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Interpreting Heidegger
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Book description

This volume of essays by internationally prominent scholars interprets the full range of Heidegger's thought and major critical interpretations of it. It explores such central themes as hermeneutics, facticity and Ereignis, conscience in Being and Time, freedom in the writings of his period of transition from fundamental ontology, and his mature criticisms of metaphysics and ontotheology. The volume also examines Heidegger's interpretations of other authors, the philosophers Aristotle, Kant and Nietzsche and the poets Rilke, Trakl and George. A final group of essays interprets the critical reception of Heidegger's thought, both in the analytic tradition (Ryle, Carnap, Rorty and Dreyfus) and in France (Derrida and Lévinas). This rich and wide-ranging collection will appeal to all who are interested in the themes, the development and the context of Heidegger's philosophical thought.


'… in rethinking, re-articulating and re-orienting the inheritance of Heidegger’s thought, the authors have put together an excellent collection of masterly essays, [one] that is characterized throughout by an intense critical and specialist engagement with Heidegger’s oeuvre. Heidegger scholars will find much that is relevant to the persistent, continuing philosophical discussions on Heidegger.'

Source: Philosophy in Review

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  • 1 - Heidegger's hermeneutics: towards a new practice of understanding
    pp 15-41
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    This chapter examines Heidegger's hermeneutics. Heidegger himself acknowledged retrospectively the importance of his early studies for his understanding of hermeneutics. Given his particular perspective in 1953/54 when he wrote the "Dialogue", Heidegger interprets his early acquaintance with the term hermeneutics with respect to the question of the "relation between language and Being". The "definition" of hermeneutics that Heidegger provided made it clear that he did not intend to use "hermeneutics" in its common modern sense: The expression "hermeneutics" is used here to indicate the unified manner of engaging, approaching, interrogating, and explicating facticity. The primary character of hermeneutics explains why phenomenology and fundamental ontology begin with the hermeneutics of Dasein. One of the first writings that Heidegger published after World War II that determined the understanding of his philosophy was the "Letter on Humanism".
  • 2 - Facticity and Ereignis
    pp 42-68
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    Throughout his writings Heidegger presupposed a phenomenological reduction of being to meaning. This chapter tests this thesis by re-interpreting two terms in Heidegger's philosophy: Ereignis and facticity. Both these terms come down to the same thing: a priori appropriation of man to the meaning process. Everyone is used to hearing that "being" is Heidegger's core topic. First, being is always the being of beings, whereas Heidegger insisted that the being of beings was not the central issue of his thinking. The second reason why "being" is not Heidegger's core topic is that once one has taken the phenomenological turn, the only philosophical issues that remain are questions of meaning. Heidegger begins his analysis of the absurd with everyday, ordinary moods that disclose to our affective understanding not only the meaning of individual things in our lived experience but also the encompassing context that gives them meaning.
  • 3 - The null basis-being of a nullity, or between two nothings: Heidegger's uncanniness
    pp 69-78
    • By Simon Critchley, New School for Social Research, New York; University of Tilburg
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    This chapter explores what Martin Heidegger means by guilt, which is something closer to lack in the Lacanian sense or indebtedness than moral guilt or culpability. Heidegger argues that the call of conscience calls one away from one's listening to the they-self, which is always described as listening away, hinhoeren auf, to the hubbub of ambiguity. The call of conscience that pulls Dasein out of its immersion and groundless floating in das Man, is nothing else than Dasein calling to itself, calling to itself by saying nothing. Uncanniness pursues Dasein down into the lostness of its life in the they, in which it has forgotten itself, and tries to arrest this lostness in a movement that Heidegger will call in the chapter of Being and Time repetition. Dasein is a being suspended between two nothings, two nullities: the nullity of thrownness and the nullity of projection.
  • 4 - Heidegger's concept of freedom, 1927–1930
    pp 79-105
