|Full name||Martin Heidegger|
|Born||26 September 1889
|Died||26 May 1976 (aged 86)
Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
|School||Phenomenology · Hermeneutics · Existentialism|
|Main interests||Ontology · Metaphysics · Art · Greek philosophy · Technology · Language · Poetry · Thinking|
|Notable ideas||Dasein · Gestell · Heideggerian terminology|
Martin Heidegger (26 September 1889 – 26 May 1976) (German pronunciation: [ˈmaɐ̯tiːn ˈhaɪ̯dɛɡɐ]) was an influential German philosopher. His best known book, Being and Time, is considered to be one of the most important philosophical works of the 20th century. Heidegger remains controversial due to his association with Nazism.
Heidegger claimed that Western philosophy has, since Plato, misunderstood what it means for something "to be", tending to approach this question in terms of a being, rather than asking about being itself. In other words, Heidegger believed all investigations of being have historically focused on particular entities and their properties, or have treated being itself as an entity, or substance, with properties. A more authentic analysis of being would, for Heidegger, investigate "that on the basis of which beings are already understood", or that which underlies all particular entities and allows them to show up as entities in the first place. But since philosophers and scientists have overlooked the more basic, pre-theoretical ways of being from which their theories derive, and since they have incorrectly applied those theories universally, they have confused our understanding of being and human existence. To avoid these deep-rooted misconceptions, Heidegger believed philosophical inquiry must be conducted in a new way, through a process of retracing the steps of the history of philosophy.
Heidegger argued that this misunderstanding, commencing from Plato, has left its traces in every stage of Western thought. All that we understand, from the way we speak to our notions of "common sense", is susceptible to error, to fundamental mistakes about the nature of being. These mistakes filter into the terms through which being is articulated in the history of philosophy—reality, logic, God, consciousness, presence, et cetera. In his later philosophy, Heidegger argues that this profoundly affects the way in which human beings relate to modern technology.
Heidegger's work has strongly influenced philosophy, theology and the humanities. Within philosophy it played a crucial role in the development of existentialism, hermeneutics, deconstruction, postmodernism, and continental philosophy in general. Well-known philosophers such as Karl Jaspers, Leo Strauss, Ahmad Fardid, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Jean-Paul Sartre, Emmanuel Lévinas, Hannah Arendt, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Michel Foucault, Richard Rorty, and Jacques Derrida have all analyzed Heidegger's work.
Heidegger infamously supported National Socialism and was a member of the Nazi Party from May 1933 until May 1945. His defenders, notably Hannah Arendt, see this support as arguably a personal " 'error' " (a word which Arendt placed in quotation marks when referring to Heidegger's Nazi-era politics.) Defenders think this error was largely irrelevant to Heidegger's philosophy. Critics, such as his former students Emmanuel Lévinas and Karl Löwith, hold that Heidegger's support for National Socialism was immoral and revealed flaws inherent in his thought.
Heidegger was born in rural Meßkirch, Germany. Raised a Roman Catholic, he was the son of the sexton of the village church, Friedrich Heidegger, and his wife Johanna, née Kempf. In their faith, his parents adhered to the First Vatican Council of 1870, which was observed mainly by the poorer class of Meßkirch. The religious controversy between the wealthy Altkatholiken and the working class led to the temporary use of a converted barn for the Roman Catholics. At the festive reunion of the congregation in 1895, the Old Catholic sexton handed the key to six year old Martin.
His family could not afford to send him to university, so he entered a Jesuit seminary, though he was turned away within weeks because of the health requirement, and what he described as a psychosomatic heart condition. After studying theology at the University of Freiburg from 1909 to 1911, he switched to philosophy, in part again because of his heart condition. Heidegger completed his doctoral thesis on psychologism in 1914 influenced by Neothomism and Neokantianism, and in 1916 finished his venia legendi with a thesis on Duns Scotus influenced by Heinrich Rickert and Edmund Husserl. In the two years following, he worked first as an unsalaried Privatdozent, then served as a soldier during the final year of World War I, working behind a desk and never leaving Germany. After the war, he served as a salaried senior assistant to Edmund Husserl at the University of Freiburg from 1919 until 1923.
In 1923, Heidegger was elected to an extraordinary Professorship in Philosophy at the University of Marburg. His colleagues there included Rudolf Bultmann, Ernst Friedländer, Nicolai Hartmann, and Paul Natorp. Heidegger's students at Marburg included Hans-Georg Gadamer, Hannah Arendt, Karl Löwith, Gerhard Krüger, Irene Strauss Paley, Leo Strauss, Jacob Klein, Gunther (Stern) Anders, and Hans Jonas. Through a confrontation with Aristotle he begins to develop in his lectures the main theme of his philosophy: the question of the sense of being. He extends the concept of subject to the dimension of history and concrete existence which he finds prefigured in Christian thinkers like Paulus, Augustinus, Luther, Kierkegaard. He also reads the works of Dilthey, Husserl and Max Scheler.
