Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) was an influential German philosopher, best known for his work Being and Time. Heidegger’s work is tainted, however, by his association with the Nazi regime in the 1930s and 1940s, when he supported Nazism as a university chancellor.
Heidegger was born into a poor, Roman Catholic German family. Originally sent to the seminary, Heidegger later earned a scholarship from the Church to study at the University of Freiburg. In 1923, he became a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Marburg, where first began to develop his ideas regarding one’s sense of being. Being and Time first appeared in 1927. In 1933, he was elected rector of the University at Freiburg, the same year he joined the Nazi Party. Heidegger later defended his association with the Nazis as a way of saving the university.
Heidegger remained a Nazi until 1945. After the war he was forbidden from teaching, a situation he endured until 1951, when he became an emeritus professor. Heidegger died in 1976 and was buried next to his parents.
Heidegger’s philosophy is founded upon his observation that western philosophy never bothered to ask what Being is. Rather, he claimed that our understanding of objects was merely their presence. In the course of understanding Being, Heidegger coined the term Dasein, a German word that means “presence,” which he used for the experience of being as understood by humans.