The Judaism inside Being and Time That Heidegger Could Not See: On the Secret of Heidegger’s Anti-Semitism


Author: Rajesh Sampath
Page Range: 163-188
Published in: International Journal of Ethics, 17#4
ISSN: 1535-4776

Table of Contents


This article will set up the possibility of reading Chapter IV of Division One of Being and Time (1927) on the ‘who’-question of Dasein (Heidegger, 1962, p. 149) while reading the transliteration of the actual Hebrew of Chapter III of the Book of Exodus/Shemot. That is where Moses meets God for the first time and God reveals his Name -‘I AM who I AM’ (Bible Hub, n.d.). From that, I will preface by saying that Heidegger, the actual historical person, may have been an anti-Semite and Nazi, but Being and Time is not anti-Semitic or Nazi at all. By no means can the philosophical work be reduced to A.) the terms of official party doctrine or B.) the opaque, contradictory, hypocritical, ambiguous, or self-defeating decisions and elisions Heidegger, the person, made in his life while critiquing, deconstructing, and separating himself from the essentializing biological racism of the official Nazi party given how he treated some of his Jewish colleagues, like Husserl, in the diabolical and cruel manner that he did (Fédier, 2006; Boss, 2001). Having said that, the text of Being and Time cannot hide the uncanny resemblance and philosophical (not psychological) torture Heidegger had to endure leading up to that seminal work and beyond: that is from separating the task of fundamental ontology and the ontological difference from not only the entire history of gentile Western metaphysics (ancient Greeks to German Idealism) and medieval Scholastic theology/religion to his present (Catholic and Protestant), his project leading up to Being and Time and shortly thereafter ‘fails’ (Heidegger, 1985, p. 189). But as we know from immediate post-Being and Time and the later Heidegger statements in published lectures and writings, this should not be understood in terms of an incompletion or loss – as in a game or competition (Heidegger, 1985, p. 189). Rather, it is an opening/passage to a ‘decision,’ ‘another direction,’ (Heidegger, 1985, p. 166) about how we must position ourselves in that ‘failure’ in terms of the authentic demands of ‘thinking,’ not conceptual philosophizing. That means questioning ‘our time’ (Heidegger, 1985, p. 167) as having the need for a renewed thinking, not of ourselves in relation to a historicized past, but the enigma of being at an epoch, neither the same nor different from past epochs.

Having said that, we will not focus on these traditional arguments on Heidegger’s Kehre/’Turning’ – from the Dasein-analytic and fundamental ontology of the early period to the question of the Ereignis/’Event-Appropriation’ and History and Truth of Being in the later period – and what is at stake in it (Gadamer, 1960, 199; Davis, 2009; Thomson, 2011; Sheehan, 2014). Instead, we will try to develop a novel hypothesis: that Heidegger could not see and therefore conquer the possibility of a deeper temporalization in the mystery of the relational Event of being and time in the Hebraic heritage and the Exodus text going back to the Hebrew Bible’s first five books of the Torah. That is for one simple reason: Heidegger was not at all grounded in Judaism, Hebrew, or the Jewish intellectual tradition like many of his gentile philosophical contemporaries. Heidegger, the person, gave birth to the radically original work, Being and Time, which questioned spatialized linear time and ‘within-time-ness’ in Chapter VI of Division Two (Heidegger, 1962, pp. 456-457). But once born, the text not only takes on a life of its own, it is fundamentally flawed in terms of the gap or margin it cannot fill; namely a quaternal temporalization in the Hebrew Bible’s Tetragrammaton – יהוה‎ or ‘YHWH’ – that is irreducible to Greek metaphysics to German Idealism and the history of Christian theology. It is the unpronounceable Name, without subject or predicate, and that which ‘is’ that cannot be surpassed by any ontic entity, for example as an active, dynamic substance or presence or presencing. These are just words. It appears seven times in the book of Exodus (3:1, 4, 7, 15, 16, 18). The passage from three to four remains unthought, and the sad thing is that we are not thinking about it to play on Heidegger’s words (Heidegger, 1968). It points to the impossibility of a future messianic conception that Heidegger could not foresee precisely as he tried to destroy the first beginning of the history of metaphysics and its onto-theological entwinement with the history of Christianity and its Parousia/Second Coming. All the while, he did live, for a time, as a Nazi party member, and in his lifetime and now has been accused of being an anti-Semite. That is his fate.

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