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Copyright 1957 
by The Library of Living Philosophers, Inc. 


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A CCORDING to the late F. C. S. Schiller, the greatest obstacle 
2\^ to fruitful discussion in philosophy is "the curious etiquette 
which apparently taboos the asking of questions about a philoso- 
pher's meaning while he is alive." The "interminable controver- 
sies which fill the histories of philosophy," he goes on to say, "could 
have been ended at once by asking the living philosophers a few 
searching questions." 

The confident optimism of this last remark undoubtedly goes 
too far. Living thinkers have often been asked "a few searching 
questions," but their answers have not stopped "interminable con- 
troversies" about their real meaning. It is none the less true that 
there would be far greater clarity of understanding than is now 
often the case, if more such searching questions had been directed 
to great thinkers while they were still alive. 

This, at any rate, is the basic thought behind the present under- 
taking. The volumes of The Library of Living Philosophers can in 
no sense take the place of the major writings of great and original 
thinkers. Students who would know the philosophies of such men 
as John Dewey, George Santayana, Alfred North Whitehead, Bene- 
detto Croce, G. E. Moore, Bertrand Russell, Ernst Cassirer, Karl 
Jaspers, et al., will still need to read the writings of these men. 
There is no substitute for first-hand contact with the original 
thought of the philosopher himself. Least of all does this Library 
pretend to be such a substitute. The Library in fact will spare 
neither effort nor expense in offering to the student the best pos- 
sible guide to the published writings of a given thinker. We shall 
attempt to meet this aim by providing at the end of each volume in 
our series a, complete bibliography of the published work of the 
philosopher in question. Nor should one overlook the fact that the 
essays in each volume cannot but finally lead to this same goal. 
The interpretative and critical discussions of the various phases of 

* Tliis General Introduction, setting forth the underlying conception of this 
Library, is purposely reprinted in each volume (with only very minor changes). 



a greater thinker's work and, most of all, the reply of the thinker 
himself, are bound to lead the reader to the works of the philoso- 
pher himself. 

At the same time, there is no denying the fact that different ex- 
perts find different ideas in the writings of the same philosopher. 
This is as true of the appreciative interpreter and grateful disciple 
as it is of the critical opponent. Nor can it be denied that such 
differences of reading and of interpretation on the part of other 
experts often leave the neophyte aghast before the whole maze of 
widely varying and even opposing interpretations. Who is right 
and whose interpretation shall he accept? When the doctors dis- 
agree among themselves, what is the poor student to do? If, finally, 
in desperation, he decides that all of the interpreters are probably 
wrong and that the only thing for him to do is to go back to the 
original writings of the philosopher himself and then make his own 
decision uninfluenced (as if this were possible) by the interpre- 
tation of any one else the result is not that he has actually come 
to the meaning of the original philosopher himself, but rather that 
he has set up one more interpretation, which may differ to a greater 
or lesser degree from the interpretations already existing. It is clear 
that in this direction lies chaos, just the kind of chaos which Schil- 
ler has so graphically and inimitably described. 1 

It is curious that until now no way of escaping this difficulty has 
been seriously considered. It has not occurred to students of 'phi- 
losophy that one effective way of meeting the problem at least 
partially is to put these varying interpretations and critiques be- 
fore the philosopher while he is still alive and to ask him to act at 
one and the same time as both defendant and judge. If the world's 
great living philosophers can be induced to co-operate in an enter- 
prise whereby their own work can, at least to some extent, be saved 
from becoming merely "dessicated lecture-fodder/' which on the 
one hand "provides innocuous sustenance for ruminant professors/' 
and, on the other hand, gives an opportunity to such ruminants 
and their understudies to "speculate safely, endlessly, and fruit- 
lessly, about what a philosopher must have meant" (Schiller) , they 
will have taken a long step toward making their intentions clearly 

With this in mind, The Library of Living Philosophers expects 
to publish at more or less regular intervals a volume on each of the 
greater among the world's living philosophers. In each casent will 

i In his essay on "Must Philosophers Disagree?" in the volume by the same title 
(Macmillan, London, 1934), from which the above quotations were taken. 


be the purpose of the editor of The Library to bring together in 
the volume the interpretations and criticisms of a wide range of 
that particular thinker's scholarly contemporaries, each of whom 
will be given a free hand to discuss the specific phase of the think- 
er's work which has been assigned to him. All contributed essays 
will finally be submitted to the philosopher with whose work and 
thought they are concerned, for his careful perusal and reply. And, 
although it would be expecting too much to imagine that the 
philosopher's reply will be able to stop all differences of interpre- 
tation and of critique, this should at least serve the purpose of 
stopping certain of the grosser and more general kinds of misin- 
terpretations. If no further gain than this were to come from the 
present and projected volumes of this Library, it would seem to be 
fully justified. 

In carrying out this principal purpose of the Library, the editor 
announces that (in so far as humanly possible) each volume will 
conform to the following pattern: 

First, a series of expository and critical articles written by the lead- 
ing exponents and opponents of the philosopher's thought; 

Second, the reply to the critics and commentators by the philoso- 
pher himself; 

Third, an intellectual autobiography of the thinker whenever this 
can be secured; in any case an authoritative and authorized 
biography; and 

Fourth, a bibliography of the writings of the philosopher to pro- 
vide a ready instrument to give access to his writings and 

The editor has deemed it desirable to secure the services of an 
Advisory Board of philosophers to aid him in the selection of the 
subjects of future volumes. The names of the six prominent Amer- 
ican philosophers who have consented to serve appear below. To 
each of them the editor expresses his sincere gratitude. 

Future volumes in this series will appear in as rapid succession 
as is feasible in view of the scholarly nature of this Library. The 
next four volumes in this series should be those of C. D. Broad, 
Rudolf Carnap, Martin Buber, and C. I. Lewis. 

The entire project of The Library of Living Philosophers still 
is notrm a sound financial foundation, owing to the lack of neces- 
sary funds. The Library would be deeply grateful, therefore, for 
gifts and donations. Moreover, since November 6th, 1947, any 


gifts of donations made to The Library of Living Philosophers, 
Inc., are deductible by the donors in arriving at their taxable net 
income in conformity with the Internal Revenue Code of the 
Treasury Department of the United States of America. 

P. A. S. 





University of California University of Chicago 


University of Buffalo University of Washington 


Wesley an University Columbia University 


Frontispiece facing page iii 

General Introduction to The Library of Living Philosophers v 

.Editor's Preface xi 

GLOSSARY, translations and definitions of terms used by 

Karl Jaspers xvi 

Abbreviations used for Karl Jaspers' principal works . . xxv 


KARL JASPERS: "Philosophical Autobiography" ... 3 
Facsimile of Jaspers' handwriting (from his "Reply") 

facing page 5 


1. KURT HOFFMAN: "The Basic Concepts of Jaspers' 

Philosophy" 95 

2. JAMES COLLINS: "Jaspers on Science and Philosophy" 115 

3. GERHARD KNAUSS: "The Concept of the 'Encompass- 

ing' in Jaspers' Philosophy" 141 

4. EDWIN LATZEL: "The Concept of 'Ultimate Situa- 

tion' in Jaspers' Philosophy" 177 

5. FRITZ KAUFMANN: "Karl Jaspers and A Philosophy 

of Communication" 210 

6. JOHANNES THYSSEN: "The Concept of 'Foundering' 

in Jaspers' Philosophy" 297 

7. EDUARD BAUMGARTEN: "The 'Radical Evil' in Jas- 

pers' Philosophy" 337 

8. ERNST MORITZ MANASSE: "Max Weber's Influence 

on Jaspers" 369 

9. JEAN WAHL: "Notes on Some Relations of Jaspers 

to Kierkegaard and Heidegger" 393 

10. .WALTER KAUFMANN: "Jaspers' Relation to Nietz- 

sche" 407 

11. KURT KOLLE: "Jaspers as Psychopathologist" . . 437 



12. LUDWIG B. LEFEBRE: "The Psychology of Karl Jas- 

pers" 467 

13. HANS KUNZ: "Critique of Jaspers' Concept of 'Tran- 

scendence' " 499 

14. WILLIAM EARLE: "Jaspers' Philosophical Anthro- 

pology" 523 

15. HANNAH ARENDT: "Jaspers As Citizen of the World" 539 

16. GOLO MANN: "Freedom and the Social Sciences in 

Jaspers' Thought" 551 

17. JOHN HENNIG: "Karl Jaspers' Attitude Towards 

History" 565 

18. JEANNE HERSCH: "Jaspers' Conception of Tradition" 593 . 

19. PAUL RICOEUR: "The Relation of Jaspers' Philoso- 

phy to Religion" 611 

20. JULIUS LOWENSTEIN: "Judaism in Jaspers' Thought" 643 

21. S0REN HOLM: "Jaspers' Philosophy of Religion" . 667 

22. A. LICHTIGFELD: "The God-Concept in Jaspers' Phi- 

losophy" 693 

23. JOHANNES PFEIFFER: "On Karl Jaspers' Interpreta- 

tion of Art" 703 

24. HELMUT REHDER: "Literary Criticism and the Ex- 

istentialism of Jaspers" 719 


KARL JASPERS: "Reply to My Critics" 748 

JASPERS to Spring 1 957 (Compiled by KURT ROSSMANN) 87 1 

Note to the Bibliography 871 

Bibliography 872 

Chronological List of Principal Works 887 

Index (arranged by ROBERT SYLVESTER) 889 


A VOLUME on the great German philosopher, Karl Jaspers, 
in our LIBRARY has long been inevitable. Although only 
a relatively small part of his writings have thus far appeared in 
English translations, Jaspers' work and ideas are influencing the 
thinking of philosophers around the world. He is indubitably one 
of the most seminal minds in the philosophy of the twentieth 

Yet, there is a sense in which the very title of this book is a mis- 
nomer. For, by his own insistence, Jaspers neither has nor espouses 
a philosophy he philosophizes. For him this distinction is so 
basic that to speak of "a philosophy" is already to have missed the 
essence of philosophizing. Philosophizing is an activity in which a 
philosophically inclined mind engages; it is not a position he 
holds, defends, or teaches. 

This very insistence already distinguishes Jaspers' type of phi- 
losophizing from those of most other philosophers. The unique- 
ness of Jaspers' procedure comes out, moreover, in his style of 
writing and in the use of a terminology which is peculiarly Jas- 
persian. This fact has led to difficulties of translation (into Eng- 
lish) which, at times, have seemed almost (if not actually) in- 

The reader's attention is called to the Glossary of typical Jas- 
persian terms, which will be found at the beginning of this vol- 
ume. It is not too much to say that any reader who fails to use the 
Glossary and translation (and references to definitions) of Jas- 
persian terms continuously, will not merely misunderstand much 
in this book, but is bound to misinterpret much of Jaspers', after 
all, precise meanings and intent. 

The reasons for this are at least two-fold. In the first place, there 
are a number of terms which either are found only in Jaspers' own 
use of language or which are given a peculiar meaning by him. 
Secondly, the translation of some of these peculiarly Jaspersian 
terms into meaningful and idiomatic English was, in many cases, 
neither easy nor obvious. In fact, some of these terms were trans- 



lated differently by other translators of some of Jaspers' works 
as, for example, Achsenzeit (sometimes translated as 'axial period/ 
for which we have used 'pivotal age') and Grenzsituation (often 
translated as either 'border-situation* or 'limiting situation/ which 
we have translated by 'ultimate situation*) , etc. The difficulties 
encountered in translating some of these terms may be seen by the 
fact that other translators of Jaspers* works do not agree among 
themselves in their respective translations. 

The Glossary, we believe, will not merely give the reader the 
best possible English terms for those peculiarly Jaspersian ideas, 
but gives the best rendering of the actual philosophical meaning 
and thought of Jaspers. It will enable the professional philosopher 
to check our English terms not merely with Jaspers* own original 
(German) words, but will also give him a definition of the term, 
in most instances in Jaspers* own words. 

Two-thirds of the essays in this book reached the editor in 
languages other than English. Translating any one of them into 
both readable and meaningful English proved ( because of the 
difficulties and intricacies of Jaspers* philosophical terminology 
already mentioned ) to be no simple undertaking. But, to bring 
all of the essays at least reasonably into line with each other so 
that the same terms were translated by the same words throughout 
the volume , this turned out to be an almost endless, not to say 
insuperable, task. It has, in fact, been one which has literally 
stretched out over years of labor and effort. Sometimes we have 
found that supposedly identical quotations from Jaspers' works 
have, in different essays herein, differed from each other; inasmuch 
as each translation was made by a different writer. 

All of these difficulties have been multiplied by a fact of which 
most German readers of Jaspers* works are well aware, but which 
constitutes an unusual not to say trying situation, to say the 
least. The original German editions of Jaspers* works have ap- 
peared often almost simultaneously in Germany, in Holland, 
and in Switzerland, and sometimes in changed (revised or even 
enlarged) editions later on. Although the actual text of many of 
those editions was more often than not identical, the pagination 
differs. Inasmuch as the editor could not possibly, have access to 
all of those various editions, the locating of specific quotations has 
sometimes been made next to (and even actually) impossible. 
Quotations from Jaspers' works are, consequently, in each in- 
stance, cited by the pagination of the particular text or edition 
which the essayist himself used (except wherever English trans- 


lations were already available, in which case we have tried to cite 
the pagination and text of the official English text) . 

Inasmuch, however, as we have tried to hold, as much as pos- 
sible, to a consistent use of our (English) terms of Jaspers' termi- 
nology, we have sometimes chosen to render quotations from Jas- 
pers in our translation even when the respective work was already 
available in English translation. In such instances the reader may 
find the reference given either to the English translation (as re- 
vised by us) or to the German original. 

At the beginning of the volume the reader will also find a List 
of Abbreviations used for all of Jaspers' major works. These ab- 
breviations have been used throughout the book. 

The editor's gratitude in getting this volume before the public 
is due to a large number of persons (to many more, in fact, than 
can here be mentioned) . First and foremost among these is, of 
course, Professor Jaspers himself, who, with unfailing courtesy 
and helpfulness, has co-operated in the production of this book. 
His straight-forward and honest Autobiography constitutes liter- 
ally a landmark of such writing, which is bound to create wide- 
spread interest. And his "Reply to My Critics" is positively ex- 
emplary. This all the more so because he does not shrink back 
from replying to sharp criticism in equally as sharp a fashion. 
Such a lucid exchange of ideas should aid greatly in clarifying 
issues and meanings, and constitutes in itself the raison d'etre for 
the very existence of this LIBRARY. 

The willingness of the twenty-four contributors to this volume 
to give of their valuable time and effort to write and compose 
their essays is, obviously, just as deeply appreciated. Without their 
kind, courteous and helpful co-operation, this volume could not 
have come into existence. To each of them we express here our 
sincere gratitude and profound appreciation. 

Our sincere gratitude is due also to Dr. Kurt Rossmann, Hei- 
delberg, for his great kindness in making available for our use the 
Bibliography of the Writings of Karl Jaspers, which he had pre- 
pared for the Festschrift to Jaspers' 70th birthday in 1953, and 
which, in addition, he was so kind as to bring up to date for the 
present volume. The adaptation of this Bibliography for our Eng- 
lish readers was prepared by Dr. Ludwig B. Lefebre. 

This brings me to the mentioning of a debt of gratitude which 
is difficult to pay. Without the helpful co-operation, generous aid, 
and first-hand knowledge of Jaspers' ways of thinking of Dr. Lud- 
wig B. Lefebre of San Francisco, California, this volume would, I 


suppose, have seen the light of publication some day, but it could 
never have been what it now is. The task of correlating different 
contributors' (and translators') translations of Jaspersian tech- 
nical terms had as has already been mentioned become an 
endless and practically insuperable one until Dr. Lefebre, most 
kindly and generously, came to the editor's aid and relief. He not 
merely checked all essays against each other and against Jaspers' 
own terminology, but he even undertook to re-translate some of 
the essays all over again. In addition, he carefully checked and re- 
vised the editor's own translations of Jaspers' Autobiography and 
"Reply." Almost single-handedly he is responsible for the Glos- 
sary, an undertaking, by itself, of no mean proportions. During the 
last eighteen months of the work on this volume, Dr. Lefebre 
proved to be more nearly the Associate Editor than merely the 
editor's assistant. Everyone who reads and profits from this volume 
owes Dr. Lefebre a debt of gratitude which can neither be paid for 
nor fully expressed in words. 

The order in which the contributed essays appear, in Part II, 
was worked out on the basis of the following scheme. At the out- 
set there appear seven essays (cc. 1-7) which treat some specific 
and basic concepts in Jaspers' philosophizing concepts, without 
a clear understanding of which no real comprehension of Jaspers' 
philosophizing is possible. These are followed by three essays (cc. 
8-10) which concern themselves with Jaspers' relation to other 
thinkers. In the third group the reader will find four essays (cc. 
11-14) which discuss Jaspers as psychopathologist and as philoso- 
phical anthropologist. The fourth group consists of four essays 
(cc. 15-18) dealing with Jaspers' thought in the areas of political 
science and of the philosophy of history. In the fifth group will be 
found four essays (cc. 19-22) which treat of Jaspers' ideas in re- 
ligion and concerning religious movements. The concluding group 
consists of two essays (cc. 23-24) which discuss Jaspers' relation to 
art, to poetry, and to literary criticism. 

The editor also wishes to express his sincere gratitude to the 
Graduate Research Council of Northwestern University for a 


small grant-in-aid to help defray some of the costs of translations 
in this volume. 

The editorial work on Vols. X and XI of this LIBRARY is 
nearing completion. They will deal with The Philosophy of C. D. 
Broad and The Philosophy of Rudolf Carnap, respectively. 
Besides these, two additional volumes are in various stages of prep- 

The editor dare not let this opportunity pass to express publicly 
his very great personal regret that two volumes, which were sup- 
posed to have dealt with the philosophies of Jacques Maritain and 
fitienne Gilson respectively, and which had previously been 
promised and been announced , have had to be cancelled. In 
both instances this was due to the fact that Messrs. Maritain and 
Gilson after having previously agreed to co-operate with us in 
the production of a volume on their respective philosophy found 
it necessary to withdraw their previous acceptance of the editor's 
invitation. The philosophical world will be the poorer for these 
negative decisions. 






of terms used by JASPERS 

Prepared by Ludwig B. Lefebre 

Note: Some of the terms listed below (e.g., "anguish") are in- 
cluded not because their translation represents a problem, 
but because we consider it helpful to define the specific 
meaning of the term in Jaspers' work. Wherever possible 
we are quoting definitions from Jaspers' own works, in- 
cluding the essays "Philosophical Autobiography" and 
"Reply to my Critics" which appear in this volume. Where 
a name appears after a definition (in place of the title of 
a book) it refers to an author and his essay in the present 


absolute consciousness absolutes 



Note: This trans- 
lation of "Angst" 
was chosen, in pref- 
erence to "dread/* 
in order to distin- 
guish Jaspers' con- 
cept from that of 
Sartre. Cf.: Thys- 
sen, 329 (Ed.'s 

athwart of time 



. . . the signum for the con- 
sciousness of Existenz . . . 
The consciousness of au- 
thentic Being out of un- 
conditional origin. Philo- 
sophic, 515 

. . . the dizziness and shud- 
der of freedom confronting 
the necessity of making a 
choice. Philosophic, 522 

quer zur Zeit 

. . . (outside) the ^limited 
temporality of the histor- 
ical moment. Thyssen, 





Note: "Being" is 
capitalized if it re- 
fers to "transcen- 
dental" Being, of 
which all other be- 
ing is appearance, 
or for which it is 
cipher. Cf.: Tran- 
scendence and ci- 


being as freedom Sein als Freiheit 

being as status 

Sein als Bestand 

boundary (Cf.: 
mate situation) 


ulti- Grenze 

Chiffer or Chiffre 



Being can not, according 
to Jaspers, be defined un- 

Being is not produced by 
us; it is not mere inter- 
pretation . . . Rather, by 
its own impetus, it causes 
us to interpret and will not 
permit our interpretation 
ever to be satisfied. Wahr- 
heit, 84 

Authentic reality. Latzel, 

The One and Only, the 
Unconditional Infinite, 
and, as such, the all-encom- 
passing and all-transcend- 
ing primal source. Pfeiffer, 

The mode of my being as 
Existenz. In this sense I 
am origin: not the origin 
of Being as such, but origin 
for myself in existence (Da- 
sein). Philosophic, 15 

Being which must be ack- 
nowledged is directly there 
as a thing. I can grasp it 
directly, do something with 
it: technically with the 
things, argumentatively 
with myself and with other 
consciousness . . . Every- 
where it is an objectively 
being given. Philosophic, 15 

Metaphysical objectivity is 
called cipher, because it is 
not itself Transcendence, 
but the language of Trans- 
cendence. Philosophic, 786 

. . . the process ... in which 
the self . . . becomes itself 
... in its relation with the 



consciousness-as-such Bewusstsein 




Encompassing, the Umgreifende, das 

'exist', to existieren 

(italicized only if 
used as the verb of 
Existenz; cL: Ex- 

existence Dasein 

(when the term 

other self . . . (It) obtains 
only from man to man in 
mutual reciprocity. "Re- 

ply." (785) 

One of the four modes of 
the Being that we are. Cf.: 
Existence, spirit and Exis- 

. . . The comprehensive 
consciousness in which 
everything that is can be 
known, recognized, intend- 
ed as an object. Scope, 12, 

Transmutation of the world 
into a mediation between 
us and the unique God is 
its transmutation into ci- 
pher. Wahrheit, 1051 

. . . either the Being in it- 
self that surrounds us (Cf.: 
world and Transcendence) 
or the Being that we are 
(Cf.: existence, conscious- 
ness-as-such, spirit and Ex- 
istenz). Scope, 12 
What is neither object 
nor act-of-thinking (sub- 
ject), but contains both 
within itself. "Autobiog- 
raphy," (73) 

. . . that within which every 
particular horizon is en- 
closed as in something ab- 
solutely comprehensive 
which is no longer visible 
as a horizon at all. Reason, 

Life sub specie aeternitatis. 
Lowenstein, (650) 

One of the four modes of 
the Being that we are. Cf.: 



applies to man) 

'existential' existentiell 

(italicized only if 
used as the adjec- 
tive of Exist enz; 
cf.: Existenz) 
Note: "Existen- 
tial/' whenever it 
occurs in this vol- 
ume not in italics 
or single quotes, 
has the ordinary 
meaning found in 



consciousness-as-such, spirit 
and Existenz. 

... is the finding of itself 
on the part of Being . . . 
expressed (in such sayings) 
as: 'I am here/ 'we are 
here/ Wahrheit, 53 
The concrete physio-psy- 
chological individual. 
Thyssen, (299f) 

The adjectival use of Exist- 
enz. Cf.: Existenz. 

Existenz, illumination 


One of the four modes of 
the Being that we are. Cf.: 
consciousness-as-such, exist- 
ence and spirit. 
... is being a self suspend- 
ed between itself and Trans- 
cendence from which it de- 
rives its being and on which 
it is based. Existenz, 17 
... is what never becomes 
object, the origin from 
which issues my thinking 
and acting . . . Philosophie, 
I, 15 

. . . The ascertainment in 
thought (of) breaking 
through worldly existence 
. . . Philosophic, 301 
Clarification of the poten- 
tialities open to man by ap- 
pealing to them. Earle, 



explanation Erklaren 

(when used as a 



law of the day 

Gesetz des Tages 

leap from anguish to Sprung von Angst 
calm zur Ruhe 

limit (Cf.: ultimate Grenze 

naught Nichts, das 

The recognition of objec- 
tive causal relationships 
which are always observed 
from the outside only . . . 
Allgemeine, 24 
Viewing of psychological 
data in terms of a cause 
and effect relationship. Le- 
febre, (475) 
Cf.: Verstehen 

. . . signifies the fruitless- 
ness of all endeavors to 
reach, from a finite basis 
such as consciousness-as- 
such or even from self-suffi- 
cient Exist enz, a satisfac- 
tory access to Being, i.e., to 
arrive at the absolute. 
Thyssen, (312) 

The law of the day orders 
our existence, demands 
clarity, consistence and loy- 
alty, binds us to reason and 
idea, to the One and to 
ourselves. It demands ac- 
tualization in the world, 
that we build within time, 
that we complete our exist- 
ence on an endless road. 
Philosophic, 762 
The principle of order, 
clarity and loyalty . . . Hoff- 
man, (107) 
Cf.: Passion for the night. 

The leap which reveals re- 
ality. Philosophic, III, 

. . . (has) two opposite 
meanings: (it) ... is, for 
one thing, actually rfothing 
. . . (it) . . . also is authen- 
tic Being as the non-Being 



passion for the night 

Leidenschaf t zur 



philosophical faith 
Note: At times 
"belief" is used as 
translation for 

pivotal age 






of everything definite. Phi- 
losophie, 712 

The passion for the night 
breaks through every order 
... it is the urge to ruin 
oneself in the world in or- 
der to complete oneself in 
the depth of worldlessness. 
Philosophic 763 
Antithesis to reason. Thys- 
sen, (317) 

The irrational urge to dark- 
ness, to the earth, to the 
mother, to the race, to ruin 
and the end of all order. 
Hoffman, (107) 
Cf.: Law of the day 

Illustrative representation 
of individual experience; 
an empirical method de- 
signed to define experi- 
enced mental states. Allge- 
meine, 47 

(A) faith which communi- 
cates itself in the thinking 
of reason. "Reply," (777) 

(An age where) man, as we 
know him today, came into 
being . . . (the) period 
around 500 B.C. . . . (last- 
ing from 800 to 200 B.C. 
approximately). Origin, 1 

Eternity in time. "Reply," 


. . . what goes beyond all 
limits, the omnipresent de- 
mand of thought that not 
only grasps what is univer- 
sally valid and is an ens 
rationis in the sense of be- 
ing a law or principle of 
order of some process, but 
also brings to light the 











Other, stands before the 
absolutely counter-rational, 
touching it and bringing 
it, too, into being. Reason, 

A philosophical act which 
aims at attaining clarity 
regarding itself, which 
wants to communicate and 
which strives, for this rea- 
son, to become comprehen- 
sible and to retain self-con- 
trol even at its extreme 
limits. Knauss, (150f) 

One of the four modes of 
the Being that we are. Cf.: 
existence, consciousness-as- 
such and Existenz. 
. . . the Encompassing which 
we are as beings who, in the 
movement of understand- 
ing and being understood, 
realize totality. Wahrheit, 

One of two modes of the 
Being that surrounds us. 
Cf.: World. 

The source and the goal, 
both of which lie in God 
and out of whose depths 
alone we really become au- 
thentically human. Rechen- 
schaft, 264 

... in the real sense (is) . . . 
the Encompassing as such, 
the Encompassing of every 
Encompassing . . . Com- 
pared with general Trans- 
cendence belonging to each 
mode of the 'Encompassing, 
this Transcendence is the 
Transcendence of all Trans- 
cendence. Wahrheih 109 

. . . going beyond (in 
thought) ... a specific ob- 



transparent, become 


ultimate situation 
Note: "Grenze" 
means "boundary" 
or "limit" in Ger- 
man. Although it 
is felt that "ulti- 
mate situation" 
captures Jaspers' 
meaning best, the 
other meanings 
should be kept in 




Weltanschauung Weltanschauung 



jectivity to become aware 
of its Encompassing. Wahr- 
heit, 109 

This concept expresses Jas- 
pers' view that empirical 
being is capable of let- 
ting Transcendence "shine 
through." Thyssen, (306) 

Situations such as the fact 
that I am always in situa- 
tions, that I cannot live 
without conflict and suffer- 
ing, that I unavoidably 
incur guilt, that I must die 
. . . Philosophic, 469 

Perception of mental phe- 
nomena from within . . . 
Allgemeine, 24 
Knowledge based on the 
intuitional comprehension 
of "understandable" proc- 
esses. Manasse, (372) 
Comprehension of mean- 
ingful psychological rela- 
tions demonstrating an 
"inner causality" as op- 
posed to the "outer (gen- 
uine) causality" discovered 
by explanation. Lefebre, 
Cf.: Explanation 

. . . ideas, what is ultimate 
and complete in man, both 
subjectively as experience, 
power and conviction, and 
objectively as the formed 
world of objects. Psycho- 
logic, 1 

One of two modes of the 
Being that surrounds us. 


Cf.: Transcendence . . . the 
being of which one aspect 
of our essence constitutes 
an infinitesimal part, if the 
world as a whole be con- 
sidered as something that 
is not ourselves and in 
which we are immersed . . . 
Scope, 12 

world-orientation Weltorientierung Knowledge of existing ob- 

jects. Philosophic, 25 
Philosophy on the level of 
existence. Hoffman, (97) 

ABBREVIATIONS for those of Jaspers' works which are fre- 
quently quoted by contributors to this volume. Those of Jaspers' 
works which are available in both English-language and German- 
language editions appear twice in the list below. 




IDEE DER UNIVERSITAT, DIE (1946; not identical 

with above) 








Exist enz 

Situation (Age) 
Universitdt (I) 

Universitlit (II) 

Age (Situation) 

Christen turn 

Origin (Ursprung) 

Scope (Glaube) 

Glaube (Scope) 

Question (Schuld) 

Contains three essays originally published in German periodicals. 
If authors quote any of these essays, footnotes will refer to Humanism. 


















( Wideruern u nft) 

Reason (Vernunft) 



Schuld (Question) 


Ursprung (Origin) 
Vernunft (Reason) 



** Contains twenty-two not readily available essays. Quotes will be 
handled as described above (*). 

Karl Jaspers 


I. Childhood and Youth 5 

II. Psychopathologie . . .. , 12 

III. Psychologic der Weltanschauungen 24 

IV. Rickert . ... 30 
V. Philosophic . . 34 

VI. Ernst Mayer .40 

VII. University . 45 

VIII. Political Ideas . 53 

IX. Philosophical Logic . . 70 

X. Theology and Philosophical Faith 75 

XI. The Idea of a World-History of Philosophy 81 

XII. Concerning my Writings as a Whole 84 

XIII. Age 94 







i t 





Karl Jaspers 

ROFESSOR Schilpp has asked me for an account which 
would show how my life experiences led me to philosophize, 
what I was looking for on this road, and how my writings came 
about. The task seemed appropriate to me, at any rate, for a per- 
son of my age. For, all philosophy because it is an activity of 
the human spirit is, in its themes as well as its causes, intimately 
connected with the life of the person who is philosophizing. 

This connection is present even if this life, like my own, was 
simple and secluded and is devoid of any happenings that could 
make it universally interesting or, at any rate, could arouse only 
that interest which each human life may have for other persons. 

Although there is nothing in the actuality of everyday life that 
would not, in some way, be related to philosophy, I shall confine 
my report to those facts which became directly significant for my 
writings; and even in regard to them I shall make a restricted 
selection. Thus I shall speak of only a few of the experiences which 
were described or reflected in my writings. And as to the people 
to whom I owe so much, I shall not speak of those whose very 
being was disclosed to me in our friendship, but I shall only dis- 
cuss those whose thinking as such had a direct influence on my 

Furthermore, I shall not render a comprehensive account of the 
ideas expressed in my writings and even less argue their factual 
justification. They will be mentioned in part only, but will no- 
where be discussed in detail. They will be interpreted as reac- 
tions to life situations, but always with the aim in mind to make 
their timeless meaning felt. 


