Martin Heidegger - Der Spiegel
Rudolf Augstein and Georg Wolff, 23 September 1966; published May 31 1976.
SPIEGEL: Professor Heidegger, we have noticed again and again that your philosophical work is somewhat overshadowed by incidents in your life that, although they didn’t last very long, were never clarified, either because you were too proud or because you did not find it expedient to comment on them.
HEIDEGGER: You mean 1933?
SPIEGEL: Yes, before and afterward. We would like to place it in a greater context and then to move on from there to a few questions that seem important to us, such as: What possibilities does philosophy have to influence reality, including political reality? Does this possibility still exist at all? And if so, what is it composed of?
HEIDEGGER: Those are important questions. Will I be able to answer them all? But let me start by saying that I was in no way politically active before I became rector. In the winter of 1932/33, I had a leave of absence and spent most of my time up in my cabin. 
SPIEGEL: Then how did it come about that you became rector of the University of Freiburg?
HEIDEGGER: In December of 1932, my neighbor von Miillendorff,  professor of anatomy, was elected rector. At the University of Freiburg, the new rector assumes his post on April 15. During the winter semester 1932/33 we often spoke about the situation, not only about the political situation, but also especially about the situation of the universities, about the situation of the students – which was, in some ways, hopeless. My opinion was: As far as I can judge things, the only possibility that remains is to try to counterbalance the coming development with those of the constructive powers that are still really vital.
SPIEGEL: So you saw a connection between the situation of the German university and the political situation in Germany in general?
HEIDEGGER: I certainly followed the course of political events between January and March 1933 and occasionally talked about it with younger colleagues as well. But at the time I was working on an extensive interpretation of pre-Socratic thinking, and at the beginning of the summer semester I returned to Freiburg. In the meantime Professor von Möllendorff had assumed his office as rector on April fifteenth. Just under two weeks later, his office was taken away from him again by the Minister of Culture in Baden at the time, Wacker. The fact that the rector had prohibited the posting of the so-called Jewish Notice  at the university was, presumably, a welcome cause for the minister’s decision.
SPIEGEL: Herr von Möllendorff was a Social Democrat. What did he do after his dismissal?
HEIDEGGER: The day of his dismissal von Möllendorff came to me and said: “Heidegger, now you must take over the rectorate.” I said that I had no experience in administration. The vice-rector at the time, Sauer (theology), however, also urged me to run in the new rectoral election because there was a danger that otherwise a functionary would be appointed as rector. Younger colleagues, with whom I had discussed questions of the structure of the university for many years, besieged me with requests to take over the rectorate. I hesitated a long time. Finally I declared myself willing to take over the office, but only in the interest of the university, and only if I could be certain of the plenum’s unanimous approval. Doubts about my aptitude for the rectorate remained, however, and on the morning of the day set for the election I went to the rector’s office and told my colleagues von Möllendorff (who, although dismissed from his office as rector, was present) and vice-rector Sauer that I could not take over the office. Both these colleagues responded that the election had been prepared in such a way that I could no longer withdraw from my candidacy.
SPIEGEL: After that you declared yourself finally ready. How did your relationship to the National Socialists then develop?
HEIDEGGER: The second day after my assumption of the rectorate, the Student Leader appeared with two others in the office I had as rector and again demanded that the Jewish Notice be posted. I refused. The three students left with the comment that the Reich Student Leadership (Reichsstudentenführung) would be notified of the prohibition. A few days later I got a telephone call from the SA Office of Higher Education in the Supreme SA Command, from SA-Group Leader Dr. Baumann. He demanded that the said notice, which had already been put up in other universities, be posted. If I refused, I would have to expect that I would be dismissed or even that the university would be closed. I refused and tried to win the support of Baden’s Minister of Culture for my prohibition. He explained that he could do nothing in opposition to the SA. I still did not retract my prohibition.
SPIEGEL: This was not known in that way before.
HEIDEGGER: I had already named the fundamental motive that made me decide to take over the rectorate in my inaugural lecture “What Is Metaphysics?” given in Freiburg in 1929: “The areas of the sciences lie far apart. The ways they treat their subject matter are fundamentally different. This disintegrated multiplicity of the disciplines is only held together today by the technical organization of the universities and its faculties and only retains some meaning because of the practical purposes set for the departments. However, the roots of the sciences in their essential ground have died.”  What I attempted to do during my term in office with respect to this state of the universities (which has, by today, become extremely deteriorated) is explained in my rectoral address.
SPIEGEL: We are attempting to find out how and if this statement from 1929 corresponds to what you said in your inaugural address as rector in 1933. We are taking one sentence out of its context here: “The much-lauded ‘academic freedom’ will be expelled from the German university; for this freedom was not genuine because it was only negative.”  We believe we can assume that this statement expresses at least a part of opinions that are not foreign to you even today.
HEIDEGGER: Yes, I still stand by it. For this “academic freedom” was basically purely negative: the freedom from the effort of getting involved in the reflection and contemplation scholarly study demanded. Incidentally, the sentence you picked out should not be isolated, but placed in its context. Then it will become clear what I wanted to have understood as “negative freedom.”
SPIEGEL: Fine, that’s understandable. We believe, however, that we hear a new tone in your rectoral address when you speak, four months after Hitler was named Chancellor of the Reich, about the “greatness and magnificence of this new departure.” 
HEIDEGGER: Yes, I was convinced of that as well.
SPIEGEL: Could you explain that a bit more?
HEIDEGGER: Gladly. At the time I saw no other alternative. In the general confusion of opinions and political tendencies of thirty-two parties, it was necessary to find a national, and especially a social, point of view, perhaps along the lines of Friedrich Naumann’s attempt.  I could refer here, to give only one example, to an essay by Eduard Spranger that goes way beyond my rectoral address. 
SPIEGEL: When did you begin to deal with the political conditions? The thirty-two parties had been there for a long time. There were already millions of unemployed in 1930.
HEIDEGGER: During that time, I was still completely taken up by the questions that are developed in Being and Time (1927) and in the writings and lectures of the following years. These are fundamental questions of thinking that indirectly also concern national and social questions. As a teacher at the university, I was directly concerned with the question of the meaning of the sciences and, therefore, the determination of the task of the university. This effort is expressed in the title of my rectoral address, “The Self-Assertion of the German University.” In no other rectoral address at the time was such a title risked. But have any of those who polemicize against this speech really read it thoroughly, thought it through, and understood it from the standpoint of the situation at the time?
