An Introduction to Metaphysics
Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time is dedicated to the question of Being, according to Heidegger the main question of all philosophy. In the philosophical tradition, Being was implicitly understood, in terms of time, as a form of presence: being here and now. Past and future were secondary modes of Being and time, showing a lack of presence: what is in the past, is no more and what is in the future is not yet. The highest being, therefore, presupposed by all beings, was assumed to be a being that is always here and now, an eternal divine being. In contrast, Heidegger is looking for a more dynamic understanding of Being and time. It is difficult, however, to articulate the question of Being in the right way. One cannot ask for a definition, because that would already presuppose the use of the verb ‘to be’ and thus an idea of Being. Moreover, a definition fixates and delimits, while Being is supposed to ‘be’ dynamic and all-embracing. In fact, Being and Time is nothing but the preparation for a new way of asking the question of Being. In profound and precise analyses Heidegger describes the main characteristics of the being that is able to ask the question of Being: by this being Heidegger means us, human beings. Being and Time can therefore also be read as an anthropological study of human existence. The book was first published as the first volume in a series of two or three volumes, but the other volumes were never written. Neither did Heidegger succeed in finding the right language to ask the question of Being. Nevertheless, Being and Time is one of the most important books of 20th century philosophy, a landmark that has set the stage for later developments in contemporary philosophy.