Biography 1916 -1923 and 1924 -1928

Chapter Two

The Hidden King: 1916-1923


On 3 January 1916, Heidegger sent a letter to Elfride Petri, a twenty-three-year-old student whom he had me the previous year in December, while she was attending his seminar on “Kant’s Prolegomena”. Born on 3 July 1893 in Leisnig in Saxony, the daughter of Captain Richard Petri and Martha (née Friedrich), Elfride went to school in Wiesbaden, before completing a teachers’ training course at Kiel University. At the outbreak of war in 1914, she went to work with the National Women’s Service in Berlin before returning to Wiesbaden. In March 1915, at grammar school in Kassel, Elfride passed exams in Latin and Mathematics, which allowed her university entrance. In the winter semester of 1915, she enrolled for an economics course at Freiburg University, and it was here that she met Heidegger.

Elfride was an independent spirit. Apart from studying at the university, she was also a member of the “Freiburg Sorority” and the “Cabin Guild”, an association founded by female students in 1910 to promote nature and a healthy lifestyle. The Guild had as its base a small cabin on the Silberberg, a distant mountain near Hinterzarten in the Swabian countryside. Elfride was also, like Heidegger, a keen skier. In the seminar on Kant (perhaps because she had little to no background in philosophy: her main subject was economics), she had received personal tuition from Heidegger, during which a mutual attraction had developed, as is clear from Heidegger’s first letter to her on 9 December 1915:


Dear Fräulein Petri,

As I was speaking to you this morning, I saw how the look on your face turned reflective and grave and anxious.

My duties made me rush and so I had to leave you in a state of distress and disquiet.

No, you cannot have forgotten what I gratefully confided to you –

that those wonderfully reflective hours were repose for me.

And much, much more than that – I felt with all my heart that my thoughts soared on within your attentive soul – there has been an aura of solemnity in my study ever since – and your unaffected gratitude – God, it sprang so deeply from the source –

that I shall never forget. [1]


Elfride must have responded to Heidegger’s overture immediately, either in person or by letter, for by the time of his second letter, written a mere four days later, he has become even more intimate, and he now significantly addresses her with the familiar “du” (normally used only with family members, very close friends or, as in this case, a loved one):


Come, dearest soul, and rest against my heart. I want to look into the depths of your fairy-tale eyes and thank you – dearest Soul. It has been given to me to experience ever new, wonderful things in you. You are mine.  Will I be able to bear this unutterable happiness? Are my hands sacred enough as they trembling clasp yours? Is my soul, harried through with all the throes of doubt, a worthy shrine in which your love may dwell for all eternity?


Heidegger’s words constituted, in fact, a proposal of marriage, as the letter goes on to make clear, where he describes himself as going “down on [his] knees before her”. The semester came to its mid-year pause at the end of December, and Elfride and Heidegger returned to their respective homes for Christmas. The couple were now apart but their letters continued. On 1 January 1916, he wrote again in ecstatic tones, where adoration is combined with a discernible eroticism:


Can you imagine devotion without thereby experiencing everything that is timeless: you intertwine, as it were, your inmost experience with the consciousness of your existence as a human being who knows of the deepest riches and treasures – you quaver in the fullness of experience – so powerful that it may seem like a cry of woe – the Good in itself descends and shines from the depths of your eyes – in beauty your wonderful body trembles.


In these letters, there is only one area where there is even a hint of a difference between the couple: their attitude to, and degree of passion, for philosophy. In his letter of 1 January, Heidegger had written “perhaps we’ll have to search quite a lot more – your soul must open up even further. You have as yet to grasp the full breadth and depth of problems”. He does not say what these “problems” are, but Elfride clearly reads his words as implying that she lacks intellectual depth. We do not have her reply, but two days later Heidegger felt it necessary to placate her:


My question about what you thought of philosophy seemed like an assault to you – the question was only meant in the dialectical sense, as an approach to the task of somehow bringing experience and knowledge into harmony with one another. What I said about the lack of a foundation was perhaps expressed misleadingly – I did not mean that you lacked the disposition – how could I?


That philosophy was not simply a mode of academic study for Heidegger or a vehicle for his career, Elfride would have fully understood by now. But had she been in any doubt about its absolute centrality in his life, not only to his professional life but to his sense of identity and purpose, these early letters would have quickly dispelled such doubts. For as he wrote in the same letter of 3 January,


Creations of the mind always require a dying, a gradual dying of everything that betokens light and sound and joy and love and happiness and rest. It is always a painful, excruciating loneliness, a casting off of everything changeable; yet this ascent is only ever successful when one has been fortified spiritually and one knows that wandering over those bleak heights, where the air is thin, will not wear us out, but that there is always a descent back into the fullness of life, to which one may bring the treasures from the heights.


The university year resumed in mid-January, and Heidegger and Elfride were able to be together again in Freiburg. They saw each other often, either in Heidegger’s lodgings in Hohenzollernstraße 1, where he lived with his aunt, “Mina” (Wilhelmina), a short walk north of the university, or simply at the university. Heidegger resumed teaching his course on Kant in the midst of what appeared to be a world war that would never end. The number of male students attending university was constantly dwindling, as more and more men were sent to the Front. Some, however, injured or on leave, were able to attend Heidegger’s lectures. Perhaps in the face of declining faith in traditional religion, philosophy offered many young people access to the life of the mind, to the spirit. On 31 January, when Heidegger’s course resumed, Elfride was still in his class. He wrote to her the following day:


I’d so have loved to have spoken to you after yesterday’s seminar – you saw that I heard all your questions and that they proved fruitful, if not for everyone then at least for those who have kept up with the course.

And when the young military surgeon came up to me afterwards and thanked me, I immediately invited him to come to my next few classes, because I could see in his eyes how he longed for ultimate things, and then he said to me: this time next week I’ll probably be “over there” again. My heart almost stood still as the contrast came home to me in this single moment, and all I could do was squeeze the young man’s hand.

The experience with the young officer made a deep impact on Heidegger, and confirmed to him that philosophy had a mission to perform. Writing to Elfride a few weeks later on 5 March, he returned to his encounter with the soldier, and came to the following resolution:

We must not give our young heroes stones instead of bread when they come back hungry from the battlefield, not unreal and dead categories, not shadowy forms and bloodless compartments in which to keep a life ground down by rationalism neat and tidy and let it moulder away –

The philosopher always suffers from life, because the questionableness of life is real in him – but when he takes pleasure in something, this pleasure is richer and more overflowing than anywhere else, because it draws its fullness and fineness from the ultimate depths of his interpretation of life. [2]

On 6 March, Heidegger made a proposal of marriage to Elfride, which she accepted. Their engagement was not, however, made public, because Heidegger was worried about his parents’ attitude to him marrying a protestant, and because his chances of securing the Chair in Catholic philosophy would have been seriously jeopardised through a marriage with a non-Catholic. Between March and April, he spent some of his inter-semester vacation in Meßkirch, where he told his parents of his intentions to marry. Heidegger knew that Elfride was keen to be married as soon as possible but, as he explained to her in a letter of 6 April, this was out of the question. In view of this situation, Heidegger felt compelled to cancel his planned visit to Elfride’s parents in Wiesbaden, a decision that almost led to the termination of their support for the engagement.

Heidegger was also experiencing complications in his professional life. On 1 April, Edmund Husserl had arrived from Göttingen to take up his appointment to the Chair of Philosophy at Freiburg, and while Husserl would later provide great assistance to Heidegger in his career, the newly arrived professor could lend little immediate support. Heidegger returned from his vacation to resume teaching in May, offering in the summer semester a weekly two-hour course on “Kant and German Idealism” and, together with Engelbert Krebs, a seminar on Aristotle. On 6 May, Heidegger wrote to his former teacher and benefactor, Heinrich Rickert (now Professor of Philosophy in Heidelberg), thanking him for the support he had provided in the past, and regretting that up to now he had been unable to establish a more personal rapport with him. If Heidegger’s letters to Elfride give voice to a triumphant self-confidence, this letter reveals a greater sense of insecurity regarding his position in the academic community:


I find it extremely difficult to overcome my Swabian gaucheness and taciturnity when I’m with people, and hardly ever achieve it. And I have always been very sorry that this has prevented me from having a more personal relationship with you. But it remains my hope, as a young academic, that I’ll achieve this, the more so since you have often given me encouragement to do so. That was up to now, to a certain extent, a vain hope. I feel alone, and feel it particularly strongly now at the beginning of the new semester.[3]

In June, Joseph Geyser, who had been professor at the University of Münster, was appointed to the Chair in Catholic Philosophy at Freiburg. Heidegger had also applied for this position, but he did not even make it on to the short list. He was very disappointed and wrote to a member of the selection committee and a longstanding confidant, Professor Heinrich Finke, for an explanation. Finke wrote back on 23 June:

Many thanks for your frank words. In the end [of the selection process] not everything went as well as it should have – I mean in practical rather than philosophical terms – but you came out of it all with honour. That Husserl [who was either on the selection committee or a referee for Heidegger] now clearly and fully recognises your talents, I can testify to you, if you will allow me. So don’t give up if everything doesn’t turn out right for you immediately. When more thirty years ago I had received my “Habilitation”, [Professor Theodor] Lindner had just departed from the Chair at Münster, and some gossip suggested that I was being muted as his replacement and I, like a fool, believed him. I hadn’t even been taken into consideration! It took me a long time to get over it. You also really didn’t come into consideration: it was obvious that seniority was what mattered. Keep publishing, keep publishing, advised my cousin, Professor Wolf Müller – and that is what I am telling you also.[4]

Heidegger’s failure to be considered as a candidate for the chair meant that his marriage to Elfride had to be postponed.  To regain his composure and sense of purpose, he took refuge in his philosophy. Elfride (who was clearly surprised at the sudden upturn in his mood in their communications) may well have wanted to know the causes for this, and these Heidegger explained to her in a letter of 13 June, “you ask why I was being so communicative. Well, because I still had the sun in my heart from our hours together, because I was fresh and because I had a success. This consisted of my discovering a fundamental problem with the Theory of Categories”. This may not have been the answer she was expecting: indeed, there is a just a suggestion that tensions are developing in their relationship. Perhaps Elfride was worried that her fiancé was withdrawing into himself after his recent career setback, seeking consolations rather than concrete solutions to the material exigencies with which he and she were faced: his poor professional prospects, an engagement that still had not been made public, hostility towards the prospective marriage from his parents and doubts about his suitability as a husband from hers. This seems to have been the case, as a further (tellingly sober and brief) letter to her from Heidegger on 18 June indicates:

I don’t know what has suddenly made you so sad – at any rate, I’m to blame for it and do apologise most sincerely – actually, I wasn’t at all in the mood for talking about the matters that you wanted clarified, as I’d been working all day on Hegel.

The problem, as he explains in a letter of 1 July, is that he cannot focus on the practical aspects of daily life:

Once again I beg you, my dearest, to believe my love for you comes from my innermost heart. But don’t ask me now to remember everything; otherwise I might suffer a decisive check in my creativity, forced as it is. Let me at least bring to a close the semester, which of course increases in difficulty with each lecture, as my energy is flagging. Do it for the sake of the task to which I am bound, and afterwards we will sort everything out. I beg you, my dearest soul, think of me as a man struggling, who is also experiencing the conflicts between philosophical speculation and everyday life. In a metaphysical sense, I suppose I may have maturity and assurance, but I completely lack these in normal life precisely on account of my highly speculative attitude. This is perhaps because I’ve never lived, associated, exchanged ideas with people a great deal.

As Finke had pointed out, Heidegger’s chances of securing any future post at Freiburg or elsewhere depended upon him publishing. Consequently, Heidegger now started to make efforts to get his Scotus dissertation into print. He knew that he would have difficulties in finding a publisher, because his work did not fall into any of the standard categories of scholastic research. On 9 July, he wrote to Rickert to see if he could help him place the manuscript with Mohr Verlag (Freiburg), owned by Paul Siebeck, with whom Rickert had previously published. On 10 July, Rickert replied saying that he would do what he could, but he was not optimistic because Siebeck had in the past not been keen on publishing the work of junior academics, and now in the midst of war he would be even less inclined to do so.       

On 21 July, Husserl invited Heidegger to visit him. He regretted that as a new professor he had been very busy and hence had not been able to reread Heidegger’s Scotus manuscript when he had received it in May. Husserl was, nevertheless, sufficiently impressed by it to offer Heidegger a junior teaching position (a “Lehrbeauftrag”) for the coming year.[5] Within a matter of weeks Heidegger and Elfride had started to make plans for their wedding. In August the couple (with one of Elfride’s female friends as a chaperone) went on a holiday to the island of Reichenau on Lake Constance, where engagement rings were exchanged. It was a happy event, which Heidegger commemorated by writing the poem “Evening walk along the Reichenau”, which speaks in hushed tones of a “summer-weary evening of moist gardens” and of a bright summer day lying “heavy with fruit”. [6]

On 2 September, Heidegger sent Rickert the proofs of his Scotus book. He explained that Husserl had written to the Education Department in Berlin, recommending him for a temporary teaching position, but “this will not change the fact that my existence here [in Freiburg] has for many reasons become uncomfortable”. Heidegger does not go into detail about these reasons nor does he mention names, but it is not difficult to understand the predicament in which he finds himself. His application for the Chair in Catholic Philosophy would have been seen by many of his colleagues as an act of hubris by a twenty-seven-year-old fledgling academic, indicative of an ambitious and careerist mindset. In addition, Heidegger’s Catholic credentials were now seriously in doubt following his engagement to a Protestant, a decision that would have led some to query his earlier avowals of faith.

Heidegger could do little about the unfriendly atmosphere that he was forced to endure at Freiburg. His main task now was to oversee the publication of his book, which had, after all, been accepted for publication by the Mohr Verlag. He sent the proofs not only to Rickert but also to Elfride. Rickert, understandably, was too busy to help, but Elfride provided invaluable editorial assistance. As he tells her in a letter of 27 September:

Over the last few weeks you’ve done me a great service with your proof reading and comments, almost all of which I have been able to accommodate. You will always be my dear, understanding helper, with a fine feeling for these things. I need this all the more now because my work has acquired an even greater interest to me, although it gives me a quite curious pleasure only during the creative process itself, in other words when I am not yet writing. Writing itself I find laborious, because I constantly see the gap between what I wish to formulate and the final formulation, and because the latter never seems succinct enough.

In the meantime, Heidegger was doing all he could to establish a working relationship with the new professor, sending Husserl on 28 September a copy of his promotion lecture, “The Concept of Time in Science of History”. On 6 October, Rickert wrote back to Heidegger saying that he had been surprised at the appointment of Geyser, but he hoped that Heidegger was wrong in predicting that things would become “uncomfortable” for him. The fact was that a personal animosity had arisen between Heidegger and the new professor of Catholic philosophy (whom Heidegger describes to Rickert as a “china man, inordinately conceited, implacably one-sided”). Such animosities did not, however, interrupt Heidegger’s preparations for the new semester that began in November, when he offered a two-hour lecture on “Basic Problems in Logic” and a seminar on “Lotze’s Metaphysics”. As he told Elfride on 11 November, he was excited about the prospects of the coming semester:

The very fact that in this, my first systematic course of lectures, I must leave so much open and problematic (while having nevertheless an intuitive grasp of my ultimate foundations and aims), gives the whole task an initial momentum.

The wedding between Heidegger and Elfride planned for October had to be postponed because Elfride’s parents continued to be concerned about their future son-in-law’s career prospects. The month, however, brought some compensation in the form of the publication of his book on Duns Scotus. Perhaps realising that he had little future in Catholic philosophy, Heidegger had written a conclusion highlighting the philosophical (rather than scholastic) import of Scotus: his “return to the fundamental problem sphere of subjectivity.[7] Heidegger’s work on Scotus has allowed him to leave behind not only what he calls “the deadly emptiness” of the scholastic system, but also the discipline of academic philosophy itself and to embrace a new way of thinking, one born under the vitalistic presence of the “living spirit”. For “philosophy as a purely rational construct divorced from life is has absolutely no power”.[8]

On 28 November, Heidegger sent Rickert a copy of his newly published book, and telling him that he was now teaching a weekly two-hour course on logic. The course was well attended, and Heidegger could not contain his delight: “I have thirty-eight students, a number that in Freiburg these days is regarded as extraordinary”. On 2 December, Rickert replied, thanking Heidegger for the dedication in the Scotus book, and congratulating him on his enrolments in Freiburg. He then adds the sad observation: his classes in Heidelberg are also well attended, but only by women: the war has meant that he few if any male students.[9]

Perhaps with Finke’s exhortation, “publish, publish, publish”, still ringing in his ears Heidegger began work on a new project. On 14 December, he wrote to Rickert, muting his intention to bring out a new edition of Rudolf Hermann Lotze’s Metaphysics, first published in 1841, and which Heidegger saw an important transitional work between Hegel and the philosophers of the present, such as Windelband. Heidegger wanted to edit the text and provide an introduction stressing its historical significance. On 23 December, Rickert wrote back, noting that the Scotus book had been positively reviewed by Clemens Baeumker, Professor of the History of Philosophy in Munich, but saying that Heidegger’s hope of editing Lotze’s work for publication would be unrealistic at the present time. The project, in fact, came to nothing. Indeed, it would be exactly ten years (as some of his contemporaries would unkindly observe) before Heidegger would published his next book: Being and Time, in 1927.

In early January 1917, Heidegger returned to Freiburg from Meßkirch, where he had spent Christmas. On 7 January, he wrote to Martin Grabmann, Professor of Christian Philosophy at the University of Vienna, thanking him for his essay on scholastic philosophy that he had recently sent him. Heidegger tells Grabmann, who had been impressed by Heidegger’s Scotus study, that he intends to continue working in this area, but first he must master its systematic issues, which involves confronting value-philosophy and phenomenology “from within”.[10] He adds that this is a task that requires a degree of mental application that he does not, at the moment, possess. Indeed, Heidegger’s communications at this point in time suggest a dissatisfied and restless spirit. Later that month, on 27 January, he wrote to Rickert apologising for his recent silence: you must accept “my double life as half-soldier and miserable junior lecturer” by way of an explanation. He has no wish to play the martyr, he tells Rickert, but the atmosphere in Freiburg has become poisonous. The new professor, Geyser, exudes animosity to everything that Heidegger does and has written (including the recent Scotus book). Heidegger then adds a crucial pen sketch of his self-image as a philosopher:

The ambition to belong to “philosophers”, who write text books and who make it precisely the goal of their “discipline” to produce thinking horses, I have never had. But I do possess the belief that I can achieve something in philosophy, and so I am not letting myself be discouraged, even though I know that there will be hard times ahead because my material resources are low and because, on the other hand, I refuse to ruin my chances of securing a solid academic reputation by churning out publications.

And he concludes his letter: “my main plan is to get away from here. But I don’t know to where”.

There may have been one further cause for Heidegger’s feeling of dejection: the course of the war. By 1917, it had become clear to all that there would be no immediate resolution to the hostilities: the Western Front had degenerated into a bloody stalemate, with battles such as the Loos Offensive in October 1916 costing thousands of lives. Heidegger not only had to live with this ongoing tragedy, but also with the prospect that he too might soon be compelled to participate in it.  On 28 January, he received a letter from an old friend from his student days, Ernst Laslowski, who wrote to express his concern for Heidegger. He writes: “when I consider everything: your work, your service [in the army], the lectures and now the threat of enlistment, I suffer so much on your account that I can hardly bring myself to write. My nerves have entirely given away”. The war itself is a calamity of unimaginable proportions and Laslowski, describing its reporting in the newspapers as “sickening”, voices his revulsion in tones of pain and anger:


This sacrifice will certainly not promote God’s cause. How helpless are we now with our wisdom. The proud nineteenth century and then these three years of madness! The terrible thing is: no power is capable of stopping this brutal monster. It will rage on until it consumes itself. And mankind will be crushed. The historians appear to me like naively chattering children, and many philosophers seem like men who want to drown out the noise of the guns with their own shrill voices.[11]


On 3 February, Rickert wrote back, responding to some of the issues that Heidegger had raised in his letter of 27 January, where Heidegger had muted the possibility of Rickert finding a place for him at Heidelberg. Rickert quickly dismisses this possibility (there are too many junior academics there already), and then he utters words that must have indicated to Heidegger that his former teacher has completely misunderstood the direction of his thinking and ambitions: “you are as a philosopher a convinced Catholic and must whatever you do remain at a university that has a Catholic-theological faculty”. Heidegger was quick to contradict him, writing on 27 February:

I have never embraced a narrow Catholic perspective, nor have I orientated myself or would ever orient myself towards [philosophical] problems, their conception and their resolution, on the basis of an alien point of view, traditional or otherwise. I do my research and teach the truth purely according to my independent personal convictions.

This is where their debate (or, at least, their differing perceptions of the role of Catholicism in Heidegger’s philosophical thinking) ended: there is no further communication between them until November that year. Rickert was, perhaps, too polite to point out that Heidegger had been applying for grants from Catholic sources since his student days, precisely on the basis of his avowed commitment to that religion (and, indeed, was continuing to receive an annual grant of 1500 Marks from the Catholic-minded Görres Society). This commitment was now going to be tested on a practical, personal level, and not just in terms of his intellectual development, but in the innermost nature of his private life: his impending marriage to Elfride. On 1 March, Heidegger wrote to his parents, who were putting Elfride under pressure to convert to Catholicism:

As regards the matter of Confession, we must have patience with Elfride. I mean, such a step is not something to be taken lightly. And for her to do so purely for external reasons is certainly not in our thinking and besides would be an act of no value. Prof. Krebs is of the opinion that such spiritual matters need time to mature on their own terms.[12]

Although this matter remained unresolved, the couple were married on 20 March at a registry office in Freiburg. The following day Father Engelbert Krebs performed a modest Catholic ceremony in the university chapel. Heidegger’s parents were not present. The couple then returned to Elfride’s hometown, Wiesbaden, where on 25 March a Protestant service was performed, followed by a reception held at Elfride’s home. On returning to Freiburg, the married couple rented a furnished two-bedroom apartment in Karlstraße, near the Old Cemetery.

On 8 April, Heinrich Finke wrote to his former pupil, congratulating him on his marriage, and reconfirming his confidence in Heidegger and his career. It is interesting to note, however, that unlike Rickert, who continued to view his young colleague as essentially a Catholic philosopher, Finke sees Heidegger as a “theoretical philosopher in history”. It was a confusion of disciplinary identity that, as Heidegger would surely have recognised, was seriously hampering his career. Heidegger offered no courses in the summer semester of 1917 because on 24 March he was conscripted into his local regiment, and consigned to the barracks in Heuberg near Balingen in Baden. Heidegger’s military duties started to increase in preparation for his deployment in the war. He undertook a lengthy process of training in a military information unit, which went well beyond simple postal matters to include gathering logistical data relating to terrain and weather conditions. Part of this training took place in the hotel Luisenhöhe near Horben in the Black Forest, about fifteen miles south of Freiburg. On 28 May, during one such training exercise, Heidegger wrote to Elfride, including a photograph of himself together with three other members of his unit, two academics (including the noted psychologist, Karl Ludwig Bühler) and an artist from the Freiburg area: all unlikely-looking conscripts in a war in which they were unwilling participants. By now, Heidegger had had the opportunity to observe Husserl teaching, and he was not impressed either with the man or his philosophy:


I cannot accept Husserl’s version of phenomenology as a final position (even if it does have some connection up with philosophy) because in its approach, and accordingly in its goal, it is too narrow and bloodless, and because this is an approach that cannot be made absolute. Life is too rich and too great for relativities that seek to come close to its meaning (that of the absolute) in the form of philosophical systems. What is essential is to discover the liberating path in its absolute form.

In June, the Heideggers found a new apartment, 8 Lerchenstraße, in the district of Herdern, and Elfride immediately set out to renovate it, arranging furniture to be made for her husband’s study. On 1 July, she was given a teaching position in a local high school in Freiburg, teaching French and religion. Her duties did not commence until the end of August, during which time she and Heidegger visited her parents in Wiesbaden and his in Meßkirch. Heidegger had no university teaching during this time, but he did give a talk on “The Essence of Religion in Schleiermacher” on 1 August. Informal gatherings were arranged with Krebs and with a circle of Elfride’s female students and contemporaries who met as the “Little Group”. The war, however, had dampened everyone’s spirits, particularly the spirits of those senior academics, such as Husserl and Rickert, who had lost sons in the fighting. On 24 September, the former wrote to him saying that he will “gladly help [Heidegger] in the furtherance of [his] studies”.[13] There is, however, no encouragement, no curiosity as to what those studies might be: just cursory and laconic words of recognition. Indeed, as is clear from a letter that Husserl sent on 8 October to Paul Natorp in Marburg (where a vacancy had just appeared in the philosophy department, one that Heidegger might well have been interested in), Husserl still sees Heidegger as “tied in his confession [to Catholicism]”, and hence lacking independence in his philosophical inclinations.[14]

Heidegger was clearly out on a limb. On 19 November, he wrote to Rickert, congratulating him on being appointed to the Chair in Vienna (which Rickert did not accept), before launching into a description of the general degeneration of philosophy in Germany, and lamenting its failure to provide an “intellectual and critical position on the problem of German existence”. As the year ends, the full bitterness within Heidegger comes to the surface, and no one is spared from his scathing critique: both the great figures of the past, such as Meinecke and Troeltsch, and those nearer home, such as Geyser and even his friend and colleague Krebs: all stand condemned, as vegetating in “a quagmire”, unable to point the way forward for “the coming decisive period in the spiritual life of Germany”.[15]

These sentiments of frustration and anger deepen throughout 1918, as Heidegger himself is drawn increasingly into the war, after being called up as a “Landsturmmann” (a member of the Home Guard) on 12 January to serve in the Freiburg reserve battalion 113 (14th company). On the 30th of that month, he received a letter from Husserl. Once again, the two have failed to meet (a common occurrence), and Husserl, quite without any sense of the incongruity of his words, wishes his younger colleague a period of “quiet contemplation” in the army. [16] On 11 March Heidegger was transferred to Heuberg, and on the 17th he wrote the first of his almost daily letters to Elfride, telling her of his duties as a squad leader (since he was now a corporal). Although Heidegger was fully involved in his training in route marches and night exercises, there were, nonetheless, periods, where he was able to think not only about himself and his philosophy, what it was and where it was heading, but about the war and what that might mean, won or lost, for the future of Germany. On 12 May, he writes: “I’m suffering so dreadfully on account of my surroundings – the worthlessness that erupts here can hardly even be put into words, and the worst thing is one cannot escape it. One is there in the middle of it and has to go along with it”. But then (in the same letter) comes something quite new in Heidegger’s thinking: politics. Heidegger had given voice to anti-establishment sentiments before, but these sentiments had been largely confined to his antagonism to the status quo in university circles and to the conservative hierarchy that he felt was stifling opportunities for younger academics. The war, however, has brought him into contact with that larger structure of social and political organisation: the state:


What the state in its present form, with its lack of ethical-metaphysical orientation, has already curbed, poisoned, inhibited and destroyed in the way of inner wealth and potential of personality cannot be calculated in terms of national debt – nor can it be measured using prevailing yardsticks. But perhaps we acquire our value precisely by giving up any original assessment of us on the part of the state anyway.

