Reader's Encyclopedia

Jaspers, Karl (1883 - 1969)

German philosopher, one of the founders of modern existentialism. While a lecturer on psychology at Heidelberg, Jaspers published his first book, Allgemeine Psychopathologie (1913; translated as General Psychopathology, 1962). Primarily a medical text, it also addressed itself to an existential theme: Man in Grenzsituationen ("extreme situations"). Shortly after World War I he published Psychologie der Weltanschauungen (1919; translated as Psychology of World Views, 1919), which marked his transition from psychology to philosophy. Jasper 's interest in psychiatry provided the particulars for his search for a " perennial philosophy. " His system is rigorously logical but acknowledges a transcendental power with which man seeks to communicate. Jaspers described his philosophy as a third way between religion and nihilism, but it has also been called the third way between theology and positivism (faith in the sciences as a sufficient and final account of all that man perceives). He combined his philosophy with profound political insight. Die geistige Situation der Zeit (1931; translated as Man and the Modern World, 1933) is a politico - philosophical analysis of a national crisis so severe that the climate supporting a diabolical despotism would result. After publishing his three - volume Philosophie (1932) and several other works, he was stripped of his teaching post at Heidelberg by the Nazis in 1937. He was reinstated in 1945 and in 1946 published Die Schuldfrage, ein Beitrag zur deutschen Frage (tr The Question of German Guilt, 1947), which reflected his emphasis on man's involvement in his own times. In 1949 he took the chair of philosophy at the University of Basel in Switzerland, where he wrote Die Atombombe und die Zukunft des Menschen (1957; translated as The Future of Mankind, 1961) and Die groéen Philosophen (1957; translated as The Great Philosophers, 1962), his best - known book in the U.S. Throughout his long life he remained a wise and passionate defender of democracy.

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