Martin Heidegger
Being and Time

Like most Heidegger
students of my generation, I
approached this book
through the
translation by
John Macquarrie and Edward
Robinson.  This version is
dense, and the translators
often prefer to rely on
terminology from the original
German.  But, in a
paradoxical way, I found that
the very strangeness of the
prose helped convey the
essence of Heidegger's
contribution to Western
thinking.  Much of the value
of Heidegger comes from the
way he forces us to
reconsider the most basic
elements of our day-to-day
life, recapturing the mystery
of the familiar.  In such an
endeavor, a term like
"Dasein" is more provocative
than substituting simple
English words such as "life" or
"existence" or self."  And the
same can be said for odd
phrases such as
"being-in-the-world" and
"within-time-ness" and the
like.  The jarring nature of
the language is part of its
poetry and power.

Nonetheless, readers should
find good guides to this
dense text.  Hubert L.
Dreyfus is perhaps the best.  
I attended his Applied
Heidegger conference at
Berkeley some years back,
and found it one of the most
stimulating gatherings I have
encountered.  It's a shame
that the papers there were
never published in a
collection (although the tapes
are still available on the
web).  But his first rate book
Being-in-the World is still in
print and highly

A simpler introduction
especially suitable for
humanities students is
George Steiner's Martin
Could a philosophical book today exert as much influence as
Being and Time?   At a time when Anglo-American philosophy
became increasingly obsessed by minutiae and unsatisfying
linguistic explanations, Heidegger was a throwback to an
earlier age of grand visionaries and poetic thinkers.  His work
did more than offer ideas -- it disrupted complacencies,
challenged assumptions, re-wrote first principles, and inspired
an almost spiritual fervor among its followers.   Other thinkers,
John Rawls or A.J. Ayer or Bertrand Russell, may have been
more precise and logical, and easier to follow for those patient
enough to work through their arguments.  But Heidegger
hardly deigned to offer arguments or reasons.  Rather he
presented a description of our life and existence with a
startling new terminology and perspective that forces the
reader to reconsider the most fundamental matters of
existence.  This redefinition of the everyday is a profound
achievement, one that few thinkers have ever attempted.   As
such, Heidegger's world view forces us to re-assess the entire
tradition of Western philosophy, going back to the
pre-Socratics -- a trenchant analysis that Heidegger
undertakes in various other writings.

But the implications of the Heideggerian contribution hardly
end there.  Heidegger offers us a powerful insights for
approaching Buddhism and Eastern philosophies.  Heidegger
creates a rich framework for "Green" and ecology-sensitive
ways of life.  Heidegger has been applied to innovative
practices in everything from nursing to artificial intelligence.  In
short, his work is an invaluable legacy that we do well to
return to again and again, whatever the current fads and
fashions of intellectual life may be.


Heidegger's shameful record during the Nazi regime stands
out as a disturbing black mark on his reputation.  For
background and perspectives on this, go
here or here or (the
most nuanced perspective, in my opinion)

web site offers an excellent guide to Internet resources
on Heidegger.  

Yes, you can watch
Heidegger on YouTube, but you either
need to know German or French (subtitles).