Love-hate relationship between two prominent philosophers
Hannah Arendt was a German-born U.S. political theorist who worked on the risks of fascism, as demonstrated by her books like “Eichmann in Jerusalem” and “The Origins of Totalitarianism.”
When it comes to his teacher and lover Martin Heidegger, however, the Jewish scholar’s life-long, sharp criticisms of totalitarianism did not work for some reason.
Although Heidegger was a member and supporter of the Nazi Party, Arendt pulled out all the stops to save his academic life in the United States after World War II.
And “Hannah Arendt & Martin Heidegger” is a book aimed at finding the reason why Arendt came up with such contradictory stances, mostly from her perspective.
In the 1997 book, Elzbieta Ettinger appears to say that Heidegger manipulated her to believe that Heidegger was not a real Nazism believer.
In other words, Heidegger may have “gaslighted” her.
“In order to communicate with the world, Heidegger thought that he needed his honorary ambassador, and Arendt was a perfect fit,” the author noted. “It seems that Arendt accepted the role without resistance.”
The two first met in 1924 at the University of Marburg when Arendt became a student of Heidegger. Back then, the former was an 18-year-old German Jew while the latter was a 35-year-old married professor.
They were lovers for about four years, although separated for almost two decades in the 1930s and 1940s.
The two resumed their relationship in 1950 despite Heidegger’s involvement with the Nazis, and the link lasted for the following quarter-century before Arendt died in 1975. Heidegger died the next year.
After reading this book, two questions naturally popped up. One is “Was Heidegger really a great thinker who deserves his reputation?” and the other is “Was Arendt an independent personality delving into totalitarianism?”
There are time-honored controversies for the first suspicion. And here is a potential conclusion for the second one _ it might be easier to gaslight an intelligent person than a less smart one.