Obviously,’ to quote Alan Rickman’s trademark retort as Severus Snape. It’s old news for scholars that Heidegger was a Nazi (if rather swiftly discarded by the Nazis) and it matters that Heidegger was an anti-Semite, as Peter Trawny shows and not less that he was racist, and misogynist, too – in the fashion of professorial womanizers. Condemnation, righteous or not and despite being deeply seductive, takes so much energy that philosophy welters. And we’re compelled to condemn. But to whom are we condemning Heidegger? Snape had Dolores Umbridge – but who disagrees concerning Heidegger? We’ve no patience for hermeneutics or context or really reading the notebooks themselves and the few bits we read are damning. What remains of the thinker? If Heidegger’s philosophy is extraordinary, bashing Heidegger is a hobby horse that drives whole careers. The most durable consequence could echo an older dismissal: “A bad man,” Gilbert Ryle once observed, “can’t be a good philosopher.” Yet from a logical point of view, Ryle’s equation fails: a good philosopher may be liable to political error, anti-Semitism, racism, misogyny. These are things we need to think about.
Prof. Babette Babich