Martin Heidegger

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Everyone is the other, and no one is himself.

Martin Heidegger (26 September 188926 May 1976) was a German philosopher. His book Being and Time (1927) is widely regarded as one of the most important philosophy texts of the 20th Century, but Heidegger's involvement with the Nazis has led to much controversy and debate.

Quotes[edit]

Why is there Being at all, and not much rather Nothing? That is the question.
Language is the house of the truth of Being.
The most thought-provoking thing in our thought-provoking time is that we are still not thinking.
  • Transcendence constitutes selfhood.
    • Essence of Ground (1929)
  • In its essence, technology is something that man does not control.
    • Der Spiegel Interview with Martin Heidegger, 1966
  • Warum ist überhaupt Seiendes und nicht vielmehr Nichts? Das ist die Frage.
    • Why are there beings at all, and why not rather nothing? That is the question."
    • What is Metaphysics? (1929)
  • What is peddled about nowadays as philosophy, especially that of N.S. [National Socialism], but has nothing to do with the inner truth and greatness of that movement [namely the encounter between global technology and modern humanity] is nothing but fishing in that troubled sea of values and totalities.
    • Introduction to Metaphysics (1953) — a publication of lectures of 1935.
  • Those in the crossing must in the end know what is mistaken by all urging for intelligibility: that every thinking of being, all philosophy, can never be confirmed by "facts," ie, by beings. Making itself intelligible is suicide for philosophy. Those who idolize "facts" never notice that their idols only shine in a borrowed light. They are also meant not to notice this; for thereupon they would have to be at a loss and therefore useless. But idolizers and idols are used wherever gods are in flight and so announce their nearness.
  • The human body is essentially something other than an animal organism.
    • Letter on Humanism (1947)
  • The human being is not the lord of beings, but the shepherd of Being.
    • Letter on Humanism (1947)
  • Language is the house of the truth of Being.
    • Letter on Humanism (1947)
  • Agriculture is now a motorized food industry, the same thing in its essence as the production of corpses in the gas chambers and the extermination camps, the same thing as blockades and the reduction of countries to famine, the same thing as the manufacture of hydrogen bombs.
    • Four Lectures on Technology (1949)
  • Das Bedenklichste in unserer bedenklichen Zeit ist, dass wir noch nicht denken.
    • The most thought-provoking thing in our thought-provoking time is that we are still not thinking.
    • What is Called Thinking? [Was heisst Denken?] (1951–1952), as translated by Fred D. Wieck and J. Glenn Gray (1968)
  • Everywhere we remain unfree and chained to technology, whether we passionately affirm or deny it. But we are delivered over to it in the worst possible way when we regard it as something neutral; for this conception of it, to which today we particularly like to do homage, makes us utterly blind to the essence of technology.
  • The Geschick of being: a child that plays... Why does it play, the great child of the world-play Heraclitus brought into view in the aiôn? It plays, because it plays. The "because" withers away in the play. The play is without "why." It plays since it plays. It simply remains a play: the most elevated and the most profound. But this "simply" is everything, the one, the only... The question remains whether and how we, hearing the movements of this play, play along and accommodate ourselves to the play.
    • The Principle of Reason (1955–1956) as translated by Reginald Lilly (1991)
  • Philosophy will not be able to effect an immediate transformation of the present condition of the world. This is not only true of philosophy, but of all merely human thought and endeavor. Only a god can save us. The sole possibility that is left for us is to prepare a sort of readiness, through thinking and poeticizing, for the appearance of the god or for the absence of the god in the time of foundering [Untergang] for in the face of the god who is absent, we founder. Only a God Can Save Us.
    • Interview (23 September 1966), published posthumously in Der Spiegel (31 May 1976), as translated by Maria P. Alter and John D. Caputo in The Heidegger Controversy : A Critical Reader (1991), edited by Richard Wolin.
  • From our human experience and history, at least as far as I am informed, I know that everything essential and great has only emerged when human beings had a home and were rooted in a tradition. Today’s literature is, for instance, largely destructive.
    • Interview (23 September 1966), published posthumously in Der Spiegel (31 May 1976), as translated by Maria P. Alter and John D. Caputo in The Heidegger Controversy : A Critical Reader (1991), edited by Richard Wolin.
  • I see the situation of man in the world of planetary technicity not as an inexitricable and inescapable destiny, but I see the task of thought precisely in this, that within its own limits it helps man as such achieve a satisfactory relationship to the essence of technicity. National Socialism did indeed go in this direction. Those people, however, were far too poorly equipped for thought to arrive at a really explicit relationship to what is happening today and has been underway for the past 300 years.
    • Interview (23 September 1966), published posthumously in Der Spiegel (31 May 1976), as translated by William Richardson in Risk and Meaning, Nicolas Bouleau (translated by Dené Oglesby and Martin Crossley), ed. Springer, 2011 (ISBN 978-3-642-17646-3), page 102.
  • Today we decide about metaphysics and about even more elevated things at philosophy conferences. For everything that is to be done these days we must first have a meeting, and here is how it works: people come together, constantly come together, and they all wait for one another to turn up so that the others will tell them how it is, and if it doesn’t get said, never mind, everyone has had their say. It may very well be that all the talkers who are having their say have understood little of the matter in question, but still we believe that if we accumulate all that misunderstanding something like understanding will leap forth at the end of the day. Thus there are people today who travel from one meeting to the next and who are sustained by the confidence that something is really happening, that they’ve actually done something; whereas, at bottom, they’ve merely ducked out of work, seeking in chatter a place to build a nest for their helplessness—a helplessness, it is true, that they will never understand.
    • Gesamtausgabe, 20:376, as translated by David Farrell Krell in Portraits of American Continental Philosophers (1999), p. 101

