Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Patron’s Tomb


~by David Aiken~


Pre-Scriptum: A former colleague, who is an art historian at an American university, asked Phrontisterion to help in translating a group of Greek inscriptions in the context of her research project on ancient Roman tombs and funerary frescos depicting garden scenes. Dated at around the first century BC, the inscriptions were discovered in 1842, and excavated along with “frescoes of exceptional quality,” just south of Rome near the ancient Circus Maximus. The inscriptions were interpreted, catalogued, and published for the Musée National du Louvre in Les Inscriptions Grecques, interprétées par W. Fröhner (Paris: Librairies-Imprimeries Réunies, 1864/5).


Figure 1: "Trompe-l'oeil Paintings" of Exceptional Quality at Patron's Tomb

To my knowledge there is still no other published translation specifically of the Patron inscriptions, other than the rather perfunctory renderings, in French, which were advanced in the 1860s by the Louvre curator, Fröhner (1834-1925). I have translated the funeral poems concerning Patron that are available, which are the Greek fragments 233, 234, and 235. Fröhner had originally suggested a reconstruction of several significantly corrupted passages, notably in fragment 233, but these have since been more meaningfully reconstructed by the editors of the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG: University of California Irvine, USA). The Greek electronic text used for these translations is from the TLG.


The following is the reconstructed glimpse over the netherworld’s fading threshold, which history permits us, into what was once the life and death of Patron, the doctor.


Figure 2: Engraving of Patron's Tomb (Secchi, Monumenti Inediti d'un Antico Sepolcro (Roma: 1843)

A Matter of Life and Death. At the emplacement of his tomb near the Palatine Hill in Rome, which is one of the most ancient parts of the Eternal City, the story of Patron’s life and death was found etched in stone, rendered in Greek heroic verse.

Patron’s tomb dates from approximately the time of Augustus Cesar, ca. 18 BC (vide Bagnani in Fröhner), and is situated at the Porta Capena, which is the southern gateway in Rome’s Servian Wall, opening out onto the Via Appia. The Servian Wall had the formidable reputation of being capable of repelling the elephant-equipped armies of the great Carthaginian general, Hannibal, who, in today’s geography, would have been a Tunisian, an even more remote son of ancient Phoenicia. That said, the Wall never had the opportunity to live up to its daunting reputation—apparently, and certainly notwithstanding Hannibal’s efforts to the contrary, the Punic general and his armies only ever got to within 5 km of Rome. Which to the Romans at that time, must have seemed just a little too close.


The stone inscriptions of Patron’s life and death are composed in ancient Greek. The curiosity here, of course, is that a non-specialist like this Phrontisterion philosopher would not necessarily have expected to find Greek language funeral inscriptions in Rome. But, then, that is part of the intrigue in this story; because this detail reveals to us something about this immigrant medical doctor, Patron: according to one fragment in the inscriptions, which are composed in Doric, as opposed to Attic Greek, Patron says that his native land was Lycia, which is today found in southwestern Turkey on a finger of land pointing to, and including the island of Rhodes (light brown on the map below).


Figure 3: The Inscription Blocks from Patron's Tomb

Scholars talk about the Dorians as a people, an ethnicity certainly familiar to students of art history for its plain-spoken Doric columns—which are considered simpler than those of either the Ionians or the Corinthians; they are also known for art of the Geometric period (ca.
950 BC).  But then again, scholars talk about many things and not everything is necessarily interesting or worthwhile. For example, there is a common albeit not unproblematic scholarly notion of a so-called Dorian “invasion” of the Peloponnesus, which should perhaps be more correctly called a migration of Dorian peoples, which is thought to have taken place sometime around 1150 BC.


Figure 4: Architectural Columns

The Doric or Dorian dialect of Ancient Greek, commonly known as western Greek, which was spread about Greece by means of the migration of the Dorian peoples, is fairly indigestible to a simple Hellenophile, like myself, who has been nurtured on the sweet milk of Attic and Koine Greek. In addition to being more or less the standard style of ancient Greek that one studies at school, Attic, or eastern Greek, is also the Greek dialect of Athens, spoken from ca. 500-300 BC. This is the Greek of the classical period of Athens, in which are embodied the works of the dramatists Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, the comedian Aristophanes, the historian Thucydides, and of course the philosophers Plato and Aristotle. Historically speaking, Attic Greek would slowly evolve into the Koine or common Greek spoken during Hellenistic and Roman antiquity—this is the “superregional” or lingua franca Greek that was spoken from roughly 300 BC to 300 AD all across the Mediterranean basin, and which will also include the writings of Epictetus and the Christian New Testament.

