How to Read Heidegger


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This important book opens a new path in Heidegger research that will stimulate dialogue not only within Heidegger studies but also with philosophers outside the phenomenological tradition and scholars in theology, literary criticism, and existential psychiatry. Thomas Sheehan is professor of religious studies at Stanford University and professor emeritus of philosophy at Loyola University Chicago. This detailed, meticulous study addresses the confusion surrounding Heidegger scholarship. Cutting through all mysticism associated with the question of being, Sheehan uncovers the phenomenological bases of the 'early' and 'late' Heidegger, paying special attention to their Aristotelian heritage.

The book is insightful not only as a contribution to Heidegger studies but also as a source of inroads into ancient Greek philosophy, informed by a new understanding of Heidegger's thought.


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Summing Up: Essential. Graduate students, researchers, and faculty. Sheehan offers a highly original interpretation, which helps to make sense of a number of difficult passages. The argumentation is transparent and remains close to the texts, which readers can often consult usually in the original language in the footnotes. It ought to be a key point of reference in future Heidegger scholarship. Heidegger should be read as a philosopher because at his best he is not a commentator on philosophers but the initiator of a philosophical conversation. Sometimes this makes Being and Time a very tough read, which is not helped by the fact that Heidegger, more than any other modern philosopher, exploits the linguistic possibilities of his native language, in his case German.

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Although Macquarrie and Robinson, in their Blackwell English edition, produced one of the classics of modern philosophical translation, reading Being and Time can sometimes feel like wading through a conceptual mud of baroque and unfamiliar concepts. That said, the basic idea of Being and Time is extremely simple: being is time. That is, what it means for a human being to be is to exist temporally in the stretch between birth and death.

Being is time and time is finite, it comes to an end with our death. Therefore, if we want to understand what it means to be an authentic human being, then it is essential that we constantly project our lives onto the horizon of our death, what Heidegger calls "being-towards-death". Crudely stated, for thinkers like St Paul, St Augustine, Luther and Kierkegaard, it is through the relation to God that the self finds itself.

Martin Heidegger, 1889 - 1976

For Heidegger, the question of God's existence or non-existence has no philosophical relevance. The self can only become what it truly is through the confrontation with death, by making a meaning out of our finitude. If our being is finite, then what it means to be human consists in grasping this finitude, in "becoming who one is" in words of Nietzsche's that Heidegger liked to cite. We will show how this insight into finitude is deepened in later entries in relation to Heidegger's concepts of conscience and what he calls "ecstatic temporality".

Being and Time begins with a long, systematic introduction, followed by two divisions, each containing six chapters. I have just finished teaching the whole book in a week lecture course at the New School for Social Research in New York and I estimate that I spoke for about 2 hours a week. As they say here in New York, just do the math! Therefore, in the following 7 short blog entries, I can only give a taste of the book and offer some signposts for readers who would like to explore further.


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  6. Before taking up this essay, however, I turn to the lecture "Logos" [59] which grew out of the material delivered in the second lecture course on Heraclitus in the Summer Semester of , Logic, Heraclitus' Doctrine of the Logos. In the lecture "Logos" Heidegger has these considerations in mind, but also points out the fullness of Heraclitus' thought--the way it escapes characterization as metaphysics.

    The lecture focuses on Heraclitus' Fragment 50 which runs:. In a recent English translation:. Not after listening to me, but after listening to the account, one does wisely in agreeing that all things are one.

    Heidegger's Reading of Heraclitus

    Heidegger points out that we never really hear simply words or sounds anyway, but rather information and meaning or "the thunder of the heavens, the rustling of woods, the gurgling of fountains, the ringing of plucked strings, the rumbling of motors, the noises of the city. Perhaps the contrast can be felt if we recall having run short on concentration during a lecture or film and trying to stay with its development by repeating the uttered words silently to ourselves. It does not work. The meaning and movement of the lecture or film do not lie in the sound of the words, but in their belonging together which we must first enter in order truly to hear.

