Heidegger and Plato: Toward Dialogue

Heidegger and Plato: Toward Dialogue


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European and North American scholars explore issues raised in 20th-century German philosopher Martin Heidegger's treatment of Plato, more through his appropriation of the ancient Greek's ideas than through his explicit references, which are few. Among the topics are Heidegger's two readings of Antigone, the Platonic concept of truth, and the history of philosophy. No index is provided. Annotation ©2005 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780810122338
Publisher: Northwestern University Press
Publication date: 04/28/2005
Series: Topics in Historical Philosophy Series
Edition description: 1
Pages: 252
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Catalin Partenie is a fellow in the Department of Philosophy, University of Quebec at Montreal. He is editor of Plato: Selected Myths (Oxford, 2004).

Tom Rockmore is professor of philosophy at Duquesne University and the author of many books, most recently Marx after Marxism (Blackwell, 2002). He is also co-editor with Daniel Breazeale of New Essays on Fichte's Later Jena Wissenschaftslehre (Northwestern, 2002).

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Toward Dialogue

Northwestern University Press
Copyright © 2005

Northwestern University Press
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ISBN: 978-0-8101-2233-8

Chapter One On the Purported Platonism of Heidegger's Rectoral Address

Theodore Kisiel

[T]he very word "political," which in all European languages still derives from the historically unique organization of the Greek city-state [polis], echoes the experiences of the community which first discovered the essence and the realm of the political. [T]he problematic of the Rectoral Address is the last avatar of Platonism.

It should perhaps be no real surprise that Heidegger's various concepts of the political invariably pass through the simple paradigms provided by the Greek polis. His early phenomenological concept of the political, which takes its point of departure from the equiprimordiality of Aristotle's two definitions of the living being called human, as the talking and the political animal, develops its sense of the political arena punctuated temporally by crisis-laden occasions of public speaking (the deliberative future, the judicial past, and epideictic present) as they are described in Aristotle's Rhetoric. His later archaic-poietic concept of the political finds its prepolitical roots at the level of the unique human situation of communal facticity that precedes and underlies the fateful conflict between family piety and royal dictate that Sophocles (and, by way of his German translation and commentary, Hölderlin) portrays in Antigone.

Our concern here is with Heidegger's middle concept of the political that emerges during his rectoral period (1933-34), where the Platonic polis of paideia, the "educational state" (Erziehungsstaat) outlined by Plato's Republic, is made the paradigm for the structure of the German university, for the German university is the institution of higher learning "that, grounded in science and by means of science, educates and disciplines the leaders and guardians of the destiny of the German people" (RA, 11/6). But what is the destiny of the German people among the nations of the world? Nothing less than the development of the educational state itself as the highest expression of the German community. "To cultivate the new order of such a community: that is Germany's 'world-mission,' learned from the war; it is in the name of its culture for which it enters the lists against the 'equalizing and leveling "civilization"' that is now spanning the globe, in order to represent it as 'world culture'" (DWB, 1, 2). In the aftermath of the cultural propaganda wars that erupted shortly after the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Paul Natorp thus defends the superior ideals of German culture over against the materialistic, utilitarian, libertarian, and plutocratic Western civilizations being increasingly leveled by technology. "The peculiarly German goal of 'culture' ... wants to cultivate and develop humanity out of the inner roots of its inherent growth-potential, on the ancestral, religiously preserved, and faithfully prepared ground of a people's individuality. It is out of the genuinely German and humanized state that the human state is to grow, as the state of humanity's 'culture,' where only human beings dwell upon the earth. This is what we have been seeking: the world mission of the Germans" (DWB, 2, 55f). This homegrown community cultivated into a state is thus a moral-pedagogical totality that is at once a state of economy, a state of law, a state of education (Wirtschaftsstaat, Rechtsstaat, Erziehungsstaat), which do not constitute three competing and conflicting goals but instead three perspectives that together define the unified single possible goal of the state as the state of human culture, the genuinely human state (DWB, 2, 195f). The last and highest perspective is that of education. Humans do not work in order to work, let themselves be governed in order to be governed, "but in order to live the genuine human life of the spirit and the heart, for the sake of their humanity" (DWB, 2, 196). In order to develop the inherent strengths of a people and to attain its common goals, one requires not merely an economic and political but a much more comprehensive and deeply grounded education, a "spiritual/intellectual, moral, artistic, religious education of the entire nation" (DWB, 2, 197). The communism of the upper-class aristocracy of Plato's educational state is displaced by the socialism of universal education of a national community, as the "Swiss-German" Pestalozzi developed it, beginning with the working class, "out of the depths of the philosophy and religion of German idealism" (DWB, 2, 131f). The idea of the state finds its high point in a social pedagogy grounded in a social economy and a social law, in a uniquely German socialism based on the Kantian categorical imperative that respects all persons as ends and resists treating them as means. In this "kingdom of ends," education is the self-cultivated formation, that is, the shaping from within, of each individual and through it the internal shaping of the community itself into a genuine individuality, into a self-composed interiority (Natorp 1907, 95). In this communal individuality, the individual and the community are no longer separated "but rather condition each other in freedom" (DWB, 2, 180). For freedom does not mean a lack of all restraining bonds but rather internal self-binding and assumption of responsibility for the community and one's duty toward it (DWB, 2, 132, 130). It is the freedom that Kant finds to be correlative with obligation and duty and regards as the sole transcendental fact of pure practical reason. German freedom is binding obligation (Bindung), and the individual's bonds in and with a community constitute a whole (Bindungsganzes) which is the human world (GA 26, 247/192).

