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Introduction

did indeed share his wifes allegedly extreme antisemitism, surely his onetime lover
and lifelong confidante, Hannah Arendt, would have found it next to impossible
to continue a relationship with him, never mind champion his work subsequent
to the war. Jaspers, who had a Jewish wife and was himself outraged by some of
Heideggers behaviour, never took Heidegger for a biological racist. Much has been
made of Heideggers relationship with Husserl which had deteriorated badly before
the latters death. Husserl was highly critical of Heideggers work, not least Being and
Time, and chose a public platform to emphatically distance himself from his former
protg. As one studies the development of Heideggers thinking it is clear that they
were bound to drift intellectually.15 Nevertheless, Husserl did famously complain to
a friend about Heideggers increasing antisemitism. As for the claim that Heidegger,
as rector, revoked Husserls right of access to the library, that has been rejected as a
slander. What about the removal of the dedication of Being and Time? Perhaps it was
a deliberate slight on Heideggers part! Even so, since he did retain the dedication in
a footnote, it seems plausible to suppose that he was, as he claimed, acting on appeals
for prudence from his publishers. Dedicating a book to a well-known Jewish16 intellectual in that particular climate may well have been less than judicious. Furthermore,
subsequent to that edition Heidegger continued to include the dedication as it was
in the original. There is an element of straw grasping with respect to a good deal
of this, on both sides. That Heidegger was not outraged by the virulently antisemitic
vein that coursed through National Socialism or by his own wifes alleged antisemitism is surely indictment enough. Whether Heidegger was sympathetic to the more
moderate antisemitism which was to prove so disastrously instrumental in making
Europe itself complicit up until or after it was already far too late, that is yet another
unsettling question. We know of letters Heidegger wrote criticizing those who were
not properly politically aligned, we know of his comments concerning a dangerous
international alliance of Jews; it is also clear from Heideggers recently published
private notebooks that he subscribed to some form of antisemitism. We are shocked
by the fact that Heidegger would don the swastika and yet sit down to a meal prepared
by Jaspers Jewish wife while a guest in their home as we are outraged at Heideggers
callous, cavalier attitude to the distress Jaspers wife suffered at what was happening
in Germany (when Jaspers reported to Heidegger that his wife was overwrought
with grief, Heidegger remarked glibly that at times it is therapeutic to have a weep).
Moreover, as we shall see below, in his recently published notebooks and in some of
his seminars from the early 1930s, Heidegger looks to justify his antisemitism philosophically. It is impossible to defend Heidegger on any of these issues, but the matter
is not resolved by supposing that he was a fully fledged Nazi replete with the standard
racial biological outlook.17 It seems clear that that was not the case, and while his own
official story has been largely discredited, the question remains: what exactly was
National Socialism for Heidegger and where does it intersect with his philosophical
vision? And if Heidegger was not in fact the typical antisemite we associate with
Nazism, did he nevertheless support a kind of ethnic chauvinism which is in itself
hugely problematic?
Pierre Bourdieus attempt to contextualize Heideggers thought would appear to
recommend itself as eminently useful here.18 Bourdieu, for one, looks to avoid the rash