In 1927, Heidegger publishes his main work Sein und Zeit (Being and Time). When Husserl retired in 1928, Heidegger accepted Freiburg's election to be his successor, in spite of a counter-offer by Marburg. Heidegger remained at Freiburg im Breisgau for the rest of his life, declining a number of later offers including one from Berlin, the most prestigious German university of the day. Among his students at Freiburg were Charles Malik, Herbert Marcuse and Ernst Nolte. Emmanuel Levinas attended his lecture courses during his stay in Freiburg in 1928.
On April 21, 1933, Heidegger became Rector of the University of Freiburg, joining the Nazi party on May 1, 1933. Heidegger publicly endorsed Nazism. In a November 1933 article in the Freiburg student newspaper, Heidegger wrote:
After leaving the Nazi Party in May 1945, Heidegger did not again participate in any other political organizations. However, he never repudiated his prior statements praising Hitler and National Socialism. Citing his Nazi ties during the years 1933 to 1945, the French Occupation Authority ruled that Heidegger had been a "Mitläufer" (fellow traveller, tagalong) with the Nazis and banned him from teaching in Germany. Authorities later rescinded this decision in 1951, and Heidegger became Professor emeritus with all privileges. He then taught regularly from 1951 until 1958, and by invitation until 1967.
Heidegger married Elfriede Petri on March 21, 1917, in a Catholic ceremony officiated by his friend Engelbert Krebs, and a week later in a Protestant ceremony in the presence of her parents. Their first son Jörg was born in 1919. According to the recently published correspondence between the spouses, Hermann (born 1920) is the son of Elfriede and Friedel Caesar. Martin Heidegger had extramarital affairs with Hannah Arendt and Elisabeth Blochmann, both students of his. Arendt was Jewish and Blochmann had one Jewish parent, making them subject to severe persecution by the Nazi authorities. He helped Blochmann emigrate from Germany prior to World War II and resumed contact with both of them after the war.
Heidegger spent much time at his vacation home at Todtnauberg, on the edge of the Black Forest. He considered the seclusion provided by the forest to be the best environment in which to engage in philosophical thought.
Heidegger died on May 26, 1976 and was buried in the Meßkirch cemetery.
Heidegger's philosophy is founded on the attempt to conjoin what he considers two fundamental insights:
The marriage of these two observations depends on the fact that each of them is essentially concerned with time. That Dasein is thrown into an already existing world and thus into its mortal possibilities does not only mean that Dasein is an essentially temporal being; it also implies that the description of Dasein can only be carried out in terms inherited from the Western tradition itself. For Heidegger, unlike for Husserl, philosophical terminology could not be divorced from the history of the use of that terminology, and thus genuine philosophy could not avoid confronting questions of language and meaning. The existential analytic of Being and Time was thus always only a first step in Heidegger's philosophy, to be followed by the "dismantling" (Destruktion) of the history of philosophy, that is, a transformation of its language and meaning, that would have made of the existential analytic only a kind of "limit case" (in the sense in which special relativity is a limit case of general relativity).
That Heidegger did not write this second part of Being and Time, and that the existential analytic was left behind in the course of Heidegger's subsequent writings on the history of being, might be interpreted as a failure to conjugate his account of individual experience with his account of the vicissitudes of the collective human adventure that he understands the Western philosophical tradition to be. And this would in turn raise the question of whether this failure is due to a flaw in Heidegger's account of temporality, that is, of whether Heidegger was correct to oppose vulgar and authentic time.
Being and Time (German title: Sein und Zeit), published in 1927, is Heidegger's first academic book. He had been under pressure to publish in order to qualify for Husserl's chair at Freiburg University and the success of this work ensured his appointment to the post.
It investigates the question of being by asking about the being for whom being is a question. Heidegger names this being Dasein (see above), and the book pursues its investigation through themes such as mortality, anxiety, temporality, and historicity. It was Heidegger's original intention to write a second half of the book, consisting of a "Destruktion" of the history of philosophy — that is, the transformation of philosophy by re-tracing its history — but he never completed this project.
Being and Time influenced many thinkers, including existentialist thinkers like Jean-Paul Sartre (although Heidegger distanced himself from existentialism—see below).
Some scholars have argued that Heidegger's thought after Being and Time exhibits a "turn" in his thinking (die Kehre). Heidegger denied this in a letter—published by William J. Richardson in Heidegger: Through Phenomenology to Thought (1963)—which stated that, if there had been a turn at all, it was simply a matter of going deeper into the same matters. In his later work, Heidegger largely abandons the account of Dasein as a pragmatic, engaged, worldly agent, and instead discusses other elements necessary to an understanding of being, notably language, the earth (as the almost ineffable foundation of world) and the presence of the gods. Nevertheless, Dasein (or "mortals", as he later prefers to say) remains a crucial part of the coming-about or event (Ereignis) of being.
