To what extent was Heidegger's support of National Socialism a personal mistake compounded of conservative prejudices, personal ambition, and political naïveté, and to what extent was his engagement dictated by his philosophy?
But it’s also impossible to set aside Heidegger’s sins—and they cannot help but reduce the ardency with which his readers relate to him. Philosophers like to play it cool, but the truth is that intellectual life depends on passion. You don’t spend years working your way through “Being and Time” because you’re idly interested. You do it because you think that, by reading it, you might learn something precious and indispensable. The black notebooks, however seriously you take them, are a betrayal of that ardency. They make it harder to care about—and, therefore, to really know—Heidegger’s ideas. Even if his philosophy isn’t contaminated by Nazism, our relationship with him is.