Quora answer: Is there room for the Romanticist project in secular humanism?

Feb 04 2012

I would say no, since Nazism was the epitome of a romantic movement and it was wiped out in the last century as the ideological opposite of Communism. It seems to me that we have voted down by force a place for romanticism in secular humanism. Secular humanism is the child of the French Revolution which is the working out in history of the philosophy of Kant. Hegel, the ultimate romantic, recognized this connection, but instead saw the absolute spirit at work in Napoleon. But Napoleon suffered defeat twice, once by nature in his march to Russia and once by the British at Waterloo, and he was also exiled twice. He was the ultimate romantic hero. He took his stand against the two most powerful forces in the universe at his time, Nature and the British and managed to snatch defeat from he jaws of victory when the Germans arrived. Hegel saw Absolute Spirit moving in history in Napoleon, i.e. the spirit of the nation embodied in its leader, which is very similar to the volk to which Nazism appealed. Hitler also took his army into Russia and was defeated by its winter, and Hitler was also defeated by the British, who had a card up its sleeve that still made it an unbeatable force, i.e. its former colonies, like the USA.

Heidegger was right that Nietzsche, the anti-romantic philosopher, was a bad choice as the philosophical representative of Nazism. Nietzsche had nothing but scorn for the Germans and their barbarity. Heidegger spent the war trying to prove that his philosophy really represented the essence of Nazism. But unfortunately when the Brown Shirts who believed in continual revolution were killed Heidegger lost his interest in the movement. It is just so Ironic that the Americans took as their Allies the French communist underground, who after the war became the intelligence in France who then based all their philosophical adventures on Heidegger’s Nazi philosophy. Strange Bedfellows regardless of Heidegger’s denouncement of Sartre’s existentialism.

Continental Philosophy is the outgrowth of this strange blend of ideologies that builds on the Nazi philosophy of Heidegger toward the utopianism of the French communists who were unhampered in their thinking by Soviet Dogma. The epitome of this is Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason, the last ditch attempt to give dialectical materialism some respectability. In it Sartre describes the “fused group”, like the “pack” in Canetti’s Crowds and Power. In other words the move is to identify with the small group which has no hierarchical structure as yet, rather than the masses who were the focus of Fascist and Communist ideologies.



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