Thursday, March 09, 2023

Millerman, Heidegger, and Philosophic Nazism

I have written about Michael Millerman's philosophic promotion of the right-wing illiberalism of Heidegger, Dugin, and Putin in the pages of First Things.  Now the April 2023 issue of First Things has published a short letter from me about Millerman's article and Millerman's response.

In my letter, I quote from the last paragraph of Millerman's article and then add this comment:

"If Dugin's 'ideologically coherent alternative to Western political modernity' is 'compatible with Putininism,' how is that 'not reducible' to 'intellectual legitimation for a fascist, kleptocratic thug who wishes to recreate the Russian empire'?"

"Has First Things been reduced to this--endorsing illiberal ideologies that are compatible with Putinism, Nazism, and fascist thugs?  Is there any reason to believe that Richard John Neuhaus would have endorsed this?"

Here is Millerman's response:

"Leo Strauss once wrote:  'It would be wholly unworthy of us as thinking beings not to listen to the critics of democracy--even if they are enemies of democracy--provided they are thinking men (and especially great thinkers) and not blustering fools."

"My article argued that Dugin is a thinking man whose political philosophy, whatever its other virtues and vices, has the great merit of helping us understand something about Martin Heidegger, the greatest thinker.  Larry Arnhart invokes the predictable rhetoric of fascist thuggery and the like.  Does such a response, and the attitude it typifies, reflect what is 'worthy of us as thinking beings' when it comes to the basic questions of political philosophy?"

The fundamental question at issue between us is whether Millerman is right in agreeing with Strauss that Heidegger was "the greatest thinker," and that he was philosophically correct in attacking liberal modernity and defending Nazi tyranny.

I have written a series of posts on Heidegger's metaphysical German nationalism as supporting his philosophic Nazism.  I have argued that Friedrich Nietzsche (particularly in Human, All Too Human) identified the philosophical mistake that leads philosophers like Heidegger to support evil tyranny like that of the Nazis.  Nietzsche's adoption of Darwinian evolutionary science allowed him to see that philosophical mistake.

Nietzsche saw that social order arises best as a largely spontaneous order of human cultural evolution that does not require any intelligently designed metaphysical order enforced by state coercion.  This led Nietzsche to embrace the liberal separation of culture and the state, so that the purpose of the state is only to protect individuals from one another, and then secure cultural life as a realm for freedom of thought and action, which allowed the Socratic "free spirits" to live the philosophic life of skeptical questioning.

By contrast, Nietzsche saw, philosophers like Plato and Heidegger who want the state to execute their "spiritual leadership" in enforcing their vision of metaphysical order become "tyrants of the spirit," and consequently they are easily seduced by tyrants like Hitler.  (See Human, All Too Human, 1-9, 235, 261, 438-41, 465, 472, 474.) 


Les Brunswick said...

If Millerman does not support fascist thuggery, then what sort of political philosophy does he favor? Or is it perhaps his view that, as a student of Heidegger, he has escaped the obligation of ordinary human citizens to have a view on this matter? Oh, and just because Strauss says Heidegger was the greatest philosopher means it is true.

Larry Arnhart said...

To answer these questions, one would have to engage with Millerman's book BEGINNING WITH HEIDEGGER: STRAUSS, RORTY, DERRIDA, DUGIN, AND THE PHILOSOPHIC CONSTITUTION OF THE POLITICAL (Arktos, 2021), which was originally his dissertation at Toronto. I hope sometime to write about that book.

bjdubbs said...

Does Strauss "embrace the liberal separation of culture and the state"? Wouldn't Strauss fall under the same criticism?