Karl Jaspers

Karl Jaspers (kärl yäs´pərs), 1883–1969, German philosopher and psychopathologist, b. Oldenburg. After receiving his medical degree (1909) he became (1914) lecturer in psychology and in 1922 professor of philosophy at the Univ. of Heidelberg. One of the leading figures in contemporary philosophy, he is generally placed within the orbit of existentialism. Jaspers, however, rejected this classification, as it tends to place him within a school. Nevertheless his basic philosophic concern was with the concrete individual, and he believed that genuine philosophy must spring from one's individual existence and address itself to other individuals to help them gain a true understanding of their existence. The basic concept of his philosophy is the "encompassing," an essentially religious concept, intended to suggest the all-embracing transcendent reality within which human existence is enclosed. Although this idea is not in the realm of scientific thought, it is not an irrational concept, since Jaspers believed that the study of science is a necessary preparatory stage to grasping the "encompassing." Thus, while maintaining the value of science, Jaspers was profoundly aware of its limitations and believed that abstract sociological and psychological theories cause the individual to lose sight of his freedom and concrete situation. His works include Psychologie der Weltanschauungen (1919), Die geistige Situation der Zeit (1931; tr. Man in the Modern Age, 1933), Reason and Existenz (1935, tr. 1956), Existenzphilosophie (1938), The Question of German Guilt (tr. 1947), and Philosophie und Welt (1958).

See C. F. Wallraff, Karl Jaspers: An Introduction to His Philosophy (1970); O. O. Schrag, Existence, Existenz, and Transcendence: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Karl Jaspers (1971); L. H. Ehrlich, Karl Jaspers: Philosophy as Faith (1975); E. Young-Bruehl, Freedom and Karl Jaspers' Philosophy (1981); L. Kohler and H. Saner, ed., Hannah Arendt—Karl Jaspers: Correspondence, 1926–1969 (tr. by Robert and Rita Kimber, 1992).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Philosophy of Karl Jaspers
Paul Arthur Schilpp.
Tudor, 1957
Karl Jaspers: Philosophy as Faith
Leonard H. Ehrlich.
University of Massachusetts Press, 1975
Reason and Existenz: Five Lectures
Karl Jaspers; William Earle.
Marquette University Press, 1997
Way to Wisdom: An Introduction to Philosophy
Karl Jaspers; Ralph Manheim.
Yale University Press, 1951
Philosophy of Existence
Karl Jaspers; Richard F. Grabau.
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1971
Die Schuldfrage Sixty Years After
Lang, Berel.
The Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 60, No. 1, September 2006
Twentieth-Century Continental Philosophy
Richard Kearney.
Routledge, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Philosophies of Religion: Marcel, Jaspers, Levinas"
A Cosmopolitan Faith in Karl Jaspers: Decoupling Commitment and Narrowness
Cho, Joanne.
Journal of Ecumenical Studies, Vol. 37, No. 1, Winter 2000
Liberals and Romantics at War: The Problem of Collective Guilt
Fletcher, George P.
The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 111, No. 7, May 2002
Biographical Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Philosophers
Stuart Brown; Diané Collinson; Robert Wilkinson.
Routledge, 1996
Librarian’s tip: "Jaspers, Karl" begins on p. 375
The Oxford Companion to Philosophy
Ted Honderich.
Oxford University Press, 1995
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