98 | Heidegger’s Poietic Writings
Condemning Heidegger does not help. Perhaps I feel guilt by association; perhaps it is my memory of moments in my life when I let myself be guided by feelings and judgments of people that led to harm others whom I did not wish to harm. Perhaps it is because I know that I am not immune to the pressure of opinions from people and that I am prone to errancy. And yet there are moments in life where one needs to take a political stance (in the widest sense) and act. I decide and act but I am never certain of what I do. I know others feel the same way. I remember endless discussions with German friends with whom I studied in Freiburg, many of them with a deep anger against fascism; some of them had renounced their parents because they had complied with the Nazi movement. Open wounds transmitted to the children of those who were involved. Things seem to be easier for the generation following ours.
Heidegger knew about errancy: that it can never be removed. How is it, then, that he insists on a “knowing” (Wissen) and steadfastness (Inständigkeit) in the clearing of beyng that would allow one not to fall for errancy (albeit one remains exposed to it) and to be decided for the “other beginning”? If we look at what he means by knowing in Contributions and Besinnung, we can readily see that this has not shifted essentially from what he said at the beginning of 1934 in an address given at Freiburg University to six hundred beneficiaries of the National Socialist “ labor service program”:
Knowing means: in our decisions and actions to be up to the task that is assigned to us, whether this task be to till the soil or to fell a tree or to dig a ditch or to inquire into the laws of Nature or to illumine the fate-like force of History.
Knowing means: to be master of the situation into which we are placed.12
What if errancy took place precisely there, in this “knowing,” in this more visceral feeling of resoluteness toward what one identifies as being essential or true? Are not many of Heidegger’s pronouncements in the Black Notebooks bearing testimony to such errancy? What if errancy was not about being blinded by beings, that is, by things and events? Is it not the case that, prior to all concrete relations to things, attunements or dispositions dispose us toward thinking and acting in ways that may turn out to be destructive or distorting? Is this not precisely what Nietzsche taught us, and what drove him to perform a genealogy of morals and to engage in the revaluation of all values? Nietzsche, whom Heidegger so vehemently pushes away, whom he so ever more decidedly places at the end of metaphysics?
Perhaps pushing Nietzsche away was necessary for Heidegger to hold on to “knowing” of the truth of beyng, to keep safe and nurture that seed of truth he hopes one day will grow roots and sprout. On the other hand, do most of us not have a “seed of truth” we hold on to in various occasions? How else could we have
12. Richard Wolin, The Heidegger Controversy: A Critical Reader (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press 1993), 58.