Jean-Jacques Rousseau - Freedom and Happiness

Martin Heidegger - 1889-1976AD

"What is Being?"

Heidegger was born in Germany and was an existentialist philosopher following on from Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. He asked the fundamental question relating to human beings; why do we exist at all?

Notoriously, Heidegger appeared to sympathize with Adolf Hitler's Nazi policies before the Second World War. During the first two years of Hitler's Nationalist Socialist Party rule, 1933 and 1934, Heidegger's public speeches and publications in newspapers praised both Hitler and the party. After the war he distanced himself from the Nazi's. Perhaps he was just one of many taken in by the narcissistic Hitler's ability to manipulate the way people think.

"Man acts as though he were the shaper and master of language, while in fact language remains the master of man."1

On the other hand, Heidegger repeatedly insisted that German philosophy was the sole legitimate heir of Greek thought. He also stated that Nazism did not fail him but that Hilter and other Nazis failed Nazism.

Heidegger’s major work was Being and Time (Sein und Zeit). It analyses human nature, its fundamental connection to time, and attempts to discover the essence of being. He was concerned with the study of existence itself, and asked, "Why are there beings at all, instead of nothing?" His answer may be summed up in the phrase 'being is'.

Earth, sky, mortals and divinities

Heidegger appeared not to link moral and ethical behavior to happiness However, he did appear to link did happiness and religion. He described his "fourfold" (Geviert) as the inseparably connected concepts of "earth", "sky", "mortals" and "divinities". According to him, they comprise the indispensable terms of orientation for human beings in the world; essential as "markers" to determine one’s place in the world, and as far as Heidegger was concerned, essential for human fulfilment and happiness.

As far as moral and ethical behavior is concerned, Heidegger appeared not to be over-concerned. He agreed with Hitler that, "The individual, wherever he stands, does not count."2

For more information about the great philosophers and their views on narcissism and happiness, read Finding Happiness.

1 Martin Heidegger
2 Heidegger (1933), letter to staff of Freiburg University, quoted in Hugo Ott (1988), Martin Heidegger: Unterwegs zu seiner Biographie, Frankfurt & New York: Campus Verlag, p. 229.