The Idea of the University

The Idea of the University

The Idea of the University

The Idea of the University

Excerpt

Karl Jaspers, together with Martin Heidegger, is Germany's leading representative of "existentialism." Certainly, a man of his ceaselessly inquiring mind is indifferent to finding his ideas and reputation affixed with a fashionable label, particularly if that label is used to denote so many varieties of philosophical thought that it is often more confusing than clarifying. Still, he himself chose the title Existenzphilosophie: Three Lectures (Walter de Gruyter, 1938) for one of his bestknown publications.

At a time when German academic philosophy was primarily interested in the highly technical subtleties of "NeoKantianism," Jaspers became profoundly concerned with an issue far more comprehensive than mere theory of knowledge (though by no means unrelated to it), namely that of the human being and his ultimate relation to himself and the universe. "What is called Philosophy of Existence"--he says in his above-mentioned lectures--"is but a new form of the one and perennial philosophy."

"The fact that 'existence' has now become a word of central significance is not merely accidental. For it emphasizes the almost forgotten purpose of philosophy, namely, to intuit and comprehend the origin and essence of reality by the mode in which, as a thinking person, and in a kind of inward-directed action, I am concerned with understanding my own individual existence. This form of philosophizing intends to find a way back to that which really is, away from the mere knowing about the world, away from the customary fashions of speaking, from conventions and the playing of parts--away from all that is mere foreground and surface. Existence is one of the concepts which points toward reality, with the accent given it by Kierkegaard; only by virtue of being fully myself can I grasp the truth of reality. . . ."

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