Martin Heidegger

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Martin Heidegger

Prof. Dr. phil. Martin Heidegger
Born 26 September 1889
Meßkirch, Grand Duchy of Baden, German Empire
Died 26 May 1976 (aged 86)
Meßkirch, Baden-Württemberg, West Germany
Education Collegium Borromaeum (Freiburg im Breisgau)
University of Marburg
University of Freiburg
(PhD, 1914; Dr. phil. hab. 1916)
Influenced by Western philosophy
Influenced Heideggerian terminology, Dasein, Gestell, Ontotheology, Ontological difference, Existentials (Existenzialien), Ekstase, Sigetics (Sigetik), Hermeneutic circle,Aletheia,Disclosure,Fundamental ontology,Forgetfulness of Being (Seinsvergessenheit), Dwelling (Wohnen), Language as the vehicle through which the question of Being can be unfolded, "Language speaks",[2] Art's ability to set up a strife between "world" and "earth"[3]
Political party NSDAP (1933-1945)
Spouse(s) Elfride Petri (m. 1917)
Partner Elisabeth Blochmann (1918–1969)
Hannah Arendt (1924–1928)

Martin Heidegger (26 September 1889 – 26 May 1976) was a German philosopher, greatly influencing the course of 20th-century philosophy on the European continent and exerting a large influence on virtually every other humanistic discipline. After the change of his thinking (“the turn”), Heidegger placed an emphasis on language as the vehicle through which the question of being can be unfolded. He turned to the exegesis of historical texts, especially of the Presocratics, but also of Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche and Hölderlin, and to poetry, architecture, technology, and other subjects.


Heidegger was born in rural Meßkirch, Baden, the son of Friedrich Heidegger and his wife Johanna, née Kempf.Raised a Roman Catholic, he was the son of the sexton of the village church that adhered to the First Vatican Council of 1870, which was observed mainly by the poorer class of Meßkirch. The best expert on the writings and trains of thought of Martin Heidegger would later become his brother Fritz, who was five years his junior. He transcribed all the texts published during his brother's lifetime from his difficult-to-read manuscripts into appropriate typescripts.

Martin's family could not afford to send him to university, so he entered a Jesuit seminary, though he was turned away within weeks because of the health requirement and what the director and doctor of the seminary described as a psychosomatic heart condition. He enjoyed outdoor pursuits, being especially proficient at skiing. Studying theology at the University of Freiburg while supported by the church, He later switched his field of study to philosophy. Heidegger completed his doctoral thesis on psychologism in 1913 (published 1914), influenced by Neo-Thomism and Neo-Kantianism, directed by Arthur Schneider. In 1915 (published 1916), he finished his venia legendi with a habilitation thesis on Duns Scotus directed by the Neo-Kantian Heinrich Rickert and influenced by Edmund Husserl's phenomenology. In the two years following, he worked first as an unsalaried Privatdozent then served as a soldier during the final year of World War I; Heidegger had been called up in 1915 and assigned to post and weather observation services. He was not fit for combat missions, serving "the last ten months of the war" with "the last three of those in a meteorological unit on the Western Front".


Heidegger argues that philosophy is preoccupied with what exists and has forgotten the question of the "ground" of being. We find ourselves "always already" fallen into a world that already existed; but he insists that we have forgotten the basic question of what being itself is. This question defines our central nature. He argues that we are practical agents, caring and concerned about our projects in the world, and allowing it to reveal, or "unconceal" itself to us. He also says that our manipulation of reality is often harmful and hides our true being as essentially limited participants, not masters, of the world which we discover.

Martin Heidegger is widely acknowledged to be one of the most original and important philosophers of the 20th century, while remaining one of the most controversial. His thinking has contributed to such diverse fields as phenomenology (Merleau-Ponty), existentialism (Sartre, Ortega y Gasset), hermeneutics (Gadamer, Ricoeur), political theory (Arendt, Marcuse, Habermas), psychology (Boss, Binswanger, Rollo May), and theology (Bultmann, Rahner, Tillich). His critique of traditional metaphysics and his opposition to positivism and technological world domination have been embraced by leading theorists of postmodernity (Derrida, Foucault, and Lyotard).[4]

Heidegger wrote about these issues in his best-known book, Being and Time (1927), which is considered to be one of the most important philosophical works of the 20th century. Heidegger's influence is far reaching, from philosophy to deconstructionism and literary theory, theology, architecture, and artificial intelligence.

