An Introduction to Martin Heidegger: “Radical-Committed” Anti-Cosmopolitanism

HomeArticlesAn Introduction to Martin Heidegger: “Radical-Committed” Anti-Cosmopolitanism


The death of Martin Heidegger was front page news in the New York Times on May 27, 1976: “Martin Heidegger, a Philosopher who Affected Many Fields, Dies.”1 An obituary of some two and a half thousand words followed. I note this not because the New York Times was the most noteworthy place where Heidegger’s death was remarked, and his life’s work remarked upon, but because these two and a half thousand words were probably the first that the overwhelming majority of the readership of the Times had ever read about Heidegger, and fewer still, no doubt, had ever read many words by him. This was despite the fact that his thought was influential, and has since grown ever more so, in such wide-ranging fields as physics, psychology, sociology, linguistics, literary criticism, theology, and, of course, philosophy. To borrow a famous remark of Hannah Arendt: before the Second World War Martin Heidegger was “the secret king of thought” of the twentieth century; after the war, we could say, he became “the king.” Among the Germans, of course, fascination with all things German, including Heidegger, has never been lacking; equal fascination with Heidegger later emerged among the French. But in North America, with some exceptions, such as Thomas Langan, Heidegger,2 interest in Heidegger only arose after a virtual avalanche of Heidegger studies began in Europe.3

Why then was Heidegger’s work so little read for so long in North America? Not for any good reasons. First, there is the notorious obscurity, certainly in English translation, of Heidegger’s language. In the New York Times obituary, Bertrand Russel remarked of Heidegger’s philosophy, “One cannot help suspecting that language is here running riot.” Second, there is the fact that Heidegger, himself, elaborated no social or political philosophy, and frequently denied his ontological speculations had any moral-political intention.4 Third, if distaste for ontology were not enough to deter most North Americans, another, more reasonable, species of distaste is relevant: Heidegger’s sole significant foray into public life was to welcome the destruction of Weimar Germany and the advent of Hitler’s Nazi revolution.5

None of these considerations, however, relieve contemporary political theorists from the task of confronting the thought of the most influential philosopher of the twentieth century. That the first should be thrown out of court goes without saying. The second and third, however, are more troublesome. Karl Löwith identified, decades ago, the limitations of any “political” judgment. Political circumstances play such a role in the selection of, and attention to, contemporary literature and philosophy that the average American student knows more about Jean-Paul Sartre than about Karl Jaspers, and more about Jaspers than about Martin Heidegger of whom Sartre was a pupil. This sequence of familiarity is politically conditioned, for Sartre is a Frenchman who was engaged in the resistance movement, and Jaspers a German who for ten lonely years was barred from academic activity by the Nazis, while Heidegger, who supported National Socialism in 1933, neither resisted the regime subsequently nor was dismissed from his post during its period of domination. Whatever one may think about these matters, the sequence derived from political circumstances—Sartre, Jaspers, Heidegger—must be reversed with regard to philosophical priority and significance.6

David Farrell Krell (Basic Writings, 28n31), prominent editor and translator of Heidegger, admits that it will not do “to close the eyes and stop up the ears to the dismal matter” of Heidegger’s association with National Socialism, but offers a quasi-apology: “It is of course convenient to decide that Heidegger’s involvement in political despotism “taints” his work: that is the fastest way to rid the shelves of all sorts of difficult authors from Plato to Nietzsche and to make righteous indignation ever more satisfying than it normally is.” Of course the pertinent question is whether “indignation” at the philosophies of Plato and Nietzsche are not based on false interpretations of them, which their admirers maintain, whereas what “taints” the philosophy of Heidegger is based on a correct reading of him.

Leo Strauss, one of the foremost political philosophers of the twentieth century, offers a less apologetic judgment than Krell on “the dismal matter”: “We cannot help holding these facts against Heidegger. Moreover, one is bound to misunderstand Heidegger’s thought radically if one does not see their intimate connection with the core of his philosophic thought.” But Strauss does not in the least dismiss Heidegger’s philosophical importance. Strauss rather echoes Löwith’s point, saying that Heidegger’s thought is the “living kernel” of a “school” of philosophy that has been very influential, especially in Europe, but also in North America after the Second World War: Existentialism. Strauss remarks, “Existentialism is a “movement” which like all movements has a flabby periphery and a hard center. That center is the thought of Heidegger.

To that thought alone existentialism owes its importance or intellectual respectability.”7 George Parkin Grant, Canada’s leading twentieth-century social theorist, asks, “How could this amazing unfolder of the nature of modernity, this person who can illuminate the philosophic past, how could he opt for National Socialism at the political level?” and adds, “This is much more than an historical question about Europe in the 1930s. If one uses it as an oyster knife to open up his brilliance, the whole question of the destiny of modernity can be revealed.”8

Clearly, whatever we may conclude about the connection, intimate or otherwise, between Heidegger’s philosophy and his political stance toward Nazism, reason and all the evidence demand that we attend to his writings with the utmost seriousness. If we ourselves are thinking people, what in the world could be more worthy of our serious attention than the thought of Martin Heidegger? Even if it should turn out that the most influential philosopher of the twentieth century thought political philosophy impossible, this would of course be a problem of the greatest urgency for political theorists, if for no other reason than it might be true.9

In this article, I deal thematically with only one essay of Heidegger: Was ist das—die Philosophie? (What is that—Philosophy?).10 I shall also advert primarily to his “Memorial Address,” a public lecture delivered in 1955 in celebration of the 175th birthday of Conradin Kreutzer, the only other famous person born in Heidegger’s home town, delivered within two months of Was ist das—die Philosophie? The “Memorial Address” is one of two parts of Heidegger’s book Discourse on Thinking.11 I also refer to other writing of Heidegger when I think they help to clarify what may be more obscure in the lecture under discussion. I propose to interpret this lecture in the spirit one would attempt, for example, an interpretation of a single “minor” Platonic dialogue, fully aware that it cannot be supposed to reveal Heidegger’s thought as a whole, but supposing it may be read as a coherent statement addressing a discrete and important theme.

