In 1933, Heidegger committed himself and his thought to the National Socialism. He explains this engagement in a letter to his former student Herbert Marcuse, “I expected from National Socialism a spiritual renewal of life in its entirety, a recollection of social antagonisms and a deliverance of Western Dasein from the dangers of communism.” After the Nazis ejected Professor von Möllendorf, a Social Democrat, from the rectorate of Freiburg University in 1933, the faculty elected Heidegger as his replacement. Since his 1929 essay, What is Metaphysics, Heidegger expressed a desire to reform the scientific orientation of the German university towards a more primordial form of knowing. Therefore, he embraced his new position as rector. “I was nevertheless absolutely convinced that an autonomous alliance of intellectuals [der Geistigen, from Geist, spirit] could deepen and transform a number of essential elements of the “National Socialist movement” and therefore contribute in its own way to overcoming Europe’s disarray and the crisis of the Western spirit.” During his tenure, Heidegger made a number of speeches assimilating his philosophy to the Nazi’s spiritual-political cause. In his 1933 Rectoral Address The Self-Assertion of the German University, he urges the faculty and students of Freiburg University to struggle towards a knowledge that will enrich the spiritual life of the German Volk. However, by 1934, the Party had made clear their discomfort with Heidegger. Because he both refused to carry out certain Nazi commands and espoused a philosophy which many ideologues felt was nihilistic and potentially dangerous, the Party did not know if they could trust him to tow the ideological line and pressured him to resign from the rectorate. However, Heidegger still maintained an allegiance to his vision of a “private National Socialism” until — and even after — the end of the war. Based upon a lecture course given in 1935, a year after Heidegger resigned from the rectorate of the Freiburg University, Introduction to Metaphysics attempts to establish Heidegger as the proper spiritual-philosophical leader of National Socialism.
Introduction to Metaphysics reinscribes the correlation which Heidegger draws between power and the light of truth in a more violent, more political language. In Being and Time, Heidegger prevents a tragic pathos from overwhelming his analysis of Dasein by maintaining the rigor of an argument whose language, even in its radicalness, echoes the soberness of Kant. In Introduction to Metaphysics, this language explodes into a violent rhetoric which echoes the forcefulness of Nietzsche and Jünger. Rather than employing almost scholastic categories of projection and thrownness, which implicitly suggest a dynamic of self-assertion and self-submission, Heidegger explicitly invokes the terminology of struggle, of power, and of military combat. Introduction to Metaphysics does not merely correlate knowledge and power; it establishes an intimacy between the most profound philosophical knowing and the most terrible political power. This text does so by inscribing militarism into its language and by enlisting its ideas in the service of Germany’s political situation. Heidegger explains that, as “perhaps the only real force,” philosophy must become the “thinking that breaks the paths and opens the perspectives of the knowledge that sets the norms and hierarchies, of the knowledge in which and by which a people fulfills itself historically and culturally, the knowledge that kindles and necessitates all inquiries and thereby threatens all values.” Heidegger’s original questioning, like Nietzsche’s revaluation of all values hitherto, intends to disrupt the political and intellectual structures upon which the German people has rested complacently. By maintaining it in a state of existential insecurity, Heidegger claims that his philosophy can challenge the German Dasein to struggle towards its historical destiny, the “inner truth and greatness” of National Socialism.
Heidegger spiritualizes power by positing it as the very essence of Being. He argues that the Greeks defined Being as physis (fusiV.) “Physis is Being itself, by virtue of which essents become and remain observable. Physis means the power that emerges and the enduring realm under its sway.” In this statement, Heidegger explains physis as the power governing temporal appearing, reinscribing phenomenology as a study of force. For Heidegger, beings do not merely appear as posited within an already-created light. Rather, the self-exertion of the process of Being brings to light beings which can stand for themselves, allowing the human observer to gaze upon them. Heidegger’s mention of “the enduring realm” under the sway of Being also seems to posit a certain type of political relationship obtaining between the singular Being and the manifold beings. He explains Being through the Greek word dike (dike) which he translates as the German word Fug (order.) “Here we understand Fug first in the sense of joint and framework, then as decree, dispensation, a directive that the overpowering imposes on its reign; finally, as the governing structure which compels adaptation and compliance.” Heidegger describes Being both as a transcendent power which imposes its rule and an immanent force which compels obedience to this rule. Being permeates and collects the world of beings, maintaining the tension between them. Because Being articulates itself as this dynamic plurality, one can certainly read Heidegger’s analysis of Being as privileging the multiple over the singular. However, Heidegger himself clearly emphasizes the absolute domination of Being. Heidegger argues that this rule is established as terror. “The deinon (deinon) is the terrible in the sense of the overpowering power which compels panic fear, true fear; and in equal measure it is the collected, silent awe that vibrates with its own rhythm.” Just as Being compels obedience to its rule, it compels dread over those it rules: its sustains its domination through the terror which it inspires.
