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HEIDEGGER'S SINGLE THOUGHT

Reading Heidegger is often (not always) an exciting, intellectually stimulating experience, mainly because of all the possibilities glimpsed, the meditations on the original meanings of Greek and German words, the 'forest ways' that don't immediately seem to lead anywhere in particular. The overall argument however is always present. Indeed it is one of Heidegger's boasts that, like Parmenides, he has only one thought - 'To think is to confine yourself to a single thought that one day stands still like a star in the world’s sky'. (5) There is, dare we say it, something a little autistic about Heidegger and his brusque dismissal of everything that lies outside his particular sphere of interest can be irritating. Dugin likes him because if he is right the Western philosophical tradition has reached the end of its tether. But Dugin acknowledges that Heidegger himself has a thoroughly 'Western' outlook, he shows no interest in anything outside the western tradition. (6) And he writes of the Western philosophers (at least the handful of obvious names he regards as important) with the greatest respect, the greatest desire to uncover the meaning of their work - its place in the overall history of being, of the meaning of the word 'is'. Parmenides, Plato, Aristotle (less so), Descartes (much less so), Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche are all treated with reverence. They are all characterised as spokesmen for Being, forced to say what Being requires to be said at that particular moment in time.

(5) Translation of Martin Heidegger: Aus der Erfahrung des Denkens (On the experience of thinking,1947) available at http://thefloatinglibrary.com/2008/06/30/the-thinker-as-poet-by-heidegger/

(6) eg in What is called thinking?, p.224: 'The style of all Western-European philosophy - and there is no other, neither a Chinese nor an Indian philosophy ...' Though we might also note in Martin Heidegger: Nietzsche Volumes Three and Four, trans Joan Stambaugh, David Farrell Krell, Frank A. Capuzzi, New York, Harper and Row, 1987, vol iv, p.37: 'the Greek language, which, to be sure, is implicitly philosophical and metaphysical and is therefore, along with Sanskrit and cultivated German, distinguished above every other language.'

This is particularly poignant in the case of Nietzsche. He regards Nietzsche as a man forced to say things that had to be said that he probably didn't want to say. (7) Implicitly he regards Nietzsche as the greatest Western philosopher, the one who finally blurted out what Western philosophy was all about - the Will to Power and, in the doctrine of the eternal return of the same, the ultimate meaninglessness of life ('nihilism'). Most of the massive four volume book on Nietzsche appears to be written with enthusiasm. We have to get quite far into the third volume before we realise that he really detests what Nietzsche represents in the history of being. He sees it as in perfect conformity with the age in which such huge machinal resources are poured into serving what are essentially only basic bodily needs. 

(7) eg In What is called thinking?, pp.48-9: 'Nietzsche, most quiet and shyest of men, knew of this necessity. He endured the agony of having to scream. In a decade when the world at large still knew nothing of world wars, when faith in "progress" was virtually the religion of the civilized peoples and nations, Nietzsche screamed out into the world: "the wasteland grows'' ...' and later in the same book: 'On the one hand, the common ideas and views must be shouted at when they want to set themselves up as the judges of thought, so that men will wake up. On the other hand, thinking can never tell its thoughts by shouting ...' (p.73)

We might note here in passing a possible contrast between Jaspers and Heidegger on Nietzsche. Jaspers claimed that he wrote on Nietzsche to criticise the National Socialist government of the 1930s by showing that their aims and purposes were different from those of the philosopher they professed to admire. Heidegger on the other hand seems to see what he disliked in National Socialism as a quite genuine reflection of what he disliked in Nietzsche. As when he says:

''Did [Nietzsche] not in his thinking anticipate "overman" as the "meaning" of the "earth"?

However "meaning" is once again for him "goal" and "ideal". "Earth" is the name for the life that bodies forth, the rights of the sensuous. "Overman" is for him the consummation of what was the last man, making fast what was long not yet firmly defined, namely, that animal which still craved and lunged after ideals somewhere at hand and "true in themselves". Overman is extreme rationalitas in the empowering of animalitas; he is the animal rationale that is fulfilled in brutalitas. Meaninglessness now becomes the "meaning" of beings as a whole. The unquestionableness of Being decides what beings are. Beingness is left to its own devices as liberated machination. Not only must humanity now "make do" without "a truth" but the essence of truth itself is despatched to oblivion. For that reason it is all a matter of "making do" and of some sort - any sort - of "values".' (8)

and again:

'The extremity of subjectivity is reached when a particular illusion becomes entrenched - the illusion that all the "subjects" have disappeared for the sake of some transcendent cause that they now all serve. With the completion of modernity history capitulates to historiology, which is of the same essential stamp as technology. The unity of these powers of machination founds a position of power for man. That position is essentially violent. Only within a horizon of meaninglessness can it guarantee its subsistence and, ceaselessly in the hunt, devote itself entirely to one-upmanship.' (9)

(8) Heidegger: Nietzsche, vol iii, p.177

(9) ibid, p.180. I don't know what the German word is that has here been translated as 'one-upmanship' but I feel a better equivalent could have been found. Nonetheless the sense - the desire to assert one's own superiority over others, to put others down - seems clear enough. It may be noted that when we can reasonably assume Heidegger is criticising the direction taken by German National Socialism, as in some of the extracts from the Notebooks that have been translated in the Heidegger Review, the criticism could equally apply to what he sometimes calls Americanism which also dissolves all the subjects into the service of a transcendent cause ('freedom') which it conceives as the end of history, deploying enormous powers of machination to assert the domination/power of (American) man. Also to the 'Spartan' idea of the Soviet Union which Dugin defends quite vigorously in the latest of his books to be translated into English - Last war of the world-island - the geopolitics of contemporary Russia, London, Arktos, 2015.

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