Heidegger's later works, following the so-called "turn" and after the Second World War, seem to many commentators to at least reflect a shift of focus, if not indeed a major change in his philosophical outlook. One way this has been understood is as a shift from "doing" to "dwelling", although others feel that this is to overstate the difference. Heidegger focuses less on the way in which the structures of being are revealed in everyday behavior, 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. Heidegger contrasts this openness to the "will to power" of the modern human subject, which is one way of forgetting this originary openness.
Heidegger understands the commencement of the history of Western philosophy as a brief period of authentic openness to being, during the time of the pre-Socratics, especially Parmenides, Heraclitus, and Anaximander. This was followed, according to Heidegger, by a long period increasingly dominated by the forgetting of this initial openness, a period which commences with Plato, but a forgetting or abandonment which occurs in different ways throughout Western history.
Two recurring themes of Heidegger's later writings are poetry and technology. Heidegger sees poetry and technology as two contrasting ways of "revealing." Poetry reveals being in the way in which, if it is genuine poetry, it commences something new. Technology, on the other hand, when it gets going, inaugurates the world of the dichotomous subject and object, which modern philosophy commencing with Descartes also reveals. But with modern technology a new stage of revealing is reached, in which the subject-object distinction is overcome even in the "material" world of technology. The essence of modern 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. Heidegger described the essence of modern technology as Gestell, or "enframing." Heidegger does not unequivocally condemn technology: while he acknowledges that modern technology contains grave dangers, Heidegger nevertheless also argues that it may constitute a chance for human beings to enter a new epoch in their relation to being. Despite this, some commentators have concluded that an agrarian nostalgia permeates his later work.
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), Einführung in die Metaphysik ("An Introduction to Metaphysics", 1935), Bauen Wohnen Denken ("Building Dwelling Thinking", 1951), and Die Frage nach der Technik ("The Question Concerning Technology", 1954) and Was heisst Denken? ("What Is Called Thinking?" 1954). Also important is Beiträge zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis) (Contributions to Philosophy [From Enowning]), composed in the years 1936–38 but not published until 1989, on the centennial of Heidegger's birth.
Aristotle and the Greeks
Heidegger was influenced at an early age by Aristotle, mediated through Catholic theology, Medieval philosophy, and Franz Brentano. Aristotle's ethical, logical, and metaphysical works were crucial to the development of his thought in the crucial period of the 1920s. Although he later worked less on Aristotle, Heidegger recommended postponing reading Nietzsche, and to "first study Aristotle for ten to fifteen years." In reading Aristotle, Heidegger increasingly contested the traditional Latin translation and scholastic interpretation of his thought. Particularly important (not least for its influence upon others, both in their interpretation of Aristotle and in rehabilitating a neo-Aristotelian "practical philosophy") was his radical reinterpretation of Book Six of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics and several books of the Metaphysics. Both informed the argument of Being and Time.
The idea of asking about being may be traced back via Aristotle to Parmenides. Heidegger claimed to have revived the question of being, the question having been largely forgotten by the metaphysical tradition extending from Plato to Descartes, a forgetfulness extending to the Age of Enlightenment and then to modern science and technology. In pursuit of the retrieval of this question, Heidegger spent considerable time reflecting on ancient Greek thought, in particular on Plato, Parmenides, Heraclitus, and Anaximander, as well as on the tragic playwright Sophocles.
Heidegger's very early project of developing a "hermeneutics of factical life" and his hermeneutical transformation of phenomenology was influenced in part by his reading of the works of Wilhelm Dilthey. Heidegger's portrayal of history, historicity, and generation need to be interpreted in this context and, in particular, the correspondence between Dilthey and Paul Yorck von Wartenburg.
Of the influence of Dilthey, Hans-Georg Gadamer writes the following: "As far as Dilthey is concerned, we all know today what I have known for a long time: namely that it is a mistake to conclude on the basis of the citation in Being and Time that Dilthey was especially influential in the development of Heidegger's thinking in the mid-1920s. This dating of the influence is much too late." He adds that by the fall of 1923 it was plain that Heidegger felt "the clear superiority of Count Yorck over the famous scholar, Dilthey." Gadamer nevertheless makes clear that Dilthey's influence was important in helping the youthful Heidegger "in distancing himself from the systematic ideal of Neo-Kantianism, as Heidegger acknowledges in Being and Time." Based on Heidegger's earliest lecture courses, in which Heidegger already engages Dilthey's thought prior to the period Gadamer mentions as "too late", recent scholars as diverse as Theodore Kisiel and David Farrell Krell have argued for the importance of Diltheyan concepts and strategies in the formation of Heidegger's thought.
Even though Gadamer's interpretation of Heidegger has been questioned, there is little doubt that Heidegger seized upon Dilthey's concept of hermeneutics. Heidegger's novel ideas about ontology required a gestalt formation, not merely a series of logical arguments, in order to demonstrate his fundamentally new paradigm of thinking, and the hermeneutic circle offered a new and powerful tool for the articulation and realization of these ideas.
