For him, Germany was a classroom for thinking about what it is to be a human being.

 

 

Martin Heidegger was one of the most important philosophers of the 20th century. Heidegger was also a Nazi. He was obsessed with Hitler’s hands (his hands!). I suppose they seemed like the hands of a serious man to Heidegger, the hands of a peasant intellectual. Heidegger liked to dress up in his little Schwarzwald outfit and parade around his university campus as if he were head of the academic SS. He proclaimed the essential greatness of the German people and kicked the Jews out of Freiburg University. He looked out, in 1933, at the triumph of National Socialism and decided that it was good. He wasn’t ambiguous about it either, saying, “The Führer, and he alone, is the present and future of German reality, and its law.” Even in 1943, after the devastating German defeat at Stalingrad,… More…

1927-2009

 

Leszek Kolakowski died a couple of weeks ago. He was a philosopher, a man of letters, historian of ideas. He lived the 20th-century life. It sucked. But like many a Pole, he made the best of a bad situation. The opening lines of the Polish National Anthem are, after all, “Poland has not perished yet.” Poles know that everything will turn out for the worst. It always does.

Kolakowski grew up during the Nazi occupation of Poland and came of age when the Nazis were exchanged for the Soviets. Liberation, in Poland, is the name for a short period of chaos between oppressors. Kolakowski did his best to think with the times. He started out a Marxist — not a ridiculous position for a young anti-fascist to take in those days. It was not, however, a position that… More…