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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: March 2014

Three Levels of Historical Analysis in Early Heidegger

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Abstract: In this paper I distinguish and analyze three distinct levels of historical analysis in early Heidegger's work. In the wake of Dilthey and Yorck, Heidegger develops an ontology of “historical being” that focuses on Dasein's always already given immersion in and dependency on the encompassing intergenerational history or tradition. But Heidegger also develops a phenomenological—existential account of the original sense of history, which identifies the true origin of “history” not in tradition, but in the interiority of the existing singular self outside all societal significations. A third strand in early Heidegger stems from his analysis of Paul's understanding of living historically in the face of the end of time. In a brief conclusion I show that these three levels of analysis are not consistent with each other, and that, therefore, Heidegger's account of history in Being and Time, which draws on the three different levels, is inherently unstable.

Keywords: Martin Heidegger; history; historicity; Wilhelm Dilthey; Yorck von Wartenburg


At the center of early Heidegger's philosophy (1919—25) stands the problem of factical life or facticity. In stark contrast to the metaphysically and/or biologically colored life philosophies of his time (Bergson, Nietzsche, and Simmel), Heidegger's notion of factical life is characterized by its intrinsic historicity. Heidegger writes that the concept of facticity “becomes intelligible only through the concept of ‘the historical’” (GA 60: 9). For all practical purposes, early Heidegger uses “factical life” and “historical life” interchangeably.

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