Martin Heidegger

Martin Heidegger
Martin Heidegger
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Martin Heidegger
Martin Heidegger
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Martin Heidegger (September 26, 1889 – May 26, 1976) is considered by many to be one of the most significant and influential philosophers of the twentieth century. The central thematic of his work was the attempt to reorient the Western tradition away from metaphysical and epistemological concerns and toward ontological questions. Ontology is the study of being qua being and Heidegger attempted to re-open the question of being, one that he claimed had been forgotten and concealed. In order to undergo this task, Heidegger used the phenomenological method that he inherited and developed from his teacher Edmund Husserl. The publication of his magnum opus Being and Time was a watershed event in the twentieth-century European philosophy, influencing subsequent developments of phenomenology, but also existentialism, hermeneutics, deconstruction, and post-modernism.
(New World Encyclopedia)

Martin Heidegger also made critical contributions to philosophical conceptions of truth, arguing that its original meaning was unconcealment, to philosophical analyses of art as a site of the revelation of truth, and to philosophical understanding of language as the "house of being. Heidegger's later work includes criticisms of technology's instrumentalist understanding in the Western tradition as "enframing," treating all of Nature as a "standing reserve" on call for human purposes.
Heidegger is a controversial figure, largely for his affiliation with Nazism, as Rector of the University of Freiburg for 11 months, before his resignation in April 1934, for which he neither apologized nor publicly expressed regret, although in private he called it "the biggest stupidity of his life".

Martin Heidegger is widely acknowledged to be one of the most original and important philosophers of the 20th century, while remaining one of the most controversial. His thinking has contributed to such diverse fields as phenomenology (Merleau-Ponty), existentialism (Sartre, Ortega y Gasset), hermeneutics (Gadamer, Ricoeur), political theory (Arendt, Marcuse, Habermas), psychology (Boss, Binswanger, Rollo May), and theology (Bultmann, Rahner, Tillich). His critique of traditional metaphysics and his opposition to positivism and technological world domination have been embraced by leading theorists of postmodernity (Derrida, Foucault, and Lyotard). On the other hand, his involvement in the Nazi movement has invoked a stormy debate. Although he never claimed that his philosophy was concerned with politics, political considerations have come to overshadow his philosophical work.

Heidegger’s main interest was ontology or the study of being. In his fundamental treatise, Being and Time, he attempted to access being (Sein) by means of phenomenological analysis of human existence (Dasein) in respect to its temporal and historical character. After the change of his thinking (“the turn”), Heidegger placed an emphasis on language as the vehicle through which the question of being can be unfolded. He turned to the exegesis of historical texts, especially of the Presocratics, but also of Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche and Hölderlin, and to poetry, architecture, technology, and other subjects. Instead of looking for a full clarification of the meaning of being, he tried to pursue a kind of thinking which was no longer “metaphysical.” He criticized the tradition of Western philosophy, which he regarded as nihilistic, for, as he claimed, the question of being as such was obliterated in it. He also stressed the nihilism of modern technological culture. By going to the Presocratic beginning of Western thought, he wanted to repeat the early Greek experience of being, so that the West could turn away from the dead end of nihilism and begin anew. His writings are notoriously difficult. Being and Time remains his most influential work.
(Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)


Being and Time

Martin Heidegger

in friendship and admiration
Todtnauberg in Boden, Black Forest, 8 April 1926

Principle Ideas
The world, existentially and phenomenologically understood, is a region of human concern; man is a being-in-the-the-world, in that by participation and involvement the world becomes constitutive of man’s being.

Man has being in an environment; and his world is a world he shares with others.

Man is a creature of concerns; in relation to environment, his concerns are practical; in relation to the communal world, his concerns are personal.

The three fundamental features of man are factuality (he is already involved in the world), existentiality (he is a project and a possibility, that which has been, but also that which can become), and fallenness (he has the tendency to become a mere presence in the world, failing to make the most of his possibilities because of gossip, curiosity, and ambiguity).

