Aaron Jaffe, Michael F. Miller, Rodrigo Martini (Eds.): Understanding Flusser, Understanding Modernism, Bloomsbury, 2021

Understanding Flusser, Understanding Modernism Book Cover Understanding Flusser, Understanding Modernism
Understanding Philosophy, Understanding Modernism
Aaron Jaffe, Michael F. Miller, Rodrigo Martini (Eds.)
Bloomsbury Publishing
Hardback $117.00

James Risser (Ed.): Philosophy, Art, and the Imagination: Essays on the Work of John Sallis, Brill, 2022

Philosophy, Art, and the Imagination: Essays on the Work of John Sallis Book Cover Philosophy, Art, and the Imagination: Essays on the Work of John Sallis
Studies in Contemporary Phenomenology, Volume 21
James Risser (Ed.)
Hardback €199.00 $239.00

Adam C. Konopka: Ecological Investigations: A Phenomenology of Habitats, Routledge, 2019

Ecological Investigations: A Phenomenology of Habitats Book Cover Ecological Investigations: A Phenomenology of Habitats
History and Philosophy of Biology
Adam C. Konopka
Hardback £92.00

Michael Marder: Heidegger: Phenomenology, Ecology, Politics

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Michael Marder
University of Minnesota Press
Paperback $25.00

Reviewed by: Eva Anagnostou-Laoutides (Associate Professor in Ancient History, Macquarie University, Sydney)

As a classicist and ancient historian, I have always been intrigued by Heidegger’s frequent references to the Greeks and what he described as their “original,” in a Nietzschean sense, appreciation of the essence of Being. Then, again, I am deeply aware of the truth pertaining Glen Most’s statement about classicists and Heidegger (“Heidegger’s Greeks,” Arion 10.1 (2002) 83-98 at 96):

“For the professional classicist, there is almost nothing at all of interest in Heidegger’s work on Greek philosophy and poetry—which no doubt says as much about professional classicists as it does about Heidegger. Heidegger’s work remains entirely marginal to the classics profession, except for a very few classicists who are themselves largely marginal.”

While this partly explains my protracted grappling with this review, it also relates most clearly why Marder’s book has been so tantalizingly appealing to me.

First, although classicists are not habitually interested in Heidegger, they are interested in theoretical advances that may defend their interpretations of ancient Greek texts from the usual charge of being irrelevant and almost a pastime for recluses. Phenomenology has been one of the latest theoretical approaches to be adopted by scholars of ancient religion (such as the great Walter Burkert) and Heidegger is regarded as “the father of phenomenology,” given that for him Aristotle was certainly influenced by a rhetorical culture in defining man as a political animal and that the constituent parts of Da-sein (the speaking, listening, and caring which characterize Heidegger’s concept of Being-There) provide a common ground between rhetorical politics and phenomenology (S. Elden, “Reading Logos as Speech: Heidegger, Aristotle and Rhetorical Politics,” Philosophy & Rhetoric 38.4 (2005) 281-301 at 286-288).

Second, Marder’s book struck a chord with me because the author sets out to make a significant point, that is, to advocate our duty to engage with Heidegger rather than continue to ignore him because of his antisemitic sentiments. The controversy surrounding Heidegger has intensified since 2014 when the first books of his Black Notebooks were published with Marder noting in his Introduction (xi):

“What reawakens each time with the controversy, or what reawakens it, is the desire to expel Heidegger and to expunge his contributions from the canon of Western philosophy or from what may be legitimately taught, interpreted, and discussed in self-respecting philosophy departments.”

In attempting a bold, but not out-of-place, in my view, comparison, I have often felt a similar attitude towards the Classics in post-colonial Australia; I vividly remember a professor of English, who exasperated with Norman Lindsay’s misogynistic adaptation of classical models, asked a doctoral student in a full amphitheater: “why do you want to study this stuff?” The conflation of Norman Lindsay’s views with the right (and even need) to study them produces a gross methodological error, one fraught with greater dangers than people gradually feeling at ease with expressing socially dangerous sentiments. Not trusting students to make the differentiation is indicative of how little confidence we have in our educational system(s), let alone the staff responsible for teaching it. In this regard, Marder’s Introduction is indeed powerful and invests the rest of the book with a renewed sense of purpose, a purpose which many scholars in the humanities are likely to empathize with. This is important given that eight out of the nine chapters comprising this book have been published before in some form and that this reader felt at times that Marder should refine the chapters further to accomplish his purpose of defending the study of Heidegger in a more concerted way.

