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During the war, he and his wife were in no physical danger. Yet he felt himself a marked man until the end of World War II. Jaspers once heard indirectly that there was a plan to deport him and his wife to a concentration camp in the middle of April Fortunately, the American troops arrived in Heidelberg two weeks earlier, on April 1 st However, after , his fortunes changed dramatically, and he figured prominently on the White List of the US-American occupying forces: that is, on the list of politicians and intellectuals who were deemed untarnished by any association with the NSDAP, and who were allowed to play a public role in the process of German political re-foundation.

From this time on Jaspers defined himself primarily as a popular philosopher and educator. In the first role, he contributed extensive edifying commentaries on questions of political orientation and civic morality—first, in the interim state of —, and then, after , in the early years of the Federal Republic of Germany. In the second role, as one of the professors responsible for reopening the University of Heidelberg, to which he was appointed by the American Army of Occupation as a contemporary rector, he wrote at length on the necessity of university reforms, he emphasized the role of liberal humanistic education as a means of disseminating democratic ideas throughout Germany, and he took a firm line against the rehabilitation of professors with a history of Nazi affiliation.

In , The Idea of the University was published in an essentially different form from the book with the same title from The later work presents the university as a free community of scholars and students engaged in the task of seeking truth. As such, the university and the scholars that populate it can and should play a decisive role in rehabilitation of Europe based on the noblest ideas of the enlightenment. At that time and still, Jaspers is one of few who can justly speak for value and the need for such a stance against the threats upon freedom and humanity.

His contribution to the promotion of a democratic civic culture in West Germany at this time was of great importance, and his writings and radio broadcasts shaped, in part, the gradually evolving democratic consensus of the early Federal Republic. In the s, he supported the main policies of the liberal-conservative governments led by Konrad Adenauer — , and he particularly endorsed the formation of the Western Alliance, which he saw as a means of protecting the cultural resources of Western European culture from their colonization by the Soviet Union.

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His views on German re-unification were also particularly influential; he opposed the dominant outlooks of the time by claiming that the demand for re-unification meant that German politics remained infected with the damaging traces of old geo-political ideas and ambitions, and it prevented the fundamental redirection of German political life. Finally, then, in symbolic demonstration of disgust at the persistence of pernicious political attitudes in Germany he relinquished his German citizenship, and, having earlier moved across the border to University of Basel in , he became a Swiss national.


In his last works, he placed himself closer to the political left, and he even argued that only a legal revolution could ensure that the German state was organized on the basis of a morally decisive constitution. He died of a stroke in Basel, Switzerland on February 26 at the age of His wife, Gertrud Jaspers, who served as his amanuensis throughout his entire life as a scholar, died in Basel on May 25 at the age of As a young man, he authored a number of scientific articles on homesickness and crime, on intelligence tests, on hallucinations — all illustrated with detailed case histories.

Also, Jaspers published reports of the mental pathology of Van Gogh and Stirnberg. The aims of this book were to provide the framework of the scientific field of psychopathology and its related facts and approaches, not only for practitioners in this filed but also for interested intellectuals. This framework covers the problems and methods that capture the body of knowledge of the field rather than empirical evidence or a system based on a theory. Instead of deciding between the different existing approaches of his time, he stressed their peculiarity that entails the inherent justifications and the way they might complement each other and together portray the many sides of the psychopathological science.

Just two years later, Jaspers moved away forever from psychiatric practice and medicine in general, first towards psychology and then philosophy. Interestingly, though, Jaspers saw fit to revise and expand the text in a few of its several editions. The first edition is the shortest. In the second and third editions, there were minor changes. The most considerably revised and expanded edition is the fourth, which appeared in To a large extent, the integration of many ideas from his then already mature existential philosophy from the thirties onwards, which more than doubled the scope of the text, in fact amount to a new version of the book.

Now, the subtitle that appeared in the earlier versions was removed and in the preface Jaspers indicates its high aim of satisfying the demand for knowledge, not only for physicians but for all who make mankind their theme. In this enlarged version of the book, the imprint of Husserl's descriptive psychology is apparent in the attempt to address the inner mental experiences of mentally ill people mainly schizophrenic patients and regard them as indicative of the general phenomena of human consciousness, i.

Notwithstanding this, Jaspers opposed the attempts to address existentialist ideas for the sake of understanding mental illness. For him it is not possible that a human being as a whole falls ill or alternatively that illness of any kind can cover one's entire being, rather there are always parts that remain uninfected with illness or healthy. It is worth noting that the appearance of the fourth edition of General Psychopathology was enabled despite the publication ban to which Jaspers was subject since for his outspoken and uncompromising resistance to the Nazis regime and his persistent loyalty to his Jewish wife.