Through anxiety man encounters nothingness and becomes aware of his finitude and the necessity of death; but through resolution man, who moves in time from past to future through the present, appraises himself, chooses with the whole of his being, and thereby achieves authentic existence.
(Source: "Masterpieces of World Philosophy" (Edited by Frank N. Magill and Staff, 1961), page 886)


Translators' Preface
Author's Preface to the Seventh German Edition


Exposition of the Question of the Meaning of Being

    1. The necessity for explicitly restating the question of Being
    2. The formal structure of the question of Being
    3. The ontological priority of the question of Being
    4. The ontical priority of the question of Being

    5. The ontological analytic of Dasein as laying bare the horizon for an Interpretation of the meaning of Being in general
    6. The task of Destroying the history of ontology
    7. The phenomenological method of investigation
        A. The concept of phenomenon
        B. The concept of the logos
        C. The preliminary conception of phenomenology
    8. Design of the treatise

Part One

The Interpretation of Dasein in Terms of Temporality, and the Explication of Time as the Transcendental Horizon for the Question of Being


    9. The theme of the analytic of Dasein
    I0. How the analytic of Dasein is to be distinguished from anthropology, psychology, and biology
    11. The existential analytic and the Interpretation of primitive Dasein. The difficulties of achieving a 'natural conception of the world'

    12. A preliminary sketch of Being-in-the-world, in terms of an orientation towards Being-in as such
    13. A founded mode in which Being-in is exemplified. Knowing the world

    14. The idea of the worldhood of the world in general
        A. Anarysis of environmentality and worldhood in general
    15· The Being of the entities encountered in the environment
    16. How the worldly character of the environment announces itself in entities within-the-world
    17, Reference and signs
    18. Involvement and significance: the worldhood of the world
        B. A contrast between our anarysis of worldhood and Descartes' Interpretation of the world
    19. The definition of the 'world' as res extensa
    20. Foundations of the ontological definition of the 'world'
    21. Hermeneutical discussion of the Cartesian ontology of the 'world'
        C. The aroundness of the environment, and Dasein' s spatiality
    22. Thespatialityofthe ready-to-hand within-the-world
    23. The spatiality of Being-in-the-world
    24. Space, and Dasein's spatiality

    25. An approach to the existential question of the "who" of Dasein
    26. The Dasein-with of Others, and everyday Being with
    27. Everyday Being-one's-Self and the "they"

    28. The task of a thematic analysis of Being-in
        A. The existential Constitution of the "there"
    29. Being-there as state-of-mind
    30. Fear as a mode of state-of-mind
    31. Being-there as understanding
    32. Understanding and interpretation
    33. Assertion as a derivative mode of interpretation
    34. Being-there and discourse. Language
        B. The everyday Being of the "there"' and the falling of Dasein
    35. Idle talk
    36. Curiosity
    37. Ambiguity
    38. Falling and thrownness

    39. The question of the primordial totality of Dasein's structural whole
    40. The basic state-of-mind of anxiety as a distinctive way in which Dasein is disclosed
    41. Dasein's Being as care
    42. Confirmation of the existential Interpretation of Dasein as care in terms of Dasein's pre-ontological way of interpreting itself
    43. Dasein, worldhood, and Reality
        (a) Reality as a problem of Being, and whether the 'external world' can be proved
        (b) Reality as an ontological problem
        (c) Reality and care
    44. Dasein, disclosedness, and truth
        (a) The traditional conception of truth, and its ontological foundations
        (b) The primordial phenomenon of truth and the derivative character of the traditional conception of truth
        (c) The kind of Being which truth possesses, and the presupposition of truth


    45. The outcome of the preparatory fundamental analysis of Dasein, and the task of a primordial existential Interpretation of this entity

    46. The seeming impossibility of getting Dasein's Being-a-whole into our grasp ontologically and determining its character
    47. The possibility of experiencing the death of Others, and the possibility of getting a whole Dasein into our grasp
    48. That which is still outstanding; the end; totality H. 241 285     49· How the existential analysis of death is distinguished from other possible Interpretations of this phenomenon
    50. Preliminary sketch of the existential-ontological structure of death
    51. Being-towards-death and the everydayness of Dasein
    52. Everyday Being-towards-the-end, and the full existential conception of death
    53. Existential projection of an authentic Being-towards-death

    54. The problem of how an authentic existentiell possibility is attested
    55. The existential-ontological foundations of conscience
    56. The character of conscience as a call
    57. Conscience as the call of care
    58. Understanding the appeal, and guilt
    59. The existential Interpretation of the conscience, and the way conscience is ordinarily interpreted
    60. The existential structure of the authentic potentiality-for-Being which is attested in the conscience

