Who is Karl Jaspers?

Who is Karl Jaspers?

June 25, 2021 Off By Felso

Karl Theodor Jaspers, who lived between February 23, 1883 and February 26, 1969, was a German philosopher and psychiatrist, one of the theorists of the existentialism movement in philosophy. He had significant influences in fields such as modern psychiatry, philosophy of religion, philosophy of history, and political philosophy.

German philosopher Karl Jaspers was the first great philosopher of existentialism. Its importance lies, above all, in the fact that the highly dangerous depersonalizing tendencies and planning attitude of the mass and machine age are rooted in modernism’s approach that abolished and fragmented the continuity of existence in the Antiquity and the Middle Ages, and abolished the healthy and harmonious relationship between different types or levels of existence. .

According to Jaspers, after the collapse of classical philosophy or metaphysics with Hegel, things got worse, especially for man; Because some philosophers have reduced philosophy to science with a positivist attitude and have limited themselves to making some claims about science or have been content with developing a philosophy of life based on science. Others resorted to religious dogmas in an idealistic manner.

For Jaspers, the annoyance is the same in both cases. Man is oppressed under the pressure of science or religion, in short, authority, he becomes more and more alienated from himself and becomes impersonal. Or to put it another way, according to Jaspers, both attitudes in the modern period result in a denial of individuality or, to mean the same thing, existenzin or existence.

Positivist or idealist philosophers have discarded the existenzi because they want to reduce everything to something we can easily grasp, even if superficially. In the worldviews offered by positivism and idealism, there is no room for the individual, decisions, personal choice, anxiety and freedom. Jaspers describes this situation as a disaster for the existing individual:

“It’s the same everywhere: Continuity is coming to an end, nothing can be trusted; The historical substance inherited from the past is exhausted in the technical life-forming that surrounds the world. The technical age imposes conditions on which nothing of the past can no longer exist with them.”

Jaspers, starting from this general observation about the age and his evaluations about the difficulties caused by the inability to answer the “Question of Being” satisfactorily by both idealism and materialism, the most fundamental issue of philosophy is the “Question of Being”, which is as old as human history. argues that it is to bring a solid solution. Arguing that this burning question should be dealt with from the point of view of the philosophy of existence, Jaspers says that the “Question of Being” and the subject of personal existence, that is, the effect of scientific thinking on contemporary minds, have been completely abandoned.

According to him, moreover, the human condition has worsened with the pace of development of technology, the emergence of mass movements and the loosening of the bonds of religion. He says that with the effect of all these developments, the task of philosophy should be reconsidered and evaluated in the 20th century. This is made necessary, among other things, by the rapid development of the sciences the most.


Although Karl Jaspers started to show interest in philosophy from an early age, he decided to study law at university under the influence of his lawyer father. However, he soon got bored with law and started to study medicine in 1902.

After graduating from medical school in 1909, he started working in a psychiatric hospital in Heidelberg. Unsatisfied with the approach of the medical community of his time to mental illness, Jaspers took it upon himself to develop a psychiatric approach, and in 1913 began teaching psychology at Heidelberg University temporarily. Later, his position became permanent, and Jaspers never returned to clinical practice.

In his work “General Psychopathology” (1913), he examined the links between psychopathological methods and phenomenological and hermeneutic approaches, and successfully applied these approaches to some psychopathology problems.


Jaspers’s work “Psychologie der Weltanschauungen” (1919), who returned from his studies in psychology at the age of 40, is very important in terms of both evaluating psychology as a need to create a vision of the world we perceive and showing how it was influenced by Kant, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Weber. . Some of the other important philosophers who influenced Jaspers are Plato, Plotinos, Hegel, Schelling, Dilthey and Husserl.

Karl Jaspers expressed his understanding of existentialism in his comprehensive book “Philosophy” (1932), which is considered his masterpiece, and the book was banned in Nazi Germany. For this reason, Jaspers, who went to Switzerland and started to give lectures at the University of Basel, severed his ties with philosophy during this period and became more interested in political philosophy. The most important indicator of this is “Humanity with the Atom Bomb”.