Books introducing Heidegger

Heidegger. David E. Cooper, The Claridge Press, 1996.

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Heidegger. Michael Inwood, Oxford University Press, 1997.


Heidegger A Beginner's Guide. Michael Watts, London, Hodder & Stoughton, 2001.

A good introduction covering many of the themes in Heidegger's thinking and the facts of his career. Here Heidegger sense of man's imersion in the world is notes.

A crucial difference in Heidegger's approach is that, unlike earlier philosophers, he makes no attempt to isolate human beings from thee in which they live. Traditionally philosophers have distinguished between the 'knower' of the world it knows--the world in 'out there' and the thinker's task is to deal with what is in the mind., int relation to what is outside it. We are regareded as independently exisiting thinking things, completely seperate from the world--we are the subjects, and the world is out object. Heidegger repudiates this approach, pointing out that I acnnot look at the world 'objectively because the world is not, and cannot possibly be, 'outside' me, since I am--and always have been ince birth--in the world existing as a part of it. I am inextricably linked to all other entities in a world-wide web of significance.

P. 12


Heidegger: an introduction. Richard Polt, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1999.

This is probably the best introduction to Heidegger's way of thinking. Written as clearly as possible, without sacrificing accuracy through over simplification.

This passage describes how Heidegger goes beyond logic, without being illogical.

Heidegger's critique of logic is a frequent theme in his work, and is the starting point for several of his lecture courses. He does not deny the correctness of any theories within logic itself. Rather, he holds that the discipline of logic, as a theory about logos in the narrow sense of propositions, cannot shed light on the most fundamental problems of philosophy: what is meaning, what is truth, what is Being? Such questions can be approached only by investigating logos in a primary sense -- logos as the process by which the world opens up and entities are revealed to us.

Heidegger does not feel free to commit logical fallacies, but he does think that the rules of logic have little to tell us about how to speak, read or write in an illuminating way. Although it is possible to analyze his own texts as sets of assertions, he often stresses that it is more important to pay attention to the questions and the sequences of thoughts in his work ? the context of his assertions. "The point is not to listen to a series of propositions, but rather to follow the movement of showing."49 If we attend to where a text has been and where it is going, we can take part in the process of developing concepts that are appropriate to the things under discussion; if we merely boil the text down to some propositions, our own preconceptions are likely to remain undisturbed.

P. 73

The book has several pages explaining Ereignis, via developing an understanding of a sentence from Contributions to Philosophy that the author translates like this: "Being essentially unfolds as Ereignis." The author compares involvement in the occurrence of Ereignis with the difference between playing and watching sport.

The expression Ereignis, both in this early text and in the Contributions, points to the fact that meaning and truth require involvement. Like "care", the word Ereignis suggests that we can never truly be detached from the world and become timeless, placeless observers. The world opens up for us only because we are engaged participants in it.

P. 147


Heidegger: A (Very) Critical Introduction. S.J. McGrath, Cambridge, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2008.

Reviews: Charles Guignon
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Heidegger Explained From Phenomenon to Thing. Graham Harman, Chicago, Open Court, 2007.

This introduction is different from the others in that it proceeds chronologically, in the manner of a biography. In addition to explaining B&T's importance, this book also devotes a chapter to the Bremen lectures.


Heidegger For Beginners. Eric LeMay and Jennifer A. Pitts, illustrated by Paul Gordon, New York, Writers and Readers Publishing, 1994.

This book and Introducing Heidegger below, are heavily illustrated, following the model of Marx for Beginners by Rius. They both tackle a challenging thinker with humor and wit, but are limited to superficial overviews. Readers serious about understanding Heidegger may be disappointed.


Heidegger in 90 Minutes. Paul Strathern, Chicago, Ivan R. Dee, 2002.

Although it keeps its promise of brevity, the author manages to convey nothing helpful about Heidegger's thought.

Heidegger Thinking of Being. Lee Braver, Polity, 2014.


Heidegger's Later Writings A Reader's Guide. Lee Braver, London, Continuum, 2009.

This book is a reader's guide to Basic Writings. There's a chapter for each of the essays in the collection, minus the introduction to Being and Time; from "What is Metaphysics?" (1929) on. There are a few introductory pages explaining the themes, mainly being, that will develop through the chapters.

If you don't know any Heidegger and want to get an understanding of his post Being and Time works, while avoiding most of the jargon and technical details that permeate Heidegger studies, this is your best bet. That said, there's no easy way to understand what Heidegger's on about. If you find yourself making sense of Heidegger by relating what he's discussing with concepts from another philosopher, you're mistaken. Heidegger understands things in a different way, so the challenge is to discover how to think along with him. The difficulty isn't that his way of thinking is particularly complicated, but that it is different. Lee judiciously concentrates on the key themes of Heidegger's thinking across his summaries of the essays. While avoiding the details that are only pertinent to students of die Sache selbst.

There's an exceprt about "The Way to Language" here.

Reviews: Paul Ennis

How to Read Heidegger. Mark Wrathall, London, W. W. Norton & Company, 2005.


Introducing Heidegger. Jeff Collins and Howard Selina, New York, Totem Books, 1998.


