Heidegger & Terrorism

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HEIDEGGER AND TERRORISM by ANDREW J. MITCHELL Stanford University ABSTRACT Terrorism is a metaphysical problem that concerns the presence of beings today. Heidegger’s own thinking of being makes possible a confrontation with terrorism on four fronts: 1) Heidegger’s conception of war in the age of technological replacement goes beyond the Clausewitzian model of war and all its modernist-subjectivist presuppositions, 2) Heidegger thinks “terror” (Erschrecken) as the fundamental mood of our time, 3) Heideggerian thinking is attuned to the nature of the terrorist “threat” and the “danger” that we face today, 4) Heidegger rethinks the notion of “security” in a manner that alerts us to the oxymoronic character of “homeland security.” The epoch of terrorism is likewise the era of political transformation that Heidegger identifies with “Americanism.” In this essay an effort is made to think terrorism qua metaphysical problem and to inquire into the perhaps privileged role of America for the thinking of terrorism today. Heideggerian thought is a thinking that is engaged with its times. Whatever we might make of Heidegger’s political choices, the fact remains that even these decisions can be seen as attempts to think with and against the times. It is no stretch to say that our time today is the time of terrorism—an uncommon time, no matter how common a claim this may be—especially in the United States. What then might a Heideggerian engagement with our time of terrorism bring to light? To answer this, it is important to note that Heideggerian thinking, as a thinking of being, must engage with its times precisely because it is through these times that we first find our access to being (or rather “beyng,” Seyn). For Heidegger, however, the contemporary scene is dominated by technology and, as his later writings endeavor to show, this is indicative of a “withdrawal” of
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