Heidegger For Beginners

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Heidegger For Beginners

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Philosophy 20th century


by: Eric Lemay

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From the back cover: The ideas of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger have been described as an intellectual time bomb, as some of the most revolutionary thought in Western history. Despite the enormous amount of secondary scholarship available on Heidegger, it is -- due to the complexity of his thought and the density of his writing -- difficult for the curious beginner to gain an insight into Heideggers philosophy. THis book serves as an entry into the ideas of one of the 20th centurys most important thinkers, situating Heideggers thought within its philosophical and historical context -- alongside such thinkers as Plato, Descartes, Kant, Nietzsche, Husserl and Sartre. This book explicates many of Heideggers central ideas, including the Nothing, average everydayness, care, existence, be-in-the-world, the One, the critique of technology, anxiety, and most importantly, Being -- a notion which may offer us the key to understanding the very mystery of our own existence.


This book is an extremely poor and misleading introduction to Heidegger's thought. Neither Heidegger's hermeneutical-phenomenological interpretive method, nor the "being" question as he understood it, nor his philosophical roots are even tolerably depicted. The special kind of inner coherency, rigor, and "feel" for the structures of "human experience" that makes Heidegger's thought stand out are mostly ignored here, and instead we are given a bizarre selection of decontextualized tidbits from Heidegger which, when interpreted in the sloppy and cliched way these authors prefer, almost make him look like some granola-crunching New Age guru. If you have read this book, please do not judge Heidegger by it. If you have not, don't- instead try the equally clear and much more accurate introductory texts written by Polt and Dreyfus.

...a big disappointment. It runs about half the length of Sartre for Beginners (a better book in the "...for Beginners" series) with hardly any text, the humor is stale, and Heidegger's work is glossed over so poorly and with such brevity that its more apt to confuse a reader of Heidegger than help them.
This book does not explain Heidegger's use of phenomenology and how it differs from Husserl's, how Heidegger relates Being with temporality (!), or even, in any depth, how Heidegger escapes the subject/object problem. Aside from these key points, the author does not seem to touch on almost ANY of Heidegger's work -- which might be understandable, considering Heidegger's enormous output, but this book is woefully short in pages and on text.
Lastly, there is a page in this book that has Heidegger set on a backdrop of a concentration camp. It condemns Heidegger for being a dedicated Party member who unapologetically followed the ideology of the Nazis. It ends by calling Heidegger a "Gernman Redneck."
While Heidegger's participation in the Nazi party was contemptible, to say the least, it does not warrant such treatment. He was never an Anti-Semite, and openly condemned racism as "biological liberalism" as early as 1935. He also came to understand the Nazi movement, in these same lectures, as a mobilization enterprise, the likes of which he condemned as a technological worldview. What he did do as a Nazi, his rectorship at Freidburg, is worthy of full condemnation, but the author doesn't even mention it.

Good, Quick Survey for Difficult Ideas: Many folks have hang-ups about the 'difficulty' of modern philosophy. What these intro books do is to say: Look, the ideas *are* difficult -- don't kid yourself -- but just because they're difficult doesn't mean they should be *inaccessible*. Okay...First, we must stress that there's no substitute for the real thing (get a good translation of Heidegger; or better yet,but only if you can, read the original German text). That said, Heidegger, like Kant, is difficult. (Like most philosophers that this and similar introductory books deal with. Anybody who says otherwise is kidding us all -- or has read so much Heidegger that s/he has started to get brain-blur.)
The key Heidegger ideas in layed out in simple terms. And there's nothing wrong with simplicity! Good 'simplicity' is a lot more difficult than one might think. Writing simply and thinking critically is what these types of books are all about .

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