Cover of the first edition
|Original title||Sein und Zeit|
|Translator||1962: John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson|
1996: Joan Stambaugh
|Published||1927 (in German)|
1962: SCM Press
1996: State University of New York Press
2008: Harper Perennial Modern Thought
|Pages||589 (Macquarrie and Robinson translation)|
482 (Stambaugh translation)
|ISBN||0-631-19770-2 (Blackwell edition)|
978-1-4384-3276-2 (State University of New York Press edition)
|Followed by||Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics|
Being and Time (German: Sein und Zeit) is a 1927 book by the German philosopher Martin Heidegger, in which the author seeks to analyse the concept of Being. Heidegger maintains that this has fundamental importance for philosophy and that, since the time of the Ancient Greeks, philosophy has avoided the question, turning instead to the analysis of particular beings. Heidegger attempts to revive ontology through a reawakening of the question of the meaning of being. He approaches this through a fundamental ontology that is a preliminary analysis of the being of the being to whom the question of being is important, i.e., Dasein.
Heidegger wrote that Being and Time was made possible by his study of Edmund Husserl's Logical Investigations (1900–1901), and it is dedicated to Husserl "in friendship and admiration". Although Heidegger did not complete the project outlined in the introduction, Being and Time remains his most important work. It was immediately recognized as an original and groundbreaking philosophical work, and later became a focus of debates and controversy, and a profound influence on 20th-century philosophy, particularly existentialism, hermeneutics, deconstruction, and the enactivist approach to cognition. Being and Time has been described as the most influential version of existential philosophy, and Heidegger's achievements in the work have been compared to those of Immanuel Kant in the Critique of Pure Reason (1781) and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel in The Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) and Science of Logic (1812–1816). The work influenced philosophical treatises such as Jean-Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness (1943). Sein und Zeit was first translated into English in 1962.
According to Heidegger's statement in Being and Time, the work was made possible by his study of Husserl's Logical Investigations (1900–1901). Being and Time was originally intended to consist of two major parts, each part consisting of three divisions. Heidegger was forced to prepare the book for publication when he had completed only the first two divisions of part one. The remaining divisions planned for Being and Time (particularly the divisions on time and being, Immanuel Kant, and Aristotle) were never published, although in many respects they were addressed in one form or another in Heidegger's other works. In terms of structure, Being and Time remains as it was when it first appeared in print; it consists of the lengthy two-part introduction, followed by Division One, the "Preparatory Fundamental Analysis of Dasein," and Division Two, "Dasein and Temporality."
Heidegger describes his project in the following way: "our aim in the following treatise is to work out the question of the sense of being and to do so concretely." Heidegger claims that traditional ontology has prejudicially overlooked this question, dismissing it on the basis that being is the most universal and emptiest concept, that is indefinable or obvious.
Instead Heidegger proposes to understand being itself, as distinguished from any specific entities (beings). "'Being' is not something like a being." Being, Heidegger claims, is "what determines beings as beings, that in terms of which beings are already understood." Heidegger is seeking to identify the criteria or conditions by which any specific entity can show up at all (see world disclosure).
If we grasp Being, we will clarify the meaning of being, or "sense" of being (Sinn des Seins), where by "sense" Heidegger means that "in terms of which something becomes intelligible as something." Presented in relation to the quality of knowledge, according to Heidegger, this sense of being precedes any notions of how or in what manner any particular being or beings exist, and is thus pre-scientific. Thus, in Heidegger's view, the question of the meaning of being would be an explanation of the understanding preceding any other way of knowing, such as the use of logic, theory, specific regional ontology. At the same time, there is no access to being other than via beings themselves—hence pursuing the question of being inevitably means questioning a being with regard to its being. Heidegger argues that a true understanding of being (Seinsverständnis) can only proceed by referring to particular beings, and that the best method of pursuing being must inevitably, he says, involve a kind of hermeneutic circle, that is (as he explains in his critique of prior work in the field of hermeneutics), it must rely upon repetitive yet progressive acts of interpretation. "The methodological sense of phenomenological description is interpretation."
