(according to Heidegger)
“The whole history of philosophy is just an endless variation of the Greeks’ theme ,
which is the theme of the Being itself. “
Jean Beaufret, 1974
The physical dimension and elements are now interlaced with a journey through time, and through the philosophical space.
The material outgrew the confines of a post and I had to split it in two parts, the first ending nominally with the second world war.
This journey is a tribute to the great modern philosopher and his work.
As a man, Heidegger was quite a controversial figure on many fronts. I touch upon some of them, but the post cannot exhaust them or cover them in any way approaching completeness.
Εκ του τελους αρχεσθαι.
The beginning is the end.
“If I take death into my life, acknowledge it, and face it squarely, I will free myself from the anxiety of death and the pettiness of life – and only then will I be free to become myself.” MH
Martin Heidegger died in 1976 in Freiburg, and was burried in the cemetery of his hometown, Messkirch.
The beginning of the journey was the small town of Messkirch, in Baden – Wurttemberg, near the Black Forest, where Martin Heidegger was born in 1889.
Heidegger’s father, Friedrich, was a carpenter. His mother Johanna, née Kempf, was a house wife. They were a family of poor means, who could not afford to send Martin to the university. Therefore, they enrolled him to a Jesuit Seminary.
Young Martin did not stay in the Seminar. In 1909 he “escaped” and went to the University of Freiburg, where he studied theology and philosophy.
In 1917 he marries Elfride Petri who will remain his supporting wife until his death.
From 1919 to 1923 he served as an assistant to Professor Edmund Husserl at the University of Freiburg.
Heidegger developed Husserl’s phenomenology in a new direction. He shifted the emphasis from the meaning of consiousness to the meaning of Breing. Husserl’s epistemological question “What does it mean to know?” is transformed into the question “What does it mean to Be?” in Heidegger’s conception.
Heidegger opposes the Husserlian claim that a person’s relation to the world and the things in it must be mediated by something in the person’s mind: beliefs, desires, experiences, etc. — what philosophers call “intentional content.” As he puts it:
“The idea of a subject which has intentional experiences . . . encapsulated within itself is an absurdity which misconstrues the basic ontological structure of the being that we ourselves are.”
After Heidegger became a Professor at the University of Freiburg, the relationship of the two men deteriorated and eventually broke down completely.
In 1922 Elfride gave Martin as present the wood cabin (Hutte) in Todtnauberg, where she was going for skiing. This cabin became Heidegger’s refuge, the calm place to go and think, write and meet some people.
In Paul Celan’s poem “Todtnauberg”, written in 1967 after his visit to the cabin, the Sternwürfel, the wooden cube above Heidegger’s well (resembling a Mallarmean die in “Un coup de dès”), is metonymically linked by its star design to the yellow arnica flower, viewed as the Jewish star.
In 1923 he was elected professor a the University of Marburg, where he stayed until 1928.
Heidegger turned the Western Philosophy upside down, starting with Descartes, who considered that the human being is a mind located in a meterial body. Heidegger asserted that the human existence is a happening, a process that welds the human to the World.
For Heidegger, there is not mind, body, and world, but Dasein in-the-world, as a ‘unitary phenomenon’.
For Descartes, space is a matter of abstract mathematical coordinates and calculations in which things are located and move about; for Heidegger, space is how Dasein experiences things.
Heidegger’s determination to break out of the philosophical tradition is focused in his attempt to get beyond the subject/object distinction.
In 1924 he met Hannah Arendt, with whom he had an affair until 1926 , when she left Marburg University to go to Heidelberg and study under Karl Jaspers. Arendt is a key person in Heidegger’s life, as she became one of his strongest supporters when he was accused of being a Nazi. She referred to this as a personal “error”.
His next major affair after Hannah Arendt was with Elisabeth Blochmann, who was also studying at Marburg. It must be noted that with the recent publication of the letters between Martin and Elfriede Heidegger in 2005 did it become known that the Heidegger marriage was an “open” one, in that Elfriede likewise had affairs, including one with the family doctor who fathered her first son, Hermann Heidegger.
In 1927, Heidegger publishes “Sein und Zeit”, “Time and Being”, his unfinished masterpiece, and dedicates it to his Professor, Edmund Husserl.
Most of it was written in the Todtnauberg cabin.
In its original design, Being and Time would have two parts, each part comprising three divisions.
As published, the book covered only the first two divisions of Part One.
The third division of Part One is now considered to be covered by the “The Basic Problems of Phenomenology”, and the first part of Division Two by “Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics” (see below”.
Divisions two and three of Part Two are essentially covered by “The Basic Problems of Phenomenology”.
In this sense, the original design of Being and Time has been completed, albeit in an indirect way.
Within a few years, this book was recognized as a truly epoch-making work of the 20th century philosophy.
In 1928 Heidegger is appointed Professor at the University of Freiburg, succeeding Husserl.
In 1929 Heidegger delivers his important inaugural lecture, What Is Metaphysics
and publishes his famous book, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics.
In the Spring of 1933, April 21, Heidegger is appointed Rector of the University and joins the NSDAP.
On May 3, 1933 he joined the NSDAP party. On May 27, 1933 he delivered his inaugural rector’s address on “The Self-Affirmation of the German University,” whose ambiguous text is frequently interpreted as an expression of his support of Hitler’s regime.
His spell as a Rector is short lived. He resigns on the 23rd April 1934.
He is the first Rector to resign under NSDAP rule.
His inaugural rector’s address was found incompatible with the party line and its text was eventually banned by the Nazis.
In his lectures of the late 1930s and the early 1940s, especially those which he gave during the period in which he was writing Contributions to Philosophy, he expressed covert criticism of Nazi ideology. Heidegger says in the SPIEGEL interview:
“After I resigned from the rectorate, I retreated back to my task as teacher. In the summer semester 1934 I lectured on “Logic.” In the following semester, 1934/35, I gave the first lecture on Hölderlin. The lectures on Nietzsche began in 1936. All of those who could hear heard that this was a confrontation with National Socialism.”
For some time he was under surveillance of Gestapo. He was finally humiliated in 1944 when he was declared the most “expendable” member of the faculty and sent to the Rhine to dig trenches. Heidegger reminisces:
“In the last year of the war, five hundred of the most eminent scholars and artists were exempted from any kind of military service.19 I was not one of those who were exempted. On the contrary, in the summer of 1944 I was ordered to dig trenches over near the Rhine, on the Kaiserstuhl.” (The SPIEGEL Interview).
I cannot of course cover this issue completely and even more, offer any explanations or assertions to the truth.
A lot of books have been written, heated debates taken place, and this will go on.
In my humble view, there is no doubt that Heidegger flirted with NSDAP in 1933,and failed miserably. He resigned from the Rector’s position and never resumed a position of power or influence. The way he rationalized this is of no interest to me. His work reamined at large untainted by the Nazi rubbish and poison. There are slips here and there, but he recovers quickly and never returns to the fallacies.
Heidegger was attached to his homeland. When in Messkirch, he would go for a walk in a path crossing the fields, for which the German word is Feldweg.
Today the path is still there, but the bench where Heidegger used to sit and work is gone. Only a label on a tree informs the visitor that the bench was there in the past.
Messkirch is a sleepy town in the middle of nowhere. It is a town that appears to have disowned its son, Martin Heidegger. Heideger is covered by a cover of guilt and oblivion.