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‘We ourselves the entities to be analysed.’ With those words, Martin Heidegger launched his assault on the ‘sham clarity’ of traditional Western thought. We are neither immortal souls nor disembodied intellects, he argues, but finite historical existences. And we are bound to the world by threads of interpretation and misinterpretation more strange and tangled than we can ever hope to comprehend.
In his masterpiece Being and Time (1927) Heidegger used his technique of ‘existential analysis’ to undercut traditional dilemmas of objectivity and subjectivity, rationality and irrationality, absolutism and relativism. Truth itself, he argues, is essentially historical.
The greatest adventures of twentieth-century thought can be seen as footnotes to Being and Time, and in this brilliantly lucid exposition Jonathan Rée spells out all its main arguments without blunting any of its disturbing paradoxes.