yes, therapy helps!
The existentialist theory of Martin Heidegger

The existentialist theory of Martin Heidegger

January 13, 2023

The existentialist theory of Martin Heidegger is considered one of the main exponents of this philosophical movement, associated mostly with authors of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In turn, existentialism has been a movement that has greatly influenced the current of Humanistic Psychology, whose main representatives were Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers and that during the last decades has been transformed into Positive Psychology.

In this article we will analyze the main expositions of the controversial German philosopher Martin Heidegger in his contributions to existentialist philosophy, including his own understanding of his work as part of existentialism. Let's start by seeing what exactly this philosophical current is.


  • Related article: "Humanist Psychology: history, theory and basic principles"

What is existentialism?

Existentialism is a philosophical current in which such disparate thinkers have been categorized as Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Miguel de Unamuno, Gabriel Marcel, psychologist Karl Jaspers, the writer Fiódor Dostoievski or the film director Ingmar Bergman.

All these authors have in common their focus on the nature of human existence . In particular, they focused on the search for meaning as the engine of an authentic life, for which they emphasized the importance of individual freedom. They were also united by their criticisms of abstraction and the conception of thought as a central aspect.


Martin Heidegger, the philosopher who occupies us, denied its link with existentialist philosophy ; In fact, two periods have been distinguished in his work, and the second of them can not be classified within this current of thought. However, the proposals and objects of study of its first stage have an evident existentialist character.

  • Maybe you're interested: "The existentialist theory of Albert Camus"

Biography of Martin Heidegger

Martin Heidegger was born in 1889 in Messkirch, a town in Germany. His parents were devout Roman Catholics; This led Heidegger to study theology at the University of Freiburg, although he eventually decided to devote himself to philosophy. In 1914 he received his doctorate with a thesis on psychologism, a current that highlights the role of mental processes.

In the 1920s he worked as Professor of Philosophy at the University of Marburg and later at the University of Freiburg , in which he would exercise for the rest of his career. During this time he began to give talks centered on his ideas about human existence and the meaning of it, which he would develop in his book "Being and Time," published in 1927.


In 1933 Heidegger was appointed rector of the University of Freiburg, a position he left 12 years later. Its affiliation and its active participation in the German National Socialist Workers Party - better known as the "Nazi Party" - ; in fact, Heidegger tried unsuccessfully to become the reference philosopher of this movement.

Heidegger died in 1976 in the city of Freiburg im Breisgau; At that time I was 86 years old. In spite of the criticisms he has received for his collaboration with the Nazis, for the contradictions between his works and for his ignorance of other authors of his same era, at present this philosopher is considered one of the most important of the 20th century.

  • You may be interested: "The existentialist theory of Søren Kierkegaard"

The existentialist theory of Heidegger

The main work of Heidegger is "Being and time". In it the author try to answer a key question: what exactly does "being" mean? What does existence consist of, and what is its fundamental characteristic, if there is one? In this way he recovered a question that, in his opinion, had been left aside by philosophy since the classical period.

In this book Heidegger states that this question must be reformulated in search of the sense of being, rather than of it in itself. Around this he affirms that it is not possible to separate the sense of being from a spatial and temporal context (with death as a structuring element) determined; Well, talk about human existence as "Dasein" or "being-in-the-world".

Unlike what Descartes and other previous authors proposed, Heidegger considered that people are not thinking beings isolated from the world around us, but that the interaction with the environment is a nuclear aspect of being. This is why it is not possible to dominate the being and trying to do so leads to a life devoid of authenticity.

In consecuense, the human capacity to think has a secondary character and it should not be understood as that which defines our being. We discover the world through being-in-the-world, that is, from existence in itself; for Heidegger, cognition is only a reflection of it, and therefore reflection and other similar processes are also.

Existence does not depend on the will, but rather we are "thrown" into the world and we know that it is inevitable that our life ends . The acceptance of these facts, as well as the understanding that we are one more part of the world, allows us to make sense of life, which Heidegger conceptualizes as the project of being-in-the-world.

Subsequently Heidegger's interests moved to other topics. He highlighted the relevance of language as a fundamental tool to understand the world, explored the relationship between art and the search for "the truth" and criticized the contemptuous and irresponsible attitude of Western countries with respect to nature.


PHILOSOPHY - Heidegger (January 2023).


Similar Articles