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Martin Heidegger was one of the most prolific philosophers of the twentieth century, making contributions to metaphysics, phenomenology, the philosophy of language, and aesthetics. Although he never considered himself an existentialist, he embraced many of its key themes--Being, Angst, Death, Freedom, and Authenticity. His indebtedness to Kierkegaard and his influence on Sartre were substantial, Sartre going so far as to name his magnum opus, Being and Nothingness, after Heidegger’s Being and Time. Heidegger’s discussion of Being has many parallels with Eastern philosophy. While Schopenhauer was drawn to its theme of suffering, Heidegger was more interested in the ontology, particularly in the attempt to describe something whose essence is ineffable. He thought such a task required new language, leading to neologisms or redefinitions of common terms. His most important neologism was “Dasein”, an approximate synonym for Man, the being for whom being matters. Heidegger recognized that his language was challenging but famously quipped, “making itself intelligible is suicide for philosophy.” Because the understanding of Being was of central concern to Heidegger, he reserved some of his most incisive criticism for the role of technology in obfuscating Being. Speaking somewhat nostalgically, he offered the example of a Rhine River hydroelectric plant: its function was purely instrumental, to provide water to the populace; however, in the process, it became almost a golden calf, worshiped for its power and utility while the rustic landscape and the simple life of the peasants became a forgotten backdrop. Just as Art was for Schopenhauer an escape from the dominance of Will, so Art for Heidegger was a bridge back to Being, a means of experiencing it at the highest levels of consciousness. Even though he was one of Germany’s most esteemed philosophers, Heidegger became a controversial figure during the Third Reich. He joined the Nazi party, praised its nationalistic programs, and was rewarded by being appointed rector of his university. Soon after, he resigned from that position but not from the party. Ironically some of his closest relationships were with Jewish intellectuals, such as Edmund Husserl, his mentor and the father of phenomenology, and with his onetime lover and student, the philosopher Anna Arendt. Heidegger did not promote anti-semitism, but neither did he protest it nor the firing of Jewish professors. After the war, as punishment for his Nazi support, he was barred from teaching for a period of three years. For this discussion we will read an anthology: "Martin Heidegger: Basic Writings", ed. David Farrell Krell (Harper Perennial, 2008). It includes excerpts from Being and Time as well as the full text of his most notable essays. Those I have singled out for discussion are: the editor’s “General Introduction: The Question of Being”, “Being and Time: Introduction”, “What is Metaphysics?”, “Letter on Humanism”, “The Question Concerning Technology,” “The Way to Language”, and “The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking.” Purely optional but recommended, given the opaqueness of Heidegger's prose, is Michael Inwood’s Heidegger: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 1977).

Julius Stratton Student Center

84 Mass Avenue · Cambridge, MA

    Past Meetups (29)

    What we're about

    Did you take a philosophy class in high school or college and wish you had taken more? Do you read philosophy texts independently but have no one to discuss them with? Then this group is for you.

    The History of Philosophy Boston Meetup is for anyone with an interest in having in-depth discussions about Western/Eastern philosophy, intellectual history, critical theory and more. All backgrounds are welcome! Whether you have a doctorate in the field or are completely self-taught, this group seeks members with an appetite for reading, analyzing and discussing philosophical texts.

    This group will center discussions around a single book by a single author. Potential philosophers will include Plato, Averroes, Confucius, Descartes, Spinoza, Kant, Sartre, Arendt, Rawls, Foucault, and Hume. Many of these philosophers are considered “canonical” (mostly to the Western tradition) but this group is open to including lesser known authors from any culture. To keep things in historical context, we will try to read authors in chronological order.

    We currently have a tentative reading list (, which is subject to change depending on the expressed interests of the group.

    We typically meet in the 4th floor lobby of the Julius Adams Stratton Student Center at MIT. Detailed instructions to our exact meeting spot can be found here (

    Tips in Preparing for Meetings

    After you have finished the reading, ask yourself: (1) What are the philosopher’s principal ideas? (2) What arguments are used to support them, and are they strong or weak? (3) Who were the author’s major influences, and whom in turn did he/she influence? (4) What was the historical context in which the author wrote, and did this affect what was said? (5) Are the author’s works still relevant today and, if so, how?

    To help in answering these questions, attendees are encouraged to consult the secondary resources posted in each announcement. Wikipedia, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy are especially useful.

    Rules of Conduct at Meetings

    Avoid monopolizing the conversation;

    Stay on topic;

    Challenging arguments and disputing facts are fine; personal attacks are not;

    Read least 50% of the recommended selections.

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