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Heidegger's Children: Hannah Arendt, Karl…

Heidegger's Children: Hannah Arendt, Karl Lowith, Hans Jonas, and Herbert…

by Richard Wolin

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Richard Wolin's "Heidegger's Children" is an overview of Heidegger's pupils, Heidegger's effect on them philosophically and the position of Heidegger's political choices in this relation. Judging by the tone and a general lack of depth, the book is mostly intended for people of intellectual caliber but not very well-versed in the subject, which makes it excellent for academics who know nothing about Heidegger, for example. Of course this will not satisfy any real Heidegger scholar, but contrary to other reviewers, I don't think that's necessarily a problem.

Wolin's rapid overview of the philosophies of Hannah Arendt, Karl Löwith, Hans Jonas and Herbert Marcuse is generally good, and critical where deserved. He never really goes into the issues with their works themselves, but stays on the subject of the connection between their thought and Heidegger, often mainly relying on biographical analysis. Wolin's overall tone in reflecting on Heidegger and his pupils is that of the 'left-liberal' (continentally speaking) wondering what could have gone wrong, which is a bit annoying at times, but should not bother the reader too much.

On the whole, the book succeeds well for its purpose, but is a little superficial. One also would have wished that the two chapters on Heidegger himself had been in the front of the book instead of the back, since now one is basically 'reading backwards' into what Heidegger thought, so to speak. The conclusion is also rather stronger in criticism than the book itself allows. Therefore, I would recommend it mostly for intellectuals who want a basic overview of four of Heidegger's main pupils, but not for those knowledgeable about Heidegger or interested in an in-depth analysis of his work. ( )
  McCaine | Feb 2, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 069111479X, Paperback)

Martin Heidegger is perhaps the twentieth century's greatest philosopher, and his work stimulated much that is original and compelling in modern thought. A seductive classroom presence, he attracted Germany's brightest young intellects during the 1920s. Many were Jews, who ultimately would have to reconcile their philosophical and, often, personal commitments to Heidegger with his nefarious political views.

In 1933, Heidegger cast his lot with National Socialism. He squelched the careers of Jewish students and denounced fellow professors whom he considered insufficiently radical. For years, he signed letters and opened lectures with ''Heil Hitler!'' He paid dues to the Nazi party until the bitter end. Equally problematic for his former students were his sordid efforts to make existential thought serviceable to Nazi ends and his failure to ever renounce these actions.

This book explores how four of Heidegger's most influential Jewish students came to grips with his Nazi association and how it affected their thinking. Hannah Arendt, who was Heidegger's lover as well as his student, went on to become one of the century's greatest political thinkers. Karl Löwith returned to Germany in 1953 and quickly became one of its leading philosophers. Hans Jonas grew famous as Germany's premier philosopher of environmentalism. Herbert Marcuse gained celebrity as a Frankfurt School intellectual and mentor to the New Left.

Why did these brilliant minds fail to see what was in Heidegger's heart and Germany's future? How would they, after the war, reappraise Germany's intellectual traditions? Could they salvage aspects of Heidegger's thought? Would their philosophy reflect or completely reject their early studies? Could these Heideggerians forgive, or even try to understand, the betrayal of the man they so admired? Heidegger's Children locates these paradoxes in the wider cruel irony that European Jews experienced their greatest calamity immediately following their fullest assimilation. And it finds in their responses answers to questions about the nature of existential disillusionment and the juncture between politics and ideas.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:27 -0400)

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