Heidegger in America

opportunity to hear Heidegger “lecture many times” and even to “read some of his early writings.”43 Like Weiss, Hartshorne was skeptical:

Heidegger was not naïve, but – as it seemed to me – much of the time he was either saying pretentiously what I already knew or was retreating back and back into the philosophical past, as though Aristotle was closer to the truth than the Scholastics, the pre-Socratics than Aristotle, and someone or something, I’m still not sure what, truer than the pre-Socratics.44

For Hartshorne, who was already well on his way toward establishing the process theology that would mark him as one of the twentieth century’s most important philosophers of religion, Heidegger did not contribute anything beyond what “James, Bergson, and various others” had already articulated.45 As Hartshorne put it in his philosophical memoir, The Darkness and the Light, “Heidegger I did not exactly dislike; but for me he had no great appeal.”46

Despite his initial reservations, Hartshorne nonetheless saw the publication of Sein und Zeit as a significant event. Writing in the Philosophical Review in 1929, he even went so far as to suggest that Heidegger was “the most subtle and painstaking, perhaps the most original and profound, of all contemporary German philosophers.”47 There was great originality in his work and Hartshorne thought it developed Husserl’s phenomenology in interesting ways, but he still worried that Heidegger had taken a number of wrong steps. Foreshadowing a critique that would later be leveled against Heidegger by Herbert Marcuse and Günther Anders, Hartshorne wondered if Heidegger’s phenomenological analysis of existence offered only a false or “misplaced” sense of concrete, lived experience.48 He also wondered if Heidegger’s originality was not simply the result of the linguistic “oddness” of his work.49 The many neologisms and word-plays of Sein und Zeit were striking, especially for a non-native speaker of German, but such linguistic novelty is not always emblematic of philosophical progress. For these reasons and others, Hartshorne was reluctant to cede pragmatism’s many previous achievements to Heidegger and the phenomenological upstarts.

Sidney Hook, who heard of Heidegger’s lectures secondhand, echoed many of Hartshorne’s sentiments. He, too, stayed true to his pragmatist roots.

43 Charles Hartshorne, “Some Causes of My Intellectual Growth,” in Lewis Edwin Hahn, ed., The Philosophy of Charles Hartshorne, Library of Living Philosophers, Volume XX (La Salle, Illinois: Open Court, 1991), 22.

44 Ibid.

45 Ibid.

46 Charles Hartshorne, The Darkness and the Light: A Philosopher Refl ects on His Fortunate Career and Those Who Made it Possible (Albany: SUNY Press, 1990), 20.

47 Charles Hartshorne, “Review of Sein und Zeit by Martin Heidegger and Mathematische Existenz by Oskar Becker,” The Philosophical Review 38:3 (May, 1929), 289.

48 Ibid, 285.

49 Ibid, 289.

Heidegger in America by Martin W. Woessner