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    The concept of freedom plays an important role in Being and Time and takes on an increasingly important place in Heidegger's essays and lectures of the post- Being and Time. Heidegger's distinctive and unusual conception of human freedom is to contrast it with the dominant conception of "free will" or "free choice" in mainstream philosophy. According to Heidegger's reading of De Anima, Aristotle defines a human being as a moving being who can make connections through logos. Towards the end of Being and Time, Heidegger begins to use the word "finite" that presages the emphasis on finitude in his 1929 Kant book, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics. On Heidegger's interpretation of Kant, the conclusion to draw is that the essence of a person is the "self-responsibility to bind oneself to oneself, to be in the mode of self-responsibility, to answer only to the essence of one's self".
  • 5 - Ontotheology
    pp 106-132
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    Heidegger's deconstruction of the metaphysical tradition suggests that ontological historicity congeals into five distinct but overlapping ontohistorical epochs in the "history of being", which is called the pre-Socratic, Platonic, medieval, modern, and late-modern epochs. In Heidegger's view, many of the deepest problems plaguing the technological age of enframing emerge from or are exacerbated by the particular Nietzschean ontotheology in which this technological enframing is rooted. Nietzsche's ontotheology implicitly provides the lenses through which we see the world and ourselves, leading us to pre-understand the being of all things as eternally recurring will-to-power, that is, as mere forces coming together and breaking apart with no end beyond this continual self-overcoming. Heidegger's critique of metaphysics as ontotheology importantly includes his critique of metaphysical understanding of God as a self-caused cause. Heidegger dismisses all types of 'theism' as the confused legacy of "Judeo-Christian 'apologetics'.
  • 6 - Being at the beginning: Heidegger's interpretation of Heraclitus
    pp 135-155
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    This chapter examines Heidegger's interpretation of Heraclitus' description of the primordial experience of Φύσις as a key to understanding being at the beginning of Greek thought. Heidegger's interpretation of Heraclitus' fragments provides important clues to what he means by the need for a new beginning of our thinking. Heidegger observes that Plato's interpretation of the beingness of beings rests on the experience of ὄ υ as Φύσις. Heidegger characterizes 934;ύσις as the "emerging" that is at once a "return-into-itself". Heidegger himself warns against the anachronism of reading metaphysics back into Heraclitus' thought and insists on preserving its crucial difference from that of Plato and Aristotle. Plato's treatment of being and truth in terms of ἰδέα draws, in the senses suggested, upon the basic experience of Φύσις and ἀλήθεια announced by Heraclitus. Plato construes truth, with the way the brightness of the ἰδέα.
  • 7 - Being-affected: Heidegger, Aristotle, and the pathology of truth
    pp 156-173
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    This chapter reviews how Martin Heidegger's interpretation of being-true is grounded in the soul's manner of being-disposed. It addresses Heidegger's appropriation of Aristotle's account of the two basic forms of pathos, namely, the tranquil mood of being-composed and the fearful mood of being-decomposed. The chapter shows how this pathology of truth de-poses one. This pathology of truth reflects how Dasein finds itself oriented toward its ownmost possibility, its possibility-to-be. It is nothing other than openness to this possibility. Dasein preserves its possibility-to-be as a possibility of being-composed by hedone and the mood of tranquility. Yet this possibility of becoming composed is always openness to becoming de-composed. Pathos embodies this movement so that Dasein in becoming-what-it-is finds itself posed with the possibility of becoming-what-it-is not. Dasein only encounters beings by first being-out-towards its nullity or absence as the most distinctive possibility of its finite existence.
  • 8 - Heidegger's interpretation of Kant
    pp 174-196
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    Martin Heidegger's Kant-interpretation is important and deeply intertwined with the existential phenomenology of Being and Time that it is impossible to understand one without the other. For an analysis of the positive content of Heidegger's Kant-interpretation, the reflections on the supposed violence of Heidegger's appropriation of Kant imply the following. First, one gets a more complete idea of the significance of Heidegger's recasting of Kantian themes by understanding how Heidegger's phenomenological interpretation of Kant at the same time undermines neo-Kantian epistemological readings. Second, much of the positive content of Heidegger's work on Kant shows up as Kant-inspired arguments in Being and Time; in particular Heidegger's analysis of originary temporality can only be understood in light of his analysis of Kant's transcendental deduction. Finally, this substantial overlap is bounded by a fundamental criticism that Heidegger levels against Kant's notion of the self.
  • 9 - The death of God and the life of being: Heidegger's confrontation with Nietzsche
    pp 197-216
