Being and Time Book Summary - Being and Time Book explained in key points
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Being and Time summary

Martin Heidegger

Unlock the Secrets of Existence and Transform Your Perspective

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    Being and Time
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    A new way to think about being

    For us to really appreciate why Being and Time was so revolutionary, we need to understand what Heidegger was revolting against.

    For him, Western philosophy had gotten the idea of what it means to be something wrong. René Descartes, the sixteenth century philosopher, came in for particularly blistering criticism on this point. Descartes argued for a clear separation between things out there in the physical world, and things in our minds. Yes, there might be a pen sitting before you on the table, but there is also the idea of what a pen is in your mind, and everything that you might do with it.

    Descartes also asked how we can really know the external world. How do we perceive that pen on the table? He said that we do so through our senses – we see and feel the pen, so we know it’s there. But Descartes was mistrustful of information we receive through our senses. Our sight tricks us into thinking clouds are closer to Earth than they actually are, and if we melt a ball of wax, almost everything about it changes. It’s only through mental logic – through reasoning in our minds that we can know this is still the ball of wax we melted in the fire.

    No, Heidegger said, this is all wrong.

    Descartes would have us believe that human beings can be reduced to their logic and reasoning, and therefore are shuttered off from the physical world. On the contrary – Heidegger believed we are always “thrown” into this world. We are surrounded at all times, on all sides, by the world and its objects, and we are always thinking about how we might use these objects. In the first instance, we don’t stop to contemplate the abstract qualities of wax – we are thinking and associating it with candles, or polishing our car. This is how human beings interact with the world.

    Heidegger called the way Descartes contemplated objects present-at-hand. This is the abstract, theoretical way of thinking about things. 

    But Heidegger insisted that, lying below this level of thought, we consider objects as being ready-to-hand – this is us thinking about the practical uses of objects. If we want to understand life and what it means to be human, we need to study ourselves in our everyday existence, and not in a stuffy philosophy classroom full of abstract theories.

    If you take just one thing away from this Blink, remember this: for Heidegger, we are thrown into a world of objects that we comprehend, firstly, for their practical uses. We are never closer to the world than when we are interacting with it, when we view it as filled with handy tools and materials which we can create and build with, play sports in, and wash the dishes with. The human being is not divorced from its environment. 

    So, what does it mean to be? Human being means being-in-the-world.

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    What is Being and Time about?

    Being and Time (1927) is perhaps the most influential work of philosophy written in the twentieth century. Infamous for its infuriating, almost impenetrable complexity, its pages explore the most fundamental of all questions for a human being: what is it to be?

    Who should read Being and Time?

    • Anyone – that is, everyone! – who can’t understand Being and Time
    • Philosophy nerds
    • Curious souls searching for answers to the deepest questions

    About the Author

    Martin Heidegger was a German philosopher. His magnum opus, Being and Time, propelled him to international fame in 1927, and secured him a professorship at the University of Freiburg. He was an ardent supporter of the Nazi Party as they rose to power in 1930s Germany, and this has stained his reputation ever since, marking him out as a divisive figure and a deeply flawed genius.

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