kroner defended the 'universalist' Hegel. Against him, Theodor Haering and Giovanni Gentile spoke for a völkisch (= 'rooted in German blood and soil') Hegel. By 1935 Logos had been 'gleichschaltet' and Kroner was forbidden to publish. Its title "Logos: International Periodical for philosophy of culture" became "Periodical for German culture-philosophy, new continuation of Logos". Faye mentions Karl Larenz and Hermann Glockner as "neo-Hegelian national socialists" involved in this, and also Nicolai Hartmann. The latter two names I seem to have heard of before. It also appears that Alfred Baeumler's first publication was an edition of Hegel on the History of Philosophy (1923). Baeumler was a strongly völkisch writer.

I think Faye's book sheds some indirect light on some areas of Hegel's writings in three discernible areas.

Firstly, there is the general extent to which Hegel's texts leave themselves open to interpretations which is demonstrated by the extent to which some NS academics combined their prior interest in Hegel with their politics. Faye claims at one point that his book was inspired by this distressing sentence by Heidegger:
"They say that in 1933 Hegel died: on the contrary, it is only then that he began to live."
[Man hat gesagt, 1933 ist Hegel gestorben: im Gegenteil, er hat erst angefangen zu leben.]
This refers to Carl Schmitt's statement in 'State, Movement, People' (31-32; 'Der Deutsche Staat', ed. Schmitt. 1933, also cited in Franz Neumann's Behemoth (London: OUP, 1942), 483) on the Nazi seizure of power in January 1933, of which Heidegger strongly approved. Faye shows that Heidegger's comment on Schmitt is merely rhetorical in nature, but it is better that we have a fuller picture of the Hegelian and anti-Hegelian response to the Third Reich rather than rely on the Schmitt quote alone, as I have done in public controversies in the past. Of course, Faye exaggerates in claiming this sentence as his inspiration, as he must have done a lot of preliminary work on Heidegger to find and understand it in the first place.

Secondly, the theme of Herrschaft und Knechtschaft (i.e. the master and slave section of the Phenomenology (chapter 4)). These terms were a theme of various NSDAP sympathisers. There is not much in this other than shared terminology (and the terms are not unusual), but it does make me think that the theory of mutual recognition and therefore (so the argument goes) self recognition in this tableau of violence and subordination needs to be questioned as well as interpreted. I mean, you would think saving someone's life or relying on them for something vital would do just as well as a fight to the death as far as the endpoint of the argument goes.

Thirdly, there is the place of Hegel in the development of jurisprudential and cultural ideas that is of great interest to the history of Hegel's reception. Hegel opposed von Savigny's prioritisation of history and tradition over reason. The principal Nazi jurists (Carl Schmitt, Erik Wolf) of course go the other way altogether and Heidegger too was deeply implicated in the 'Gleichschaltung' nazification, alignment) of German jurisprudence in the 1930s. One Nazi idea was to make their experience of 'Volksgemeinschaft' (national community) a source of law. This involved appeal to subrational sources of law (i.e. traumatised German crowd psychology after WW1) and thus Hegel is a trustworthy critic of it.

Heidegger gave a course in 1934-35 on 'Hegel, on the State' (note the comma) that Faye covers in some detail. There was also a course on the Phenomenology that Faye does not discuss. Faye states that the course 'Hegel, on the State' was given to beginner students, which is absurd as Hegel is not a beginner's philosopher and as a result Heidegger has difficulty developing ideas in any depth. The records record that his students took issue with his teaching. There is certainly content from the German right. For example, Heidegger advised his students to read Hegel's early essay on the German Constitution as being more völkisch. His example of something that exists but is not 'real' in the Hegelian sense is the Treaty of Versailles. He applies his earlier discussion of a hammer (as both active and passive) to illustrate Hegel's concept of contradiction, which Faye takes exception to, though it seems fine to me. Faye notes that Heidegger's understanding of Hegel was poor, though he sets the standard high to make his task of demolishing Heidegger easier. Faye's conclusion is

"Certainly there is in the Hegelian doctrine of the state more than one element that opens onto slippery slopes, such as the conception of the State as totality or the act of relating the State to the spirit of the people. [...] From the conception of the State as organic totality to the total State of Nazism, and from the 'Volksgeist' to Hitlerian 'Volkstum' there is more than a distance.
The passage can only be carried out at the price of a totalitarian and 'völkisch' appropriation of the hegelian philosophy of right, that largely leaves aside the dialectical tension between the particular and universal that constitutes the whole dynamic of the hegelian thought of the State." (497-8)

The central point here is that abstract or formal right is not abrogated by Hegel in the more concrete sections of the 'Philosophy of Right'. However, having said this, Faye writes:
"On the other hand, it is indisputable that Hegelian doctrine of the State was, with Fichte's 'Addresses to the German Nation' and the first dissertation of Nietzsche's 'Genealogy of Morals', one of the texts of 19th century German philosophy most frequently invoked by the national socialists." (507)
This surely gives us pause for thought, though unfortunately Faye gives no evidence for his "indisputable" fact. Heidegger is drawn in the later seminars to an idea of the State as organism that he draws from Hegel (though Schmitt and Ernst Jünger also use it). Much thus hangs on what is meant by 'organism'. Heidegger suggests biological and spiritual/mental levels as alternatives and discusses the 'Philosophy of Right' paras 257-259 in particular. This reminds me of John Macmurray's point that organic and personal forms of understanding were not clearly distinguished at this time as the 'form of the personal' was not clearly conceptualised (see his 'Form of the Personal' (London: Faber 1957) and his writings on fascism and communism from the 1930s.

Concluding remarks

There is an element of 'guilt by association' in Faye's text: 'Heidegger knew bad person x, who said bad thing y, so Heidegger agreed with y'. There is also a touch of self-righteousness - positions are not refuted, but merely called 'odious' and he suggests that Heidegger's books should be taken off the philosophy shelves and put into German history, which is going too far for Being and Time (1927). More controversially, a sympathetic philosophical interpretation of Nazism is not necessarily anti-philosophical as such and might shed light on this movement. This has been the subject of fierce debate by Heidegger's defenders in France and the USA (see below). However, making some allowance for some gaps in the argument, the book reads fairly convincingly to me on the whole. Faye argues that Heidegger's 'Origin of the Work of Art' (which is in the standard English 'Basic Writings' selection), published in November 1935, refers plainly to the Nuremberg rally two months previously, the temple that is the central motif of the essay being Speer's architecture and Hitler's speeches at the Zeppelinfeld there. The piece is sometimes reckoned an obscure praise of the ancient Greeks, but Faye's reading is much more convincing.

It is worth noting that Faye's book was quite fiercely received by some in France. Some relevant links are: (French, c2006) (French)
On Farias' book: (Roger Pol Droit) (Sheehan, English) (Ernst Nolte on Sheehan) (from BBC TV programme, 1999)