|Born||26 September 1889|
|Died||26 May 1976 (aged 86)|
University of Freiburg
(PhD, 1914; Dr. phil. hab. 1916)
|Spouse||Elfride Petri (m. 1917)|
|Partner(s)||Elisabeth Blochmann (1918–1969)|
Hannah Arendt (1924–1928)
|Institutions||University of Marburg|
University of Freiburg
|Doctoral advisor||Arthur Schneider (PhD advisor)|
Heinrich Rickert (Dr. phil. hab. advisor)
|Political party||Nazi Party (1933–1945)|
Martin Heidegger (/ /,; German: [ˈmaʁtiːn ˈhaɪdɛɡɐ]; 26 September 1889 – 26 May 1976) was a German philosopher who is best known for contributions to phenomenology, hermeneutics, and existentialism. He is often considered to be among the most important and influential philosophers of the 20th century.
In April 1933, Heidegger was elected as rector at the University of Freiburg and was widely criticized for his membership and support for Nazi Party during his time as rector. After World War II he was dismissed from Freiburg and was banned from teaching after denazification hearings at Freiburg. There has been controversy about the relationship between his philosophy and Nazism.
In Heidegger's first major text, Being and Time (1927), Dasein is introduced as a term for the type of being that humans possess. Heidegger believed that Dasein already has a "pre-ontological" and concrete understanding that shapes how it lives, which he analyzed in terms of the unitary structure of "being-in-the-world". Heidegger used this analysis to approach the question of the meaning of being; that is, the question of how entities appear as the specific entities they are. In other words, Heidegger's governing "question of being" is concerned with what makes beings intelligible as beings.
After the publication of Being and Time, Heidegger lectured on and wrote about subjects such as technology, Kantian ethics, metaphysics, and Humanism.
Heidegger was born on 26 September 1889 in rural Meßkirch, Baden, the son of Johanna (Kempf) and Friedrich Heidegger. His father was the sexton of the village church, and the young Martin was raised Roman Catholic.
In 1903, Heidegger began to train for the priesthood. He entered a Jesuit seminary in 1909, but was discharged within weeks because of heart trouble. It was during this time that he first encountered the work of Franz Brentano On the Various Meanings of Being According to Aristotle (1862). From here he went on to study theology and scholastic philosophy at the University of Freiburg.
In 1911 he broke off training for the priesthood and turned his attention to recent philosophy, in particular, Edmund Husserl's Logical Investigations. He graduated in with a thesis on psychologism, The Doctrine of Judgment in Psychologism: A Critical-theoretical Contribution to Logic, in 1914. The following year, he completed his habilitation thesis on Duns Scotus, which was directed by Heinrich Rickert, a Neo-Kantian, and influenced by Husserl's phenomenology. The title has been published in several languages and in English is "Duns Scotus's doctrine of categories and meaning".
He attempted to get the (Catholic) philosophy post at the University of Freiburg on 23rd June 1916 but failed despite the support of Heinrich Finke. Instead, he worked first as an unsalaried Privatdozent then served as a soldier during the final year of World War I. His service was in the last ten months of the war, most of which he spent in meteorological unit on the western front upon being deemed unfit for combat.
Heidegger married Elfride Petri on 21 March 1917 in a Catholic ceremony officiated by his friend Engelbert Krebs, and a week later in a Protestant ceremony in the presence of her parents. Their first son, Jörg, was born in 1919. Elfride then gave birth to Hermann in August 1920. Heidegger knew that he was not Hermann's biological father, but raised him as his son. Hermann's biological father, who became godfather to his son, was family friend and doctor Friedel Caesar. Hermann was told of this at the age of 14; Hermann grew up to become a historian and would later serve as the executor of Heidegger's will.
In the same year that he married his wife, Heidegger began a decades-long correspondence with her friend Elisabeth Blochmann. Their letters are suggestive from the beginning, and it is certain they were romantically involved in the summer of 1929. Blochmann was Jewish, which raises questions in light of Heidegger's later membership in the Nazi Party.
From 1919 to 1923, Heidegger taught courses at the University of Freiburg.[a] At this time he also became an assistant to Husserl, who had been a professor there since 1916.
In 1923, Heidegger was elected to an extraordinary professorship in philosophy at the University of Marburg. His colleagues there included Rudolf Bultmann, Nicolai Hartmann, Paul Tillich, and Paul Natorp. Heidegger's students at Marburg included Hans-Georg Gadamer, Hannah Arendt, Karl Löwith, Gerhard Krüger, Leo Strauss, Jacob Klein, Günther Anders, and Hans Jonas. Following Aristotle, he began to develop in his lectures the main theme of his philosophy: the question of the sense of being. He extended the concept of subject to the dimension of history and concrete existence, which he found prefigured in such Christian thinkers as Paul of Tarsus, Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther, and Søren Kierkegaard. He also read the works of Wilhelm Dilthey, Husserl, Max Scheler, and Friedrich Nietzsche.
