- Paperback: 464 pages
- Publisher: Routledge; 2Rev Ed edition (2 Sept. 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0415101611
- ISBN-13: 978-0415101615
- Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 13.3 x 19.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 329,604 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Basic Writings: Martin Heidegger Paperback – 2 Sep 1993
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About the Author
Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) was born in Germany and taught philosophy at the Universities of Freiburg and Marburg. His work helped launched the radical philosophical movement known as phenomenology, whose most famous expositors include Jean-Paul Sartre and Jacques Derrida.--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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The first three essays (Joan Stambaugh's translation of the Introduction to Being and Time; "What is Metaphysics?"; and "On the Essence of Truth") collectively elucidate the early Heideggerian project of the deconstruction of the metaphysical tradition. The fourth essay ("The Origin of the Work of Art") represents his reflections on aesthetics. The fifth ("Letter on Humanism") was considered by Hannah Arendt as Heidegger's most splendid work (Prachtstueck) where he insists that authentic human existence goes beyond Cartesian solipsism; hence, his idea of humanism as factical. The next two essays ("Modern Science, Metaphysics, and Mathematics" and "The Question Concerning Technology") delve into Heidegger's probing critique of the essence of technology. The next three essays ("Building Dwelling Thinking," "What Calls for Thinking?," "The Way to Language") represent the later Heidegger, the reflections of which center around poetic thinking and authentic philosophizing. His influences in hermeneutics arise from these reflections as well. The last essay ("The end of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking") heralds the eschatological element in Heidegger's thought through the overcoming of metaphysics.
Clearly, this collection is essential to anyone interested in the phenomenon of thinking as well as contemporary philosophy.
The first essay is the introductory chapter to Heidegger's opus Being and Time. It is actually rather senseless to read it without going on to read the complete text. However, for those readers who simply want a taste of Heidegger's basic philosophic project and methodology, it is summarized here. He says at the outset: "This question has today been forgotten-although our time considers itself progressive in again affirming `metaphysics.' All the same we believe that we are spared the exertion of rekindling a gigantomachia peri tes ousias [a Battle of Giants concerning Being,' [Plato, Sophist]. But the question touched upon here is hardly an arbitrary one." (41). For Heidegger, philosophy has lost touched with the question `what is the meaning of being, as such?' However, in order to resolve the question of the meaning of Being, you must examine the Being of the questioner, (Dasein), leading us to do fundamental ontology.
The second essay in the collection is titled What is Metaphysics? It is an inaugural address the delimited many of the major ideas he would later expand in Being in Time. In it, Heidegger again examines the meaning of Being, but he also discusses the unheimlichkeit (the uncanny), and Dasein's confrontation with "the nothing" (100), and with attunement and Nihilism generally. This is a particularly famous, though cryptic essay, the major ideas in it are expanded at great lengths by Heidegger in his book `Introduction to Metaphysics,' published later in 1953.
The next essay is titled On the Essence of Truth, and it is particularly difficult. Heidegger begins with: "Our Topic is the essence of truth. The question regarding the essence of truth is not concerned with whether truth is a truth of practical experience or of economic calculation, the truth of a technical consideration or of political sagacity, or, in particular, a truth of scientific research or of artistic composition, or even the truth of thoughtful reflection or cultic belief. The question of essence disregards all this and attends to the one thing that in general distinguishes every `truth' as truth (115). Heidegger will later suggest in the essay that the essence of truth is freedom, or unconcealment. Heidegger does not adhere to radical skepticism, nor does he believe in eternal truths. He is interested in the essence of this question with regard to Da-Sein's `liberation' for `ek-sistence.'
The Origin of the Work of Art is unlike any essay in the history of aesthetic philosophy or criticism, because Heidegger is not at all concerned with the beauty of art, nor with the thinking of the artist. He is interested in the capacity for art to reveal worlds. He writes: "The temple-work, standing there, opens up a world and at the same time sets this world back again on earth, which itself only thus emerges as native ground. But men and animals, plants and things, are never present and familiar as unchangeable objects, only to represent incidentally also a fitting environment for the temple, which one fine day is added to what is already there" (168). Heidegger values the art of poetry more than any other. He says, "Art happens as poetry. Poetry is founding in the triple sense of bestowing, grounding, and beginning" (202), and he valued Holderlin, Trakyl, and Rilke above all other poets. Art is an origin, and it serves to preserve the historical existence of man.