I was born on February 23, 1883, in Oldenburg, close to the 
coast of the North Sea. My father (1850-1940) was descended 
from a family of merchants and farmers who had been living for 

* From the original German manuscript, written expressly for this volume, 
translated by Paul Arthur Schilpp and Ludwig B. Lefebre. 


generations in the district of Jever; he became a jurist, high con- 
stable of the district, and director of a bank. He discharged his 
duties meticulously and with devotion. His favorite pursuits, 
however, were painting and hunting. He reared me by his ex- 
ample as well as in decisive moments, by his judgment in a 
spirit of reason, reliability, and faithfulness. My mother (1862- 
1941) descended from a family of farmers, who since time imme- 
morial had been established in Butjadingen. It was her infinite 
love which made my childhood and that of my brother and sister 
sunny and our later years exceedingly happy. Her boundless 
vigor and spirit filled us with courage and determination; her 
deep understanding of our aims and ideals, which far transcended 
all conventionality, stimulated our enthusiasm; her wisdom gave 
us warmth and the assurance of security. 

At the humanistic Gymnasium, which I attended, I got into 
trouble with the principal. I refused to obey blindly certain regu- 
lations which seemed to me unreasonable. My father had brought 
me up in such a way that, at a very early age already, I expected 
to receive an answer from him to every question I would ask and, 
furthermore, not to be compelled ever to do anything the mean- 
ing of which was not clear to me be it even out of a sense of 
reverence for the traditional which as such would have the power 
of persuasion. Thus instructed by my father, I upheld the prin- 
ciple that there was a difference between the necessary order in a 
classroom and that of military discipline, which was being intro- 
duced into school life without any justification. Such an attitude 
betrays a spirit of rebellion, I was one day solemnly told by the 
principal. He was aware, he said, that it was rampant in my family. 
He most emphatically rejected such a spirit. Our disagreement 
reached its climax when I refused to join one of the three school 
fraternities patterned after university-students* fraternities 
which had been approved by the principal. The reasons I stated to 
account for my refusal to enter such a "fraternity" were that these 
groups made distinctions on the basis of the social status and 
occupation of the parents and not on that of personal friendship. 
I found myself completely alone in my point of view. My fellow- 
students, having originally shown a sympathetic understanding, 
later actually rejected my attitude. When a friend of mine had 
accompanied me on a week's hiking trip in the mountains, his 
fraternity threatened to expel him unless he discontinued his 
friendly association with me. When he spoke to me about this 
matter, I gave him the advice to stay in the fraternity. This he did. 
But the principal made it clear to me that my teachers would keep 


a watchful eye on me. My father tried to compensate me for what 
I had lost. He leased large hunting grounds. Now I could spend 
my spare time in a great diversity of magnificently beautiful scen- 
ery, according to my heart's desire. 

The external data of my further life are quickly told. After my 
graduation (Abiturium) from the Gymnasium I was matriculated 
for three semesters as a student of jurisprudence. Then I enrolled 
as a student of medicine, passed, in 1908, the medical state ex- 
amination, and received the degree of Doctor of Medicine in 
1909. I now started to work as a (voluntary) assistant in the 
psychiatric hospital of the University of Heidelberg. In 1913 I 
habilitated myself as Privatdozent in psychology in the Philoso- 
phical Faculty. In 1921 I became a full professor of philosophy 
there, after I had declined offers of positions from the universi- 
ties of Greifswald and Kiel. In 1928 I declined a call to the Uni- 
versity of Bonn. In 1937 the National-Socialist regime deprived 
me of my professional status; but in 1945 I was again re-instated 
in my office with the consent of the American occupation authori- 
ties. In 1948 I accepted a call to the University of Basel, where 
I am teaching at present. 

The course of my inner (intellectual and spiritual) development 
during my youth deserves at least a few brief pointers. At the age 
of seventeen I read Spinoza. He became my philosopher. But I 
had no intention whatsoever of making philosophy my major 
subject of study or my occupation. On the contrary, I studied law 
for three semesters, with the purpose of later making the practice 
of law my life's work. However, the abstractions which were used 
to refer to social life a life still entirely unknown to me 
proved so disappointing that I occupied myself instead with 
poetry, art, graphology, and the theatre, always turning to some- 
thing else. Though unhappy in this state of dispersion, I was 
happy in particular experiences of greatness, especially in art. 

I was discontent with myself and with the state of society, with 
the false beliefs prevalent in public life. My fundamental reaction 
was: something is radically wrong not merely with humanity, but 
also with myself; at the same time, however, I felt the magnificence 
of that other world, namely, of nature, of art, of poetry, and of 
science. I retained a basic faith in life an elemental confidence 
which preceded everything else which was inspired by my be- 
loved parents, in whose solicitude I found a sense of security. My 
choice ol: a walk of life was my own private decision. 

How magnificent the solitude in nature untouchedl I enjoyed 
it in Sils-Maria (Engadin) and on the shores of the North Sea. 


How enrapturing the contemplation of beauty in Italyl On jour- 
neys I was swept off my feet. 

But solitude always became painful after I had indulged it a 
while. I felt drawn to people. What should I do? Life had to find 
a foundation; for however marvelous specific experiences, scatter- 
ing one's attention among them had a devastating effect. It be- 
came necessary to enter upon a concrete path of leading one's own 
life; above all my university studies now had to have a (definite) 
goal. I wanted to discover what knowledge is possible; medicine 
seemed to me to open the widest vista, having all of the natural 
sciences and man himself as its object of investigation. As a 
physician I could find my justification in society. 

I made this decision, in 1902, while at Sils-Maria. In a memo- 
randum which I prepared for my parents and in which I asked for 
their consent to my change of study from jurisprudence to medi- 
cine, I wrote in my clumsy way of writing at that time: "My plan 
is the following: I shall take my medical state examination after 
the prescribed number of semesters. If then I still believe as I 
do now to possess the necessary talent for it, I shall transfer to 
psychiatry and psychology. After that I shall first of all start prac- 
ticing as a physician in a mental hospital. Eventually I might enter 
upon an academic career as a psychologist, as for example Kraepe- 
lin in Heidelberg something which I would not, however, care 
to express because of the uncertainty and of its being dependent 
upon my capacities. . . . Therefore, I had best state it this way: 
I am going to study medicine in order to become a physician in 
a health resort or a specialist, e.g., a doctor for the mentally ill. 
To myself I add: the rest will come if and when. And finally, once 
I have got that far, and then should not have the courage nor be- 
lieve myself to possess the necessary qualifications to enter upon 
an academic career, I shall not at all be dissatisfied." 

In my choice of medicine what was of greatest importance to me 
was to learn to know actuality. I strove to achieve this aim by 
every means at my disposal. In my studies I was diligent and I 
enjoyed to the full the numerous possibilities of acquiring knowl- 
edge. In my travels I sought to accomplish whatever was possible 
in the way of gaining firsthand acquaintance with various regions, 
historical cities, and of works of art. 

In all this, however, the basic question, viz., how one ought to 
live, remained unsolved. The pursuit of my studies was some- 
thing preliminary. It was at the same time useful as a preparation 
for a profession. But that is not life itself. Without reading the 
philosophers, using all my time to study the concrete subjects of my 


field, I was nevertheless continually philosophizing, even though 
unsystematically (unmethodically) . Philosophy courses in the 
University I soon dropped. Against philosophy professors I had 
an antipathy because they did not treat what really mattered most 
to me. As persons they appeared arrogant and opinionated. As a 
personality only Theodor Lipps in Munich made an impression 
on me. However, the content of his lectures scarcely interested me 
with the exception of the geometro-optical illusions, to the 
knowledge of which he had contributed in an ingenious fashion. 
That, however, was only one specialized problem in the field of 

All of life's decisions were partially conditioned for me by a 
basic fact of my existence. From childhood I had been organically 
ill (bronchiectasis with cardiac decompensation) . While hunting 
I sat many times bitterly crying somewhere in the seclusion of the 
forest, as the strength of my body failed me. Not until I was eight- 
een years of age did Albert Fraenkel in Badenweiler make the 
correct diagnosis. Until then I suffered frequent attacks of fever as 
a result of the false treatment of my ailment. Now I learned to 
arrange my life on the basis of the conditions imposed on me by 
this disease. I read an essay by R. Virchow which described my 
illness in every detail and made the following prognosis: "Those 
afflicted with this disease will die of pyemia in their thirties at the 
latest/' I realized what really mattered in treating it. Gradually I 
acquired the methods of treatment which in part I invented my- 
self. It was impossible to carry them out correctly if I followed 
the manner of life of normally healthy people. If I want to get any 
work done, I shall have to risk doing what is harmful to my 
health; on the other hand, if I want to stay alive, I shall have to 
apply the strictest discipline by avoiding everything harmful. Be- 
tween these two poles my life has had to be run. It was often in- 
evitable to sink beneath one's own level by allowing fatigue and 
poisoning of the body to set in; and it became necessary con- 
stantly to recover from such a state. The illness was not to become 
the chief concern of life by constantly worrying about it. The task 
was to treat it, almost without being aware of it, correctly and to 
work as if the illness did not exist. Everything had to conform to 
it, without becoming victimized by it. Again and again I made 
mistakes. The requirements which resulted from my illness en- 
croache^ on every hour and on all my plans. I shall omit here an 
elaborate account of the concrete course of my illness, something 
I should like to do at another time. 

As a consequence of my illness I was unable to participate in 


the joyful diversions of youth. Hiking became completely impos- 
sible for me as early as in my student days. I was likewise unable 
to go horseback riding, swimming, or dancing. The illness kept me 
from bodily excesses. Furthermore, it made military service im- 
possible and with it soldier's death in wartime. "One must be sick 
in order to get old," says a Chinese proverb. It is astonishing how 
strong a love of good health can develop in a chronic, stationary 
disease. The degree of health kept becomes all the more conscious, 
affords the more happiness, and becomes perhaps even more healthy 
than any normal state of good health. 

Another consequence of my illness was a certain inner attitude 
which determined my manner of working. Because of constant in- 
terruptions, life had to become more concentrated, if one wanted 
to lead a meaningful life at all. I had to rely on a relaxed manner 
of doing my studies, on grasping the essentials, on suddenness of 
inspiration and on speed of making outlines at some favorable 
moment. My chance lay in tenacious endeavor to seize every good 
moment and continue working under all circumstances. 

Still another consequence of my illness was that I could make 
appearances in public only as long as certain careful precautions 
were taken and the appearance was brief. Only in very exceptional 
cases, of great importance, did I venture to travel to give lectures 
and to participate in public discussions, and always at the price of 
upsetting the normal state of my health. 

Finally I was dependent, in all my social life, upon the kind 
attitude of those who would permit me to disregard the forms of 
social etiquette, who would come to me and be satisfied with a 
brief visit of from one to two hours. Often I was not understood. 
People would interpret as pride and aloofness what actually was 
bitter necessity. 

The clarity of my thinking was scarcely blurred by the inhibi- 
tions and conditions which resulted from my illness. My charac- 
ter, however, was indeed veiled by this enforced loneliness in spite 
of the fact that I came to know many people and in spite of the 
friend I had in the person of Fritz zur Loye. Frequently I was 
overcome by melancholy. In such moments I thought that every- 
thing would soon be at an end anyway. But still more frequently 
I was literally lifted by a sense of marvelous expectancy of what 
might still possibly be accomplished. 

My friend Fritz zur Loye, who died at an early age, came from 
my own province and was very much like myself; so that, during 
our first years of university study, we were intimate associates. 
Our studies constituted the real bond between us. Together we 


worked at the microscope and did our experiments. The mood 
existing between us was sober. I felt his frankness with which he 
dealt with me in my illness without any pitying silence as 
beneficient. Rather he accepted it as a factor which had to be 
taken into account in every undertaking. "I am going dancing to- 
day at Mariaspring. You can't go along; it would be too strenuous 
for you . . ." Or just before a field trip of the class in botany: 
"That'll take too long; you would not be able to endure it . . ." 
In such fashion he dealt with the sacrifices I was compelled to 
make. To make up for it, he would report to me in brief descrip- 
tions whatever he had seen or experienced. A dependable affection 
united us. We were students together in Munich, Berlin, and 
Gottingen, took a course in graphology with Klages, attended the 
theatre. He liked my industry despite my affliction. A loving irony 
placed everything in the proper light and perspective. In Gottin- 
gen we attended the lectures of a physicist, Riecke, whom we re- 
spected but otherwise did not particularly like. He had written 
a two volume textbook. "What Riecke is able to do," my friend 
said to me, "you can do too. You will be writing textbooks some 
day and become a professor/* 

My reserve in the presence of people had the appearance of 
cool indifference. This was part of my heritage which I owed to 
my native region. It was founded, moreover, on the fact that I 
did not expect too much from people, and it was intensified by 
occasional disappointments. But this reserve was actually a painful 
restraint; in my soul there was something altogether different. 

Loneliness, melancholy, self-consciousness, all that changed when 
I, at the age of twenty-four, met Gertrud Mayer. Unforgettable 
when, accompanied by her brother, I first entered her room! She 
sat at a large desk, arose, with her back still towards the visitor, 
she slowly closed a book and turned toward us. I followed each of 
her movements, which, in her quiet clarity, without artificiality 
or conventionality, unconsciously seemed to express the essence 
of purity, the nobility of her soul in her (very) appearance. It 
was as if self-evident that the conversation soon turned to the basic 
questions of life, as if we had already known each other for a long 
time. From the very first hour there was between us an inconceiv- 
able harmony, something never expected to be possible. 

Yet, the difference between our respective dispositions was ex- 
traordir^rily great. Gertrud's spirit had been darkened by severe 
blows of fate, which she could not take with her into a life which 
was supposed to take its course unquestioningly. Her only sister 
was a victim of a lingering uncanny mental disease, which made 


her constant confinement in an institution necessary. A philoso- 
phically minded friend of Gertrud's, the poet Walter Cal6, had 
taken his own life. 

In contrast to me, who was suffering only from my own illness, 
the very foundations of things had been torn asunder for her, lead- 
ing to insoluble questions. In her I saw the reality of a soul which 
refused to live by illusions. She was capable of infinite endurance 
in silence. 

In her my own affirmation of life encountered the spirit who 
from now on would prevent any premature acquiescence on my 
part. Now philosophy began, in a new way, to become a serious 
concern for me. We found ourselves united in its pursuit, but had 
not reached the goal. Thus it has remained until to-day through- 
out a long life together. 

The gloom and consciousness of constant danger induced an 
inescapable seriousness in her. But, out of this soil grew the infinite 
happiness of her immediate presence. I experienced the deep satis- 
faction of love which has been able to give meaning to each day 
even until now. 

Gertrud comes from a pious Jewish family, which since the 17th 
century has been living in the Province of Brandenburg. When 
we met in 1907, Gertrude was in the midst of preparing for the 
Abiturium, which she planned to take as an extern, in order to 
pursue graduate university studies. Her goal was philosophy. The 
experience she had gained as a psychiatric nurse had not been 
able to keep her interested in this profession. She now was daily 
studying Greek and Latin. When, in 1910, we had been married, 
a cordial, mutual affection and complete confidence bound me to 
my parents-in-law. The father had gotten over his (initial) anti- 
pathy against the marriage of his daughter to a non-Jew, and the 
mother had found her pious expectations as to her daughter's love 

During the years of National-Socialism we were confronted by 
catastrophies in our proximity as well as in our wider environ- 
ment, which again and again we considered inescapable even for 
ourselves; yet we never entirely gave up hope. We seemed to be 
miraculously protected as we were spared the worst fate. Being thus 
spared, yet, in view of our own survival, having a sense of shared 
guilt, we felt increasingly challenged to live right and to work to 
the very limits of our capacity. . 

From 1908 until 1915 I was working in the psychiatric hospital 


in Heidelberg, in the beginning, right after my State Examina- 
tion, as an intern, later after half a year's interruption, during 
which time I received some training in the department of neu- 
rology of the hospital for internal medicine as a voluntary re- 
search assistant. These years are the only ones of my life which, 
in association with scholars, I spent dealing with the daily prac- 
tical tasks. The moving realities were not only of a medical, but 
also of a sociological, juridical, and therapeutic nature. 

Head of the hospital was Nissl. He was an excellent research 
man, a brain histologist who, together with Alzheimer dis- 
covered the histopathology of the cerebral cortex in paralytics. 
But I was mostly impressed by his self criticism. It is true, he 
carried on his work with bold expectations as to what was scien- 
tifically possible in getting knowledge of the mentally ill; but he 
was incorruptible in his awareness of whatever did not coincide 
with his expectation. Although it surprised him, he insisted on 
emphasizing, even more sharply than his critics, that there existed, 
e.g., no correlation between the severity of senile dementia and 
the size of the abnormal area in the cerebral cortex. He took his 
departure from the principle which had been prevalent since 
Griesinger: mental illnesses are diseases of the brain. While he 
made important discoveries on the basis of this presupposition, he 
undermined at the same time the general validity of this proposi- 
tion. While he analyzed his findings methodically, he recognized 
the limits of their significance. When he became the director of 
the hospital, he was a specialist in histology, but was by no means 
at home in clinical psychiatry. He demonstrated that anyone who 
proceeds really scientifically in any field and has done scientifically 
fruitful research is capable of quickly grasping what is scientifically 
essential in all fields. Nissl's clinical lectures, which were orig- 
inally largely based on Kraepelin's textbook, became from year to 
year more independent and original. He learned from his assist- 
ants; and yet was perhaps superior to all of us in the integrity of 
his humane way of viewing realities. The discussions with his 
assistants took place with an attitude of radical unaffectation with- 
out any distinction as to rank, etc. Even though the discussion 
might become impassioned, it never passed the bounds of pro- 
priety. Nissl's authority was invulnerable because of the character 
of his personality, not merely because of his official position. This 
scholar .possessed an exceedingly great amount of kindness to- 
wards his patients and his assistants; he was externally harsh, 
temperamentally easily moved to anger, and in his actions extra- 
ordinarily conscientious and cautious. A warm and benevolent 


atmosphere radiated from him. As a person he was infinitely 
modest, a man who suffered profoundly, and was convinced of 
the state of decay of man. * 

A number of distinguished physicians worked with him in the 
hospital. If on occasion and by mistake an assistant had been ac- 
cepted who did not fit into this group and who would violate the 
unwritten principles of this spiritual community, he would after 
some time disappear without anyone having been arrogant in his 
treatment of him. The leading authorities were: my teacher Wil- 
manns, the deputy chief; then above all, Gruhle, who kept every- 
thing moving by his critique, his versatility, and spontaneity; 
furthermore, the infinitely conscientious Wetzel, greatly gifted 
with empathy; the humane Homburger, an untiringly active brain 
histologist; the still very youthful Ranke, whose mind was open 
toward all scientific possibilities; and finally, Mayer-Gross. These 
physicians translated into reality a spiritual way of living with 
each other which had been made possible by Nissl. Gruhle's initia- 
tive saw to the regularity of our meetings. For the entire staff of 
all physicians in the hospital there were first of all the staff meet- 
ings, the demonstrations with patients, and discussions of expert 
reports. There were, furthermore, scientific evenings, spent with 
Nissl, on which occasions recent papers on specific themes were 
reported on and discussed. And finally, there were private gather- 
ings at night in a smaller circle, without Nissl, in Gruhle's room, 
where we discussed, with the greatest freedom and ardor, whatever 
scientific interest lay closest to the heart of each individual. These 
talks were continued during our work the next day. Wherever 
one met, going up the stairs or coming down, there was an ex- 
change of opinions. It was a remarkable life of universal spon- 
taneity, permeated by the generally shared consciousness that we 
were furthering a magnificent realm of knowledge, with all the 
arrogance of knowing too much, it is true, but at the same time 
also with the kind of radical criticism which could tear apart 
every position. Whoever wanted to get any work done had to take 
care not to waste his time and energy in conversation. The "spirit 
of a house" had grown up, belonging to no one individual, but 
to the combined activity of all, each single one of whom, never- 
theless, stubbornly pursued his own course. The form of one of 
the finest traditions of German academic life was once again 
realized in this hospital. 

My position in this group was peculiar (abnormal) . I was only 
a voluntary assistant. My illness made it impossible for me to be- 
come a regular staff assistant. I did not live in the hospital, did not 


take my meals with the other physicians, and I felt sad about this 
tact. But I had the permission to collaborate with them in their 
research. I found the director and the physicians kindly disposed 
towards me, was present at all the various kinds of gatherings for 
scientific discussions, took an active part in them, and participated 
in the ward rounds. 

I was allowed to select my own cases for more detailed study. 
Wilmanns placed a special room at my disposal, in which I con- 
ducted intelligence and other tests, which at that time were just 
coming into use. I examined blood pressure with Recklinghausen's 
new apparatus, which for the first time made it possible to read 
off easily and continuously the minimum and maximum of blood 
pressure and thus permitted observation on what was taking place 
during psychic changes. However, I never published my results. 
Occasionally I was asked to make a report in court and to render 
expert affidavits in regard to accident insurance. Once, during 
Homburger's illness, I substituted for him at the policlinic. I be- 
came examining physician for nervous and mental diseases of the 
students' health insurance. Without being engaged in the regular 
daily routine duties of an assistant, the whole experience of a 
psychiatrist was in this way made accessible to me. The disad- 
vantage of my position became an advantage. I could see and 
investigate everything without having my time occupied by 
routine duties. Besides carrying on my own investigations I did 
not have a single patient from whose case I did not learn and re- 
member something. I watched what my colleagues were doing, 
reflected on their procedures and my own, raised them to a higher 
level of conscious awareness, criticized them and pushed on to 
methodically pure procedures and formulations. 

The common conceptual framework of the hospital was Kraepe- 
lin's psychiatry together with deviations from it, resulting in 
points of view and ideas for which no one person could claim 
original authorship. Thus, e.g., the polarity of the two broad 
spheres of dementia praecox (later called Schizophrenia) and of 
the manic-depressive illnesses was considered valid. The idea of 
the clinical entity was being discussed, our observations were con- 
tinuously related to this idea, but without really knowing what it 
actually was. We distinguished the development of a personality 
which undergoes natural and understandable changes in the 
various .phases of life, i.e., "biographical" changes, from "proc- 
esses" which, in a violent break, cause a radical change, for reasons 
which, without knowing their nature, were held to be organic. 

At that time, around 1910, somatic medicine was still prevalent 


in psychiatry. The influence of Freud was limited to small circles. 
Psychological efforts were considered subjective and fruitless, not 
scientific. An exception were the psychological experiments in- 
troduced by Kraepelin on the basis of Wundt's psychology, espe- 
cially those concerning the "work curve" (fatigue and recovery) , 
the investigations concerning the psychological effect of drugs, of 
alcohol, tea, etc. However, these experiments were unsuited for 
the investigation of mental patients. The experiments themselves 
came quickly to an end and did not produce further results 'til, 
somewhat later, investigations with mescalin produced a few new 

The realization that scientific investigation and therapy were in 
a state of stagnation was widespread in German psychiatric clinics 
at that time. The large institutions for the mentally ill were built 
constantly more hygienic and more magnificent. The lives of the 
unfortunate inmates, which could not be changed essentially, 
were controlled. The best that was possible consisted in shaping 
their lives as naturally as possible as, e.g., by successful work 
therapy as long as such therapy remained a humane and reason- 
able link in the entire organization of the patient's life. In view of 
the exceedingly small amount of knowledge and technical know- 
how, intelligent, yet unproductive psychiatrists, such as Hoche, 
took recourse to a skeptical attitude and to elegant sounding 
phrases of gentlemanly superiority. 

In Nissl's hospital too, therapeutic resignation was dominant. 
In therapeutics we were basically without hope, but we were hu- 
mane and kind and prevented, in so far as possible, any calamity 
which might unnecessarily result from the condition of the men- 
tally ill. Our attitude towards the patients was humane without 
being pathetic, it was cheerful and tolerant. The psychiatrist's 
"gentleness" was held to be the self-evident attitude not only to- 
wards patients, but also with regard to life as such. We took a 
great interest in questions of a sociological and juridical nature. 
Tramps, e.g., were successfully investigated by Wilmanns. A For- 
ensic-psychiatric Society in Heidelberg brought jurists and physi- 
cians together for regular lectures and discussions. 

I found all this on my arrival. Deeply affected by all factual data 
and by every method, I aimed to appropriate whatever there was. 
The inordinarily voluminous literature in psychiatry of more than 
a century proved to be largely just so much unfounded, chatter. 
Nevertheless, pearls were discovered therein when on occasion an 
author actually communicated real insights in a conceptually clear 
and precisely recognizable fashion. Frequently, the same things 


were being discussed in different terms, in most cases in a very 
obscure manner. Several schools had each its own terminology. It 
seemed as if several languages were being spoken, with deviations 
to the extent of special jargons at the individual hospitals. There 
seemed to be no such thing as a common scientific psychiatry 
uniting all those engaged in psychiatric research. During the reg- 
ular demonstrations of patients and the discussions among physi- 
cians I sometimes had the impression as if we were always be- 
ginning all over again; then again that we merely subsumed 
the particular facts under a few miserable generic types; whereas 
at other times it would seem to me that what had already been 
said was constantly being forgotten. As often as I was pleased with 
what I had learned, just as often it seemed to me that no progress 
was being made. I felt as if I were living in a world of an insurvey- 
able variety of ways of looking at things, which were at our dis- 
posal in chaotic disorder, yet each one of which individually was 
of an intolerable simplicity. Psychiatrists must learn to think, I 
once opined in a group of physicians. "Jaspers ought to be 
spanked/' Ranke remarked with a friendly smile. 

It now occurred to me that a cause of the intellectual confusion 
lay in the very nature of the subject itself. For the object of 
psychiatry was man, not merely his body, perhaps his body even 
least of all, but rather his mind, his personality, he himself. I read 
not merely the somatic domga: mental diseases are diseases of the 
brain (Griesinger) , but also the tenet: mental diseases are diseases 
of personality (Schiile) . What we were dealing with was likewise 
the subject of the social and cultural sciences. They had the same 
concept, only far more subtle, more developed, more lucid. Once 
when we were recording verbal expressions of patients, in states 
of confusion and of those exhibiting paranoid chatter, I said to 
Nissl: we must learn from the philologists. I began to look around 
for what philosophy and psychology might perhaps have to offer. 

In this situation, in 1911, I received Wilmanns' and the pub- 
lisher Ferdinand Springer's invitation to write a text on general 
psychopathology. I had already published a series of articles on 
"Homesickness and Crime," on intelligence tests, on hallucina- 
tions, on delusional ideas, on the course of diseases: all illustrated 
by detailed case histories. These writings made those men feel 
that a certain confidence in me was justifiable. I was startled; but 
at the same time I was seized by enthusiasm and buoyancy (and 
felt challenged) to bring order at least into the factual data and 
to further the methodical consciousness as much as possible. I 
wanted to do this the more as I felt myself supported by the spirit 


of the hospital and the knowledge we all shared. In this circle it 
was not too difficult to write a general psychopathology. Further- 
more, it was high time to carry out this task. I was commissioned 
to undertake it. 

My own investigations as well as my reflection about what was 
being said and done in psychiatry had led me on tracks which 
were new at that time. Philosophers gave me the impetus for two 
essential steps. As method I adopted Husserl's phenomenology, 
which, in its beginnings, he called descriptive psychology; I re- 
tained it although I rejected its further development to insight 
into essences (Wesensschau). It proved to be possible and fruitful 
to describe the inner experiences of patients as phenomena of 
consciousness. Not only hallucinations, but also delusions, modes 
of ego-consciousness, and emotions could, on the basis of the 
patients' own descriptions, be described so clearly that they be- 
came recognizable with certainty in other cases. Phenomenology 
became a method for research. 

Over against the psychology of theoretical explanation, Dilthey 
had put another, "descriptive and analytical psychology." I adopt- 
ed this approach, called it a "verstehende Psychologic" and worked 
out the already practiced procedures which had actually been 
applied by Freud in a peculiar fashion by means of which, in 
contrast to the directly experienced phenomenon, one is able to 
comprehend the genetic connections within mental life, as well 
as meaningful relations and motives. I searched for the method- 
ological justification and a systematic organization of these pro- 
cedures. An abundance of known but unorganized psychological 
approaches, together with a description of the facts, seemed to me 
thus to find their rightful place. 

I shall not report on the conceptually clear formulations of the 
psychology of performance (as compared with phenomenology 
and "verstehende Psychologic"} , not on the separation of the phe- 
nomena of expression whose meaning is understandable from 
the non-meaningful somatic phenomena accompanying mental 
processes, not on the remaining methodological elucidations of the 
factually existing insights. I should like to point out only one 
thing. Everywhere I fought against mere talk without real knowl- 
edge, especially against the "theories" which played such a big 
r61e in psychiatric language. I pointed out that the psychological 
theories had been developed in analogy to those of the natural 
sciences, to be sure; but that they never acquired the character of 
scientific theories. For them there could never be a continuously 
advancing development of knowledge about a basic process 


dominating all mental phenomena. Proof and refutation based on 
experience, coupled with continuous search for counter-indica- 
tions, could not be obtained by co-operative research. For in this 
field it was indeed only a matter of analogies, which at best seemed 
only to have a certain degree of plausibility, but which were pos- 
sible in various ways, which never agreed, never could be checked 
radically. They were mistakenly transformed into factually present 
basic processes. I tried, however, to find in every idea, thus also 
in this type of theoretical thought, that factor which had a positive 
value for science. Thus I presented, in my Psychopathology, a 
systematic arrangement of theories, i.e., of the means to describe, 
by way of analogy, what otherwise would remain outside of the 
horizon of cognition. What mattered was to survey all possible 
pictures without lapsing into any. At that time the theories of 
Wernicke and Freud were held to be valid above all others. Both 
are now forgotten; Freud's theory is no longer considered as uni- 
versally valid even by psychoanalysts today, since it is to a con- 
siderable degree regarded as being dated. - 

The belief that it was possible to develop methods which would 
enable us to comprehend man as a whole (as to constitution, 
character, body-type, and disease-entity) persisted, in ever new 
guises. Despite the fact that, within limits, all of them were fruit- 
ful, the supposed totality every time proved to be a totality within 
the one comprehensive totality of being human, never this total- 
ity itself. For the totality of man lies way beyond any conceivable 
objectifiability. He is incompletable both as a being-for-himself 
and as an object of cognition. He remains, so to speak, "open." 
{Man is always more than what he knows, or can know, about him- 

The scientific urge for the systematic treatment of the entire 
field stood behind my desire to bring all of these points of view 
together. In my psychopathology the object was to bring to con- 
ceptually clear consciousness what one knows, how one knows it, 
and what one does not know. The basic critical idea was to gain 
insight into the problem of the ways by which an investigable 
objective comes to be perceived. 

