Heidegger: A Very Short Introduction

By Michael Inwood | Go to book overview
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Chapter 9
History and World-Time

Heidegger interrupts his account of time in BT to consider, in chapter 5 of Division II, 'Temporality and Historicality'. His interest in history dates back to 1916, when in an article on 'The Concept of Time in the Study of History' he argued that the historian cannot regard time, as the natural scientist does, as purely quantitative and uniform. Historical time involves qualitatively distinct periods, such as the Victorian era, whose significance depends on more than their length as measured in years. History had become a thriving discipline in nineteenth-century Germany, and philosophy of history followed in its train. Heidegger was especially impressed by Wilhelm Dilthey ( 1833- 1911), whose collected works began to appear in 1913. As well as being a historian of culture, Dilthey tried to do for history what Kant had done for the natural sciences, to spell out the basic a priori conditions that enable us to study history. Another significant figure, whom Heidegger often mentions in his early lectures though not in BT itself, is Oswald Spengler ( 1880- 1936). In The Decline of the West ( 2 vols, 1918, 1922) Spengler presented the past as a series of distinct, self-contained cultures, each of which undergoes, like a living organism, a process of growth, maturity, and decay. Thought and values are, on Spengler's view, always relative to a specific culture and have no universal validity. Even mathematics is culturally determined: ancient Greek mathematics is significantly different from modern mathematics, and not simply an incomplete fragment of it.


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Heidegger: A Very Short Introduction


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