Monday, 19 March 2012 07:52

Martin Heidegger: Men of Ideas

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Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) was a German philosopher. Heidegger’s fame rests on his book, Being and Time. In it he introduced the concept of Desein.  Heidegger argues that philosophy addresses its self to superfluous issues and forgets to address itself to the real issue that human beings want addressed.

People ask: what is being? Building on the philosopher Edmund Husserl, Heidegger argues that philosophy ought to concern itself with actual human beings experience of life on earth. This leads to phenomenological approach to people.

In effect, Heidegger criticized philosophy’s tendency to seek abstract answers while not concerning itself with actual human beings experience, Desein.

Heidegger is interested in how people live their lives in the here and now world; he wants to remove the obstacles to people living authentic and spontaneous lives.

Do people have a sense of who they are and live accordingly or are they trying to live up to some idealistic, abstract ideas that they believe they ought to be like?

Clearly, the desire to be an abstract ideal self leads to neurosis, to lack of inner peace and unhappiness. Peace and joy lies in being who one is and living who one knows ones self to be, and experiencing the world from who one is, not who one ought to be.

Basically, Heidegger is a phenomenologist, a person who validates human experience and wants people to live authentic lives; authentic meaning living from their real selves, as they know them to be; not living from their false selves, the self society and philosophers would like them to live as.

Imagine trying to live from Plato’s ideal self, the archetype, and such a person would be condemned to perpetual unhappiness and lack of inner peace. For one thing, the ideal is never known and when it is approached its goal post changes position meaning that no one ever attains it; thus disposing one to be perpetually seeking ideals but never attaining them. The person who rejects his real self, and attempts to become an imaginary ideal self, lives a life of quiet desperation for he could never attain the ideal.

Heidegger flirted with Hitler and his Nazism. A lot has been written on that subject. Heidegger himself has attempted to explain why he joined the Nazi party. In 1933, shortly after Hitler came to power, Heidegger was made the Rector of his university and he felt it pragmatic to be one of the ruling classes, so as to guarantee their giving his university the resources it needs to do its work. This is a lame excuse.

This is not the place to cover the subject of Heidegger’s behavior. Suffice it to say that most academics and philosophers are cowards, are talkers and do not live what they talk about. Threaten them with death and they pee in their pants and do as you ask them to-do. You do not go to the academe to find courageous human beings. Therefore, Heidegger’s cowardice is understandable.

What is of interest to this observer is Heidegger’s phenomenological approach to existence. He wrote about it in ponderous German scholastic fashion.  The reader could know more about phenomenology by reading less ponderous philosophers. Reading such phenomenological psychologists as Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow would do the trick better than reading a German philosopher constrained by his trade to write in convoluted and highfalutin language that confuses more than it clarifies.


Martin Heidegger. Being and time. (1962)

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Ozodi Osuji Ph.D

Ozodi Thomas Osuji is from Imo State, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD from UCLA. He taught at a couple of Universities and decided to go back to school and study psychology. Thereafter, he worked in the mental health field and was the Executive Director of two mental health agencies. He subsequently left the mental health environment with the goal of being less influenced by others perspectives, so as to be able to think for himself and synthesize Western, Asian and African perspectives on phenomena. Dr Osuji’s goal is to provide us with a unique perspective, one that is not strictly Western or African but a synthesis of both. Dr Osuji teaches, writes and consults on leadership, management, politics, psychology and religions. Dr Osuji is married and has three children; he lives at Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

He can be reached at: (907) 310-8176