To ask such questions lay early in my nature. When, in my final 
pre-clinical examination (the Physikum), I was asked about the 
structure of the spinal cord, I replied by enumerating the methods 
of investigation and of what became evident by their use. The 
anatomist (Merkel in Gottingen) was astonished and praised me, 
which in turn was a surprise to me. 

The systematic treatment demanded that no method, which had 


a principle of its own, should be omitted even if only a minimum 
of knowledge was obtained by it. Every approach to reality was to 
be kept open by bringing it to conscious awareness. Yet at the 
same time the presuppositions and limitations of each were to be 
made distinct. 

For this reason I was from the beginning opposed to any schools 
of thought in so far as they excluded anything, and went along 
with them in so far as they turned up something real. The greatest 
possible open-mindedness of scientific opinion was to be attempted 
in psychopathology. 

The guiding principle of my book on psychopathology, there- 
fore, was and remained this: to develop and order knowledge 
guided by the methods through which it is gained to learn to 
know the process of knowing and thereby to clarify the material. 

That meant at the same time, however: methodological investi- 
gations in themselves do not really matter so long as the methods 
do not lead to factual knowledge. According to the old saying, 
progress is not made when one just talks about swimming while 
standing on the shore, one must jump into the water. I set up the 
following as my goal, therefore: in my book on psychopathology 
there shall not occur any purely abstract logical discussions. They 
are to be reported on only when their meaning is demonstrated 
on evident data. Every method has value only through a body of 
real content, i.e., through whatever becomes observable by means 
of it. The basic empirical attitude of the book demanded that 
perceptibility and factuality remain prerequisites for anything to 
be recognized as knowledge in the field of psychopathology. At the 
same time, however, the heterogeneity of the factual itself was to 
come to the fore. The facts and observations do not lie upon an 
identical level. Rather, they prove themselves to be essentially dif- 
ferent by the manifoldness of the ways by means of which one 
reaches them. Therefore the reader of the book was to become 
acquainted not merely with the subject material, but was to learn 
to think about the question in what way and within what limits 
this material might be factually valid. The principle of my presen- 
tation was: nothing was to be said that was not verified in the 
book by example from experience and observation. 

This principle of methodological reflection and discipline ap- 
peared the more important as the object of investigation in psy- 
chiatry is man himself. He is distinguished from all other things in 
the world by the fact that in his entirety he can no more become 
\an object of inquiry than can the world in its entirety. Whenever 
he becomes known, something of his appearance becomes known, 


not he himself. Jbvery knowledge of man as a whole proves to be 
a deception which arises from the fact that one way of inquiry is 
elevated to the rank of being the only one, one method is made a 
universal one. 

The principle of ascertaining the manner of knowing by means 
of becoming aware of the specific method in question, liberates 
man again from the pretention to being known in toto. It was the 
physician's task to preserve the humanitarian approach by not los- 
ing his consciousness of the infinity of each individual human 
being. Only thereby is any humane physician capable of maintain- 
ing the necessary reverence for each person, even if the latter be 
mentally ill.^an, and every individual, is to be saved for the 
consciousness of the physician and investigator. Never can the bal- 
ance, so to speak, be struck by scientific means. Every sick person 
is, like any other person, inexhaustible. Never does knowledge 
reach a point where the personality with its hidden mysterious- 
ness can not at least be sensed be it even as mere possibility, as 
still reflected in wondrous leftovers (of the original personality) 

A book thus conceived could very well turn out, in its first draft, 
to be a surprise; but it was also bound to be defective. In later 
editions I have tried to refine and to sharpen the structure, to 
grasp the facts in a wider perspective. For decades, the book re- 
mained important to me as distinctly my own. Later, occupied by 
new tasks and living away from the clinic, I no longer undertook 
independent psychopathological investigations, aside from a few 
pathographies (Strindberg und Van Gogh in comparison with 
Swedenborg and Holderlin, 1920; and about Nietzsche's illness in 
the pertinent chapter in my book on Nietzsche, 1936) . 

In the clinic my work on the book from the very beginning 
encountered sharp criticism, both friendly and hostile. Both were 
an aid to my work. 

The sharpest critic was Gruhle. He seemed to grant the validity 
of nothing whenever I reported on anything in our meetings. I 
became greatly excited. His criticism was a fertile stimulus. One 
evening I had reported on the contents of a short article dealing 
with the phenomenological method of research in psychiatry, i.e., 
about my experiments and plans. Gruhle, it seemed, was tearing 
everything to bits. Only then, certain now to be on the right track, 
I wrote the article in a very few days, formulated everything more 
clearly, .and submitted my manuscript to Gruhle. To my great 
surprise and joy he now agreed. 

Other criticism was hostile. An assistant of my own age offered 
a reproach which, in many different forms, I encountered again 


and again, even later on with reference to my philosophizing. I 
was accused of wanting to dissolve the dogmatism-of-being in favor 
of a critical elucidation of all possibilities of research; by so doing 
all theories were put into the unstable position of mere analogies. 
He retorted: "You have no conviction at all. One cannot do re- 
search in such fashion. There is no science without a continuous 
theory. Only by way of theory does it become a science. You are a 
relativist. You destroy the firmness of the physician's point of 
view. You are a dangerous nihilist." 

The greatest and unforgettable impression, however, was made 
by Nissl's critical and helpful attitude towards my work. He was 
so greatly satisfied with my dissertation, "Homesickness and 
Crime," that he gave me the best grade on it and agreed to my 
desire to work in his hospital. The first conversation we had, when 
I told him my desire, was brief. He replied to my request: "Gladly, 
what do you wish to work on?" Whereupon I said: "During the 
first few weeks I want to orient myself in the library to find out 
what is there." He looked at me in astonishment and said rather 
brusquely: "Well, if you want to do that sort of monkey-business, 
go ahead!" I was depressed by this reply, angrily wanted to give 
up my entire work in the hospital, but reflected: "I must pardon 
this venerable scholar for venting his anger on a young man; the 
hospital is unique, in Germany I would not find another one like 
it; it is my career which is at stake, I must not be proud." Thus I 
began my work. Nissl let me have complete freedom, listened to 
lectures I gave, and expressed himself to an assistant: "Too bad 
about Jaspers, such an intelligent fellow and engages in such 
monkey-business." Once when, because of the precarious condition 
of my health, I was late for a visit, he greeted me: "But Mr. 
Jaspers, how pale you lookl You do too much philosophy, and the 
red blood corpuscles can't stand that." One day, after having 
known me for years and after the publication of my article on the 
phenomenological method of research, he came to me into the 
outpatient clinic asking whether he might listen in while I was 
engaged in phenomenological exploration. I was lucky with a case 
of initial schizophrenia. Nissl expressed his great satisfaction, say- 
ing that there was some merit in it after all. When later I received 
the proofs of my book on psychopathology, I thought it proper to 
show them to him both as my chief and as the man to whom I 
owed my chance to carry on my work. For days I saw him carrying 
the proofs around with him in the pocket of his (white) physi- 
cian's gown. To me he said never a word. But I was told by Wetzel 
that he had said to him concerning the book: "Magnificent. It 


leaves Kraepelin way behind!" After approximately three weeks, 
he asked me to visit him in his home in the afternoon. On this 
occasion he declared: "I consider your book good; surely you in- 
tend to habilitate yourself, don't you? Unfortunately, I have al- 
ready accepted too many people for habilitation. The faculty won't 
admit any more. You would have to wait until one of them re- 
ceives a call or leaves for one of the clinics. Therefore I have made 
inquiries: Kraepelin in Munich and Alzheimer in Breslau are 
both ready to habilitate you immediately. The choice is yours." 
I replied that I liked it in Heidelberg so much that I preferred 
to remain here and to wait. But perhaps I could habilitate myself 
in the psychology department of the philosophical faculty. "We 
initiate a sort of colony there, and later I can return to the hos- 
pital." "Excellent!" Nissl said and gave me recommendations as 
did Max Weber and Kiilpe (Munich) . In 1913 I habilitated my- 
self for psychology in the philosophical faculty under Windelband. 

At that time I was not aware of the fact that this habilitation 
would result in my transfer from the world of medicine into that 
of philosophy in the university. I had forgotten the memorandum 
I had sent to my parents from Sils-Maria. Now I was teaching psy- 
chology, sad that I had to do it outside of the hospital. There was 
no psychological institute, but I saw to it that I could illustrate 
my lectures by means of many plates, with simple experiments. 

That in the years to come I did not return to psychiatry seemed, 
at the outset, to be due to the compulsion of an external fact: the 
state of my health. During the first World War, the then dean of 
the faculty, Professor Gottlieb, asked me whether I would accept 
a call as successor to Nissl, who had gone to the research institute 
in Munich. I asked for a few days time to think it over. With my 
wife I reflected whether it might not be possible if we received 
an apartment in the hospital itself, and if I were to a considerable 
extent relieved of practical obligations. We reached the conclusion 
that it was physically quite impossible. I could not take upon my- 
self the responsibility involved in the expert direction of a hos- 
pital. At that time it was difficult for me to desist. To maintain 
the spirit of a hospital in co-operation with like-minded colleagues, 
along the lines already undertaken and to develop that spirit in 
research as well as in the physician's activity, this seemed most at- 
tractive to me. It seemed to be so much more (enticing) than, 
with mere books and manuscripts, and within the limited area of 
accidental experience and on occasional journeys, to be restricted 
to an academic teaching career. 

In looking back it all seems remarkable. What at that time was 


enforced by my illness and was done reluctantly, viz., the definitive 
choice of the philosophical faculty, was indeed leading me to the 
road for which I was destined. From early youth on I had been 
philosophizing. Actually I had taken up medicine and psycho- 
pathology from philosophical motives. Only shyness in view of the 
greatness of the task kept me from making philosophy my life's 
career. Even at that time I still did not consider doing that. My 
aim was the teaching of psychology while occupying a chair for 
philosophy; a chair which, however, existed for philosophy in 
name only, but actually was psychology. Submission on my part, 
however painful at the moment in view of the necessary renuncia- 
tion, in truth meant the good fortune to open up the area of what 
lay within my possibilities. In the years to follow this became 
philosophy. I remained loyal to the pursuits of my youth. My Psy- 
chopathology never became a matter of indifference to me. For 
decades I worked earnestly and in ever new endeavor on the prep- 
aration of new editions of the book. 

The memory of the intellectual fellowship of our hospital in 
Heidelberg has accompanied me throughout my entire life. My 
later work was quite independent and was undertaken at my own 
risk, sustained by the affirmative and co-operative attitude of my 
beloved wife, and encouraged by a friend, but without contact 
with any professional group. The comparison enabled me to meas- 
ure how diffused, artificial, and unreal is the professional associa- 
tion of teachers of philosophy, no matter how often its representa- 
tives may meet each other in congresses or express themselves in 
journals and books. 


After my habilitation in the fall of 1913, it was my task to give 
lectures on psychology. I began, in the summer of 1914, to lecture 
on the subject: psychology of character-types and of ability, and 
in the following semesters lectures on empirical psychology: the 
psychology of sense perceptions, psychology of memory, investiga- 
tions in the area of fatigue. Furthermore, I gave a pathographic 
course dealing with numerous sick personalities in history. 

Decisive, however, for the further course of my thinking was the 
fact that, based on Aristotle's remark that, "The soul is, so to 
speak, everything,"! began to occupy myself in good conscience, 
under the name of psychology, with everything it is possible to 
know. For there exists nothing whatever that does not have a 
psychological aspect in this wide sense. I did not at all accept the 


delimitation of psychology as formulated by Windelband and 
Rickert, which at that time prevailed in Heidelberg circles. What 
I had begun under the title of "verstehende Psychologie" in psy- 
chopathology now became identical with the great tradition of 
intellectual and philosophical understanding. Thus I gazed on the 
wide expanse of the world of history and into the depth of what 
is understandable in man. I lectured on "verstehende psychology/* 
more specifically on social and ethno psychology, psychology 
of religion, the psychology of morals. Among these lectures there 
was one which became the most important to me. Under the title, 
Psychologie der Weltanschauungen I developed them into a book 
and published it in 1919. This book became my approach to phil- 
osophy, but without my being aware of it at the time. A number 
of motives became intertwined in the book. They are the follow- 

Even during the period of work in the hospital I had a startling 
experience. In the conflict among scientific points of view and the 
living personalities it was not merely what was empirically and 
logically equally correct for everyone which played a role. The 
difficult task, for the fulfillment of which Nissl was a model, proved 
to be: to work out what is thus compellingly valid. In our discus- 
sion almost always another factor was noticeable. What was inter- 
esting in this was not our need for self-assertion, not our desire to 
be right, but rather a something which seemed somehow beyond 
our grasp, although in the discussion it was determinative and ap- 
peared to erect barriers among us. 

In the personalities of the research psychiatrists, who were giv- 
ing public lectures, this factor, which, quite independent of scien- 
tific accuracy, produced either a feeling of affinity or else of hos- 
tility. Thus Freud and Hoche, whom I never met personally and 
who, compared with each other, were quite heterogeneous, were 
at that time for me representatives of forces to which I did not 
turn a deaf ear, scholars whose writings I felt compelled to study. 
I resisted them, however, inwardly with thoughts and impulses 
that went far beyond the contents of their discussions. They ac- 
companied my youth, so to speak, as my enemies, who were deter- 
mined to effect something by way of our science which is not 
science at all; and they did this in an attitude which I felt to be 
reprehensible and against which a point of view needed to be 
clarified and asserted, which came from a totally different source. 
The nature of this point of view I wished to bring out and get 
clearly before us, no longer by following their example, but in 
view of history and of human beings as such. 


At the very moment when the question concerning the original 
W eltanschauungen arose, the magnificent tradition of the thinkers 
who had developed this kind of psychology, sometimes not at all 
under the name of psychology, came to light. Hegel's Phenomenol- 
ogy of Mind, then above all Kierkegaard, whom I had been study- 
ing since 1914, and secondly Nietzsche, struck me as revelations. 
They were able to make communicable a universal and at the same 
time quite concrete insight into every corner of the human soul 
and to its very deepest sources. In my book I placed Kierkegaard 
and Nietzsche side by side, despite their apparent foreignness (to 
each other) (Christian and atheist) . Today their close connection 
has become so self-evident that the name of the one recalls that 
of the other. 

In my book, Psychologic der W eltanschauungen, a tension pre- 
vails. It is expressly stated: the book does not intend to be philoso- 
phy; philosophy, in the highest sense of the word, is prophetic 
philosophy; psychology understands all the possibilities of philo- 
sophic points of view by looking at them; philosophy itself pro- 
vides us with a Weltanschauung. "Whoever wants a direct answer 
to the question how he should live, will, in this book, look for it 
in vain/' The essential things are the concrete decisions of personal 
destiny. In the book, however, only elucidations and possibilities 
for self-reflection were given. By offering means of orientation, 
it appealed to the unflagging responsibility of the individuals, but 
it did not attempt to teach people how to live. 

What I was at that time doing made two points clear to me later 
on: firstly the task of a philosophy which is philosophy in essence 
and yet not prophetic nor proclamatory philosophy; secondly the 
demarcation of that type of psychology which one may call scien- 
tific psychology from that psychology which itself is already phil- 

Firstly: what I intended at that time with the distinction be- 
tween psychology and a prophetic philosophy has remained the 
intent of my philosophizing until today. To be sure, this philoso- 
phizing is by no means merely contemplative. Even the Psycholo- 
gie der W eltanschauungen had not been just that, without my 
being aware of it at that time. However, with all its appeals, its 
conjurations, its representations, philosophy does not want to in- 
fringe upon the freedom of the other person, who must find him- 
self in his philosophizing: philosophy in its completeness gind as a 
totality of ideas is unable to relieve him of that task. Neither Plato 
nor Kant are creators of prophetic philosophies in that sense of 
the word which I had in mind when, at that time, I spoke of 


prophetic philosophy, looking at it from a distance. Prophetic 
philosophy would be a substitute for religion. However, what this 
type of philosophy is and what it can accomplish, later on became 
for me the big problem. In my Psychologic der W eltanschauungen 
I was, naively, engaged already in philosophizing without knowing 
clearly as yet what I was doing. 

Secondly, the name "psychology" could not be kept for these 
attempts. My way from psychology by way of verstehender psy- 
chology to existentialist philosophy caused the old task to become 
urgent in a new form: the demarcation of a scientific psychology 
and the methodological knowledge concerning its possibilities and 
its limits. Subsequently, I have carried out this demarcation along 
the lines of my Psychopathology. In this scientific situation verste- 
hende psychology has an ambiguous character. Consequently the 
question concerning scientific psychology must be formulated 
quite sharply, to be sure; but the answer which is universally valid, 
effected, and accepted by all scholars, is not yet given. 

The purpose of unobligatory consideration expressed in my 
Psychologic der W eltanschauungen and the factual obligation 
which becomes noticeable to the reader in trying to think with 
the author has unfavorably influenced the opinion about the book. 
One saw in it a gallery of W eltanschauungen, from which people 
were free to choose. Actually, however, it is the ascertainment of 
all possibilities as one's own and the elucidation of the largest 
possible realm in which the 'existential' decisions occur which no 
thought, no system, no knowledge anticipates. Everything which 
in the book is displayed in graphic thought contains tensions, 
because of which there is truth everywhere and error also. My 
interest was no longer exclusively the psychological one in types 
of W eltanschauungen, but the philosophical interest in the truth 
of various philosophic points of view. I outlined an organism of 
the possibilities in their movement, recognizing myself in, and at 
the same time rebounding from all of them. It was a philosophy 
not yet conscious of itself. My present attitude towards this book 
is, therefore, one of affirmation as to its content and its tendency, 
but one of dissatisfaction with its form. 

My authorization to lecture at the university was expressly for 
psychology with exclusion of philosophy. I did not feel this, at the 
time, as a restraint, but rather as relief from the necessity of teach- 
ing philosophy, a pretense to which appeared to me enormous. 
Nevertheless, my philosophical impulse impelled me, under the 
cloak of psychology, towards a consideration of totality. I did not 
aim at a prophetic philosophy and had no conception as yet of 


that other philosophy although secretly I was already groping for 
it which, neither in the form of the pseudo-scientific nullities 
of an alleged technical philosophy nor in that of presumptuous 
pronouncements of the now definitively grasped truth, had been 
able to appeal to me. The compulsion necessitated by my academic 
situation to teach psychology released pertinent necessities which, 
without that compulsion, would scarcely have become clear to me. 
Inasmuch as I was philosophizing without being aware of it, I 
could later on comprehend this factual procedure in such a way 
that it appeared to me as a fulfillment of the task of philosophy 
which I then believed to recognize in all great historical philosophy. 

The foundations of my Psychologic der W eltanschauungen 
logically can be subject to questioning. They represent a lack of 
clarity, which, at that time, was fortunate for me because fruitful. 
I did, at that time, not really see through the methods which I was 
using, although I spoke about them in the book and although I 
had insisted so intensively on methodological clarification in my 
work on psychopathology. 

Knowing what I was about, I threw myself into the abundance 
of possibilities in order to find, through this process of understand- 
ing, direction and impetus in my own being. Unforgettable those 
years in which under the pressure of the first world war, in the 
midst of hardships which we, at that time, shared with all other 
citizens I found with my wife the happiness of thinking in this 
manner, in which we philosophized and, more clearly than before, 
found the way to ourselves. Unforgettable, too, the never-to-be- 
repeated inner buoyancy of those years, which would scarcely have 
been possible in a pure, objectively scientific type of knowing. This 
intellectual and human fulfillment of our co-operative work flour- 
ished at that time very quietly, not exposed to negative criticism, 
unnoticed, shared from afar by a few listeners who were fascinated 
and some of whom remained attached to us by bonds of friend- 
ship, for the most part women, as is natural in wartime. When, in 
1921, 1 learned that Geheimrat Professor Martius in Kiel had said, 
during consultations concerning his successor, that in the reading 
of my book he had had the feeling that once more a new spring 
was budding in German philosophy, it came as quite a surprise. 
The judgment was an exaggeration; but it did do justice to the 
mood in which the book had ripened for us. 

My book on the Psychologic der W eltanschauungen appears, in 
historical retrospect, as the earliest writing in the later so-called 
modern Existentialism. Decisive was the interest in man, the con- 
cern with himself on the part of the thinker, an attempted radical 


integrity. Present are nearly all the fundamental questions which 
later on occurred in lucid consciousness and in broad expansive- 
ness: about the world, what it is for man; about the situation of 
man and about his ultimate situations from which there is no 
escape (death, suffering, chance, guilt, struggle) ; about time and 
the multi-dimensional nature of its meaning; about the movement 
of freedom in the process of creating one's self; about Existenz; 
about nihilism and about shells*; about love; about the disclosure 
of the real and the true; about the way of mysticism and the way 
of the idea; etc. All of it, however, was, so to speak, comprehended 
in a quick grasp, and had not been worked out systematically. The 
mood of the entire work was more encompassing than what I suc- 
ceeded in saying. This mood became the foundation of my further 

One motive of my work was to bring into view the greatness of 
men, without deception, i.e., not in the veilings of bad myths and 
not by unmasking as in a false nihilistic psychology but in the 
clarity of realistic observation. The actual nature even of the 
inimical forces could become more evident, not in personalities 
of lower rank, but in superior personalities who are strong in 
thought, creative and of inner consistency. 

Among my contemporaries, the actuality of human greatness, 
the standard for men historically distant, became embodied for 
me, in a singular, marvelous fashion, in the person of Max Weber. 
I got to know him in 1909 through Gruhle. Weber died in 1920. 
His thought as well as his nature became as essential for my phi- 
losophy, even 'til today, as no other thinker. I gave public testi- 
mony of this fact in my memorial address of 1920 and in a small 
book of 1932. Not until after his death I became increasingly con- 
scious of what he had meant: in my philosophical writings he 
often is present. Throughout my life I have confronted the task 
of trying to understand his reality. Even in those years he had 
already influenced the draft of my Psychopathologie, and still more 
so that of my Psychologic der Weltanschauungen, in the introduc- 
tion to which I emphasized the meaning which his constructions 
of ideal types in the sociology of religion had had for my work. At 
the time this book appeared, in October 1919, Max Weber went 
to Munich. Only once more I talked with him during a longer 
visit which he paid us while passing through Heidelberg. On that 
occasion, mentioning the book only in the hour of departure, he 
said, in his forceful warmth: "I thank you; it was very much worth- 

* Editor's Note: For an explanation of this term, "shells," consult footnote 46 in 
the essay by Dr. Ludwig B. Lefebre (this volume). 


while; I wish you further productivity/' Those were his last words 
to me. 


After Windelband's death, Heinrich Rickert, in 1916, was called 
to Heidelberg as head of the department of philosophy. I was to 
teach with him for many years, until 1936, first as a Privatdozent, 
from 1921 on as a colleague in the same university. When he came, 
I was Privatdozent in psychology. He enjoyed conversing with the 
young man. We met frequently and discussed unreservedly. I had 
so to speak a "fool's freedom" (Narrenfreiheit) with him. After all, 
I belonged to a different sphere, to psychopathology and psychol- 
ogy, and had, according to the absolute separation between phi- 
losophy and psychology, insisted upon by the Windelband-Rickert 
school, nothing to do with his field. "What are you after?" he said 
at our very first meeting. "You sat down between two chairs, you 
have given up psychiatry and yet are not a philosopher?" To which 
I replied: "I am going to get an academic chair in philosophy; 
what I shall do with that, will be my affair according to the free- 
dom of the teacher, in view of the indefinite structure of what, in 
a university, is called philosophy." Rickert laughed heartily at 
this impertinence. 

He disagreed with my Psychologic der Weltanschauungen of 
1919. I had given him the proofs to read. He advised me strongly 
to strike out one note in which, side by side, I had quoted as de- 
lineations of "systems of value" Mlinsterberg, Scheler, and Rick- 
ert: "Not on my account, but for your sake, since you would ex- 
pose yourself through such a misunderstanding of my philosophy." 
I gladly acceded to his wish, in view of the insignificance of that 
note. After its publication he wrote in Logos what, in view of his 
philosophical standpoint, had to be a devastating critique, but one 
which was still done in a friendly spirit that did not result in a 
complete break with me. For, his reprimand concluded with an 
affirmation: "We gladly greet this (philosopher) in his embryonic 

In my many conversations with Rickert throughout the years 
until 1922, one question above all others was important for the 
development of my thinking. Rickert claimed universal and com- 
pelling validity for scientific philosophy; I doubted this claim. In 
the discussion with him what had previously been surging darkly 
within me became clear. 

From an early age scientific insight had been an indispensable 


element in my life. I never would tire of finding out what can 
be known and how one gains and proves this knowledge. That 
concern remained alive in me throughout the years even though, 
in my later years, it was gratified only by the reading of scientific 
treatises in all fields of research. 

But this did not suffice. Scientific knowing par excellence was 
critical knowledge which knows about its limits. Since I had read 
Spinoza I was reflecting in a manner which, scientifically, was not 
tenable. On one occasion, when Nissl ran into me in the hospital 
and, as was his custom, inquired about any results of my work, 
it came to me as quick as a flash inasmuch as I had just been en- 
gaged in dreamy cogitation that there is such a thing as mean- 
ingful thinking without results^ But this insight had at that time 
no consequences for my work; I was a psychiatrist and a psycholo- 
gist and had no thought of making philosophy my profession. 

This became the ever recurring topic of discussion between 
Rickert and myself: I attacked his philosophy relative to its claim 
to be a science; (my argument was that) what he was advancing 
was by no means compelling for everyone, least of all as stated in 
his value-theory. I tried to demonstrate this on specific theses. And, 
on the whole, I stressed the point that his philosophy as, for that 
matter, any other had never found universal concurrence, which, 
after all, is accorded to scientific knowledge. In saying this, I de- 
veloped an idea of philosophy as something altogether different 
from science. It was to do justice to a claim to truth of a sort which 
science does not know, resting on a responsibility which is quite 
alien to science. It would perform something unobtainable by any 
science. On this basis, I declared against his type of thinking, say- 
ing that in reality he himself was no philosopher at all, but was 
doing philosophy like a physicist. The difference was merely that 
he was producing cunning logical analyses which, in their entirety, 
(actually) were soap bubbles, whereas the physicist was gaining 
factual knowledge whenever he realistically proved his specula- 
tions. Rickert was amused by all this, (treating it) as the idle chat- 
ter of a young man who had strayed from the proper path of aca- 
demic work, who might scarcely entertain any hopes for a univer- 
sity career. Once when, as he advanced a point of view, I referred 
to him on the spur of the moment as a philosopher, he called in 
amusement to his wife who was just entering the room: "Wifie, 
Jaspers has just declared me to be a philosopher." 

Rickert was a keen thinker, a greatly devoted disciple of Goethe, 
a gifted author, a superior personality in the faculty, a friend of 
Max Weber. As long as Max Weber was alive, Rickert and I re- 


mained on friendly terms in spite of the Psychologic der Weltan- 
schauungen. The presence of Max Weber was like a protection of 
all good possibilities and (constituted) at the same time the limi- 
tation of Rickert's self-confidence. At a Sunday gathering in Max 
Weber's home, when Rickert was talking about his system, the six 
areas of value, and of one of the areas the "erotic" as "philoso- 
phy of the completed values of the present" and started philoso- 
phizing about love, Max Weber suddenly interrupted full of 
anger: "Now stop talking in this 'Gartenlauben' style; this is all 
nonsense!" This is what a soft pathetic attitude was called at the 
time, after a sentimental, small bourgeoisie magazine, viz., the 
Gartenlaube. "* 

Max Weber had recognized part of his own methodological in- 
sights, which he had gained as a historian, an economist, and a 
sociologist, in Rickert's book, Grenzen der naturwissenschaftlichen 
Begriffsbildung. Max Weber, in his magnificent immoderation, 
was so grateful that, in such logical questions, he always referred 
to Rickert and permitted many of his own expositions to appear 
as a mere consequence and application of Rickert's thought. 

When Max Weber died in 1920, it was for me as though the 
world had changed. The great man, who had justified its exist- 
ence to my consciousness and had given it a soul (and meaning) , 
was no longer with us. It seemed as if that last resort had disap- 
peared where, in rational discussion, the absolutely dependable, 
though directly not expressable guidance had resided; that resort 
from whose deep foundation there came broadest perspectives, 
the possible insight into the momentary situation and the judg- 
ment of actions, events, and asserted knowledge. Max Weber was 
the authority who never proclaimed, never relieved you of re- 
sponsibility, but who encouraged whatever had secured his ap- 
proval in the severity and clarity of his humane thinking. 

After Max Weber's death I hesitated to go to Rickert for fear 
that he might use inappropriate words in the face of this event, 
which cut so unforseeably deep into our intellectual as well as into 
our German existence. Not until the fifth day did I decide to see 
him. At first we exchanged a few words of deep emotion which 
set me at ease. But then Rickert began to speak of Max Weber as 
of his disciple; to be sure, he paid tribute to the eminent person- 
ality, association with whom he had found congenial; but he also 
emphasized the tragic wrecking of his work and the slight chance 
of any influence of his insights. Now the disaster had occurred. I 
became angry and went so far as to say: "If you think that you 
and your philosophy will be known at all in the future, you may 


perhaps be right, but only because your name is mentioned in a 
footnote in one of Max Weber's works as the man to whom Max 
Weber expresses his gratitude for certain logical insights/' 

Since that time the relationship between Rickert and myself 
was disturbed. Those moments had demonstrated an earnestness 
which barred him from granting me a "fool's freedom" any longer. 
When, a few weeks later, I had given my commemorative address 
on Max Weber before the student body of the University of Heidel- 
berg, at their invitation (the Senate of the university had declined 
an official university commemoration) and when Rickert had 
read it, he angrily addressed me as I entered to call on him: "That 
you construct a philosophy out of Max Weber may be your right- 
ful privilege, but to call him a philosopher is absurd." From then 
on Rickert was my enemy. 

In 1921 the second chair for philosophy was vacated because of 
Heinrich Maier's leaving for Berlin. I, for my part, had had calls 
to Greifswald and Kiel, but wanted to remain in Heidelberg, that 
unique town, intellectually so spirited, and through memories so 
dear. At first Rickert did everything to prevent this. As early as 
1920, when opportunities to receive calls seemed to exist for me 
because of chairs that had become vacant, he said to me that he 
considered my appointment very improbable. For I was no phi- 
losopher (he said) and I stood, after all, outside of the fields for 
which appointments were to be had. I answered proudly: "I don't 
believe this, for that would be a disgrace for the German univer- 
sities." Now he accounted for my disqualification by saying that 
in consequence of my background and my temperament I was 
dominated by the mode of thought of natural science. However, 
Rickert was wrong. Those calls actually came to me, even though 
effectuated by (other) faculties and the government against (the 
wishes of) the representatives of philosophy. In Heidelberg too, 
Rickert's argumentation against me did not succeed; his own can- 
didates proved to be unconvincing. Both the appointment com- 
mittee and the faculty enforced my call, to which Rickert on his 
part finally gave his consent. 