The main body of the book consists of three Parts, focusing respectively on Phenomenology (3-65), Ecology (69-129) and Politics (133-173). Each Part contains three chapters.

Part I consists of the following chapters: “‘Higher Than Actuality:’ The Possibility of Phenomenology” (3-26), “Failure and Nonactualizable Possibility” (27-46), and “The Phenomenology of Ontico-Ontological Difference” (47-65). In the first chapter, Marder takes start from Heidegger’s view, expressed in paragraph 7 of Being and Time, that phenomenology does not lie in its actuality, but we should rather understand it as possibility (3). Drawing on the History of the Concept of Time, Marder analyzes Heidegger’s understanding of possibilities as existentially necessary for Dasein, especially since for him the impossible is the index of death (5-6). Furthermore, according to Heidegger, “the grounding possibility of phenomenology is “received” … from its “meaning in the human Dasein” (20). Hence, fundamental ontology (the acceptance of Dasein and its existence prior to inquiring about its meaning) is Heidegger’s response to Husserl’s phenomenology; according to Heidegger, by defining the phenomenon as the representation of the world in our consciousness, Husserl privileges consciousness in relation to the object. Of course, possibility needs actuality, otherwise the phenomenological approach to experience risks being separated from reality; Heidegger’s reflects on actuality in his Letter on Humanism where he argues that the accomplishment which constitutes the essence of action depends on how we perceive “productivity” since active fulfillment may well come in the form of letting be (22). This Destruktion of traditionality, enabled by Heidegger’s appreciation of fulfilling a possibility as productive but not productivist, allows for a new appreciation of efficacy in phenomenology as well as the link between intention and intuition (23).

From a classicist’s point of view, Heidegger’s observations are extremely useful in how we perceive and interpret ancient socio-religious experiences; to bring a concrete example to the discussion, ancient religion students have dedicated considerable effort to “categorizing” ancient religious experiences as “rites of passage” or “mysteries,” admittedly in an attempt to grapple with theories from anthropology or socio-linguistics. While there is little denying of the overlap between the categories construed, or the superficial enthusiasm with which classicists have at times adopted theoretical models, we are still hung on the need for classification which is a priori intrusive and inevitably anachronistic (see, for example, the refreshing article by H. Hays, “The End of Rites of Passage and a Start with Ritual Syntax in Ancient Egypt,” Rivista Studi Orientali Supplemento 2 (2013) 165-186). The same can be claimed for classifications of ancient magic, with a mind-blowing yet established in scholarship differentiation between plant-based magic, mainly entrusted to women, and aggressive, erotic magic typically encountered in the hands of men … The concept of possibility introduced by Heidegger can at least function as a halting point to allow for reflection on how certain ancient authors toyed with possibility and their audience’s assumptions or to use Heideggerian language, their “horizons of understanding.”

Marder’s second chapter is equally instructive to this direction, in my view, as it discusses the link between possibility and the sense of failure that overwhelms us when we consider our finitude, the possibilities that we will inevitably fail to actualize because of death. Importantly, our temporality, our ex-istence is essential to Dasein and to our perception of the ec-static character of time. Reading closely Heidegger’s Being and Time, Marder argues that “[T]here can be, and there is, a nothing that has broken free from lack, and that is both the abyssal foundation of fundamental ontology and the springboard for an alternative theory of failure” (32). It is in this nothingness that our existential failure can give birth to numerous other possibilities, what he calls the “fecundity of failure” (31). Importantly, Heidegger understands this “falling” (Verfallen, BT 219) in relation to the Dasein’s ability to understand itself. This falling into the ordinary and mundane expresses the worldliness (the everydayness) of Dasein and is a movement away from the Self, a movement toward inauthenticity; to restore our authentic Self we need to be able to listen to the silent call of conscience or be ready to be anxious about it (39; also, see J.B. Steeves, “Authenticity and Falling in Martin Heidegger’s ‘Being and Time,’” The Jerusalem Philosophical Quarterly 46 (1997) 327-338). To me, the notion of “falling” (especially in light of possibility being higher than actuality) has obvious Christian overtones (and though one could argue the same about the Greek Underworld, Heidegger, as Most (2010, 86) notes, often addresses his Church congregation). Marder does touch upon this on pages 90-91 when he describes the economization of our existence and the devastation of the polis but does not really engage with the idea. Further, although Marder analyzes Heidegger’s differentiation between malfunction and failure in relation to techne in Time and Being (44-46), he does not involve the Aristotelian concept of phronesis which Heidegger did discuss.

