Martin Heidegger Biography

1 January 2017

The Man who would Create Being Martin Heidegger was born September 26th, 1889 in Messkirch, Germany and died on May 26, 1976 in his hometown. Martin was originally raised and educated in order to become a priest. His local church supported his schooling by scholarship in order that he may attend high school in Konstanz and further. Ironically, it was the pressuring support of the Catholic Church and the friends he later made during his schooling that eventually caused him to defect from the Church to pursue and become one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century.

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After graduating from high school in 1909, he spent two weeks as a Jesuit novice, and then being discharged allegedly for health reasons, enrolled at Freiburg University to study theology. However, for reasons unknown, but most likely because of his lack of desire to become a priest, he broke off his studies in theology after only two years. Rather than theology, Heidegger focused his studies instead upon the fields of philosophy, mathematics, and natural sciences.

During his remaining years of study at Freiburg, Heidegger worked with Edmund Huserll, a friend who would influence Heidegger’s later works and help start Heidegger’s rejection of Catholicism. He received his doctorate in philosophy in 1913. In 1915, Heidegger returned to Freiburg University to teach as assistant to Huserll. World War I briefly interrupted his work, as he was drafted into the military, but was dismissed after two months, again because of health reasons.

Heidegger then began to work on his habilitation thesis in order to capture the chair of Catholic philosophy at Freiburg. In 1915, he was instead appointed Privatdozent, or lecturer. Then in 1917, Heidegger married Elfride Petri, with whom he had two sons and a daughter: Joerg, Hermann, and Erika, although he did have a notorious affair with his student and philosopher Hannah Arendt while teaching at the University of Marburg in the 1920s. Despite this, she never left him.

Finally, Heidegger magnus opus was published in 1927, Being and Time, largely influenced by the work on phenomenology by his close friend Huserll, in addition to a few others such as Kant, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Dilthey. However, he considered one particular work to be the highest source of his inspiration, as he says, “‘[I] read Franz Brentano’s book entitled On the Manifold Meaning of Being according to Aristotle. ’ By his own account, it was this work that inspired his life-long quest for the meaning of being (Korab-Karpowicz).

Considered one of Heidegger’s greatest works, he earned recognition and fame for his questioning of Being. In 1929, he published three more works that further developed his own concept of phenomenological ontology, or the study of being. These were named What is Metaphysics? , On the Essence of Ground, and Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics. The 1930s and 1940s became a time when Heidegger’s practices called into question the legitimacy of his ontology, and this fact is still debated to this very day, and was also a critical turning point in his philosophy.

For in 1933, Heidegger joined the Nazi party. Whether or not it was because he approved or he feared the Nazis like most people is unknown. He made ambiguous speeches that could either be interpreted as for the Nazi party or against them. He was appointed rector at Freiburg that same year yet resigned the next year. Yet because of his perceived support of the Nazi party (he never left the party even after he stopped giving speeches), after Germany lost the war, Heidegger was banned from teaching, a ban that was not lifted until 1949. In 1950, he was made Professor Emeritus.

During this time interval, his work took a turn, becoming more systematic and obscure than his previous works. He began to write about the “essence of truth. ” He also began to study and lecture on the works of one Friedrich Nietzsche, another German philosopher who believed God was dead. This officially marked Heidegger’s separation from the Catholic Church and his upbringing. During this period of time in which his work took a turn, he published what is considered his second best philosophical work in 1936, called Contributions to Philosophy (From Enowning).

Unlike Being and Time, which addresses the Dasein, which is the kind of being whose Being is an issue for it, such as humans, he reiterates the imperative need to abandon subjectivity from his earlier works, but he takes on a different ontology of Dasein, believing that his previous notion of Being links to his critique of subjectivity. As he explains in his Letter on Humanism: The adequate execution and completion of this other thinking that abandons subjectivity is surely made more difficult by the fact that in the publication of Being and Time… “Time and Being,” was held back… Here everything is reversed.

The division in question was held back because everything failed in the adequate saying of this turning and did not succeed with the help of the language of metaphysics… This turning is not a change of standpoint from Being and Time, but in it the thinking that was sought first arrives at the location of that dimension out of which Being and Time is experienced, that is to say, experienced from the fundamental experience of the oblivion of Being. (Wheeler, citing Letter on Humanism, pp. 31–2) The Contributions to Philosophy (From Enowning) was not actually published in Germany until 1989, after Heidegger’s death and at his request.

Also a notable difference from his earlier works, most profoundly Being and Time, in Contributions to Philosophy, Heidegger drops his advocacy of the idea that Being can be represented truthfully using pseudo-scientific philosophical language, instead opting for the notion that it is correct to respond properly to Being in language. He is also famous for his critiques of technological thought, which is elaborated upon in Contributions to Philosophy (From Enowning).

Often confused with a criticism of technology, what Heidegger is really criticizing is our exploitation of technology as only an instrument invented to benefit a certain group of humans at the expense of others, having witnessed the atrocities of modern technology during both World Wars. This technological thought is an “us-them” dichotomy of who can kill whom faster, more efficiently, and with a greater magnitude. His later life becomes less eventful than his previous years, as he diverted more of his time to lectures than writing.

All in all, Martin Heidegger wrote over 45 books, gave over 44 public lectures, and gave about 15 official private lectures throughout his lifetime. He also became a member of the Academy of Fine Arts at Berlin, member of the Academy of Sciences at Heidelberg, and member of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts. He was named Honorary Citizen of Messkirch in 1959 and won the Hebel Prize of Baden-Wuerttemberg. Before his death in 1976, he gave one of his final interviews in 1966, called Der Spiegel, translated as “Only God Can Save Us. ” In this interview, he attempted to justify his political involvement during the Nazi years.

He died before he could complete his final work, the Gesamtausgabe, an enormous anthology of all of his works. The project has been taken up by Vittorio Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main and, though it is still not complete to this day, is expected to fill about 100 volumes. In conclusion, Heidegger’s work and his theory of Being were all results of those that supported him and his own drive for knowledge and fulfillment, for if it were not for his education and teaching experience thereafter, the world might have been deprived of one of the most ground-breaking philosophers of the 1900s and perhaps in history.

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