Basic Writings. Edited by David F. Krell, New York, Harper & Row, 1977, 1993, 2008.
This book is the best collection of Heidegger's works. It collects some of Heidegger's key essays with Krell's helpful introduction. One caveat is that there's more to Heidegger than can be collected in one book. Readers looking for a particular facet of Heidegger's thought may find that it is not addressed here. Heidegger's own writings may not be everyone's best introduction to his thought.
The Letter on Humanism is in part a response to Sartre's 1946 lecture Existentialism Is a Humanism.
Sartre expresses the basic tenet of existentialism in this way: Existence precedes essence. In this statement he is taking existentia and essentia according to their metaphysical meaning, which from Plato's time on has said that essentia precedes existentia. Sartre reverses this statement. But the reversal of a metaphysical statement remains a metaphysical statement. With it he stays with metaphysics in oblivion of the truth of Being. For even if philosophy wishes to determine the relation of essentia and existentia in the sense it had in medieval controversies, in Liebniz's sense, or in some other way, it still remains to ask first of all from what destiny of Being this differentiation in Being as esse essentiae and esse existentae comes to appear to thinking.
Here the presence of things before man is neatly summed up.
Man does not decide whether and how beings appear, whether and how God and the gods or history and nature come forward into the clearing of Being, come to presence and depart. The advent of beings lies in the destiny of Being. But for man it is ever a question of finding what is fitting in his essence that corresponds to such destiny; for in accord with this destiny man as ek-sisting has to guard the truth of Being. Man is the shepherd of Being. It is in this direction alone that Being and Time is thinking when ecstatic existence is experienced as "care",
The Letter on Humanism addresses the question of whether his way of thinking can be used as the basis for an ethics.
If the thinking that ponders the truth of Being defines the essence of humanitas as ek-sistence from the latter's belongingness to Being, then does thinking remain only a theoretical representation of Being and of man; or can we obtain from such knowledge directives that can be readily applied to our active lives?
The answer is that such thinking is neither theoretical nor practical. It comes to pass before this distinction. Such thinking is, insofar as it is, recollection of Being and nothing else. Belonging to Being, because thrown by Being into the preservation of its truth and claimed for such preservation, it thinks Being. Such thinking has no result. It has no effect.
CriticaLink has a guide to "The Question Concerning Technology" essay in this book. The page numbers above are from the 1993 edition.
Existence and Being. Introduction and Analysis by Werner Brock, Washington, D.C., Regnery Gateway Company, 1949.
The Heidegger Reader. Edited by Günter Figal, translated by Jerome Veith, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2009.
A great selection that starts with four pages from Heidegger's earliest lecture courses, and continues chronologically with selections from his lectures, essays, and more. Some of the pieces appear in translation here for the first time, while earlier translations are all reworked. Some translations were updated to ensure consistency in translation, while others have more substantial changes, including sentences omitted in the earlier translations. Note that there are few complete pieces, unlike the other anthologies, such as Basic Writings. Some selections are only a paragraph (as in the case of the Rectorship Address), while a few are complete. Günter Figal's introduction is helpful, but neophytes will need a book length overview of Heidegger to guide them through these texts. As with other Heidegger texts, there is no index, but the book has a helpful chronology, and a bibliography of the complete works and their translations.
Philosophical and Political Writings.
Edited by Manfred Stassen, New York, Continuum, 2003.
A bit of a mixed bag here. There's a good selection of Heidegger's writings from B&T onwards. This volume can function as an introductory Heidegger reader, but Basic Writings has a more important selection. All the Joan Stambaugh pieces, except for "My Way to Phenomenology", are from her translation of B&T. There are a few hard to find pieces that completists will have to have, but these mainly deal with Heidegger's political troubles and not with his philosophical contributions. For those interested in Heidegger's Nazi period, the editor here is more straight forward about Heidegger's involvement. There are only twenty odd pages of introduction at the beginning, while in Basic Writings all the essays have an introductory essay providing some context for the neophyte, and Krell's introduction does a good job of placing Heidegger in Western Philosophy.
Back to Heidegger books page.
Back to Heidegger home page.