The final chapter of Part I focuses on Heidegger’s attempt to situate himself between the phenomenologies of Husserl and Hegel. The notion of types or perhaps possibilities of phenomenologies is enticing and Marder does engage masterfully with Heidegger’s reading of both philosophers. Here, Marder follows two hypotheses: first, Heidegger employs the Hegelian phenomenology of spirit to refute Husserl’s positions and second, Husserl and Hegel come to stand for “the encryptions of ‘ontic’ and ‘ontological’ phenomenologies, of consciousness and of spirit” (49). Heidegger attempts to bridge the “ontico-ontological difference” by gathering together, “without mixing them, dialectical fire and phenomenological water.” Although Marder makes clear that Heidegger does not reject Husserl outright, he concludes that his intentional consciousness caters for a relative being and relative knowledge (53, 56). By trying to substantiate his historically conditioned appreciation of Dasein (i.e. non-metaphysical), Heidegger employs the concept of Mitdasein (being-with) which allows for our existence with objects, with ourselves and importantly with the Hegelian absolute, that is, we can participate in the self-knowledge of the absolute as analyzed by Hegel in the final paragraphs of his Enclyclopaedia Philosophy of Spirit (59-60). At this point, I was feeling rather smug with my progress in following Marder’s often longwinded arguments, and at the same time guilty for having missed the affinity of Mitdasein with post-structuralism (Woerman, M. Bridging Complexity and Post-Structuralism: Insights and Implications, Switzerland: Springer, (2016) 243ff. on Nancy and Heidegger), when it occurred to me that Marder does not explain how the consciousness of Mitdasein (as well as authentic Dasein) can be non-metaphysical. I say this because to my mind, although Mitdasein is enabling us to approach the absolute through Hegelian self-reflection, it necessarily implies a sense of isolation and/or separation from the objects which we “are with;” this thought has a very Platonic as well as Nietzschean ring to it which is, of course, totally metaphysical. Here, Marder does not offer the non-expert much guidance.

Part II consists of the following chapters: “To Open a Site: A Political Phenomenology of Dwelling” (69-92), “Devastation” (93-111), “An Ecology of Property” (113-129). In chapter four, Marder explains Heidegger’s application of the concept of failure in the context of the Greek polis, which is linguistically tied to the word polos (=swirl) (70); the latter is characterized by a perennial openness both in the sense that its members are renewed continuously but, also, in the sense that the questioning that takes place in the polis can never be concluded. Heidegger objects to the common translation of polis as state or city-state because it suppresses its ecological stance (72). Notably, he toys with the Nietzschean notions of hypsipolis and apolis, often through his grappling with Sophocles’ Antigone (73-74) which indicates that Heidegger recognizes oikologia, which in Heideggerian terms would be translated as house-being or house-gathering, as a concept often realized by those who substitute the site of the polis with the site of history – another deeply Platonic idea (cf. Republic, 592b on the Heavenly city), but, also interestingly agreeing with several stories of ancient founders who were never afforded civic identity. I am here thinking of Heracles, but, in defense of Marder’s point that to appreciate Heidegger’s preoccupation with the polis is inherently antisemitic, I would like to add the example of Moses, who led his people to the promised land, but was not allowed to cross the river and enjoy Canaan. Heidegger employs a geometrical appreciation of the dwelling; as Marder explains (75) dwelling, or being a Dasein, is conceived as the meeting point of a vertical dimension that refers to geographical situation and the political and a horizontal dimension that refers to the ethos of the polis. In fact, it is in the context of the polis that Dasein is revealed to be a Mitsein, being-with (76). Having the Platonic example at the back of my mind, I was not clear at this point how Heidegger deals with those exceptional (philosophizing?) individuals who manage to exchange the actual dwelling for the site of history; how does the notion of Mitsein apply in these cases? And, importantly, if the openness of the dwelling relies on it becoming hostile to the individual (as in the case of Antigone), should we consciously seek to rise above the Mitsein? Possibly questions of a novice in Heidegger’s thought, but in advocating the study of Heidegger, Marder could have spent a bit more time trying to guide the less advanced reader. Marder then argues that ecology has been replaced in modern societies by a political and ethical economy, which privileges quantitative valuation (78). Discussing Heidegger’s contribution to the concept of nomos, Marder notes: “The work of ‘mere fabrication’ of the law by human reason corresponds to the degradation of ēthos to the ethical with the help of morality …” (79). The intense economization of existence has allowed for the reign of nihilism, defined as the “danger of self-destruction” (82). In HHI 48, cited by Marder on 91, Heidegger explains: “What I mean by ‘economization’ is the encumbrance of the things and the world they co-create with the time, spatiality, and language (nomos) that are alien to them.” Heidegger charges the Romans with mistranslating the politikón, as the product which arose “out of the existence of the Greek polis,” with the Latin Imperium (83) (as well as with attaching to the Greek word = earth the notion of territory by translating gaia/gē as terra, 84). Admittedly, I am grateful to Marder for including the etymological arguments of Heidegger’s thought to his analysis, I found them delightful. Heidegger urges us not to confuse the need for housing with the desire for dwelling (87). By now, however, I really thought that Marder would press the question of people without terra and flung into history (regardless of whether this was a choice) … maybe the reader should be more patient for a treat later in the book?

