20th Century Philosophy

Karl Jaspers  1883 -1969

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General Psychopathology
The Great Philosophers by Karl Jaspers.The Great Philosophers : The Disturbers : Descartes, Pascal, Lessing, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche : Philosophers in Other Realms : Einstein, Weber, Marx by Karl Jaspers, Edith Ehrlich (Translator), Leonard H. Ehrlich, Michael Ermarth (Editor).

The fourth and final volume of a late modern philosopher's critical study discusses the contributions of Descartes, Pascal, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Weber, Marx, and Einstein, and notes the various influences on their theories.

Karl Jaspers died in 1969, leaving unfinished his universal history of philosophy, a history organized around those philosophers who have influenced the course of human thought. The first two volumes of this work appeared in Jaspers' lifetime; the third and fourth have been culled from the vast material of his posthumous papers. This is the third volume; the fourth is to be published in 1994. In the present volume, which follows his original plan of "promoting the happiness that comes of meeting great men and sharing in their thoughts," Jaspers discusses the Metaphysicians: Xenophanes, Empedocles, Democritus, Bruno, Epicurus, Boehme, Schelling, and Leibniz. Then he turns to the Creative Orderers: Aristotle and Hegel. His method is personal, one of constant questioning and struggle, as he enters into dialogue with his "eternal contemporaries," the thinkers of the past. For Jaspers believes that it is only through communication with others that we come to ourselves and to wisdom...

Following volume 3, this tome finishes Jaspers' global survey of philosophers; it conveys an unfinished quality due to its being posthumously assembled from his papers. Some of these taciturn jottings resemble lecture notes, but even they display Jaspers' strength as a philosophy teacher, which he was for 60 years in Germany and Switzerland. Here, he only sketchily presents the thought of Weber, Einstein, and Marx, but robustly engages Descartes, Pascal, Lessing, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard--the latter with "some trepidation"--for Jaspers wonders whether the big K can be taught at all, an existential problem bound to beset a teacher with self-doubt. Yet he bravely forges ahead on Kierkegaard, the longest section of this work, with a biographical profile, summary of works, and analysis of his thought, a format Jaspers applies to each philosopher. He denominates this group collectively as "The Great Awakeners" : they separated man from Christian revelation and salvation and compelled him to face the abyss of his isolation. For these original if chilling thinkers, as for the greats in his prior books, Jaspers was the premier expositor of the century to college students. Larger libraries should see some steady, though not heavy, use of this title over the years. -- Gilbert Taylor

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Karl Jaspers Biography

Short Biography from Encarta®.  


German philosopher, one of the originators of existentialism, whose work influenced modern theology and psychiatry as well as philosophy. Born in Oldenburg, Jaspers taught psychiatry and philosophy at Heidelberg University. During most of the Nazi period in the 1930s and 1940s, he was prevented from teaching. In 1948 he accepted a professorship in philosophy in Basel, Switzerland.


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