Heidegger & Ethnic NationalismGreg Johnson
Parts 1 and 2
This is the text of a lecture delivered at the London Forum on Saturday, May 27th. I want to thank Jez Turner, the London Forum team, and everyone who attended this event.
Martin Heidegger, the most celebrated and influential philosopher of the twentieth century, was an ethnic nationalist—and not just any old ethnic nationalist, but a supporter of German National Socialism. Moreover, Heidegger’s National Socialism was not merely the superficial infatuation of a politically naïve intellectual. Instead, it was a logical outgrowth of his philosophy. Which means that today’s nationalists can draw upon the most formidable thinker of our time to deepen, sharpen, and defend the ethnonationalist idea.
The kinds of political order that men create are based on their fundamental worldview: their sense of who they are, where they fit into the world, what is right and wrong, and what is politically possible. These are the questions of “metapolitics”: those things that come before the political, i.e., the intellectual and cultural presuppositions of political orders. Modern globalism follows from modern man’s self-image and ethos. Modern man is rootless and cosmopolitan. Modern man is individualistic. Modern man uses science and technology to pursue the mastery and possession of nature.
These three traits are beautifully illustrated in the opening pages of Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead. Howard Roark, the novel’s hero, has just been expelled from architecture school, basically because all he cared about learning was the science and technology of construction. He rejected the aesthetic tradition of architecture because he had his own vision. Supremely confident he can go it alone, he laughs off the setback and goes swimming.
Rand describes Roark standing on a cliff overlooking his swimming hole. The water is still, so the rock is doubled by its reflection. There is blue sky above and blue sky below, so the rock appears to be floating in space. Then Rand adds an interesting little detail. Instead of the man standing on the rock jutting out of the earth, it appears that the rock is floating in space, “anchored to the feet of the man.”
Roark does not laugh when he looks at the world around him. He does not see the living rock. He sees building stones. He does not see trees. He sees lumber. He sees the word as nothing more than a stockpile of resources to be appropriated and remade according to human plans—his plans. “These rocks, he thought, are waiting for me; waiting for the drill, the dynamite and my voice; waiting to be split, ripped, pounded, reborn; waiting for the shape my hands will give them.”
Howard Roark is rootless: he does not stand on the earth. Instead, the earth is just a big ball of natural resources floating through the void anchored to him. Howard Roark is an individualist. He rejects tradition in favor of his own “unborrowed” vision. Finally, Howard Roark uses science and technology to master and transform nature according to his designs.
How do cosmopolitan man, individualist man, and technological man all hang together? Do they spring from a common root? The answer is yes, and it is a deep root, teaching all the way back to the origins of Western philosophy and natural science in ancient Greece.
In traditional societies, the notions of order do not differentiate between the human and the natural worlds. The Chinese talk about the tao, which is the “way” of both natural and human things. The same is true of the Greek notion of nomos, from which our ideas of the laws of men and the laws of nature derive.
The early Greek natural philosophers, however, noticed that there was a difference between the ways of the natural and the human worlds. Human ways of life—languages and customs—vary from place to place (meaning that men have different cultures) and from time to time (meaning that cultures have histories). Human ways of life are particular, not universal. They are not unchanging, but Protean and restless and hard to pin down.
Nature, by contrast, was the same everywhere, and it changes so slowly that the Greeks thought it never changed at all, just went through endless cycles. The early Greek natural philosophers believed that the universal is better than the particular, the unchanging is better than the changing, and cyclical change is better than non-cyclical change (including “progress”). Nature’s laws are better than human laws. Nature allows certitude and predictability, whereas human customs lack these advantages. Thus the early Greek natural philosophers replaced the old idea of the way of things with a distinction between nature, which is universal and unchanging, and convention, which is particular and mutable—varying from time to time and place to place, never repeating or returning to the same. And they held that nature is better than convention, thus we should guide our lives by nature and not convention.
Consequently, the beginning of the philosophical life is to take an inventory of the human condition. When we do this, we discover that there is a human nature, unchanging and common to all men—such as our bodily desires—and a crust of conventions that vary from time to time and place to place and that were taught to us by the people around us long before we were self-conscious, much less capable of exercising critical reason. These conventions include language, myths, and morals, some that help and others that hinder our ability to live according to our nature.
To become a philosopher, we must free out minds from prejudices—from beliefs that we have uncritically accepted from our society. Plato likened society—the world of authoritative shared opinions—to a cave in which shackled prisoners are forced to watch the equivalent of an Indonesian shadow-puppet play and mistake it for reality. He likened the process of becoming a philosopher to liberating oneself from the prison of the cave of opinion and toiling upward to the surface of the Earth where one can live in the sunlit world of truth.