Being and Time (1927)[edit]

In order to remain silent Da-sein must have something to say.
  • We ourselves are the entities to be analyzed
    • Macquarrie & Robinson translation, ¶9
  • Everyone is the other, and no one is himself. The they, which supplies the answer to the who of everyday Da-sein, is the nobody to whom every Da-sein has always already surrendered itself, in its being-among-one-another.
    • Stambaugh translation
  • The domination of the public way in which things have been interpreted has already decided upon even the possibilities of being attuned, that is, about the basic way in which Da-sein lets itself be affected by the world. The they prescribes that attunement, it determines what and how one "sees."
    • Stambaugh translation
  • In order to remain silent Da-sein must have something to say.
    • Stambaugh translation
  • Nevertheless, the ultimate business of philosophy is to preserve the force of the most elemental words in which Dasein expresses itself, and to keep the common understanding from levelling them off to that unintelligibility which functions in turn as a source of pseudo-problems.
    • Macquarrie & Robinson translation
  • Being is only Being for Dasein
    • Macquarrie & Robinson translation
  • Der Tod ist die Möglichkeit der schlechthinnigen Daseinsunmöglichkeit.
    • Death is the possibility of the absolute impossibility of Dasein.
    • Macquarrie & Robinson translation

Nietzsche (1961)[edit]