    61. A preliminary sketch of the methodological step from the definition of Dasein's authentic Beinga-whole to the laying-bare of temporality as a phenomenon
    62. Anticipatory resoluteness as the way in which Dasein's potentiality-for-Being-a-whole has existentiell authenticity
    63. The hermeneutical situation at which we have arrived for Interpreting the meaning of the Being of care; and the methodological character of the existential analytic in general
    64. Care and selfhood
    65. Temporality as the ontological meaning of care
    66. Dasein's temporality and the tasks arising therefrom
of repeating the existential analysis in a more primordial manner

    67. The basic content of Dasein's existential constitution, and a preliminary sketch of the temporal Interpretation of it
    68. The temporality of disclosedness in general
        (a) The temporality of understanding
        (b) The temporality of state-of-mind
        (c) The temporality of falling
        (d) The temporality of discourse
    69. The temporality of Being-in-the-world and the problem of the transcendence of the world
        (a) The temporality of circumspective concern
        (b) The temporal meaning of the way in which circumspective concern becomes modified into the theoretical discovery of the presentat-hand within-the-world
        (c) The temporal problem of the transcendence of the world
    70. The temporality of the spatiality that is characteristic of Dasein
    7I. The temporal meaning of Dasein's everydayness

    72. Existential-ontological exposition of the problem of history
    73. The ordinary understanding of history, and Dasein's historizing
    74. The basic constitution of historicality
    75. Dasein's historicality, and world-history
    76. The existential source of historiology in Dasein's historicality
    77· The connection of the foregoing exposition of the problem of historicality with the researches of Wilhelm Dilthey and the ideas of Count Yorck

    78. The incompleteness of the foregoing temporal analysis of Dasein
    79. Dasein's temporality, and our concern with time
    80. The time with which we concern ourselves, and within-time-ness
    81. Within-time-ness and the genesis of the ordinary conception of time
    82. A comparison of the existential-ontological connection of temporality, Dasein, and worldtime, with Hegel's way of taking the relation between time and spirit
        (a) Hegel's conception of time
        (b) Hegel's Interp!etation of the connection between time and spirit
    83. The existential-temporal analytic ofDasein, and the question of fundamental ontology as to the meaning of Being in general

Author's Notes
Glossary of German Terms

Heidegger's original plan for "Being and Time"

(Introduction: 8. Design of the treatise)
Accordingly our treatment of the question of Being branches out into two distinct tasks, and our treatise will thus have two parts:
Part One: the Interpretation of Dasein in terms of temporality, and the explication of time as the transcendental horizon for the question of Being.
Part Two: basic features of a phenomenological destruction of the history of ontology, with the problematic of Temporality as our clue.

Part One has three divisions
1. The preparatory fundamental analysis of Dasein;
2. Dasein and temporality;
3· Time and Being.
Part Two likewise has three divisions :
1. Kant's doctrine of schematism and time, as a preliminary stage in a problematic of Temporality;
2. The ontological foundation of Descartes' 'cogito sum' , and how the medieval ontology has been taken over into the problematic of the 'res cogitans';
3. Aristotle's essay on time, as providing a way of discriminating the phenomenal basis and the limits of ancient ontology.

(Note: Part Two and the third division of Part One have never appeared.)


"Being and Time", Overview of the Work as a Whole

The first Introduction formulates the question to be asked: "What is the meaning of Being."

Important orientation: Heidegger will seek to gain access to the meaning of Being as such by interpreting a particular being viz., Human Being. In consequence of this, the central task in Being and Time will be to gain access to the meaning of Human Being (Dasein). And this will form our main interest viz., the Dasein Analytic.

The second Introduction describes the method Heidegger will use to uncover the meaning of human Being. That method will be phenomenology. Indeed, the 'phenomenon' of phenomenology will turn out to be the Being of the being that is to be investigated. We will attempt a phenomenological interpretation of everyday human existence in order to uncover the ground for the possibilities of everyday human existence.

The investigation will be ontological in nature.

Now let me give you an indication of what I mean by this. Suppose the concept of freedom then:

Particular acts such as walking to the store, etc. can be viewed as occurring on an 'ontic level' whereas the nature of Human Freedom would underlie these actions on the 'ontological level.'

Thus the ontological structure of Freedom becomes the ground for the possibility of all particular (ontic) manifestations of freedom.

Now, this ontological structure is the kind of structure that Heidegger wants to get at--he wants, in the Dasein Analytic, to uncover the fundamental structures of Human existence.

Furthermore, in our example of Freedom, we ca say that the structure of Freedom is peculiar to human beings and not to things. This distinction between structures that pertain to Human Being and not to other kinds of beings, this distinction is what lies behind a distinction Heidegger will make between existentials and categories. Thus, in our example, 'Freedom' would be and existential while, say, 'hardness' (which pertains to 'things') would be a category.

