There’s no better overview of Heideger’s Contributions to Philosophy: from en-
owning than what’s done by the Senior Advisor of Heidegger’s literary estate, F.-W.
von Herrmann, who was also Heidegger’s Personal Assistant through the last decade
of Heidegger’ life.
But his discussion may seem nonsensical, because it relies on terms that are unfamiliar. The translator of von Herrmann’s discussion, Parvis Emad, who is also the translator of Beiträge zur Philosophie (vom Ereignis), i.e., Contributions, suggests reading his exten-sive translator notes at the front of Contributions before reading von Herrmann’s discus-sion. I chose not to do that and chose to not read Emad’s discussion before I carefully read—lived through—Contributions, because I chose to think through the new termin-ology as it was introduced in useage by Heidegger-in-“English.” That served me well: Contributions ultimately coheres, to my mind. So, I recommend reading von Herrmann’s discussion to get what you can from it, then dwell with Contributions itself, learning what the new terms mean relative to their contexts of usage. This approach is what Heidegger recommended. He didn’t want commentary added in front of his texts. Emad’s new terminology is in response to Heidegger’s unusual German coinings, which a German reader would need to read in context without commentator explication. The difficulty of Emad’s translation shows fidelity to the difficulty of Heidegger’s German.
Anyway, von Herrmann’s discussion is accurate. But he doesn’t note how Heidegger’s sense of Contributions as “preparatory” means “working draft”: Contributions has many sections that seem to be a different version of the previous section and much repetition across sections because Heidegger was rehearsing combinations of themes as well as prospecting ways to articulate his focus—and even prospecting ways to formulate the entire “jointure” (constellating of the path) relative to a prospective focus. Heidegger was living in a resonance of experimenting with new thinking, experimenting with what to say in lectures, what to write, and how to integrate it all sometime in the future.
In a sense then, Contributions is a high-level notebook, whereas his overt notebooks— the Considerations (“black notebooks,” i.e., years of notebooks in black covers)—touch many tangential and preliminary themes. Heidegger’s private notebooks during the late 1930s are marginal to, yet relative to, Heidegger’s efforts to shape a new beginning for philosophy (and also to develop a severe critique of ideology, especially in terms 0f how techmodern machination was a totalizing [and ultimately scapegoating] politics). The “Echo” part of Contributions is a critique of philosophical ideology, kindred with his notebook critiques of academic ideology, politics, and so forth.
If you’re seriously interested in dwelling with Contributions, I would be glad to be supportive of that in terms of your specific interests. Contact me.
“A Heideggerian individuation” below began as a letter to an acquaintance, a professor
of Philosophy who is a Heidegger scholar, but became an essay about emplacing interest in Contributions and Heidegger’s Considerations notebooks within a conception of flourishing. Toward the end, the essay is dismissive about bad faith reading of Heidegger’ssense of his political times.
• a Heideggerian individuation | November 2015 / December 2020
• the best overview of Contributions to Philosophy: from enowning