Martin Heidegger (1889-1976)

German philosopher who developed existential phenomenology and has been widely regarded as the most original 20th-century philosopher. In his most important and influential work, Being and Time (1927), Heidegger is concerned with the question of what kind of "being" human beings have. They are, he said, thrown into a world that they have not made but that consists of potentially useful things, including cultural as well as natural objects.

After 1930, Heidegger turned, in such works as An Introduction to Metaphysics (1953; trans. 1959), to the interpretation of particular Western conceptions of Being. He felt that in contrast to the reverent ancient Greek conception of Being, modern technological society has fostered a purely manipulative attitude that has deprived Being and human life of meaning, a condition he called nihilism. Humanity has forgotten its true vocation, which is to recover the deeper understanding of Being that was achieved by the early Greeks and lost by subsequent philosophers. While Heidegger was a student at Freiburg, he studied with Husserl who had a profound effect upon his thinking.


For a perfect chronology of the life of Heidegger, follow this link to Enframing Heidegger


Besides Husserl, Heidegger was especially influenced by pre-Socratics, by the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, and by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Heidegger's original treatment of such themes as human finitude, death, nothingness, and authenticity led many observers to associate him with existentialism, and his work had a crucial influence on the French existentialist Jean Paul Sartre. Heidegger, however, eventually repudiated existentialist interpretations of his work. Since the 1960s his influence has spread beyond continental Europe and has had an increasing impact on philosophy in English-speaking countries.

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