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evised & Expanded Edition
H arperCollins Editions of
M artin H eidegger
Basic W ritings
Being and T im e
D iscourse on Thinking
Early G reek Thinking
T h e E nd of Philosophy
H egel’s C oncept of E xperience
Identity and D ifference
N ietzsche: V olum e I, T h e Will to
Power as Art
N ietzsche: V olum e II, T h e Eternal
R ecurrence of th e Sam e
N ietzsche: V olum e III, T h e Will to Power
as Knowledge and as M etaphysics
N ietzsche: V olum e IV, Nihilism
O n th e Way to Language
O n T im e and Being
Poetry, Language, T hought
T h e Q uestion C oncerning Technology
and O ther Essays
W hat Is Called Thinking?
from Being and T im (1927)
to ‘[Ju Task of ‘fhinking (1964)
A Division of HarperCollinsPuWishers
The selections in this volume are translated from the following German books:
Sein und Zeit, © Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1972; Wegmarken, ©Vittorio Klostermann, 1976; Holzwege, © Vittorio Klostermann, 1972; Die Frage nach dem Ding,
© Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1962; Vortrilge und Aufsiitze, © Verlag Gunther Neske,
1954; Was heisst Denken? © Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1971; Unterwegs zur Sprache,
© Verlag Gunther Neske, 1959; Zur Sache des Denkens, © Max Niemeyer Verlag,
1969. Acknowledgment is made to Henry Regnery Company, Publishers, for
permission to reprint “Modern Science, Metaphysics, and Mathematics” from
What Is a Thing? © 1967 by Henry Regnery Company. Portions of this work
originally appeared in somewhat different form in What Is Called Thinking?
© 1968 in the English translation by Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.; Poetry,
Language, Thought, © 1971 by Martin Heidegger; On Time and Being, © 1972
by Harper & Row, Inc.
English translation © 1977, 1993 by HarperCollins Publishers,
Inc. General Introduction and introductions to each selection © 1977, 1993 by
David Farrell Krell. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever
without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in
critical articles and reviews. For information address HarperCollins Publishers,
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022.
b a sic w r i t i n g s .
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Heidegger, Martin, 1889-1976.
[Selections. English. 1993]
Basic writings : from being and time (1927) to the task of
thinking (1964) I Martin Heidegger ; [edited] by David Farrell
Krell.—2nd, rev. and expanded ed.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references.
Contents: Being and time : introduction—What is metaphysics?—
On the essence of truth—The origin of the work of art—Letter
on humanism—Modern science, metaphysics, and mathematics—The
question concerning technology—Building dwelling thinking—What calls
for thinking?—The way to language—The end of philosophy and the task of
ISBN ^ ^ 3 7 6 3 -3
I. Krell, David Farrell. II. Title.
B3279.H47E5 1992
04 05 RRD H 30 29 28 27 26 25
t o H annah A rendt
J. G lenn Gray
Joan Stam baugh
It is proper to every gathering
that the gatherers assemble to
coordinate their efforts to the
sheltering; only when they have
gathered together w ith that end
in view do they begin to gather.
— M artin Heidegger, Logos
G eneral Introduction: T he Question of Being
Being and Time: Introduction
W hat Is Metaphysics?
O n the Essence of T ruth
T he Origin of the Work of Art
Letter on H um anism
M odern Science, Metaphysics, and M athem atics
The Question C oncerning Technology
Building dwelling Thinking
W hat Calls for Thinking?
T he Way to Language
T he End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking
Suggestions for Further Study
This book offers a selection from the writings of the G erm an think­
er M artin Heidegger, born Septem ber 26, 1889, in Messkirch, died
May 26, 1976, in Freibyrg. Its dual purpose is to provide English­
speaking students of philosophy and of the arts and sciences with
(1) an introduction to Heidegger’s thought, and (2) essays particu­
larly thought-provoking for students’ own areas of interest. It ad­
vances the claim to a “basic” selection only with the proviso that
other essays excluded for reasons of length may be as basic for an
understanding of Heidegger’s thought. Although M artin Heidegger
studied plans for the volume during the winter and spring of 1974­
75, generously offering suggestions concerning inclusions and ex­
clusions, the plan adopted here cannot be called an “authorized”
Eleven selections appear: eight complete essays, two uncut
excerpts from larger works, and one abridged piece. With the ex­
ception of Reading VI, “M odern Science, Metaphysics, and M ath­
ematics,” the sequence of selections is chronological by order of
T he m ajor improvements in this second, revised and expanded
edition of Basic Writings are these: (1) Heidegger’s most concise
account of his thinking concerning language and propriation (Ereignis) has been added (see Reading X, “T he Way to Language”);
(2) Reading IV, “The Origin of the Work of Art,” now appears com­
plete, including the Epilogue and the 1956 Addendum; (3) I have
checked through each piece, correcting the errors that have come
to my attention during the past fifteen years and making more con­
sistent the translation of a num ber of fundam ental words. For ex­
ample, “clearing” is now used for Lichtung, “to propriate” for sich
ereignen, “propriation” for E reignis. Yet because such changes are
expensive to make I have kept them to a m inim um , in order to keep
the price of the book as low as possible. I have updated the “Sug­
gestions for Further Study” with the help of Robert Bernasconi and
Joel Shapiro, but have not really been able to do the same for my
General Introduction: the publication of a whole range of Heideg­
ger’s M arburg lecture courses in the Collected Edition has so en­
riched and complicated our understanding that I could not easily
absorb these new materials into my account. I have tried to deal
with some of these new publications in my books, Intim ations o f
Mortality: Tim e, Truth, and F initude in Heidegger’s Thinking o f
Being, 2nd ed. (University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University
Press, 1991) and Daimon Life: Heidegger and Life-Philosophy
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992), to which I refer the
interested reader.
Two considerations ultimately determ ined the choice of the se­
lections. First, I tried to offer a glimpse of Heidegger’s path of
thought from the late 1920s until his death, although restrictions of
space forced the exclusion of many signposts along that path. Sec­
ond, I studied each piece with a view to its autonomy, accessibility,
and the special significance of the issues raised in it. Reluctantly,
again for reasons of space, I excluded essays on the “history of
Being” and on the great thinkers of the Western tradition. Perhaps
a second volume will someday be able to offer a selection of Hei­
degger’s attempts to recover and renew the thought of Heraclitus
and Parmenides, Plato and Aristotle, Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, and
Nietzsche. To friends who have urged the inclusion of these and
other materials— and who will be chagrined to find more than one
favorite essay missing— I enter the anthologist’s plea: even aside
from the external pressures that limit his or her freedom, gatherers
visit blossoms already most familiar to them , and cannot know or
cull the entire garden.
Although I will argue that the later essays refine the project an­
nounced and begun even before Being and Time (1927) and that
therefore the best way to approach Heidegger’s career of thought is
to read the essays in the order they appear here up to “T he End of
Philosophy and the Task of Thinking” (1*964), editors’ arguments are
often best ignored. Heidegger himself emphasized that the issues to
which these essays respond are what is important. He discouraged
biographical or doxographical fixations on “Martin Heidegger” and
encouraged questioning on the m atters of thinking and for the sake
of thinking—zur Sache des Denkens. Readers most intrigued by
questions in the natural sciences, for example, m ight well begin
with the sixth and seventh selections, “M odern Science, Metaphys­
ics, and M athem atics” and “T he Question Concerning Technolo­
gy,” only then going back to the second and first readings, “W hat
Is Metaphysics?” and “Being and Time.” Those with a background
primarily in the fine arts may want to begin with the fourth essay,
“T he Origin of the Work of Art,” only then entering the territory
of the sciences and technology via the eighth, “Building Dwelling
Thinking.” Those most interested in languages and literatures may
want to set out on “T he Way to Language,” Reading X, first of all.
Students intrigued by theory of knowledge may first wish to hear
what Heidegger has to say in the third selection, “O n the Essence
of T ruth.” Students of history or politics may find the “L etter on
H um anism ,” Reading V, a fruitful beginning. Those who haven’t
the benefit of a teacher’s suggestions and can’t think of a place to
start m ight try the ninth selection, “W hat Calls for Thinking?” In
short, the sequence of the readings is not a m atter for strict obser­
vance; the book is placed at the disposal of all who may find in it
food for thought.
Five selections appear in translations prepared especially for this
volume: (1) “Being and Time: Introduction,” by Joan Stambaugh,
in collaboration with J. G lenn Gray and the editor; (2) “W hat Is
Metaphysics?” by the editor; (3) “O n the Essence of T ruth,” by John
Sallis; (4) “L etter on H um anism ,” by Frank A. Capuzzi, in collab­
oration with J. G lenn Gray and the editor; and (5) “The Way to
Language,” by the editor.
Footnotes in the readings indicated by arabic num erals are
Heidegger’s; those m arked with an asterisk are by the translator or
editor as indicated. All explanatory insertions in Heidegger’s texts
by translators or the editor appear in square brackets. Q uotations
on the title pages of the readings are from Heidegger’s From the
Experience ofThinking (1947); the translations are by the late Albert
Hofstadter, one of the ablest and most generous of translators.
Permission to reprint copyrighted material was graciously extend­
ed by the Henry Regnery Com pany of Chicago for selections from
M artin Heidegger, W hat Is A Thing? (1967), translated by W. B.
Barton, Jr., and Vera Deutsch.
Note that the word “m an” and the m asculine pronouns associ­
ated with it, both in Heidegger’s essays and in my own remarks, are
no m ore than conveniently brief ways of translating der Mensch,
“th e hum an being.”
My thanks to Basic Writings’ many friends and helpers over the
years, now far too many to list by nam e, except for my assistants at
D ePaul University, A nna Vaughn and Ashley Carr, who worked so
skillfully on this new edition, and my continuing gratitude to the
m an who two years before his death served as the book’s general
editor and tutelary genius—J. G lenn Gray.
by David Farrell Krell
If it serves its purpose, this entire book will be an introduction to
the question of Being in the thought of M artin Heidegger. This
“general” introduction to that m ore dem anding one will first try to
sketch the prehistory of the question in Heidegger’s early years up
to its decisive form ulation in Being and Time (1927). But because
only the Introduction to Heidegger’s m ajor work appears in these
Basic Writings, the present introduction, after outlining the prehis­
tory of the question, will offer a brief analysis of Being and Time.
It will close by trying to show how the later essays advance the
project undertaken in that work.
