An Introduction to Martin Heidegger

Austin Tannenbaum
6 min readFeb 4, 2020

Martin Heidegger is one of the more fraught figures in modern philosophy. On the one hand, he is responsible for important advancements in the field of ontology, which investigates the nature of being. On the other hand, he was, for a time, a member of the Nazi party and held arguably unconventional yet nonetheless anti-semitic opinions about Jews. Heidegger is most honestly remembered in a manner that admits of both his contributions and his controversies.

Heidegger was born September 26th, 1889 in Southwestern Germany to strict Catholic parents. His father Friedrich worked as a church groundskeeper while his mother Johanna remained at home to care for young Martin and his siblings Marie and Fritz. Heidegger was raised in Messkirch, a rural and deeply religious town.

Because his family was poor, Heidegger could not afford to attend university. Instead, he enrolled in a Jesuit seminary, but was quickly forced to leave after he failed a health exam, allegedly due to a psychosomatic heart condition. Luckily for Heidegger, his father’s church funded his college career at the University of Freiburg, where he briefly studied theology before switching to philosophy. He completed his doctoral thesis on psychologism: specifically, he argued that the laws of logic exist independently of psychology.

Soon after, he was conscripted into the German Army during WWI. He served for two months before being dismissed for health reasons. Back at Freiburg, Heidegger completed his habituation thesis, which enabled him to lecture at the University. During this time, Heidegger met Elfride Petri, his student and future wife. They married in 1917 and had a son named Jorg in 1919. Between these years, Heidegger once again served in the German army, this time for ten months.

Upon his return, Heidegger formally broke with Catholicism, having become increasingly unendeared to the system. Heidegger spent the next number of years teaching at both Freiburg and Marburg University before becoming the Chair of Philosophy at Freiburg in 1927 after his mentor Husserl vacated the position. In 1933, after Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany, Heidegger was elected rector of the University. In May of that year Heidegger officially joined the Nazi party and in November he gave a speech declaring his support for Hitler…

Austin Tannenbaum

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