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Trust and certainty are, like belief and knowledge, basic features of Jaspers’ thought. His Existenz-Philosophie unfolds as a new form of metaphysics in the ways of being of human orientation in the world, of the illumination of existence, and in the interpretation of the language of ciphers. Also new is the methodical awareness of this metaphysics in the connection of personal and supra-personal, direct and indirect communication. Instead of the traditional foundational ontology, there is a periechontology, a teaching of the complex arrangement of the multiple meanings of the being of being, of human being and the being of truth. In this arrangement, trust and certitude find their respective specific meanings: the compelling certitude of scientific knowledge is thus a different one from the certitude of trust, which emanates from love and faithfulness.
The essay examines Jaspers’ critique on the Katholizitat, focusing on: 1) The impulse to the universal; 2) The historical inversion; 3) The crash of the encompassing unity. Jaspers’ analysis regarding the historical movement of the catholicity allows to identify a structure, that is always available and that is conscious result of a period of crisis; this period reaches its highest point in the fanaticism and in the unconscious self-limitation.
The main focus of Kierkegaard’s presence in Jaspers’ existential philosophy is devoted to the concept of existence, which Jaspers in his Autobiographie defined as ‹illuminating›. The concept of ‹self›, or of Jaspers’ existing subject, is highlighted by the idea of the ‹single› in Kierkegaard. Similarly relevant, however, is the methodological influence of the same concept on Jaspers’ philosophy. Jaspers, like Kierkegaard, takes onto himself all of its relevance and the ambivalence characterizing thought and its activity. On the one hand, truth’s instance which expresses itself in universally valid propositions. On the other hand, the singular root of the relationship with truth, and therefore the subjective flair of truth itself. This theme, developed by Kierkegaard (especially in the Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments) through the distinction between ‹subjective thinker› and ‹objective thinker›, is re-introduced in Jaspers’ Philosophie as the distinction between objective, scientific knowledge on the one hand, and philosophy as subjective thought, proceeding from existence and developing into a clarification of existence, on the other.
Die grosen Philosophen contains Karl Jaspers’ important monograph on Augustine. This work points out, better than others, the co-existence of the model and its contradiction in the great theologian’s thought, which is divided between ‹philosophical faith› and revealed religion. In Augustine’s works we find the two most important languages of transcendence known by western civilization: that of classical philosophy and that of the Bible. Such a ‹meeting› is one of the fundamentals of western culture; yet it seems to be continually suppressed by Catholicism. Beginning with Augustine, we can see a type of authoritarianism that determines the destiny of the Christian-Jewish tradition in European history. In fact, since the Middle Ages, this tradition has been considered the heritage of the Church, and it has been managed in accordance with the principles of exclusiveness and absoluteness.
Among the numerous themes of Karl Jaspers’ philosophy, a strong interest exists in the ethical problem. This article involves his whole philosophy, even if it concerns a specific branch. Viewed under this aspect, the illumination of existence (Existenzerhellung) takes place, not only by thinking about the interpretation of what this existence is, but also by thinking what it can and must be. In this way existence is explained in its characteristic possibilities, particularly concerning the free and ethically good will, which exists thanks to the moral conscience (Gewissen). The moral conscience is included in the absolute conscience (absolutes Bewusstsein); existence expresses its intimate being as a complete being, all the same opened to the unconditioned and to transcendence.
In the first part, the text develops some central aspects of a new philosophical theology: the transcendence of being, the transcendence of language and the transcendence of human existence. The equiprimordiality of these three aspects of transcendence leads to absolute transcendence, the transcendence of God. The second part of the essay compares Karl Jaspers’ concept of transcendence with the author’s own approach. In particular, it investigates Jaspers’ fundamental concepts of failure (Scheitern) and cipher (Chiffren) as language of transcendence.
Jaspers grew up in a liberal milieu in which there was hardly any talk of religious questions. Everything that smacked of Christian dogmatism was strange to him right from his youth. After the Second World War he searched for a transformation of the Christian faith into a Biblical one – a category in which he also included the Jewish tradition and, in unclarified manner, the Islamic one. To the extent that the Biblical tradition was shaped by forms of revelational faith, he countered the latter with the idea of philosophical faith, which is characterized by three conditions. Philosophical faith should (1) no longer understand itself as revelation, but as a cipher of revelation; (2) radically distance itself from the claim to exclusivity, which Jaspers considered the evil in revelational faiths; (3) forgo both the idolization of Jesus and seeing in Jesus a cipher of transcendence. For Jaspers every type of incarnation of transcendence was superstition, and ‹maximum of embodiment› exactly the opposite of transcendence. Jesus was a cipher of being human and as such, for the Biblical and Christian cultures, an exemplary human being.
Jaspers’ reading of Job intends to overcome both the Kantian interpretation which is bound only to an ethical stance, and the theological interpretation, which is willing to contest theodicy. On the level of existential clarification, the German philosopher considers Job an emblematic figure of the transcendental movement, able to establish a relationship with transcendence via a ciphered reading of Being. In a similar vein to Kierkegaard and Pascal, Jaspers sees in the revolt of the innocent man, who is hurt by undeserved evil, the highest challenge of existential freedom. The latter is addressed to transcendence, without confessional and dogmatic solutions. Jaspers’ Job is an expression of the unstable balance between existential finiteness and Being, which is only realized in the language of ciphers.
Belief, according to a popular thesis (also represented by philosophers) is subjective, while knowledge is objective. This thesis is rejected as untenable. For each type of knowledge and belief there can be no objectivity without an accompanying subjectivity – i.e., without the knowing subject bringing itself into the relation from which the object makes itself known. Whilst this can readily be made plausible for all immanent modes of being of humans and their respective object relations, the problem remains of making intelligible what this could mean for the relation to transcendence. Departing from Jaspers’ formula ‹No existence without transcendence› it is shown, by means of the example of the existential decision, in what manner the individual, when he grasps himself in freedom, sees himself confronted by transcendence – in the form of unconditional demands›. The current actuality of this idea is shown in a comparison with contemporary theories of rather analytic provenance, such as, for example, Harry Frankfurt’s concept of inner necessity or Charles Taylor’s conception of so-called strong evaluations, which express what people finally are and which cannot be understood without transcendence. Newly appropriating again this relation to transcendence in ‹salvaging translation› of traditional religious contents is, as also Habermas emphasises not least with reference to Jaspers, the task of philosophy in the present.
Philosophical faith has, according to Jaspers, been a possibility of believing since the beginnings of philosophy. Philosophical faith is faith without revelation and without dogmas. How, then, can we achieve certainty of faith? Jaspers refers to the procedure of self-ascertainment (Selbstvergewisserung), a way of thinking which leads to private certainty in the examination of concepts, arguments, insights, traditional ideas and images. The process of self-ascertainment cannot be completed. The achieved certainty is existential certainty, provisional and subjective. Nevertheless, in its degree of certainty it is stronger than objective certainty. Correspondingly, philosophical faith is existential faith, founded in the philosophical intention ‹to convince oneself›.
The purpose of this article is to justify the following two theses: (1) Jaspers’ concept of philosophical faith is of high relevance for his conception of humanity, as well as for his conception of philosophy in general; (2) the concept of philosophical faith implies a set of specific moral norms that allows seeing in Jaspers an advocate of a liberal ethos of humanity.
In the following paper, the author shows that both Karl Jaspers’ notion of philosophical faith and his reflections on the political situation of the time are highly motivated by something which Robert N. Bellah would later call civil religion. In this respect the author refers to three classical texts of the period between 1946 and 1949: ‹The European Spirit› (Vom europaischen Geist, 1946), ‹The Perennial Scope of Philosophy› (Der philosophische Glaube, 1948) and ‹The Origin and Goal of History› (Vom Ursprung und Ziel der Geschichte, 1949). As indicated by the title of the first text, Jaspers understands philosophical faith as a possibility to both define and establish a European civil religion, which, despite some strong parallels, differs from American civil religion as described by Bellah. For Jaspers, a particular means to propagate it is the use of prophetic language.
Jaspers and Binswanger moved to philosophical reflection through their practice in psychiatry. The insufficiency of the psychiatric method and the lack of results brought both of them to recognize the complexity of the existential dimension, which requires paying close attention to the peculiarity of each human life. From this perspective, for both Jaspers and Binswanger, there is no gap between existence and pathology, since both can be represented as an interval, a discontinuity between said and unsaid, between objective and subjective, between what is specific to the individual and common. In this gap, and in the complexity of the dialogue, it is questioned whether it is possible to achieve explanations and demonstrations minimizing the importance of the peculiarity of the human life that is present in both the pathology and normality. Neither Jaspers nor Binswanger converge on a sceptical position, stressing instead, the importance of the ethical factor associated with each analysis of human life.
Limit, for Karl Jaspers, is not something to be overcome by simply leaving it behind (‹the Same that already was›). Nor is it something to be kept in prospect as an ulterior perspective (‹the Other›). It is rather something to ‹live in›, to expand upon, and to sound out in all its convolutions. Jaspers’ philosophy is, in its multiple facets, a great and reiterated attempt to express Limit from many possible perspectives (the medical, the scientific, the psychological, the philosophical, the theological, the political etc.), because limit does not exist unless lingered upon. This article, therefore, interprets Jaspers’ life, along with his way of thinking and analyzes the concept of Limit in its ontological (paradox), ethical (freedom) and existential (suffering) senses. In its existential sense the existential peculiarity of the ‹joining limit› in particular is in evidence: the Way of Suffering (Weg des Leidens) or the lived experience of human limits as the power that pushes man to lead a ‹vita activa›, in spite of the inevitable clash with any disparate Limit. But this is possible only by hanging on to existential communication in time of privation, even if in durftiger Zeit.
This essay analyses the basic of the Jaspers’ psychopathology: the distinction between the understanding and the explanation; the relation with phenomenology; and the critique of organicist-reducing. In correspondence to the distinction between phenomenology understanding and scientific explanation, Jaspers formulates the psychological understanding wherein there is an inter-human approaching, but there is not the opposition subject-object. Indeed, in this discussion we find the relationships since the object is resolved both in the meaning that it assumes for the Ego, and the Ego in the object in which its emotional intentionality is evidenced.
