Heidegger, Martin

(1889-1976)
   philosopher; widely judged the cen-tral figure in twentieth-century existentialist thought. Born to a Catholic* sexton in the Baden town of Messkirch, he was a Jesuit novice before studying theology at Freiburg. Attracted by the Aristotelian interpretations of Franz Brentano and the logic of Edmund Husserl,* he switched to philosophy and took his doctorate in 1913. After he wrote his Habilitation in 1915 for Heinrich Rickert,* he joined the army and then returned to Freiburg in 1918 as Husserl's assistant. Upon mastering Husserl's phenomenological method, he focused increasingly on Ar-istotle. He gained an appointment in 1923 at Marburg (where he became friends with Rudolf Bultmann) and began developing his own philosophical position. Although he had not published since his Habilitation thesis, his teaching already placed him in the forefront of German philosophy. In 1929, soon after com-pleting his masterful Sein und Zeit (Being and time), he succeeded Husserl, his one-time mentor, at Freiburg.
   Trained by Husserl, who was of Jewish ancestry, Heidegger publicly re-nounced both the teacher and the substance of his thought when in May 1933 he became Freiburg's rector. In his inaugural address he declared his support for the Nazi revolution. Although he grew disillusioned with Hitler,* his writing consistently evoked a strong nationalism. Supporting a mystical view of lan-guage, he once argued that philosophizing was possible only in German and, perhaps, Greek. As late as 1953 he appealed to Germans, in Einfuhrung in die Metaphysik (Introduction to metaphysics), to renew their "substance" (Sein) between the barbaric societies of America and Russia. He was retired from Freiburg in 1945 as part of denazification.
   Because Heidegger's meaning to modern philosophy cannot be overestimated, his life should not be assessed solely in political terms. (Some critics maintain, alas, that his philosophy is inseparable from his politics.) His highly original Sein und Zeit—a study that remained only a fragment of what he intended— revolutionized philosophical thought and influenced cognate disciplines such as theology, psychology, and the understanding of language. Using the phenome-nological method without applying its content, he sought to link the divergent thought of neo-Kantianism with existentialism. Although he disclaimed the ex-istentialist" label, he was inspired by S0ren Kierkegaard and, with Karl Jas-pers,* focused his thought on the nature and predicament of human existence. He was especially interested in the individual search for authenticity and the problem of Angst (fear) in preventing its achievement. He remains a major influence on European ideas.
   REFERENCES:Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; EP, vol. 3; Pachter, Weimar Etudes; Sluga, Heidegger's Crisis; Wolin, Heidegger Controversy.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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