Being and Time : A Translation of Sein und Zeit (Suny Series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy and Culture) Paperback – 17 Oct 1996
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About the Author
Joan Stambaugh is Professor Emerita of Philosophy at Hunter College, City University of New York. Dennis J. Schmidt is Liberal Arts Professor of Philosophy, Comparative Literature, and German at the Pennsylvania State University. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Despite that and rather strangley, Being and Time is not the place to start a study of Heidegger. His writing is so idiosyncratic that you really must get used to his language first before diving in to this huge work - otherwise you are likely to give up within the first 100 pages, which is unforgiveable. Start instead with the useful "Introducing Heidegger" (ISBN: 1840460881) or the well-written "Heidegger: a beginner's guide" (ISBN: 034080324X). Then progress to the excellent collection of Heidegger's writings in "Basic Writings" (ISBN: 0415101611). Only then would I recommend diving into Being and Time.
So what is the significance of Being and Time? To me, its importance lies in its questioning of the premises which the rest of philosophy since Plato has taken for granted. What is the nature of human existence? What does it mean to 'be'? But not only does Heidegger ask these questions, but he provides highly original answers too. And bizarrely - although his language is abstruse and difficult - what he has to say fits remarkably well with common sense. We do not exist as isolated, abstract 'individuals' prior to our introduction to society. Instead we exist as beings situated in a societal context, with hopes, aspirations, regrets and relationships with other people and things. Over the course of 250 or so dense pages, Heidegger systematically deconstructs (yes, he invited deconstruction long before Derrida) the concept of what it is to be an individual that has lain beneath 2000 years of philosophizing, including Descarte's 'cogito ergo sum' principle which provided the foundation for Enlightenment ontology. Then, in the last 150 pages he moves on to the concept of time, again demolishing accepted views in order to gain a more 'primordial' understanding of what it means to be a human being living through a series of 'Moments'.
As the blurb to this book says, Being and Time has had a huge influence on fields well beyond philosophy. In particular, his ideas about what it means to live 'authentically' have provided rich pickings for psychology. Discerning readers will also notice resonances with some Eastern philosophical traditions (Taoism and Buddhism in particular), and this particularly interesting line of analysis has been pursued in a number of recent books (see ISBN: 1565181190 and ISBN: 0415140382).
In summary - make time for this towering work. You are unlikely to ever read a more profound piece of extended philosophical writing.
Questioning Being itself is stunningly brilliant philosphical move. Heidegger pointed to an elephant in the living room of Philosophy, as Being had been assumed by philosophers, or considered not worth questioning in this way. A move which, it could be argued, pulled the rug from under the feet of other philosophers. No wonder Anglo-American thinkers such as A J Ayer encountered the work with such hostility.
I don't speak German, so I cannot judge this translation. However I suspect it is more faithful to the original than the Macqarrie and Robinson version. Having said that, I have found, where I have compared the texts, the Macquarrie version easier to understand but I don't know why. This reservation however makes me give four stars in this review.
Finally I agree with the idea of persisting with Heidegger. I find philosophy in general, but Heidegger in particular, rewards me with an occasional humbling antidote to workaday living.
Absolutely, one of the touchstone texts of modern philosophy, and the source of so much postmodern critical thought -- Derrida, Lyotard, etc. etc. Get it, and READ it!!
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