cover image Heidegger: An Introduction

Heidegger: An Introduction

Richard Polt. Cornell University Press, $42.5 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-8014-3584-3

Polt, professor of philosophy at Xavier University and translator of Nietzsche's Twilight of the Idols, offers an introduction to reading Heidegger. Clearly intended as a supplement to Being and Time, his book also provides interesting details on Heidegger's biography and political life and surveys some of the philosopher's later writings. Although the author's descriptions of Heidegger's methodology and vocabulary and his analyses of sections from Being and Time purport to make Heidegger's thinking accessible to first-time readers, it is unclear how this rephrasing and simplifying makes reading Being and Time more engaging. In fact, Polt's paraphrases of Heidegger often result in dry descriptions and distortions of the text. For instance, in order to clarify the relationship between Heidegger's ""moment of vision"" and authentic existence, Polt offers the cliched example of a mechanic, which makes the ""moment of vision"" appear to be a rather empty concept: ""In an authentic moment of vision, he sees his current situation and understands that it forms part of his life. The repair shop is not just his place of work: it is the arena in which he is improvising the drama of his life story."" It is hard to escape the impression that the author's attempt to make reading Heidegger easier--by reducing the concepts of Being and Time to commonplaces--ultimately obscures the task of authentic thinking. Readers' Subscription main selection. (Nov.)