Rickert's rejection was an expression of a more universal one. 
Within the circle of professional philosophers I was rated as an 
outsider. Already my habilitation in 1913 met with the indigna- 
tion of the young people who had studied philosophy and were 
thinking, on their part of habilitating themselves r I was not even 
the possessor of a Ph. D. degree, I was an M. D. I lacked the tradi- 
tional philosophical education. Thus I remained an outsider even 
after I had become a full professor. Rickert and other instructors 


in philosophy tried to build up the notion that I was only a ro- 
manticist, and an untalented one at that; that I was confused and 
arrogant, and had written only one good book, my Psychopatholo- 
gie, and unfortunately had digressed from the field of my real 
talent. When, sometime later, Rickert was writing about Heidel- 
berg's philosophic tradition and every young Privatdozent was 
mentioned by name, I was ignored. In spite of all this, Rickert 
had one pre-eminence which made him stand out above his pro- 
fession: he had a sense of humor. When I was paying him what 
was to be my last visit before his sudden unexpected death, he 
had just read my recently published Nietzsche and said: "I thank 
you. I consider it an excellent book, Herr Jaspers; it is, I hope you 
don't mind my saying so, a scientific book." 


When, on April 1, 1922, I took over the full professorial chair 
for philosophy in Heidelberg, I was, indeed, by my own standards, 
not ready. Now I began to undertake the study of philosophy in 
a new and more thorough manner. Counter to all my former aims 
and goals, I ventured to make philosophy my life work. My task 
became clear to me. Max Weber was dead. It seemed to me that 
the philosophy of the academicians was not really philosophy; in- 
stead, with its claim to be a science, it seemed to be entirely a 
discussion of things which are not essential for the basic questions 
of our existence. 'In my own consciousness I myself was not origi- 
nally a philosopher. But when the intellectual world is empty of 
philosophy, it becomes the task at least to bear witness to philoso- 
phy, to direct the attention to the great philosophers, to try to 
stop confusion, and to encourage in our youth the interest in real 

In 1920 I stood at the crossroads. My Psychologic der Weltan- 
schauungen had been successful. It was read a great deal at that 
time. During the years that it took form, manuscripts for univer- 
sity courses in the psychology of religion, in social and ethnic 
psychology and in the psychology of morals had developed simul- 
taneously. It would have caused no difficulties to complete three 
new books. A large amount of literature was at hand for use, in 
order to give a presentation of wide horizon. I could have branched 
out on the level I had reached, viewing things in a way which 
probably had content but was philosophically unclear. The temp- 
tation was great to publish such a book every year or two, each 
one supposedly momentarily successful. I resisted that temptation 


because of my awareness that what was alive in my own inner at- 
titude as well as in my esteem of men and of things could not 
conceptually become clear by such procedure. Replacing philoso- 
phy by an ever so extensive psychological approach and by the 
use of ever so interesting historical material was, after all, an eva- 
sion of the serious task of having to understand oneself, one's own 
existence. It would have remained an irresponsible occupation 
with a mere abundance of objects. For the task I set for myself 
there was needed my own methodical reflection and a thorough 
inquiry into the few original great philosophical works. I still con- 
tinued to occupy myself with history and with the realities which 
come to one from all of the sciences, but now only incidentally, in 
my more tired hours. My chief concern now became the ascent to 
the height of philosophy proper. That was a slow process. The 
sudden intuitive insights into what actually matters acquire firm- 
ness and coherence only through a kind of work which now as- 
sumed a new character. Not the acquisition and increase of 
knowledge could create it, but only the forms of thinking and 
the operational procedures which, exercised in one's contact with 
great philosophers, really could not be learned. Another level of 
thinking had to be gained. That meant the decision to make a 
new start from the beginning. 

I was reflecting about this situation at that time. To be occupy- 
ing the chair of a full professor, I thought, gives me complete 
freedom. I need no longer to publish anything in order to acquire 
a professorial appointment. I am drawing my salary, which, ac- 
cording to the established tradition, does not impose upon the 
professor any conditions, restrictions, or controls, but which means 
that he devotes his energies, altogether but freely, to his self-set 
task, and thereby, through his instruction gives youth an insight 
into this kind of work. I decided that my publications, for the 
time being should cease. Two writings one about Strindberg 
and van Gogh (1922) and one about the idea of the university 
(1923) were simply revisions of manuscripts which actually 
stemmed from the time prior to my appointment as a full professor. 

When year after year, until the end of 1931, nothing appeared 
from my pen, the result was that some of my colleagues, whose 
attitude towards me was not friendly, said that now that I had be- 
come a full professor, I had become an epicure who no longer 
worked. The longer this lasted the more definitely people became 
convinced that nothing more could be expected of me. The time 
of my Psychologic der Weltanschauungen was looked upon as a 
mere straw fire. Rickert openly showed his contempt for my 


"super-science/ 1 It was said that I had sacrificed my competence 
as a psychopathologist which had established the basis for my 
scientific reputation. My reputation at the University of Heidel- 
berg sank to the point that I was considered "done for." What 
seemed strange was that I had so many students. This must have 
rested upon characteristics of mine which earned me the title 
"seducer of youth." 

My lectures and seminars were by no means perfect. After all, 
I was engaged in the midst of work which was only in the process 
of becoming. Compliant students of my departmental colleagues 
reported that my lectures were uninformed and frivolous, the lec- 
turing of one who had never studied philosophy. Other students 
were fascinated because, in atmosphere and possibilities, a world 
was opened before them of which they otherwise scarcely would 
have become aware. To me my lectures were a way of achieving, 
they were not the repeating of a finished doctrine. 

Following the traditional division these lectures were partly 
historical, partly systematic. In my lectures on the history of phi- 
losophy I presented ideas and images which I had made my own 
in my studies, the characteristics of the epochs and the meaning 
of their rational structures and methods. Unsystematically, with- 
out binding myself to chronological order, I lectured on all periods 
of the history of European philosophy. In doing this, I appeared 
to myself somewhat like the conductor of an orchestra who pre- 
sents the past in the present. 

More difficult, more personal and essential, were the lectures in 
which I tried to gain the fundamental knowledge which, through 
my own discernment and personal assimilation, convincingly ac- 
quired reality within me. It no longer was a matter of communi- 
cating ever so grandiose opinions, but truth itself was the main 
concern, truth as an individual of today may be able to think it. 
That was a slow process. In lectures on logic, the theory of cata- 
gories, metaphysics, and 'existential' analysis I, to begin with, ex- 
pounded what seemed to me essential still in the guise of what I 
was intent on overcoming, viz., the logically-objective and the 
psychological. Sudden success alternated with painstaking abstrac- 
tions. Listeners to my lectures would later, on occasion, reproach 
me because they missed, in my books which resulted from my lec- 
tures, many a concrete illumination which the lectures themselves 
had contained. 

Nothing of what I presented in lectures and seminars became 
known to the public for a decade. Academically I lived in the 
world of philosophy professors, a world very strange to me indeed. 


Whatever I did intellectually was at one and the same time both 
cautious and daring, was at times thorough, and at some other 
times wanton. What the others were doing and what I was trying 
to do ran parallel without ever touching. I did not combat the 
others as opponents. Whereas Rickert, in his lectures, often at- 
tacked me to the enjoyment, and sometimes to the indignation of 
the students, I taught as if the other academic philosophers did 
not exist at all and never attacked my colleagues. On the whole, I 
felt to be on the right track. Nevertheless doubts assailed me. My 
isolated position among my colleagues compelled me to find my 
justification in my own work. 

From 1924 on, I had systematically been preparing a work 
which, in December, 1931, was published in three volumes under 
the title, Philosophic. As yet it had neither shape nor direction. 
My notes for the work kept expanding. Even while traveling I 
carried my notebook with me. Often I would put down a sentence. 
The individual detail preceded the whole. It was not devised from 
a general principle, but it grew together. The arrangement of the 
whole was secondary. 

Whatever did not necessarily belong to the subject was elimi- 
nated. This subject was the question concerning the actual nature 
of philosophy, within which dimensions it moves; not, however, by 
merely talking about it, but rather in the unfolding of concrete 
experiences. Whatever I encountered in my association with peo- 
ple, in faculty meetings, in the newspapers, on the street and on 
journeys, above all, however, what revealed itself to me in con- 
fronting beloved persons and their fate all that was translated 
into formulations in which the original point of departure was no 
longer discernible. Whatever became clear to me in the great 
(classical) philosophers was appropriated as present truth; but 
here also in such a manner that the source was often scarcely dis- 
cernible any more. Modest, seemingly accidental, occasions brought 
insights. Such work is, to be sure, work which requires planning 
and direction. It can, however, be successful only if something 
else is constantly effective: namely, dreaming. Often I gazed out 
on the scenery, up at the sky, the clouds; often I would sit or re- 
cline without doing anything. Only the calmness of meditation in 
the unconstrained flow of the imagination allows those impulses 
to become effective without which all work becomes endless, non- 
essential,, and empty. It seems to me that for the man, who does 
not daily dream a while, his star will grow dark, that star by which 
all our work and everyday existence may be guided. 

My philosophical endeavors proceeded under two presupposi- 


tions which remembering Max Weber had become clear to 
me in my discussions with Rickert. First of all: scientific knowl- 
edge is an indispensible factor in all philosophizing. Without sci- 
ence no veracity is possible today. The accuracy of knowledge in 
the sciences is entirely independent of philosophical truth; it is, 
however, relevant for the latter, yes even indispensible. Science, on 
the other hand, cannot understand why it itself exists. It does not 
reveal the meaning of life, provides no guidance. It has limits of 
which it is itself aware insofar as it is clearly conscious of its 

The second presupposition was: There is a type of thinking 
which, from the point of view of science, is not compelling nor 
universally valid, which, therefore, yields no results that as such 
could claim validity as forms of knowability (Wissbarkeit). This 
type of thinking, which we call philosophic thinking, leads me 
to my very self; its consequences arise out of the inner activity of 
its own procedures; it awakens the sources within me which ulti- 
mately give meaning even to science itself. 

It is important, therefore, to bring the sciences to their greatest 
possible purity as cogent and universally valid knowledge which 
is conscious of its own methods and to conceive of their results as 
such. At the same time, however, it is also of importance to (work 
out) philosophic thinking along equally pure lines philosophic 
thinking which is not opposed to science, but always in alliance 
with it, which is not a super-science, but performs a type of think- 
ing which, in its purport, is radically different. The gravity of re- 
sponsibility for the purity of science is inseparable from the grav- 
ity of the type of philosophic thinking which confronts me with 

These two concerns have gone with me through my whole life: 
a constant interest in science, the insistence upon a basically scien- 
tific attitude in a person who claims to be a philosopher, and the 
assertion of the indispensability of science and of its magnitude; 
and secondly, an interest in philosophizing, the insistence on the 
seriousness of thought which transforms, without having factually 
objective results, the assertion of the dependency of the meaning 
of science (not of its correctness) upon philosophy. 

The consequence was that I tried to assert myself against the 
attitude of contempt for philosophy on the part of too many repre- 
sentatives of the sciences as well as against the contemp t t for the 
sciences on the part of fanatical, irrational modes of philosophizing. 

Another consequence was this: In contradistinction to the sci- 
ences which separate the person engaged in research from the 


substance of his findings, I consider the person engaged in philoso- 
phizing inseparable from his philosophic thoughts. Nothing in 
philosophy is separable from man. The philosophizing person, his 
basic experiences, his actions, his world, his everyday conduct, the 
forces which speak through him, cannot be disregarded when one 
accompanies him in his thoughts. 

The time of our joint labor on my Philosophic is for my wife 
and me a precious memory, especially as her beloved brother and 
my friend, Ernst Mayer, collaborated with us so intensively (more 
about this in the next section) . We were passing through the 
first mature stage of our lives. The values of philosophy had made 
both of us become more conscious of our own selves. Against the 
backdrop of the sinister threats of life and of the terrors which we 
had compassionately shared, our labor in translating all this into 
thought became a kind of wistful happiness. Finalities became the 
theme - but at a moment, a brief interval of personal peace of 
mind, of contemplation which found expression in language. My 
wife transcribed my manuscripts which others found illegible. She 
read my notes and noted down her own thoughts which, aside from 
our conversations, became a sort of correspondence in our home. 

Especially during the last year of our work we were untiring. 
The day after the manuscript had been dispatched to the pub- 
lisher, in October 1931, we left for Bellagio in order to have a 
respite before continuing our work. In the pure beauty of Lake 
Como and its villas, and of the sun, we incredulously enjoyed the 
antique faith in the here and now. 

I do not wish here to report on the contents of my Philosophic 
(published in December 1931 with publication date of 1932) . The 
different ways of doing philosophical thinking are arranged in it 
according to modes of transcending. As a whole it is not a system. 
The individual chapters need not be read in the order in which 
they occur. But each chapter, in its entirety, is a movement of 
thought which the reader has to engage in at a stretch. The book 
does not have the title "Existential Philosophy." For it was my 
intention, in our spiritually modest present situation, to find a 
form of philosophia perennis in its total range. For this reason, 
only the second volume has expressly the title Existenzerhellung 
(illumination of Existenz), which I had been using for eight years 
in my lectures. Metaphysics was not to be rejected, but appro- 

In my simultaneously appearing Geistige Situation der Zeit 
(English translation has appeared under the title, Man In the 
Modern Age) for a moment pin-pointing the intent of the whole 


under the name of " 'existential' philosophy" I formulated the 
task as follows: 

Existenz-philosophy is the way of thought by means of which man 
seeks to become himself; it makes use of expert knowledge while at 
the same time going beyond it. This way of thought does not cognise 
objects, but elucidates and makes actual the being of the thinker. 
Brought into a state of suspense by having transcended the cognitions 
of the world (as the adoption of a philosophical attitude towards the 
world) that fixate being, it appeals to its own freedom (as the illumi- 
nation of Existenz) and gains space for its own unconditioned activity 
through conjuring up Transcendence (as metaphysics). (Age, 159) 


During the decade of my intentional public silence (1923-31) 
my friend, Ernst Mayer (1883-1952) proved to be of irreplaceable 
importance for my own work. Ernst and I were united by the 
common sharing of one inexhaustible devotion. It actualized itself 
in an always ready reciprocity throughout an entire lifetime. 

We first got acquainted in the summer of 1907. Both of us were 
students of medicine in the same class and of the same age. I was 
astonished by the obstinacy with which Ernst seized questions, 
even questions which ordinarily would be touched on only inci- 
dentally or not at all or merely as an object of curiosity: the 
fundamental aspects of medical knowledge, philosophical propo- 
sitions which occurred in books or in lectures, questions about the 
nature of friendship and the worth of women, the personalities of 
our teachers and the accidental occurrencies in every-day life. In 
so far as the quantity of the content was concerned, our studies 
were carried on rather carelessly; but a specific case (for instance) 
could very well be thought through penetratingly. Ernst was al- 
ways looking for the essential and therefore also for the methods 
of asking questions and of investigating. He did not care for ex- 
tensive study of books, but intuitively always seemed to find the 
most important passages. This kind of student I had never yet 
come to know. None of the sophisticated talk, which at that time 
was so widespread, but careful continued questioning and perse- 
verance; all these testified to a seriousness from which I did not 
withdraw. "We discuss everything except medicine," I wrote to 
my parents concerning my new friend. 

By nature I was reserved. It was difficult for me to come close 
to others. Since my school years I suffered under loneliness despite 
some relationships. To begin with, I was reserved also toward 


Ernst Mayer, tried to keep him to whatever was going on in our 
medical courses and what we heard in the lectures. This did not 
succeed, however. Ernst's unrestrained approach to me was not 
without risk, because, measured by conventions, capable of being 
misunderstood. But he was calm spiritually, unusually tender, and 
at every moment tactful. How deeply moved Ernst turned towards 
me from the very beginning his wife told me later. Used to going 
it alone and to keep away from all others, he is supposed, on my 
entry into the anatomy class, when he saw me for the first time, 
to have thought to himself: there comes the first German student! 
At that time he had reported this to her at once. Touching for me 
was this open affection for me and the interpretation of my ways. 
Never yet had I met up with such an affirmation of my essential 
nature and of my possibilities coming from such depth. My reser- 
vation melted without subsequent breach, without any immodera- 
tion, without any sentimentality. I responded to this affection 
astonished and happy. There was not a trace of deification towards 
me, but rather sharp criticism. As, for example, concerning my 
manner; in those days, (I tended to be) quickly judging, easily 
disdainful, simply asserting, without giving reasons: "How can you 
be so quickly contemptuous of something which for me obviously 
has great significance!'*, he countered when I tore to pieces a book 
by Rickert which he was just studying, without my having paid 
any attention to the particular connections in terms of which he 
was interested in it. We could excitedly carry on a controversy 
against such other; but it was strange: somehow I did not feel my- 
self attacked, but only reminded of my own essential nature. 

At the end of summer 1907 we separated. On July 14 I still had 
become acquainted with his sister, later my wife. Ernst continued 
his studies at another university. Never again did we live in the 
same community. We saw each other only on visits, often, how- 
ever, for days and occasionally for weeks; but then always in that 
profound understanding which was unshakeable even when in 
the foreground there were differences of opinions, even in im- 
portant matters which were discussed unreservedly. 

Our discussions had a very variegated character. Dwelling on 
relevant themes such rational discussions could last for days, pro- 
ductive because of the perseverance with which he defended a 
position and aimed to convince me. Never in friendship with a 
man havq I experienced such a concern that I might get caught 
in an error, that I might be unjust in an expression, might remain 
blind to humaneness. Wonderful too were other discussions re- 
sulting from already achieved understanding, with much calm- 


ness, and his suddenly clear judgments. Some of his sayings, which 
thus arose, were taken over into my Philosophic: "I did not create 
myself" . . . "but what if I remain away from myself?" 

In 1910 Ernst established himself as a physician in Berlin and 
remained there until he had to flee in 1938. His being a physician 
was most uncommon. I shall try to describe it. 

Ernst had to live his life under serious biological limitations. 
He was disposed to mental illness by heredity and his youth had 
been overshadowed by depressions. But his spirit gained distance 
from and prevailed over the uncanny heritage. It was as if a wound 
in the root of his constitution had produced this marvelous hu- 
maneness in him. Something surrounded him which in all reason 
was more than reason, but not something alien and demoniac, but 
the limitless becoming clear of what, in essence, he was. Sociolog- 
ically nowhere reliably adapted, but rather everywhere either 
openly or surrepticiously pushed out, he became, in a collapsing 
or violent society, man qua man. The otherwise firm forms of 
deportment, of distance-keeping dignity and of manly pride were 
roles which he still played where it seemed called for, but which 
he did not at all find crucial. He could, so to speak, abandon him- 
self, disarmed by his humaneness, and thereby awaken others. No 
vitality permitted him to make his place in the world with his 
elbows. But it is not to be described how all his unrest died away 
in considered calmness, when he knew himself on the right track 
and when he was helping the sick. 

Such an attitude toward human beings predestined him to be 
a physician. Whenever he saw disaster he felt himself called to 
intervene, even when not called. He sympathized, as if his own 
fate were at stake. He grasped the total situation of the sick per- 
son, penetrating him with reason and kindness. Confronted by 
the opposition of the vulgar he had to limit himself, it is true, to 
material medical help; but, whenever anyone got around to talk, 
he helped him beyond everything merely medical. He never acted 
as savior. Enchantment did not proceed from him but rather 
awakening. The sick person came under an appeal which brought 
him to reason. Under all circumstances he wanted to help. He 
wanted to recognize no situation in which it was no longer either 
possible or sensible to do anything. Alleviation, assistance, momen- 
tary silence none of these may stop, no patient must feel him- 
self forsaken. Aptly he quoted: "Even at the grave he still plants 

Such a person is not the right physician for everyone nor even 
for everyone the right friend. It could be most irksome. There- 


fore, those who came in contact with him divided. On the one 
hand, there were those who were engaged by him in their inner- 
most nature and did then not let anything divert them in their 
faithfulness to him. Others could not stand him; in the severity of 
his demands, in the inexorableness of his insight, they misunder- 
stood his kindness. When he himself saw the terribleness of human 
failure, he might have exclaimed anxiously: "Too bad about 
men." Being physician and philosophy in him were united into 
one. Being physician was his concrete philosophy. 

For my philosophizing Ernst had the greatest possible signifi- 
cance, both by way of his being as well as in terms of what he 
said. In the working out of my three-volumed Philosophic more 
specifically he was an immediate participant. Without him that 
work would never have become what it is. In 1927, in his own 
modest way, Ernst expressed the desire that I might send to him 
notes for my work, which, after having used them, I would throw 
into the wastebasket anyway. Upon that I sent him carbon copies 
of my first connected manuscripts. This started his collaboration, 
a back and forth of questions and discussions, of suggestions, most- 
ly in written form, orally continued at each meeting. He was 
matchless in sacrificial selflessness, in which he treated my task as 
wholly and completely his own. He did not merely read all of 
the manuscripts, but wrote critical notations on all. He co-oper- 
ated to the very point of the construction of the chapters, of the 
matter of content, as well as that of style. He brought to me not 
merely the mighty impulse of his participation and of his demands, 
but also those of his enrichments and improvements in great num- 
bers. It was his joy when I seemed to succeed in achieving some- 
thing; it was his pain, greater than my own when something 
appeared to him as incomplete. He did not find me sufficiently 
careful, scolded my frivolity both in serious discussions and joking- 
ly in the case of trivials: if a suit is excellently manufactured and 
in the end a trouser button is missing, everything is ruined. Many 
a weekend he spent in a small castle in the vicinity of Berlin in 
order to work freely on my manuscripts, undisturbed by his prac- 
tice and by men, in quiet absorption. Even during his practice, 
he often would go for a while into the Cafe Josty at the Potsdamer 
Platz in order there to plunge into a particularly difficult passage 
of my manuscript. In his medicine kit he always carried something 
of my sketches, in which he would still be reading even while 
walking. To the very last day before dispatching the manuscript 
to the publisher he telephoned from Berlin to Heidelberg in order 
to remove some deficiency. 


Our work grew together in such a way that, at the end, it was 
impossible to separate what had proceeded from the one and what 
from the other. It had been a collaboration in the development of 
the work itself not just an improvement after its conclusion. 

This could not be repeated. We tried it with my Nietzsche book. 
Here too Ernst contributed much; but there did not occur once 
more that marvelous unanimity of the work. 

In those days I saw my friend as follows: He did not read much. 
For the study of larger works he had, in view of his practice, 
neither time nor inclination. But even one significant sentence 
would release philosophizing in him. What he grasped in phi- 
losophy, science, poetry, music, art, but also in politics was of 
central importance. It was as if out of the depth of an encompass- 
ing vision he were able to fathom the very foundations: Just as I 
myself, his other friends were struck, informed, surprised when, as 
with a single stroke (and from quite sparse data) , he seemed to 
grasp the most essential points. He himself did not write, however. 
True, in the twenties he published two papers on questions of 
medical conduct, rich in content, which carried the stamp of his 
personality. But he decided to write even those papers only after 
I had declined, in the existing pressing situation, to speak on their 
theme. In his modesty he seemed to think the friend could do it 
better and then, in fact, proved the contrary. He carried out the 
renunciation which, at that time, he considered self-evident: in 
view of his extraordinary intuitive talents to possess such little 
capacity for work; in view of such superior powers of judgment to 
create no corresponding intellectual work; in view of such great 
ability to get at the heart of a matter in the sudden grasping of the 
totality of a situation, of a person, not to let himself be carried by 
the power to construct a consistent course of thought. 

This changed when, by the despotic act of Hitler-Germany, he 
lost his practice and was himself forced to flee. He got into the 
terrible situation of the emigrants. In Holland, as an emigr who 
had crossed the border illegally, he was first committed to a camp, 
to a monastery where he was soon granted a monk's cell in order 
to be able to follow his philosophical studies undisturbedly. Re- 
leased as a result of the intercession of highly placed persons, he 
was for a short time free, until, after the criminal invasion of Hol- 
land, the threat of likely murder forced him and his family to go 
underground. Three years they lived in concealment, kept by the 
unforgettable humaneness and sacrificial devotion of a Dutch 
woman, Maria Van Boven, and attended by a small underground 
group of Dutch students. There, in seclusion from the world, and 


in daily danger of his life, his philosophical attitude lifted Ernst 
above the terrors and the anguish of the situation. His wisdom 
guided the order of the day in this seclusion, determined the cau- 
tion of all inmates upon which success depended. In this period 
of intense attention toward the outside (world) and of complete 
quietness within, his philosophizing found voice. When the house- 
work, to which he had assigned himself, was done, he would sit 
many hours of each day at his guard-post behind the draped win- 
dow, on his knees his manuscript, which grew from year to year, 
until we saw each other again in freedom. 

From 1939 to 1945 we had been completely separated, since 
1941 also by the impossibility of correspondence. During this 
time, without knowing anything of each other, both of us had 
worked on the foundation of the jointly achieved philosophy and 
brought to each other, when we met again, the manuscripts of 
our books; Ernst his Dialeklik des Nichtwissens (Verlag fur Recht 
und Gesellschaft, Basel) and I my Von der Wahrheit (Piper-Ver- 
lag, Miinchen) . 

Only after his death did I see his contribution to the Festschrift 
dedicated to me by Klaus Piper on the occasion of my seventieth 
birthday: a simple and yet ever so difficult basic conception of the 
relation between my book Von der Wahrheit and my Philosophic, 
a conception which was clarifying even to myself. Once more I 
sadly experienced the way of his singular thinking along with me 
as well as thinking on ahead. 

Behind he left an extensive work on nihilism, of which I hope 
that it will soon be published. 

Of the connection of our work, in remembrance of the years 
1928-31, I would almost like to say: my works are just as much 
his, as his are at the same time mine if this were not saying too 
much, after all. 


Twice, immediately after the first and after the second World 
War, I published an essay on the Idea of the University, both 
times under the same title, with a view of bringing this idea more 
clearly to focal consciousness in myself, in the students, as well as 
in the professors. My 1946 essay is unchanged as to sentiment, but 
newly written and changed in order to serve the recreation of the 
German university. Both times, however, my word remained with- 
out effect; I am glad nevertheless to have said what I did in the 


spirit of our great tradition and in the inextinguishable hope for 
a resurrection of the idea. I shall now report of the experiences 
and attitudes from which those two essays proceeded. 

Ever since my student days the university was the institution to 
which I felt I belonged. Important teachers I viewed with rev- 
erence, all of them, even those of whom I disapproved, with re- 
spect for their position. The buildings, the lecture-rooms, the 
forms of the tradition were objects of reverence for me. 

What it really was which lent to all this a still visible lustre I 
did not yet clearly discern. But the mood in the work of this world, 
the attitude towards the officials who represented this authority, 
the memory of the preceding generations brought not only a con- 
sciousness of order, but of the great tasks to be fulfilled by the 
intellectual professions which carried, and were expected to fill 
with meaning, the entire life of society. 

Disappointments came, of course. The majority of the students 
simply did not come up to the idea. The fraternities and student- 
corps, as they had now come to be, meant for me an impersonal 
life alienated from spiritual endeavor, a life of saloons, duels, 
drilled-in forms of conduct. This life guaranteed to these priv- 
ileged ones later advantages based on connections with the 
alumni , if one just barely met the average norms of studies, 
nationalism, and obedience. Among the students, aside from a 
few, I felt myself a stranger. Nevertheless, they put up with me 
well enough and occasionally even regarded me with astonished 
respect, because of the objective interest discernible in my man- 
ner. For, I went my way quietly and unobtrusively. 

But the fraternities became an exciting problem for me, since 
(hey determined the tone of university life and were held in highest 
esteem. It became a question oE the freedom of the students' life 
and studies. Such freedom demanded the spontaneity of personal 
friendship and self-consciousness in going one's own intellectual 
way. These appeared to me threatened by the requirements of a 
fraternity, which, for trifles, robs time and strength and produces 
a self-consciousness merely from a sense of belonging, made notice- 
able by the colored ribbon (across the chest) . Instead of living 
for the pursuit of knowledge, out of intellectual adventure, and 
one's own responsibility, one gave way to the aims of a privileged 
social set, and submitted to the imaginary notions of youthful 
happiness held by the older alumni. Instead of doing one's own 
thinking, one became stamped by conventional opinions which, 
in view of one's own inner insecurity, were fanatically expostu- 
lated. That these students had no contact with the intellectual 


movements of the age seemed to confirm my judgment that they 
were not really students. The experiences of my youth as well as 
later observations have taught me to see in these organizations a 
fatal trend of the German universities. None of the spirit, which 
after the wars of liberation had originally led to the founding of 
these fraternities, was left in them. No real education took place 
in them any longer but only the training of a familiar type. And 
this type itself I hated. 

Another problem for the freedom of study came with the rise 
of study regulations and controls. In the igth century the German 
student had actually studied freely. If he did not learn enough, he 
flunked the exams. As a child I still experienced the difficulty of 
the situation when pre-legal students, who had not reached their 
goal, had to accept another, non-academic occupation. In the 
study of medicine regulations were now introduced, which finally 
guaranteed a definite passing of the examinations, if need be with 
a condition, i.e., a second examination in one or another special 
subject. The problems which arose in view of these situations 
were now and then being discussed. In Gottingen I lived in a 
boarding house in which a worthy elderly lady cared for a small 
group of recommended students in surroundings which were in 
harmony with professional tradition. I was the youngest. When, 
on one occasion I spoke concerning studying and the students' life 
and their complete freedom as a necessary condition for any real 
intellectual understanding, an elderly medical man replied: "That 
is all very nice. But you are mistaken. It just doesn't work that 
way. The average student has to be led." Even today I still feel 
how confounded I was. My answer was that I wanted only what 
was possible for every human being. That, I insisted, was not a 
matter of superior endowment average endowment was, in gen- 
eral, quite sufficient , but merely that of urge towards real 
knowledge, and with that of a venturing and of a conscientious 
attention to the demands of one's studies. The universities are no 
mere schools, but institutions for higher learning. Kuno Fischer 
in Heidelberg had said: "The higher school is no mere 'high 
school/ " Even if the university was not intended for everyone, 
everyone nevertheless had the right to select himself for it, pro- 
vided he was aware of what renunciations were necessary. Anyone 
who was studying merely in order to pass an examination or to 
procure for himself a better position, who, instead of gaining 
genuine knowledge, wants to have mere examination knowledge 
poured into him, does not belong in a university at all. In that 
case, my partner opined, the majority of students does not belong 


in a university. It is bad, if you are correct, I replied; for that 
would be the end of the university. 

