Can a place change how we think? “At most a city-dweller gets ‘stimulated’ by a so-called ‘stay in the country’, wrote German philosopher Martin Heidegger. “But my whole work is sustained and guided by the world of these mountains and their people.”
Measuring 6 by 7 meters (20 by 23 feet), Heidegger’s hut in the Black Forest wasn’t a work of architecture, but rather a typical, simple mountain cabin. In 1922 Heidegger was a popular university lecturer in Freiburg, Germany, but he hadn’t written anything big yet. That was the year he made the first of his escapes to the mountains where he would eventually do most of his most important writing, and thinking.
Without running water or electricity, the hut provided a permeability with the outside world that prompted Heidegger’s deep thinking on the nature of being, authenticity and the fundamental importance of our engagement with the world.
“People in the city often wonder whether one gets lonely up in the mountains… for such long and monotonous periods of time. But it isn’t loneliness, it is solitude,” he wrote in his essay Why Do I Stay in the Provinces. “Solitude has the peculiar and original power of not isolating us but projecting our whole existence out into the vast nearness of the presence of all things”.
In 1927 he published Being and Time, the work that launched him as one of the 20th century’s most important philosophers. His personal legacy was marred by his involvement with the Nazi party, but his philosophy inspired many of the 20th century’s great thinkers.
Today his hut has its own hiking trail. On a near-freezing late October morning, we set off on a rurex adventure to discover the place that inspired this sage who the New York Times eulogized as able to “rethink the entire history of Western philosophy” at a time, not unlike our own, “when Western thought was torn between excessive idealism on the one hand and nihilism on the other” who they wrote was able “to restore confidence in man’s ability to ask the big questions”.
Check our videos on other cabins of notable philosophers: