Martin Heidegger

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Western Philosophers
20th-century philosophy
Martin Heidegger
Martin Heidegger
Basic Information
Name Martin Heidegger
Dates September 26, 1889May 26, 1976
Place of Birth Meßkirch, Germany
Place of Death Meßkirch, Germany
School/Tradition Phenomenology, Existentialism
Major Works Being and Time, Question Concerning Technology
Main Interests Metaphysics, Epistemology, Greek philosophy, technology, Ontology
Influences Pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Husserl
Influenced Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Derrida,
Famous Ideas Dasein
Quote "The most thought-provoking thing in our thought-provoking time is that we are still not thinking."
-Being and Time
Philosophers By Era
Pre-Socratic, Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance
1600s, 1700s, 1800s, 1900s

Postmodern, Contemporary

Martin Heidegger (September 26, 1889May 26, 1976) was a German philosopher. He studied at the University of Freiburg under Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenology, and became a professor there in 1928. He influenced many other major philosophers, and his own students at various times included Hans-Georg Gadamer, Hans Jonas, Emmanuel Levinas, Hannah Arendt, Leo Strauss, Xavier Zubiri and Karl Löwith. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe also studied his work more or less closely. Beyond his relation to phenomenology, Heidegger is regarded as a major or indispensable influence on existentialism, deconstruction, hermeneutics and postmodernism. He attempted to reorient Western philosophy away from metaphysical and epistemological and toward ontological questions, that is, questions concerning the meaning of being, or what it means to be.


Early life and education

Heidegger was born to a rural family in Meßkirch, Germany, and raised to be a clergyman. He was influenced as a teenager by Aristotle mediated through Christian theology. The concept of being, in this traditional sense, dating back to Plato, was his first exposure to an idea he would plant at the core of his most famous work Being and Time (1927). His family was not wealthy enough to send him to university and he required a scholarship, which itself required he study for the religious order. Mathematics was also his early major. During his time as a student he left theology for philosophy as he gradually found other academic funding. He wrote his doctorate thesis on a text then thought to be by Duns Scotus, a 14th century ethical and religious thinker, but later attributed to Thomas of Erfurt.

Heidegger was originally a phenomenologist. To oversimplify, phenomenologists approach philosophy by attempting to perceive experience unmediated by prior knowledge and abstract theoretical assumptions. Husserl was its founder and major exponent. In fact, Heidegger studied under Husserl and it was this that persuaded him to become a phenomenologist. Heidegger became interested in the question of being (or what it means to be). His famous work Being and Time is characterized as phenomenological ontology. The idea of being dates back to Parmenides and has traditionally served as one of the key thoughts of Western philosophy. The question of being was revived by Heidegger after being eclipsed by the metaphysical tradition from Plato to Descartes, and more recently in the Enlightenment. He tried to ground being in time, and thus discover its real essence or meaning, that is, its intelligibility for us.

Thus Heidegger began where being began — in ancient Greek thought, resurrecting a lost, under-appreciated issue in contemporary philosophy. Heidegger's great opening was to take Plato seriously again, and at the same time undermine the entire Platonic world by challenging the core of Platonism — treating being not as timeless and transcendent, but as immanent in time and history. This is partially why Platonists such as George Grant regard Heidegger as a great thinker, even if they disagree with his analysis of Being and conception of Platonic thought. Although Heidegger was a supremely creative and original thinker, he also borrowed heavily from Friedrich Nietzsche and Soren Kierkegaard, the latter of whom goes mostly unacknowledged by Heidegger. Heidegger can be compared to Aristotle, who took Plato's dialogues and systematically presented them as treatises and concepts. Similarly, Heidegger extracted Nietzsche's unpublished fragments and interpreted them as the culminating expression of Western metaphysics. Heidegger's published lectures during 1936 on Nietzsche’s Will to Power as Art are less scholarly commentaries than original philosophical works in their own right. Heidegger's concepts of angst and Da-sein draw on Kierkegaard's notions of anxiety, the importance of subjective relation to the truth, existence in the face of death, the temporality of existence, and the importance of passionate affirmation of one's individual being-in-the-world.

Martin Heidegger is regarded as one of the most significant philosophers of the 20th century. His prominence is rivaled only by Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein, and his ideas have seeped into an incredibly large number of research areas. It is because of Heidegger's discussion of ontology that he is often cited as one of the founders of existentialism and his ideas inspired some great philosophical works, such as by the philosopher Sartre who adopts many of his ideas from Heidegger (although Heidegger insists that Sartre misunderstood his works). His philosophical work was taken up throughout Germany, France, and Japan and has gained, since the 1970s at least, a strong following in North America as well; it was scorned as rubbish, however, by contemporaries such as the Vienna Circle, Theodor Adorno, and British philosophers such as Bertrand Russell and Alfred Ayer.

Heidegger's refusal to adopt current concepts such as the fact-value distinction, his criticism of modern science and technology, and his refusal to offer an "ethical" component to his theory, claiming such a suggestion was a fundamental misunderstanding of his thought, often puzzled and confused philosophers. Attacking him seemed like the only thing to do, especially since his private behavior was morally and politically ambiguous.


Being and Time

Heidegger's most important work is the dense and challenging Being and Time (German Sein und Zeit, 1927). Although the book as published represents only a third of the total project outlined in its introduction, it marked a turning point in continental philosophy. It has been massively influential and remains one of the most discussed works of 20th century philosophy; many subsequent philosophical views and approaches, such as existentialism and deconstruction, have been strongly influenced by Being and Time.

In this work, Heidegger takes up the question of the meaning of being: what does it mean to say that an entity is? This is the fundamental question of ontology, defined by Aristotle as the study of being qua (Latin, tr. roughly as 'as', or 'in the capacity of') being. In his approach to this question, Heidegger departs from the tradition of Aristotle and of Kant, both of whom, despite the vast difference between their respective philosophical positions, approach the question of the meaning of being from the perspective of the logic of propositional statements. Implicit in this traditional approach is the thesis that theoretical knowledge represents the most fundamental relation between the human individual and the beings in his surrounding world (including himself).

Explicitly rejecting this thesis, Heidegger instead adopts a version of the phenomenological method, purged of what he regards as the residue of Aristotelian/Kantian cognitivism still present in Husserl's formulation of this method. Like Husserl, Heidegger takes as his starting point the phenomenon of intentionality. Human behavior is intentional insofar as it is directed at some object or end (all building is building of something, all talking is talking about something, etc). Intentionality was an activity termed by Heidegger as "Sorge" (care) and reflected a positive aspect of Angst. Sorge, or caring, as the fundamental concept of the intentional being, presupposed an ontological significance that distinguishes ontological being from mere ontic being (thinghood). Theoretical knowledge represents only one kind of intentional behavior, and Heidegger asserts that it is founded on more fundamental modes of behavior, modes of practical engagement with the surrounding world, rather than being their ultimate foundation. He divides the understanding between the existentiell understanding, which understands existence through existence itself, and existential understanding, which is the theoretical analysis of what constitutes existence. An entity is what it is (i.e., it has being) insofar as it "shows up" within a context of practical engagement (Heidegger calls such a context a 'world'), not because it has certain inherent properties ascertainable by disinterested contemplation. A hammer is a hammer not because it has certain hammer-like properties, but because it is used for hammering.

This also necessitated a rejection of the Cartesian, disembodied 'I': that is, an 'I' as a purely thinking object. Instead, Heidegger insisted that any analysis of human behaviour should begin with the fact that we are in the world (not viewing it in an 'abstract' fashion): therefore the fundamental fact about human existence is our 'being-in-the-world'. Human beings, Heidegger insisted, were embodied beings who acted in the world. He also said that the world was a characteristic of Being in the World, "Da-Sein.". He therefore rejected the 'subject-object' distinction assumed by most philosophers since Descartes. Things are meaningful to us in terms of their use in certain contexts, which are defined by social norms. However, all of these norms are radically contingent. Their contingency is revealed in the fundamental phenomenon of Angst, in which all norms fall away and beings show up as nothing in particular, in their essential meaninglessness. (Contrary to some existentialist interpretations of Heidegger, this does not mean that all existence is absurd; rather, it means that existence always has the potential for absurdity.) The experience of Angst reveals the essential finitude of human being.

The fact that beings can show up, either as meaningful in a context or as meaningless in the experience of Angst, depends on a prior phenomenon: that beings can show up at all. Heidegger calls the showing up of beings "truth", which he defines as unconcealment rather than correctness. This "truth of beings", their self-revelation, involves a more fundamental kind of truth, the "disclosure of being in which the being of beings is unconcealed." It is this unconcealment of being that defines human existence for Heidegger: the human being is that being for whom being is an issue, that is, for whom being shows up as such (Heidegger's word for such an entity, which could conceivably have non-human instantiations, is Da-sein). This is why Heidegger begins his inquiry into the meaning of being with an inquiry into the essence of human being; the ontology of Da-sein is fundamental ontology. The unconcealment of being is an essentially temporal and historical phenomenon (hence the "time" in Being and Time); what we call past, present, and future correspond originarily to aspects of this unconcealment and not to three mutually exclusive regions of the homogeneous time that clocks measure (although clock-time is derivative from the originary time of unconcealment, as Heidegger attempts to show in the book's difficult final chapters).

The total understanding of being results from an explication of the implicit knowledge of being that inheres in all human behavior. Philosophy thus becomes a form of interpretation; this is why Heidegger's technique in Being and Time is often referred to as hermeneutical phenomenology. Being and Time, being incomplete, contains Heidegger's statement of this project and his interpretation of human existence and its temporal horizon, but does not contain the working out of the meaning of being as such on the basis of this interpretation. This ambitious task is taken up in a different way in his later works (see below).

As part of his ontological project, Heidegger undertakes a reinterpretation of previous Western philosophy. He wants to explain why and how theoretical knowledge came to seem like the most fundamental relation to being. This explanation takes the form of a destructuring (Destruktion) of the philosophical tradition, an interpretive strategy that reveals the fundamental experience of being at the base of previous philosophies. In Being and Time he briefly destructures the philosophy of Descartes; in later works he uses this approach to interpret the philosophies of Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, and Plato, among others. This technique exerted a profound influence on Derrida's deconstructive approach, although there are very important differences between the two methods.

Being and Time is the towering achievement of Heidegger's early career, but there are other important works from this period, including Die Grundprobleme der Phänomenologie (The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, 1927), Kant und das Problem der Metaphysik (Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, 1929), and "Was ist Metaphysik?" ("What Is Metaphysics?", 1929).

Later works

Although Heidegger claimed that all of his writings concerned a single question, the question of being, in the years after the publication of Being and Time the focus of his work gradually changed. This change is often referred to as Heidegger's Kehre (turn). In his later works, Heidegger turns from "doing" to "dwelling." He focuses less on the way in which the structures of being are revealed in everyday behavior and in the experience of Angst, and more on the way in which behavior itself depends on a prior "openness to being." The essence of being human is the maintenance of this openness. (The difference between Heidegger's early and late works is more a difference of emphasis than a radical break like that between the early and late works of Wittgenstein, but it is important enough to justify a division of the Heideggerian corpus into "early" (roughly, pre-1930) and "late" writings.)

Heidegger opposes this openness to the "will to power" of the modern human subject, who subordinates beings to his own ends rather than letting them "be what they are." Heidegger interprets the history of western philosophy as a brief period of authentic openness to being in the time of the pre-Socratics, especially Parmenides, Heraclitus, and Anaximander, followed by a long period increasingly dominated by nihilistic subjectivity, initiated by Plato and culminating in Nietzsche.

In the later writings, two recurring themes are poetry and technology. Heidegger sees poetry as a preeminent way in which beings are revealed "in their being." The play of poetic language (which is, for Heidegger, the essence of language itself) reveals the play of presence and absence that is being itself. Heidegger focuses especially on the poetry of Hölderlin.

Against the revealing power of poetry, Heidegger sets the force of technology. The essence of technology is the conversion of the whole universe of beings into an undifferentiated "standing reserve" (Bestand) of energy available for any use to which humans choose to put it. The standing reserve represents the most extreme nihilism, since the being of beings is totally subordinated to the will of the human subject. Heidegger does not unequivocally condemn technology; he believes that its increasing dominance might make it possible for humanity to return to its authentic task of the stewardship of being. Nevertheless, many of Heidegger's later works are characterized by an unmistakable agrarian nostalgia.

Heidegger's important later works include Vom Wesen der Wahrheit ("On the Essence of Truth," 1930), Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes ("The Origin of the Work of Art," 1935), Bauen Wohnen Denken ("Building Dwelling Thinking," 1951), and Die Frage nach der Technik ("The Question Concerning Technology," 1953) and Was heisst Denken? ("What Is Called Thinking?" 1954).

Influences and difficulties of French reception

Heidegger, like Husserl, is an explicitly acknowledged influence on existentialism, despite his explicit disavowal and objection, in texts such as the "Letter on Humanism," of the importation of key elements of his work into existentialist contexts. While Heidegger was banned from university teaching for a period shortly after the war on account of his activities as Rector of Freiburg, he developed a number of contacts in France who continued to teach his work and brought their students to visit him in Todtnauberg (see, for example, Jean-François Lyotard's brief account in "Heidegger and 'the jews': A Conference in Vienna and Freiburg," which discusses a Franco-German conference held in Freiburg in 1947, a first step in bringing together French and German students after the War). Heidegger subsequently made efforts to keep abreast of developments in French philosophy by way of recommendations from Jean Beaufret, who was an early French translator, and Lucien Braun.

Deconstruction as it is generally understood (i.e., as French and Anglo-American phenomena profoundly rooted in Heidegger's work, with limited general exposure in a German context until the 1980s) came to Heidegger's attention in 1967 by way of Lucien Braun's recommendation of Jacques Derrida's work (Hans-Georg Gadamer was present at an initial discussion and indicated to Heidegger that Derrida's work came to his attention by way of an assistant). Heidegger expressed interest in meeting Derrida personally after the latter sent him some of his work. (There was discussion of a meeting in 1972, but this did not happen.) Heidegger's interest in Derrida is said by Braun to have been considerable (as is evident in two letters, of 29 September 1967 and 16 May 1972, from Heidegger to Braun). Braun also brought to Heidegger's attention the work of Michel Foucault. Foucault's relation to Heidegger is a matter of considerable difficulty; Foucault acknowledged Heidegger as the philosopher whom he read but never wrote about. (For more on this see Penser à Strasbourg, Jacques Derrida, et al, which includes reproductions of both letters and an account by Braun, "À mi-chemin entre Heidegger et Derrida").

One feature that garnered initial interest in a French context (which propagated rather quickly to scholars of French literature and philosophy working in American universities) was Derrida's efforts to displace the understanding of Heidegger's work prevalent in France from the period of the ban against Heidegger teaching in German universities, which amounts in part to rejecting almost wholesale the influence of Jean-Paul Sartre and existentialist terms. In Derrida's view, deconstruction is a tradition inherited via Heidegger (the French term "déconstruction" is a translation of Heidegger's "Destruktion" - literally "destruction"), whereas Sartre's interpretation of Dasein and other key Heideggerian terms is overly psychologistic and (ironically) anthropocentric, consisting of a radical misconception of the limited number of Heidegger's texts commonly studied in France up to that point (namely Being and Time, What is Metaphysics?, and Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics). Derrida, on the other hand, is at times presented as an ultra-orthodox "French Heidegger," to such an extent that he, his colleagues, and his former students are made to go proxy for Heidegger's worst (political) mistakes, despite ample evidence that the reception of Heidegger's work by later practitioners of deconstruction is anything but doctrinaire "Heideggerianism". The work of Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe may be taken as exemplary in this regard and was often commended as such by Derrida, who further contrasted Lacoue-Labarthe's extended work on Heidegger with Foucault's silence.

Having earlier mentioned the contributions of Derrida, Lacoue-Labarthe, and Lyotard to scholarship on Heidegger and National Socialism, it is worth noting that Heidegger's relation to the Holocaust and Nazism was the subject of great and occasionally fractious debate across various "deconstructions". These included the extent to which specific practitioners of deconstruction could entirely do without Heideggerian deconstruction (as Lyotard in particular may have wished) or were - rather - obliged to further (and in the cases of many mis- and uninformed criticisms, recall) already extensive criticisms of Heidegger which considerably predated (in the case of Derrida, by decades) the broad recognition of Heidegger's activities as a National Socialist. The latter were precipitated by press attention to the Victor Farias book "Heidegger et le nazisme" (Farias was an ex-student of Heidegger) and extensive treatments of the Holocaust and its implications. These included for example, the proceedings of the first conference dedicated to Derrida's work, published as "Les Fins de l'Homme" (the essay from which that title was taken), Derrida's "Feu la cendre/cio' che resta del fuoco", or the studies on Celan by Lacoue-Labarthe and Derrida which shortly preceded the detailed studies of Heidegger's politics published in and after 1987.


Heidegger's importance to the world of continental philosophy (which he largely created, there being no distinction between analytical and continental philosophy prior to him) is probably unsurpassed. His reception amongst philosophers of the analytic school, however, is quite another story. Saving a somewhat favorable review by Gilbert Ryle in the journal Mind of Being and Time at the time of its publication, Heidegger's contemporaries from the analytic tradition (which was still young, but already quite sharply delineated from other branches of philosophy) generally regarded both the content, insofar as they believed there to be any at all, and the style by which he delivered it, as evidence of the worst possible way of doing philosophy.

The analytic tradition values clarity of expression, whereas Heidegger thought that "making itself intelligible was suicide for philosophy." Apart from the charge of obscurantism, analytic philosophers generally considered the actual content that could be gleaned from Heidegger's work to be either trivially false, non-verifiable or uninteresting. This view has largely survived, and Heidegger is still spoken of with derision in most quarters of analytical philosophy, and his influence is considered to have been disastrous for philosophy, in that a clear line can be traced from it to most varieties of postmodern philosophical thinking.

Heidegger and Nazi Germany

Heidegger joined the Nazi Party on May 1, 1933, before being appointed the rector of the university in Freiburg. He resigned from the rectorship in April 1934. During this time Heidegger's former teacher Husserl, who was Jewish, was denied the use of the university library at Freiburg because of the racial cleansing laws issued by the Nazi Party. Heidegger also removed the dedication to Husserl from Being and Time when it was reissued in 1941. Heidegger later claimed that this was due to pressure from his publisher, Max Niemeyer. Additionally, when Heidegger's Introduction to Metaphysics (lectures originally given in 1935) was published in 1953, he declined to remove a reference to the "inner truth and greatness of this movement [die innere Wahrheit und Größe dieser Bewegnung]," i.e. National Socialism. Instead of deleting or altering the text, he merely added the parenthetical gloss, "(namely, the confrontation of planetary technology and modern humanity) (nämlich [die] Begegnung der planetarisch bestimmten Technik und des neuzeitlichen Menschen)." Many readers, notably Jürgen Habermas, came to interpret this ambiguous remark as evidence of his continued commitment to National Socialism.

Critics further cite Heidegger's affair with Hannah Arendt, when she was a doctoral student of his at the University of Marburg. This affair mostly went along in the 20s, some time before Heidegger's involvement in Nazism, but it did not end when she "fled" from him and moved to Heidelberg to continue with Karl Jaspers, and she later spoke on his behalf at his denazification hearings. Jaspers spoke against him at these same hearings, suggesting he would have a detrimental influence on young German students because of his powerful teaching presence. Arendt, who was Jewish, resumed their friendship, if extremely cautiously, after the war, despite or even because of the widespread contempt that Heidegger was held in for his political sympathies, and despite his being forbidden from teaching for a number of years.

Der Spiegel interview

Some years later, hoping to quiet controversy, Heidegger gave an interview to Der Spiegel magazine, in which he promised to discuss the issue provided it was published posthumously. It should also be mentioned that the published version was not a real interview, but the protocol had been largely "corrected" on Heidegger's demand. In this interview, Heidegger's defense of his Nazi involvement runs in two tracks: first, he argues that there would have been no alternative; he says he had tried to save the university (and science in general) from being politicized and had to make compromises with the Nazi administration. Second, he saw an "awakening" ("Aufbruch"), something which might help to find a "new national and social approach". From 1934 on, he says, he would have been more critical towards the government. Heidegger is evasive on some questions in this interview. For example, when he talks about a "national and social approach" in national socialism he links this to Friedrich Naumann. But Naumann's "national-sozialer Verein" was not at all national socialist, but liberal. This confusion seems to be deliberately created by Heidegger. Also, he changes between his two arguments quickly, disregarding their contradictions. And his statements often tend to take the form "others were much more Nazis than me" and "the Nazis did bad things to me, too", both of which are true, but miss the point. Also, the Der Spiegel interviewers did not bring to question Heidegger's quote from 1949 where he compares engineered food production to the Holocaust ("essentially the same"); in fact, they were not in possession of much of the evidence for Heidegger's sympathies towards Nazism which is known today. To further evaluate this issue, read "Only a God Can Save Us," Der Spiegel interview with Heidegger (1966) and Jürgen Habermas, "Work and Weltanschauung: The Heidegger Controversy from a German Perspective." translated by John McCumber, Critical Inquiry 15 (Winter 1989): pp. 431-456.

Obligations and unsplendid silence: Celan at "Todtnauberg"

Shortly after giving the Spiegel interview and following Celan's lecture at Freiburg, Heidegger hosted Paul Celan at his chalet at Todtnauberg. The two walked in the woods. Celan impressed Heidegger with his knowledge of botany (also evident in his poetry), and Heidegger is thought to have spoken about elements of his press interview. Celan signed Heidegger's guest book.

In his Poetry as Experience, Lacoue-Labarthe advanced the argument that, although Celan's poetry was deeply informed by Heidegger's philosophy, Celan was long aware of Heidegger's association with the Nazi party and therefore fundamentally circumspect toward the man and transformative in his reception of his work. Celan was nonetheless willing to meet Heidegger (although he may not have been willing to be photographed with him or to contribute to Festschriften honoring Heidegger's work). Heidegger was a professed admirer of Celan's writing, although he did not attend to it as Hölderlin or Trakl (neither did he attend to Celan as a Jewish poet working within that German tradition). "Todtnauberg", however, seems to hold out the unrealized possibility of a profound rapprochement between their work, albeit on the condition that Heidegger break a silence that virtually blanketed his work to the end (Lacoue-Labarthe has commented on the insufficiency of Heidegger's one known remark about the gas chambers, made in 1949). In this respect Heidegger's work was perhaps redeemable for Celan, even if that redemption or what need was had for it was never transacted between the two men. Lest one implicitly take this as Celan simply demanding an apology of Heidegger (such a scenario seems simplistic, the more so given that neither was given to simplism), there are reasonable grounds to argue that it was (and still is) at least as important to specify how the Nazi period is das Unheil (disaster, calamity) (which is to say: specificity as to a great deal more than counting the dead). What compelled Heidegger to write about poetry, technology, and truth ought to have compelled him to write about the German disaster, all the more so because, on the basis of his thought, Heidegger attributed an "inner greatness" to the movement that brought about that disaster.