This essay analyses the principal intuitions contained in Jaspers’ early, little-known masterpiece, Psychologie der Weltanschauungen. The purpose is to pinpoint some essential concepts of Jaspers’ work as they outline a metaphysics of the transfinite life, which tries to take account of, and radicalize, the consequences of the Nietzschean anti-philosophical position. Jaspers himself, in his later thought, forgoes such radicalism, withdrawing to a more traditional standpoint. Therefore, precisely what is judged by Heidegger and Scheler as a structural weakness can be considered, instead as the main strength of Jaspersian early thought, fostering a really anti-dogmatic, perspectivistic, evanescent metaphysical position.
The subject of education in Jaspers’ thought can be read on two levels: the numerous theoretical cues that educational theory can deduce from his philosophical reflection; and the role that Jaspers’ philosophical pattern, his manner of philosophizing, assumes in the educational experience. These two levels interweave in his 1952 essay, Von den Grenzen padagogischen Planens, in which he asserts that educational planning does not exhaust the formation of the individual. This formation requires ‹un-planned› space that aims at supporting the free expansion of the personality, which cannot be restricted to exclusively cognitive formation. The true development of the personality needs to live the polar tension between the ‹day’s law› and the ‹night’s passion›; the polar tension between the inevitable objective human dimension and the seducing attachment to elusiveness.
The essay attempts to reconstruct Jaspers’ analysis on delusion. It includes the considerations of Jaspers that have developed in the contemporary debate on delusion, as well as the interpretation of delusion as a possibility of experience. From Jaspers’ axiom of the incomprehensibility – on the basis of which the primary delusions cannot be understood, but only be explained, since they are related to neurological disease – the paper attempts to trace in Jaspers’ analysis the possibility of finding a pass-key to the delusion that may not be strictly causal. The purpose of this essay is to find the root of delusion in the construction of the subjectivity, and the relation between the subject and the outside world within that construction.
With reference to the essay Die geistige Situation der Zeit (1931), this paper explores Karl Jaspers’ position in the face of the modernity, also his stances regarding the main features of the modern mass society: the rationalization, “the disenchantment”, the scientific and technical development, the bureaucratization of life and work, the progress of democracy. In particular, Jaspers’ political attitude lies at the core of the paper. By discussing his opinions and critical remarks about the State, modern war and international politics, it points out the influence of Max Weber’s realist lesson on Jaspers’ work. In the conclusion, it highlights the theoretical limits of Jaspers’ political analysis of one of the darkest and most tormented period of the German and European history.
Within his unique “history of philosophy”, which Jaspers was able to complete only partially (cfr. The great philosophers from 1957 and the Nachlass published in 1981), Pascal, Lessing, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche play an important role as the so-called “great awakeners”. These thinkers did not build a “doctrine” (Lehre) in the strictest sense, and they did not lead the movement of ideas in a single decisive direction. Rather, they caused only “unrest” (Unruhe). They were all critical and polemical thinkers, driven by a clear desire for cultural struggle and by a strong fighting spirit. Far from procuring that “security” (Geborgenheit) usually provided by a knowledge or a faith, these thinkers “awake” what “lies ready in the darkness of the possible Existenz of man”. They grew from the soil of Christianity and they painfully experienced the “upheaval” (Erschutterung) caused by the breakthrough of modern science and the modern experience of the world – a epochal cultural change that shocked and overwhelmed Europe: everything that up to that point had made and supported men (in terms of both faith and knowledge) was being radically put into question. The “great awakeners”, however, retained, albeit in different ways, an essential relationship with Christianity. Christianity continued to influence their thinking: Pascal and Kierkegaard make constant reference to it, because they wanted themselves to be true Christians, despite the presence and the influence of all spiritual counterforces; Nietzsche, however, makes constant reference to Christianity, because he engaged in a vigorous fight against it; Lessing makes constant reference to Christianity, in striving to do it justice with a view to its future transformation.
This essay offers an introduction to the complex relationship between Karl Jaspers’ philosophy of existence and Hans-Georg Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics, focusing on the central issue of the clarification of existence, by utilizing some of Gadamer’s concepts. Existenz, in the particular connotation Jaspers gives to it, can only be clarified, as it can on no account become the object of knowledge. Jaspers’ consciousness regarding history, the importance of Dasein within the constitution of existence in communication, but also the vicinity of some terms Gadamer uses in Wahrheit und Methode, such situation and horizon, to Jaspers’ thinking, make the clarification of existence appear approximately, as a problem which can be discussed in hermeneutical terms.
Roberto Celada Ballanti, Filosofia e religione. Studi su Karl Jaspers (Antonio Di Gennaro)
Fiorella Bassan, Al di là della psichiatria e dell’estetica. Studio su Hans Prinzhorn (Giuseppe Maccauro)
Nota di Anton Hügli, Edizione commentata dell’opera completa di Karl Jaspers (autunno 2013)