Jaspers in 1946
Karl Theodor Jaspers
23 February 1883
|Died||26 February 1969 86) (aged|
|Education|| University of Heidelberg |
|School|| Neo-Kantianism (early) |
Existential phenomenology (late)
|Psychiatry, theology, philosophy of history|
|Axial Age; coining the term Existenzphilosophie ; Dasein and Existenz as the two states of being, subject–object split ( Subjekt-Objekt-Spaltung ); theory of communicative transcendence, limit situation|
Karl Theodor Jaspers ( // ; German: [ˈkaʁl ˈjaspɐs] ; 23 February 1883 – 26 February 1969) was a German-Swiss psychiatrist and philosopher who had a strong influence on modern theology, psychiatry, and philosophy. After being trained in and practicing psychiatry, Jaspers turned to philosophical inquiry and attempted to discover an innovative philosophical system. He was often viewed as a major exponent of existentialism in Germany, though he did not accept the label.
Jaspers was born in Oldenburg in 1883 to a mother from a local farming community, and a jurist father. He showed an early interest in philosophy, but his father's experience with the legal system undoubtedly influenced his decision to study law at the University of Heidelberg. Jaspers first studied law in Heidelberg and later in Munich for three semesters. It soon became clear that Jaspers did not particularly enjoy law, and he switched to studying medicine in 1902 with a thesis about criminology. In 1910 he married Gertrud Mayer (1879–1974), the sister of his close friends Gustav Mayer and Ernst Mayer. [ citation needed ]
Jaspers earned his medical doctorate from the University of Heidelberg medical school in 1908 and began work at a psychiatric hospital in Heidelberg under Franz Nissl, successor of Emil Kraepelin and Karl Bonhoeffer, and Karl Wilmans. Jaspers became dissatisfied with the way the medical community of the time approached the study of mental illness and gave himself the task of improving the psychiatric approach. In 1913 Jaspers habilitated at the philosophical faculty of the Heidelberg University and gained there in 1914 a post as a psychology teacher. The post later became a permanent philosophical one, and Jaspers never returned to clinical practice. During this time Jaspers was a close friend of the Weber family (Max Weber also having held a professorship at Heidelberg).
In 1921, at the age of 38, Jaspers turned from psychology to philosophy, expanding on themes he had developed in his psychiatric works. He became a philosopher, in Germany and Europe.
After the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, Jaspers was considered to have a "Jewish taint" (jüdische Versippung, in the jargon of the time) due to his Jewish wife, and was forced to retire from teaching in 1937. In 1938 he fell under a publication ban as well. Many of his long-time friends stood by him, however, and he was able to continue his studies and research without being totally isolated. But he and his wife were under constant threat of removal to a concentration camp until 30 March 1945, when Heidelberg was liberated by American troops.[ citation needed ]
In 1948 Jaspers moved to the University of Basel in Switzerland.In 1963 he was awarded the honorary citizenship of the city of Oldenburg in recognition of his outstanding scientific achievements and services to occidental culture. He remained prominent in the philosophical community and became a naturalized citizen of Switzerland living in Basel until his death on his wife's 90th birthday in 1969.
Jaspers' dissatisfaction with the popular understanding of mental illness led him to question both the diagnostic criteria and the methods of clinical psychiatry. He published a paper in 1910 in which he addressed the problem of whether paranoia was an aspect of personality or the result of biological changes. Although it did not broach new ideas, this article introduced a rather unusual method of study, at least according to the norms then prevalent. Not unlike Freud, Jaspers studied patients in detail, giving biographical information about the patients as well as notes on how the patients themselves felt about their symptoms. This has become known as the biographical method and now forms a mainstay of psychiatric and above all psychotherapeutic practice.[ citation needed ]
Jaspers set down his views on mental illness in a book which he published in 1913, General Psychopathology. [ citation needed ]This work has become a classic in the psychiatric literature and many modern diagnostic criteria stem from ideas found within it. One of Jaspers' central tenets was that psychiatrists should diagnose symptoms of mental illness (particularly of psychosis) by their form rather than by their content. For example, in diagnosing a hallucination, it is more important to note that a person experiences visual phenomena when no sensory stimuli account for them, than to note what the patient sees. What the patient sees is the "content", but the discrepancy between visual perception and objective reality is the "form".
Jaspers thought that psychiatrists could diagnose delusions in the same way. He argued that clinicians should not consider a belief delusional based on the content of the belief, but only based on the way in which a patient holds such a belief. (See delusion for further discussion.) Jaspers also distinguished between primary and secondary delusions. He defined primary delusions as autochthonous, meaning that they arise without apparent cause, appearing incomprehensible in terms of a normal mental process. (This is a slightly different use of the word autochthonous than the ordinary medical or sociological use as a synonym for indigenous.) Secondary delusions, on the other hand, he defined as those influenced by the person's background, current situation or mental state.
