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Heidegger and the Problem of Evil

Translated into English by Patrick Trompiz and Agata Bielik-Robson


Cezary Wodziński

This book provides an encompassing and thorough study of Martin Heidegger’s thought. It is not only a presentation but also a profound critique of the thinker’s beliefs. In the context of Heidegger’s cooperation with Nazism, the author reflects on the reasons behind his inability to confront the problem of evil and vulnerability to the threats of totalitarianism.
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Chapter 4: Nonsense


1. Keiner stirbt für bloße Werte

This sentence, which Heidegger wrote in the text from 1938, could be a motto to many of his works, their dates of origin notwithstanding. “Nobody dies just for values themselves.” The first part of this strong statement refers to the phenomenon of “dying for” (sterben für) Heidegger analysed in Being and Time. Nobody dies for somebody else, says he. One can only die his own death, and it is impossible to deprive someone else of the possibility of his own dying. This follows directly from the way Heidegger characterised Dasein as “being towards death” (Sein zum Tode). This ownmost potentiality of Dasein cannot be passed to others. Everybody dies only for himself and on his own account (see SZ, 240; BMM, 155).

However, the emphasis of the statement lies on its second part. “Pure values” are not worthy dying for. Heidegger chooses the term sterben für in order to avoid tautological constructions. It is also possible that he uses it in a negative way (keiner stirbt für…) to expose its deprecatory potential: a potential particularly powerful in a juxtaposition with an object which usually evokes positive associations. “Pure values” mean “values as such”, “values in general”, with an important subtext: “the highest values”. Heidegger’s statement not only refuses to impart value on “values” – and thus reduce them to the level of something value-less – but gives them a pejorative meaning. In everyday speech it...

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