Re: “Book on Heidegger causes a stir,” Nov. 11: I sometimes wish that the controversial topics and ideas taken up in the volumes printed by the Yale Press appeared as often in the Blue Book as they do on the pages of the News. If Heidegger troubles us so, we should have three classes on him, another two on his teachers and perhaps a few more on his students and his critics. It strikes me that what Louis Brandeis said about open government, “sunlight is the best disinfectant,” might quite profitably be extended to thinkers. Martin Heidegger, it cannot be disputed, was a Nazi. His work, I trust it will not be disputed, is generally dense, and often troubling. But philosophy is meant to be the gadfly of society, impugning our gods and whispering troubling words in our ears. This I hold as an article of faith.
I fear that what has become common in the case of Heidegger is a fallacy of argument one of his more astute readers called “ad Hitlerum.” The fact that an argument was endorsed by, seems to be connected to or even emerges from Nazism does not, ipso facto, make that argument false (and certainly doesn’t make it dismissable out of hand). I must surmise that only when philosophy, or the work of those who called or call themselves philosophers, is dragged out into the light of the classroom and subjected to the eye of student and teacher will such fallacious reasoning cease. I do not dispute that Heidegger must be treated with extreme care, neither as inert artifact nor as sacred prophet. I only suggest that we open ourselves up to the possibility of reading him as his first students themselves did. Only then may we profitably begin to dissect the corpus of Heidegger and his followers. Only then may we understand if, in fact, there is an apple of some precious metal contained within that fascist filigree of blood and earth, and how we, who are not Nazis, might come to terms with it.
The writer is a senior in Pierson College.