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Contextual misreadings: The United States reception of Heidegger's political thought

George Robert Leaman, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The thesis of this dissertation is that the political dimension of Martin Heidegger's philosophical work has been widely misinterpreted in the United States, and that this misinterpretation has been caused by censorship, historical and political ignorance, and poor scholarship. This study reveals the extent to which Heidegger engaged in politically motivated editing of his work after the war, and shows how such edited German editions were used as a basis for many English translations of his work. It also shows that Heidegger suppressed the publication of some politically sensitive texts while he was alive, and that archival materials in different parts of Germany have been manipulated so as to protect Heidegger from critical scrutiny. Such practices have also been employed by (or in the service of) other philosophers who worked in Germany at the time; the manipulation of post-war editions of philosophical texts written in Germany between 1933-1945 seems to be a widespread phenomenon. To improve the US reader's understanding of the historical context of Heidegger's political thought, this study also relates Heidegger's professional and political actions to those of all of the other 213 professors of philosophy who taught at a German university between 1933 and 1945. Heidegger's political arguments are compared to those of the other philosophers who, as university Rectors, were in similar positions of political responsibility as Heidegger. The presentation of this new information allows the US reader to understand better the development of philosophy in Germany, and reveals the uniqueness of Heidegger's philosophical commitment to a particular version of National Socialist ideology. Finally, this study identifies the main sources of interpretive error in the US reception of Heidegger's political thought, and shows how philosophers can avoid such mistakes in the future.

Subject Area

Philosophy|European history|American history

Recommended Citation

Leaman, George Robert, "Contextual misreadings: The United States reception of Heidegger's political thought" (1991). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9132878.