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While the “intellectuals of the crisis” are convinced of living in a civilization unable to produce new ideals, Edmund Husserl and Karl Jaspers, who want to understand the motivations of this “crisis”, believe that Europe is not the land of a civilization “at its twilight”. They observe and respect the cultural and scientific European heritage, but when they contemplate the blind faith in science and technology, they see the decline of the West. While rediscovering the ideal of Humanitas and the living force of the Logos, understood as a critical attitude able to see the crisis of the times, they find the motivation with which Europe could save itself. But if the Krisis focuses on European leadership, Jaspers interprets its rebirth from a worldwide perspective. If the ideal of Bildung, understood as a lifelong learning of respect for and freedom of others, is what it is to be attained from the very beginning of European history, acquiring a global view means aspiring to a form of alliance and solidarity among peoples, supporting new forms of federalism, as a “new world order”, that can prevent new wars. After the “end” of a Hegelian world history, of every possible history with the idea of development and continuity, Jaspers see the beginning of a new history of humanity in which the defense from forms of totalitarianism and fanaticism go through an appeal to the supra-political instance of reason, understood as discursive reason: a free critical attitude that overcomes the limits of the intellect in order to open itself up to transcendence
The present contribution follows the development of a subject which is essential for the whole range of Jaspers thought: the idea that a fundamental thought must establish an organic relation between understanding and explaining, since philosophy has the task not to constitute an alternative to science, but always to take advantage of the results that come from the latter. As a particular development of the more general problem concerning the nexus between science and philosophy, understanding and explaining, this contribution also stresses the connection between philosophical faith and belief in revelation. According to Jaspers, a critical consideration that would want to match up with the contents of the biblical faith, must understand them not in a pure objective way, but without completely abandon an objective level of comprehension, in order to succeed to see in them the dimension of the cipher, a dimension that can only be read, interpreted, constantly examined in depth.
The aim of this paper is to submit an interpretation of Karl Jaspers’ concept of “evil” in his work Von der Wahrheit, published in 1947; Jaspers had begun working on this text in the 1930s: the philosophy of truth is a radical answer to the evil overshadowing his life during the nazi regime. Thence, after a brief introduction (I.), I will try to give an overall description of Jaspers’ situation in those years, since Jaspers’ personal biography and philosophy go hand in hand (II.). Subsequently, I will dedicate some more in-depth considerations to the concept of evil, showing that it is deeply linked to the events of the 20th century (III.). In order to do so, I will focus on the concepts of “radical evil” and “infernal evil” as manifestations of an “incomprehensible” evil which lies at the core of things themselves. The central claim is that, in order to grasp Evil in the 20th century, we need an epistemological (and not, or not only, moral or ethical) account of what evil is. In the last part (IV.), I will try to substanciate this interpretation by a close reading of some passages from F. Dostoeskij’s The Brothers Karamazov, which, although written in 1880, is an important reference point for Jaspers and helps him to think philosophically of evil of his time.
The text aims to analyze some central issues of Jaspers’ understanding of Weltanschauung, which are critically connected to phenomenology and so-called philosophy of life. Already in his early works, Jaspers is influenced by both of these philosophical movements, repurposing them from a personal perspective. In particular, this kind of interpretation focuses on the following theoretical standpoints: the issue of a psychic structure of the soul; the meaning of the objective and the objectifying process; the question evolving around the metaphysics of the Psychologie der Weltanschauungen; the relationship between philosophy and Weltanschauung. In dealing with such issues, Jaspers travels along a constant theoretical plane, id est perceiving life and the spirit as an infinite and unobjectifiable dimension.
The paper aims to elicit a response between Theodor Adorno’s critical theory and the productive ambiguity of Jaspers’ early philosophy nestled in Psychology of World Views. Two main themes are addressed; firstly, both theories deal with the meaning of subjectivity relative to the framework of the psychological epistemic field, and stress the relevance of the concept of «psychological reality», implicating the “power of the psychic dimension” to cross over its own limits, which Jaspers considers as a founding element of psychopathological connections, but contains, in light of Adorno’s reflections, certain aspects of postmodern life forms. Secondly, an affinity can be emphasized between Jaspers’ “philosophy of the split” and Adorno’s critique of philosophy of identity, contained in his early re-elaboration of Walter Benjamin’s notions of «allegory» and «historical-natural thought». In fact, by means of a dislocation of truth and validity from a metaphysical plane to a world view, the «subject-object split» seems to call into question the sovereignty of thought as prima philosophia. On the other hand, from the critical theory perspective, it can be asked to which extent Jaspers’ foundamental antinomy of life tends to hypostatize the «soul» against the space-temporal empirical being.
