Martin Heidegger  —  in Brief

You will find here a 10 minute interview between philosopher Martin Heidegger and Thai monk Bhikku Maha Mani, conducted sometime in either n 1963 or 1964. I’m grateful for venues like YouTube for, among other things, providing individuals like myself an additional means by which to discover some of history’s most interesting thinkers.

To put it lightly, Heidegger was complex, but I’ve always enjoyed what I can understand of him.

For Heidegger, the fundamental flaw of Western thought was that we have never found a productive way of speaking about what he called Being (German, Sein). Being, for Heidegger, is tantamount to what we often refer to as life, the universe, existence, etc. — the unified totality of all things. But there’s an interesting interplay between the German terms Heidegger uses: Being is Sein, and you as an individual are Dasein, or “being-there.”

What sets us apart from plants and animals, according to Heidegger (as mentioned in the linked interview), is our capacity for “language” — more precisely, our capacity to represent back to ourselves and others parts of our environments; whether in thinking, planning, remembering, we hold within ourselves mental echoes of fragments of Being, of this or that “being-there.”

Additionally, for Heidegger, humans are fundamentally finite, and thus, as we typically experience ourselves, fundamentally incomplete. Thus religion, for Heidegger a very broad term, enters as our attempt to reunite with (thus the Latin etymology of the term “religion,” re-ligare, a coming back together) that from which we believe we have become most alienated — Dasein seeking Sein.

Language, with its capacity to deconstruct and analyze Being into little bite-sized “being-theres,” is at once our greatest strength and our undoing. We lose ourselves in language, forgetting its secondary nature in relation to Being; we lose ourselves as a Dasein thrown into the uncaring world, forgetting that we separate egos — as Dasein — are secondary to Sein, to Being, of which everything is a product and part.

He’s perhaps not for everyone, and there are certainly points where Heidegger and I diverge, but suffice it to say I very much enjoy him and his work.