The war, in fact, politicises Heidegger, and he will return again in his letters to what its conduct and its consequences will mean for the German people at that time and in the future.

On 17 May, Heidegger was given leave and he returned to Freiburg. It was during this period that he received his first letter from Elisabeth Blochmann, a friend of Elfride. She had just paid the Heideggers a short visit, and this was her thank-you note. We know little about the background to this initial contact, It is most likely that she was someone whom Elfride had met through a women’s’ group or through her participation in the “Wandervögel” movement. Born in Weimar in 1892 into an assimilated German-Jewish upper-middle-class family as the first child of the lawyer Dr. Heinrich Blochmann and his wife Anna (née Sachs), Blochmann trained as a nurse before moving into teaching. After serving as a nurse in a lazaret in Weimar during the early years of the war, she enrolled in 1917 at the University of Jena to study history, philosophy, German language and literature.

Heidegger responded to Blochmann’s initial letter on 15 June, encouraging her to stay in touch. He also gives her a mini lecture on best teaching practice (she had now started studying pedagogy), expressing his conviction that educational theory, as with philosophy, can only reach others when it is taught from personal experience and from the heart, and he makes the following generalisation:


Intellectual life can only be formed and made into a living experience, when those who participate in it are seized by it directly in their own inner lives. But the evaluation of intellectual realities, of the understanding of duty, and the realisation of goals can only become potent and permanent if they are the fruit of a nurtured inner growth, when they are without theoretical and didactic resources and techniques.[17]


On 5 July, Heidegger was instructed to report for duty again at his local barracks in Freiburg, and was then sent two days later to undertake an eight-week training course in Berlin in meteorological logistics. As he wrote to Elfride, “we are to provide the artillery and air force with expert and systematic observations on temperature, barometer, wind etc.  One station is usually under a lieutenant or staff sergeant and five more men, one of them with scientific training and previous experience”. Heidegger, like all the members of his group, was expected to cater for himself, and he writes frequently to Elfride asking her to send food parcels (potatoes are what he particularly would like). He had to find his own accommodation and, after a few days of looking, he eventually found a small apartment at Droyserstraße 6 in the Charlottenburg area of the city. Initially, Heidegger’s impressions of Berlin were positive. As he tells Elfride in a letter of 8 July, he admires the “discipline” of city life, traffic control, and the educational amenities. But his mood soon changes after a few days when with a colleague he visits the centre of the city, including the red-light district of the Friedrichstraße.  “I presume we only saw the surface”, he tells Elfride on 21 July,

but it is wilder than I ever could have imagined. I’d never have believed that such an atmosphere of artificially cultivated, vulgar and devious sexuality was possible; but now I do understand Berlin better – the character of the Friedrichstraße has rubbed off on the entire city – and in such a milieu there can be no true intellectual culture – a priori there cannot be – and even if every perfect remedy were to hand – it lacks what is simply Great and Divine.[18]

And to his parents, in a letter written on the same day, he is even more scathing:

To write about the war is pointless. If things turn out bad for us, then we will have deserved it – one only has to look at Berlin. As long as our politics do not change we cannot even think about an end – we certainly can’t think about a victory; that would be sheer madness: the military engagements at the moment show this. I have long given up reading the newspapers.[19]

On 23 August, Heidegger and his comrades were transferred to Montmédy in the Meuse department in Lorraine. As he told Elfride on 28 August, he was pleased to be there: “we’re located somewhat outside the village (350 inhabitants, 80 are still here) 18 km north-east of Verdun – lovely plateau with woodland and pretty meadows”.  But this was, nonetheless, war, and Heidegger must soon confront his “elemental existence”, the poor food, cramped living quarters and the often unwelcome proximity of others, that war brings. This was, however, a good environment in which to think and to think deeply. As he tells Elfride on 4 September: “in the primitiveness of existence issues of ultimate significance approach one another with due immediacy, strength and clarity”.  And one issue in particular was approaching: his Catholic faith. Elfride was being put under pressure by his parents to convert to Catholicism, something that she was resisting. In the same letter of 4 September, Heidegger encourages Elfride to hold firm to her convictions, and he makes the following remarkable confession:

All my earlier insecurity, untruthfulness and casuistry are the simple consequence of an ultra-Catholic education, which I, for my part, always sought to break out of with inadequate means. And the same factors are still present in my parental home (I’m not here reproaching my parents) especially as it’s so much a part of the parish house – but ultimately everything is due to the inner lack of freedom of the Catholic system – and the pious-acting despotism of conscience. All this today I see with complete clarity.

On 10 September, Heidegger received a letter from Husserl, who had been impressed by both the spirited tone and intellectual content of Heidegger’s earlier letter of 21 July: “you have such eyes and such a heart and such words. My goodness!” Husserl enthuses, seeing in his young colleague the voice of a youth that he hopes will survive the war.[20] Throughout September, Heidegger had continued to write to Elfride describing conditions at the Front, including with one letter on 22 September a photograph of his hut, the centre of operations for his unit: “at night from the tower we can watch the firing of the guns and even more the impact of the bombs, which make everything in the hut shake. But you get used to it, and can even go on sleeping”. These letters also reveal that Heidegger is giving thought to greater matters, to what a new Germany might look like after the war. On 17 October, less than a month before the ceasefire, he writes to Elfride:


Only the young can save us now, and creatively allow a New Spirit to be made flesh in the world. Come what may, we must keep alive within us our belief in the spirit as firmly and with as much trust as we are capable of building up, building up perhaps whilst remaining in outward poverty, privation and many a hindrance; but only at times such as these has the hour of the rebirth of the spirit ever been awakened. We are bogged down in a horribly deformed culture, which has only the spurious appearance of life.

And then he adds words that foreshadow an ominous turning in German politics in the twentieth century:

Aimlessness, hollowness and alienation from values have dominated political life and the concept of the state, in general. The only thing that can help here is the emergence of new human beings, who will harbour an elemental affinity with the spirit and its demands, and I myself recognise ever more urgently the need for leaders: only the individual is creative (even in leadership); the masses never.

That Heidegger can and will play a part in this reformation of the German spirit, he has no doubt. Ten days later, on 27 October, he wrote once again to his wife, committing himself to a radically new philosophy, for which “the language and concepts have as yet to be discovered and be created in silent contemplation”, but which will then inform “the unity of research, teaching and education which is to be created”. This is his “calling”, and he wishes to start immediately on this task when he returns to Freiburg:

I’d like to give a couple of one-hour lectures on what the essence of the university and academic study is, starting from the basic orientation described above. I have an inner conviction that this would help make young people inwardly aware and strong so that they could go out as a “leaven” into the future life of the state and the people, undivided attentively to what is positively creative, casting off everything that is merely short-lived and determined by milieu but fostering instead the important engagement with [philosophical] principles.

These are sentiments that Heidegger also imparts to Elisabeth Blochmann, with whom a deep friendship was clearly developing. On 6 and 7 November, he sent her two letters in quick succession. Although Heidegger offers detailed advice regarding her doctoral dissertation on Schleiermacher, the main focus of these letters is on the “saving” of the German nation, which requires that a “truly spiritual people”, particularly a young people, should step forward and take the leadership in guiding the nation. He has no doubt that Elisabeth Blochmann will play her part in this.

Heidegger was discharged following the Armistice of 11 November, and he returned home to Freiburg. But now he must confront a problem of a more private nature, as the birth of his son, Jörg (born 21 January 1919), is impending. Elfride still had not converted to Catholicism, and had no wish for her child to be baptised a Catholic. Matters were now coming to a head. On 17 December, Heidegger had written to his parents, including with his letter one from Elfride. The couple presented a united front: their son will not be baptised a Catholic, not only because Elfride does not share that faith but also because – and this would have come as a complete shock –their son has lost his. Lest his parents, however, should worry that he has forsaken the one true religion for a false one, he writes again, on 21 December, to make his position absolutely clear: “I am in no way antagonistic to the Catholic faith. On the contrary, I will never lose what was of value in it. Even less so can I commit myself to any specific direction in the Protestant faith”. In early January 1919, Elfride paid a visit to Engelbert Krebs, to explain to him that the baby that she was expecting would not be christened a Catholic. This was followed, on 9 January, by a letter to Krebs from Heidegger himself, explaining this critical turning point in his faith:


The past two years, in which I have struggled for a fundamental clarification of my philosophical position and put aside all narrowly specialised academic tasks, have led to me concluding that I would not be able to hold and teach freely if I were bound to a position outside of philosophy.

Epistemological insights extending to a theory of historical knowledge have made the system of Catholicism problematic and unacceptable to me, but not Christianity and metaphysics – these though I approach in a new sense.[21]

Heidegger’s wording is curious. What, Father Krebs may well have asked himself, is the “system” of Catholicism other than the Catholic Church itself and the Catholic faith? And what possible difference could it make to Heidegger’s apostasy that he still affirms his faith in Christianity and metaphysics (as if the two are in any way related)? Heidegger’s letter would not, however, have come as a surprise to those who knew him well: it was the final clearing of the way so that the true faith in his life could emerge unhindered: philosophy.

In January 1919, Husserl wrote to the Ministry for Science, Arts and Education in Berlin, applying for Heidegger to become his assistant, starting from the winter semester that was to commence on 25 January. This was to be a “Kriegsnotsemester fur Kriegsteilnehmer” (a special wartime semester for those who had fought in the war). Heidegger was duly employed as a “Privatdozent” (an assistant lecturer drawing a salary from student fees rather than from the university), and delivered his first lecture on 2 February in a course on “The Idea of Philosophy and the Problem of Worldviews”. Heidegger was giving this lecture in the midst of the revolutionary turmoil sweeping through Germany. The failed Berlin Spartacist uprising of 15 January had been followed by a temporarily more successful one in Munich on 6 April, where Ernst Toller had declared the establishment of a Bavarian Council Republic, and there is something of these radical energies in Heidegger’s first course of lectures, for they are intended to be a critical intervention into reigning models of philosophy and the institutional ethos that supported such philosophies in the university.

In “Science and University Reform”, Heidegger confronts that ethos, arguing for a renewal of philosophy through “a rebirth of genuine intellectual [‘wissenschaftlich’] consciousness and its relationship to life”. This alone, he argues, will get us out of the “wretchedness of the desert”, and he adds the words from the Old Testament: “And God our Lord let grow … the tree of life in the midst of the garden – and the tree of knowledge of good and evil” (I Moses 2.9).[1] The sentiments are inspirational, evangelical even; and yet what Heidegger is arguing for is not the creation of subjectively inclined transformative philosophy in the manner of his contemporary, Ludwig Klages, whose post-Nietzschean vitalism, refashioned through the guise of a “biocentric metaphysics”, likewise promised the renewal of the life of the mind. Heidegger certainly portends a philosophy that is transformative, but that transformation, following Edmund Husserl’s exhortation “back to things themselves”, will take place on the solid ground of phenomenological fact by projecting a new way of approaching the material world, because, as he argues in his opening lecture, “the awakening and heightening of the life-context of intellectually-developed [“wissenschaftlich”] consciousness is not the object of theoretical representation but of exemplary pre-living [“Vorleben”] – not the object of a mechanical provision of rules but the consequence of primordially motivated and personal Being”. Consequently, “we must immerse ourselves, with the highest degree of clarity, in this lability of fact and factual knowledge, of the factum, until it is unmistakable in its givenness”. [2]

But what is this “givenness”, and how do we make it an object of knowledge? “How are we to obtain the essential determinative moments of this idea and thus the determinateness of the indeterminateness of the object? On which methodological path are they to be found? How is the determinable itself to be determined?” [3] Heidegger devotes much of the first part of his lecture course, “The Idea of Philosophy as a Founding Discipline [‘Urwissenschaft’]”, to methodological issues, whilst in the second set of lectures, “Phenomenology as a Pre-theoretical Foundational Discipline”, he points the way forward through phenomenology, for it alone permits a “leap into another world, or, to be more exact, into the world at all”.[4]

This concern for the priorities of individually lived life also characterises Heidegger’s own way of philosophising in this lecture course, and it emerges in one one memorable episode that takes place midway through a section titled “The Experience of the Surrounding World”, where Heidegger joins his students in a act of shared perception:

“You come as usual into this lecture room at the usual hour and go to your usual place. You can focus on this experience of ‘seeing your place’. Or you can, alternatively, adopt my perspective: coming into the lecture room, I see the lectern. There is absolutely no need to put this experience into words. What do “I” see? Brown surfaces at right angles to one another? No, I see something else. A largish box with a smaller one set upon it? Not at all. I see the lectern at which I am about to speak; you see the lectern, from which you are to be spoken to, and from where I have spoken to you previously. In pure experience, there is no, as one says, “founding interconnection”, as if I first of all see intersecting brown surfaces, which then reveal themselves to me as a box, then as a desk, then as an academic lecturing desk, then as a lectern, so that I can attach lecternhood to the box like a label. All that is simply bad and misguided interpretation, diversion from pure seeing into experience”. [5]

This was a new voice in philosophy, and one that did not cloak itself in the fabricated aura of professorial wisdom but, eschewing theoretical jargon, drew its conceptual thrust out of a recourse to shared common experience. The episode contains in nuce the major themes of Heidegger’s philosophy in this early stage of its formation: the insistence that we are all bound to this world, and that our interpretation of it must arise out of our concrete place within it; that experience and analysis are not the same; that the environment that surrounds us is already invested with meaning (and hence our intentionality must work with the pre-existent), and that we register on a pre-theoretical level the significance of physical objects quite independently of their material properties (because they already have a practical function). This was a thematic matrix that Heidegger would further develop in subsequent lecture courses, before it reached its eventual destination in Being and Time.

The winter semester, and hence Heidegger’s lecture series, ended on 16 April, and he immediately set off for a holiday to Lake Constance – by himself. He stayed with an old friend, Theophil Rees, a doctor at a local hospital. On 22 January, Heidegger had written a letter to Elfride, who was visiting her parents in Wiesbaden to show them the new baby boy, with sentiments that were brimming with domestic bliss: through the birth of Jörg, the couple have received “a new consecration”, and Heidegger is experiencing “a quietness of a deep reverential joy”. He writes again later on 17 April from Constance, but both the tone and content of this letter are quite different. Clearly, a major change has taken place in their relationship, for how otherwise can we explain these words:

I have been thinking from time to time recently about the weeks that have passed since the little Blackamoor arrived [their son, Jörg]. Both of us have lived intensely, haven’t we, in our own way? From the summer though I’m hoping for one more thing: that we can talk things through with one another once again, can “chat”.

He does not tell us in this letter what these “things” are that need to be talked through. For that we must wait until 1 September. Here it becomes clear that Elfride has become romantically involved with another man: a doctor at the university hospital in Freiburg, Friedel Caesar. Towards the end of August, Elfride had written to her husband, telling him about the relationship. Heidegger now replies:

Your letter came this morning, and I knew beforehand what it contained. Saying many words about it and analysing it all is fruitless. It’s enough that you’ve told me in your plain, assured manner. Mind you, I don’t understand your “inner conflict”, nor do I ever want to be presented with any psychological demonstrations in the matter – not because I am indifferent but because I want to have you directly the way I can have you, and that Friedel loves you I’ve known for a long time – asking you about it would have seemed petty to me – I have often been surprised that you didn’t tell me about it sooner. It is also typical of him that Friedel felt inhibited by me and all the more natural as in me he sees merely the clumsy, awkward, narrowly focused pedant who just goes along with things. It would be naive of me and a waste of time if I were to hold this against him in the slightest.

Heidegger will return to this pained matter later in the year, a year in which much remains unclear in his private life. Hints, it is true, are given in his other correspondence, such as a letter of 1 May to Elisabeth Blochmann, who seems to have divined that something is amiss. “You have indeed touched on a number of things”, he writes, “but I cannot exhaustively reply to you”. He then gives her a revealing insight into his state of mind: “it is a rationalistic misunderstanding of the essence of the ebbing and flowing of personal life, when one asserts and demands that it must always move in the same broad and resonant amplitude as it does in those few blessed moments that surge upon us”. Those blessed moments seem to have disappeared for Heidegger: he is now alone, without Elfride.

This letter was written during the short vacation following the “Kriegsnotsemester”. In the summer semester, which ran from late April to early July, Heidegger gave two lecture courses (together with a seminar on Descartes’ Meditations): one on Phenomenology and the Philosophy of Transcendental Values (“Phänomenologie und transzendentale Wertphilosophie”) and another (“On the Essence of the University and Academic Study” (“Über das Wesen der Universität und des akademischen Studiums”). In his letter of 1 September to Elfride, sent from Constance (where he was again in the company of Rees) Heidegger looked back on his first semester with mixed feelings. It had been only a partial success because, in his thinking, he had not as yet freed himself from the influence of his erstwhile mentors. He felt he could do better:

“I have learnt one thing: to immerse myself in concrete problems. This is now the great task: to make concrete problems the focal point and guiding thread of the lectures, and let the connections arise from the analysis itself. For I suddenly [in that earlier lecture course] found myself once again indulging in construction, which is an old vestige of Rickert’s way of philosophising. Yesterday I again tried to work once more through Rickert’s “Object of Cognition” for the [new] lecture course, but with the best will in the world I couldn’t go on reading. It was as if I had an inner hostility towards this unparalleled style of constructive and yet unmethodical thought”.

By “construction” Heidegger meant that he felt he was still at the stage of the explication of other philosophers’ ideas. However, in the summer semester lectures, Heidegger gives clear evidence of new ideas and a new way of philosophising. In his introduction, “Guiding Principles of the Lecture-Course”, Heidegger explains what the goal of his lecture course is:

“General character of the lecture course: not a systematic, summarising comparison in a descriptively complete overview of two opposing positions and systems (that would result in either a poor imitation of a much better original or a worthless one-sided picture, which would only add to our problems).

Aim: concrete problems that arise out of the central trajectory of problem-posing, and group themselves around a central concrete fundamental problem. Judgement as acknowledging. (In general: intentionality, the tendency of lived experience, and the question of how far values can be excluded in teleologically interpreted tendencies!)”.[6]


In the first part of the course, “Historical Presentation of the Problem”, Heidegger subjects the dominant philosophical models of his day, including those of Wilhelm Windelband (the leading Neo-Kantian of the Baden School and exponent of the philosophy of value), Wilhelm Dilthey (an influential philosopher of the human sciences and exponent of hermeneutics) and Heinrich Rickert (Heidegger’s professor at Freiburg and a Neo-Kantian promoter of transcendental philosophy), to a succinct critique, arguing that a recourse to the history of philosophy or further work in inductive metaphysics can add nothing new to our understanding of the world. Phenomenology, with its concern for intuition, intentionality and the reception of immediate data, must replace these philosophies, to allow us to “press forward into the genuinely primordial level of a genuine philosophical problematic and methodology”. [7]

But how can this be achieved? What is the “primordial level” that phenomenology alone is capable of reaching? Heidegger goes at least part of the way to answering these questions in the second set of lectures given in this summer semester, “On the Nature of the University and Academic Study”. Heidegger attempts here to sketch out the basis for an existentially inflected phenomenology as an engagement with what he will later call a “Being-in-the-world”. He will seek to integrate the main components of phenomenology, as it has been developed by Husserl (its stress on cognition and intentionality, for example) into the experience of human facticity, a state of actuality that Heidegger sums up in the concept of “situation” (from the Latin “situare”, meaning “to place”):


“Situation in the life-context: a situation is a certain unity in natural experience [“Erlebnis”]. Situations can interpenetrate one another: their durations do not exclude each other […] In every situation, a unitary tendency is present. It contains no static moments but “events”. The occurrence of the situation is not a “process” – as could be theoretically observed in the physical laboratory, e.g. an electrical discharge. Events “happen to me”. The basic form of the life-context is motivation. In situational experiences it recedes. The motivating and motivated are not explicitly given. They pass implicitly through the “I”. The intentionality of all experiences of a situation has a definite character, which originates from the total situation”. [8]


As these inceptive words suggest, central to the formation of Heidegger’s philosophy at this early stage is a new concept of the experiencing self, the “I”. Heidegger is working towards a model of selfhood that will retain its integrity of position (what we might loosely call its “independence”), but link that integrity to the environment in which it necessarily exists. Heidegger calls this new subject the “situational I”:


“The situational I: the I-self, the “historical I”, is a function of “life-experience”. Life-experience is a continually changing context of situations, of motivational possibilities. Life-experience in the pure environing world is a mixed structure. Nevertheless, it can be quite definitely described in its structure”. [9]


But how? Heidegger does not answer this question, but he is not being evasive: he knows that it is a problem, as the constant return to methodological issues throughout this short lecture course testify. As he observes towards its end, “theoretical comportment requires renewal. Theoretical objectivity is accessible only through an ever new fresh impetus”. [10] What is required, indeed demanded, of philosophy by those who wish to establish a foundational originary philosophy beyond the lifeless problematic of academic philosophy is a “new comportment”, and Heidegger outlines (finally arriving at the purported subject matter of his lecture, the “nature of the university and academic study”) what this new comportment will entail for him, as a philosopher and university teacher. It is both a call to arms and a testimony of faith:

“Pure dedication to the subject-matter. Situational content of studying: every life-relation is suppressed. I am fully free of every life-contexture and at the same time fully bound to truth. To all other subjects, I simply have the obligation of absolute veracity”.

” By entering into these pure states of affair, I will obtain the opportunity for unlimited knowledge. But I also lay myself open to the risk that, if I infringe upon the condition of this life-contexture, I would have to withdraw from the scholarly life-contexture. Therefore, the “vocational question” stands right at the beginning of the theoretical life-contexture: can I maintain within myself the disposition of absolute veracity?” [11]

[1] Martin Heidegger, Zur Bestimmung der Philosophie (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1999), pp. 4–5 and 65. Heidegger frequently describes serious philosophy as a “Wissenschaft”, and this term is normally translated as “science”. But in English this refers to a particular group of disciplines founded on experimental and practical procedures, such as physics or chemistry. Heidegger’s use of “Wissenschaft” is best translated as “intellectual discipline”, and “wissenschaftlich” as “intellectual”.

[2] Martin Heidegger, Zur Bestimmung der Philosophie (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1999), pp. 5 and 49.

[3] Heidegger, Zur Bestimmung der Philosophie (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1999), p. 15.

[4] Heidegger, Zur Bestimmung der Philosophie, p. 63

[5] Heidegger, Zur Bestimmung der Philosophie, pp. 70–71.

[6] Heidegger, Zur Bestimmung der Philosophie, p. 121.

[7] Heidegger, Zur Bestimmung der Philosophie, p. 127.

[8] Heidegger, Zur Bestimmung der Philosophie, p. 205.

[9] Heidegger, Zur Bestimmung der Philosophie, p. 208.

[10] Heidegger, Zur Bestimmung der Philosophie, p. 210.

[11] Heidegger, Zur Bestimmung der Philosophie, p. 213.


On 9 September, after the end of the summer semester, Heidegger returned to Constance, and from there wrote to Elfride once again regarding her relationship with Friedel Caesar. His words were conciliatory: “I’ve never despised Friedel”, he tells her. It is simply they have nothing in common and come from a completely different background and upbringing. If Elfride felt that she was being neglected and that philosophy was Heidegger’s true companion, this letter would have done nothing to allay these suspicions, for here he moves directly through the problem of their marriage to speak about his “calling”. Through the intensity of his work he has been in a state of “mysterium tremendum”, a feeling of dark mystery and transgression brought about by his attempt to push beyond established forms of philosophising:

“I’ve now spent three weeks in such a mood – the views, the horizons of the problems – genuine strides in fertile solutions – seeing the principles anew, possibilities for the most surprising formulations and coinages, forging genuine connections. All this is so overwhelming”.

Soon after, Heidegger went to visit his parents in Meßkirch, and wrote to Elfride on 13 September, saying that he hoped she would have him to stay in Freiburg to celebrate his thirtieth birthday on the 26th. We do not know whether she did, but Heidegger did return in time to attend his son’s baptism in a Protestant ceremony.