In chapter five, Marder examines the question “what do we do when we devastate the world?,” noting that Heidegger anticipated “an abandonment of being” (93). He then introduces the distinction between destruction and devastation (94): “Staying with the logic and the vernacular of the preceding chapter, I am tempted to say: destruction destroys housing, while devastation devastates dwelling, striking not at the actual but at the possible, at the possibility of actuality.” For the next few pages, Marder details Heidegger’s desperate attempt to find hope in the face of ecological destruction, eventually glimpsing it in what Heidegger mentioned in HCT 18 (19): when the system fails possibility or the possibility of possibility, then possibility enters concealment. Thus, when devastation has completed its terrible effect both within and outside us, the concealment of the beginning harbored within Dasein offers the possibility of a new beginning (97). At this point, Heidegger appears almost poetic, perhaps even fatalistic. The worse effect of devastation in us is the “incapacitation of logos, of articulation” (99). Devastation, according to Heidegger, “transmits a scorching desert silence” which “cuts into Dasein and severs it from its world.” Again, to me, Heidegger’s thought at this point is pregnant with theological concepts, especially the eastern hesychast tradition (as an adaptation of pagan philosophical silence) and was a bit disappointed that Marder is not interested in the topic, though this observation is an aside rather than a criticism for the work which here becomes much more legible in terms of style. Going back to the problem of articulating devastation, Heidegger suggests discussing it as “evil,” though he suspiciously claims that “the devastation of the earth and the annihilation of the human essence … are somehow evil” (101). Heidegger appreciates evil as the opposite of logos, rather than in moral terms, but again here Marder avoids saying more about Heidegger’s antisemitism and how this plays against the fascist devastation of logos. Heidegger finds the positive aspects of devastation in the trace of its energy (103); devastation “procures its energy from a contentless and abstract possibility and, in effect, reconfigures energy as this possibility” (104). Although such an appreciation of devastation seems to almost brash off the Nazi regime and their followers as the mere means of devastation, Marder reminds us that Heidegger’s thought is here preoccupied with more mundane forms of devastation, primarily in the forms of economic rules (105). Finally, we come to the question, “what is to be done” about the onslaught of unconditional calculation? The answer being a. “fight the obvious temptation to get over it” (CPC 140/216 cited in Marder, 108) and b. endure it (GA: 94: 292, also on 108). Marder reminds us that here that being proactive is not necessarily a philosophical category, especially given Heidegger’s belief that in doing something we contribute to the expansion of devastation (109). Although Heidegger argues that devastation destroys the in-between space in which the polis exists, there is an in-between possibility in devastation too, the space between abandonment (of being) and releasement which may still save us (111).