Translated by D. F. Krell (New York: 1991)
  • In everything well known something worthy of thought still lurks.
    • p. xxxix
  • If in Nietzsche’s thinking the prior tradition of Western thought is gathered and completed in a decisive respect, then the confrontation with Nietzsche becomes one with all Western thought hitherto.
    • p. 4
  • “For many, abstract thinking is toil; for me, on good days, it is feast and frenzy.” (XIV, 24) Abstract thinking a feast? The highest form of human existence? … “The feast implies: pride, exuberance, frivolity; mockery of all earnestness and respectability; a divine affirmation of oneself, out of animal plenitude and perfection—all obviously states to which the Christian may not honestly say Yes. The feast is paganism par excellence.” (WM, 916). For that reason, we might add that thinking never takes place in Christianity. That is to say, there is no Christian philosophy. There is no true philosophy that could be determined anywhere else than from within itself.
    • p. 5
  • For anyone who at the end of Western philosophy can and must still question philosophically, the decisive question is no longer merely “What basic character do beings manifest?” or “How may the being of beings be characterized?” but “What is this ‘being’ itself?” The decisive question is that of “the meaning of being,” not merely that of the being of beings.
    • p. 18
  • “To stamp becoming with the character of being—that is the supreme will to power.” (WM 617) This suggests that becoming only is if it is grounded in being as being: “That everything recurs is the closest approximation of a world of becoming to one of being.”
    • p. 19
  • Eternity, not as a static “now,” nor as a sequence of “nows” rolling off into the infinite, but as the “now” that bends back into itself. … Thinking the most difficult thought of philosophy means thinking being as time.
    • p. 20
  • The critique of the highest values hitherto does not simply refute them or declare them invalid. It is rather a matter of displaying their origins as impositions which must affirm precisely what ought to be negated by the values established.
    • p. 26
  • In Nietzsche’s view nihilism is not a Weltanschauung that occurs at some time and place or another; it is rather the basic character of what happens in Occidental history.
    • p. 26
  • In contrast to “Blessed are they who do not see and still believe,” he speaks of “seeing and still not believing.”
    • p. 30
  • If beings are grasped as will to power, the “should” which is supposed to hang suspended over them, against which they might be measured, becomes superfluous. If life itself is will to power, it is itself the ground, principium, of valuation. Then a “should” does not determine being. Being determines a “should.” “When we talk of values we are speaking under the inspiration or optics of life: life itself compels us to set up values; life itself values through us whenever we posit values.” (VIII, 89)
    • p. 32
  • The small are always dependent on the great; they are “small” precisely because they think they are independent. The great thinker is one who can hear what is greatest in the work of other “greats” and who can transform it in an original manner.
    • p. 35
  • Nietzsche … does not shy from conscious exaggeration and one-sided formulations of his thought, believing that in this way he can most clearly set in relief what in his vision and in his inquiry is different from the run-of-the-mill.
    • p. 50
  • This is precisely what is decisive in Nietzsche’s conception of art, that he sees it in its essential entirety in terms of the artist; this he does consciously and in explicit opposition to that conception of art which represents it in terms of those who “enjoy” and “experience” it.
    That is a guiding principle of Nietzsche’s teaching on art: art must be grasped in terms of creators and producers, not recipients. Nietzsche expresses it unequivocally in the following words (WM, 811): “Our aesthetics heretofore has been a woman’s aesthetics, inasmuch as only the recipients of art have formulated their experiences of ‘what is beautiful.’ In all philosophy to date the artist is missing.” Philosophy of art means “aesthetics” for Nietzsche too—but masculine aesthetics, not feminine aesthetics. The question of art is the question of the artist as the productive, creative one; his experiences of what is beautiful must provide the standard.
    • p. 70
  • ...der Wille zur »wahren Welt« im Sinne Platons und des Christentums … ist in Wahrheit ein Neinsagen zu unserer hiesigen Welt, in der gerade die Kunst heimisch ist.
    • The will to the “true world” in the sense of Plato and Christianity … is in truth a no-saying to our present world, precisely the one in which art is at home.
    • p. 74
  • The relation of feeling toward art and its bringing-forth can be one of production or one of reception and enjoyment.
    • p. 78
  • We do not “have” a body; rather, we “are” bodily.
    • p. 99
  • Nietzsche understands the aesthetic state of the observer and recipient on the basis of the state of the creator. Thus the effect of the artwork is nothing else than a reawakening of the creator’s state in the one who enjoys the artwork. Observation of art follows in the wake of creation. Nietzsche says (SM, 821), “—the effect of artworks is arousal of the art-creating state, rapture.”
    • p. 117
  • Enjoyment of the work consists in participation in the creative state of the artist.
    • p. 117
  • Form displays the relation [to beings] itself as the state of original comportment toward beings, the festive state in which the being itself in its essence is celebrated and thus for the first time placed in the open.
    • p. 119
  • We think of beauty as being most worthy of reverence. But what is most worthy of reverence lights up only where the magnificent strength to revere is alive. To revere is not a thing for the petty and lowly, the incapacitated and underdeveloped. It is a matter of tremendous passion; only what flows from such passion is in the grand style.
    • p. 125
  • The word “art” does not designate the concept of a mere eventuality; it is a concept of rank.
    • p. 125
  • Who is to determine what the perfect is? It could only be those who are themselves perfect and who therefore know what it means. Here yawns the abyss of that circularity in which the whole of human Dasein moves. What health is, only the healthy can say. Yet healthfulness is measured according to the essential starting point of health. What truth is, only one who is truthful can discern; but the one who is truthful is determined according to the essential starting point of truth.
    • p. 127

Quotes about Heidegger[edit]

