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Martin Heidegger

Martin Heidegger (September 26, 1889 - May 26, 1976) was a German philosopher. He studied at the University of Freiburg under Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenology, and became a professor there in 1928. He influenced many other major philosophers, and his own students at various times included Hans-Georg Gadamer, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean-Paul Sartre, Emmanuel Levinas, and Hannah Arendt.

Life and Career

Heidegger was one of the central figures of the existentialist movement, and an extremely controversial figure in both his work and his life. His philosophical work was taken up throughout Germany and France; at the same time, however, it was scorned as rubbish by the Vienna Circle and by British philosophers such as Russell and Ayer.

Heidegger (among other German scientists and intellectuals) joined the Nazi Party on May 1st 1933, when he became the rector of the university in Freiburg. He resigned from the rectorship in February 1934. During this time Heidegger's former teacher Husserl, a Jew, was denied the use of the university library at Freiburg because of the racial cleansing laws issued by the Nazi Party. Moreover, Heidegger removed the dedication to Husserl from Being and Time when it was reissued in 1941; yet, when his Introduction to Metaphysics(1935) was reissued after the war, he declined to remove a glowing endorsement of the Nazi Party.

There is a further complication in the fact that he had had an affair with Hannah Arendt, a Jew, when she was a doctoral student of his in 1924. It ended when Heidegger joined the Nazis, but she later spoke on his behalf at his denazification hearings, and their friendship resumed after the war, despite Heidegger being held in widespread contempt for his political sympathies, and his being forbidden from teaching for a number of years.

Some years later, hoping to quiet controversy, Heidegger gave an interview to Der Spiegel magazine, in which he promised to come clear on these matters provided it was not published until after his death. When the article was published, however, it did not discuss these matters. Heidegger's involvements and the lack of a clear apology for them, complicated many of his friendships, and continues to complicate the reception of his work. It is likely that Heidegger was not antisemitic, neither did he adore Hitler. However he had sympathies for certain elements of Nazism which can be seen as a result of his philosophical reasoning.


(Early Work, phenomenology)

His main work is Being and Time[?] (Ger. Sein und Zeit, 1927), a dense and challenging work where he uses ontology and phenomenology to explore the meaning of being. Being and Time influenced many philosophical approaches, including existentialism and deconstruction. It remains one of the most discussed works of 20th century philosophy.

(Late work, esp. on poetry)

More information on the subject of Heidegger's political history can be found in Victor Farias[?]'s book, Heidegger and Nazism[?]. It should be noted that in many philosophical circles, Farias' arguments are controversial, and many of his conclusions are contested. Another relatively accessible account that attempts to work with the philosophical meaning of Heidegger's political involvement is Dominique Janicaud[?]'s "The Shadow of That Thought." Hans Sluga[?]'s book "Heidegger's Crisis: Philosophy & Politics in Nazi Germany" gives a fair examination of the relations between philosophy and politics.

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