In the sum m er of 1907 the pastor of Trinity C hurch in Constance
gave a seventeen-year-old high school student a book that was too
difficult for him. It was the dissertation of Franz Brentano, O n the
M anifold Meaning o f Being according to Aristotle (1862). M artin
Heidegger later called that book “the chief help and guide of my
first awkward attem pts to penetrate into philosophy.”1
1. Martin Heidegger, “My Way to Phenomenology,” in Martin Heidegger, On Time
and Being, trans. Joan Stambaugh (New York: Harper & Row, 1972), p. 74. See also
Heidegger’s Antrittsrede to the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences, printed in fahreshefte
1957-58, reprinted in Martin Heidegger, Frilhe Schriften (Frankfurt am Main: V. Klostermann, 1972}, pp. ix-xi, and translated by Hans Seigfried in Man and World, vol.
III, no. 1 (1970), 3-4. In addition to the published sources cited in what follows I am
indebted to conversations on various aspects of Heidegger’s career with Hannah
Arendt, J. Glenn Gray, Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann, and Martin Heidegger.
T he young author of that dissertation now being studied by the
even younger Freiburg student conceded that his book strove “to
solve difficulties experienced scholars have called insoluble.”2 Brentano was trying to unravel the m eaning of a word that had long
puzzled Aristotle— to on, “being.” “T he question th at was raised in
earliest times,” Aristotle had written, “that we raise today, and that
will always be raised and will always be a m atter of perplexity [is]: ti
to on, W hat is being?”’
For his m ain text B rentano chose a passage in Aristotle’s Meta­
physics (VI, 1, 1026a 33ff.) that reduced the many meanings of “be­
ing” to four, and he devoted a chapter to each meaning: (1) being
in its essential and inessential senses; (2) being in the sense of the
true; (3) being in the sense of potentiality and actuality; and (4) be­
ing in the various senses derived from the schem a of the categories.
Bewildering though this list may be, the text from which it derives
was actually one of the least complicated Brentano could have
found. O ther passages in the Metaphysics expanded this list of
meanings to include words which in translation read as follows: be­
ing as substance, property, on-the-way-to-substance, privation of sub­
stantial forms, being that has no existence outside the intellect, being
of finished but dependent existences, and being of movement, gen­
eration, and corruption. It seemed a bit of an understatem ent to
call “being” a homonym—a word with “manifold m eanings.” But
when the young Heidegger followed Brentano’s lead a year later and
looked into Aristotle’s own works the riddle becam e even m ore puz­
zling. For Aristotle believed that all these equally incomprehensible
meanings pointed toward one essential sense and insisted th at one
privileged science devote itself to the search for th at sense.
We speak of being in many senses but always with a view to one sense and to
one nature. Not simply in the way we use identical expressions but in the way
2. Franz Brentano, Von der mannigfachen Bedeutung des Seienden nach Aristoteles
(Freiburg-im-Breisgau: Herder, 1862), p. vii. See D. F. Krell, Intimations ofMortality:
Time, Truth, and Finitude in Heideger’s Thinking ofBeing, chap. 4.
3. Aristotle, Metaphysics, VII, 3, 1028b 2-4.
General Introduction: The Question of Being
everything healthy is related to health, inasmuch as it preserves or restores
health or is a sign of health. . . . In precisely this way we speak of being in
many senses but always with a view to one dominant source. . . . And just as
there is one science of the healthy so it is in all such cases. . . . Obviously
therefore it is proper for one science to study being insofar as it is being.
H ad some Polonius asked the young m an what he was reading in his
on “being’ he might well have answered, “Words, words,
words.” Germ an words from recent times trying to translate Latin
words from a bygone age that were trying to translate Greek words
from antiquity. But what were the Greek words trying to translate?
A nd whatever it was that for two thousand years had been sinking in
the debris of gutted libraries, why be concerned with it now? Why
should “being” fascinate a boy who, although studious and devout—
the firstborn son of the Messkirch sacristan, one of the boys who rang
the bells of the church that gave him his name and who thought he
might like to be a university professor some day—preferred swimming
and skiing to everything else? O r almost everything else.
It must have been apparent to the young Heidegger that not only
did the question of the meaning of “being” elude easy answer, it also
withheld its sense as a question. Brentano succeeded in demonstrating
that the question of being captivated Aristotle as the single most im­
portant question. Heidegger’s classical education, emphasizing study
of the Greek, Latin, and G erm an languages and literatures, could
hardly have failed to demonstrate that Aristotle had almost singlehandedly laid the foundations of the sciences. Heidegger knew in
some detail Aristotle’s contributions to, or creation of, what were later
called physics, biology, astronomy, psychology, logic, rhetoric, literary
criticism, ethics, and political science. But Aristotle’s broadest and
deepest question, which demanded an account (logos) of the Being of
beings (onta) and so becam e known as “ontology,” although it incited
disputations for the next two thousand years, seemed to have lost all
meaning. T he question of being? A baffling nexus of fateful signifi­
4. Metaphysics, IV, 2, 1003a 33ff.
cance and fatal obscurity. How could even a sense for the question
awaken? Whatever the reasons for his early, intense, and never abated
passion for it—and we should not expect these or any biographical
remarks to solve the enigma—in Heidegger that question evolved with
astonishing persistence and in no haste. ‘T h e following question con­
cerned me in quite a vague manner: If being [Seiende] is predicated
with manifold significance, then what is its leading, fundamental sig­
nification? W hat does Being [Sein] mean?”
It was furtherm ore what Nietzsche would have called an untimely
question, a thought out of season. Auguste Com te’s Discours sur
I’esprit positif (1844) had determ ined that hum an reason was now
entering its third and most m ature phase of development. Having
overcome rank superstition by m eans of theological fictions and
purged theology with distillates of metaphysic, the positive spirit of
the m odem age now had to abandon the chimerical, arbitrary,
vague, and idle questions of ontology or theory of being in favor of
the real, certain, precise, and useful undertakings of sciences such
as mathem atics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, and soci­
ology. Though theory of being m ight once upon a time have rooted
the sciences to a com m on source, and though Aristotle was surely
the taproot of the entire system, the Battle of the Ancients and
M oderns had long since uprooted the venerable tree of knowledge
and forced its branches to scatter on the winds of positive Progress.
While positivism encouraged high-handed neglect or underhanded
reduction of such questions as Being, other critical thinkers, as we
shall see, attacked from within.
In 1 ^ $ Heidegger sought help for his seemingly anachronistic
question from a book by Carl Braig, O n Being: A n O utline o f O n­
tology (18%). Braig taught systematic theology at Freiburg Univer­
sity. T hat same year Heidegger began to study theology under
5. Martin Heidegger, On Time and Being, p. 74, for this and the following biograph­
ical material.
General Introduction: The Question of Being
Professor Braig, stimulated by “the penetrating kind of thinking this
teacher concretely dem onstrated in every lecture hour” and en­
couraged by conversations they had during walks after class. Some
m onths later the young theology student learned of a multivolume
work that a student of Franz Brentano had published a decade ear­
lier—Edm und Husserl’s Logical Investigations. Expecting that they
too m ight shed light on the multiple meanings of being, Heidegger
borrowed the volumes from the university library. T hat expectation
was disappointed, but Husserl’s own project, which his second vol­
um e called a “phenomenology,” intrigued the young Heidegger. In
1911, after four semesters at the university, he m ade philosophy his
m ajor field of study. Though never losing his interest in theology,
Heidegger saw this discipline withdraw from the center of his schol­
arly work and felt the religion it was to serve becoming less and less
centripetal for the life taking shape in him. He read widely in phi­
losophy and in the hum an and natural sciences, studied the G er­
m an poets Holderlin, Rilke, and Georg Trakl, read the novels of
Dostoevsky and the works of S11ren Kierkegaard, and encountered
the newly expanded edition of unpublished notes by Friedrich
Nietzsche collected under the title The Will to Power. Many of these
authors m ight have discouraged Heidegger’s interest in theory of
being. Kierkegaard scorned the systematic ontology of Hegel as
som ething between a fairy tale and a swindle; Dostoevsky’s heroes
eschewed Aristotle and asked instead w hether God could be forgiv­
en his complicity in a world where innocents are m urdered. Twelve
m onths before Heidegger was born Nietzsche sequestered himself
in the Swiss Alps and in Twilight o f the Idols wrote that the “highest
concepts” of Western metaphysics were nothing more than “the last
wisps of evaporating reality.”6 O f all the idols vanishing in the
twilight, “being” m ust have been the first to go. In The Will to Power
6. Friedrich Nietzsche Werke, ed. Karl Schlechta, 6th ed. (Munich: C. Hanser,
1^W), II, 958; cf. Martin Heidegger, An Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. Ralph
Manheim (Garden City, NY: Doubleday-Anchor Books, 1961), p. 29.
Heidegger read that Being was a necessary fiction, an invention of
weary folk who cannot endure a world of ceaseless change and eter­
nal Becoming.7 In Nietzsche’s view the history of ontology—which
was in fact the history of nihilism— sought a world of definable
Being solely in order to rescue man from time. Interest in Being,
Nietzsche elsewhere wrote, sprang from revenge against time and
its “lt-was.”8 Not only was the question of Being anachronistic but
its suspicious relationship with time also made its pursuit, at least
in traditional metaphysics, a symptom of decadence.
Not only Nietzsche but other sources as well brought together
for Heidegger the issues of Being and time. H enri Bergson had been
lecturing on time for the past several years in Paris; Edm und H us­
serl rem ained particularly intrigued by the phenom enon of our in­
ternal consciousness of time. But from Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky,
and Nietzsche, Heidegger learned that this question of Being and
time, if it were to be pursued at all, would have to be worked out
concretely, with attention to historically relevant problems. It would
not be enough to shuffle concepts that went back to the age of
Aristofle: a new relation to the old language of philosophy would
have to be won. The search for a concrete interpretation of the m ean­
ing of Being, so mysteriously related to time, so inevitably bound
up with language, could not really get under way until Heidegger
had completed his formal education and becam e free to teach. But
a sense for the question stirred underground and what had germi­
nated in 1907 would break through the surface twenty years later
with Being and Time.
Under the direction of Heinrich Rickert, whose neo-Kantian ori­
entation emphasized training in logic, theory of knowledge, and
value-theory, and with the help of his teachers in theology, m athe­
7. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, trans. Walter Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale (New York: Random House, 1967), note 585 A; cf. notes 516-17, 531, 570,
572, 579, 581-82, 617, 708.
8. Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, in The Portable Nietzsche, ed. Wal­
ter Kaufmann (New York: Viking Press, 1954), pp. 251-53; Schlechta ed., II, 392ff.