Towards the end of his lecture course on “The Idea of Philosophy and the Problem of Worldviews”, Heidegger had argued that what we are seeking through phenomenology is an “Ur-etwas”, a primal something that precedes theoretical thinking, a reality that has up to now evaded philosophical systems, which have sought to categorise and explain (and explain away – or simply ignore, as something not worthy of philosophical scrutiny) the brute facticity of life. For “the original meaning of ‘something’ must phenomenologically be perceived on a purely intuitive way”. [1] According to one student present, Franz-Joseph Brecht (whose lecture notes form the basis of the written account of this lecture), Heidegger then drew on a blackboard a sketch of what this theoretical and pre-theoretical model would look like. It consisted of a series of terms that centred on “life”, ‘experience”, the “aesthetic” and “motivation”, concepts that were joined by their affinity with what at this stage Heidegger could only designate as “Etwas” (“Something”).[2]

The lecture course, “Basic Problems of Phenomenology” (“Grundprobleme der Phänomenologie”), which ran through the winter semester from November 1919 to the end of January 1920 (and was taught in conjunction with a seminar on “Exercises in Connection with Natorp’s General Psychology”), is an attempt to bring these ad hoc insights into systematic form. It constitutes Heidegger’s first attempt to integrate his own ideas into a new version of phenomenology. Heidegger initially establishes what phenomenology is not. Although it takes concerns with cognitive modes such as intentionality and intuition as its starting point, it is not a “substitute for experimental psychology”. Nor is it a “new epistemology”, either of the transcendental or Realist type, although it is certainly concerned about how we know the world.[3] Rather, phenomenology is, as Heidegger makes clear in the second section of his lecture course, the “Original Discipline [‘Wissenschaft’] of Factical Life in itself”, an ingress into (shifting the focus away from Husserl’s emphasis upon perception) what Heidegger calls the “factive” world, the world as an “area of living”.[4]

But what does “living” mean here? What is “life”? The concept had underwritten Heidegger’s earlier lectures but now he engages with it directly, as in Section 7, “Preliminary Delimitation of the Concept of Life itself”, in breathless and assertive words seeking to give it an immediate shape:


“Life – my life, your life, their life, our life is something we want to get to know in its most general typicality and, indeed, in such a way that we remain within it, looking around within it in its own way, with the aim that we likewise look at it, at this life, ever more clearly, that within itself and its vital pull and in its directions and destinies, in that which always and everywhere and here in each case moves it in different ways and keeps it moving”.


The “fundamental aspect” of this “life” Heidegger calls “self-sufficiency” (“Genügsamkeit”), which embraces all we do, and yet seems to remain independent of us. Finding a language to bring it to philosophical light is not easy:


“Self-sufficient – the form of fulfillment – its intentional structure, a basic directedness in each case and always into the world (also the world of self) – towards transcendence (that also comprises the factually immanent). This “form” is the mode of life’s own direction that it takes exactly there to where it wants to fulfil and satisfy itself. Structurally, it does not need to come out of itself (it does not need to turn itself out of itself), in order to bring its genuine tendencies to fulfillment. It always addresses itself but only in its own “language”. It gives itself tasks and demands, which always remain solely in its own sphere, whereby it seeks to overcome its limitations, its imperfections, to fill out the perspectives that take place within it, again and again, and only “in” the basic character that is prefigured by its most internalised [“eigenste”] self-sufficiency and its forms and the means derived from them, so that one does not even see, whilst remaining within oneself, that it cannot be addressed in any other way”. [5]



Looking back from Being and Time, where “life” is refracted across a complex ontological analytic and articulated through a nuanced terminology, the struggle that it cost Heidegger to reach that point can be clearly felt in this passage. The ideas fall over themselves in definitional profusion, generated by a euphoric insistence on the primacy of lived life, which at times takes on an almost human guise, endowed, for example, with the capacity to “fulfil and satisfy itself”. Heidegger wishes us to be brought close to life, but, at the same time, he takes pains to stress its independence, its integrity, its “self-sufficiency” (“Genügsamkeit”), which is a curious anthropomorphised term that Heidegger will later abandon in favour of “Being” (“Sein’). Indeed, as the reference to “intentional structure” suggests, Heidegger may already be working towards the notion of “Dasein”, of a being that is self-conscious about (its) Being that looks “into a world (but also the world of self [Selbstwelt”]”. Heidegger’s model of life includes both the material here-and-now of existence; but it also contains or seeks to reach, or is directed towards, the “transcendent”, which also contains (“umfasst”) the “immanent”.

Throughout the lecture course, Heidegger struggles with methodological issues. As he observes right at the very beginning, “the problem sphere of phenomenology is thus not immediately and simply pregiven: it must be mediated”, and he queries, in a subsequent passage where he has been arguing for the need to ground philosophy in the “original region of life”, “how do we wish to establish a strict science in this constantly flooding fullness of life and worlds? What is the ‘original region of life’ supposed to convey here and how is it supposed to be forced open in strict scientific research? How is it supposed to be something that is altogether accessible only in this way?” [6] Now in the final section of his lecture-course, “Phenomenological Preparation of the Ground of Experience for the Original Science of Life”, Heidegger outlines a framework in which he might be able to answer such questions. That this framework is itself composed of questions is not a paradox but the result of the perpetually interrogative nature of Heidegger’s philosophising. As his way forward, he sets himself a number of “tasks:

“To ‘attain’ the motivating basic experience and, indeed, the pre-theoretical, motivating basic experience. This leads likewise to the process of sense genetically emerging from the identification of the pre-theoretical constitution of the world in general.

Heidegger had voiced this goal before in his earlier lectures, but now he is concerned to qualify his new paradigm. He is seeking

“To determine if the theoretical-scientific tendencies of expression growing out of that are the only possible ones, or whether or not other ones claim equal validity as theoretical tendencies;

That leads to the question of whether a world experience as such admits of a number of typical basic experiences or only of one, which then branches out into various directions of motivation from which the various theoretical contexts of expression initially arise”. [7]


Heidegger will devote all of his subsequent lectures to providing a substance for this ambitious but as yet skeletal project, until his task comes to at least provisional resolution in Being and Time.

[1] Heidegger, Zur Bestimmung der Philosophie, p. 218.

[2] Heidegger, Zur Bestimmung der Philosophie, p. 218.

[3] Martin Heidegger, Basic Problems of Phenomenology, trans Scott M. Campbell (London: Bloomsbury, 2013), p. 13.

[4] Martin Heidegger, Grundprobleme der Phänomenologie (1919/20) (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1993), p. 65.

[5] Heidegger, Grundprobleme der Phänomenologie (1919/20), p. 31.

[6] Martin Heidegger, Basic Problems of Phenomenology, trans Scott M. Campbell (London: Bloomsbury, 2013), pp. 23 and 74.

[7] Martin Heidegger, Basic Problems of Phenomenology, trans Scott M. Campbell (London: Bloomsbury, 2013), pp. 75–76.


Elfride and Heidegger were increasingly spending less time together. At Christmas, each wrote (separate letters) to Heidegger’s parents in Meßkirch, wishing them a happy family festive occasion, but explaining that they would not be there. Heidegger spent much of January (after he had finished his lecture course) through to March staying with friends at Sankt Märgen, a village twenty-five kilometres from Freiburg in the centre of the Black Forest. On 4 January 1920, he wrote to Elfride, saying “my truest happiness is that you can find yourself fully and freely at my side”. He gives us no further indication of what it might mean for Elfride to “find herself fully”, but it is clear that she is seeking to lead her own life. Being true to oneself is also, he goes on to say, essential in philosophy if one is to find “a more elemental grasp of life”, and he adds:


This is also what puts me such poles apart from Husserl today, and – simply to support us financially – I must now find the possibilities of going along with him without violent conflict.

Those who stood close to Heidegger, such as Frau Szilasi, the wife of the Hungarian philosopher, Wilhelm Szilasi, then studying at Freiburg, had also been struck by the differences in the philosophical temperaments of the two men:

Even in the first weeks she’s noticed the great contrast between Husserl and me  – how appalled she was by Husserl’s mathematical ethos – how surprised she was that I should associate thus with the little rogue.[30]

On 8 February, Heidegger wrote once again to Elfride, who has become something of a stranger to her husband, and Heidegger rather pathetically enquires: “I’d love to know how you are – couldn’t you drop me a short line every once in a while?”  He then adds words that might explain why Elfride is so rarely in contact with him: “our marriage represents something very rich and strong even if it does perhaps lack love itself, which is something that I cannot really picture anyway”.  But it is precisely love that Elfride wants and has found with Friedel Caesar, with whom she is now expecting a child. Heidegger visited her shortly afterwards in Freiburg, but stayed for one week only before returning to Sankt Märgen, where he remained until the end of the month.

On 21 January, Heidegger had received a letter from Heinrich Rickert, who apologised for his long silence but hoped that his young colleague would stay in touch with him. Heidegger replied on 27 January, sending Rickert not only a letter of support and affection, but also a detailed outline of how his philosophy had developed since they had last been in contact. He begins by tracing his emergence from his earlier studies, in which he had trod a path that had ultimately led into his current activities in phenomenology. He concludes his letter by explaining the difference between his version of phenomenology and that of Husserl:


While Husserl is essentially oriented to the mathematical natural sciences, and from there not only construes his problems but also perhaps determines which ones can be validly treated, I, on the other hand, attempt to secure their foundation in living day-to-day [“geschichtlichen”] life itself, and indeed in the factive experience of our environment, in their phenomenological illumination.

In the summer semester, between May and July 1920, Heidegger gave a series of lectures on the “Phenomenology of Intuition and Expression: Theory of Philosophical Concept-Formation”. Heidegger emphasised that philosophy had reached a critical juncture: it can either persist with the conventional schools of neo-Kantianism or the natural sciences, or it can reach beyond all theoretical models to a genuine grasp of life through phenomenology. Heidegger was soon to find an ally in this project of philosophical renewal.  On 8 April, shortly before the commencement of teaching, he had met the young professor of philosophy at Heidelberg, Karl Jaspers, who was visiting Freiburg on the occasion of Husserl’s sixty-first birthday. Jaspers, born in Oldenburg in 1883, had graduated from Heidelberg University medical school in 1908 and, dissatisfied with the way the medical community of the time approached the study of mental illness, had set out to improve the practice of psychiatry. In 1913 he had been awarded his “Habilitation” at Heidelberg, in the same year publishing his first book, General Psychopathology. In 1914, he had gained a post there, teaching psychology, and in 1919 had published his Psychology of Worldviews, a study in which he formulated an historical taxonomy of mental and philosophical dispositions.

Heidegger was not unknown to Jaspers. As Jaspers tells us in his autobiography:


What I had first heard about Heidegger at the end of the First World War gave me hope that there was a genuine philosophical talent amongst academics. He was seven years younger than I, a junior lecturer and assistant of Husserl, obviously still unknown, and yet there was already the beginnings of a legend around him. [31]

The two men finally met. As Jaspers recounts:

“In the spring of 1920, my wife and I spent a few days in Freiburg, and I took the opportunity of talking with Husserl and Heidegger. Husserl’s birthday was being celebrated. There was quite a large group of people sitting around the coffee table [at Husserl’s home]. Frau Husserl described Heidegger as the “phenomenological progeny”. I recounted how a female student of mine, Afra Geiger, a first-rate person, had come to Freiburg to study with Husserl, only to be rejected by him because she didn’t meet the enrolment requirements for his seminar.  Thus both he and she had, because of the rigidity of the academic rules, lost a good opportunity simply because he had not bothered to meet the person. Heidegger immediately joined the conversation, vigorously supporting my point of view. It was a solidarity of two younger men against the authority of the abstract status quo”.

Jaspers felt alienated by what had happened that afternoon, finding Husserl and his environment constrained, petit bourgeois and lacking any “intellectual spark”. Heidegger, however, he thought was different:

I went back to his place, sat alone with him in his den, saw him working on Luther, saw the intensity of his application, and felt an empathy with his forceful, terse way of speaking.[32]

Both Heidegger and Jaspers were disillusioned with philosophy as it was being taught in universities, where they felt that it had degenerated into a lifeless exercise in disputations between different schools of thought (Jaspers in his autobiography described them as a “Zumpf”, a “clique”), each presided over by magisterial professors more intent on advancing their careers than in expanding the boundaries of knowledge.[33] This initial meeting between Jaspers and Heidegger led to further meetings in Freiburg and Heidelberg, and produced a body of correspondence that would stretch (with a significant hiatus during the Nazi period) over a period of forty years. Heidegger sent his first letter to Jaspers on 21 April 1920, after visiting him briefly in Heidelberg on his way to Wiesbaden, where on 14 April, he had given a talk on Oswald Spengler. He regrets that on that occasion he had to leave early (he had a train to catch), but hoped that they would stay in touch because he had the “feeling” that, “from the same basic position”, they were both “working towards a rejuvenation of philosophy”.[34]

Karl Jaspers was not the only one who had this perception of Heidegger. The young Hannah Arendt, who went to Marburg to study under Heidegger in 1924, was likewise attracted to his dynamic personality and the energy of his teaching. Heidegger was for her the “hidden king”, who “reigned in the realm of thinking”:


The rumour about Heidegger was quite simply: thinking had come to life again. The cultural treatises of the past, believed to be dead, were being made to speak, in the course of which it had become clear that they proposed things altogether different from the familiar, worn-out trivialities that they had been presumed to propose. The feeling was: there exists a teacher; one can perhaps learn to think. This thinking may set tasks for itself; it may deal with “problems”; it naturally, indeed always, has something specific with which it is particularly occupied with or, more precisely by which it is specifically aroused; but one cannot say that it has a goal. It is unceasingly active, and even the laying down of paths itself is conducive to an opening up of a new dimension of thought, rather than to reaching a goal sighted beforehand and guided thereto.[35]


Heidegger remained immersed in philosophical problems throughout 1920, something that was clearly imposing a strain on his marriage. On 28 July, he wrote to Elfride: “it is touching how [Frau Husserl] must have borne with [Edmund Husserl] in the time prior to the Logical Investigations; he said that for thirteen years he had driven his wife to distraction. I don’t really know what you think about my work at the moment, and you would also probably find it difficult to say what you think, as you hardly know what I’m working on”. On 1 August, Heidegger accompanied by his friend, Theophil Rees, visited Beuron Abbey, a short distance from Meßkirch.  As he tells Elfride, he is glad to be away from an academic environment:


Here I am quite free and far away from any surroundings that remind me of the University and the philosophical business of the Schools, of discussions and chatter. I’m gradually beginning to feel physically fresh again too. When I now think back on the semester, it was like an assault, where one cannot stop and think things over but must just keep on running.

On 20 August, Elfride gave birth to a baby boy, Hermann, and Heidegger wrote to her the following days with congratulations. Heidegger was not the natural father and his sentiments in his letter come across as strained and somewhat distant: “I’m glad now that I know where you are and how you are. I can come to you often now and share in your great joy”.  The couple have, in effect, an “open marriage”, an arrangement which Heidegger saw as presaging a new future for that institution:


I often find myself thinking how pale, untrue and sentimental everything is that is usually said about marriage, and whether we aren’t giving shape to a new form of it in our lives – without a programme or intention – but just by letting genuineness come through everywhere.

On 27 August, Heidegger wrote to Rickert, complaining of the pressure he was under in his teaching duties at Freiburg, which left him little time for independent research. One project that he was able to bring to completion was a review of Jasper’s book The Psychology of Worldviews published the previous year, a work that Rickert had also reviewed (and negatively). Heidegger had hoped to place his review with the journal the Göttingischen Gelehrten Anzeigen, but its editors had found it too long and too convoluted. Rather than merely offering an assessment of the book, Heidegger had tried to demonstrate “what possibilities [for future philosophy] present themselves out of the concrete work that Jaspers has undertaken there”. In short, he had used his review as a vehicle for the formulation of his own phenomenological ideas, something that, according to the editors, went well beyond his brief. But even if it is to remain unpublished, Heidegger tells Rickert, the work that he has done on it has brought home to him the necessity of finding a more incisive conceptual terminology to the “vague and tepid” terms that have been used (including by himself – he mentions the concept of ‘intuition”, “Anschauung”, that he has been discussing in his recent lectures) to explicate the phenomenology of thinking. And he adds significantly (because this will later be an issue affecting his career) that the quest for such a terminology means “unfortunately renouncing the usual tempo of academic publishing that is pursued by my peers in the faculty”.

On 30 August, Heidegger returned with Jörg to Meßkirch to continue his preparations for the coming summer semester. On 8 September, he wrote to Elfride, describing his rediscovery of nature and specifically the local countryside that he had been able to reach on the field-path that he had so often walked as a boy. In the winter semester, between October and March 1921, Heidegger gave an “Introduction to the Phenomenology of Religion”, offering at the same time the seminar, “Phenomenological Exercises for Beginners in Connection with Descartes’ Meditations”. Although Heidegger had outlined his methodology before, he could not assume that his present students were familiar with the content and aims of phenomenology, and began thus his first lecture with a series of questions:


What is phenomenology? What is a phenomenon? This can be only indicated here in formal terms. Every experience – as an experiencing, as that which is experienced – can “be taken up as the phenomenon”. That is to say one can ask:

  1. After the original “what” which is experienced therein (content).
  2. After the original “how” in which it is experienced (relation)
  3. After the original “how” in which the relational meaning is enacted (enactment).

But these three directions of sense (content-, relational-, enactment sense) do not simply coexist: “phenomenon” is the totality of sense in these three directions. “Phenomenology” is the explication of this totality of sense; it gives the “logos” of the phenomena, “logos” in the sense of “verbum internum” [a capacity to receive “inner meaning”] (not in the sense of logicalisation).[36]


On 21 January, Jaspers wrote to Heidegger asking for his advice about a student. It was a letter that initiated a lengthy period of correspondence, during which theoretical matters were discussed on a continuous basis, confidences exchanged, inside knowledge conveyed and opinions canvassed, regarding academic and university matters. In this particular letter, Jaspers asked Heidegger for his opinion of Friedrich Neumann, a student of Heidegger’s who had applied to undertake a PhD at Heidelberg with Jaspers. The following day, Heidegger sent his opinion: “Herr N. is in his second semester here. I won’t say that I know him, for that is quite difficult – not because he has a highly complex nature but because he is completely unstable, sloppy and perhaps fundamentally a poseur”. Neumann began as a supporter of Husserl, before switching to Heidegger. Heidegger, in fact, had a poor opinion of students in general:

I have lost all my optimism regarding today’s students, both the male and even the female ones. Even the best are either religious fanatics (theosophists who have also established themselves in protestant theology), followers of [the cultic poet, Stefan] George and those like him, or they are part of an unhealthy eclecticism, where they know everything about nothing, and nothing about everything.

At the end of the semester, Heidegger went on a skiing holiday to Mittelberg on the German-Austria border. Once again, Heidegger was taking his vacation alone, without Elfride, but the letter he sent to her on 2 March was positive and companionable in tone. It seems evident that their marriage has, after the birth of Hermann, stabilised: “we must definitely come up here – when we can. The post seems to be very slow – I still haven’t got anything from you. I wonder what the lads [Jörg and Hermann] are doing”, he writes.

On 15 March, Heidegger wrote to Rickert, thanking him for sending the latest edition of his book Cultural Science and the Natural Science, and regretting that he could not send him something of his own in return. It is a moment of soul searching for Heidegger, who has not published a book since his postdoctoral work on Scotus in 1916. In spite of Husserl’s advice that he should publish something from his lectures, and the fact that these lectures have been a great success with students, Heidegger does not think that his work has as yet reached the high standards that he has set himself. As he explains to Rickert:

Perhaps this may look a little risky to others, a little too idealistic and unprofessional, particularly when “so many professorial vacancies are around today”. But one has the years between thirty and forty only once, and if one doesn’t use them properly it would be better to be a mere amanuensis – rather than having to say later that one just churned out routine things and ad hoc books that pulled the wool over the eyes of the learned community. That one must first have written “the book” in order to be counted as a philosopher is one of the strange “benefits” of a philosophical research culture, and underscores the prejudice that philosophising can only be judged in terms of books. I suppose it is a good stimulus, but I don’t need this stimulus and make no apology for my lack of publications.

In the summer semester, between May and July, Heidegger gave a lecture course on “Augustine and Neo-Platonism”, together with the seminar, “Phenomenological Exercises for Beginners in Connection with Aristotle’s De anima”, all of which were vital steps in the formation of Heidegger’s own philosophy. In the meantime, his friendship with Jaspers was to enter a critical stage. At the start of the semester, Jaspers had visited Heidegger in Freiburg and asked him for a copy of his review of his book on the psychology of worldviews, which Heidegger duly sent on 25 June. The previous year, Heidegger had written to Rickert saying that Jaspers’ book would have “to be opposed in the most determined way”. The finished review bears out this critical animus. Heidegger begins by complementing Jaspers on the breadth of his work, its ambition to “comprehensively examine the being of the human mind in its substantial totality and classify its ultimate positions”. And he adds: Jaspers’ book “expands our ‘natural’ psychological understanding, rendering it more receptive and versatile, i.e. more perceptive regarding the nuances, dimensions and the different levels of our psychic being”. [37] Heidegger’s piece does not follow the standard format of a review: there is no description of the content of the book beyond these generalisations. Instead, what Heidegger writes is a sustained critique of the underlying assumptions of Jaspers’ work, its premises, its methodology and its conceptual apparatus. As Heidegger explains, “what our review of Jaspers’ work really needs to do is to highlight his preconceptions [‘Vorgriffe’] in a still more precise manner, delve into the motivation, the sense and the scope of the direction of enquiry that led to such preliminary conceptions, and become aware of what is demanded by the very sense of these preliminary conceptions, even though the author himself may not have actually understood these demands in an explicit manner”. [38] This requires “reflecting on method in a more radical way” than Jaspers does in his book.[39] Jaspers uses concepts like “life” and “existence”, as if these were self-evident realities. These are, however, concepts that cannot be taken for granted: they must be approached “with reference to historical contexts rather than to contexts of classification that have been elevated to the stature of categories within an anonymous system”. [40]

But there is something even more cutting in Heidegger’s review. Running as a subtext throughout is the implication that, in the final analysis, Jaspers is not really a philosopher, but rather something akin to a sociologist of knowledge or an intellectual historian, someone who sees it as sufficient purely to describe and classify the various worldviews that is his object of study. As Heidegger concludes, Jaspers fails to see that process of classification posits notions of mind and selfhood that must be seen “as fundamental problems in philosophy”.[41]

On 25 June, Heidegger sent a copy of his review to Jaspers. Just over a month later, on 1 August, Jaspers wrote back:

I think that your review is the only one of all those that I have read that uncovers in the deepest way the roots of my thinking. Therefore, it affected me profoundly. Nevertheless, I still missed – even in the pronouncements on “I am” and “historical” – any positive method. As I was reading it, I often got a sense that there was a real potential for moving forward, only then to be disappointed finding that I had already come so far myself, for the mere programme touches me just as little as it touches you. A number of your judgments I found unfair, but I will postpone further comments until we have a chance to talk about them. I get more out of questions and answers than I do out a lecture. But no one from amongst the younger “philosophers” interests me as much as you do. Your criticisms might be beneficial for me. They have already been beneficial, for they have been an encouragement for real reflection and have permitted me no rest.

Thus Jaspers to Heidegger in his letter of 25 June 1920. But years later, in his autobiography, he gives us a different, less conciliatory perspective on his reaction to Heidegger’s review:

He sent me the manuscript of his review. It seemed to me unfair. I read it in cursory fashion, but it did not really provide me with anything of importance: my work was going in a different direction to the one he was advising. I also didn’t feel inclined to fully engage with his criticisms, to grapple with them and in a discussion to bring to the surface just exactly what had formed their aims, their questioning and their demands. For this, at that time, would have been no easy matter, since my efforts in philosophy were still in statu nascendi and hence were a long way from where I could have given them support. So I probably disappointed Heidegger. And yet his empathy with the content and points of view of my book – which emerged less in his critical review than in our conversations – was so substantial and so positive that I felt encouraged. [42]

Perhaps out of his feelings of friendship for Jaspers, Heidegger dropped the idea of publishing the review, and it remained unpublished until 1976, when it appeared in his volume of essays, Pathmarks (Wegmarken).

In the meantime, Heidegger’s career seemed to have reached an impasse. He had hoped to find a position in Heidelberg but, as Jaspers explained to him on 1 August, that was out of the question (he gives no reasons). On 5 August, Heidegger wrote back saying that he had already been tipped off that this was the case, but he was sorry that he would not be able to make the move because he felt that in Heidelberg his work would have been “more free and uninhibited”.