So we can say that Heidegger in the Dasein Analytic wants to uncover the existential structures of Human existence.

In the chapters immediately following the 'introductions,' Heidegger begins the analysis of what it means to be human, he begins the uncovering of the Being of Human Being. Indeed, the entire published part of the thesis is devoted to uncovering the fundamental structures of Human Being.

Chapter 1

Heidegger begins the chapter with two general statements:

(1) Dasein is in each case mine (i.e., each one of us is a human being)

(2) The 'essence' of Dasein lies in its Existenz (Existenz here to be taken in a dynamic, active, future oriented sense). Now these two characteristics of Dasein are unified in two modes of Existenz:

(a)authentic (eigentliche) existence
(b) inauthentic (uneigentliche) existence

What this means can be seen in Heidegger p. 68.

This means that there are two ways in which human beings can 'take up' their existence (for in each case it is their existence) viz. either as their own (authenticity) or, in some sense, as not their own (inauthenticity).

For instance (i) a person who realizes that they are choosing their life style or (ii) a person who is simply fulfilling a pre-designed role in their society, family, peer group etc.

Both people exist and both people have an existence that is theirs but the former involves an element of choice that is not clearly present in the latter.

Now, here's where Chapter 1 leads into the beginning of the analysis:

Heidegger then asks, what is the most general structure in which human beings exist--authentically or inauthentically. And he sees this general structure in the 'empirical,' ontic level of average everydayness. This average everydayness thus forms the starting point for the interpretation of Dasein.

This level has, as its fundamental structure, Being-in-the-world. It is a unitary structure which must be seen as a whole. Yet, if we bear this in mind, it is methodologically possible to 'divide' it into different parts and levels. (It is these 'parts and levels' of Being-in-the-world that are explained in Chapters 2-5.)

Ch 2: preliminary discussion

Ch 3: 'in-the-world': discloses 'the worldhood of the world' (emphasizes the structures of 'things').

Ch 4: the 'who' of that entity which exists 'in-the-world': (discusses our relation with others)

Ch 5: 'steps back' and seeks a deeper understanding of the structures involved in Being-in-the-world (viz., Being-in as such).

Chapter 2 is devoted to a preliminary discussion of Being-in.

Dasein is not 'in' the world as, for instance, water is 'in' a glass i.e., as objects stand to objects, one 'inside' the other. Rather, Being-in is an existential and as such is characteristic of Dasein. It is best described as dwelling alongside, as tarrying along. Dasein comports itself concernfully within the world.

Again, Dasein is engaged in the activities of its everyday life--Being-in-the-world denotes Dasein's concernful being alongside entities and tarrying with others. This is the primary mode in which Dasein is in the world.

As a corollary, Heidegger contrasts this primary mode with a derivative (founded) mode which he calls knowing the world.

In this peculiar way of comportment to the world, I dis-engage myself from my concernful comportment and 'change my attitude' toward the world. I tend to 'focus in' on something as an object Take for example, the handling of a piece of chalk: (1) I can engage in use which teaching or (2) step back from its use and 'talk about it', even starting to describe it ('know it') as white, an inch or so long, etc. This shift in comportment will have great significance, it will affect the attitude one can take towards Human Being.

In chapter 3, Heidegger looks more closely at one's dealings with the world, he looks specifically at the 'in-the-world'. From this the interpretation uncovers that our primary comportment to 'entities' within the world is one of use.

I am, proximately and for the most part, engaged with 'things' in terms of an equipmental totality. Entities, seen from their aspect of use, are called 'ready-to-hand' (Zuhanden). However, entities, when they become disengaged from our use with them become merely 'present-at-hand' (Vorhanden).

Think of the distinction between (1) using a pencil and (2) having the pencil break -- and just staring at it.

Now, these two ways of describing entities become, for Heidegger, the two ways of categorizing 'things'.

Again, though, our primary relationship to entities within the world is in the mode of their being ready-to-hand. And it is with this that a sense of the worldhood of the world emerges as Dasein's totality of involvement's with things ready-to-hand.

[Think, for instance, of the 'world' of a carpenter and of how much of that world is 'signified' by the referential totality of involvements that he/she would have to the equipmental totality around them (and how that world might be different from the 'world' of a mathematician).]

Chapter 4 devotes itself to an uncovering of the 'who' of this Dasein who understandingly comports itself towards its everyday activities and involvements.

