Everything that is, is being, is in being—with every little “am” or “is” or “are,” every noun, proper or not … we can hardly speak without invoking being—hence, this seemingly innocuous question is universally relevant for anyone and everyone who can ask the question. We talk incessantly about beings, intelligently about the meaning of this or that particular being, or what these beings are being for … but why do we rarely stop and ponder the most fundamental question of the meaning of Being in and of itself for a being? In his frontispiece to Being and Time, Heidegger quotes Plato’s Sophist on how we always use the word “being,” but now find ourselves perplexed about its meaning. Perplexity, for Socrates and Plato, signified the beginning of knowledge, the primordial impulse to philosophy. But, Heidegger sadly asks, “Do we in our time have an answer to the question of what we really mean by the word ‘being’? Not at all” (B&T, 1). That, then, was his book’s aim and will be ours, too, this summer. Heidegger’s Being and Time, published in 1927, is an incomplete masterpiece (containing only two thirds of his intended project), yet one so radical and monumental, it changed the course of contemporary philosophy. He took up Edmund Husserl’s (his teacher’s) formidable method of phenomenology, employed it to ask the most fundamental question (what is Being?), laid the ground for existentialism by exploring our thrownness, angst, and being-towards-death, and set the agenda for many coming generations of philosophers. While his later writings shift from fundamental phenomenological ontology to thinking, the latter’s thoughtfully attuned mindful meanderings using poeticisms to critique technology reveal his indebtedness to the former’s deconstructive disclosure of the structures of being, the intimacy of being in and by language, and the role of dwelling as our mode of being in the world. We will focus our summer semester on a careful, rigorous reading of Being and Time. Our exploration and analysis of his work will be from deeply affected dispositions, for one must feel his work as it tests one’s mental capacity for reasoning and comprehension. His content and style command readers to take note, delight in, and celebrate ideas by giving their selves over to perplexity, wonder, anxiety, inquisitiveness, and abiding concern—for this is how one honors philosophy’s most fundamental questions. “Celebration,” Heidegger writes, “is self-restraint, is attentiveness, is questioning, is meditating, is awaiting, is the step over into the more wakeful glimpse of the wonder—the wonder that a world is worlding all around us at all, that there are beings rather than nothing, that things are and we ourselves are in their midst, that we ourselves are and yet barely know who we are, and barely know that we do not know all this” (Heidegger, Hölderlins Hymne “Andenken,” GA52, 64). This will be our summer’s task.
Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. Joan Stambaugh (NY: State University of New York Press, 2010), isbn: 1438432763.
(The older translation, by Macquarrie & Robinson, was the first published in English and dictated terminological translation for early English-language scholarship, but has some consequential translation problems and has been largely abandoned by scholarship re: last decade; can be interesting, useful for comparison, but not really for primary reading.)