Unlike Hegel, Heidegger does not describe the process of Being as one which consummates itself. Whereas the dynamic moments of Hegel’s system eventually find themselves subsumed within a historical totality, Heidegger’s Being always maintains an internal dynamic at every moment of history. Heidegger preserves this state of internal tension by raising the notion of struggle [Kampf] to a spiritual-ontological level. He develops this idea of a primordial struggle through a reading of Heraclitus fragment concerning polemos (polemoV.) “This conflict, as Heraclitus thought it, first caused the realm of Being to separate into opposites” As polemos, Being produces itself as a violent convulsion, articulating each separate essent as an aspect of this combat. Being manifests essents as those who it destines to battle each other. Not only does this interpretation of Heraclitus approach militarism, it also seems to deliberately echo certain German polemics against democratic egalitarianism. Heidegger continues, “[Polemos] first gave rise to position and order and rank. ... In the conflict a world comes into being. “ Like both Nietzsche and the National Socialists, Heidegger argues for the central importance of rank, distinguishing the weak from the mighty. For Heidegger, these differences between the powerful and the impotent are not merely political or natural. As polemos, Being itself determines these separations, stamping each existence with its degree of potency. Because struggle occurs in Being as the articulation of opposition, it determines the relationship between man and Being. “The deinon as the overpowering (dike: dike) and the deinon as violent (techne: tecne) confront one another, though not as two given things. In this confrontation techne bursts forth against dike, which in turn as Fug, the commanding order, disposes of all techne. The reciprocal confrontation is. It is only insofar as the strangest thing of all, Being-human, is actualized, insofar as man is present as history.” In this statement, Heidegger italicizes the word is, which he defines as the most pre-eminent expression of Being in language. Lacking any direct or indirect object, Heidegger’s sentence “the reciprocal confrontation is” seems to imply that the reciprocal confrontation between man and Being correlates with this “is,” with the process of Being unconcealing itself.
Defined by his struggle with Being, man’s existence constitutes itself as his violence. Heidegger disparages the common conception of violence as arbitrary brutality. “In this common usage violence is seen from the standpoint of a realm which draws its standards from conventional compromise and mutual aid, and which disparages all violence as a disturbance of the peace.” By referring to a standpoint of sight, Heidegger seems to critique the public desire for peace as a weak visual perspective. This viewpoint refuses to engage in heroic conflict, indolently clinging to the complacent security of the status quo. In contrast, Heidegger asserts that man is the deinon, “the powerful in the sense of one who uses power, who not only disposes of power, but is violent insofar as the use of power is the basic trait not only of his action but also of his Dasein.” For Heidegger, violence does not merely characterize occasional acts of man’s Dasein, but rather the entire dynamic of his ontological, temporal being. Dasein, as the There of Being, not only exposes itself to the overpowering power of physis, it struggles against Being, exercising its power against this overpowering force. Heidegger continues, “Being itself hurls man into this breaking away, which drives him beyond himself to venture forth toward Being, to accomplish Being, to stabilize it in a work, and so hold open the essent as a whole. Therefore, the violent one knows no kindness and conciliation; he can not be mollified by success or prestige.” According to this statement, Being destines man as a supreme, uncompromising violence which neither complacent prosperity nor public accolades can restrain. Being overpowers man’s Dasein, shattering his stability in its temporal flow. This convulsive dynamic opens man up to Being, forcing him into his conflict with Being. Man struggles with essents by building poetically, bringing things into the proper limits and forms which define their Being. Heidegger describes this shaping of Being as a struggle against elemental forces such as the “overpowering sea” and “the indestructible power of the earth.” Dasein asserts itself through its domination of the living creatures which draw their life force from these elements. It establishes the limits of these creatures by subjecting them to the constraints which it imposes upon them. Through violent assertion, man disturbs the tranquil growth of the earth, breaking up the ground through his agriculture, subjugating animals by tearing them up from their natural environments, “shutting them up in his pens and enclosures, and forcing them under his yokes.”
Man exercises his power against Being through the powers which Being ordains for him. Unlike the essents of the earth and sea, man does not capture and subjugate these existential capacities. Rather, Being imposes these creative powers upon man, subjecting him to its dominion. “The violence of poetic speech, of thinking projection, of building configuration, of the action that creates states is not a function of the faculties that man has, but a taming and ordering of powers by virtue of which the essent opens up as such when man moves into it.” In this statement, Heidegger raises the political activity of establishing a new, revolutionary regime to the same ontological status as the most fundamental existentials of Dasein’s Being. He explains how these existentials relate man to Being. “It is this breaking out and breaking up, capturing and subjugating that opens up the essent as sea, as earth, as animal It happens only insofar as the powers of language, of understanding, and of building are themselves mastered in violence.” Man discloses essents through the way he violently dominates them. However, in order to open up these essents in their Being, he must first open himself up to the powers of Being; he must transform himself into the opening for Being. Man does not achieves his mastery by lording over the powers of Being, but rather by taming them, opening himself up to Being so that he can employ the powers of Being to promote his own violence. Dasein’s struggle against Being bring his existential capacities to their full unconcealment. Similarly, this battle does not reduce Being’s power, but rather manifests it in its proper light by gathering it together into its definitive limit and form. By contending with Being, man accepts his destined role as the governor of Being, administering its overpowering power.