Heidegger wants to investigate the sense of the self manifest for the most part in everyday existence. His brilliant analysis comes to the startling conclusion that proximately and for the most part, everyday Dasein has no 'self' of its own.

One's sense of self, of what one is to do, of how one is to live: this, for the most part, is given from the outside--

Heidegger characterizes this as the they-world, or simply as the they (Das Man). The 'who' of everyday Dasein is Das Man. (cf. page 164)

Chapter 5 Being-in as such

Now at this stage Heidegger stops the ongoing analysis and 'steps back' in order to attempt a more primordial interpretation of what has so far been said -- the interpretation is going to seek a deeper understanding of Being-in-the-world.

And it is going to do so by uncovering certain fundamental structures in Dasein itself (as opposed to 'things' and 'others').

Chapter 5 is to investigate Being-in as such. The analysis discloses two fundamental moments that are always present in Dasein and, for the most part, are involved in a third moment. Let's look at these 'moments', these existential structures of Dasein's Existenz:

(1) Befindlichkeit ('How one finds oneself')

This expresses the 'fact' that Dasein always finds itself in a situation. Heidegger uses the expression throwness (Geworfenheit). Dasein is 'thrown' in a world (most radically at birth) and is always already in a world.

(a) Concrete manifestation of Befindlichkeit.

As a specific mode of Befindlichkeit, Heidegger points out the sense of moods (Stimmung). Moods can somehow disclose 'how we are' or 'how we find ourselves', they manifest a peculiar attunment to existence (this 'power' of moods to disclose will lead Heidegger to his famous discussion of anxiety).

(2) Verstehen ('Understanding')

This is expressive of Dasein's active comportment towards possibilities, projects. Heidegger says that they understanding is altogether permeated with possibilities (Dasein is always confronted with the 'possible')

(Note: understanding is not a 'mental state' nor is 'possibility' to be seen in terms of 'actual possibilities,' rather it is the ground for the 'possibility of possibilities')

(a) Specific mode of Verstehen

Now Heidegger writes that the 'projecting' of the understanding has its own possibility--that of developing 'itself'. Such a self-developing of the understanding Heidegger calls interpretation.

From this we can see how Dasein has the peculiar possibility of understanding itself, of engaging in a self-interpretation. That is to say, of engaging in a 'project' like that put forth in this present treatise: The Dasein Analytic is engaged in an interpretation, a self-understanding of Human Being.

Now, these two movements (Befindlichkeit and Verstehen) constitute the essential unity of Dasein's basic state. They are never wholly separate from one another: (pg. 188) "By way of having a mood, Dasein 'sees' possibilities, in terms of which it is. In the projective disclosure of such possibilities, it already has a mood in every case". Now, these two movements are, for the most part, unthematically present in a third movement which Heidegger calls:

(3) Verfallen (Fallenness) This expresses Dasein's average everydayness--Dasein's immersion in the world of its everyday concerns and projects. This is the level at which the moments of Befindlichkeit and Verstehen usually operate.

Thus we have the three 'movements': Dasein finds itself in a situation, comports itself to possibilities and does so for the most part in its everyday concerns and activities.

Chapter 6

But these three movements are not, so to speak, radically separate from one another--Heidegger has 'stepped back' to analyze them, but he is analyzing a unitary phenomenon: Dasein's existence is a unity.

Now, Heidegger calls the unity of this unitary structure Care (Sorge). And he says, in chapter 6, that 'Care" is the Being of Dasein, the Nature of Human Being (it is that fundamental structure that underlies each and every particular human existence).

Being and Time p. 237 The Being of Dasein (i.e., Care) is:

ahead-of-itself/being-already-in-(the world)/as being-alongside-entities (and caring-for-others)

The ahead-of-itself refers to the structural moment of Verstehen, it expresses Dasein's comportment towards possibilities (in the philosophical tradition: Transcendence--this expresses the deeper structure of Freedom, which the later Heidegger expresses by "Openness").

The being-already-in-the-world refers to the structural moment of Befindlichkeit and indicates the factual situation that always surrounds a human being. Dasein is always thrown into a situation that is, is some sense, already there. And this means that Dasein is not the ground (or cause) of the situation--in fact, the situation becomes the ground upon which Dasein 'finds itself'. (The philosophical tradition speaks of this as finitude).

