The Heidegger Reader (book review) Günter Figal,

Jerome Veith (Translator)


131118 this is a much much later addition (5 years): has it really been so long since read? guess so. but his thought persists and i have become aware that much work on him is unread, that my appreciation, my knowledge, my examination, of his work remains that of a defined amateur. so cannot claim deep investigation, only that it has been helpful to progress through phenomenology and existentialism (husserl, Heidegger, merleau-ponty, de Beauvoir, Sartre) to come to current interests in deleuze, bergson, not necessarily rejecting him but having an educated history to appreciate. give it five, for good, i do love reading this. but then, i love to read philosophy...


260813 first review: i am confused, in a happy way. i am frustrated, in an unhappy way (yes there is happy frustration- i feel i am at least getting somewhere). often sentence by sentence. h is often proclaimed as the greatest, most influential, most insightful, philosopher of the 20th century. h is often accused of being something or other or less than or simply the most impenetrable philosopher of the 20th century...


the first 138 pages or so, i am happily confused, i give it a 5, i am thinking that his thought is fascinating, inspiring, and how useful in so many disciplines we now call social sciences- and i am wondering whether complaints of difficulty of language are all down to imprecise or mistaken translation, because h reads very clear. i realize now, in looking back, that part of the writing is by figal, the editor, and once again it will ultimately be such that writing about h's thoughts will be easier than the man himself...


after this happy confusion, comes the frustration, with myself convinced i just have not read enough, but also doubting if h is or is not making it easy on his readers, doubting if h is deliberately getting poetic, certainly uncertain whether his readings of aristotle are competent, that the original greek says what he says it does, that even if so, doubting we should take it as timeless or applicable in living our lives now. and then h just gets really hard to read. h creates verbs out of nouns. h repeats and couples nouns and noun/verbs as if saying something important h decides impossible to say otherwise...


at which point, the writer in me wants to say: at least try, man... (and now, the poet in me decides that yes, he is trying, he is difficult on purpose, he is trapped in belief our words are exhausted, are over used, are not up to his ideas... so he makes up new ones, and this is where h trends to poetic, where he decides philosophy needs new terms to arrest simple reading, so gets all etymological)...


so why give this a 4? because if the earlier work deserves a 5, the latter work is never less than a 3, so the rating has to be in between, even given i might not understand it. this is h from h's pen: i really want to understand, and even after 138 pages, there are scattered quotes, questioning, suggestions, that are all great. until they are not...


this edited compilation by figal, covers the entirety of h's corpus, and to review it there is a helpful chronology to connect to dates prefacing each essay, there is h's interview from 1966 with der spiegel, in which he rehabilitates himself as former nazi, there is the introductory work by figal, and from environmental experience, hermeneutical situation, problem of being and time, transcendence, fundamental attunement, projection of being in science and art, rectorship address, essence of poetry, origin of the work of art... maybe because of i have read so much else of h and phenomenologists, i get so much of this work...


then it stops...


and so from our perspective, particularly if you have analytic certainties, it might be possible to think h is simply a persisting bad dream of a philosopher. after all, he was able to reconcile his interactions with the nazis. in some cases, it is like h deliberately distracted his thought from contemporary life by creating his jargon to explicate aristotle, to talk about fourfold, to try to understand nietzsche, then h comes up with great essay assertions like the world picture- but then h gets all etymological about logos and language- which does not work for me, partly because i read neither latin or greek, partly because i like to believe in words as signs that have their own evolution, and this does not mean tracing it brings you closer to truth of any sort, but rather gestures towards one or any truth. and h has interesting things to say about truth as more than correspondence, as being dependent on time and place, even while contending h has all metaphysics, all ontology, solved in h's questions...


h also has interesting things to say about things, about things thinging, and here my doubts kick in, partly because i have had the somewhat naive idea that words are meant to help make ideas intelligible, rather than add a new layer of doubt, evinces frustration, but then i guess verbing nouns maybe works better in German...


maybe there are meanings here, meanings i might learn if i read more h, but for the moment i am comfortable not knowing them, not likely to read more h. the review i did for Watt's book on Philosophy of Heidegger, is probably the best expression of how i think of h. brilliant, brilliant, brilliant- but then so very wrong. from our perspective, historically removed- 'we' and 'our' in this sense are all those analytic or other philosophers who do not question, who do not 'think'- oh so much more ethically educated, oh so logically surpassing h, we can dismiss h as thinker, as something other and less than a true philosopher, we who are certainly easier to read, we who can extract his thought from doubtful verbiage, but....


“If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.”

― Francis Bacon


okay, i have upped the rating to a five, primarily because then can fit it on the favoritephilosophy shelf. after all, if there is one Heidegger to read that is not the dense, difficult, possibly impenetrable 'being and time'- there is this collection. this covers his entire career. mostly easier to read. and i hope that the 'we' i mention above is not thought my opinion, not thought my judgement, i hope my ironic last words are not taken as truth offered...

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