Heidegger’s uses language and knowledge as the two primary exemplars to illustrate how these existential capacities both overpower man and give him power. He explains that language is not a system invented by man, but rather something which “reigns within him as the power which he, as the essent he himself is, must take upon himself.” Being’s overpowering power dominates man by articulating the power of language in man, through man, and as man. Being asserts its power through man’s creative usage of language. “Use of power in language in understanding, and building helps to create (i.e.. always, to bring forth) the violent act of laying out paths into the environing power of the essent.” By using the power which Being has ordained for him, man determines the limits and forms of essents. As in Being and Time, Heidegger seems to describe language as having a visual rather than communicative function. After quoting Parmenides, one of the Greeks who inaugurated the great beginning of philosophy, he explains, “What is said here from within the heart of Being consists of semata, not signs of Being, not predicates, but indications which in looking-toward Being from within Being indicate Being. For in thus looking towards-Being, we must, in an active sense, look away from all coming-into-Being and passing-away, etc.; in the act of seeing we must hold them away, expel them.” Heidegger’s analysis of Parmenides’ language attempts to overturn the representational conception of language. Such theories perpetuate an essentialist metaphysics by separating words from content and subjects from predicates. In response, Heidegger contends that language neither symbolizes the presence of Being nor represents the qualities of the subject Being. Language articulates itself through a Dasein situated in Being, directing it towards Being, and opening it up to Being. By emphasizing the dynamic of looking towards and looking away, Heidegger seems to echo Being and Time’s argument that language determines a specific visual orientation for Being and Dasein. Similarly, Heidegger asserts, “In a certain broad sense the Greeks looked upon language from a visual point of view, that is, starting from the written language It is in writing that the spoken language comes to stand. Language is, i.e. it stands in the written image of the word. ... But through the flow of speech, language seeps away into the impermanent.” In this statement, Heidegger illuminates the temporal aspect of speech. He seems to emphasize the visual dimension of language because it preserves Being in its proper forms and limits. Heidegger continues, “But the Greeks also knew of the phonetic character of language, the phone (fone). ... The crucial view of language remains the grammatical view.” In this statement, Heidegger privileges the visual aspect of language over the acoustic, over the sound-medium through which speakers communicate with one another.
Although language orients Dasein towards Being, Heidegger warns that public communication can lead it away from Being. He states, “Where language speaks as violent gathering, as a curbing of the overpowering, and as a safeguarding, then and then alone will there necessarily be a breaking of bonds and loss. Consequently, language, speech, is at the same time idle talk.” Heidegger warns that Dasein’s usage of language necessarily leads to disaster. However, for Heidegger, the term “disaster” does not connote something bad. The “disaster” of Being and Dasein’s “safeguarding” can manifest Being in either unconcealment or concealment. Dasein gathers Being together in its proper form and limits by breaking away from conventional understanding, thereby preserving it from misinterpretation. However, this preservation can transform into a desire for security which disastrously loses Dasein in the complacent interpretations of the public realm. Therefore, Heidegger warns that the language which gathers Being together into its limit does so as the public language of das Man, “a concealment rather than disclosure of Being, dispersion, disorder, and mischief rather than a gathering into structure and order.” Heidegger’s statement that language leads to “dispersion” seems to correlate the public dissemination of words with Being’s deterioration and with Dasein’s distraction from Being. He seems to suggest that establishing structure and order might remedy this ontological situation.
Heidegger argues that most people consider the term “Being” as an empty word rather than as something which brings Being to presence because public culture has thoroughly corrupted all language. He asserts, “that the language in general is worn out and used up — an indispensable but masterless means of communication that may be used as one pleases, as indifferent as a means of public transport, as a street car which everyone uses. Everyone speaks and writes away in the language, without hindrance and above all without danger.” Heidegger argues that democratic culture has perverted language by making it easily accessible to everyone. He seems to suggest that this complacency can be overcome if the public reinstitutes the virtue of mastery, supporting masterful leaders who will take heroic risks in order to illuminate Being through language. Similarly, Heidegger explains, “Mere hearing scatters and diffuses itself in what is commonly believed and said, in hearsay, in doxa, appearance. ... We can truly hear only if we are followers. ... The man who is no follower is removed and excluded from the logos from the start, regardless of whether he has heard with his ears or not yet heard.” Not only does idle talk arise from man’s misuse of language, the public’s chatter scatters because man does not respond to language appropriately. Just as Heidegger recommends the virtue of mastery, he seems to assert that, rather than being an undifferentiated member of a democratic society of equals, man must distinguish himself as an authentic follower.
As with language, knowledge relates man’s power to the overpowering Being. For Heidegger, knowledge does not connote a simple mastery which enables man to calculate and dominate the entities around him. Rather, as the understanding of apprehension, knowing requires that man open himself up to the mastery of Being. Heidegger explains that Being posits Dasein as the site in which it discloses itself. “Being dominates, but because and insofar as it dominates and appears, appearing and with it apprehension must also occur. ... The particularity of Being-human will grow from the particularity of its belonging to Being as dominant appearing. And since apprehension — accepting apprehension of what shows itself — belongs to such appearing, it may be presumed that this is precisely what determines the essence of Being-human” Heidegger describes man’s existence as a function of the self-assertive development of Being. In its process of self-manifestation, Being [Sein] requires the There [Da] of Dasein as the space in which to manifest itself. Heidegger therefore explains Dasein’s responsive apprehension to Being as something which is determined by and as the dominion of Being itself. Being establishes its There by subjecting Dasein to its becoming, positing Dasein as the breach for its temporal explosion, uprooting Dasein from its security and shattering its complacency. However, Heidegger does not consider Dasein’s response to the incursion of Being to be a pure passivity. “To apprehend in this twofold sense means to let something come to one, not merely accepting, however, but taking a receptive attitude toward that which shows itself. When troops prepare to receive the enemy, it is in the hope of stopping him at the very least, of bringing him to stand. This receptive bringing-to-stand is meant by noiein [noiein.]” As before, Heidegger describes his ontological reflections using military metaphors, raising combat to a spiritual level. Dasein does not allow overpowering Being to massacre it, but rather prepares for it in a strategic defense formation. Apprehension thereby transforms the subjection imposed by Being into a power, allowing Dasein to take over its thrownness in its self-projection. Just as Being struggles against Dasein as the overpowering dike, knowledge develops as the power of man’s techne “the basic trait of deinon, the violent; for violence is the use of power against the overpowering.” Heidegger perpetuates the militaristic intonations of his language by correlating knowledge with strength. He states “What has the higher rank is the stronger. Therefore, Being, the logos as gathering and harmony, is not easily accessible and not accessible to all in the same form. ... The true is not for every man, but only for the strong.” As before, Heidegger inscribes an aristocratic notion of rank into the ontological structure of Being. In an extreme display of anti-democratic sentiment, Heidegger argues that knowledge can not be equally accessed by everyone. He insists that the masses are like dogs and donkeys, feeding off easy solutions, incapable of genuine understanding. Understanding only manifests itself to the strong man, the creative man who oversteps the constraints of everyday tranquillity, of a complacent peace, and dares to engage in combat.