In 1925, a 35-year-old Heidegger began what would be a four-year affair with Hannah Arendt, who was then 17 years old and his student. Like Blochmann, Arendt was Jewish. Heidegger and Arendt agreed to keep the details of the relationship a secret, preserving their letters, but keeping them unavailable. The affair was not widely known until 1995, when Elzbieta Ettinger gained access to the sealed correspondence. Nevertheless, Arendt faced criticism for her association with Heidegger after his election as rector at the University of Freiburg in 1933.
In 1927 Heidegger published his main work, Sein und Zeit (Being and Time). He was primarily concerned to qualify to be a full professor. The book, however, did more than this: it raised him to "a position of international intellectual visibility."
When Husserl retired as professor of philosophy in 1928, Heidegger accepted Freiburg's election to be his successor, in spite of a counter-offer by Marburg. The title of his 1929 inaugural lecture was "What is Metaphysics?" In this year he also published Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics.
Heidegger remained at Freiburg im Breisgau for the rest of his life, declining later offers including one from Humboldt University of Berlin. His students at Freiburg included Hannah Arendt, Günther Anders, Hans Jonas, Karl Löwith, Charles Malik, Herbert Marcuse, and Ernst Nolte. Emmanuel Levinas attended his lecture courses during his stay in Freiburg in 1928, as did Jan Patočka in 1933; Patočka in particular was deeply influenced by him.
Heidegger was elected rector of the university on 21 April 1933, and joined the Nazi Party on 1 May, just three months after Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor. During his time as rector he was a member and an enthusiastic supporter of the party. There is continuing controversy as to the relationship between his philosophy and his political allegiance to Nazism. He wanted to position himself as the philosopher of the party, but the highly abstract nature of his work and the opposition of Alfred Rosenberg, who himself aspired to act in that position, limited Heidegger's role. His withdrawal from his position as rector owed more to his frustration as an administrator than to any principled opposition to the Nazis, according to historians. In his inaugural address as rector on 27 May he expressed his support of a German revolution, and in an article and a speech to the students from the same year he also supported Adolf Hitler. In November 1933, Heidegger signed the Vow of allegiance of the Professors of the German Universities and High-Schools to Adolf Hitler and the National Socialistic State. Heidegger resigned from the rectorate in April 1934, but remained a member of the Nazi Party until 1945 even though the Nazis eventually prevented him from publishing.
In 1935, he gave the talk "On the Origin of the Work of Art". The next year, while in Rome, Heidegger gave his first lecture on Friedrich Hölderlin. In the years 1936-1937, Heidegger wrote what some commentators consider his second greatest work, Contributions to Philosophy; it would not be published, however, until 1989, 13 years after his death.
From 1936 to 1940, Heidegger also delivered a series of lectures on Friedrich Nietzsche at Freiburg that presented much of the raw material incorporated in his more established work and thought from this time. These would appear in published form in 1961. This period also marks the beginning of his interest in the "essence of technology".
In the autumn of 1944, Heidegger was drafted into the Volkssturm and assigned to dig anti-tank ditches along the Rhine.
In late 1946, as France engaged in épuration légale in its occupation zone, the French military authorities determined that Heidegger should be blocked from teaching or participating in any university activities because of his association with the Nazi Party.[b] Nevertheless, he presented the talk "What are Poets for?" in memory of Rilke. He also published "On Humanism" in 1947 to clarify his differences with Jean-Paul Sartre and French existentialism. The denazification procedures against Heidegger continued until March 1949 when he was finally pronounced a Mitläufer (the second lowest of five categories of "incrimination" by association with the Nazi regime). No punitive measures against him were proposed. This opened the way for his readmission to teaching at Freiburg University in the winter semester of 1950–51. He was granted emeritus status and then taught regularly from 1951 until 1958, and by invitation until 1967.
In 1966 he gave an interview to Der Spiegel attempting to justify his support of the Nazi Party. Per their agreement, it was not published until after his death, ten years later, under the title "Only a God Can Save Us" after a reference to Hölderlin that Heidegger makes during the interview.
Heidegger's publications during this time were mostly reworked versions of his lectures. In his last days, he also arranged for a complete edition of his works to be compiled and published. Its first volume appeared in 1975. As of 2019, the edition is almost complete at over 100 volumes.
Heidegger died on 26 May 1976 in Meßkirch. A few months before his death, he met with Bernhard Welte, a Catholic priest, Freiburg University professor and earlier correspondent. The exact nature of their conversation is not known, but what is known is that it included talk of Heidegger's relationship to the Catholic Church and subsequent Christian burial at which the priest officiated. Heidegger was buried in the Meßkirch cemetery.
Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenology, was Heidegger's teacher and a major influence on his thought. The specific lines of influence, however, remain a matter of scholarly dispute. One thing that is clear, however, is that in the development of Heidegger's thought leading up to Being and Time, Husserl's theory of intentionality (consciousness of objects) was replaced by an analysis of the pre-theoretical conditions that make such intentionality possible.
Aristotle influenced Heidegger from an early age. This influence was mediated through Catholic theology, medieval philosophy, and Franz Brentano. According to scholar Michael Wheeler, it is by way of a "radical rethinking" of Aristotle's Metaphysics that Heidegger supplants Husserl's notion of intentionality with his unitary notion of being-in-the-world. According to this reinterpretation, the various modes of being are united in more basic capacity of taking-as or making-present-to.