Jaspers considered primary delusions to be ultimately "un-understandable", since he believed no coherent reasoning process existed behind their formation. This view has caused some controversy, and the likes of R. D. Laing and Richard Bentall (1999, p. 133–135) have criticised it, stressing that this stance can lead therapists into the complacency of assuming that because they do not understand a patient, the patient is deluded and further investigation on the part of the therapist will have no effect. For instance Huub Engels (2009) argues that schizophrenic disordered speech may be understandable, just as Emil Kraepelin's dream speech is understandable.
Most commentators associate Jaspers with the philosophy of existentialism, in part because he draws largely upon the existentialist roots of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, and in part because the theme of individual freedom permeates his work. In Philosophy (3 vols, 1932), Jaspers gave his view of the history of philosophy and introduced his major themes. Beginning with modern science and empiricism, Jaspers points out that as we question reality, we confront borders that an empirical (or scientific) method simply cannot transcend. At this point, the individual faces a choice: sink into despair and resignation, or take a leap of faith toward what Jaspers calls Transcendence . In making this leap, individuals confront their own limitless freedom, which Jaspers calls Existenz , and can finally experience authentic existence.[ citation needed ]
Transcendence (paired with the term The Encompassing in later works) is, for Jaspers, that which exists beyond the world of time and space. Jaspers' formulation of Transcendence as ultimate non-objectivity (or no-thing-ness) has led many philosophers to argue that ultimately, Jaspers became a monist, though Jaspers himself continually stressed the necessity of recognizing the validity of the concepts both of subjectivity and of objectivity.[ citation needed ]
Although he rejected explicit religious doctrines, [ citation needed ]including the notion of a personal God, Jaspers influenced contemporary theology through his philosophy of transcendence and the limits of human experience. Mystic Christian traditions influenced Jaspers himself tremendously, particularly those of Meister Eckhart and of Nicholas of Cusa. He also took an active interest in Eastern philosophies, particularly Buddhism, and developed the theory of an Axial Age, a period of substantial philosophical and religious development. Jaspers also entered public debates with Rudolf Bultmann, wherein Jaspers roundly criticized Bultmann's "demythologizing" of Christianity. (See Myth and Christianity: An Inquiry into the Possibility of Religion without Myth – a debate between Jaspers and Bultmann, The Noonday Press, New York, 1958)
Jaspers wrote extensively on the threat to human freedom posed by modern science and modern economic and political institutions. During World War II, he had to abandon his teaching post because his wife was Jewish. After the war he resumed his teaching position, and in his work The Question of German Guilt he unabashedly examined the culpability of Germany as a whole in the atrocities of Hitler's Third Reich.
The following quote about the Second World War and its atrocities was used at the end of the sixth episode of the BBC documentary series The Nazis: A Warning from History : "That which has happened is a warning. To forget it is guilt. It must be continually remembered. It was possible for this to happen, and it remains possible for it to happen again at any minute. Only in knowledge can it be prevented."
Jaspers' major works, lengthy and detailed, can seem daunting in their complexity. His last great attempt at a systematic philosophy of Existenz – Von Der Wahrheit (On Truth) – has not yet appeared in English. However, he also wrote shorter works, most notably, Philosophy is for Everyman. The two major proponents of phenomenological hermeneutics, namely Paul Ricoeur (a student of Jaspers) and Hans-Georg Gadamer (Jaspers' successor at Heidelberg), both display Jaspers' influence in their works.
Jaspers identified with the liberal political philosophy of Max Weber, although he rejected Weber's nationalism.He valued humanism and cosmopolitanism and, influenced by Immanuel Kant, advocated an international federation of states with shared constitutions, laws, and international courts. He strongly opposed totalitarian despotism and warned about the increasing tendency towards technocracy, or a regime that regards humans as mere instruments of science or of ideological goals. He was also skeptical of majoritarian democracy. Thus, he supported a form of governance that guaranteed individual freedom and limited government, and shared Weber's belief that democracy needed to be guided by an intellectual elite. His views were seen as anti-communist.
Jaspers held Kierkegaard and Nietzsche to be two of the most important figures in post-Kantian philosophy. In his compilation, The Great Philosophers (Die großen Philosophen), he wrote: "I approach the presentation of Kierkegaard with some trepidation. Next to Nietzsche, or rather, prior to Nietzsche, I consider him to be the most important thinker of our post-Kantian age. With Goethe and Hegel, an epoch had reached its conclusion, and our prevalent way of thinking – that is, the positivistic, natural-scientific one – cannot really be considered as philosophy."[ This quote needs a citation ] Jaspers also questions whether the two philosophers could be taught. For Kierkegaard, at least, Jaspers felt that Kierkegaard's whole method of indirect communication precludes any attempts to properly expound his thought into any sort of systematic teaching.
