Martin Heidegger was born in the town of Messkirch
of Baden on September 22, 1889. He went on to study theology
) at the university of Freiburg
where he studied under Edmund Husserl
(the founder of phenomenology
). He taught at Freiburg in 1915 and then at Marburg
(1923 - 1928) where he was a professor of philosophy. He died in his home town on May 26, 1976.
Of primary influence in the work of Heidegger (aside from Husserl) was the pre-Socratic philosophers, Soren Kierkegaard, and Friedrich Nietzsche. The primary question that Heidegger was interested is "What is it, to be?" What is the essence of humanity (though that is an awkward way of phrasing it) - what are we, as humans? We exist in a world that may or may not have been created but yet consists of useful things - cultural ideas and natural objects. Heidegger was intrigued by the fact that objects come from the past, are used in the present for some future goal and thus a fundamental relationship between the mode of being of objects and that of humanity and the structure of time. As an individual, we are always in danger of submersion in the world of objects, daily routine, and getting lost in a crowd. Through this dread of meaninglessness (see the influence of Nietzsche?) and that of death comes a confrontation and the sense of being and freedom is attained.
Among his great works two of them are paticularly cited - that of Being and Time (1927) which discusses much of the philosophy in the preceeding paragraph and An Introduction to Metaphysics (1953) which addresses the western concepts of being (compared to that of the ancient Greek concept of being). His believe that the modern society filled with technological marvels has deprived our lives of meaning (see Nietzsche again?) to the point of nihilism. He argues that we, as part of humanity, have forgotten our true purpose in life - to understand the sense of being that the early Greeks had and has since been lost.
One of Heidegger's very last works was The Question Concerning Technology and delves much further into the loss of humanity in the modern society - a "darkening of the world." This book was based on several lectures given in 1949 and dealt with issues of industrialization in post war Europe.
Heidegger was very careful to never blame technology nor praise it for it is not deserving of either. Technology is a system and framework. The danger that technology presents is in the transformation of humanity and entering in to all that we think and do.
While Heidegger died years before the explosion of personal computers he did have the opportunity to see one in 1957:
The language machine regulates and adjusts in advance the mode of our possible usage of language through mechanical energies and functions. The language machine is-and above all, is still becoming-one way in which modern technology controls the mode and the world of language as such. Meanwhile, the impress is still maintained that man is the master of the language machine. But the truth of the matter might well be that the language machine takes language into its management and thus masters the essence of the human being
(Heidegger, quoted in Heim, p. 8)