Heidegger: A Very Critical Introduction

Heidegger: A Very Critical Introduction

Heidegger: A Very Critical Introduction

Heidegger: A Very Critical Introduction

Synopsis

Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) is one of the greatest conundrums in the modern philosophical world, by turns inspiring and mind-bogglingly frustrating. In this critical introduction S. J. McGrath offers not a comprehensive summary of Heidegger but a series of incisive takes on Heidegger's thought, leading readers to a point from which they can begin or continue their own relationship with him.

Excerpt

Slim postmodern introductory books like this one normally provide students with a summary. I interpret the task of introducing differently. the German word for introduction, Einführung, comes from einführen, which means “to lead someone in” (from the German führen, “to lead”). This book is not a summary but a leading into the subject matter. It is not intended to give newcomers Heidegger in a nutshell, in ninety minutes or less, and absolve them of the task of reading Heidegger. Rather, the book is designed to lead readers to Heidegger, from which point they will presumably begin or continue their own relationship with him.

For an introduction, this book is not always easy reading. Rather than following the increasingly popular “analytic” approach to Heidegger, which substitutes more commonly accepted philosophical terms for Heidegger’s often torturous neologisms, I stick with Heidegger’s language because it is inextricably related to the point he is making. If we are to understand anything of Heidegger, we need to engage, at least to a certain extent, in a hermeneutics of sympathy; we must allow Heidegger to temporarily reconfigure our concepts because it is only by such reconfiguration that Heidegger’s way of seeing will open up to us, and it is precisely this way of seeing that is at stake.

Understanding Heidegger is like learning a foreign language: one inevitably begins disoriented, and only gradually, through trial and tribulation, does one find one’s bearings. My sympathy, however, is held in check by suspicion. I have taken the “critical” qualifier of this “introduction” as an opportunity to raise some objections to Heidegger (which re-

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