In chapter six, Marder discusses the notion of property in the context of Marx’s political economy (113). Since Plato and Heidegger believe that the philosopher’s task is above all to “un-forget being in the midst of a profound ontological amnesia” (114), very much in line with the ancient conception of oikonomia, the modern institution of economy perplexes the mission of the philosopher: “the un-forgetting of being must engage in a painstaking analysis of economism and its corollary modes of appropriation that endanger planetary existence.” Marder here proposes to examine “how the ecologico-phenomenological attitude subtends an economic-political approach to ‘property’” by putting Heidegger in dialogue with Vladimir Bibikhin, a Russian philosopher who translated much of Heidegger’s work into his native language (114-115). Taking start from the post-Soviet privatization, construed by Bibikhin as the “capture of the world” (117), Marder explains how Heidegger allows Bibikhin to articulate the challenges of his society as a symptom of our overall tendency to “world-devastation and the obviation of logos inherent in the economic or economistic attitude.” Finally, Marder considers fascism and technocratic liberalism as alternatives to the ecology of property (119-122). Toying with the double meaning of the Latin capio as grab and grasp(=understand), Marder explains liberalism as preoccupied with grasping without being-grasped to which fascism responds with the reverse option of being-grasped without grasping (119) – notions which both Heidegger and Bibikhin employ in their struggle to restore the ecology of property (120). Here, we have a pseudo(?)-choice between the indifferent grasp of beings or the ecstatic surrender to them. For Heidegger, Marder concludes, “ontological history proceeds by way of ending, its ‘process’ twisting into the ends, a pair of them-fascism and technocratic liberalism-now looming large before us as the only destiny” (121). In his effort to free up some space between calculative rationality and thoughtlessness, Heidegger comes up with the notion of “inceptual thinking,” which diverts “the task of thought from the capture of the world,” to “dwelling with and in the world, all the while articulating and being articulated by this difference between ‘with’ and ‘in’” (123). Pages 127-129 focus on Bibikhin’s intricate method of translating Heidegger whereby he “makes his own what is of the other” while “making other what is his own” (127). Marder obviously enlists Bibikhin as an important ally to his argument about the usefulness of Heidegger’s thought (and crucially in trying to argue that what has been often construed as his antisemitism may in fact, be Heidegger’s indulgence into a separate trail of thought to the point of naivety or even lack of sensitivity), but his point remains latent and is never fully articulated.

Part III consists of the following chapters: “The Question of Political Existence” (133-144), “The Other ‘Jewish Question’” (145-161), “Philosophy without Right” (163-173).

In chapter seven, Marder focuses on Heidegger’s 1934-35 seminar on Hegel’s Philosophy of Right for which he has been accused of putting “Hegel in the service of Nazism” by “supplying a philosophical justification for the theories of state, power and leadership redolent of this deplorable ideology” (133). Accordingly, his aim is to “tease out … Heidegger’s unique being-historical take on the political philosophy” (133) of his predecessor. Marder argues that we should “examine the 1934-35 seminar in light of Heidegger’s own philosophy, which slots Hegel into the vast project of destruction (Destruktion) of Western metaphysics in a privileged way” (134). Like in chapter 3 where, despite of being critical of Hegel, Heidegger opted for a middle position between Husserl’s relative phenomenology and Hegel’s absolute phenomenology of being, Heidegger develops a similar strategy regarding political philosophy. But this time instead of comparing Hegel to Husserl, Heidegger compares what he perceives as Hegel’s idealistic approach to political existence to Karl Schmitt’s realism.

Marder lays out Heidegger’s critique of Hegel and Schmitt on pages 135-139, concluding that he rather “oversimplifies their positions in order to cement his alternative version of political existence” (139). In addition, Marder observes that “Schmitt’s nonmetaphysical political ontology, which has all the trappings of a ‘self- developing self- assertion,’ is as attuned to existential realities and possibilities as that of Heidegger himself” (140). Heidegger tries to avoid Hegel’s “absolutization of spirit” which privileges the metaphysical being and Schmitt’s “relativization of the political (as a relation to the enemy other),” which privileges the individual beings over the political (141). Instead, he claims that “political existence transpires in the difference between being and beings that Hegel and Schmitt all but effaced” (141). Heidegger introduces a valid contradiction between domestic and international politics (since the state is Dasein and hence, the center of its world, but not of the world) and insists that the essence of the political is its existence as a historical being-in-the-world personified by its leader (141-142). Earlier Marder suggested that Heidegger appreciates the state as “historical being” (GA 86: 85) through which “spirit gives itself actuality, political facticity, and freedom” (135). Further, he argues that “‘the essence of the state’ is ‘unification’ (GA 86: 79– 80), and that the Dasein of the leader effects ‘the unification of powers’” (142). Although Marder rightly observes that “translating the vocabulary of Being and Time into political categories proves impossible,” and is critical of Heidegger’s emphasis on the role of the leader, it must be said that to this day such views are widely held by many people and regimes across the globe who loudly reject Nazism while strongly defending their right to preserve a certain, unified identity. Thus, castigating Heidegger for putting forward a Nazi-echoing political system applies to the extent that he expresses these views in 1930s Germany and perhaps that he was misled by his historical context in grappling with the Dasein-based struggle he describes. Without underplaying in the least the gravity of the Holocaust, and hence by a similar token, we could argue that there is little point in studying Plato, a male, totalitarian aristocrat whose political views have been long branded as utopian. Marder is treading carefully here, stating that “We are yet to gauge the depth of ontico-ontological difference and other aspects of Dasein- analysis in the question of political existence” (144).