In the briefest possible of wiki-history versions of the Greek dialects, according to those in the know “it” all boils down to Mycenaean or Late Bronze Age Greek (16th-12th centuries BC), which was reconstructed from the Linear B tablets after some first-class linguistic sleuthing by Ventris and Chadwick. The three forms of Greek that evolved from Mycenaean Greek are the Aeolic (Lesbos, western Asia Minor, Boeotian and Thessalian = northeastern Greece), the Doric (northwestern Greece), and the Ionic (western and southwestern Asia Minor). Attic Greek evolved as a subgroup of Ionian Greek.

Doric Greek, on the other hand, which is our present interest, is, historically speaking, an older dialect of Greek, and spoken provincially, which is to say primarily beyond the borders of Attica, which, as its name implies, occupies the Attic Peninsula including, of course, the great polis of Athens. Dating from ca. 800-100 BC, variations of Doric Greek “were spoken in the southern and eastern Peloponnese, Crete, Rhodes, some islands in the southern Aegean Sea, some cities on the coasts of Asia Minor, Southern Italy, Sicily, Epirus and Macedon.”

According to wiki-history, then, the scholarly consensus is that Doric Greek originated among ethnicities living in the mountains of northwestern Greece, which is supposed to be the traditional homeland of the Dorians, and from which the Doric version of Greek was spread to neighboring regions during the Dorian “invasion” and subsequent regional colonizations. Per the wiki-map below, the broader group of Doric dialects, which is indicated by all the various “brownish” regions, will include Doric proper, Northwest Greek, and Achaean Doric.

Important for historians of ideas, is the contextualizing historical setting of our considerations, which is that the two most important ethnicities in 5th century Greece were the Dorians and the Ionians, who were also the two principal players in the Peloponnesian War—a total game-changer for the history of the city of Athens. Prima facie, the war in the Peloponnesus was waged between Athens and Sparta; but the Athenians and their allies in Sicily were ethnically Ionian, while the folks in Syracuse and the Spartans were ethnically Dorian. The war was fought serially, and it was therefore rather long in that it lasted from 431-404 BC, or for about 27 years; but, per the prediction of Socrates just prior to his execution at the hands of the Athenians in 399 BC, the war eventually brought about the decline of the Athenian polis. It goes almost without saying, of course, that the Ionians of Attica, like their Dorian ancestral enemies in the Peloponnesus, had their own dialect of Greek, and their own style of making a column. The Doric areas are color-coded with a distinctive purple on the wiki-map below.


Figure 5: Spoken Greek According to Regions (Source: Wiki)

As we were saying, then, Patron was a medical doctor and ethnically Dorian, which means he spoke Doric Greek, if one may already begin to deduce his language from the language used in his funeral inscriptions. Additionally, one discovers from the inscriptions that he originally hailed from Lycia, which is a whole wide world away from Rome, and that he died and was buried in a beautiful Roman tomb as an immigrant.


Lycia, which today would be Anatolia or the southwestern region of Turkey, was a Doric Greek speaking region of Asia Minor. It was subsumed into the Greek empire that was being constructed by Alexander the Great, and, after the defeat of the Persian King, Darius III, at the battle of Issus (southern Anatolia) in 331 BC, Lycia was totally Hellenized under the rule of the Macedonians. After 168 BC, when Lycia enjoyed official home rule within the context of the Lycian League, the region enjoyed some degree of autonomy under the protectorate of the Roman republic; however, Lycia was neither independent nor a sovereign region, but a self-governing region under republican principles. It also had the right, apparently for a time, to mint its own coins. In 43 AD emperor Claudius dissolved the Lycian League, and Lycia was again incorporated, with provincial status, into the Roman Empire. This would be about the time, historically, that Patron would have appeared on the scene.

            There have been some fine heroes in history and myth who claim Lycia as their homeland. Much of the early foundational history of the region is recounted in The Histories of Herodotus, having to do with the sons of Europa, Sarpedon (the grandfather of the Homeric one) and Minos; it was Minos who bested Sarpedon in vying for the throne in Crete, thus driving him away from Crete and into our narrative. In his flight, grandfather Sarpedon lands in Milyas, which is the ancient name for later Lycia.