The other disappointment were the instructors in the universi- 
ties. Only a few teachers demonstrated and proved the reality of 
the higher learning. Men publicly well known often appeared to 
me altho meritorious, of great ability for work, instructive in 
orienting the students in their subjects nevertheless as if they 
were standing apart from the idea of the university and its spirit. 
It looked more like "pomp and circumstance/ 1 to which must be 
added intrigues and propaganda. At the base of the tremendously 
hard work of the professors there seemed to lie an 'existential' 
rooflessness and confusion. They claimed the highest pretensions 
for their own importance. Masses of students enhanced such mas- 
ters and in so doing achieved status for themselves. What they 
were in reality I experienced later, especially 1918-19, in concrete 
situations of fate. They were what, in my parental home, named 
after a large German (political) party, used to be designated by 
the invective "liberal nationalists/' i.e., men without determin- 
ation and without courage in matters of public affairs. 

Ever since I first, ominously, heard about the university in my 
childhood, it meant to me an instance of truth as such. Later it 
became clear to me that this was the supra-national, occidental 
idea (of the university) . It was one of the greatest disappoint- 
ments in 1914 that the universities in the Anglo-Saxon camp as 
well as in the German became partisans. It was as treason 
against the eternal idea of the university. For me the university 
had been that which could maintain the truth against national 
realities. But what had already become apparent before 1914 now 
became complete: everywhere in the world one was obedient to 
this national reality and conformed to it, one proceeded to justify 
it. "Whose bread I eat, his song I sing"* had become terrible 
reality. The very responsibility of the university as a super-political 
and supra-national Occidental court of appeal had been lost. 

I experienced this more concretely by the necessity for personal 
decision in 1919. Because of what were meant to be revolutionary 
changes in the constitution of the University, I had, at that time, 
as a Privatdozent, been elected to the (University-) Senate. On 
one occasion the following matter was before us: The Rektor of 
the University of Berlin called upon all German universities to 
join in a document of protest against the conditions imposed by 
the later dictated peace-treaty of Versailles, which had become 

* Editor's Note: "You don't bite the hand that feeds you," is the American 
equivalent of this German proverb. 


known. When it was my turn, I said: It is my advice not to sign 
this protest. All of us agree on the disaster and injustice of the 
conditions as they had become known. What each one of us as 
German citizens should do was not the issue. But the more clearly 
we, as German citizens, faced extremes (of suffering), the more 
clearly we should preserve to the very last that realm whose mean- 
ing surpasses all nations and peoples. We sit here as representa- 
tives of the university. True, just as in the case of the churches, 
the university exists by virtue of state-taxes. But also as with the 
church, the university's task is supra-national. As the Senate of 
the University we are concerned here only with this latter. We are 
primarily an Occidental, not a German university. Our origin lies 
in the European Middle Ages, not in the territorial states, which 
have merely taken us over. We should keep our task pure and not 
push ourselves into problems which we did not have the power to 
solve. If, nevertheless, we did mix in these problems, it would be 
a blot on the realization of our idea. Never had it been more 
necessary than at this moment to maintain a supra-national status 
of human community. Moreover, the protest, because not a deed, 
would be as invalid as the claim to the authority for such a declara- 
tion would be unfounded. For the world did not at all acknowl- 
edge any such authority on the part of the university. 

This expression by the young Privatdozent produced astonish- 
ment. A few spoke even after I had spoken. Gradenwitz, a teacher 
of law, a Jew and anti-Semitic, spoke, completely ignoring what I 
had said, to show that a Privatdozent has no business to have an 
opinion in this (august) body. Dibelius, the well known theo- 
logian, expressed himself by careful consideration of my state- 
ment, declined my comparison with the churches, and concluded: 
it would be no blot on the university, if we made the protest our 
own. By unanimous vote, with one abstention, my motion was 
turned down. It was Ernst, a pathologist, a Swiss citizen, who had 
abstained from voting. On the way home he told me warmly that 
I was right and that he had abstained only because he was Swiss, 
and, as such, had no business to participate in this matter. But, I 
replied, this was a matter not of the Swiss nor of the Germans nor 
of the Allies, but of the Occidental idea of the university. To 
which Ernst opined that perhaps this ought to be so, but in reality 
it is, unfortunately but certainly, not so. 

That the intellectual freedom of the university was being 
threatened even then became clear to me in an event of 1924 
which kept the university in commotion for years. A Privatdozent 
of statistics, Gumbel, recognized because of his scientific works, 


went before the public with passionate political interest. His 
brochures with blood-dripping covers disclosed the existence of a 
secret military establishment, the so-called "black Reichswehr." 
They also attacked the re-establishment of the German military 
at that time. In public speeches Gumbel as a pacifist addressed 
the people. He used the words: ". . . the men who I would not 
say fell on the field of dishonor, but lost their lives in an awful 
fashion." The wrath of nationalistic professors, which had 
awakened long ago anyway, picked on this sentence: Gumbel has 
insulted the honor of the fallen German soldiers; this is unbear- 
able; he is a disgrace to the University, his right to teach must be 
withdrawn. Disciplinary proceedings were instituted with the aim 
of denying him the right to teach. I was one of the members of 
the board of inquiry, which consisted of a member of the law 
faculty, a representative of the not full professors and of myself as 
representative of the full professors of the philosophical faculty. 
The sentence had to be passed by the faculty on the recommenda- 
tion of this board of inquiry, but for its legal validity required 
confirmation by the Ministry of Education. 

From the first moment it was clear to me: what is at stake is 
academic freedom. This is destroyed in its very roots if the faculty 
member's opinions may be examined. I had long been well in- 
formed on the history of our university and knew the constitution 
of 1803, which had been composed in the spirit of our classical 
period. At that time one still knew what a university is and what 
dangers threaten it. It contained the regulation which was omitted 
from the newer constitutions of the 19th century: the right to 
teach may be cancelled only for actions which are condemned by 
a court of criminal law. This meant that one could not be de- 
prived of the right to teach on the basis of one's Weltanschauung, 
nor on that of tactlessness; and still less because of one's political 

In our board of inquiry I called attention immediately to these 
real conditions of our freedom. If today, because of political 
pacifist convictions and because of actions disclosing a political 
breach of treaty (even if that breach be that of the Versailles dic- 
tate of peace) an instructor can be reprimanded under the guise 
of an insult to national honor which carefully veils those facts, 
then tomorrow another one (may suffer this same fate) because 
of his atheism and day after tomorrow still another because of his 
nonconformity to the existing regime of the state. But the old 
regulation (of the University) was no longer in force. 

Now the accusation was: Gumbel's words were said to have 


offended the sense of honor of the German people, especially of 
the ex-servicemen. In doing this one boasted of democracy. With- 
out adopting this thesis as my own, I agreed to that. But I de- 
manded that the factuality of the offense would have to be con- 
firmed by the deposition of witnesses. Those who had heard Gum- 
bel at that particular lecture, all of them ex-servicemen, would be 
the legitimate witnesses. Thus a considerable number of men were 
interrogated. Surprisingly it turned out that almost all of them 
were not at all offended, but actually agreed with Gumbel. 

The result of the investigation was an opinion drawn up by 
the three members of the board, in which it was proposed that the 
right to teach should not be taken from Gumbel. However, before 
this opinion reached the faculty, it became known among the 
professors. A storm of indignation arose. The theologian came 
even before 8 in the morning to the legal member of the board 
in order to inform him (of this storm) and to aid and abet it by 
a few strong remarks. 

Thereupon both of my colleagues on the board requested me to 
agree to annul our already given signature on the opinion and to 
compose another opinion. I told both that I was agreeable to the 
annulling of their signatures. But the present opinion was to go 
to the faculty as my own. They might compose a new one on their 
own responsibility without me. This was done. 

After a session which lasted four hours, the faculty decided 
with all votes opposed to mine that Gumbel's right to teach 
was to be withdrawn. This motion had to be referred to the Min- 
istry (of Education) . According to custom, the faculty loyally 
left to me the right to submit to the government a separate opin- 
ion, opposing the resolution of the faculty. This I waived. For, I 
said to myself, the Socialist government, which, after all, we knew 
from its statements as well as actions, would, for party reasons and 
in support of the similar-minded Gumbel, reject the motion of the 
faculty in any case, but not in any sense in behalf of the academic 
freedom of the university. My concern was not for Gumbel, but 
for academic freedom. If the entire faculty was unable to see its 
being endangered by the faculty's own action, then the rejection 
of the motion by the government might, it is true, save Gumbel, 
but not academic freedom. 

When I returned home from this session, full of despair I said 
to my wife: the freedom of the university is done for; no one 
knows any longer what it is; I give up the battle and shall only do 
philosophy. What, she replied apprehensively and challenging, 
you surely are not going to lose your wings! f 


I shall not relate what happened through the years. Gumbel re- 
mained Dozent, and made renewed provocative remarks. Once 
more there were disciplinary proceedings (against him) . Because 
of a complicated situation and as the result of a fascinating speech 
on academic freedom by Dean Ludwig Curtius, the faculty now 
reversed itself, decided to keep Gumbel in his position. But the 
faculty was not grateful to its dean for having brought it to a 
right resolution. Several colleagues felt they had been taken in. 
It was a grotesque confusion. Those years saw the beginnings of 
those motives and of that thoughtlessness at the University, which 
unsuspectingly and against one's own will brought National So- 
cialism to power, which then, by trumping all such battles as 
trifles, with one stroke extinguished the university as the actuality 
of the free spirit. 

The idea of the university lives decisively in the individual 
students and professors, and only secondarily in the forms of the 
institution. If that life would become obliterated, the institution 
can not possibly save it. That life must, however, be awakened 
from person to person and must be encouraged to become con- 
scious of itself and be more effective by new publications which 
are appropriate to the existing situation. The student is on the 
look-out for the idea, is ready for it, but is really helpless, if he 
does not encounter it coming from his professors. In that case he 
must actualize the idea himself. 

Within the university the idea of the professor of philosophy 
became the justification for my own empirical existence. So long 
as there is such a thing as the freedom of the Occidental university, 
the realization of that idea depends entirely upon the individual 
who comprehends it and is entrusted with its realization. As pro- 
fessor of philosophy he is master within the four walls of the area 
of his teaching activity. He may arrange this area to suit himself. 
He must prove himself to a youth which in harmony with its 
nature has as yet more regard for truth than do more advanced 
ages. It is his task to point up the great philosophers and to see to 
it that they are not confused with the minor ones. Thus the per- 
ennial basic ideas become known in their greatest figures. He must 
awaken an openness for everything knowable, for the meaning of 
the sciences and for the actuality of life. All of this he must en- 
compass and penetrate by the basic operations of thinking which 
cause us to soar. He is to live in the idea of the university and in 
doing so acknowledge his responsibility for productive, construc- 
tive, creative activity. He must not cover up the ultimate limits, 
but instruct in the ways of moderation. 


What I myself owe to the Occidental idea of the university and 
to its, however blurred, reality in Germany is really quite extra- 
ordinary. Complete freedom in our era is like a fairytale; so is the 
modest empirical existence with just one occupation: to think; 
and the necessary calm for this. 

The temptations of the institution are great, but not com- 
pelling: the scatter-brainedness the emptiness whenever admin- 
istration occupied one for a time to the exclusion of everything 
else the busy idleness. The freedom of the professor, which may 
never submit to any kind of control, may, it is true, seduce a 
specific individual to laziness; but it is also the freedom to dream, 
to that apparent do-nothing of which no one knows what actually 
occurs. Here lies the source of everything essential. Whoever is 
not willing to put up with failure of some individuals, would 
have to destroy with freedom at the same time the productivity 
and with that the spirit of the university. 


For want of one's own realization a content of philosophizing 
may accrue from even the slightest contact with this reality on the 
part of others. Paradoxically that content gets nourishment and 
passion from what had to be foregone. I felt this especially in the 
area of politics. It would be too exacting to say that I had put 
thinking in the place of action. But, on a modest level, something 
analogous to that happened to me. 

Since my childhood I had heard about politics. My grandfather, 
father, and two brothers of my mother were state-representatives 
in Oldenburg, and at the same time liberal, democratic, and con- 
servative. For decades my father was president of the Oldenburg 
City Council. In those days the Council was concerned entirely 
with administrative tasks, schools, buildings, streets, canals, rail- 
roads, etc. Great commotion arose when a secretary of cabinet 
rank had not done well; his errors were held up to him and yet 
the Grandduke did not dismiss him. But this was an exception. 
Almost always it was possible, by common deliberation, to reach 
the goal in a reasonable manner. My father enjoyed doing this. 
One day, however, as a personality respected in city and country, 
he was supposed to be elected to the Reichstag (Congress) by the 
combined efforts of several who, ordinarily, could not get to- 
gether on anything. This he declined, however; he had (he said) 
something better to do in Oldenburg than to run around in 
Berlin, make speeches and listen to speeches without being able 


to accomplish anything; this empty facade of an apparent Reichs- 
tag did not at all attract him. My father was indignant over the 
invasion of Prussian attitudes in Oldenburg, of Prussian manners 
(the bearing of assessors and lieutenants) , of Prussian militarism 
since 1866, growing enormously since 1870. Yet, with all his oppo- 
sition, he had real affection for the old Grandduke, as a worthy, 
cultivated, decent person. In the new German empire he did not 
feel at home. Once, in the nineties, on a walk on the Weser-dyke 
near Porake, he said to me, the lad: Too bad that Holland does 
not reach to the Weser (as if to say: that Oldenburg is not a part 
of Holland) . In the army my father was an excellent officer in the 
reserves, but inwardly he was quite reluctant. When, at age 45, at 
a "love-feast," he learned from the regimental commander that he 
had been recommended for a captaincy (in those days a very un- 
common honor for a civilian) , my father opined that nothing 
would likely come of that. To the urging commander he declared 
he would not serve one day beyond his legal obligations; that he 
had found military service barely endurable, that there was some- 
thing in him which made him look on any superior as a personal 
enemy. Thus alien was my father to the German political situa- 
tion, and he became constantly more so. The limited area of Old- 
enburg with its sensible administration he loved as one culti- 
vates a garden as long as possible. But he saw the growing ruin 
which he could not prevent; he went hunting, painted water- 
colors, and carried out the duties of his profession. When, for his 
eightieth birthday (1930) , the city offered to name a street after 
him, he declined with a friendly letter of thanks (glad that he had 
been asked before publication) and said within the confines of the 
family: I certainly am not going to have a street named after me 
by governments which constantly change, acknowledge no tradi- 
tion and will, after a few years, rename the street! 

Altogether different the youngest brother of my mother, Theo- 
dor Tantzen. He was only six years older than I, and grew up in 
my parental home because he went to school in Oldenburg. Al- 
ready, at the age of eighteen he began as a public speaker in the 
liberal party of Eugen Richter. He had the qualities of a dema- 
gogue, practical efficiency and a robust ability to make decisions. 
In 1919 he became prime minister (until 1924), and again in 
1945, this time appointed by the British. During the period of 
National Socialism he visited us regularly in Heidelberg to discuss 
the situation with us. Repeatedly he was arrested by the Gestapo, 
the last time immediately after July 20th, 1944. By his skill, 
through friends who had made common cause with National So- 


cialism, and by sheer luck he succeeded each time to gain his free- 
dom. He died a few days before the powers of occupation made 
the province Oldenburg a part of Lower Saxony and transferred 
the seat of government to Hannover. ' 

I myself participated in all these things merely as an onlooker, 
although sometimes I did take a lively part in discussions within 
the family. Until 1914 my basic attitude was strictly non-political. 
Everything seemed to be definitive. Our anguish concerned a much 
later future, which we did not believe we would live to see. At 
that time I thought more along aesthetic lines: How are we ever 
going to get rid of those ridiculous princes (the young Grandduke 
was an object of contempt) , as for example the Kaiser with his 
pompous bombast of words and his provocative actions. Kaiser, 
governments, existing situations occasionally were objects of sneer- 
ing, the Simplicissimus the proper magazine. I turned entirely to 
intellectual tasks. For that there was freedom which we took to 
be self-evident. Everything else we had to accept without being 
too much pinched by it. 

With the outbreak of the war in 1914 (I was thirty-one at the 
time) things became different. The historical earth trembled. 
Everything which seemed long to have been secure with one 
stroke appeared threatened. We felt that we had gotten into an 
irresistible, opaque process. Only since then do our generations 
know themselves thrown into the stream of catastrophic events. 
Since 1914 these have not stopped. They keep going in a frantic 
tempo. This our human fate I sought from then on to comprehend, 
not as the knowable necessity of a dark supernatural process of 
history, but as a situation whose results on the basis of what is 
properly knowable, which is always something specific are de- 
risively determined by our human freedom. 

What I have thought since the outbreak of the war in 1914 has 
stood under the influence of Max Weber. Through him my politi- 
cal attitude underwent a change. Until then the national idea had 
been foreign to me. Through Max Weber I learned to think in 
national terms and took that type of thinking to heart. The world 
situation places upon a people, which through its government has 
become a world power, a responsibility, which it cannot escape. 
Posterity will hold responsible, not the small state of the Swiss, 
whose existence had a different, highly desirable meaning (the 
freedom of individuals in a small state and not the responsibility 
of power) , but us, if the world will be divided between the Rus- 
sian whip and Anglo-Saxon convention. It is our task and oppor- 
tunity to salvage between those two this third: The spirit of radical 


liberalism, the freedom and manifoldness of personal life, the 
magnitude of the Occidental tradition. This was Max Weber's 
attitude which I now shared. 

This calls for politics on a grand scale, i.e., a politics of sure 
and measured judgment, of self limitation and of reliable carrying 
out of pledges, a politics which is oriented toward the totality of 
human events and which so acts, thinks and speaks that the world 
turns to it in confidence. 

This is why Max Weber stood against the political actuality of 
William the Second's empire, against the obscurity of political 
thought, against the veiling in a pseudo-constitutionalism, against 
the braggadocio conduct of the Kaiser in foreign affairs, against 
the arbitrary, constantly changing intervention. Before 1914 he 
suffered immeasurably politically, while his illness prevented any 
kind of activity, even that of his academic duties as a professor. He 
saw: we are losing the confidence of the entire world. Political 
stupidity, not the war-mongering of the Kaiser and of his creatures, 
will lead to war, which is the most terrible fate for Europe. When, 
in 1913, my wife happened to meet Max Weber on a train, he had 
just read the papers, was in great agitation and almost screamed: 
that hysteric will yet drive us into war. 

Since 1917 Max Weber slowly recuperating from his illness 
burst forth with political writings. He still wanted to hope that 
the Germans might yet get there by way of a genuine democracy 
as over against the unbearable type of Ludendorff who wanted to 
stamp over all of Europe, against the selfishness of the large land 
holders, against the political provincialism of big industry, against 
the political narrowness of the socialists of the unions and of the 
labor leaders who, without comprehension of the immensity of 
politics, do not see what is at stake but, full of illusions, want to 
carry out their ruinous plans. But upon what did Max Weber 
count, for what powers did he hope? For something which did not 
yet exist in Germany, although it seemed to be the most natural, 
the most reasonable, and the most self-evident. 

His specific demands during the war corresponded to this: From 
the very beginnings, all the way through, and at the very height 
of German victories he declared: No expansion of our borders, no 
annexation of a single square mile; for Germany it is sufficient to 
have stood its ground; if it demonstrated that it desires absolutely 
no conquest and that it has the power to assert itself against a 
world, then it is fulfilling its great-world-historical task, to salvage 
the "Between." For this reason he was at all times in favor of a 
peace of arbitration without claims on either side, so to say for 


the combined recognition of the error of having gotten into this 
internecine war at all. He put forth the following thesis: even in 
case of an occupation by the British and the French we would not 
lose our essential nature, because they would neither want to nor 
could they destroy it. Under Russian domination, on the other 
hand, we would cease to remain Germans, just as all other peoples 
could not remain themselves under such a regime. For this reason, 
Max Weber saw the only really great achievement of Germany in 
the First World War in having stopped the power of Russia at 
least for this once. 

Max Weber was the last genuine national German; genuine, 
because he represented the spirit of Baron von Stein, of Gneisenau, 
of Mommsen, not the will to power for one's own empire at any 
price and above all others , but the will to realize a spiritual and 
moral existence which holds its ground by power but also places 
this power itself under its own conditions. Max Weber, who very 
early saw the tremendous danger into which the Germans came 
due to the course of the empire of William, knew that there is a 
limit which means ruin, after which the survivors continue, but 
in a vegetative state which is without political meaning and there- 
fore without common greatness. Politics can exist only in freedom. 
Where this is destroyed there only remains private life insofar as 
this is suffered to exist. When, in January 1919, I asked Max 
Weber what could be done if the communists came to power, his 
reply was: then I am no longer interested in the matter. 

This meant resignation before the reality of brutal might 
against which the individual is no longer able to do anything. This 
insight corresponds to the fact that Germany could not be freed 
of National Socialism from within itself, but only from the out- 
side, that no totalitarianism can be overcome from within but at 
best can only be transformed into another kind (of totalitarian- 
ism) by bloody revolutions. The end of genuine politics suspends 
the interest for politics; but real politics is possible only if the 
result is effectuated through the persuasion of others by discourse 
pro and con, in which the education of public consciousness takes 
place by means of a free combat of minds. 

Completely outside of the horizon of Max Weber, and of every- 
thing which he developed in predictions concerning future possi- 
bilities, remained such actualities as the murder of millions of 
Jews by Hitler-Germany, the unrestricted transformation of man 
carried out by way of terrorism, and man's annihilation into mere 
function in the SS-state of the concentration camps. 

Max Weber's political thought coined my own. Perhaps in basic 


attitude I may never have been in complete agreement with him. 
I lacked the consciousness of the greatness of Prussia and of Bis- 
marck, which I recognized only theoretically and, at heart, with 
aversion. I lacked the military spirit. I was able to admire it, but 
could not actually verify it myself. I lacked the heroic inclination, 
the grandeur of boundlessness, which nevertheless I liked in Max 
Weber. But Max Weber's basic insights I simply learned and took 
over. The following were the political experiences which were 
relevant and essential for me. 

As early as 1908, when, on the occasion of the first round-flight 
of the (dirigible) Zeppelin an intoxication went through the en- 
tire German population, I was unable to participate, despite my 
admiration for the technical achievement and my delight with 
it. The form of the intoxication terrified me. This repeated itself 
in 1914 at the beginning of the war: the war enthusiasm, a mix- 
ture of exaltation and sense of destiny, which carried everything 
before it (very soon, when trouble arose, this intoxication proved 
to be a mere straw fire) was alien and uncanny to me. I was happy 
when I met individuals who did not participate, as for example 
a young peasant from Oldenburg who disliked a speech of the 
Kaiser on "War for the German Culture:" "nonsense," he said, 
"German culture the others are no barbarians either we are 
attacked and stand our man, that is all." This mass movement was 
there again in 1918, when the revolutionary intoxication of the 
collapse led to the self-confident expectation of now creating glori- 
ous human conditions. And then this intoxication returned gro- 
tesquely once more in 1933 with all the symptoms of a mass delu- 
sion. Constantly more questionable for me became the saying: Vox 
populi vox dei, insofar as the voice of a people is supposed to 
speak through its masses. I was unable to restrain myself from in- 
wardly despising everyone who participated in such states of in- 

During the first war a political club came into existence con- 
sisting of professors of all the faculties in Heidelberg. A club which 
met often during the semesters sometimes weekly to talk about 
the political and military events, to listen to lectures by its mem- 
bers, and to discuss. When the club constituted itself, almost all 
prominent professors, altho in a select minority, belonged. Alfred 
Weber was in combat and therefore was not a member. Max Web- 
er, the only truly political, intellectually superior and universally 
informed man, was not invited. They called him a calamity howl- 
er; they asserted that he dominated the discussion; they were 
afraid of his immoderation. Indeed, no superior personality was 
wanted in this circle of mutual admiration and hiffh self-esteem. 


Max Weber was pained by the exclusion, for, isolated as he was by 
illness, he was by nature social and not at all proud. 

After some time I was invited to membership, despite the fact 
that I was only an unsalaried lecturer (Privatdozent). From 1915 
until 1923 I attended the meetings. There I came to know the 
political thinking of our academic world on its best possible level. 
It was not at all uniform. Very passionate discussions took place. 
The freedom of expression was almost unlimited. I could take the 
liberty to express my own points of view unreservedly as they 
changed, without incurring personal dislike. For example: In 
spite of the veiled news reports it became clear, in July 1918, that 
the so-called Ludendorff offensive had not merely miscarried but 
had been superceded by a mighty counter attack of the Allies. I 
developed the idea: our defeat is certain. But it might still take a 
long time. There had been mutinies in the French army, not in 
ours. The offer of peace on our part would at this moment be just 
still possible. We should make some radical renunciations; for in 
that case what would be safe would still be tremendous as over 
against what would remain after a real defeat. Therefore, even 
giving up of Alsace-Lorraine would now be necessary, as well as 
acknowledging the injustice of violating the borders of Belgium 
in 1914 and therefore restitution to Belgium. Beyond this no bene- 
fits but a reconstitution of the old border in the East, despite our 
present occupation of Russia; and, finally, the introduction of a 
genuine parliamentary democracy in Germany. Such views at 
that time in Germany were like treason and were possible to be 
expressed only in this humanly decent circle. Oncken, the excel- 
lent historian, replied in his noble fashion: in his view my concep- 
tion was to be rejected, but it was nevertheless very noteworthy 
that such a conception was today possible at all. 

Neither in the first World War nor afterwards did I speak in 
my lectures or in my writings on political matters. I was a bit shy, 
because I had not been a soldier. For, politics is concerned with 
the seriousness of power which is based on staking one's life. I 
lacked this legitimation. The shyness diminished as I became 
older. Most of all, in the twenties I saw the obvious political fail- 
ure of the military attitude. I recognized in it the false political 
claim. My anger was aroused by the then appearing books of Ernst 
Jiinger, the fascinating author and bearer of the order pour le 
merite. They seemed to me to be a moral-political disaster. In this 
irresponsible romantic and adventurous squandering away of life 
there manifested itself the very opposite of the high seriousness of 
a politics grounded in the very stake of life itself. 

That I got on the road of speaking in public on political mat- 


ters came about through a task I was assigned. I was commissioned 
to write the one-thousandth volume in the little Goschen-Series. 
The theme I was given was: the spiritual movements of our age. 
I changed the theme immediately to: Die geistige Situation der 
Zeit (English translation of 1933: Man In the Modern Age). By it 
I meant to say: I do not perceive the movements, I do not know 
what happens overall. I can only show the situation and its aspects. 
I can engross the reader, call to his attention, teach him to see, 
but I cannot give him an historical survey of the present. 

The theme attracted me for various reasons. I could speak of 
politics grounded upon the total moral-spiritual situation of our 
age. Out of my work, Philosophic, which was in process, I could 
now eliminate everything which concerned the present (just as I 
had already taken out all excursions into the philosophy of history 
for a later work) . As I gathered up the sheets, there still was need 
for bringing in some order and for many additions; but in prin- 
ciple the book was there when I accepted the commission in 1929. 
The little book was completed in September 1930, just as the elec- 
tions to the Reichstag) which for the first time were successful for 
National Socialism, became known. At the time I wrote the book 
I knew very little of fascism and of National Socialism, whose mad- 
ness I still held to be impossible in Germany. I left the manuscript 
lying in my desk. After so long an interval in my publications I 
wanted to come before the public with my Philosophic and not 
with a little volume which, in any case, needed the Philosophic 
as its foundation. Thus I saw to it that the Geistige Situation der 
Zeit appeared only a year later, in the beginning of October 1931, 
and, immediately thereafter, in December, my Philosophic. 

Since 1933 unexpected experiences became unavoidable. The 
extent of man's capacity for monstrous deeds, of the intellectually 
gifted for delusions, of apparently good citizens for perfidy, of the 
seemingly decent person for malice, what is possible to the mob 
in the way of thoughtlessness, of selfish short-sighted passivity, all 
this became real to an extent that the knowledge of man had to 
undergo a change. In brief, what formerly was not even so much 
as considered was now not merely possible but actual. History 
seemed to have received a jolt. A subsequent consideration of the 
entirety of world history made it become clear, however, that these 
impossibilities were not at all new in their roots, but merely in 
their (particular) appearance, that the prejudices of an age had 
clouded our view in spite of the intellectual range of its conscious- 

At the same time, however, the unswervability of specific indi- 


viduals, the faithfulness of loving persons, the power of helping, 
of daring, of lavish self-giving, the prudence and caution in the 
midst of helplessness with its hidden lustre of mutual understand- 
ing became visible. All of this became, so to say, as never before a 
guarantee of the undestructibility of what it really means to be 
human. Heroic ventures occurred too late, inefficient, not equal 
to the situation, and therefore ambiguous which, though they 
were not representative of any communal consciousness, became 
nevertheless a great question for us. 

In spite of the devilishly enforced anonymity of innumerable 
ones whose death no mouth reported, one heard occasionally of 
men who were able to die in the humiliating indignity of torment, 
of tortures, starved and poisoned to the very point of being unable 
to resist. Among the murdered Jews were those of whom it was 
told that they, denuded, delivered to destruction, like vermin, re- 
mained pious and certain of God, to the utmost, that they like 
the forty soldiers of the Roman legion touchingly depicted on a 
Byzantine ivory tablet went to their death nude, amidst simple 
attestation of their mutual love. And there were others among 
those who resisted the regime, among those sent to concentration 
camps because of a careless word, among the executed and the 
hanged, among the displaced and murdered from the ravished na- 
tions, who died no less piously. 

Indeed, for those who kept on living the world was so greatly 
changed, that it was not yet possible to grasp what really had hap- 
pened, and what the present situation meant. The prophecies, 
especially those of Nietzsche, were like non-committal visions 
which now paled because no nihilistic actuality had yet corres- 
ponded to them and because precisely what was now happening 
had not been foreseen. Something immutable in our origin, some- 
thing whose meaning could not be changed by any historical 
catastrophe, might uphold us. But this (presently) changeable had 
to be seen and grasped anew from the (vantage point of the) 

Before this task one stood questioning, listening, not knowing, 
waiting, while the disaster threatened everyone. 

Inwardly my wife and I experienced this threat to corporeal 
existence without being able to defend ourselves through long 
years. Outwardly no harm was done to us. We learned from the 
police by the usual indiscreet round-about way, that it was planned 
to ship us off on April 14, 1945. Other transports had already 
taken place in the preceding weeks. On April 1, Heidelberg was 
occupied by the Americans. A German cannot forget that he owes 


his and his wife's life to Americans against Germans who in the 
name of the National Socialist German State wanted to destroy him. 

My experiences from 1933 to 1945 I need not here report in 
detail. From 1933 on I was excluded from any co-operation in the 
administration of the University, from 1937 robbed of my profes- 
sorship, from 1938 no longer allowed to publish. The basic ex- 
perience was the loss of the guarantee of judicial rights among 
one's own people and within one's own country. The real aban- 
donment could not be balanced by the friendly attitude of specific 
individuals who did not give up their intercourse with us, not by 
the friends all of whom, with a single exception, remained faith- 
ful, not by merchants and workmen who helpfully stood by my 
wife, not by the inner closeness of those nearest to us. All of this 
felt good. It preserved the community with the Germans and the 
consciousness of belonging, even though it was certain that these 
Germans, who now became the genuine Germans to us, were a 
small minority. The situation compelled this reluctant reversal 
of the exclusion from the German character which the National- 
ists and the National Socialists had carried out against this minor- 
ity and against us by word, print, and deed. I permitted the at- 
tempted, even though ineffective, personal help on the part of a 
few National Socialists, whenever I, by appeal to an unwritten 
judicial claim, turned to official authorities. In several cases, how- 
ever, I quietly gave up, as when one of the National Socialist 
professors answered me: The procedures against the Jews were in 
principle correct, but he would try to see whether he could ac- 
complish anything in behalf of my wife; or when another inquired 
of me whether my wife had not done anything blameworthy. 

