I have already quoted Nietzsche. There remains therefore, critical-evaluative history. Here, however, confusion may arise. For critical history is not to be understood as the investigation of the events of the past in the modern academic sense of critical research. The history of a spiritually forsaken epoch can only be written in a critical manner when one places the events of the epoch under the judgment of the spirit. An understanding of the events through spirit and intellect, whose absence has brought about the events in the first place, must be regained today by all who stand within the continuity of spiritual desolation and who suffer under its burdens.
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Without the revolution of the spirit we cannot overcome our present distress, which has caused you such uneasiness. Well, how does the relation between spirit and history stand in Germany? This indifference. But one should not deceive oneself; as in many other instances the war here too had only completed. The writer then continues:. And thus it was in the beginning of the s. The countenance of the completed act stares at us. We stare back, our eyes wide open with horror. But do we see with our opened eyes? Do we see with the spirit?
Obviously not, since with each new detail our trust in the universities will be shaken still further. If, however, the universities cannot be rehabilitated through the methods of descriptive history, who or what then is supposed to be rehabilitated?
Perhaps the historian who makes the description? The attempt to come to terms with the past through descriptive history is thus a highly dubious undertaking. From the guilt of estrangement comes the peculiar irrationality on the plane of means-ends relations which we have made clear through our questioning. The attempt to eliminate a past guilt through descriptive history is not a typical mistake in the choice of the proper means for the purpose, but an expression of genuine pathology. Not a pathology in the sense of psychopathology, but in the sense of pneumopathology as Schelling has described this realm of phenomena.
We are dealing with a disease of the spirit. More need she the divine [the priest] than the physician. Good God, forgive us all! He rises thereby to the imago Dei which it is his destiny to be. Spirit in this classical sense of nous , is that which all men have in common, the xynon as Heraclitus has called it. He becomes thereby a private man, or in the language of Heraclitus, an idiotes.
Now it is possible, however, and it occurs all the time, that the idiotes —that is, the man estranged from the spirit—becomes the socially dominant figure. Between the extremes of the spiritually genuine public life and the disintegration of a society through the radical privatization of its members, lie the actual concrete societies with their complex field of tensions between spirit and estrangement. Every concrete society, therefore, has its own particular character of public life through which the genuineness or sickness of its spirit can be recognized.
Let us try to comprehend the why of the German catastrophe through reflecting on the character of German public life as far as such an analysis is possible within the confines of a lecture. For this purpose we shall take a look at three people who are public figures in the sense of social dominance—a philosopher, a pastor, and an historian. The first case is that of the famous philosopher who had great linguistic and linguistic-philosophical ambitions, but in the matter of language had such little sensitivity that he was taken in by the author of Mein Kampf. Let us therefore take a look at his language.
I will choose deliberately not one of his pronouncements from the National Socialist period, but a selection from Being and Time.
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It deals with the nature of a sign:. The direction of the arrow is controlled by the driver of the automobile. This Zeichen sign is ready-to-hand within-the-world, within the whole Zeugzusammenhang implement context of vehicle and traffic regulation. It has the character of in-order-to, that is, its own particular usefulness, which is to Zeigen point.
The text concerning the sign [ Zeichen ], however, transposes factual relationships of our everyday world into a linguistic medium that begins to take on an alliterative life of its own, and thus loses contact with the thing itself. Language and fact have somehow separated from one another, and thought has correspondingly become estranged from reality.
We might, in fact, construct something of a philosophical dictionary, from A to Z; and proceeding through it, from the Anwesen des Answesenden , to the Dingen des Dings and the Nichten des Nichts , and on over finally to the zeigenden Zeichen des Zeigzeugs , we could whip ourselves up into a reality-withdrawing state of linguistic delirium.
States of this kind are not foreign to us. But where was that now? In a state of alliterative ecstasy now, many may lose sight of the reality of being. With a slight variation on a Wagner text:. When thousands of voices are raised in an alliterative Heil Hitler! They may take the estrangement from being that was concealed in the structure of language to be the now unconcealed truth of human existence Dasein.
The forms of both language and public scene are closely related to one another—indeed, too closely related.
And they know one another. We live in an age of linguistic corruption. Even those with a good deal of experience in traveling the wrong roads were hardly aware of the path that leads from Wigala-Wagala-Weia 7 to the Zeigzeugs zeigendum Zeichen , and from there gets lost in the Thousand Year Reich. Richard Wagner, however, prophetically knew of such things. For first of all, Wagner has actually forged a sounding horn, and it still continues to sound—in the language of the philosopher and his imitators. As a National Socialist he thus has a good conscience.
He showed himself to be anything but an otherworldly pastor. The Jews he finds foreign and distasteful. As the scion of an old Westphalian family of farmers and theologians, and a former imperial naval officer, one would naturally expect such of him, he says. We are not, he says, to form God in our own image, the image of the Aryan, but must take him as he is, having revealed himself in the Jew Jesus of Nazareth. This very painful and vexing state of affairs, he believes, must be accepted for the sake of the gospel. Above all we should perish the thought that might readily come to mind in this context that we are dealing here with a case of sacrilege or blasphemy.
No, the pastor is a good German and he never meant it in such a way. The key to understanding the report we find in the sequence: two pages from Mein Kampf —a chapter out of the New Testament—a sermon on the leader question. In the case of a contradiction between literary sources, Scripture and creed must take precedence. To be sure, it is comforting to learn that God at least is not an Aryan. Much less comforting, however, is that we must take him as he is, i.
Listen, for example, to the protest of a Catholic who as a member of the Kreisauer Circle became a victim of the twentieth of July. How will the church be able to save Christians when they abandon the creature who is supposed to be Christian? Why is this so? Because the German churches are corrupted by that estrangement from the spirit which equates man with the member of the church. In the foreword to the work the historian attempted to characterize the person of Hitler.
Against the doubts of the historian it must above all be stated that the categories for grasping the person of Hitler are by no means lacking.
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This suspicion, however, seems to me to be just as unfounded as the similar one in the case of the famous pastor. We would be dealing once again with a case of estrangement from reality, and again of estrangement from the reality of man. Hitler, however, could do a lot more. For he had under his control not only his eyes, but other things as well—for instance, human beings. Currency and addition of Tax VAT depend on your shipping address.
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Reconsidering the Nazi Era
Have an Access Token? Enter your access token to activate and access content online. Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token. Have Institutional Access? Forgot your password? PDF Preview. Un-Civilizing Processes? Table of Contents. At a local flea market one of his early works caught the attention of a set designer who placed it in a Steve Martin movie; his paintings have subsequently appeared in a number of other productions and made him a sought-after artist in Hollywood, where his collectors include film directors Michael Mann and Chantal Ackerman.
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This genial ex-marine lives quietly in Montebello, without a computer or a cell phone. His tastes lean towards American history and early blues and country music — subjects that frequently appear in his paintings. Soldiers, skeletons and honky-tonk men populate his paintings; he often depicts cultural and historical figures, such as early minstrel show entertainer Gus Cannon, a ghoulishly-rendered Hank Williams, and the revered Alabama folk artist Bill Traylor, as well as portraits of anonymous schoolteachers and sailors with sad eyes and downwardly-curved mouths.