Die Schuldfrage, one of the most famous works by Karl Jaspers, allowed the author to reconnect with the general public after years of silence forced upon him by the National Socialist Regime, by tackling one of the most controversial political-cultural issues of his time. Through his scrupulous considerations of the ‘spiritual situation in Germany’ and four types of guilt, he is able to act as 1) a German citizen; 2) an ethical-practical philosopher; 3) a political intellectual. As far as the intrinsic value that this work represents for Jaspers’ philosophicalpolitical evolution, Schuldfrage can be considered the cornerstone work of his newly matured political thought, which has utilised its experience of a dictatorship and totalitarian system as a mandatory ex negativo introduction to any constructive political thought. The totalitarian experience has, in fact, taught the philosopher to evaluate both the indispensability of politics itself and the need for ethical-oriented and individual-based politics in which each citizen is not only a participant/end user, but also acts as a conscious and responsible active member. This contribution uses the work on German guilt as a starting point to outline the evolution of Karl Jaspers’ political awareness, which, in turn, clearly stems from philosophical premises and displays an anthropocentric pull towards freedom: the constituent value of man as the yardstick and purpose of any political view. Thus, the ambitious and stern ‘gaze of the philosopher on the twentieth century’ becomes the starting point for a new outlook onto the future.
As a young psychiatrist, Karl Jaspers wrote his 1913 book, General Psychopathology: special personal conditions at the hospital of the university and the scientific influence of Max Weber and the Neo-Kantian movement in Heidelberg helped him greatly to form a methodological classic of modern psychiatry. The article initially sketches these historical circumstances, before concentrating on the decisive impact that his later philosophical thinking had on the advanced version of his General Psychopathology. This last edition was written during World War II, in a time of internal emigration when Jaspers was not allowed to publish any philosophical works. So Jaspers seized this opportunity to integrate core ideas of his existential philosophy in the psychiatric book. The result, a totally new section on “The Human Being as a Whole”, can be called psychiatric anthropology with deep philosophical foundations. Its leading idea of freedom can be traced back to the most important thinkers which Jaspers mentioned in the General Psychopathology as important founders of human anthropology: Socrates, Augustine, Pascal, Kant and Nietzsche. They all contribute in different ways to the critical and fervent aspects of Jaspers´ psychiatric anthropology, while their metaphysical tendencies differ greatly. Nevertheless, they are all derived from ancient and Jewish-Christian tradition.
The concept of Achsenzeit within Karl Jaspers’ philosophical reasoning takes on different perspectives that are often related to an existential beyond the mere history of philosophy, uncovering specificities of each author when facing the great struggle of his own “thoughtexistence”. Thus, this existential orientation maps the pathways within the history of each thinker which have led his actions beyond the boundaries of time and space. In particular, the case of Confucian thought shows all the uncertain issues concerning the real existence of Confucius himself. However, at the same time, it shows some of the nuances that take on a specific characteristic, so much so that the it will drastically change the lives of his own disciples; these will write the Analecta, inspired by his own sayings and actions.
This paper sets out to define the methodological foundations of philosophical historiography as developed by Karl Jaspers in his work, The Great Philosophers. This book represents one of the most interesting theoretical models of philosophical historiography of the twentieth century. The key elements of the framework outlined by Jaspers are derived from the pivotal concepts of his philosophy: the polarity between existence and reason, the overcoming of the alternative between dogmatism and scepticism in the definition of truth, and the existential roots of each and every philosophical synthesis. The goal of this work is to examine aspects of Jaspers’ view which are clearly more historiographical, mainly the philosopher’s attitude towards history of philosophy in both a philological and speculative sense. Jaspers clearly refutes the history of philosophy as realistic knowledge based on the reconstruction of nexus and objective connections. Likewise, the philosopher does not accept a speculative Hegelian-like vision of the history of philosophy since he was convinced that no one is able to dominate the history “from above”. The core of Jaspers’ methodological approach to the history of philosophy is therefore a “subjectivity” that should not be understood as a mere relativity, but rather as the only possibility of genuinely understanding the philosophers of the past, with which the theoretical interpreter is existentially involved. In this context, a close analysis will be carried out on the nexus crated between personality and history, following a double correlation: on one hand, the objective relationship between the personality of the “great” philosophers and their epoch and beyond; on the other hand, the subjective relationship which is created between the subjectivity of the interpreter and the philosophers of the past, drawing them towards the existential plane and issues of the former.
