What are some important facts about Martin Heidegger's life?
Heidegger was born in 1889 in the Black Forest in Messkirch, Germany, an area to which he maintained close ties throughout his life. He attended gymnasium (high school) in Freiberg, beginning in 1906, where he read Franz Brentano's (1837-1917) On the Manifold Meaning of Being According to Aristotle (1862). He intended to become a Jesuit priest, but he was rejected, so he prepared for the Catholic priesthood at Ludwig University in Freiberg. He read the works of Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) there and, at the urging of his teachers, changed from theology to philosophy and mathematics.
After marrying Elfride Petri in March 1917, he joined the German army, advancing rapidly to corporal, although he was discharged for reasons of health. As Husserl's assistant and a colleague of Karl Jaspers (1883-1969), Heidegger was successful in philosophy, becoming an associate professor at the University of Marburg, where he wrote Being and Time (1927) in a matter of months to secure that post. After this work, he experienced the well-known Kehre, or turn in thought, which led to his An Introduction to Metaphysics (1953).
Among his students were future philosopher Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979) and political theorist and philosopher Hannah Arendt (1906-1975), who became his lover before she had to leave Germany. (As a Jewish intellectual, it became evident that she was in danger after being questioned by the Gestapo [the German secret police].) During this time, Heidegger was influenced by Lao Tzu's work on meditation, which led to his own understanding of Being through language.
Heidegger became rector of the University of Freiburg in 1933 and was a member of the National Socialist Party. In 1945, the French Military government removed his professorship, although he was able to gain emeritus status, provided he did not teach again. He had a nervous breakdown in 1946 but wrote his "Letter on Humanism" to make it clear that, regarding his study of Being, his work was not as humanistic as Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) and other existentialists had mistakenly assumed. In 1950 his professorship was restored, and in 1951 he was allowed to be professor emeritus. To recap, he was first given emeritus or retired status without having been reinstated as a professor. Then he was reinstated as a professor and was given a normal emeritus status after that. He continued his work until he died in 1976.
What is Dasein?
"Dasein" is Martin Heidegger's term for a human being. Its literal meaning is "being there." Heidegger intended by this term to convey that human beings are not simple, self-contained biological beings but that they are always concerned with things beyond their physical selves, with things in the world, other people, and the future.
Why do some people consider Martin Heidegger to be an existentialist?
In Being and Time (1927) Heidegger analyzed the human being or "Dasein," which in German means "being-there." Heidegger's insight was that Dasein cannot be understood as a biological thing because its main objects of concern, which is a fundamental structure of what it is, are always somewhere other than where Dasein itself is. Although Dasein in its being is concerned for its own being (understood in the ordinary sense as "life"), its own being is caught up "in-the-world." Furthermore, Dasein fails to understand its own being authentically, because in its ordinary existence it accepts the interpretation of its being that has already been constructed by "the they," or the mass mind. The they is particularly mistaken about the nature of death.