"And where there is freedom, there is Germanness, there is a fatherland in the German sense, an internally grounded and free community of the free" (DWB, 2, 110). This is the German socialism (in which "we will ourselves") that Natorp in his social pedagogy makes into an ideal and an infinite task of the Germans, years before August 1914 and the spontaneous unification of all Germans concentrated on the war effort in a solidarity that already in these war years was called a uniquely "German socialism" (Natorp, Naumann, Sombart) and even a "national socialism" (nationaler Sozialismus; Plenge, from a more economic perspective). In the reciprocal relation between the individual and the community, German socialism is a social personalism whose motto is "all for one and one for all and yet each is entirely himself." It is precisely the opposite of Western individualism, whose commonality is regarded as a plurality of abstract atoms of equal and "private" individual persons (DWB, 2, 20).

Thus, the provincial minister's complaint to Heidegger immediately following his rectoral address, that he was promoting "a kind of 'private national socialism' which circumvents the perspectives of the [Nazi] party program" (RA, 30/23) was historically not quite on the mark. Heidegger's brand of "national socialism" had been blatantly part of the German public domain, from scholarly essays to the political tracts of right-wing political parties, at least since the emergence of the "Ideas of 1914" and the wide currency given to the "pure socialism" (Naumann) of the "band of brothers" (Kameradschaft) being bonded together into a "combat community" (Kampfgemeinschaft) of service and sacrifice through the "experience of the front" (Fronterlebnis), in a wartime solidarity between the war front and the home front that was then projected as the model for German unification to be emulated by the forthcoming peacetime community. After Fritz Ringer, Heidegger's more "private" brand might be called the "mandarin" socialism of an educational state that the social pedagogue Paul Natorp, by way of a hybridization of Plato with Pestalozzi and German idealism, had been promoting from the 1890s into the postwar years. It is this idealistic socialism centered on the moral and mental-spiritual will of the community that Heidegger seeks to promote in the "new German reality" of 1933, in his many laudations of the national socialist "movement" and "revolution" during the rectoral period.

The national socialist revolution is therefore not an external takeover of an existing state apparatus by a party become powerful enough to do so, but the internal re-education of an entire people to the task of willing its own unification and unity.... The basic character of the new spiritual and political movement which passes through the people is that of an education and re-education of the people to becoming a people through the state. And when it is a matter of the deepest and broadest education, is this not the task of the highest school in the land? ... Education of the people through the state to becoming a people-that is the meaning of the national socialist movement, that is the essence of the new national education. Such an education in the highest knowledge is the task of the new university. (GA 16, 302, 304, 307)

The "movement" thus becomes an educational movement, the awakening of a people to its most profound aspirations befitting its traditions. The asymptotic goal of this movement is the idealistic "socialism of universal education" structured upon Plato's educational state modified into a Kantian idea befitting the German people. This sense of Idea as a progressively realizable goal for historical humanity is for Natorp Plato's true discovery, making of Plato "a Kantian before Kant, indeed a Marburg neo-Kantian before Marburg." The neo-Kantian philosophy of culture in general, from Windelband to Cassirer, has humanity progressing, through science and education and in the spirit of cosmopolitan enlightenment, toward the asymptotic transcendental horizons of the True, Good, Beautiful, and Holy.