Ask professional philosophers of today to name the five most significant philosophers of the twentieth century and, whether they love him or loathe him, most will include Heidegger on the list. ~ Stephen Hicks
Alphabetized by author
  • [Heidegger] lies notoriously always and everywhere, and whenever he can.
  • I desire to restore alienation to the literary sense it possessed before the abominable Martin Heidegger, Nazi philosopher of Dasein....I prefer... Freud, alienation essentially as the estrangement he termed the "Uncanny" (Unheimlich), which, as I have argued elsewhere, is our modern version of the Sublime.
    • Harold Bloom Introduction, Bloom's Literary Themes: Alienation, Edited by Bloom and Blake Hobby, Chelsea House Publications (2009), p. xv
  • Heidegger’s political views are commonly deplored today on account of his early and open support of Nazism. Because of this connection, many like to suppose that his influence on subsequent political thought (as distinct from general intellectual thought) in Europe has been meager. Yet nothing could be farther from the truth. Heidegger’s major ideas were sufficiently protean that with a bit of tinkering they could easily be adopted by the left, which they were. Following the war, Heidegger’s thought, shorn of its national socialism but fortified in its anti-Americanism, was embraced by many on the left, often without attribution. In the writings of numerous thinkers like Jean-Paul Sartre, “Heideggerianism” was married to communism, and this odd coupling became the core of the intellectual left for the next generation.
    • James Caesar “The Philosophical Origins of Anti-Americanism in Europe”, in Understanding Anti-Americanism: Its Origins and Impact at Home and Abroad (2000), Paul Hollander (ed), Ivan R. Dee, ISBN 1566635640, p. 58
  • Heidegger is notorious for the obscurity of his prose and for his actions and inactions on behalf of the National Socialists during the 1930s, and he is unquestionably the leading twentieth-century philosopher for the postmodernists.
    • Stephen Hicks (2004), Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, AZ: Tempe, Scholargy Press, p. 58
  • Ask professional philosophers of today to name the five most significant philosophers of the twentieth century and, whether they love him or loathe him, most will include Heidegger on the list.
    • Stephen Hicks, Nietzsche and the Nazis (2007), Occam's Razor, p. 10
  • All in all, Heidegger's philosophy is an example of Herrschaftswissen [roughly translated as 'knowledge of domination'] in the service of a repressive society. It calls on us to abandon concepts for the sake of a promised communion with Being — but this Being has no content, precisely because it is supposed to be apprehended without the 'mediation' of concepts; basically it is no more than a substantivation of the copula 'is'.
  • We nicknamed Heidegger ‘the little magician from Messkirch’ … His lecturing method consisted in constructing an edifice of ideas, which he himself then dismantled again so as to baffle fascinated listeners, only to leave them up in the air. This art of enchantment sometimes had the most disturbing effects in that it attracted more or less psychopathic personalities, and one female student committed suicide three years after such guessing games
    • Joseph Kockelmans, “Heidegger on Theology”, in Thinking about Being: Aspects of Heidegger’s Thought, edited by Robert W. Shahan and J.N. Mohanty (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1984).
  • What has happened to those who, like Heidegger, have tried to find their ways in immediacy, in intuition, in nature, would be too sad to retell—and is well known anyway. What is certain is that those pathmarks off the beaten track led indeed nowhere.
    • Bruno Latour, “Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern” Critical Inquiry 30, (Winter 2004)
  • One can forgive many Germans, but there are some Germans it is difficult to forgive. It is difficult to forgive Heidegger.
    • Emmanuel Lévinas, Heidegger's pre-WWII colleague at University of Freiburg, Nine Talmudic Readings, trans. Annette Aronowicz. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994. p. 25
  • It is rather difficult to describe Heidegger’s face because he could never look straight into one’s eyes for long. His natural expression revealed a reflective brow, an inscrutable countenance, and downcast eyes, which now and again would cast a quick glance to assess the situation. Forced, in conversation, to look one straight in the face, he would appear reserved and insecure, for he lacked the gift of candid communication with other people. Hence his natural expression was one of cautious, peasant-sly mistrust
    • Karl Löwith, Heidegger’s colleague, as quoted in Ettinger, Hannah Arendt/Martin Heidegger, p. 11.
  • [T]he tenor of Derridian philosophy shares with Heidegger’s a dangerous proclivity towards the bombastic translations of problems of being and knowledge into strident moral dilemmas. Like the cosmic drama of Being repressed by being in Heidegger, Derrida’s protests against phonocentrism sound more like lay sermonizing than genuine analytical argument.
  • Heidegger's Nazism and the failure to confront it are philosophically significant for Heidegger's philosophy, for its reception, and for philosophy itself. At a time when some are still concerned to deny the existence of the Holocaust, in effect to deny that Nazism was Nazism, and many still deny that Nazism had a more than tangential appeal to one of the most significant theories of this century, merely to assert the philosophical significance of an abject philosophical failure to seize the historical moment for the German Volk and Being is not likely to win the day. Yet there is something absurd, even grotesque about the conjunction of the statement that Heidegger is an important, even a great philosopher, perhaps one of the few seminal thinkers in the history of the tradition, with the realization that he, like many of his followers, entirely failed, in fact failed in the most dismal manner, to grasp or even to confront Nazism. If philosophy is its time captured in thought, and if Heidegger and his epigones have basically failed to grasp their epoch, can we avoid the conclusion that they have also failed this test, failed as philosophers?