The works of Wilhelm Dilthey shaped Heidegger's very early project of developing a "hermeneutics of factical life", and his hermeneutical transformation of phenomenology.[c] There is little doubt that Heidegger seized upon Dilthey's concept of hermeneutics. Heidegger's novel ideas about ontology required a gestalt formation, not merely a series of logical arguments, in order to demonstrate his fundamentally new paradigm of thinking, and the hermeneutic circle offered a new and powerful tool for the articulation and realization of these ideas.
Søren Kierkegaard contributed much to Heidegger's treatment of the existentialist aspects of his thought located in Division II of Being and Time. Heidegger's concepts of anxiety (Angst) and mortality draw on Kierkegaard and are indebted to the way in which the latter lays out the importance of our subjective relation to truth, our existence in the face of death, the temporality of existence, and the importance of passionate affirmation of one's individual being-in-the-world.
See also: Heideggerian terminology
See also: Fundamental ontology
According to scholar Taylor Carman, traditional ontology asks "Why is there anything?", whereas Heidegger's fundamental ontology asks "What does it mean for something to be?" Heidegger's ontology "is fundamental relative to traditional ontology in that it concerns what any understanding of entities necessarily presupposes, namely, our understanding of that in virtue of which entities are entities".
This line of inquiry is "central to Heidegger's philosophy". He accuses the Western philosophical tradition of mistakenly trying to understand being as such as if it were an ultimate entity. Heidegger modifies traditional ontology by focusing instead on the meaning of being. This kind of ontological inquiry, he claims, is required to understand the basis of our understanding, scientific and otherwise.
In short, before asking what exists, Heidegger contends that we must first examine what "to exist" even means.
In his first major work, Being and Time, Heidegger pursues this ontological inquiry by way of an analysis of the kind of being that we have, namely, that we are the sort of beings able to pose the question of the meaning of being. According to Canadian philosopher Sean McGrath Heidegger was probably influenced by Scotus in this approach. His term for us, in this phenomenological context, is Dasein.
This procedure works because Dasein's pre-ontological understanding of being shapes experience. Dasein's ordinary and even mundane experience of "being-in-the-world" provides "access to the meaning" or "sense of being"; that is, the terms in which "something becomes intelligible as something." Heidegger proposes that this ordinary "prescientific" understanding precedes abstract ways of knowing, such as logic or theory. Being and Time is designed to show how this implicit understanding can be made progressively explicit through phenomenology and hermeneutics.
Heidegger introduces the term Dasein to denote a "living being" through its activity of "being there". Understood as a unitary phenomenon rather than a contingent, additive combination, it is characterized by Heidegger as "being-in-the-world".
Heidegger insists that the 'in' of Dasein's being-in-the-world is an 'in' of involvement or of engagement, not of objective, physical enclosedness. The sense in which Dasein is 'in' the world is the sense of "residing" or "dwelling" in the world. Heidegger provides a few examples: "having to do with something, producing something, attending to something and looking after it, making use of something".
Just as 'being-in' does not denote objective, physical enclosedness, so 'world', as Heidegger uses the term, does not denote a universe of physical objects. The world, in Heidegger's sense, is to be understood according to our sense of our possibilities: things present themselves to us in terms of our projects, the uses to which we can put them. The 'sight' with which we grasp equipment is not a mentalistic intentionality, but what Heidegger calls 'circumspection'. This is to say that equipment reveals itself in terms of its 'towards-which,' in terms of the work it is good for. In our everydayness we are absorbed within the equipmental totality of our work-world. Moreover, on Heidegger's analysis, this entails a radical holism. In his own words, "there 'is' no such thing as an equipment".
For example, when I sit down to dinner and pick up my fork, I am not picking up an object with good stabbing properties: I am non-reflectively engaging an 'in-order-to-eat'. When it works as expected, equipment is transparent; when we use it, it is subsumed under the work toward which it is employed. Heidegger calls this structure of practically ordered reference relations the 'worldhood of the world'.
Heidegger calls the mode of being of such entities "ready-to-hand", for they are understood only in being handled. If your fork is made of plastic, however, and it snaps in the course of using it, then it assumes the mode of being that Heidegger calls "present-at-hand." For now you need to make the fork the object of your focal awareness, considering it in terms of its properties. Is it too broken to use? If so, could you possibly get by with one of your other utensils or just with your fingers? This kind of equipmental breakdown is not the only way that objects become present-at-hand for us, but Heidegger considers it typical of the way that this shift occurs in the course of ordinary goings-on.
In this way, Heidegger creates a theoretical space for the categories of subject and object, while at the same time denying that they apply to our most basic way of moving about in the world, of which they are instead presented as derivative.
Heidegger presents three primary structural features of being-in-the-world: understanding, attunement, and discourse. He calls these features "existentiales" or "existentialia" (Existenzialien) to distinguish their ontological status, as distinct from the "categories" of metaphysics.
Heidegger unifies these three existential features of Dasein in a composite structure he terms "care":[d] "ahead-of-itself-being-already-in-(the-world) as being-amidst (entities encountered within-the-world)." What unifies this formula is temporality. Understanding is oriented towards future possibilities, attunement is shaped by the past, and discourse discloses the present in those terms. In this way, the investigation into the being of Dasein leads to time. Much of Division II of Being and Time is devoted to a more fundamental reinterpretation of the findings of Division I in terms of Dasein's temporality.
