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The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude (Studies in Continental Thought) [Paperback]

Martin Heidegger , William H. McNeill , Nicholas Walker
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

25 Feb 2001 Studies in Continental Thought
First published in German in 1938 as volume 29/30 of Heidegger's collected works, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics includes an extended treatment of the history of metaphysics and an elaboration of a philosophy of life and nature. Heidegger's concepts of organism, animal behaviour, and environment are uniquely developed and defined with intensity. This work, the text of Martin Heidegger's lecture course of 1929/30, is crucial for an understanding of Heidegger's transition from the major work of his early years, Being and Time, to his later preoccupations with language, truth, and history. First published in German in 1983 as volume 29/30 of Heidegger's collected works, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics includes an extended treatment of the history of metaphysics and an elaboration of a philosophy of life and nature. Heidegger's concepts of organism, animal behavior, and environment are uniquely developed and defined with intensity.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press; New edition edition (25 Feb 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253214297
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253214294
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.6 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 214,586 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"In this text, which is crucial to understanding the transition from Heidegger's earlier to his later thinking, readers will find a helpful overview of Heidegger's conception of metaphysics ... a brilliant phenomenological analysis of boredom ... an investigation of the essence of life and animality ... and an analysis of the structure of the propositional statement ... " -Review of Metaphysics "This authoritative translation is essential to any Heidegger collection." - Choice " . . an important addition to the translations of Heidegger's lecture-courses . . Heidegger's voice can be heard with few of the jolting Germanicisms with which so many translations of Heidegger's texts have been burdened..." --International Philosophical Quarterly "The translators of these lectures have succeeded splendidly in giving readers an intimation of the tensely insistent tone of the original German. Heidegger's concern with a linguistic preconsciousness and with our entrancement before the enigma of existence remains intensely contemporary." --Choice "There is much that is new and valuable in this book, and McNeill and Walker's faithful translation makes it very accessible." --Review of Metaphysics "Whoever thought that Heidegger ... has no surprises left in him had better read this volume. If its rhetoric is 'hard and heavy' its thought is even harder and essentially more daring than Heideggerians ever imagined Heidegger could be." --David Farrell Krell

About the Author

William McNeill is Associate Professor of Philosophy at DePaul University. He is co-translator (with Julia Davis) of Holderlin's Hymn "The Ister" by Martin Heidegger.Nicholas Walker is Research Fellow in philosophy and literature at Magdalene College, Cambridge."

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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heidegger's brooding paced 10 July 2005
It seems like this volume, culled from 1929-30 lecture courses, is an ideal "companion" to Sein und Zeit. Whereas in the latter - where Heidegger appears to be writing from the middle of the book towards the covers rather than from front to back - it is only half-way through that he bothers to define fundamental concepts he has been using repeatedly, things are well-laid out here.
Here we have an attempt to uncover the originary prote philosophia, later dubbed "metaphysics" by scholastic theologians integrating Aristotle, in ignorance of its concerns, not knowing how to categorise it other than as being "after" or "away from" physics. As in Being and Time, Heidegger goes after the question of Being, in two Aristotlean forms, and tries to found a unitary question in the unthought region that preceded their split.
But these ponderous ponderings go beyond Being and Time, and serve as a bridge for some later writings and also to various poststructural philosophers who have leaned on, expanded and critiqued Heidegger (chief amongst them for me, Giorgio Agamben) in their own work. Heidegger interrogates animal behaviour, environment, technology, the political aspect of human existence, language use, etc. in ways that prefigure his later writings.
I found this work useful for getting a clearer understanding of where continental thought begins, i.e. after metaphysics (as normally understood) is subjected to "destruction" (prefiguring, in critique, something like deconstruction), and it also made Heidegger's more complex works such as Being and Time and Introduction to Metaphysics more accessible.
Full marks also, for a good accessible translation that is not dumbed-down beyond recognition.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life Affirming Philosophizing 6 Nov 2009
By Bubo
Philosophy is philosophizing. And this book is philosophizing on a very deep and elaborate level. The structure of the philosophizing of this lecture course by Heidegger, on my reading, follows a six part movement.