Karl Jaspers concurs with Plato that philosophy and politics are inseparable and that the well-being of citizens and states depends on the philosophizing of politics. Contrary to Plato, however, he does not support thea philosophical education of an elite in a totalarian state, but supports an all including self-education of all citizens in a democratic state. The article explains the reasons behind Jaspers’ claims and shows the consequences of Jaspers’ position with regard to his understanding of philosophy, politics and education. The article focuses on the concepts of conversion (Umkehr), reason and the meta-political (das Überpolitische); the role of statesmen and of professional philosophers in public debate is also discussed, likewise the importance of the appropriate education in public schools. The article is an attempt to establish a critical dialogue with Jaspers and, thus, showing the relevance of Jaspers’ thought in today’s world.
This paper, through the works and discussions that Jaspers elaborates during the post World War II years, sets out to give an outline of his well-structudured and original Bildung projects. The exceptional figure of Goethe will constitute an inextricable reference point, as other philosophers of the time – from Benjamin to Scheler, Stein to Cassirer – had tried to re-interpret the latter, in light of new historical events. Not wanting to represent a mere moral vindication after the German catastrophe, the Jaspers Bildung will also be further developed and expounded, a sign that the intentions of the philosopher will constantly point to the creation of a new Western humanism, capable of neutralizing the destructive waves of fledgling European nihilism.
This essay analyses the discussion between Jaspers and the young Heidegger about the littleknown masterpiece Psychologie der Weltanschauungen (1919). The author outlines the complex relationship between the two thinkers through their letters, focuses the historical context of Heidegger’s critics and shows how Jasper’s book has had a positive influence on Heidegger’s evolution in an ontological perspective.
This paper draws on a series of reflections by Karl Jaspers on William James’s work, relating to the description and analysis of certain psychopathological experiences, such as changes in perception and hallucinatory states present both in common mental illnesses and various mystical experiences. The hermeneutic hypothesis of this essay pertains to the comparison between Jaspersian thought during the first decade of the last century, which could be defined as ‘phenomenological’, and a unique trait of James, author of The Varieties of Religious Experience, in which he adopts, in a manner of speaking, a ‘phenomenological’ characterization.
What do twentieth-century philosophers Karl Jaspers and Étienne Gilson – so different from one another in biography, education and perspectives – have in common? The former, with a scientific and psychiatric background, approaches philosophy because of his dissatisfaction with “Objectivism” in science, responsible for eclipsing existence; the latter elects philosophy as his research area, in particular, restoring medieval philosophy, discovering therein the originality of Thomas Aquinas’ “existential” metaphysics. Belonging to the same turbulent historical period, the two philosophers have witnessed the fall of the modern paradigm in the folly of ideologies and in the catastrophe of the World Wars. Within this context, they have both re-routed a thought process which was, until then, fueled by a totalitarean reason. They showed alternative ways that could prevent an easy escape into nihilism. It is not by coincidence that they were both reluctant to accept academic philosophical thought in Universities; both tried to reinstate terms like existence and transcendence within the philosophical debate. Their shared interest in history of philosophy and adopting a metaphysical attitude towards philosophical practice brings them, onnce more, closer together. It is within this metaphisical plane where interesting similarities can be found. There is a considerable distance between the Umgreifende philosophy and the actus essendi, but similarities can be detected in their consideration that Being cannot be achieved and destroyed by a calculating reason; it can only happen indirectly as thought ceasing to conceptualize existence, thus becoming the means with which to ‘peek’ at the origins of existence itself. If Jaspers distinguishes between ‘explaining’ and ‘understanding’, Gilson rejects logical thought in favour of the judgment of existence and attention to sense experience, to reality. In both authors, an implicit ethical reference is made to the transcendence of reality. It cannot be achieved through logical thought, but by understanding Being without reducing it to Essence, or concept. We are conscious that these epilogues are necessarily diverse, but we verily want to focus on similarities as proof of a common mission on behalf of the two philosophers, who – despite their differences – display a metaphysical outlook towards concrete reality, capable of understanding and equating reason with existence.
