Main Being-in-the-World: A Commentary on Heidegger's Being and Time, Division I.

Being-in-the-World: A Commentary on Heidegger's Being and Time, Division I.

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Not only an introduction, but a constant companion. I'm on my third copy of this book; the first two literally fell apart from constant use. Whenever I'm reading Heidegger,or any commentary or other work on Heidegger, Dreyfus is always close by. Whatever he may think of his own shortcomings, there's really no one else like him. One reason is that he thinks about Heidegger the way Heidegger would think about himself. Using Dreyfus as a guide, you don't have to worry about being led down the wrong road to a dead end. Dreyfus writes with all the clarity of any analytic philosopher, but is not hagridden by the ontological biases inherent in analytic philosophy as an ideology. And make no mistake about it: in Anglo-American philosophy, the analytic tradition does define an ideology. It offers a worldview which Heidegger (correctly, I submit) rejected. To try to translate Heidegger into the jargon of analytic philosophy is to misunderstand him from the start.

Before you even begin to read "Being and Time," or any other work by Heidegger, read this book by Dreyfus first, even if not from cover to cover. Then get a copy of "Being and Time"; either the Macquarrie & Robinson or the Stambaugh translations will do, but I would recommend getting both. If you do German, then try to get the Max Niemeyer edition of "Sein und Zeit." Then go through Dreyfus again, this time along with "Being an Time," so that you can put Heidegger's dense and sometimes convoluted prose into context. When you've finished this phase of your study of Heidegger, then I would recommend moving back in time, and reading Heidegger's earlier works. You will then see "Being and Time" in its formative stages. Two excellent primary sources (with ample commentary), both available from Amazon, are "Ontology: the Hermeneutics of Facticity," and "Supplements: from the Earliest Essays to Being and Time and Beyond."

If you're a hard-core philosopher or Heidegger aficionado, you may want to include in your study such sources as Plato, Parmenides, Heraclitus, Aristotle, Augustine, Duns Scotus, Luther, Descartes, Kant, Hegel, Brentano, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Dilthey, Husserl (especially), and a host of others, all of whom had an influence on his thought, as well as his own students, contemporaries, and people who were influenced by him (Gadamer, Arendt, Jaspers, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, Foucault, et al.), as well as thinkers in the Far East.

Now, why go through all this? Why is Heidegger worth the time and effort needed to understand him? Because, after Heidegger, there's simply no going back to pre-Heidegger. Not that everyone agrees with this; in fact, until recently, very few did. However, slowly but surely, Heidegger is acquiring an audience of serious thinkers, who understand that he got philosophy moving in a direction that, to use market terminology, allows no retracement. When I say that there's no going back to pre-Heidegger, I don't mean that everything earlier than Heidegger is obsolete. As he himself would have been the first to assert, there can be no answer without a question. And those giants whose thought articulated the great questions are no less part of the ongoing project which is philosophy than others (including Heidegger) who stood on their shoulders.

Yet, even if there are no answers without questions, there can be questions without answers. And this is especially unsettling to human beings, whose "reason," is, as Kant understood, architectonic, Reason's prime directive is order; it can't abide danglers or loose ends. Everything has to "fit." To use contemporary (mindless) parlance, we all seek "closure." However, readers who are looking for "closure" in Heidegger look in vain. No one understood better than he that he never reached his destination, a complete revelation of Being, and an exhaustive understanding of human being (Dasein), in particular. His lifelong attitude toward philosophy was that philosophy is and must be an eternal questioning. Unlike the great system-builders of the past, whose metanarratives have worn out from constant use, Heidegger always has something new to reveal, by clearing away, to use Locke's terms, the rubbish that lies in the way of understanding. It all depends upon how you view philosophy. If you see it as a source of entertainment and distraction, then you can ignore Heidegger. But if you take it seriously, and believe that it can, and should, disclose dimensions of the human reality that are not accessible to science, and that we humans, especially since the onset of modernity, have come perilously close to forgetting who and what we are, then Heidegger must be near the top of your list of great thinkers. And having Dreyfus as your guide will make things so much easier, even if not easy. But, as Spinoza once observed, "omnia praeclara tam difficilia quam rara sunt." ("All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.")
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