The beginnings of individualism and cosmopolitanism are basically the same: to obtain objective knowledge of universal, unchanging nature, one must liberate one’s mind from the realm of opinion or custom, which are inherently social, meaning that they are shared by a whole community. One must, in an important sense, cease to be a citizen of one’s homeland, for a citizen believes that the traditions of his homeland are authoritative. But if the philosopher is not a citizen of Athens or England, what is his homeland? When Diogenes the Cynic, who was born in Sinope, was asked the name of his hometown—his polis—he did not say that he was a citizen of Sinope, but a citizen of the world. The cosmos was his polis, from which we get the word cosmopolitan. To say that one is a cosmopolitan is to say that one is an emancipated individual who lives by reason in accordance with nature, which is universal and unchanging.
How does cosmopolitan and individualist man become technological man? The common root of all three is the use of reason, emancipated from social prejudice, to gain knowledge of nature. Once the cosmopolitan individual decides to take his bearings from reason and nature rather than custom and convention, he looks within and finds his natural human desires for food, comfort, security, etc. Then he looks around nature with unblinkered eyes for ways to satisfy himself. Having discarded any merely social conventions, he has no impediments to gratifying his wishes at the expense of nature. Scientific and technological progress was up and running.
Two other attitudes allied with the quest for objective knowledge feed into technological progress.
First, just as the philosopher looks below the crust of opinion to get to the truth of nature, the scientist looks below the surface of nature—and the myriad natural kinds—to find a few simple underlying natural laws that allow him to better understand and transform nature according to his will. Thus to the scientist, the natural world we see around us looks more and more provisional. It looks increasingly like a stockpile of resources for human projects.
Second, the Will to Power is implicit in the very notion of objective knowledge. For why prefer the universal and unchanging to the particular and protean? Because the universal and unchanging is secure. You can always count on it. Thus it provides a secure foundation for our plans. There is a well-founded cliché about ugly Americans abroad going to McDonald’s rather than eating the local cuisine. But there is a logic to it, because the food at McDonald’s is universal and unchanging, so you always know what to expect. That is why I don’t eat the food at MacDonald’s, but I do stop in to use the toilets, because you can always count on clean restrooms as well. The driving force of objective conceptions of knowledge was a subjective desire for certitude and control that, over time, gave rise to such ideas as Platonic and Aristotelian forms, Cartesian representations, and eventually the operationalization of science in terms of technical feats of prediction and control.
But what if, as Heidegger argues, the primary source of meaning in life and the primary source of moral and aesthetic measure is our participation in the worlds of shared custom and opinion—in various ethnic communities—the very things that cosmopolitan, individualist, and technological man is concerned to leave behind? Heidegger’s answer is that a world deprived of meaning and measure will become a world of unbounded nihilism—nihilism spreading out in all directions.
A world without measure is also a world without borders and boundaries. It is a world in which distinct nations and races will disappear, for liberation from particular collective identities is the toll we pay to play the whole cosmopolitan game, and if the satisfaction of our desires is what life is all about, why let racial differences constrict your potential dating and mating pool?
But the universal, homogeneous global state will be no utopia. What is the meaning of life for cosmopolitan-individualist-technological man? Basically to appropriate, transform, and consume nature. And doing so without measure leads to what Heidegger called “the gigantic” (das Riesige): the realm of exploding populations, of cities surging upwards, plunging downwards, and sprawling out in all directions—a world where the new is always improved and more is always better—a world where knowing that you can do something is equivalent to knowing that you should do it—a world of an ever-expanding humanoid biomass, throbbing, swarming, and pullulating over the globe—until, at last, we crash into objective limits that we refused to see and factor into our plans, and the earth becomes a scorched boneyard, in which some of the skeletons enjoyed the privilege of a long string of numbers in their bank accounts before the lights blinked out forever and the world returned to being just lifeless matter in space.
If the beginning of Western philosophy and science are leading to that end, maybe it is time for a new beginning. In 1930, Heidegger began to think that the National Socialist movement was just the new beginning or inception (Anfang) he had hoped for. National Socialism stood for rootedness in a particular homeland, language, and tradition, as opposed to cosmopolitan rootlessness and the beep beep, boop boop of machine communication and the cha-ching of commerce, which are the true universal languages. National Socialism was about collectivism over individualism, the common good before individual interests. And National Socialism was very, very “green,” seeking to preserve nature and human-scale living from the depredations of industrialization and giantism. Thus in 1935, Heidegger declared in one of lectures that the “inner truth and greatness” of National Socialism was based on “the confrontation of global technology and modern man.”
Heidegger eventually became disillusioned with National Socialism. He came to see it not as the new beginning for which he hoped, but as just another form of modern technological nihilism. After the war, he promoted the myth that his support of National Socialism was just the blunder of a naïve and essentially apolitical thinker. We were supposed to believe that Heidegger was just a political Thales, who fell down a well while gazing at the heavens.