Thus the question Heidegger asks in the introduction to Being and Time is: what is the being that will give access to the question of the meaning of Being? Heidegger's answer is that it can only be that being for whom the question of Being is important, the being for whom Being matters. As this answer already indicates, the being for whom Being is a question is not a what, but a who. Heidegger calls this being Dasein (an ordinary German word literally meaning "being-there," i.e., existence), and the method pursued in Being and Time consists in the attempt to delimit the characteristics of Dasein, in order thereby to approach the meaning of Being itself through an interpretation of the temporality of Dasein. Dasein is not "man," but is nothing other than "man"—it is this distinction that enables Heidegger to claim that Being and Time is something other than philosophical anthropology.
Heidegger's account of Dasein passes through a dissection of the experiences of Angst and mortality, and then through an analysis of the structure of "care" as such. From there he raises the problem of "authenticity," that is, the potentiality or otherwise for mortal Dasein to exist fully enough that it might actually understand being. Heidegger is clear throughout the book that nothing makes certain that Dasein is capable of this understanding.
Finally, this question of the authenticity of individual Dasein cannot be separated from the "historicality" of Dasein. On the one hand, Dasein, as mortal, is "stretched along" between birth and death, and thrown into its world, that is, thrown into its possibilities, possibilities which Dasein is charged with the task of assuming. On the other hand, Dasein's access to this world and these possibilities is always via a history and a tradition—this is the question of "world historicality," and among its consequences is Heidegger's argument that Dasein's potential for authenticity lies in the possibility of choosing a "hero."
Thus, more generally, the outcome of the progression of Heidegger's argument is the thought that the being of Dasein is time. Nevertheless, Heidegger concludes his work with a set of enigmatic questions foreshadowing the necessity of a destruction (that is, a transformation) of the history of philosophy in relation to temporality—these were the questions to be taken up in the never completed continuation of his project:
The existential and ontological constitution of the totality of Dasein is grounded in temporality. Accordingly, a primordial mode of temporalizing of ecstatic temporality itself must make the ecstatic project of being in general possible. How is this mode of temporalizing of temporality to be interpreted? Is there a way leading from primordial time to the meaning of being? Does time itself reveal itself as the horizon of being?
Although Heidegger describes his method in Being and Time as phenomenological, the question of its relation to the phenomenology of Husserl is complex. The fact that Heidegger believes that ontology includes an irreducible hermeneutic (interpretative) aspect, for example, might be thought to run counter to Husserl's claim that phenomenological description is capable of a form of scientific positivity. On the other hand, however, several aspects of the approach and method of Being and Time seem to relate more directly to Husserl's work.
The central Husserlian concept of the directedness of all thought—intentionality—for example, while scarcely mentioned in Being and Time, has been identified by some with Heidegger's central notion of Sorge (cura, care or concern). However, for Heidegger, theoretical knowledge represents only one kind of intentional behaviour, and he asserts that it is grounded in more fundamental modes of behaviour and forms of practical engagement with the surrounding world. Whereas a theoretical understanding of things grasps them according to "presence," for example, this may conceal that our first experience of a being may be in terms of its being "ready-to-hand." Thus, for instance, when someone reaches for a tool such as a hammer, their understanding of what a hammer is is not determined by a theoretical understanding of its presence, but by the fact that it is something we need at the moment we wish to do hammering. Only a later understanding might come to contemplate a hammer as an object.
The total understanding of being results from an explication of the implicit knowledge of being that inheres in Dasein. Philosophy thus becomes a form of interpretation, but since there is no external reference point outside being from which to begin this interpretation, the question becomes to know in which way to proceed with this interpretation. This is the problem of the "hermeneutic circle," and the necessity for the interpretation of the meaning of being to proceed in stages: this is why Heidegger's technique in Being and Time is sometimes referred to as hermeneutical phenomenology.
As part of his ontological project, Heidegger undertakes a reinterpretation of previous Western philosophy. He wants to explain why and how theoretical knowledge came to seem like the most fundamental relation to being. This explanation takes the form of a destructuring (Destruktion) of the philosophical tradition, an interpretative strategy that reveals the fundamental experience of being at the base of previous philosophies that had become entrenched and hidden within the theoretical attitude of the metaphysics of presence. This use of the word Destruktion is meant to signify not a negative operation but rather a positive transformation or recovery.
In Being and Time Heidegger briefly undertakes a destructuring of the philosophy of René Descartes, but the second volume, which was intended to be a Destruktion of Western philosophy in all its stages, was never written. In later works Heidegger uses this approach to interpret the philosophies of Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Plato, Nietzsche, and Hölderlin, among others.