I believe Was ist das—die Philosophie? is an excellent introduction to Heidegger’s thought for intimidated students and recalcitrant scholars alike. What could be a more important question for a philosopher to ask, after all, than “What is Philosophy? What follows is a modest attempt to explicate Heidegger’s philosophical essay from within, and to indicate the deep thread that ties Heidegger’s thinking about what philosophy is to his radical anti-cosmopolitanism, which is, in turn, tied to his far more than flirtation with the Nazi revolution of 1933.12 And there can be no doubt—and at long last in the Heidegger scholarship there is a consensus that there can be no doubt—about the intimate connections between Heidegger’s “existential” thinking, even as early as Being and Time,13 still this magnum opus, and the “existential” politics of the Nazi revolution: Heidegger, Joseph Goebbels, and Adolph Hitler were as equally contemptuous as Heidegger of “liberalism,” “consumerism,” “Bolshevik socialism,” and such, all of which could be subsumed under the rubric of that disgusting thing against which Hitler was always raving: “rootless cosmopolitanism.” This doubtlessly explains the interest in Heidegger in the early stage of the Third Reich: Heidegger’s disgust was as strong, if more sophisticated and profound, as Hitler’s.

As regards the title of this article, one may ask two pertinent questions. First, what do I mean by “radical”? Second, what do I mean by “committed”? By “radical,” I mean that all of Heidegger’s thinking goes to the very root of things. By “committed,” I refer to one of Heidegger’s most famous existentialia (ways of existing) of “authentic” Da-sein (Being-there) in Being and Time. And there is, as we shall see, an intimate connection between the thinking of Martin Heidegger about what “philosophy” is in this lecture and his radical anti-cosmopolitanism. For example, one of his answers to the question posed by his lecture is that philosophy is in its essence Greek: “The word philosophia tells us that philosophy is something which, first of all, determines the existence of the Greek world. Not only that—philosophia also determines the innermost basic feature of our Western-European history” (29). The German for “innermost basic feature” in this passage is Grundzug. Steiner, Heidegger (27) notes, “In German, and most notably in Heideggerian German, Grund portends intensely concrete but also numinous strains of rootedness, of earthly ancientness and provenance,” the polar opposite of cosmopolitanism. “Autochthony” figures prominently in the lecture and it too may be said to be the polar opposite of cosmopolitanism. Both of these words also find their etymologies in Greek: “autochthony,” a combination of two Greek words, probably autos and chthōn; “cosmopolitan,” probably of kosmos and some form of politēs.


The title of Heidegger’s essay (Was ist das—die Philosophie?) asks a Greek question in a Greek way (35); he does not transliterate his Greek (but I shall mine, throughout). Our first impression is that he appears to ask a traditional question in a traditional way. We soon discover what he has to say about philosophy is not as traditional as the traditional manner in which he begins to say. Certainly, philosophy has become questionable for Heidegger. Heidegger begins with a question, the theme of the discussion is a question, and he proceeds by questioning. Steiner, (Heidegger, 25) remarks the “deliberately helpless and halting” phrasing of the German title, and Brann (2n2) suggests that the way Heidegger poses the question introduces into it “a motion of pointing and distancing as in “What have we here?” In an essay of less than forty brief pages, Heidegger asks a question at least four dozen times, and he repeats the question of the title—Was ist das—die Philosophie?—at least a dozen times. As he famously remarks elsewhere, in the final sentence of “The Question Concerning Technology” (Basic Writings, 317), “For questioning is the piety of thought.”

Heidegger tells us almost immediately that “the aim of our question is to enter into philosophy, to tarry in it, to conduct ourselves in its manner, that is, to “philosophize” (21). He tells us immediately that with the question, “What is philosophy?” we are touching on a widespread, indeterminate theme. “Widespread” comes from the first short sentence of the lecture; “indeterminate,” from the second. Brann (3n3) notes that “indeterminate” translates unbestimmt; thus, “The first sentence introduces the principal wordplay of the lecture. Bestimmen ordinarily means “to determine”; however, stimmen, transitively, means “to tune” but also “to put in a mood.” Hence unbestimmt might be read as “untuned” or “moodless.” In Being and Time, Heidegger uses the word Stimmung for one of the existentialia of Da-sein. Stimmung is usually translated “mood.” Our “being in a mood,” as we colloquially say—being “attuned” to the world around us in a certain way, as Heidegger says—is a mode of being open to Being (Sein). (For the first thematic treatment of Stimmung in Heidegger, see Being and Time §31.) Our treatment runs the risk of lacking cohesion, even though we may always “hit upon something that is correct,” unless we lead the discussion in a definite direction, onto a path. Heidegger emphasizes that we direct the discussion onto a path, and that “it must, in fact, remain open whether the path which [he] should like to indicate in what follows is, in truth, a path which allows us to pose and answer the question” (21). We must philosophize: our path must be such that that of which philosophy treats may affect us, touch (or move) us “in our very nature (Wesen, essence)” (23).

But, Heidegger asks, “Does not philosophy thereby become a matter of affection, emotions, and sentiments?” (23). He elaborates upon this hypothetical objection, borrowing what he calls the mot (French for “word”; “answer” in the case of a riddle) of André Gide—“It is with fine sentiments that bad literature is made”—and applying it a fortiori to philosophy. Is the posited objection sound? Yes—if sentiments are something irrational, and philosophy is “not only something rational but the actual guardian of reason” (23). But proceeding thus, Heidegger avers, we have answered our question before even properly posing it: “If what is considered to be reason was first established only by philosophy and within the course of history, then it is not good judgment to proclaim philosophy in advance as a matter of reason” (24). To begin by considering philosophy as rational or irrational is already to take for granted (unreasonably) what reason is. Such a path leads nowhere. On the other hand, if we consider that that of which philosophy treats may personally move us in our essential nature as human beings, we might discover that “this being-moved has nothing whatsoever to do with what is usually called feelings and emotions, in short, the irrational” (27). Henceforth, we must take greater caution in choosing the path of our discussion “so that we do not flounder around in either convenient or haphazard conceptions of philosophy,” for example, the conception “everyone” considers “correct,” that philosophy is a matter of reason. Indeed, our aim is precisely to move from correct statements about philosophy to an apprehension of the essence of philosophy.

The path Heidegger moves along is the path of the word “philosophy” speaking from its source, that is, “philosophy” speaking Greek, that is, φιλοσοφία (philosophia). That we have uttered the word “philosophy” in our discussion indicates, whether we are aware of it or not, that we are in fact already, however awkwardly, traveling on this path (29). By translating “way” instead of “path,” Brann (7) can render the felicitous “philosophia is a way along which we are underway.” How is a word a path? For Heidegger, a word is not a “sign” for a “thing,” but an “event”; indeed, a word is a series of events; the word philosophia is not something static, but is itself a dynamic history. The question “Was ist das—die Philosophie?” is an inquiry into the meaning of a word. The essay is a testimony to what it means for Heidegger to think radically into the meaning of a word. Etymological excavations are fundamental to Heidegger’s thinking, and the source of much of the controversy concerning his thought. (Here, allegedly, is where language is “running riot.”)

