Friday, February 05, 2010

No! One can't speak of a social mission in that sense!

Heidegger (1969) critiques Marx's contention that: "Philosophers have only interpreted the world differently; what matters is to change it."

(Translation is in the info box to the side of the video.)

This point came up in the seminar and Heidegger's response may be of interest.


Tom Bunyard said...

There's a subtitled version available here:
The Marx section is about 5 minutes in, and is followed by some interesenting comments on religion and communism.

So what do we think about this?
Does Marx's assertion entail the rejection of philosophy per se, or does it imply its supersession (via a Hegelian Aufhebung) into an approach that retains philosophy's insights and skills whilst moving beyond philosophy per se? ...and can we say that Marx has not interpreted the world? The book we're reading is obviously an attempt to do just that in some respects; and yet it is obviously not the deep, ontological investigation of the world that Heidegger believes to be necessary. Does that matter, if we're simply concerned with the political efficacy of Marx's book? And if it doesn't affect its utility (obviously a loaded word in this context), does Heidegger's critique still matter?

I'm trying to read Being and Time at the moment. There's asection in the introduction in which he argues that a philosophical investigation into being is essential for any science, and thus presumably for political economy. There are also some interesting correspondences in the text with Lukacs' notion of reification, and perhaps also with the quasi-existentialist (humanist?) aspects of 'the Young Marx'. I don't really have much to say about that link myself yet (although I could point you towards some useful references), but it would be great to see someone chase it up and pursue it...

simon b said...

Heidegger re-raises the issue that came up in the seminar re: whether Marx needs a solid ‘metaphysical’ grounding, or a position outside of capitalism in order for his theory to have efficacy, or is it only necessary that his claims have force and direction. It is not entirely clear whether Heidegger is criticising Marx or only those who “cite” and “follow” his statement. Heidegger himself claims that the second part of the statement presupposes the interpretation of the world mentioned in the first. His critique then, seems to rest on the fact that Marx’s interpretation of the world is only Marx’s interpretation. Does this amount to saying that Marxists are wrong because they not a Heideggerians?

The problem I have with later Heidegger, the Heidegger of these videos, is that he seems to anaesthetise political action to the point of navel gazing (‘preparing the readiness’) for a select few geniuses capable of thinking the problem of humanity. Once solved, Culture will be handed to the rest of us with easy to use knobs and dials. As compared with a broad based, proletarian self-emancipation, it would seem Heidegger falls pretty definitely on the side of capitalists. It is also interesting that he designates Science as the God of Communism rather than: firstly, Technology, which would be a more damning critique in his own terms; or secondly, The State, which more immediately springs to my mind as the replacement for God in Communism.

Tom Bunyard said...

AS regards your first points: yes, absolutely, but that's what I was trying to get at as regards the extent to which Marx is or is not analysing the world. Heidegger complains that Marx rejects philosophy in the first sentence, and then presupposes it in the next; and yet Marx thinks himself to be moving beyond (Hegeleian and Feuerbachian) philosophy per se, and developing a mode of thought that actually interacts with the world rather than merely contemplating it. In that sense Marx is doing a new kind of 'philosophy', not discounting philosophy altogether. ...yet Heidegger's point is valid in some sense: to what extent is Marx's analysis actually a genuine ground for political action? What woudl constitute a valid 'analysis'? Do we need to bury ourselves in HJeideggerian ontology? ...ugh

As regards the second points: Heidegger's politics and their connection to his philosophy are obviously a fairly thorny issue. Adorno has a lot to say about Heidegger in Negative Dialectics, and if I remember rightly he echoes some of your complaints: Heidegger has left no room for critique, as he has cast all human being - however miserable - as 'Being'. There's a decent online translation here:, and I think the relevant sectiosn are at the beginning of part 1.