Apparently Bellerophon, of Pegasus fame and monster-killer extraordinaire, credited with slaying Chimera, was also later king in Lycia. This story comes to us via Homer (Il. 6.155-203), being told by his grandson, Glaucus (Trojan ally), who, one remembers, meets the great Diomedes (Greek) on the battlefield (Bks. 2 & 6) and, instead of fighting as enemies, they actually exchange gifts of friendship because their grandfathers had been befriended. Diomedes got the best of the exchange, however, and notwithstanding the excellence of the gesture, Glaucus comes down to us as a somewhat tragic fool of the gods who would later be killed by Ajax.

In a one-thing-leading-to-another kind of way, though, the first Sarpedon, who fled Crete from his brother, ultimately yielded a second Sarpedon, through Laodamia (daughter of Bellerophon); this second hero was killed at Troy. This Sarpedon grandson is famous for having had a good grump at Hector, the Trojan general (Bk. 5), on the nature of heroism or lack thereof, and, additionally, for giving a wonderful speech on the honorable, heroic life (Bk. 12), as well as for living and dying an uncertain number of times—being a favorite of Zeus, the King of the Gods tried to keep him from dying at the hands of Diomedes, until Hera reminded her husband that gods did not have that right (Bk. 16), at which point Zeus backs off. So—spoiler alert, Sarpedon gets to really die; but the comedy gets played out anyway, because Apollo recovers the body and has it delivered back to Lycia for funeral honors. All is well that ends well, in a Greek tragic, heroic kind of a way.


Figure 6: The death of Sarpedon, the Euphronios krater, ca. 515 BC (Source: Wiki)

Now, all of this chatting about heroes hither and yon in the pages of Lycian history, necessarily brings us back full circle to the Roman funeral inscriptions of our good doctor, Patron, which are not “simply” composed in Doric Greek, but are in fact rendered in the heroic poetic form and rhythms of the Greek epic.

According to common sources, scholarly opinion seems to be that Doric Greek is the “conventional dialect of choral lyric poetry”; but then I am not sure that this bit of information advances us much, because choral lyric poetry is not written in the epic form, which Patron’s inscriptions definitely are. There is equally scholarship suggesting that ‘epic praise’ will undergo historical transformation already in Classical Athens, shifting from its traditional expression through Homeric poetry/verse, and being replaced instead with the more democratically oriented funeral oration. The strength of this theory is grounded in the funeral oration of Pericles (Thucydides, History 2.41.4), who, speaking over the Athenian dead, says:

We need no Homer to sing our praise, nor anyone else who with his verses may delight for a moment…” Instead of relying on more traditional or customary rhetorical devices to demonstrate their ‘power through epic poetry’, as had the aristocratic Athens of antiquity, “Pericles assures the [5th century] Athenians that their city has provided overwhelming demonstrations of its power, and especially in view of the dead they were there to honor. Such tangible proofs, he contends, are sufficient in and of themselves to ensure the glory of the city (http://www.pdf-archive.com/2015/10/14/thucydides-rationalism-2005/, p. 11).


The Greek epic tradition is, first and foremost, the poetry of Homer. The most anodyne definition of the epic is, as every schoolboy learns, that it is a lengthy poem containing tales of journeys and deeds of derring-do. But this definition does not inform us as to why a 1st century BC funeral inscription would be composed in epic verse, unless, of course, we give value to the metaphorical element of the deceased’s journey through life, and then the passage from life to death. This certainly seems a fitting hermeneutical entry into thinking about and interpreting the Patron inscriptions.

A second direction to go in considering the Patron inscriptions is not to consider necessarily the content of the inscriptions for epic material, but rather for their metrical form. Standard epic verse, which is traditionally composed in hexameter metrical lines, is also certainly apparent in the Patron inscriptions (vide Fröhner, 294).

Finally, there is a consideration of the actual vocabulary used in the inscriptions, which is in fact and in deed denotationally dominated by Doric epic elements. This seems consistent with general usage in antiquity, for, according to one site, “All later Greek poetry relied on Epic practice to a greater or lesser degree. This included vocabulary, a choice of alternates for noun declension and verb conjugation, turns of phrase and even particular quirks of syntax.” This description of “epic practice” is certainly fitting, considering all the Doric language elements, apparent both in noun/adjective declensions as well as the verb conjugations, with which the Patron inscriptions are replete to overflowing.


The Patron inscriptions (circa 18 BC).




(233.) ΑΛΛΟ. (t)

Πάτρω]ν [εἰμί]· πατρὶς Λυ[κίων μ’] ἐλοχεύσατο γαῖα. (1)

  Ῥώμ]α δ’ ἐν τιμαῖς πρά[γματά μου δέχ]εται.

