After Heidegger’s masterpiece Being and Time there is a reorienting shift in Heidegger’s philosophy known as “die Kehre” or “the turn”, he links this to his own failure to produce the missing divisions of Being and Time, as the book remained unfinished.
He also distances his view from Jean Paul Sartre’s existentialism, particularly his Being and Nothingness which retakes the Husserlian and Cartesian point of view of objects and subjects, and he starts to shift his focus to poetry, language and technology.
His later thinking is encapsulated in his Contributions to Philosophy, written in a very poetic style. He famously said that “language speaks.”
Heidegger’s writing shifts to understanding Being historically and Being in language. He had been talking about the modern epoch without realising that each epoch has a different way of understanding of what it is to be. This forges a pathway to a new kind of thinking.
He moves from temporality as Dasein’s distinctive mode of Being to Being consisting most fundamentally in what he calls dwelling.
Human beings dwell in that they stay on earth, under the sky, before the divinities, and among one another as mortals. The underlying unity of these are known as the “simple oneness of the four”, he calls it the fourfold.
In dwelling, then, Dasein is located within a set of sense-making practices and structures with which it is familiar. It is a rethinking of Being in terms of the notion of “ereignis”, translated as “event” or “appropriation”.
The question now becomes not ‘What is the meaning of Being?’ but rather ‘How does Being essentially unfold?’.
We are now asking the question of Being not from the perspective of Dasein, but from the perspective of Being. Dasein is now appropriated by being and man owned by being.
The later Heidegger was concerned that in our modern society, we are so immersed in technology that we disconnect ourselves from being, from the world and nature.
Technology was a topic that highly interested Heidegger, in The Question Concerning Technology he tries to explore the essence of technology. Heidegger’s main interest is its fundamental impact on Being, he describes a technological mode of Being. Technology has thoroughly moulded society as a whole, not as a neutral force, but as way of understanding Dasein.
He thinks a large part of modern society’s anxiety is because of a technological and nihilistic understanding of Being. He was not against technology, he simply tried to understand the nature of it and warn us against the potential danger it can have to human existence.
The focal point of our Being-in-the-world is going unnoticed because of the repetitive and trite daily realities of our existence with resources being exploited as a means to an end.
“The circularity of consumption for the sake of consumption is the sole procedure which distinctively characterises the history of a world which has become an unworld.”
Only a God can Save Us
The later Heidegger also introduces the concept of “the last god” and famously announces that only a god can save us.
“The last god is not the end but the other beginning of immeasurable possibilities for our history.”
Heidegger has in mind not a religious intervention in an “ordinary” sense of the divine, but rather a transformational event in which a secularised sense of the sacred is restored.
It is a sort of transformational cultural event that is seen as “divinity.” He argued that we are waiting for a god who will reawaken us to the poetic, and thereby enable us to dwell in the fourfold. This task certainly seems to be a noble one. Unfortunately, it plunges us into the most controversial region of Heideggerian philosophy, his infamous involvement with Nazism.
It is quite strange how someone who could author Being and Time and become one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century, could also be into Nazism.
Heidegger’s understanding of traditional German rural life as realising values and meanings that may counteract the insidious effects of contemporary technology is tied with the national socialist image of rustic German communities, rooted in German soil, proving a bulwark against foreign influence.
Commentators describe Heidegger wandering into National Socialism because he believed that the German people were destined to carry out a monumental spiritual mission and that his philosophy could contribute to the whole nation.
After the war, he had stated that his participation in the movement had been “the biggest stupidity of his life”.
And yet Heidegger never really truly took responsibility and apologised for his past actions.
Despite this, what we really need to focus on are his ideas – it is through these ideas that we can be critically engaged with his sustained investigation into Being, to think deeply about human life and appreciate his massive contribution to human thought.
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Greatest Philosophers in History | Martin Heidegger
This video explores Heidegger’s key terms as an introduction to his philosophy. Most importantly: Being-in-the-world, ready to hand and present-at hand, facticity, thrownness, existentiality, fallenness, Das Man, temporality, being-toward-death and the fourfold.