The philosopher Martin Heidegger thought autobiography had nothing to do with “good” writing. Of Aristotle he said: “He was born, he thought, he died. And all the rest is pure anecdote.” I cannot track down this quote to identify it with its speaker, as the story is itself anecdotal.
GA 18, p. 5: Er war dann und dann geboren, er arbeitete und starb. Die Gestalt des Philosophen oder ähnliches wird hier nicht gegeben werden.
¶ 6:40 AM0 comments
If bad men must be bad thinkers, then any work that’s sufficiently good must have a good creator. This is the fallacy that has long driven us to exonerate men who don’t deserve our (or Arendt’s) exculpatory contortions. When the perversions of authors and thinkers permeate their work, the product is, mercifully, its own indictment. But when the product bears no traces of its untoward origins — when none of Arendt’s gods come to our rescue, cursing ugly men with ugly minds — there may be no recourse.
Heidegger is often reproached for his Nazi sympathies, but he’s rarely faulted for seducing Arendt when he was 35 and she was just 18, an eager student in the crowd at one of his popular lectures. His sexism, and our blindness to it, remained dangerous long after his Nazism ceased to pose a threat. Once the Nazi government collapsed, there was little that Heidegger could do to resuscitate it. But his fame still positioned him to take advantage of the female students dazzled or intimidated by his outsize reputation.
[Heidegger] thought we’re thinking, valuing beings thrown into a world whether we like it or not, and that our basic choice in that world is to choose whether to live life authentically or inauthentically. To own our practices and habits as conscious choices, or to fall in with Das Man, the herd, and without much thought do what everyone else is doing. Just to be popular, or cool, or to avoid standing out. Like a furry coat in winter, the embrace of the crowd keeps us warm and comfortable.