Cambridge Catalog  
  • Your account
  • View basket
  • Help
Home > Catalog > Heidegger in America
Heidegger in America


  • Page extent: 308 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.54 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 193
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: B3279.H49 W54 2011
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Heidegger, Martin,--1889-1976
    • Philosophy, American--20th century

Library of Congress Record

Add to basket


 (ISBN-13: 9780521518376)

In stock

$108.00 (C)
Heidegger in America
Cambridge University Press
9780521518376 - Heidegger in America - By Martin Woessner

Heidegger in America

The German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) 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 simultaneously challenging what we think we know about Heidegger and American ideas.

Martin Woessner is Assistant Professor of History and Society at The City College of New York (CUNY), Center for Worker Education.

Heidegger in America

Martin Woessner

The City College of New York, CUNY

Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo, Delhi, Dubai, Tokyo, Mexico City

Cambridge University Press
32 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10013-2473, USA
Information on this title:
© Martin Woessner 2011

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2011
Printed in the United States of America

A catalog record for this publication is available from the British Library.

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication data

Woessner, Martin V., 1977–
Heidegger in America / Martin V. Woessner.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-521-51837-6
1. Heidegger, Martin, 1889–1976. 2. Philosophy, American–20th century.
I. Title.
B3279.H49W54 2010
193–dc22 2010030601

ISBN 978-0-521-51837-6 Hardback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of urls for external or third-party Internet Web sites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such Web sites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

For Sarah,

My Star

It’s clear that we won’t be able to write the intellectual history of this century without reading Heidegger.

Richard Rorty (1995)


Introduction: Being Here
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


Now Heidegger was a very strange old gentleman, whose eccentricity had become the nucleus for a thousand fantastic stories. Some of these fables, to my shame be it spoken, might possibly be traced back to my own veracious self; and if any passages of the present tale should startle the reader’s faith, I must be content to bear the stigma of a fiction-monger.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment”

The American philosopher Richard Rorty had a knack for making summary pronouncements. He was equally adept at playfully puncturing intellectual pretensions. He could build up – lumping seemingly irreconcilable philosophers and ideas into a common cause – but he could also tear down, and with devastating wit. I figured I had a fifty-fifty chance when I dared to run my interpretation of his confrontation with Heidegger by him at a post-lecture reception at SUNY Stony Brook in April 2003. A Rortyan demolition ensued. Undeterred (thanks, perhaps, to a second glass of wine), I proffered the one-minute summary of my larger project for his consideration. The response it received, though polite, was even less enthusiastic.

Rorty could not fathom why anybody would be interested in linking abstract philosophical debates to the dynamic landscape of postwar American history. Philosophy department politicking had nothing to do with – should have nothing to do with – real politics. It was fine to talk about ideas, but why try to embed them in a broader historical or cultural context? Thankfully, I was kept from the brink of dissertation despair by Louis Menand, whose interdisciplinary seminar in thesis writing, co-taught with Nancy K. Miller, I was then attending. “Don’t worry,” Menand reassured me after I had relayed the gist of my exchange with Rorty, “I told Rorty years ago that I was thinking of writing a book on the Metaphysical Club. His response was that he had already looked into it, and that there was nothing there.” Menand’s The Metaphysical Club, published in 2001, won the Pulitzer Prize.1

Rorty was referring to the twentieth century when he said in an interview some fifteen years ago that “we won’t be able to write the intellectual history of this century without reading Heidegger.”2 Only time will tell, of course, if this assessment is applicable to the twenty-first century, but there can be no doubt that Heidegger’s work was an inescapable point of reference in the century past. Proving that this has been the case in the United States – and trying to explain why – has not been an easy task. Conceived and executed at the boundary of so many different intellectual disciplines, and in the face of so much entrenched opinion, this book requires perhaps more than the usual patience and perseverance on the part of its readers. For Heideggerians, there is probably too much history here and too little Heidegger. For historians, there is probably too much Heidegger and too little history. For proponents of cultural studies, there is probably too much of an emphasis on “high ideas,” whereas intellectual historians may find the analyses of popular culture scattered throughout the following pages distracting at best and downright wrongheaded at worst. For architects, for theologians, for poets – the list could go on. My hope is that by bracketing our common assumptions about philosophy, history, and even Heidegger, we might come to see each of these topics in a new light.

Interdisciplinary books need interdisciplinary readers. That so many people from so many places have had the patience to tarry with me and this project is something for which I will be thankful for a long time to come. It would have been downright impossible to write this book were it not for the copious amounts of guidance, help, and encouragement that I received from so many wonderful people, organizations, and institutions over the course of the past nine or so years. I am honored to properly thank all those who have supported me and this project – financially, intellectually, and emotionally.

Although I have tried very hard to scrub off any remaining residues of its prior existence as a dissertation, I am happy to say that this book would not have been possible without the CUNY Graduate Center – its first home, as it were. A generous Robert E. Gilleece Fellowship, coupled with a University Fellowship, made my graduate education at CUNY possible. For travel and research assistance, I would like to acknowledge support from the Sue Rosenberg Zalk Student Travel and Research Fund, as well as generous funding from the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, which awarded me a Library Research Grant in 2003 to research its extensive collection of Daniel Libeskind’s early writings and notes. A fellowship at the CUNY Graduate Center’s Center for Place, Culture, and Politics provided not only monetary but – more importantly – also intellectual sustenance. My thanks go to Omar Dahbour and Neil Smith for their hospitality. A Charlotte W. Newcombe Dissertation Fellowship gave me the wonderful opportunity to write without distraction, and a Mellon Dissertation Year Fellowship – administered by the Center for Humanities, another one of the Graduate Center’s interdisciplinary havens, wonderfully overseen by Aoibheann Sweeney and Michael Washburn – allowed me to put the finishing touches on the very first versions of the manuscript that would eventually become this book.

© Cambridge University Press
printer iconPrinter friendly version AddThis