Discourse on Thinking, by Martin Heidegger
If Harper & Row wanted the public to read Heidegger, would they have got out his Discourse on Thinking? The tiny volume includes “Memorial Address” given by the philosopher (in Messkirch, on October 15, 1955, at the celebration of the 175th birthday of the composer Conradin Kreutzer), and also a conversation piece (one could hardly call it a dialogue) : “Conversation on a Country Path About Thinking.” The Address and the Conversation take up only fifty-five pages, so that the introduction to the book by John M. Anderson is about as long as the longer of Heidegger’s pieces. Moreover, the Memorial Address, though interesting as a talk, is hardly a good instance of Heidegger’s thought; and the conversation about thinking will be extremely difficult for anyone not acquainted with Heidegger’s other “thinkings.” In fact, it is about as hard to follow as anything I ever read by him. What is the public to make of such a book? And why were the fine essays by Heidegger on poetry, on technics, on Hoelderlin, on Nietzsche, and on nihilism, essays long ago translated into French and which would be intelligible to many, not brought together for American readers? The present Discourse on Thinking is bound to disappoint and disorient anyone unable to evaluate it.
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