Man achieves the limit of his full openness to Being when his apprehension manifests itself as a questioning attitude. Heidegger describes this attitude as the “will to know. He who wills, he who puts his whole existence into a will, is resolved ... To know is accordingly, the ability to stand in the manifestness of the essent, to endure it.” In this statement, Heidegger drafts the language of Being and Time into a voluntarist ethos. Following Nietzsche, he understands knowledge as a will to truth rather than as a disinterested search for facts. For Heidegger, the most authentic knowledge arises when Dasein understands knowing as self-assertion. This self assertion enables Dasein to stand heroically against the assault of the overpowering. Because Being occurs as a temporal process, each moment both creates and shatters the forms and limits of Being. Dasein’s Being constantly shatters against the possibility of death. Being’s dynamic unfolds as a constant revolution, disrupting every point of stability as soon as it is founded. Therefore, questioning Dasein authentically confronts the assault of Being once it braves the possibility of nonbeing. Heidegger states, “This essent, through questioning, is held out into the possibility of nonbeing. Thereby the why takes on a very different power of penetration.” Similarly, he states, “To press inquiry into Being explicitly to the limits of nothingness, to draw nothingness into the question of Being — this is the first and only fruitful step toward a true transcending of nihilism” Dasein’s heroic confrontation with nothingness brings itself to authenticity and Being to unconcealment. In contrast, the fearful public sphere conceals Being and disperses Dasein by refusing to contend with these negations. Nihilism occurs when this public focuses on the essent at the expense of Being, attempting to ignore the shadow of nothingness which underlies each temporal appearance.
The proper apprehension of Being requires that Dasein struggle to disclose the proper visual appearance of Being. Heidegger locates the historical origin of this struggle in Greek thought and art. “[The Greeks] were perpetually compelled to wrest Being from appearance and preserve it against appearance ... The great age of Greece was a single creative self-assertion amid the confused, intricate struggle between the powers of Being and appearance.” Heidegger explains that those who inaugurated the great beginning of philosophy, the Greeks, strove for the appropriate visual disclosure of Being. Before the advent of Plato, Greek thinkers did not denigrate manifestation as a “mere appearance” of transcendental principles. Instead, they attended to the essential ambiguity of appearance, to the manner in which it both discloses and conceals Being. Being occurs as a process of self-blossoming manifestation in the momentary appearances which limit it and shape it. By disclosing itself in this manner, this process of appearing risks being mistaken for a set of permanent substances which underlie these appearances. The Greeks responded to this ontological situation by disclosing the Being which concealed itself as appearances and by protecting Being against this concealment. Heidegger describes this Greek effort as a power, as the creative self-assertion which imposes limits and establishes forms. He continues, “Logos here stands in closest connection with krinein [krinein,] to separate in the sense of de-cide, in collecting toward the collectedness of Being. Selection is the foundation and proof of the pursuit of Being and the battle against appearance, to set a measure that will determine rank.” In this statement Heidegger correlates the artistic production of works with a determination of the military virtue of rank. He continues, “To be a man means to take gathering upon oneself, to undertake a gathering apprehension of the Being of the essent, the sapient incorporation of appearing in the work, and so to administer unconcealment, to preserve it against cloaking and concealment.”  Dasein gathers Being together into its proper limits by resolutely choosing a possibility which will manifest the greatness of Dasein and Being. Creative Dasein authentically apprehends Being by administering its appearance, as if by divine decree.
Dasein seizes upon this creative mode of apprehension by refusing the complacent, public mode of disclosure. Explaining that authentic Dasein must decide for Being, against nothingness, and must struggle with appearance, Heidegger argues, “But such essential decision must use violence if it is to preserve against the continuous pressure of involvement in the everyday and commonplace. The violence of this decisive departure along the path to the Being of the essent wrests man out of his home in what happens to be nearest and most familiar to him.” In this statement, Heidegger seems to equate the everyday world of the public with nonbeing, or at least with the concealment of Being in its appearance. During the process of its appearing, Being discloses aspects which can potentially be viewed by anyone. Public interpretations conceal Being by fixing these momentary aspects as the very essence of Being. Dasein must overcome these public distortions by wrenching himself out of this public complacency, daring to posit Being anew as a creative work. Not only does this heroic venture disclose Being in its unconcealment, it manifests Dasein in its authenticity. “It is logos as ingathering, as man’s collecting himself toward fitness that first brings Being-human into its essence, so thrusting it into homelessness, insofar as the home is dominated by the appearance of the ordinary, customary, and commonplace.”