- The first movement concerns what philosophy is which, according to German poet Novalis, lies in "the desire to be at home everywhere", i.e. the act of philosophizing stems from a form of homesickness. In this first part Heidegger looks into the history of the word "metaphysics" and what that history tells us about our philosophical and intellectual tradition. This is more of a historical analysis and I was particularly piqued by the realization that causal knowledge, i.e. knowledge of causes, stems from Medieval preoccupations around God, the ultimate cause or uncreated being, and all that follows from that.

- The second movement takes a long hard look at boredom and dissects it in three main forms: being bored by... (e.g. waiting for a train); being bored with... (e.g. a dinner party); it is boring for one... (e.g. walking through city streets on a Sunday afternoon). The third form, the most profound, underlies and sustains the other two forms. Boredom is an attunement and as such has the potential to bring us to an awareness of our being as human beings, i.e. our temporality. Heidegger asks: has contemporary man become boring for himself? For Heidegger what is oppressive in feeling bored is precisely the lack of oppressiveness on our there-being, i.e. our "Da-sein" is not yet burdened, it is free-floating and thus susceptible to being oppressed by temporality which we try hard to outdo by "passing the time.
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars World-Forming and Not Having a World--From Dasein to Animal 29 Aug 2001
By Robert S. Corrington - Published on Amazon.com
These 1929/30 lectures represent a stunning use of phenomenology as it probes into the nature of the philosophical bindingness to nature (as self-arising into presence "ousia"). Philosophy is understood to be the ongoing response to homesickness (as denominated by the poet Novalis). As such a response it is unique in its form of questioning and in the way it receives "answers" from the giving/receding orders of nature and their elusive ground. Philosophy is also infused with an attunement that compels it to return again and again to the questions concerning worldhood, finitude, and solitude; questions that goad it forward and backward simultaneously. The act of philosophy drives us out of our everydayness, "For in it there becomes manifest something essential about all philosophical comprehension, namely that in the philosophical concept, man, and indeed man as a whole is in the grip of an attack--driven out of everydayness and driven back into the ground of things" [Wesentliches alles philosophischen Begreifens, dass der philosophische Begriff ein Angriff ist auf den Menschen und gar auf den Menschen im Ganzen--aufgejagt aus der Alltaglichkeit und zuruckgejagt in den Grund der Dinge]. Boredom, rather than anxiety, is now seen to be the fundamental mood that governs our Dasein (human being in the world). Heidegger unfolds the complex interplay of the modes of boredom and their special ways of illuminating worldhood. Boredom is seen as one of the ways of time's withdrawal into a kind of tarrying that is nowhere and everywhere, but bereft of full worldhood. Animals, while open to their environment [umwelt] do not have a world [welt]. Yet animals live in their own way within a disinhibiting ring that opens them to their release into their species-specific environment. Here Heidegger's descriptions of the animal forms of not-worldness represent a major achievement in helping beings-with-selves become aware of the unique forms of openness of other living beings. As humans we are called to project ourselves into the difference between the various things in being, on the one hand, and the Being of all beings on the other (his reiteration of the ontological difference). This is certainly one of the most important series of lectures in Heidegger's career and the translation is a fair and compelling one. For those who only know "Being and Time" or some of the late essays, this text will come as a surprise because of its masterful and careful phenomenological descriptions of nature and the forms of openness that it contains.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Highly repetitious 27 Dec 2012
By Andy Hahn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Material taken from a lecture series that Heidegger presented in 1929. Does provide good introductory material on the the term metaphysics. He goes on to equate this term with "knowledge of the supprasensuous", and then more directly to ontology and theology.