    Such a belonging to the matter "is nothing else than in each case letting whatever a letting-lie-before lays down before us lie gathered in its entirety.

    Martin Heidegger

    But it is never Fate itself, i. Heraclitus' wondering in the clearing. Where the rules of logic show their inadequacy for an approach to Being and the latter appears as an overwhelming mystery wonder begins.

    Wonder is stunned by the existence of beings at all, and cannot explain them by reference to yet other beings or a self-grounding highest being. Wonder does not operate with easy guidelines which state that the contradictory cannot be--it stands far prior to such derived rules of thought. In "Aletheia" Heidegger seeks to hear this wonder and inspire it in others through the Heraclitus fragment numbered 16, commenting that "because of its inner significance and ultimate implications, perhaps we ought to consider it the first.

    How can one hide himself before that which never sets? The two "main words" both call up the notion of concealing so this Same seems at first to be the realm of concealing. Thus "the fragment does not operate in the realm of concealment, but in the utterly opposite sphere. The German reads here " das doch ja nicht Untergehen je ," somewhat literally, "the still to be sure not to go under ever. Even as he tries to attain a verbal rendering of the Greek, the first word of the phrase, the neuter article " das " seems to send us back into a nominal formula, but ultimately Heidegger does not trust such distinctions and so here throws up a challenge against them.

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    The second word is a particle perhaps peculiar to German. Used as a transition between sentences or a conjunction within one " doch " can carry the adversative sense of "however" or "nevertheless," but also has an emphasizing capacity when used with commands, affirmations, and negations. In questions it anticipates a positive answer, while it abruptly denies negative questions when used as a response. Its meaning, then, is thoroughly context dependent and spans the distance from the emphatic, through the affirmative and adversative, to the negative.

    Along the way certain possible understandings of these words get pushed into oblivion so that the others can stand forth in the gathering provided by the phrase as a whole. Heidegger suggest the translation:. Rising out of self-concealing bestows favor upon self-concealing. What is phrased here as two separate occurrences really occurs only as a simple whole, and Heraclitus' fragment clearly points this out. An unapparent jointure is more powerful than an apparent one.

    Most unapparent of all reigns the interpenetrating jointure of revealing and concealing. The whole of Fragment 30 runs:.

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    World, the same for all, no god or man made, but it always was, is, and will be, an everliving fire, being kindled in measures and being put out in measures. Thus the world is thought as the ever-living, which in turn can be thought as fire which is not merely the glow of a flame, but the "worlding" of the world in. In "fire," lighting, glowing, blazing, soft shining hold sway, and that which opens an expanse in brightness. In 'fire," however, consuming, welding, cauterizing extinguishing also reign. When Heraclitus speaks of fire, he is primarily thinking of the lighting governance, the direction which gives measure and takes it away.

    This passage brings the essay back to the point from which it began: a thinking into the lighting. Further, they show themselves as capable of eliciting the wonder of early Greek thought. They remain ever in relation to that which makes possible the ever rising, for this lighting bears them along with it as the very way in which they are:. This peculiar relatedness to the clearing distinguishes gods and mortals from other beings, and, belonging to it, they lose themselves when it falls into forgetfulness.


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    7. Heidegger translates the fragment with the following words:. Thus, we might note, nothing so elaborate as a history of metaphysics is required to bring about a forgetting of Being in most humans, but that this seems the timeless way of mortal existence. I have emphasized the shift in Heidegger's thought from a focus on Dasein to a focus on language as the site of Being.

      While such a shift certainly does occur it should not obscure Heidegger's persistent interest in the togetherness of Being and the human being--a concern he also consistently finds motivating Heraclitus.

      How to Read Heidegger How to Read Heidegger
      How to Read Heidegger How to Read Heidegger
      How to Read Heidegger How to Read Heidegger
      How to Read Heidegger How to Read Heidegger
      How to Read Heidegger How to Read Heidegger
      How to Read Heidegger How to Read Heidegger
      How to Read Heidegger How to Read Heidegger
      How to Read Heidegger How to Read Heidegger
      How to Read Heidegger

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