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    This chapter argues that an important context for interpreting the 1936/37 Friedrich Nietzsche lecture courses is the theme of divinity as it appeared in Martin Heidegger's 1934/35 Hölderlin lecture courses "Germanien" and "Der Rhein" and later in Heidegger's own Contributions to Philosophy. The central theme of Heidegger's first Holderlin lecture course was the articulation of Hölderlin's poetry as it emerges from an originary attunement of holy mourning that preserves the divinity of the gods in their flight. Heidegger's confrontation with Nietzsche was that Nietzsche understood the meaning of nihilism as the inability of the Christian God to ground historical existence and that the overcoming of this crisis was to be found in the re-grounding of history upon a new god. Heidegger frames Hölderlin's many allusions to Dionysos in the poem in terms of Heidegger's own understanding of being as the site of mediation between humans and the gods.
  • 10 - Heidegger's poetics of relationality
    pp 217-232
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    Heidegger's post-war concern with poetry addresses a diverse assemblage of poets and poetic styles. Heidegger proceeds to think with the poets (Rainer Maria Rilke, Georg Trakl and Stefan George) toward an understanding of being and language. His concern throughout is with relationality, the relation between the things of the world and the words of language. The Rilke interpretation concerns the objectification of the things of the world. Human consciousness, aided by technology, objectifies these things into objects that stand opposed to a subject. Heidegger's readings of Trakl detail the transformations of the human underway in the world. In Heidegger's two interpretations of Stefan George, the 1957/58 lecture triad "The Essence of Language" and the 1958 lecture "The Word", the issue of relationality comes explicitly to the fore, motivating an understanding of language as the relational medium for the emergence of things.
  • 11 - Analyzing Heidegger: a history of analytic reactions to Heidegger
    pp 235-255
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    This chapter discusses four points of contact between the traditions of analytic and continental philosophy. The first three are moments when significant analytic philosophers wrote on Heidegger. Gilbert Ryle warns readers of the book's difficulty due to the fact that Heidegger imposes on himself the hard task of coining, and on us the alarming task of understanding, a complete new vocabulary. Rudolf Carnap uses excerpts from Heidegger's 1929 inaugural address "What Is Metaphysics?" as examples of how metaphysics rides natural language as it goes off the rails, though he admits that he faces an embarras de richesses of candidates. Richard Rorty considers Heidegger the greatest theoretical imagination of his time, an exemplary, gigantic, unforgettable figure, and one of the great synoptic imaginations of the time. Hubert Dreyfus has demonstrated the value of Heidegger's work by applying it precisely to what Rorty saw as the greatest obstacle to analytic-continental dialogue: science.
  • 12 - Lévinas and Heidegger: a strange conversation
    pp 256-272
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    Emmanuel Lévinas' favorable judgments regarding Heidegger's thought would eventually come with a specific reservation, as in the following response by Lévinas to a question in a recorded conversation with Dutch philosophers at the University of Leyden in March 1975: "It is from this idea that I have even understood better certain pages of Heidegger. You know, when I pay homage to Heidegger, it is always costly to me, not because of his incontestable brilliance, as you also know". Heidegger's major text Being and Time would seek to reopen the question concerning Being. Both Lévinas and Heidegger found that Jean Paul Sartre's ontological work is posed from the start within the context of the metaphysics of the tradition, which means, for Lévinas, an effort to reduce otherness to sameness, and, for Heidegger, an ongoing identification of Being with presence. Heidegger's thought is closer to metaphysica generalis than metaphysica specialis.
  • 13 - Derrida's reading of Heidegger
    pp 273-298
    • By Françoise Dastur, Archives Husserl de Paris; Ecole Françoise de Daseinsanalyse
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    Derrida's first reading of Heidegger in the long text dedicated to Emmanuel Lévinas and published in 1964 under the title "Violence and Metaphysics" shows that he understood the deep meaning of the Heideggerian question of being. Derrida attaches great importance to the passage, in the text that Heidegger dedicated in 1955 to Jünger where Heidegger puts a cross over the word "being" in order to avoid the almost ineradicable habit of seeing in being something subsistent and facing man: a gesture which Derrida sees as a way, in writing, of delimiting logocentrism and metaphysics of presence. Nietzsche is the theme of play that can be found in some of Heidegger's texts such as The Thing and The Principle of Reason. At the end of the first part of Of Grammatology Derrida stresses that the metaphysical concept of time cannot be used to describe the structure of the trace.


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