But nothing could be further from the truth. Heidegger’s philosophy was always political—and specifically ethnonationalist—both before and after the Third Reich, although after the war he took pains to obscure this fact. After the war, Heidegger largely refrained from speaking about political topics, but as a philosopher he patiently laid the metapolitical conditions for a new post-totalitarian critique of cosmopolitanism, individualism, and technological nihilism. In short, Heidegger was one of the founders of what we today call the New Right.
Heidegger’s magnum opus is Being and Time, which was published in 1927. Being and Time is an implicitly political work, rife with the language of the Conservative Revolutionary movement, including its valorization of the Front experience of the First World War as a model for a new ethic of hardness, seriousness, and solidarity, as well as its condemnation of the hedonism, selfishness, and shallow social conformism of Weimar.
But the politics of Being and Time goes much deeper, for it attacks the very root of cosmopolitan-individualist-technological man, namely the idea of objective knowledge emancipated from the realm of collective opinion.
This is not the occasion to delve into technical philosophical arguments. But Heidegger’s conclusion is that all cognitive activities—even those of philosophy and science—are made possible by language and other social practices that are learned ultimately by participation in a community that is particular, not universal—changing, not eternal—provincial, not cosmopolitan. In other words, at the root of every cognitive act is ethnic identity. In Heidegger’s words, “I believe that there is no essential work of the spirit that does not have its root in originary autochthony.” Thus, contrary to Plato and other Greek philosophers, deracination is not the path to wisdom but the path to the folly of nihilism, which is playing itself out today on the global stage.
One expression of the cosmopolitan ambition of classical philosophy is to leave human languages behind and find a universal, objective form of communication. Heidegger’s thought is so fundamentally opposed to cosmopolitanism that he declared that the two truly philosophical languages were ancient Greek and German. Heidegger believed that thought is a gift of language and culture. One needs a certain cultural and linguistic heritage to spy the fundamental truths necessary to launch a new philosophical age. The Greek language and culture gave us the beginning of Western philosophy. German language and culture gave us a new beginning, and, starting in 1930, Heidegger believed that National Socialism might carry out the new beginning of thought on the cultural and political plane, bringing an end to the modern world.
If even philosophy is a product of language and culture, does that mean that Greek philosophy is only true for Greeks, and German philosophy is only true for Germans? No, Heidegger is not that kind of relativist. Seeing new truths requires a certain viewpoint, but once discovered such truths are true for everyone. Only the Greeks could have launched the first inception of Western thought, but it spread to all of Europe and then encompassed the globe. Likewise, even though only the Germans could have created the new inception, it is true for all of us and has the potential to transform all life on earth.
Greek philosophy was a product of the Greek language and culture. But it overlooked its own contingent and particular origins. The Greek objective conception of knowledge presented an image of man uprooted from language, customs, and place, a citizen of the world. The consummation of the first inception is modern technological civilization, in which man thinks of himself as entirely rootless and thinks of the world as merely a stockpile of resources to be manipulated and ultimately consumed. By contrast, the German new beginning will lead Western man back to rootedness, an acceptance of finitude and uncertainty, and a sense that we are part of the natural world, charged with being its guardians, not its exploiters and consumers.
How then did the Germans give rise to a new beginning for philosophy? For Heidegger, a new inception changes the meaning of everything. It is a pervasive change in the Zeitgeist that cannot be ascribed to particular thinkers. Instead, individual thinkers are merely responding to and articulating a change that transcends any individual mind.
At the core of the new inception is a sense of what the German Idealists called the finitude and historical conditionedness of consciousness. Kant argued that our knowledge of reality is limited to what can be given to our finite cognitive faculties. Hegel and Heidegger argued that the finite conditions of consciousness include linguistic and cultural practices that vary from time to time and place to place. Unlike the first inception, in which consciousness tries to make itself absolute by emancipating itself from history, culture, language, and “prejudice” in order to comprehend its own origins, the new inception argues that this is impossible. Consciousness cannot comprehend its own origins. The Kantian categories are just there. The contingencies of language and culture are just there. You can’t get behind them to explain them.
Greek philosophy thinks of knowledge as an objective, “God’s-eye” view of the world and thus sees rootedness and participation in particular languages and cultures as an impediment to knowing the world. German philosophy rejects the idea that human knowledge should be measured by an inhuman standard of objectivity and thus sees rootedness and participation in particular languages and cultures as a necessary condition for the kind of knowledge that is possible for humans to achieve: a finite, human’s-eye view of the world.
Not all languages, cultures, and individual perspectives are equal. Some conceal more than they reveal. But to win the kind of truth that is available to man, we have to replace bad perspectives with better ones, crude languages with subtler ones, primitive cultures with advanced ones—not try to chuck language, culture, and perspective altogether for a chimerical conception of objectivity. Finite, perspectival human knowledge may be rife with uncertainty and constantly subject to revision and growth, but for all its imperfections, it is the only kind of knowledge we have ever had, and it has been good enough to create both the wonders and the horrors of the modern world.
