Philosophy is a rather vague term used to cover a lot of loose thinking. I belong to the tradition called Anglo-Saxon empiricism, though some of the most notable exponents of Anglo-Saxon empiricism were not Anglo-Saxon. Ludwig Wittgenstein, for instance, was an Austrian Jew. Anglo-Saxon empiricists restrict their task to something quite akin to science. They look for order and regularity in discourse and try to clear up what people are saying and implying when they say certain kinds of things. And that is, of course, no easy task.

Such thinking was once dominant in Anglo-Saxon philosophy schools but the great expansion of tertiary education in recent decades has meant that many less rigorous thinkers have been employed as philosophers, some even being third-rate enough to find enlightenment in the words of an obsolete economist called Karl Marx. So philosophy schools are now replete with people who seem to think they are being profound when they say: "There is no such thing as right and wrong" or "There are many realities". To an Anglo-Saxon empiricist, such statements are simply confused.

Such confused thinking is usually described (rather fancifully) these days as "postmodernism" but for historical purposes it is probably best subsumed under the broad category of "existentialism" -- and there were many prominent existentialist thinkers in the first half of the 20th century, particularly in Germany. And many existentialist thinkers at that time were sympathetic to National Socialism (Nazism), just as their counterparts today are solidly in favour of all sorts of Leftist thinking. So existentialist thinking and Leftism have always been intimately associated among many who call themselves philosophers. And it should therefore be no surprise that prewar existentialists sound very profound to existentialists today.

The Nazi connection is however embarrassing. Heidegger, Carl Schmitt, DeMan and others sound very good and wise and profound to Leftist philosophers today so how do you cope with the Nazi connection? Easy: In the traditional Leftist way of dealing with all inconvenient facts -- by ignoring it.

One of the holier of today's existentialists has however recently upset the applecart by pointing out that the great god Heidegger was a Nazi and calling for all Heidegger's thinking to be denounced and renounced. Leftists are not letting go of such an inspiring (to them) figure as Heidegger, however. What Heidegger says is central to what they say, so to denounce Heidegger would be to denounce most of their own thinking. And there the matter rests at the moment. A small excerpt from a NYT story about the matter below. That Nazi thinking is one subset of socialist thinking is, of course, never acknowledged:

For decades the German philosopher Martin Heidegger has been the subject of passionate debate. His critique of Western thought and technology has penetrated deeply into architecture, psychology and literary theory and inspired some of the most influential intellectual movements of the 20th century. Yet he was also a fervent Nazi.

Now a soon-to-be published book in English has revived the long-running debate about whether the man can be separated from his philosophy. Drawing on new evidence, the author, Emmanuel Faye, argues fascist and racist ideas are so woven into the fabric of Heidegger’s theories that they no longer deserve to be called philosophy. As a result Mr. Faye declares, Heidegger’s works and the many fields built on them need to be re-examined lest they spread sinister ideas as dangerous to modern thought as “the Nazi movement was to the physical existence of the exterminated peoples.”

First published in France in 2005, the book, “Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism Into Philosophy,” calls on philosophy professors to treat Heidegger’s writings like hate speech. Libraries, too, should stop classifying Heidegger’s collected works (which have been sanitized and abridged by his family) as philosophy and instead include them under the history of Nazism. These measures would function as a warning label, like a skull-and-crossbones on a bottle of poison, to prevent the careless spread of his most odious ideas, which Mr. Faye lists as the exaltation of the state over the individual, the impossibility of morality, anti-humanism and racial purity.

The book is the most radical attack yet on Heidegger (1889-1976) and would upend the philosophical field’s treatment of his work in the United States, and even more so in France, where Heidegger has frequently been required reading for an advanced degree. Mr. Faye, an associate professor at the University of Paris, Nanterre, not only wants to drum Heidegger from the ranks of philosophers, he wants to challenge his colleagues to rethink the very purpose of philosophy and its relationship to ethics.

At the same time scholars in disciplines as far flung as poetry and psychoanalysis would be obliged to reconsider their use of Heidegger’s ideas. Although Mr. Faye talks about the close connection between Heidegger and current right-wing extremist politics, left-wing intellectuals have more frequently been inspired by his ideas. Existentialism and postmodernism as well as attendant attacks on colonialism, atomic weapons, ecological ruin and universal notions of morality are all based on his critique of the Western cultural tradition and reason.

I go into some detail about the confusions of "postmodernist" thinking here

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