His presentation of "attunement" as a predominant mood that one opens up to (initiates from with in) is interesting. It reminded me of the modern concept of an attitude that one has the ability to manifest in life's activities; or as Heidegger frames it - one's Da-sein. In this particular case of attunement he deals extensively with the feeling of boredom and it's different initiating concepts. He later takes a stab at biological science, but this material is rather basic in light of modern research in this area.

The first section was of some interest (the beginning 167 pages). The second section was an exercise in will-power on my part to get through, hoping to find something further that might be insightful - a false hope. I am just glad I didn't have to sit through his lecture series, as in my judgement the whole content could have been easily and more clearly present in half the 366 pages taken up.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Circular reasoning has never been such fun 14 Dec 2010
By Brendan M. Funnell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The title of my review comes from the structure of the book itself, in which Heidegger himself says that in philosophy one circles around a question in order to explore it in depth, not go at it head on for a superficial answer.

The book begins with Heidegger doing his standard pulling-apart of the question itself - such as exploring the word "metaphysics" in its original, then subsequent meaning.

For the first half of the book, Heidegger explores the attunement to profound boredom ona personal level (It is boring for one) he characterizes as the state of modern mankind (following Kierkegaard), which as a fundamental attunement nonetheless serves to reveal Being. The move from various forms of boredom, such as that of waiting at a train station having misread the schedule or attending a party that didn't at first seem boring, to that of profound boredom is actually very interesting.

We then move to the thesis that Man is world-forming, while the animal is poor in world. The animal being does not experience beings as beings, or being qua being, but as reactions to the world.

From there Heidegger moves on to examine the propositional statement, the logos apophantikos, in considerable detail, mainly with reference to Aristotle and Kant. The inner structure of the logos as revealing and concealing truth and falsity (aletheia and pseudos) by a pointing out (apophantikos) that is either pointing to (kataphasis) or pointing away (apophasis), from within the inner structure of synthesis and diairesis, is the real meat of the work, and wonderful even when I disagree with it or need to explore further. And it is a bit alien and tricky when one is not immersed in this stuff.

And once this has been accomplished, the reintroduction of world-formation and profound boredom reappear to complete the circle around the question.

Finitude and solitude barely rate an explicit mention - but if one is paying attention they are always there implicitly, particularly in the sections on the logos apophantikos as something that is arrived at in agreement, not in isolation ala Protagoras, in a relation. Being is relational in its inmost essence as Being.

Heidegger also points out his limited concept of logos in Being and Time, where only one aspect was considered.

