6 - After the war  pp. 171-213

After the war

By Julian Young

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It might seem obvious that to those determined to implicate Heidegger's philosophy in Nazi politics, his post-war output would be uninteresting. For how, one might reflect, could a philosophy be implicated in a phenomenon exploded, exposed, defeated, something that had gone out of existence before that philosophy came into existence. The expectation, however, that Heidegger's post-war philosophy would be left in restful silence by his political critics is not, in the event, fulfilled. Though there are certain exceptions, such as Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida, it is generally true that critics who have seen any of Heidegger's philosophy as implicated in fascist politics have seen all of it as thus implicated. Through a judicious combination of positive and negative implication criticisms, they have, on the whole, sought nothing less than the total demolition of Heidegger's philosophy. Their aim has been the eradication of Heidegger's name from the history of (genuine) philosophy.

So far as his post-war philosophy is concerned, criticism has been provoked by two phenomena. First, Heidegger's ‘silence’; his alleged failure publicly to acknowledge either guilt concerning his own involvement with Nazism or remorse concerning the German past, concerning, above all, the Holoaust. Jean-François Lyotard, for instance, discounting the relevance of the Heideggerian notion that silence can sometimes be the most pregnant form of communication, refers to Heidegger's ‘leaden silence’ (p. 52) in this regard. Second, though Heidegger was publicly reticent concerning the Holocaust, critics have unearthed three private – or at least unpublished – references to it, each of which is taken to show his utter non-comprehension of the moral enormity of the phenomenon.