4 - Philosophy in the early thirties  pp. 109-139

Philosophy in the early thirties

By Julian Young

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A position widely subscribed to by those who believe that some kind of a criticism of Heidegger's philosophy can be mounted on the basis of his political engagement involves a sharp distinction between the early philosophy of Being and Time and the philosophy of the first half of the 1930s. According to this view, while Being and Time is an essentially apolitical work, criticisable, at best, for failing to provide a more powerful bastion against a fascist involvement, the works of the early thirties – especially ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’ (PLTpp. 15–88), the Hölderlin lectures of 1934–5 (GA 39) and the Introduction to Metaphysics, works which are taken to constitute a unity centred on the Rectoral Address – are seen as evidently and indelibly fascist in character. This is the view of Habermas, who speaks of an ‘invasion’ of Heidegger's philosophy by reactionary political ideology beginning with the shock of 1929 – the time of the world-economic crisis and the downfall of Weimar Republic (DIIp. 191). It is also the view of such French Heideggerians as Derrida, Lacoue-Labarthe and Lyotard who, as we will discover, see the works of the early thirties as engulfed by the sudden eruption of a metaphysics essentially bound up with totalitarian politics.

Often, the works of the early thirties are seen as constituting a ‘middle period’ in Heidegger's career; by Richard Wolin, for instance (WIIp. 133).