Heidegger’s opposition to cosmopolitanism in Being and Time is so adamant and systematic that he does not even talk about human beings, which is a universal notion. Nor does he talk about man as the “rational animal,” which is just a composite of two universal notions. Instead, Heidegger speaks of “Dasein,” which is a German word for existence, but it is usually left untranslated in Heidegger’s texts because he uses it as a technical term. Pick up any Heidegger book, and turn to a random page. Chances are, you will see Dasein with a capital “D.”
Heidegger hears “Dasein” as a composite of “Da” (there) and “Sein” (being). So Dasein means “being there.” For Heidegger, we are not rootless citizens of the world. We are Dasein, a being who is essentially rooted in a particular language, culture, and place. Contra Plato, Heidegger does not think of the “Da”—our language, culture, and place—as first and foremost a prison that prevents us from knowing the real world. Instead, he sees the “Da” as what enables us to access the world in the first place. Dasein is always sometime and someplace, but his world opens out in all directions and into the past and the future. Dasein is inherently parochial, not cosmopolitan. Dasein is no abstract or atomized individual but a concrete individual rooted in a shared language and culture. Note well that this is true even of self-declared cosmopolitans, individualists, and technological supermen. What’s the difference between us and them? They too have roots, but they are just in denial about them. Cosmopolitan, individualist, technological man is also fake, phony, inauthentic man.
Authenticity means being honest with yourself about your identity and living accordingly. For Heidegger, we cannot construct our identities. We cannot invent, much less reinvent, ourselves. We cannot choose who we are. Instead, our identities are handed to us by our language, culture, and lineage. For Heidegger, freedom comes in only in what we do with the identity that is given us. Our most fundamental choice is whether we own up to our identity or deny it. Authenticity is owning up to who we are. Inauthenticity is refusing to own up to our identity and instead living according to fantasies about who we are, fantasies projected by ourselves or others.
Whether we choose authenticity or inauthenticity, we remain the same person, but in radically different states. The authentic person lives according to his nature, which the Greeks defined as well-being (eudaimonia). The inauthentic person lives contrary to his nature and thus lacks well-being.
For Heidegger, being a German ethnic nationalist, rather than a cosmopolitan liberal or Communist, was simply a matter of authenticity, of owning up to his ethnic identity—his particular linguistic and cultural “Da”—and living accordingly. And when the world opposes you living according to your nature, well-being requires self-assertion. If others push you around, you have to push back. You have to take your own side in a fight.
The linguistic and cultural aspects of our identities are learned from infancy on. They are our “second nature.” But what of our genetic lineage, our “first nature”? What role does biological race play in Heidegger’s thought? Heidegger did not deny that biological race was real, but he was uncomfortable with the importance ascribed to it by the National Socialists. For Heidegger, being white was a necessary but not sufficient condition for German identity. All Germans are white, but not all whites are German.
Being a German, Heidegger’s primary concern was German ethnic nationalism, and he believed that an over-emphasis on biological race undermined German ethnic identity. For Heidegger, emphasizing the white race posed the same danger as emphasizing the human race. Both are universals that undermine specific cultural identities. “There’s only one race, the human race,” is a slogan trotted out to undermine the particular identities of all races and nations, to break down the barriers that maintain diversity and promote pan-mixia, with the end result of global homogeneity.
But the idea that “There’s only one race that matters, the white race,” promotes the same breakdown of barriers between white ethnic groups, the same mixing and erasure of identity. And when the Second World War began, and different peoples fell under German control, the logic of biological racism led them quite naturally to the idea of assimilating biologically similar Europeans into the German Reich, which would inevitably erode the cultural integrity of conqueror and conquered alike.
So for Heidegger, biological race is important. To say that whiteness is a necessary condition of any European identity is to give race a far greater importance than accepted by the civic nationalists and multiculturalists of today. But by the same token, biological race is not the whole of any European identity, and mistaking a part for the whole is profoundly subversive of ethnic identity.
Thus, while it was true to say that Heidegger was a white man, it was truer still to say that he was a German, even more true to say that he was a Black Forest Swabian of peasant stock, but truest of all to say that he was a Heidegger, born of the union of Friedrich Heidegger and Johanna Kempf. But it was only the very specific mixture of their genes that gave us the brain of Martin Heidegger—as opposed to those of his brother or his sister. And once that piece of hardware was programmed with the software of Martin Heidegger’s particular language, culture, and experiences, new philosophical prospects opened up that we will be exploring for centuries to come.
