Crisis Century class today consisted of the viewing and discussion of a documentary video about Roland Barthes, the oh-so-readable great-uncle of semiotics and postmodernism.

Ah, postmodern philosophy, that ever-inquisitive quest to question every movement that preceded it, to challenge and conquer even the most fundamental perceptions of reality and thought, hence defeating even the very idea of truth, and showing forth postmodernism’s inherently self-defeating nihilism. It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

Still, being in art college, it helps to be able to speak the dialect. ;)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must struggle through The Death of the Author and jumbled excerpts from Mythologies. Can anyone recommend some good Heidegger?


  1. rowster says:

    Was this a serious appeal? ;P

    BEING AND TIME is THE magnum opus, but is rather difficult to read. The later works (mostly essays) are easier to read, but sometimes presume that you already know the content of his earlier works.

    My suggestion: First, read a secondary source, just so you get the main gist of his work. Nothing fancy: just one of those essays that give you a general overview of his work (an encyclopedia of philosophy entry will do fine). Take the secondary source with a grain of salt though, because some commentators don’t do justice to Heidegger. Some of my reliable colleagues suggest EUROPEAN rather than American secondary sources. The reason? They say that many American commentators get so hung up on Heidegger’s involvement with the Nazi Party that they (allegedly) tend to gloss over the genius of Heidegger’s works.

    Second, read the introduction to BEING AND TIME and the chapters about the world (the worldhood of the world, et al), Dasein, truth, tools (ready-to-hand vs. present-at-hand), and hermeneutics (where he talks about the circle of understanding). (As your interest in Heidegger is based on critical theory rather than existentialism, I personally don’t think you need to read the chapters about Angst, authenticity, and Storge.) Your Ph 101-102 background will probably help you here (so you might want to dig out some of those old notes.)

    Third, once you’ve gotten the main idea behind BEING AND TIME, you can skip over to some of his later essays. Given your interests, “The Age of the World Picture” might be a good choice. “The Question Concerning Technology” is another classic, and it pretty much summarizes Heidegger’s view on technology, so you might want to look at that too. A good general source book for Heidegger’s later essays is MARTIN HEIDEGGER: BASIC WRITINGS (published by Harper).

    One final suggestion: If you’re going to pick up an English translation of Being and Time, you’ll have to choose between the MacQuarrie & Robinson translation and the newer Stambaugh translation. I’ve only read the MacQuarrie, so it’s difficult to make a fair comparison, but I HAVE BEEN TOLD that Stambaugh is easier to read. The trade-off, however, is that her translation doesn’t use the “traditional”

    English terms which most secondary sources use.

  2. rowster says:

    By the way, if you’re interested in a non-nihilistic, more right-wing “postmodern” philosopher, try Hans-Georg Gadamer. His discussion of hermeneutics (see TRUTH AND METHOD, his magnum opus) remains grounded in an ontological premise. The guy’s a genius.

  3. rowster says:

    Oh. I have one more suggestion for Heidegger: “The Origin of the Work of Art.”