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This is a biography of Martin Heidegger chronicling his rise along with the thought he honed on the way, with its debt to Heraclitus, Plato, and Kant, and its susceptibility to the conservatism that emerged out of Germany's loss in World War I. A chronicle of ideas and personal commitments and betrayals, the author combines accounts of the philosophy with the details of the loves and lapses that tripped this intellectual. It includes coverage of Heidegger's transformation into a propagandist for the National Socialist regime.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780674387102
ISBN-10: 0674387104
Format: Paperback
(235mm x 162mm x 31mm)
Pages: 496
Imprint: Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publish Date: 14-Oct-1999
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions


US Kirkus Review » The author sheds light on the varieties of darkness that shade the life and thought of, arguably, Germany's most influential 20th-century philosopher. Safranski (Schopenhauer and the Wild Years of Philosophy, not reviewed) presents Heidegger in the context of what Osers, the book's translator, so brilliantly calls "that German specialty for extravagant wretchedness." More than most German philosophers, Heidegger, in quest of Being, pushes to the brink of incomprehensibility. The author comforts us with the knowledge that even so distinguished a friend of Heidegger's as Karl Jaspers, missed what Heidegger meant by "Being." But the darkness of incomprehension was itself a principle of Heidegger's thought. Instead of the active, determining mind that Kant had posited, Heidegger found an intractable resistance to human reason - Being itself - of which we first become aware in amazement over the sheer fact that anything exists at all. We do not so much shape the world as find ourselves "being there," or in German, Dasein. Against this cognitive darkness, Safranski sets the moral obscurity of Heidegger's Nazi involvement and tries to unravel the connections there between the philosopher's thought and life. The picture that emerges is, appropriately, darkly unfocused. When Safranski observes at the end of his book that Heidegger's "brusqueness and severity" mellowed with age, readers will wonder whether they've missed something: Brusqueness is already too defined a quality for what Hannah Arendt called Heidegger's "lack of character, in the sense that he literally has none, certainly not a particularly bad one." Safranski suggests that the real Heidegger hovers between two self-portraits: modern tower of philosophy and modest attendant in the museum of philosophy's history, taking care that the works on display there are properly illuminated. Safranski's own take - both critical and appreciative - on Heidegger mirrors the complexity of his subject, and provides a welcome entree to a difficult thought world. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Rudiger Safranski

Rudiger Safranski studies German, philosophy, and history in Frankfurt and Berlin. He has worked in adult education and was copublisher of the magazine Berlin Hefte. He is also the author of a widely acclaimed biography of E.T.A. Hoffman. Ewald Osers is the distinguished translator of numerous works of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction from German and Czech, including the correspondence of Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal.

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