Heidegger argues that man falls away from Being and from his own Dasein when he tires of this struggle and seeks complacent security. He describes this refusal of conflict as man’s most drastic and most violent negation of Being. “Time and time again the violent ones must shrink back in fear from this use of force and yet they are unable to forego it. Amid this reluctant will to mastery, the suspicion is bound to flare up at times that perhaps the overpowering will be most securely and completely dominated if the concealment of Being — the emerging power, whose essence is logos, the collectedness of the conflicting — is simply preserved, if in a certain sense every possibility of appearing, of manifestation, is denied.” According to this analysis, Dasein’s struggle against the overpowering is threatened by the possibility that Dasein, exhausted by the fight, might give up the battle. Dasein might shrink back in fear, being unable to stand in the light of Being, unable to withstand the dread it feels confronting the terror of Being’s negativity. This shrinking back exists as a potential within all of Dasein’s self-assertions. Dasein violently gathers together Being by poetically breaking away from its familiar surroundings and creating a new, revolutionary order in the world. Dasein’s creation of a certain stability opens up the possibility that it might settle down in that order rather than maintaining a perpetual struggle to overcome the situation which it has created for itself. Instead of maintaining the tension, the potency, and the dread of his existential situation, man might retreat into cowardly complacency. Through this refusal of struggle, man does not renounce violence, but rather commits the most terrible violence against Being and against himself. By avoiding struggle, Dasein shuts itself off from the unconcealment of Being, refusing to open itself up as the site for Being’s disclosure. Dasein thereby prevents itself from asserting its creative power, its possibilities, in the world, affirming itself as the negation of Dasein, not-Dasein. Just as Nietzsche argued that man vivisected its own animal instincts when it was “finally enclosed within the walls of society and of peace,” Heidegger argues that this shrinking back from combat constitutes Dasein’s “supreme act of violence against itself.”
Dasein’s impotent retreat from the struggle with Being correlates with a perversion of his understanding. Heidegger explains, “Man’s Dasein changes accordingly. The slow end of this history, the slow end in which we have long been standing, is the domination of thinking as ratio (in the sense of understanding as well as reasoning) over the Being of the essent.” When man denies himself the strength to take the great risk of battling with Being itself, his thinking asserts its dominion over the Being of essents. In effect, he transforms from a hero into a petty tyrant, into a demagogue, lording his rule over a multiplicity which he can easily conquer. Man does so by reinterpreting spirit as intelligence. He thereby asserts his intelligence through the cleverness of scientific calculation, organizing essents into determinable categories. Heidegger argues that this interpretation transforms spirit into a manipulable tool, causes knowledge to be classified into compartmentalized sciences, and ultimately converts spirit into a cultural ornament. Once the spiritual activity of understanding one’s existence becomes so degraded, people adopt the attitude that “it suffices to know the essent and to secure our mastery over it.” Heidegger’s repeated condemnations of security seem to be directed against modern philosophy, especially against Cartesian epistemology. In his Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes quests for a secure foundation for certain knowledge. Contemplating the insecurity of the sensory knowledge of external appearances, Descartes posits a certain foundation within and as his own subjectivity. The modern knower thereby achieves his mastery over the world by converting Being into a set of objects. He perceives essents as actual things rather than as dynamic possibilities which Dasein and Being continuously change in their struggle. Rather than affirming his nature as the open site for this conflict, the Cartesian subject ignores the temporal process of Being, stabilizing things as quiddities, as abstract and eternal essences.
According to Heidegger, this perversion of understanding began with Plato who, unable to maintain the greatness of the Greek beginning, posited Being as idea (idea.) Plato’s philosophy begins a period of decline when the space for Being’s unconcealment — presumably Dasein as the site of disclosure — collapses. For the Greeks, the term idea referred to the aspect which Being’s appearing discloses to man’s vision. By interpreting Being as idea, Dasein separates itself from Being by interpreting itself as an observer of Being rather than a participant in the struggle with Being. “Where the struggle ceases, the essent does not vanish, but the world turns away. The essent is no longer asserted (i.e. preserved as such.) ... The original emergence and standing of energies, the phainesthai [fainesqai,] or appearance in the great sense of a world-epiphany, becomes a visibility of things that are already made and can be pointed out. The eye, the vision, which originally projected the project into potency, becomes a mere looking at or looking over or gaping at. Vision has degenerated into mere optics.” Explicitly associating Being and Time’s references to projection with his language of power, Heidegger explains that an authentic manifestation of Being requires Dasein’s constant engagement in its struggle with Being. When man stops asserting himself, he perverts his vision and Being’s unconcealment. Dasein’s visual disengagement from the world, his objectification of it, indicates his fundamental impotence. Man’s impotence asserts itself as a power through the paralysis of the power of Being. “Appearing in the first and authentic sense as bringing-itself-to-stand in togetherness involves space, which it first conquers.” Being manifests itself in appearing by dynamically exerting its dominion, by creating a space for itself, by creating itself as space. Whereas appearance emerges as the temporal process of Being’s appearing, man looks at frozen, momentary appearances as if they subsisted permanently by themselves. Heidegger argues that man refers appearances back to his own visual perspective rather than Being once he traps himself in the complacency of familiar, public existence. Heidegger contends, “Appearing in the second sense emerges from an already finished space ... Now vision becomes decisive, instead of the thing itself.” In positing space as something substantive and permanent, man denies the rule of Being, grasping essents as objects within his personal sphere.
