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Later Heidegger

Lecturer: Mark Wrathall

Originally Taught: Winter School 2013

This course offers an introduction to Martin Heidegger’s later work.  In the decades following the publication of Being and Time, Heidegger embarked on a sustained effort to change the style, the tone, the methods, and subject matter of philosophical thinking.  This effort involves a radical reconceptualization of ontology, an account of the history of being, a diagnosis of the pathologies of our contemporary historical age, and the development of a “completely new method of thinking” – one capable of responding to the dangers of our world-historical situation.  We will study five of Heidegger’s most influential later essays, and offer a thematic overview of some of the main elements in Heidegger’s later thought.

Course Schedule

Lecture 1: Heidegger’s Meta-ontology.
In this lecture, we will review the basic elements of what I call “Heidegger’s meta-ontology.”  Shortly after the publication of the first two divisions of the first part of Being and Time, Heidegger abandoned the project of providing a universal ontology.  This change came in response to his recognition of the ineliminably historical, and thus contingent and mutable, character of being.  Much of his later work consisted in articulating the background conditions of a history of being. These include his account of the clearing and Ereignis.

Lecture 2: The History of Being
he history of being is a central theme in Heidegger’s later work, prefigured already in the intention, announced in Being and Time, to perform “a destruction of the history of ontology.”  But Heidegger comes to believe that behind the history of ontology (that is, the succession of different philosophical accounts of being) lies a succession of different styles of being itself.  One of the main themes of Heidegger’s later work is the “hidden history of the West.” Western civilization, Heidegger claimed, consists of a succession of metaphysical epochs marked by distinct understandings of being.  Heidegger argued that ancient Greeks, medieval Christians, early modern subjects, and contemporary technologicized consumers inhabit different and incompatible worlds, each with its own characteristic style and way of organizing existence.  We will review the basic elements of Heidegger’s account of the history of being, and provide a overview of some of the main “epochs” in the history of being – the Greek, the Christian, and the Modern.

Lecture 3: Art, Language, and the “Worlding of a World.”
In this lecture, we will take up Heidegger’s seminal essay on “The Origin of the Work of Art,” and discuss the world-disclosive role that he accords to great works of art. This will lead us into an exploration of Heidegger’s views of poetry, and the account of language that grows out of focusing on poetic modes of speech (as opposed to the assertion, which most philosophy of language takes as paradigmatic). We will conclude with a discussion of Heidegger’s claim that “language is the house of being,” and explore the nature of his views of the dependency relationships between what exists, and the meaningful articulations of the world that support our linguistic forms of intelligibility.

Lecture 4: Our Technological Age
The first three lectures provide us with the tools we need to understand Heidegger’s analysis of the contemporary technological age.  Heidegger is particularly critical of the understanding of being that characterizes our age, and he argues that this understanding provides a unique threat to our dignity as human beings.  We will review his diagnosis of the pathologies of technology, as well as his claim that technology threatens our ability to live worthwhile lives.

Lecture 5: New Beginnings – Learning to Dwell in a Post-Metaphysical World.
The ultimate task of thinking, for the later Heidegger, was to prepare for an overcoming of metaphysics. This lecture will draw together the themes of the first 4 lectures in order to focus on Heidegger’s admittedly speculative efforts to sketch out a form of life that is in tune with the meta-ontological foundations of existence. Such a life, Heidegger argued, would establish a free relationship to technology. It would be a form of “poetic dwelling,” in which we take up our responsibility as co-creators of particular and local (rather than universal and metaphysical) configurations of meaning.

Readings:

  • Lecture 1: “Time and Being”
  • Lecture 2: “The Age of the World Picture”
  • Lecture 3:  “The Origin of the Work of Art”
  • Lecture 4: “The Question Concerning Technology”
  • Lecture 5: “Building, Dwelling, Thinking”

Level of Difficulty: Intermediate