General Introduction: The Question of Being
matics, and physics, Heidegger prepared a doctoral dissertation en­
titled The Doctrine o f Judgment in Psychologism: A Critical-Positive
Contribution to Logic (1913). This work vigorously opposed the re­
duction of logical procedures and norms to psychological processes,
a reduction encouraged by the general climate of positivism— the
word “positive” in Heidegger’s subtitle must not be understood in
the Com tean sense!—but resisted by the neo-Kantian schools of
Herm ann C ohen, Wilhelm W indelband, and Heidegger’s own m en­
tors. Often cited in the work were the books of Emil Lask, a former
student of Rickert’s, influenced too by Edm und Husserl, an ener­
getic opponent of psychologism.9 However, Heidegger’s preoccupation
proved to be not psychologism but the being of validity, especially
in the logic of negative assertions and impersonal statements.
It would be a mistake to assume that Heidegger felt perfectly at
hom e with his director’s neo-Kantian persuasion. In his first pub­
lished article (1912) Heidegger had been sharply critical of all the
well-known “schools” of m odern philosophy since Descartes, which
seemed excessively preoccupied with knowledge-theory.10 Heidegger
tentatively supported a brand of “critical realism” that sought a mid­
dle path between the “empirical sensationism” of Ernst M ach and
the “imm anentism ” descended from Berkeley’s radical idealism and
K ant’s critical idealism or “phenom enalism .” W ithout wishing to
revert to a naive realism exulting in the self-evidence of the external
world, Heidegger rejected epistemology’s involvement in problems
no longer vital to the conduct of the sciences. No scientific re­
searcher in morphology or microbiology, chemistry or astronomy,
doubted the efficacious relation of their work to the outside world;
none of them grew apprehensive over the possibility that they were
9. Heidegger’s doctoral dissertation now appears in Martin Heidegger, Friihe Schriften (cf. note I, above). Lask is cited on pp. 118—19, Husserl on pp. 5-6 and 68. Note
also the remarks on Bertrand Russell, p. l 15n.
10. See Martin Heidegger, “The Problem of Reality in Modern Philosophy,” trans.
Philip J. Bossert, in the Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, vol. IV, no.
1 (1973). 6lff.
working with “m ere sensations” or shadows cast by an evil genie.
Even in this early piece Heidegger called for “positively progressive
work” in philosophy, not in the sense of a positivistic rejection of
metaphysics, but in the sense of a reflection that would formulate
new problems and stim ulate advancement in the natural and his­
torical sciences. He began and concluded his article with a refer­
ence to ancient Greek and medieval scholastic philosophy—both
dominated by the figure of Aristotle—which had not succumbed
to epistemological disputes within the horizonless desert of the
subject-object split.
W ith the outbreak of the war in 1914 Heidegger enlisted in the
army, but after two m onths’ service he was discharged for reasons
of health. H e now began work on his Habilitationsschrift, a second
dissertation that would allow him to teach in the university as Privatdozent. By the spring of 1915 he had largely com pleted a work
entitled Duns Scotus’ Doctrine ofCategories and Theory o f Meaning.
H e dedicated it to Heinrich Rickert. Heidegger later remarked that
this writing pointed forward to his preoccupation with Being and
language since “doctrine of categories” was a com m on expression
for the Being of beings— it is the last of those m eanings Franz
Brentano derived from Aristotle—and the “theory of m eaning” be­
longed to grammatica speculativa, “the metaphysical reflection on
language in its relation to Being.”’1 At least as striking in this second
dissertation was the tension between Heidegger’s development of a
problem in pure logic or systematic knowledge-theory and his wax­
ing appreciation of the history and culture of the medieval world.
Pseudo-Duns Scotus (that is, as we now know, Thom as of Erfurt)
and Heinrich Rickert were not altogether comfortable companions.
In the Conclusion written especially for the publication of the work
late in 1916 Heidegger did censure the “critical realism” he had
11. Martin Heidegger, “A Dialogue on Language,” in Martin Heidegger, On the
Way to Language, trans. Peter D. Hertz and Joan Stambaugh (New York: Harper &
Row, 1971), p. 6; cf. the Foreword to Heidegger’s Fruhe Schri#en (where the Habilitation dissertation also appears), p. ix.
General Introduction: The Question of Being
endorsed faute de m ieux five years earlier and did insist that “objec­
tivity has meaning only for a Subject who judges,” thus reasserting
the priority of a pure logic of concepts in philosophical accounts of
judgm ent.12 Nevertheless, in the same breath the new Privatdozent
argued that the proper context for all problems of logic m ust itself
be “translogical” since it is formed by the intersection of philosophy
and history. The “genuine optics” of the former was not epistemology but “metaphysics”; the proper issue for metaphysics was not the
“Subject” of knowledge-theory but “the living Spirit” of a historical
age. At the conclusion of a work com mitted to the systematic treat­
m ent of a problem in logic and theory of knowledge Heidegger
wrote, “T he epistemological Subject does not express the most
meaningful sense of Spirit, m uch less its full content.” It was not
the theoretician of knowledge whom Heidegger now wished to con­
front but the thinker who canvassed and systematized the m ulti­
form works of Spirit and who therefore radically transform ed
philosophy and history for m odern thought: Hegel—whom an early
devotee had pronounced “the G erm an Aristotle.”
A lecture on “The C oncept of Tim e in the Science of History,”
delivered to the philosophy faculty at Freiburg on July 27, 1915,
reflected this same tendency away from pure logic and knowledgetheory toward metaphysics and history. Heidegger alluded to a kind
of “metaphysical compulsion” or philosophical “will to power” that
properly emboldened philosophers to flee the confinem ents of pure
epistemology in order to pose questions concerning the genuine
goals of philosophy and the sciences. His effort in the present in­
stance was to contrast the concept of time in m odern physics— from
Galileo’s free fall experiment to Planck’s quantum theory—to that
underlying the study of history. T he current state of the sciences,
historical interpretation (the influence of W ilhelm Dilthey was by
now unmistakably active), and the concept of time, all became en­
during elements in Heidegger’s quest for Being. But they were not
12. Frahe Schriften, pp. 347-53, for this and the following.
yet liberated from the epistemological labyrinth of mcx:lern subjec­
tivist philosophy: Heidegger’s early writings betray the Thesean
struggle of his earliest tendencies, toward Greek philosophy and
A thenian Aristotle’s posing of the question of being, against the
Cartesian m inotaur.”
O nce again Heidegger went into the army. Early in 1917 he was
stationed in Freiburg with “interior services,” working with the m il­
itary mails; after a full day’s work he would repair to the university
to conduct his lectures and seminars: Later he was sent to a m ete­
orological station on the western front near Verdun, where he
served until the Armistice. While in uniform, in 1917, he married
Elfride Petri. Two sons were born to the couple, in 1919 and 1920.
In 1916 Heinrich Rickert accepted the chair of philosophy in Hei­
delberg vacated by Wilhelm W indelband; Rickert’s post in Freiburg
went to a Gottingen professor—Edm und Husserl. The author of the
Logical Investigations (the book that had so impressed Heidegger
and convinced him to study philosophy) was by now widely known
for his school of phenomenology. Husserl’s m ethod of instruction,
conducted not so m uch in a classroom as in what Heidegger calls a
“workshop,” took the form of “a step-by-step training in phenom e­
nological ‘seeing.”’14 Husserl discouraged the intrcx:luction of un­
tested ideas from the philosophical tradition; he rejected appeals to
authority or to the great figures in the history of philosophy. Yet
Husserl’s m ethod of “going to the things themselves,” describing
phenom ena of consciousness as accurately and comprehensively as
possible, repeating analyses many times in order to sharpen the
analytical focus, began to shed some light on the Aristotelian or
13. In a review of the Friihe Schriften John D. Caputo calls attention to the young
Heidegger’s interest in mathematics, logic, and natural science. “It would be an eyeopening experience for analytic philosophers,” he notes, “. . . to see how deeply Hei­
degger once shared their interests.” See “Language, Logic, and Time,” in Research in
Phenomenology, vol. III (1973), 147-55. Yet Heidegger never really abandoned his
interest in mathematics and the sciences and remained capable enough in the former
to serve on doctoral committees for the mathematics faculty.
14. Martin Heidegger, On Time and Being, p. 78.
General Introduction: The Question of Being
Greek problem of being, especially on hds alethes, “being in the
sense of the true,” or as Heidegger would later say, “the presence
of what is present in unconcealm ent.”^
However, as Husserl continued to emphasize the development of
a system of transcendental phenomenology, first sketched in Ideas
I (1913), his way and that of his young “assistant” began to diverge.
From 1919 on, while preparing his lectures on problems in Husserl’s
^Logical Investigations and Aristotle’s philosophy, Heidegger began
to recognize m ore clearly and critically the historical antecedents
of Husserl’s “transcendental subjectivity” and its inheritance of the
axiomatic subjectivism of Descartes. Phenomenology’s “disinter­
ested observer” paid scant attention to the historical determ ina­
tion of his own goals and m ethods, so that his manipulations of
“acts of consciousness” could hinder rather than promote access
to “the things themselves.” In contrast, the ancients did not sad­
dle themselves with excessive epistemological equipm ent in their
investigations of being. “W hat occurs for the phenomenology
of acts of consciousness as a self-manifestation of phenom ena is
thought m ore originally by Aristotle and in all Greek thinking and
existence as aletheia, the unconcealedness of what is present, its
being revealed, its showing itself.”16 Through parallel studies in
Aristotle and Husserlian phenomenology—in the winter of 1921-22
he lectured on “Phenomenological Interpretations (Aristotle)”17—
Heidegger labored over the question of “the things themselves”
in ancient ontology and m odern philosophies of knowledge. W hat
was the decisive m atter for thinking? “Is it consciousness and its
15. Heidegger locates more precisely the importance of Husserl’s work for his own
efforts in the sixth of Husserl’s ^Logical Investigations (Halle: M. Niemeyer, 190),
where Husserl distinguishes between “sensuous” and “categorial” intuition.
16. Martin Heidegger, On Time and Being, p. 79.
17. See Martin Heidegger, Philnomenologische Interpretationen zu Aristoteles: Einfahrung in die philnomenologische Forschung (Frankfurt am Main: V. Klostermann,
1985). For a more detailed view of Heidegger’s relation to Husserl see Reading XI; On
the Way to Language, pp. 5-6, 9, and 269, and Heidegger’s Foreword to William J.