SPIEGEL: Self-assertion of the university, in such a turbulent world, does that not seem a little inappropriate?
HEIDEGGER: Why? “The Self-Assertion of the University” goes against so called political science, which had already been called for by the Party and National Socialist students. This title had a very different meaning then. It did not mean “politology,” as it does today, but rather implied: Science as such, its meaning and its value, is appraised for its practical use for the nation (Volk). The counter position to this politicization of science is specifically expressed in the rectoral address.
SPIEGEL: Do we understand you correctly? In including the university in what you felt to be a “new departure,” you wanted to assert the university against perhaps overpowering trends that would not have left the university its identity?
HEIDEGGER: Certainly, but at the same time self-assertion was to have set itself the positive task of winning back a new meaning, in the face of the merely technical organization of the university, through reflection on the tradition of Western and European thinking.
SPIEGEL: Professor, are we to understand that you thought then that a recovery of the university could be achieved with the National Socialists?
HEIDEGGER: That is incorrectly worded. The university was to have renewed itself through its own reflection, not with the National Socialists, and thereby gain a firm position against the danger of the politicization of science – in the sense already given.
SPIEGEL: And that is why you proclaimed these three pillars in your rectoral address: Labor Service (Arbeitsdienst), Military Service (Wehrdienst), Knowledge Service (Wissensdienst). Through this, you seem to have thought, Knowledge Service would be lifted up to an equal status, a status that the National Socialists had not conceded it?
HEIDEGGER: There is no mention of pillars. If you read carefully, you will notice that although Knowledge Service is listed in third place, it is set in first place in terms of its meaning. One ought to consider that labor and defense are, like all human activities, grounded in knowledge and illuminated by it.
SPIEGEL: But we must (we are almost done with this dreadful quoting) mention one other statement here, one that we cannot imagine that you would still subscribe to today. “Do not let theorems and ideas be the rules of your being. The Führer himself and alone is the present and future German reality and its law.” 
HEIDEGGER: These sentences are not to be found in the rectoral address, but only in the local Freiburg student newspaper, at the beginning of the winter semester 1933/34. When I took over the rectorate, it was clear to me that I would not get through it without making compromises. Today I would no longer write the sentences you cited. Even in 1934, I no longer said anything of the kind. But today, and today more resolutely than ever, I would repeat the speech on the “Self-Assertion of the German University,” though admittedly without referring to nationalism. Society has taken the place of the nation (Volk). However, the speech would be just as much of a waste of breath today as it was then.
SPIEGEL: May we interrupt you with a question again? It has be-come clear in the conversation up to now that your conduct in 1933 fluctuated between two poles. First, you had to say a number of things ad usum Delphini (“for the use of the Dauphin”; revised for public consumption). That was one pole. The other pole was, however, more positive. You expressed it like this: I had the feeling that here is something new, here is a new departure – the way you have said it.
HEIDEGGER: That’s right.
SPIEGEL: Between these two poles – that is perfectly credible when considered from the point of view of the situation at the time...
HEIDEGGER: Certainly. But I must emphasize that the expression ad usum Delphini says too little. I believed at the time that in the questioning confrontation with National Socialism a new path, the only one still possible, to a renewal might possibly open up.
SPIEGEL: You know that in this connection some accusations have been made against you that concern your cooperation with the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) and its associations. These accusations are generally thought to be uncontradicted as yet. You have been accused, for instance, of having participated in book-burnings organized by the students or by the Hitler Youth.
HEIDEGGER: I forbade the book burning that was planned to take place in front of the main university building.
SPIEGEL: You have also been accused of having books written by Jewish authors removed from the university library or from the philosophy department’s library.
HEIDEGGER: As the director of the department, I was in charge of only its library. I did not comply with repeated demands to remove books by Jewish authors. Former participants in my seminars can testify today that not only were no books by Jewish authors removed, but that these authors, especially Husserl, were quoted and discussed just as they were before 1933.
SPIEGEL: We will take note of that. But how do you explain the origin of such rumors? Is it maliciousness?
HEIDEGGER: From what I know about the sources, I am inclined to believe that. But the motives for the slander lie deeper. Presumably my assumption of the rectorate was only a catalyst and not the determining cause. Therefore the polemics will probably always flare up again whenever there is a catalyst.
SPIEGEL: You had Jewish students after 1933, too. Your relationship to some, probably not to all, of these Jewish students was supposed to have been warm. Even after 1933?
HEIDEGGER: My attitude remained unchanged after 1933. One of my oldest and most gifted students, Helene Weiss, who later emigrated to Scotland, received her doctorate from the University of Basel (after she was no longer able to receive it from the Freiburg faculty) with a very important dissertation on “Causality and Chance in the Philosophy of Aristotle,” printed in Basel in 1942. At the end of the foreword the author writes: “The attempt at a phenomenological interpretation, whose first part we present here, was made possible by M. Heidegger’s unpublished interpretations of Greek philosophy.” Here you see the copy with a handwritten dedication that the author sent me in 1948. I visited Dr. Weiss a number of times in Basel before her death.
SPIEGEL: You were friends with Jaspers for a long time. This relationship began to be strained after 1933. Rumor has it that this strain was connected to the fact that Jaspers had a Jewish wife. Would you like to comment on that?
HEIDEGGER: What you mention here is a lie. Jaspers and I had been friends since 1919. I visited him and his wife during the summer semester of 1933, when I delivered a lecture in Heidelberg. Karl Jaspers sent me all of his publications between 1934 and 1938 – “with warm regards.” Here, you can look at them.
SPIEGEL: It says here: “With warm regards.” Well, the regards probably would not have been “warm” if there had previously been a strain in the relationship.  Another similar question: You were a student of Edmund Husserl, your Jewish predecessor in the chair of philosophy at the University of Freiburg. He recommended you to the faculty as his successor as professor. Your relationship to him cannot have been without gratitude.
HEIDEGGER: You know the dedication in Being and Time.
SPIEGEL: Of course.
HEIDEGGER: In 1929 I edited the festschrift for his seventieth birthday, and at the celebration in his house I gave the speech, which was also printed in the Akademische Mitteilungen in May 1929.
SPIEGEL: Later, however, the relationship did become strained. Can you and would you like to tell us what this could be traced back to?