In chapter eight, we finally get to the core of the discussion about Heidegger’s antisemitism. To this direction, Marder compares Heidegger’s Black Notebooks as well as a 1933-34 seminar with the title “On the Essence and Concepts of Nature, History, and State” with Marx’s 1843 essay “On the Jewish Question.” Marder “suspects” that Heidegger’s antisemitism is mostly related to his reluctance to a. turn the figure of the Jew into a question and b. interrogate the logic of coming up with a specific figuration model for the nihilistic completion of metaphysics (145). Marder’s analysis of Heidegger’s attack on Husserl on account of his Jewishness which, in his view, accounts for the limits of his philosophy, is very successful as is his point that Heidegger clearly thought in similar terms about other groups such as “the Cartesians, but also the Bolsheviks, the English, the Americans …” whom he showcases “as though they were different specimens of an indifferent metaphysical nihilism” (145). On the same page, Marder suggests that we should resolve the Jewish issue as a question through which we are not looking for an answer but for an emancipatory commingling of the questioned and the questioning in a “single –and singular– being.” Marder finds this emancipatory path in Marx and his rejection of religion through which the conflict between Christians and Jews which makes the foreignness of the latter irreconcilable is resolved. The second stage of Marx’s emancipation is a critique of state per se (i.e. not the Christian state) and the third what Marx calls communism. The essence of Heidegger’s problem with the Jews or rather, the problem embodied by the Jews in his society, is this:  “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” (GA 96: 243 cited on 151). Hence, Marder explains “[T]he ontic displacement of traditional Jews, sublimated in the secular version of Jewish cosmopolitanism, has mutated, on Heidegger’s reading, into the ontological deracination of the world and of being itself” (152). Marder offers a very insightful analysis of how Heidegger’s fear of the worldlessness practiced by the Jews was already articulated by Hegel but also of how, despite claiming that race did not play a role in determining the kind of humanity we aspire to, he did fall prey to racial stereotypes (154). More problematic is his understanding of the Jews’ calculated overbreeding as a way of overpowering life and leading to nihilism (153). Marder claims that, overwhelmed by the prejudice of his time, Heidegger did not pay enough attention to the unique Jewish attachment to tradition as a valid alternative to space – a situation drastically altered by the Zionist project. Here, I would like to offer two points: first, although the Zionist project offered substance to Israel as a nation state, subscribing to a political ideal that originates in the nineteenth century, the spatial aspects of Jewish belonging were extremely pronounced in ancient accounts of the Jewish history; regardless of the debates about the exact dating of the Tanakh books, the idea of the Promised Land is ubiquitous in them (e.g. Genesis 15: 18-21; Exodus 23: 31; Numbers 34: 1-2; Deuteronomy 19: 8-9). Further, I wonder to what extent Heidegger would regard the Zionist project as enough response to the stubborn clinging of the Jews to the idea of foreignness (149), from a Mitdasein perspective. Second, for me, the “homelessness of modern man” (GA 9: 340) that Marder identifies as Heidegger’s main problem with modernity has given rise increasingly in the second half of the 20th and the 21st century to a number of cultural identities (which may or may not include racial, religious, and other dimensions), often in response to experiences of marginalization (e.g. Greek-Australian, Italian-American etc.), often competing with each other (e.g. Christian Black American vs homosexual Christians), certainly breaking down with tradition in some ways yet confirming it in others (e.g. both groups may subscribe to the idea of national army service), which would disrupt Heidegger’s appreciation of history as written by races or peoples (GA 96: 56 cited on 155) as much as the case of the Jews. I was urged to make this association by Marder’s observation on page 158 that Heidegger “converts the figure of the Jew into a complexio oppositorum (i.e., the complex of opposites, where otherwise antithetical traits coexist without the work of dialectical mediation) abounds.” Still, from this perspective, Heidegger’s failings make him totally relevant and worth-studying nowadays in the same way that Plato’s authoritarian regime, in response to the problems of Athenian democracy make him a core reading (for everyone really). Interestingly, Plato remains locked into the walls of the ancient city-state in the same way that Heidegger remains trapped in the nation-state. To put it differently, Heidegger adheres to a single version of history (cf. 159 where Marder notes Marx’s differentiation of the Jewish question according to the national context in which it is raised).