I found this lecture series much more engaging and readable than Being and Time - and much more accurate and profound to my way of thinking. It has certainly inspired me to read more Heidegger - and Aristotle. Attributing Relativism to Heidegger may be more problematic than I had been led to believe. I would recommend reading Heidegger without the Parisian School in mind.
10 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How I know Heidegger was an egomaniac 2 Feb 2004
By Bruce P. Barten - Published on Amazon.com
The beginning is like an introduction to beat all introductions. This book has no index, but there is very little in these lectures that an index could pick out as an adequate description of any of the topics covered in the book. Pages 375-376 have a glossary, with some complicated words and phrases like "time as it drags," but with no attempt to locate where to find such topics in the text of these lectures from 1929/30. The Glossary is a guide to the translation, and people who have a favorite German word can check for the English word that is a most likely translation. You are more likely to think there are some totally unlikely translations, if you only speak English, like "resolute disclosedness: Entschlossenheit."
Martin Heidegger is great, and you can't understand how he is great unless you comprehend the major problem in this book: boredom. Page 112 is devoted to smoking a cigar, and it is not just any cigar. Smoking is studied as a social activity in which he watches himself taking part in a ritual that eventually leaves him empty because his entire life depends on what he thinks, and certainly "not of viewing it in terms of isolated incidents, but of understanding it in the context of the whole situation of the evening, of sitting together, of making conversation." (p. 111). The social casualness is in sharp contrast with his desire for some enthusiasm for himself.
"It--one's own self that has been left standing, the self that everyone himself or herself is, and each with this particular history, of this particular standing and age, with this name and vocation and fate; the self, one's own beloved ego of which we say that I myself, you yourself, we ourselves are bored." (p. 134).
People who find Heidegger thrilling might find it interesting that there is very little information about other philosophers in THE FUNDAMENTAL CONCEPTS OF METAPHYSICS: WORLD, FINITUDE, SOLITUDE, Translated by William McNeill and Nicholas Walker. At the beginning, "In Memory of Eugen Fink" by Martin Heidegger, 26 July 1975, pictures Fink at this course listening "with thoughtful reticence" and later "repeatedly expressed the wish that this lecture should be published before all others." (p. v). Philosophers mentioned in the text only get a few lines. Novalis has his name in the title of section 2 on page 4, but he only gets quoted for eleven words: "Philosophy is really homesickness, an urge to be at home everywhere." (p. 5) Then Aristotle gets quoted with three Greek words that seem to mean "Poets tell many a lie?" (p. 5).
When Heidegger gets to God on page 19, it just seems to be trouble. "Then philosophy too would have become utterly superfluous, and especially our discussion about it. For God does not philosophize, if indeed (as the name already says) philosophy, this love of . . . as homesickness for . . ., must maintain itself in nothingness, in finitude. Philosophy is the opposite of all comfort and assurance." Heidegger opposes Descartes and theology since "It, and with it all philosophizing of the modern era since Descartes, puts nothing at all at stake." (p. 20). Heraclitus is praised as a sign that "The philosophers of antiquity already knew this and had to know it in their first decisive commencements." (p. 22). Plato gets credit for the distinction "between being awake and sleeping. The non-philosophizing human being, including the scientific human being, does indeed exist, but he or she is asleep." (p. 23). "Hegel (to name a philosopher of the modern era)" is mentioned without a quotation or even a footnote, "but merely as an indication that I am not inventing a concept of philosophy here, nor arbitrarily presenting you with some private opinion." (p. 23).
Chapter Three of the Preliminary Appraisal, justifying the inclusion "of Comprehensive Questioning Concerning World, Finitude, Individuation as Metaphysics" (p. 24) is back to the basic views about philosophy of the Greeks. Heraclitus and Aristotle are considered "by way of an elementary interpretation of the concept of truth in antiquity." (p. 30). Books were not published by big printing firms, like they are now, especially after "Aristotle died around 322-21 B.C." (p. 35). The Aristotelian treatises were not collected for study until the first century B.C., long after Plato and Xenocrates established the main topics as disciplines: logic, physics, ethics. (p. 36). Many of Aristotle's treatises did not belong within those topics, and Heidegger calls them "Aristotle's philosophy proper." (p. 37). But there have been many approaches since then.
"Through Christian dogma, ancient philosophy was forced into a quite specific conception which maintained itself throughout the Renaissance, Humanism and German Idealism, and whose untruth we are slowly beginning to comprehend today. The first to do so was perhaps Nietzsche." (p. 42).
With so few philosophers being mentioned, I was surprised to find in section 14 "The concept of metaphysics in Franz Suarez and the fundamental character of modern metaphysics." (pp. 51-55). Considering Kant and Aquinas not as important as the questions raised by this Spanish Jesuit in the 16th century, "who must be placed even above Aquinas in terms of his acumen and independence of questioning." (p. 51). While "Suarez sides very positively with Thomas Aquinas" (p. 53), "it was precisely Kant who placed the possibility of metaphysics in doubt." (p. 54). Bouncing back to reality, "We see most clearly at the place where modern philosophy explicitly begins, in Descartes, but especially in Fichte." (p. 55). The Preliminary Appraisal ends with section 15, in which the possibility of "being gripped by a metaphysical question" (pp. 56-57) sustains the book. The shift to Part One is called "Awakening a Fundamental Attunement in Our Philosophizing." (p. 59). The contemporary situation with the opposition of life (soul) and spirit in four philosophers leads to "All four interpretations are only possible given a particular reception of Nietzsche's philosophy." (p. 71).
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