Indeed, Heidegger seems during this period to be particularly unhappy at Freiburg. His lecture duties were too onerous and he felt that the students were not worth the effort. There were, however, exceptions to this rule: Karl Löwith was one of them. Born in Munich in 1897, the son of Jewish parents who had converted to Catholicism, he had fought in the First World War, had been wounded in the Italian campaign of 1915, and had spent three years in captivity. Upon returning to Germany, he enrolled first at the University of Munich and later at Freiburg, where he studied under Heidegger. In August, Löwith, who was nearing completion of his dissertation, wrote to Heidegger seeking guidance. The latter responded on the 19th abruptly: “your letter contains two matters: (1) a justification of yourself, and (2) and an enquiry into what a ‘correct’ interpretation of my ‘philosophy’ might be”. Heidegger deals with the issues rather dismissively: he has no interest in providing Löwith with some philosophical blueprint for his work or for reasons to pursue his course of study: all of this must come from within Löwith himself. Heidegger also rejects the comparisons that Löwith and other students such as Oskar Becker (who is about to complete his “Habilitation” and will later go on to become Husserl’s assistant), have made between him and Nietzsche: such comparisons have no meaning: “I simply do what I must and what I regard as necessary, and do it the best I can”. As for his own “philosophy” (although Heidegger does not like using the word): this is emerging from his own personal, characteristic engagement with the world:


I work in a concretely factive [“faktisch”] fashion out of my “I am” – out of my essentially intellectual factive background – my milieu – life circumstances, out of what is accessible to me from them as a living experience and from which I live. This facticity is existentially no mere “blind form of being”; it exists as part of existence, which means, however, I live it – as the “I must”, and about which one does not speak. With the just-as-it-is-facticity, with the historical [the experience of past-present-and future], existence rages up, which means, however, that I live the inner commitments of my facticity as radically as I can understand them.[43]

In August, Heidegger spent some time with his parents in Meßkirch, before returning to Freiburg and shortly afterwards, in September, visiting Husserl at the latter’s house in Sankt Märgen. In the winter semester, between November 1921 and March 1922, Heidegger gave a lecture course in “Phenomenological Interpretations in Connection with Aristotle: Introduction to Phenomenological Research”, together with a seminar, “Phenomenological Exercises for Beginners in Connection with Husserl’s Logical Investigations, vol. 2, 2nd Investigation: First Stage”. Students expecting from the lectures an introduction to the work of Aristotle would have been disappointed. Apart from the first lecture, “Aristotle and the Reception of his Philosophy”, the course is dedicated to the problems confronting contemporary philosophy and the importance of the phenomenological method in solving those problems. Heidegger exhorts his students to start again in their philosophising with a tabula rasa, taking nothing for granted, abandoning all assumptions and preconceptions:

Those [of his students] who have already acquired certain fixed positions – and, a fortiori, those who believe that they are secure in their grasp of the task and in their way of dealing with it – must once again, out of concrete work, undertake a methodological examination of their conscience with regard to the originality and the genuineness of their goals and the true appropriateness of their methods.[44]

Heidegger begins his process of philosophical interrogation not by making assertions but by asking questions:

The two questions asked in philosophy are in plain terms: 1. What is it that really matters? 2. Which way of posing questions is genuinely directed to what really matters? [To which he adds] What is the discourse [of philosophy] about when it is discourse in the most proper sense of the word? [45]

These are questions that Heidegger will spend his lecture course attempting to answer; indeed, in one sense, these are questions that Heidegger will spend his entire life attempting to answer.

For the Christmas break, Heidegger remained with his wife and sons in Freiburg instead of visiting, as he would have normally done, his parents in Meßkirch. He did, however, write two letters to them during this period, on 18 December and 29 December, sending them his greetings for the festive season. What he expresses in these letters are (as was so often the case in his correspondence with his parents) conventional sentiments, which as usual focused on domestic developments. The second letter, however, contains a revealing moment of self-reflection. It is as if Heidegger is taking stock of his life and his future:


When we go into the New Year let us reflect on what may be before us. The only thing we know for sure about this [the future] is that we must be prepared for what we may not achieve, for that which may go against our expectations, just as much as we are prepared for what may meet our hopes. If we firmly embrace this disposition, then that is an indication that we know what we should do in this life.

In January, Heidegger went on a skiing holiday near Todtnauberg in the Black Forest, twelve miles south-east of Freiburg. On his return to Freiburg he fell ill, as did Elfride, who had to be hospitalised. On 26 January, he sent her a letter, giving her news of the boys. He also broached once again his views on the nature of his philosophical quest:

I can hear the voice ever more clearly: be true to yourself now and to your goals as they develop, pursue the substantive task and don’t look to the right or left – the effect one has depends on other forces – a strong feeling of servitude towards a task that is forming within oneself – and I cannot help myself – this dreadful feeling of isolation – not springing from a consciousness of being exceptional and such like, but from the realisation that no one can help and the task that has been glimpsed must be done by sacrificing the possibility of all relaxation or repose.

In February, when Heidegger and Elfride returned to the Todtnauberg region for another skiing holiday, she conceived of the idea of building (drawing perhaps on funds provided by her parents) a small cabin in the area, for use during future holidays but also substantial enough to provide a modest dwelling on other occasions. Looking back from 1934, Heidegger described the cabin and its location:

On the steep slope of a broad high mountain valley in the southern part of the Black Forest stands, at the height of 1150 metres, a small ski hut. In its layout, it measures six by seven metres. The low roof covers three rooms: the joint living-kitchen room, the bedroom and a small study. On the narrow valley floor and on the facing slope, farm houses lie dispersed and broadly spaced out, with their large eave-like roofs. On the slope above, the meadows and pastures stretch up to the forest with its old, lofty, dark fir trees. Over everything lies a clear summer sky, in whose beaming space two hawks ascend in broad circles.[46]

In the summer semester, Heidegger taught the lecture course “Phenomenological Interpretations to Aristotle: Ontology and Logic”, together with a seminar on “Phenomenological Exercises for Beginners in Connection with Husserl’s Logical Investigations, vol. 2, 2nd Investigation”, a course that may have been a repeat of the seminar given in winter semester 1921–1922 or a further elaboration of its content. Towards the end of that academic year a full professorship became vacant in Göttingen, and a full professorship and an associate professorship in Marburg. On 30 June, Heidegger sent his CV to Professor Georg Misch, head of the selection committee at Göttingen, and rather than just provide Misch with a list of dates and publications, he sent him a synopsis of his research-in-progress (that he had drawn from a longer essay already sent to Marburg): “Phenomenological Interpretations in Connection with Aristotle: An Indication of the Hermeneutical Situation”. Although Misch was impressed by that essay (even if he found it “profuse” and over elaborate), he was even more impressed by Heidegger’s growing reputation as an inspiring teacher.[47] As Misch noted in his submission in November to the Department of Culture and Education in Berlin: “Heidegger exercises such a strong influence as a teacher that his fame precedes his literary [i.e. publishing] achievements”.[48] In the end, Heidegger was put second on the list, the successful candidate being Moritz Geiger.

In the meantime, Heidegger’s friendship with Jaspers was flourishing. On 27 June, Heidegger thanked him for sending a copy of his recently published book, Strindberg and Van Gogh: An Attempt of a Pathographic Analysis with Reference to Parallel Cases of Swedenborg and Hölderlin. Heidegger knew little about either Strindberg or van Gogh, but he could recognise that Jaspers was attempting to identify and explicate a deep-seated and problematical aspect of the human psyche. In this respect, Heidegger decides, Jaspers is working parallel to Heidegger in his own attempt to establish a phenomenology of selfhood. They share a common task, and this task, as Heidegger quickly explains, is formed around the following question: “how can these spheres (e.g. of the schizophrenic) be fitted into a model of life that is unifying in principle and conceptually categorical?” And he adds:


It must be made clear as to what it means to make up human existence [“Dasein”], to participate in it; but that means that both the sense of the being of life-being and of human-being must be won out of its original source and determined categorically. The psychical is not something that the human being has consciously or unconsciously, but something that it is and that lives in it. That means principally: there are objects that we do not have but are.


That finding theoretical categories for such phenomena will require reforming the conceptual apparatus of traditional philosophy, “the old ontology”, with its roots in Greek philosophy, particularly in Aristotle, Heidegger fully admits. It is a radical vision, and he has no illusions about the difficulties that will be involved in carrying out this project, but he has no choice:


Either we are serious about philosophy and its possibilities as a principal form of scientific research, or we must accept that we are scientific persons of the greatest deficiency, in so far as we babble on and on in worn-out concepts and vague intentions,  doing serious thinking only when required.


Heidegger is trying to break away from this form of philosophical existence, and he recognises that Jaspers too is attempting something new. Like Heidegger, Jaspers’ “investigations are set in the correct positive direction toward the problem, and that strengthens in me the consciousness of a rare and independent comradeship-in-arms that I otherwise –even today – can find nowhere else”.

Jaspers wrote back quickly on 2 July, inspired by Heidegger’s words of solidarity. He too is convinced that “university philosophy” must be reformed from within and from the base up, but this requires publications, notes Jaspers, dropping a heavy hint to Heidegger. Jaspers was not seeking to take the moral or professional high ground here. It is true that he had published a great deal (as he tells Heidegger, his study of the psychology of worldviews is about to go through its second edition), but he feels that he has as yet not engaged with the vital issues of philosophy. He is still struggling over “the proper way to claim to be a professor of philosophy”. Indeed, Jaspers’ words suggest that he is just a little in awe of his younger colleague: “I also believe that we have both reached the same point in our developments: you perhaps more consciously and critically; I more clumsily and gropingly”. Jaspers ends his letter with the hope that the two men will be able to meet in Heidelberg to discuss these matters in greater detail. On 6 September, he extended a formal invitation (although he pointed out that his apartment was not really suitable for guests: “bed will have to be made up on the chaise-longue in the study, and ablutions will be in the toilet – it can’t be otherwise in our narrow apartment”). He is, however, certain that their exchange of ideas will not be unduly affected by these straightened surroundings. Jaspers was keen that Heidegger should visit before his wife returns on 14 September, so that the two of them can devote themselves entirely to philosophy and he sends his impecunious colleague money to cover the rail fare.

Heidegger accepted the invitation, spending eight days with Jaspers, the first of a number of visits that he was to make to Heidelberg. Jaspers was rarely able to go to Freiburg, because, as a professor, his commitments were greater than those of Heidegger, who was still a junior lecturer and hence enjoyed greater flexibility in his movements. Jaspers tells us in his autobiography how they spent their time:


Whenever Heidegger came to visit, the two of us would work during the day, just stopping every now and then to engage in conversation. From the outset, I felt inspired by our discussions. One can hardly imagine the satisfaction that I derived from them, finally to be able to talk seriously with an individual who was at the centre of philosophical life. But in what did our common bond exist? If we had ever felt for a short time to be on the same path, that was, seen retrospectively, ultimately perhaps an illusion. But it was for me a truth then that even today I cannot deny. Apparent was the shared opposition to traditional professorial philosophy. Although what was unclear, but still stirring in our depths, was the indefinite certainty that in the institution of professorial philosophy, which we had both entered with ambitions to teach and to change, something like a radical turning was necessary. We felt committed to a renewal not only of philosophy but also of the entire shape of philosophy as practiced in the universities at that time. We also shared a deep enthusiasm for Kierkegaard. In our conversations, it was mostly I who did the talking. The temperamental difference between us was great. Heidegger by nature was inclined to silence, which at times led to excessive volubility on my part. [49]

On his return to Freiburg, Heidegger was asked by Husserl to come and see him urgently regarding his Marburg application. Heidegger had been seeking a secure university position for a number of years, and now it looked like he had found one. On the twenty-seventh of the month, he wrote to Elfride:

Malvine [Husserl’s wife] read out to me a long letter from Natorp [professor in philosophy at Marburg]: they’re determined to have me. Natorp mentions [Professor Richard] Hamann, who has been fully informed about my effectiveness (obviously by [Professor Hans] Jantzen – saying that he had recently heard the very best things from Marburg students (PhD students who have been here with me over the last two semesters). In Marburg, they want a phenomenologist and also someone with a critical command of the Middle Ages (those theologians!). Natorp has asked Husserl for a report on my teaching activities, as well as a report on forthcoming publications.

In the absence of forthcoming publications, Heidegger sent Natorp a copy of his “Phenomenological Interpretations in Connection with Aristotle”, a lengthy essay that was, in effect, a detailed synopsis of a book that he was intending to write on Aristotle, and which combined the two points of study that Heidegger had been pursuing in his recent lecture courses: phenomenology and Aristotle. As Heidegger explained in the introduction to that essay, his intention was to interpret Aristotle through the perspective of an hermeneutically informed phenomenology directed towards concrete “factive” existence:

Insofar as the phenomenological hermeneutics of facticity endeavours, as a form of interpretation, to make a contribution to a radical appropriation of contemporary philosophy (and does this by calling attention to concrete categories and allowing them to be specified in advance), it sees itself directed towards the task of loosening up the today prevailing state of traditional forms of interpretation with respect to their hidden motives and their unexpressed tendencies and modes of interpreting, so that it can, by way of a deconstructive regress, penetrate into the original motivational sources of these tendencies.[50]

Heidegger, at this stage in his philosophy, is not seeking to offer a ready-made alternative to “traditional forms of interpretation”: his approach is one of questioning, of challenging these established forms, compelling them to reveal the assumptions, epistemological and ontological, upon which they are based. In the case of Aristotle, this means asking questions such as:

In what kind of object, with what kind of characteristics of Being, was human being, i.e. “Being in life”, experienced and interpreted [by Aristotle]? What is the sense of human existence [“Dasein”], in terms of which Aristotle’s interpretation of life initially approached human being as its object? In short, in what kind of preliminary having of Being [“Seinsvorhabe”] did this object stand?  Further, how was this Being of the human being explicated in concepts, out of what soil did this explication arise as a phenomenon, and which categories of Being grew out of that which was seen in this fashion? [51]

Heidegger applies these questions to key passages of Aristotle’s writings, notably the Nichomachean Ethics (Book VI), the Metaphysics (A 1–2) and Physics (A, B, Gamma 1-3), submitting a number of concepts such as “aesthesis” (“sense perception”) and “aletheia” (truth as a self-revealing, a concept that would later become central to his own philosophy) to detailed scrutiny. Throughout, Heidegger brings the reader back to the essentially pragmatic nature of these concepts: the fact they perform a function within factive life, for, as he concludes in the final pages of his essay:

The origin of the “categories” does not lie in “logos” as such. Nor are these “categories” read off from “things”. Rather, they are the basic modes of a particular kind of addressing of a particular domain of objects that are maintained in preliminary having in terms of their “look” and consist of those objects that one deals with and with which one is concerned in our routine tasks. [52]

Heidegger would have to wait until June the following year for a response from Marburg to his submission, but that the essay had been well received is clear from the recommendation that the philosophy department sent to the Department of Education in Berlin (which vetted all such applications) on 12 December:

In first place [for the appointment to associate professorship] we recommend Martin Heidegger, instructor in Freiburg i. Br. (born 1889, “Habilitation” 1916 [sic], who already in 1920 was placed on our list of recommendations [for an earlier vacancy]. Having come from Husserl’s circle of students, he treads the paths of phenomenology, but he has struck out on his own direction within this area and pursues a completely independent course. Among the phenomenologists, he is the first to have attempted to make this new method serve the purposes of historical research [meant is Heidegger’s work on Aristotle], an attempt which has aroused the lively interest of his philosophical peers. [53]

On 19 November, Heidegger wrote to Jaspers, explaining the critical juncture that he had reached. He is pessimistic about his chances of getting the full professorship at Göttingen or even the associate professorship at Marburg, which he thinks will go to his colleague, Dr Richard Kroner (author of Kant’s Worldview, published in 1914). He also feels alienated by the networking required to secure such applications: “I am even less known by [the educational departments in] regional governments than I am by the faculties. The necessary business trips are not in my line”. The whole process was having a depressing effect on him: “this being led on with half prospects, bungling with recommendations etc, brings one into a terrible state, even when one has made up one’s mind not to get caught up in it”. The only substratum of consolation during all of this was his family and his growing friendship with Jaspers, and Heidegger looks back in his letter to his recent trip to Heidelberg:

The eight days spent with you [in September] are continually with me. The spontaneity of those days (which were uneventful externally), the sureness of style in which each day unaffectedly merged into the next, the unsentimental, austere steps with which friendship came upon us, the growing certainty from both sides of a mutually secure comradeship-in-arms – all of that is uncanny for me in the same sense as the world and life are uncanny for the philosopher.

The increasing bond between Heidegger and Jaspers was reflected in a letter sent by the latter on 24 November. They have become fellow conspirators in a campaign against the hegemony of academic philosophy and, in order to consolidate their views and bring them to a greater public, Jaspers suggests that they publish a “truly critical journal” with the title: The Philosophy of the Age: Critical Writings by Martin Heidegger and Karl Jaspers. This will be an occasional publication “dealing with the topical philosophies: all aspects of philosophical and anti-philosophical attitudes to life”. The articles will engage with philosophy as it is being (badly) taught in the universities, and will offer proposals on how it should be taught: “we will not revile anyone, but the discussion will be no-holds-barred”. And Jaspers adds one important proviso: “it will happen, however, only when you get a position”.

In the winter semester, between November 1922 and March 1923, instead of a lecture course Heidegger offered two seminars: “Exercises in Phenomenological Interpretations in the Context of Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics 6; ‘De anima’; Metaphysics 7”, which were advertised as “private”, in other words only for selected students, and “Phenomenological Exercises for Beginners in the Context of Husserl’s Ideas, vol. I.” At the end of the semester, in March, Heidegger went with his son, Jörg, to stay with the Szilasis family on the Starnberger See.  On the twenty-seventh of that month, he sent a letter to Elfride from Munich, where he had gone to visit Karl Löwith. Heidegger knew by then that his application for the Chair of Philosophy to Marburg had not been successful, rejected by the Department of Education in Berlin on account of his lack of publications, and he was in a mood for recriminations. He feels that he is a victim of malevolent forces both in Marburg (he names Nicolai Hartmann, professor of philosophy there), and beyond, naming Max Scheler, professor in Cologne, who “is behind all of this agitation against me”. Yet Heidegger is still in the running for the associate professorship at Marburg, although he is not optimistic. He wrote again to Elfride a few days later, just before Easter on 1 April, to vent his anger and frustration once more:


I work all day long, and wish to myself that the whole appointment business would come to an end. It’s disgusting the way they’re conjecturing, wangling and scheming–; that in Berlin I’m regarded as the phenomenologist is obviously an empty phrase – and is worth just as much as if I were to profess my respect for someone and then spit in his face.


Heidegger sought respite from this professional imbroglio in his teaching. The summer semester of 1923 was the busiest of his teaching life so far, involving not only a lecture course on “Ontology – The Hermeneutics of Facticity”, but also three seminars: “Phenomenological Exercises for Beginners in Connection with Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics”, a “Colloquium for Advanced Students on the Theological Foundations of Kant’s Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone: Selected Texts” (a course taught in conjunction with his colleague, Julius Ebbinghaus), and “Exercises in Phenomenological Interpretations in Connection with Aristotle”, a continuation of the seminar on the same topic given in the winter semester 1922–1923. The lecture course represented a seminal stage in Heidegger’s move away from phenomenology (at least as it had been understood to date), and into his version of ontology. In these lectures, Heidegger formulated a number of concepts such as “being” and “facticity” that he would develop further in his work, concepts that were intended to open up avenues to what Heidegger calls the “encountered character of the world”.[54] Such concepts would later form the basis of his first major publication in Being and Time (1927).

Heidegger’s courses were attended by the twenty-three old Hans-Georg Gadamer who, attracted by the growing legend surrounding Heidegger, had come from Marburg, where he had just completed his doctorate, specifically to study with Heidegger. Impressed by the energy and commitment of his new teacher, Gadamer was able to send a positive report back to Natorp in Marburg, at a crucial juncture in Heidegger’s application for a position there. On 18 June, Heidegger’s period of waiting finally came to an end with the offer of an associate professorship with the status and rights of a full professorship. The following day he wrote to Jaspers to share the good news. This was Heidegger’s first full-time appointment, and he asks Jaspers to advise him on what he should be expecting in terms of conditions of employment. In spite of all the hard words he has uttered about Marburg and its professors over the preceding twelve months, Heidegger concludes his letter on a simple and positive note: “I look forward to the peaceful little town and to undisturbed work”. Jaspers responded two days later with congratulations and with regret that the professorial clique in Heidelberg had not seen fit to appoint Heidegger there. This was a missed opportunity for all. Jaspers also gives Heidegger the information that he had requested, advising him on what he should look out for when he goes to the Department for Education in Berlin for negotiations with respect to salary, what he should expect by way of a pension, not only for himself but for Elfride, should she become a widow, and how to arrange for an advance sum payment to cover his removal and accommodation costs. Jaspers is looking forward to Heidegger’s next visit (this time with Elfride), but warns him once again not to expect anything more than the very basics in accommodation (although, as he tells Heidegger, his new apartment at Plöck 66, near the university library, is a little more spacious than his old one in the Handschuhsheimerlandstraße). Should Heidegger find himself in any pecuniary difficulties during this financially demanding time, Jaspers would be all too happy to help him out.

News of Heidegger’s appointment had also reached Husserl. On 8 July, Heidegger told Elfride that in their last meeting Husserl had categorically asserted that he wanted his young colleague to be his successor in Freiburg, but that this wish should be kept under wraps for the moment. After years of stagnation in his career, things were now moving for Heidegger. Writing to Jaspers on 14 July, he says that what he most welcomes about the appointment in Marburg is that he will be able “to effect change by example”, adding “I am now free”. He feels that he is involved in “the fundamental reconstruction of philosophising”, not just the creation of a new philosophy to be added as yet another system to existing ones, but a new way of approaching philosophy, thinking it, absorbing it as a process of living ideas (and he is scathing about his colleagues who see their sole duty in writing books: “I leave to the world its books and literary goings-on”). His tone is proselytising, evangelical even. Heidegger sees himself as the head, the spiritual leader perhaps, of an “invisible community” of like-minded souls. This means that he has no intention of falling in with the powers-that-be in Marburg, particularly the head of the department, Hartmann; on the contrary, “I will make hell hot for him. A shock troop of sixteen persons [his postgraduate students] is coming with me. Many are inevitable fellow travellers, but some are entirely serious and very capable”.

So much for Hartmann, Heidegger’s new foe. But Husserl (another pillar of the loathed philosophical establishment) does not fare any better. That there had been tensions in their relationship from the very beginning is confirmed by the adverse comments made in letters to Elfride as far back as 1917. But now that he is finally and permanently out of Husserl’s presence, Heidegger, writing to Jaspers in July, can deliver his final judgement on the man and his philosophy:


Husserl sees himself as praeceptor Germaniae, but he is completely falling to pieces (if the pieces were ever together in the first place, which has lately become more and more questionable to me). He swings back and forth between this and that, and talks trivialities, so that it would move one to pity him. He lives with the mission of being the founder of phenomenology, but no one knows what that is.


There is, of course, space in the firmament of German philosophy for only one praeceptor Germaniae. “Le roi est mort; vive le roi!” Perhaps this was all too much for Jaspers, because he did not reply until November, and perhaps Heidegger too knew that he had gone too far, for when he next wrote to Jaspers on 2 September, he has toned down his abrasive and self-obsessive sentiments, simply thanking Jaspers for a copy of the latter’s recently published book, The Idea of the University, which Heidegger hopes to discuss when they next meet in Heidelberg. In the same letter, Heidegger informs Jaspers about how his planned move to Marburg is progressing. His centre of operations is the home of the Szilasis in Feldafing on the Starnberger See, and on 1 October Heidegger wrote to Elfride from there, explaining that he had not yet found suitable accommodation for them in Marburg. As he rather pathetically observes in a letter to Jaspers on 9 October, “my wife will stay [in Freiburg] with the boys and rent. I will also leave my library here, so I will lead a monk’s existence again with table, chair and bed. I would be very happy if you would write to me in Marburg, for I will certainly have time to answer”.

Heidegger finally found rooms in 21 Schwanallee. The first couple of weeks were difficult: he was without friends or family, and his living conditions were meagre. Things, however, soon improved. His impressions of his new home town were positive: “the little place is quite delightful –it’s just right for me. Yesterday afternoon the sun came out and I strolled through the bumpy streets with their pretty little houses”, he tells Elfride in a letter of 14 October. His teaching started on 1 November, with a lecture course “Introduction to Phenomenological Research”, a topic that he had taught a number of times in Freiburg but was new to the students of Marburg (and possibly to his colleagues in the philosophy department). As we know from his letter to Jaspers written on 14 July, Heidegger had set out to confront, shock even his new university in a spirit of uncompromising reformism. But now that he has actually arrived, he becomes more modest, self-effacing even. As he writes to Elfride on 27 October, “on Wednesday, I’m being officially introduced to the Faculty”. His erstwhile radicalism seems to have melted away: “everything is resolving itself nicely now, after the nasty first fortnight, and every day the responsibility of my task weighs ever more heavily on my mind, and I hope to myself that I will at least partly meet expectations and can be totally committed to my work – then we will build up a vibrant life here”. These were to be expectations that not only Heidegger nurtured: they were also harboured by those students who had come with him from Freiburg, and would come from elsewhere in Germany, expecting great things, perhaps nothing less great than the renewal of the German mind. They included Karl Löwith, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Hans Jonas and Hannah Arendt.

[1] See “Mein liebes Seelchen”. Briefe Martin Heideggers an seine Frau Elfride, 19151970. Ed. Gertrud Heidegger (München: btb Verlag, 2007), p. 19. The English translation is Martin Heidegger, Letters to His Wife, 19151970. Transl. R.D.V. Glasgow (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010). Future references to this correspondence will simply cite the date of the relevant letter in the main text. I have modified the translations as necessary.

[2] And this is what Heidegger presumably told the audience in his talk, “Philosophy in the War-faring Countries”, which he gave, according to Krebs, on 29 February. The talk has never been published. For details, see Alfred Denker, “Heideggers Leben- und Denkweg 1909–1919”. Eds. Alfred Denker i.a.  Heidegger und die Anfänge seines Denkens, (Freiburg/Munich: Verlag Karl Alber, 2004), pp. 97–122 (p. 116).

[3] Martin Heidegger/ Heinrich Rickert, Briefe 1912 bis 1933 und andere Dokumente, aus den Nachlass. Ed. Alfred Denker (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 2002), p.25.