In this situation, and with increasing danger we watched power- 
lessly, for twelve years, thoughtfully careful and cautious, heedful 
of the Gestapo and the Nazi authorities, determined to commit no 
act and to utter no word which we could not justify. Fortune was 
with us. I did not tempt it by any imprudence. 

It was a time for reflection; all the more so because the hygienic 
conditions of life remained good. According to the "mechanics of 
the statutes" I did not merely receive a pension, but also was pro- 
vided with food and fuel. True, there was no concrete hope of 
surviving the tyranny or for an 'afterwards/ But no one could 
know this. When, in 1938, a young friend said to me: Why are you 
writing, it can never be published anyway, and one day all of your 
manuscripts will be burned, I replied playfully: One never knows, 
I enjoy writing; what I am thinking, becomes clearer in the proc- 
ess; and finally, in case the overthrow should occur someday, I do 
not wish to stand there with empty hands. 


Until the spring of 1939, I had the good fortune of friendship 
with Heinrich Zimmer, the Indologist, who, under the pressure 
of those days, had to emigrate with his family, first to England, 
and afterwards to the USA. Those were the last broadly-conceived 
and penetrating intellectual conversations I had with a man in 
Heidelberg. He gave me much from his immense knowledge, 
wanted to care for me, brought me much literature and transla- 
tions from the Chinese and Indian world. 

But those twelve years meant an incision into life of a very 
peculiar kind. On the one hand, there took place the inner gain- 
ing of distance from Germany as a political structure. With almost 
no exceptions, all Germans, even old friends, desired a German 
victory; whereas I, in the exaltation of victories, despairingly 
looked about for signs of a possible change, encouraged by Church- 
ill's attitude and speeches in September, 1940. As early as 1936 I 
had hoped for the entry of the Allies, which I had been desiring 
since 1933. Now all hope turned on the defeat and annihilation 
of Hitler-Germany; in order that the surviving Germans might be 
enabled to recreate their existence from their roots, anew and 

The consciousness of being German became a question. What 
does it mean to be a German? Other peoples accuse us of always 
meditating on being German, of wanting to be German, and of 
making what is natural into something artificial and forced. This 
consequence was not necessary. But for the German the question 
is, unfortunately, unavoidable, especially since, on the part of his 
countrymen, the word German is everlastingly being boomed into 
his ear. 

The natural unquestioned being-German, in which I lived, was 
language, home, heritage, was the great intellectual tradition in 
which I participated from an early age. Not power as such, power 
in the service of the moral-political idea was the task. Never would 
Max Weber have sold the soul of the German for power, as did 
the majority of the population of the German territories in 1933. 

Therefore our despair of the German of 1933 and of all the fol- 
lowing years. What is German? Who is German? When, in 1933, 
my wife, who, as a German Jewess, was betrayed by Germany, re- 
jected Germany which she loved more perhaps than I did myself, 
I replied definitely and insolently in order to bring her back to 
affirmation : Think me to be Germany. 

Nevertheless, my gaining full perspective on the German em- 
pire since 1933 brought to my consciousness how completely and 
unavoidably my wife and I are Germans. The resulting questions 
remained insoluble. * 


To the few, among whom I was one, it was since 1933 probable 
and since 1939 certain, that the events in Germany meant the end 
of Germany. Finis Germaniae: The word passed quietly from 
mouth to mouth whether Hitler-Germany would win or lose (that 
it would lose became certain to us in the autumn of 1941) , in any 
case there would no longer be a Germany. But so many German 
persons, speaking German, partakers in the events, originating in 
the lost German state, would survive. What shall they do, what 
gives their existence value, do they remain Germans and in what 
sense, do they have any task? such questions were bound to force 
a German to come to his senses. The very sense of having lost the 
being-German transmitted to us by generations had to turn 
memory back to the origins, if one wished again to become truth- 
ful and worthy of one's forbears. The question has even today not 
yet been answered, the coming to senses not been carried out. Yet 
it burns in the soul of every genuine German. 

Since 1933 one thing became the self-evident basis of my Ger- 
man self-consciousness. Political Germany founded as Little- 
Germany on the basis of the trends of 1848 by Bismarck, out of 
fateful untruthfulness clothed in the idea of empire (an idea 
which came from the Middle Ages), as Second Empire spiritually 
as deceitfully founded as the railroad depots which, in those days 
were built in Gothic style, (this Germany) is not Germany as 
such, but, viewed from the standpoint of world history, merely a 
short-time political episode. Germany that has for a thousand 
years, been something entirely different, something much more 
full of content. The glorious Occidental idea of empire perished 
already in the thirteenth century. What is German is held together 
only by the German language and by the spiritual life which mani- 
fests itself in it, the religious and moral reality which communi- 
cates itself in it. This Germany is extra-ordinarily many-sided. 
The political aspect of it is only one dimension, and an unhappy 
one at that, a history which proceeds from one catastrophe to 
another. What is German lives in the great spiritual realm, spirit- 
ually creating and battling, need not call itself German, has 
neither German intentions nor German pride, but lives spiritually 
of the things, of the ideas of world-wide communication. 

That there is possible in this something durable and truly politi- 
cal was apparent in the Middle Ages in the freedom spread abroad 
in the Occident. In progress and transformation of the Middle 
Ages this is even today still present in Holland and in Switzer- 
land. In the Prussian-German territory it has been lost since the 
seventeenth century. 


The word German has two meanings, therefore. One is the one 
which, on the basis of the empire founded by Bismarck, is meant 
by the Germans of this territory and all the rest of the world, 
namely, the national existence of the so-called German unity. The 
other meaning is that intended by Burckhardt, when, at the be- 
ginning of the forties, he wrote that he considered it to be his task 
to show the Swiss that they are Germans (a sentence which 
Burckhardt never repeated, when, even before 1848, he saw that 
Germany did not move in the direction of federal freedom of a 
conservative type, but rather toward that of a state of centralized 
power, of a technical-rational character) . The meaning intended 
by Burckhardt nobody understands any longer today. It is, how- 
ever, the last refuge in which alone can be found what would again 
make it possible to develop a decent political existence in the for- 
mer German imperial territory of Bismarck. When, in 1914, for- 
eign propaganda wanted to split Germany into Weimar and Pots- 
dam, I resisted. In the then existing situation the self-determina- 
tion of a state was to be weakened. "Weimar" this was by no 
means that total, great, spiritual-political Germany of a thousand 
years, in which it was, after all, only an important link. Potsdam 
had a bad name, even among us, but it was not, after all, identical 
with the Germany that fought at that time. That today, however, 
in the essential interest of the Germans themselves, not in that 
of foreign desire to weaken us Germany must be taken in two 
senses, this fact should not be confused with the superficial anti- 
thesis of Weimar versus Potsdam. Such a separation today means: 
Germany's political existence can no longer be grounded either 
morally or spiritually upon restoration tendencies, nor upon the 
memories of the last century and a half. After the shocking inner 
and outer catastrophes it must rather be created anew from its 
depths in the new situation with a view to the world situation and 
to her co-responsibility in it. This depth is laid bare by the il- 
lumination and critical analysis of the historical episode that led 
into catastrophe. 

While I dwelled upon such thoughts there grew in me at the 
same time the drive toward world citizenship. To be, first of all, 
a man and then, out of this background to belong to a nation, 
this seemed to me to be the essential matter. How longingly I 
sought a court of last resort above the nations, a law which legally 
can aid the individual who is lawlessly being ravished by his state! 
When there is inhuman injustice, there ought to be a safeguard 
against the state which commits the crime. The solidarity of all 
states could constitute this supra-national court. The principle of 


non-interference in the internal affairs of a state is the cloak for 
the admission of injustice. The claim to absolute sovereignty is 
the claim also to be allowed to act criminally according to one's 
own sovereign will. For, an old principle asserts that the king (now 
the state or the dictator) stands outside the law, that he is not 
himself subject to the law. Against such sovereignty stands the 
responsibility of all states not to tolerate inhumanity and lawless- 
ness in any state without action, because in the long run everyone 
is threatened whenever such a crime happens, no matter where. 

Such reflections occurred to me first when, in 1933, the Vatican 
concluded a Concordat with Hitler and thereby not only increased 
his prestige tremendously, but first accorded to his regime actual 
international recognition as a treaty-making power. They came to 
me with increased strength during the 1936 Olympics in Berlin 
when the Hitler regime was supported by the participation of the 
countries of the entire world. They came to me once again when 
the result of the International Congress in Evian in 1938, where 
possibilities for relocation of Jews fleeing from Germany were to 
be decided, was that the possibilities for relocation of German 
Jews the world over were actually much worse than before. 

When on April 1, 1945, the Americans had occupied Heidel- 
berg, and I seemed to be living in a fairytale, where the world can 
change overnight when at the city hall I read the first legal 
decrees and detected in them for the first time again a decent Occi- 
dental note which was now again to be standard among us, I felt 
great hopes. Within three days I was already one of a commission 
of thirteen professors, chosen upon my suggestion, for preparing 
the re-opening of the provisionally-closed university. The CIC, a 
police institution still unknown to me, represented at the time by 
two lively, educated, and well-intentioned young men, gave us 
written permission for meetings and we went to work at once. The 
university was my own concern. Here I felt I could say and pro- 
pose something. A few colleagues granted me their affection and 
their confidence in unforgettable fashion. Without being able to 
become dean or rektor, I let myself in for something, by way of 
work, speeches, and proposals which I could not really carry out 
with my (limited) strength. 

Now confronted by these new questions, my wife and I found 
Hannah Arendt-Blucher, whose longtime affection had not waned 
through the decades, very helpful. Her philosophical solidarity 
remains among the most beautiful experiences of those years. She 
came from the younger generation to us older ones and brought 
us what she experienced. 


Emigrated since 1913 and having wandered over the world, 
high-spirited under infinite difficulties, she was thoroughly ac- 
quainted with the violent terror of our existence, when such exist- 
ence, torn from the country of its origin, is at anybody's mercy 
without any rights. She had tried to find a foothold, always had a 
foothold, but could not be bound by any of them in such a way 
as to set them up as absolute without criticism with the excep- 
tion of the historicity of her love and of whatever tasks she had at 
that time undertaken. Her inner independence made her a citizen 
of the world. Her faith in the unique power of the American Con- 
stitution (and in the political principle which had held its ground 
as the relatively best) made her a citizen of the United States. 
Better than I had ever been able before, I learned from her to see 
this world of the greatest attempts at political freedom and, on 
the other hand, the structures of totalitarianism: now and then 
slightly hesitating, but only because she had not yet familiarized 
herself with the categories, methods of research, and insights of 
Max Weber. Since 1948 she visited us repeatedly for intensive dis- 
cussions and in order to make sure of a unanimity which could 
not be rationally defined. With her I was able to discuss once 
again in a fashion which I had desired all my life, but had from 
my youth on with the exception of those closest to me, who 
shared my fate really experienced only with a few men: In (an 
atmosphere of) complete vinreservedness which allows of no men- 
tal reservations in abandon because one knows that one can 
overshoot the mark, that such overshooting would be corrected 
and that it demonstrates in itself something worthwhile, viz., the 
tension of perhaps deep-seated differences which yet are encom- 
passed by such trust that to differ does not mean a lessening of 
affection, (in such an atmosphere to realize) the radical and mu- 
tual letting-free of the other, where abstract demands cease because 
they are extinguished in factual fidelity. 

Since 1945 I could actively participate in politics even less than 
in the university. Many an American came to me in those days in 
order to inform himself and to get my opinions. At that time, when 
the Americans were still appointing the temporary governments, 
they asked me if I wished to become Secretary of Culture. The 
proposal could not go beyond mere conversation. A painful renun- 
ciation for me. Asked my opinions, during the always informal 
talks with those men some of them outstanding , who were the 
first to come to Germany, I heard and said much, alternating be- 
tween the verve of envisaged possibilities and hopelessness in 
the fare of the realities. 


Political pondering became particularly penetrating when the 
transformation of the initial administration of Germany occurred. 
In the beginning German personalities had been appointed by 
the occupation authorities; now a party government, on the basis 
of general elections, was supposed to replace the former as a re- 
sponsible democratic German regime. At that time I said to an 
American: "You are pursuing a path which is disastrous for Ger- 
many. For the best who could be found in Germany old party 
members are being substituted, people who proved their incapac- 
ity before 1933. Not good, but politically-corrupt Germans will 
rule. In reality it will remain as it is now: the occupation authori- 
ties will exercise factual sovereignty in ultimate decisions. But 
this truth is being veiled by an apparent independence. You ought 
to administer this Germany quite openly under your own respon- 
sibility by using the best, the most reasonable, and the most patri- 
otic Germans. In that case the educational process which history 
has denied us will be able to begin from the bottom with at least 
a certain German independence. This does not happen by way of 
good advice, nor by lectures or writings, nor by means of the 
pathetic of 'glorious democracy/ but by practice. This latter, how- 
ever, can only start in the communities. Look at this example: 
they complain just now about the much too high prices of potatoes 
in Heidelberg, whereas the farmers are complaining that they are 
getting much too little (I seem to recall that the farmer was get- 
ting three marks per hundred weight, whereas the city consumer 
paid twelve marks) . What happens? Everybody demands govern- 
mental regulations. Correct, however, would be this: that farm 
communities through elective representatives come to an under- 
standing with Heidelberg in order to achieve the goal rationally, 
by reasonable methods and on their own responsibility. Through 
concern with concrete questions one learns how to do things, and 
that everyone shares in responsibility. Whereas with us we still 
find obedience on the one hand and administrative bureaucracy 
on the other. Let the communities get practice in ordering their 
own affairs to an ever-increasing extent. Only thus can men de- 
velop who are able to think politically. From among them will 
then come, in public discussion, the men who, when new parties 
will be founded, will make an impression and gain confidence. 
How all of this is to take place in detail I do not know. But not 
before the expiration of twenty years can Germany be ruled by 
men who are freely elected. The loosening of the powers and 
responsibilities of the occupying authorities should take place step 
by step. Until the power of reasonable men who exist in Ger- 


many and, I believe, in good measure has matured. Now, when 
the presupposition is lacking in the mood of the population, when 
the overwhelming majority of Germans does not yet know at all 
what is genuinely real or what they want or what or whom they 
shall elect, to force party-democracy upon them is nothing else 
than to substitute for the authority of the Germans selected by 
you the authority of party hacks, party bureaucrats, and their 

The American replied: "Perhaps you are right, I even think so. 
But it just won't do. In the first place, our American people wish 
no colonial administration. What you suggest looks like one. Sec- 
ondly, we cannot do it because of the Russians. We dare not give 
them an example of dictatorial administration which would serve 
at the same time as a justification for doing the same thing only 
with a totally different purpose and in worse fashion." 

In the area of such experiences and possibilities I have given 
many an address. In 1946 I published The Question of German 
Guilt, taken from my lectures on Germany during the winter 
semester, 1945-46. 

Inasmuch as cooperation in active politics was denied me, I 
could only reflect, write, speak. This reflection led to the funda- 
mental questions of history, to the question concerning world 
history and concerning our own situation in it. (The Origin and 
Goal of History, 1949.) 

Philosophically there remained the task to clarify for myself the 
moral presuppositions and the real conditions of politics; and 
secondly: to orient my political thinking on the anticipatory 
standpoint of the world citizen. 

Wherever in the world I felt the grand breath of the kind of 
political thinking which recognizes responsibility for humanity, 
i.e., for the freedom of man and human rights, where therein I 
felt at the same time strength and courage to sacrifice and the 
total pledge to the one unique grand idea, there I have listened 
and gained hope. Helpless myself, I had the urge at least to think 
and repeat whatever could be helpful on this road to political 

The decisive (point) is this: there is no law of nature and no 
law of history which determines the way of things as a whole. The 
future depends upon the responsibility of the decisions and deeds 
of men and, in the last analysis, of each individual among the 
billions of men. 

It depends upon each individual. By his way of life, by his daily 
small deeds, by his great decisions, the individual testifies to him- 


self as to what is possible. By this, his present actuality, he con- 
tributes unknowingly toward the future. In doing this, he dare 
not think of himself as unimportant, just as he dare not do so in 
elections where his is just one among millions of votes. 

During this decade the insight, which for thousands of years 
had been self-evident and which had been forgotten for a short 
time only, became dominant in me too: philosophy is not without 
politics nor without political consequences. I was surprised to see 
this connection, which is so apparent in the entire history of phi- 
losophy. No great philosophy is without political thought, not even 
that of the great metaphysicians, not that of Plotinus, not at all 
that of Spinoza, who even went so far as to take an active, spiritual- 
ly-effective role. From Plato to Kant, to Hegel, to Kierkegaard 
and Nietzsche goes the grand politics of the philosophers. What a 
philosophy is, it shows in its political appearance. This is nothing 
incidental, but of central significance. It was no accident that Na- 
tional Socialism, as well as Bolshevism, saw in philosophy a deadly 
spiritual enemy. 

It seemed to me that only after I became deeply stirred by poli- 
tics did my philosophy become fully conscious of its very basis, 
including its metaphysics. 

Since then I inquire of each philosopher concerning his politi- 
cal thinking and action and see the magnificent, honorable and 
effective line of this kind of thinking in the history of the genuine- 
ly philosophical spirit. 


When I grasped that philosophy is not science in the sense of 
a compelling and universally valid knowledge, this was by no 
means to imply that philosophy is abandoned to arbitrariness, 
whim, or the subjectivity of taste. On the contrary, as over against 
scientific correctness, which as concerns method is universally val- 
id, the truth of philosophy is unconditional truth, in whose con- 
sciousness potential Existenz achieves historical reality. Scientific 
truth can be stated in propositions which are unequivocal for the 
intellect. Philosophical truth can be communicated only in in- 
direct thought-movements and cannot adequately be captured 
in any proposition. 

Now the problem is to think and state philosophical truth not 
merely factually, but to gain insight into the ways of its communi- 
cability. Only thus does philosophical thought become pure in 
reflection and is disciplined by its own conscious methods. 


To become conscious of the methods of thought and therein of 
those of philosophical thinking, this I had prepared long ago. As 
early as 1921 I delivered a four-hours lecture-course on "philosoph- 
ical systematics." Still within the horizon of the universal psy- 
chological conception of my youth, those lectures were aimed at 
a deepening of that conception. Even then I devised a scheme of 
categories, although external ones, ordering them like a botanist. 
I already reflected on the methods of all cognition, proceeding 
from the basic contrast between Verstehen and explanation, but 
aiming at the question of the specifically philosophical kind of 
thinking. A few pages in my Psychologic der Weltanschauungen 
marked the beginnings of this. In my Philosophic the matter is 
discussed at many points. In the winter-semester 1931/32, after the 
publication of my Philosophic, I developed the concept of the 
'Encompassing/ which is basic to my philosophical logic, and dis- 
cussed it in public first in my Groningen lectures, Reason and 
Existenz (1935) . The material for the theme had multiplied in 
the course of the years. In my last series of lectures (before my 
dismissal in 1937) I delivered it in a four-hours series under the 
title, "Truth and Science/' What was at stake was to find the 
very ancient, factually practiced methods of philosophizing. For 
me it was almost as if I were re-discovering the world of philo- 
sophic thinking in its self-consciousness. In my Philosophical Logic 
I sought to depict the entire matter in its systematic connections. 
I went to work forming the many pages, notes, and manuscripts 
into a single (coherent) whole. 

This work was taking shape in the years of our most bitter 
agony, during the period of National Socialism and of its war. At 
a time when we had to negate the state in which we lived as a 
criminal state and had to desire its ruin at any price, we found 
peace in working out this seemingly most abstract and world- 
detached theme. In those years of distress, which we did not share 
as we had done in the first world-war with all Germans, but 
with those persecuted, tortured and murdered by Germany as our 
real fellow-sufferers, the work on the philosophical logic was one 
of the forms of self-assertion. As always before, my wife read my 
manuscripts and made notes on them for me. Both of us found in 
it the firm guide of daily work. It took place under a shadow 
which hung over every day; not in the youthful buoyancy of the 
time of our Psychologic der Weltanschauungen, nor in the confi- 
dent height of life at the time of our Philosophic. We were sur- 
rounded by the silence of concealment in the situation of being 
forced to endure and of sudden terror. We hardly thought of 


readers. We wrote for ourselves unless the improbability of sur- 
vival should again bring us together with our old friends. 

Many parts of the manuscript in those days were read by Maria 
Salditt. She accompanied our labors with her sympathy, and en- 
couraged us in our forsakenness by the very fact that she found our 
work important, one among few unforgettable others. Over dec- 
ades she permitted me to participate in the problems of her voca- 
tion as a teacher. I saw her stand her ground in her instruction 
during the Nazi period, quietly supported by an excellent princi- 
pal. I see her stand her ground in the spiritual chaos of Germany's 
present, unswervingly passing on to youth the glories of tradition, 
arousing truthfulness, suffering the forces of regimentation with- 
out being destroyed by them. The philosophical transformation 
of her heritage of pious Catholic faith, enabled her to accomplish 
a naturalness in metaphysical thinking, which not merely pleased 
me, but brought me into pleasant contact with the contents of 
Catholic depth. Mechthild von Magdeburg was one of her favored 
personalities. Her knowledge of my way of thinking became so 
extensive and reliable that I owe her precious indices to my Psy- 
chopathologie } Philosophic and Philosophical Logic, which can be 
of extraordinary help to the reader in the disclosure of the work 
as a whole. 

The spiritual mood in which the "philosophical logic" grew, on 
the foundation of thinking performed throughout an entire life, 
was the tendency to see in the abstraction of basic knowledge the 
genuinely concrete which obtains under all circumstances. True, 
in logic only the ascertainment of the realms in which truth and 
Being are given to us could be gained; however, the content of 
tradition, which speaks in these realms, co-operated in this ascer- 

The book was written with regard to the disaster of untruth, of 
distorted truth, of evil. I wanted to secure one's own decision in 
the clarity of the decisive either-or, where there is only warding 
off, and no longer appropriation. But, at the same time, I wanted 
to increase the readiness understandingly to enter into every pos- 
sibility of a truth even in untruth itself. The questionablenesses 
of every truth which expresses itself in self-assured universal valid- 
ity, the arrogance of possessing truth, was to become just as clear 
as the reliability of a basis which eludes direct objectification. 

Were I to emphasize a few themes in this work, I would name 
the following: 

1. The situation of philosophy is as follows: the one truth in 
totality is not to be had; rather: manifold truth is met in historical 


form. The community of all men is not possible, therefore, by 
means of a universal acknowledgment of any one and only truth, 
but only by the common medium of communication. To make 
this medium conscious, available, and reliable is the task of philo- 
sophical logic. It recognizes, on the one hand, the conditions of 
the realization of the unconditional will to communication, and, 
on the other, the forms of the rupture of communication and the 
significance and consequences of such rupture. 

2. Communication demands the self-consciousness of reason, 
i.e., knowledge of the forms and methods by which thinking takes 
place, of the orientation in the task of thinking to the very point 
of ascertaining its origins. To the degree that the becoming self- 
conscious of reason succeeds, the superiority of thought over itself 
is gained; one who thinks philosophically becomes master of his 
thoughts, instead of unconsciously being bound to trains and 
forms of thought. 

3. In order to get into the realm of origins a type of thinking 
has to be performed which seems impossible. We think in objects 
which we intend. The fundamental philosophical operation at all 
times is, more or less consciously, to transcend towards that out 
of which the objective as well as the thinking of the subject in- 
tending the objective arises. What is neither object nor act of 
thinking (subject), but contains both within itself, I have called 
the Encompassing. This latter does not speak for itself either 
through the object or through the subject, but through both in 
one as that which is the Transcendence at one and the same time 
of consciousness as well as of Being. This fundamental thought, 
although difficult to perform, itself first clarifies the process of 
philosophizing and makes that process itself only really possible; 
and yet, once grasped, it is, at the same time, extraordinarily sim- 
ple, yes altogether self-evident. 

True, with the unfolding of this fundamental thought in philo- 
sophical logic, a scientifically compelling basic position is not ac- 
quired; but while there is gained the idea of the widest possible 
realm of content, there is still no commitment to a specific truth- 
content. It is an attempt to gain the medium of communication 
in the widest imaginable sense. 

4. If it is the paradox of philosophizing that in the objective it 
does not yet possess an object, what, then, is philosophical think- 
ing? If we call objectified thinking rational, then any thinking 
which, guided by the objective, goes beyond this is itself no longer 
rational, although at each step bound to rational acts. 

That such a kind of thinking is grounded in itself can be ac- 


tualized only by itself. That it is necessary, can rationally be com- 
prehended at the boundary of rationality. Philosophical logic 
must, therefore, in the first place, point to the self-enclosure of the 
rational, as it has long since been known, by the statement of its 
formal principles (the principle of contradiction, of the excluded 
middle, of the sufficient reason, of the invalidity of tautologies and 
circles). As a philosophically essential kind of knowledge, philo- 
sophical logic is interested in the insoluble problems which turn 
up within the rational itself: in the possibility of necessary foun- 
dering of rationality on itself, if it places its confidence in itself 
alone, absolutizes itself, comes in contact with infinity. 

Philosophical logic must demonstrate, moreover, how the in- 
sufficiency of the rational for grasping the fundamental philosophi- 
cal questions leads to the point of disclosing a type of thinking 
which violates the principles of the rational, moves in contradic- 
tions, tautologies, and circles not, however, in order to violate 
them arbitrarily or at will, but out of another type of order which 
becomes methodically transparent. 

Universal communicability in such anti-logical and a-logical 
forms is not possible in the same fashion as it is in the forms of 
the sciences. The philosophical content which desires to communi- 
cate itself in such operations is dependent upon being met by 
others. Whereas scientific knowledge is achieved by perception in 
the forms of rationality open to everyone, the achievement of 
philosophical thoughts is given in historical reality and in the 
possibility of the Existenz of one's fellowman. Propositions and 
sentence-sequences, which for the one remain always just so much 
empty, "object-less" talk, are for the other the medium of the 
presence of profoundest truth. 

Philosophical logic can bring all of this to consciousness, with- 
out bringing it to acceptance as cogently certain. In this realm it 
only opens possibilities which may appear sensible or senseless 
to the listener. 

5. Philosophical thinking brings about a break-through through 
rationality, which latter would like to raise itself to an absolute; 
but the break-through itself is accomplished by rational means. 
Philosophical thinking goes beyond the intellect without losing 
the intellect. The medium of thinking reached thereby has, since 
time immemorial, been called reason in contradistinction to in- 

The break-through itself must not again be made into a new 
conclusion in an objectified structure which, so to speak, as a 
tremendous circle of circles, again captures in knowledge what 


can, after all, be presented in totality only as something uncap- 
tured. The purity of metaphysics becomes methodically possible 
only by discarding all objective knowledge supposedly grasped by 
it; it can move without deceiving.* 

These hints must suffice here. Work on these tasks has wondrous 
consequences. One is moved by the power of the matter, which 
in the objective sense, vanishes at the same time. In the formal 
ascertainment already there develops a calm in the openness for 
the pure confrontation with Being which speaks to us in all modes 
of the Encompassing. 

For working out the Philosophical Logic 1 devised a scheme for 

The foundation (Volume I) was to illumine the meaning of 
truth from all sides. The widest realm of the potential was to be 
trodden, arranged in realms of different origin, all referring to the 
One which nowhere is to be grasped as such, the one Center, the 
one All-Encompassing. 

In the thus achieved realm there was to be executed the entire 
range of the categories (Volume II) by means of which thinking 
proceeds, as well as the methods (Volume III) , by which the 
thought-operations are in motion carried out: all of these were to 
be shown in their principles and to be developed to an indeter- 
minate limit. On the strength of the Encompassing, which leads 
the way, the technique of the thought-forms and thought-move- 
ments was to become known and thereby to become recognizable 
again in factual thinking. 

Finally, it was my intention to show the world of the factual 
sciences as well as of factual philosophy in their fundamental forms 
and transformations: in a theory of the sciences (Volume IV) . 

Only the first volume, Von der Wahrheit, is finished. In 1945, 
in the joy of the beginning of a new life, I gave it into print. The 
theory of the categories and the theory of methods though 
sketched in broad areas are far from ready for the press and 
are, for the moment, discontinued, in the hope to find time for 
them sometime in the future. The theory of the sciences has not 
yet really been begun. Only scattered notes indicate a start. 


When I began to philosophize, it never occurred to me that I 
could ever become interested in theology. When I lectured on the 
psychology of religion (1916) , it is true, I came also upon theolo- 
gy and, for my information, even studied a dogmatics by Marten- 


sen (especially because he was the great opponent of Kierkegaard) , 
but without any (real) participation on my part. 

In my childhood I had little connection with ecclesiastical reli- 
gion. In school there was religious instruction, Biblical history, 
catechism, and church history. Involuntarily ideas were deposited 
in the mind of the child which, although without particular mo- 
mentary effect, were nevertheless not forgotten. When it was time 
for confirmation, this took place as something which was part of 
the mores, without religious emphasis, with a holiday which 
brought purely worldly presents. The instruction given to those 
to be confirmed was a joke to us and ridiculous (the pastor gave 
the geography of hell, told with grotesque phantasy that the Pope 
goes daily into the Castle of Angels in order to touch the heaped- 
up gold, asserted that the fact that the stars did not collide proved 
God's guidance, that we would be saved by the fact that Christ 
was nailed to the cross, etc.). My parents ignored the ecclesiastical 
world. I characterize the atmosphere here: 

In my last year in the Gymnasium confirmation was already 
a few years behind me I came upon the idea that, for the sake 
of veracity, I would have to leave the church. When I disclosed 
my intention to my father, he said something like this: My boy, 
you may, of course, do as you please. But, in your own mind you 
are not yet clear about what you mean to do. You are not alone 
in the world. Co-responsibility requires that the individual should 
not simply go his own way. We can only live together with our 
fellowmen, if we conform to the regulations. Religion is one of 
the regulative forces. If we destroy it, unforeseeable evil will break 
through. That much lying is connected with the church as, indeed, 
with all human institutions, in this I agree with you. The situa- 
tion will be different, perhaps, once you are seventy years of age. 
Before death, when we are no longer active in the world, we may 
clear the deck by leaving the church. 

