He was (with the possible exception of Wittgenstein) the greatest philosopher of the twentieth century. He was (with the possible exception of Hegel) the greatest charlatan ever to claim the title of 'philosopher', a master of hollow verbiage masquerading as profundity. He was an irredeemable German redneck, and, for a time, a gullible and self-important Nazi. He was a pungent, if inevitably covert, critic of Nazism, a discerning analyst of the ills of our age and our best hope of a cure for them. Each of these claims has been advanced, with greater or lesser plausibility, on Heidegger's behalf. Who was the man who provokes these contrasting reactions?
Martin Heidegger was born on 26 September 1889, to a poor Catholic family in the small town of Messkirch in Baden in south-west Germany. His father Friedrich was the cellarman and sexton of the local church. In 1903 Martin went to the high school at Konstanz, where he was supported by a scholarship and lived in a Catholic boarding-house. He was, by this time, being prepared for the priesthood. In 1906 he moved to the high school in Freiburg where the church supplied him with free board and lodging. It was here, by his own account, that his interest in philosophy was first aroused, by a work On the Various Meanings of Being according to Aristotle ( 1862). by Franz Brentano, one of the forebears of the phenomenological movement. Later he came across Carl Braig's On Being: An Outline of Ontology ( 1896). which contained