Greekless readers must tolerate my retention of transliterated Greek words and phrases in this article. They are necessary if we are to follow the etymological digging that is central to Heidegger’s argument. (Heidegger’s own Greek, as mentioned earlier, is never transliterated.) General readers may be comforted to know that Greek scholars have little advantage over the unschooled here, because Heidegger’s etymologies are frequently so idiosyncratic that they are almost always contested by philologists, classicists, and philosophers. For that matter, Heidegger does the same thing with the German language, which is what permits Steiner, Heidegger, frequently to distinguish German from Heideggerian German. Similarly, Brann, throughout the notes in her translation, distinguishes between Heidegger’s meaning for a particular German word and the “dictionary word.” Heidegger notoriously asserted everywhere in his writings that classical Greek and, of course, German, were especially powerful, spiritual languages through which—indeed, only through which—one could genuinely philosophize or think; one simply could not do so in English, assertions redolent with a spirit of disgust for cosmopolitanism.

Philosophy determines the history of the West (and now, the entire world). “In origin the nature of philosophy is such that it first appropriated the Greek world, and only it, in order to unfold” (31). It is significant and characteristic of Heidegger that he should say philosophy appropriated the Greek world, not vice versa. To say philosophy is in essence Greek is not, of course, to deny that the originally Greek nature of philosophy has been mediated by Christianity and the thinking of the (so-called) Middle Ages. It is to say “nothing more than that the West and Europe and only these, are, in the innermost course of their history, originally “philosophical.”

This is attested by the rise and domination of the sciences” (31). Science is a fruit of the West, and the seed was first planted in the soil of nascent Greek philosophizing. Heidegger goes so far as to say that the oft-heard expression “Western-European philosophy” is in truth a tautology (31).14 This rise to domination of the sciences is what has permitted the West “to put a specific imprint on the history of mankind upon the whole earth” (33), i.e., this is what has brought into being our cosmopolitan world in which “Nature becomes a gigantic gasoline station, an energy source for modern technology and industry,” in which “Farming and agriculture, for example, now have turned into a motorized food industry,” to borrow two famous sentences from the “Memorial Address” (50, 54).

Heidegger bids us consider what it means that the present era in history is characterized as the “Atomic Age.” It means that the atomic energy discovered and harnessed by modern science is viewed today as the force that will determine the future course of history. But this is either to forget or be ignorant of the fact that philosophy is the mother of the sciences and gave birth to them, that “there would never have been any sciences if philosophy had not preceded them and proceeded” (33). Heidegger, following Nietzsche, always emphasizes that “science” is subordinate to “philosophy.”

He makes the same point in his “Memorial Address” (50): “We remain as far as possible from a reflective insight into our own age. Why? Because we forget to ponder; because we forget to ask: What is the ground that enabled technology to discover and set free new energies in nature?” The context of the quotation is Heidegger’s emphatic lamenting—although he would deny it is a “lament”; this would be too “ethical” a stance for him—of modern man’s “homelessness,” his utter lack of “rootedness” or “autochthony” in a “homeland.” The translators note in this context (49n5) that “The German Bodenständigkeit [To-stand-on-a-ground] is translated rootedness or autochthony depending on a literal or a more figurative connotation.” If the urgent necessity of being “autochthonous,” in one’s “homeland” is not the opposite of being a cosmopolitan, I cannot imagine what is! Furthermore, it is very difficult not to read these statements as “ethical” ones.

To avoid this error, we must ponder the Greek word philosophia, truly hear it, and reflect upon it, and the historical tradition to which it binds us. We must “surrender” to this tradition. “Tradition does not surrender us to a constraint to what is past and/ irrevocable. Surrendering is a delivering into the freedom of discussion with what has been” (33/35; in the bilingual text, English appears only on the odd-numbered pages; I have indicated the page break in the English pages in my quotation). It is characteristic that Heidegger links “surrendering” and “freedom”: what “freedom” means is unclear, but it certainly has nothing to do with willing; if anything, freedom is a consequence of “releasement” from willing. In any event, when we truly hear the word philosophia, reflect upon it, we find it inscribed on the birth certificate of the contemporary world epoch, which is called the “Atomic Age,” and that we can ask our question “Was ist das—die Philosophie?” only “if we enter into a discussion with the thinking [Denken] of the Greek world” (35). Here Heidegger mentions “Thinking,” Denken, for the first time in the lecture. Not only what is in question, but how we question, even today, Heidegger insists, is Greek in origin (35). It may be germane to note that the Greek historia, from which both English and German derive their word for “history,” originally meant “to learn by inquiring or questioning.”

The question “What is that?” in Greek is ti estin. The ti estin which asks such things as, “What is the beautiful? What is knowledge? What is Nature? What is movement?” is a form of questioning developed by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle (37). Heidegger calls our attention to the fact that in such questioning, which seeks more exact delimitation of what Nature, movement, or beauty are (changing the order, and dropping “knowledge”), “an interpretation is given of what the “what” means, in what sense the ti [what] is to be understood” (37). The “whatness,” the quiddity of the “what,” has been understood differently in different periods of philosophizing.

But throughout the history of philosophy, the question “What is that?” has remained an originally Greek question. In what appears to be a later addition to this lecture, Heidegger emphasizes that the question “What is philosophy?” is an historical, “fate-full” question: it is, in fact, “the historical question of our Western-European Da-sein” (41). As was remarked earlier, Da-sein, literally means “Being there”; it is the term Heidegger coined in Being and Time for the way a human being is—with full emphasis on both the words “human” and “being”—and is intended as an ontological category, not an “ethical” one (but see my n4).

The question is: what does it mean that our epoch in world history is characterized as the “Atomic Age?” Again we get help from the “Memorial Address” (50): We live in the age of “technology,” in which “the world now appears as an object open to the attacks of calculative thought, attacks that nothing is believed able any longer to resist,” in which, “nature becomes a gigantic gasoline station.” Technology threatens humanity with nuclear annihilation, certainly; but to become preoccupied with this problem, according to Heidegger, is to be dazzled by the superficial; more important is the danger of the loss of humanity’s essential nature, the danger that “meditative” thinking, which is rooted in Being in a manner differently, more profoundly, than “calculative” thinking, will disappear. It is again difficult not to read this distinction as an “ethical” distinction. Calculative thinking has produced the deadly bombs, but, “precisely if the hydrogen bombs do not explode and human life on earth is preserved, an uncanny change in the world moves upon us” (“Memorial Address,” 52).