We have seen how Heidegger’s conception of who we are undermines both cosmopolitanism and individualism by arguing that every human act—even the heroic striving to uproot oneself from tradition—is rooted in a particular language, culture, and identity, and our only choice in this matter is to own up to this fact or to continue to delude ourselves about it. But how does Heidegger undermine man, the conqueror of nature? Heidegger teaches us that we are finite. He forces us to confront the fact that we are not self-defining, self-creating beings. We are defined by forces outside our ken or control. He shows us that the very idea that underlies the modern conquest of nature—namely that we can know everything and control everything—is not something we can either understand or control. It is, instead, a mania that enthralls us. It is a mysterious something that came up behind us, reft us up by the nape of our necks, and is speeding us forward toward the planetary boneyard. There’s a real sense in which we do not have technology, technology has us.
But once we realize that we can’t understand why we think we can understand everything, and we can’t control the idea that we think we can control everything—once we see that the conquest of nature is a collective mania that arises from inscrutable sources—the spell is broken. Once our hubris is humbled before the mystery of our origins—once our Faustian strivings are contained within classical limits—we will once again see the earth as our home. And although we will strive to make the earth a safe and comfortable dwelling place, we will no longer think of ourselves as cosmopolitan nomads, slashing and burning—or swindling and looting—then moving on to greener pastures. We can even have our computers and smart phones and machines that go “ping.” But they will no longer have us.
So I bring you good news. Martin Heidegger, one of the most formidable thinkers of our time, was an ethnonationalist who offers enormous metapolitical resources to the fight of all peoples against globalization. With Heidegger’s help, we rootless phony cosmopolitans can rediscover who we really are and dwell authentically on Earth once more.
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 Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1943).
 See my essay “What’s Wrong with Cosmopolitanism?,” In Defense of Prejudice (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2017).
 Martin Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. Gregory Fried and Richard Polt (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), p. 213.
 Martin Heidegger, Reden und andere Zeugnisse eines Lebensweges (1910–1976), Gesamtausgabe, vol. 16, ed. Hermann Heidegger (Frankfurt: Klostermann, 2000), p. 551.
 Martin Heidegger, Ponderings II–VI, trans. Richard Rojcewicz (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014), notebook III, section 195, p. 139.
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Thank you for this thoughtful work; for all of your efforts.
I may not understand this particular piece/critique fully, or maybe at all, but I will iterate a scenario for further consideration; esp. with regards to the valuation of the cosmopolitan and the nihilistic technological Man.
The essential scenario, in your words:
“before the lights blinked out forever and the world returned to being just lifeless matter in space.”
I think I need not say more. But, I will elaborate.
First, I will hold aside what I interpret as a critique of 19th Century unfettered industrialism; viz. a view of the “natural world” in which Man should tame and subdue; as God’s highest creatures. And, for which Man was able to do, of unprecedented scale, due to technological innovations.
The sequelae, was a re-imagining of Nature and the Environment with various, alternative worldviews, perspectives, language, values, rights, and even spirituality (Tao), etc., in contrast to the ecosystem of which man arose being only a resource for Man’s uses.
All this, I will hold aside for now, to explore a different dilemma.
“The beginnings of individualism and cosmopolitanism are basically the same: to obtain objective knowledge of universal, unchanging nature, one must liberate one’s mind from the realm of opinion or custom, which are inherently social, meaning shared by a whole community. One must, in an important sense, cease to be a citizen of one’s homeland, for a citizen believes that the traditions of his homeland are authoritative. But if the philosopher is not a citizen of Athens or England, what is his homeland? […] The cosmos was his polis, from which we get the word cosmopolitan. To say that one is a cosmopolitan is to say that one is an emancipated individual who lives by reason in accordance with nature, which is universal and unchanging.
How does cosmopolitan and individualist man become technological man? The common root of all three is the use of reason, emancipated from social prejudice, to gain knowledge of nature. Once the cosmopolitan individual decides to take his bearings from reason and nature rather than custom and convention, he looks within and finds his natural human desires for food, comfort, security, etc. Then he looks around nature with unblinkered eyes for ways to satisfy himself. Having discarded any merely social conventions that might prevent him from gratifying his wishes at the expense of nature, scientific and technological progress was up and running.
“But what if, as Heidegger argues, the primary source of meaning in life and the primary source of moral and aesthetic measure is our participation in the worlds of shared custom and opinion—in various ethnic communities—the very things that cosmopolitan, individualist, and technological man is concerned to leave behind? Heidegger’s answer is that a world deprived of meaning and measure will become a world of unbounded nihilism—nihilism spreading out in all directions.
“National Socialism stood for rootedness in a particular homeland, language, and tradition, as opposed to cosmopolitan rootlessness and the beep beep, boop boop of machine communication and the cha-ching of commerce, which are the true universal languages. ” […]
“the ‘inner truth and greatness’ of National Socialism was based on ‘the confrontation of global technology and modern man.”
