Nazism and Philosophy

Following up quickly on the last post, we really need a moratorium on reading the political out of the Nazi’s. I discuss this somewhere in my MS on sovereignty (to be published by SUNY), but Foucault also talks about how it affects our political imaginary, or at the least begins and ends too many conversations. One sees this especially in Agamben (sorry, Scu!): is there one political point that he makes that doesn’t get read through something written during the Nazi era? Are these really the people that somehow had their pulse on the essence of the political and its trajectory since the ancient period?

Zizek writes well about this: the threat of totalitarianism blinds us from any possible reform. (One need only look at the health care debate in the US. Strike that: look away, my friends, look away….) I’m not writing that we should not think about politics after the disaster: I teach Arendt in my ethics courses specifically because I deem this necessary. But another world is possible, as the kids like to say, and that might mean that you don’t discuss the problem of animality through Nazism.

Writing that after Scu’s reminder about Esposito’s quote makes me cringe knowing that I like much of what Esposito writes, but on this… it’s an argument completely analogous to “Hitler didn’t eat meat”—the Nazi’s had some weird treatment of human being to bring in lower animals, and thus we should not grant some ethical principles to animals because…. Well, I don’t know, because he doesn’t follow up and state clearly that he’s aiming his critique at those who argue for “animal rights.” And surely it would be absurd to look at the form of his argument, which is reducible  to “Some sadistic Nazis wrote X, therefore we should never even think about X.” You can substitute anything: did you know the Nazis were the first with jet planes? Well, you know what that means for your jet travel? And don’t even get me started on jetpacks


  1. The anti-intellectual nature of nazism is, I think, the reason it ends so many conversations. Making a point with an example from the nazis is rarely cogent because they were specifically uninterested in whether or not they contradicted themselves at every turn, and as a result pointing to an aspect of nazi ideology in a comparison and drawing a conclusion that includes another aspect is a dubious move at best.

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