“When the French want to think they have to think in German.” Heidegger
“Much of the dumbing down and mindlessness that is now at the heart of the modern university is rooted in existentialist philosophies of continental Europe, with the lion’s share of it imported particularly from Germany.” Mark Musser
“Hannah Arendt was considered one of the most important social theorists of the 20th century.” Ibid
Mark Musser, American Thinker, June 17, 2017
While Heidegger himself resisted being called an existentialist, he is certainly the father of Postmodernism. What is meant by Postmodernism is very difficult to express. First, Postmodernism is a form of existentialism. This by itself makes it very difficult to define because under existentialism, the application and power of rationalism and reason is greatly diminished. Ready-made designations, classifications, and descriptions are thus very hard to come by.
After the war, Heidegger’s writings became more opaque, which managed to disguise his Nazism. In so doing, Heidegger’s racism and anti-Semitism were replaced with anti-humanism, which should by no means be understood as any kind of progress, but a deepening of all the problems connected to his existentialism. Thanks to Heidegger, much of postmodern Western philosophy is deeply committed to various forms of anti-humanism, particularly with regard to the misanthropy of environmentalism. By overvaluing all of life, whether that be nature itself, or even by overemphasizing the willpower, passions, and instincts of human behavior rather than a thoughtful morality, Romanticism and Existentialism invariably opened the door to amoral anti-humanism where the laws of the jungle ultimately prevail — as was particularly the case with regard to National Socialism.
Closely related, it was Arendt who gave to the Western world the “banality of evil” thesis concerning the Holocaust while writing on Nazi SS official Adolf Eichmann’s (1906-1962) trial for The New Yorker. Published in February of 1963, Arendt used Raul Hilberg’s detailed historical account, which focused on the German bureaucracy that administratively carried out the destruction of the Jews step by step. However, Arendt added her own existentialist kink to Holocaust interpretation by accentuating the bureaucratic everydayness of Eichmann’s evil. According to Arendt, Eichmann was a “cog” in a vast bureaucratic machine in which monstrous evil become monotonously “banal.” Thus, crimes without conscience became an existential routine during the war.
What somehow escapes Arendt is that such everyday existentialism is precisely what the German academy had been breeding in the hearts and minds of Germans for quite some time before the advent of National Socialism. Arendt herself was steeped in it. As such, she unwittingly gave an existentialist interpretation of the Holocaust — an existentialism that was just as much of part of the problem with regard to the Holocaust as was Nazi Social Darwinism and ‘scientific’ racial hygiene. Both complemented one another into an explosive holistic synthesis — the syncretistic mixture of which blew up all of Europe.
In the Deconstruction of Literature: Criticism after Auschwitz, Dr. David Hirsch warns, “It is misleading to disengage contemporary anti-humanism from Nazi dehumanization, for they share (the same) philosophical and cultural origins.” Hirsch has thus strongly argued that postmodernism should best be understood as post-Auschwitz. In short, postmodernism is existentialism after Auschwitz. Much more disturbing, according to Hirsch, the goal of postmodernism is to deconstruct the sober truth that the European academy, particularly in Germany, actually fed the intellectual beast which led to the Holocaust. Neither Europe nor the North American leftist academy have come to grips with the fact that the 20th century was a socialist slaughterhouse of epic proportions. Postmodernism thus moved in to save secular Europe from confronting its own intellectual catastrophe in the face of the apocalyptic abyss of World War.
Thanks to her own existentialism, Arendt never noticed Heidegger’s fascism that he taught her in the 1920s. Neither did Arendt ever acknowledge that her own educational background was deep-rooted in the exact same training that led to the destruction of her own people. Such was one of the “banal” dangers of being an assimilated Jew in Weimar Germany.
Existentialism does not enlighten about real life. It only obfuscates. This is the semi-fascist human condition that besets the postmodern academy in the West these days, particularly now at Evergreen State College, with no small thanks to the adulterous affair between Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger. Much of the dumbing down and mindlessness that is now at the heart of the modern university is rooted in existentialist philosophies of continental Europe, with the lion’s share of it imported particularly from Germany. Indeed, with regard to Jean Paul Sartre’s Existentialism (1905-80), Heidegger once quipped, “When the French want to think they have to think in German.”
Mark Musser is a part-time pastor, author, missionary, and a farmer who lives in Olympia, Washington. He is a contributing writer for the Cornwall Alliance. His book Nazi Oaks provides a sobering history lesson on the philosophical foundations of the early German green movement, which was absorbed by National Socialism in the 1930s that proved to be a powerful undercurrent during the Holocaust. Mark is also the author of Wrath or Rest, which is a commentary on the warning passages found in the epistle to the Hebrews.