] μάκαρ, [ἐς φάος] ἀελίου πάλιν [οὔ μ’ ἀπο]πέμπεις,

  εὐπά[τριδ’ ἀλλ’ ἐφορᾷς τηλό]θι θαπτόμενον.


233. I am Patron; and the fatherland that bore me, Lycia. /

And valor among honors can be expected with respect to my accomplishments. /

You are blessed, [Lycia] who do not send me off again back to the light of the sun, /

But rather, from afar you oversee funeral rites celebrated to honor one of noble family born.  


233.bis. Commentary: Our native lands send us forth into the light of the sun as immigrants, whether literal or metaphorical, and observe from a distance as we are given again to the shadows. The valor of our accomplishments between sun and shadow is ours to win, but it does not belong to us alone; our honors are also those of our native soil. The individual is always surrounded by a crowd of witnesses.


233.ter. Fröhner French (1864/5, 295). Je suis Patron, [……] est mon pays natal ; maintenant l’Hadès m’a reçu, moi qui fus si bienveillant pendant mon administration. Heureux Hadès ! tu ne me renvoies plus à la lumière du soleil, car j’ai appartenu à une noble famille, moi qui suis enterré ici.


(234.) ΑΛΛΟ. (t)

Εἰς τὸν αὐτόν. (n)

Οὐ βάτοι, οὐ τρίβολοι τὸν ἐμὸν τάφον ἀμφὶς ἔχουσιν @1 (1)

  οὐδὀλολυγαία νυκτερὶς ἀμπέταται·

ἀλλά με πᾶν δένδρος χαρίεν περὶ ῥίσκον ἀνέρπει

  κυκλόθεν εὐκάρποις κλωσὶν ἀγαλλόμενον.

Ποτᾶται δὲ πέριξ λιγυρὴ μινυρίστριἀηδὼν (5)

  καὶ τέττιξ γλυκεροῖς χείλεσι λιρὰ χέων,

καὶ σοφὰ τραυλίζουσα χελιδονὶς, τε λιγύ


  ἀκρὶς ἀπὸ στήθο[υς ἡδὺ χέουσα μέλος].

Πάτρων ὅσσα βροτοῖσιν ἐράσμια πάντἐτέλεσσα

  ὄφρα καὶ εἰν Ἀΐδᾳ τερπνὸν ἔχοιμι τόπον· (10)

τἆλλα δὲ πάνθ λέλοιπα καὶ ἐν νεότητι κατέκτην

  ᾤχετο πλὴν πρὶν ζῶν ἀπεκαρπισάμην.


234. Neither brambles nor burdocks are gathering around my tomb, / (1)

Nor does any shrilling bat turn overhead; /

But rather every tree gracefully spreads upwards, twisting in a circle all about my vault, /

Which is made glorious from all sides by their branches heavy laden with fruit. /

And flitting around and about is a clear-voiced warbler, a songstress, / (5)

And a cicada boldly holding forth from between sweet lips, /

And a clever swallow quietly intoning, or even a cricket’s shrill chirping, /

When a pleasant song is pouring forth from her breast. /

[I], Patron, achieved all sorts of lovely things among mortal men /

In order that I should also have a delightful place as well in Hades; / (10)

But, also, I have left behind all those things I used to seek after in my youth; /

It is all gone, save that fruit which I harvested before, while alive.


234.bis. Commentary: Patron’s tomb is not a place of decay and abandon, but is surrounded by the beautiful, the pleasant, and the fruitful. This is obviously also true of Patron’s life, which was a ‘place’ of fruitful and pleasant plantings and sowing. The goodness that Patron sowed during his life spent among men, is the only abiding fruit that Patron gets to leave behind.


234.ter. Fröhner French (1864/5, 294). Ni ronces ni épines n’entourent mon tombeau ; nulle chauve-souris aux cris perçants ne tournoie au-dessus ; mais toutes sortes de charmants arbustes, les branches ornées de beaux fruits, poussent autour de mon cercueil et on y voit voltiger le rossignol aux mélodies retentissantes et la cigale à la voix douce et harmonieuse, et l’hirondelle aux doctes gazouillements, et la sauterelle aux cris sonores, qui, du fond de sa poitrine, répand ses jolies chansons. (Moi) Patron, j’ai rendu aux hommes beaucoup de bons services pour avoir aux enfers une place agréable. De tous les biens que j’ai quittés et que je possédais dans ma jeunesse, il ne me reste rien, si ce n’est (le souvenir) des jouissances que j’ai goûtées durant ma vie.


(235.) ΑΛΛΟ. (t)

Πατὴρ Πάτρων μὲν, Ἀπποληΐα δἐγώ· (1)

τεκνῶ δὲ δισσὰ τέκνα, πατέρα δεὖ λέγω.


235. My father is Patron, and I am Appoleia;

I have brought two children into the world, and I commend [eulogize] my father.


235.bis. Commentary: The children, and the children’s’ children, are the fruit of a parent’s planting, but a harvest for the future.


235.ter. Fröhner French (1864/5, 295). Mon père est Patron, moi je suis Appuleja. J’ai eu deux enfants et je bénis mon père.


(Reprised and reworked from an original essay published on Phrontisterion in March 2016.)

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Heidegger, a treacherous millésime… a Phrontisterion / Charlie Hebdo tandem.


~by David Aiken~


The words of the prophet are… / whispered in the sounds of silence.

The Bard famously asserted that "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet"; but while this may hold true for roses or for the awareness of love that moves a young Romeo when thinking of the Beloved, this sentiment does not hold for philosophy. Not all philosophy is worthwhile philosophy. In this at least, philosophy is more nearly akin to viniculture than to horticulture: there are good vintages and bad vintages, even in the most desirable of regions. And it seems now, finally, that the fat lady has sung out loud and clear for the “prophet”: Martin Heidegger, both man and thought, is simply a bad vintage.

            What do we do now, though? With bad wine it is at least sometimes possible to recycle it—to use it to spice up the cooking, or to make red wine vinegar, or even to engage in some private-time vinotherapy. But what does one do with bad philosophy, especially when it seems so smart?


And the people bowed and prayed / To the neon god they made.

Ever since Victor Farias put his foot in it, again, with his 1987 book Heidegger and Nazism, French intellectuals and philosophers have been working assiduously on the latest incarnation of “l’affaire Heidegger,” which Richard Wolin (1993) has translated as The Heidegger Controversy for those who work in English. Since the post-war period there have been many players in this particular international game, but the key figures in this current French scrimmage are Emmanuel Faye, with his 2005 book “Heidegger, l’introduction du nazisme dans le philosophie autour des séminaires inédits de 1933-1935,” and François Rastier, with his (2015) “Naufrage d’un prophète, Heidegger aujourd’hui,” which has not yet been translated into English. And while there have been overtones of an ungracious Lebensmüdigkeit apparent in the critical acknowledgment of these recurrent publications and debates concerning Heidegger’s relationship to the Nazi state, which is a redundant and wearisome theme to some, there is an excellent reason for the cyclical nature of this controversy surrounding Martin Heidegger, and it has to do with The Master’s own pre-programmed schedule for the publication of his writings.


Hello darkness, my old friend…”

The latest writings to be published in Martin Heidegger’s Collected Works have been his Black Notebooks (Schwarze Hefte), which were composed and amassed by Heidegger between 1889 and his death in 1976, and which finally began to make their appearance in the Collected Works in 2014. And because they are emerging only now, in the final stages of the publication of his philosophical opus, the timing of which was pre-determined by Heidegger himself, philosophers and intellectuals are right to construe these latest publications as representing, in some sense, a crowning, ultimate feature in the monumental edifice of Heideggerian Thought. According to philosophy professor (UK) Gregory Fried, writing in Foreign Affairs,

Heidegger clearly intended [the Notebooks] to serve as the capstone to his published works, and they contain his unexpurgated reflections on this key period. Shortly before his death, Heidegger wrote up a schedule stipulating that the notebooks be published only after all his other writings were. That condition having been met, Trawny [the editor] has so far released three volumes (totaling roughly 1,200 pages), with five more planned.


This sets up the context for the controversy.


People talking without speaking, / People hearing without listening…”

One understands that part of the French motivation for their recent due-diligence in revisiting Heidegger’s “thought” has to do with the fact that among European intellectuals the French reception of Heidegger has been extremely enthusiastic, if not outright exceptional, profoundly influencing household-name intellectuals such as Sartre, Foucault, and Derrida. The French reception of Heidegger, both man and thought, greatly surpassed his reception in the world of Anglo-American philosophy, and also clearly overshadowed the rather mitigated post-war reception of The Master among his own German compatriots.

Another reason for the recent French assiduity is that, as it so happens in the meandering of time and history, Heidegger was not just a philosopher with a part-time, passing interest in Nazi intellectual paraphernalia. Quite the contrary. The entire warp and woof of his thought-world is clearly interwoven with a Nazi longing for the revocation of Enlightenment rationalism, as well as with the affirming patterns of German and Volkish nationalism, and therefore also with an evolved and unmitigated anti-Semitism. Gregory Fried reminds us that with Heidegger it was like this right from the beginning: “It is hard to exaggerate just how ambitious Heidegger was in publishing his breakout work, Being and Time, in 1927. In that book, he sought nothing less than a redefinition of what it meant to be human, which amounted to declaring war on the entire philosophical tradition that preceded him.”

One is also reminded that Derrida’s language of “deconstruction” is actually his disingenuously generous translation for Heidegger’s philosophical agenda of “Destruktion” –the destruction of European Enlightenment, of non-German identity, and of the Jew. And some French scholars are beginning to realize about this Heideggerian thought-world, that the results of an agenda of Destruktion for philosophy can only ever be so many echoes “in the wells of silence.”


The following is Phrontisterion’s translation of Charlie Hebdo’s (December 2015) interview with François Rastier, author of  Naufrage d’un prophète, Heidegger aujourd’hui (PUF: 2015).


“How can anyone still be a Heideggerian?” (Comment peut-on être heideggérien aujourd’hui ?) by Yann Diener (Charlie Hebdo No 1221/16 December 2015)


Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) is considered to be the greatest philosopher of the 20th century. He is studied in all the universities of the world, and his aura [of influence] goes well beyond philosophy departments. But then, post mortem, this sacred animal [of philosophy] comes along, in person, to bring heartache to his disciples. You ask: What is the rapport with psychoanalysis?


Heidegger has fascinated generations of philosophers and intellectuals, among whom Levinas, Sartre, and Arendt, who were his students in Germany in the 1920s. They are fascinated because their professor has undertaken a return to the question of Being, a question that has been thoroughly dominated for some 2,000 years by Plato. Heidegger announces to his students that this question can no longer be ‘thought’ except in German. That should already have started the wheels turning.


Everyone has known for a long time that Heidegger was a member of the Nazi Party. But his admirers and translators have always tried to relativize, by maintaining that he was Nazi the way “everyone was a Nazi in the day,” and that his philosophical work can be separated from this temporary commitment of convenience. But this contorting negation won’t work anymore: Heidegger’s most recent writings, that are only being published now because this is how he wanted it, are openly anti-Semitic and Nazi. Post mortem, these are the texts that have come to crown the complete works of some 100 volumes, and that by their publication vindicate the few philosophers who have been identifying violent elements in Heidegger’s writings for years. The president of the Heidegger Archives resigned; the zealots are panicking; and some are wavering between negation and affirmation: Slavoj Žižek has now declared that Heidegger is not great despite Hitler, but thanks to Hitler. And Badiou considers that one can be or can have been “anti-communist, Stalinist, philo-Semite, anti-Semite, hostile to women, feminist, in the resistance, a Nazi or a follower of Mussolini, […] and still be a philosopher of the highest importance” [consulted, 070116; http://strassdelaphilosophie.blogspot.fr/2014/04/lettre-dalain-badiou-propos-dune.html].


Using Heidegger’s unpublished seminars from the 1930s, the philosopher Emmanuel Faye showed already in 2005 that one really cannot separate Heidegger’s philosophy from Nazi ideas. His book, Heidegger, the Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy, garnered Faye a massive number of insults, but no challenger with any serious arguments.




In the most recent editions, published this year, Heidegger says more clearly than ever that he lays the blame for every evil at the feet of the Jews, and most especially for having sealed off the question of Being. He calls for the “total extermination” of the internal enemy, and laments that the Allied victory in 1945 came along to interrupt the great purifying firestorm: just like the delirium of the Nazis, Heidegger’s thought is not only a negation of Difference or the Other, it is also defined by a millennialism that is also apocalyptic and conspiracist. It is for these reasons that Heidegger’s thought has been so warmly received, not only by German Neo-Nazis—their slogan is a phrase from Heidegger dating from 1933, but also by the Iranian Ahmadinejad, the Russian ultranationalist Alexandre Douguine, and Islamists like Omar Ibrahim Vadillo. The French philologist, François Rastier, who is a research scholar at CNRS, documents the logic of this convergence in his recently published book, The Ship-wreak of a Prophet (PUF: 2015): “Is a philosophy that calls for murder anything other than a dangerous ideology?” François Rastier shows how Heidegger, for a long time, encrypted his writings with what he himself called pseudonyms, “because minds were not ready.” Now, the Master has given us the keys to reading him truly. Reading Heidegger closely would have the advantage of allowing for a reasoned critic of a number of disciplines—including psychoanalysis—that have been marked, more or less directly, by his disastrous ideas. This would represent an enormous amount of work, of course. But this question about [Heidegger] has a direct rapport with the current political banalization of Hate: Should Heidegger be read even more closely now in the regions of Provence, Alps, Cote d’Azur (PACA) and the Nord-Pas-de Calais [Editor’s Note: regions having a strong showing of Front National (FN)]?


