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Only a God Can Save Us

"Only a God Can Save Us" (German: Nur noch ein Gott kann uns retten) refers to an interview given by Martin Heidegger to Rudolf Augstein and Georg Wolff for Der Spiegel magazine on September 23, 1966. Heidegger agreed to discuss his political past but asked for the publication to be delayed until after his death. The interview went beyond personal questions to address the general connections between philosophy, politics, and culture (as indicated by the title quote). It was published five days after Heidegger's death, on 31 May 1976.[1] The English translation was produced by William J. Richardson.

Summary concerning Heidegger's political past

The title derives from a passage of the interview in which Heidegger speaks of the impotence of philosophy in the face of the present crisis of civilization: "Only a god can save us. The only possibility available to us is that by thinking and poetizing we prepare a readiness for the appearance of a god, or for the absence of a god in [our] decline, insofar as in view of the absent god we are in a state of decline".[1]

In the interview, Heidegger defended his entanglement with National Socialism in two ways: first, he argued that there was no alternative, saying that with his acceptance of the position of rector of the University of Freiburg he was trying to save the university (and science in general) from being politicized and thus had to compromise with the Nazi administration. Second, he admitted that he saw an "awakening" (Aufbruch) which might help to find a "new national and social approach," but said that he changed his mind about this in 1934, when he refused, under threat of dismissal, to remove from the position of dean of the faculty those who were not acceptable to the Nazi party, and he consequently decided to resign as rector.[1]

In his interview Heidegger defended as double-speak his 1935 lecture describing the "inner truth and greatness of this movement." He affirmed that Nazi informants who observed his lectures would understand that by "movement" he meant National Socialism. However, Heidegger asserted that his dedicated students would know this statement was no apologia for the NSDAP. Rather, he meant it as he expressed it in the parenthesis that he did not read out yet claimed in the interview was present from the beginning (and included in his Introduction to Metaphysics (1953), namely, "the confrontation of planetary technology and modern humanity").

The Löwith account from 1936, according to which Löwith, in Rome, had exhibited an SS insignia during a conference, has been cited to contradict the account given in the Der Spiegel interview in two ways: that he did not make any decisive break with National Socialism in 1934, and that Heidegger was willing to entertain more profound relations between his philosophy and political involvement. The Der Spiegel interviewers did not bring up Heidegger's 1949 quotation comparing the industrialization of agriculture to the extermination camps. In fact, the interviewers were not in possession of much of the evidence now known for Heidegger's Nazi sympathies.[2]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Augstein, Rudolf; Wolff, Georg; Heidegger, Martin (31 May 1976). "Nur noch ein Gott kann uns retten". Der Spiegel: 193–219. Retrieved 2013-06-14. English translation by William J. Richardson in Sheehan, Thomas, ed. (1981). Heidegger. The Man and the Thinker. Piscataway, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. pp. 45–67. ISBN 978-1-412-81537-6. ISBN 1-41281537-1.
  2. ^ For critical readings of the interview (published in 1976 as "Only a God Can Save Us," Der Spiegel), see the "Special Feature on Heidegger and Nazism" in Critical Inquiry 15:2 (Winter 1989), particularly the contributions by Jürgen Habermas and Maurice Blanchot. The issue includes partial translations of Derrida's Of Spirit and Lacoue-Labarthe's Of Spirit and Heidegger, Art, and Politics: the Fiction of the Political.
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Only a God Can Save Us
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