When my father was past seventy he did, indeed, leave the 
church. In the respective office he asked that the matter be treated 
confidentially. After a few days the pastor came. My father: "Rev- 
erend Sir, it would be better for both of us, if we did not discuss 
the matter. My reasons might offend you. My decision is final." 
The minister kept insisting. Thereupon my father: "I am old and, 
before my death, arrange my affairs. What the church teaches and 
does I have rarely approved. Just one example: A few years ago 
a young man committed suicide. The church publicized a con- 
demnation of suicide, a clergyman refused to conduct the funeral. 
I thought: what empowers the church to such condemnation? And 


how can you, unable to reach the dead any longer, so torture his 
relatives! You, Reverend Sir, will understand why I did not wish 
my leaving the church to become unnecessarily public. It will 
mean nothing to others." To us my father said he had heard so 
much tactlessness on the part of clergymen at graves that, at his 
own burial, he wanted to spare his relatives that sort of thing. 

When my father lay dying, in his goth year, and was taking 
leave, he opined to his pious woman physician, who had been 
close to him: Faith, love, hope, it says of faith I do not think 

Even after the first world-war I had still no interest in theology. 
Insofar as it was not a matter of scientific historical research, which 
as such might very well belong to the philosophical faculty, theolo- 
gy appeared to me so brittle that it might very well interest me 
as a symptom of the age, but not as such. And yet, to pay no at- 
tention to theology proved, in the long run, to be impossible. Its 
factuality made itself noticeable everywhere. One day I actually 
became conscious of the fact that I was talking about matters 
which theology claimed for itself. After a lecture-course in meta- 
physics (1927/28) at the end of the semester a Catholic priest 
came to me in order to express his gratitude as one of my hearers 
and to express his agreement: "I have only one objection to offer, 
that most of what you have lectured on is, according to our point 
of view, theology." These words of the intelligent and impressive 
young man took me aback. It was obvious: I was discussing mat- 
ters as a non-theologian which others considered to be theolo- 
gy; yet I was philosophizing. This had to be clarified. 

The reality of the church and of theology dare not be neglected 
in philosophizing. We do our thinking from an independent basis 
which the churches do not recognize and which as such has no 
connection with the churches. The consciousness of the independ- 
ent power of philosophy, down through the millenia, long before 
as well as outside of Christianity, became constantly more decisive 
for me. I do not take my stand against the church and theology 
as enlightener in order to negate them, but as the servant of that 
great independent truth. True, I wanted to be a member of a 
congregation corresponding to my historical heritage in view of 
the great regulative forces of the Occident. However, I had to 
assert the life-giving meaning of philosophy, which cannot be 
forced upon anyone nor be pronounced as universally valid, but 
which should show itself to everyone who is born to it and who 
seeks it with a pure mind. 

First of all, then, in my lectures on history of philosophy, the- 


ology was touched upon as unavoidable. But afterwards I came to 
speak of something with which I had not grown up, but to which 
I came only in the process of philosophizing later on, with the 
astonishment, deep emotion and respect which this tremendous 
phenomenon extorts the more closely one comes to know it. 
Throughout I lacked and therefore never had to get over any 
specific ecclesiastical confessional faith. If Kierkegaard, to the 
query, why he believed, replied: "Because my father told me to," 
then my father told me something quite different. Only quite late 
did I become entirely conscious of philosophical faith. No one 
taught me to pray. But my parents reared us strictly in reverence 
of the leading ideas of truthfulness and fidelity, in constantly 
meaningful activity, in free turning to the magnificence of nature 
and to the contents of spiritual creations. They allowed us to grow 
up in a full world. 

When, at the age of 18, I began my studies, I attended philo- 
sophical lectures. I was disappointed, because I did not find any- 
thing like what the ground had been laid for in my parental home. 
With the greatest respect for the far-away philosophy, which had 
become perceptible to me in Spinoza and which yet I did not 
know, not permitting that philosophy should be confounded with 
these mere theories of the (lecture-) desk, I turned to reality in 
the study of medicine. When, step by step, I then came to philoso- 
phy, so to speak returned to it, and finally to theology even 
though I may have touched it only from the outside , it is pos- 
sible that this made possible for me a freshness of conception pre- 
cisely because I was not from the beginning a part of it. I lacked 
the self-evident ground which seemed to carry the others. It is 
another, for my consciousness deeper, foundation from which I 
came to the traditions of the historical foundation of the Occident. 

A mighty impulse to the question concerning faith came to me 
from my wife. Quite early, and without any actual break and in 
substantial fidelity to her heritage, she had transformed the ortho- 
dox Jewish faith in herself into Biblically grounded philosophiz- 
ing. Her life was permeated by religious reverence. Wherever she 
met with the religious, she had respect. Since Gertrude has come 
to us, my father said once, Christmas becomes each year more 
Christian. This life without dogma and without law, from child- 
hood on touched by the breath of the Jewish prophets, was guided 
by an unshakable moral unconditionally. I felt myself wondrous- 
ly related to her and became encouraged to bring into the focus 
of consciousness what, under the veil of the intellect had been, it 
is true, effective but hidden. 


The growth of philosophy into an original power of faith, not 
merely for one's self (where it had always been self-evident), but 
for the public teaching of philosophy, did not always seem proper 
to me. An exorbitant claim, which is not represented by any com- 
munity. To the "Recontres Internationales" the conversations on 
humanism in Geneva in 1949, representatives of Communism, of 
Catholic and Protestant Theology, and of philosophy had been in- 
vited. I experienced that all those others could speak as representa- 
tives of mighty sociological powers standing behind them, from 
which they derived their basis as well as their self-assurance; 
whereas a representative of philosophy has nothing behind him 
aside from an intellectually, it is true, uniquely magnificent but 
sociologically not at all existing history of philosophy. While I 
had to stand there, so to speak, all alone, the question which I 
had long ago felt became mighty real: Are we representatives of 
philosophy, in our helpless weakness, not doing something ab- 
surd, something illusory, while all the time we are so clearly 

The self-consciousness in this situation rehabilitates itself, first, 
by pertinent reflection on the principles of philosophy, and, sec- 
ondly, by bringing back into our consciousness the university as 
the institution of independent philosophical truth. 

First: From an early age there never was anything in my mood 
of the type which sees philosophy as a science which, arched over 
by ecclesiastical faith, led and limited by such faith, becomes ex- 
panded by it into the world of faith which transcends all science. 
Just as little was there ever in me the mood only seemingly 
contradictory to the former which sees in philosophy a "scien- 
tific Weltanschauung." For both, for philosophy as the praeambu- 
la fidei and as scientific Weltanschauung, philosophy is a kind of 
knowing in the sense of the learning of universally valid facts, 
something which, like other sciences, is a matter for investigation 
and research. 

Increasingly full of content, increasingly real, genuine philoso- 
phy showed itself to me, philosophy which has gone through the 
millenia and which, at its high points Plato and Kant was con- 
scious of itself in just this sense. The essence in it are the philo- 
sophical thoughts in the meaning of their own origin, undeducible 
from anything else. They are forces of life-realization. Nowhere 
does philosophy render results as means for the planned making 
of the world. But it does bring the basis of consciousness into clear 
focus, which alone gives limit and meaning to the results of science 
and the possibilities of planned creativity. 


The composing of philosophizing in written works always seeks 
the communication for the philosophical faith in the historical 
form of its author, who thinks of it in its relationship to tradition. 
In this kind of communication indirectness cannot be overcome 
in contrast to the directness in all the sciences. It succeeds aided 
by the will for maximal directness, is lost in that total directness 
in which the object becomes absolute and therewith philosophical- 
ly empty. The indirect communication of Kierkegaard, though as 
intent rejected by us, has, as methodical consciousness, neverthe- 
less brought to clarity this inescapability of philosophical com- 

Secondly: The self-consciousness of philosophy was won back 
for me as the purpose and idea of the university. In its modern 
form this institution is the transformation of theologically guided 
knowledge into an independent will to knowledge, which has its 
meaning not in the domination of any specific philosophy, but in 
the living permeation of the whole by philosophizing. 

The university as such is no longer Christian and still less sec- 
tarian. It would not lose its significance, it would rather enlarge 
it, if the theological department had several sections, which would 
teach the Biblical (Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish) and the 
Buddhist forms of faith through faithful believers. 

The guidance of the discerning person by way of faith can be 
effected either by the theologically communicating religions in 
their respective historical forms, or else, with a view to those 
other, alien, orthodoxy-bound possibilities, it can take place as 
original philosophizing. The polarity, religion philosophy, be- 
longs to the university. 

What, as philosophy, stands as complementary to, not necessar- 
ily opposing, religion, is, for the majority of students, at the same 
time the potential justification of their life. Today one must reck- 
on with the great mass of ecclesiastically non-believing youth. 
Whether one deplores this or not, for this youth philosophy is 
the only possible illumination of their faith and (the only way 
of) thinking, in which this youth can become conscious of its 
unconditionally recognized ties. 

This philosophical guidance may be clarified. It has a character 
very different from that of the dogmatic theologies. In philosophy 
the following applies: everyone is referred to himself; there are 
no such things as human guides analogous to the priest; doctrine 
furnishes impulse, but offers no certainty; there are no holy 
writings, but only the great philosophical tradition of millenia in 
the Occident, in India and China. 


Science in the narrower sense is for philosophy as for theology 
a means and a field. But its relation to philosophy is closer. For, 
only philosophy understands and desires the unlimited and many- 
sided sciences. Philosophy has always been ready to justify and 
protect modern science against anti-scientific forces. 

To be sure, philosophy has often misunderstood itself and 
identified itself with modern science, or through the centuries, 
has claimed to be "another science/' To bring it out of this lapse 
and back to itself, to purify and clarify it, is a present task. 

The philosopher is not a prophet. He does not set himself up 
as a model. But he does represent the being-human even in its 
often faulty aspects. He wants to remind, hand down, conjure, 
appeal. He makes no claim to discipleship; but, if successful, pro- 
vides the occasion for the other's coming to himself. He is not in 
possession of truth, but, within time, he lives in the earnestness 
of the search (for truth) . 

The philosophical university is the realm of cognition which 
knows no limits in its endeavor. Out of a multiplicity of faith 
there meet in it the various presuppositions of thinking in mu- 
tual observation: in order to question and to doubt each other. 
At the base there is an encompassing faith, which no one can call 
his own in any definite form: faith in the way of truth, on which 
all can meet each other who search sincerely. They remain open 
in their thinking; they do not isolate themselves. Other forms of 
faith are not excluded; to do so is held to be the distinguishing 
mark of untrue faith. This realm of the university contains every 
possibility of specialized scientific research. Its spiritual life, over- 
arching and penetrating, goes on in the tension between theology 
and philosophy. 

Since my Philosophie (1931) I have publicly advocated philo- 
sophic faith as the meaning of the philosophic doctrine. In the 
book, Der Philosophische Glaube [inaccurately translated in the 
English edition as The Perennial Scope of Philosophy, Ed.] 
(1947), I have formulated it explicitly. 


Since 1922, I have given lectures on the history of philosophy, 
without any over-all program and without any specific plan of the 
order in which I wanted to take up the various periods or report 
on the great thinkers. Consequently I have lectured on: Modern 
Philosophy. From Kant to the present. Kant and Kierkegaard. 
Nietzsche. From Augustine to Thomas. From Thomas to Luther. 


Greek Philosophy. Plato. Chinese Philosophy. Indian Philosophy 
(the latter two only after 1945) . I published some specific histori- 
cal works: Nietzsche (1936). Descartes (1937). History was im- 
portant to me as an appropriation for the sake of philosophizing, 
not for its own sake. 

As a result of the terrors of National-Socialism and the experi- 
ence of being excluded within one's own state, my historical in- 
terest underwent a transformation. Philosophical logic was by no 
means my only work at that time. Since 1937 I have acquired new 
information about the world by reading. Spiritually I gladly tar- 
ried in China, feeling there a common origin of being-human as 
over against the barbarism of my own surroundings. I turned in 
loving admiration toward Chinese humaneness. Of evenings my 
wife used to read to me in those years, according to our mood, 
Shakespeare and Aeschylus, as well as books on English history 
and Chinese novels. 

A much more rigid examination of minds set in for the entire 
Occidental history. The question arose, in which sense they were 
the creators and protectors of the spirit which was able to resist 
terror, and in which sense they actually became the guideposts 
towards making such terror possible. Discriminating the truly 
great, the indispensable and essential had been close to my heart 
throughout my life. Now this inclination to greatness achieved 
an intensification with a much clearer view. 

At the same time, however, my interest was in humanity as a 
whole, where the foundation as well as the standard was to become 
perceptible in order to hold its own in today's world. Totalitari- 
anism meant the most radical rupture of communication from 
person to person and therewith, at the same time, the end of man's 
being himself. It became clear that the rupture of communication 
in favor of violent wilfulness is always not merely a threat to per- 
sonal existence and the real danger of losing oneself, but that this 
alternative finds its expression in the great powers of history. 

As over against that, to philosophize means: we are working on 
the presuppositions for the possibility of universal communica- 
tion. We must clearly elucidate these presuppositions. That in 
which men are able to find themselves is, on the one hand, what 
is indeed elaborated in philosophical logic, but which is already 
realized in every genuine conversation. On the other hand, it is 
the knowledge of a common history, which concerns all of us recip- 
rocally. The realization of a world history of philosophy can 
today become the framework for universal communication. It is 
the presupposition for a maximal illumination of self-conscious- 


ness in the discussion with one's fellowman, both in what concerns 
me as well as in the detachment of reflection. * 

As soon as this is understood the desire to achieve a conscious 
view of the totality of the philosophy of mankind becomes urgent. 
We human beings on this globe share a great spiritual history. But 
this is not, in the first instance, based on factual community. 
Rather, the mutual contacts in history up till now have been 
transitory or failed entirely. Isolated developments, side by side, 
forgetting one's own past this was frequent, both in world his- 
tory at large as within any specific limited history. There was no 
factual continuity of the whole, only partial continuity. To in- 
crease communication and continuity, this is the great human 
concern, especially in philosophy, which latter is response to as 
well as preparation for life. 

In 1937 I conceived the design of a world history of philosophy, 
which was to be promoted alongside of and together with the phil- 
osophical logic. It was, it is true, clear to me that an undertaking 
of such dimensions is impossible for a single mind, if the entire 
material was to be historically known and treated. But the neces- 
sity for this task was just as clear to me. Because the conception of 
its entire history is indispensable for philosophizing itself and can 
be performed only by a single mind, the impossible will have to 
be attempted. 

In contradistinction to the great encyclopedias as collections of 
materials, which are achieved by the teamwork of many and which 
certainly are indispensable and meritorious, an over-all view, 
attempted by the philosophizing of a single person, must set its 
task quite differently: not to know everything, not to give com- 
pleteness of material, but a concise description of the fundamental 
modes of the historical conception, constantly illustrated by sig- 
nificant examples; to arouse the mind to a sense of historical 
wholeness, of hierarchical order and of greatness, and of the few 
singularly great men; to find orientation in what is essential in 
a given period, in a given problem, in the forces that effect the 
thinking; to gain intuitive insight into the great historical in- 
dependent origins in China, India, in Asia Minor and in the Occi- 
dent; to make perceptible the historical itself in distinction from 
the abstractly universal. 

The work on the world history of philosophy, with which I am 
at present occupied, intensified the consciousness which, since my 
occupation with Chinese philosophy in the 'thirties, had become 
self-evident, but which formulated itself only later: we are on the 
road from the evening-glow of European philosophy to the dawn 


of world philosophy. On this road all of us individuals will be left. 
But it will go on into a future which, in addition to the most 
terrible, also shows the brightest possibilities. 


If I look upon my whole spiritual development, I seem to see 
something which has remained the same from my childhood on. 
The basic disposition of youth has clarified itself in the course of 
life, enriched in content by knowledge of the world; but there 
have never taken place any changes of conviction, no breaks, no 
crisis, no regeneration. The only great turning-point in my life 
was the union which my wife and I concluded with each other. In 
this union what had been there before was not merely strength- 
ened but infinitely expanded. I lived out of the heritage of the 
parental home. With all later insight I could always let the light 
fall there in order to bring it to full consciousness. 

Another turning-point in our life came by way of the trans- 
formation of our sense of existence by the continuous threat on 
the part of the National-Socialist criminal-state, which could make 
our personal future appear as hopeless. To whomever his life in 
the course of events appears as already forfeited and lost, to him 
it is, after survival of the danger, as if it had been granted to him 
once again. But no world catastrophe was able to touch or recast 
the innermost. With renewed shocks it only brought new verifi- 
cation and new examples in which what already was became clear. 

What this is, I can say only through the totality of my writings. 
In how far the foundation lies in the conceivable experiences of 
childhood, this cannot be estimated: in having to stand outside 
already as a pupil; in the illness, which denied most of the natural, 
blossoming life; in the happy presence of a reasonably thinking 
family, permeated by love and reliability; in the trusting life- 
affirmation of the parents; in the community of attitude shared 
with the beloved sister, which held true throughout a long life; in 
the conservative-liberal, oppositional attitude of the families on 
both sides of the house, which inclined towards democracy by way 
of aristocracy. 

a. I shall sketch two major interests in my writings: 
The essence of man becomes conscious of itself only in ultimate 
situations. For this reason, even from the days of my youth, I tried 
not to veil the most extreme from myself. This was one of the mo- 
tives which caused me to choose medicine and psychiatry: to come 


to know the limits of human potentialities, to grasp the signifi- 
cance of what in public is readily veiled and unnoticed. 

As far as I can think back I was moved by the experience of 
understanding and of failure to understand one's fellowmen. Even 
as a pupil I suffered when, after a quarrel, a good mood was sup- 
posed to be reconstituted by way of conventional friendliness. I 
was the impetuous, struggling one, because I drove towards clari- 
ty. If the clarification was forbidden by, say, the authority of a 
teacher, and the matter ended by a word of command, I felt tor- 
mented. However, I wanted still more: in spite of beloved parents 
and sister, in spite of friends, I was consumed by a yearning for a 
kind of communication which would go beyond every kind of 
misunderstanding, beyond everything temporary, beyond every 
boundary of the all too self-evident. Man comes to himself only 
together with the other man, never by mere knowledge alone. We 
become our selves only to the degree to which the other one be- 
comes himself, become free only in so far as the other one becomes 
free. For this reason, the problem of communication between man 
and man was for me first of all the practical (from the time I went 
to school) , and later on, the philosophically thought-out funda- 
mental question of our life. In the final analysis all thoughts could 
be judged by this touchstone question, do they aid or hinder com- 
munication. Truth itself could be measured by this standard: 
truth is what really unites us, and under this claim: to measure 
the kind of truth on the truth of the union which becomes possi- 
ble through it. Only with the beloved wife did I come upon the 
path of the loving struggle, upon the path of life-long, never com- 
pleted, unreserved and therefore inexhaustible communication. 

In both of these directions (of the experience of ultimate situa- 
tions and of the illumination of communication) I have reached 
no end. 

b. The consciousness of being on the road and of achieving 
any success in our temporal existence only in the form of incom- 
pletion and of the new "further," brought me by the good for- 
tune of professorial existence, which assures unlimited freedom of 
work to the study of the great dead (over a period of many 
years) . Systematically I proceeded to appropriate the tradition 
wherever I thought to understand something. Antiquity and 
Bible mediated to the child, but for many years held in the 
background were only now consciously taken seriously as the 
foundation of our Occidental historical life, not as authorities, but 
as the task to listen to them and to translate them into the present. 

From very early my longing went towards greatness. I felt rev- 


erence for great men and for great philosophers, who are irrecov- 
erable for all of us, from whom we get our standards and whom 
we yet do not deify. For, each man is supposed to become himself 
even as over against the greatest. Authority is true, but not abso- 
lute. Defiance of the great is pernicious untruth; whereas in- 
pendent patient experience in study is the true form of appropria- 

The first among the philosophers who lent me wings was Spi- 
noza. At the university I read Fechner, Wundt and Schopenhauer 
occasionally, but did not yet understand Kant. The significance of 
these authors for my thinking was small. I had immersed myself 
completely in the sciences. 

When, at the age of 24, 1 came to know my wife, she directed me 
to Plato. We read parts of a few dialogues together. In so far as 
time and strength permitted, I then began to study Kant in occa- 
sional seminars alongside my psychiatric work. I understood his 
Theory of Ideas (Ideenlehre). I got to know Aristotle and Descar- 
tes a little. 

During World- War I we studied Plotinus more thoroughly, but 
above all there was the illumination through Kierkegaard. To 
Kierkegaard I owe the concept of Existenz, which, since 1916, has 
become standard for me in order to understand that for which I 
had, until then, exerted myself uneasily. But of equal power was 
the concept and claim of reason, which, through Kant, now be- 
came constantly clearer. 

I sought the grandeur of thinking in philosophy. The fluent 
levelling in textbooks and lectures was unbearable. I developed a 
conscience against the confusion of ranks. The philosophical au- 
thors whom I had read as a student turned out to be unimportant. 
There was a real connection between the rank of a philosopher 
and the truth of his thought. Their truth could not be got in the 
form of results and doctrines. 

c. In my own philosophical work I had meant to proceed on 
the path I had felt in my youth and which I had now seen more 
clearly, the path which had been trod through millenia by at least 
a few: the path of a fundamental knowledge of man, which makes 
room for all possibilities and is able to unite men despite the man- 
ifoldness of their faith and of their life. 

I desired that kind of philosophizing which can be accessible 
and convincing to man as man; not, however, as the esoteric affair 
of a few aristocrats. Rather, I would like, so to say, speak as a man- 
on-the-street to the man-on-the street. Not as if everyone, just be- 
cause he happens to be a certain way, could derive therefrom an 


absolute claim to be the way he supposedly is. But because to 
everyone is given the possibility, by reverent gaze upon the great, 
to come to himself under the unconditional guidance of love and 
reason within the framework of eternal order. 

d. Desirable to me was the common thought, which is not the 
one universally valid knowledge, but the making possible of com- 
munication; a Koivrj, which is not a watering down, but the con- 
sciously approached realm in which we all can meet each other. 

I sought this realm, in which the true contents become audible 
as truths even when they confront each other in opposition. I 
sought those contents even where I am not participating in them 
in my own reality. This kind of philosophizing was to make possi- 
ble every free absorption of those contents; but it was also to 
result in the recognition that no man is everything, not even the 
greatest, and that I, when I become decisively real and know 
where I stand, am the more decisively in need of others. 

Yet, from an early age I confronted the boundary which denies 
this harmony in reality: total demolition of communication, abso- 
lute self-will, evil. A philosophy which sees in this world, in the 
reality of the given present, everything basically in good order, 
appeared to be plainly untrue. 

True enough, in philosophizing I too am searching for the point 
where all opposites are extinguished. But, inasmuch as I am not 
there but here, what I thus think must show itself in its conse- 
quences for my life and conduct in this world. In it I must know 
where I stand. In brief: the world as a whole cannot be under- 
stood as rational, but I can decide in it, side with reason. 

What I wanted to realize in philosophizing, therefore, is what 
in connection with the word "reason" recapturing its meaning 
from Kant and Lessing , I have thoroughly discussed. The One 
which is intended may be circumscribed by some such formulas 
among others, as these: the will to reason out of reason, which 
nevertheless must steadily be borne by another, namely by Exist- 
em; the consciousness of origins which themselves cannot be 
proven; the basic will to let one's self be filled in action by the 
genuinely given present through which eternity speaks; etc. 
This kind of reason gives itself an objectification in the existence 
of an historical reality and in thinking its order. 

e. To know where one stands and what one wants causes one 
to look upon one's own age within the horizon of history. My re- 
flections as a student, to the effect that, for the duration of our life, 
things would remain as they then were, meant not to be concerned 
with one's age. It was only of incidental interest. Life did not have 


meaning primarily for this particular age. The meaning was time- 
less. Only since the eruption of the war of 1914 did what happens 
today, what the age is, become a permanent question for me too. 
What got at me, what I participated in, this, from now on, I re- 
flected upon and judged according to its motives and consequences 
in this age. 

It would be in vain to want to understand one's age first in 
order to find out thereby what correspondingly would be the task 
of philosophy. One cannot figure out what the age demands, what 
the age is, and then proceed systematically to do justice to that de- 
mand. Every man, by originally living as he is, is already a moment 
of his age. But, in retrospect one may become conscious of the situ- 
ation in one's own age and examine critically in which sense one 
has appropriately thought of this situation as one sees it now, and 
what one really wants in this age. Even then, however, the mean- 
ing of philosophizing remains something which surpasses every 
age and all time. 

Looking upon history one seems able to distinguish periods of 
originality, of classical perfection, of crisis, as well as periods of 
preparation and periods of preservation. It is only one viewpoint 
which permits such distinctions. If one entrusts himself to it for a 
moment, our own age may offer the following aspect: 

This is not the, age of the great unique works, like those of 
Laotse, of the pre-Socratics, of a few Platonic dialogues, of a few 
Bible-texts. The age is more nearly analogous to the world philos- 
ophy of late antiquity, to the type of thinking of the Stoics, of Plo- 
tinus, of Boethius, a type of thinking which was common in large 

The intent of creating complete works seems in vain today. In 
opposition to indolence, to watering down, to chaos, the tempta- 
tion today is instead of finding and realizing life out of its ori- 
gin to create disciplined works of art in poetry, in philosophy, 
and in art, works which actually possess a peculiar sort of finish, 
through which there speaks a discipline, a finding of simplicity, a 
seamless construction, a well-developed language but which be- 
come questionable in view of their claim to the independence of 
a mere work. The resistance to the formlessness of present-day 
nullities is good; good, therefore, is also what happens here, be- 
cause it reminds and warns. But it becomes false whenever the in- 
tent of this sort of thing wants to place itself alongside the intent 
of the great old masterpieces or whenever there occurs in the con- 
tents an artificial, insincere and in one's own life not realized ful- 

Todav the wav to truth seems to be another one. The new for 


philosophizing (today) is the unique reality of modern science, 
together with its misconception of itself in an absolute technic and 
the consequences of both for our entire existence. Every philo- 
sophical effort today, which by-passes or rejects this reality, which 
does not allow it to become the cornerstone in the structure of 
encompassing basic knowledge, comes off the loser and becomes 
untrue. The cheap and untrue accusation of science and of technic 
is of no help. Of no help is the recipe which suggests that the de- 
fective can be brought in order by recourse to an over-all plan 
(while the energy of thinking meaningfully labors on plans and 
on the delimitation of the plans for the difficult tasks of the exist- 
ing order of our age) . Nor is it of any help to turn the gaze aside 
upon a supposedly envisioned metaphysical total process, which, 
in the false consciousness of a (supposed) necessity, paralyzes fac- 
tual cognition as well as effective action. The great metaphysicians 
of the past furnish us irreplaceable means of thought, but not in 
such fashion that, in penetrating the present situation, we could 
apply them as a cure. The most marvellous philosophy may seduce 
to evasion. / 

f. In all science, however, there remains, in the nature of the 
case, the old philosophical task: from greatest universality to ar- 
rive at the simple, fundamental knowledge on which the com- 
munal spirit of a period rests. 

If an unfriendly observer were to view the totality of my writ- 
ings, he could say contemptuously: All-knower. Whereas, if a phil- 
osophically thinking person views them, he will recognize the 
nature of the case: namely, the necessity of having to become uni- 
versal in philosophizing. 

This universality is precisely not the way to the impossible 
know-it-all, but to the all-uniting, relating basic knowledge, 
which, as an encompassing consciousness, would like to make it- 
self philosophically communicable. 

The breaking down of human affairs into departments is in- 
human only when the individual sees everything from his own 
specialty, from his own point of view. It is human to live in the 
consciousness of the encompassing Totality by working his own 
field in his profession in such fashion that it can become like an 
echo of the Totality. Everyone must prove himself in his own spe- 
cialty, but no one needs to waive the encompassing consciousness. 
This is something surpassing, which yet cannot realize itself in an 
imaginary realm above all, but always only in the form of persons. 
Philosophizing stands against the decay of the real spirit, against 
the dissipation of men. It demands concentration. 

It is perhaps foolhardy to set one's self the task to work on this 


all-encompassing arid concentrating consciousness as a communi- 
cable one. It is not likely that anyone who has not himself been 
active as a specialist will do it successfully. The history of philoso- 
phy shows this specialization on the part of most of the modern 
great philosophers. But then there is this, for the individual dan- 
gerous leap of stepping out of one's specialty into the encompass- 
ing totality, not merely as everyone is supposed to do it, but with 
the intention of co-operating on the encompassing consciosuness 
by communicable work in the profession of philosophizing. Now 
this leap demands indeed a participation in every possible intel- 
lectu?tf endeavor and in the understanding of all realities, and 
therefore does tend to seduce one upon the confusing path of 

But philosophy proves itself precisely by not letting itself be 
pushed into any 'knowing-it-all/ by not permitting itself to be cap- 
tivated by all the interesting items which lie on the side of the 
road; but rather to stop the very moment that the fundamental 
that which unites everything with the encompassing general con- 
sciousness seems to have become clear. 

The philosopher ventures upon something which advances only 
with the few great men of original genius, an advance which in 
each instance is marked by their name. We others, throughout all 
ages, labor on the realization, the appropriation, the expansion of 
what has been created, and do so in each respective world-reality 
and world-orientation. This work is necessary; it wants that to be- 
come universally human which, in the great ones, has a hidden- 
ness difficult of approach. 

It is a fundamental demand of being human that each individ- 
ual participate understandingly in the totality of life, while, in his 
profession, he achieves excellence by way of his specialization. If 
all were only specialists, humanity would be delivered up as prey 
to him who, by violence, forces this entire mass under his will. He 
can do this only if the specialist does not know, with heart and 
head, upon what everything depends and upon which even his 
specialization in its development is ultimately dependent. 

Philosophy has been called the specialty of the general. That is 
a paradox. But philosophy has to work with those forms of knowl- 
edge in which what is essential for the apprehension of things can 
become the mode of thought of everyone. In that case the con- 
sciousness of the world and of Transcendence, the freedom of 
being one's self, a universal consciousness would all realize them- 
selves as the spirit of the public, in simplicity, in truth and in depth. 

Once upon a time the Occident constituted this public con- 


sciousness. Today it is dominated by a sense of the decline of this 
consciousness into shallowness and into an aggregate of unrelated 
performances. What is demanded is a "synthesis' 1 of knowledge; 
but sensibly one does not mean by this an encyclopedic digest of 
the results of all sciences, but the kind of basic knowledge which 
carries and permeates all sciences and all practical thinking. 

It seems to me that those men who, having come from special- 
ization, venture to work thoughtfully on such basic knowledge, 
are summoned to concern themselves with everything which is 
essential in human existence. Whether, by doing so, they produce 
something which serves the public mind, or scatter themseltes in 
multiplicity, this should not in advance be decided by prejudice. 
One should observe whether, in thinking along with others, one 
feels that it is worth while. Let it happen. Do not reject our type 
of labor as an impossibility. Let's not make a program from the 
outside for what is here to be accomplished. Let's at the very least 
listen to the great philosophers of the past and let us, by our pres- 
ent philosophizing, facilitate and deepen our understanding of 

g. It is improbable that, for the basic knowledge which unites 
itself into our world, we shall already be able to find the systematic 
which, as a whole, could last. Rather, the following should be con- 

A system which closes itself has become nonsense. There can be 
systematic only: 

If, in the unfolding of thoughts, in bringing the scattered to- 
gether, there is a growing satisfaction in the consciousness of agree- 
ment in such a way that new observations operate like confirma- 
tions or like the occurrence of what was still missing, then such an 
experience may have many different meanings. 