HEIDEGGER: Our differences of opinion on philosophical matters had intensified. In the beginning of the thirties, Husserl settled accounts with Max Scheler and me in public. The clarity of Husserl’s statements left nothing to be desired. I could never find out what persuaded Husserl to set himself against my thinking in such a public manner.
SPIEGEL: On what occasion was this?
HEIDEGGER: Husserl spoke at the University of Berlin before an audience of sixteen hundred. Heinrich Mühsam reported in one of the big Berlin newspapers on a “kind of sports-palace atmosphere.”
SPIEGEL: The argument as such is uninteresting in this context. It is only interesting that it was not an argument that has to do with the year 1933.
HEIDEGGER: Not in the least.
SPIEGEL: That has been our observation as well. Is it incorrect that you later left the dedication to Husserl out of Being and Time?
HEIDEGGER: No, that’s true. I clarified the facts in my book On the Way to Language. The text reads: “To counter numerous, widely spread, incorrect allegations, let it be expressly stated here that the dedication to Being and Time, mentioned in the text of the dialogue on page 16, was also placed at the beginning of the book’s fourth edition in 1935. When my publisher thought that the printing of the fifth edition in 1941 was endangered, and that the book might be banned, it was finally agreed, following Niemeyer’s  proposal and wish, that the dedication should be left out of the fifth edition. My condition was that the footnote on page 38, in which the reasons for the dedication are actually given, should remain. It reads: “If the following investigation has taken any steps forward in disclosing the ‘things themselves,’ the author must first thank E. Husserl, who, by providing his own incisive personal guidance and by freely turning over his unpublished investigations, familiarized the author with the most diverse areas of phenomenological research during his student years in Freiburg.” 
SPIEGEL: Then we hardly need to ask whether it is true that you, as rector of the University of Freiburg, forbade the emeritus professor Husserl to enter or to use the university library or the philosophy department’s library.
HEIDEGGER: That is slander.
SPIEGEL: And there is no letter in which this prohibition against Husserl is expressed? How did this rumor get started?
HEIDEGGER: I don’t know either; I don’t have an explanation for it. I can demonstrate the impossibility of this whole matter to you through the following example, something that is also unknown. The governmental ministry had demanded that the director of the medical clinic, Professor Thannhauser,  and von Hevesy,  professor of physical chemistry and future Nobel Prize winner – both Jewish – be dismissed. During my rectorate I was able to retain these two men by meeting with the minister. The idea that I would retain them and simultaneously take action against Husserl, an emeritus professor and my own teacher, in the rumored fashion is absurd. Moreover I prevented a demonstration against Professor Thannhauser that students and lecturers had planned to take place in front of his clinic. In the obituary that the Thannhauser family published in the local newspaper, it says: “Until 1934 he was the honored director of the university’s medical clinic in Freiburg im Breisgau. Brookline, Mass., 12.18.1962.” The Freiburger Universitätsblätter reported in February 1966 on Professor von Hevesy: “During the years 1926-1934, von Hevesy was the head of the Physical-Chemical Institute of the University of Freiburg im Breisgau.” After I resigned from the rectorate, both directors were removed from their offices. At the time, there were unsalaried lecturers who had been stuck in their positions for a while and left behind, and they then thought: Now the time has come to move up. When these people came to talk to me, I turned them all away.
SPIEGEL: You did not attend Husserl’s funeral in 1938. Why not?
HEIDEGGER: Let me say the following about that: The accusation that I had broken off my relationship to Husserl is unfounded. My wife wrote a letter in both our names to Frau Husserl in May 1933. In it we expressed our “unchanged gratitude,” and we sent the letter with a bouquet of flowers to their house. Frau Husserl answered briefly in a formal "thank you" note and wrote that the relations between our families were broken off. It was a human failure that I did not once again attest to my gratitude and my admiration at Husserl’s sickbed and after his death. I apologized for it later in a letter to Frau Husserl.
SPIEGEL: Husserl died in 1938. You had already resigned from the rectorate in February 1934. How did that come about?
HEIDEGGER: I will have to expand somewhat on that. My intention at the time was to overcome the technical organization of the university; that is, to renew the faculties from the inside, from the point of view of their scholarly tasks. With this intention in mind, I proposed that younger colleagues and especially colleagues distinguished in their fields should be appointed deans of the individual faculties for the winter semester 1933/34, without regard for their positions in the Party. Thus Professor Erik Wolf became dean of the law school, Professor Schadewaldt dean of the faculty of philosophy, Professor Soergel dean of the faculty of natural sciences, Professor von Möllendorff, who had been dismissed as rector in the spring, dean of the medical school. But around Christmas 1933 it was already clear to me that I would not be able to carry out my intention of renewing the university against the opposition of both colleagues and the Party. My colleagues were not pleased, for example, that I included students in responsible positions in the administration of the university – exactly as the case is today. One day I was called to Karlsruhe, where the minister demanded, through his senior assistant and in the presence of the Gauleiter student leader, that I replace the deans of the law school and the medical school with other members of the faculty who would be acceptable to the Party. I refused to do this, and said I would resign from the rectorate if the minister insisted on his demand. That is what happened in February 1934. I resigned after only ten months in office, whereas the rectors at the time spent two or more years in office. While the domestic and foreign press commented on the assumption of office in various ways, they were silent about my resignation.
SPIEGEL: Did you negotiate with Reich Minister of Education, Bernhard Rust at the time?
HEIDEGGER: At what time?
SPIEGEL: In 1933, Rust made a trip here to Freiburg that is still talked about.
HEIDEGGER: We are dealing with two different events. On the occasion of a commemoration at Schlageter’s grave  in his hometown, Schönau im Wiesental, I greeted the minister briefly and formally. Otherwise the minister took no notice of me. At that point I did not try to have a conversation with him. Schlageter had been a student at the University of Freiburg and a member of a Catholic fraternity. The conversation took place in November 1933 on the occasion of a rectorial conference in Berlin. I presented my views on science and the possible structure of the faculties to the minister. He listened so attentively to everything that I harbored the hope that what I had presented might have an effect. But nothing happened. I do not see why I am reproached for this discussion with the Reich Minister of Education while at the same time all the foreign governments rushed to recognize Hitler and to show him the customary international courtesies.
SPIEGEL: I-low did your relationship to the NSDAP develop after you had resigned as rector?