This threat to our humanity from technology and calculative thinking did not arise contingently. The essence of technology emerged from rationalism, which is the fruit of Greek philosophy, when it adopted, or (better) was granted a particular understanding of Being, and thereby of Truth. This enabled the West to develop modern mastering science, with its determining power over every aspect of our lives, which in turn led to our modern cosmopolitan way of living on this earth, meaning on this planet—not the “ground on which one stands,” or in which “authenticity” is “rooted.” Heidegger’s emphasis on “rootedness” is, I again stress, the key to understanding his radical anti-cosmopolitanism. We begin to understand what Heidegger means when he says, “that of which philosophy treats concerns us personally, affects us, and indeed touches (moves) us in our very nature” (23). Heidegger’s fundamental concern in this essay is to indicate by means of pondering the question “Was ist das—die Philosophie?” how the present threat to our humanity, something that concerns each one of us, vitally, here and now in our present hour of history, is a destiny (or “fate”) that unfolds from nascent Greek philosophy.

Applying to Heidegger what another said of his own enterprise, it is not self-forgetting and pain-loving antiquarianism nor self-forgetting and intoxicating romanticism that induces Heidegger to turn with passionate interest, with unqualified willingness to learn, toward the thought of classical antiquity; he is compelled to do so by the crisis of our time, the crisis of the West, the crisis, for Heidegger, of authentic Da-sein. The question “Was ist das—die Philosophie?” is a path leading from the Da-sein of the Greek world down to us, and beyond us, and on which we are traveling, standing at some as-yet-to-be-determined point (41). We are questioning the nature of philosophy which, Heidegger informs us, if our questioning is to be more than mere “chatter,” must have become worthy of question. But philosophy can have become questionable for us only if we already know what philosophy is—a hermeneutical circle, a spiraling downward, deeper into the question, so characteristic of Heidegger; circles that are never merely circular in Heidegger: they are, to change our metaphor slightly, centripetal. And to what we should attend in the circle, philosophia again indicates (43).

According to Heidegger, the Greek language, uniquely, is Logos. “In the Greek language what is said in it is at the same time in an excellent way what it is called” (45). In the legein, the speaking, or direct presentation of a Greek word, the thing itself is made to lie immediately before us. Philosophia goes back to the adjective philosophos, which was coined by Heraclitus, according to Heidegger, and allegedly expressed something quite different from the adjective “philosophical.” It meant to love the sophon. Philein (to love) signifies for Heraclitus homolegein, that is, to speak in correspondence with the Logos. This correspondence with the Logos is in-accordance-with (harmonia) the sophon. In short, harmonia, “being-in-accordance-with,” is the distinctive feature of philein (loving) for Heraclitus. The aner (man) philosophos, then, is whoever speaks in correspondence with the Logos, which correspondence is in accord with the sophon (47).

But what is the sophon? Brann (15n19) notes that Heidegger never translates the word sophon, but glosses it as “the beings in Being,” and that its normal meaning is “the wise [thing].” The sophon is, according to Heidegger, that which says “All being is in Being,” that is, “Being is in being(s),” with “is” meaning “gathered together,” “collected,” so that “Being is being(s)” means Being gathers together being(s); but “Being is the gathering together—Logos” (49). Note the air of anti-cosmopolitanism in these “collecting,” “gathering-together”—we might say today, “communitarian”—words in Heideggerian German. “Being is being(s)” translates Heidegger’s Das Sein ist das Seiende. In English, unfortunately, we must use one word, the participle “being,” for German’s two words, das Sein (verb) and das Seiende (noun). In Greek, the equivalent verb is to einai, the noun, to on; in Latin, esse and ens; in French,’être and’étant.

William Barrett tells us that Heidegger’s own suggestion was that das Sein be rendered “Being,” and das Seiende, “beings.”15 Elsewhere, Barrett renders “the Is of what-is” for Das Sein des Seiendes.16 In what follows, I will continue to render “Being” for Das Sein, and “being(s)” for das Seiende, with a few exceptions in the service of clarity. In sum: the aner philosophos, who loves the sophon, is whoever speaks in correspondence with the Logos, which is in harmony with the gathering together of being(s) in Being; the aner philosophos is whoever is in harmony with Being.

Now, “All being is in Being,” sounds trivial to us; but Heidegger maintains it is this fact, “that in the appearance [Scheinen] of Being being(s) appear, that first astonished the Greeks and first astonished them alone” (49). This observation prepares Heidegger’s account of the birth of Greek philosophy. Sophist reasoning, he claims, was that “which always had ready for everything an answer that was comprehensible to everyone and which they put on the market”(51). The demands of the public realm and its suppliers are always the great threat to Thinking.17 The rescue of astonishment at the most astonishing thing—being(s) in Being—from Sophist reasoning was the accomplishment of a few who strove for the sophon, but in the process, the original harmonia with the sophon that characterized the aner philosophos was lost, and replaced by a striving towards the sophon. Philein no longer meant homolegein; it became rather a yearning (orexis) determined by Eros—and philosophia was born (51). Brann (18n27) remarks that Heidegger’s use of the definite article in Den Eros “invokes the god [Eros] and his particular passion.” We should emphasize that he is speaking of the pagan, Olympian, “ethnocentric” gods, not any universal (cosmopolitan) God.

In sum: “philosophy” supplanted “thinking” when the original harmony with the gathering of being(s) in Being, which thinkers such as Heraclitus and Parmenides possessed, became instead a matter of pursuing the question “What is a being (that which is) in so far as it is?” and the question “What is Being (the Is of what-is)?” was abandoned. This “step” (Schritt) permits Heidegger to avoid Fortschritt, which implies a “progress,” (as Brann, 19n28, acutely observes). This step from asking after Being to asking after being(s), which was the direct consequence of the intrusion of the public realm into the realm of thinking, was accomplished by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle (53). “Philosophy” asks what that which is (being) is in so far as it is. It asks about being(s), and forgets the question of Being. This “forgetfulness” is what is characteristic of our modern cosmopolitan world, which means that, for Heidegger, it is not really a “world” in which human beings can authentically “be.”