Though Jaspers was certainly indebted to Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, he also owes much to more traditional philosophers, especially Kant and Plato. Walter Kaufmann argues in From Shakespeare to Existentialism that, though Jaspers was certainly indebted to Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, he was closest to Kant's philosophy:
Jaspers is too often seen as the heir of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard to whom he is in many ways less close than to Kant ... the Kantian antinomies and Kant's concern with the realm of decision, freedom, and faith have become exemplary for Jaspers. And even as Kant "had to do away with knowledge to make room for faith," Jaspers values Nietzsche in large measure because he thinks that Nietzsche did away with knowledge, thus making room for Jaspers' "philosophic faith" ...
In his essay "On My Philosophy", Jaspers states: "While I was still at school Spinoza was the first. Kant then became the philosopher for me and has remained so...Nietzsche gained importance for me only late as the magnificent revelation of nihilism and the task of overcoming it."Jaspers is also indebted to his contemporaries, such as Heinrich Blücher from who he borrowed the term, "the anti-political principle" to describe totalitarianism's destruction of a space of resistance.
Existentialism ( or ) is a form of philosophical inquiry that explores the problem of human existence and centers on the lived experience of the thinking, feeling, acting individual. In the view of the existentialist, the individual's starting point has been called "the existential angst", or a sense of disorientation, confusion, or anxiety in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German philosopher, and the most important figure in German idealism. He is considered one of the fundamental figures of modern Western philosophy, with his influence extending to the entire range of contemporary philosophical issues, from aesthetics to ontology to politics, both in the analytic and continental tradition.
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, social critic, and religious author who is widely considered to be the first existentialist philosopher. He wrote critical texts on organized religion, Christendom, morality, ethics, psychology, and the philosophy of religion, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony, and parables. Much of his philosophical work deals with the issues of how one lives as a "single individual", giving priority to concrete human reality over abstract thinking and highlighting the importance of personal choice and commitment. He was against literary critics who defined idealist intellectuals and philosophers of his time, and thought that Swedenborg, Hegel, Fichte, Schelling, Schlegel, and Hans Christian Andersen were all "understood" far too quickly by "scholars".
German philosophy, here taken to mean either (1) philosophy in the German language or (2) philosophy by Germans, has been extremely diverse, and central to both the analytic and continental traditions in philosophy for centuries, from Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz through Immanuel Kant, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger and Ludwig Wittgenstein to contemporary philosophers. Søren Kierkegaard is frequently included in surveys of German philosophy due to his extensive engagement with German thinkers.
Ernst Kuno Berthold Fischer was a German philosopher, a historian of philosophy and a critic.
In the 19th century, the philosophers of the 18th-century Enlightenment began to have a dramatic effect on subsequent developments in philosophy. In particular, the works of Immanuel Kant gave rise to a new generation of German philosophers and began to see wider recognition internationally. Also, in a reaction to the Enlightenment, a movement called Romanticism began to develop towards the end of the 18th century. Key ideas that sparked changes in philosophy were the fast progress of science, including evolution, most notably postulated by Charles Darwin and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, and theories regarding what is today called emergent order, such as the free market of Adam Smith within nation states. Pressures for egalitarianism, and more rapid change culminated in a period of revolution and turbulence that would see philosophy change as well.
Continental philosophy is a set of 19th- and 20th-century philosophical traditions from mainland Europe. This sense of the term originated among English-speaking philosophers in the second half of the 20th century, who used it to refer to a range of thinkers and traditions outside the analytic movement. Continental philosophy includes German idealism, phenomenology, existentialism, hermeneutics, structuralism, post-structuralism, deconstruction, French feminism, psychoanalytic theory, and the critical theory of the Frankfurt School as well as branches of Freudian, Hegelian and Western Marxist views.
Kurt Schneider was a German psychiatrist known largely for his writing on the diagnosis and understanding of schizophrenia, as well as personality disorders then known as psychopathic personalities.
Modern philosophy is philosophy developed in the modern era and associated with modernity. It is not a specific doctrine or school, although there are certain assumptions common to much of it, which helps to distinguish it from earlier philosophy.
Christian existentialism is a theo-philosophical movement which takes an existentialist approach to Christian theology. The school of thought is often traced back to the work of the Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855).
Walter Arnold Kaufmann was a German-American philosopher, translator, and poet. A prolific author, he wrote extensively on a broad range of subjects, such as authenticity and death, moral philosophy and existentialism, theism and atheism, Christianity and Judaism, as well as philosophy and literature. He served more than 30 years as a professor at Princeton University.
