Two new essays – and more to come

I haven’t written on here for a good while as I’ve been busy with various things, some quite exciting.

The first and least dramatic development is that I’ve been conducting research for the second chapter of my new book. This chapter will be on Heidegger, and in preparation for writing it I’ve read Rüdiger Safranski’s biography of the man.

It turns out that Heidegger is even more of a bastard than I’d originally thought. When he became Rector of Freiburg University in 1933 he did so not out of a desire to save the University from the worst excesses of Nazism (as he would later claim), but rather from a fervent wish to see the ‘Führer principle’ placed at its heart.

As for his record in post: some of his activities as Rector are almost laughable in hindsight, such as his philosophy camp-outs, which he thought would deliver a generation of Black Forest oracles and wise mountain men. But most of his energy was spent enforcing the Nazi ideology throughout the University, including, most despicably, reporting to the authorities anybody who he deemed insufficiently devoted to Nazism.

Safranski’s biography is no simple hatchet-job, however, as it also gives the genius of Heidegger’s thought its due. I’m sympathetic to this balanced approach, as I’m now re-reading Being and Time and finding it to be just as breathtaking as ever. Once I’ve finished, the writing for the chapter can begin.

In the meantime, I’m happy to say that I’ve been busy trying my hand at writing for the general public in another forum. This is the website of the Jewish cultural organisation Aish, which seeks to promote Judaic culture and wisdom to a wider audience. As a part of this mission they’re happy to have gentiles writing for them, and I’ve now contributed two articles to their philosophy section.

The first concerns Hans Jonas’ philosophy of mind, and the contribution it can make to an understanding of humanity’s place in nature. The second, published just yesterday, uses the thought of Cicero and Hannah Arendt to explore how to cope with our mortality by reflecting on the human condition. Along the way I reference Ingmar Bergman’s wonderful film The Seventh Seal, hence the death-related photo above.

I’m pretty happy with them both, the latter in particular, which reflects some ideas that have been at the back of my mind for years but never made to the page. And the editors of the philosophy section seem to be keen on my work as well, as they’ve asked me to contribute similar articles once a month. So, from now on, I expect this blog to be a place where I keep track of how my new book is going, while my other ideas and experiments in public philosophy writing will be found on my author page for Aish, here.

Onwards and upwards…

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