Now, these two 'moments' in Dasein's Being are for the most part, imperceptibly 'at work' in Dasein's everyday activities and concerns. They are acted out in the presence of one's being-alongside-entities (and caring for others). And this Heidegger has referred to as the structural moment of Verfallen.


With this, the Being of Human Being is disclosed. The first division closes with a very important reflection on the nature of truth--a reflection designed to show that the disclosures thus made are not merely 'Heidegger's thought' but rather are uncoverings of 'the things themselves.'


Second Division

It is here that the notion of Being and the notion of Time are brought together. Heidegger has called the 1st division a "Preparatory Analysis"--here this analysis receives its completion: We have said that the Care-structure expresses the Being of Dasein, the meaning of Human Being. But if we look closely at this care-structure, we can see something perhaps even deeper than these moments themselves, something that seems to lie behind even these fundamental structure, something which grounds their inner unity and makes them possible.

That which grounds the unity of the care-structure i.e., that grounds the Being-of-Dasein, the Being of Human Being, is Temporality (Zeitlichkeit). In Aristotelian terms, we could say that Time is the form of human life.

Each structural moment manifests what Heidegger calls a temporal ecstasy:

The ahead of itself manifests the futural.

The already in a world manifests the 'past' (or the having been).

The being alongside manifests the 'present' actualization of the other two moments.

(We reach out towards the future while taking up our past thus yielding our present activities. Note how the future--and hence the aspect of possibility--has priority over the other two moments.)


I should mention that it is in this second division that he carries out his famous analysis of "that possibility which is our ownmost possibility," namely Death.

One final note on this 'overview' will lead us into the first page of the text. We now have an indication of the relation between temporality and the Being of Dasein (Human Being is thoroughly temporal). It is this connection between temporality and human existence that gives rise to Heidegger's discussion of History.

'How we find ourselves' expresses the fact that we are thrown into a 'world' already there before us -- this is most evident in the radical sense of Birth. Hence, one is literally 'thrown into a world' beyond one's control -- but this 'world' is not merely a particular environment -- it has its place in history: one is, broadly speaking, thrown into a historical moment.

Now, 'historical moments' are not isolated moments, but rather involve a 'carrying forth' of history. A certain tradition gets 'passed down' and 'taken over' (in its own fashion) in every epoch. The past, in some sense, gets taken up in the present -- though often in a manner in which its character as past gets forgotten and covered over. With this in mind, Heidegger writes (p. 43):

"Tradition takes what has come down to us and delivers it over to self-evidence; it blocks our access to those primordial 'sources' from which the categories and concepts handed down to us have been in part quite genuinely drawn. Indeed it makes us forget that they have had such an origin, and makes us suppose that the necessity of going back to these sources is something which we need not even understand."

Now this provides the clue for the kind of beginning that Heidegger makes in the treatise -- in a sense, through the final reflections on history, the whole work has begun to bend back upon itself -- and it shows the necessity of beginning at 'the origins' of a problem.

Robert Cavalier at Department of Philosophy / Carnegie Mellon University.


"Being and Time", An Overview

Heidegger's insight in Being and Time is that many of the problems in thinking, that are distinctive of philosophy, are due to a particular way of understanding the nature of reality, a view that arose at the beginning of Western history and continues today.

This traditional ontology is called the 'metaphysics of presence', because of its emphasis on the enduring presence of that which is ultimately real. In this view, that which is ultimately real is that which underlies properties - that which remains continuously present throughout all change. For Heidegger, this traditional ontology is apparent in Plato's notion of the Ideas, Aristotle's primary substances, the Christian creator, Descartes' res extensa and res cogitans, Kant's noumena and the physical stuff presupposed by scientific naturalism.

Heidegger rejects the 'metaphysics of presence' by challenging the idea that reality must be thought of in terms of the idea of substance at all. He hopes to recover a more fundamental sense of things by setting aside the view of reality we get from theorising and rather focusing on the way things appear in the flux of our everyday, pre reflective activities.

Heidegger's investigation in Being and Time starts with an enquiry into our own being, insofar we are the entities who have some understanding of Being, and he does so in order to lay the foundation for an enquiry into Being as such. The question of Being is therefore reformulated as a question about the conditions for the accessibility or intelligibility of things. In order to underline his rejection of the traditional ways of speaking about human being in terms of consciousness, Heidegger uses the term Dasein - literally translated as being-there - instead. The use of the term Dasein is meant to signify that Heidegger regards human being from a specific point of view - as a being who is distinguished by his relationship to Being.

