picture of Heidegger

Heidegger's Being and Time

Philosophy 521

Professor William Blattner
Department of Philosophy
Office: 240 New North
Phone: (202) 687-4528

Updated 8/22/11

Course Description:

Gadamer described the effect of the publication in 1927 of Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time: “it fell like a bombshell upon Europe.” Being and Time is indeed one of the most influential contributions to philosophy of the 20th century. It has earned Heidegger a leading status within 20th century philosophy, along with Husserl, Wittgenstein, James, Dewey, and a few others.  In this course we will proceed systematically through Being and Time, seeking to understand Heidegger’s basic moves, his motivations, and the implications of his views for our philosophical concerns.

Because both the text is so difficult and this seminar will proceed at a graduate level, we will not be able to work through the entire book. We will at most make it through to §64 – the last section before Heidegger dives into the topic of “originary temporality.” We will, moreover, have to skip various bits along the way.

We will pay special attention to Heidegger’s attempt to overturn the subjectivistic tradition in modern philosophy and reconceive human life as “being-in-the-world.” Although we will discuss Heidegger's general conception of ontology – the first chapter of the introduction to B&T is about ontology – we will focus on his proposed revision of the ontology of “Dasein” (his technical term referring to human beings) and its philosophical implications. According to his account, a fundamental “familiarity with the world” is more basic than cognition or knowledge. We understand the world primarily through our skills and abilities for going about our business in the world, rather than through a stock of knowledge or an implicit theory. Division I of Being and Time develops this vision and explores some of its implications for traditional philosophical problems, such as skepticism, the nature of truth, realism/idealism, and the relation between common sense and science.

Division II of Being and Time turns to some of the classical existentialist themes for which the treatise is known: his reconception of death, guilt, and conscience so as to generate a vision of resoluteness or authenticity that serves as the ideal he offers for human life. It is not exactly a moral vision, since moral considerations are decidedly secondary within it. In fact, Heidegger claims that authenticity is more fundamental than morality because a condition for the possibility of it. We will have to move through these parts of the text a little more quickly than is ideal, but we shall not forsake them!


Course Requirements:

See the syllabus. The requirements and due dates will vary depending on whether you are a graduate student in the Philosophy Dept., a graduate student in another dept., or an undergraduate.


Course Prequisites:

In order to enroll in this course, you must be a grad student in the Philosophy Dept. or have my approval. Any such student must consult with me and get my signature. I will permit senior undergraduate philosophy majors who qualify for the Honors Program (whether they are actually doing it or not) and have completed History of Modern Philosophy (Phi. 385), or its equivalent to enrol in the course.



I will manage the day-to-day operation of the course through Blackboard.



You may find an Amazon list of the books for this course here: http://amzn.to/fogqPq.


Heidegger. Being and Time. Trans. Macquarrie & Robinson. Harper & Row.
This is currently the best translation of Sein und Zeit. Stambaugh’s translation is not as accurate, and it lacks an apparatus.

Heidegger. Basic Problems of Phenomenology. Trans. Hoftstadter. Indiana.
This is a lecture course that Heidegger gave shortly after publishing Being and Time. It covers some of the same issues as Being and Time, as well as many others besides.  I will incorporate optional readings from Basic Problems into the schedule of readings.

Blattner. Heidegger's “Being and Time:” A Reader's Guide. Continuum.
This is my basic introduction to the themes and arguments of Being and Time. I will ask you to read the relevant bits of this guide as we go along, so that we can assume it for discussion (obviating the need for an introductory lecture during the seminar sessions).


Dreyfus. Being-in-the-World. MIT.
A lucid commentary on the text of Being and Time, which addresses topics that are of interest to contemporary mainstream philosophical debate.

Guignon, ed. Cambridge Companion to Heidegger, 2d ed. Cambridge.
This is a collection of essays on thematic topics (e.g., Heidegger and religion, Heidegger’s anti-cognitivism, etc.).  Its essays tend to be accessible and are uniformly of a high quality.

Safranski. Martin Heidegger: Between Good and Evil. Harvard.
Currently the best intellectual biography of Heidegger.


GU Home | Philosophy Dept. Home