[4] “Briefe Heinrich Finkes an Martin Heidegger (1916–1917)”. Eds. Alfred Denker i.a., Heidegger und die Anfänge seines Denkens (Freiburg/Munich: Verlag Karl Alber, 2004), pp. 71–72 (p. 71).

[5] Edmund Husserl, Briefwechsel. Band IV. Die Freiburger Schuler. Ed. Karl Schumann (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1994), p.127.

[6] The poem is translated in full in Rüdiger Safranski, Martin Heidegger: Between Good and Evil (Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1998), p. 69.

[7] Martin Heidegger, Frühe Schriften (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1972), p. 344.

[8] Heidegger, Frühe Schriften, p. 352.

[9] Martin Heidegger/ Heinrich Rickert, Briefe, p. 33.

[10] “Brief Martin Heideggers an Martin Grabmann (1917)”. Eds. Alfred Denker i.a.,  Heidegger und die Anfänge seines Denkens, pp. 73–74 (p. 74).

[11] “Briefe Ernst Laslowskis an Martin Heideggers (1911–1917)”. Eds. Alfred Denker i.a.  Heidegger und die Anfänge seines Denkens, pp. 26–57 (p. 54).

[12] Martin Heidegger, Briefwechsel mit seinen Eltern (19071927) und Briefe an seine Schwester (1921-1967). Eds. Jörg Heidegger and Alfred Denker (Freiburg/Munich: Verlag Karl Alber, 2013), p. 14. Future references will be given in the main text simply as a date. Elfride makes a similar argument in her letter to Heidegger’s parents on 15 March, saying that she has consulted with Catholic dignitaries in Freiburg, all of whom have advised patience in this matter. See Heidegger, Briefwechsel mit seinen Eltern, pp. 18-20.

[13] Husserl, Briefwechsel, p. 128.

[14] See “October 8, 1917: Edmund Husserl to Paul Natorp”. Eds. Theodore Kisiel and Thomas Sheehan Becoming Heidegger: On the Trail of His Early Occasional Writings, 19101927 (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2007), pp. 355–356 (p. 355).

[15] Rickert, Briefe, p. 43.

[16] Husserl, Briefwechsel, p. 129.

[17] Martin Heidegger. Elisabeth Blochmann: Briefwechsel, 19181969 (Marbach am Neckar: Deutsche Schillergesellschaft, 1990), p. 7. Future references to this correspondence will simply cite the date of the relevant letter in the main text.

[18] Heidegger, Letters to His Wife, p. 45.

[19] Heidegger, Briefwechsel mit seinen Eltern, p. 34.

[20] Husserl, Briefwechsel, pp. 131–132.

[21] “Letter to Father Engelbert Krebs (1919)”. Ed. and transl. John van Buren, Martin Heidegger, Supplements: From the Earliest Essays to “Being and Time” and Beyond, (Albany: State University of New York, 2002), pp. 69–70 (p. 69).

[22] Martin Heidegger, Zur Bestimmung der Philosophie (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1999), pp. 4–5.

[23] Heidegger, Zur Bestimmung der Philosophie, p. 63

[24] Heidegger, Zur Bestimmung der Philosophie, p. 65.

[25] Heidegger, Zur Bestimmung der Philosophie, p. 121.

[26] Heidegger, Zur Bestimmung der Philosophie, p. 215.

[27] Heidegger, Zur Bestimmung der Philosophie, p. 218.

[28] Theodore Kiesel, The Genesis of Heidegger’s “Being and Time” (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), p. 23.

[29] Martin Heidegger, Grundprobleme der Phänomenologie (1919/20) (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1993), p. 65.

[30] It is ironic to note that as Heidegger’s opinion of Husserl is declining, Husserl’s assessment of Heidegger is becoming more positive. Writing to Paul Natorp on 11 February 1920, Husserl now retracts the judgment that he has made in an earlier letter of 8 October 1917, where he had categorised Heidegger as a purely Catholic philosopher. He now tells Natorp that Heidegger “has worked his way into phenomenology with the greatest energy, and he is striving to lay the most secure foundations for his philosophical thinking”. “11 February 1920: Edmund Husserl to Paul Natorp”. Eds. Theodore Kisiel and Thomas Sheehan, Becoming Heidegger, pp. 366–368 (p. 367).

[31] Karl Jaspers, Philosophische Autobiographie (Munich: Piper Verlag, 1977), p. 92.

[32] Jaspers, Philosophische Autobiographie, pp. 92–93.

[33] Jaspers, Philosophische Autobiographie, p. 92.

[34] For the German edition of the correspondence, see Martin Heidegger/ Karl Jaspers. Briefwechsel, 19201963. Eds. Walter Biemel and Hans Saner (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1990). The English translation is The Heidegger-Jaspers Correspondence (19201963). Eds. Walter Biemel and Hans Saner. Transl. Gary E. Aylesworth (New York: Humanity Books, 2003). Future references to this correspondence will simply cite the date of the relevant letter in the main text. I have modified the translation here and elsewhere where necessary.

[35] Hannah Arendt, “Martin Heidegger at Eighty”. Ed. Michael Murray, Heidegger and Modern Philosophy, (Yale University Press: New Haven 1978), pp. 293–303 (p. 295). Translation modified.

[36] Martin Heidegger, The Phenomenology of Religious Life. Transl. Matthias Fritsch and Jennifer Anna Gosetti-Ferencei (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004), p. 43.Translation modified.

[37] “Comments on Karl Jaspers’ Psychology of Worldviews (1920)”. Ed. and transl. John van Buren, Martin Heidegger, Supplements, pp. 70–103 (p. 71).

[38] Heidegger, “Comments on Karl Jaspers’ Psychology of Worldviews (1920)”, p. 77.

[39] Heidegger, “Comments on Karl Jaspers’ Psychology of Worldviews (1920)”, p. 78.

[40] Heidegger, “Comments on Karl Jaspers’ Psychology of Worldviews (1920)”, p. 92.

[41] Heidegger, “Comments on Karl Jaspers’ Psychology of Worldviews (1920)”, p. 104.

[42] Karl Jaspers, Philosophische Autobiographie (Munich: Piper Verlag, 1977), p. 95.

[43] Martin Heidegger/ Karl Löwith, Briefwechsel, 1919–1973. Ed. Alfred Denker (Freiburg and Munich: Verlag Karl Alber, 2017), pp. 52 and 53.

[44]  Martin Heidegger, Phenomenological Interpretations in Connection with Aristotle: Introduction to Phenomenological Research. Transl. Richard Rojcewicz (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2001), p. 11. Translation modified.

[45]  Heidegger, Phenomenological Interpretations in Connection with Aristotle, p. 11.

[46] Quoted from Hans Dieter Zimmermann, Martin und Fritz Heidegger: Philosophie und Festnacht (Munich: Beck, 2005), p. 60. Heidegger’s description is taken from an article published on 7 March 1934 for the Kampfblatt der Nationalsozialistischen Oberbaden.

[47] A reputation confirmed in the reference that Husserl wrote for Heidegger and sent to Misch on 31 May 1922. Describing Heidegger as “an absolutely independent personality, thoroughly original”, Husserl emphasises his popularity with the students: “his impact is extraordinary, in view of the heavy demands that he makes on the students who work with him”. “May 31, 1922: Edmund Husserl to Georg Misch”. Eds. Theodore Kisiel and Thomas Sheehan, Becoming Heidegger, pp. 370–372 (p. 371).

[48] Georg Misch, “Recommendation of Heidegger for Associate Professor at Göttingen (November 1922)”. Eds. Theodore Kisiel and Thomas Sheehan, Becoming Heidegger, pp. 339–342 (p. 341).

[49] Jaspers, Philosophische Autobiographie, p. 95.

[50] Martin Heidegger, “Phenomenological Interpretations in Connection with Aristotle: An Indication of the Hermeneutical Situation”. Ed. and transl. John van Buren, Martin Heidegger, Supplements, pp. 111–145 (p. 124).

[51] Heidegger, “Phenomenological Interpretations in Connection with Aristotle”, p. 127.

[52] Heidegger, “Phenomenological Interpretations in Connection with Aristotle”, p. 144.

[53] “Recommendation of Heidegger for Associate Professor at Marburg (December 1922)”. Eds. Theodore Kisiel and Thomas Sheehan, Becoming Heidegger, pp. 342–344 (p. 343).

[54] Martin Heidegger, Ontologie (Hermeneutik der Faktizität) (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1982), p. 93.




Chapter Three


Time as Being

Hannah Arendt and Being and Time: 1924 –1928


In the summer of 1923, Heidegger arrived in Marburg to take up his appointment as Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy.  Marburg (an der Lahn), in the state of Hesse, was in 1923 a town with a population of less than twenty thousand. The town dated back to the early twelfth-century, and still possessed many architectural signs of its medieval past, such as a hilltop Schloss, built in the eleventh century as a fortress, a Gothic church of almost cathedral proportions (the “Elizabethkirche”), and an established botanical garden. Although it had few if any industries, Marburg was an important service provider and administrative centre for the surrounding areas. The university, founded in 1527, was noted for its achievements in medicine and the natural science, and included amongst its distinguished professors Robert Bunsen, Karl Ferdinand Braun and Emil von Behring. Marburg was also noted for its teaching in theology, with Paul Tillich and Rudolf Bultmann being exact contemporaries of Heidegger.

Initially Heidegger’s impressions of Marburg had been positive. On 19 June 1923, he wrote to Jaspers, “I look forward to living in this peaceful little town and to undisturbed work”. As he later told his wife, Elfride, in a letter of 14 October, “the little town is quite delightful – it’s just right for me. Yesterday afternoon the sun came out and I strolled through the bumpy streets with their pretty little houses”. [1] But within a few short months, his attitude had changed. What had originally been found quaint and picturesque now seemed provincial and boring. As Heidegger lamented to Erich Rothacker on 4 January 1924, “here in middle Germany everything is extremely mediocre”, and the atmosphere of Marburg is “flaccid”.[2] It was an opinion that was not to change during the entirety of his stay. Even after three years of productive service, he still found, as he wryly noted to Jaspers in December 1926, “the university boring and the students simple-minded, without any particular motivation. As I am very much occupied with the problem of negativity, I have here the best opportunity to study what nothingness looks like”. Heidegger felt isolated. As he wrote in a letter to Karl Löwith On 1 October 1924, “I realise that I will be on my own, and all help from beyond is an ‘allurement’ ”.[3] And on 26 March, he added the following rider likewise in a letter to Löwith: “the damned thing about my work is that I have to do it surrounded by old philosophy and theology, and that I am forced to adopt a critical position on irrelevancies such as ‘categories’ ”.

Heidegger felt suffocated by the arid narrowly academic focus of the philosophy department and, as he described it in a letter to Löwith on 6 November, its “Exam milieu”.  Its leading light, and from 1922 head of department (due to an ailing Paul Natorp), was Nicolai Hartmann, author of Grundzüge einer Metaphysik der Erkenntnis (Foundation of a Metaphysics of Knowledge, 1921). Hartmann had been impressed by Heidegger’s “Phenomenological Interpretations in Connection with Aristotle”, in which Heidegger had subjected Aristotle’s categories of Being to phenomenological scrutiny, and was responsible for bringing the younger academic to Marburg. Hartmann had sent his doctoral student, Hans-Georg Gadamer, to Freiburg the previous year to prepare a report on Heidegger, which had been entirely positive. It is quite possible that Heidegger’s essay, which argued for the relevance of a revitalised ontology to contemporary philosophy, had influenced the direction of Hartmann’s own work, and had perhaps encouraged him to find a position beyond Neo-Kantianism. Just one year after reading Heidegger’s essay, Hartmann published a lengthy paper titled “How Is Critical Ontology Possible?” (“Wie ist kritische Ontologie überhaupt möglich?”). Here Hartmann argued that “there is no question of knowledge without the question of being”, and had added but “what can we know of real being as such?”.[4] Hartmann appears to embark on a path remarkably similar to Heidegger’s own, for providing an answer to this question “means nothing less than dealing with and taking up all together the great aporias of the metaphysical Weltanschauung”, and Hartmann subjects one category after another (he calls them “errors”) of the traditional metaphysical systems to critical scrutiny. [5] In his Aristotle essay, Heidegger had posed  similar questions, writing, “in what kind of object, with what kind of characteristics of Being, was human being, i.e. “Being in life”, experienced and interpreted [by Aristotle]? What is the sense of human existence [“Dasein”], in terms of which Aristotle’s interpretation of life initially approached human being as its object? In short, in what kind of preliminary having of Being [“Seinsvorhabe”] did this object stand?” [6] Hartmann, like Heidegger, is also seeking to establish the facticity of Being, and adopts the same emphasis upon the pre-theoretical when he argues that “wishes, intentions, suppositions and prejudices also have an a priori character”. [7]And yet Hartmann does not proceed beyond this point. Instead, he simply proposes his own alternative system of categories to replace the existing ones, for only “categorial analysis”, indeed a “theory of categories” can resolve the aporias, the errors of metaphysical thinking. [8] We have returned to yet a further self-enclosed paradigm. There is no sense of working towards something new, no sense of struggle, of the pushing of boundaries, conceptual and linguistic. Terms such as “reason”, “thinking”, “human cognition” (just to list three problematical constructs from one sentence alone on the concluding page of his paper) are treated as if they are self-evident.[9]

Hartmann sought to teach philosophy as a discipline that had its accepted framework and methodological assumptions. Students were excepted to work within this framework, not to question it.  One of his better pupils, Hans-Georg Gadamer, who was studying for his doctorate under Hartmann (which was awarded in 1922 for “The Essence of Pleasure according to Plato’s Dialogues”), described the latter’s method of teaching as “reflexionlos” (lacking in self-reflexion or enquiry).[10] Heidegger offered something much more than this: not a ready-made system but philosophy as an activity of the mind, an activity that would push against limits, not only those placed by others, but those placed by himself. It was Gadamer, once again, who was able to witness this challenging energy at first hand:

No matter what he lectured on – whether it was Descartes or Aristotle, Plato or Kant that formed the starting point – his analysis always penetrated behind the concealments of traditional concepts to the most primordial experience of Dasein […] And what else is interpretation in philosophy but coming to terms with the truth of the text and risking oneself by exposure to it? [11]

The force of Heidegger’s philosophising was both thematic and personal, a matter of an entirely new way of thinking about philosophy and an entirely new way of presenting that thinking. As a teaching experience, the former could not be disengaged from the latter. As his student, Karl Löwith, observed:

The power of fascination that emanated from him was partly based on his impenetrable nature; nobody knew where they were with him […] Like Fichte, only one half of him was an academic. The other – and probably greater – half was a militant preacher who knew how to interest people by antagonizing them, and whose discontent with the epoch and himself was driving him on.[12]

Heidegger’s presentation of self, even the way he dressed, was intended, if not to provoke, then at least to assert his idiosyncratic character, a character that had its roots in his Swabian homeland. As Rüdiger Safranski notes:

Heidegger cut a striking figure in Marburg in his personal appearance. On winter days he could be seen walking out of the town with his skis shouldered. Occasionally he would turn up for his lectures in his skiing outfit. In the summer Heidegger wore his famous loden suit and knickerbockers – these were his glorified scouting garb. The students called these clothes his “existential suit”. It had been designed by the painter Otto Ubblohde, and to Gadamer suggested something “of the modest resplendence of a peasant in his Sunday best”. [13]

Heidegger saw himself possessed of a mission, and in the opening words of his first lecture in Marburg he sounded this mission as a call to arms, committing himself to a “stripping away of mistaken expectations”, which he intended to replace – with nothing: “no foundation, neither a programme nor a system”. As he continued to tell his dumbfounded students in that lecture, “not even philosophy should be expected. It is my conviction that philosophy is at and end”. In the place of philosophy, Heidegger promotes an attitude of mind, “a passion for genuine questioning”, which will not only interrogate the objects of its enquiry but will confront even its own assumptions and prejudices. Following this path will involve a readiness to “hold out for years in uncertainty”, until the requisite maturity of perspective has been found.[14]

Heidegger’s iconoclastic sentiments may have enthused his students, as they well may have confounded his colleagues, but there were others who found in his words precisely the inspiration that they required for their own work. Rudolf Karl Bultmann was one of them. He was an unlikely adherent to Heidegger’s cause, and it is significant that Heidegger had to go beyond the confines of the philosophy department to find him. Bultmann, five years older than Heidegger, was a Lutheran theologian and Professor of the New Testament. He had been appointed Assistant Professor of Theology at Breslau in 1916, then had gained a full professorship at Giessen in 1920 before returning to Marburg (where he had been a student) as a professor in 1921, in which year he published his History of the Synoptic Tradition (Die Geschichte der synoptischen Tradition, 1921), a study of the various narratives that constitute the New Testament. Bultmann was a leading voice in German liberal theology, someone who had questioned “the foundations of systematic and historical theology through his critique of the mythical picture of the world as it was adhered to in the approach of conventional theology to the New Testament”.[15]  Faith, Bultmann argued, must be a determined vital act of will, not an extolling of canonical texts. Indeed, the latter had to be de-mythologised, in order to allow the individual to return to the core of Christianity: the life and Passion of Jesus Christ.

Bultmann had established his critical theology well before encountering Heidegger, but it was what Bultmann calls Heidegger’s “existential philosophy” that allowed him to consolidate that position. As he explained in a short autobiographical sketch written in 1956, “I found in [Heidegger’s philosophy] the conceptuality in which it was possible to speak adequately of human existence and therefore also of the existence of the believer”.[16] Heidegger clearly saw in Bultmann’s critical attitude to religious tradition and conventional theology the same deconstructive will to uncover truth that he was pursuing in his own “de-structive” philosophy. In his first semester in Marburg, Heidegger joined Bultmann’s theological seminar on “The Ethics of St. Paul”, and on 14 and 21 January he gave a two-part talk on “The Problem of Sin in Luther”. Heidegger’s opening words establish precisely that existential imperative that underscored Bultmann’s credence in repristinated faith: “the object of theology is God. The theme of theology is man in the how of his being-placed before God. But the being of man is at the same time also a being in the world, and there exists for him also the problem of the world”. [17] Bultmann became a close friend and adherent of Heidegger, the two meeting frequently as members of the “Graeca” society, which was devoted to the study of Greek literature, and which met every week in Bultmann’s house.

As Heidegger was beginning to find a new soul companion in the shape of Bultmann, he was in the process of losing an older one: Edmund Husserl, his erstwhile mentor and senior colleague in Freiburg. On 22 February, Husserl wrote to Heidegger, addressing him as “dear friend” and saying that he was hoping to see Heidegger on his next visit to Freiburg during the inter-semester vacation, which Heidegger and his family were spending in Todtnauberg. He writes, “I have been looking forward for months to your visit and to the opportunity of having a proper philosophical discussion with you. I am hoping that you will be able to stay with us, at least for a few days”.[18] The tone is affable and accommodating: this is one philosopher talking to a fellow philosopher: Heidegger is his equal. But as Husserl was moving closer to his younger colleague, the latter was, at the same time, moving further away. The tensions between Husserl and Heidegger had long been clear to anyone familiar with the two philosophers in Freiburg. As early as 1920, Heidegger had come to realise that he could not follow Husserl and his particular type of phenomenology. In a letter of 27 January of that year to Rickert, he emphatically stated the differences between himself and his senior colleague:

While Husserl is essentially oriented to the mathematical natural sciences, and from there not only construes the problems but also perhaps determines which ones can be validly treated, I, on the other hand, attempt to secure their foundation in living day-to-day [“geschichtlichen”] life itself, and indeed in the factive experience of our environment, in their phenomenological illumination.

But now that he is finally (and permanently) out of Husserl’s presence, Heidegger can deliver his final judgement on the man and his philosophy. As he had written to Jaspers on 14 July 1923:


Husserl sees himself as praeceptor Germaniae, but he is completely falling to pieces – if the pieces were ever together in the first place, which lately I have become more and more to doubt. He swings back and forth and talks trivialities that would make you weep. He lives off his mission of being the founder of phenomenology, but no one knows what that means.


Heidegger’s lecture course in his first semester at Marburg, the “Introduction to Phenomenological Research” (offered in conjunction with a seminar on Aristotle, Physics B), which had begun in November, was now coming to an end. In the earlier sections of the course, Heidegger had explained how phenomenology in the work of Husserl had confronted the philosophical systems of the past, from the Aristotelian, through to the modern period (historicism and Dilthey are specifically targeted), by interrogating the foundational premises of these systems through his transcendental “purification of consciousness”, which permits a bracketing out of all assumptions about the world and investments in the a priori. But when Heidegger turned in the second part of his lecture course to that other great philosopher of the modern period, Descartes, a remarkable turn takes place in his account of phenomenology. In this final section of the course, given in February 1924, Heidegger made his objections to Husserl explicit, airing them in a public arena for the first time (and he may well have repeated such sentiments in his seminar: “Phenomenological Exercises for beginners: Husserl, Logical Investigations II: I”). It now becomes obvious that there is an early and late Husserl, that what began as a project of a phenomenological recovery of “things themselves” in Logical Investigations eventually degenerated into a form of post-Cartesian idealism, which saw things solely as constructs of a purified consciousness. “There is no longer any acquaintance at all with the entire ontological, basic framework as such”.[19] As Heidegger subsequently goes on to argue, this is a direction “that must be reversed, insofar as it is necessary to see that this point of departure is not an original one. The concept of consciousness has, in fact, simply been taken over by Husserl from Cartesian psychology and Kantian epistemology”, whose basic categories “do not owe their origin to an analysis of Being in the sense of an inquiry into the specific character of Being”. [20]

Heidegger proselytised not only amongst his students but amongst his colleagues. On 10 April, he wrote to Rickert, thanking him for sending his article on Emil Lask, and expressing his determination that philosophy should be made to develop an “instinct for tangible conceptualisation [‘Begrifflichkeit’]”, because only through that will it make an impact on the present, for “the present age must be taught once again to really persevere with a thing and to think it through to the end”. [21] And one week later he wrote to Jaspers in fighting terms, extolling their “comradeship-in-arms” [“Kampfgemeinschaft”].[22] Heidegger is “disposed to fight”, and is committed to a “confrontation with the present age”, but he has come to realise that he must be strategic about how this confrontation should take place: “I have become more and more unpolemical – not in the sense of not disputing anything, but from a growing realisation that what is decisive is correctly directed, positive work”.

Heidegger’s zeal and idealism were to be sorely tested by one tragic event in his private life. On 1 May, he was suddenly called to his parental home in Meßkirch: his father was dying. Heidegger arrived too late. As he wrote to his wife the following day, “father had been up in the afternoon – ate with the best of appetites and smoked two more cigars. Half an hour before the end he went all quiet. Fritz [Heidegger’s brother] held father’s hand and could feel that his pulse had stopped. It was lucky for father that he was unconscious when he died – he’s said to have been terribly afraid of Hell”. Heidegger had intended to spend time with his family in Meßkirch, but had to cut short his stay. As he wrote on 20 May to his mother. “my career has quickly called me back again [to Marburg], but my thoughts are still with you in these days”. [23]

Indeed, Heidegger’s career was flourishing, as was his reputation. In June, soon after the commencement of the Summer semester, in which Heidegger was offering a course on theBasic Concepts of Aristotelian Philosophy”, he was contacted by a Japanese student, who had been instructed by an newly-founded educational institute in Japan to offer him a three year contract to teach there. Heidegger decided not to go. It was a wise decision. His professional future could only have been secured by his remaining within the narrow system (he called it a “Sumpf”, a “bog” or “mire”) of German academic philosophy and its professors, who were, because of his lack of publications, making further advancement for him difficult. But it was precisely the pressure of the “Sumpf” on Heidegger that would eventually force him to return to work on his magnum opus, Being and Time. Teaching in Japan would have been an unnecessary distraction, with perhaps permanent consequences for his work and career.

On 18 June, Heidegger wrote to Jaspers, complaining once again of the intellectual torpor in Marburg: “nothing is happening at the university. I’m just passing the time away. It is soporific, mediocre, without energy, no stimulus. The only worthwhile person: the theologian Bultmann, with whom I meet up every week. Quite lively”. In fact, it was the Theology rather than the Philosophy department that was to provide an opportunity for him to make his research public. On 25 July, he presented a paper to that department on “The Concept of Time”, which some have seen as stating in nuce the main concerns of Being and Time.[24] The talk was a success. As he later wrote to his wife on 2 August, the room was crowded and the audience “excited”. It is true that he was talking to theologians rather than philosophers, but “in this way a good many things can be said more simply – albeit less precisely. But I do have confidence in the subject matter itself – not as something finished, but as a concrete directive for real work”.

“The Concept of Time” does, indeed, provide a blueprint for the future. Here Heidegger sketched the thematic trajectory of what would be one of the central themes of Being and Time: the determination of time upon the human subject (“Da-sein”), and he sets out how that might be grasped by the new discipline of phenomenology. As Heidegger explains at the commencement of his talk: “the following deliberations belong perhaps to a pre-science, whose business it is to conduct investigations into what could ultimately be meant by what philosophy and science can say, by what the expository and discourse of ‘Da-sein’ says about itself and about the world”.[25] Putting the experience of time that “Da-sein” undergoes into words requires not only a new “pre-scientific” form of exposition but also an entirely new philosophical terminology, and Heidegger shows in his own writing what this entails. Analysis, logical argumentation, referring to tradition must now give way to a probing self-revelatory discourse that takes the personal human subject, the self, as its point of departure, as is evident in one remarkable passage that constitutes an almost fugal meditation on the trope “now”:

This time now, as I look at my watch, what is the now? Now, as I do this, as the light goes out here, for instance. What is the now? Is the now at my disposal? Am I the now? Is every other [person] the now? Then time would indeed be I myself, and every other [person] would be time. And in our being with one another, we would be time – everyone and no one. Am I the now, or only the one who is saying this? [26]

This is a radically new tone in the discourse of philosophical speculation. Heidegger’s words describe a universal subject, but they emerge from the singular perspective of an individual self, and more particularly from one particular individual self: that of Martin Heidegger. The abstractions of philosophy are here assertively lined to personal experience, and instead of a series of obiter dicta, generalisations that are laid out in the way of a priori self-evident truths, we have questions and self-interrogation.