James Ferguson Conant is an American philosopher who has written extensively on topics in philosophy of language, ethics, and metaphilosophy. He is perhaps best known for his writings on Wittgenstein, and his association with the New Wittgenstein school of Wittgenstein interpretation initiated by Cora Diamond. He is currently Chester D. Tripp Professor of Humanities, Professor of Philosophy, and Professor in the College at the University of Chicago, he is Humboldt Professor of Philosophy and co-director of the Center for Analytic German Idealism (FAGI) at the University of Leipzig. He is also Director of the Center for German Philosophy at the University of Chicago. Under his leadership, these two research centers form the main axis of an international philosophical network, spanning Germany, Israel and the United States.
Irrational Man: A Study In Existential Philosophy is a 1958 book by the philosopher William Barrett, in which the author explains the philosophical background of existentialism and provides a discussion of several major existentialist thinkers, including Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, and Jean-Paul Sartre. Irrational Man helped to introduce existentialism to the English-speaking world and has been identified as one of the most useful books that discuss the subject, but Barrett has also been criticized for endorsing irrationality and for giving a distorted and misleading account of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.
Western philosophy refers to the philosophical thought and work of the Western world. Historically, the term refers to the philosophical thinking of Western culture, beginning with the ancient Greek philosophy of the pre-Socratics. The word philosophy itself originated from the Ancient Greek philosophía (φιλοσοφία), literally, "the love of wisdom".
Philosophy of Existence is a book by German psychiatrist and philosopher Karl Jaspers. It is both a discussion on the history of philosophy and an exposition of Jaspers' own philosophical system, which is often viewed as a form of existentialism. He put forth concepts such as existence in a minimal and superficial state, "dasein", and Existenz, a state of authentic true being, and their relationship with the "encompassing", an elusive being often understood as the totality of consciousness, the world itself, and other forms of determinate objects. Jaspers stressed the importance of transcendence, similar to the term "leap of faith" implied in the works of Søren Kierkegaard.
Atheistic existentialism is a kind of existentialism which strongly diverged from the Christian existential works of Søren Kierkegaard and developed within the context of an atheistic world view. The philosophies of Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche provided existentialism's theoretical foundation in the 19th century, although their differing views on religion proved essential to the development of alternate types of existentialism. Atheistic existentialism was formally recognized after the 1943 publication of Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre and Sartre later explicitly alluded to it in Existentialism is a Humanism in 1946.
This is a list of articles in continental philosophy.
The Karl Jaspers Society of North America (KJSNA) is a philosophy organization founded on December 28, 1980 by George B. Pepper, Edith Ehrlich, and Leonard H. Ehrlich to promote study and research on the ideas of Karl Jaspers and related issues in continental philosophy. The prospect of forming this society emerged from the research by these scholars while preparing a systematic reader of the basic philosophical writings of Karl Jaspers. Enthusiastic response to the reader prompted Pepper and Ehrlich to conclude that a learned society to study the work of Jaspers should be founded.
Alan M. Olson is a Professor of the Philosophy of Religion, Emeritus, at Boston University. He received his degrees from Saint Olaf College, Luther Theological Seminary, Nashotah House, where he studied with Arthur Anton Vogel, and Boston University (Ph.D.) where he studied with Peter A. Bertocci, Erazim Kohak, Harold H. Oliver and John N. Findlay. He served as Chairman of the Religion Department at Boston University, 1980–1987, and Chairman of the Philosophy Department, ad interim, 1987-1989. During the 1970s he was Program Coordinator of the Boston University Institute for Philosophy and Religion; and was Executive Director of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy in Boston, 1998. He was a Senior Fulbright Research Fellow at University of Tübingen, Germany, in 1986, where he studied with Klaus Hartmann; and a Senior Fulbright Research Fellow and Visiting Fellow at the Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen, Vienna, Austria, in 1995, where he worked with Krzysztof Michalski. He served on the Board of Officers of the American Philosophical Association, 2000–2003; and is past president of the Karl Jaspers Society of North America. He delivered the Jaspers Lectures at university college, Oxford in 1989; and was co-editor, with Helmut Wautischer, of the philosophical journal, Existenz from 2006 to 2015. He lives on Cape Cod with his wife, Janet L. Olson, Professor Emerita, College of Fine Arts, Boston University. They have two daughters, Maren Kirsten, Sonja Astrid, and one grandson, Søren.
Søren Kierkegaard's influence and reception varied widely and may be roughly divided into various chronological periods. Reactions were anything but uniform, and proponents of various ideologies attempted to appropriate his work quite early.
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