Interview with François Rastier, linguist: “Heidegger’s Thought Provides Fuel for Every Sort of Radicalism” (Charlie Hebdo No 1222/23 December 2015)


Although Martin Heidegger’s commitment to Nazism was known, the German philosopher has continued to fascinate generations of philosophers and intellectuals. After years of playing hide-n-seek, his published works have now been crowned by the publication of texts that are explicitly Nazi. When the philosopher, Emmanuel Faye, published his Heidegger, the Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy in 2005, he was rewarded by copious insults from Heideggerians, who accused him of staining Philosophy, but who did not substantiate their claims with any reasoned arguments.




The linguist, François Rastier, research scholar at CNRS, has just published a book that thoroughly examines the Heidegger Question and shows how Heidegger encrypted his writings with pseudonyms [Deckwörte], while waiting for a more propitious climate for their reception. Heideggerian scholars and thinkers, who still try to trivialize the situation, agree that this is not a minor critique; it is a political question that touches upon the current disregard for and contempt of various hatreds and identity posturing.


CHARLIE HEBDO: You’ve recently published a book, The Ship-wreak of a Prophet (PUF: 2015). What type of situation prompted this publication?

François Rastier: The racist and anti-Semitic murders committed in 2012, 2014, 2015, and the criminal attacks directed against our liberties and against our culture. The ingredients were racial hatred; the easy stigmatization of a fanaticized Western culture; being horrified of Human Rights and of the democratic project; and the refusal of any form of rationality and of any reality principle. So, two years ago the Black Notebooks began to be published, which crown the pre-programmed publication of the complete works of Heidegger, and they very clearly tie together his Nazi theses concerning the criminality of “world Jewry,” and the sufferings of a Germany that had become, according to the philosopher, a vast concentration camp after Hitler’s defeat. Apparently, we are under the rule of a Jew-ridden and “calculating” techno-science belonging to a globalized West, etc. Heidegger, reputed to be “the greatest philosopher of the 20th century,” whose academic credentials are unassailable, inspired the deconstruction movement and, through that movement, the ubiquitous discipline of cultural studies. Heidegger is a common-place reference in artistic circles. But let’s not forget that he sat on the commission that elaborated the Nuremburg (Race) Laws, which provided the legal framework for the extermination that was in preparation. Why and how did Heidegger so fascinate his students and interpreters? Heidegger preached a “return to Being,” this divine topic for philosophers, which was supposedly perverted by Judeo-Christianity. But in fact Heidegger reveals to us today that Being was a pseudonym for fatherland: it was ultra-nationalism. For Heidegger, because the Jews are not rooted in any particular soil, they are therefore stateless; so they do not have Being. They do not truly exist—which is the reason for his 1949 question about victims of the camps: “Do they die?”


CHARLIE HEBDO: You demonstrate that Heidegger is a millennialist. Today, though, we are dealing with prophets who have diverse styles and perspectives.

François Rastier: The boat has been taking on water for a long time, most especially due to a publication by Marcuse in 1933. All the while pretending to ask questions, Heidegger preaches “Sacrifice” (Sein-zum-Tote) in the name of the Community of people. He pulls the strings of being a prophet, which is normal for extreme right-wing, esoteric sects (Heidegger was a member of The League of the Grail), which accompanied the creation of the Nazi party. Hitler, himself, speaks of these prophesies, invokes God, and concludes his speeches with ‘Amen’! After the war, Heidegger will say: “Only a god can save us.” Political Theology, as one sees every day, calls for murder and justifies it: it is a sacred imperative.


CHARLIE HEBDO: You characterize contemporary radicalisms. Why are there so many politicians and intellectuals who consider themselves Heideggerian? Is there a religious dimension in his writings?