Heidegger draws special attention to how Aristotle circumscribes philosophy in its nature when he says (Metaphysics A2, 982b9ff.) that philosophy is epistēmē tōn prōtōn archōn kai aitiōn theōrētikē (theoretical knowledge of governing first principles and causes) (55). Heidegger suggests that if we translate epistēmē and theōrētikē without modern misconceptions, Aristotle’s statement means that philosophy is a kind of competence, a competence at “being on the lookout for something and of seizing and holding in its grasp what it is on the lookout for” (57). And what is philosophy on the lookout for? The prōtai archai kai aitiai (governing first principles and causes) of Being. It is these that constitute the Being of being(s) according to Aristotle.

Heidegger asks, “In what sense is Being conceived that such things as ‘principle’ and ‘cause’ are qualified to set their seal upon beings and take possession of them?” (59); and his answer, in plain terms, is “technologically.” Heidegger asks this emphatic question (his only italicized sentence in this essay) in the very center of it: it is literally its core, and more than literally. The driving force of the history of the West, which culminates in the “Atomic Age,” and therewith the dangers of the disappearance of humanity’s essential nature, is the West’s misconception of Being, the decisive event for which was the Greek Pre-Socratic “step” from thinking to Socratic-Platonic-Aristotelian philosophy, from attending to the question of Being, to attending to the question of being(s), from what Heidegger also calls, though not simply synonymously, “meditative” thinking versus “calculative” thinking, throughout his “Memorial Address.” Hans-Georg Gadamer, one of Heidegge’s most important students, the greatest figure in twentieth-century hermeneutics, has publicly pronounced that Plato is the “great hole” in his mentor’s thinking.

May we not say Aristotle’s answer to the question “What is philosophy?” is only one among many? Philosophy’s self-understanding has changed frequently in the course of history, has it not? Of course, says Heidegger, but “philosophy from Aristotle to Nietzsche, precisely because of these changes throughout their course, has remained the same; for the transformations are the warranty for the kinship in the same” (61). Yet, significantly, while Aristotle’s circumscription of philosophy is certainly not applicable to the thinking of Heraclitus and Parmenides, it is just as certainly a “free consequence” of this earlier Greek thinking. Heidegger says “free consequence” because “in no way can it be seen that individual philosophies and epochs of philosophy have emerged from one another in the sense of the necessity of a dialectic process” (63). This is a clear, if implicit, rejection of Hegel, despite Heidegger’s profound indebtedness to Hegel.18 What does he mean?

There have been individual philosophies, and different epochs of philosophy since Aristotle, but they share in common that they all let the question “What is Being?” in the sense of “What is the Is?” recede into the background, and all attended instead to the question “What is being?” or “What are the beings that are?” They forget about the whole, and attempt instead an ordered articulation of the beings that inhabit it. Heraclitus and Parmenides stood outside of this, according to Heidegger, as original thinkers who were still open and attentive to the question of Being, of which the West has grown increasingly forgetful over time. In different historical epochs, Being reveals itself in different ways, but the successive epochs of philosophy do not therefore follow one another in a determined fashion. We can attend to the revelations of Being or ignore them, and whether we attend to or ignore them is not itself predetermined. We may close ourselves off from Being or we may open ourselves up to it. What is held in our grasp and what is let slip away, what is pondered and what is left unthought, is not determined by some dialectical process, but depends on us, neither the masters nor the slaves of Being (as man, in turn, depends on Being).

May we not answer our question Was ist das—die Philosophie? by reducing, through a comparative abstraction, the various definitions of philosophy that have appeared in the history of philosophy to one (63)? This, according to Heidegger, would be an empty formula; we would merely be “collecting by historical methodology” correct information about philosophy rather than entering into it (65). The authentic answer to our question must be “a philosophizing answer which, as response, philosophizes in itself” (65). We must talk through with the philosophers that of which they speak. “It is one thing to determine and describe the opinions of philosophers; it is an entirely different thing to talk through with them what they are saying, and that means, that of which they speak” (67). We hold a dialogue with the philosophers not, as we might suppose, by addressing ourselves to them, but by letting our discussion be addressed by what addresses the philosophers, and this is the Being of being(s). Our speaking must “co-respond” to the Being of being(s) if the answer to our question is to be a philosophizing one (69). Gadamer, expresses the conviction that “philosophy is a human experience that remains the same and that characterizes the human being as such .  . . there is no progress in it, but only participation.”19

May we not then abandon the “history of philosophy”? No! Before we can set up a theory about the characteristic feature of the answer that corresponds to the Being of being(s), we must first attain “correspondence,” and we attain correspondence only by “conversing with what has been handed down to us as the Being of being(s)” (71). Although “historical assertions about the definitions of philosophy” do not provide us with the answer to our question, we cannot simply repudiate this “history.” Rather, we adopt and transform what has been handed down to us through tradition. Heidegger calls such an adoption and transformation a “Destruktion” and explicitly refers us to Being and Time §6 [“The Task of a Destructuring of the History of Ontology”] (71). Destruktion does not mean what our English word “destruction” means, but rather that “Putting aside merely historical assertions about the history of philosophy,” we must “open our ears, to make ourselves free for what speaks to us in tradition as the Being of being(s)” (73). It is significant that Heidegger changes the metaphor for philosophizing from “seeing” what is ultimately True (Plato) to “listening” to it. Among other things, this anticipates his move away from philosophy and towards poetry.

Further reflection reveals that to be in correspondence with the Being of being(s) is the fundamental trait of our nature or essence (Wesen, 73): the Being of being(s) must always somehow let itself be for us to some degree; we are thus always somehow in correspondence with it. The relation of human being to Being is not one of subject to object (contra especially Descartes); there is a region within which all beings always are, and therefore are always in contact with one another, and the region itself is Being: “All being is in Being” (49). This means that human beings are always and everywhere in correspondence with, and hence able to be in accord with (in the sense of harmonia), the Being of being(s). Nevertheless, “we rarely pay attention to the/ appeal of Being” (73/75).20 “Philosophy,” Heidegger now asserts, “is the correspondence to the Being of being(s), but not until, and only when, the correspondence is actually fulfilled and thereby unfolds itself and expands this unfoldment” (75).

Heidegger recurs to André Gide’s mot about “fine sentiments.” Philosophia, he reiterates, “is the expressly accomplished correspondence which/ speaks in so far as it attends to the spoken appeal of the Being of being(s). The correspondence listens to the voice (Stimme) of the spoken appeal” (75/77); Brann (29n44) claims that Stimme (“voice”) is “the grandest of the stimm-words”). “Correspondence” then means, in the translation of Brann (29), “being at-tuned [be-stimmt sein] (être-disposé) namely by the Being of beings.” Being de-termined or dis-posed means being placed in a particular relationship with what is. “Correspondence” is an “attunement,” and “only on the basis of the attunement (disposition) does the language of correspondence obtain its precision, its tuning (Stimmung)” (77).

