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
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