Martin Heidegger. Timothy Clark, London, Routledge, 2002.

This is one in a series of guides on critical thinkers for literary studies from Routledge. As such it concentrates on the aspects of Heidegger that matter to literature more than to philosophy. The emphasis is on The Origin of the Work of Art and other essays where Heidegger addresses poetry and language. If you are a student of the humanities and need to understand Heidegger for your classes, this may be the book for you.

Reviews: Stephen Mitchelmore
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Martin Heidegger. John Macquarrie, Richmond, Virginia, John Knox Press, 1986.

Martin Heidegger. George Steiner, Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1980.


Martin Heidegger: an Illustrated Study. Walter Biemel, translated by J. L. Mehta, New York, Original Harvest, 1976.

The first two chapters provide an overview and the subsequent chapers each examine individual works. The chapter concerned with The Nature of Language examines Ereignis.

In speaking proper, what happens is nothing but a manifestation of the Ereignis which itself, however, remains hidden from the speaker himself. That is why experiencing in thought the nature of language is for Heidegger a laying open of the movement which leads from Ereignis to man's speech. Language has the power to bestow the clearing because it is in its very nature a granting appropriation (Er-eignis, amking one's own). The moment of historicity, which never abandoned in Heidegger's thinking, is present here also. The appropriation is not something that happens only once, not just a single event; it is capable of disclosing itself, of showing itself or withdrawing itself. It is in conformity with this showing-itself or denial that language happens and human speech itself changes.

P. 163

Martin Heidegger: Between Good and Evil. Rudiger Safranski, translated by Ewald Osers, Boston, Harvard University Press, 1998.

Reviews: Robert Sokolowski, Robert Fulford, Bruce Ellis Benson, Dietrich Orlow Richard Rorty in NYTimes Lawrence Nannery

Martin Heidegger's Path of Thinking. Otto Pöggler, translated by Daniel Magurshak and Sigmund Barber, Atlantic Highlands, N.J., Humanities Press International, 1987.


On Heidegger. Patricia Johnson, Belmont California, Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2000.

After a quick biographical summary of Heideger's life the remainder of the book is a very good introduction the Heidegger's thinking, his major works and terms.

The section on Ereignis includes the following:

In some of his later essays, Heidegger develops the understanding of this appropriating and disclosing event as a mirroring or a play. He introduces laguage about a fourfold that he terms earth, sky, divinity and mortals. This language is reminiscent of the language of world and earth that he used in "The Origin of the Way of Art." Again what Heidegger tries to do is shock us into thinking in a new way. Ereignis ia an appropriating and disclosing event in which each element lights up and reflects the others.

Simple examples give some illustration of what Heidegger is trying to express. A still lake reflects the sky and the clouds, the mountain as its shore, and our face as we look into the water. If the clouds block the sun, or if we ripple the water, the reflection is broken, but the play continues. There is a back-and-forth movement in which the world is disclosed. A conversation is a better illustration of the play that concerns Heidegger. In a conversation, we are absorbed in what is said. We exchange ideas. In the process, we learn about each other and we disclose ourselves to each other. If it is a productive conversation, we are changed and come to know ourselves better.

Ereignis is an event of appropriating and disclosing we are as much appropriated as appropriators. We are gathered into a situation where we belong together with what is present with us. We disclose the world like the mirroring of the lake. We reflect things in the context of the light that is available.

P. 67


The Philosophy of Martin Heidegger. J. L. Mehta, New York, Harper Torchbooks, 1971.

Ereignis is covered quite extensively in the fourth section of this book. Here's some of what the author wrote.

What the term Er-eignis aims at disclosing is the nearest, the most intimate, of all that is close to us and in which we are already held; for, as Heidegger puts it, "Could anything be closer to us than what brings us nearer that to which we belong and within which we are as the 'belonged', the Er-eignis?" The Er-eignis is that domain, suspended in itself, which enables man and Being to reach one another in their essence and, by shedding those determinations which metaphysics has given to them, to attain to their real nature. The self-same (to auto) from which Being and Thought derive their mutual belongingness and in which they themselves belong is the real Identity which metaphysics conceives as an attribute of Being. Heidegger, on the contrary, seeks to show how "Being belongs, along with thought, in an Identity of which the nature has its source in that letting belong-together which we call the Er-eignis." The essence of Identity, he asserts, is a property of the Er-eignis. The Principle of Identity, which presupposes Identity as a trait of Being, is thus no longer a principle in the ultimate sense but, interpreted in terms of the Er-eignis, is transformed into a leap, "a spring which breaks away from Being as the ground of essents and so becomes a leap in the abyss. This abyss, however, is neither an empty Nothingness nor dark chaos but-- the Er-eignis."

P. 212

Starting with Heidegger. Tom Greaves, London, Continuum, 2010.

Another in a line of excellent introductions to Heidegger, and the most attuned to contemporary understandings of what Heidegger was saying. Here's an excerpt about Kant, and another on the KNS semester.


What Is Existentialism? William Barrett, New York, Grove Press, 1964.

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Created 1995/5/26
Last updated 2015/5/11