Richard Rorty’s eulogy of Martin Heidegger (LRB, 8 February) is shamefully tasteless, insensitive, infantile, and vulgar in the extreme. He seems to think that one should not be angry with Heidegger because, despising democracy, as does every good intellectual, he also worshipped at the phallic shrine of Nazism, joined the Party (in both senses of the word), and betrayed his colleagues and his country to support a movement which, in one of its few instances of sanity, had the good sense to reject him in favour of an even greater mind, Alfred Rosenberg, whose position as the ideological and doctrinal theoretician of the most obscene, banal, puerile, and maniacal system ever devised in the entirety of human history Rorty’s hero coveted. The Nazi Heidegger was not a hypocrite; Nazism was Heideggerism authentically made flesh. To be a hypocrite would require Heidegger to think one way and act another, but surely all of Nazism is contained within the deranged, demented putrescence of his Teutonic furz, his Gesamelte Werke.
‘”The world is shit; look at all the mosquitoes. The true world lies elsewhere, it’s time to escape a doomed civilization.” The mosquitoes is a quote from Marcion obviously, as you recognise.’
‘I also understand the desire for violence, and have been thinking hard about this in relation to what Judith calls a “non-violent violence”, and a mutully shared critique, or a critique that we both share, of the rather sad, mannerist, macho adoration of violence that one finds in Zizek, which is also tied to his authoritarian love-affair with the state. Not that I’m bitter, or anything.’
‘The necessity of violence is one thing; the glorification of violence is another – and we mustn’t confuse the two.’
‘The future is always the ultimate ideological trump card of capitalist narratives of progress.’
‘Educated in what he refers to as “the liberating discourse of French Structuralism,” Hickey dismisses its American disciples as “misshapen offspring.” With his take-no-prisoners attitude, he writes in openly derisive terms about the watered-down, enfeebled American version of French thought: “Somehow, the delicate instrumentalities of continental thought had been transmuted by the American professoriate into a highfalutin, pseudo-progressive billy club with which to beat dissenters about the head and shoulders.”‘
A challenge to hermeneutics in our world of textuality which surpasses itself, hyper-textuality, is for it to become a philosophy beyond mere words on a page, to move beyond interpretation, and arbitration of meaning. It must become properly creative, it must be a philosophy of possibility, rather than a philosophy of possible alternatives. It should give us a way to deal with new information, new technologies, new techniques.
In part, this ability to deal with novelty, with the new, being a philosophy of possibility is the challenge to deal with the threat of Thrasymachus. This is the threat that words, language, ideas can be overcome by an appeal to violence, be it physical or ideological. We need hermeneutics to be that philosophy which is resilient by virtue of its historical and contextual awareness, and yet also capable of leading us beyond the threat or the actuality of violence.
The technological perspective requires that we engage with the history of technology, to unwittingly effect a rapprochement between the analytic and continental perspectives. Of course, some have been calling for a dismissal of such distinctions, saying they are meaningless, that any such distance between these two schools is manufactured and (if existent) exaggerated. Brian Leiter sticks in mind for this, but his position is interesting for suggesting that it is a one-way distinction, made my “continentals” to preserve themselves, to stand apart from criticism. I can agree with elements of Leiter’s specific charge, but I would disagree with the wider notion that the distinction is some hangover of the culture wars, as would any number of students wishing to take one or the other approach to a specific problem, and being sidelined in a department for this crime (and this is by no means solely one-way, as Leiter suggests). This fairy-tale of sorority and fraternity tells us that we are all lovers of wisdom together, and so we should de facto be friends by virtue of this. This is not what I propose.