Being And Time Summary

Martin Heidegger

Being And Time

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Being And Time Summary

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Being and Time by German philosopher Martin Heidegger is a 1927 book that attempts to analyze the concept of Being. The author contends that although the concept is essential for philosophy, it has been avoided since the time of the Ancient Greeks with the individual being considered and analyzed rather than the larger idea. Heidegger’s focus is to redirect thinking toward the meaning of being. He uses an ontology that includes the concept of Dasein, or the human being in the abstract. Heidegger cites Edmund Husserl’s Logical Investigations as having made his own work possible. Being and Time is considered a groundbreaking work in philosophy with implications in the fields of existentialism, deconstruction, and hermeneutics. Heidegger’s work has been compared to that of Kant and Hegel and is thought to have influenced Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness.

In the first section of the book, Being, Heidegger says that his project is to answer the question of the sense of being in a concrete way. He believes that the traditional ontology has ignored this question by considering it general and not something that can be defined. Heidegger calls for an understanding of being as something that is distinguishable from any specific entities, or beings. Being, he says, is not like a being, but rather it is that which determines beings in a context in which beings are already understood. What he is trying to suggest is that there is a criteria or set of conditions by which specific entities can show up. To understand being would be to clarify the meaning or sense of being. This sense comes prior to any ideas of how or in what way any individual being or beings exist and this makes it pre-scientific. Therefore, to Heidegger, the question of the meaning of being will represent an understanding that would come before logic and theory. A true comprehension of being needs to be a repetitious series of acts of interpreting. He calls this, “The methodological sense of phenomenological description is interpretation.”

The next section of the book continues the examination of being following up on the question regarding what it is that helps to access the meaning of Being. As Heidegger implies, it is the being for whom the question of Being matters. This leads to an answer that suggests that it is the being for whom Being is a question, and it is not a what, but a who. Begin is referred to by Heidegger as Dasein, which is a German word that means “being there” or “existence.” In Being and Time, Heidegger is attempting to expand the characteristics of Dasein to better approach the meaning of Being. Being and Time is designed to be different from philosophical anthropology. The author goes on to study experiences, angst, and mortality, and then analyzes the structure of care. Authenticity is then considered as problematic as he delves into the potential for mortal Dasein to actually exist fully enough to truly understand Being. Nothing, according to Heidegger, can make it sure that Dasein is able to understand.

As the text enters its final section, the question of the authenticity of individual Dasein becomes intertwined with the history of Dasein. Dasein, when mortal, is stretched between birth and death and is surrounded by possibilities which it must assume. At the same time, Dasein’s way into the possibilities it faces must be along a path of history and tradition. This leads to the idea that the being of Dasein is time. Further, Heidegger presents the need for a destruction or transformation of the history of philosophy with respect to temporality. Although the vision the author had for the work was never fully completed, the publication of the text in 1927 served as an influential force in shaping the way philosophic inquiry was approached and how it relates to the human condition.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defends the complexity of the language of Being and Time, saying, “In any case, for many readers, the initially strange and difficult language of Being and Time is fully vindicated by the realization that Heidegger is struggling to say things for which our conventional terms and linguistic constructions are ultimately inadequate. Indeed, for some thinkers who have toiled in its wake, Heidegger’s language becomes the language of philosophy.” The New York Review of Books adds, “In his early masterpiece, Being and Time, first published in 1927, Heidegger set forth a bold challenge to the conventional picture of the human being that, in his view, had held sway in philosophy at least since Descartes if not long before. According to this picture, the human being confronts the external world as a disengaged thinker or res cogitans. Knowledge of the world is therefore a matter of correct representation, and truth is essentially a correspondence between an external state of affairs and one’s representation of that state of affairs within the confines of one’s own consciousness. Heidegger objected to this picture not only because he felt it was bad epistemology but, more importantly, because he felt it was bad metaphysics. It splits reality in two, placing the mind on one side and the world on the other, and then makes representation do the work of bridging the divide.”