Pure signal.

Nietzsche Volume One by Martin Heidegger

This book has a bad smell. I am 30 pages in and I see much Heidegger and little Nietzsche. Heidegger’s main thesis so far seems to be that we must not be confused by previous readers of Nietzsche — so far so good — but then the reason for that is that Nietzsche seems to have stumbled upon Heidegger’s main idea. To justify this we will look at a work which Nietzsche did not complete — didn’t even edit. And by the way have you heard of the book Being and Time (product placement on like the 10th page.) This is all the worse as Heidegger seems to be a philosophy teacher. He speaks as if he has tenure — as if you need to count on him for a grade. I would never finish 4 pages of him if he didn’t have a reputation. I think he’s blowing smoke. Nietzsche, on the other hand is so lucid, so clear. One would read him even if his name was not attached. His words speak for themselves — and here Heidegger seems to want to use the occasion of Nietzsche’s name to talk about his own bullshit.

I cruised along for a couple more chapters thinking I had been unfair while crafty Heidegger recycled material from his Aristotle lectures, engaged in shallow etymological observations (providing a number of rich loci for multiple choice and fill in the blank questions in undergraduate philosophy quizzes) referenced Aquinas and Hegel and passionately defended German Idealism — which I suspect Nietzsche would loathe — and finally I came upon this statement:

“That is what Nietzsche’s thought wants to achieve: it wants to give things weight and importance again.” Could you imagine a more ludicrous passage to be written about Nietzsche? This was true of Kant, certainly, and likely of Heidegger himself — it is nostalgic and sentimental — even effeminate. Only someone who is unsure of himself requires “things” to posses weight and importance. If Nietzsche was concerned about “things” at all it was their lightness. Heidegger is the misty eyed closet-romantic nationalist reactionary — not Nietzsche.

He very strongly reminds me of Kant, particularly in that he tells us over and over again what he is going to do, but he never actually does it. He gives us a structure where he says he is going to unveil Nietzsche’s thought, that we must listen to Nietzsche, that we must be sensitive to what he is saying — and then he goes off on long unrelated tangents projecting and misreading fragments and creating arguments on the fly. Like Kant — his fans accept it when he says “We will do thus and so.” — perhaps because these are the only clear thoughts in the soup. So we read him and walk away saying “Well whatever else I know he said he did thus-and-so.” — so that is what goes in the essay. He reads like someone free-associating, and remembering every once in a while what it is that he is writing about and putting down a couple words about it. His proclamations are homilies — we cannot disagree with them, they are too vague. But after asserting them he does not live up to their demands.

I cannot imagine that the book would be worth reading even for a fan of Heidegger. It has nothing to offer on the subject of Nietzsche — Heidegger never understood Nietzsche because Nietzsche undertook a practice of honesty with himself, and Heidegger lived constrained contentedly within the bounds of a comfortable conceit which wants nothing more than to convince others of it’s good grounding. To read Heidegger on the subject of Nietzsche is as absurd as reading an apology of Socrates written by Gorgias. I am not going to read the remaining volumes.

I am suddenly suspicious of Derrida — who I have always liked. He refers so much and so often to this buffoon — was I reading him naively?


November 14, 2008 - Posted by | 40th Birthday Project


  1. LOL, you will never find better interpreter of Nietzsche, than Heidegger.

    Comment by komatsu | January 31, 2009 | Reply

  2. I have heard that by so many people — but Kaufmann is so very much better in every way that it leaves me scratching my head. I feel like I didn’t even encounter Nietzsche in Heidegger — it was like reading a student thesis where the work being commented on isn’t even read and is taken as nothing more than an opportunity to air the students own ideas.

    Which is fine as a creative writing strategy, but it has nothing to do with Nietzsche.

    Comment by bootslack | February 16, 2009 | Reply

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