Heidegger reassures us that by calling philosophy a “tuned correspondence” he is not surrendering thinking to the “sentiments.” Rather, he is pointing out the fact that “every precision of language is grounded in disposition of correspondence . . . of heeding the appeal” of the Being of being(s) (79). He claims to follow Plato and Aristotle in this. He quotes the former (Theaetetus 155d): “Very much is this especially the pathos [emotion or experience] of a philosopher, namely, to be astonished; for there is no other determining point of departure for philosophy than this” (79). We are to understand this to mean that the pathos of astonishment (thaumazein) is the archē (beginning and governing first principle) of philosophy; that is, it pervades philosophy, and is not just a point of departure for it that is then left behind once we begin to busy ourselves with “doing philosophy.” He quotes the latter (Metaphysics A2, 982b12ff.): “Through astonishment [to thaumazein] men have reached now, as well as at first, the determining path of philosophizing (that from which philosophizing emanates and that which altogether determines the course of philosophizing)” (81).

Heidegger’s interpretation of these passages hinges on his translation of pathos. He notes that “pathos is connected with paschein, to suffer, endure, undergo, to be borne along by, be determined by.” To protect us from conceiving pathos in a very modern, very un-Greek, psychological sense, he asserts that we should translate pathos as tuning (Stimmung), in his sense (83). We will then understand astonishment (to thaumazein) more exactly: to be astonished is to step back from what is while at the same time being forcibly drawn to and held fast by it. “Astonishment is disposition in which and for which the Being of being(s) unfolds: Astonishment is the tuning within which the Greek philosophers were granted the correspondence to the Being of being(s)” (85).


A very different tuning governs modern philosophy; Heidegger refers explicitly to Descartes’ Meditations (85). For classical philosophy, the fundamental tuning is astonishment; for Descartes, it is doubt. With the archē (beginning and governing principle) of a different sort of tuning comes a different way of asking the question of what being(s) in Being are. Descartes’ question is: what is that being that is a true being in the sense of ens certum, i.e. being in certainty? Asking after being(s) in a new way, Descartes understands Truth in a new way. His cogito ergo sum—“I think therefore I am—makes certainty the measure of truth; this certainty is that of a subject about an object, and “thus the nature of man for the first time enters the realm of subjectivity in the sense of the ego” (87). With modern philosophy, the question of Being, the question that asks after the “Is of what-is,” the question with which even the classical philosophers were no longer in harmony, falls into utter oblivion. Not “I think therefore I am” but “I am therefore I think” is more in accord with Heidegger’s meditations on authentic Da-sein than is the Cartesian “ego.” Modern philosophy seeks what is present as an object completely divorced from the enveloping background within which what is present is enabled to be present.

The enveloping presence which enables subject and object to be present for each other, and without which there could be no subjects and objects, is utterly lost. With modern philosophy, thought becomes groundless; we, ourselves, homeless. This is Heidegger’s analysis of human “alienation” which is, at its profoundest level, our alienation from Being, the Is of what is, our embracing the contemporary world of cosmopolitanism, or what is today called “globalization.”

We have seen that the archē of modern philosophy is. What, Heidegger asks, is its telos, its end or fulfillment? What is its tuning (Stimmung)? Where must we seek it? Heidegger mentions Hegel, Schelling, Marx, and Nietzsche as possibilities. Presumably one fundamental tuning prevails in contemporary thinking, but it apparently eludes us. “We are trying to listen to the voice [Stimme; see Brann, 29n44] of Being. Into what kind of mood [Stimmung] does this voice put contemporary thinking?” (89). Even though what we come across today seems to be a variety of tunings: for example, Nihilism, “doubt and despair”; and Positivism, “blind obsession by untested principles” (91); we find fear and anxiety (Angst)—that which so excited the French existentialists—mixed with hope and confidence. We even find a calculating kind of reasoning that seems to be free of any kind of tuning (i.e., technical thinking); but this is illusory: even the coldness of calculative thinking, which dominates in this present historical epoch called the “Atomic Age,” is “attuned to confidence in the logically mathematical intelligence of its principles and rules” (91).

While Heidegger does not answer the question “What is the telos of modern philosophy?” he indicates a path. We have made acquaintance with what philosophy is, and have learned how it is—“the manner of correspondence which is attuned to the voice of the Being of being(s)” (93). But this is only a beginning. For this co-respondence (this Ent-sprechen) is a speaking (Sprechen), which means it is in the service of language (Sprache), which is very difficult for us today to comprehend because of our instrumental view of language; in our time, we consider it more correct to say, “language is in the service of thinking, rather than that thinking, as co-respondence, is in the service of language” (93). This conception of language is at opposite poles from the Greek experience of language, the nature of which is revealed for the Greeks as logos. We today are only beginning, according to Heidegger, to glimpse what logos and legein mean. Not that our task is to return to experiencing language as the Greeks did, for this is not possible. What we must do is “enter into a conversation with the Greek experience of language as logos” (95). Our task is to think language; our task is to think the meaning of the famous Heideggerian dictum, “Language is the house of Being.”

When we do make the attempt to think language, we are led to compare Thinking and Poetry, Denken and Dichten, because each of these, in its distinctive way, is in the service of language, and this being in the service of language is what constitutes the “secret kinship” of thinking and poetic creation. But alongside this “secret kinship” is an “abyss”; Heidegger quotes Hölderlin’s poem, “Patmos”: “they dwell on the most widely separated mountains” (95). To the objection that the question concerning philosophy must be kept separate from the question concerning poetry, Heidegger responds: “This distinction would be possible and necessary only if in the discussion it should turn out that philosophy is not that which it is now interpreted to be—a co-respondence which discusses the appeal of the Being of being(s)” (97). Heidegger is a thinker, not a poet. He does not speak of poetry as one proposing the abandonment of rigorous thinking in favor of poetic creation. He thinks poetry; he questions poetry—just as he thinks and questions philosophia—for, as the famous last sentence of “The Question Concerning Technology” tells us, “Questioning is the piety of thought.”