Richardson, S.J., Heideger: Through Phenomenology to Thought (Hague: M. Nijhoff,
1963), pp. xii-xv.
objectivity or is it the Being of beings in its unconcealedness and
concealm ent?”18
As a result of his creative interpretations of Aristotle Heidegger re­
ceived in 1922 an invitation to take up a professorship at M arburg
University. He accepted. Between 1923 and 1928 Heidegger there
enjoyed the most stimulating and fruitful years of his entire teach­
ing career. He joined several of his new colleagues, among them
the philosopher Nicolai H artm ann and the classicist Paul Friedlander, in a reading group called “G raeca,” studying Homer, the tra­
gedians, Pindar, and Thucydides. Most of Heidegger’s own lectures
and seminars at the university treated topics in the history of phi­
losophy by critically interpreting basic texts such as Descartes’s Med­
itations, Kant’s Critique of Pure ^w so n , and Hegel’s ^Logic; he also
offered courses on m ore general them es in ancient and medieval
ontology, including one on the history of the concept of time (Sum­
mer, 1925). Particularly influential was his 1924-25 lecture course
on Plato’s Sophist, the Dialogue where the problem of being is cen­
tral (cf. especially 243d-244a, and see Reading I). Heidegger intro­
duced the problem of being in Plato’s Sophist, rather typically, by
first working through Aristotle’s interpretation of aletheuein in the
sixth book of the Nicomachean Ethics, which analyzed the many
ways of relating to “truth,” that is, ways of letting beings show them ­
selves as they are in their Being.
Not only the younger students who attended Heidegger’s lectures
but also older colleagues like H artm ann and Paul N ato——who was
instrum ental in securing Heidegger’s invitation to M arburg—testi­
fied to the rigor of his questioning and the startling originality of
his insights. H annah Arendt noted that it was of decisive impor­
tance that Heidegger avoided general talk about Plato and spent an
entire semester closely examining just one of the Dialogues. “Today
18. Martin Heidegger, On Time and Being, p. 79.
General Introduction: The Question of Being
this sounds quite familiar, because nowadays so many proceed in
this way; b ut no one did so before Heidegger.”19 In this way Plato’s
theory of Ideas shook off the burden of traditional interpretations
that doctrines inevitably accum ulate and becam e a problem for the
present. Heidegger had no publications by which he might be rec­
ognized: simply by the force of his teaching students throughout
Germ any cam e to know of him. Professor Arendt spoke of a “ru­
m or” circulating underground, in unofficial university circles, dur­
ing the 1920s:
Thinking has come to life again; the cultural treasures of the past, believed
to be dead, are being made to speak, in the course of which it turns out that
they propose things altogether different from the familiar, worn-out trivialities
they had been presumed to say. There exists a teacher; one can perhaps learn
to think.
A nother student described Heidegger’s im pact as a lecturer in this
One can hardly portray Heidegger’s arrival in Marburg dramatically enough—
not that he tried to make a sensation. His entrance into the lecture hall
certainly did betray a sense of self-assurance and a consciousness of his own
impact, but what was truly characteristic of his person and his teaching was
that he became completely absorbed in his work, and that his work shone
forth. With him, lecturing as such became something altogether new: it was
no longer a “course of instruction” from a professor who devoted his real
energies to research and publication. With Heidegger, book-length mono­
logues lost their usual preeminence. What he gave was more. It was the full
concentration of all the powers—powers of genius—in a revolutionary thinker
who actually seemed himself to be startled by the intensity of the questions
growing more and more radical in him. The passion of thinking was so com­
plete in him that it communicated itself to his listeners, whose fascination
nothing could disturb. . . . Who of those who heard him then can ever forget
the breathtaking whirlwind of questions he unleashed in the introductory
19. Hannah Arendt, “Martin Heidegger at Eighty,” in The New York Review of
Boks, October 21, 1971, p. 51, for this and the following quotation.
hours of the semester, only to become wholly entangled in the second or
third question, so that only in the semester’s final hours would dark stormclouds of statements gather, from which lightning flashed and left us halfdazed?20
His students— among them Hans-Georg G adam er, Jacob Klein,
Karl Lowith, G erhard Kruger, and W alter Brocker— had m ore than
one reason to be dazed. M ore than likely they had stayed up half
the night discussing G erm an Idealism with Nicolai H artm ann— and
on four days of the week Heidegger began his Aristotle lectures at
seven o’clock in the morning. They went on empty stomachs and
m et for outings afterward, at least during the summer semesters, in
order to discuss w hat they had heard. These picnics they dubbed
“the Aristotle breakfasts.” But weariness and hunger were not the
only costs: Gadam er recalls that Heidegger dem anded m ore hard
work from them than any other teacher. Yet students and teacher
alike thrived. Heidegger’s teaching rem ained from that time on at
the very center of his intellectual life: virtually all his written works
devolve from lectures and seminar discussions.
O ne m orning during the winter semester of 1925-26 the dean of
M arburg’s philosophy faculty burst into Heidegger’s office.
“Professor Heidegger, you have to publish something, right now.
Do you have a manuscript?”
He did.
T he faculty had nom inated him for the chief philosophical Lehrstuhl at M arburg, held previously by H artm ann, but the ministry
o f culture in Berlin refused the appointm ent since in the past de­
cade Heidegger had not published a book. Through Edm und H us­
20. Hans-Georg Gadamer, “Marburger Erinnerungen,” in Alma Mater Philippina
(Marburg am Lahn: Universitiitsbund e. V., SS 1973, wS 1973-74, SS 1974), pp. 23­
27, 19-24, and 15-19, reprinted in part under the title “Begegnungen mit Martin
Heidegger” in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, September 28, 1974.
General Introduction: The Question of Being
serl in Freiburg, Heidegger’s m anuscript, an unfinished treatise
with the title Sein und Zeit, Being and Time, dedicated to Husserl,
found a publisher. Two copies of the page proofs were mailed to
the ministry. They were returned marked “Inadequate.” W hen
Being and Time appeared in February of 1927 the ministry withdrew
its disapprobation and granted Heidegger the Marburg chair.
T he book thus suffered a prem ature birth, hectic and deprived
of dignity. O f the two major parts projected for Being and Time
only the first appeared, and even it was incomplete, the third and
presumably conclusive division missing. Yet within a few years
Sein und Zeit won recognition as a truly epoch-making work of
twentieth-century European philosophy. To this day it brooks no
comparison in terms of influence on Continental science and let­
ters or genuine philosophical achievement. With its appearance the
neo-Kantian preoccupation with theory of knowledge and philoso­
phy of values seemed outdated; the custom ary separation of system­
atic and historical orientations— against which Heidegger’s own
earlier work had struggled— no longer held; phenomenology itself
received an entirely unexpected reformulation; and the whole his­
tory of metaphysics from Plato through N ietzsche came into radical
Heidegger began to formulate the question o f the m eaning of
Being as it appears in Being and Tim e during lectures and seminars
of 1924, although particular analyses go back to the winter semester
of 1919-20. By 1924 he had achieved three decisive insights. First,
his training in “phenomenological seeing,” with Edm und Husserl
instilled an allegiance to “the things themselves,” encouraged care­
ful description of phenom ena, and implanted the need for a con­
crete posing of the question.- T he logos of phenomenology would
have to “make manifest” the way the things themselves (as phenom ­
ena) “showed themselves” to be. (See Being and Time, section 7.)
21. Walter Biemel, Heidegger (Reinbek bei Hamburg: R^owohlt Taschenbuchverlag,
1973), p. 37.
Second, a renewed study of Aristotle’s Metaphysics (IX, 10) and
Nicomachean Ethics (VI, 3ff.), which were main sources for his
lecture courses in 1924-25 and 1925-26, revealed the fundam ental
sense of this “making manifest” in logos as disclosing or uncovering
and hence determ ined the basic sense of truth (aletheia) to be the
unconcealment by which all beings show themselves to be. T ruth
was neither the “correctness” or “correspondence” of assertions
with regard to states of affairs nor the “agreem ent” of subject and
object within those assertions; it was rather the self-showing that
allowed beings to be objects of assertions in the first place. (See
“O n the Essence of T ruth,” p. 115ff. and “T he Origin of the Work
of Art,” p. 176) Third, insight into the character of aletheia as disclosedness or unconcealm ent indicated that the leading sense of
Being in Aristotle. and throughout the Western philosophical tradi­
tion was “presence” (Anwesenheit). Phenomenology therefore
should make manifest what shows itself in unconcealm ent as what
is (at) present. (See Being and Time, section 6.) Thus the question
of the meaning of Being, raised in a phenomenological m anner with
a view to the presence of beings in unconcealm ent, required an
investigation into the meaning of time.
But where and with what beings should the investigation begin?
This question too Heidegger answered in his Introduction to Being
and Tim e (see especially section 2). T he question of the meaning
of Being could be raised in a phenomenologically concrete m anner
only by asking about the Being of the question, that is to say, about
the way the question presented itself and showed itself to be.
Heidegger began in the most curious m anner— by thinking about
what he was doing. He reflected on this starting point later during
the sum m er semester of 1935.22 He conceded that an investigation
into Being really ought to be able to inquire about the Being of any
being— an elephant in the jungles of India or the chemical process
of combustion on Mars— any being at all. Yet only one being con­
22. Martin Heidegger, An Introduction to Metaphysics (cf. note 6, above), chap. l.
General Introduction: The Question of Being
sistently m ade itself available each time such a question arose: “the
hum an beings who pose this question.” Analysis of the being that
raised questions concerning its Being would prepare the way for an
inquiry into the meaning of Being in general. But Heidegger resisted
the traditional ways of talking about the Being of man in Christian
dogma, Cartesian subjectivism, or the disciplines of anthropology
and psychology, in order to concentrate on m an’s character as the
questioner. M an questions his own Being and that of other things
in the world. He is always— in no m atter how vague a way— aware
of his being in the world. Heidegger called the Being of this ques­
tioner who already has some understanding of Being in general “ex­
istence” or Dasein. Being and Time is the analysis of Dasein,
hum an existence, within the framework of the question of the
m eaning of Being in general. O ne of the book’s central aims is to
resist the inclination nurtured by the metaphysical tradition to in­
terpret the Being of Dasein by means of categories suited not to
hum an beings but to other entities in the universe. All talk of the
“composition” of Dasein or of its having been “m ade” in one fash­
ion or another is conspicuous by its absence; all attem pts to inter­
pret Dasein with the same categories used to interpret combustion
and elephants are repudiated. Instead, those three decisive insights
are put to work. Dasein is the kind of Being that has logos— not to
be understood derivatively as reason or speech but to be thought as
the power to gather and preserve things that are manifest in their
Being. This gathering happens already in a fundam ental yet unob­
trusive way in our everyday dealings, for example, in our use of
tools. W hen we lift a ham m er or drive a car we are before we know
it enm eshed in a series of meaningful relationships with things. We
take up the ham m er in order to drive a nail through the shingle
into the roof so the rain won’t penetrate; we put on the left turn
signal well in advance of a turn so that the driver behind can brake
and avoid an accident. Such intricate contexts of meaning— which
are usually implicit in our activities and become visible only when
something goes wrong, when the ham m er breaks or the bulb burns
out—constitute what Heidegger calls “world.” In m ore general
terms, as being-in-the-world, Dasein is the open space where beings
reveal themselves in sundry ways, coming out of concealm ent into
their “truth” (aletheia) and withdrawing again into obscurity.
