One of the well-known proponents of the philosophy of existentialism is Martin Heidegger. This German philosopher is widely regarded to be one of the most influential and original thinkers of the 20th century. His works have contributed to the development of diverse areas such as psychology, hermeneutics, phenomenology, political theory, theology, and literary criticism. Due to his pioneering work in metaphysics and ontology, he was able to set the progress of philosophy in Europe.
- Birth: Martin Heidegger was born on the September 26, 1889 in Messkirch, Germany. His family was a member of the Roman Catholic Church. During his younger days, Martin was trained in preparation for the priesthood.
- Early life: In 1903, he got a scholarship from the church to attend high school in Konstanz and later on moved to Freiburg in 1906. It was at Freiburg he stumbled on a book written by Franz Brentano about Aristotle’s “Meaning of Being”. In 1909, he left the order of priesthood on health grounds to study theology at Freiburg University. However, he switched to philosophy and mathematics in 1911.
- Lecturer: In 1913, Martin earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching in 1915 at Freiburg University after completing his thesis, a requirement for all intending lecturers. As a lecturer, his major courses were scholastic and Aristotelian philosophy.
- Family: In 1917, he got married to a Protestant student, Thea Elfride Petri, with whom he had two sons, Herman and Jorge.
- Military: In 1918, his career was disrupted by military service and he had to serve for ten months. In January 1919, on his return to lecturing, he severed ties with Catholicism and began teaching on phenomenology. He also interpreted the works of Aristotle creatively.
- Professor: In 1923, he left Freiburg for Marburg University and got appointed as an associate professor. It was at Marburg that he expanded his courses to include lectures on Plato, Aquinas, Leibniz and Kant. In February 1927, Heidegger published his treatise, “Being and Time”. This work went on to be heralded as groundbreaking. This paper also earned him a full professorship. A year later, he became the head of philosophy at Freiburg University.
- Philosopher: In 1929, Martin published, ‘On the Essence of Ground,” “What is Metaphysics?” and “Kant and the problem of Metaphysics.” These works further introduced to the populace his brand of philosophy known as phenomenological ontology.
- Politics: In April 1933, after Hitler’s rise to power, his faculty elected him as the rector of Freiburg University. In May 1933, he became a part of the Nazi party with the intention of pushing the growing movement towards the right path. During his inaugural speech as rector, he spoke on “The Self-Assertion of the German University” which most analysts saw as tacit support for Hitler’s regime. Martin also produced speeches to further the cause of the Nazi during his time as rector. In April 1934, Martin resigned from his office and gave up politics, a decision that pitted him against the authorities. He was sacked from his position as head of philosophy and forbidden to teach in 1946. This ban was lifted in 1949.
- Writings: From 1946 to the mid-1970s, Martin published many works among which are “What are Poets for?” (1946), “Letter on Humanism” (1947), “The Way to Language” (1959), and “Time and Being” (1962).
- Death: On May 26, 1976, Martins died in Freiburg and was buried in his hometown of Messkirch.
As a philosopher, Martin Heidegger broke the rules of many traditions and set his course. He believed his job as a philosopher was to provoke his readers to think and reflect rather than giving them already-made answers. In spite of his involvement with the Nazis, he helped to further the course of development in Europe.
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