Heidegger draws his reflections to a close. His task has been “to prepare all who are participating for a gathering in which what we call the Being of being(s) appeals to us” (97). Is this an arcane, “academic” (in the pejorative sense) concern? Not for Heidegger. He admits (indeed insists) it is not his task to wind up a practical or philosophical program. But if the root of human alienation is our alienation from Being, if we in our time are homeless, our thought groundless, if we live in an oblivion of Being because we have closed ourselves off from Being, then the vital task of thinkers is to open their thinking to Being in its manifold revelations. If we are to listen to Being, astonishment (to thaumazein) must again be the tuning or mood (pathos) of philosophy, must again be the archē (governing first principle) of our thinking. It is in the service of this project—to revive the astonishment at the most astonishing thing—being(s) in Being—that Heidegger offers his lecture.

At the so-called “everyday” level, we seem fated to live in a “famished time,” a “time of need,” in which the highest human experiences are what George Parkin Grant calls “intimationns of deprival.” “What is worth doing,” Grant laments, “in the midst of this barren twilight is the incredibly difficult question.”21 Heidegger tells us in his “Memorial Address” (50) that our “day” is a dreadful “night” in which “an attack with technological means is being prepared upon the life and nature of man compared with which the explosion of the hydrogen bomb means little.” In what we may call his last word on the subject, Heidegger enigmatically opines that from the darkness in which we now find ourselves, “Only a god can save us.”

But this profound level of our alienation from Being has its political, and radically anti-cosmopolitan counterpart: not groundless, homeless cosmopolitan man, but man genuinely experiencing “autochthony,” “rootedness” in the “blood and soil” of the “homeland,” the man of a “gathered community” with its own “fate-full” historical “destiny” to which that community is “committed,” can live “authentically”: National Socialism, a radical anti-cosmopolitan ideology if there ever was one, fits the bill perfectly—it is certainly a “free consequence” of Heidegger’s philosophy—although it is only fair to say that Heidegger’s philosophy does not necessarily lead to it. Heidegger did, however, remain either disingenuously evasive or belligerently silent about this from his “Letter to the Rector of Freiburg University” in 1945 until his death in 1976. Steiner, Heidegger (108-121), offers a judicious assessment of Heidegger’s involvement with National Socialism; nevertheless, what especially disturbs Steiner are not so much Heidegger’s speeches and deeds during 1933-34, “nauseating as they are,” but his “very near intolerable silence” on Hitler and the Holocaust after 1945 (118).

Despite everything, none of the myriad details that have been unearthed since 1978 and exposed in the scores of volumes that have been written on the issue has altered in any fundamental way what one needs to know to assess Heidegger’s philosophy, his political acts, and the relationship of the former to the latter. It is reported, however, by Wolin, Heidegger Controversy (146), “that one of Heidegger’s only expressions of contrition over his ruthless behavior during the Nazi years comes in a letter to Jaspers of March 20, 1950. There he confides that he did not disdain visiting Jaspers because of the latter’s Jewish wife, but instead, because he was “simply ashamed.” We can only “wonder” (thaumazein) what “mood” (Stimmung or pathos) Heidegger was experiencing (pathos), on what ground he was standing (Bodenständigkeit), what his “attunement” (bestimmtheit) or “co-respondence” (Ent-sprechen) to the Being of being(s) (Das Sein des Seiendes) was, what “voice” (Sprache) he was listening to, what he was “thinking” (Denken), when he wrote those words.



1 I wish to thank the editors of this volume, especially Khalil Habib and the anonymous referee, for suggestions that improved this article considerably. I also wish to thank my wife, Rachel, for, among other things, valuable assistance in the writing of it, which is why I dedicate it to her.

2 Thomas Langan, Heidegger (New York: Columbia University Press, 1959).

3 Among the most important articles for political philosophers are Fred R. Dallmayr, “Ontology of Freedom: Heidegger and Political Philosophy,” Political Theory 12 (1984): 204-234; and W.R. Newell, “Heidegger on Freedom and Community: Some Political Implications of His Early Thought,” American Political Science Review 78 (1984): 775-784. Newell is especially illuminating to readers concerned with Heidegger’s anti-cosmopolitanism, but to anyone for its brilliant elucidation of the indebtedness of Heidegger’s philosophy to the tradition of nineteenth- century German Idealism. On the latter topic, see especially Michael Allen Gillespie, Hegel, Heidegger, and the Ground of History (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1984).

4 See the interview Heidegger gave to the German magazine Der Spiegel on September 23, 1966, published only after his death, as was his wish, available in English translation by Maria P. Alter and John D. Caputo, “Only a God Can Save Us,” Philosophy Today 20 (Winter 1976): 267-285; reprinted in Richard Wolin, ed., The Heidegger Controversy (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1993): 91- 116. Nevertheless, Heidegger’s protests to the contrary notwithstanding, it is very difficult to read Heidegger without thinking that concepts such as Da-sein (Being-there) and “commitment” do not carry ethical overtones, that to live an “authentic” existence is not superior to leading an “inauthentic” one. In Being and Time §51n12, the famous section on “Being-towards-Death and the Everydayness of Da-sein,” he himself refers the reader to Tolstoy’s story, “The Death of Ivan Ilyitch,” as presenting the phenomenon in an exemplary way. For Tolstoy, this was certainly a story with a “moral.” One wonders that if “Being” is not something like Heideggerian language for “God,” as many interpreters take it to be, why Heidegger should concern himself about the fate of Da-sein at all.

5 For a brief account of Heidegger’s activities at the advent and during the Third Reich, see David Farrell Krell, “General Introduction” in Martin Heidegger: Basic Writings (New York: Harper & Row, 1977): 27-28, (hereafter cited as Basic Writings, followed by the page number in parentheses) including the sources there cited, the best known of which is Hannah Arendt, “Martin Heidegger at Eighty,” available in M. Murray, ed., Heidegger and Modern Philosophy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1978). George Steiner, Heidegger (London: Fontana Press, 1978): 111-121, evenhandedly reprises all the basic facts of Heidegger’s involvement with National Socialism. Hundreds of articles and books on Heidegger and National Socialism have now been published, but the debate really got rolling with, among the books available in English, Victor Farías, Heidegger and Nazism, Joseph Margolis and Tom Rockmore, eds. (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989; original French edition, 1987); Günther Neske and Emil Kettering, eds., Martin Heidegger and National Socialism: Questions and Answers (New York: Paragon House, 1990; original German edition, 1988); Tom Rockmore, On Heidegger’s Nazism and Philosophy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992); Richard Wolin, The Heidegger Controversy (Cambridge: MIT Press); Berel Lang, Heidegger’s Silence (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996). The best place to begin is Wolin, Heidegger Controversy, which includes most of the documents concerning this contentious issue.

