Heidegger – Introduction to Philosophy

The first book I’ve read by Heidegger in some years was the English translation Introduction to Philosophy-Thinking and Poetizing (Indiana UP, 2011). At $30 for 74 pages it’s not exactly cheap. Part of the reason is that this was a 1944 lecture course which was not completed because Heidegger was drafted into the Volkssturm in the final stages of the war. After the war Heidegger was banned from teaching because of his involvement with the Nazi regime. The course has some interesting moments, but there is a lot of filler here – variants from the manuscript, a different version of a course review, Heidegger’s notes on the course, etc. 

In addition, the translation is only of half of volume 50 of the Gesamtausgabe. The other part of that volume is the undelivered lecture course ‘Nietzsche’s Metaphysics’, drafted in 1940 and planned for 1941-42 but not delivered. The reason that this is not translated here is because it was included in volume 3 of the Nietzsche book David Farrell Krell edited. In a sense this appears fair enough. But the German version of the Nietzsche book, which originally appeared in 1961, appeared in the Gesamtausgabe as volumes 6.1 and 6.2. (Note that the English Nietzsche does not exactly replicate the German Nietzsche – some texts are not included; other ones are.) The editors of the Gesamtausgabe decided, apparently following Heidegger’s own instructions, that volume 50 should include the undelivered Nietzsche course too. There are minor differences between ‘Nietzsche’s Metaphysics’ in 6.2 and 50. The German editors of 50 say there are two reasons for the inclusion of Thinking and Poetizing with the Nietzsche text: “due to the thematic relation; [and] due to its brevity, it would not have sufficed for a single volume”. What’s amusing is that this editorial line is translated in the English version, but without the paired text that was a thematic relation and a justification for it being a single volume.

This is a grumble about an incomplete translation, rather than the cost of a very slim book. It now means that there is little-to-no chance of the Vol 50 variant of  ‘Nietzsche’s Metaphysics’ being translated into English. I don’t recall the extent of the variations, but they were substantial enough to justify two versions in the Gesamtausgabe. But they were not presumably enough to convince Indiana UP to translate them here. More seriously, the lecture courses that form the basis of the four volumes of the English Nietzsche book appear in the Gesamtausgabe twice too – in volume 6.1, and in volumes 44, 45, 46 and 48. But here the variations are really substantial, and the courses as actually delivered are quite a bit longer than the versions Heidegger chose to publish in 1961. What chance those volumes will ever be translated?

Update – to clarify, the Nietzsche course is the real centre of Vol 50 in the Gesamtausgabe. Its intended delivery date of 1941/42 means that it is chronologically the right place; had ‘Thinking and Poetizing’ been the course that determined its placing it should have come after the Heraclitus volume (GA55). What we have here is a course deemed too insubstantial to be a volume in its own right translated as a standalone book in English. I wonder if part of the reason is that the numbering of the Gesamtausgabe is a bit of a mess. The few double volumes are sometimes because two courses are combined in one volume – i.e. GA36/37 (recently translated as Being and Truth) -and sometimes because a course that was intended for a volume turned out not to be extant – i.e. GA29/30 (The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics) covers for a missing course that was supposed to be in GA29. They then found a summary of that course which was printed as an appendix in GA28. GA46 on Nietzsche’s second Untimely Meditation was, if I have the story right, thought to be a lecture course, which is why it was assigned a place in the lecture division of the Gesamtausgabe, but turned out to be a seminar. It was published there anyway, separate from the other Nietzsche seminars that appear in GA87. Theodore Kisiel wrote some interesting pieces about the dubious textual strategies employed in the Gesamtausgabe, but there is potentially a good research project on the politics and strategies of publishing decisions using this as a focus. I think the initial prospectus was quite rushed, right toward the end of Heidegger’s life, and was clearly based on incomplete records.

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1 Response to Heidegger – Introduction to Philosophy

  1. Pingback: Two Heidegger Reviews | Progressive Geographies

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