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Basic Writings (Harper Perennial Modern Thought)

4 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) was born in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. He studied at the University of Freiburg and became a professor at the University of Marburg in 1932. After publishing his his magnum opus, Being and Time (1927), he returned to Freiburg to assume the chair of philosophy upon Husserl's retirement.

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Product Details

  • Series: Harper Perennial Modern Thought
  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics; Revised, Expanded ed. edition (November 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061627011
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061627019
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,266 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Those looking to get some insight into Heidegger's thought may find this collection of essays much more palatable than "Being and Time." Keep in mind it's still Heidegger, so, relative to the writings of other authors, it isn't going to be light reading to the minds of many. However, I do think these essays are well written and particularly approachable. I even felt as though the excerpt from "Being and Time" wasn't that bad; but that may be my experience of recently having read "Being and Time" that makes me think so. At any rate, these writings, "basic" in the sense that they are foundational, present nicely partitioned bits/cornerstones of Heidegger's broader philosophy. In fact, I think it may have been a bit better for me to have read this before advancing to "Being and Time," just because one gets so clearly from this work a sense of how Heidegger thinks, and an understanding of the manner/mode thereof. Another reason why this book might be worth a read prior to "Being and Time" is that it provides a sense of the subject matter that Heidegger is concerned with, and I think "Being and Time" can be seen as examination of the underlying ontological structure of Being and its relations apropos items of concern contained herein. Just as a note for those who have read quite a bit of Heidegger, I am not familiar with many anthologies of Heidegger's work, but all of the articles I have read on Heidegger and technolog refer to an essay here contained ("The Question Concerning Technology") and I have only been able to find that essay in this anthology.Read more ›
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Phenomenology is, to my mind, a crucial branch of philosophy that impinges on many of the so-called sciences, including psychology and sociology. Unfortunately, Martin Heidegger, one of phenomenology's principle promoters, is one of those people whose writing demands a mentor for the reader. Failing that, which has been my experience, the demand translates into reading the man as widely as possible, including the output of his students and colleagues. 'Basic Writings' is a vital work in the journey into Heidegger's mind in that it provides a historical record of how he developed after 'Being and Time'; more so how he was able to take phenomenology to even higher heights of relevance in our contemporary world. This book deserves a place next to 'Being and Time' on the shelf of the serious Heidegger student.
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For a compendium of such rich writings that define interrlated, named word-ideas, this book is only half complete without an index. How else does one re-visit the place where "facticity" or "attunement" or "strife" or "enframing" is first defined? What a sorry, sorry shame.
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A very helpful edition of the major works that a beginner with Heidegger should read, but I am still wondering whether his philosophy is a giant (but impressive-sounding) bust, or whether there really is a great deal of insight and substance there.
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I read this book along with Being and Time (B&T) and in both cases found Richard Polt's Heidegger: an introduction invaluable in helping me negotiate Heidegger's difficult prose. Heidegger's project is basically the same in both books: to analyse the concept of being in order to arrive at an understanding deeper than the common one which sees being as merely "presence". Heidegger argues that a richer understanding of being would undermine the foundations of all existing science leading, presumably, to new ways of doing science, new scientific 'truths' and new ways of relating to our world.

Unfortunately, I have to report that after 950 pages (including B&T) Heidegger makes no progress in reaching a new understanding of being except for the tentative suggestion that being might have something to do with time. When we reach the final page of the last essay of this collection (written in 1964), the ontological foundations of science seem just as secure (or, depending on your view, unstable) as they were when Heidegger first strode to the lectern at Marburg University in 1923.

Heidegger does have a lot to say about being though. We learn, for example, that Being is the Nothing, that Being is the transcendens, that Being is a gift and, most importantly, that Being is mysterious. Heidegger returns time and again to the same point: being is mysterious and we should be more open to the mystery of being. This is no doubt true: if we all stopped to reflect on the wonder of existence now and then it would probably help us get things into perspective and to spend our time more wisely. The trouble is that this is hardly a new and profound idea and it's been said much more poetically and succinctly many times by others (for example, Shakespeare).
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This anthology includes a broad range of very substantial excerpts or essays from all periods of Heidegger's career. Rather than trying to cover a large number of writings, this book selects only eleven pieces. But they are all substantial and central. There is a good synergy and thematic relationship among the various selections, which the editors often helpfully highlight and cross-reference. For instance, the four selections starting with The Origin of the Work of Art and going through the Question of Technology (and even also Building Dwelling Thinking) provide a synergistic and inter-related view of Heidegger's thoughts on human creativity and activity that works very well. The editors have been very careful in selecting essays to allow for this type of panoramic and analytic view of Heidegger's thought. Gunter Figal's Heidegger Reader provides a good contrast and is a good companion to this volume in that it features shorter excerpts from a much wider range of writings, and -- happily -- there is almost no overlap with the Basic Writings volume.

The brief opening introductions to each chapter by the editors are very helpful and provide both a good overview of the relevant ideas and many thought-provoking points for readers to consider.
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