As implied in the analysis of both attunement and discourse, Dasein is "always already", or a priori, a social being. In Heidegger's technical idiom, Dasein is "Dasein-with" (Mitsein), which he presents as equally primordial with "being-one's self" (Selbstsein).
Heidegger's term for this existential feature of Dasein is das Man, which is a German pronoun, man, that Heidegger turns into a noun. In English it is usually translated as either "the they" or "the one" (sometimes also capitalized); for, as Heidegger puts it, "By 'others' we do not mean everyone else but me.... They are rather those from whom for the most part, one does not distinguish oneself—those among whom one is too". Quite frequently the term is just left in the German.
According to philosopher Hubert Dreyfus, part of Heidegger's aim is to show that, contrary to Husserl, individuals do not generate an intersubjective world from their separate activities; rather, "these activities presuppose the disclosure of one shared world." This is one way in which Heidegger breaks from the Cartesian tradition of beginning from the perspective of individual subjectivity.
Dreyfus argues that the chapter on das Man is "the most confused" in Being and Time and so is often misinterpreted. The problem, he says, is that Heidegger's presentation conflates two opposing influences. The first is Dilthey's account of the role that public and historical contexts have in the production of significance. The second is Kierkegaard's insistence that truth is never to be found in the crowd.
The Diltheyian dimension of Heidegger's analysis positions das Man as ontologically existential in the same way as understanding, affectedness, and discourse. This dimension of Heidegger's analysis captures the way that our socio-historical "background" makes possible the specific significance that entities and activities can have for us. Philosopher Charles Taylor expands upon the term: "It is that of which I am not simply unaware... but at the same time I cannot be said to be explicitly or focally aware of it, because that status is already occupied by what it is making intelligible". For this reason, background non-representationally informs and enables our engaged agency in the world, but is something we can never make fully explicit to ourselves.
The Kierkegaardian influence on Heidegger's analysis introduces a more existentialist dimension to Being and Time. (Existentialism is a broad philosophical movement largely defined by Jean-Paul Sartre and is not to be confused with Heidegger's technical analysis of the specific existential features of Dasein.) Its central notion is authenticity, which emerges as a problem from the "publicness" built into the existential role of das Man. In Heidegger's own words:
In this inconspicuousness and unascertainability, the real dictatorship of the 'they' is unfolded. We take pleasure and enjoy ourselves as they take pleasure; we read, see and judge about literature and art as they see and judge; likewise we shrink back from the 'great mass' as they shrink back; we find 'shocking' what they find shocking. The 'they', which is nothing definite, and which we all are, through not as the sum, prescribes the kind of being of everydayness.
This "dictatorship of das Man" threatens to undermine Heidegger's entire project of uncovering the meaning of being because it does not seem possible, from such a condition, to even raise the question of being that Heidegger claims to pursue. He responds to this challenge with his account of authenticity.
Heidegger's term Eigentlichkeit is a neologism, in which Heidegger stresses the root eigen, meaning "own." So this word, usually translated "authenticity", could just as well be translated "ownedness" or "being one's own". Authenticity, according to Heidegger, is a matter of taking responsibility for our being, that is, the stand that we take with respect to our ultimate projects. It is, in his terms, a matter of taking a properly "resolute" stand on our "for-the-sake-of-which". Put differently, the "self" to which one is true in authenticity is not something just "there" to be discovered, but instead is a matter of "on-going narrative construction".
Scholars Somogy Varga and Charles Guignon describe three ways by which Dasein might attain an authentic relation to itself from out of its "fallen" condition as "they"-self. First, a powerful mood such as anxiety can disclose Dasein to itself as an ultimately isolated individual. Second, direct confrontation with Dasein's "ownmost" potential for death can similarly disclose to Dasein its own irreducible finitude. Third, experiencing "the call of conscience" can disclose to Dasein its own "guilt" (Schuld) as the debt it has to itself in virtue of having taken over pre-given possibilities that it is now Dasein's own responsibility to maintain.
Philosopher Michael E. Zimmerman describes authenticity as "resolving to accept the openness which, paradoxically, one already is". He emphasizes that this is a matter, not of "intellectual comprehension", but of "hard-won insight". Authenticity is ultimately a matter of allowing the ego to be "eclipsed by the manifestation of one's finitude".
Although the term "authenticity" disappears from Heidegger's writing after Being and Time, Zimmerman argues that it is supplanted in his later thought by the less subjective or voluntaristic notion of Ereignis. This ordinary German term for "event" or "happening" is theorized by Heidegger as the appropriation of Dasein into a cosmic play of concealment and appearance.
See also: Kehre
Heidegger's "Turn", which is sometimes referred to by the German die Kehre, refers to a change in his work as early as 1930 that became clearly established by the 1940s, according to some commentators, who variously describe a shift of focus or a major change in outlook.[e]
Heidegger himself frequently used the term to refer to the shift announced at the end of Being and Time from "being and time" to "time and being". However, he rejected the existence of the "sharp 'about turn'" posited by some interpreters. Scholar Michael Inwood also calls attention to the fact that many of the ideas from Being and Time are retained in a different vocabulary in his later work—and also that, in other cases, a word or expression common throughout his career comes to acquire a different meaning in the later works.