Introduction to Metaphysics orients Heidegger’s philosophical reflections on this decline of spiritual power and truth towards a political refashioning of the public sphere. Heidegger argues that the metaphysical corruption inaugurated by Platonic philosophy has consummated itself in the thought and life of modern Western culture. Heidegger warns his German students and readers that “We are caught in a pincers. Situated in the center, our nation incurs the severest pressure. It is the nation with the most neighbors and hence the most endangered. With this, it is the most metaphysical of nations.” In this statement, Heidegger applies his insights into the nature of Being and Dasein to the political situation of Germany. Just as Dasein opened itself up as the space for Being’s disclosure, Germany, in the center of Europe, exposes itself as the site for the metaphysical struggle over the historical destiny of Being. This metaphor of pincers seems to allude to his description of the de-cision of Dasein. The disastrous decline of spirit forces Germany to choose whether it will let these nihilistic pincers crush it into submission or whether it will confront these negations, fight for the unconcealment of Being, and affirm the authenticity of itself. Heidegger insists that the German nation will either submit to the “darkening of the world,” the disempowerment of the spirit, or will begin a new beginning “more radically, with all the strangeness, darkness, insecurity that attend a true beginning.” Heidegger explains that America and Russia exert the pressure which presents Germany with the possibility of submission or triumph. “In America and Russia [the deterioration of spirit into intelligence] grew into a boundless etcetera of indifference and always-the-sameness — so much so that the quantity took on a quality of its own. Since then the domination in those countries of a cross section of the indifferent mass has become something more than a dreary accident. It has become an active onslaught that destroys all rank and every world-creating impulse of the spirit, and calls it a lie. This is the onslaught of what we call the demonic (in the sense of destructive evil.)” In this statement, Heidegger encourages an already militaristic Germany to confront this spiritual threat by literally demonizing its opponents. Echoing Nietzsche’s critique of the mob-instinct which animates democracy and communism, Heidegger applies his critique of das Man to Germany’s military enemies, America and Russia. Heidegger takes the global dominance of these countries as a sign that mass culture and the analytical sciences which it perpetuates threatens to eradicate the genuine spiritual culture and philosophical reflection of Germany. He inscribes this cultural transformation in a tragic plot. This massification of man will destroy genuine greatness, genuine expressions of creative power, preventing Dasein from daring to do anything exceptional, wrenching it back down to the realm of the commonplace, the familiar.
Heidegger’s perception of this spiritual decline causes him to commit himself to the politics of National Socialism. In saying this however, one must understand what the political signifies for Heidegger. Heidegger claimed that he had only committed himself to a “private National Socialism” which did not necessarily correlate with the one which actually unfolded itself in German history. However, this statement does not imply that Heidegger’s commitments lay at an individual level rather than a socio-political one. Many commentators have wondered how the author of the individualistic philosophy of Being and Time could have committed himself to the demagoguery of Nazism. For example, Jurgen Habermas reflects upon his reaction to Heidegger’s political commitment, saying “Heidegger had treated the whole framework of Being and Time without any obvious change up to 1933. Then he suddenly gave it a collectivist turn: Dasein was no longer this poor Kierkegaardian-Sartrean individual hanging in the air, in Sorge [Care.] But now Dasein was the Dasein of the people, of the Volk.” Even though much of Heidegger’s Being and Time evokes an individualist reading, Heidegger never identifies Dasein as an individual human being, but rather as the historical location where Being discloses itself. In his speeches of 1930s, Heidegger posits Germany as the corporate Dasein which has opened itself up most profoundly to the unconcealment of Being. Urging the German populace to support Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist State by voting to withdraw Germany from the League of Nations, Heidegger proclaims, “[The Führer] is giving the people the possibility of making, directly, the highest free decision of all: whether the entire people wants its own Dasein or whether it does not want it.” Similarly, in Introduction to Metaphysics, Heidegger demonstrates his hopes for its fascist government by figuring the public arena of the polis as the site of historical struggle. He states “Polis [poliV] means the place, the there, wherein and as which historical Dasein is. The polis is the historical place, the there in which, out of which, and for which history happens ... [This place] is political, i.e. at the site of history, provided there be (for example) poets alone, but then really poets, priests alone, but then really priests, rulers alone, but then really rulers.” In this statement, Heidegger elevates the political arena to an ontological level, defining it as the place, the There, where the spiritual-ontological destiny of Being itself is decided historically. By taking this decision upon themselves, the three political leaders, the poet, priest, and ruler, heroically establish an authentic public space for Being’s unconcealment. Heidegger continues, “Be, but this means as violent men to use power, to become preeminent.” By putting the word “Be” in italics, this statement ontologically supports the political model of an authoritarian Führer who rules through violence, forging the fate of the German nation.
In committing himself to this notion of a national Dasein ruled by an authoritarian Führer, Heidegger maintains his critique of the unthinking mass sensibility of das Man, the consciousness which dominates bureaucratic countries such as America and Russia, which manifests itself as positivism and communism, and which threatens to conquer the globe. By pledging himself to a “private National Socialism,” Heidegger seems to indicate his disdain for the demagogic aspects of Nazism, the ways in which it pandered to the shallow desires and aspirations of the German public. Rather than attempting to satisfy the demands of the masses, Germany’s authentic political leaders must tear themselves away from the security of their customary lives. “Pre-eminent in the historical place, they become at the same time apolis [apoliV,] without city and place, lonely, strange, and alien, without issue amid the essent as a whole, and at the same time without statute and limit, without structure and order, because they themselves as creators must first create all this.” According to Heidegger’s ontological analysis, the authentic, fascist ruler needs neither law nor public consensus to establish his tyrannical rule. As an original creator, he takes upon himself the responsibility and the risk of establishing a new, revolutionary regime.
