Nietzsche designates the time of the return of the Anti-Christ as "the bell-stroke of noon" -- in a remarkable agreement with the aesthetic time-consciousness of Baudelaire. In the hour of Pan the day holds its breath, time stands still--the transitory moment is wed to eternity.For me, as someone who has only recently begun to break the surface of Heidegger's thought, Habermas' utter Destruktion of his work in The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity was a bit of a shock. With his other opponents, Habermas is genteel, even admiring; with his old teacher, he pulls no punches, dishing out choice phrases like "Heidegger's critical judgments on "das Man," on the dictatorship of the public realm and the impotence of the private sphere, on technocracy and mass civilization, are without any originality whatsoever, because they belong to a repertoire of opinions typical of a certain generation of German mandarins." The result is a devastating and comprehensive critique of Heidegger's life as well as his philosophical project. (On some level, I suspect Habermas' use of Offentlichkeit as the touchstone of his most famous book was a deliberate raspberry in Heidegger's direction, given the charged and highly negative connotations of that word in B&T).
... [For Heidegger,] now it is Being that has withdrawn itself from beings and that announces its indeterminate arrival by an absence made palpable and by the mounting pain of deprival ...As for reason itself, it can only be exercised in the baleful activity of forgetting and expelling. Even memory lacks the power to promote the return of what has been exiled. As a result, Being can only come about as a fateful dispensation: those who are in need can at most hold themselves open and prepared for it. Heidegger's critique of reason ends in the distancing radicality of a change in orientation that is all-pervasive but empty of content--away from autonomy and toward a self-surrender to Being, which supposedly leaves behind the opposition between autonomy and heteronomy.
- Jürgen Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, Lecture IV
I am still unqualified to judge whether this assault fully achieves its end. Certainly I find a lot to like in Division II of Being and Time, and I'm not convinced Heidegger's judgments on technocracy were any more po-faced, derivative, and snobbish than were those of Adorno (with his jazz musician who "syncopates involuntarily"). On the other hand, Dasein as it appeared in Being and Time was so obviously a thin mask for a quasi-Cartesian subject that it could provide strong support to Sartre, probably Descartes' most direct heir. Furthermore, I agree with Habermas that the real problem with Heidegger's conversion to Naziism was not the standard moral objection (still used, with even less reason, to discredit Nietzsche) but rather the cowardice involved in radically changing his thought to attempt to negate the error post factum.
All that aside, however, I think it is worthwhile to look at a particular error Habermas makes in his interpretation of Nietzsche--which also infects his view of Heidegger. For Habermas, Nietzsche seems to be nothing but an Oscar Wilde writ large: an aesthete who, while remaining uncommited to political emancipation, sees in art a locus of individual freedom, and who draws on the figure of an absent Dionysus as a kind of ultimate aestheticizing grandstand. This is, to say the least, a distorted view. For what Habermas does not even try to develop in his analysis is the Eternal Return and its analogue--Amor Fati, the ethical imperative to "become what you are."
What Habermas seems to have done is taken the stakes presented in The Birth of Tragedy as the last word on Nietzsche's ethics. Yet nothing can be further from the truth: when the Eternal Return first appears in The Gay Science, art (relatively speaking) falls by the wayside as an ethical imperative. Nietzsche is revealed as a pragmatist for whom the love of life at all costs is the only source of justification. The game of genealogies, in contrast, is only an expendable side-show.
Heidegger understood this about Nietzsche--in fact, as far as Heidegger was concerned, what made Superman Superman was precisely his experience of the Eternal Return. Thus, although Heidegger assimilated this experience (along with the doors of perception Nietzsche saw open in tragedy) to the more general encounter with Being, the movement from freedom to willing and ecstatic submission was familiar and fundamental to him. So the change in the role of Being after Heidegger's break, far from being arbitrary and contentless, should have been a surprise to no one--it followed the Nietzschean pattern.
This pattern forms one of the strongest objections to Habermas' critique. Amor Fati, and more generally the ethics of ecstatic submission (which reappears, likewise misunderstood by Habermas, as Foucault's sado-masochistic ethical practice), is not merely a Fascist version of the old "other of Reason." It is instead an alternative to the entire problematic posed by Hegel's Humpty Dumpty experience of the fragmented wholeness. Amor Fati refuses any engagement with the significance or potential of reason, because it rejects the possibility of intervention (rational or otherwise). But it can also imply--though in Heidegger it seems not to--that because one's only duty is to life, and man cannot serve two masters, any allegiance to metaphysical (or political!) abstractions can only be temporary. It is, I think, a better solution than Habermas eventually gets around to proposing.