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Research Projects of the University of Cologne‘s Faculty of Arts and Humanities

Martin Heidegger and Postmodernity

A Story of Delusion?

Dr. Sidonie Kellerer | Philosophy & a.r.t.e.s Research Lab

Freigeist-Fellowship funded by the Volkswagen Fundation

Even today, more than 70 years after the end of the Second World War, the philosopher Martin Heidegger’s relationship with National Socialism continues to raise multiple questions: Did he glamourize its ideology? Or was he critical of it after all? Although Heidegger remained a member of the Nazi party up until 1945, he tried afterwards to convince the public  that he had started to be critical of NS-Weltanschauung in as early as 1934. However, legitimate doubts have arisen about his account in recent years. In particular Sidonie Kellerer established in 2011 that many passages of Heidegger´s 1938 lecture “Zeit des Weltbildes”  have retrospectively been modified to the extent that the original glorification of national socialism can now be read as critique of the NS regime. The Black Notebooks, notations by Heidegger from 1931 to1941, published in 2014, further confirm how deeply rooted racism and National Socialism were and remain in his philosophy.
In her Freigeist Project Kellerer is now investigating for the first time –  by means of a systematic comparison of the manuscripts from the period of the Third Reich with texts that were published later to what extent these were altered retroactively. Along the same line,  she and her PhD student will in terms of the philosophy of Jacques Derrida examine the remarkable success Heidegger’s presumed critique of totalitarianism enjoyed in France after 1945. The combination of this philological analysis with philosophical interpretation and historical contextualization will base the continuing controversy surrounding Heidegger on documented facts. It will thereby both clarify the position of Heidegger’s thinking in the years of national socialism and bring out the assumptions upon which the thinking of the Derrida school is willingly or unwillingly based.  

This project, funded with €681,900, is running over a five-year period. The VW foundation awards 10 highly competitive Freigeist-fellowships in the Sciences and Humanities annually:
Text: Sidonie Kellerer