There is disagreement over the degree of influence that Husserl had on Heidegger's philosophical development, just as there is disagreement about the degree to which Heidegger's philosophy is grounded in phenomenology. These disagreements centre around how much of Husserlian phenomenology is contested by Heidegger, and how much this phenomenology in fact informs Heidegger's own understanding.
On the relation between the two figures, Gadamer wrote the following: "When asked about phenomenology, Husserl was quite right to answer as he used to in the period directly after World War I: 'Phenomenology, that is me and Heidegger'." Nevertheless, Gadamer noted that Heidegger was no patient collaborator with Husserl, and that Heidegger's "rash ascent to the top, the incomparable fascination he aroused, and his stormy temperament surely must have made Husserl, the patient one, as suspicious of Heidegger as he always had been of Max Scheler's volcanic fire."
Robert J. Dostal understands the importance of Husserl to be profound:
Daniel O. Dahlstrom sees Heidegger's presentation of his work as a departure from Husserl as unfairly misrepresenting Husserl's own work. Dahlstrom concludes his consideration of the relation between Heidegger and Husserl as follows:
Contemporary Heideggerians regard Søren Kierkegaard as, by far, the greatest philosophical contributor to Heidegger's own existentialist concepts.. Heidegger's concepts of anxiety (Angst) and mortality draw on Kierkegaard and are indebted to the way in which the latter lays out the importance of our subjective relation to truth, our existence in the face of death, the temporality of existence, and the importance of passionate affirmation of one's individual being-in-the-world. Nonetheless, it is important to notice the difference between the Danish philosopher, whose thought was both individualistic and Christian, and Heidegger, who conceived of human existence as thoroughly social and sharply distinguished philosophy itself from all personal, scientific, and religious commitments.
Hölderlin and Nietzsche
Friedrich Hölderlin and Friedrich Nietzsche were both important influences on Heidegger, and many of his lecture courses were devoted to one or other of these figures, especially in the 1930s and 1940s. The lectures on Nietzsche focused on fragments posthumously published under the title The Will to Power, rather than on Nietzsche's published works. Heidegger read The Will to Power as the culminating expression of Western metaphysics, and the lectures are a kind of dialogue between the two thinkers.
This is also the case for the lecture courses devoted to the poetry of Friedrich Hölderlin, which became an increasingly central focus of Heidegger's work and thought. Heidegger grants to Hölderlin a singular place within the history of being and the history of Germany, as a herald whose thought is yet to be "heard" in Germany or the West. Many of Heidegger's works from the 1930s onwards include meditations on lines from Hölderlin's poetry, and several of the lecture courses are devoted to the reading of a single poem (see, for example, Hölderlin's Hymn "The Ister").
Some writers on Heidegger's work see possibilities within it for dialogue with traditions of thought outside of Western philosophy, particularly East Asian thinking. Despite perceived differences between Eastern and Western philosophy, some of Heidegger's later work, particularly "A Dialogue on Language between a Japanese and an Inquirer", does show an interest in initiating such a dialogue. Heidegger himself had contact with a number of leading Japanese intellectuals, including members of the Kyoto School, notably Hajime Tanabe, Kuki Shūzō and Kyoshi Miki.
Furthermore, it has also been claimed that a number of elements within Heidegger's thought bear a close parallel to Eastern philosophical ideas, particularly with Zen Buddhism and Taoism. An account given by Paul Hsao (in Heidegger and Asian Thought) records a remark by Chang Chung-Yuan claiming that "Heidegger is the only Western Philosopher who not only intellectually understands but has intuitively grasped Taoist thought."
According to Tomonubu Imamichi, the concept of Dasein was inspired—although Heidegger remains silent on this—by Okakura Kakuzo's concept of das-in-der-Welt-sein (being in the world) expressed in The Book of Tea to describe Zhuangzi's philosophy, which Imamichi's teacher had offered to Heidegger in 1919, after having studied with him the year before.
Some scholars interested in the relationships between Western philosophy and the history of ideas in Islam and Arabic philosophical medieval sources may have been influenced by Heidegger's work.
Adolf Hitler was named Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933. Heidegger was elected Rector of the University of Freiburg on April 21, 1933, assuming the position the following day, and on May 1 he joined the Nazi Party. Heidegger delivered his inaugural address, the Rektoratsrede, on May 27. It was entitled "The Self-Assertion of the German University", and became notorious for its praise of Nazism.
His tenure as Rector was, however, fraught with difficulties from the outset. Some Nazi education officials viewed him as a rival, while others saw his efforts as comical. Some of Heidegger's fellow Nazis also ridiculed his philosophical writings as gibberish. He finally offered his resignation on April 23, 1934, and it was accepted on April 27. Heidegger remained a member of both the academic faculty and of the Nazi party until the end of the war.
