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Martin Heidegger and the First World War: Being and Time as Funeral Oration

Martin Heidegger and the First World War: Being and Time as Funeral Oration

by William H. F. Altman


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In a 1934 speech, marking the Twenty-fifth Reunion of his high school class, Martin Heidegger spoke eloquently of classmates killed in the Great War and called on his audience to recognize that the national rebirth now occuring in Hitler's Germany must continue to draw inspiration from the war dead. In this process, he refers to the war of 1914-1918 as "the First World War." Since the condition for the possibility of "the First" is a Second World War, Martin Heidegger and the First World War raises the question: how could Heidegger have already known in 1934 that another war was coming? The answer is to be found by reading Being and Time (1927) as a funeral oration for the warriors of the Great War, a reading that validates Heidegger's paradoxical claim that the genuinely historical must emerge from the future. By using Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" as an archetype of the genre, William H. F. Altman shows that Heidegger's concept of temporality in Being and Time replicates the way past, present, and future interweave in the classic funeral oration and argues that if there is a visible path connecting Being and Time to its author's subsequent decision for National Socialism, it runs through the trenches of the Great War and its author's successful attempt to evade them. The analysis and conclusions in this book will be of great value to students and scholars interested in philosophy, history, intellectual history, German studies, and political science.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781498516259
Publisher: Lexington Books
Publication date: 04/01/2015
Pages: 350
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

William H. F. Altman teaches Latin and World History at E. C. Glass, a public high school in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Heidegger the Warrior
Chapter 2: Davos and Decline
Chapter 3: Heidegger's War
Chapter 4: Reading Heidegger's Being and Time
Chapter 5: Vorlaufende Entschlossenheit
Chapter 6: Being and Time, Section §74
Chapter 7: The Nature of Being and Time
Chapter 8: Hassan Givsan and Heidegger's World Wars
Chapter 9: War-Guilt

What People are Saying About This

Tom Rockmore

William Altman analyzes Heidegger’s theories in Being and Time against the background of the First World War, on which they depend. This is an important book.

Richard Polt

Altman’s historical research illuminates important dimensions of Heidegger’s thought and mentality, and contributes to a richer grasp of the context and meaning of Being and Time.

Gregory Fried

Through wide-ranging research combined with meticulous close readings of often overlooked texts, William Altman sheds important new light on Heidegger’s thought and politics in the historical context of interbellum Germany. Altman’s readings will no doubt be controversial, but this book deserves the attention of anyone wanting to make sense of the connections between Heidegger’s philosophy, his place within the generation of the Great War, and his own eventual engagement with National Socialism.

Emmanuel Faye

In connecting Being and Time with the epideictic genre, and in interpreting it as a funeral oration for the German soldiers fallen during the Great War, William Altman sheds new light on the call for the 'struggle to come' launched by Heidegger in Section 74 of that work, and gives a greater concreteness—martial, so to speak—to the Heideggerian conception of the relation between present, past, and future. It is the anticipation of a Second World War that is already in sight.

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