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Martin Heidegger during lunch, in the garden of the Hotel du Chasselas. Summer 1966

☛ Photo: Martin Heidegger during lunch, in the garden of the Hotel du Chasselas. Summer 1966. In François Fédier, Soizante-deux photographies de Martin Heidegger, Paris: Gallimard, 1999, no. 57.

The following book chapter was written during the summer of 2017 and published in 2018:

Theophanidis, Philippe. “A Decisive Mediation: Heidegger, Media Studies, and Ethics.” In We Need to Talk about Heidegger: Essays Situating Martin Heidegger in Contemporary Media Studies, edited by Justin Michael Battin and German A Duarte, Berlin: Peter Lang, 2018, pp. 233–277. PDF (fully searchable).

The chapter examines the intersection of the epistemological problem we find under the generic label “media studies” and the political problem presented by Martin Heidegger’s involvement with Nazism and anti-Semitism. At this juncture, it opens a path for a reconsideration of the idea of “mediation” from the perspective of ethics. The two first paragraphs are reproduced below:

When it comes to the ways in which media studies intersects with Heidegger’s philosophical work, two crucial problems cannot be overlooked: the definition of media and Heidegger himself. The former is a notoriously fuzzy concept, while the latter was infamously involved with Nazism and anti-Semitism. This chapter opens a path to addressing those problems. This path exposes not a solution, but instead highlights the issue of how we are for one another, and the care that is consequently required from and for us.

In the first part of this chapter, I expand on the two problems initially identified—media and Heidegger—and provide them with contextual background. I cast the problem of defining “media” and “media studies” as an epistemological one. In doing so, I show how one common way to borrow from Heidegger in media studies is to reference modern communication technologies. Since this is a relatively recent and rather specialized extension of the idea of medium, I argue Heidegger’s influence in the nascent field of media studies is neither straightforward nor clearly established. Turning more specifically to Heidegger’s own prejudices, I outline the well-documented and more complicated problem of his involvement with Nazism and anti-Semitism. I cast this problem as a political one. While some have argued that Heidegger’s distorted political views contaminated all his work, I suggest that this is no reason for media studies to steer away from it. Going back to the emergence of the fields of communication and media studies, I show how the epistemological always was and still remains entangled with the political. While banning Heidegger is ultimately an ineffective way to deal with the nature of the problematic views he presented (and getting rid of him does not spare us from the issues of prejudice anyway), merely sidestepping his involvement in the Nazi party is clearly not responsible either. I suggest instead that both the epistemological and political require ethical engagement. I outline how such an ethical engagement is of special concern for media studies, since it can be cast as a process of mediation. This approach offers alternative routes through the epistemological and political issues identified in Heidegger’s works. (233-234).

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