François Rastier: For three generations Heidegger has been a pons asinorum for philosophy classes (NT: bridge of asses. Metaphorically: a puzzle whose solution separates the smart from the dumb). From Sartre to Arendt, from Derrida to Lyotard, from BHL (Bernard Henri Levy) to Finkielkraut by way of Badiou, Heidegger is an authority to be reckoned with. But his radicalism is seductive to diverse courants of thought. First of all, to the neo-Nazis. For example, the NPD (National Democratic Party of Germany), which is the “moral” successor of the Nazi Party), has for its slogan a phrase from the Master and takes for their own his theory about the responsibility of the Jews in their own extermination. Secondly, there is the National Bolshevik Front, as exemplified by Alexandre Douguine, which represents the most aggressive wing of Russian militarism. Douguine does not content himself with just publishing books in favor of Heidegger, when he was interviewed by Von Hermann (the Master’s trusted confident), Douguine declared in 2014 that “Russia should invade Europe,” and called for the assassination of the leadership in Kiev. Thirdly, Islamism: on the one hand there is the Shiite faction, avec the Heideggerian school in Teheran, which transposes the function of the Führer with that of the ruling ayatollah (Ahmadinejad is representative of this group), and on the other hand there is the faction of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood: Tariq Ramadan uses Heidegger whenever it is necessary, and Al Jazeera, which derives from this informal movement in Qatar, lends it microphones to the stars of Heideggerianism, such as Slavoj Žižek and Gianni Vattimo. For Al Jazeera Žižek has become the go-to pundit on the subject of Arab revolutions, in order to warn them against Western democracies. Fourthly, university radicalism remains Heideggerian: Žižek long ago asserted that “Hitler did not go far enough.” In 2005 Vattimo agreed with Ahmadinejad about “the idea of making the State of Israel disappear from the map,” and compared Ahmadinejad to the resistance fighters (maquisards) of the underground Al-Zarqawi, who was at that time leader of Al-Qaida in Irak, which was the germinating seed from which Daech would spring. Badiou justified the invasion of the Crimea and became all weepy about veiled women: they were resisting millions of potential “police auxiliaries,” who, according to him, began marching in the streets in response to the attacks against Charlie and l’Hyper Cacher.

            All of these radicalisms have a common enemy: The West; and more specifically: Enlightenment freedoms.


CHARLIE HEBDO: Had Heidegger anticipated an even greater adhesion to his ideas after his death?

François Rastier: As a partisan of the 1,000-year Reich, Heidegger thought in terms of centuries and was persuaded that his radical works would be well received: he was certainly aiming for a radicalization of his disciples. In 2001 there was a text calling for “total annihilation” and nobody said anything. Yes, Heidegger anticipated that his most aggressive writings would be welcomed by this new century like manna from heaven. It is up to us to prove him wrong.


CHARLIE HEBDO: In quoting Rithy Panh – “Before any massacre, there is an idea”—you ask the question concerning the responsibility of thought.

François Rastier: It’s the very least one can do. For Heidegger, morality does not exist, or, to put it briefly, it is a dangerous Judeo-Christian sentimentality. Badiou follows this up by saying that Nazism is absolutely unimportant in philosophy. Authors like Peter Trawny and Di Cesare now portray Heidegger as a courageous partisan of freedom, and especially the freedom to go to the extreme; as a sort of anarchist, a “no-global” who provides inspiration for the battle against globalization. On the model of groups such as CasaPound in Italy, (which also happens to claim Heideggerian inspiration), one is trying to create a trendy and uninhibited (décomplexé) neo-fascism, which makes us forget about that old, dusty Hitlerism.”


Silence like a cancer grows…"


Further reading:

·      http://www.worldcat.org/title/crisis-of-german-ideology-intellectual-origins-of-the-third-reich/oclc/253069

·      http://next.liberation.fr/culture/2014/03/06/il-n-y-a-pas-d-affaire-heidegger_985029

·      http://www.franceculture.fr/emissions/lessai-et-la-revue-du-jour-14-15/laffaire-heidegger-revue-critique

·      https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2015/09/30/commentary-heideggers-black-notebooks

·      http://www.openculture.com/2015/03/martin-heideggers-black-notebooks-reveal-the-depth-of-anti-semitism.html

·      https://www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/review-essay/what-heidegger-was-hiding

·      http://nonimprimatur.blogspot.fr/2012/08/martin-heidegger-state.html

·      http://nonimprimatur.blogspot.fr/2014/11/novembers-essaynietzsche-eichmann-and.html

·      http://nonimprimatur.blogspot.fr/2014/08/august-septembers-essayvoices-on.html

·      http://nonimprimatur.blogspot.fr/p/blog-page_24.html


(Reprised and reworked from an original essay published on Phrontisterion in February 2016.)