TWENTIETH CENTURY
PHILOSOPHY:
Intellectual Heroes and Key Themes
LECTURES
I.
II.
III.
IV.
V.
VI.
The limits of language.
Death and authenticity.
The great community.
Making differences.
Social hope.
Communicative rationality.
DEATH AND AUTHENTICITY
1.THE HORIZON OF THE BLACK
FOREST
What is thinking?
2. BEING-TOWARD-DEATH
How to conceive of human existence?
3.ART AND TECHNOLOGY
What obstructs ascertaining the truth?
1.
THE HORIZON OF THE
BLACK FOREST
MARTIN HEIDEGGER
BIOGRAPHICAL DATA:
 1889: born September 26, in Meßkirch (Germany).
 1909-1911: Studies theology in Freiburg.
 1911-1913: Studies Philosophy, humanities and
natural sciences in Freiburg.
 1913: Graduated with a dissertation on judgement in
psychologism.
 1915: Habilitation thesis on Duns Scotus.
 1922: Professor at the University of Marburg.
 1928: Professor at the University of Freiburg.
 1933-1934: Rector of the University of Freiburg.
 1946-1949: Prohibition to teach because of his
engagement with the Nazi-regime.
 1951-1967: Honorary Professor.
 1976: Died May 26, in Freiburg.
MAJOR WORKS
 Sein und Zeit (1927).
 Was ist Metaphysik? (1929).
 Beiträge zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis) (1936-1938).
 Vom Wesen der Wahrheit (1943).
 Über den Humanismus (1949).
 Holzwege (1950).
 Vorträge und Aufsätze (1954).
 Was heißt Denken (1954).
 Identität und Differenz (1957).
 Unterwegs zur Sprache (1959).
 Nietzsche I/II (1961).
 Wegmarken (1967).
 Zur Sache des Denkens (1969).
THE SPIRIT OF THE AGE
 Heidegger was a child of his age.
 The spirit of the age in which he grew up as a
philosopher was very much influenced by:
1. Neo-Kantianism (Rickert, Hartmann).
2. Phenomenology (Husserl).
3. Hermeneutics (Dilthey).
4. Philosophy of the will (Nietzsche).
5. Philosophy of life (Bergson).
ON THE ROAD
The road (question) is more interesting than its
end (answer).
Some titels of his work indicate that:
‘Holzwege’ , ‘Der Feldweg’, ‘Unterwegs zur
Sprache’ and ‘Wegmarken’.
Philosophers are often triggered to think when
they get off the track.
This is the way to broaden one’s horizon.
THINKING
 Heidegger argues in his essay ‘Was heißt denken?’ that
his way of thinking is different from that of a scientist,
because it cannot be utilized immediately.
 Thinking implies giving the object that is thought about
its dignity (back).
 While one is thinking the being gets its language (“Im
Denken [kommt] das Sein zur Sprache”).
 However, the language of metaphysics conceals the being
and should therefore be criticized.
 In his essay ‘Über den Humanismus’ (1949) Heidegger
tries to get beyond a technical interpretation of thinking >
to think implies to leave the being as it is (“Sie läßt das
Sein – sein”.
THE END OF PHILOSOPHY
 In a lecture Heidegger proclaims ‘The end of philosophy’
> philosophy doesn’t cease to exist, but will have a new
task.
 Metaphysics – always in search of foundations – ceases to
exist, because of the emergence of scientific thought, i.e.
an instrumental way of thinking.
 Philosophy should give expression to the clearance
(Lichtung) of being.
 Its focus is the truth in the sense of aletheia, i.e.
unconcealedness or unhiddenness (Unverborgenheit).
 Philosophy as the criticism of metaphysics and a new way
of thinking.
STYLE OF PHILOSOPHY
 One will find some aspects of Heidegger’s style of
philosophy in his early work as well as in his later work.
 Four aspects are significant:
1. Everyday life and its language are the point of
departures for his philosophy.
2. The texts are rather hermetic.
3. The use of a lot of neologisms.
4. To make great play of the original meanings of
words.
 A discontinuity in style > the later work is more
evocative (influenced by poetry).
HEURISTIC VALUE
 Existentialism (Jean-Paul Sartre amongst others).
 Post-Structuralism (Michel Foucault amongst
others).
 Deconstructivism (Jacques Derrida amongst
others).
 Hermeneutics (Hans-Georg Gadamer amongst
others).
 Neo-Marxism (Herbert Marcuse amongst others ).
 Theology (Rudolf Boltmann amongst others).
 Literary Criticism (Paul de Man amongst others).
 Psychiatry (Ludwig Binswanger amongst others).
 Literature (Botho Strauß amongst others).
