Philosophy of Existence

Philosophy of Existence

Karl Jaspers
Translated and with an Introduction by Richard F. Grabau
Copyright Date: 1971
Pages: 128
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  • Book Info
    Philosophy of Existence
    Book Description:

    Philosophy of Existence was first presented to the public as a series of lectures invited by The German Academy of Frankfurt. In preparing these lectures Jaspers, whom the Nazis had already dismissed from his professorship at Heidelberg, knew that he was speaking in Germany for the last time. Jaspers used the occasion to offer an account of the cultural and intellectual situation from which existentialism emerged as well as a summary of his own philosophy. The book serves three purposes today: it brings the many strands of the existential movement into focus; it provides an overview of Jaspers's own philosophical position; and it demonstrates by example that philosophy need not be irrational, antiscientific, journalistic, or homiletic in order to be existential and engagé. In this short book Jaspers provides a corrective for the popular view of existentialism as a pessimistic, irrationalist philosophy. He maintains that it is, rather part of mainstream of Western philosophy-the form that philosophy has taken in our day.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0086-7
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Editor’s Note
    (pp. v-viii)
    John R. Silber
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-2)
    Richard F. Grabau
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    I have been invited to speak about the philosophy of existence.¹ Part of philosophy today goes by this name. The distinguishing term “existence” is meant to emphasize that it is of the present.

    What is called philosophy of existence is really only a form of the one, primordial philosophy. It is no accident, however, that for the moment the word “existence” became the distinguishing term. It emphasized the task of philosophy that for a time had been almost forgotten: to catch sight of reality at its origin and to grasp it through the way in which I, in thought, deal...

  6. I. The Being of the Encompassing
    (pp. 15-30)

    The first answer to the question of being arises from the following basic experience:

    Whatever becomes an object for me is always a determinate being among others, and only a mode of being. When I think of being as matter, energy, spirit, life, and so on—every conceivable category has been tried—in the end I always discover that I have absolutized a mode of determinate being, which appears within the totality of being, into being itself. No known being is being itself.

    We always live, as it were, within a horizon of our knowledge. We strive to get beyond...

  7. II. Truth
    (pp. 31-62)

    Truth—the word has an incomparable magic. It seems to promise what really matters to us. The violation of truth poisons everything gained by the violation.

    Truth can cause pain, and can drive one to despair. But it is capable—merely in virtue of being truth, regardless of content—of giving deep satisfaction: there is truth after all.

    Truth gives courage: if I have grasped it at any point, the urge grows to pursue it relentlessly.

    Truth gives support: here is something indestructible, something linked to being.

    But what this truth might be that so powerfully attracts us—not particular...

  8. III. Reality
    (pp. 63-94)

    As I elucidate the realm of the encompassing for myself, the dark walls of my prison seem to become transparent. I see the open space, and all there is can become present to me.—As I then ascertain the truth that is to reveal being to me, it is as if I were following the light and became free.—But as long as this light does not fall on anything, I and all things with me seem to be dissolved into unreality by its radiance. I seem to die from lucidity. I cannot love because nothing is real either in...

  9. Epilogue to the Second Edition
    (pp. 95-99)
    Karl Jaspers

    At the request of the publisher, I am reissuing these lectures of 1937, which have long been unavailable, even though most of the ideas in them are contained in my long book, Von der Wahrheit, from whose manuscript they were taken at the time. The new printing permits me to say something about the meaning of “Existenz” in the situation from which these lectures sprang.

    The expression “philosophy of existence” has a history that is not wholly transparent. As far as I am aware it was first publicly used by Fritz Heinemann in his Neue Wege der Philosophie (1929); and...