Philosophical historian Hans Sluga places Heidegger's embrace of National Socialism during this period within the context of a similar and often even more enthusiastic acceptance of Nazism from many other German philosophers. He characterises Heidegger's stance while Rector in the following way:
In 1945 Heidegger wrote a defence of his term as rector, which he gave to his son Hermann, and which was published in 1983. In it Heidegger referred to his 1933–34 involvement in the following terms:
Beginning in 1917 Edmund Husserl championed Heidegger's work and helped him secure the retiring Husserl's chair in Philosophy at the University of Freiburg.
On April 6, 1933, the Reichskommissar of Baden province, Robert Wagner, suspended all Jewish government employees, including present and retired faculty at the University of Freiburg. Heidegger's predecessor as rector formally notified Edmund Husserl of his "enforced leave of absence" on April 14, 1933.
Heidegger became rector of the University of Freiburg on April 22, 1933. The following week the national Reich law of April 28, 1933 replaced Reichskommissar Wagner's decree. The Reich law required the firing of Jewish professors from German universities, including those, such as Husserl, who had previously converted to Christianity. The termination of the retired professor Husserl's academic privileges thus involved no specific action on Heidegger's part.
Heidegger had by then broken off contact with Husserl other than through intermediaries. Heidegger later claimed that the relationship with Husserl had already become strained after Husserl publicly "settled accounts" with Heidegger and Max Scheler in the early 1930s.
Heidegger did not attend his former mentor's cremation in 1938. In 1941, under pressure from publisher Max Niemeyer, Heidegger agreed to remove the dedication to Husserl from Being and Time (restored in post-war editions).
Heidegger's behavior towards Husserl has evoked controversy. Hannah Arendt had initially suggested that Heidegger's behavior precipitated Husserl's death. She called him a "potential murderer." However, she later recanted this accusation.
After the spectacular failure of Heidegger's rectorship, he withdrew from most political activity, without canceling his membership in the NSDAP. Nevertheless, references to National Socialism continued to appear in his work, usually in ambiguous ways.
In the course of his 1935 lectures, Heidegger referred to the "inner truth and greatness of this movement" (die innere Wahrheit und Größe dieser Bewegung), that is, of National Socialism. This phrase remained when the lectures were published in 1953 under the title, An Introduction to Metaphysics; however, Heidegger added a parenthetical qualification, without mentioning this change at the time of publication: "(namely, the confrontation of planetary technology and modern humanity) (nämlich die Begegnung der planetarisch bestimmten Technik und des neuzeitlichen Menschen)."
In the lectures of 1942, published posthumously as Hölderlin's Hymn "The Ister", Heidegger makes the following remark:
Karl Löwith met Heidegger in 1936 while the latter was visiting Rome to lecture on Hölderlin. In an account set down in 1940 and not intended for publication, Löwith recounted an exchange with Heidegger over editorials published in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:
Löwith went on to say:
For commentators such as Habermas who credit Löwith's account, there are a number of generally shared implications: one is that Heidegger did not turn away from National Socialism per se but became deeply disaffected with the official philosophy and ideology of the party, as embodied by Alfred Bäumler or Alfred Rosenberg, whose biologistic racist doctrines he never accepted.
Heidegger's affair with Hannah Arendt occurred some time before Heidegger's involvement in National Socialism, but her friendship with Heidegger did not end when she moved to Heidelberg to continue her studies under Karl Jaspers. Arendt later spoke on his behalf at his denazification hearings. Jaspers spoke against him at the same hearings, suggesting he would have a detrimental influence on German students because of his powerful teaching presence. Arendt cautiously resumed their friendship after the war, despite or even because of the widespread contempt for Heidegger and his political sympathies. The denazification hearings resulted in Heidegger being forbidden to teach between 1945 and 1951. One consequence of his disfavour in Germany was that Heidegger began to engage far more in the French philosophical scene.
In a lecture on technology delivered at Bremen in 1949, Heidegger made the following controversial remark:
This quotation has been the subject of widespread criticism and interpretation. Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, for example, described it as "scandalously inadequate."
In 1967 Heidegger had an encounter with the poet Paul Celan, a Jew who had survived concentration camps operated by the Nazis' Romanian allies. While admiring aspects of Heidegger's writings, Celan had long been aware of Heidegger's involvement with National Socialism.
On July 24 Celan gave a reading at the University of Freiburg, attended by Heidegger. Heidegger there presented Celan with a copy of What is Called Thinking?, and invited him to visit him at his hut at Todtnauberg, an invitation which Celan accepted. On July 25 Celan visited Heidegger at his retreat, signing the guestbook and spending some time walking and talking with Heidegger. The details of their conversation are not known, but the meeting was the subject of a subsequent poem by Celan, entitled "Todtnauberg" (dated August 1, 1967).