Probably the same title from and the scientific character, which covered the fact of incorporation of the of considerable sections which where imprinted with his philosophical thinking, were helpful in this regard. Despite ceasing practicing psychiatry, Jaspers retain his interest in psychopathology and was fully aware of the developments in the field, in particular regarding the neurological and somatic aspects of mental illness. However, after the fourth edition appeared, five more were printed in the same format as the fourth, the latest appearing in An English translation exists for the seventh edition only and was published in by J.

Hoenig and Miriam Hamilton.

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The underlying argument in this work is that the constitutive fact of human mental life is the division between subject and object Subjekt-Objekt-Spaltung. Human psychological forms—or world views—are positioned as antinomical moments within this founding antinomy, and they give distinct paradigmatic expression to the relation between human subjective inclinations and freedoms and the objective phenomena which the subject encounters. Unlike Weber, however, Jaspers argued that the construction of world views is not a merely neutral process, to be judged in non-evaluative manner. Instead, all world views contain an element of pathology; they incorporate strategies of defensiveness, suppression and subterfuge, and they are concentrated around false certainties or spuriously objectivized modes of rationality, into which the human mind withdraws in order to obtain security amongst the frighteningly limitless possibilities of human existence.

Although some world views possess an unconditioned component, most world views exist as the limits of a formed mental apparatus. It is the task of psychological intervention, Jaspers thus argued, to guide human existence beyond the restricted antinomies around which it stabilizes itself, and to allow it decisively to confront the more authentic possibilities, of subjective and objective life, which it effaces through its normal rational dispositions and attitudes. Most modes of rationality, he suggested, are conveniently instrumental or ideological forms, which serve distinct subjective and objective functions, and they habitually stand in the way of genuine knowledge.

At the same time, however, he also claimed that rationality possesses capacities of communicative integrity and phenomenological self-overcoming, and, if authentically exercised, it is able to escape its narrowly functional form, to expose itself to new contents beyond its limits and antinomies, and to elaborate new and more cognitively unified conceptual structures.

He therefore indicated that formal-epistemological concepts of rationality must be expanded to recognize that experience and committed actions are formative of authentic knowledge, and that reason cannot, in Cartesian manner, be monadically dislocated from its historical, sensory, experiential and voluntaristic foundations. From the outset, therefore, Jaspers's work, although methodologically marked by Weber, was also indelibly stamped by Hegel's philosophy, and it sought to integrate the preconditions of Hegel's phenomenology into a systematic psychological doctrine.

Introduction and history of psychobiography

In this, he transposed the dialectical process through which Hegel accounted for the overcoming of cognitive antinomies in the emergence of self-consciousness into an analysis of cognitive formation which sees the resolution of reason's antinomies as effected through vital experiences, decisive acts of self-confrontation, or communicative transcendence. In this early work, Jaspers introduced several concepts which assumed great importance for all his work. Most importantly, this work contains a theory of the limit Grenze.

This term designates both the habitual forms and attitudes of the human mental apparatus, and the experiences of the mind as it recognizes these attitudes as falsely objectivized moments within its antinomical structure, and as it transcends these limits by disposing itself in new ways towards itself and its objects.

Limit situations are moments, usually accompanied by experiences of dread, guilt or acute anxiety, in which the human mind confronts the restrictions and pathological narrowness of its existing forms, and allows itself to abandon the securities of its limitedness, and so to enter new realm of self-consciousness. In conjunction with this, then, this work also contains a theory of the unconditioned das Unbedingte. In this theory, Jaspers argued that limit situations are unconditioned moments of human existence, in which reason is drawn by intense impulses or imperatives, which impel it to expose itself to the limits of its consciousness and to seek higher or more reflected modes of knowledge.

The unconditioned, a term transported from Kantian doctrines of synthetic regress, is thus proposed by Jaspers as a vital impetus in reason, in which reason encounters its form as conditioned or limited and desires to transcend the limits of this form. In this, he argued that the freedom of consciousness to overcome its limits and antinomies can only be elaborated through speech: that is, as a process in which consciousness is elevated beyond its limits through intensely engaged communication with other persons, and in which committed communication helps to suspend the prejudices and fixed attitudes of consciousness.

Existentially open consciousness is therefore always communicative, and it is only where it abandons its monological structure that consciousness can fully elaborate its existential possibilities. In this early doctrine of communication, Jaspers helped to shape a wider communicative and intersubjective shift in German philosophy; indeed, the resonances of his existential hermeneutics remained palpable in the much later works of Hans-Georg Gadamer and Paul Ricoeur.

Karl Jaspers

Less obviously, however, in this doctrine he also guided early existential thinking away from its original association with Kierkegaard and Nietzsche and, although assimilating Kierkegaardian elements of decisiveness and impassioned commitment, he claimed that Kierkegaard's cult of interiority, centred in the speechlessness of inner life, was a miscarried attempt to envision the conditions of human authenticity.

The decision for authentic self-overcoming and cognitive unity can only occur, he argued, through shared participation in dialogue. In this work, he retained the partly Hegelian focus of his earlier publications, and he followed the spirit of Hegelian phenomenology in providing an account of the formation of human consciousness, which grasps consciousness as proceeding from the level of immediate knowledge and progressing through a sequence of antinomies towards a level of truthfully unified reflection and self-knowledge. In this, Jaspers again accentuated the claim that the antinomies which reason encounters and resolves in its unfolding as truth are at once both cognitive and experiential antinomies, and that the lived moments of human existence are always of cognitively constitutive relevance for the formation of consciousness.

German Jewish Exile and the German Archive of Literature

In his later philosophical works, especially Von der Wahrheit Of Truth , , he continued to give prominence to cognitive models derived from Hegelian phenomenology, and he proposed a concept of the encompassing das Umgreifende to determine the phenomenological gradations of thought and being. However, in addition to its concern with Hegelian themes, Philosophy also contains a fundamental reconstruction of Kantian themes, it has its foundation in a critical reconstruction of Kant's doctrine of transcendental ideas, and it is built around an endeavour to explain the elements of Kantian idealism as a systematic doctrine of subjective-metaphysical experience.

Each volume of this book thus describes a particular way of being: orientation , existence and metaphysical transcendence are the three essential existential modalities of human life. Together, the three volumes of Philosophy are designed to show how human existence and human knowledge necessarily progress from one level of being and one level of knowledge to another, and how consciousness gradually evolves, through confrontation with its own antinomies, from an immediate and unformed state towards a condition of unity and integral self-experience.

The three volumes are consequently bound together by the argument that at the level of immediate objective knowledge—of orientation in the world—human consciousness raises subjective-existential questions about itself and the grounds of its truth which it cannot resolve at this level of consciousness, and it encounters antinomies which call it to reflect existentially upon itself and to elevate it to the level of existence or existentially committed self-reflection. At this higher level of consciousness, then, existence raises metaphysical questions about itself and its origin which it cannot begin to answer without an awareness that existence is, at an originary or authentic level, transcendent , and that its truth is metaphysical.

The level of orientation in the world corresponds to the idea of the unity of the world; the level of existence corresponds to the idea of the soul's immortality; the level of transcendence corresponds to the idea of God's necessary existence. However, whereas Kant saw transcendental ideas as the formal-regulative ideas of reason, serving, at most, to confer systematic organization on reason's immanent operations, Jaspers viewed transcendental ideas as realms of lived knowledge, through which consciousness passes and by whose experienced antinomies it is formed and guided to a knowledge of itself as transcendent.

Jaspers thus attributed to transcendental ideas a substantial and experiential content. Ideas do not, as for Kant, simply mark the formal limits of knowledge, marking out the bounds of sense against speculative or metaphysical questions. Instead, ideas provide a constant impulsion for reason to overcome its limits, and to seek an ever more transcendent knowledge of itself, its contents and its possibilities. In his mature philosophy, therefore, Jaspers transformed the Kantian transcendental ideas into ideas of transcendence , in which consciousness apprehends and elaborates the possibility of substantial or metaphysical knowledge and self-knowledge.

Central to this adjustment to Kant's conception of ideas was also an implied, yet quite fundamental critique of the key Kantian distinction between the transcendent and the transcendental. In contrast to contemporary neo-Kantian readings of Kant, which were prepared to acknowledge the ideal element in Kantian idealism only, at most, as a regulative framework, generated by reason's own autonomous functions, Jaspers argued that Kantian philosophy always at once contains and suppresses a vision of experienced transcendence, and that the Kantian ideas should be viewed as challenges to reason to think beyond the limits of its autonomy, towards new and more authentic contents, self-experiences and freedoms.

In replacing the transcendental with the transcendent, however, Jaspers did not argue that transcendent contents are obtainable as positive elements of human knowledge. On the contrary, he argued that consciousness only acquires knowledge of its transcendence by contemplating the evanescent ciphers of transcendence , which signify the absolute limits of human consciousness. These ciphers might be encountered in nature, in art, in religious symbolism, or in metaphysical philosophy.

But it is characteristic of all ciphers that, in alluding to transcendence, they also withhold transcendent knowledge from consciousness, and that they can only act as indices of the impossibility of such knowledge. The attitude of consciousness which apprehends its limits and its possible transcendence can therefore only be an attitude of foundering or failing Scheitern , and transcendence can intrude in human consciousness only as an experience of the absolute insufficiency of this consciousness for interpreting its originary or metaphysical character.

At this level, then, although opposing the formality and experiential vacuity of neo-Kantianism, Jaspers also accepted the original Kantian prohibition on positive transcendent or metaphysical knowledge.

He argued that consciousness always has a metaphysical orientation to be other than, or transcendent to, its existing forms, but he also claimed that this orientation can only factually culminate in a crisis of transcendence, or in a crisis of metaphysics. Jaspers intuited that Kantian transcendentalism suppressed a deep-lying impulse for transcendence, and this aspect of Kant's thought was badly neglected by interpreters who saw Kant's philosophy as a doctrine of pure immanence or autonomy.