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The Philosophy of Heidegger

Michael Watts
Copyright Date: 2011
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130hd40
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  • Book Info
    The Philosophy of Heidegger
    Book Description:

    In The Philosophy of Heidegger, Michael Watts provides an overview of Heidegger's thoughts that is suitable for both beginning and advanced students. Free from jargon and the standard idioms of academic philosophical writing, Watts uses several illustrations and concrete examples to introduce key Heideggrian concepts such as throwness, the clearing, authenticity, falling, moods, nullity, temporality, Ereignis, enframing, dwelling, and Gelassenheit. He avoids over-involvement with the secondary literature and with wider philosophical debates, which gives the writing an immediate, accessible voice. Ranging widely across Heidegger's writings, the book displays an impressively thorough knowledge of his corpus, navigating the difficult relationship between the earlier and later texts and giving the reader a strong sense of the fundamental motives and overall continuity of Heidegger's thought.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-9463-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-ix)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. x-xii)
  5. CHAPTER ONE Heidegger’s life
    (pp. 1-12)

    In the small town of Messkirch in the Black Forest region of Baden-Wurttemberg, southwest Germany, lies St Martin’s, a small Catholic church. In its quiet hilltop graveyard there is a tombstone inscribed “Martin Heidegger, 1889–1976”. It is not marked with a cross, but with a star, recalling a line written by the philosopher in 1947: “To think is to confine yourself to a single thought that one day stands still like a star in the world’s sky” (PLT: 4). The grave marks the final return of Heidegger, the great philosopher, to his roots.

    Heidegger was born in Messkirch, then...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The meaning of life: the question of Being
    (pp. 13-38)

    Heidegger initiated a radical “thinking” – distinct from conventional forms of “philosophizing” – that cast doubt on the validity of the fundamental basis of Western philosophy. His approach questioned the authority of long-accepted notions of logic and truth by focusing its interrogationnoton thecontentof existence, but on the “primary condition” thatenablesexistence. Thus the most important and persistent view of Heidegger is as a pioneering thinker concerned first and foremost with investigating the significance of the primary condition for all life, which he called “Being”:

    Parmenides, in the early age of thinking, says,esti gar einai,...

  7. CHAPTER THREE The central ideas in Being and Time
    (pp. 39-80)

    Being and Timewas Heidegger’s first major publication. It was originally published in 1927 in Husserl’sJahrbuch für phänomenologie und phänomenologische Forschungand appeared simultaneously in a separate printing. A carefully constructed, tightly woven masterwork, it was originally intended as a preliminary text for a much larger project that was never completed. (Being and Timeremained unfinished because Heidegger was in a hurry to get it published in order to obtain a full professorship, first at Marburg in 1927 and then Freiburg in 1928, and then in subsequent years his attention shifted during the change he calleddie Kehre[the...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Conscience, guilt and authenticity
    (pp. 81-94)

    A central Heideggerian claim is that conscience and guilt are fundamentally important human existentials because they reveal our authentic self-hood and the basis of freedom. The voice of conscience calls us to focus directly on our authentic self.

    Heidegger ignores traditional ethical or religious views of conscience and guilt, and instead offers a fundamental, existential interpretation that sheds further light on our way of Being. He emphasizes that not everyone has a “conscience” (lower-case “c”), in terms of our conventional understanding of the word, but everyone has a “Conscience” (capital “C”) in the more fundamental, existential sense. This fundamental Conscience...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Being-towards-death
    (pp. 95-115)

    At the end of his life, in the moments prior to fulfilling his sentence of death by poison, Socrates contemplates, in deep serenity, the relation of truth and death: “The one aim of those who practice philosophy in the proper manner is to practice for dying and death” (Plato,Phd. 64a). Imagine a scenario whereyouare lying on your death-bed, reviewing your entire life. How would you evaluate your current existence? If you could travel back in time to this present moment, with your “death-bed” perspective, would you make any major changes to the way you currently live? Questions...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Dasein’s primordial temporality
    (pp. 116-140)

