I’ll be taking a class on Heidegger’s Being and time next spring, which would be my first rigorous philosophy class. The class would begin by reading Husserl’s Cartesian Meditations, and then proceed to Being and Time. The followings are the description of the course:

“Being and Time” and Politics

An exploration of the political implications of Heidegger’s ontology, understood primarily as a phenomenology of mind. We will begin by considering some of the contexts of Heideggerian thought through an examination of Husserl’s Cartesian Meditations, and we will end by tracing certain aspects of its moral and political influence both in the writings of Levinas and Arendt and in the more recent critical literature on the question of Heidegger and National Socialism. Our principal task, however, will be to pursue a close and systematic study of Being and Time, focusing on central elements of its conceptual apparatus, including, for example, notions of entity and world, care and concern, anxiety and resoluteness, temporality and death, history and the state.

I have very limited experiences in reading philosophy for fun, including Russel’s History of western philosophy, and also Plato's Republic and Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics.

How should I prepare for the coming class?

Should I read some of the works of Aristotle, like Metaphysics, and maybe Categories? Or should I jump Husserl’s Idea I? I have a month and half free before the start of next semester, so I can probably read 2 or 3 books during that time.


2 Answers 2


Given that you have about a month and a half to prepare, in which you estimate you can read two or three books, I would not recommend starting with Aristotle to understand Being and Time.

Instead, I might focus on the skills necessary to grasp Cartesian Meditations and also to understand the sort of problems Being and Time is dealing with. Neither of these texts are easy reads especially in the absence of a strong background.

If we're limiting ourselves to primary texts, then

I would recommend starting with Descartes Meditations on First Philosophy because this, is after a sense, what the Cartesian Meditations are working from.

I would then suggest reading sections of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. Because this will give you some background on what "metaphysics" means for the people you're reading.

In both cases, relevant entries from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy or if that's too difficult the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy or Spark Notes to get some background.

If you still have time after that, you could read Aristotle's Metaphysics and then parts of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit to get the gist for some more of the background. Depending on the focuses of the class, you could also look at Kierkegaard's account in Sickness unto Death.

But rather than that, I'd actually suggest working from an introduction to Heidegger volume, but some are better than others. I've found Peperzak easy to read but I don't know if there's an introductory volume from him rather than articles.

  • Thanks for the response! Do you know which parts of Critique on Pure Reason I should be reading? And do you think I should read some Husserl’s other works, e.g. Paris lectures, or even Idea I, before moving on to Cartesian Meditation?
    – Duang
    Nov 19, 2018 at 5:40
  • For Husserl, my own experience is that unless you want to become a core Husserl scholar, it's best just to stick with one text and a basic understanding of what he means by phenomenology, because there are shifts in terms and other issues with reading across his texts.
    – virmaior
    Nov 19, 2018 at 9:36
  • For Kant, the main issue is to understand his theory of knowledge, don't have sections off the top of my head, but the more famous ones to read are the Preface, the Transcendental Unity of Apperception part, and the transcendental deduction (plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant/#TraDed). It'd be amazing to identify the important parts without any reference to secondary literature.
    – virmaior
    Nov 19, 2018 at 9:38

The philosophical influences on Heidegger won't necessarily help you to connect Being and Time with politics - to which the title of your course makes essential reference.

You could do worse than read Heidegger's 1966 Der Spiegel interview in which he addresses politics, including crucially his 1930s politics, and makes no fewer than seven references to Being and Time :


I suggest this purely as a supplementary text. Jeff Collins, Heidegger and the Nazis, Published by Icon Books Ltd (2000), ISBN 10: 1840461306 ISBN 13: 9781840461305, is brief - really just an essay - is worth a read. More scholarly texts are available on the connexion (if any ! - always question assumptions) between Being and Time and politics but probably don't fit into your timescale. Among these is Alexander S. Duff, Heidegger and Politics: The Ontology of Radical Discontent, and Richard Wolin, The Politics of Being: The Political Thought of Martin Heidegger.

This is an addendum to viamaior's list, which I fully endorse.

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