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Heidegger's Philosophy of Art. (Nazi or What?).

By Julian Young. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2001, [pounds sterling]35

Martin Heidegger was a functionary of the Nazi party from the early 1930s until the end of the War; nearly all discussion about him nowadays, both on the part of philosophers and by others, inevitably seems to revolve around his various attempts at disassociation from Hitler that followed the nemesis of Nazi Germany.

Julian Young has written an excellent and lucid account of Heidegger's thinking about art and the way in which it varied through the second half of his life. Young's principal text is not, in fact, Building Dwelling Thinking, but the pre-War Origin of the Work of Art; this is here contrasted with Heidegger's later preoccupation with modern artists, particularly Klee and Cezanne, which seems to have been neither natural nor comfortable but somehow a personal obsession, quite detached from modern art in general; later texts centre around the breaking out of the individual, on the smaller gods, on serenity.

It is in this way that one can perhaps analyze the consistency and application of some of his earliest thinking. Some of those concepts -- such as that of constant agitation, the artwork establishing the 'primal battle', now seem (certainly to those of us closer perhaps to politics than to philosophy) classic fascist ideas; others, such as thoughts on the artwork which acts as a gateway to a world-understanding, make one think of the tragic irony of artists such as the sculptor Ernst von Barlach whom the Nazis outlawed because he achieved, presumably, exactly that. This book is for the architect a fascinating way of probing the relationship between thought and political action. I have not read Young's earlier Heidegger, Philosophy, Nazism but I now hope to do so. It is a mark of Young's success that he has made so terrible a subject so accessible to a lay audience.
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Title Annotation:new book
Author:Brittain-Catlin, Timothy
Publication:The Architectural Review
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Mar 1, 2002
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