This supposed shift—applied here to cover about 30 years of Heidegger's 40-year writing career—has been described by commentators from widely varied viewpoints, for instance, from dwelling (being) in the world to doing (temporality) in the world. This aspect, in particular the 1951 essay "Building Dwelling Thinking", has influenced several architectural theorists.
Other interpreters believe the Turn can be overstated or doesn't exist at all. For instance, Thomas Sheehan believes this supposed change is "far less dramatic than usually suggested", and entails merely a change in focus and method. Mark Wrathall argued that the Turn isn't found in Heidegger's writings, but is simply a misconception.
Some notable later works are "The Origin of the Work of Art" (1935), Contributions to Philosophy (1937), "Letter on Humanism" (1946), "Building Dwelling Thinking" (1951), "The Question Concerning Technology" (1954), and "What Is Called Thinking?" (1954).
The idea of asking about being may be traced back via Aristotle to Parmenides. Heidegger claims to revive this question of being that had been largely forgotten by the metaphysical tradition extending from Plato to Descartes, a forgetfulness extending into the Age of Enlightenment, as well as modern science and technology. In pursuit of the retrieval of the question, Heidegger spends considerable time reflecting on ancient Greek thought, in particular on Plato, Parmenides, Heraclitus, and Anaximander.
In his later philosophy, Heidegger attempts to reconstruct the "history of being" in order to show how the different epochs in the history of philosophy were dominated by different conceptions of being. His goal is to retrieve the original experience of being present in the early Greek thought that was covered up by later philosophers.
According to W. Julian Korab-Karpowicz, Heidegger believed "the thinking of Heraclitus and Parmenides, which lies at the origin of philosophy, was falsified and misinterpreted" by Plato and Aristotle, thus tainting all of subsequent Western philosophy. In his Introduction to Metaphysics, Heidegger states, "Among the most ancient Greek thinkers, it is Heraclitus who was subjected to the most fundamentally un-Greek misinterpretation in the course of Western history, and who nevertheless in more recent times has provided the strongest impulses toward redisclosing what is authentically Greek."
Charles Guignon writes that Heidegger aims to correct this misunderstanding by reviving Presocratic notions of being with an emphasis on "understanding the way beings show up in (and as) an unfolding happening or event." Guignon adds that "we might call this alternative outlook 'event ontology.'"
Friedrich Nietzsche and Friedrich Hölderlin were both important influences on Heidegger, and many of his lecture courses were devoted to one or the other, especially in the 1930s and 1940s. The lectures on Nietzsche focused on fragments posthumously published under the title The Will to Power, rather than on Nietzsche's published works. Heidegger reads The Will to Power as the culminating expression of Western metaphysics, and the lectures are a kind of dialogue between the two thinkers.
Michael Allen Gillespie says that Heidegger's theoretical acceptance of "destiny" has much in common with the millenarianism of Marxism. But Marxists believe Heidegger's "theoretical acceptance is antagonistic to practical political activity and implies fascism". Gillespie, however, says "the real danger" from Heidegger isn't quietism but fanaticism. Modernity has cast mankind toward a new goal "on the brink of profound nihilism" that is "so alien it requires the construction of a new tradition to make it comprehensible."
Gillespie extrapolates from Heidegger's writings that humankind may degenerate into "scientists, workers, and brutes". According to Gillespie, Heidegger envisaged this abyss to be the greatest event in the history of the West because it might enable humanity to comprehend being more profoundly and primordially than the Presocratics.
The poetry of Friedrich Hölderlin became an increasingly central focus of Heidegger's later work and thought. Heidegger grants Hölderlin a singular place within the history of being and the history of Germany, as a herald whose thought is yet to be "heard" in Germany or the West more generally. Many of Heidegger's works from the 1930s onwards include meditations on lines from Hölderlin's poetry, and several of the lecture courses are devoted to the reading of a single poem; for example, Hölderlin's Hymn "The Ister".
Main article: Heidegger and Nazism
Adolf Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany on 30 January 1933. Heidegger was elected rector of the University of Freiburg on 21 April 1933, and assumed the position the following day. On May 1, he joined the Nazi Party.
On 27 May 1933, Heidegger delivered his inaugural address, the Rektoratsrede (titled "The Self-assertion of the German University"), in a hall decorated with swastikas, with members of the Sturmabteilung and prominent Nazi Party officials present.
His tenure as rector was fraught with difficulties from the outset. Some Nazi education officials viewed him as a rival, while others saw his efforts as comical. Some of Heidegger's fellow Nazis also ridiculed his philosophical writings as gibberish. He finally offered his resignation as rector on 23 April 1934, and it was accepted on 27 April. Heidegger remained a member of both the academic faculty and of the Nazi Party until the end of the war.
Philosophical historian Hans Sluga wrote, "Though as rector he prevented students from displaying an anti-Semitic poster at the entrance to the university and from holding a book burning, he kept in close contact with the Nazi student leaders and clearly signaled to them his sympathy with their activism."
