I came across this quote by the German philosopher Martin Heidegger:

Thinking only begins at the point where we have come to know that reason, glorified for centuries, is the most obstinate adversary of thinking.

I am finding it difficult to understand what it means and I cannot find anything on the web that explains it. Can somebody help me understand it?

  • Out of my sleeve, are you not thinking about this problem because you cannot make any sense out of it?
    – nir
    Jul 29 '18 at 19:59

Heidegger's idea here is actually not difficult to make out, unlikely as that might appear, if we trace the quotation to its source and check the context. Gavin Rae, 'Overcoming Philosophy: Heidegger, Metaphysics, and the Transformation to Thinking', Human Studies, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Summer 2013), pp. 235-257 : 247 :

In The Word of Nietzsche: 'God is Dead,' Heidegger claims thought must move away from emphasising objective conceptualisation to take seriously alternative, non-conceptual modes of thinking. As he puts it, 'thinking begins only when we have come to know that reason, glorified for centuries, is the most stiff-necked adversary of thought' (1977: 61). Similarly, in What is Called Thinking?, Heidegger claims being is not capable of being understood if we start with the notion that only conceptual thought counts as knowledge (1968: 179). Heidegger wants to not only open thought to alternative, non-conceptual modes of thinking, but to also get thought to recognise these alternatives are legitimate and justified. As being 'is' universal, fluid, dynamic, and historical so too must thought move in these directions. Only by recognising, opening itself to, and taking seriously non conceptual thinking will thought be able to engage with being on being's own terms. Only non-philosophy, which does not entail a valorisation of science or any other so-called humanity, but genuine, meditative thinking, can open thought to being in the way that does not impose itself on being and reveals being as being reveals itself to thought (Krzystof 2008 : 251)

In other words, Heidegger's view is that 'being' cannot be understood solely through conceptual thought, with which he identifies reason. Non-conceptual ways of thinking are also requisite. Being is too 'fluid, dynamic, and historical' to be captured, penetrated, by static, inflexible conceptual thinking. This is hardly unambiguously clear but Heidegger's broad point is one that we can make some sense of.

To make fuller sense of Heidegger's mind here you would need to probe his notions of being, thought, and the conceptual. That's certainly a task for another time.


Heidegger, M. (1977). The word of Nietzsche: "god is dead". In The question concerning technology & other essays (pp. 53-114) (W. Lovitt, Trans.). New York: Harper Perennial. (Originally published in 1949).

Heidegger, M. (1968). What is called thinking? (J. G. Gray. Trans.). New York: Harper Perennial. (Originally published in 1954).

Krzysztof, Z. (2008). The return to philosophy? or: Heidegger and the task of thinking. Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, 59(3), 249-259.

Gavin Rae, 'Overcoming Philosophy: Heidegger, Metaphysics, and the Transformation to Thinking', Human Studies, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Summer 2013), pp. 235-257.

  • I'd be interested to have your take on the difference between Nietzsche's and Heidegger's comments on Reason, having not read the later, I gather that heis objecting Reason altogether; Nietzsche is on the other hand objecting Reason in some aspects, claiming it on some others. If Reason is regarded from the metaphysical angle, then you'll probably see much convergence between the two thinkers - as in : reject all concept for the sake of a fluidly evolving life. If Reason is regarded as a dual to hedonism, then I am sure Nietzsche would favor it, not sure how Heidegger would react to it. Thanks
    – Gloserio
    May 27 '19 at 10:55

Reasoning is not the ultimate mode of functioning. I know this has an anti-positive sound. But it is told based on the context which emerges upon observation: that which is preached generally is lacking wholeness. This mode of thought, called reason is a level of thought. Not the top level of comprehension like its assumed.

"Every reasonable argument is a thought not to be assumed ever. As complete"

Now, If you attack man's faculty of reason, you're attacking all the actions of mankind till date. Clearly, the evolved situations in our world at present, rings enough sirens to do so. Questioning our collective past severely. With a spirit much greater and regardless of any offence, learn from it all.

"Looking at the dark corner of the room can be scary, but a dark corner will exist until you begin to not mind it anymore"

Psychology studies a concept of biases with interesting detail. Learning biases or narrow learning can, eventually, lead to immature mental constructs on a subject. Extended meaning: the nature of an individual's reasoning is responsible for 'inadequate action' or confusion or 'wrong' conclusions.

An entrepreneur or a thinker or a teacher or a statesman are the most important examples. They face these situations of reasoning on many levels. Sometimes even reasoning about the unconscious. The goal for them is to get things done for 'a reason'. Their reason is applied to a finite set of objects and everyday processes. It remains such with hardly any deviation. BECAUSE, no alternate REASON suggests the undertaking of the otherwise. Or usually, it is the worse, they never enquire, or worst, they could always use the liberty to rationalize.

Kingdoms were built and crusades were started for 'a reason' The idea of marriage exists because of 'a reason' These days women will starve, overspend and damage hairs for 'a reason'

Makes me wonder if we even reason as often as we believe we do. If we really can enjoy life by reasoning at all.

Einstien reasoned and found a 'cosmological constant' which was considered his GLORIOUS BLUNDER. However, this blunder told his contemporary researchers that he didn't wonder at possibilities that come with the absence of a symmetrical equation. He used mathematical gymnastics to craft a meaning. Was unchallenged. Until Hubble came up with evidence. This example is of a genius who has a stellar contribution.

"Thinking should be omnidirectional and such that it doesn't seek a convenient end"

  • 1
    Would you have references for the quotes? These references would help support your answer and give the reader a place to go for more information. Welcome. May 27 '19 at 12:24

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