The enigmatic poem and the encounter have been discussed by numerous writers on Heidegger and Celan, notably Lacoue-Labarthe. A common interpretation of the poem is that it concerns, in part, Celan's wish for Heidegger to apologize for Heidegger's behavior during the Nazi era.
On September 23, 1966, Heidegger gave an interview to Der Spiegel magazine, in which he agreed to discuss his political past provided that the interview be published posthumously (it was published on May 31, 1976). In the interview, Heidegger defended his entanglement with National Socialism in two ways: first, he argued that there was no alternative, saying that he was trying to save the university (and science in general) from being politicized and thus had to compromise with the Nazi administration. Second, he admitted that he saw an "awakening" ("Aufbruch") which might help to find a "new national and social approach" but stated that he changed his mind about this in 1934, largely prompted by the violence of the Night of the Long Knives.
Thus, in his Der Spiegel interview Heidegger defended as double-speak his 1935 lecture describing the "inner truth and greatness of this movement." He affirmed that Nazi informants who observed his lectures would understand that by "movement" he meant National Socialism. However, Heidegger asserted that his dedicated students would know this statement was no elegy for the NSDAP. Rather, he meant it as he expressed it in the parenthetical clarification later added to An Introduction to Metaphysics (1953), namely, "the confrontation of planetary technology and modern humanity."
The Löwith account from 1936 has been cited to contradict the account given in the Spiegel interview in two ways: that there was no decisive break with National Socialism in 1934 and that Heidegger was willing to entertain more profound relations between his philosophy and political involvement. The Der Spiegel interviewers did not bring up Heidegger's 1949 quotation comparing the industrialization of agriculture to the extermination camps. In fact, the Der Spiegel interviewers were not in possession of much of the evidence now known for Heidegger's Nazi sympathies.
Heidegger was one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century, and his ideas have penetrated into many areas, but in France there is a very long and particular history of reading and interpreting his work.
Heidegger's influence on French philosophy began in the 1930s, when Being and Time, "What is Metaphysics?" and other Heideggerian texts were read by Jean-Paul Sartre and other existentialists, as well as by thinkers such as Emmanuel Lévinas, Alexandre Kojève and Georges Bataille. Because Heidegger's discussion of ontology (the study of being) is rooted in an analysis of the mode of existence of individual human beings (Dasein, or being-there), his work has often been associated with existentialism. The influence of Heidegger on Sartre's Being and Nothingness is marked, but Heidegger felt that Sartre had misread his work, as he argued in later texts such as the "Letter on 'Humanism'." In that text, intended for a French audience, Heidegger explained this misreading in the following terms:
"Letter on 'Humanism'" is often seen as a direct response to Sartre's 1945 lecture "Existentialism is a Humanism." Aside from merely disputing readings of his own work, however, in "Letter on 'Humanism,'" Heidegger asserts that "Every humanism is either grounded in a metaphysics or is itself made to be the ground of one." Heidegger's largest issue with Sartre's existential humanism is that, while it does make a humanistic 'move' in privileging existence over essence, "the reversal of a metaphysical statement remains a metaphysical statement." From this point onward in his thought, Heidegger attempted to think beyond metaphysics to a place where the articulation of the fundamental questions of ontology were fundamentally possible.
After the war, Heidegger was banned from university teaching for a period on account of his activities as Rector of Freiburg University. He developed a number of contacts in France, where his work continued to be taught, and a number of French students visited him at Todtnauberg (see, for example, Jean-François Lyotard's brief account in Heidegger and "the jews", which discusses a Franco-German conference held in Freiburg in 1947, one step toward bringing together French and German students). Heidegger subsequently made several visits to France, and made efforts to keep abreast of developments in French philosophy by way of correspondence with Jean Beaufret, an early French translator of Heidegger, and with Lucien Braun.
Deconstruction 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 failed to take place. Heidegger's interest in Derrida is said by Braun to have been considerable (as is evident in two letters, of September 29, 1967 and May 16, 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 a 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").
Jacques Derrida made emphatic efforts to displace the understanding of Heidegger's work that had been prevalent in France from the period of the ban against Heidegger teaching in German universities, which amounted to an almost wholesale rejection of 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 term coined to translate Heidegger's use of the words "Destruktion"—literally "destruction"-and "Abbau"-more literally "de-building"). According to Derrida, Sartre's interpretation of Dasein and other key Heideggerian concerns is overly psychologistic, anthropocentric, and misses the historicality central to Dasein in Being and Time. Because of Derrida's vehement attempts to "rescue" Heidegger from his existentialist interpreters (and also from Heidegger's "orthodox" followers), Derrida has at times been represented as a "French Heidegger", to the 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.