To understand Heidegger’s reflection on being-toward-death (Sein zum Tode), this theory should be put in the basic analytic of this philosopher, and his understanding of being by redefining concepts that we will be useful later for Sein zum Tode articulate with the being-for-the-martyr of the Christian. Heidegger attempts to renew the question of “sense of the being”, providing a new fundamental ontology. Its starting point is the man, seized conceptually as “being there,” Dasein, because his being, referring to being, is itself characterized by its understanding or apprehension of the whole being. [...] Dereliction (Geworfenheit) is marked in that Dasein is always already there, below its own original, always already thrown into existence without having chosen it. It is here, ex-posed, thrown into an existence (Existenz), which can not but wonder about this being in the world (In-der-Welt-Sein), which exist in nature is “comprehensive” (Verstehen), in search of meaning held by the project (Entwurf) self in the future. This search for meaning is concern (Besorgen), as given paramount concern. [...] In existentialism philosophy Death is at the heart of life. Once a man is born, he is old enough to die. Death is all the more the foundation of the individuality that it is impossible to share his death. Every death is solitary and unique. The authentic life is one that always knows the death and promised to accept courageously and honestly. We must track down everything that drives us to bury our dead.[5]

National Socialism

His lifelong confidante was his brother Fritz, to whom he wrote on 18 December 1931:

"Dear Fritz, dear Liesl, dear boys, We would like to wish you a very merry Christmas. It is probably snowing where you are, inspiring the hope that Christmas will once again reveal its true magic. I often think back to the days before Christmas back at home in our little town, and I wish for the artistic energy to truly capture the mood, the splendor, the excitement and anticipation of this time. […] It would appear that Germany is finally awakening, understanding and seizing its destiny. I hope that you will read Hitler’s book; its first few autobiographical chapters are weak. This man has a remarkable and sure political instinct, and he had it even while all of us were still in a haze, there is no way of denying that. The National Socialist movement will soon gain a wholly different force. It is not about mere party politics—it’s about the redemption or fall of Europe and western civilization. Anyone who does not get it deserves to be crushed by the chaos. Thinking about these things is no hindrance to the spirit of Christmas, but marks our return to the character and task of the Germans, which is to say to the place where this beautiful celebration originates."[6]

Heidegger joined the NSDAP in 1933 and signed the "Vow of allegiance of the Professors of the German Universities and High-Schools to Adolf Hitler and the National Socialistic State". In 1934, he stopped attending meetings and was eventually prevented from publishing, but remained a member of the party until its dismantling at the end of World War II, in which he fought as a member of the Volkssturm. In 1949, after several years of investigation, the French military finally classified Heidegger as a Mitläufer or "fellow traveller", thus not guilty of any actual crime. Regardless, his views and philosophy in relation to National Socialist Germany and anti-Semitism remain controversial, with, for example, left-wing Wikipedia having an entire article on "Martin Heidegger and Nazism".


  • "Dear Fritz!
 I would like to wish you and yours a very happy Easter! Thank you for your long letter. With each day that passes we see Hitler growing as a statesman. The world of our Volk and Reich is about to be transformed and everyone who has eyes with which to watch, ears with which to listen, and a heart to spur him into action will find himself captivated by genuine, deep excitement—once again, we are met with a great reality and with the pressure of having to build this reality into the spirit of the Reich and the secret mission of the German being […]" – Heidegger on 13 April 1933 in a letter to his brother Fritz
  • "It is not Russianism that will bring about the destruction of the earth but Americanism, not just the English but all of Europe has fallen prey to it as it represents modernity in its monstrosity." – Heidegger on 18 August 1941 in a letter to his brother Fritz

See also

External Links



  1. Conor Cunningham, Peter M. Candler (eds.), Belief and Metaphysics, SCM Press, p. 267.
  2. "Language speaks" (in the original German Die Sprache spricht) is a saying by Martin Heidegger. Heidegger first formulated it in his 1950 lecture "Language" (Die Sprache), and frequently repeated it in later works. Quoting Johann Georg Hamann's 1784 letter to Johann Gottfried Herder, Heidegger talks of language as an "abyss."
  3. "The opposition of world and earth is a strife." (Heidegger (1971), Poetry, Language, Thought, translation and introduction by Albert Hofstadter, p. 47: translation corrected by Hubert Dreyfus; original German: "Das Gegeneinander von Welt und Erde ist ein Streit.") The two interconnected dimensions of intelligibility (revealing and concealing) are called "world" and "earth" by Heidegger, the latter informing and sustaining the former (Heidegger's Aesthetics (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)).
  4. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Heidegger, Martin (1889–1976)
  5. Heidegger and the Being-Toward-Death (Archive)
  6. Translated in 2016 from the German by Luisa Zielinski, a writer and translator based in Berlin.