One of the century’s greatest philosophers, without whom there would be no Sartre, no Foucault, no Frankfurt School, Martin Heidegger was also a man of great failures and flaws, a Faustus who made a pact with the devil of his time, Adolf Hitler. The story of Heidegger’s life and philosophy, a quintessentially German story in which good and evil, brilliance and blindness are inextricably entwined and the passions and disasters of a whole century come into play, is told in this brilliant biography.
Heidegger grew up in Catholic Germany where, for a chance at pursuing a life of learning, he pledged himself to the priesthood. Soon he turned apostate and sought a university position, which set him on the path to becoming the star of German philosophy in the 1920s. Rüdiger Safranski chronicles Heidegger’s rise along with the thought he honed on the way, with its debt to Heraclitus, Plato, and Kant, and its tragic susceptibility to the conservatism that emerged out of the nightmare of Germany’s loss in World War I. A chronicle of ideas and of personal commitments and betrayals, Safranski’s biography combines clear accounts of the philosophy that won Heidegger eternal renown with the fascinating details of the loves and lapses that tripped up this powerful intellectual.
The best intellectual biography of Heidegger ever written and a best-seller in Germany, Martin Heidegger: Between Good and Evil does not shy away from full coverage of Heidegger’s shameful transformation into a propagandist for the National Socialist regime; nor does it allow this aspect of his career to obscure his accomplishments. Written by a master of Heidegger’s philosophy, the book is one of the best introductions to the thought and to the life and times of the greatest German philosopher of the century.
Rüdiger Safranski’s evenhanded study, Martin Heidegger: Between Good and Evil, is equally successful at illustrating its subject’s pettiness and at displaying the vast power of his imagination. It is the first comprehensive biography of the man, and supersedes both Victor Farías’s Heidegger and Nazism and Hugo Ott’s Martin Heidegger: A Political Life. It reports many facts that these books did not, and it offers a detailed account of Heidegger’s intellectual development—relating his twists and turns, with great skill and remarkable concision, to German intellectual and political life in the first half of this century.
Rüdiger Safranski has written a remarkably detailed, full-scale biography. Martin Heidegger: Between Good and Evil is a labor of philosophic devotion, entering…deeply and appreciatively into the thought and sensibility of Heidegger.
Neither apologist nor accuser, Safranski treads a delicate winding path through the Black Forest of the modern Germanic mind. The result is impressively judicious, offering us a privileged glance into that nation’s intellectual unconscious… Safranski’s biography is brisk, lucid and illuminating. The manner in which he weaves Heidegger’s thinking into the intrigues of his life makes for fascinating reading… His book also gives an excellent account of Heidegger’s ‘existential’ ideas, highlighting the inimitable charisma surrounding both his writing and person. This is a towering biography of a giant intellectual.
A superb work of synthesis, the book places Heidegger’s thought and life in the volatile context of 20th-century German and European politics and philosophy… Although Safranski sees Heidegger as a towering figure in 20th-century philosophy, this is a ‘warts and all’ biography. The author leaves no doubt about Heidegger’s self-centeredness, his intellectual arrogance, and his convenient lapses of memory about his role in the Nazi years. But the book’s primary merit is a superb explication of Heidegger’s thought, its antecedents, and its place in the context of his political and philosophical times. For an English-speaking audience, Safranski’s treatment is easily the best introduction to Heidegger’s complex philosophy… This [is] an important book, highly recommended for anyone interested in the history of 20th-century Continental philosophy and Martin Heidegger’s place in it.
[A] thoughtful, sensitive and sympathetic biography.
This biography of Martin Heidegger is an impressive achievement, and English-speaking readers are fortunate that it is now available to them… Martin Heidegger is the first comprehensive biography of one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century. It offers a detailed view of Heidegger’s intellectual development provided by no previous book, and it gives new information on his involvement with the Nazis. Given the importance of Heidegger’s thought for many celebrated left-wing thinkers, including Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault, Safranski’s careful consideration of the relation between Heidegger’s right-wing politics and his thought can help readers struggle with the much-debated question of whether the contemporary leftists of the postmodern movement are really cultural reactionaries in disguise… Safranski’s biography is both the most authoritative and the most approachable of the recent Heidegger books.
- 496 pages
- 6-3/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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