HEIDEGGER: After I resigned from the rectorate, I retreated back to my task as teacher. In the summer semester 1934 I lectured on “Logic.” In the following semester, 1934/35, I gave the first lecture on Hölderlin. The lectures on Nietzsche began in 1936. All of those who could hear heard that this was a confrontation with National Socialism.
SPIEGEL: How did the transfer of office take place? You didn’t participate in the celebration?
HEIDEGGER: Yes, I refused to take part in the ceremony of the change of rectors.
SPIEGEL: Was your successor a committed Party member?
HEIDEGGER: He was a member of the law school. The Party newspaper Der Alemanne announced his appointment as rector with the banner headline: “The First National Socialist Rector of the University.” 
SPIEGEL: Did you have difficulties with the Party afterward, or what happened?
HEIDEGGER: I was constantly under surveillance.
SPIEGEL: Do you have an example of that?
HEIDEGGER: Yes, the case of Dr. Hancke.
SPIEGEL: How did you find out about that?
HEIDEGGER: Because he came to me himself. He had already received his doctorate and was a participant in my advanced seminar in the winter semester of 1936/37 and in the summer semester of 1937. He had been sent here to Freiburg by the SD (Sicherheitsdienst; Security Service) to keep me under surveillance.
SPIEGEL: Why did he suddenly come to you?
HEIDEGGER: Because of my seminar on Nietszche in the summer semester of 1937 and because of the way in which work was done in the seminar, he confessed to me that he could not continue with the task of surveillance assigned to him. He wanted to inform me of this situation in view of my future activity as a teacher.
SPIEGEL: Otherwise you had no difficulties with the Party?
HEIDEGGER: I only knew that my works were not allowed to be discussed, for example the essay “Plato’s Theory of Truth.” The lecture I gave on Hölderlin in the Germanic Institute in Rome in the spring of 1936 was attacked in the Hitler Youth magazine Wille und Macht in a most unpleasant way. Those who are interested should read the polemics against me that started up in the summer of 1934 in E. Krieck’s  magazine Volk im Werden. I neither belonged to the German delegation to the international philosophy conference in Prague in 1934 nor was I even invited to participate. I was also supposed to have been excluded from the international Descartes conference in Paris in 1937. This seemed so strange to those in Paris that the head of the conference (Professor Brèhier at the Sorbonne) asked me why I did not belong to the German delegation. I answered that the organizers of the conference should inquire at the Reich Ministry of Education about this case. After a while, I received an invitation from Berlin to belatedly join the delegation. I refused. The lectures “What Is Metaphysics?” and “On the Essence of Truth” were sold under the counter in dust jackets without titles. Shortly after 1934, the rectoral address was taken off the market at the instigation of the Party. It was only allowed to be discussed in National Socialist teachers’ camps  as a subject for the Party’s political polemics.
SPIEGEL: In 1939, when the war...
HEIDEGGER: In the last year of the war, five hundred of the most eminent scholars and artists were exempted from any kind of military service.  I was not one of those who were exempted. On the contrary, in the summer of 1944 I was ordered to dig trenches over near the Rhine, on the Kaiserstuhl.
SPIEGEL: On the other side, the Swiss side, Karl Barth dug trenches.
HEIDEGGER: The way in which it happened is interesting. The rector had called the entire faculty into the Lecture Hall. He gave a short speech to the effect that what he would now say was in agreement with the National Socialist district leader and the National Socialist Gauleiter leader. He would now divide the entire faculty into three groups: first those who were completely dispensable, second those who were partially dispensable, and third those who were indispensable. First on the list of the completely dispensable came Heidegger, later G. Ritter.  In the winter semester 1944/45, after I had finished work on the trenches near the Rhine, I gave a lecture course entitled “Poetry and Thinking” (Dichten und Denken), in a certain sense a continuation of my Nietzsche seminar, that is to say, of the confrontation with National Socialism. After the second class, I was conscripted into the Volkssturm,  the oldest member of the faculty to be called for service.
SPIEGEL: I don’t think we have to hear Professor Heidegger on the subject of the course of events until he actually, or should we say legally, received an emeritus status. It is well known.
HEIDEGGER: Actually, the events themselves are not known. It is not a very nice affair.
SPIEGEL: Unless you would like to say something about them.
SPIEGEL: Perhaps we might summarize. As an un-political person, in its narrow sense, not in its broader sense, you got caught up in the politics of this supposed new departure in 1933...
HEIDEGGER:...by way of the university...
SPIEGEL:...by way of the university in the politics of this supposed new departure. After about a year, you gave up the function again that you had assumed in this process. But in a lecture in 1935, which was published in 1953 as “An Introduction to Meta-physics,” you said: “The works that are being offered around today,” today being 1935 “as the philosophy of National Social-ism, but have nothing to do with the inner truth and greatness of this movement (namely with the encounter of planetarily determined technology and modern human beings), are fishing for big catches in the murky waters of values and wholes.”  Did you add the words in parentheses in 1953, when it was printed – perhaps to explain to the readers of 1953 what you thought of as the “inner truth and greatness of this movement,” that is, of National Socialism, in 1935 – or was this parenthetical remark already there in 1935?
HEIDEGGER: It was in my manuscript and corresponded exactly to my conception of technology at the time, but not yet to my later interpretation of the essence of technology as construct (Gestell).  The reason I did not read that passage aloud was because I was convinced my audience would understand me correctly. The stupid ones and the spies and the snoopers understood it differently – and might as well have, too.
SPIEGEL: Surely you would classify the Communist movement in that way as well?
HEIDEGGER: Yes, absolutely, as determined by planetary technology.
SPIEGEL: Perhaps you would classify the sum of American endeavors in that way, too?
HEIDEGGER: I would say that as well. During the past thirty years, it should meanwhile have become clearer that the planetary movement of modern technology is a power whose great role in determining history can hardly be overestimated. A decisive question for me today is how a political system can be assigned to today’s technological age at all, and which political system would that be? I have no answer to this question. I am not convinced that it is democracy.
SPIEGEL: Democracy is merely a collective term that can encompass very different conceptions. The question is whether a trans-formation of this political form is still possible. After 1945 you gave your opinions on the political aspirations of the Western world and in the process you also spoke about democracy, about the political expression of the Christian worldview, and also about the constitutional state – and you called all these aspirations “halves.”