The public resonance of Heidegger’s talk (many in the audience made transcripts) could not hide the fact that he continued to feel an outsider in Marburg, and this would continue. On 17 August, Paul Natorp died. With his death, Heidegger lost his only personal bond with the philosophy department in Marburg, as he explained in a letter of 23 August, to his to wife: “Yes – Natorp. I wander around here and now realise that I no longer have anyone at the university to whom I can look up to with admiration. They say I am a severe critic – yet when I find someone I can admire and venerate, I don’t hesitate to do so”. Heidegger’s unique style of philosophising had drawn many into its ambit, but it had also perplexed and frustrated others. That Heidegger and his style of philosophising could only with difficulty be accommodated in the rubric of conventional academic philosophy is shown by the contorted process that he went through in an attempt to get his paper on the concept of time published by the Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift fur Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte, a newly-founded journal edited by Paul Kluckholm and Erich Rothacker. Heidegger had been contacted by Rothacker in October 1922, and invited to submit an essay for publication. Rothacker had described Heidegger to his fellow editor as a “highly interesting and scholarly eccentric [“Sonderling”]”, but he clearly felt that Heidegger was an eccentric with a future. [27] Nothing came of this initial invitation: Heidegger was not convinced that the journal had serious philosophical credentials, and he had little to publish, anyway. The editors, however, persisted, partly out of respect for Heidegger and his growing reputation, partly because (as Rothacker rather cynically wrote to Kluckholm on 1 January 1923) a philosophic component to their journal would help boost sales.

But with the presentation of his paper on “The Concept of Time” in July, Heidegger now had something that he could submit for publication. On 21 September, he wrote to Rothacker, offering to send him his paper, which was now subtitled “Comments on the Dilthey – Yorck Correspondence”. As he explained, “I have taken the central question regarding ‘historicity’ out of this correspondence, and will attempt through detailed analysis to make it comprehensible”. Matters looked promising. On 10 October, Rothacker wrote to Kluckhohn, noting that “interest in Heidegger is rapidly increasing”. He was keen to publish Heidegger’s piece in the first issue for 1925. On 2 November, Heidegger wrote to Rothacker regarding the forthcoming publication (the essay would be submitted by post on 3 November). The delay in submission was due to his attempt to shorten the article. It was the first sign that things were not what they should have been. The article duly arrived, and although the editors had not as yet read it they remained positive. As Rothacker wrote to Kluckhohn on 4 November, “the whole world is waiting for Heidegger, who has published nothing at all since his post-doctoral dissertation [on Duns Scotus], but who is regarded by his students as a prophet”. The editors read the essay quickly, and responded to Heidegger within a matter of days. We do not have their letter, but as is clear from what Heidegger wrote to Rothacker four days later that they had two major concerns: with its length (it was seventy-five pages long), and with its intelligibility (the difficulty of its vocabulary). Heidegger replied immediately, writing to Rothacker on 8 November. His reply suggests that the editors (notably Rothacker, who was responsible for the philosophical contributions to the journal, the “Geisteswissenschaften” side: Kluckholm looked after those in the literary sphere) had gone into some detail, and critical detail, on this matter. As Heidegger explained in his reply: he is very aware that there are difficulties with the way he writes:

The terminology of my essay is a matter in itself. Concern [“Besorgen”] is determined by care [“Sorge”]. In general, there will be much from a terminological perspective that will be found “repellent”. The main thing is that phenomena should be clearly seen – otherwise it could probably be said much “more elegantly”.

I only have one wish that the clumsiness of the form [of the essay] is not found too off-putting.

Since I’ve been grappling with these matters for a long time, I may have failed to notice when I have expressed myself in ways that are incomprehensible or might be easily misunderstood.

As is clear from Rothacker’s letters of 13 and 16 November to Kluckhohn, there were differences between the editors regarding the publishability of Heidegger’s piece. Rothacker was sympathetic to Heidegger’s idiom; Kluckhohn was not. Also, as Rothacker pointed out, if they did not publish it another journal almost certainly would. Rothacker saw no point in asking Heidegger to further shorten his article, but he agreed to ask him nevertheless. On 18 November, Heidegger wrote back to Rothacker, remaining resolute in resisting the editorial requests to shorten his essay. He wrote in non-compromising tones that were self-confident and, indeed, as Rothacker complained in a letter to Kluckhohn the following day, even somewhat haughty. Heidegger was certain that his essay would appear in another journal: he was not prepared to make sacrifices. This is the end of the matter.

Heidegger’s self-confidence had its foundations in his success as a teacher and as a public speaker, a role in which he was increasingly in demand. In early December, he gave a series of talks for the Kant Society on “Existence and Truth after Aristotle” in Hagen, Elberfeld, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Essen, and culminating on in Dortmund. As he wrote to his mother and brother on 4 December, “an entirely new world is opening up”. He describes how, in Cologne, he stayed with the professor of philosophy Max Scheler, and how during the course of their many discussions it became clear to him that his work was far better known than he had imagined. The hidden king, although still not crowned, was no longer hidden. In the winter semester, between November 1924 and March 1925, Heidegger gave a lecture course on Interpretation of Platonic Dialogues: Platon: Sophistes.[28] The course was attended by a cohort of students who, drawn by Heidegger’s charismatic personality and the urgency that he brought to the study of philosophy, had come to Marburg specifically to study under him. They included Hermann Deckert, Hans Jonas, Gerhard Kruger, Karl Löwith and Leo Strauss. Hans Jonas (born in 1903 in Mönchengladbach) had followed Heidegger from Freiburg, after coming from a period of study at the Humboldt University in Berlin. Jonas gained his doctorate under Heidegger in 1928 with a thesis on Gnosticism entitled The Concept of Gnosis, which served as the basis for his later book, The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God & the Beginnings of Christianity. Jonas emigrated to North America in 1948, and went on to become a noted philosopher of social ethics, best known as the author of The Imperative of Responsibility: In Search of Ethics for the Technological Age. Karl Löwith (born in Munich in 1897) was the most senior of Heidegger’s acolytes. He had studied Biology and Philosophy in Munich, before transferring to Freiburg in 1919 to study with Husserl and Heidegger. In 1922 he returned to Munich, and took his doctorate under Moritz Geiger with the dissertation on “The Process of Self-interpretation in Nietzsche”. In 1928, he received his Habilitation under Heidegger with “The Individual as Social Being.”

Hans Jonas, Karl Löwith and the others were drawn to Marburg by Heidegger’s reputation which, in the absence of any substantial publications from the philosopher, had spread by word of mouth. These were not simply students in philosophy but participants in an intellectual revolution, although some, such as Hans Jonas, felt alienated from the cultic pretensions of Heidegger’s adherents. As he wrote in his autobiography, “the Heideggerian cultural community amongst the philosophy students, who had a bigoted arrogant outlook and gave themselves airs as if they were in possession of divine truth, was unbearable. This was not philosophy but something more like a sect, almost as if it were a new faith”. [29] This group of Heidegger acolytes also included the eighteen-year-old Hannah Arendt, who had come to Marburg in October 1924 specifically to study with Heidegger, after previously studying in Königsberg (her home town). As she later enthused, “his name had travelled all over Germany like the rumour of a hidden king”:

The rumour about Heidegger was simply this: thinking had come to life again; the cultural treasures of the past, believed to be dead, were being made to speak, and in doing so it turned out that they were proposing things altogether different from the familiar, worn-out trivialities they we had presumed they were saying. A teacher has now come; one can perhaps learn to think […] This thinking may set tasks for itself; it may deal with “problems”, it naturally, indeed always, has something specific with which it is particularly occupied or, more precisely, by which it is specifically aroused; but one cannot say that it has a particular goal. It is unceasingly active, and even the laying down of paths itself is conducive to opening up new dimensions of thought, rather than an attempt to reach a goal sighted beforehand and guided thereto.[30]

Arendt had come to Marburg to study Philosophy, Protestant Theology and the Classics, and had enrolled for Heidegger’s lecture course, “Interpretation of Platonic Dialogues [Sophist, Philebus]” (“Interpretation Platonischer Dialoge [Sophist, Philebus]” in October 1924. She attended his lectures, and joined a seminar group that met in the evenings. Matters elided from the academic, indeed, the studiously philosophical, into the personal during the course of a consultation hour (Heidegger’s weekly “Sprechstunde”, where he would give one-on-one advice to his students about their work). She later told her close friend, Hans Jonas, what had happened. When the consultation was over and she got up to leave, Heidegger went with her to the door, and then something quite unexpected happened. In Arendt’s words: “suddenly he dropped before me on his knees. I bent down, and he stretched his arms up to me while still on his knees. I took his head in my hands, and he kissed me and I kissed him”. And so, Jonas, adds, it began.[31] We do not know exactly when this took place, but it is possible that it was in January 1925, after Arendt had returned to Marburg from a short Christmas break with her family in Königsberg to resume her studies. Soon after, On 10 February, Heidegger sent her his first impassioned letter:

I must come to see you this evening and speak to your heart.

Everything should be simple and clear and pure between us. Only then will we be worthy of having been allowed to meet. You are my pupil and I your teacher, but that is only the occasion for what has happened to us.

I will never be able to call you mine, but from now on you will belong in my life, and it shall grow with you.[32]


We might be tempted to read such sentiments as the pretext for seduction: the differences in age and status would seem to lend weight to such a reading.[33]  But Arendt was attracted to Heidegger well before this meeting, drawn to him on account, as she later confides, of his “passionate thinking, in which thinking and aliveness become one”. [34]  And if rhetoric is involved here, it is rhetoric that has an ancient lineage in the discourse of lovers. Hannah Arendt had gone to Marburg seeking Heidegger, and now she had found him. In her autobiographical narrative, “Shadows” (“Die Schatten”), written at this time, she describes her restless spirit and her need for an “unbending devotion to a single one”.[35] We do not have her letters, but the fact that Heidegger had observed in his first letter that she seemed to have lost her “disquiet” clearly indicates that he had known her at a distance for a while, at least since he had first seen her in one of his lectures, looking up towards him with a gaze that “struck him in the middle of his heart”. “Oh, it was and is as if eternity had come close to him”, as he later noted.[36]

Heidegger and Arendt met on park benches or in her room, and went for walks, out towards the surrounding countryside, where they would not be recognised. And they wrote to one another, frequently. The nature of their ensuing relationship, and the correspondence that accompanies it, is detailed and complex.[37] We are following a love affair between philosophers, and both take the opportunity to use their relationship to explore the universal meaning of love and its effect on the human subject. In his second letter sent on 21 February later, Heidegger pondered:


Why is love rich beyond all other possible experiences and a sweet burden to those seized in its grasp? Because we become what we love and yet remain ourselves. Then we want to thank the beloved, but find nothing that suffices.


We can only thank with our selves. Love transforms gratitude into loyalty to our selves and unconditional faith in the other. That is how love steadily intensifies its innermost secret.


Here, being close is a matter of being at the greatest distance from the other – distance that lets nothing blur – but instead puts the “thou” into the mere presence – transparent but incomprehensible – of a revelation. The other’s presence suddenly breaks into our life – no soul can come to terms with that. One human fate gives itself over to another human fate, and the duty of pure love is to keep this giving alive as it was on the first day.


Heidegger cannot help himself: this is a lecture on the phenomenology of love, which seeks to explore (and celebrate) the reconstruction of selfhood that love makes possible. It is impossible to establish the degree of their intimacy at this early stage. Heidegger had asserted that everything must be “simple and clear and pure between us”, and apologises in one letter for having “forgotten himself” during a recent walk. Aware that their relationship may be a distraction from academic work, Heidegger had argued from the very first letter that love could provide a path of self-fulfilment for Hannah Arendt that was worth more than scholarly pursuits, involving a freeing of her “purest feminine essence”, of “intuition, longing, blossoming”, an uninhibited commitment to the other, which is “the source of goodness, of faith, of beauty, of unending womanly giving”.

The winter semester came to an end in March, and both went their separate ways: he to his wife and their mountain retreat in Todtnauberg, and she to her parents’ house Königsberg. But the two continued to write. He tells her in a letter of the 21 March about the inspiration he finds in nature: “this is a homeland of pure joy. Here there is no need for anything ‘interesting’, and my [scholarly] work takes on the rhythm of a man chopping wood in a distant forest”. He does not want to return to the “flatland” of Marburg and his academic duties there, teaching reluctant students who do not wish to learn, when his research is reaching a critical point (his manuscript of Being and Time). Isolation is what he needs. Even his visit to Husserl in Freiburg, made between 25 and 29 March, is disappointing: “he is very tired and ageing remarkably quickly”. (But we can read these dismissive words as indicating that Husserl was not impressed by the direction that Heidegger was taking in his work.)

The mid-year break was almost over, and Arendt wrote in early April saying that she would soon be back in Marburg. Heidegger replied on the 12 April: “I live in a frenzy of work and of joy at your impending arrival”. He was going to Kassel (in northern Hesse) to lecture on “Wilhelm Dilthey’s Research and the Struggle for a Historical Worldview” on the 16 April and would stay there until the 22nd.[38] Although he had not extended an invitation to Arendt, she wrote to say that she would like to be with him in Kassel. This would be the first time that she will have seen Heidegger outside Marburg. It is clear that their relationship was about to enter a new phase. Perhaps recognising this, Heidegger outlined in a letter of 17 April an itinerary for the couple: “I am lodging near Wilhelmshöhe Castle, very exclusive. Perhaps you can stay at the ‘Stift’ ”. After the lecture, he will, he tells her, “take leave of my acquaintances and hosts and get on the No. 1 tram to Wilhelmshöhe, the last stop. Perhaps you can – discreetly – take the next tram. Then I’ll take you home”.

During the break in the university year, Hannah had been thinking and writing: about herself, her love and her life. When she met Heidegger in Kassel, she brought with her a five-page manuscript, “The Shadows”, which she presented to him. Although written in the third person, it is clearly an autobiographical document.[39] The text begins:

Every time she woke up from that long, dreamy and yet deep sleep, in which one merges entirely with what one dreams, she felt the same shy, hesitant tenderness toward the things of the world, which made clear to her how much of her actual life had sunken completely into itself – like sleep, one might say, if there can be anything comparable to it in normal life – and how much had run its course. For already early in her life, strangeness [“Fremdheit”] and tenderness had become inseparable. Tenderness meant shy, reticent affection, not surrendering, but a probing that was caress, joy, and surprise at strange forms. [40]

“Shadows” tells of a “close-minded and self-absorbed” young woman, who feels ostracized from the common feelings of life, and suffers from a “lack of tranquillity” that is threatening to destroy her.[41]  The sentiments might be regarded as conventional: the predicament of alienated youth, particularly of over-intellectualised alienated youth, had been thoroughly explored by writers of the Expressionist generation from the beginning of the century, as in Hermann Hesse’s Peter Camenzind.  What is original about Arendt’s brief study is its critical distance from its female subject (the narrator is without any trace of sentiment), and the existential hue of the writing, its reading of emotional states not in terms of psychology but of certain defining qualities of the human condition.[42] As we are told at one point in the narrative:

She had fallen prey to fear, as she once had to longing, and again, not to a somehow identifiable fear of something determined in any particular way, but fear of existence itself […] fear of reality, a meaningless, baseless, empty fear, whose blind gaze turned everything into nothing, the fear that is madness, joylessness, distress, annihilation. With this fear, nothing is more frightening than one’s own reflection upon it.

The young woman is also subject to longing; but this is not a longing for any particular thing “but a longing as to what makes up a life, what can constitute it”. It is a longing for meaning, and she cannot find it. She feels condemned to a rootless existence, indeed, to an “absurd” one, a state of being that throws her “back on herself, so that her age concealed and obscured both her vision of herself and her access to it.” Once again, the narrator makes it clear that what is being described here is a generalisable condition: “the potential for such despair is within the realm of the human, awake at every moment and available like any other potential”. “Potential” may seem an overly positive designation of such a state, but the narrator takes it further, for “it is such suffering that makes anything worthwhile”:

There may have been something similar about the way she fell prey to fear [“Angst”] and to longing, namely, the act of falling prey to something, of being trapped in a craving – that fixation on a single thing, when the empty gaze forgets multiplicity or, taken over by craving and passion, considers nothing else. But that longing may have opened up empires for her, strange, colourful empires that she was at home in and could love with a living bliss that never changes.

The intimate world drawn in Arendt’s “Shadows”, and the vulnerability of its protagonist, deeply moved Heidegger (he called it her “diary”). Heidegger saw the pained personality of the anonymous female protagonist as a thinly-disguised version of Hannah herself: both author and character possess, as he observed in a letter of 1 May, “a shy freedom and [the] soul’s unthreatened hope”, adding that “Shadows” was “symbol of how you will live in my work”.

Indeed, Arendt’s “The Shadows” anticipates some of the key themes of Heidegger’s Being in Time, particularly those explicated in section 40, which is given over to Angst as an ontological condition of “Dasein”. There Heidegger explores the non-motivated nature of anxiety, and delves into the potential for despair that exists as a constituent part of the human psyche, something that “is already ‘there’, and yet nowhere; it is so close that it is oppressive and stifles one’s breath, and yet is nowhere.[43] This feeling of hopelessness and despair, however, is also a condition (as Arendt too had made clear) for the authenticity of the self in the world. States such as Angst are “moods”, which have no basis in our rational assessment of the world but belong to a residual responsiveness to being-in-the-world, that Heidegger called “Befindlichkeit”, and we must look beyond conventional philosophy for any explanation of them.

After their meeting in Kassel, the relationship between Heidegger and Arendt deepened intellectually and, almost certainly, physically, as seems clear from a letter that he wrote on 24 April:

Your letter to Kassel left me moved for days. The “if you want to have me” – “if you like”: what can I still do in the face of such shy and yet so resolute waiting, such persistence? What have I brought you but the most difficult burden, and has it not been a continual sacrifice of your soul? And your shy quiet “yes” in the train station.

A model of the human subject is being created, an “us”, which transcends the limitations of individual selfhood. On 8 May Heidegger wrote, “we could not only say that the world is now no longer mine and yours – but ours – only say only that what we do and achieve belongs not to you and me but to us”. It is a spiritualised, transcendent reading of love, appropriate words for which Heidegger finds in the writings of Saint Augustine, the sole Church Father who had survived Heidegger’s apostasy of 1919. On 13 May, he wrote Arendt a letter full of gratitude:

Thank you for your letters – for how you have accepted me into your love – beloved. Do you know that this is the most difficult thing a human is given to endure? For everything else, there are methods, aids, limits, and understanding – here alone everything means: to be in one’s love = to be forced into one’s innermost existence. Amo means volo, ut sis [which means as] Augustine once said: I love you – I want you to be what you are.”

We do not know how Arendt responded to such letters (hers were either lost or destroyed), but in 1929 she published the doctoral dissertation that she had just completed under the guidance of Karl Jaspers at Heidelberg. Titled, Love and Saint Augustine (Der Liebesbegriff bei Augustin: Versuch einer philosophischen Interpretation), it examines the interrelationship between the love of God, love of mankind and carnal love in Augustine’s work. But her book is not simply an exegesis or an exposition; as the subtitle “interpretation” indicates, it clearly reflected Arendt’s own views on love and loving. At one point we read:

Desire mediates between subject and object, and it annihilates the distance between them by transforming the subject into a lover and the object into the beloved. For the lover is never isolated from what he loves; he belongs to it.[44]

Is this Augustine, Arendt or Heidegger speaking? Love is a reaching out towards the other, and has its source in caritas (“care”):

Caritas is but the road that connects man and his ultimate goal. Stretching out in this purposive direction, caritas possesses a provisional sort of eternity. By the same token, the world, as a mere means toward this end, loses its awesome character and gains some sense by being made relative through this process. Love as desire always faces this alternative of either use or enjoyment. This is true for divine love as it is for human love.[45]

Arendt celebrates care in absolute terms, as the medium of the experience of love, which is capable of relativising indeed, perhaps abolishing existential dread. It is a form of love that may or may not have characterised Hannah Arendt’s relationship with Heidegger. By the time he sent her his letter of 13 May, the summer semester had begun, and Heidegger was back in the midst of a heavy teaching load. He lectured, with Arendt as one of his students, on the “History of the Concept of Time”, a course that ran through to July. Although his classes were held between 7am and 8am, the course attracted one hundred and twenty students. For first-year students, he offered the seminar, “Preliminary Exercises in Connection with Descartes ‘Meditations’ ”. The lecture course represented an extension of his paper on the concept of time, and it anticipated in many ways the work that he would later do in his Being and Time. Towards the end of the course, Heidegger added new material. As Theodore Kisiel observes, “going beyond his prepared manuscript, Heidegger in these last two hours of [summer semester 1925] lectures on the topics of death and conscience. This course, presented under the title “History of the Concept of Time” is in effect the second draft of [Being and Time], mainly of its First Division. Heidegger will utilise his copy of [his student] Simon Moser’s transcript of the course as the basis for the final draft of [of that work]”. [46]

Heidegger’s career and his writing were progressing. On 19 May, he wrote to Jaspers saying that he was content in Marburg, but found the intellectual niveau low (“the philosophy done by [Erich Rudolf] Jaensch is itself too primitive, even for elementary school teachers”). His colleagues were, however, supportive, and expected him to receive promotion to a full professorship soon. Indeed, Heidegger had already been muted as successor to Hartmann, who had been called to the Chair of Philosophy in Cologne earlier that year. Heidegger was the preferred candidate for the vacant Chair, and his name was put forward by his department. There was concern about the paucity of his publications, but not about him as a philosopher. On 26 June, Husserl wrote to Erich Rudolf Jaensch at Marburg, saying “in the new generation [Heidegger] is the only philosophical personality with such creative, resourceful originality”. And he continued: “in my eyes, Heidegger is without doubt the most significant of those on their way up and is predestined to be a philosopher of great style […] He has kept silent for years so as to be able to publish only what is completely mature and definitely compelling. His publications, which are soon to come out, will show just how much he has to say and how original he is”. [47] Similar sentiments were uttered by Heidegger’s colleagues on 24 June, during the all-important second meeting of the selection committee. When Heidegger’s publishing record was queried by one member of the committee, the following exchange was recorded in the minutes: “[Professor Rudolf] Wedekind asked which of Heidegger’s writings have been published. Hartmann replied that there is a new and outstanding work by Heidegger forthcoming but that, as with his earlier work [the “Phenomenological Interpretations in Connection with Aristotle: An Indication of the Hermeneutical Situation”], it has not been published yet.[48]

The departmental memo was entirely accurate. Throughout the year, Heidegger had been using every opportunity to push on with the manuscript of Being and Time. He had rearranged the rooms in his home (Schwanallee 21) to provide himself with a more conducive space, away from noise. Certainly, things did not always go smoothly. On 17 July, he wrote to Hannah Arendt, complaining: “I am quite weighed down with the business of exams, meetings and paperwork, and feel more like a civil servant than a human being”, but he did find an opportunity, nevertheless, to read Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, a novel in which notions of time and personal responses to time play a major role. Heidegger spent time looking for a tranquil location in which he could resume work on his manuscript. On 24 July, he wrote to Jaspers regarding his travel plans: “I am going to the cabin on 1 August, and I am very much looking forward to the strong air of the mountains – this weak, light stuff down here ruins you over time. Eight days of wood chopping – then back to writing again”. And he added in a letter of 23 September to Jaspers, once again: “I have no desire for the company of professors; the peasants are much more pleasing and even more interesting”. The academic year was at an end, but while his family went up to Todtnauberg, Heidegger was compelled to remain in Marburg, because he had been invited to attend the Faculty meeting to discuss the criteria for electing the new professor. He was the favourite candidate, but colleagues needed to be reassured that he was on the eve of publishing a major work. Finally, the decision was made. On 5 August, the Faculty of Philosophy put Heidegger’s name in first place as its preferred candidate for the vacant Chair. As if to anticipate reservations on the side of the Education Department in Berlin, the recommendation was accompanied by the following note: “In addition [to the earlier work on Aristotle], there is a systematic work of recent origin – now being printed – on ‘Time and Being’, which shows us yet another side of Heidegger, as an independent and constructive philosophical thinker. The work is nothing less than a new elaboration of ultimate ontological questions. It thus represents a synthesis of the phenomenological way of research – here for the first time free from all subjectivism – with an assessment of the great wealth of the tradition of ancient, medieval and modern metaphysics”. [49]

On 24 July, Heidegger wrote to Jaspers, bemoaning the professorial hullabaloo in Marburg, and saying he hoped to visit him in the first part of October.  Heidegger was intending to go up to his hut (“eight days of chopping wood – then back to the writing”) and continue writing. He was looking forward to the “bracing air of the mountains – this soft flaccid atmosphere down here gradually ruins you”). As he wrote to Hannah Arendt on 23 August, “I am once more with nature and native soil, and I seem to feel even the ideas growing”. Heidegger wrote throughout the summer, in a rented room in a farmhouse at the foot of the hills in Todtnauberg, so that he could get away from the noise and commotion of his young family, adding section after section to his manuscript, concluding with (as he noted to Karl Löwith on 24 August) an all-important chapter on death. It was then time to return to Marburg for the winter semester, a prospect he did not welcome. He was, as he wrote to Arendt on 14 September, “dreading the semester – not just because it will bring more nonsense, but because it will tear me away from really productive work”. The isolation and the intensity of his writing had brought about changes in his personality: “I have already forgotten what the ‘world’ looks like, and I will feel like a mountain man going down to the city for the first time. But in such solitude, which can yield unsuspected powers, even human experiences become simpler and stronger. […] We must bring ourselves to the point where everything is as new as it was on the first day”.

