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Danger and the saving power: the political thought of Martin Heidegger

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Title: Danger and the saving power: the political thought of Martin Heidegger
Author: Cameron, Mark
Degree Master of Arts - MA
Program Political Science
Copyright Date: 1996
Abstract: This thesis considers the place of Martin Heidegger within contemporary political theory. Despite Heidegger's importance as a philosopher, Heidegger is considered highly problematic within political theory because of his association with Nazism. This thesis argues that Heidegger has been an important, if covert, influence on political thought, and that his work deserves more overt discussion. The first chapter outlines Heidegger's overall project of opposition to traditional Western metaphysics, and the role of Dasein as the locus of the experience of Being. It concludes that while Heidegger's primary goal was one of "fundamental ontology," not practical politics, that Heidegger's ontology has both ethical and political implications. The second chapter looks at Heidegger's idea of historicity, and argues that it is essential for understanding Heidegger's concept of "authenticity" which became so important for later existentialists. Heideggerian historicity is discussed in light of the Weimar "Conservative Revolution," and as a justification for his Nazism The third chapter examines the political implications two late Heideggerain concepts: technology and language. Heidegger's concept of technology as not only mere means, but as a totalizing, dehumanizing metaphysical destiny was indebted to the Conservative Revolutionary writer Ernst Junger. Heidegger's increasing conviction that political resistance to technology was futile helped cause his later turn towards poetry and mysticism. The rest of the chapter looks Heidegger's ideas of language and poetry, and notes that the nationalism in his idea that Greek and German were inherently closer to the primordial experience of Being were connected to his embrace of Nazism. The final chapter looks at the influence of these Heideggerian ideas on recent Anglo-American political theory. Through thinkers like Hannah Arendt and Charles Taylor, Heideggerian themes such as authenticity, the importance of the ancient Greek experience, and the critique of technology, have already had an influence on Anglo-American thought. The thesis concludes that Heidegger must be given greater consideration, not just in polemical debate over Heidegger's Nazism, but in theoretical discussion of the origins of many contemporary political ideas. Understanding the Heideggerian background of these ideas will raise awareness of both their positive and negative potential for future political thought and practice.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/5811
Series/Report no. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/retro_theses/]
Scholarly Level: Graduate

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