Just as Heidegger advocates for an authoritarian ruler, a Führer, the German title of the Introduction to Metaphysics, Einführung in die Metaphysik, implies that he himself will assume the parallel role of the priest who leads [führung] the German people into (ein) their metaphysical destiny. He argues that the German nation as a whole must, through struggle, rise to lead Europe out of its decline. By taking a creative view of its tradition, Germany must unleash the spiritual power of its repeatable historical possibilities. Heidegger explains, “Spirit is the mobilization of the powers of the essent as such and as a whole. It is indispensable if the peril of world darkening is to be forestalled and if our nation in the center of the Western world is to take on its historical mission.” Heidegger undoubtedly uses the term “mobilization” as a deliberate allusion to Ernst Jünger’s essay Total Mobilization, a text which heavily influenced his thinking during the 1930s. Like Heidegger, Jünger warns that mass movements of both the left and the right are putting the German “dream of freedom” under a “pincers’ iron grasp.” To remedy this, Jünger recommends that Germany should mobilize all of its resources towards war so that it can effect the “mobilization of the German,” so that each German man can encounter himself as a stronger force, so that he can realize himself in the midst of the battlefield.
Although Heidegger consciously evokes the martial spirit of Nietzsche and Jünger, he tries to distinguish his ontological thinking from the theories of Nazi propagandists. Supporting the fascist campaign against intellectualism, he warns that, by simply opposing it, Nazi ideologues might reproduce a similarly lifeless body of thought. He states, “They may not be intellectualists but they come from the same source. This spiritual conservatism, stemming partly from natural inertia and partly from conscious effort, has become the feeding ground of political reaction. The misinterpretation of thought and the abuse to which it leads can be overcome only by an authentic thinking that goes back to the roots — and by nothing else.” Heidegger seems to direct this critique of quasi-intellectualism against philosophers of race such as Alfred Rosenberg. “The spirit falsified into intelligence falls to the level of a tool in the service of others ... whether it is applied to the organization and regulation of a nation’s vital resources and race — in any case the spirit as intelligence becomes the impotent superstructure of something else.”  Heidegger contends that, like American positivism and Russian Marxism, Nazi racism disempowers spirit by misinterpreting it as a technological implement. He states at the end of his lecture, “The works that are being peddled about nowadays as the philosophy of National Socialism have nothing whatever to do with the inner truth and greatness of this movement (namely the encounter between global technology and modern man) — have all been written by men fishing in the troubled waters of “values” and “totalities.”” This conclusion of Introduction to Metaphysics seems to reflect Heidegger’s personal conclusion that only a philosophy as radical and revolutionary as his own could satisfy the spiritual needs of a movement as radical and revolutionary as Nazism.
 The Heidegger Controversy: A Critical Reader, p. 162 [Edited by Richard Wolin. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991.]
 In Martin Heidegger, Basic Writings, p. 89 -110 [Edited by David Farrell Krell. New York: Harper & Row, 1993.]
 The Heidegger Controversy, p. 62
 In The Heidegger Controversy, p. 29 - 39.
 See Heidegger’s defense that he resisted Party demands in his letter to the Rector of Freiburg University, November 4, 1945 [The Heidegger Controversy p. 61-66] and his interview “Only a God Can Save Us” [The Heidegger Controversy p. 91 - 116]
 See John D. Caputo’s Demythologizing Heidegger, p. 105. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.
 In none of his post-war writings does Heidegger renounce his commitment to Nazism. Rather, he consistently reaffirms his hopes that this movement would resurrect the German spirit.
 Martin Heidegger. Introduction to Metaphysics, p. 8 [Translated by Ralph Manheim. Garden City, NY: Doubleday-Anchor Books, 1961.]
 Ibid. p. 10
 Ibid. p. 14. To maintain consistency with Macquarrie and Robinson’s translation of Being and Time, I will deviate from the Manheim translation by capitalizing the word Being [Sein] and by leaving Dasein in the German rather than rendering it “being-there.”
 Introduction to Metaphysics p. 160
 Ibid. p. 149
 It would be interesting to apply Hegel’s analysis of how absolute freedom transforms into absolute terror to Heidegger’s description of Being and Dasein as the deinon. According to Hegel, Absolute Terror occurs after the spirit has been objectified into Utility and before it has been transformed into morality. Perhaps one could apply this Hegelian juxtaposition to situate Heidegger between utilitarian science and Levinas’ ethics. Furthermore, one could parallel this discussion with a comparison of how the Reign of Terror and Nazism consummate the epoch of reason and of modernity. [The Phenomenology of Mind, p. 599 -610]
 Introduction to Metaphysics, p. 62
 Introduction to Metaphysics, p. 62
 Ibid. p. 160-161
 Ibid. p. 92
 Ibid. p. 150
 Ibid. p. 149-150
 Ibid. p. 163
 Ibid. p. 154
 Ibid. p. 154 If certain types of human beings were to be considered as animals, how would Heidegger’s romantic description of pastoral domination apply to them? What is the form-giving essence of barbed wire fences and Zyklon B?
