I know that Heidegger was an NSDAP member but I am only somewhat familiar with his work, and I'm asking this question so that I don't have to scan everything he's written to find out.

For an example, I have read some Nietzche and it is easy to discern his moral and ideological right wing tendencies. For example, he despises collectivism/Marxism, he is unafraid to polemicize whole religions/ethnicities for allegedly promoting weakness of spirit, he celebrates strength as virtue etc etc. Even though his ideas have been "appropriated" by some left wing intellectuals, it is fair to say he was way more right than left in every way.

So, my question is, which ideas did Heidegger promulgate that are associated with right wing politics and ideology and in which of his works are those ideas presented?

UPDATE: Since I see that this was queued for closure on the grounds of being "opinion-based", and that my guess that the alleged grounds for that opinionated-ness is the definition of right-left, I will elucidate my totally mainstream, and uncontroversial definition of the right-left continuum:

My main criterion in defining the left-right continuum is social hierarchy, not so much collectivism, which exists on both sides, and I think this is the most plain vanilla definition. The right is more in favor of social hierarchy which it generally claims is reflective of merit, which in turn is reflective of the overall quality of persons or groups, IOW fair and objective, while the left is generally dismissive of hierarchy as impossible to be fair and objective so should be done away with.

I am disappointed to have to fight the pushback on this question on the grounds of relativism and semantics.

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    How would you classify national-socialism, as left or right? You can get an idea of Heidegger's leanings from his 1955 memorial address, which promotes anti-modernity, anti-technology and glorifies the lost "soil" and "rootedness" of imagined golden age. Traditionalism and nationalism are now often associated with the "right", although Stalin or Putin might disagree. See also Dallmayr's reconstruction of Heidegger's political philosophy.
    – Conifold
    Mar 11, 2020 at 5:47
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    I would definitely classify nazi as right
    – amphibient
    Mar 11, 2020 at 5:51
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    @Conifold: I'm not sure how deeply you want to get into this discussion, but from the perspective of political theory nationalism of all sorts — including national socialism — is unambiguously Rightist. Nationalism is about establishing political dominance for some mytho-historical identity group; it's anti-egalitarian and intractably hostile to leftist viewpoints. Mar 11, 2020 at 7:06
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    @TedWrigley "Rightist" and "leftist" depend on where the imaginary "center" is placed, and what is considered "leftist" in the US, say, would be "rightist" in many European or Latin American countries. These labels are pragmatically useful where the context attaches them to specific political groups, but their "theoretical essence" is very limited, as the prominence of nationalism in many "leftist" ideologies would attest. Cultivation of Russian nationalism in the Soviet Union is a typical example.
    – Conifold
    Mar 11, 2020 at 7:48
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    Just a short note on Nietzsche: The things he published himself may well be read as purposefully provoking and cynical while not exactly expressing or supporting the "rightist" thought. Actually, it would contradict the core ideas of his philosophy. His sister, who published some of his works and was befriended to early NSDAP adherents coloured his works to be more in line, said it was his own ideology, and even faked some of the supporting evidence after he went mad. So this is more due to Elisabeth rather than Friedrich himself.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Mar 11, 2020 at 9:16

2 Answers 2


'Left' and 'Right' are not helpful terms here but the issue you raise can be phrased without them. The question is whether there is a logical connection between the politics that Heidegger espoused when the Nazis came to power and his philosophical work, principally in Being and Time (1927). What if anything joins political stance with philosophical opus? To deal with matters in as coherent order as I can:

Was Heidegger a Nazi?

There can be no doubt about this since the publication of Victor Farias' Heidegger and Nazism, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989. And even the idea that Heidegger’s involvement with National Socialism was a brief, naïve dalliance which he came to regret does not stand up against the evidence. Heidegger remained a member of the NSDAP until 1945 and never recanted his connection with the Nazis. It is true that Heidegger became disillusioned with Hitler but he never repudiated the political vision which he thought he had found in National Socialism.