Derrida, Lacoue-Labarthe, and Jean-François Lyotard, among others, all engaged in debate and disagreement about the relation between Heidegger's philosophy and his politics. These debates included the question of whether it was possible to do without Heidegger's philosophy, a position which Derrida in particular rejected. Forums where these debates took place include the proceedings of the first conference dedicated to Derrida's work, published as "Les Fins de l'homme à partir du travail de Jacques Derrida: colloque de Cerisy, 23 juillet-2 août 1980", Derrida's "Feu la cendre/cio' che resta del fuoco", and the studies on Paul Celan by Lacoue-Labarthe and Derrida which shortly preceded the detailed studies of Heidegger's politics published in and after 1987.
When in 1987 Víctor Farías published his book Heidegger et le nazisme, this debate was taken up by many others, some of whom were inclined to disparage so-called "deconstructionists" for their association with Heidegger's philosophy. Derrida and others not only continued to defend the importance of reading Heidegger, but attacked Farías, on the grounds of poor scholarship and for what they saw as the sensationalism of his approach. Not all scholars agreed with this negative assessment: Richard Rorty, for example, declared that "[Farias'] book includes more concrete information relevant to Heidegger's relations with the Nazis than anything else available, and it is an excellent antidote to the evasive apologetics that are still being published."
More recently, Heidegger's thought has considerably influenced the work of the French philosopher Bernard Stiegler. This is evident even from the title of Stiegler's multi-volume magnum opus, La technique et le temps (volume one translated into English as Technics and Time, 1: The Fault of Epimetheus). Stiegler offers an original reading of Heidegger, arguing that there can be no access to "originary temporality" other than via material, that is, technical, supports, and that Heidegger recognised this in the form of his account of world historicality, yet in the end suppressed that fact. Stiegler understands the existential analytic of Being and Time as an account of psychic individuation, and his later "history of being" as an account of collective individuation. He understands many of the problems of Heidegger's philosophy and politics as the consequence of Heidegger's inability to integrate the two.
Heidegger's influence upon 20th century continental philosophy is unquestioned and has produced a variety of critical responses.
The content of Being and Time, according to Husserl, claimed to deal with ontology, but from Husserl's perspective only did so in the first few pages of the book. Having nothing further to contribute to an ontology independent of human existence, Heidegger changed the topic to Dasein. Whereas Heidegger argued that the question of human existence is central to the pursuit of the question of being, Husserl criticized this as reducing phenomenology to "philosophical anthropology" and offering an abstract and incorrect portrait of the human being.
The Neo-Kantian Ernst Cassirer and Heidegger engaged in an influential debate located in Davos in 1929, concerning the significance of Kantian notions of freedom and rationality. Whereas Cassirer defended the role of rationality in Kant, Heidegger argued for the priority of the imagination. Dilthey's student Georg Misch wrote the first extended critical appropriation of Heidegger in Lebensphilosophie und Phänomenologie. Eine Auseinandersetzung der Diltheyschen Richtung mit Heidegger und Husserl, Leipzig 1930 (3. ed. Stuttgart 1964).
Hegel-influenced Marxist thinkers, especially György Lukács and the Frankfurt School, associated the style and content of Heidegger's thought with German irrationalism and criticized its political implications.
Initially members of the Frankfurt School were positively disposed to Heidegger, becoming more critical at the beginning of the 1930s. Heidegger's student Herbert Marcuse became associated with the Frankfurt School. Initially striving for a synthesis between Hegelian-Marxism and Heidegger's phenomenology, Marcuse later rejected Heidegger's thought for its "false concreteness" and "revolutionary conservativism." Theodor Adorno wrote an extended critique of the ideological character of Heidegger's early and later use of language in the Jargon of Authenticity. Contemporary social theorists associated with the Frankfurt School have remained largely critical of Heidegger's works and influence. In particular, Jürgen Habermas admonishes the influence of Heidegger on recent French philosophy in his polemic against "postmodernism" in The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (1985). However, recent work by philosopher and critical theorist Nikolas Kompridis tries to show that Heidegger's insights into world disclosure are badly misunderstood and mishandled by Habermas, and are of vital importance for critical theory, offering an important way of renewing that tradition.
Criticism of Heidegger's philosophy has also come from analytic philosophy, beginning with logical positivism. Accusing Heidegger of offering an "illusory" ontology, Rudolf Carnap criticized him, in "The Elimination of Metaphysics Through Logical Analysis of Language" (1932), of committing the fallacy of reification and of wrongly dismissing the logical treatment of language, which, according to Carnap, can only lead to writing "nonsensical pseudo-propositions."
A strong critic of Heidegger's philosophy was the British logical positivist A. J. Ayer. In Ayer's view, Heidegger proposed vast, overarching theories regarding existence, which are completely unverifiable through empirical demonstration and logical analysis. For Ayer, this sort of philosophy was a poisonous strain in modern thought. He considered Heidegger to be the worst example of such philosophy, which Ayer believed to be entirely useless.