Sorry, but I think this is a necessity.
Look further “forward”, rationally. …
In some era, “we” will be homeless; it is essentially a given, it is just a matter of when.
“before the lights blinked out forever and the world returned to being just lifeless matter in space.”
Actually, we already know this will happen, it is just a matter of when.
Thus, what next?
We know from the study of other solar systems that they are finite, so to speak. The sun will stop burning. The rotation of the earth will continue to slow. Or, homo sapiens will provide the means of mass extinction themselves beforehand. We should know, we will end, some time. This is rational thought.
Thus, what next?…
“In Nature, the criterion is survival.”
If Life, as broadly conceived as one’s imagination will allow, is to continue, it is best to keep inventing. The alternative, is practically known. Why settle for the known?
Is this “cosmopolitan” thinking? Is this technological nihilism? Or are these erroneous thoughts?…
Perhaps Life is just a game; with the only way out, being Death.
Perhaps one day, Homo Sapiens, (etc), will be able to make such a game ourselves; with overarching rules (natural laws) governing the game. Call it the Matrix or another concept.
After “WE” have conquered the Universe, know all there is to know, control all there is to control, then the only thing left is to indeed make our own, new, Matrix games. There would be no purpose to be otherwise.
Thus, Life is a Game; perhaps not to be taken too seriously; esp. so long as one remains in control of the exit; Game Over.
There is no God? Just emptiness in this Life-Game-Matrix of rules made to play. And “Fate” is a kind of Random Number Generator, that is neither structurally beneficent or malevolent? Time, like Gravity, & Atomic structure, is another kind of Natural Law. The basic essence of the Game is Darwin’s insight; to Survive. And that is it. The rest is made within the Game itself; e.g. the Enlightenment & “Universal Human Rights”, etc.
What next? Perhaps the aim then becomes not merely to live by the rules of Reality (Natural Laws), but to discover how to change those very rules themselves, and thus, to be able to change the Game?
Or perhaps Death becomes the most fascinating thing left?
Anyway, for the time being, SOS for the White Race, right? Save Our Selves.
So let’s make it the best, most enjoyable, Game we can, and from my vantage point, that means a lot less apes & a lot more White Nationalism. Haha.
The key question is, How to make a new beginning without falling prey to a rival civilization such as China? If the West were somehow to abandon the standpoint of modern technology and science, and the immense material power which goes along with it, and if China were to continue along its current path, or even radicalize its relationship to technology in ways unforeseen ( i.e., if the “next” scientific revolution occurs not in the West but in the East), would the Chinese not soon crush us by naked military device (in contradistinction to the “trojan horse” strategy favored by peoples of the global south)?
Or perhaps a new beginning can only be made after the Great Catastrophe, after the collapse of our financial and technological and governmental systems, with China collapsing too. But even in this scenario, will not the Chinese have the upper-hand, as they will still have the advantages of ethnic homogeneity and solidarity, whatever else may come to pass
Perhaps Guillaume Faye’s vision of a two-tier economy could be constituted within Europe itself, with most people once again assuming the identities of peasants and artisans, returning to the land and small villages. These would be the Good Heideggerians, and they would be free to make a new beginning. And yet because History is not strictly speaking cyclical, but rather moves in spirals, the elite would remain thoroughly Nietzschean, and continue forward from the ashes with a techno-scientific way of life
Western man either masters technology or we become the slaves of those who do. I do think a two-tier global system is necessary. We cannot allow the lower races to breed freely or seek first world levels of consumption.
Yes, but what does it mean to “master technology”? Would not most people, including most Europeans, be better off in a more “naive” relationship to Being? This is why I suggest that a two-tier model should be adopted within the West itself and not simply vis-a-vis the so-called inferior races. Let us Europeans once again become skillful peasant farmers and talented artisans
Much of your essay, Greg, seems lifted from Strauss’s “Natural Right & History,” especially the opening paragraphs concerning “nature” and “convention.” However, I always felt that your most penetrating criticism of Strauss is that he overstates the opposition between philosophers and non-philsophers, precisely because he is a Jew among Gentiles.
The other commenter on this thread, John Bruce Leonard, writes that, “From a certain perspective it almost appears that Heidegger’s response to the democratic-scientific crisis of modern times is but a radical extension of the same, insofar as he seeks, most democratically, to find a philosophy which applies equally to the common man, the thinking man, and to himself as philosopher”
I take the view contrary to John Bruce Leonard. Heidegger is right to identify “true thought” with the “true situation” of the common man. The real divergence is between the scientist, who must remain in-step with the advance of science and technology–purely out of expedience and military necessity –and the common man who must once again recover a more “natural” way of existing
I regret that I am not being as articulate as I need to be on these points. But somewhere in this region is where the real question is to be found
By mastering technology I mean two things. First, we should have better technology than our rivals. Second, we should dominate technology and subordinate it to human ends rather than let it dominate us and and transform us to fit with the imperatives of the technological system.