6 Karl Löwith, “Heidegger: Problem and Background of Existentialism,” Social Research 15 (Winter 1948): 345-346. Elsewhere, Löwith left no doubt about what he himself thought about “these matters”: see his “Les implications politiques de la philosophie de l’existence chez Heidegger,” Les Temps Modernes 14 (1946-47), now available in English in Wolin, Heidegger Controversy: 167-185. See also Karl Jaspers, “Letter to the Freiburg University Denazification Committee (December 22, 1945)”: 147-151, in the same volume; both are translated by Wolin. In the half-century since Löwith wrote the statement quoted, Jaspers philosophical reputation did considerably decline in status, although there has been a recent resurgence of interest in him.

7 Thus, both Löwith, “Heidegger” and” Les implications politiques,” and Strauss, “Philosophy as Rigorous Science and Political Philosophy,” Interpretation: a journal of political philosophy 2 (1971), maintain that the Nazism of Heidegger is embedded in the core of his thinking. National Socialism’s “philosophy,” if one may call it philosophy, was radically anti-cosmopolitan. Dallmayr, “Ontology of Freedom”: 204-206, cites the same Strauss passages, but he either misconstrues or misrepresents them.

8 Larry Schmidt, ed., George Grant in Process: Essays and Conversations (Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 1978): 66.

9. On this very question, see Mark Blitz, Heidegger’s Being and Time and the Possibility of Political Philosophy (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981). See also Catherine H. Zuckert, Postmodern Platos: Nietzsche, Heidegger, Gadamer, Strauss, Derrida (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).

10 Was is das—die Philosophie? (Pfullingen: Günther Neske Verlag, 1956) was a prefatory lecture delivered before a colloquium that was held in Normandy in August, 1955. The edition I use in this article is the German-English bilingual text published in 1958: Martin Heidegger, What is Philosophy? The translation with an introduction are by Jean T. Wilde and William Kluback (New Haven: College and University Press, no date), originally published by Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1958. The importance of this lecture as an introduction to Heidegger’s thinking may be implicit in the fact that no translation of Being and Time appeared in English before 1962. All quotations in my text, except where otherwise noted, are from the Wilde and Kluback edition, and are cited (in parentheses) by page number only; I make only minor revisions, the most frequent of which is “being(s)” for “being.” I have also consulted the edition of the lecture, Martin Heidegger, What is that—Philosophy?, translation and annotations by Eva T.H. Brann (Annapolis: St. John’s College Press, 1991), hereafter cited simply as Brann, followed by page numbers in parentheses, who also usually translates “beings” for Wilde and Kluback’s “being.”

11 Martin Heidegger, “Memorial Address,” in Discourse on Thinking, translated by John M. Anderson and E. Hans Freund (New York: Harper & Row, 1966; originally, Martin Heidegger, Gelassenheit [Pfullingen: Günther Neske Verlag, 1959]), hereafter cited as “Memorial Address,” followed by page numbers in parentheses. Gelassenheit (Releasement or Letting Be) is a key term in Heidegger after the war.

12 Heidegger’s published writings in English, not to mention German, are now voluminous; the secondary literature is a veritable industry. Walter Biemel, Martin Heidegger: An Illustrated Study, translated by J.L. Mehta (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1976, 187-206; original German publication, 1973) provided a useful bibliography, and noted that 1,000 titles had to be added by 1972 to a Heidegger bibliography published in 1968. Imagine the situation four decades later! For this reason among others, I cite only a small fraction of the literature on Heidegger, only what is readily available in English, and only what I found especially helpful.

13 I use Martin Heidegger, Being and Time: A Translation of Sein und Zeit, by Joan Stambaugh (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996), hereafter cited in the text as Being and Time, with references to Heidegger’s own section numbers. The text first appeared in the Jahrbuch für Phänomenologie und phänomenologische Forschung, Vol. VIII (1927), and was published simultaneously as a separate volume.

14 Heidegger is probably more responsible than anyone in the twentieth century (Nietzsche having died at the end of the nineteenth) for “Western” interest in things “Eastern”; but whatever oriental thinking or meditating may be, it is not philosophy, at least not according to him.

15 William Barrett, Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy (Garden City: Doubleday, 1958): 211-12

16 William Barrett, What is Existentialism? (New York: Grove Press, 1964): 137; see also William Barrett, The Illusion of Technique (Garden City: Doubleday, 1978).

17 Compare the remark about the deplorable “dictatorship of the public realm,” again a reflection of contempt for any kind of cosmopolitanism, in Heidegger, “Letter on Humanism,” Basic Writings: 197.

18 On this very subject, see Gillespie, Ground of History (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1984); and Newell, “Heidegger on Freedom and Community.”

19 Hans-Georg Gadamer, The Idea of the Good in Platonic-Aristotelian Philosophy, translated by P. Christopher Smith (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986): 6.

20 In his various writings, sometimes in the same writing, Heidegger speaks of the “call” of Being, of the “appeal” of Being, of the “voice” of Being; the different meanings are, to say the least, nuanced. What is essential is not to confuse any of these expressions with the “call of conscience” in Being and Time §§55-57.

21 George Grant, Technology and Empire: Perspectives on North America (Toronto: House of Anansi, 1969). The writings of Grant (not, himself, a Heideggerian) are yet very much informed by Heidegger’s insights, and utilized in such as way as to facilitate access to Heidegger’s thinking by English speakers. For the most recent of a growing number of discussions of Grant’s political and social thought, see Hugh Donald Forbes, George Grant: A Guide to His Thought (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007). For a long time, most of Grant’s writings were published only in his native Canada.


This excerpt is from Cosmopolitanism in an Age of Globalization: Citizens Without States (University Press of Kentucky, 2011).  Also see “Cosmopolitanism: Citizens Without States“; “Introduction to Cosmopolitanism in an Age of Globalization“; “Aquinas’s Mediated Cosmopolitanism and the Impasse of Ancient Political Philosophy”; “Ibn Tufayl’s Critique of Cosmopolitanism in Hayy Ibn Yaqzan“; “Kant’s Teaching of Historical Progress and Its Cosmopolitan Goal“;  The Limits of Modern Cosmopolitanism“; and “The Postmodern Condition of Cosmopolitanism.”

Michael Palmer

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Michael Palmer is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. He is author of Love of Glory and the Common Good: The Political Thought of Thucydides (Rowman & Littlefield, 1992); Masters and Slaves: Revisioned Essays in Political Philosophy (Lexington Books, 2001); and co-editor, with Thomas L. Pangle, of Political Philosophy and the Human Soul: Essays in Memory of Allan Bloom (Rowman & Littlefield, 1995).