Being and Time is the major achievement of Heidegger's early career, but he produced other important works during this period:
Although Heidegger did not complete the project outlined in Being and Time, later works explicitly addressed the themes and concepts of Being and Time. Most important among the works which do so are the following:
The critic George Steiner argues that Being and Time is a product of the crisis of German culture following Germany's defeat in World War I, and has been compared in this respect to works such as Ernst Bloch's The Spirit of Utopia (1918), Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West (1918), Franz Rosenzweig's The Star of Redemption (1921), Karl Barth's The Epistle to the Romans (1922), and Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf (1925). Upon its publication, it was recognized as a groundbreaking philosophical work, with reviewers crediting Heidegger with "brilliance" and "genius". The book, which has been described as the "most influential version of existential philosophy", quickly became "the focus of debates and controversy". Heidegger claimed in the 1930s that commentators had attempted to show similarities between his views and those of Hegel in order to undermine the idea that Being and Time was an original work. In response, Heidegger maintained that his thesis that the essence of being is time is the opposite of Hegel's view that being is the essence of time. Karl Jaspers, writing in the first volume of his work Philosophy (1932), credited Heidegger with making essential points about "being in the world" and also about "existence and historicity".
Heidegger's work has been suggested as a possible influence on Herbert Marcuse's Hegel's Ontology and the Theory of Historicity (1932), though Marcuse later questioned the political implications of Heidegger's work. Jean-Paul Sartre, who wrote Being and Nothingness (1943) under the influence of Heidegger's work, has been said to have responded to Being and Time with "a sense of shock". Sartre's existentialism has been described as "a version and variant of the idiom and propositions" in Being and Time. Because of Heidegger's revival of the question of being, Being and Time also influenced other philosophers of Sartre's generation, and it altered the course of French philosophy. Maurice Merleau-Ponty argued in Phenomenology of Perception (1945) that Being and Time, "springs from an indication given by Husserl and amounts to no more than an explicit account of the 'natürlicher Weltbegriff' or the 'Lebenswelt' which Husserl, towards the end of his life, identified as the central theme of phenomenology". Heidegger influenced psychoanalysis through Jacques Lacan, who quotes from Being and Time in a 1953 text.
The publication of the English translation of the work by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson in 1962, helped to shape the way in which Heidegger's work was discussed in English. Gilles Deleuze's Difference and Repetition (1968) was influenced by Heidegger's Being and Time,:181 though Deleuze replaces Heidegger's key terms of being and time with difference and repetition respectively. Frank Herbert's science fiction novel The Santaroga Barrier (1968) was loosely based on the ideas of Being and Time. The philosopher Lucien Goldmann argued in his posthumously published Lukacs and Heidegger: Towards a New Philosophy (1973) that the concept of reification as employed in Being and Time showed the strong influence of György Lukács' History and Class Consciousness (1923), though Goldmann's suggestion has been disputed. Being and Time influenced Alain Badiou's work Being and Event (1988). Roger Scruton writes that Being and Time is "the most complex of the many works inspired, directly or indirectly, by Kant's theory of time as 'the form of inner sense'." He considers Heidegger's language "metaphorical" and almost incomprehensible. Scruton suggests that this necessarily follows from the nature of Heidegger's phenomenological method. He finds Heidegger's "description of the world of phenomena" to be "fascinating, but maddeningly abstract". He suggests that much of Being and Time is a "description of a private spiritual journey" rather than genuine philosophy, and notes that Heidegger's assertions are unsupported by argument.
Stephen Houlgate compares Heidegger's achievements in Being and Time to those of Kant in the Critique of Pure Reason (1781) and Hegel in The Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) and Science of Logic (1812-1816). Simon Critchley calls the work Heidegger's magnum opus, and writes that it is impossible to understand developments in continental philosophy after Heidegger without understanding it. Dennis J. Schmidt praises the "range and subtlety" of Being and Time, and describes its importance by quoting a comment the writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe made in a different context, "from here and today a new epoch of world history sets forth." Heidegger has become common background for the political movement concerned with protection of the environment, and his narrative of the history of Being frequently appears when capitalism, consumerism and technology are thoughtfully opposed. Michael E. Zimmerman writes that, "Because he criticized technological modernity’s domineering attitude toward nature, and because he envisioned a postmodern era in which people would “let things be,” Heidegger has sometimes been read as an intellectual forerunner of today’s “deep ecology” movement.