 Ibid. p. 157
 Ibid. p. 157
 Ibid. p. 156
 Ibid. p. 157
However, Heidegger states, “for to be a man is to speak. man says yes and no only because in his profound essence he is a speaker, the speaker. That is his distinction and at the same time his burden .... Even if we had a thousand eyes and a thousand ears, if our essence did not include the power of language, all essents would be closed to us, the essent that we ourselves are no less than the essent that we are not.” (p. 82) Although this statement sounds like it depreciates vision in comparison to speaking, I would argue that Heidegger intends to point towards the relationship which obtains between language and vision. Comparing language to ears makes sense because ears respond to linguistic input, but how does language relate to the eyes? Heidegger states, “True hearing has nothing to do with ear and mouth, but means: to follow the logos and what it is, namely the collectedness of the collectedness of the essent itself.” (p. 129) Here, Heidegger seems to emphasize that hearing does not orient a subject who hears to a heard object through the medium of a sensory organ, but rather is a process where Dasein opens to Being, letting it work through him. Perhaps Heidegger’s depreciation of the thousand eyes intends to condemn the same sensory model of experience. Perhaps Heidegger is trying to assert that, whereas we assume our own viewpoint, Being works through us in speech.
 Ibid. p. 96
 Ibid. p. 64
Just as Greek culture has frequently been associated with vision, Hebraic culture has frequently been associated with hearing. Levinas and many of his commentators exploits this tension to critique Western philosophy, especially Heidegger.
 Ibid. p. 172-3
 Ibid. p. 173
 Ibid. p. 51
 Ibid. p. 129
 Ibid. p. 139
 Ibid. p. 138
 Ibid. p. 160
 Ibid. p. 133
 Ibid. p. 20-21
 Ibid. p. 28
 Ibid. p. 203
 Ibid. p. 105-106
 Ibid. p. 174
 Ibid. p. 174
 Ibid. p. 168
 Ibid. p. 169
 Ibid. p. 176-177
 On The Genealogy of Morals p. 84
 Ibid. p. 177
 Ibid. p. 178
 This critique of cleverness echoes numerous anti-liberal polemics. Nietzsche, for example, states, “A race of such men of ressentiment is bound to become eventually cleverer than any noble race; it will also honor cleverness to a far greater degree: namely, as a condition of existence of the first importance.” (On The Genealogy of Morals 39-39) It should be noted that this sort of argument was and still is invoked by anti-Semites who contrast the noble authenticity of their people (e.g. Aryans) to the “scheming Jews.”
 Introduction to Metaphysics, p. 32
 Ibid. p. 62-63
 Ibid. p. 183
 Ibid. p. 183
 Perhaps also to the castration of Dasein
 Ibid. p. 145
 Ibid. p. 39
 Ibid. p. 46
 Jurgen Habermas, “Life-Forms, Morality and the Task of the Philosopher.” Quoted in The Heidegger Controversy p. 189.
 The Heidegger Controversy, p. 49.
 Introduction to Metaphysics, p. 152.
 Ibid. p. 152
 Ibid. p. 152
 With Hitler as the ruler, Heidegger as the priest, the poet would, of course, have to be Hölderlin. Throughout his career, but especially during the war, Heidegger used Hölderlin’s poetry and thought to meditate on the destiny of the German nation. He wrote the essay “Wie wenn am Feiertage...” as a preface to the volume of Hölderlin’s poetry which many German soldiers read in the trenches. For a recent discussion of the political implications of Heidegger’s readings of Hölderlin and Trakl, see Veronique Foti’s Heidegger and the Poets: Poesis, Sophia, Techne. [Princeton, New Jersey: Humanities Press International, 1992.] It would be interesting to read Plato’s condemnation of poetry against Heidegger’s usage of it. In The Republic, Socrates gives two reasons for excluding poets from the Republic. In Book 8, he explains, “And therefore, I said, the tragic poets being wise men will forgive us and any others who live after our manner if we do not receive them into our State, because they are the eulogists of tyranny. In Book 10, Socrates argues that poetry is merely a mimetic representation of objects which themselves represent the ideas. He states that poets distance men from the truth so much that they cause men to have an uneven temperament rather than to maintain a rational equanimity and to focus on pleasure and pain rather than on justice. What is the relationship between these two separate reasons? Is Heidegger’s condemnation of mimetic representation correlated with his commitment to Nazism? How are these two factors connected to Heidegger’s reappraisal of affectivity? One would start asking these questions through a close reading of Heidegger’s 1936-37 lecture course, Nietzsche: The Will to Power as Art, in which he critiques The Republic’s analysis of mimesis for its separation of the sensuous and supersensuous. This course also emphasizes the importance of the will to power expressed in affective states like Rausch [“rapture.”] One should also look at Platons Lehre von der Wahrheit.
 Introduction to Metaphysics, p. 49-50
 The Heidegger Controversy, p. 121
 The Heidegger Controversy, p. 138
 The Heidegger Controversy, p. 139
 In the 1966 interview “Only a God Can Save Us” Heidegger states, “In 1936, I began the Nietzsche lectures. Anyone with ears to hear heard in these lectures a confrontation with National Socialism.” [The Heidegger Controversy p. 101] This self-defense seems to point towards Heidegger’s consistent critique, especially in the third course, The Will to Power as Knowledge, of philosophers who interpret Nietzsche’s thought as a biologism. See David Farrell Krell’s Daimon Life: Heidegger and Life-Philosophy [Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1992] and his analysis in the third volume of the Nietzsche lectures for a good discussion of this confrontation.
 Introduction to Metaphysics p. 47
 Introduction to Metaphysics p. 199