HEIDEGGER: Let me first ask you where I spoke about democracy and all the other things you mentioned. I would indeed describe them as halves because I don’t think they genuinely confront the technological world. I think that behind them there is an idea that technology is in its essence something human beings have under their control. In my opinion, that is not possible. Technology is in its essence something that human beings cannot master of their own accord.
SPIEGEL: Which of the political trends just outlined do you consider to be the most appropriate to our time?
HEIDEGGER: That I don’t see. But I do see a decisive question here. First we would have to clarify what you mean by “appropriate to our time,” what time means here. It is even more important to ask whether appropriateness to our time is the measure for the “inner truth” of human actions, or whether “thinking and writing poetry” (Denken und Dichten), despite all censure of this phrase, are not the actions that most provide us with a measure.
SPIEGEL: It is striking that throughout time human beings have been unable to master their tools; look at the magician’s apprentice. Is it not somewhat too pessimistic to say that we will not be able to master this certainly much greater tool of modern technology?
HEIDEGGER: Pessimism, no. Pessimism and optimism are positions that fall too short of the realm we are attempting to reflect upon here. But above all modern technology is not a “tool,” and it no longer has anything to do with tools.
SPIEGEL: Why should we be so overpowered by technology?
HEIDEGGER: I do not say overpowered. I say we have no path that corresponds to the essence of technology as of yet.
SPIEGEL: One could naïvely object: What do we have to come to terms with here? Everything functions. More and more electric power plants are being built. Production is flourishing. People in the highly technological parts of the earth are well provided for. We live in prosperity. What is really missing here?
HEIDEGGER: Everything functions. That is exactly what is uncanny. Everything functions and the functioning drives us further and further to more functioning, and technology tears people away and uproots them from the earth more and more. I don’t know if you are scared; I was certainly scared when I recently saw the photographs of the earth taken from the moon. We don’t need an atom bomb at all; the uprooting of human beings is already taking place. We only have purely technological conditions left. It is no longer an earth on which human beings live today. I recently had a long conversation with René Char in Provence – as you know, the poet and Resistance fighter. Rocket bases are being built in Provence, and the country is being devastated in an incredible way. The poet, who certainly cannot be suspected of sentimentality or a glorification of the idyllic, said to me that the uprooting of human beings who is going on now is the end if thinking and poetry do not acquire nonviolent power once again.
SPIEGEL: Now, we must say that although we prefer to be here on earth, and we probably will not have to leave it during our lifetime, who knows whether it is human beings’ destiny to be on this earth? It is conceivable that human beings have no destiny at all. But at any rate a possibility for human beings could be seen in that they reach out from this earth to other planets. It will certainly not happen for a long time. But where is it written that human beings’ place is here?
HEIDEGGER: From our human experience and history, at least as far as I am informed, I know that everything essential and great has only emerged when human beings had a home and were rooted in a tradition. Today’s literature is, for instance, largely destructive.
SPIEGEL: We are bothered by the word destructive here because the word nihilistic received a very broad context of meaning precisely through you and your philosophy. It astonishes us to hear the word destructive in connection with literature you could or ought to see as a part of this nihilism.
HEIDEGGER: I would like to say that the literature I meant is not nihilistic in the way that I defined nihilism. 
SPIEGEL: You apparently see, so you have expressed it, a world movement that either brings about or has already brought about the absolute technological state?
HEIDEGGER: Yes! But it is precisely the technological state that least corresponds to the world and society determined by the essence of technology. The technological state would be the most obsequious and blind servant in the face of the power of technology.
SPIEGEL: Fine. But now the question of course poses itself: "Can the individual still influence this network of inevitabilities at all, or can philosophy influence it, or can they both influence it together in that philosophy leads one individual or several individuals to a certain action?"
HEIDEGGER: Those questions bring us back to the beginning of our conversation. If I may answer quickly and perhaps somewhat vehemently, but from long reflection: Philosophy will not be able to bring about a direct change of the present state of the world. This is true not only of philosophy but of all merely human meditations and endeavors. Only a god can still save us. I think the only possibility of salvation left to us is to prepare readiness, through thinking and poetry, for the appearance of the god or for the absence of the god during the decline; so that we do not, simply put, die meaningless deaths, but that when we decline, we decline in the face of the absent god.
SPIEGEL: Is there a connection between your thinking and the emergence of this god? Is there, as you see it, a causal connection? Do you think we can get this god to come by thinking?
HEIDEGGER: We cannot get him to come by thinking. At best we can prepare the readiness of expectation.
SPIEGEL: But can we help?
HEIDEGGER: The preparation of readiness could be the first step. The world cannot be what and how it is through human beings, but neither can it be so without human beings. In my opinion that is connected to the fact that what I call “Being,” using a traditional, ambiguous, and now worn-out word, needs human beings. Being is not Being without humans being needed for its revelation, protection, and structuring. I see the essence of technology in what I call the construct. This name, on first hearing easily misunderstood, points, if it is properly considered, back into the innermost history of metaphysics, which still determines our existence (Dasein) today. The workings of the construct mean: Human beings are caught (gestellt), claimed, and challenged by a power that is revealed in the essence of technology. The experience that humans are structured (gestellt) by some-thing that they are not themselves and that they cannot control themselves is precisely the experience that may show them the possibility of the insight that humans are needed by Being. The possibility of experience, of being needed, and of being prepared for these new possibilities is concealed in what makes up what is most modern technology’s own. Thinking can do nothing more than to help humans to this insight, and philosophy is at an end.
SPIEGEL: In earlier times – and not only in earlier times – it was thought that philosophy was indirectly very effective (seldom directly), that it helped new currents to emerge. Just thinking of Germans, great names like Kant, Hegel, up to Nietzsche, not to mention Marx, it can be proved that philosophy has had, in roundabout ways, an enormous effect. Do you think this effectiveness of philosophy is at an end? And when you say philosophy is dead, that it no longer exists are you including the idea that the effectiveness of philosophy (if indeed it ever existed) today, at least, no longer exists?
HEIDEGGER: I just said that an indirect, but not a direct, effect is possible through another kind of thinking. Thus thinking can, as it were, causally change the condition of the world.
SPIEGEL: Please excuse us; we do not want to philosophize (we are not up to that), but here we have the link between politics and philosophy, so please forgive us for pushing you into such a conversation. You just said philosophy and the individual could do nothing except...
