“As Soon as a Man Comes to Life, He Is Old Enough to Die”: Heidegger and Chapter XX of Der Ackermann aus Böhmen

Research in Phenomenology 52 (1):48-67 (2022)
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In section 48 of Being and Time, Heidegger quotes from chapter XX of Der Ackermann aus Böhmen, a late medieval prose poem written in Early New High German, circa 1400: “As soon as a man comes to life, he is at once old enough to die.” In this paper, I provide the context for the quotation. I also suggest that Heidegger’s interest in Der Ackermann cannot be explained solely in terms of his believing the poem was the source of the quotation on page 245 of Being and Time. I offer a justification for this claim by showing that Heidegger’s discussion of death in Being and Time employs three important images: “debt,” “inheritance,” and “ripeness” – all of which can be found in chapter XX Der Ackermann. I show these “borrowings” to be at once a reference to the context of the Christian/humanist heritage to which they belong and a part of the newly evolving Daseinsanalytik.



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Peter Atterton
San Diego State University

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