Being and Time by Heidegger: Summary

Founder of existentialism, Heidegger wanted above all to establish an ontology, that is to say, to clarify the question of being. His subjective approach to the concept (being and thinking are the same, he said, citing Parmenides) leads him to assert that being rooted in time, meaning the human ability to project itself.

The question of the being

Heidegger, in his major work Being and Time begins with the question of being: that means “to be”? Find above a summary of one the greatest philosophical work of the 20th century.

The ontological difference

Heidegger begins by distinguishing the verb (to be blue, be a man, be the sense of existence) and the name (a human being, a living being). To avoid any confusion, Heidegger uses the word to be that talk of being, and for substances he introduced the concept of being. We must therefore say: being is. One can speak of the Being of beings. Being of the chair, the being of the man, etc. This refers to, for each entity, its own way of being or existence. This important distinction between being and Beings called the ontological difference (ontological everything relation to Being; ontic is everything that relates to being).


Then, the verb itself be distinguished into two major categories, depending on whether one speaks of being a simple thing (a stone, a table) or be a man, for example. For man there, which means, according to the etymology (eg “sistere”, stand outside of oneself) that projects itself constantly. It projects first in the future it sees possible, that is to say, ways to be possible. The man understands that he exists and may cease to exist (death), and its existence is its primary concern. That man is ontological. Heidegger introduces the concept of Dasein (being-there, in German) to describe beings who have this desire to be. He can then say that “the essence of Dasein lies in his existence” (Sartre is remembered, his formula that “existence precedes essence” means nothing more).

Dasein (that is to say, the man) is a privileged being to address the question of being. But the ultimate goal is to understand the thinking being in general (which includes being and existence).

Being and thinking are the same

What is it to be? It says, for example: the sky is blue. Or, it’s true. Or: God is, man is (are). In other words, being, as a verb, can mean at least three things: being-such (attribution of a predicate to a subject, that is to say, a quality (blue) substance (heaven)), be-and be true (in the sense of existence). But if this word must have meaning, and a unique sense in all three cases, this effect may be subjective. In each case, there is an awareness, a seizure by the spirit of truth. Hence the formula of Parmenides’ being and thinking are the same. ” It is only through the subjectivity that can give meaning to the word being.

Heidegger can say that if there was any Dasein, the world would not. There would be a world, but we could not talk of his being, because nobody would be there to talk about. There be to the extent there is a Dasein to perceive. This also brings us to the subjectivism of Berkeley to be is to be perceived.

Being and Time

From this subjective conception of the verb to be, Heidegger can easily show that fundamentally be based on time, that is to say on the human ability to project over time (hence the title of the the book Being and Time). Indeed, the perception of an object based on its projection in time. For example, collect a pencil or a cube that is how he will react if I do this or that trade with: know that it is hard is knowing that resist pressure; know it is green is that it appears as if I look, etc.. More generally, understanding a being as this or that, for example, a stone hammer as it is inserted into a project, the project is certain possibilities of Dasein and the being.


In his study of the being of Dasein and things, Heidegger goes through existential analysis, including his analysis of contemporary alienation. He introduced the concept of the  “It”, the mode of being inauthentic Dasein which is not on himself but live following others: Dasein tends to follow the crowd and the fashions.

Heidegger’s philosophical thinking has been followed by Sartre, Levinas and Merleau-Ponty.

Cite this article as: Tim, "Being and Time by Heidegger: Summary, April 17, 2013, " in Philosophy & Philosophers, April 17, 2013,

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