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The Philosophy of Martin Heidegger (review)

From: Journal of the History of Philosophy
Volume 7, Number 3, July 1969
pp. 348-351 | 10.1353/hph.2008.1567

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348 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY attempted at all, would be sociological. Accordingly, most English-speaking philos- ophers have no idea of the wealth of possibilities that await them once they turn their attention to this area, especially during times of national crises such as these. They would have much to learn from Unamuno's efforts to resolve the problems of his own country. ANT6N DONOSO University of Detroit The Philosophy of Martin Heidegger. By J. L. Mehta. (Varanasi, India: Banaras Hindu University Press, 1967) This large book, nearly six hundred pages, by a professor of philosophy at Banaras Hindu University, is the first extensive treatment of Heidegger's philosophy by an Indian that this reviewer has read. Its interest derives in part from the fact that J. L. Mehta is at home in the rich Hindu tradition and hence brings to the investigation of Heidegger a viewpoint different from that of an Englishman or an American. Though Mehta has aimed in this work "at straightforward exposition" rather than criticism or interpretation, he is aware that there can be no pure exposition of such a controversial thinker as Heidegger. He has tried to resist the temptation of interpreta- tion by quoting extensively, but even the translations of key terms (often his own and frequently resourceful) involves a good deal of interpretation. Mehta is thoroughly acquainted with the German philosophical tradition and language. In the earlier stages of preparing this impressive work, he spent ten months at the Universities of Freiburg and Cologne on a grant from the Humboldt- Stiftung (a German equivalent to our Fulbright research awards) and was able to study with and talk to such noted Heidegger scholars as Landgrebe, Heimsoeth, Biemel, and Fink as well as to have conversations with Heidegger himself. This book shows an admirable familiarity with a great deal of the secondary literature on Heidegger in Germany, France, and Italy. A semester at Yale in 1965 enabled Mehta to become acquainted with the less extensive American literature on his subject. Though he complains in his preface about his lack of access to recent American translations of Heidegger, footnotes in the main body of the work contain sharp and just criticism of mistranslations and real "howlers" by our various translators. Hence the reader con- eludes he has often chosen to do his own translating, wisely so, for a few of the English key terms he does adopt, like "essent" for das Seiende, are unhappy choices. This book is in many respects an impressive achievement, representing as it does enormous labor and industry in synthesis and cross-reference. It summarizes nearly all the Heideggerian corpus, some of which is still unpublished and which Mehta dug up from secondary sources and lecture notes of former Heidegger students. The only comparable work in English is W. J. Richardson's Heidegger, Through Phenomenology to Thought (Fhe Hague, 1963). But Father Richardson's tome, though equally detailed and exhaustive in its research and summaries, is quite different. For Richardson is a disciple, at least a reverent admirer, and this circumstance colors his account. Richardson does not hesitate to interpret Heidegger's meaning, and indeed writes of "Heidegger I" and "Heidegger II," whereas Mehta does not put nearly so much weight on the so called reversal or turn in Heidegger's thought. Mehta's book carries the account down to the very latest publications; Richardson breaks off his analysis of Heidegger essays with those appearing in the early 1950's. There are many other differences, of course, beyond the idiosyncratic which is inevitable. But perhaps none BOOK REVIEWS 349 is so subtle as that between an American Jesuit scholar and an Indian Hindu scholar, both immersed in a way of thinking foreign to their traditions and earnestly seeking to come to grips with it from their different perspectives. Doubtless they have both picked up the passion for detail and inclusiveness from the German ideal of thoroughness, Griindlichkeit. Yet the attempt at a com- prehensive survey, what Germans call a Gesamtdarstellung, has serious limitations in the case of a still living author, especially so in the case of Heidegger who, despite his advanced age, regards his work as far from finished, to say nothing...