In 1945, Heidegger wrote of his term as rector, giving the writing to his son Hermann; it was published in 1983:
The rectorate was an attempt to see something in the movement that had come to power, beyond all its failings and crudeness, that was much more far-reaching and that could perhaps one day bring a concentration on the Germans' Western historical essence. It will in no way be denied that at the time I believed in such possibilities and for that reason renounced the actual vocation of thinking in favor of being effective in an official capacity. In no way will what was caused by my own inadequacy in office be played down. But these points of view do not capture what is essential and what moved me to accept the rectorate.
Beginning in 1917, German-Jewish philosopher Edmund Husserl championed Heidegger's work, and helped Heidegger become his successor for the chair in philosophy at the University of Freiburg in 1928.
On 6 April 1933, the Gauleiter of Baden Province, Robert Wagner, suspended all Jewish government employees, including present and retired faculty at the University of Freiburg. Heidegger's predecessor as rector formally notified Husserl of his "enforced leave of absence" on 14 April 1933.
Heidegger became Rector of the University of Freiburg on 22 April 1933. The following week the national Reich law of 28 April 1933 replaced Reichskommissar Wagner's decree. The Reich law required the firing of Jewish professors from German universities, including those, such as Husserl, who had converted to Christianity. The termination of the retired professor Husserl's academic privileges thus did not involve any specific action on Heidegger's part.
Heidegger had by then broken off contact with Husserl, other than through intermediaries. Heidegger later claimed that his relationship with Husserl had already become strained after Husserl publicly "settled accounts" with Heidegger and Max Scheler in the early 1930s.
Heidegger did not attend his former mentor's cremation in 1938, for which he later declared himself regretful: "That I failed to express again to Husserl my gratitude and respect for him upon the occasion of his final illness and death is a human failure that I apologized for in a letter to Mrs. Husserl". In 1941, under pressure from publisher Max Niemeyer, Heidegger agreed to remove the dedication to Husserl from Being and Time (restored in post-war editions).
Heidegger's behavior towards Husserl has provoked controversy. Hannah Arendt initially suggested that Heidegger's behavior precipitated Husserl's death. She called Heidegger a "potential murderer". However, she later recanted her accusation.
In 1939, only a year after Husserl's death, Heidegger wrote in his Black Notebooks:
the occasional increase in the power of Judaism is grounded in the fact that Western metaphysics, especially in its modern evolution, offered the point of attachment for the expansion of an otherwise empty rationality and calculative capacity, and these thereby created for themselves an abode in the "spirit" without ever being able, on their own, to grasp the concealed decisive domains. The more originary and inceptual the future decisions and questions become, all the more inaccessible will they remain to this 'race.' (Thus Husserl's step to the phenomenological attitude, taken in explicit opposition to psychological explanation and to the historiological calculation of opinions, will be of lasting importance—and yet this attitude never reaches into the domains of the essential decisions[....].)
This would seem to imply that Heidegger considered Husserl to be philosophically limited by his Jewishness.
After the failure of Heidegger's rectorship, he withdrew from most political activity, but remained a member of the Nazi Party. In May 1934 he accepted a position on the Committee for the Philosophy of Law in the Academy for German Law, where he remained active until at least 1936. The academy had official consultant status in preparing Nazi legislation such as the Nuremberg racial laws that came into effect in 1935. In addition to Heidegger, such Nazi notables as Hans Frank, Julius Streicher, Carl Schmitt, and Alfred Rosenberg belonged to the Academy and served on this committee.
In a 1935 lecture, later published in 1953 as part of the book Introduction to Metaphysics, Heidegger refers to the "inner truth and greatness" of the Nazi movement, but he then adds a qualifying statement in parentheses: "namely, the confrontation of planetary technology and modern humanity". However, it subsequently transpired that this qualification had not been made during the original lecture, although Heidegger claimed that it had been. This has led scholars to argue that Heidegger still supported the Nazi party in 1935 but that he did not want to admit this after the war, and so he attempted to silently correct his earlier statement.[f]
In private notes written in 1939, Heidegger took a strongly critical view of Hitler's ideology; however, in public lectures, he seems to have continued to make ambiguous comments which, if they expressed criticism of the regime, did so only in the context of praising its ideals. For instance, in a 1942 lecture, published posthumously, Heidegger said of recent German classics scholarship, "In the majority of "research results," the Greeks appear as pure National Socialists. This overenthusiasm on the part of academics seems not even to notice that with such "results" it does National Socialism and its historical uniqueness no service at all, not that it needs this anyhow."
An important witness to Heidegger's continued allegiance to Nazism during the post-rectorship period is his former student Karl Löwith, who met Heidegger in 1936 while Heidegger was visiting Rome. In an account set down in 1940 (though not intended for publication), Löwith recalled that Heidegger wore a swastika pin to their meeting, though Heidegger knew that Löwith was Jewish. Löwith also recalled that Heidegger "left no doubt about his faith in Hitler", and stated that his support for Nazism was in agreement with the essence of his philosophy.
Heidegger rejected the "biologically grounded racism" of the Nazis, replacing it with linguistic-historical heritage.by living according to the principle of race [the Jews] had themselves promoted the very reasoning by which they were now being attacked and so they had no right to complain when it was being used against them by the Germans promoting their own racial purity.”