HEIDEGGER: ... this preparation of readiness for keeping oneself open to the arrival or absence of the god. The experience of this absence is not "nothing," but rather a liberation of human beings from what I called the “fallenness into beings” in Being and Time. A contemplation of what is today is a part of a preparation of the readiness we have been talking about.
SPIEGEL: But then there really would have to be the famous impetus from outside, from a god or whomever. So thinking, of its own accord and self sufficiently, can no longer be effective today? It was, in the opinion of people in the past, and even, I believe, in our opinion.
HEIDEGGER: But not directly.
SPIEGEL: We have already named Kant, Hegel, and Marx as great movers. But impulses came from Leibniz, too – for the development of modern physics and therefore for the origin of the modern world in general. We believe you said just now that you do not expect such an effect today any more.
HEIDEGGER: No longer in the sense of philosophy. The role philosophy has played up to now has been taken over by the sciences today. To sufficiently clarify the “effect” of thinking, we must have a more in-depth discussion of what effect and effecting can mean here. For this, careful differentiations need to be made between cause, impulse, support, assistance, hindrance, and cooperation. But we can only gain the appropriate dimension to make these differentiations if we have sufficiently discussed the principle of sufficient reason. Philosophy dissolves into the individual sciences: psychology, logic, and political science.
SPIEGEL: And what takes the place of philosophy now?
SPIEGEL: Or the pious one who remains open?
HEIDEGGER: But that is no longer philosophy.
SPIEGEL: What is it then?
HEIDEGGER: I call it the other thinking.
SPIEGEL: You call it the other thinking. Would you like to formulate that a little more clearly?
HEIDEGGER: Were you thinking of the sentence with which I conclude my lecture on “The Question Concerning Technology”: “For questioning is the piety of thinking”? 
SPIEGEL: We found a statement in your lectures on Nietzsche that seems to us appropriate. You say there: “Because the greatest possible bond prevails in philosophical thinking, all great thinkers think the same thing. However this sameness is so essential and rich that no one individual can exhaust it, but rather everyone binds everyone else more rigorously.” It appears, however, that in your opinion this philosophical structure has come to a certain end.
HEIDEGGER: Has ended but has not become for us invalid; rather it is again present in conversation. My whole work in lectures and seminars during the past thirty years has been mainly simply an interpretation of Western philosophy. The way back into the historical foundations of thinking, thinking through the questions that have not been asked since Greek philosophy – this is not breaking away from tradition. But I say that traditional meta-physics’ way of thinking, which ends with Nietzsche, no longer offers us any possibility to experience the fundamental characteristics of the technological age, an age that is only beginning, through thinking.
SPIEGEL: In a conversation with a Buddhist monk approximately two years ago, you spoke about “a completely new method of thinking” and said that “for the time being only very few people can execute” this new method of thinking. Do you mean to say that only very few people can have the insights that are, in your opinion, possible and necessary?
HEIDEGGER: “Have” in its very primordial sense, that they can, in a way, “say” them.
SPIEGEL: Yes, but in the conversation with the Buddhist, you did not clearly describe how it can be realized.
HEIDEGGER: I cannot make it clear. I know nothing about how this thinking is “effective.” It could also be that the path of thinking today leads toward silence, so that thinking may be protected from being thrown out within a year. It could also be that it takes three hundred years to become “effective.”
SPIEGEL: We understand that very well. But because we do not live three hundred years from now, but here and now, we are denied silence. We, politicians, semi-politicians, citizens, journalists, et cetera, we constantly have to make some sort of decision or other. We must adapt ourselves to the system under which we live, must try to change it, must watch for the narrow door to reform and for the still narrower door to revolution. We expect help from the philosopher, even if, of course, only indirect help, help in roundabout ways. And now we hear: I cannot help you.
HEIDEGGER: I cannot.
SPIEGEL: That has to discourage the non-philosopher.
HEIDEGGER: I cannot because the questions are so difficult that it would be contrary to the meaning of this task of thinking to make public appearances, to preach, and to distribute moral grades. Perhaps I may risk this statement: The secret of the planetary predominance of the un-thought essence of technology corresponds to the preliminariness and inconspicuousness of the thinking that attempts to reflect upon this un-thought essence.
SPIEGEL: You do not count yourself among those who, if they would only be heard, could point out a path?
HEIDEGGER: No! I know of no path toward a direct change of the present state of the world, assuming that such a change is at all humanly possible. But it seems to me that the attempted thinking could awaken, clarify, and fortify the readiness we have already mentioned.
SPIEGEL: A clear answer. But just wait, something will occur to us in the next three hundred years?
HEIDEGGER: It is not a matter of simply waiting until something occurs to human beings after three hundred years have gone by; it is about thinking ahead, without prophetic claims, into the coming time from the standpoint of the fundamental characteristics of the present age, which have hardly been thought through. Thinking is not inactivity, but in itself the action that has a dialogue with the world’s destiny. It seems to me that the distinction, stemming from metaphysics, made between theory and praxis, and the conception of a transmission between the two, obstructs the path toward insight into what I understand to be thinking. Perhaps I may refer here to my lectures that were published in 1954 with the title What Is Called Thinking?  This piece is the least read of all my publications, and perhaps this, too, is a sign of our times.
SPIEGEL: It has, of course, always been a misunderstanding of philosophy to think that the philosopher should have some direct effect with his philosophy. Let us return to the beginning. Is it not conceivable that National Socialism can be seen on the one hand as a realization of that “planetary encounter” and on the other as the last, most horrible, strongest, and, at the same time, most helpless protest against this encounter of “planetarily determined technology” and modern human beings? Apparently, you are dealing with opposites in your own person that are such that many by-products of your activities can only really be explained in that you, with different parts of your being that do not touch the philosophical core, cling to many things about which you as a philosopher know that they have no continuity – for instance to concepts like “home” (Heimat), “rootedness,” and similar things. How do planetary technology and “home” fit together?
HEIDEGGER: I would not say that. It seems to me that you take technology too absolutely. I do not think the situation of human beings in the world of planetary technology is an inextricable and inescapable disastrous fate; rather I think that the task of thinking is precisely to help, within its bounds, human beings to attain an adequate relationship to the essence of technology at all. Although National Socialism went in that direction, those people were much too limited in their thinking to gain a really explicit relationship to what is happening today and what has been under way for three centuries.
SPIEGEL: This explicit relationship, do the Americans have it today?
