Heidegger by Michael Gillespie

Gillespie, Michael. "Heidegger." Ed. Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey, The History of Political Philosophy. University of Chicago Press, 1963.


“Martin Heidegger was the first philosopher since Plato and Aristotle seriously to consider the question of Being. Indeed his devotion to this question has marked him out as the preeminent continental European philosopher of the twentieth century. His status as a political philosopher, however, is less clear. In his early magnum opus, Being and Time, Heidegger demonstrated little concern for ethics or politics and shortly thereafter rejected the suggestion that he write an ethics as emanating from a fundamental misunderstanding of his thought. Moreover, late in life he asserted that his thinking offered no help with social and political problems. Why then should he be considered in a text devoted to political philosophy?

“There are two answers to this question. On the practical level, Heidegger’s assertion that his thought is politically irrelevant must be understood in light of his affiliation with Nazism from 1933 to 1934. This incident bespeaks a political significance to his thought that he was later less than anxious to acknowledge. The more profound importance of his thought for ethics and politics, however, arises out of his concern with nihilism.

“Nihilism has both a metaphysical and a moral meaning. Metaphysically, it means that nothing is, i.e., not that there is absolutely nothing, which would be absurd, but that there is no unchanging ground, no eternal God or Being such as the Western tradition since Plato has imagined to underlie the flux of experience….”