Heidegger was making good progress with his writing. As he wrote in a letter of 14 September, new ideas were forming, leading him to revise his existing draft and to return to an earlier focus upon “the radicality of Greek ontology”. The new draft reflects the course that he is about to teach in the coming summer semester starting in November, “History of the Concept of Time”, which stresses “the full force of the interrogative experience” through which phenomenology is made to uncover the “question of the being of beings”. [50] This new draft of his manuscript also moves Dasein into the central role that it would ultimately play in the final published book.[51] Heidegger’s pace of writing was intense. He sought to avoid interruptions, and declined an invitation from Husserl, citing the demands of his work: “my innermost ideas are quite urgent now”. The reasons, however, were as much personal as philosophical. As he explained in a letter to Arendt on 14 September, he felt that Husserl was “no longer moving forward, and that his productivity had come to an end”. As Heidegger’s estimation of Husserl continued to decline, his opinion of Jaspers was rising. On 22 October, he wrote to his wife: “from time to time, I compare Husserl and Jaspers – looking at their philosophical existence – then it’s like night and day: on the one hand (to exaggerate) interest in the school [meaning institutional matters] – acknowledgement of the master – lack of understanding for destiny and decisions – on the other hand, sovereignty – modesty – personal commitment and a real sense of a man who takes action”.

Since he was not to begin lecturing until November, there was no reason to return to Marburg. On 15 October, he travelled to Meßkirch to attend the wedding of his brother, Fritz, and then continued his journey, visiting Jaspers and wife in Heidelberg. On 18 October, he wrote to Hannah Arendt from there explaining that he was trying to push on with his writing but the “bureaucratic nonsense” (the imbroglio around his candidacy for the vacant Chair) will not allow him to do so, and there is another important meeting next week. After his extended sojourn in the mountains and the concentrated and lonely writing of his manuscript, Heidegger was having difficulty re-adapting to the academic life-style: “everything seems quite unreal, above all, the fact that I have to lecture”. He wonders whether it is worth putting so much into teaching instead of research. But there are, he concludes, positive rewards in teaching, even if they often remain hidden.

Heidegger returned to Marburg on the 20 October, and two weeks later began his lecture course on “Logic: The Question of Truth” (“Logik: Die Frage nach der Wahrheit”). Hannah Arendt was present at his first lecture, and three days later he sent her a letter: “Today I greeted you during my lecture, and was happy you were there”.  This letter was, in fact, the first they had exchanged since the 18 October. Heidegger noted the gap in correspondence, but did not offer an explanation. Whilst working on his manuscript in the mountains, he had remained in touch with her, describing how his writing was progressing and how he was being sustained by his natural environment. Although the letters were enthusiastic, they were without the rapturous tones that had characterised his earlier letters. It seems that a cooling in their relationship has taken place. This may simply have been because, with the end of the academic year in July, Arendt had returned home to Königsberg, severing thus their physical proximity. At the same time, Heidegger was also deeply engrossed in his writing, as he repeatedly tells her in his letters.  On Hannah’s part, she may well have been giving serious thought to the wisdom of continuing indefinitely a relationship with a married man in a world as small as the academic community of Marburg. It is also possible that in their long periods together in the mountains with his wife confidentialities had been shared.[52] There may be one final reason. We are not in possession of Hannah’s letters to Heidegger, but we know from his response on 24 July to one of them that as a student she felt that she had “lost” the previous semester: he had made great progress in his writing and career; she had achieved nothing. His greeting in a letter of the 5 November was his last communication with her until the 10 December, when he asked her “to come to our bench tomorrow”. It was followed by a final letter sent on 6 January the following year. It is the briefest and most formal letter that he has ever written to her: “I would be very glad if you came to see me today (Saturday) at 8.45 in the evening. If the light is on in my room, then I am home”. What was discussed here we do not know; but it seems clear from a letter that Heidegger wrote to here on 10 January that Arendt told Heidegger that she would be leaving Marburg to study to study with Jaspers in Heidelberg, which she did in either March or April for the 1927 summer semester. Although their relationship in Marburg is over, they stay in touch until 1930. In a poem written that year, she looked back on their relationship. The poem possesses a tone of stoical acceptance, and there is melancholy but no self-pity. The central stanza reads:

I think of him and of the love –

As though it were in a distant land;

And the “come and give” is foreign:

I hardly know what bound me.[53]


In the meantime, Heidegger was waiting for a response from the Education Department in Berlin to his application for the Chair of Philosophy at Marburg. As he wrote to Jaspers on 30 November, “all kinds of machinations are taking place in Berlin”. The mid-semester vacation was approaching. He writes to Jaspers about Hegel, and on 20 December, to his mother on domestic matters. Xmas is spent en famille in the cabin. Heidegger is waiting. On 27 January 1926, the Education minister, Carl Heinz Becker, wrote to the Philosophy Faculty in Marburg saying that he did not judge Heidegger to be suitably qualified for a full professorship: “while acknowledging Professor Heidegger’s success as a teacher, it seems, nevertheless, inappropriate to grant him a full salaried professorship for a Chair of such historical proportions before he has brought out substantial scholarly publications that have received the acclaim of his colleagues and which are in keeping with such an appointment”.[54]

On 17 February, Heidegger wrote to Jaspers informing him about the decision of the Education Minister, but saying that the department in Marburg was continuing to support his application. Heidegger claims to be indifferent to these deliberations: what matters is to keep the momentum of the previous semester going on his work on his manuscript. The latter had reached a critical stage, and over March and April, Husserl spent the Easter vacation at a guesthouse in Todtnauberg to assist Heidegger during his writing of Being and Time. There is much that Husserl did not understand about the work. He was particularly alienated, as he later wrote, by its “newfangled language and style of thinking”, although he admired its “exceptional, albeit unclarified intellectual energy”. [55] During the course of March, Heidegger finished the manuscript of Being and Time up to section 77 (“The Connection between the previous Exposition of Temporality and the Research of W. Dilthey and the Ideas of Count Yorck”), and was able to get a hand-written copy of the first thirty-eight sections to his printer on 1 April.[56] On 8 April, at a gathering in Todtnauberg, he presented Husserl with a copy of these sections, with a dedication. On 24 April, Heidegger wrote to Jaspers that the Faculty intended to nominate him again for a full professorship, and had attached the printed sheets of his manuscript to this application, but he felt that he has made enemies and that there were intrigues against him. Heidegger and his family returned to Marburg on 30 April, where he was due to teach in the summer semester beginning in May the lecture course “Basic Concepts of Ancient Philosophy” (“Grundbegriffe der antiken Philosophie”). On 21 May, Heidegger wrote to his mother, wishing her the best on the occasion of her name day. He notes that “almost half of my book has been printed”. On 24 May, he thanked Jaspers for his positive words regarding the early chapters of Being and Time and adds, “I expect only a few will study it; only you will understand what I am trying to achieve. I regard it on the whole as a transitional work. From the fact that Husserl finds the whole thing ‘disconcerting’ and he can no longer bring it under the rubric of phenomenology I conclude that I have de facto gone further than even I envisaged or thought possible”.

On 18 June, the Faculty of Philosophy at Marburg reapplied to Berlin to have Heidegger appointed to the Chair of Philosophy, sending the galley proofs from the First Division of the forthcoming Being and Time as evidence of his scholarship. The application was rejected yet again, with the comment “insufficient”. In August, the Heideggers moved into their new apartment, Barfüßertor 15, near the university. There would be more space, and it was a quieter location for his writing. It was now the end of the summer semester, and Heidegger had been invited by Husserl to stay with him for a few days in August. The love affair between Heidegger and Hannah Arendt had effectively ended in January, but through his ex-student, Hans Jonas, who was a friend of Arendt and also studying with Jaspers in Heidelberg, he had acquired her address there (on the Schwimmbadstrasse) and was seeking to rekindle their relationship. On 29 July, he wrote, suggesting a rendezvous in Weinheim, a town in Baden near Freiburg, where Heidegger was travelling to meet up with Husserl. We must assume that they met, and then possibly again the following month in August. On 7 December Heidegger wrote a letter, apparently in response to one received from her. We do not know about the level of their intimacy, but at least on the level of linguistic profusion, the former ardent intensity has returned. Heidegger begins with the adage from Augustine that he has used before: “Volo, ut sis”, [“I want you to be who you are”], and he continues “although you have remained as present to me as you were on the first day, your letter brought you particularly close. I hold you loving hands in mine and pray for your happiness”. The exchange of letters continued, with Heidegger writing twice in February the following year. Arendt sent him photographs, and Heidegger responded in exultant poetic tones, as in the letter of 19 February: “Dear, I know you are often with me on my most solitary paths – as a mountain flower waits by a broad cliff, or, rather, is simply there. I think of that as ‘eternity’; I cannot find it any other way”. Further assignations are planned in Heidelberg, while Heidegger is visiting Jaspers, such as one on 18 April. But it is possible that this meeting this did not take place, or that it was not a success.  Heidegger wishes to have their old relationship back, but it is clear that this has gone. Their correspondence from this period concludes with two letters, written this time by Hannah Arendt: one on 22 April 1928, registering the failure of a planned meeting; and a second and final letter, written on 30 September 1930. On 26 September 1929, Hannah Arendt had married Günther Stern (later known as the author, Günther Anders), who has also been a student of Heidegger in Marburg. This final letter narrates an unhappy incident at a railway station, where, possibly, the three were to meet and best wishes for the future exchanged. Or perhaps this was to be one final glimpse of the loved one. This final letter offers no explanation; only sentiments of guilt, confusion and pain.[57]

Thus, the vicissitudes of love, which were taking place (and surely hardly facilitating) Heidegger’s work on his book. On 4 October 1926, he wrote to Jaspers saying that he was unable to visit him because he needed to work on his manuscript, which was increasing in size: “I suspended the printing in the middle of the summer semester and, after brief period of rest, went back to it again with further revisions. The book has become more extensive than I envisaged, so that I must now divide it about every twenty-five sheets [“Bogen”, amounting to sixteen pages]. I have to deliver the remaining parts of the first volume by 1 November, so every day is precious”. Similar sentiments were made on 13 October, in a letter to Bultmann: “I have made such good progress that I have to divide the entire manuscript about every twenty-six sheets. The rewriting and the delay in the printing has been worth it, even if everything is not as perfect as I would have liked”.[58] In the Winter semester, beginning in November, Heidegger gave a lecture course on “History of Philosophy from Thomas Aquinas to Kant” (“Geschichte der Philosophie von Thomas von Aquin bis Kant”).  On 1 November, Heidegger completed the draft of Division II and sent it to the printer.[59]  On 26 December, Heidegger sent further sections of the manuscript to Jaspers, sheets 17 and 18, noting “I will bring the rest with me [when I come to stay in Heidelberg], up to 23. Four sheets are still missing”. And he adds, perhaps unnecessarily, but this has now become an idee fixe, “if the treatise is written against anyone, it is written against Husserl, who saw this immediately but stayed positive from the very beginning”.

On 1 January 1927, Heidegger travelled to Heidelberg to visit Jaspers. On the following day, he wrote to his wife: “J[aspers] is reading through my manuscript and becoming more enthusiastic with every page. Above all, he sees the work that is behind it. It is only now that I am coming myself to realise what attention and stimulation mean. New things are awakening in me and, above all, I see more clearly the limits and necessities of what has been achieved”. On 1 March, Heidegger sent off the final sheets of the corrected version of his manuscript to Helene Weiss (one of his Marburg students, now living in Berlin) who was checking its final stages. Although Being and Time was now reaching completion, that work represented not the end but the beginning of new philosophical activity for Heidegger. As he wrote in a letter to Rudolf Bultmann on 14 March, “we ought to see ourselves as fortunate that we can clearly see (as far as that is possible) our positive tasks for the future and grasp them. All the noise and confusion around us [the “Professoren-Stickluft”, the “poisonous atmosphere of the professors”] should not concern us at all. It will be good enough if we can successfully grow into the future”. “But”, as he writes in a further letter to Bultmann on the 29 March, “we will only make progress if we work in the most radical way from within the most extreme positions”.

In early April, Being and Time (Sein und Zeit) was published as a supplement in volume 8 of Husserl’s journal, Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung, and later that year as a book by Max Niemeyer in Tübingen. Between 6 and 19 April, Heidegger visited Husserl in Freiburg, and on 8 April (Husserl’s birthday), Heidegger presented him with a bound copy of the “Special Edition” of his book with a personal inscription. On 18 April 1927, Heidegger sent Jaspers a copy, and on 1 May Jaspers wrote back to Heidegger. He thanked him for the book, but he clearly had mixed feelings about it. He wrote:

I haven’t read much of it yet. I have only leafed through it and perused a few dozen pages. It seems to me, as it did at Christmas, as if we have climbed to a new level, but are unable to find our way around on it; hence our sharing of origins that have not as yet been formulated, and the deviation, indeed mutual strangeness of the initial steps and the still half-blind orientation from both of us. A truth gleams here that is almost buried under so much detail. I feel the same way about my own writing.

Jasper’s language is cryptic, almost encoded. He wants to be positive, and he wants to associate himself with Heidegger’s work, but he can’t. He does not wish to alienate his friend, so he feels obliged to include himself with we” and “our”, as if the book is the result of a joint enterprise of philosophical renewal. We might paraphrase his sentiments thus: “I feel now as I did when we last discussed the manuscript at Christmas that we have reached new heights in our work but do not feel as yet quite comfortable there, because the philosophical foundations of our work have not yet fully formulated. This reveals itself in our breaking with convention and in the shared strangeness of our initial attempts and the half-blind orientation that each of us makes. A truth beckons to us but is it obscured under so much material. I have the same misgivings about my own work”. The final sentence of Jaspers’ response, however, where he talks emphatically about “my” projects, entirely undermines this fiction of collaboration. What he is implicitly saying is that there is Heidegger’s work; and there is mine. It was only later in his autobiography that Jaspers felt he could be entirely honest about his reaction to Heidegger’s work:

The appearance of Heidegger’s Being and Time (1927) did not bring about a deepening in our relationship, but rather led to an estrangement between us, which I did not properly notice at the time […] Heidegger had already read several pages from his manuscript to me in 1922. I found them unintelligible. I favoured a more natural mode of expression […] I was delighted at the achievement of a man with whom I was close, but I had no desire to read the work and soon got stuck, because the style, content and way of thinking had nothing to say to me at all.

Jaspers’ reservations about Heidegger’s Being and Time were shared by others. Writing to Bultmann on 7 September, Heidegger showed himself aware of the difficulties that readers would have with his work. He fully understands why Max Deutschbein (a colleague at Marburg) “cannot make heads or tails of it. But at least he tried”. Otherwise: “I am still waiting for any opinion on the book. I have received only assurances that people are eagerly reading it”, and he mentions one colleague whose opinion should have been voiced by now: Nicolai Hartmann. Being and Time was, however, being read, and indeed diligently read. One such reader was Edith Stein, the erstwhile research assistant of Husserl in Freiburg (indeed, Heidegger had replaced her in that role). Stein had become a convert to Catholicism in 1922, and was now teaching at St. Magdalena, a Dominican sister’s school in Speyer. It was a position that did not prevent her from reading philosophy, and new philosophy too. On 19 October, she wrote to her friend, the noted philologist, Roman Ingarden, that she had come into possession of a copy of Being and Time. Her response to the book was entirely positive:

I believe that Heidegger is on the point of becoming famous, and that he can put us all in the shade. Up until now, I didn’t really see it, or rather, I saw only the effect, that is, his great influence on the young generation. I read a good part of the book during the vacation but I am not quite through. The last part went by the wayside, with everything else going on since then. I do not know how Husserl has come to terms with the great differences [in their philosophies]. He has to be clear about them. I found out that, on the contrary, he is less open than before to different thinking.[60]

On 8 May, Jaspers wrote a letter of condolence to Heidegger, whose mother had passed away the previous week. Her death had been a painful and protracted one, which Heidegger had followed at close hand. He had paid her a brief visit on 5 February, and continued to write to her throughout the following weeks, offering her consolation and expressing his belief that she would come through this trial. “It pains me particularly”, he wrote on 29 March 1927, “that you have to undergo such a stubborn but unpredictable illness. I think of you a great deal, but it is so disconcerting knowing that you are so ill, when once you were so sprightly and energetic”. Elfride also wrote, sending her love and that of the children. Heidegger’s letters to his mother became longer and longer, and are full of detail, describing the natural environment around Todtnauberg, the gradual passing of the season, his skiing jaunts, and the impending publication of his book, which his mother had helped bring about, as he told her in a letter of 14 April, through her love and care: “and so is that work also a piece of your work”. Then the final letter on 30 April, written from Marburg. He has just paid her a visit that will turn out to be his last: “those days spent with you were very distressing, when I had helplessly to remain by your side, without being able to bring any relief to your suffering”. And now, Martin Heidegger, a lapsed Catholic for almost a decade, must find the rights words to comfort his true-believing mother, and he finds them: “you were at this time an unforgettable model of courage and endurance and of an unshakeable trust in God”. Johanna Heidegger, born 21 March 1858, died three days later on 3 May.

On 24 May, Husserl sent a letter to Heidegger saying that he had written to the Education Department in Berlin once again in support of Heidegger’s application for the Chair at Marburg, and had encouraged them to at least grant Heidegger a pay rise.  Husserl also mentions his impending retirement: he is being compelled to retire at 70, but feels “no diminution of his powers beyond the physical”. In May, Heidegger began his summer semester lecture course on “The Basic Problems of Phenomenology” (“Die Grundprobleme der Phänomenologie”), which he taught until July, when he left Marburg for his summer vacation in Todtnauberg. The complex relationship between Heidegger and Husserl continued to unfold throughout that summer. In the early days of his reading of the manuscript of Being and Time, Husserl had been unsure about exactly what Heidegger was trying to achieve. He had struggled to understand both the philosophy and particularly the language of the work, and had put his reservations about the book down to the fact that he had only been able to read sections of it. But now it has been published, Husserl has had the opportunity to study it in greater detail and comes to the realisation, as he wrote on 3 August to Dietrich Mahnke (the recently arrived professor in the philosophy of mathematics at Marburg), that “on the face of it, [Being and Time] distances itself entirely from my analytic phenomenology”. [61] But, as Husserl soon sees as he continues reading, what Heidegger is doing is much more than putting a “distance” between himself and his former mentor; he is openly rejecting the latter’s entire thinking and his version of phenomenology. As Husserl later wrote to Alexander Pfänder (Professor of Philosophy in Munich and the leading member of its phenomenological school), “Heidegger’s phenomenology is something totally different from mine; rather than furthering the development of my scientific works, his university lectures as well as his book are, on the contrary, open or veiled attacks on my works, directed at discrediting them on the most essential points”.[62]

Such an assessment was the result of Husserl’s careful reading of Heidegger’s book. Beginning in the Spring of 1927, Husserl read Being in Time in great detail, registering his queries and criticisms of the text in the margins of his copy. There is much that he did not understand, and he signalled this by placing questions marks after quotations from the work. This is the case in his response to Section 58, “Understanding the Appeal, and Guilt”, where Heidegger examines the ontological condition of “thrownness”. Statements such as “In being a self, Dasein is the thrown entity as a self” are greeted by a question mark, that is followed in the ensuing paragraph with the query “is a presentation like this possible?”. [63] On other occasions, Husserl has grasped with Heidegger is saying, but simply disagrees with him. Heidegger’s assertion that “a regard that looks at things only ‘theoretically’ fails to understand their usefulness” is dismissed with the words “but naturally a theoretical look at the implement is required if we are to grasp and have it as such objectively and explain it descriptively”, comments that fail to appreciate the originality of Heidegger’s factive and instrumental nature of Heidegger’s approach to the object world, which argues that we see it as something we use and which in our use defines us. [64] Ultimately, Husserl’s major objection is that Heidegger is not Husserl. When, in section 62, Heidegger argues that Dasein, and his mode of understanding, is already in the world (and hence is not working out of an “inner sphere”), Husserl writes: “But how can all of this be clarified except through my doctrine of intentionality (validity), especially as experiencing? What is said here is my own doctrine, but without its deeper grounding”. [65]

And yet, is it possible that, in spite of this, Husserl felt within himself that Heidegger was the future of German philosophy, and that he was able to overcome his reservations about his younger colleague for the sake of this future? For within a few short weeks of uttering these sentiments, in early September, Husserl had invited Heidegger to collaborate with him on an article on Phenomenology that he had been commissioned to write by the Encyclopaedia Britannica. In the meantime, the annual visit to Jaspers in Heidelberg was approaching, and on 27 September, Heidegger wrote to Jaspers to arrange this. As with his relationship to Husserl, Heidegger’s friendship with Jaspers was complex. In the early days, they had formed a vanguard in contemporary philosophy, seeking to unsettle the professional status quo and the reigning philosophical orthodoxies in German universities. But by 1927, it would have become evident to both of them that philosophically they had little in common. On 1 October, Jaspers wrote to Heidegger, looking forward to his visit, although he admitted that he still had not studied his book in any detail. In a brief but very revealing aside, Jaspers also gives an insight into his work practices, practices that would have dismayed Heidegger: “my lecture should provide me with the fifth chapter of my project [an unpublished book]: metaphysics. if it doesn’t suffice, then I’ll take the usual, cheaper way out: history, which, as a precaution, I have already announced in parentheses”.

Later that month, Heidegger wrote to his wife, telling her that he would be staying with Husserl in Freiburg between 10 and 20 October so that they could collaborate on the Britannica article. He had not been impressed with what Husserl had written so far: “the article for the Encycl. Britannica article on ‘Phenomenology’ (which Husserl had already sent off to Oxford to be translated) was in my view simply hopeless: sprawling, full of repetitions, unstructured and without a short and clear presentation of the central point […] the translation was stopped immediately and since Wednesday afternoon we’ve been sitting together and hard at work”. But this had not been a positive experience. As he added in a subsequent letter of 21 October, “Husserl has become incredibly clumsy in written expression and form. Often his prolixity and repetitions cannot be eliminated without making substantive interventions, so further discussions were frequently called for”. But there are grater problems, of a philosophical nature, notably that the account of phenomenology that Husserl is producing is pre-Heideggerian. Its focus is on the transcendental ego, that model of purified consciousness that Heidegger had dedicated himself to deconstructing and replacing with with his own ontology founded on factive “Dasein”. Defining phenomenology in this short article had brought sharply to the surface the fundamental differences between the two philosophers. The relationship between the two men had reached a crisis. The following month, on 19 November, Husserl wrote to Roman Ingarden, after completing a detailed reading of Being and Time: “Heidegger has become a close friend of mine, and I am one of his admirers, as much as I must really regret that, regarding method and content, his work (and his lecture courses too, for that matter) seem to be essentially different from my work and courses; in any event, so far there is still no bridge between him and me that the students that we have in common might cross. As regards any further joint philosophical projects, a lot depends on how and whether he works his way through to understanding my general intentions. Unfortunately, I did not determine his philosophical upbringing; clearly, he was already into his own way of doing things when he began studying my writings”. [66]

On 19 October, Heidegger was finally made a full professor in the Faculty of Philosophy. Later that month, he returned to Marburg to begin his lecture course on “Phenomenological Interpretations of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason” (“Phänomenologie Interpretation von Kants Kritik der reinen Vernunft”). He was planning a further book, and this lecture course on Kant would be its basis. But Heidegger had also been thinking in broader terms about his attitude to philosophy and about his (perhaps overly) iconoclastic mindset, and in a letter to Jaspers on 8 November, speaks critically of his own “negative philosophy – which indeed has only a narrow positive window”. The facility for objective self-criticism Heidegger sees as essential, but difficult to attain: “it is not easy for me to retain distance from my own work, and to hold it open for new overturnings”. In the second week of November, Heidegger travelled to Berlin, to finalise the details of his appointment at Marburg with the Education Department. While he was in Berlin, he visited Elizabeth Blochmann (a friend of his wife from their student days, with whom Heidegger had also become friends). On 10 December, now returned to Marburg, he wrote thanking her for her hospitality, but advising her to leave Berlin as soon as possible and go somewhere where she “can move in total freedom”. He then adds words that reflect a growing conservatism in his outlook, and which presage possibly the political direction that he will take a few years later:

When I now from a distance compare in my mind Pragerstrasse [where Blochmann lived in Berlin] with the Black Forest, then I really appreciate what a few days in my hut means to me. Indeed, I have entirely eliminated one factor [from my existence]: modern life, that which is fully in the midst of historical events. That became clear to me in Berlin, as it did in Bonn and Cologne.

