Martin Heidegger (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
Rüdiger Safranski, a German freelance writer with academic training in philosophy and German language, first achieved international recognition with Schopenhauer and the Wild Years of Philosophy (1991), a biography of the nineteenth century philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. Safranski’s ability to present difficult philosophical concepts in clear language and to explain how thoughts emerged from the life of a thinker made that earlier work appealing both to general readers and to specialists in philosophy. With his newest biography, Safranski takes up an even more challenging philosophical subject, the life and thought of Martin Heidegger.
Heidegger was one of the most influential and controversial philosophers of modern times. During his own lifetime, he became a cult figure. His work was a major source of inspiration for the existentialists of the post-World War II period. Political theorists, psychoanalysts, ecologists, and theologians have all drawn on his ideas. Nevertheless, some philosophers have argued that Heidegger really had nothing meaningful to say. At the heart of his work lay the concept of Nothing, and his chief concern was the nature of Being. His critics have claimed that it makes no sense to treat Nothing as something that can be contemplated and discussed. Moreover, Heidegger’s complex writing style and his penchant for inventing words have led these critics to maintain that his work was little more than jargon masquerading...
(The entire section is 2010 words.)
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Martin Heidegger (Magill Book Reviews)
Author of the classic BEING AND TIME (1927; English translation, 1962), Martin Heidegger developed a difficult but powerfully imaginative philosophy based on the contemplation of Being in contrast to Nothing. Heidegger’s thinking has inspired the existentialists of the post-World War II period and contemporary post-modernists.
The controversial character of Heidegger’s work has, in part, been due to the difficulty of clearly defining his concepts and to his fondness for inventing new and sometimes nearly incomprehensible terms. Controversies about the work have also been due, however, to controversies about the man. During the 1930’s, Heidegger supported German leader Adolf Hitler and joined the Nazi Party.
Most previous books about Heidegger have concentrated either on his philosophy or on his politics. Rüdiger Safranski’s biography is one of the first works to consider both of these subjects in depth and to show how the two were related. The book traces the development of Heidegger’s ideas and attempts to explain how these ideas led a brilliant but morally flawed individual to support Hitler.
Safranski’s book is primarily an intellectual biography. About three-fourths of it focuses on Heidegger’s writings and only about one-fourth of it concerns the philosopher’s life. It is an excellent and highly readable introduction to Heidegger’s philosophy and it sheds valuable light on the thinker’s connections to...
(The entire section is 360 words.)