Strauss is definitely an influence on my narrative, but Heidegger was an influence on Strauss as well. The title Natural Right and History is roughly the same as Being and Time, and as Strauss regarded Being and Time as the supreme statement of modern historicism, Natural Right and History is Strauss’s attempt to historicize the historicists, i.e., to construct a narrative in which historicism itself appears as relative to the decadent phase of a civilization.
I do think that more natural ways of living should be embraced in the white world, but that would still be within the overall context of a technological civilization.
I am not yet ready to reply to John Bruce Leonard’s remarks. Perhaps he has the better argument, and I should concede the point. But still, my gut instinct is that Strauss, following Nietzsche, overstates the difference between philosophers and non-philosophers, or at least the difference in their political interests. This is an issue to return to . . . .
However, I will take issue with Greg Johnson’s second definition of “mastering technology,” namely, that we must “dominate technology” and “subordinate it to human ends.” Would not Heidegger reject this aspiration as humanistic? Wouldn’t Heidegger say that technology is no way neutral, that we are on the contrary in thrall to the essence of technology, and shall always remain so until Fate intervenes?
Jorjani at least has the merit of steadfastness. Rather than wait for a new god to save us, Jorjani argues that we have always (already) been possessed by Prometheus & Atlas, that these are the primordial gods qua titans of the West. But his vision of the next phase of technology is hardly one that accords with human ends and interests. It reads like a nightmare. “There is a transformation coming in comparison to which all previous revolutions have been but fleeting portents. It will demand not only the radical metamorphosis of the scientific enterprise through which it comes about, but also the restructuring of every facet of human society . . . . The coming scientific revolution is at once also a sociopolitical revolution that demands the self-conscious restructuring of our civilization around the spectral forces that have hitherto driven the worldwide development of technology in an occulted manner–namely Prometheus and Atlas. Only a civilization that at the highest level or, if you prefer, at its foundation, single-mindedly embraces the titanic world-building spirit of scientific exploration and discovery will be able to endure such a catastrophically dangerous realization of the human potential.” Jorjani is also a resolute cosmopolitan (Atlas is “emblematic of the fact that techno-scientific development is a world-colonizing force), and has no patience for ethno-nationalism. I would call him a Faustian Modernist and a Nietzschean, but not a Good Heideggerian.
I believe that Heidegger views philosophy as a kind of shepherding, both of Being and of man (or rather, not “man” as such, but of various “peoples”). The figure of the Scientist, possessed as he is by Prometheus & Atlas, is in no way a shepherd. So I offer a three-fold classification, (1) the philosopher qua shepherd, (2) the scientist qua techno warrior, and (3) the common people whose true interest consists in living closer to nature, the land, and what they can make simply with their own hands
I have the distinct feeling that I should read a book called the “Shepherd” before I reply to Mr Leonard
“I take the view contrary to John Bruce Leonard. Heidegger is right to identify “true thought” with the “true situation” of the common man. The real divergence is between the scientist, who must remain in-step with the advance of science and technology–purely out of expedience and military necessity –and the common man who must once again recover a more “natural” way of existing.”
I would be curious to hear more on this, Dominique_Nuit. If “true thought” can be identified with the “true situation” of the common man, this implies as well that there are false situations—unnatural situations—in which the common man might exist. You suggest as much in the last sentence of this paragraph (while, admittedly, putting “natural” in quotations, thus indicating you might have some caveat to the idea?). Now, if there are natural and unnatural ways of living, this implies as well that the true or false thought aligns with the true or false way of living. The common man as common man is not able to transcend his way of living to evaluate the truth or falsity of it. But the philosopher as philosopher is able to transcend that way of living; he makes it his continual business to transcend that way of living. The thought of the philosopher will accord then, not with the life of the common man as such, but only with the common man in the natural society. The thought of the philosopher will be irreconcilably at strife with all false ways of living. This is to say no more, however, than even Plato said: only the best regime corresponds with wisdom. But according to Plato, in the best regime the distinction between philosopher and common man is embedded into the very hierarchy of society, for in the best regime the philosophers rule.
So long as we accept that the philosopher seeks truth, and that this truth rarely if ever accords with the life and aims of the common man, it seems to me that we cannot avoid making a fundamental distinction between the common man and the philosopher. You suggest that Strauss might have exaggerated this difference, but Strauss certainly did no more than Heraclitus, Plato, Lucretius, and Nietzsche before him, to name but a few men who were surely not “Jews amongst Gentiles.” And to say it again—it seems to me that the attempt to erase or blur this distinction is nothing but a piece of late-Enlightenment philosophy.
