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Heidegger: An Introduction Paperback – January 7, 1999

4.4 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Provides interesting details on Heidegger's biography and political life and surveys some of the philosopher's later writings."―Publishers Weekly

"Polt has written a valuable introduction for beginners to Heidegger. . . Polt encourages the reader to try Heidegger's ideas on for size, and to judge them accordingly. Heidegger's philosophy comes to life in this little book. Highly recommended for all levels."―Choice

"Polt negotiates the difficult path between introduction and over-simplification skilfully. Heidegger: An Introduction succeeds in making the philosopher's thought accessible without rendering it simplistic."―Neil Levy, Philosophy in Review. February-December, 1999.

"This book is without a doubt the best general introduction to Heidegger ever written. Richard Polt has an uncanny ability to present Heidegger's central ideas in a straightforward way without sacrificing any of their richness or novelty. With his exceptional mastery of German, his concise formulations, and his sensitive, almost poetic style, Polt brings the philosopher's work to life. An incomparable achievement."―Charles Guignon, editor of The Cambridge Companion to Heidegger

About the Author

Richard Polt is Professor of Philosophy at Xavier University, Cincinnati. He is the author of Heidegger: An Introduction and The Emergency of Being, both from Cornell.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (January 7, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801485649
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801485640
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #264,142 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
As a professional philosopher who has been interested in Heidegger for years but who does not focus on this subject, I have found Polt's book among the most helpful, especially in approaching the later Heidegger, which has been much more of an enigma to me than the Heidegger of Being and Time. Polt does not pretend to ignore difficulties, nor is his approach "analytic" (unless this means "clear"). Too long Heidegger has suffered from acolytes who aspire to imitate his style. Polt's approach is that of a teacher, a very good one, which is to say, he helps one make progress on one's own with the subject itself.
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The absolute deluge of introductory Heidegger texts now available in English probably has newcomers' heads spinning with copious torque. Although reading most of these books will doubtlessly illuminate one's understanding of Heidegger's philosophy, keeping to only one or two would probably suffice before diving into "Being and Time." Nonetheless, those without access to a University course or faculty may have to digest multiple books before feeling comfortable in the linguistic quagmire that awaits. In any case, whether reading for curiosity or curriculum, don't miss this excellent and facile introduction by Richard Polt. Like any book on Heidegger, it's no dance in the park. But its delineations, reframings, and voluminous examples simplify beguling concepts without dissolving them. It ranks amongst the easiest to follow of all Heidegger introductions. Very little previous knowledge is assumed, though of course any would help.

Polt doesn't waste time. Chapter 1, "The Question," dives right into the central inquiry: the meaning of Being. He even provides a framework that anticipates later Heidegger by beginning with another central question: why are there beings rather than nothing? It turns out that Being (Polt follows the standard capitalization scheme) sits square in the middle of this seemingly trite query. History or "historicity" also plays a vital role when discussing "Being." Philosophizing and history should interweave. This short chapter sets the stage for the section on Heidegger's magnum opus. But before delving into the riddling text of "Being and Time," Polt discusses the roots of the question of Being in Heidegger's biography. Two main influences receive detailed attention: Dilthey and his historical and hermenuetical ideas, and Husserl's phenomenological method.
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Format: Paperback
Before giving Polt's guide a whack, I had purchased George Steiner's guide and had read a number of webpages describing Heidegger's work. Steiner's guide bored me to tears, and so did most of the other reading material I could find on Heidegger. But my interest remained. Behind all of the pedantry and "dry" scholarship on the subject, I could detect that something quite interesting was going on.

So then I started reading Being and Time again (for the third time), in conjunction with Polt's book, which had been recommended to me by a classmate. I was floored. My mind was completely blown multiple times per day during this period, which, in retrospect, I can identify as one of the most exciting and important periods in my life. Things were beginning to "come into focus" in ways that they never had before, and not only philosophically. No, this was not some kind of "bookworm's enlightenment". It was much more all-encompassing than that. It affected everything about how I thought about life, from brushing my teeth, to reading, to chatting with my mom on the phone, to dealing with difficult clients at work and more. You've heard it in other reviews, but I'll say it again: this is truly a great book. Enough good things cannot be said about it.

Polt rips Heidegger's work out of the dusty palms of the dried-up pedant and gently places it in ours. This was, I'm sure, not an easy task, but Polt has accomplished it with such elegance, thoughtfulness, vitality, and comprehensiveness that he deserves some kind of award for his stellar scholarship. At very least, I hope to shake his hand someday and give him a most sincere "thank you" for introducing me to what I've subsequently dedicated my life to studying, in one way or another.
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Format: Paperback
Richard Polt has done the readers of Heidegger - especially those beginning their journey into Heidegger's work - an exemplary service in writing this book. It is not only exceptionally clear throughout, but is also unusual in discussing the totality of Heidegger's work, and not just <Being and Time>. If you know little or nothing about Heidegger's philosophy, Polt's book is the place to start. If you are well versed in Heidegger's writings, you might contemplate Polt's achievement: an accessible book that does not talk down to its readers.
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Format: Paperback
Great introduction to this crucial thinker, and quite possibly the only good introduction to Heidegger for the uninitiated. The author does a great job of explaining Heidegger's relevance in the general philosophical tradition (i.e. his attack on Cartesian metaphysics) but at the same time, he also explores the deeply relevant and vital issues that made him the most important philosopher of the 20th century ; questions of authenticity, of man's relationship to time and death, of our relationship to others. All of these questions are looked at in a completely new way by Heidegger, which makes a precursor to the existentialists who would later appropriate and adopt his ideas.
Heidegger can be thought of as a cross between Nietzsche and Aristotle ; he takes from the latter a careful and detailed philosophical construction, and from the former, a deeply-held concern for the future of a humanity struggling in a nihilistic epoch. To engage with Heidegger, the interested party would have to go through his magnum opus, Being and Time, but this is well nigh impossible for Heidegger expects familiarity not only with most of the Western Canon but also with his predecessors in the phenomenological tradition. This book makes Heidegger's thought accessible to the general reader, but even then, one must have at least a basic idea of what Kant had to say about Being, and what are the general aims and notions of phenomenology. This can be accomplished by a quick search through Wikipedia, and would be great for helping one to get through this book.
I can't recommend this book enough ; a lucid, and thoroughly engaging introduction to one of the darkest and most unsettling thinkers in philosophy. It's the kind of book that changes your life.
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