Martin Heidegger: From Fluid Action to Gelassenheit

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Heidegger’s views on agency are central to his philosophy: in both his earlier and later work they form part of an intricate web of notions including responsibility, normativity and activity. At the same time, however, Heidegger’s position can be elusive. This is partly due to deep methodological and conceptual differences which make it hard to locate him in relation to the standard Analytic or Kantian debates. It is also because his views are subject to a series of complex shifts – for example, during the early 1930s and then again in the aftermath of the war. There is no scholarly consensus on the exact nature of these shifts or on the degree of continuity or change that they imply: as a result, it is impossible to adequately address Heidegger’s views on ‘agency’ or indeed any other topic in a single article without radically restricting the chronological range of the discussion. For both these reasons, I am going to focus on the period around Being and Time (Sein und Zeit, published 1927): Heidegger’s most influential text, it is also the best point of contact with contemporary philosophy of action or with other phenomenologists. I want particularly to emphasise the distinctive role which phenomenology plays in separating Heidegger’s picture of agency from the alternatives. Throughout I will try to avoid an excessive reliance on Heidegger’s distinctive terminology: my aim in that sense is to provide an analysis of his views, rather than a recitation of them.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of the Phenomenology of Agency
EditorsChristopher Erhard, Tobias Keiling
ISBN (Print)9781138098978
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2018


  • Phenomenology
  • Heidegger
  • Agency
  • Martin Heidegger


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