Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) is a contemporary German Philosopher of the 20
Noted for being a gifted thinker, Heidegger has contributed to more than one field, namely
phenomenology, existentialism, hermeneutics, political theory, psychology and theology. ‘Being
and Time’, his first work is acknowledged as the most important of all his works. It is in Being
and Time that Heidegger introduces the term Dasein to explain ‘being’. Heidegger adopts a
non-metaphysical, coherent way of thinking to explain ‘being’ without reducing it to a scientific
Reading Heidegger’s philosophy
Heidegger makes use of certain philosophical terms in a non-conventional sense. His philosophy
is best understood when the reader personally relates to the description.
Heidegger opines that human existence is grounded in our always finding ourselves in a ‘world’.
He emphasizes that human existence is inseparable from a context, which in this case is called a
‘world’. This is a new insight, considering the rationalists’ vantage point. For instance, for
Descartes, only the ‘mind’ exists. Existence is associated with the ability to think. Descartes’
‘mind’ will think and feel, even if the entire world were just an illusion. But Heidegger argues
that having thoughts and feelings is only possible when humans are involved with a ‘world’.
Humans are a kind of entity called ‘Dasein’. ‘Dasein’ literally means ‘existence’ or ‘being there’
(‘Da’ stands for ‘there’ and ‘Sein’ stands for ‘being’) in German. The reason for this choice of
word ‘Dasein,’ is to emphasize ‘being-in-the-world’ as opposed to just ‘being’. The ‘there’ in
‘Dasein’ is the place (the world) where the ‘Dasein’ learns to co...
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...fficient intuition to display its
appropriateness in the world. For example, using a knife to sharpen a pencil would not be
The relation this world as described above holds with Dasein, is in that the world provides
Dasein with potential ways to be. The world lets an entity to be encountered, so that it can play
a role in the world.
In conclusion, the world is where the Dasein identifies a ‘for-the-sake-of-which’ it lives, where it
shapes its being continuously, where its actions make intuitive sense, and where it can finally
reach its being.
1. How to Read Heidegger, Mark Wrathall
2. Being and Time, trans. J. Macquarrie and E. Robinson
3. Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, Martin Heidegger
4. Wikipedia, Martin Heidegger
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