Basic Writings Paperback – Nov 4 2008
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About the Author
Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) was born in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. He studied at the University of Freiburg and became a professor at the University of Marburg in 1932. After publishing his his magnum opus, Being and Time (1927), he returned to Freiburg to assume the chair of philosophy upon Husserl's retirement.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I definitely recommend this volume for either those folks who read "Being and Time" and are looking for more substance beyond that volume's present structure, fans of "Being and Time," and those who may shy away from "Being and Time," but still want to get a taste of Heidegger in a somewhat approachable text and from the source. Also, if anyone would like strategies for approaching "Being and Time," I wrote a blog with suggestions on my website, which can be reached through my Amazon community page: just click on the website on my community page, which you can get to by clicking my name above this review.
Unfortunately, I have to report that after 950 pages (including B&T) Heidegger makes no progress in reaching a new understanding of being except for the tentative suggestion that being might have something to do with time. When we reach the final page of the last essay of this collection (written in 1964), the ontological foundations of science seem just as secure (or, depending on your view, unstable) as they were when Heidegger first strode to the lectern at Marburg University in 1923.
Heidegger does have a lot to say about being though. We learn, for example, that Being is the Nothing, that Being is the transcendens, that Being is a gift and, most importantly, that Being is mysterious. Heidegger returns time and again to the same point: being is mysterious and we should be more open to the mystery of being. This is no doubt true: if we all stopped to reflect on the wonder of existence now and then it would probably help us get things into perspective and to spend our time more wisely. The trouble is that this is hardly a new and profound idea and it's been said much more poetically and succinctly many times by others (for example, Shakespeare).
Heidegger also has a lot to say on other topics, particularly science, logic, "calculative thinking" and our technology-dominated society. He sees all of these things as threats to our freedom because they have led to a culture in which we dominate and manipulate beings rather than "let beings be what they are". Heidegger doesn't see the threat as primarily one to the environment but rather to our very humanity as beings "open to the truth of Being".
Heidegger is short on practical solutions to the malaise he identifies, and his oracular style, metaphysical interests and penchant for unprovable assertions often seem little more than a mysticism of being. Indeed, if you replace the word "Being" with "God" throughout the book it makes just as much sense (although Heidegger denies that he equates being with God). So, if you are of a mystical bent and share Heidegger's distrust of logic, reason, science and technology this might be the book for you. It will often make painful reading but at least you will able to buttress your opinions with some choice quotations from a Great Philosopher.