One could go on and on. This volume also contains the Letter on Humanism, Modern Science, Metaphysics, and Mathematics, the Question Concerning Technology, Building, Dwelling, Thinking, What Calls for Thinking?, the Way to Language, and the End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking. They will keep you busy for quite a while.
Heidegger does exactly what it is that philosophers are supposed to do by clearing a place in which to ask the question asked long ago by Aristotle (but forgotten - that is, covered over - by "philosophers"): the question of what it means "to be". Part of the problem with reading Heidegger is that his language is almost mystical: constant talk of revealing and concealing within the place of clearing and the ekstasis - the being outside of one's self - of humans which allows for the asking of what it means "to be". While a background in philosophy might be helpful to understand Heidegger, it may be more helpful to have a background in religion and Christian mysticism. Without knowing something of the mystical, Heidegger is bound to appear far more difficult than he actually is.
It is worth noting that while Heidegger is dense, he is also a poet. His aesthetically written grace is much of what gives his contemplations about the question of being such weight and gentle force. The important thing about reading Heidegger is to do exactly what he counsels one do in observing a work of art: stand outside of yourself and into the clearing of the work of art. This is what Heidegger refers to as "ek-sistence": a combination of the words "ekstasis" and "existence". It is like a type of mystical silence that Heidegger invites the reader to: a listening *beyond* what one simply, immediately hears. This, then, is the key to reading Heidegger: not to read him (an action done first and foremost by the knowing-reading subject), but to simply let him be read - a letting him be in his being.
A note on Being: it is all too easy (and all too incorrect) to interpret Heidegger's writings about Being as if he were talking about some sort of subject. Being, however, is not God or some sort of primal force or the tao or any*thing* else: no, "Being" as such does not translate from the ancient Greek and Heidegger's constant referral to Being brings the reader to the edge of her/his conceptual limits and, in so doing, creates the clearing that allows for the asking of the question. Without this clearing, there can be no philosophizing - only the history of [bad] metaphysics (the asking of what reality is), which obscures this fundamental and original question.
Heidegger is well worth the time and the effort. Those that are interested in the simple questions and simple answers will be lost amidst Heidegger's densely poetic thoughts; those that are unwilling to be outside of themselves will find him endlessly frustrating. Of course, this refusing of ek-sistence into the realm of Being is the fundamental problem with so much of philosophy today: it is lost in [bad] metaphysics, having forgotten the primal question. If you let him, Heidegger will lead you to the edge of thought where that question can not only be heard, but can be asked again.
Just a word about the review titled 'Are you *sure* you want to do this to yourself?'. Firstly, I am not sure whether this person has actually read Heidegger in the German, but he is absolutely wrong that Heidegger is not different or no less difficult in German than he is in English - what Heidegger is doing is far more apparent in the original German. This reviewer's comments are typical Anglo-American or 'analytic' propaganda. Such comments arise out of an inability to deal with Heidegger's complex thought and an unwillingness to undergo the profound discomfort that such a thinking entails. I have indeed read the philosophers he names and, with the exception of Wittgenstein, the others, though quite important in 20th century thought, don't hold a candle to Heidegger, as Wittgenstein himself, who had thought Heidegger an incomparable philosopher, would have readily admitted. His comments are based on a long tradition, arising in the 20th century, that claimed that 'clarity' is something that is not only possible in philosophy, and language for that matter, but also desirable. Philosophy makes uncomfortable. It is meant to do so. It is the opening of new worlds and whoever has traveled can attest to the discomfort that arises from such displacement, such being out of ones home or place of dwelling. New worlds are created through language and to be forced outside `our' everyday language is to be violated. Deleuze and Lacan, both of whom he also mentions, were also incomparable philosophers who are quite difficult and who built the most profound of worlds through discomforting languages. Such journeys require a willingness to be uprooted, something which this reviewer, for whom the failure lies within these thinkers and not within himself, cannot even begin to understand.