Alan Pascow aims to trace the origins and nature of that vision. He contextualises:

Nazi ideology as part of a broader cultural and historical outlook having important sources in early nineteenth century German Romantic poetry and philosophy. What needs to be better comprehended is German intellectuals' disenchantment with Enlightenment principles, which they feared to be issuing in a society defined by a rootless "mass man's" spirit of rationalism and technification, a will-to-power-and-domination penetrating every aspect of life. I think that only by appreciating the lure of anti-Enlightenment thinking, which is so alien to most Americans and which therefore is most likely not properly understood, can we begin to make sense of Heidegger's conviction that Nazism had an "inner truth and greatness" that could inspire and transform all Germans. A new Germany, he believed, would in turn be able to lead all of the other nations of the world into a socially, politically, and spiritually superior postmodern era. (Ironically, Heidegger would have allowed for Germany the very will-to-domination that he condemned in modern society and with respect to which the new order was to be a corrective.) Heidegger's enthrallment with this vision was so powerful that it sustained itself even after his disillusionment with Hitler, whom Heidegger after 1939 regarded as a "good-for-nothing" (Taugenichts) (assuming his wife's words to me in June 1988 are to be trusted). Indeed, Heidegger seems never to have lost faith in the possibility of a renewed and great nazified German nation, whose spirit would be articulated by his own philosophy as well as by the poetry of Holderlin and whose source would be uncovered in the language and culture of ancient Greece. (Alan Pascow, ‘Heidegger and Nazism’, Philosophy East and West, Vol. 41, No. 4, The Sixth East-West Philosophers' Conference (Oct., 1991), pp. 522-527: 526-7.)

How does Heidegger’s politics connect logically with his philosophy?

This should be an open question. It should not be assumed that there is a logical connection but none the less a powerful case can be made that such a connection exists. I don’t think that Heidegger’s politics presupposes his philosophy or that his philosophy entails his politics. But there is a coherence between the two. This is set out in an article by Emmanuel Faye, ‘Nazi Foundations in Heidegger's Work’, South Central Review, Vol. 23, No. 1, Fascism, Nazism: Cultural Legacies of Reaction (Spring, 2006), pp. 55-66. (GA = Collected Works, or Gesamtausgabe – ongoing.)

My research also deals with the 1920s, from Heidegger's lectures of 1925 entitled The current conflict for a historical vision of the world to Being and Time, published in 1927. 1 discovered the importance of intellectual bonds which linked Heidegger to racist authors and proto- Nazis like Erich Rothacker, Alfred Baeumler, Oskar Becker, and even the raciologist Ludwig Clauss, to whom Heidegger would confide: "what I think, I will say once I am a tenured professor." It is necessary to remain aware of this context in order to understand the affirmations of Being and Time such as the famous § 74 on historicity, in which Heidegger declares that existence is not defined as destiny, except through a community and a people. The identification of the authentic Dasein with Gemeinschaft and with the Volk is thus confirmed in 1927 in Being and Time. … In addition, the lectures currently available from 1933-34 reveal to us that Heidegger, in his book on Kant from 1929, only re-addresses the question "What is man?" so as to transform it in his seminars and writings from the 1930s, into "Who are we?" He responds, "we are the people," the only people who still have a "history" and a "völkisch destiny." In effect, Heidegger understands this people as "völkisch," that is to say according to his own terms, as a race (Rasse). For him, it is necessary to accomplish a "total transformation" of the existence of man, in accordance with "the education for the National Socialist worldview," inculcated in the people through the Führer's speeches (GA 36/37, 225).

Can we seriously believe that for Heidegger these pro-Nazi views are only a fleeting political aberration that can be ignored in assessing the value of Being and Time? This would run counter to the most explicit affirmations of Heidegger himself. In effect in 1934, he explained to his students that "care - 'the most central term of Being and Time' - is the condition in which it is possible for man to be political in essence" (GA 36/37, 218). Heidegger declares at this time - one year after the National Socialist movement came to power - that "we ourselves," that is to say the German people, united under the Hitlerian Führung, are faced with an "even greater decision" than that which served as the origin of Greek philosophy! This decision, he specifies, "was articulated in my book, Being and Time." It concerns, he added, "a belief which must manifest itself through history" and concerns "the spiritual history of our people" (GA 36/37, 255). At the foundation of Heidegger's work, one thus finds not a philosophical idea, but rather a völkisch belief in the ontological superiority of a people and a race; moreover, the term völkisch designates in its Nazi usage the conception of a people as a marriage of blood and race, with "a strong anti-Semitic connotation," according to the Grimm dictionary. Frankly, an attentive reading of key paragraphs in Being and Time on death and historicity, with their celebration of sacrifice, of the choice of heroes and of the authentic destiny of Dasein in the community of the people, shows that this belief was already in place as of 1927.

