The Philosophy of Karl Jaspers

The Philosophy of Karl Jaspers

The Philosophy of Karl Jaspers

The Philosophy of Karl Jaspers

Excerpt

A volume on the great German philosopher, Karl Jaspers, in our LIBRARY has long been inevitable. Although only a relatively small part of his writings have thus far appeared in English translations, Jaspers' work and ideas are influencing the thinking of philosophers around the world. He is indubitably one of the most seminal minds in the philosophy of the twentieth century.

Yet, there is a sense in which the very title of this book is a misnomer. For, by his own insistence, Jaspers neither has nor espouses a philosophy -- he philosophizes. For him this distinction is so basic that to speak of "a philosophy" is already to have missed the essence of philosophizing. Philosophizing is an activity in which a philosophically inclined mind engages; it is not a position he holds, defends, or teaches.

This very insistence already distinguishes Jaspers' type of philosophizing from those of most other philosophers. The uniqueness of Jaspers' procedure comes out, moreover, in his style of writing and in the use of a terminology which is peculiarly Jaspersian. This fact has led to difficulties of translation (into English) which, at times, have seemed almost (if not actually) insuperable.

The reader's attention is called to the Glossary of typical Jaspersian terms, which will be found at the beginning of this volume. It is not too much to say that any reader who fails to use the Glossary and translation (and references to definitions) of Jaspersian terms continuously, will not merely misunderstand much in this book, but is bound to misinterpret much of Jaspers', after all, precise meanings and intent.

The reasons for this are at least two-fold. In the first place, there are a number of terms which either are found only in Jaspers' own use of language or which are given a peculiar meaning by him. Secondly, the translation of some of these peculiarly Jaspersian terms into meaningful and idiomatic English was, in many cases, neither easy nor obvious. In fact, some of these terms were trans-

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