HEIDEGGER: They do not have it either. They are still entangled in a way of thinking; Pragmatism that fosters technological operating and manipulating but simultaneously blocks the path toward a contemplation of what is characteristic of modern technology. In the meantime, attempts to break away from pragmatic-positivistic thinking are being made here and there in the USA. And which of us can say whether one day in Russia and in China age-old traditions of a “thinking” will not awaken that will assist human beings in making a free relationship to the technological world possible?
SPIEGEL: If no one has one and the philosopher cannot give one to them...
HEIDEGGER: It is not for me to decide how far I will get with my attempt at thinking and in which way it will be received and productively transformed in the future. In 1957 I gave a lecture entitled “The Principle of Identity” for the anniversary of the University of Freiburg. In it I last risked showing, in a few steps of thought, the extent to which a thinking experience of what is most characteristic of modern technology can go. I attempted to show that it may go so far as opening up the possibility that human beings of the technological age experience the relationship to a demand that they can not only hear but to which they also belong. My thinking has an essential connection to Hölderlin’s poetry. But I do not think Hölderlin is just any poet, whose work is a subject, among many others, for literary historians. I think Hölderlin is the poet who points toward the future, who expects the god, and who therefore cannot remain simply a subject for Hölderlin research in the literary historical imagination.
SPIEGEL: Talking about Hölderlin (we apologize that we will quote once again), in your lectures on Nietzsche you said that the “differently understood conflict between the Dionysian and the apollonian, the holy passion and the sober account, is a concealed stylistic law of the historical destiny of the Germans, and one day it must find us ready and prepared for its structuring. This opposition is not a formula with the help of which we can merely describe ‘culture.’ With this conflict, Hölderlin and Nietzsche have set a question mark before the Germans’ task to find their essence historically. Will we be able to understand this sign, this question mark? One thing is certain: If we do not understand it, history will take its revenge on us.” We do not know what year you wrote this. We estimate that it was 1935.
HEIDEGGER: The quotation probably belongs to the course on Nietzsche entitled “The Will to Power as Art” in 1936/37. It could also have been said in the years that followed.
SPIEGEL: Would you like to explain that a little more? It leads us away from generalities to a specific destiny of the Germans.
HEIDEGGER: I could put what is said in the quotation this way: I am convinced that a change can only be prepared from the same place in the world where the modern technological world originated. It cannot come about by the adoption of Zen Buddhism or other Eastern experiences of the world. The help of the European tradition and a new appropriation of that tradition are needed for a change in thinking. Thinking will only be transformed by a thinking that has the same origin and destiny.
SPIEGEL: At exactly the spot where the technological world originated, it must, you think...
HEIDEGGER:...be transcended (aufgehoben) in the Hegelian sense, not removed, transcended, but not by human beings alone.
SPIEGEL: Do you allocate a special task specifically to the Germans?
HEIDEGGER: Yes, in that sense, in dialogue with Hölderlin.
SPIEGEL: Do you think that the Germans have a specific qualification for this change?
HEIDEGGER: I am thinking of the special inner relationship between the German language and the language and thinking of the Greeks. This has been confirmed to me again and again today by the French. When they begin to think they speak German. They insist that they could not get through with their own language.
SPIEGEL: Is that how you would explain the very strong effect you have had in the Romance countries, particularly in France?
HEIDEGGER: Because they see that they cannot get through today’s world with all their rationality when they are attempting to understand it in the origin of its essence. Thinking can be translated as little as poetry can. At best it can be paraphrased. As soon as a literal translation is attempted, everything is transformed.
SPIEGEL: A disquieting thought.
HEIDEGGER: It would be good if this disquiet would be taken seriously on a large scale and if it would finally be considered what a momentous transformation Greek thinking suffered when it was translated into Roman Latin, an event that still bars our way today to sufficient reflection on the fundamental words of Greek thinking.
SPIEGEL: Professor, we would actually always optimistically assume that something could be communicated and even translated, because if this optimism that contents of thinking can be communicated despite language barriers ceases, then provincialism threatens.
HEIDEGGER: Would you call Greek thinking provincial in contrast to the mode of ideas of the Roman Empire? Business letters can be translated into all languages. The sciences (today science already means the natural sciences, with mathematical physics as the basic science) can be translated into all the world’s languages. Put more correctly, they are not translated, but rather the same mathematical language is spoken. We are touching here on an area that is broad and hard to cover.
SPIEGEL: Perhaps this belongs to this topic, too: At present there is, without exaggerating, a crisis of the democratic-parliamentary system. There has been one for a long time. There is one particularly in Germany, but not only in Germany. There is one in the classical countries of democracy, in England and America. In France it is not even a crisis any more. Now, a question: Can thinkers not give advice, even as by-products of thinking, that either this system must be replaced by a new one, and what it should look like, or that reform must be possible, and advice on how reform could be possible? Otherwise, the philosophically unschooled person – and that will normally be the person who has things in hand (although he does not determine them) and who is in the hands of things – this person will keep on reaching false conclusions, perhaps even terribly rash conclusions. So: Should the philosopher not be ready to think about how human beings can arrange living together in this world, which they have technologized themselves and which has perhaps overpowered them? Is it not rightly expected of the philosopher that he give advice on what he considers possible ways of living? Does the philosopher not fall short of a part, even if it is a small part, of his profession and his calling if he communicates nothing about it?
HEIDEGGER: As far as I can see, an individual is incapable of comprehending the world as a whole through thinking to the extent that he could give practical instructions, particularly in the face of the task of first finding a base for thinking itself again. As long as it takes itself seriously with view to the great tradition, thinking is overtaxed if it must prepare itself to give instructions. On what authority could this happen? In the realm of thinking, there are no authoritative statements. The only stipulation for thinking comes from the matter that is to be thought. This is, however, what is above all worthy of questioning. To make this state of affairs understandable, a discussion of the relationship between philosophy and the sciences, whose technical-practical successes make thinking in a philosophical sense seem more and more superfluous, is needed. The difficult situation in which thinking is placed with view to its own task thus corresponds to an alienation, fed by the powerful position of the sciences, from a thinking that must deny itself answering practical and ideological questions demanded by the day.
SPIEGEL: Professor, in the realm of thinking there are no authoritative statements. Thus it cannot really be surprising that modern art has a difficult time making authoritative statements, too. Nevertheless, you call it “destructive.” Modern art often thinks of itself as experimental art. Its works are attempts...