Dasein is present at the origin of the becoming-present of beings in
time. But in what sorts of hum an activities does the character of
Dasein most definitively show itself? How is a phenomenology of
existence to differ, say, from a sociology or psychology of man? Yet
another early writing offers insight into the fundam ental problem
of Dasein; we should take a m om ent now to refer to it.
Between 1919 and 1921 Heidegger wrote a detailed review of Karl
Jaspers’s Psychology o f Worldviews, a work in w hich Jaspers tried to
stake out the boundaries of hum an psychic life in order to learn
“what m an is.”25 Jaspers appealed to w hat he called the “limit situ­
ations” that drive the hum an psyche to extrem e kinds of reactions:
m an recoils against “existential antinom ies” or contradictions such
as struggle, death, accident, and guilt; his is a frustrated will to the
unified, infinite life of Spirit. Heidegger’s m ajor com plaint about
this book was that Jaspers “underestim ated and failed to recognize
the genuine methodological problem” of his own treatise. So long
as he operated with concepts like Spirit, totality, life, and infinity
w ithout undertaking a critical exam ination of the history of such
notions, and so long as he applied them to hum an Existenz without
giving a preliminary account of the Being of this entity, Jaspers’s
endeavor rem ained an arbitrary account of man— albeit an ingen­
ious and suggestive one. Particular analyses of guilt and death great­
ly impressed Heidegger: it is not difficult to see their influence on
som e of the most famous sections of Being and Time. But the lack
of structure, neglect of problems of m ethod, and the ahistorical
m anner of accepting preconceptions—all these showed Heidegger
23. Jaspers’s words, cited in Martin Heidegger, “Anmerkungen zu Karl Jaspers Psy­
chology der Weltanschauungen,” in Karl Jaspers in der Diskussion, ed. Hans Saner
(Munich: R. Piper, 1973), pp. 70-100. I have offered an account of this essay in
Intimations of Mortality, chap. l.
General Introduction: The Question ofBeing
the way not to go in his own work. It was not sufficient to have a
“basic experience” to com municate; the interpretive approach to
the question of man’s Being would have to be carefully worked out.
Because Dasein is itself historical all inquiry concerning it must
scrutinize its own history: ontology of Dasein m ust be hermeneuti­
cal, th at is, aware of its own historical formation and indefatigably
attentive to the problem of interpretation. Implied in such aware­
ness of its own interpretive origins is a “destructuring” or disman­
tling of the transm itted conceptual apparatus, a clearing of the
congested arteries of a philosophical tradition that has all the an­
swers but no longer experiences the questions— especially the ques­
tion of its own provenance and purpose.
With respect to what it experiences, our concrete, factical experience of life
has its own tendency to fall into the “objective” meanings of the environment
available to experience…. With respect to the meaning of its Being, the self
can easily be experienced in an objectified sense (“personality” or the “ideal
of humanity”). Such a direction for experience comes to the theoretical grasp
and to philosophical conception in ever stronger measures as the experienced
and known past insinuates itself into the present situation as an objective
tradition. As soon as this particular burden of factical life [the past] is seen in
terms of tradition . . ., the concrete possibility of bringing phenomena of
existence into view and specifying them in genuine conception can manifest
itself only when the concrete, relevant, and effectively experienced tradition
is destructured, precisely in reference to the ways and means by which it
specifies self-realizing experience; and only when, through the destructuring,
the basic motivating experiences that have become effective are dismantled
and discussed in terms’ of their originality. Such destructuring actually re­
mains bound to one’s own concrete and fully historical preoccupation with
H ere and in related passages we hear some of the central m otifs of
Sein und Z e it the destructuring of the history of ontology, the
interpretation of Dasein or existence as “a certain way of Being, a
certain meaning of the ‘is,’. . . a ‘how’ of Being,” special emphasis
24. Martin Heidegger, in Karl Jaspers in der Diskussion, pp. 92-93.
on the historical character of this Being with attention to its factual
rootedness in the everyday world and its “manifold relations” with
people and things. In this early article Heidegger names that certain
“how” of Being Bekiimmerung, a being preoccupied with itself or tak­
ing trouble concerning itself, advancing toward what in Being and
Tim e he calls Sorge or “care.” Care proves to have a temporal char­
acter. Its explication in Being and Time intends to serve as the “tran­
scendental horizon” of the question of Being in general.
Dasein involves itself in all kinds of projects and plans for the
future. In a sense it is always ahead of itself. At the same time it
m ust come to terms with certain m atters over which it has no con­
trol, elements that loom behind it, as it were, appurtenances of the
past out of which Dasein is projected or “throW l.” Dasein has a
history. M ore, it is its own past. Finally, existence gets caught up in
issues and affairs of the m oment. It lives in the present. Heidegger
calls these three constituents of Dasein “existentiality,” “facticity,”
and Verfallen— a kind of “ensnarem ent.” Each exhibits a special
relation to time: I pursue various possibilities for my future, bear
the weight of my own past, and act or drift in the present. O f course
at any given m om ent of my life all three structures are in play. In
the second division of Being and Time Heidegger shows how time
articulates all the structures of hum an existence displayed in the
first division. N ot only that. He shows how the tem poral analysis
allows us to get a grasp on the whole of Dasein, conceived as care,
from beginning (birth) to end (death). For death is th at possibility
that invades my present, truncates my future, and m onum entalizes
my past.
Death is a possibility of Being that each Dasein must itself take over. With
death Dasein stands before itself in its most proper potentiality for Being.
What is involved in this possibility is nothing less than the being-in-the-world
of Dasein as such. Its death is the possibility of being no longer able to be
“there.” When Dasein stands before itself as this possibility it is fully directed
toward its very own potentiality for Being. Standing before itself in this way
all relations in it to other Daseins are dissolved. This most proper, nonrela­
General Introduction: The Question of Being
tional possibility is at the same time the extreme possibility. As potentiality
for Being, Dasein cannot surmount the possibility of death. Death is the
possibility of the unqualified impossibility of Dasein. Death thus reveals itself
as the most proper, nonrelational, insurmountable possibility2
H ere was an interpretation of the Being of man whose candor not
even Nietzsche could doubt, for which Being itself was utterly finite
and hum an fate without reprieve. Its unflinching exposition of the
fundam ental structures of hum an being, mood, understanding, and
speech, of work, anxiety, concern, and care, of temporality and
radical finitude, the intimations of mortality— all these deeply im­
pressed European, Latin American, Indian, and Japanese scholars
and writers. Albert Cam us described his encounter with Heidegger’s
analysis of the finitude of Dasein in this way:
Heidegger coolly considers the human condition and announces that our
existence is humiliated. . . . This professor of philosophy writes without trem­
bling and in the most abstract language imaginable that “the finite and limited
character of human existence is more primordial than man himself’ [cf. Kant
and the Problem ofMetaphysics, section 41]. For him it is no longer necessary
to doze; indeed he must remain wakeful unto the very consummation. He
persists in this absurd world; he stresses its perishability. He gropes his way
amid ruins. 26
Surely the “finitude of Dasein,” Heidegger’s attem pt to regain the
G reek sense of limit and mortality, was not a purely academic or
abstract affair. While the son lectured on the problem of death on
Friday morning, May 2, 1924, in Freiburg, the father died in Messkirch after a stroke; the son brought one of the first printed copies
of Sein und Zeit to his m other’s sickbed nine days before her death
on May 3, 1927. Nevertheless, the author of Being and Time him ­
self carefully elaborated the issues of anxiety and death, indeed all
the analyses of hum an being, within the context of the m ore fun­
25. Martin Heidegger, Sein und Zeit, 12th, unaltered ed. (Tubingen: M. Niemeyer,
1972), section 50, p. 250. Throughout these Basic Writings the pagination of this
German edition of Being and Time is cited.
26. Albert Camus, Le mythe de Sisyphe (Paris: Gallimard, 1942), pp. 40-41.
dam ental question of the meaning of Being in general. T hat the
book was considered an “existentialist” manifesto for such a long
time testifies to the historic oblivion of the question it raises. Even
today readers often find various parts of the analysis of Dasein ac­
cessible but miss altogether the sense of the question of Being as
such. Understandably so, for precisely this sense is difficult. It can­
not be rattled off and put out as information; it remains a problem
which here we can only cursorily pose.
Heidegger’s analysis of hum an existence, propaedeutic to the
question of the meaning of Being in general yet already projected
upon its horizon, establishes the “finitude of Dasein.” Gadam er
What does Being mean? To learn about this question Heidegger proceeded to
determine in an ontologically positive way the Being of human existence in
itself. He c}id this instead of understanding it as “merely finite” in contrast to
a Being that would be infinitely and perpetually in being.”
In Being and Tim e the limit of mortality appears w ithout reference
to something unlimited— in open violation of our normal way of
conceiving boundaries. There is no Being that can serve as the
unwavering horizon against which hum an being may be measured
and found wanting. Perhaps that is the sense also of Heidegger’s
insistence that Being needs mortals and that it is utterly finite (cf.
Reading II). Perhaps, too, that is a way of understanding the thrust
of Heidegger’s research after Being and Time: it is not a m atter of
abandoning finite Dasein in quest of infinite Being but of seeing
ever m ore lucidly the limits within which beings as a whole come
to appear. T he task for thinking becomes the closure and conceal­
m ent by which Being withholds itself, the darkness surrounding the
source of presence. Pursuit of this task does not take us away from
the meaning of Dasein in Being and Time but leads us closer to it.
T rue, this treatise stands incomplete. Its second part is missing.
27. Hans-Georg Gadamer, in his Afterword to Martin Heidegger, Der Ursprung des
Kunstwerkes (Stuttgart: P. Reclam, 1960), p. 105.
General Introduction: The Question of Being
M ore disturbing, Heidegger never published the concluding division
of Part One. Projected under the title “Tim e and Being,” this divi­
sion was to have advanced from the preparatory analysis of everyday
existence, through the full determ ination of the Being of Dasein as
temporality, to the question of Temporality and Being in general.
Heidegger never brought his investigation full circle. Unlike Par­
m enides or Hegel, Heidegger could not and did not claim to have
conjoined beginning and end in the perfection of circle or system.