    From Heidegger’s analysis of human existence it soon becomes clear that, in order to develop a deeper understanding of Being, to answer the question “What does it meanto be?”, we must go beyond Dasein’s various modes of existence to the ultimate reference point by which these modes have meaning. InBeing and Time, the central issue of the entire work (as its title suggests) is to show that, for a human being, for Dasein, “to be” is always “to be temporal”, since temporality makes up the primordial meaning of Dasein’s Being. Thus our provisional aim is the interpretation of...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN The “truth of alētheia” and language
    (pp. 141-174)

    Philosophy is the search for truth. Heidegger claimed that essentially there are two main approaches to truth. The traditional one, which has existed at least since Plato, claims that the truth can be defined in terms of specific criteria for assessing true or false propositions. In contrast, Heidegger investigates the meaning or essence of truth that exists independently of, and prior to, any criteria. “Truth”, in his sense of the word, is no mere presentation of static facts, but the experience of a process of disclosure that is alive andhappening in each moment. For Heidegger such “truth” is the...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT Heidegger on poetry, poets and Hölderlin
    (pp. 175-197)

    Heidegger uses the term “Poesie” to refer solely to verse or poetry. He also sometimes employs the German word “Dichtung” (from “dichten”, “to write, invent, compose verses”); it can be used to refer to poetry or verse, as well as to the entire field of creative writing, including novels. He normally uses this word in a wider sense, to refer to the act of invention, creation or projection, but he also sometimes usesDichtung(anddichten) in a narrow sense, to refer purely to poetry or verse.

    Heidegger points out that “Language itself is poetry [Dichtung] in the essential sense”...

  13. CHAPTER NINE Heidegger on art
    (pp. 198-216)

    One of Heidegger’s chief concerns in the mid-1930s was the key role played by art in mankind’s relation to Being. In his analysis of the subject, he is not interested in examining it in the narrow sense, as part of aesthetics, since, like metaphysics, he regards aesthetics as defined and constrained by the spirit of “enframing”, which has resulted in our destructive modern-day technological approach. Instead, his insights into art are an integral part of his fundamental philosophical exploration of the nature of Being.

    His longest discussion of art,The Origin of the Work of Art, first published in 1950...

  14. CHAPTER TEN Heidegger on technology
    (pp. 217-229)

    One of the dominant themes of Heidegger’s later writing is his critique of modern technology. Heidegger never liked modern cosmopolitan life, with its consumerism, shallow values and disregard for nature, but from the 1950s onwards this feeling intensified greatly. He wrote: “Everywhere we remain unfree and chained to technology, whether we passionately affirm or deny it” (“The Question Concerning Technology”, in BW: 311).

    He saw mankind as obsessed with production and profit, irrespective of the current or future consequences, and this calculating, mercenary behaviour governed all decisions. What most horrified Heidegger was his realization that these were only the earliest...

  15. CHAPTER ELEVEN Tao, Zen and Heidegger
    (pp. 230-244)

    Over the past two decades, a number of authors on Heidegger have recognized that his work has a certain affinity with East Asian thinking, notably with Taoism and Zen Buddhism, especially in his later thought. The fact that the Japanese have published seven translations ofBeing and Time, and that Heidegger is probably the most-studied modern philosopher in Asia, may well reflect this similarity between his own and East Asian thinking. On various occasions, Heidegger himself spoke of this connection. Otto Pöggeler, an eminent commentator on Heidegger’s work, writes that Heidegger “gladly acknowledged to visitors the closeness of his thinking...

  16. CHAPTER TWELVE Heidegger’s politics
    (pp. 245-262)

    Heidegger’s politics, and the debate as to whether his philosophy lends itself readily to Nazi ideology, is normally considered central to reading and interpreting his thought. Some thinkers, however, rejecting any suggestion of the “ad hominemargument” linking the life and work, suggest that Heidegger’s personal political views and behaviour be regarded as philosophically insignificant, because a philosophy and moral character exist independently: “Being an original philosopher … is the result of some neural kink that occurs independently of other kinks … Philosophical talent and moral character swing free of each other” (Rorty 1998: 32–3). This standpoint tries to...

  17. Glossary
    (pp. 263-283)
  18. Further reading
    (pp. 284-285)
  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 286-291)
  20. Index
    (pp. 292-300)