Heidegger tells us that there is no pure, external vantage point from which we can have a disinterested, presupposition less angle on things. It is only because we are always already involved in a way of life, engaged with daily dealings with things in a known life-world, that we can have some understanding of what things are all about. It is our being as participants in a collective world that first allows us a way of seeing reality and ourselves. Thus, Heidegger's existential analytic starts out from a description of our average-everydayness as agents in practical concerns. Insofar as past theorising pervades our commonsense outlook, especially the Cartesian ontology of modernity, Heidegger's fundamental ontology will entail a confrontation with the assumptions of common sense. This challenge to common sense is most apparent in Heidegger's description of Dasein. His description is in sharp opposition to that of Descartes6, who saw human being as a mind located in a material body. Heidegger subverts this binary opposition, and instead describes human existence as a happening. Heidegger tells us that '... subject and object are not the same as Dasein and the world'.

In Being and Time, Heidegger attempts to apply a 'hermeneutic phenomenology' to an analytic of man's mode of being. Heidegger sees the main problem underlying philosophy's main concern as the question about the meaning of Being. This question is to be dealt with in ontology; yet such an ontology is to be prepared by a fundamental ontology which must take the form of an ek-sistential analytic of man's mode of being: being-in-the-world. From the outset, Heidegger makes it clear that what is to be understood as hermeneutic phenomenology in Being and Time is not the same as Husserl's transcendental phenomenology. Heidegger develops phenomenology in his own way, beyond the stage that it had been brought to by Husserl himself, although Heidegger sees in Husserl's phenomenology the indispensable foundation for such further development. What is the relationship between Heidegger and Husserl's conception of phenomenology in this regard? How does Heidegger develop Husserl's phenomenology in a new direction?

Heidegger and Husserl

Following Husserl, Heidegger aims to recall philosophy to its basics, alerting it to the danger of an era, which had lost its power to question deeply. In Heidegger's philosophy, we encounter a fundamental critique of the foundations of Western metaphysical thinking that subverts the concept of the transcendental ego as completely as it does the traditional notion of Being as substance. In Being and Time, Heidegger reworks Husserl's 'unphenomenological phenomenology' and points phenomenology in a new 'existentialist' direction.

For Heidegger, phenomenology (Jegein ta phainomena: to let what shows itself be seen from itself) is that method by means of which we let that which of its own accord manifests itself, reveal itself as it is. Thus, Heidegger revises Husserl's phenomenological method so that it might properly respond to the question of Being. He 'reopens the brackets' (Husserl's phenomenological epoche) to let existence back in. Existence is to be understood as neither mere subjectivity nor objectivity, but as an essential openness to the Being of beings.

Husserlian phenomenology operates largely at the level of epistemology. Husserl believed that this required a suspension of the ontological question of Being, in order to focus on the workings of consciousness 11. Heidegger now shifts the emphasis from the meaning of consciousness to the meaning of Being. He accepts the conviction of phenomenology that an analysis of the essential structures of meaning requires a movement beyond subject-object dualism, leading us back to our originary experience of the world, that is, to the 'things themselves'. Whereas Husserl identified this originary experience as a consciousness-of-the-world, Heidegger interprets it as a being-in-the-world. Husserl's epistemological question 'What does it mean to know?' is transformed into the question 'What does it mean to be?' in Heidegger's conception.


Being and Time

Being and Time is composed of a systematic analysis of human being (Dasein) as a preparatory investigation into the meaning of being as such. This analysis was originally meant as a preliminary stage of the project, but Part II of the book was never published. In his later work, Heidegger pursues the unfinished stages of Being and Time in a less systematic form.

In order for Heidegger to gain secure footing for his "fundamental ontology," he first investigates how the issue of being arises in the first place. He claims that being only becomes a matter of concern for one unique entity, the human being. Thus, in order to get traction regarding the question of being, Daseins way of being must first be illuminated. One significant aspect of this way of being is Daseins immersion and absorption in its environment. Heidegger calls the immediacy in which Dasein finds itself concerned in everyday life Daseins being-in-the-world.

Because Dasein always already finds itself concerned with its practical affairs, it is always disclosing various possibilities for its existence. The ultimate possibility for Daseins existence is its own death. Death reveals itself through anxiety and Heidegger's account of anxiety is famous and influential. The significance of Daseins understanding itself as a being-towards-death is that Daseins existence is essentially finite. When it authentically understands itself as an "ending thing," it gains an appreciation for the unique temporal dimension of its existence. Dasein is not merely temporal in an ordinary chronological sense, but ecstatically projects itself toward the future. This radical temporal mode of Daseins existence saturates the entire range of Daseins being-in-the-world, including its understanding of being. Thus, for Dasein, being is always understood temporally and is, in fact, a temporal process. The conclusion that Heidegger ultimately reaches in Being and Time is not only that Dasein is fundamentally temporal, but also that the meaning of being is time.