Lacoue-Labarthe and Jacques Derrida have both commented extensively on Heidegger's corpus, and both have identified an idiomatically Heideggerian National Socialism that persisted until the end. It is perhaps of greater importance that Lacoue-Labarthe and Derrida, following Celan to a degree, believed Heidegger capable of profound criticism of Nazism and the horrors it brought forth. They hold that Heidegger's greatest failure not to be his involvement in the National Socialist movement but his "silence on the extermination" (Lacoue-Labarthe) and refusal to elaborate a thorough deconstruction of Nazism beyond laying out certain of his considerable objections to party orthodoxies and (particularly in the case of Lacoue-Labarthe) their passage through Nietzsche, Hölderlin, and Richard Wagner, taken to be susceptible to Nazi appropriation. It would be reasonable to say that both Lacoue-Labarthe and Derrida regarded Heidegger as capable of engaging Nazism in this other fashion and have undertaken such work on the basis of this (one ought to note in due course the questions raised by Derrida in "Desistance" in calling attention to Lacoue-Labarthe's parenthetical comment: "(in any case, Heidegger never avoids anything)").


Heidegger's involvements with the Nazis and the lack of a clear apology for them complicated many of his friendships, and continues to complicate the reception of his work. It is disputable whether Heidegger was antisemitic or if he was taken in by the charismatic projections of Nazi propaganda, but he had clear sympathies for certain elements of Nazism. Whether this is in any way a result of his philosophy is still contested. It has also been noted that many parts of "Sein und Zeit" can be read as anti-democratic, anti-modernist and anti-liberal, e.g. the condemnations against the "lordship of the they" (Herrschaft des Man), the "chatter" (Gerede) and the Dasein's Verfallenheit (roughly, being-fallen-to) the world.

The possibility that Heidegger's affiliation with the Nazi party was the result of his philosophy would lead many to discredit Heidegger as a philosopher solely on this basis, as Jean-François Lyotard remarked, the formula becomes "if a Nazi, then not a great thinker" or, conversely, "if a great thinker, then not a Nazi")

Further reading

There is a large secondary literature on Heidegger's philosophy. Accessible commentaries on Being and Time include

  • Being-in-the-World by Hubert Dreyfus,
  • The Genesis of Heidegger's Being and Time by Theodore Kisiel, and
  • Heidegger and Being and Time by Stephen Mulhall.
  • Heidegger on Being and Acting: From Principles to Anarchy by Reiner Schürmann.

By far the best and most even-handed biography of Heidegger, which also is perhaps the best introduction to his thought, is

which is the English translation of his Ein Meister aus Deutschland (the title is an allusion to Paul Celan's "Todesfugue").

More information on the subject of Heidegger's political history can be found in

It should be noted that in many philosophical circles, Farias' arguments are controversial, and many of his conclusions are contested.

  • Hans Sluga's book Heidegger's Crisis: Philosophy & Politics in Nazi Germany

gives a fair examination of the relations between philosophy and politics. Similar questions have been taken up from a philosophical perspective by (among others)

  • Derrida in Of Spirit,
  • Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe in Typography
  • Heidegger, Art, and Politics: The Fiction of the Political trans. Chris Turner (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990) and
  • Poetry as Experience,
  • Bourdieu in The Political Ontology of Martin Heidegger, and
  • Lyotard in Heidegger and "the Jews".

Also cited above:

  • Derrida, et al in Penser à Strasbourg
  • Lyotard in Political Writings

Selected Bibliography

  • Gelassenheit (1959). Translated as Discourse On Thinking.
  • Identität und Differenz (1955-57). Translated as Identity and Difference.
  • Kant und das Problem der Metaphysik (1929). Translated as Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics.
  • Der Satz vom Grund (1955-56). Translated as The Principle of Reason.
  • Sein und Zeit (1927). Translated as Being and Time.
  • Unterwegs zur Sprache (1959). Translated as On the Way To Language with the omission of the essay Die Sprache (Language) by arrangement with Herr Heidegger.


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