It is commonly remarked in retrospect that this optimistic idealistic Kulturpolitik suffered a resounding defeat with the "end" of the First World War. How is it then that vestiges of this optimism survive the deep pessimism of the Weimar years into 1933 and provide the justification for a whole spectrum of conservative German intellectuals, many of them mandarins, to lend their wholehearted and enthusiastic support to the "National Socialist Revolution"?

Exactly two months after the constitutional-and popular-transmission of political power to the German National Socialist Labor Party, its so-called Machtergreifung-a term that became applicable only in the ensuing months, as the new regime gradually displayed its true stripes-thus even before the very prospect of the rectorship that would empower him to implement his own long-incubating ideas on university reform for the Third Reich, Heidegger, in a revealing letter to Elisabeth Blochmann, with whom he had been conducting an ongoing frank discussion of German party politics, expresses his enthusiasm over the sudden surge of historical events on the political front, to the point of regarding it as an ontological Ereignis full of opportunity and potential, a veritable kairos:

The current events have for me-precisely because so much remains obscure and uncontrolled-an extraordinarily concentrative power. It intensifies the will and the confidence to work in the service of a grand mission and to cooperate in the building of a world grounded in the people. For some time now, I have given up on the empty, superficial, unreal, thus nihilistic talk of mere "culture" and so-called "values" and have sought this new ground in Da-sein. We will find this ground and at the same time the calling of the German people in the history of the West only if we expose ourselves to be-ing itself in a new way and new appropriation. I thereby experience the current events wholly out of the future. Only in this way can we develop a genuine involvement and that in-stantiation [Inständigkeit] in our history which is in fact the precondition for any effective action.

Heidegger is thus already busy deconstructing neo-Kantian concepts like "culture" and "value," which he regards as "unreal" and "nihilistic," and at the same time reconstructing a Kulturpolitik in terms of his own ontology of "Da-sein" and temporal-historical "be-ing." This is clearly evident in the Rectoral Address, where the Dasein of the German folk is described in terms of the fateful communal decision that it must make over the critical historical situation in which it finds itself in Europe's middle. A people deciding for the state appropriate to its being: This is the ontological essence of the political for Heidegger during these trying times, which he is regarding not in terms of a calculative Realpolitik but as a potential Bildungspolitik to guide the self-determination of the university community on its way to reforming itself into and for the future "educational state," understood as a Teutonic polis of paideia.


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Table of Contents

Contents Acknowledgments....................ix
List of Abbreviations....................xi
On the Purported Platonism of Heidegger's Rectoral Address Theodore Kisiel....................3
Plato's Legacy in Heidegger's Two Readings of Antigone Jacques Taminiaux....................22
Imprint: Heidegger's Interpretation of Platonic Dialectic in the Sophist Lectures (1924-25) Catalin Partenie....................42
Truth and Untruth in Plato and Heidegger Michael Inwood....................72
Heidegger and the Platonic Concept of Truth Enrico Berti....................96
Amicus Plato magis amica veritas: Reading Heidegger in Plato's Cave María del Carmen Paredes....................108
Heidegger on Truth and Being Joseph Margolis....................121
With Plato into the Kairos before the Kehre: On Heidegger's Different Interpretations of Plato Johannes Fritsche....................140
Remarks on Heidegger's Plato Stanley Rosen....................178
Heidegger's Uses of Plato and the History of Philosophy Tom Rockmore....................192
Appendix 1: Selected Platonic Loci and Issues Discussed or Referred to by Heidegger....................213
Appendix 2: Further Reading....................220

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