Karl Jaspers: An Introduction to His Philosophy

Karl Jaspers: An Introduction to His Philosophy

Copyright Date: 1970
Pages: 254
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    Karl Jaspers: An Introduction to His Philosophy
    Book Description:

    The thought of the late Karl Jaspers, co-founder of the existentialist movement, has long exerted a powerful influence on world opinion. But, surprisingly, though translations of his writings have appeared in over 160 editions in 16 countries, his strictly philosophical work has hitherto been largely inaccessible to American audiences. Even where adequate English translations exist, the difficulties imposed by Jaspers' involved reasoning, intricate style, and ingenious neologisms are such that few unfamiliar with Continental philosophy can hope to acquire an understanding of his ideas on their own.

    To overcome these barriers, Professor Wallraff as mediator, interpreter, and translator provides a clear exposition of the main themes of Jaspers'Existenzphilosophieand prepares the reader for effective study of his writings. As the first book-length introduction to Jaspers' philosophy in English, this will be an indispensable companion for anyone desiring to take up the challenge of the "loving struggle" toward the truth that Jaspers invites us all to engage in.

    Originally published in 1970.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6861-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
    Charles F. Wallraff
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  4. Table of Contents
    (pp. xv-2)
  5. Jaspers’ Life and Writings
    (pp. 3-10)

    Karl Jaspers had just passed his eighty-sixth birthday when, on February 26, 1969, he died of a stroke in Basel, Switzerland. He was born in Oldenburg, Germany, about twenty-five miles west of Bremen, on February 23, 1883.¹

    His father, who descended from many generations of farmers and merchants, studied law and, after serving for some years as high constable of the district, became director of a bank. His mother came from a family of farmers that had occupied a nearby region for hundreds of years. Here, near the North Sea, he spent his boyhood with his parents—and at times...

  6. chapter one Introduction: Disputed Topics
    (pp. 11-37)

    Heirs to the tradition deriving from Locke and his enlightened followers tend to be antipathetic to the varieties of philosophy that have appeared on the Continent—whether idealistic, materialistic, or existentialistic. Ideologically the English Channel is, as it were, wider than the Atlantic Ocean, and one might even say that the same climate of opinion that unites the Americans with the English alienates both from the turbulent atmosphere of Continental thought. British and American followers of Wittgenstein and Austin, for instance, who are sufficiently ethnocentric to find it natural, as one English writer does, to identify “modern philosophy” with “that...

  7. chapter two Science and Philosophy
    (pp. 38-65)

    With the familiar twentieth century “revolution in philosophy” Karl Jaspers has had nothing to do: without involvement, rebellion is impossible. From his youth on he found academic orthodoxies incredible and irrelevant to the human situation. The teachers of philosophy seemed to him to be “personally pretentious and dogmatic,”¹ while their teaching struck him as “not really philosophy: for all its scientific pretensions it was always threshing out things not vital to the basic questions of our existence [Dasein].”² Later on, as a full professor, while recognizing that to be in any sense effective “we must proceed in conjunction with the...

  8. chapter three Institutions and Professions as Guides through Life
    (pp. 66-90)

    Schelling, as Jaspers reminds us, once said that “although man, at the beginning of his existence, finds himself thrown, as it were, into a stream (gleichsam in einen Strom geworfen) that … overpowers him completely, still he is not required to allow this stream to simply wrench him loose and carry him along passively like an inanimate object.”¹ Without his consent he is brought into a world that he does not understand. Naturally he must try to “adjust” to the situation. Buthow?² Knowledge of the good life is not innate but acquired through experience. But at the outset he...

  9. chapter four Existential Freedom
    (pp. 91-113)

    As we have seen, world-orientation, whether undertaken on a theoretical level (chapter ii) or approached from a practical standpoint (chapter iii) leaves us in the lurch. Science, though astonishingly successful at achieving universally valid knowledge of objects within the world, cannot view the world as a whole, penetrate the veil of appearance, evaluate ends, or justify anything—itself included. When professional philosophers confront the basic questions, the result is not reliable knowledge, but such cacaphonies of incompatible views as are currently represented by the familiar textbook anthologies that, by making all positions readily available, render every position suspect. While any...

  10. chapter five Communication
    (pp. 114-140)

    Jaspers shares with the Hegelians a tendency to stress the dependence of the self upon social and linguistic intercourse between human beings. And he shares with the logical empiricists and linguistic analysts an abiding concern with words, signs, and symbols. But in other respects he is at loggerheads with both groups. Unlike the organicists, he reserves to each individual the final freedom to reject the communications of his fellows in favor of promptings from an inner source. Unlike the positivists he insists that the communication of universally valid and intrinsically intelligible scientific truth is so vastly different from that of...

  11. chapter six Ultimate Situations
    (pp. 141-166)

    Why philosophize? Why not be content with scientific knowledge and disregard the perennial perplexities of traditional philosophy? How can we recommend either individual or social support of an exhausting intellectual enterprise that produces no practical results, leads to no unanimity, provides no reliable knowledge, and solves no problems? If, as Jaspers tells us, “we are scarcely entitled to say that we have progressed beyond Plato,”¹ is there any reason to continue? What powerful motives serve to perpetuate groundless speculations whose apparent futility is notorious?

    Philosophy, as Plato and Aristotle agreed, normally begins withwonder.² Whether or not wonder is compatible...

  12. chapter seven How Ought We to Live?
    (pp. 167-189)

    Whatever else we may know, there is no knowing how to live. Useful as science may be in connection with means, it offers little help with our choice of ends. The laws and customs of each nation provide a framework within which men can accomplish their purposes, but this framework is always subject to correction in the name of some higher principle, be it civil rights, the demands of conscience, the divine law, or what not. Advisers are generally available, but those capable of choosing wise advisers have little use for advice, while those who need advice have no way...

  13. chapter eight The Encompassing
    (pp. 190-214)

    From the days of the Milesian cosmologists to the present, philosophers have tried to pass beyond an investigation of things in being to a systematic knowledge of being itself.¹ Such attempted knowledge of being, which, due to a somewhat arbitrary decision of Andronicus of Rhodes soon came to be called “metaphysics,” has hitherto appeared as “materialism (everything is matter and mechanical process), spiritualism (everything is spirit), hylozoism (the cosmos is a living spiritual substance), and so on. In every case being was defined as something existing in the world from which all other things sprang.”² But this approach to the...

  14. Bibliography Selected Writings of Karl Jaspers
    (pp. 215-220)
  15. Index
    (pp. 221-232)