Bertrand Russell commented, expressing the sentiments of many mid-20th-century English-speaking philosophers, that:
Roger Scruton stated that:
The analytic tradition values clarity of expression. Heidegger, however, has on occasion appeared to take an opposing view, stating for example that "those in the crossing must in the end know what is mistaken by all urging for intelligibility: that every thinking of being, all philosophy, can never be confirmed by 'facts,' i.e., by beings. Making itself intelligible is suicide for philosophy. Those who idolize 'facts' never notice that their idols only shine in a borrowed light. They are also meant not to notice this; for thereupon they would have to be at a loss and therefore useless. But idolizers and idols are used wherever gods are in flight and so announce their nearness." Apart from the charge of obscurantism, other analytic philosophers considered the actual content of Heidegger's work to be either faulty and meaningless, vapid or uninteresting.
Not all analytic philosophers, however, have been as hostile. Gilbert Ryle wrote a critical yet positive review of Being and Time and Ludwig Wittgenstein made a remark recorded by Friedrich Waismann: "To be sure, I can imagine what Heidegger means by being and anxiety" which has been construed by some commentators[who?] as sympathetic to Heidegger's philosophical approach. These positive and negative analytic evaluations have been collected in Michael Murray (ed.), Heidegger and Modern Philosophy: Critical Essays (Yale University Press, 1978). Heidegger's reputation within English-language philosophy has slightly improved in philosophical terms in some part through the efforts of Hubert Dreyfus, Richard Rorty, and a recent generation of analytically-oriented phenomenology scholars. Pragmatist Rorty claimed that Heidegger's approach to philosophy in the first half of his career has much in common with that of the latter-day Ludwig Wittgenstein, a significant figure in analytic philosophy. Nevertheless, Rorty asserted that what Heidegger had constructed in his writings was a myth of being rather than an account of it.
Even though Heidegger is considered by many observers to be the most influential philosopher of the 20th century in continental philosophy, aspects of his work have been criticised by those who nevertheless acknowledge this influence, such as Hans-Georg Gadamer and Jacques Derrida. Some questions raised about Heidegger's philosophy include the priority of ontology, the status of animals, the nature of the religious, Heidegger's supposed neglect of ethics (Emmanuel Lévinas), the body (Maurice Merleau-Ponty), or sexual difference (Luce Irigaray).
Emmanuel Lévinas was deeply influenced by Heidegger yet became one of his fiercest critics, contrasting the infinity of the good beyond being with the immanence and totality of ontology. Lévinas also condemned Heidegger's involvement with Nazism, stating "One can forgive many Germans, but there are some Germans it is difficult to forgive. It is difficult to forgive Heidegger."
Heidegger's collected works are published by Vittorio Klostermann. The Gesamtausgabe was begun during Heidegger's lifetime. He defined the order of publication and controversially dictated that the principle of editing should be "ways not works." Publication has not yet been completed.
The contents are listed here: Heidegger Gesamtausgabe.
A complete list of English translations of Heidegger's work is available here.
|Year||Original German||English Translation|
|1927||Sein und Zeit, Gesamtausgabe Volume 2||Being and Time, trans. by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (London: SCM Press, 1962); re-translated by Joan Stambaugh (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996)|
|1929||Kant und das Problem der Metaphysik, Gesamtausgabe Volume 3||Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, trans. by Richard Taft (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990)|
|1935||Einführung in die Metaphysik (1935, published 1953), Gesamtausgabe Volume 40||An Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. by Gregory Fried and Richard Polt (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000)|
|1936–8||Beiträge zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis) (1936–1938, published 1989), Gesamtausgabe Volume 65||Contributions to Philosophy (From Enowning), trans. by Parvis Emad and Kenneth Maly (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999)|
|1942||Hölderlins Hymne »Der Ister« (1942, published 1984), Gesamtausgabe Volume 53||Hölderlin's Hymn "The Ister", trans. by William McNeill and Julia Davis (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996)|
|1949||"Die Frage nach der Technik", in Gesamtausgabe Volume 7||"The Question Concerning Technology" , in Heidegger, Martin, Basic Writings: Second Edition, Revised and Expanded, ed. David Farrell Krell (New York: Harper Collins, 1993)|
|1950||Holzwege, Gesamtausgabe Volume 5. This collection includes "Der Ursprung der Kunstwerkes" (1935–1936)||Off the Beaten Track. This collection includes "The Origin of the Work of Art"|
|1955–56||Der Satz vom Grund, Gesamtausgabe Volume 10||The Principle of Reason, trans. Reginald Lilly (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1991)|
|1955–57||Identität und Differenz, Gesamtausgabe Volume 11||Identity and Difference, trans. by Joan Stambaugh (New York: Harper & Row, 1969)|
|1959||Gelassenheit, in Gesamtausgabe Volume 16||Discourse On Thinking|
|1959||Unterwegs zur Sprache, Gesamtausgabe Volume 12||On the Way To Language, published without the essay "Die Sprache" ("Language") by arrangement with Heidegger|
|Notable teachers||Notable students|
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