Heidegger on History

Martin Heidegger reflected on history, on the philosophy of history, and on what it means to think historically from the beginning of his career at the time of the First World War onward. But it appears that we cannot speak of Heidegger’s philosophy of history in the singular. He advanced, rather, a series of philosophical understandings of history. I have sketched some of the trajectory on which he moved and in doing so, I have tried to make clear that what moved him was not an inherent dynamic in the ideas, but changing historical circumstances such as the political momentum of 1933 and his subsequent disillusionment with its promise, his reading of Dilthey and later of Nietzsche, the development of his friendship with Jaspers and their ultimate parting of ways. If we can speak of the historicality of Heidegger’s own being-there, we can see that it permits no singular ontological analysis but calls for a historical accounting built on the factuality of what Heidegger called vulgar history.

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The Empire of Disorientation. A Preface (2nd draft)

It was the day after the election of Donald Trump when I first realized that we are living now in an empire of disorientation. That morning I faced 200 students who were so distraught that I had to cancel a scheduled examination. Some of my colleagues said soon afterwards that we needed to meet in order to console each other. The media and the commentators were profoundly puzzled that morning and in the days to come about the election outcome and what it meant. Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, was at a loss for words, her supporters destroyed. Even Trump himself, we are told, was stunned by the unexpected turn of events. I have come to understand since then that the disorientation that everybody felt that day was, in fact, a symptom of a wide-spread and truly pandemic condition. My initial picture of the United States as an empire of disorientation gave thus way to the recognition that the empire of disorientation is our new, global reality.

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NO “PRESIDENTIAL” ALERTS FOR ME

I just received the first “presidential alert” on my cell phone and I was, frankly, appalled. It’s not just that I don’t want to hear from Donald Trump. I also don’t want receive “presidential alerts” from any future president. What’s wrong with this? The name is another building block in the construction of the imperial presidency. It’s not a name that democrats should be thinking of. Why not “National Alert” or “US Alert” or “Federal Government Alert”? We have been assured that the current office holder will not use it for his own political purpose. But why would a future president not think: a presidential alert is a presidential alert and I will use it as such? What stands in the way?

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