    • Tom Rockmore (1992) On Heidegger's Nazism and Philosophy. Berkeley: University of California Press, p. 289
  • After several decades of courageous scholarship by Hugo Ott, Victor Farias and Emmanuel Faye in Europe, and related work by American scholars Thomas Sheehan, Richard Wolin, Tom Rockmore and others, no sensible observer today doubts that Heidegger, the most celebrated figure in twentieth-century German philosophy, lied his inauthentic head off about his relationship to the Nazis. Far from being a reluctant sympathizer for a brief period in the early 1930s, as he sought to convince his denazification committee, Heidegger had been an enthusiastic believer in National Socialism’s “inner truth and greatness.” He hoped to become the Fuhrer of the university system, to play philosopher-king to Hilter’s Fuhrerstaat...
    • Carlin Romano (2013), America the Philosophical, NY:Vintage, pp. 367-368
  • The philosophical tradition that goes from Descartes to Husserl, and indeed a large part of the philosophical tradition that goes back to Plato, involves a search for foundations: metaphysically certain foundations of knowledge, foundations of language and meaning, foundations of mathematics, foundations of morality, etc. […] Now, in the twentieth century, mostly under the influence of Wittgenstein and Heidegger, we have come to believe that this general search for these sorts of foundations is misguided.
    • John Searle, “The Word Turned Upside Down,” The New York Review of Books, 27 October 1983
  • It ought to arouse our suspicions that people who spend enormous efforts on interpreting [Heidegger's] work disagree on the fundamental question whether he was an idealist. For the purposes of this discussion, his lack of a resolute commitment to the basic facts is enough. Suppose you took the notion of Dasein seriously, in the sense that you thought it referred to a real phenomenon in the real world. Your first question would be: How does the brain cause Dasein and how does Dasein exist in the brain? Or if you thought the brain was not the right explanatory level you would have to say exactly how and where Dasein is located in the space time trajectory of the organism and you would have to locate the right causes, both the micro causes that are causing Dasein and its causal effects on the organic processes of the organism. There is no escaping the fact that we all live in one space-time continuum, and if Dasein exists it has to be located and causally situated in that continuum. Furthermore, if you took Dasein seriously you would then have to ask how does Dasein fit into the biological evolutionary scheme? Do other primates have it? Other mammals? What is its evolutionary function? I can’t find an answer to these questions in Heidegger or even a sense that he is aware of them or takes them seriously. But taking these questions seriously is the price of taking Dasein seriously, unless of course you are denying the primordiality of the basic facts.
  • Finally, there is Heidegger's stunning silence about the Holocaust. For the hundreds of pages that he published on the dehumanizing powers of modern civilization, for all the ink he spilled decrying the triumph of a spiritless technology, Heidegger never saw fit, as far as I know, to publish a single word on the death camps. Instead, he pleaded ignorance of the fate of the Jews during the war—even though the Jewish population of Baden, where Heidegger lived, dropped dramatically from 20,600 in 1933 to 6400 in 1940, and even though virtually all of the 6400 who remained were deported to France on October 22, 1940, and thence to Izbica, the death camp near Lublin. As Heidegger was lecturing on Nietzsche in the Forties, there were only 820 Jews left in all of Baden. We have his statements about the six million unemployed at the beginning of the Nazi regime, but not a word about the six million who were dead at the end of it.
    • Thomas Sheehan (1988) “Heidegger and the Nazis.” The New York Review of Books, Vol. 35, No. 10 (June 16, 1988), pp. 38–47.
  • Was Heidegger's support for Nazism primarily a philosophical affair — indeed, a philosophical mistake — that could be easily corrected by a change in philosophical position? The opposite would seem to be the case, namely, that Heidegger's support for Hitler was intimately bound up with his own very conservative political views and his deep-seated anti-democratic and anti-modern attitudes. Since those attitudes demonstrably persist in Heidegger's thinking up to his death, to what degree is Heidegger's entire philosophy, both early and late, inextricably linked with his politics in the broadest sense, that is, with what he called the "inner truth and greatness" of National Socialism? […] And then there is a question of why, after the war, Heidegger chose to maintain an almost hermetic silence about his support for Hitler and the Nazis. Shouldn't the philosopher who had written so powerfully about the existential themes of responsibility, resoluteness, and authenticity have had at least something to say about his own personal responsibility for his actions during the Third Reich rather than glossing over the matter by blaming everything and everyone else?
    • Thomas Sheehan, “A Normal Nazi,” New York Review of Books, 14 Jan 1993.
  • Ignoring not only the sciences but the whole of the Western tradition since Plato caused Heidegger to remain too caught up in traditional metaphysics, from which only self-reflection could bring release.
    • Ralph Wiggershaus (1995). The Frankfurt School: Its History, Theories, and Political Significance Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought, MIT Press, p. 595.

External links[edit]