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Kuhn vs Popper - About James H. Collier

Kuhn vs Popper - About James H. Collier

when those regimes might

when those regimes might have still turned out tobe world-historic winners. Their critical standpointwas not dependent on the course of world history.This exposed them to political risk, had thetotalitarians been victorious. In contrast, mostcritiques today target intellectuals and regimes thatat the time of writing are uncontroversially regardedas world-historic losers. The Nazi and Sovietexamples common to the two generations of criticsmake it easy to overlook the fact that nowadayscritique is rarely, if ever, applied to intellectualswho have benefited, perhaps more passively, fromregimes that have turned out to be world-historicwinners. In this respect, the Nazi Martin Heidegger(1889–1976) is a much softer target for intellectualcritique than, say, the Cold Warrior Thomas Kuhn.Heidegger is such a pivotal figure for our analysisbecause knowledge of his Nazi past has correspondedwith his elevation to the top echelon of20th-century philosophers. To be sure, in oneimportant respect, Heidegger stood on the sameside as his contemporaries Wittgenstein, Carnap,Popper and Adorno: all were disillusioned byacademic philosophy’s failure to provide directionto the increasingly diverse forms of knowledge thatabounded in the Weimar Republic. Instead, theyfound – as one finds today – philosophers simplyperforming underlabouring service for the special170

sciences. (Back then, the philosophers were ‘Neo-Kantian’; today they are ‘Neo-Kuhnian’.) However,Heidegger was distinguished by his deep roots inCatholic theology, which led him to associatephilosophy’s fallen status with a loss of spiritualrootedness in the world more generally – thesolution to which required a turn back to basics, or‘Being-in-the-world’. Thus, Heidegger became thephilosopher of the ‘homeland’, or Heimat, forwhich the Nazi Party became the principal politicaloutlet. Heidegger courted the Nazis, and once inpower, they appointed him Rector of FreiburgUniversity, a post he held for a year before herealised that the Nazis were not closely followinghis advice. At that point he went into self-imposedexile without ever renouncing party affiliation. Thesignificance of Heidegger’s silence was investigatedby the De-Nazification commission after WorldWar II, but all it got were evasive answers that leftthe matter unresolved. What is clear, however, isthat for his remaining 30 years, Heidegger neverdeclared a change of heart or mind about the Nazisor his involvement with them.That the critical gaze should be nowadays sofirmly fixed on intellectuals aligned with worldhistoriclosers like Heidegger is somewhat surprising.The critics tend to be, like Aron, political realistswho hold that there are no unmitigated goods or171

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