HEIDEGGER: I will gladly be taught.
SPIEGEL: ... attempts made out of the isolated situation of human beings and artists, and out of every one hundred attempts, there is now and then one that hits the mark.
HEIDEGGER: That is the big question. Where does art stand? What place does it occupy?
SPIEGEL: Fine, but here you are demanding something of art that you no longer demand of thinking.
HEIDEGGER: I do not demand anything of art. I only say that it is a question of what place art occupies.
SPIEGEL: If art does not know its place, does that mean it is destructive?
HEIDEGGER: Fine, cross it out. I would like to state, however, that I do not think modern art points out a path, particularly as it remains unclear where it sees or at least looks for what is most characteristic of art.
SPIEGEL: The artist, too, lacks commitment to tradition. He might find it beautiful, and he can say: Yes, that is the way one could paint six hundred years ago or three hundred years ago or even thirty years ago. But he can no longer do it. Even if he wanted to, he could not. The greatest artist would then be the ingenious forger Hans van Meegeren, who would then paint “better” than the others. But it just does not work any more. Therefore the artist, writer, poet is in a similar situation to the thinker. How often we must say Close your eyes.
HEIDEGGER: If the “culture industry” is taken as the framework for the classification of art and poetry and philosophy, then the parity is justified. However, if not only the industry but also what is called culture becomes questionable, then the contemplation of this questionableness also belongs to thinking’s realm of responsibility, and thinking’s plight is barely imaginable. But thinking’s greatest affliction is that today, as far as I can see, no thinker yet speaks who is great enough to place thinking, directly and formatively, before its subject matter and therefore on its path. The greatness of what is to be thought is too great for us today. Perhaps we can struggle with building narrow and not very far-reaching footbridges for a crossing.
SPIEGEL: Professor Heidegger, we thank you for this conversation.
 Translator’s note. Heidegger is referring to his cabin in Todtnauberg.
 Translator’s note. Wilhelm von Möllendorff was to have served as rector of the University of Freiburg for the academic year 1933/34, but, according to historian Hugo Ott, voluntarily resigned soon after he assumed office in April 1933. See note 1 to Martin Heidegger’s “The Rectorate 1933/34.” Both Heidegger and Möllendorff lived on Rötebuckweg in Freiburg-Zähringen.
 Translator’s note. See note 1 to Hermann Heidegger’s “Preface.”
 Translator’s note. See “What Is Metaphysics?” trans. by David Farrell Krell, Basic Writings, ed. by David Farrell Krell (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), p. 96.
 Translator’s note. Martin Heidegger, Die Selbstbehauptung der deutschen Universität (1933; Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1983), p. 15.
 Translator’s note. Die Selbstbehauptung der deutschen Universität, p. 19.
 7Translator’s note. Friedrich Naumann (1860–1919) was a minister and a political and social theorist who called for social reform as well as for German economic and political imperialism. After his own party failed, he joined the Freisinnige Vereinigung in 1903, which merged with the Progressive People’s Party in 1910. He was elected to the Reichstag in 1907, and in 1919 he was one of the founders of the German Democratic Party.
 Der Spiegel’s note. The essay appeared in the magazine Die Erziehung, edited by A. Fischer, W. Flitner, Th. Litt, H. Nohl, and Ed. Spranger. “März 1933,” Die Erziehung.
 Translator’s note. This is a quote from an article Heidegger published in the Freiburger Studentenzeitung on 3 November 1933. Reprinted in Guido Schneeberger, Nachlese zu Heidegger (Bern: 1962): 135–136.
 Editor’s note. The book Heidegger shows his interviewers is Vernunft und Existenz. Heidegger also presents Jaspers’ book Descartes und die Philosophic, which has a dedication from Jaspers to Heidegger written in 1937.
 Der Spiegel’s note. Hermann Niemeyer, Heidegger’s publisher at the time.
 Translator’s note. Martin Heidegger, Unterwegs zur Sprache (Pfullingen: Neske, 1959), p. 269; On the Way to Language, trans. by Peter Hertz (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), pp. 199 – 200.
 Translator’s note. See note 3 to Hermann Heidegger’s “Preface.”
 Translator’s note. See note 2 to Hermann Heidegger’s “Preface.”
 Translator’s note. Albert Leo Schlageter (1894 – 1923), a former student at the University of Freiburg, was shot by the French occupation army in the Ruhr on 26 May 1923. For one of Heidegger’s speeches on Schlageter, see Schneeberger, Nachlese zu Heidegger: 47 – 49.
 Editor’s note. The cited headline has not yet been able to be verified.
 Translator’s note. Martin Heidegger’s “The Rectorate 1933/34.”
 Translator’s note. Martin Heidegger’s “The Rectorate 1933/34.”
 Editor’s note. Here Der Spiegel edited a reformulated statement by Dr. H. W. Petzet into the Heidegger text. Heidegger accepted it in the final version, probably because it was factually accurate.
 Der Spiegel’s note. Professor Dr. Gerhard Ritter (author of Carl Goerdeler und die deutsche Widerstandsbewegung), at the time full professor of modern history at the University of Freiburg, was imprisoned on 1 November 1944 in connection with the attempted assassination of Hitler on 20 July 1944. He was freed on 25 April 1945 by the Allied troops. The historian became professor emeritus in 1956 and died in 1967.
 Translator’s note. The Volkssturm, an army for home defense, was organized toward the end of the Second World War and consisted of men and boys unable to serve in the regular military.
 Translator’s note. Martin Heidegger, Eigführung in die Metaphysik, 2nd. ed. (Tubingen: Max Niemeyer, 1958), p. 152. English translation: An Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. Ralph Mannheim (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1961), p. 166.
 Translator’s note. Richard Wisser’s “Martin Heidegger in conversation.”
 Editor’s note. Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche, vol. II (Pfullingen: Neske, 1961), p. 335.
 Translator’s note. Martin Heidegger, “Die Frage nach der Technik,” Vorträge und Aufsätze (Pfullingen: Neske, 1954), p. 44; English translation: “The Question Concerning Technology,” The Question Concerning Technology and other Essays, trans. by William Lovitt (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), p. 35.
 Translator’s note. Martin Heidegger, Was Heisst Denken? 2nd ed. (Tubingen: Niemeyer, 1961). An English translation by Fred Wieck and J. Glenn Gray has been published with the title What Is Called Thinking? (New York Harper & Row, 1968).
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