One of a series of articles published in The Guardian
The second of Simon Critchley's articles on Heidegger's Being and Time has been published on The Guardian website:
Metaphysics is the area of inquiry that Aristotle himself calls "first philosophy" and which comes before anything else. It is the most abstract, universal and indefinable area of philosophy. But it is also the most fundamental.
With admirable arrogance, it is the question of being that Heidegger sets himself the task of inquiring into in Being and Time. He begins with a series of rhetorical questions: Do we have an answer to the question of the meaning of being? Not at all, he answers. But do we even experience any perplexity about this question? Not at all, Heidegger repeats. Therefore, the first and most important task of Heidegger's book is to recover our perplexity for this question of questions: Hamlet's "To be or not to be?"
For Heidegger, what defines the human being is this capacity to be perplexed by the deepest and most enigmatic of questions: Why is there something rather than nothing? So, the task of Being and Time is reawakening in us a taste for perplexity, a taste for questioning. Questioning – Heidegger will opine much later in his career – is the piety of thinking.
Read part one: 'Being and Time, part 1: Why Heidegger matters'.