With Heidegger, the question of man has thus become a völkisch question. It is in this sense that I spoke earlier of Heidegger's intention to introduce Nazism into philosophy. Of course, no true philosophy can align itself with the project of the extermination of human beings, a project to which the Nazi movement was committed. Therefore, I do not wish to say that Heidegger produced a National Socialist philosophy, but rather that he did not hesitate to utilize philosophical expressions such as "truth of Being" or "essence of man" to express something else entirely. (Faye: 57-8.)

Left to myself I should say that Faye's final sentence undermines what he has previously said: if Heidegger used 'philosophical expressions' to express something else entirely, i.e. if he used them non-philosophically, then the continuity between his philosophy and his politics is broken. But I leave the sentence as it stands, for others to make up their own minds.


Beginning in the middle of the 19th century there was a shift in philosophy towards what I can best describe as 'radical Liberalism': a tendency to focus attention on the individual as a determinant entity in its own right, over and above the social structures the individual is contained within. A whole lot of thinkers in this era — Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, Kierkegaard, Sartre, etc.; and yes, Hiedegger — began investigating what the nature of this individual being was, and how that individual being could break through or overcome the social structures and forces that held it in check and diminished it. 17th century (Classical) Liberalism focused on property rights of individuals that were established and maintained (or not) by the social order; 19th century (radical) Liberalism took individuals as sacrosanct and empowered without respect to any external property or properties. A lot of the language of this movement was quasi-revolutionary, after the manner of the Classical movement. They talked about breaking free of social constraints, overcoming societal delusions, discarding moral dictates in favor of discovering a deeper, more authentic mode of moral agency. It was an era of extremely interesting philosophy that still impacts on us today, so I cannot fault them for any of it, but it had its weaknesses.

Now, right-wing nationalist movements always follow a specific ideological pattern; it is endemic to the nature of right-wing nationalism. They hold the following precepts as true:

  • That their 'nation' (an identity-group, be it religious, ethnic, cultural, or some blend thereof) has unique, specific, and unquestionable rights within a particular state or territory, usually based on some mythologized historical claims that places their group as the rightful heirs to that land
  • That their 'nation' has had its rights and power usurped by outsiders or interlopers; that they as a group have been displaced, disenfranchised, and disempowered within their rightful territory
  • That individual members of the group must stand up and throw off the illicitly imposed constraints and structures that have led to their disempowerment, and reestablish the authentic structures and systems that will re-empower them

As we can see, the 'radical Liberalism' discussed above dovetails almost perfectly with the organizing principles of right-wing nationalism, in that they both talk about throwing off the illicit structures and rules of corrupt society in order to achieve true authenticity. The only true point of difference is in the nationalist effort to alienate others as the cause of this sense of social oppression, and unfortunately people like Heidegger spent little effort thinking about macro-scales effects. From Heidegger's perspective, I imagine, the NSDAP was a tool for liberating individuals from the oppression of society, and he didn't have a philosophical framework for addressing the destructive, oppressive tendencies of the group itself.

In a nutshell, Heidegger's philosophical work can't really be classed as right-wing or left-wing, because it is too focused on the nature of the individual to be analyzed in socio-political terms. But his work was vulnerable to misuse by those on the right who wished to advance one group at the expense of others by extolling the struggle for individual empowerment.

  • somehow, I struggle to accept that 'radical Liberalism' discussed above dovetails almost perfectly with the organizing principles of right-wing nationalism. because, usually, nationalism is against liberalism.
    – amphibient
    Mar 13, 2020 at 4:06
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    @amphibient: Think of it this way... 17th century liberalism demanded rights for propertied Europeans. Foreign indigenes were treated as though they had no rights, leading to the abusive practices of colonialism and the slave trade. You see the model: one group insists on Liberalism for themselves but denies that that other groups are entitled to share in that Liberalism. fast forward to 1930s Germany and you see the same rubric: Nazis demand the blessings of liberalism for 'aryans', and set out to deny it to Jews, Gypsies, and others of 'impure' blood. Mar 13, 2020 at 5:02
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    @amphibient: it's easy to warp the principles of Liberalism so that they are not Inclusive and universal, but are exclusionary and delimited to one's particular group. Nazis hated inclusive political positions (hunting down communists, philosophical anarchists, and 'liberals' of the leftist sort), but they demanded Liberal rights for themselves. Mar 13, 2020 at 5:07

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