Even the essay composed in 1961 bearing the title “Tim e and Being”
does not serve as the culminating arc. Nor is that its intention.2S In
the seventh edition of Sein und Zeit (1953) Heidegger added a note
saying that for the missing third division and second part to be
supplied the entire book would have to be rewritten; yet he em pha­
sized that the way taken in the published portion “remains even
today a necessary one if the question of Being is to animate our
Being and Time remains a torso, a fragment of a work. Yet it is
Heidegger’s m agnum opus and provides the impetus for all the later
investigations, without exception.
In 1928 Heidegger’s alma m ater offered him the chair of philosophy
vacated by Edm und Husserl, who had retired from teaching. Upon
28. See Martin Heidegger, On Time and Being, pp. 1-24; cf. also p. 83. But not all
the materials relevant to this problem—the incompleteness ofBeing and Time—can
be discussed here. For example, during the latter half of a crucial lecture course
entitled The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, taught in the summer semester of
1927, i.e., immediately after the appearance of Being and Time. Heidegger further
explicated his approach to the question of Being. Now he focused on that third stage
of the question, the “missing” division of Sein und Zeit Part One, called “Time and
Being.” See Basic Problems of Phenomenology, trans. Albert Hofstadter (Bloomington:
Indiana University Press, 1982); see also the 1928 course, Metaphysical Foundations
of Logic, trans. Michael Heim (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984); and,
finally, the “first draft” of Division One of Being and Time, the 1925 History of the
Concept of Time, trans. Theodore Kiesiel (Bloomington: Indiana University Press,
1985). I have discussed this difficult matter in Intimations of Mortality, chaps. 2-3,
and also in chap. 6 of my book, OfMemory, Reminiscence, and Writing: On the Verge
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1^990).
his return to Freiburg Heidegger centered his instruction on Kant
and Germ an Idealism. By this time he had completed preparations
for a book that would advance the first stage of the “destructuring
of the history of ontology,” planned as Part Two of Sein und Zeit.
In Kant and the Emblem o f Metaphysics he confronted th e neoKantian epistemological interpretation of Kant’s first Critique with
his own perspective of the ontology of Dasein. This confrontation
took a particularly dramatic form in April 1929 with the famous
“Davos Disputation” between the relatively unknown Heidegger and
the widely esteemed neo-Kantian philosopher Ernst Cassirer. While
the learned, urbane Cassirer insisted that there were no “essential
differences” between their respective positions, Heidegger repeat­
edly stressed their disagreement. Heidegger was right. Cassirer could
never have affirmed the “basic experience” underlying Heidegger’s
entire project as it was reflected, for example, a few months later
in Freiburg in his inaugural lecture, “W hat Is Metaphysics?” (See
Reading II.) Heidegger’s reputation as a powerful and original think­
er continued to grow— in “official circles” now also.
On April 23, 1933, the combined faculties elected Heidegger
rector of the University of Freiburg. Three m onths earlier Adolf
Hitler had been appointed Chancellor of the Weimar Republic; the
Nazi party was rapidly consolidating its position in the government.
Weary of the political divisiveness, economic crises, and general
demoralization that plagued postwar Germany, many German aca­
demics— Heidegger among them — supported the Nazi party’s call
for a Germ an “resurgence.” O n May 3 and 4 local Freiburg news­
papers announced the new rector’s “official entrance” into the
NSDAP. Suddenly words like Kampf, “military service,” and “the
destiny of the G erm an Volk” appeared alongside “science” and
“Being” in Heidegger’s addresses.29 O n the eve of the Reichstag elec­
tions of November 12 Heidegger spoke out in support of Hitlerian
29. See Martin Heidegger, Die Selbstbehauptung der deutschen University, the
“Rektoratsrede” (Breslau: W. G. Korn, 1933), pp. 7, 13-16, 20-21.
General Introduction: The Question of Being
policies that had culminated in Germany’s withdrawal from the
League of Nations— whose birth certificate was the deeply resented
Versailles Treaty. Meanwhile the NSDAP-dominated ministry of
culture began to pressure university leaders for m ore politically ori­
ented courses and m ore ideologically enlightened faculty members
to teach them. Even though Heidegger resisted this pressure in
some cases, in others he himself willfully applied it. T here can be
no doubt that he became instrum ental in the “synchronization”
(Gleichschaltung) of the Germ an university with the party-state ap­
paratus. During his tenure as rector he helped to force the univer­
sity administration, faculty, and student body— not only in Freiburg
but throughout Germany— into the National-Socialist mold. At the
end of February 1934, because of a series of administrative difficul­
ties and political wrangles in both the party and the university, he
resigned the rectorship. By that time he was beginning to recognize
the impossibility of the situation and the utter bankruptcy of his
hopes for “resurgence.” In lectures and seminars he began to criti­
cize, at first cautiously and then more stridently, the Nazi ideology
of B lut und Boden chauvinism, which preached a racist origin even
for poetry.’0 Party adherents bitterly criticized Heidegger in the mid1930s, and various restrictions were placed on his freedom to pub­
lish and to attend conferences. In the summer of 1944 he was
declared the most “expendable” m em ber of the university faculty
and, along with a recalcitrant ex-dean, sent to the Rhine to dig
trenches. Upon his return to Freiburg he was drafted into the Peo­
ple’s Militia (Volkssturm).
Heidegger’s active collaboration with th e Nazi party had lasted
ten m onths (from May 1933 to January 1934); a period of passive
support and waxing disillusionment followed. His early enthusiastic
support of the regime has earned him the virulent enmity of many.
T he fact that he remained silent after the war about the atrocities
30. One of the most sharply critical texts appears in Martin Heidegger, The End of
Philosophy, trans. Joan Stambaugh (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), pp. I05ff.
committed against Jews and other peoples in Europe, while at the
same time bem oaning the fate of his divided fatherland, has under­
standably shocked and confused everyone, even those who freely
affirm the greatness of his thought. That his early engagement in
the Nazi cause was a monstrous error all concede; that his silence
is profoundly disturbing all agree; w hether that error and the silence
sprang from basic and perdurant tendencies of his thought remains
a m atter of bitter debate. ’
31. It is of course convenient to decide that Heidegger’s involvement in political
despotism taints his philosophical work: that is the quickest way to rid the shelves of
all sorts of difficult authors from Plato through Hegel and Nietzsche and to make
righteous indignation even more satisfying than it usually is. Yet neither will it do to
close the eyes and stop up the ears to the dismal matter. This is not the place to
discuss it in detail, however, and I will only suggest study of several accounts and
reflections. See Hannah Arendt’s brief but astute remarks in “Martin Heidegger at
Eighty” (cited in note 19, above), at pp. 55-54, n.3. Heidegger’s “Rectoral Address”
and related materials, translated by Karsten Harries, may be found in Emil Kettering
and Gunther Neske, eds., Martin Heidegger and National Socialism: Questions and
Answers, trans. Lisa Harries (New York: Paragon House, 1990). For recent discussion
and debate, and the introduction of important new materials concerning the course
of Heidegger’s involvement, see the Freiburger Universitiitsbliitter, Heft 92 (June
1986), entitled “Martin Heidegger: Ein Philosoph und die Politik,” edited by Bernd
Martin and Gottfried Schramm, now available in Bernd Martin, ed., Martin Heidegger
und der Nationalsozialismus: Ein Kompendium (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1989). The research of Freiburg historian Hugo Ott, published in a spate
of articles in the early 1980s, has now been released in book form under the title
Martin Heidegger: Unterwegs zu seiner Biographie (Frankfurt: Campus, 1988). For
further discussion and debate, new materials, and an excellent bibliography, see the
special issue of The Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal (New School for Social Re­
search), vol. 14, no. 2 and vol. 15, no. I, edited by Marcus Brainard et al., published
as a double volume in 1991. Particularly notable philosophical reflections are: Jacques
Derrida, Of Spirit: Heidegger and the Question, trans. Geoffrey Bennington and
Rachel Bowlby (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989); Dominique Janicaud,
L’ombre de cette pensee: Heidegger et la question politique (Grenoble: Jerome Millon,
1^990), which is in the process of being translated into English; Annemarie GethmannSiefert and Otto Poggeler, eds., Heidegger und die praktische Philosophie (Frankfurt:
Suhrkamp, 1988); Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, Heidegger, Art, and Politics: The Fiction
of the Political, trans. Chris Turner (Oxford, England, and New York: Basil Blackwell,
1^990); Reiner Schiirmann, Heidegger on Being and Acting: From Principles to Anarchy
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986); and Michael E. Zimmerman, Heideg­
ger’s Confrontation with Modernity: Technology, Politics, and Art (Bloomington: In­
diana University Press, 1^990). I have tried to speak to some of the philosophical issues
General Introduction: The Question o f Being
After the war, the French army of occupation, in cooperation
with the Freiburg University faculty senate, forbade Heidegger’s re­
turn to university teaching. They lifted the ban in 1951, a year
before his scheduled retirement.
At this point we may try to gain retrospect on Heidegger’s teaching
activity in Freiburg between 1928 and 1945. We have mentioned
that upon his return to Freiburg Heidegger lectured and conducted
seminars on Kant and G erm an Idealism. Kant’s Critique o f Pure
Reason, Hegel’s Phenomenology o f Spirit and Science o f Logic, and
Schelling’s O n the Essence o f H um an Freedom were basic texts. His
course on HOlderlin during the winter semester of 1934-35 exhib­
ited not only Heidegger’s fascination with the poetic word but also
his abiding preoccupation with the essence of language as such. In
the spring of 1936 he traveled to Rome and lectured on “Holderlin
and the Essence of Poetry.” During 1939 he delivered several public
lectures on Holderlin’s poem “As on a Holiday. . . . ” But if the de­
cade of the 1930s betrays a unity of them e or problem it is that of
“the essence of truth .” D uring the years between the winter semes­
ter of 1931-32 and the third trim ester of 1940 Heidegger offered five
courses under this title. Toward the end of 1930 he delivered a
public lecture on the same subject to groups in Bremen, Marburg,
and Freiburg. Plato’s Republic, Theaetetus, and Parmenides often
served as the textual basis of these lectures. This decade devoted to
aletheia bore literary fruit in 1942-43 with the appearance of Plato’s
Doctrine o f Truth and O n the Essence o f Truth (for the latter, see
Reading III). Toward the close of the 1930s and through the trou­
bled years of the war Heidegger taught five courses on Nietzsche,
arising from Heidegger’s political debacle in chaps. 4-6 of Daimon Life: Heidegger
and Life-Philosophy (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992) and in my Intro­
duction to the new two-volume paperback edition of Heidegger’s Nietzsche (San Fran­
cisco: HarperCollins, 1991), “Heidegger Nietzsche Nazism.”