On 31 December, in response to Bultmann’s query on how he should write about him in an encyclopedia article on “Heidegger”, the latter offered the following summary of his recently published Being and Time.  Although the book may be a torso of the more substantial work that was originally planned, Heidegger felt, nevertheless, that he had taken up some major concerns of Western philosophy:

My work is directed towards a radicalisation of ancient ontology and at the same time towards a universal extension of the same in relation to the region of history. The basis of this problematic is established by starting from “the subject”, as properly understood as “human Dasein”, so that with the radicalising of this approach the real matter within German Idealism may be properly seen. Augustine, Luther, Kierkegaard are philosophically essential for the development of a more radical understanding of Dasein, Dilthey for an interpretation of the “historical world”, Aristotle and scholasticism for the strict formulation of certain ontological problems. All this in a methodology guided by the idea of a scientific philosophy, as it has been founded by Husserl. Not without influence were the logical and theoretical investigations of Heinrich Rickert and Emil Lask.

On 4 January 1928, Jaspers wrote to Heidegger, thanking him for his last letter and saying how much he had enjoyed Heidegger’s visit: “the complete loneliness to which one is condemned in philosophical thinking is then lifted for a moment. That another person finds this intellectual exertion important – or even more important than I do – is not only a satisfaction but in its very fact a powerful impulse”. Jaspers also broached a matter that had bedevilled Heidegger during the composition of Being and Time: “I have been working quite intensively up to now, and am involved with very difficult ideas about which many people would query whether they are deep or simply foolish. For me the only query concerns the best form of expression and communication [of these ideas] and not the substance of what I am thinking about. This is our fate: a new world is revealing itself to us, and we are pitiful human beings who are able to “notice” it but not able to put it into philosophical, or what would be even more important, poetic form”. It is just possible that the audacity of Jaspers’ final point may well have subtly registered itself with Heidegger only to emerge in the future, in his final work.

On 10 January, Heidegger returned early to Marburg after spending the Christmas period with his family in Todtnauberg. He wrote to Elfride complaining about his new role as a “bureaucratic professor”. He was an ex officio member of a number of committees, including selection committees for new staff. Initially, he finds the work irksome, but on 21 January, he wrote to Elfride in more positive tones, saying that he quite welcomed his new professorial role: “I’m glad that I’ve recently been more involved than otherwise in outside life. After all, I’ve learnt all sorts of necessary things about tactics and social interaction and ‘judgement’, which is important, although I don’t have the slightest intention of ever become a ‘faculty animal’ ”. The following day, Heidegger received a postcard from Husserl. In spite of their differences, Husserl had been busily working behind the scenes to have Heidegger installed as his successor in Freiburg. The postcard reads:

Dear friend,

Committee resolution: unico loco [the only candidate to be considered].

Absolute silence to be maintained, of course.

Kindest regards from us both.


Husserl was not a voting member of the selection committee but he was a consultant, and drafted a letter to the Education Department in Berlin in support of Heidegger’s candidacy. In the letter, he lauded Heidegger’s “exceptional powers as a teacher and researcher”, but significantly rather than highlight his contributions to phenomenology, Husserl stressed the broader range of Heidegger’s philosophical interests: “What characterises his professional work is the broad and deep grounding of his systematic research in historical and especially medieval philosophy”.  On 7 February, Heidegger was unanimously chosen by the Faculty of Philosophy in Freiburg to be the next professor after Husserl’s retirement.

Heidegger was supportive of his best students, and scathing of others who did not rise to his high standards of intellectual and scholarly commitment. Hans Jonas and Karl Löwith had been amongst his star pupils in Marburg, and both had reached critical milestones. While he was in Marburg, and now in Freiburg, Heidegger had been in continual contact with Löwith, advising him on how best to handle the professional networking and academic intrigue that was a feature of university life. Löwith had completed his Habilitation and was now seeking to gain a position in a philosophy department, and Heidegger continues to offer his support, as in a letter of 7 February, encouraging him to stay calm and remain optimistic about his chances. Heidegger will do all he can, and will consult with the Dean of Arts about a possible grant for Löwith. Heidegger offers the same support for the younger Hans Jonas. The latter has only reached his doctoral stage, but this is a crucial point in his career. He has submitted his doctorate and is now preparing for the oral examination, which takes place on 29 February, where he must defend his thesis on “The Concept of Gnosis”. Jonas has been well prepared by Heidegger, who arranges for his close friend, Bultmann, to be one of the examiners. Jonas came away with high honours, and secured a place at Heidelberg with Jaspers, who wrote to Heidegger later that year, on 6 June, praising his former student.

In February, In advance of Heidegger taking up his new professorship, land is acquired for a house in the Rötebuck area of the Freiburg district of Zähringen. Much of the external and internal design is done by Elfride. On 2 March, Jaspers made his first entry in a series of notebooks that he kept between 1928 and 1964, and which will later be collected and published as Notizen zu Martin Heidegger in 1978. The first note consists a series of concepts and topics of philosophic interest that Jaspers intends to discuss with Heidegger during their tête-à-têtes in Heidelberg. On note (possibly related to Jaspers’ critical reading of Being and Time) reads: “to query: the overloading of the concept of time. The engulfing of the clarification of ‘Dasein’, of existence and metaphysics in Heidegger”.[67] Other communications between Heidegger and Jaspers at this time demonstrate that radical philosophy and economic pragmatism are not mutually exclusive. On 6 March, Heidegger wrote to his friend outlining the conditions of the Freiburg offer. They seem generous: “Beginning of service on 1 October; basic salary according to the fourth level of salary group A with 11, 600 Marks. Housing bonus 1, 728. Children bonus; instructional fee guarantee [for research assistance], 3, 000 Marks; renumerations of moving expenses; years of service calculated from the time of my Habilitation (re: retirement); and housing construction bonus”. On 28 March, Heidegger was summonsed to Berlin by the Education Department to finalise the details of his contract.

On 2 April, Heidegger wrote to Bultmann saying that his sole regret in leaving Marburg is that he will no longer be with his old friend. He has always seen Bultmann as one of the few “free spirits” who, in their teaching and research, have attempted to reach “the mother of the essential”. Heidegger must leave Marburg and hence Bultmann, but they will remain close friends. In the same letter, he tells Bultmann that he is editing an early work of Husserl, his lectures on the consciousness of time, which dates back to 1904–1905. Husserl’s erstwhile assistant in Freiburg, Edith Stein, had already attempted to bring the lectures into order, but the task of final editing is left to Heidegger, which he undertakes in a positive spirit, and at a time when he has just been burdened with the administrative duties of a new professor. As Heidegger observes to Bultmann, “even if [Husserl’s] problematic is entirely different from my own, I still think it is a valuable one – above all, because it brings to light a connection between time and intentionality”.

In the summer semester between May and July, Heidegger lectured on “The Metaphysical Origins of Logic in its Foundations in Leibniz”. On 13 May, Heidegger wrote to Jaspers to see if he would be interested in replacing him as Professor of Philosophy at Marburg. He admits that such a move does not have much to recommend itself: “I cannot cite anything that speaks for Marburg. I haven’t felt at ease here for a single hour. The faculty here is the same as anywhere else – the student heavily oriented toward exams or completely given over to fraternities. The only thing: the theologians – but that is a patchy matter”. On 4 June, Jaspers wrote to Heidegger about Max Scheler, who had died three weeks earlier. Jaspers wanted to commemorate Scheler in a seminar at the university, but in the end decided that he could not. In spite of his intellectuality, something was missing in the man: “he was not a light that showed me the way; he was a will-o-the wisp […] It was clear to me that Scheler will not accompany me in that human space where my heart beats”. It is an act of bonding with Heidegger, who possesses precisely those qualities that Scheler lacks: assertive individuality, creativeness of mind and presence as a person. In September, Heidegger travelled to Riga to give a series of lectures on on “Kant and Metaphysics”, and once back in Todtnauberg wrote to Jaspers on the 24th describing his journey to this distant location on the Baltic. It brought Heidegger into contact with an unfamiliar form of nature: water. As he observes: “It was rather stressful in Riga. The boat journey from Stettin to Riga was magnificent – the sea was a mirror – so I hardly felt anything of the ocean’s vastness. I must say, all in all, the sea strikes me as boring and unimportant – that is just the one-sided impression of a mountain-dweller”. He also commented in his letter on the reception of Being and Time; or, rather, the lack of it: “I no longer think about the fact that a short time ago I published a so-called book – I am only occasionally reminded of it by reviews”. What reviews there have been have seen him and his book as a mere meeting ground for the influence of other philosophers: “how often have I read that I am the actual synthesis of Dilthey and Husserl –which others planned long ago – with a few spices thrown in from Kierkegaard and Bergson”. And the final words of the letter, he looks forward, with a certain amount of trepidation, to his move to Freiburg: “Freiburg will again become a test for me as to whether something of philosophy is there or whether everything gets absorbed in erudition”.

Heidegger should have shown greater patience. The reviews of Being and Time were already in press. It was perhaps inevitable that in a work as philosophically complex as Being and Time, reviewers should focus on that aspect of the text that they could best approach their own individual philosophical perspectives. In his “Drei Richtungen in der Phänomenologie”, the Jesuit priest and philosopher, Erich Przywara, for example, saw in Heidegger’s work a “glaring contradiction” between his notion of Being, which has its roots in the Aristotelian-Thomasian tradition of ontology, and the promotion of the inner-worldliness of Dasein. This was an Aristotelianisation of Dilthey, where Ontology, Przywara argues, has given way to anthropology.[68] That Heidegger had produced a new version of “Existenzphilosophie” was a common view, represented by F. Heinemann in his Neue Wege der Philosophie (1929), who felt that Heidegger had not only provided an analysis of the degeneration of the modern world but had also shown, in the closely knit formal structure of his ideas, a path to it overcoming.[69]  For Heidegger’s erstwhile pupil, Karl Löwith, Being and Time had to be understood within the cultural context of the period. Reading it from that perspective would allow us to see it, as he argued in his essay, “Gründzuge der Entwicklung der Phänomenologie zur Philosophie und ihr Verhältnis zur protestantischen Theologie” (1930), as a form of intellectual “New Objectivity” (“Neue Sachlichkeit”), a book that in its coldly analytical deconstruction of metaphysics embodied the sobriety and factualism of that movement in the arts. [70]  Above all, it was Heidegger’s language and particularly his neo-logistic formations that draw the attention of many of his fellow philosophers, such as Georg Misch (who had been so impressed by the early work of Heidegger and had almost appointed him at Göttingen in 1922). In his book, Lebensphilosophie und Phänomenologie (second edition, 1931), Misch also invoked the cultural movements of the day to explain Heidegger’s unique discourse: “he conducts himself like an Expressionist artist, who releases words out of the atmosphere in which life reverberates and gives them a local colouration, in which they are supposed to show up their real meaning. This real meaning, however, is by no means really their original one, but often enough the one that is imposed on them by their constructive relationship with the ontology of ‘Dasein’ ”. [71]

On 27 September, Heidegger wrote to Elfride saying that with his return to Freiburg as professor, and with the new house, he felt that a fresh beginning in their relationship and, indeed, in his life, had started. He now had a true home of his own, and he looked back to his first home and life as a child: “however much and however valuable there is that I owe to my parental home, there were some things there that I couldn’t assimilate, and even less so in the years of my boarding school existence, which took up such a decisive period of my youth. From all of this, I am and have been only slowly finding my way into real freedom”. On 20 October, Heidegger and his family moved into their new house. On 14 November, Heidegger wrote to Bultmann telling him about his research activities, and noting in passing that a second edition of Being and Time was being planned since the first edition had been sold out.

Between November 1928 and March 1929, Heidegger gave his first lecture course as professor in Freiburg, an “Introduction to Philosophy”. He has now started teaching and his reputation has preceded him. Heidegger was known as a rebel and an iconoclast, and he attracts students and members of the public alike who find him a curiosity.  As he wrote to Jaspers on 10 November, “I have my first week behind me and right now I can only say that the curious are many. There is something like a travelling public, with spies amongst them – a strange feeling, that others in my position could not have”. Heidegger brought the same application to his teaching in Freiburg that he brought to his teaching in Marburg. He thinks about his teaching style and adapts it to his perception of his students. In a letter four weeks later, he tells Jaspers, “in contrast to Marburg, there are very many young students here, and it is all the more essential [to be careful about] what one does and how one does it”, and on 18 December he writes to Bultmann in a similar vein, describing how busy he is in Freiburg, because the number of students who really participate is far greater than was the case in Marburg.

Being and Time has been out for a year and a half, and it has made Heidegger a celebrity. He receives a steady stream of invitations to lecture in public, including one to lecture at a forthcoming debate in Davos, Switzerland, where he will speak together with the noted neo-Kantian, Ernst Cassirer. Heidegger has become very nonchalant about what such occasions offer. As he wrote to Jaspers in a letter of 21 December, “I presume that you have received an invitation to Davos. I would accept, if only for the mountain skiing – theme: Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and the task of laying the foundation for metaphysics. Please come as well, and indeed, so that we will be together up there in the mountains. I am down to speak between 17 and 27 March [next year]”. Heidegger’s words are casual, off-hand even. He is playing down what will be a crucial encounter in modern philosophy, where a new direction, ontological-existential, and vehemently anti-academic, will shift from its position of dominance one that fully belongs to “the system”, the gentleman’s club philosophy of Neo-Kantianism.

[1] See “Mein liebes Seelchen”. Briefe Martin Heideggers an seine Frau Elfride, 19151970. Herausgegeben, ausgewählt and kommentiert von Gertrud Heidegger (München: btb Verlag, 2007), p. 93. The English translation is Martin Heidegger, Letters to His Wife, 19151970, translated by R.D.V. Glasgow (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010). Future references to this correspondence will simply cite the date of the relevant letter in the main text. I have modified the translation here and elsewhere as necessary.

[2] See “Martin Heidegger und die Anfänge der Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte; Eine Dokumentation”. Eds. Joachim W. Storck and Theodore Kisiel. Dilthey-Jahrbuch für Philosophie und Geschichte der Geisteswissenschaften 8 (1992–1993): 181–225 (p. 203).

[3] Martin Heidegger / Karl Löwith, Briefwechsel: 1919–1973 (Munich: Verlag Karl Alber, 2017), p. 106.

[4] Nicolai Hartmann, “How Is Critical Ontology Possible? Toward the Foundation of the General Theory of the Categories (Part One)”, translated Keith R. Peterson. Axiomathes (2012) 22: 315–354 (pp. 316 and 321).

[5] Hartmann, “How Is Critical Ontology Possible? p. 323.

[6] Martin Heidegger, “Phenomenological Interpretations in Connection with Aristotle: An Indication of the Hermeneutical Situation”. Ed. and transl. John van Buren, Martin Heidegger, Supplements, pp. 111–145 (p. 127).

[7] Hartmann, “How Is Critical Ontology Possible? p. 317.

[8] Hartmann, “How Is Critical Ontology Possible? p. 323.

[9] Hartmann, “How Is Critical Ontology Possible? p. 352. Heidegger seems to have studiously ignored Hartmann in Marburg, and Hartmann returned the favour in his New Ways of Ontology (Neue Wege der Ontologie, 1949), a work that describes how the old ontology has been replaced by a new one, without once mentioning Heidegger.

[10] Hans-Georg Gadamer, “Einzug in Marburg”. Ed. Günther Neske, Erinnerung an Martin Heidegger (Pfullingen: Neske, 1977), pp. 109–113 (p. 110). But Marburg University was no exception to the rule. As Hannah Arendt notes, throughout the philosophy departments of German universities at this time “philosophy was not so much communicated as drowned in an ocean of boredom”. Arendt, “Heidegger at Eighty” in Heidegger and Modern Philosophy: Critical Essays, ed. Michael Murray (New Haven: Yale UP, 1978), pp. 293-303 (p. 294).

[11] Hans-Georg Gadamer, “Heidegger and Marburg Theology”, in Gadamer, Philosophical Hermeneutics, translated and edited by David E. Linge (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), pp. 198–212 (pp. 200 and 201).

[12] Karl Löwith, My Life in Germany Before and After 1933 (London: The Athlone Press, 1994), p. 28.

[13] Rüdiger Safranski, Martin Heidegger: Between Good and Evil (Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998), p. 131.

[14] Martin Heidegger, Introduction to Phenomenological Research, translated by Daniel O. Dahlstrom (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2005), pp. 1-2. Translation modified.

[15] Gadamer, “Heidegger and Marburg Theology”. In Hans-Georg Gadamer, Philosophical Hermeneutics, translated and edited by David E. Linge (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), pp. 198–212 (p. 200).

[16] Rudolf Bultmann, “Autobiographical Reflections”. In Bultmann, Existence and Faith: Shorter Writings of Rudolf Bultmann, selected, translated and introduced by Schubert M. Ogden (New York: Meridan Books, 1960), pp. 283–288 (p. 288).

[17] Martin Heidegger, “The Problem of Sin in Luther”, in Heidegger, Supplements: From the Earliest Essays to “Being and Time” and Beyond. Ed. John van Buren (Albany: State University of New York, 2002), pp. 105-110 (p. 105).

[18] Edmund Husserl, Briefwechsel. Band IV. Die Freiburger Schuler. Ed. Karl Schumann (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1994), p. 138. Future references will be given in the main text simply as a date.

[19] Heidegger, Introduction to Phenomenological Research, p. 206.

[20] Heidegger, Introduction to Phenomenological Research, p. 208. Heidegger critiqued Husserl throughout his lecture courses in this period. For a full account, see Edmund Husserl, Psychological and Transcendental Phenomenology and the Confrontation with Heidegger (19271931): The Encyclopaedia Britannica Article, the Amsterdam Lectures, “Phenomenology and Anthropology” and Husserl’s Marginal Notes in “Being and Time” and “Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics”, edited and translated by Thomas Sheehan and Richard E. Palmer (Dordrecht: Amsterdam, 1997), p. 18.

[21] Martin Heidegger/ Heinrich Rickert, Briefe 1912 bis 1933 und andere Dokumente, aus den Nachlass herausgegeben von Alfred Denker (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 2002), p.25.

[22] For the German edition of the correspondence, see Martin Heidegger / Karl Jaspers. Briefwechsel, 19201963. Herausgegeben von Walter Biemel und Hans Saner (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1990). The English translation is: The Heidegger-Jaspers Correspondence (19201963). Edited by Walter Biemel and Hans Saner. Translated by Gary E. Aylesworth (New York: Humanity Books, 2003). Future references to this correspondence will simply cite the date of the relevant letter in the main text. I have modified the translation here and elsewhere where necessary.

[23] See Martin Heidegger, Briefwechsel mit seinen Eltern (19071927) und Briefe an seine Schwester (1921-1967). Eds. Jörg Heidegger und Alfred Denker (Freiburg/Munich: Verlag Karl Alber, 2013), p. 67. Future references will be given in the main text simply as the date of the letter.

[24] Theodore Kisiel, “Why the first draft of Being and Time was never published”. Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 20 (1989): 3–22 (p. 19).

[25] Martin Heidegger, “The Concept of Time”. Eds. Theodore Kisiel and Thomas Sheehan, Becoming Heidegger: On the Trail of His Early Occasional Writings, 19101927, (Evanston: Northwestern UP, 2007), pp. 200–213 (p. 201). Translation modified.

[26] Heidegger, “The Concept of Time”, p. 203. Translation modified.

[27] For the full documentation, see “Martin Heidegger und die Anfänge der Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift fur Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte: Eine Dokumentation.

[28] See Martin Heidegger, Plato’s “Sophist”, translated by Richard Rojcewicz and Andre Schwur (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1997), p. 457.

[29] Hans Jonas, Erinnerungen (Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag, 2003). p. 108. And yet as Hannah Arendt notes, “there was never a circle [around Heidegger] and there was nothing esoteric about his following”. See Arendt, “Heidegger at Eighty” p. 294.

[30] Hannah Arendt, “Heidegger at Eighty” pp. 295 and 296. Translation modified. Indeed, Arendt would have experienced something of Heidegger’s missionary zeal in her first class with him in November 1924, a lecture on Plato’s Sophist. Heidegger began it with a tribute to Paul Natorp, who had died earlier that year. It was an occasion not only to celebrate Natorp but also the youth of pre-war Germany, who had “pledged to form their lives out of inner truthfulness and self-responsibility. Many of these best have fallen. But whoever has eyes to see knows that today our Dasein is slowly being transposed upon new foundations and that young people have their part to play in this task”. Martin Heidegger, Plato’s “Sophist”, pp. 3-4.

[31] Hans Jonas, Erinnerungen, p.114.

[32] See Letters 1925–1975: Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger. Trans. from the German by Andrew Shields (London: Harcourt, 2004), p. 3. The German edition is Hannah Arendt / Martin Heidegger, Briefe 1925 bis 1975 und andere Zeugnisse (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1998). Future references to this correspondence will simply cite the date of the relevant letter in the main text. I have modified the translation here and elsewhere as necessary.

[33] This is Safranski’s interpretation. See Beyond Good and Evil, p. 138.

[34] Hannah Arendt, “Heidegger at Eighty”, p. 297.

[35] As quoted in Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, Hannah Arendt: For the Love of the World (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982), p. 53.

[36] Quoted in Manfred Geier, Martin Heidegger (Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 2005), p. 49. Arendt had also been a regular at one of Heidegger’s evening reading groups. See Arendt/ Heidegger, Letters, p. 8.

[37] See Elzbieta Ettinger, Hannah Arendt Martin Heidegger (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1995), and Daniel Maier-Katkin, Stranger from Abroad: Hannah Arendt, Martin Heidegger, Friendship and Forgiveness (New York: Norton, 2010).

[38] Heidegger was pleased that his lectures had been well attended, attracting 60-70 people. The lecture itself was an important intellectual milestone for Heidegger, representing a final break with Husserl and his “ahistorical” notion of Being (by which Heidegger means not “history” as a chronological account of events, but a state in which Being is grounded in the here and now of the facticity of the world). See Theodore Kisiel, The Genesis of Heidegger’s “Being and Time” (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), pp. 360-361.

[39] According to Young-Bruehl, it is a “self-portrait”. Young-Bruehl, Hannah Arendt, p. 50.

[40] Arendt/ Heidegger, Letters, p. 12.

[41] Arendt/ Heidegger, Letters, p. 13.

[42] As she later observed of Schlegel’s novel, Lucinde, the plot is “couched in terms so general that only a mood, no real events are represented”. Quoted in Young-Bruehl, Hannah Arendt, p. 50.

[43] Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, translated by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (New York: Harper Row, 1962), p. 231.

[44] Hannah Arendt, Love and Saint Augustine (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), p. 18.

[45] Arendt, Love and Saint Augustine, p. 34.

[46] Theodore Kisiel, The Genesis of Heidegger’s “Being and Time”, p. 479.

[47] Edmund Husserl, Psychological and Transcendental Phenomenology and the Confrontation with Heidegger (19271931), p. 19.

[48] Heidegger/ Jaspers, Briefwechsel, p. 231.

[49] Theodore Kisiel, The Genesis of Heidegger’s “Being and Time”, pp. 479–480.

[50] Quoted in Kisiel, The Genesis of Heidegger’s “Being and Time, p. 362.

[51] Kisiel, The Genesis of Heidegger’s “Being and Time”, pp. 363-366.

[52] Young-Bruehl is confident that the termination of the relationship was the result of “Heidegger’s decision to respect his obligations, particularly to his wife and family”. Young-Bruehl, Hannah Arendt, p. 56.

[53] Quoted in Young-Bruehl, Hannah Arendt, p. 55.

[54] Heidegger / Jaspers Briefwechsel, p. 232.

[55] Letter to Alexander Pfänder, quoted in Edmund Husserl, Psychological and Transcendental Phenomenology and the Confrontation with Heidegger (19271931), p. 22.

[56] Edmund Husserl, Psychological and Transcendental Phenomenology and the Confrontation with Heidegger (19271931), p. 20.

[57] Elzbieta Ettinger attempts to reconstruct the scene in Hannah Arendt Martin Heidegger, pp. 34–35.

[58] Rudolf Bultmann/Martin Heidegger, Briefwechsel, 1925–1975, ed. Andreas Grossmann and Christof Landmesser (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann/ Tubingen, Mohr Siebeck 2009), p.4.  Future references to this correspondence will simply cite the date of the relevant letter.

[59] Theodore Kisiel, The Genesis of Heidegger’s “Being and Time”, p. 489.

[60] Edith Stein: Self-Portrait in Letters: Letters to Roman Ingarden, translated by Hugh Candler Hunt (Washington D.C.: ICS Publications, 2014), p. 254. Translation modified.

[61] Quoted in Edmund Husserl, Psychological and Transcendental Phenomenology and the Confrontation with Heidegger (19271931), p. 23.

[62] Quoted in Edmund Husserl, Psychological and Transcendental Phenomenology and the Confrontation with Heidegger (19271931, p. 23.

[63] Edmund Husserl, Psychological and Transcendental Phenomenology and the Confrontation with Heidegger (19271931, p. 365.

[64] Edmund Husserl, Psychological and Transcendental Phenomenology and the Confrontation with Heidegger (19271931, p. 365.

[65] Edmund Husserl, Psychological and Transcendental Phenomenology and the Confrontation with Heidegger (19271931, p. 310.

[66] Edmund Husserl, Psychological and Transcendental Phenomenology and the Confrontation with Heidegger (19271931), p. 24.

[67] Karl Jaspers, Notizen zu Martin Heidegger (Munich: Piper Verlag, 1978), p. 25.

[68] Claudius Strube, “Kritik und Rezeption von ‘Sein und Zeit’ in den ersten Jahren nach seinem Erscheinen”. Perspektiven der Philosophie 9 (1983): 41-67 (p. 42).

[69] Strube, “Kritik und Rezeption von ‘Sein und Zeit’ ”, p. 46.

[70] Strube, “Kritik und Rezeption von ‘Sein und Zeit’ ”, p. 47.

[71] Strube, “Kritik und Rezeption von ‘Sein und Zeit’ ”, p. 48.