2. BEING-TOWARD-DEATH
TIME
 Ludwig Wittgenstein questions in his “Philosophical Investigations”
the meaning of concepts like time, and argues that people know it
when no one asks them, but no longer know it when they are supposed
to give an account of it.
 “Augustine says in the Confessions "quid est ergo tempus? si nemo ex
me quaerat scio; si quaerenti explicare velim, nescio".—This could
not be said about a question of natural science ("What is the specific
gravity of hydrogen?" for instance). Something that we know when no
one asks us, but no longer know when we are supposed to give an
account of it, is something that we need to remind ourselves of. (PI
89)
 What is self-evident is not often questioned.
 Heidegger argues that the meaning of being (Sinn des Seins) is not
seriously questioned since the ancient Greeks.
 Central question of ‘Sein und Zeit’: what is the meaning of being?
 Answer: “…Time as the possible horizon for any understanding
whatsoever of being.”
 Always when we use the word ‘Being’ we are involved in a temporal
determination.
RECLAIMING THE QUESTION OF
BEING
 Heidegger is concerned with the meaning of being as such,
rather than with the meaning of a specific being.
 He wants to know what being ‘is’ and not what the sense is
of what’s it all about (for instance figuring out why there is
something rather than nothing).
 Within philosophy the question of being has come to be
forgotten.
 There are three reasons for this ‘forgetfulness of being’
(Seinsvergessenheit):
1. ‘Being’ is the most general concept of all concepts.
2. Therefore it is indefinable.
3. It is a self-evident concept.
 “Thus to retrieve the question of being means first of all to
work out adequately the formulation of the question”.
ONTOLOGICAL DIFFERENCE
 Heidegger speaks of the ontological difference when he
distinguishes entities (Seiendes) from being (Sein).
 Entities > anything that in any sense is.
 Question: what is it for something to be?
 So the being of entities is not itself an entity!
 Being > that what determines entities as entities.
 Heidegger distinguishes three elements when he discusses
the question of being:
1. Being.
2. Da-sein
3. The meaning of being.
 These elements are the starting point of Heidegger’s
questioning.
QUESTIONING
 In regard to any question Heidegger makes a distinction
between:
1. What is asked about (das Gefragte) > being on the basis
of which entities are understood.
2. What is questioned (das Befragte) > Da-sein.
3. Which is to be ascertained by the asking (das Erfragte)
> the meaning of being that should be articulated with
concepts that are different form those used to describe
entities.
 Project of ‘Sein und Zeit’ > in order to get access to 1 and
answer 3 one has to scrutinize ‘Da-sein’ > “This being
which we ourselves in each case are and which includes
inquiry among the possibilities of its being.”
FUNDAMENTAL ONTOLOGY
The aim of Heidegger is to revitalise ontology.
Ontology > the study of being.
Ontical > (empirical) enquiry that is concerned
with entities (das Seiende).
Ontological > (a priori) enquiry that is
concerned with the being of entities (das Sein).
Fundamental ontology > the study of being as
such.
In Heidegger’s case fundamental ontology is
primarely the analysis of Da-sein.
BEING-THERE
With the concept Dasein Heidegger wants to draw
the attention on both the human being and being
human.
Da-sein > being-there.
The ‘there’ (Da) of ‘being-there’ refers to the
disclosedness of Dasein to the Dasein.
Dasein it ontically nearest to itself and
ontologically farthest away.
Dasein is distinguished from other entities, because
it includes an understanding of being.
“The meaning of the being that being we call
Dasein proves to be temporality [Zeitlichkeit]”.
EXISTENCE
In order to distinguish Da-sein as a mode of being
from other modes of being Heidegger introduces the
concept existence.
Existence > the being of the entity called Da-sein.
Heidegger is interested in the basic structures of
Dasein > existentials.
A basic existental is being-in-the-world (in-der-Weltsein) > an engaged having-to-with-things.
Heidegger tries to figure out what being-in-theworld means via the phenomenological method.
THE PHENOMENOLOGICAL METHOD
 Heidegger’s enquiry is based upon the phenomenological
method of Husserl.
 The maxim of this method: “To the things themselves.”
 The concept of phenomenon > that what shows itself in
itself.
 The concept of logos > the discourse that makes manifest
what one is talking about in one’s discourse.
 Phenomenology > “…to let what shows itself be seen from
itself, just as it shows itself from itself.”
 Whereas for Husserl the object of phenomenological
research is consciousness, for Heidegger it is being.
 Phenomenological description > hermeneutics, i.e. the art of
interpretation.
GRASPING AND DETERMINING DASEIN AS A WHOLE
Is the whole of Dasein accessible at all in its
being?
The impossibility of experiencing Dasein ontically
as an existing whole.
The death of other persons doesn’t give us access
to the wholeness of Dasein.
Death > the lost of the being of the there.
It makes an end to any interpretation and
articulation.
