Heidegger and Classical Thought Reading Group

A reading group as part of the The Heidegger and Classical Thought Research Project supported by the Knapp Foundation, 2022-2023.


The Heidegger and Classical Thought Research Project, supported by the Knapp Foundation and in conjunction with The Humanities & Arts Research Institute at Royal Holloway, University of London, is proposing to host a weekly reading group to study Martin Heidegger’s lecture courses on Heraclitus delivered in 1943 and 1944 at the University of Freiburg. The two texts, The Inception of Occidental Thinking and Heraclitus’ Doctrine of the Logos, constitute Volume 55 of Heidegger’s Gesamtausgabe. Having been originally published in 1979 (three years after Heidegger’s death), the first English translation of these texts, by Julia Goesser Assaiante and S. Montgomery Ewegen, was published in 2018. The reading group will take place entirely on Zoom over the Autumn and Winter semesters of 2022/23, beginning in October.

Heidegger identified in the fragments of Anaximander, Heraclitus, and Parmenides an extraordinary importance for both the beginning and the end of philosophy. Parmenides arguably had the greatest influence on Heidegger, occupying his thoughts from the very outset of his career, but the significance of Anaximander to Heidegger’s interpretation of Parmenides and the genuine beginning of philosophy came to prominence in the early 1930s. While Heraclitus appears frequently in Heidegger’s early work, it wasn’t until the mid-1930s that Heidegger began to recognise the paramount place of Heraclitus within this triumvirate of early Greek thinkers. From 1934, Heidegger began to find in the fragments of Heraclitus a corroboration and substantiation of his own thinking on both the inception of Western thought and the nature of language.

Heidegger’s two lecture courses on Heraclitus in 1943-44 represent his most sustained engagement with the Greek thinker. His reading of Heraclitus is as audacious as it is controversial, and his interpretation of logos as ‘that which gathers what-is into presencing and lets it lie before us in it’ remains highly tendentious, with Heidegger even suggesting that Heraclitus’ contemporaries would have felt alienated by such a notion. But Heidegger’s own thinking about the relation of language and being relies heavily on this engagement with Heraclitus, and where such thinking predominated throughout the 1930s, it is brought to fundamental clarity in the present text.
This reading group will be of interest not only to readers of Heidegger, but also classicists interested in Heraclitus and ancient philosophy in general. The meetings are open to all master’s level and PhD students, and faculty-level teachers anywhere with an interest in Classical Studies, Philosophy, and any related disciplines. Some working knowledge of Greek is advised (as even in the English translation, the Greek is not transliterated), as is a willingness to work with German terms. Fluency in either language is not required.
The first session will take place on Wednesday 19th October, 4pm-6pm (London time), and sessions will proceed weekly from then on (every Wednesday at the same time). To indicate your interest in participating in the reading group, please email [email protected] for full details.

The website for the Heidegger and Classical Thought research project can be found here.