who had come to occupy a central position in his view of the destiny
of Being in philosophy. These lectures and the treatises based on
them make up Heidegger’s largest single publication.,2 But his study
of “the West’s last thinker” compelled a return to the earliest sources
of the Western intellectual tradition: in the decade of the 1940s and
early 1950s Heidegger lectured on Heraclitus, Parmenides, and once
again Aristotle.” Throughout his teaching career Heidegger divided
his time m ore or less equally between the Greek and the modern
German philosophers. He offered m ore courses on Aristotle than
on anyone else; he lectured on Kant and Hegel almost as often. He
discussed Leibniz and Nietzsche as regularly as the early Greek
thinkers and Plato. In all cases the questions of Being (Sein) as
presence and of presence as unconcealm ent (aletheia), effective
only as traces throughout the history of metaphysics, remained Hei­
degger’s them e. We will return to it after these final biographical
During the 1950s and 1960s Heidegger wrote and published
m uch, especially on the issue of technology (see Reading VII) and
on the phenom enon of language (Reading X). He traveled to Pro­
vence in 1958 and 1969 and to Greece in 1962 and 1%7. Yet he
never strayed far from his Black Forest origins for long. Most of his
life was divided between residences in Freiburg or Messkirch (where
he had a second study in his brother’s home) and sojourns in a ski
hut built in Todtnauberg during the Marburg years. Nevertheless,
a variety of friendships— with the physicist W erner Heisenberg, the
theologian Rudolf Bultmann, the psychologists Ludwig Binswanger,
M edard Boss, and Viktor Frankl, the political historian and philos­
opher H annah Arendt, the French poet Rene. C har and painter
Georges Braque—prevented Heidegger’s life from being as pro32. Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche, 2 vols. (Pfullingen: G. Neske, 1961). Translated in
four English volumes (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979-87). Nietzsche has now
appeared in paperback volumes, cited at the end of note 31.
33. For the first see Martin Heidegger, Early Greek Thinking, trans. D. F. Krell
and F. A. Capuzzi (New York: Harper & Row, 1975).
General Introduction: The Question o f Being
vincial and narrow as it is often portrayed. O n the m orning of May
26, 1976, Heidegger died at his hom e in Freiburg. To the very end
he worked on projects such as this volume and the m uch more
extensive Gesamtausgabe of his writings (begun in 1975). He was
possessed of that lucidity Yeats yearned for and achieved—“An old
m an’s eagle m ind.”
“An understanding of Heidegger’s thought,” we read in one account
of his long career,
can awaken only when the reader of his works is prepared to understand
everything he or she reads as a step toward what is to be thought—as some­
thing toward which Heidegger is on the way. Heidegger’s thought must be
understood as a way. It is not a way of many thoughts but one that restricts
itself to a single thought. . . . Heidegger has always understood his thinking
as going along a way .. . into the neighborhood of Being. h
Heidegger ventured onto that path while still a schoolboy and re­
m ained true to it.
Yet this linear image of a way into the neighborhood of Being—
as though that were somewhere over the rainbow—is annoying.
Isn’t such dogged persistence a mark of stubbornness or eccentric­
ity; doesn’t it ultimately betray a plodding imagination? And isn’t
the question of Being from first to last an academic one, bloodless
and w ithout force, like one of the shades Odysseus awaits in the
A nother student bends the linear image by emphasizing the es­
sential restlessness of Heidegger’s passage and the many turns of the
path. “Although it always circles about the same thing,” he notes,
Heidegger’s thinking does not come to rest. Each time we believe we have
finally arrived at the goal and prepare to latch onto it we are thrown into a
34. Otto POggeler, Der Denkweg Martin Heideggers (Pfullingen: G. Neske, 1963),
pp. 8-9.
new interrogation. Every resting point is shaken. What seemed to be the end
and goal becomes a departure for renewed questioning. If Descartes sought
an unshakable foundation for philosophizing, Heidegger tries to put precisely
this foundation in question.’5
Heidegger’s thought circles about a double theme: the meaning of
Being and the propriative event (Ereignis) of disclosure. Sein and
aletheia remain the key words, Sein meaning coming to presence,
and aletheia the disclosedness or unconcealm ent implied in such
presence.* O f course this double them e has its reverse side. Com ­
ing to presence suggests an absence before and after itself, so that
withdrawal and departure m ust always be thought together with
Sein as presencing; disclosedness or unconcealm ent suggests a sur­
rounding obscurity, Lethean concealm ent, so that darkness and ob­
livion m ust be thought together with aletheia. The propriative event
is always simultaneously expropriative (Enteignis).
Does this circling about th e double them e of presence-absence
and unconcealm ent-concealm ent remain aware of its own original
darkness? Although Heidegger begins by thinking about what he is
doing, does he sustain such thinking? In Being and Time Heidegger
thinks of the being that raises questions. He names it Dasein, the
kind of being that is open to Being. His major work is an analysis
of existence in terms of its temporal constitution as an approach to
the question of the meaning of Being in general. “Nevertheless,”
Heidegger warns at the end of his book, “our exhibition of the con­
stitution of the Being of Dasein remains only one way. O ur goal is
to work out the question of Being in general. For its part, the the­
m atic analysis of existence first needs the light of the idea of Being
in general to have been clarified beforehand. ”” T he implication is
that Heidegger’s thought after Being and Time pursues the issues of
Being (as presence) and truth (as unconcealm ent) in order to ad35. Walter Biemel, Heidegger, pp. 8-9.
36. On the double theme or leitmotif of Sein and aletheia, see Biemel, p. 35.
37. Martin Heidegger, Sein und Zeit, p. 436.
General Introduction: The Question o f Being
vance the question already unfolded with utm ost care in Being and
Time. T hat is why Heidegger can respond to those who like to speak
of a “Heidegger I” and a “Heidegger II” (meaning the author of
Being and Time and the somehow reformed author of the writings
after the Kehre or “turning”), that “Heidegger I” is possible only if
he is somehow already contained in “Heidegger 11.”,s Even in Being
and Time, as we have seen, Heidegger interprets his thought as a
way. At the end of the book he endeavors (as Socrates was fond of
saying) to look both fore and aft along it.
One can never investigate the source and possibility of the “idea” of Being
in general. . . without a secure horizon for question and answer. One must
seek a way of illuminating the fundamental question of ontology and then go
this way. Whether this is the sole or right way can be decided only after one
has gone along it. 19
However, Heidegger remains his life long on this same way: there is
no way he can look back and pass judgment on its rightness— al­
though that does not preclude the possibility of an im m anent criti­
cism of Being and Time. Heidegger does criticize certain aspects of
his thought and language in Being and Time—the failure of his
analyses of the temporality (Zeitlichkeit) of Dasein to cast sufficient
light on the Temporality (Temporalitiit) of Being, witnessed perhaps
in the failure of the second division to repeat in a detailed fashion
the analyses of section 44 on truth from the standpoint of tem por­
ality; or the surreptitious predominance there of certain forms of
thought and language rooted in the metaphysical tradition, such as
the idea of “fundam ental ontology” or the readily adopted transla­
tion “truth” for aletheia. Yet it is wrongheaded to interpret the
“turning” as Heidegger’s abjuration of Sein und Zeit. Nor does it
help at all to speak of a “reversal of priorities” from man to Being
in Heidegger’s later work or to conceive of the Kehre as a stage of
38. See Heidegger’s own formulations in his letter to Richardson (see note 17,
above), p. xxiii. I have discussed this issue in Intimations ofMortality, chap. 6.
39. Martin Heidegger, Sein und Zeit, p. 437.
“development” in his thought— a kind of m aturing or philosophical
growing up. Doubtless, the present collection of essays does not
offer enough material from Heidegger’s m agnum opus to shed real
light on the Kehre problem. O ur remarks here are m eant only as a
caveat. W hether and how Heidegger “develops” need not concern
us: better to follow the turning of the m atter for thought itself in
our own way as best we can.
A nd if we still insist on images, Heidegger him self offers the aptest
one of his own thinking, an image that combines the linearity of
the way with the flexure of renewed inquiry. A collection of essays
from the 1930s and early 1940s bears the title Holzwege, “timber
tracks” or “woodpaths.”
“Wood” is an old name for forest. In the wood are paths that mostly wind
along until they end quite suddenly in an impenetrable thicket.
They are called “woodpaths.”
Each goes its peculiar way, but in the same forest. Often it seems as though
one were identical to another. Yet it only seems so.
Woodcutters and foresters are familiar with these paths. They know what
it means to be on a woodpath.”‘
To be “on a woodpath” is a popular G erm an expression that means
to be on the wrong track or in a cul-de-sac: to be confused and lost.
Hence the French translators of Heidegger’s Holzwege call it Chem ins qui ne menent nulle part, “ways that lead now here.” This is
not quite right: woodpaths always lead somewhere— but where they
lead cannot be predicted or controlled. They force us to plunge into
unknown territory and often to retrace our steps. Surely Heidegger’s
way is not one of rectilinear progress. He does not aim to cut
through the forest of thought in order to reach the other side; nor
does he believe it can be circumvented. Nor finally does he com ­
mission a land speculator to bulldoze it. Sein and dletheid, the com40. Martin Heidegger, Holzwege (Frankfurt am Main: V. Klostermann, 1950), p. 3,
the untitled Foreword.
General Introduction: The Question of Being
ing to and departing from presence, which is to say, to and from
the clearing of unconcealm ent, occur at each turn of the path.
Holzwege wend every which way. As im portant as the double them e
of Sein-aletheia is for Heidegger’s thinking, what remains astonish­
ing is the diversity of issues in his thought— and this makes it m uch
m ore than a lifeless academic affair. Builders of bridges and highrise apartments, information technologists, research scientists,
painters and poets, farmers and philosophers, each in her or his
own way confronts and thinks about beings: from the many incli­
nations of his solitary way Heidegger wishes to address all these. To
build, calculate, investigate, create; to see, hear, say, and cultivate;
to think; all are ways men and women involve themselves with
beings as a whole. For humans are among the beings that for the
time being are. T he question of Being is not bloodless after all, but
For what?
For recovery of the chance to ask what is happening with man
on this earth the world over, not in terms of headlines but of less
frantic and m ore frightful disclosures.
For m aintenance of the critical spirit that can say No and act No
(as Nietzsche says) w ithout puncturing the delicate m em brane of
its Yes.
For nurturing awareness of the possibilities and vulnerabilities
implied in these simple words, am, are, is, since Being may be said
of all beings and in many senses, though always with a view to one.
For pondering the fact that as we surrender the diverse senses of
Being to a sterile uniformity, to a O ne that can no longer entertain
variation and multiplicity, we become immeasurably poorer— and
that such poverty makes a difference.
^ We are too late for the gods
and too early for Being.
Being’s poem, just begun, is man.
