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Heraclitus Seminar (Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy) Paperback – January 21, 1993

3.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German

From the Back Cover

In the winter semester of 1966-67 at the University of Freiburg, Martin Heidegger conducted an extraordinary seminar on the fragments of Heraclitus. This book records those conversations, documenting the imaginative and experimental character of the multiplicity of interpretations offered and providing an invaluable portrait of Heidegger involved in active discussion and explication.
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Product Details

  • Series: Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy
  • Paperback: 171 pages
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press (January 21, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810110679
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810110670
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,121,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Martin Heidegger's special intellectual relationship with the Presocratics is often discussed as if the German philosopher was some sort of romantic originalist or nostalgist. But Heidegger always insisted that the point about going back to Heraclitus, Parmenides and rest was not to recover the specific contents of their thought (or, worse, to wallow in their supposed primitive "purity"), but to recapture the spirit of their efforts to "think the question of Being." You won't find a better presentation of this - or a more candid glimpse of Heidegger as a working philosopher - than in this text. It presents the record of a seminar on Heraclitus conducted by Heidegger and the German scholar Eugen Fink in the late 1960s. Heidegger's discussion of specific Heraclitian texts makes for difficult reading but is, generally speaking, quite lucid. And the dialog with Fink and student participants is eye-opening. (Heidegger's pronouncements are by no means always taken as Gospel!) Most important, in spite of their rather recondite subject matter, these seminar records wonderfully illuminate Heidegger's own philosophical development in the last two decades of his life. Although this book does require familiarity with Heidegger's work and somewhat unique philosophical terminology, as well as familiarity with the history of philosophy generally, I wouldn't call it a text "for specialists only." Unless, of course, all readers of philosophy are specialists! And it does provide a welcome corrective to current "New Age" tendencies to view Heraclitus and the other Presocratics as authors of quasi-religious wisdom manuals. No dumbing-down here; just a tough confrontation with difficult material!
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This actually is an interesting if somewhat inconclusive volume. It is something like a transcript of a seminar on the pre-Socratic thinker, the seminar being conducted in the 1966-67 academic year by Eugen Fink and Martin Heidegger. The seminar actually seems to be led by Professor Fink, and there are occasional comments and questions from other participants besides those from Heidegger.

The theme of the seminar is an attempted interpretation of some of the Heraclitus fragments available--about forty fragments are quoted in Greek, translated, and compared in unpacking certain themes. Fink's hermeneutic starting point is in the concepts of the "one" (hen) and the "many" (panta). Heidegger's focus, characteristically, is more on "truth" (aletheia) or, as he would interpret the Greek word, the "clearing" and on logos, which crudely and misleadingly could be translated as the "word". The two professors seem to know one another well and respectfully, and in fact Fink was a follower of Heidegger. But their points of view seem to differ considerably, and there is a certain inconclusiveness in the exchanges as a result. Also it apparently is the case that the seminar was expected to continue, which did not occur after the semester in which it first was offered.

Since I was interested primarily in what Heidegger was thinking about Heraclitus, I found Fink's leading and dominating the discussion somewhat disappointing. At the same time, there are some good exchanges and some powerful hints at Heidegger's perspective. The one below is a highly characteristic Heideggerian comment just at the end of the book.

"The dark is, to be sure, without light, but cleared. Our concern is to experience unconcealment as clearing.
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Heraclitus is immortal, Heidegger is inimitable, Fink is the moving force of the seminar and Charles Seibert has produced a very readable translation. That the book is full of misspellings in English and--horror of horrors--typos in the Greek too, inevitably casts a shadow on the quality of Mr Seibert's work and oversight (a certain John Cody is implicated for the Greek in the foreword). I cannot check the German original (I do not know the language) but the typos in plethora I can well spot. I am still searching the Oxford Dictionary for the words "emenate" (sic) and "emenation" (sic). They only seem to exist for Mr Seibert. The sun is treated alternately as a "he" (so is the Greek usage) and as a "she". The seminar's or Mr Seibert's idea. Elsewhere we encounter the word "boarder" (sic) and "boardering" (sic). Is it a translation in English of one of those manufactured words that Heidegger relished or is it a misspelling of "border"?
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By WB, Zeno on December 6, 2009
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with T. Beers' otherwise excellent review: this book IS for specialists, and for specialists particularly interested in Heidegger, at that.

For others it's mildly interesting, as might be a reality show (without the vulgarity and banality, of course). But you have to know at least how to read Greek, as citations are not invariably translated (although the majority is), and only the first time they appear. Since the book has several misspellings in Greek (i.e., "Hesisdos" for "Hesiodos" in p. 43; unfortunately, as I didn't plan to write a review, I didn't take note of the pages where the others are located when I was reading the book, so I can't correct them here), this is a forbidding difficulty for nonspecialists.

The reality show (unfortunately deprived of its philological content, as we are informed in page 105, Note 1 to the text) consists of Fink, Heidegger and the seminar's participants reasoning aloud, as unselfconsciously as two teachers can before their pupils and viceversa (to top it, Fink had also been Heidegger's pupil a generation before), about the interpretation of "hen" (the one) and "ta panta" (all there is, the totality, the Universe, etc.), basing themselves on every surviving Heraclitean fragment where those words/concepts are explicitly or implicitly mentioned. The interpretations are, for me, sometimes too farfetched. They are tainted with Heidegger's very original and sometimes (to me) constrained views on the Greeks generally, and the Presocratics particularly (although during at least his early years H. admired Aristotle the most, see for example Brogan's "H. & Aristotle"), and also with his unsupported metaphysical belief that they had found another, more meaningful, way of looking at/understanding/intuiting reality.
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