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Heidegger Martin(1889-1976) German philosopher and leading contributor to PHENOMENOLOGY and EXISTENTIALISM. His philosophy has influenced modern sociological theory in a number of ways, notably his conception of what is distinctive about human beings: DASEIN, the so-called ‘analytic of Man's Being’; and, related to this, his conception of TIME. What is distinct about Man is a capacity to understand himself, and although not master of his own origin, Man has the capacity to undertake ‘authentic’ actions, i.e. actions which do not retreat into anonymity, depersonalized objectivized modes of being, denying Man's distinctive capacities. In Being and Time (1929), Heidegger states the ‘authentic self as potentiality for action, an orientation towards the future (becoming), which involves possibilities and requires choice. The basic distinction which Heidegger draws between the ontic (entities or apparently ‘real’ things) and ontological, authentic ‘Being’, also has important implications for LANGUAGE. For Heidegger the ‘ultimate signified’ to which all 'S ignifiers’ refer is the ‘transcendental signified’: Being. If in his earlier work Heidegger believed that Being could be addressed, later he did not, seeing all signification as open-ended. This feature of language Heidegger indicates by use of the technique of erasure, thus: to indicate both a word's necessity and its uncertainty. For Heidegger, traditional formulations of Western philosophy, which assumed the ‘presencing’ and grounding of the transcendental ego or subject, had become untenable. Heidegger attracted controversy mainly because of his association with FASCISM. However, the association has not hindered his ideas being taken up in a variety of applications – notably by SARTRE, LACAN and DERRIDA and more generally in POSTSTRUCTURALISM (see also DECONSTRUCTION and POSTMODERNITY AND POSTMODERNISM). Heidegger's work has also influenced the SOCIAL PHENOMENOLOGY of SCHUTZ and Anthony GIDDENS’ treatment of time' within STRUCTURATION THEORY.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000