After the end of World War II, Heidegger was summoned to appear at a denazification hearing. Heidegger's former student and lover Hannah Arendt spoke on his behalf at this hearing, while Karl Jaspers spoke against him. He was charged on four counts, dismissed from the university and declared a "follower" (Mitläufer) of Nazism. Heidegger was forbidden to teach between 1945 and 1951. One consequence of this teaching ban was that Heidegger began to engage far more in the French philosophical scene.
In his postwar thinking, Heidegger distanced himself from Nazism, but his critical comments about Nazism seem scandalous to some since they tend to equate the Nazi war atrocities with other inhumane practices related to rationalization and industrialisation, including the treatment of animals by factory farming. For instance in a lecture delivered at Bremen in 1949, Heidegger said: "Agriculture is now a motorized food industry, the same thing in its essence as the production of corpses in the gas chambers and the extermination camps, the same thing as blockades and the reduction of countries to famine, the same thing as the manufacture of hydrogen bombs."
In 1967 Heidegger met with the Jewish poet Paul Celan, a concentration camp survivor. Having corresponded since 1956, Celan visited Heidegger at his country retreat and wrote an enigmatic poem about the meeting, which some interpret as Celan's wish for Heidegger to apologize for his behavior during the Nazi era.
Heidegger's defenders, notably Arendt, see his support for Nazism as arguably a personal " 'error' " (a word which Arendt placed in quotation marks when referring to Heidegger's Nazi-era politics). Defenders think this error was irrelevant to Heidegger's philosophy. Critics such as Levinas, Karl Löwith, and Theodor Adorno claim that Heidegger's support for Nazism revealed flaws inherent in his thought.
On 23 September 1966, Heidegger was interviewed by Rudolf Augstein and Georg Wolff for Der Spiegel magazine, in which he agreed to discuss his political past provided that the interview be published posthumously. ("Only a God Can Save Us" was published five days after his death, on 31 May 1976.) In the interview, Heidegger defended his entanglement with Nazism in two ways. First, he argued that there was no alternative, saying that with his acceptance of the position of rector of the University of Freiburg he was trying to save the university (and science in general) from being politicized and thus had to compromise with the Nazi administration. Second, he admitted that he saw an "awakening" (Aufbruch) which might help to find a "new national and social approach," but said that he changed his mind about this in 1934, when he refused, under threat of dismissal, to remove from the position of dean of the faculty those who were not acceptable to the Nazi party, and he consequently decided to resign as rector.
In his interview Heidegger defended as double-speak his 1935 lecture describing the "inner truth and greatness of this movement." He affirmed that Nazi informants who observed his lectures would understand that by "movement" he meant Nazism. However, Heidegger asserted that his dedicated students would know this statement wasn't praise for the Nazi Party. Rather, he meant it as he expressed it in the parenthetical clarification later added to Introduction to Metaphysics (1953), namely, "the confrontation of planetary technology and modern humanity."
The eyewitness account of Löwith from 1940, contradicts the account given in the Der Spiegel interview in two ways: that he did not make any decisive break with Nazism in 1934, and that Heidegger was willing to entertain more profound relations between his philosophy and political involvement. The Der Spiegel interviewers did not bring up Heidegger's 1949 quotation comparing the industrialization of agriculture to the extermination camps. In fact, the interviewers were not in possession of much of the evidence now known for Heidegger's Nazi sympathies.[g] Furthermore, Der Spiegel journalist Georg Wolff had been an SS-Hauptsturmführer with the Sicherheitsdienst, stationed in Oslo during World War II, and had been writing articles with antisemitic and racist overtones in Der Spiegel since the end of the war.
Jacques Derrida, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, and Jean-François Lyotard, among others, all engaged in debate and disagreement about the relation between Heidegger's philosophy and his Nazi politics. These debates included the question of whether it was possible to do without Heidegger's philosophy, a position which Derrida in particular rejected. Forums where these debates took place include the proceedings of the first conference dedicated to Derrida's work, published as "Les Fins de l'homme à partir du travail de Jacques Derrida: colloque de Cerisy, 23 juillet-2 août 1980", Derrida's "Feu la cendre/cio' che resta del fuoco", and the studies on Paul Celan by Lacoue-Labarthe and Derrida, which shortly preceded the detailed studies of Heidegger's politics published in and after 1987.
In 2014, Heidegger's Black Notebooks where published although he had written in them between 1931 and the early 1970s. The notebooks contain several examples of anti-Semitic sentiments, which have led to reevaluation of Heidegger's relation to Nazism. An example of Heidegger using anti-Semitic language he once wrote "world Judaism is ungraspable everywhere and doesn't need to get involved in military action while continuing to unfurl its influence, whereas we are left to sacrifice the best blood of the best of our people". The term and notion of "world Judaism" was first promoted by the anti-Semitic text The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and later appeared in Hitler's infamous book Mein Kampf. In another instance Heidegger wrote "by living according to the principle of race [Jews] had themselves promoted the very reasoning by which they were now being attacked and so they had no right to complain when it was being used against them by the Germans promoting their own racial purity". However, in the notebooks there are instances of Heidegger writing critically of Biological racism and biological oppression.
