Sep 10, 2014

Glimpses into Existence: Martin Heidegger

We had the eighth lecture and discussion session in the Glimpses of Existence monthly series, hosted by the Kingston Library, this time centered on a thinker who is challenging to read, to say the least, and who bears a complicated relationship to Existentialism -- someone who characterizes one central task of his early work, Being and Time, as "an analysis of the existentiality of existence," who draws upon Kierkegaard and Nietzsche just as much as he extricates from the works of Plato, Aristotle, or Hegel - but who also disassociates himself from the term "existentialist," particularly after it becomes clear to him what other "existentialists" would like it to mean. 

This time, it was Martin Heidegger who we briefly grappled with.  I have to admit that I was very pleasantly surprised with the level of the conversation we were able to engage in -- the people who attend these sessions tend to be well-educated, well-informed, and cogent thinkers, but Heidegger is a "philosopher's philosopher" -- not a poet, not a novelist, not an essayist, not a theologian, and not even a philosopher who wrote to a popular public -- he's a metaphysician straight out who also develops a critique of metaphysics and a project of deconstructing its history!

We didn't manage to get to every one of the themes I'd perhaps too ambitiously intended to address or at least outline -- but we did range over his intellectual biography, tackle (or perhaps sidestep!) the "Nazi question," work through some of the main early ideas of Being and Time -- Dasein, world, phenomenology, interpretation -- engage in a very lively discussion about the possibilities of technology, and we even got to the "four equiprimordials" at the root of Heidegger's analysis of human being in time. . . .

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