Heidegger had the Introduction to Being and Time on his desk
throughout the period of the book’s immediate gestation, 1926-27. At
th a t time he still planned to write an entire second p art to the trea­
tise (see the outline on pp. 86-87); thus the Introduction introduces
us also to something quite beyond the text we possess today as Being
and Time. Like Hegel’s Preface to The Phenomenology o f Spirit,
which came to serve as an introduction to Hegel’s entire philosophy,
Heidegger’s Introduction opens a path to all the later work.
In this text, here printed complete, Heidegger recounts the need to
reawaken the question of the meaning of Being. “Being’ has long
served metaphysics as its most universal and hence undefinable con­
cept. Its meaning is obvious but vacuous. Heidegger argues that in­
terrogation of the meaning of Being requires a fundamental ontology
whose point of departure is an analysis of existence. And not just any
sort of existence. Only the being that exists in such a way that its
Being is at issue for it, only the being th at has an understanding of
Being, however vague and amorphous, can raise the question of Being
in the first place. Heidegger lets the name Dasein (derived historically
from Dass-sein, the that-it-is of a being) stand for hum an being or
existence in the emphatic sense (as standing out). In the first division
of his treatise he intends to exhibit basic structures of the “average
everydayness” of Dasein, i.e., of hum an being as it is predominantly
and customarily. These concretely described structures ^ then to be
grounded in an interpretation of time in the second division. Finally,
this grounding should prepare the way for an answer to the question
of the meaning of Being in general.
Of course we know th a t the third division of P art One, ‘‘Time and
Being,” where that response was to unfold, never appeared. (See the
General Introduction, above.) Because the third division was in some
undisclosed way to “turn” or “reverse” m atters from “Being and
Time” to ‘‘Time and Being,” the problem of the incompleteness of
Being and Time was soon touted as Heidegger’s “departure” from that
Being and Time
work. In spite of the prevalence of this notion in the secondary liter­
ature we may resist any facile opinions concerning Heidegger’s Kehre,
or “turning,” by studying carefully the Introduction to Being and
Time in conjunction with Readings III, V, and XI.
The projected second part of Being and Time was to pursue “the
task of a destructuring of the history of ontology.” If in later years
the problem of “the Temporality of B eing’ called forth Heidegger’s
most profound meditations, that of the destructuring—which is to be
understood literally as a deconstruction or painstaking dismantling—
demanded the greatest am ount of his time and energy. For the at­
tempt to revitalize traditional formulas and concepts by tracing their
history was a task by no means completed in the published part of
Sein und Zeit. Heidegger’s efforts to recover and renew the question
of Being, to free it from the encrustations of the metaphysical tradi­
tion, remained at the center of his purpose; it was a direct outgrowth
of his passion for a concrete way of raising that question, a way found­
ed in “original experiences” of existence. It is significant that this
“destructuring’ begins with the giants of modern philosophy (specif­
ically, Descartes and Kant) and proceeds toward the ancients (specif­
ically, Aristotle).
Finally, the Introduction to Being and Time discusses th e all-im­
portant m atter of Heidegger’s phenomenological method. Here he re­
sponds to the goals and methods promulgated by his teacher Husserl;
here he offers a first glimpse of his
ideas of “phenomenon” and
“logos.” These in turn lay the foundation for the basic issue of tru th
as disclosure and unconcealment (see Readings III and XI). Heideg­
ger’s interpretations of “phenomenon,” “logos,” and “phenomenology”
may therefore be viewed as paving the way for that “tu rn ” presaged
in Being and Time from the analysis of Dasein to the question of the
meaning of Being in general.
Before the Introduction to Being and Time Heidegger inserts a
brief untitled and unnumbered section. It begins w ith a quotation
from Plato’s Sophist and then states the purpose of the book. The
quotation is noteworthy for at least two reasons. First, it comes im­
mediately after that point in Sophist when Theaetetus and the
Stranger from Elea realize that the shining forth (phainesthai) of
“mere appearance” (to phainomenon) is completely mysterious to
them: their phenomenology of appearances will have to become an
inquiry into being (to on). Second, the quotation comes precisely at
the point where the Stranger is confronting an entire tradition of
stories about being: he will have to destructure that tradition—even
at the risk of patricide. The Stranger addresses prior philosophers as
“‘For you have evidently long been aware of this (what you
properly mean when you use the expression “being’’); but we who
once believed we understood it have now become perplexed’” (Pla­
to, Sophist 244a). Do we today have an answer to the question of
w hat we properly m ean by the word “being”? By no means. And
so it is fitting th at we raise anew the question of the meaning of
Being. But are we today perplexed because we cannot understand
the expression “Being”? By no means. And so we must first of all
awaken an understanding of the meaning of this question. The
intention of the following treatise is to work out concretely the
question of the meaning of Being. Its provisional goal is the inter­
pretation of time as the possible horizon of any understanding of
Being whatsoever.
The goal we have in view, the investigations implied in such a
proposal and demanded by it, as well as the path leading to our
goal, require some introductory comment.
The Necessity, Structure, and Priority
o f the Question ofBeing
1. T he necessity of an explicit recovery
of th e question of Being
This question has today been forgotten—although our time consid­
ers itself progressive in again affirming “metaphysics.” All the same
we believe that we are spared the exertion of rekindling a gigantomachia peri tes ousias [“a Battle of Giants concerning Being,” Plato,
Sophist 245e 6-246e l]. But the question touched upon here is
hardly an arbitrary one. It sustained the avid research of Plato and
Aristotle but from then on ceased to be heard as a thematic question
o f actual investigation. W hat these two thinkers gained has been
preserved in various distorted and “cam ouflaged” forms down to
Hegel’s Logic. And what then was wrested from phenom ena by the
This translation of the Introduction to Being and Time by Joan Stambaugh in
collaboration with J. Glenn Gray and the editor appears in this volume for the first
time. The whole of Being and Time is available in a translation by John Macquarrie
and Edward Robinson (New York: Harper & Row, 1%2). The German text is Martin
Heidegger, Sein und Zeit, twelfth, unaltered edition (Tiibingen: Max Niemeyer Ver­
lag, 1972), pp. 1-40. Sein und Zeit was first published in 1927.
highest exertion of thinking, albeit in fragments and first begin­
nings, has long since been trivialized.
Not only that. O n the foundation of the Greek point of departure
for the interpretation of Being a dogmatic attitude has taken shape
which not only declares the question of the meaning of Being to be
superfluous but sanctions its neglect. It is said that “Being” is the
most universal and the emptiest concept. As such it resists every
attem pt at definition. Nor does this most universal and thus undefinable concept need any definition. Everybody uses it constantly
and also already understands what they m ean by it. Thus what
m ade ancient philosophizing uneasy and kept it so by virtue of its
obscurity has becom e obvious, clear as day; and this to the point
that whoever pursues it is accused of an error of method.
At the beginning of this inquiry the prejudices that implant and
nurture ever anew the superfluousness of a questioning of Being
cannot be discussed in detail. They are rooted in ancient ontology
itself. T hat ontology in turn can only be interpreted adequately
under the guidance of the question of Being which has been clari­
fied and answered beforehand. O ne m ust proceed with regard to
the soil from which the fundam ental ontological concepts grew and
with reference to the suitable dem onstration of the categories and
their completeness. We therefore wish to discuss these prejudices
only to the extent that the necessity of a recovery* of the ques­
tion of the meaning of Being becomes clear. T here are three such
1. “Being” is the most “universal” concept: to on esti katholou
malista panton, ‘ Ulud quod primo cadit sub apprehensione est ens,
cuius intellectus includitur in omnibus, quaecumque quis apprehen*The German word Wiederholung means literally “repetition.” Heidegger uses it not
in the sense of a mere reiteration of what preceded, but rather in the sense of fetching
something back as a new beginning. Perhaps his use is close to the musical term
recapitulation, which implies a new beginning incorporating and transforming what
preceded. Alternative translations might be “retrieval” or “reprise.”—Tr./Ed.
I. Aristotle, Metaphysics III, 4, lOOla 21.
Being and Time
dit. “An understanding of Being is always already contained in
everything we apprehend in beings.”2 But the “universality” of
“Being” is not that of genus. “Being” does not delim it the highest
region of beings so far as they are conceptually articulated accord­
ing to genus and species: oute to on genos [“Being is not a genus”].’
T he “universality” of Being “surpasses” the universality of genus.
According to the designation of medieval ontology, “Being” is a
transcendens. Aristotle himself understood the unity of this tran­
scendental “universal,” as opposed to the manifold of the highest
generic concepts with m aterial content, as the unity o f analogy.
Despite his dependence upon Plato’s ontological position, Aristotle
placed the problem of Being on a fundam entally new basis with this
discovery. To be sure, he too did not clarify the obscurity of these
categorial connections. Medieval ontology discussed this problem
in many ways, above all in the Thomist and Scotist schools, without
gaining fundam ental clarity. And when Hegel finally defines
“Being” as the “indeterm inate Im m ediate,” and makes this defini­
tion the foundation of all the further categorial explications of his
Logic, he remains within the perspective of ancient ontology—
except that he does give up the problem, raised early on by Aristotle,
of the unity of Being in contrast to the manifold of “categories”
with material content. If one says accordingly that “Being” is the
most universal concept, that cannot m ean that it is the clearest and
that it needs no further discussion. T he concept of “Being” is rather
the most obscure of all.
2. T he concept of “Being” is undefinable. This conclusion was
drawn from its highest universality.4 And correctly so— if definitio
fit per genus proximum et differentiam specificam [if “definition is
2. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae II, 1, Qu. 94, a. 2.
3. Aristotle, Metaphysics III, 3, 998b 22.
4. See Pascal, Pensees et Opuscules (ed. Brunschvicg), Paris: Hachette, 1912, p. 169:
“One cannot undertake to define being without falling into this absurdity. For one
cannot define a word without beginning in this way: ‘It is . . .’ This beginning may be
expressed or implied. Thus, in order to define being one must say, ‘It is . . .’ and
hence employ the word to be defined in its definition.”
achieved through the nearest genus and the specific difference”].
Indeed, “Being” cannot be understood as a being. Enti non additur
aliqua natura: “Being” cannot be defined by attributing beings to
it. Being cannot be derived from higher concepts by way of defini­
tion and cannot be represented by lower ones. But does it follow
from this that “Being” can no longer constitute a problem? By no
means. We can conclude only that “Being” is not something like a
being. Thus the m anner of definition of beings which has its justi­
fication within limits— the “definition” of traditional logic which is
itself rooted in ancient ontology— cannot be applied to Being. The
undefinability of Being does not dispense with the question of its
meaning but compels that question.
3. “Being” is the self-evident concept. “Being” is used in all know­
ing and predica…
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