is Called Thinking by Martin
thought-provoking in our thought-provoking time is that we're still
In this book, Heidegger
is committed to distinguishing a type of thinking that differs from
the representational, calculative thinking of ordinary discourse.
The type of thinking Heidegger calls us to embark upon is different
in that it doesn't presuppose an object to be thought about. For
instance, he says that most of our thinking is "one-track thinking"
where thinking is no more than "having views." So, when
we think about the stars, God, the weather, our mother, the government,
etc., we think about our views on such matters. It's not that this
thinking is insignificant, yet, according to Heidegger, "The
one-sided view, which nowhere pays attention any longer to the essence
of things, has puffed itself up into an all-sidedness which in turn
is masked so as to look harmless and natural."
The thinking Heidegger
is after, by contrast, doesn't posit any object for us to express
our views about. There's no such thing as thinking about which to
think. Rather, there are certain questions that are inherently worthy
of our attention. By attending to these questions, such as "What
calls us to think?," we may find ourselves thinking.
Heidegger sees our
age as one where technology has people, instead of the other way
around. For us, in this age, everything and everybody has a significance
which is "equipmordial" in nature. By example, Heidegger
tells us that in ancient history, the Rhine River in Germany had
a holy significance of its own, quite apart from its importance
for human progress. But what is the river to us now? It has an energy
source. We build dams and powerplants to harness its energy for
our technological progress: It's been transformed into just another
piece of equipment, not much different than a hammer except for
its size. Heidegger's assertion is that only by engaging ourselves
in the inherently worthy questions is there any hope of breaking
technology's grip on us and "seeing" the essence of things.
What is most thought
provoking for Heidegger is that we're still not thinking. Apparently,
we're still not thinking because the questions which lie at the
heart of the matter for human beings are less significant to us
every day. People in our technological age tend to stifle any questions
that might reveal anything to do with Being. Heidegger believes
that if we can somehow open ourselves to the questions which are
inherently most thought-provoking, like, "What calls on us
to think?", we might receive the wonderful gift of genuine
thinking. In a sense, the gift we receive is ourselves. Certain
questions, provided that we open ourselves to them, allow us to
see our essential nature so that we don't interpret ourselves as
we do the Rhine River (as equipment) but, rather, see ourselves
as some thing "holy," as something worthy of questioning.
Near the end of the
book, Heidegger talks about the "presence of what's present."
And, for those of you who read the book, this perhaps speaks to
the possibility that could open up for you: the presence of what's
present may shine its light on you.
What Is Called
Thinking? is strikingly different from almost all other literature
available. The reading is a taxing affair, requiring deep concentration,
involvement, and a commitment to the question at hand--a commitment
to, as Heidegger says, "settle down and live within it."
You won't necessarily derive practical wisdom from this book, or
theoretical knowledge, or even the power to act differently. If
the context described in this review grabs your attention and you
find yourself, on some level, sympathetic to some of Heidegger's
assertions, then I recommend you read this book. But be prepared
Review by John Hanley,