Martin Heidegger took the question of being (ontology) as the primary subject of philosophy. Heidegger complained that the question of being has failed to be answered in the long philosophical tradition in the West because since Plato and Aristotle the notion of being has always been conceptualized and objectified through instantiated forms or formed matter. He, however, appreciated pre-Socratics' approach to the direct disclosure (aletheia in Greek) of being, and suggested that for this kind of direct disclosure of "being" (Sein), the human being should be thrown to the phenomenal world of "beings" (Seiendes) as Dasein (literally "being-there"). By being confronted with "non-being" (Nichts) there, the human being experiences dread about death (the negation of being) and grasps the meaning of being in beings. His methodology of inquiring into the meaning of being is called hermeneutic phenomenology, resulting from a combination of phenomenology and hermeneutics. In his inquiry into the meaning of being, Heidegger explicated the roles of death and conscience, teleological interdependence of being, and other unique elements. For Heidegger, the word "existence" (Existenz) is simply synonymous with Dasein: "The 'essence' of Dasein lies in its existence."

Being and Time

Heidegger's first and best known book, Being and Time (1927), though unfinished, is one of the central philosophical works of the 20th century.

In the first division of the work, Heidegger attempted to turn away from "ontic" questions about beings to ontological questions about Being, and recover the most fundamental philosophical question: the question of Being, of what it means for something to be. Heidegger approached the question through an inquiry into the being that has an understanding of Being, and asks the question about it, namely, Human being, which he called Dasein ("being-there"). Heidegger argued that Dasein is defined by Care, its practically engaged and concernful mode of Being-in-the-world, in opposition to Rationalist thinkers like René Descartes who located the essence of man in our thinking abilities. For Heidegger thinking is thinking about things originally discovered in our everyday practical engagements. The consequence of this is that our capacity to think cannot be the most central quality of our being because thinking is a reflecting upon this more original way of discovering the world.

In the second division, Heidegger argues that human being is even more fundamentally structured by its Temporality, or its concern with, and relationship to time, existing as a structurally open "possibility-for-being." He emphasized the importance of Authenticity in human existence, involving a truthful relationship to our thrownness into a world which we are "always already" concerned with, and to our Being-towards-death, the Finitude of the time and being we are given, and the closing down of our various possibilities for being through time.



Later works

Heidegger claimed that all of his writings are concerned with a single question, the question of being, but in the years after the publication of Being and Time the way in which he pursued this question developed. This change is often referred to as Heidegger's Kehre (turn or tack). One could say that in his later works, Heidegger shifts his focus from the way in which Dasein's practical involvement in the world is revelatory of being to the way in which this behavior depends on a prior "openness to being." (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 Ludwig Wittgenstein, but it is important enough to justify a division of the Heideggerian corpus into "early" (rough, 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 Friedrich 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. Indeed, Heidegger described the essence of technology as Gestell, or enframing. 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, an unmistakable agrarian nostalgia permeates much of 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), Bauen Wohnen Denken ("Building Dwelling Thinking," 1951), and Die Frage nach der Technik ("The Question of Technology," 1953) and Was heisst Denken? ("What Is Called Thinking?" 1954).


Heidegger's importance to the world of continental philosophy is probably unsurpassed. His reception among analytic philosophers, however, is quite another story. Saving a moderately favorable review in Mind by a young Gilbert Ryle of Being and Time shortly after its publication, Heidegger's analytic contemporaries generally regarded both the content and style of Heidegger's work problematic.

The analytic tradition values clarity of expression, whereas Heidegger thought "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 faulty and frivolous, unpalatably subjective or uninteresting. This view has largely survived, and Heidegger is still derided by most analytical philosophers, who deem his work to have been disastrous for philosophy, in that a clear line can be traced from it to most varieties of postmodern thinking.

His reputation among analytic philosophers has improved slightly through the impact of Richard Rorty's philosophy on the English-speaking world; Rorty even claims that Heidegger's approach to philosophy in the second half of his career has much in common with that of the latter-day Ludwig Wittgenstein—one of the giants of analytical philosophy.