The purpose of this essay is to draw a comparison between the thought of Karl Jaspers and Emanuele Severino around the theme of “transcendence”, with the intent of clarifying the nature of Severino’s interpretation of one of the key concepts of Jaspers’ thought. Such a reading has two distinct phases, in connection with the two main stages of Severino thought. It is well known that in a typical Jaspersian perspective one can speak appropriately (in philosophical terms) of Transcendence only in relation to the correlative concept of Existence. In a first phase, the Severinian interpretation – analogously to Heidegger – demonstrates how existentialism in Jaspers is defined not by a philosophizing limited to the sphere of Existence, but also for its specific mode of addressing the Whole of being, according to the perspective that is formed by Existence itself. In a second phase, Severino aims, instead, to show the link between the concepts of Transcendence and Existence with the now decisive theme (for him) of the “becoming” of entities and of the implied nihilistic conception of being. The author concludes the essay by giving the comparison between the two thinkers a much wider horizon, raising the question whether the original truth in philosophy is Existence, or if “existential truth” should refer to the original truth of the metaphysical Being.
This text will focus on the ideas and arguments that Karl Jaspers and Hannah Arendt exchanged during their correspondence about the Eichmann trial, and on Jaspers’ position regarding Arendt’s publication Eichmann in Jerusalem, which provoked a storm of criticism. Firstly, after some initial considerations on the letters prior the 1961 trial and on the letters written at the time, I will try to show not only the two friends’ feelings regarding this important historical event and what moved them the most on a personal level, but also to present the theoretical and political theses, i.e. the philosophical theses of both – like, for example, the chance of the trial taking place in Israel, on relations between Israel and Judaism, or even on the singularist and universalist interpretation of this legal case. Secondly, I will expound on those letters which testified the crescendo in criticism of Arendt’s book, to show Jaspers’ uncertain and hesitant position regarding these pages, and finish by analysing his determination in defending his friend during a 1965 interview. But this route is justified, not only to find how far their friendship remained faithful and unwavering at the moment of the other’s extreme fragility, but also to show how Karl Jaspers may have shared the writer Mary McCarthy’s thinking: Eichmann in Jerusalem is quite simply “a document of ethical responsibility”.
Despite the differences between Jaspers and Heidegger’s philosophical conceptions, some basic common features in their conceptions of transcendence can be found. First of all, the transcending movement of existence identifies a way of understanding and experiencing which is tendentially a non-objectifying act. Secondly, the centrality of the “pathic” dimension comes to light in both perspectives: the disclosure of Befindlichkeit and the driving force of love originate and nourish the transcending process. Furthermore, the two philosophers agree on locating the direction of the transcending movement in the multidimensional sphere of Being. If it is true that Heidegger, unlinke Jaspers, does not explicitly include the divine in the region towards which the transcending dynamics is oriented, he still considers faith an existential possibility that is grounded in Dasein’s transcendence and enabled by it. Finally, the analysis of the two philosophical approaches allows us to argue that the transcending act is never realized by man as an isolated effort, but can only be carried out along with the other’s existence. Man cannot become aware of Being and God outside the relationship with others.
Karl Jaspers, Della verità. Logica filosofica (Claudio Fiorillo)
Oreste Tolone, Alle origini dell’antropologia medica. Il pensiero di Viktor von Weizsäcker (Mariafilomena Anzalone)
Louiss A. Sass, Follia e modernità. La pazzia alla luce dell’arte, della letteratura e del pensiero moderni (Giuseppe Maccauro)
Paul Ricoeur e “les proches”. Vivere e raccontare il Novecento, a cura di Vinicio Busacchi e Giovanna Costanzo (Emma Ghersi)
Nota di Anton Hügli, Edizione commentata dell’opera completa di Karl Jaspers (estate 2016)