In contradistinction to Nietzsche, Heidegger probes into a primordial mode of consciousness and questions, therefore, not only the nature of Western metaphysics, but also its very conception of human nature: "As long as man understands himself as a rational animal, metaphysics, according to Kant, belongs to the nature of man. But if thinking can succeed in returning to the ground of metaphysics, there might be a change in human nature, in conjunction with a transformation of metaphysics."
After World War II, Martin Heidegger directed much of his thinking to technology and to the impact of technology on our perceptions of human life. One of the essays developed along this path was "The Question Concerning Technology" ... [which] carries the critique of technology out of its usual context and form and delivers it into a new light where there is, perhaps, some progress to be made.
[His inaugural address as rector of Freiburg University] was a call to arms for the student body and the faculty to serve the new Nazi regime. It celebrates the Nazi ascendancy as “the march our people has begun into its future history.” Heidegger identifies the German nation with the Nazi state in prose that speaks of “the historical mission of the German Volk, a Volk that knows itself in its state.” There is even a reference to the fascist ideology of zoological determinism when Heidegger invokes “the power to preserve, in the deepest way, the strengths [of the Volk] which are rooted in soil and blood.”
He took up studies to be a Jesuit by entering the Society of Jesus at Tisis, in Austria, though likely for health reasons, he was rejected as a candidate. Heidegger then decided to study for his priesthood at the Albert-Ludwig University in Freiberg, where he began lecturing and publishing papers. Here he first encounter the writings of Husserl, and was also directed by his superiors to change his studies from theology to mathematics and philosophy.
While Heidegger's project is thus undeniably inspired by the past, this inspiration serves his goal of helping us move historically into the future. His guiding hope, we have seen, is that a non-aesthetic encounter with a contemporary artwork will help us learn to understand the being of entities not as modern objects (“subjectivism”) or as late-modern resources (“enframing”) but in a genuinely post-modern way, thereby making another historical beginning.
Heidegger is against the modern tradition of philosophical “aesthetics” because he is for the true “work of art” which, he argues, the aesthetic approach to art eclipses. Heidegger's critique of aesthetics and his advocacy of art thus form a complementary whole.
Heidegger rejects the notion of objective historical knowledge, instead man finds himself "thrown into" the world in which language, culture and the institutions of life are givens. We cannot simply "bracket off" our pre-understanding in order to gain a transcendent, objective standpoint.
The Heidegger exposés, like Annie Leibovitz's tasteless photos of partner Susan Sontag in the latter's final battle against cancer, force even refined, sophisticated observers of intellectuals to gape. See "Professor Being and Time" wear his swastika like a frat pin while meeting German-Jewish philosopher Karl Löwith! Recoil at the hearty "Heil Hitlers" with which Martin closed his missives! Wince as he covertly maneuvers another Jewish colleague or student out of a job with a nasty, duplicitous "recommendation" letter!
Martin Heidegger is widely acknowledged to be one of the most original and important philosophers of the 20th century, while remaining one of the most controversial. His thinking has contributed to such diverse fields as phenomenology, existentialism, hermeneutics, political theory, psychology, and theology. His critique of traditional metaphysics and his opposition to positivism and technological world domination have been embraced by leading theorists of postmodernity.
Alitheia [truth, in Greek] might be the word that offers a hitherto unnoticed hint concerning the nature of esse [being, in Latin] which has not yet been recalled. If this should be so, then the representational thinking of metaphysics could certainly never reach this nature of truth, however zealously it might devote itself to historical studies of pre-Socratic philosophy; for what is at stake here is not some renaissance of pre-Socratic thinking: any such attempt would be vain and absurd. What is wanted is rather some regard for the arrival of the hitherto unexpressed nature of unconcealedness, for it is in this form that Being has announced itself. Meanwhile the truth of Being has remained concealed from metaphysics during its long history from Anaximander to Nietzsche.