In the following paper we will undertake a close analysis of The Self-Assertion of the German University, Martin Heidegger's address to the University of Freiburg upon assuming the rectorship at the school. Though space constraints dictate that we cannot explicate and critique the address in full, we will nevertheless examine the following questions: What are some of the claims which Heidegger asserts and how does he argue for them? Are his arguments valid, or objectionable on something other than analytic grounds, e.g., moral or empirical grounds? What implications might they have for the address in full?
[...] Recall that Heidegger asserted that the students and teachers of the university are led by the rector, and that the rector is led in turn by the spiritual mission's inexorability, an inexorability which we now understand as evoking a sense of the fate or the destiny of the German Volk. But reading ‘inexorability' in this sense casts a strange light on Heidegger's role as a leader. For now it looks as if Heidegger is being led by a force which cannot be otherwise, i.e., which is an essential part of the spiritual mission, and which implies determinate consequences for the future. [...]
[...] Inexorability and the Spiritual Mission Heidegger goes on to place necessary conditions on the attainment of the three characteristics we have just discussed: the essence will attain them, he says “only when the leaders are, first and foremost and at all times, themselves led by the inexorability of that spiritual mission which impresses onto the fate of the German Volk the stamp of their history.” The ‘leaders' here clearly refers to the leaders (that is, the rectors) of the German universities, for in the first sentence of the address Heidegger states that “[a]ssuming the rectorship means committing oneself to leading this university” in the two ways already mentioned. This may lead us to believe, then, that since the essence of the German university can only attain clarity, rank, and power by virtue of the actions of the rector, these attainments are to be read figuratively. [...]
[...] And so we see that all these threads of thought are linked, and thus it is that the remainder of the address stands before, waiting to be interpreted and scrutinized in light of the analysis that has preceded it. Works Cited Martin Heidegger, Self-Assertion of the German University,” trans. Karsten Harries, Review of Metaphysics, Vol (March, 1985) Obviously this is only a manner of speaking; strictly it does not follow that in uttering these words Heidegger in fact commits himself to leading the university in a spiritual and intellectual manner. [...]
[...] We might consider these points, but to do so would thrust us once again into the difficult, tangled set of claims that we have already examined. Instead there is a more important point to take away, which is that at this point Heidegger actually departs from these tangled claims and issues: near the end of the second paragraph, he straightforwardly tells us that the “essential character of the university is generally considered to reside in its ‘self-governance.'” And from here he speaks about self-examination and self-limitation, which ultimately brings him to the main topic of his address, namely, the self-assertion of the German university. [...]
[...] In other words, if we view the rector as being the university's figurehead, or its most visible representative, then for the essence of the German university to attain rank, clarity, and power is just for the rector of the university to exhibit these characteristics, perhaps in a loose and metaphorical sense; for example, rector is an admirable man; a man of rank and of great intellectual power.' But a closer examination of the first quotation in the preceding paragraph reveals that such an interpretation would be a misstep: the necessary conditions which Heidegger sets forth for the attainment of the three characteristics does not just involve the leaders themselves. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee