Sometime in the early 1930’s, Martin Heidegger
’s thought is supposed to have undergone a change. His philosophical project shifted from the “fundamental ontology” of his early work Being and Time
—foundational to the development of wartime and post-war “existentialism”—to what he would come to describe as Seinsgeschichte
—a “history of being.” Heidegger was interested in understanding how the meaning of being, what it means to be, has changed throughout time. In particular, he was concerned with uncovering the meaning of being within modernity, an era rocked by scientific, industrial, and technological revolutions, in which the “gods have flown” from us (to paraphrase his favorite poet Hölderlin). In Heidegger’s view, modern technology in particular had begun to narrow and even empty the possibilities of meaningful existence, eclipsing and stultifying the power of art and poetry to reveal truth and constitute meaning within culture.
This class will take up these claims by surveying the major texts of Heidegger’s later period, including “The Origin of the Work of Art,” “The Question Concerning Technology,” “The Age of the World Picture,” “Why Poets?,” “Plato’s Doctrine of Truth,” and “The Thing.” Among the questions we’ll explore are: What is the essence of humanity itself within modernity? What is the nature of modern mathematical science and technology, and what kinds of truths can and do they reveal? What happens to the truths that art and poetry once promised in an age when scientific truth alone is predominant? And what, if anything, can offer us any place or power to hope in such “desperate times?”
Instructor: Michael Stevenson
Michael Stevenson received his BA in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania and his PhD in philosophy from Columbia University. He is a Core Faculty member at BISR and has previously taught in the Core Curriculum at Columbia University and at Hunter College, City University of New York. He specializes in the German philosophical tradition, especially Kant, post-Kantian Idealism, and 20th-century phenomenology.