OUTSTANDING, ENDING AND
TOTALITY
 Heidegger presents three theses:
1. As long as Da-sein is, a not-yet belongs to it,
something that is constantly outstanding.
2. The coming-to-its-end of what is not-yet-at-an-end has
the character of no-longer-being-there.
3. Coming-to-an-end implies a mode of being in which
the actual Da-sein absolutely cannot be represented by
someone else.
 The theses correspond to: outstanding, ending and totality.
 “The ending that we have in view when we speak of death,
does not signify a being-at-an-end of Da-sein, but rather a
being toward the end of this being. Death is a way to be
that Dasein takes over as soon as it is.”
BEING-TOWARD-DEATH AND THE
EVERDAYNESS OF DA-SEIN
 Death reveals Dasein as a field of possibilities that can be
realized.
 “With death, Da-sein stands before itself in its own most
potentiality-of-being. In this possibility, Da-sein is
concerned about its being-in-the world absolutely.”
 The Dasein is thrown into this possibility.
 This thrownness (Geworfenheit) reveals itself via
anxieties.
 The idle talk (das Gerede) in everyday life doesn’t reveal
what being-toward-death means.
 In the everyday life we try to get rid of the death.
 We need a courageous attitude towards death.
THE THEORETICAL PRACTICE
OF DEATH
A concentration on specific moods and
states of mind, like anxiety, clarifies the
existential structure of Dasein.
Being-toward-death > with death, Da-sein
stands before itself in its own most
potentiality-of-being.
This possibility shows that Da-sein is
concerned about its being-in-the-world.
The Dasein is thrown into this possibility.
TO EXIST INAUTHETNICALLY
 Dasein is always ‘ahead of itself’ (sich voraus) > projects
itself onto possibilities of existence.
 Authenticity is to be oneself, i.e. to choose consciously for
certain possibilities of existence.
 To exist inauthentically > the possibilities of existence are
determined by the One or They (das Man).
 For instance, people think, feel, do and judge as one has to
think, feel, do and judge or they are thinking, feeling,
doing and judging.
 Heidegger states that conscience is the call to authenticity.
 “Conscience gives us something to understand, it
discloses.”
 Authenticity implies a specific mode of comportment
towards death.
3. ART AND TECHNOLOGY
DISCONTINUITIES
Concerning the work of Heidegger scholars often
refer to discontinuities (Kehre) in content and style.
Till ± 1935: analysis of Dasein.
After ± 1935: analysis of being via an analysis of the
presocratic philosophers, Nietzsche and literature.
Till ± 1935: more or less a classical philosophical
style mixed with an analysis of everyday
experiences.
After ± 1935: evocative style with an analysis of
literature and technology.
NEW PATHS
Truth is not a question of the logos, i.e.
making a judgment, but a question of being.
Aletheia > that what is not hidden.
This concept refers to two things:
1. The being shows itself.
2. Activity of the human being >
deconstruction of the way we think.
After the deconstruction its easier for the
being to show itself.
FORGETFULNESS OF BEING
The whole history of philosophy hides the
being > forgetfulness of being.
Therefore philosophers have to deconstruct this
history.
Philosophy is in need of a new kind of
language.
Someone like Hölderlin provides such a
language.
THE TRUTH OF ART
 In his famous essay ‘Der Ursprung des Kunstwerks’
(1935/36) Heidegger emphasizes the truth-function of art >
“The nature of art would then be this: the truth of beings
setting itself to work””
 Good art is responsible for the disclosure of the world
(Welterschließung).
 When Heidegger reflects on art he criticizes the
instrumental reason that dominates modern culture.
 Technology embodies instrumental reason.
 Art can transcend instrumental reason, because it opens up
and sets up a world.
 The world of science and technology is already opened.
SHOWING THE TRUTH
 What kind of thing is a work of
art?
 Aesthetics perceives them mainly
as specific things.
 Heidegger doesn’t deny that art
works are things, but argues that
the focus should be on their
disclosure of the world.
 Art works present the occurrence
of the truth (“ein Geschehen der
Wahrheit am Werk”) as this
painting of Van Gogh show > they
tell the truth about the life of
peasants.
BEYOND THE SUBJECT-OBJECT
MODEL
Philosophy is preoccupied with control.
The reason is the subject-object model of
philosophy.
Metaphysics has a theological element:
ontotheology.
The technological age is also preoccupied by
this metaphysical way of thinking.
The correct attitude: Gelassenheit (stay cool)
> accept to a certain extent your fate.
RECOMMENDED
1. Martin Heidegger, Sein und Zeit
[translations in several languages].
2. Martin Heidegger, Die Wahrheit und die
Kunst [translations in several languages].
3. Rüdiger Safranski, Ein Meister aus
Deutschland. Heidegger und seine Zeit
[translations in several languages].
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