According to Husserl, Being and Time claimed to deal with ontology, but only did so in the first few pages of the book. Having nothing further to contribute to an ontology independent of human existence, Heidegger changed the topic to Dasein. Whereas Heidegger argued that the question of human existence is central to the pursuit of the question of being, Husserl criticized this as reducing phenomenology to "philosophical anthropology" and offering an abstract and incorrect portrait of the human being.
In 1929 the Neo-Kantian Ernst Cassirer and Heidegger engaged in an influential debate, during the Second Davos Hochschulkurs in Davos, concerning the significance of Kantian notions of freedom and rationality. Whereas Cassirer defended the role of rationality in Kant, Heidegger argued for the priority of the imagination.
Heidegger is often considered to be among the most important and influential philosophers of the 20th century by many observers. Aspects of his work, however, have been criticized by those who nevertheless acknowledge this influence. Some questions raised about Heidegger's philosophy include the priority of ontology, the status of animals, the nature of the religious, Heidegger's supposed neglect of ethics (Emmanuel Levinas), the body (Maurice Merleau-Ponty), sexual difference (Luce Irigaray), and space (Peter Sloterdijk).
Hegelian-Marxist thinkers, especially György Lukács and the Frankfurt School, associated the style and content of Heidegger's thought with irrationalism and criticized its political implications. For instance, Theodor Adorno wrote an extended critique of the ideological character of Heidegger's early and later use of language in the Jargon of Authenticity, and Jürgen Habermas admonishes the influence of Heidegger on recent French philosophy in his polemic against "postmodernism" in The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity.
In France, there is a very long and particular history of reading and interpreting Heidegger's work. Because Heidegger's discussion of ontology is sometimes interpreted as rooted in an analysis of the mode of existence of individual human beings (Dasein), his work has often been associated with existentialism. The influence of Heidegger on Sartre's 1943 Being and Nothingness is marked. Heidegger himself, however, argued that Sartre had misread his work.
According to Derrida, deconstruction is a tradition inherited via Heidegger (the French term "déconstruction" is a term coined to translate Heidegger's use of the words "Destruktion"—literally "destruction"—and "Abbau"—more literally "de-building").
In addition to these philosophical matters, the major issue of Heidegger's participation in the Nazi party has always loomed especially large in Europe.
The reception of Heidegger's philosophy by Anglo-American analytic philosophy, beginning with the logical positivists, was almost uniformly negative. Rudolf Carnap accused Heidegger of offering an "illusory" ontology, criticizing him for committing the fallacy of reification and for wrongly dismissing the logical treatment of language which, according to Carnap, can only lead to writing "nonsensical pseudo-propositions". A. J. Ayer objected that Heidegger proposed vast, overarching theories regarding existence that were completely unverifiable through empirical demonstration and logical analysis.
Bertrand Russell considered Heidegger an obscurantist, writing, "Highly eccentric in its terminology, his philosophy is extremely obscure. One cannot help suspecting that language is here running riot. An interesting point in his speculations is the insistence that nothingness is something positive. As with much else in Existentialism, this is a psychological observation made to pass for logic." According to Richard Polt, this quote expresses the sentiments of many 20th-century analytic philosophers concerning Heidegger.
Hubert Dreyfus introduced Heidegger's notion of "being-in-the-world" to research in Artificial intelligence. According to Dreyfus, long-standing research questions such as the Frame problem can be only dissolved within an Heideggerian framework. Heidegger also profoundly influenced Enactivism and Situated robotics.
Some writers on Heidegger's work see possibilities within it for dialogue with traditions of thought outside of Western philosophy, particularly East Asian thinking. Despite perceived differences between Eastern and Western philosophy, some of Heidegger's later work, particularly "A Dialogue on Language between a Japanese and an Inquirer", does show an interest in initiating such a dialogue. Heidegger himself had contact with a number of leading Japanese intellectuals, including members of the Kyoto School, notably Hajime Tanabe and Kuki Shūzō. The scholar Chang Chung-Yuan stated, "Heidegger is the only Western Philosopher who not only intellectually understands Tao, but has intuitively experienced the essence of it as well." Philosopher Reinhard May sees great influence of Taoism and Japanese scholars in Heidegger's work, although this influence is not acknowledged by the author. He asserts it can be shown that Heidegger sometimes "appropriated wholesale and almost verbatim major ideas from the German translations of Daoist and Zen Buddhist classics." To this he adds, "This clandestine textual appropriation of non-Western spirituality, the extent of which has gone undiscovered for so long, seems quite unparalleled, with far-reaching implications for our future interpretation of Heidegger's work."
Heidegger's collected writings are published by Vittorio Klostermann. The Gesamtausgabe was begun during Heidegger's lifetime. He defined the order of publication and dictated that the principle of editing should be "ways not works". Publication has not yet been completed. The current executor of Martin Heidegger's Literary Estate is his grandson and a lawyer, Arnulf Heidegger (1969– ).
For ease of reference, citations of Being and Time should always cite to the pagination of the standard German edition, which is included in the margins of both of the English translations, each of which has its virtues.