The last chapter of the book, co-authored with Marcia Sá Cavalcante-Schuback, tries to address “the relation between philosophy and politics, when both politics and philosophy lose their footing and their right” (165). According to Marder, “[T]hat is why the case of Heidegger mobilizes a question that is also ours, demanding an ‘active reading’ à la Lacoue- Labarthe, rather than the reading of a historian or a philologist.” I found this comment uninformed: historians and philologists have long insisted on post-structuralist rigor. As a trained philologist, Heidegger did not fail because of his penchant for etymology, his one-dimensional application of a discipline onto his understanding of Dasein. He failed, as the authors acknowledged on 164, because despite thinking the possible he kept consulting the actual, a kind of bias to which all scholars, all thinkers are susceptible. Here, the focus shifts on Heidegger’s reading of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right which tries to reunite “philosophy and politics (the latter, in the guise of right) precisely in the common destiny of their end as completion and exhaustion” (166). Heidegger sees in National Socialism the answer to the danger of Hegelian dialectics which produce an endless exchange; Heidegger refers to the scope of dialectic as “Back and forth— going— Dissolution— confusion,” (HPR 136 cited on 167) leading to “the loss of right.” Feeling that by the 1930s democratic liberalism and socialism had run their course, unable to produce anything new, other than “the back-and-forth of an exhausted dialectics” (168), Heidegger recognizes in National Socialism a “letting-emerge” of new possibilities. Another side of the problem is Heidegger’s insistence on actively fomenting the emergence of new forms to achieve “self-assertion.” His proposal can work only if “implemented together with the people grounding the state” (168). Marder admits that in embracing National Socialism as a way of transforming the essence of being by “rethinking and reorganizing power and work” was Heidegger’s biggest historico-political blunder (169). Still, Heidegger was not incorrect in his criticism of Hegelian dialectics; in his view, unlike Socratic dialectics, Hegel “does not invent a method for seeking the truth of being but identifies the truth of being itself as a method” (172). Heidegger continued to associate dialectics with actuality well into the post-war period and be frustrated by its inability to recognize phenomenological possibilities. The chapter concludes:

“… the darkest excesses of metaphysics tend to be repeated and magnified in every attempt to master and idealize finitude, putting it at power’s disposal. Do living and thinking ‘without right’ provide a sufficient insurance against this possible repetition […]? Our wager in this chapter has been on the incomplete dialectics of the without and an enduring search it instigates for the right to philosophy and to politics with others. Whether or not it could work, only being as time would tell” (173).

Appropriately philosophical, this conclusion lacks the force of the Introduction. Overall, the book achieves its goal of re-introducing Heidegger in philosophical debate though less so in political theory (for example, it would be interesting to see how Heidegger’s theories would be challenged by the increasing contemporary phenomenon of stateless people). I found Marder’s use of texts to support his arguments extremely valuable (and philological). The book would have benefited from a list of the sources used. Finally, although I applause Marder’s intention in putting this book together, he could have done more work to address his purpose in a more systematic way. That said, the book is still a must for every student of philosophy.

Michael Marder: Heidegger: Phenomenology, Ecology, Politics, University of Minnesota Press, 2018

Heidegger: Phenomenology, Ecology, Politics Book Cover Heidegger: Phenomenology, Ecology, Politics
Michael Marder
University of Minnesota Press
Paperback $25.00

Philippe Lynes: Futures of Life Death on Earth: Derrida’s General Ecology, Rowman & Littlefield, 2018

Futures of Life Death on Earth: Derrida's General Ecology Book Cover Futures of Life Death on Earth: Derrida's General Ecology
Future Perfect: Images of the Time to Come in Philosophy, Politics and Cultural Studies
Philippe Lynes
Rowman & Littlefield International
Hardback £90.00