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Heidegger in America


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The German philosopher Martin Heidegger was one of the most influential and controversial thinkers of the twentieth century. Offering a novel account of Heidegger’s place in the recent history of ideas, Heidegger in America explores the surprising legacy of his life and thought in the United States of America. As a critic of modern life, Heidegger often lamented the growing global influence of all things American. But it was precisely in America where his thought inspired the work of generations of thinkers – not only philosophers but also theologians, architects, novelists, and even pundits. As a result, the reception and dissemination of Heidegger’s philosophical writings transformed the intellectual and cultural history of the United States at a time when American influence was itself transforming the world. A case study in the complex and sometimes contradictory process of transnational exchange, Heidegger in America recasts the scope and methods of contemporary intellectual and cultural history in the age of globalization, while challenging what we think we know about Heidegger and American ideas simultaneously.


Introduction - being here: Heidegger and reception history; Preface; 1. Freiburg bound: the early years of American Heidegger scholarship; 2. Exiles and emissaries: Heidegger's stepchildren in the United States; 3. Nihilism, nothingness, and God: Heidegger and American theology; 4. An officer and a philosopher: J. Glenn Gray and the postwar introduction of Heidegger into American thought; 5. Dasein and das Man: Heidegger and American popular culture; 6. The continental divide: Heidegger between the analytic and continental traditions in American philosophy; 7. Richard Rorty and the riddle of the book that never was; 8. Ethics, technology, and memory: Heidegger and American architecture; 9. Culture wars: Heidegger and the politics of postmodernism; Conclusion - being there: Heidegger and the history of ideas.


"Admire him or loathe him, Martin Heidegger remains one of the inescapable presences of modern intellectual history. But it has been hard to take an adequate measure of his ideas, particularly as they were received in the United States, given the many academic disciplines and fields of expression in which his influence has been felt and the diffuse forms and diverse intermediaries through which his insights passed. It is the great contribution of Martin Woessner’s lively and engaging study to begin tracking down those lines of force, a task he accomplishes with intelligence and verve, bringing a critical eye, a broadly cultural sensibility, a crisp prose style, and a wry wit to bear on a subject that too often becomes mired in its own vatic solemnities. Readers in a wide variety of disciplines will derive both pleasure and instruction from this exemplary work of intellectual history."
Wilfred M. McClay, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and author of The Masterless: Self and Society in Modern America

"By showing who has made use of Martin Heidegger in the United States, Martin Woessner’s book provides a striking and informative contribution to American and trans-Atlantic intellectual history. It is also a pathbreaking study of philosophical reception: an exemplary performance at a time when more and more historians are interested in how ideas travel. From a gallery of religious enthusiasts to the singular character of J. Glenn Gray, Woessner covers a host of forgotten figures. He gives philosophical readers from brilliant German exiles to Hubert Dreyfus and his followers their due. And he scrutinizes many genres, from the treatise Richard Rorty never wrote to architecture and film. Along the way, Woessner restores the freedom of selective interpretation, the insight of constructive appropriation, and the scandal of provincial misunderstanding to the story of how even the highest thought circulates."
Samuel Moyn, Columbia University

"Woessner has written an excellent book: one that is wide-ranging, well written, and informed by a vast knowledge of American culture. For American Heideggerians, it is essential reading. But even those not interested in Heidegger have much to learn from it … Heidegger in America is an instructive and entertaining romp through twentieth century history of ideas …"
Robert Piercey, Philosophy in Review

"Heidegger in America surveys a vast terrain … Woessner masterfully combines historical detail with a conceptual grasp of what his different contexts have in common … Woessner gives us a valuable guide to the dynamics of Heidegger’s diffusion … the strength of his study is that its insights apply to other philosophers, in other places and times …"
David Winters, Radical Philosophy

"… an important and captivating study in which life stories and the stories of ideas are presented in a balanced and fair manner. It presents not only the complex influence of a controversial philosopher but traces his central ideas and shows how, where, when and why they arose and how they have evolved in different contexts in American society."
Theodor Damian, The European Legacy

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