I said I was not yet prepared to reply to Mr Leonard, but I will clarify that by “true situation” I do not mean the opposite of a false situation in which men might live. Rather, I was adopting an historicist position, wherein “true thought” take its bearings from an honest & keen feeling for the real issues of one’s time, issues that in many ways precede or eclipse all differences of individual rank. This is the “true situation,” and the situation changes radically over time and place. Today’s situation is not the same as 1933, and 1933 was not 1789. “True thought” rings true with the circumstances surrounding it; this is why it resonates.
None of the foregoing is to deny that philosophers may achieve a certain degree of transcendence, and gain trans-historical insights into the nature of man and the city, but to say that Plato had a coherent theory of the best regime is to ignore the inherent irony of Platonic discourse.
Plato was an ironist, and Heidegger was earnest.
“Rather, I was adopting an historicist position, wherein ‘true thought’ take its bearings from an honest & keen feeling for the real issues of one’s time, issues that in many ways precede or eclipse all differences of individual rank.”
Many thanks for your clarification, Dominique_Nuit. I might respond that “honest & keen feeling” means precisely—not for everyone. There are degrees of honesty and keenness, and a consequent hierarchy of ranks emerges from the analysis of these degrees. Even supposing that all our ideas are radically historically bound and can never transcend those bonds (and I recognize, incidentally, that you do not necessarily hold to this view), it seems to me that one must for that very reason acknowledge a rank ordering between the superficial and facile many, and the ruthlessly honest and profoundly trenchant philosophers. This might be a “difference in degree” rather than a “difference in kind,” but I am not altogether certain that differences in degree do not at a certain point become differences in kind.
“[T]o say that Plato had a coherent theory of the best regime is to ignore the inherent irony of Platonic discourse.
Plato was an ironist, and Heidegger was earnest.”
Your point is well taken. Speaking of Plato, as I did above, with complacency and overconfidence, is surely a sign of not having taken him seriously enough.
Nonetheless, I do not believe that the alternatives are irony or earnestness—unless one is to understand by “irony,” saying a great deal without meaning to say anything at all. Irony refers to the presentation, not the content, of one’s language. Aristotle to me seems a clearer example than the eternally enigmatic Plato. No one will claim that Aristotle was anything other than earnest; and yet in a letter to Alexander he said that his works were “published and not published.” By this I take it he employed a style which is not easily pierced by the uninitiated; he presented his ideas with irony. He was at once ironic and earnest.
Heidegger is a difficult case. From what I understand of him, I am not sure it can be said that he wrote with “irony.” Yet he wrote in a manner surely which is meant, as a matter of course, to exclude the unthinking. It may be in the last analysis that this is the same as writing ironically. Perhaps Mr. Johnson could aid us here.
Yet another extremely interesting piece, Mr. Johnson.
I clearly perceive the connections that you indicate between “cosmopolitan man, individualist man, and technological man.” I am not so clear on your subsequent conclusion that “the beginning of Western philosophy and science are leading to” a universal, homogeneous global state.
The ancient philosophers made a fundamental distinction between philosopher and non-philosopher—this was to them, indeed, the most fundamental of human distinctions. The way of life that you describe with the words “individualism” and “cosmopolitanism” were never recommended by the modern philosophers for the mass of humanity, nor even for most intelligent men; they were considered right only for those extremely rare individuals fit by nature for philosophy. The ancient philosophers were therefore exceptionally careful to preserve the boundaries delimiting human societies. The beginning of Western philosophy leads to individualistic and cosmopolitan philosophers, but not to individualistic and cosmopolitan man as such.
Only with the birth of science—and, more to the point, with the modern philosophy which permitted that birth—do we find the effective origin of “cosmopolitan, individualistic, and technological man.” The creation of that kind of man was necessitated by the political project of the Enlightenment. It would seem we owe our present crisis, then, not so much to the beginning of Western philosophy, as to the beginning of modern Western philosophy.
Of course, we cannot go back and simply erase the modern project. What has been done cannot be undone. Heidegger’s idea that “rootedness,” a rooted social order, could work toward curing our contemporary disease is anything but misplaced. But that is essentially different from saying that the philosopher Heidegger himself is a “rooted” being, to the point that he cannot be “individualistic and cosmopolitan.” From a certain perspective it almost appears that Heidegger’s response to the democratic-scientific crisis of modern times is but a radical extension of the same, insofar as he seeks, most democratically, to find a philosophy which applies equally to the common man, the thinking man, and to himself as philosopher.
I recognize that this is unjust to Heidegger. I would surely have to plumb his idea of history to get to the bottom of all this. I am forced, alas, to read Heidegger in translation, for my poor German is not near his level. And as I am sure you will agree, Heidegger of all philosophers cannot be comprehended in translation. I would therefore be extremely curious to hear your response to my points above, Mr. Johnson.
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