Such designs, as for example, that of a world-vision, may appear 
like a delusional system of the mentally ill. But if the system, pre- 
cisely thought through, stands before one's eyes like a revelation 
of the way things really are, the anxiety which consumed the patient 

Or, such designs are merely an ascertainment of the present giv- 
enness of one's own thinking, of its possibilities and limits, of its 
forms and of the worlds open to it. Thus it was in grand style in 
Kant. He had delimited his task to the self-assurance of reason. 
How, in the process of his methodical illumination, he is led to 
new points and how everything fits together in its totality pre- 
cisely confirms everything specific and each specific is compre- 
hended as belonging to the whole this became for him the great 


philosophic calm. True, he did not know what the world, God, or 
immortality are; but he did know how these were to be thought, 
which origins, what meaning and what significance these thoughts 

Perhaps I have experienced something of this Kantian joy, even 
if much more restrained. The potentialities of the systematic of 
reason within the modes of the Encompassing, in which we are 
and in which we find ourselves, this too has remained in suspense 
and unfinishable for me. But the systematic, which became a mul- 
tiple one, in its peculiar ways has brought together what was scat- 
tered, has seen in relationships what was isolated. There arose the 
form of a type of philosophical thinking rich in relationships, in 
which the one is supplemented and proved by the other, without 
rounding itself out unequivocally as a thought-form in the system; 
but in such fashion that each systematic remained in an encom- 
passing realm which, in its totality unperceivable, was in the proc- 
ess of transcending, touched but not paced. 

Already in my Psychopathologic this kind of systematic was pres- 
ent, viz., the organization according to methods of research. In my 
Philosophic there are, correspondingly, the methods of transcend- 
ing in world-orientation, illumination otExistenz and metaphysics, 
in Von der Wahrheit the modes of the Encompassing, in which we 
are and which we are ourselves. The meaning of the One unites 
with the manifoldness of the figures of thought. The clarity of the 
differentiations points to a foundation and to a goal, where the 
differentiations are surpassed and lose their absoluteness. 

The unity of my thinking, if it exists, consists in its reference to 
the simple, encompassing basic knowledge, which, nonetheless, can 
find no final form, and in the fundamental will to communication. 
Yet there is in my work no such thing as a comprehensive unity of 
the whole, but a series of unities in an open field, which in the in- 
finite One has both center and circumference; and, although our 
thinking can reach neither, it is true to the degree that it refers to 
them and is illuminated by them. 

h. A philosophical work is also characterized by its mode of 
writing. Writing essays in school cost me effort. I was reproached 
for heavy-handed writing, fussiness, and writing at too great length. 
A classmate once consoled me: You may have no flourish of abun- 
dant words, but you are, on occasion, at least serious in what you 
are writing about. 

My earlier works, the Psychopathologie and the Psychologic der 
Weltanschauungen, I wrote without much correcting afterwards. 
With my Philosophic and Man in the Modern Age there began a 


working over of what I had written. This was tied in with the 
effort to philosophize methodically and above all with the contin- 
uous critical demands of my friend, Ernst Mayer. Since then I 
have published nothing without having worked over the first tran- 
scribed text. 

Without exception, my works arose from a mass of separate 
notes, that had been collected. One day these were brought under 
an ordering point of view, items eliminated, and a coherent repro- 
duction made by filling in the gaps. Whenever an idea objectified 
itself into an orderly scheme, nothing would be deduced, but rath- 
er already existing notes were used. The most comprehensive 
thoughts of order in my books are the least important, because 
they are rational thoughts, used only for grouping. 

In style my writings differ according to the nature of the sub- 
ject-matter. Where I had scientifically something to say, I wrote 
objectively on the matter; where I philosophized, I wrote from the 
standpoint of the Encompassing. 

Because there has been, in my philosophizing, the will to reason 
in the idea of possible communication, my effort has been directed 
more at 'existential' clearness than at logical clarity (though I 
esteem this very highly and strongly strive after it) , more at the 
obligation of an intended thought than at the beauty of poetic 

i. In my writings which, without exception, were written in 
calm impartiality, there lives a will to effectiveness: to do what- 
ever possible in order to however tiny a degree to further reason 
in the world. To do this by way of creating disquiet in the reader 
by provoking him to his potential Existenz, to encourage him in 
becoming himself, to conjure up in him the possible meaning of 
Being, and to let his thought founder on the uncomprehended. It 
is a tendency in which I stand, for which and in which I think, to 
which I would like to encourage others. 

In these writings there is no presupposition to the effect that 
somehow truth will assert itself or that the world, from its incep- 
tion, is guided by reason. The experience both of history as well 
as in the present bears witness rather to the contrary, in so far as we 
take our measurement on humanly accessible reason and only 
this can we call reason. 

This is why so much depends upon what the individual is will- 
ing to live and work for. He must know where he stands. His own 
essence and the turn of events depends upon his finding important 
even his tiniest decisions. He is of eternal significance in the face 
of that Transcendence, which makes him really become himself if 


he gives himself to it, where he is no longer threatened either by 
success or by foundering. He is of temporal significance by his 
deeds in the world. The world does not pursue its path of itself 
obeying definite inexorable laws on the analogy with natural 
laws; rather, what becomes depends upon each individual human 
being to a degree which, on the whole, is quite incalculable. 

What I have written I have, for the most part, previously lec- 
tured on as an academic teacher. Were I to speak of a pedagogical 
will, such was, in my case, never planned. Real education has al- 
ways seemed to me to be self-education. It is a matter for the indi- 
vidual. Yet, in teaching one cherishes the hope, by calling atten- 
tion, by thinking ahead, by acting ahead, and by the communication 
of modes of comprehension, to encourage in youth what keeps 
pushing towards the light. I have not tried to interfere with the 
individual, but have let him feel the stringency of the eternal or- 
der. It dare not become soft. In complete tolerance there hides the 
strictest claim. This claim is heard by the individual. That it may 
be heard more clearly, more decisively, this can be furthered by a 
philosophizing which communicates itself. 


A retrospect into one's own life, especially when one is older, 
leads to an ambiguous mpod. It is as if one were concluding some- 
thing which is still going on. 

It is within the nature of philosophy that the truer it becomes 
the less it is able to round out or to complete itself. 

Having become aged the thinker feels himself less than ever at 
the end. Kant said: when we are precisely so far along that we can 
truly begin, then we must withdraw and leave the matter again in 
the hands of the beginner. 

One's consciousness is agitated by the fact that one has not yet 
said the essential thing, not yet found what announces itself. 

For this reason a philosophical retrospect becomes a better plan 
for future work. The expansive power of reason is not enclosed in 
the biological circle of life. One may get into the mood para- 
doxical for old age that, by virtue of one's spiritual experiences, 
the vision opens to new distances. 



Kurt Hoffman 

The Premises. The title of this essay takes us into the midst of 
one of the problems inherent in the thought of Karl Jaspers and it 
makes necessary two reservations: From the two "great excep- 
tions/ 1 Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, Jaspers takes over the stress 
upon the contingent existence of the individual and the deep 
conviction that philosophy must always remain an expression of 
the individual personality. The thought and the writings of both 
Kierkegaard and Nietzsche were personal in this sense; both lived 
in constant opposition to conceptual systems of philosophy, and 
they attempted to express their deepest thoughts "indirectly" in 
the form of aphorisms, allegories, or metaphors. The strength as 
well as the weakness of the philosophy of Jaspers lies in his attempt 
to integrate, in the tradition of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, what 
is by nature unsystematic and mythical in character and thus 
opposes the form of the concept, into a system of conceptual 
philosophy, a "system," to be sure, if we understand the word in 
the specifically unsystematic sense, which Jaspers gives the term. 
For philosophical thought "can neither be true in a closed system 
nor in an aggregate of aphorisms." 1 Jaspers terms his philosophical 
work not a system, but rather a systematically connected, but open 
structure, an "offenhaltende Systematik." The first reservation 
must thus concern the special place and the unique meaning of 
the concept in the philosophy of Jaspers. 

But further: Jaspers' philosophy is characterized by a peculiar 
inner tension, by a movement which resists conceptual analysis or 
to which, at least, such an analysis, which separates static concepts 
from the dynamic flow of thought, cannot do justice. The peculiar 
climate of his philosophy, its inner development, its interior con- 
nections, are of necessity lost in an expository treatment of the 
concepts involved, for this philosophy, as few philosophies, must 
be taken as one integral whole, rounded within itself, as a struc- 
ture in which each element plays its organic part. This must be 

1 Wahrheit, 26. 



the second reservation. It is based upon Jaspers' enmity to what he 
terms "premature terminology: " a terminology "at the beginning," 
and not, as it should be, arrived at as a result of the insights won. 
Jaspers is always concerned with still indefinite, pregnant, and 
growing concepts. He wishes to avoid by all means the use of sche- 
matizing, exterior, "predetermined" concepts that do not have 
their origin in the problem itself. Since knowledge for him is al- 
ways a quest which arrives only at intermediary stations, never at 
the end, fully determinate concepts are often dispensed with in 
his philosophy and hence, quite purposely, the sharp clarity of a 
system that uses determinate concepts and a strictly univocal ter- 
minology is not aimed at: "Since every philosophical thought is 
true only in a movement, and since this movement must be assimi- 
lated authentically and its repetition must be alive in order to re- 
main true, a primacy of terminology ... is catastrophic. . . . The 
domination of terminology turns philosophizing into that academ- 
ic pedantry in which philosophy itself has vanished." 2 

For Jaspers philosophy is essentially and primarily metaphysics; 
it is a search for Being, which is more than ephemeral. But it mat- 
ters, for this philosophy, who asks the question as to the nature of 
this Being: man's concrete historical situation enters into the ques- 
tion and into the answer. In each individual, in all his insecurity 
and disquiet, philosophy must make a new start; hence it is always 
in process and always in suspension, it is never complete and final 
and can never be set forth in the form of a universally and eternal- 
ly valid doctrine. Philosophy, for Jaspers, seems to bear two dimen- 
sions: that of objective truth, of self-consistence, of consistence 
with verifiable facts, and that of depth, profundity, of the intensity 
and authenticity of the personal assimilation of this truth. These 
two dimensions, corresponding to the concepts of "reason" (Ver- 
nunft) and "Existenz" are inseparable, and philosophy as a whole, 
therefore, remains always unfinished, remains a perpetual task. 
Philosophy must use logic and the instrument of the formal con- 
cept; yet it is unable, by these means, to reach Being, which pre- 
sents itself to man as broken, as a series of ruptures. A premature 
conceptual restoration of the Whole, such as Hegel's, must ulti- 
mately fail, since the reality of Being escapes and recedes and can 
be grasped only 'existentially.' Transcendent Being is never "giv- 
en" as an object, but is rather experienced directly in the very fail- 
ure of discursive reason to reach it. Existenz itself can be made 
transparent only in what Jaspers calls "illumination of Existenz" 
(Existenzerhellung); whereas every attempt at a conceptual ex- 
2 Wahrhcit, 428. 


pression of Exist enz remains ambiguous and paradoxical at best. 
A clear definition would make Existenz precisely into that which 
it can never become: an object of thought. 

The World. The task which Jaspers sets himself is, on this ba- 
sis, to integrate into a connected and continuous whole, concepts 
which are "soft" and by definition unstable, indeed non-conceptual. 
Jaspers distinguishes three formal and general concepts of being: 
being-an-object (Objektsein), being-a-self (Ichsein or in analogy 
to Hegel: Fur-sich-selbst-sein) and Being-in-itself (Ansichsein). 
Only the first of these three can become an object of thought: the 
objects in space and time, things and persons, tools, even thoughts 
and ideal objects, such as expressed in mathematics. This kind of 
being Jaspers calls "existence" (Dasein); it constitutes the "world." 
World-orientation (Weltorientierung) is philosophy on the level 
of existence. It is never sufficient to itself, since the empirical world 
of the sciences is not absolute, but presupposes a higher reality be- 
yond. For this reason also world-orientation is not an encyclopedic 
collection of verifiable facts, but must seek out the limits of the 
sciences in order to determine the points of transcendence. But 
the fuller and richer the theoretical understanding and the prac- 
tical experience of the world are, the clearer will be the recogni- 
tion of the necessity for the transcending leap. A philosophical 
orientation in the world must draw and recognize the absolute 
(prinzipielle) limitations of science and distinguish these from the 
actual (jeweilige) limits, which are constantly being displaced. The 
positivistic picture of the world confuses these two limits and for 
this reason cannot allow for a transcendence beyond the empirical 

Although reason by nature seeks incessantly to arrive at the 
world as a whole and to make it into an object of thought, it is 
driven by the philosophic impulse beyond the limits of compelling 
facts and laws and thus runs up against the contradictions at the 
fringes of the empirical world, against the Kantian antinomies. 
The mind is not presented with a unified view of the world, but 
instead with separate spheres of reality which, in spite of their in- 
terdependence, remain separate and demand a separate logic for 

Jaspers distinguishes four such spheres, each of which presup- 
poses the lower one: anorganic nature, organic life, the soul as 
inner experience, and at the apex, spirit (Geist), the rational soul 
of traditional philosophy. In distinction to Samuel Alexander's 
theory of an emergent evolution, the qualities of the lower levels 
are, for Jaspers, not contained in the higher ones; the four spheres 


are discontinuous with each other. Each has its own specific reali- 
ty: the laws that apply to matter, for instance, need not apply to 
life, just as again spirit is different in kind from life. Whereas for 
Alexander the categories of space and time apply even to the 
sphere of the spirit, for Jaspers this is not the case: each sphere 
has its own specific categories. Closer, perhaps, is the connection 
between Jaspers' theory and Nicolai Hartmann's Seinsstufen, inas- 
much as Jaspers implicity recognizes the law of the autonomy of 
the higher level in respect to the lower, and allows only for anal- 
ogous relationships between the various steps. But Jaspers' pri- 
mary concern is to resist the tendency of making one of the spheres 
absolute and to subject the others to its logic and its laws. Philoso- 
phy must avoid the pitfalls of materialism and biologism as well 
as those of pan-psychism and radical existentialism. Physics, biolo- 
gy, psychology and the humanities have no common criterion and 
cannot be ordered according to any one standard. Each order fails, 
if it pretends to be the one true order. The totality of the universe 
is neither a possible object of a universal science, nor can it be- 
come unified by systematic philosophy. In breaking up the One in 
order to make it an object of knowledge, Jaspers proceeds in a new 
direction, different from traditional philosophy, which has always 
sought to arrive at universals under which all reality could then 
be subsumed. 

Whichever direction we pursue in our quest for Being, it be- 
comes clear that Being is not of one kind and that, as a corollary, 
the relation of thought to Being is not univocal. Being is grasped 
by the mind in the multiplicity of its appearances. It is evident 
that Jaspers must reject every monistic philosophy, every system 
which, under the presumption of knowing the One, closes of the 
approaches to the authentic One of Existenz and Transcendence. 
If we assumed, however, that Jaspers, in rejecting monism, em- 
braced some sort of pluralism, a conclusion for which the uniniti- 
ated reader would find many indications, we would be far from 
right: Pluralism makes the dogmatic assertion that there is no 
One, that the Many are unconnected and thus, paradoxically, 
affirms, in the eyes of Jaspers, the very connection which it denies, 
if its assertion is to be meaningful. Jaspers must reject from these 
premises similarly the two kinds of systems which attempt to pre- 
sent a "closed" world order: Positivism, which generalizes mech- 
anistic thought and empirical fact, takes the methodologically false 
step from the particular to the general, from the part to the whole; 
Idealism, on the other hand, either materializes the ideas or else 
reduces them to mere validities. Both subjugate the unique and 


particular to the whole and the general, both leave human reality 
out of account and make the concrete individual into an empirical 
object or an empty idea; both pretend, unjustifiably, that Being is 
something that is essentially knowable in a Totalwissen, to use 
Jaspers' term. ' 

Existenz. For Jaspers human existence can never become an 
object of knowledge in the sense in which the world does. The 
individual self has a psycho-physical side, which is empirical in 
nature and part of the world; this Jaspers calls existence (Dasein). 
As consciousness-as-such (Bewusstsein tiberhaupt) the self is iden- 
tical in structure with other selves. But the self is also more; it is 
the possible ground for freedom of thought and action, it can 
determine its own being. In this sense the self is potentially at 
least Existenz. 'Existential' reality cannot be grasped concep- 
tually since it expresses itself only in its own freedom, in relation 
to itself and in relation to Transcendence. Illumination of Ex- 
istenz therefore must follow its own peculiar method. The place 
of the categories is taken by the signa, which do not have the 
power of determining objects. These signa freedom, choice, de- 
cision, faith are ultimately indefinable, because their true con- 
tent can never adequately be expressed by means of a universal. 
The very essence of Existenz lies in an intentional tending to 
something else: to Transcendence; to the other self, with whom 
I am in 'existential' communication; and, in a reflexive move- 
ment, to its own being. Inasmuch as Existenz is never achieved 
once and for all, but remains the possible ground of insights, Jas- 
pers often speaks of "potential Existenz" (mogliche Existenz), 
which he describes as "that which never becomes object, the origin 
of my thoughts and actions . . . ," as "that which is always in rela- 
tion to its own self and thus also to its Transcendence" 3 or again 
as "that which is individual in the historical particularity, under- 
stood under universal categories which are limited by the fact that 
the individual in the endlessness of his concretion is inexhaustible 
and thus ultimately indeterminate." 4 And once more: "Being-a- 
self is called Existenz. As such I can become in no manner the 
object of my own speculation, I cannot know myself, but have 
only the alternative of either reaching self-realization, or else of 
losing myself . . ." Existenz is, as it were, "the axis around which 
all I am, and all that can become truly meaningful for me in the 
world turns." 5 Existenz, in distinction to consciousness-as-such is 
the "hiddenness of the ground" to which Transcendence reveals 
itself; in distinction to spirit, which is essentially a drive to unity, 

8 Philosophic, 13. -* Ibid., 298. 5 Wahrheit, 76. 


it is a drive to authenticity. Whereas spirit has as its corollary that 
which is intelligible, transparent, universal and whole, Existenz 
is unintelligible conceptually, is the "dark ground" at the root of 
all knowledge, is the unique and authentic being in time which 
is capable of giving itself in surrender to Transcendence. 

The reader will by now have realized that the term Existenz 
cannot simply be translated by "existence," unless this be done 
under certain reservations. The term "Existenz" must be under- 
stood in the historical implications which have attached to it ever 
since it has been used in German philosophy by Hamann and 
Jacobi in their attack on the rationalism of the Enlightenment 
and in their fight against Kantian Idealism. Ranke and Schelling 
opposed Existenz to the Hegelian concepts of Reason and of the 
Idea. But above all it is S0ren Kierkegaard from whom Jaspers 
consciously derives the specific content of the term: "The word 
is, to begin with, only one of those which denote being. ... In 
philosophy there was from the dark beginnings of history only a 
presentiment of that which later, through Kierkegaard, gave the 
word its historically binding meaning for us." 6 Kierkegaard, tak- 
ing over from Schelling the distinction between Idea and Existenz, 
lifts the existing individual out from every determination by the 
Hegelian Idea, and sees him face to face with an equally inde- 
terminate and indeterminable Godhead. 

Since Existenz thus cannot be defined, but only be circum- 
scribed, Jaspers resorts to a set of 'existential' categories, vaguely 
analogous to Heidegger's Existenziale , and derived from the Kan- 
tian categories, over against which they stand. Whereas objective 
reality is thus determined by the laws of causality, 'existential' 
reality is determined by the central categories of historicity and 
freedom. To the causality of the substances corresponds on the 
side of Existenz what Jaspers calls 'existential communication, to 
objectively determinable size or greatness corresponds the rank, 
value or depth of Existenz, to endless mathematical time the ful- 
filled time of the moment. 

Existenz and freedom are interchangeable concepts for Jaspers. 
But what does Jaspers understand by freedom? If freedom and 
Existenz are two sides of the same thing, one must be as indefin- 
able as the other. "Only on the basis of the possibility of my own 
freedom can I raise the question as to what freedom is. Thus free- 
dom exists either not at all, or else it is already presupposed in 
the very question concerning it." All proofs for the freedom of the 
will presuppose the very object of their proof: "Freedom wills 

6 Philosophic, 13n. 


itself, because it already possesses a grasp of its possibility/' 7 Free- 
dom is not the same as indeterminism, which is a category per- 
taining to the empirical world and does not touch 'existential 
freedom, since the latter is neither "objective," nor possibly sub- 
ject to proof or disproof. Although knowledge, arbitrary willing 
and law are the conditions for freedom, they do not constitute or 
exhaust it. For Jaspers an analysis of the freedom of the will, such 
as we find it in Scholastic philosophy, must remain hypothetical, 
since freedom can be revealed only in the concrete and tem- 
poral decisions of the individual. For this reason also Hegel's 
absolute freedom, separated materially from empirical reality, in 
resolving for the sake of absoluteness and totality subject as well 
as object, becomes an "empty" concept for Jaspers. Indeed, the 
paradox of Existenz finds expression in the radical inadequacy of 
this concept, which contains insurmountable contradictions. 

The limitations of 'existential' freedom, which are the basis of 
unavoidable 'existential' guilt, the fact that man cannot live with- 
out struggle and without suffering and that he is faced by death 
and nothingness, constitute what Jaspers terms the ultimate situa- 
tions (Grenzsituationen). They are unchangeable, necessary, final 
and absolute situations. On their rocks we suffer shipwreck. The 
ultimate situations take their origin in the fact that I am always 
bound and restricted to specifically determined, historical, and 
contingent situations, which I am not free to change at willr" 

Historicity. What Jaspers calls historicity (Geschichtlichkeit), 
a concept bearing certain analogies to Heidegger's concepts of 
Jemeinigkeit and Geworfenheit, expresses more than any other 
concept his deviation from traditional philosophy. The word 'his- 
toricity' derives in part from the philosophy of Wilhelm Dilthey, 
whose guiding principle was the Scholastic postulate Omne indi- 
viduum est ineffabile. For Dilthey, as for Jaspers, man is an ex- 
clusively historical being, unique and concrete, finite and tem- 
poral: "The finitude of every historical appearance, the relativity 
of every human conception is the last word in the historical view 
of man." 8 The term carries in the German language a resonance 
based upon the entire tradition of German philosophy of history, 
and presupposes also an essentially metaphysical view of history, 
different from the Anglo-Saxon view of history as a precise and 
sober science; Jaspers speaks of a "metaphysical extension of his- 
tory." Historicity expresses at once the limitation and the dimen- 
sion of depth which attaches to man's being-in-time; it stands for 

7 Ibid., 446. 

8 Wilhelm Dilthey, Gesammelte Schriftcn, Vol. V, 9. 


the unity of the individual, tor personal human existence within 
the empirical world. 

Existenz, as we have noted, is not thinkable conceptually by 
means of clear and distinct ideas. While discursive thought sep- 
arates Existenz from its proper situation, this situation is in fact 
the mode of appearance of Existenz. Freedom becomes real only 
in its bond with the body and with the world, while the empirical 
order in turn dips into subjectivity through its link with freedom. 
The union of body and soul, one of the timeless problems of 
philosophy, is for Jaspers a paradox, which at the same time acts 
as a source and origin of radical novelty. But historicity stands 
also for the synthesis of freedom and necessity, for the meeting of 
unbounded possibility with unchangeable fact, and further for 
the union of time and eternity: "In historical consciousness I be- 
come aware of myself in communication with other historical 
selves; I am, as a self, bound to time to the flow of my own 
unique situations and events/' 9 Existenz is on the one hand a 
record of changing circumstances, hopes and fears, while on the 
other hand, it reaches beyond the limits of the empirical world 
and of time. Its historicity is eternity embodied in time or history 
at the limits of eternity. 

History, which records the passing of events in time, is the con- 
dition of historicity, insofar as it< is the prerequisite for a historical 
consciousness, which can yet reach beyond history. The paradox 
unity of time and eternity finds its proper expression in the high 
and exalted moment in which we, so to speak, transcend our own 
existence. This moment, the authentic instance, the instance of 
decision, of intense communication, of transfiguration, this grain 
of eternity, as Kierkegaard has already pointed out, must be op- 
posed to the passing moment. Between the two, and subsuming 
both, historicity mediates, standing, as it does, for the unity of an 
ephemeral and diaphanous precariousness with the substantial 
density of the transcendent moment. Historicity is for Jaspers 
the essential characteristic of all that is concrete, that is not time- 
less, not abstract, not universal. In this sense it involves an irra- 
tional element, as Jaspers concedes. But this kind of irrationality 
must not be taken as a negative value: 

Irrational is not only what is beyond the limits of the general, but 
there are non-rational generalities as well, such as the validity of 
character types in poetry and art. Historicity . . . has as its medium 
that which is rational, as well as the irrational that has taken on form. 
It is superrational, rather than irrational. 10 

Philosophic, 398. 10 Ibid., 408. 


The concept of historicity recalls in a sense the neo-Hegelian no- 
tion of the concrete universal, as well as the infima species of the 
philosophia perennis. That which can never be reached by logical 
deductions or abstract sequences, that which can only be pointed 
at by limiting concepts, is the core of Existenz, and is thus em- 
bodied concretely in the world. "Historical" for Jaspers is what 
eludes fixation by universal maxims and any integration into a 
system. "Historical" is also every manifestation of transcendent 
reality, which in its very nature cannot be understood by means 
of universally valid dogma nor be integrated into a system of 

We have seen so far that the concept of historicity in the philos- 
ophy of Jaspers denotes a certain fullness and sumptuousness of 
concrete being, which is unique, incomparable, and irreducible 
to a conceptual scheme. The necessity for our opening reservation 
will thus perhaps have become clearer. The crucial import of the 
concept of historicity in the thought of Jaspers is evident, if we 
consider that its sway extends not only over anthropology, but 
over epistemology, metaphysics and ethics as well. We have seen 
that historicity attaches at the outset to individual existence. Jas- 
pers uses the concept, however, so that it becomes applicable to 
all empirical reality, insofar as the concrete situation of the in- 
dividual conditions or includes that reality. Thus the world is 
historical in the sense that it is precisely this world and not some 
other, just as I, in my historicity, am what I am, and not someone 
else. The historicity of the world is founded upon its contingency. 
The thought of another possible world is vain and empty, just as 
was Leibniz's attempt to derive this world from a system of pos- 
sible worlds. The world is as unique as the individual, as temporal 
and as concrete. 

A further and most problematic aspect of the concept of his- 
toricity presents itself with Jaspers' assertion of the historicity of 
truth itself, as opposed to every pretension of its universality, 
timelessness or totality. If, for Jaspers, a thought is philosophically 
true to the degree to which its thinking furthers communication, 
it must be clear that for him discursive thought can never arrive 
at a universally valid concept of Being, but only at one view of 
Being among others. The historicity of truth stands for an epis- 
temological limitation, as well as for a personal dimension in the 
acquisition of knowledge. The truth of a thought is, for Jaspers, 
inseparable from the thinker, whose temporal situation and biog- 
raphy will determine the intensity and profundity of his insight 
into Being. The temporal condition of man is the principal limi- 


tation upon the achievement of truth. Man is not a pure Carte- 
sian spirit who thinks in clear and distinct ideas; but he must con- 
quer truth, embedded as it is in the non-intelligible. Striving and 
failures, crises and new beginnings, daring and effort are inherent 
in the human quest for truth. Absolute truth appears only in the 
"becoming" of truth in the individual. Truth without process and 
without struggle is thinkable for Jaspers only as existing in trans- 
cendent reality, but never as existing for man: it is a limiting 
concept. Jaspers is entirely aware of the proximity this theory bears 
to relativism and perspectivism. But every attempt at achieving a 
premature harmony or at reconciling 'existential' contradictions 
conceptually must seem to him to betray the 'existential' condi- 
tion of man. * 

The Encompassing. The thoughts which Jaspers expressed in 
his Philosophic are given a new variation, a new and, in Jaspers' 
own words, equally tentative formulation in the philosophy of the 
Encompassing ("Das Umgreifende") which is first announced and 
outlined in Vernunft and Existenz (1935), systematically de- 
veloped in Existenzphilosophie (1937) , and which forms the 
proper subject of the Philosophische Logik, the first volume of 
which, Von der Wahrheit (1947) , contains a full elaboration of 
this thought. Point of departure of this philosophy is the thought 
that whatever becomes object for my thinking is only one deter- 
minate kind of being among others, one mode of being. We can- 
not reach the horizon, the standpoint from which we can view 
the closed Whole of Being, which no longer points to a beyond. 
Being remains unclosed for us and draws us into the apeiron on 
all sides. 

We always live and think within a horizon. But the very fact that 
it is a horizon indicates something further which again surrounds the 
given horizon. From this situation arises the question about the En- 
compassing. The Encompassing is not a horizon within which every 
determinate mode of Being and truth emerges for us, but rather that 
within which every particular horizon is enclosed as in something 
absolutely comprehensive which is no longer visible as a horizon at 

This thought constitutes for Jaspers a basic philosophic opera- 
tion (philosophische Grundoperation). The end of this operation 
is the "liberation" of our consciousness of Being (Seinsbewusst- 
sein) from any specific knowing. The difficulty of the thought lies 
in the fact that, as soon as we want to think the Encompassing, it 
becomes one specific kind of being, such as the being of the world 

11 Reason, 52; Existenz, 13; Wahrheit, 38. 


or of the mind. Thus every statement concerning the Encom- 
passing, which intends Being itself rather than any determinate 
kind of being, is in a sense contradictory. Furthermore, we are 
always faced by the danger of arriving at a false assertion concern- 
ing the whole of the Encompassing, if each statement is taken 

The one Encompassing, as soon as it is thought, is split into its 
"modes." If we understand the Kantian antinomies, if we con- 
ceive the world as an Idea, not as an object, if we follow Kant, 
with Jaspers, in subsuming every object under the condition of 
thinking consciousness, then we can distinguish two modes: the 
Encompassing, in which external being appears: the world; and 
the Encompassing which I am: consciousness-as-such. The latter is 
only a partial category, however: I am also as existence, which 
carries consciousness. What Jaspers terms existence is my concrete 
and temporal existence, which has a beginning and an end, which 
suffers and rejoices, which lives in anguish and in hope. Further- 
more I am also spirit, which receives in its ideal constructions 
everything that is thought by consciousness and concretely experi- 
enced by existence. The third step is taken with a leap out of 
immanence, which is twofold: from the world to the Godhead, 
and from existence to Exist enz. 

To recapitulate: the first step resulted in a positing of the two 
modes of the Encompassing into that which we are and into that 
which (external) being itself is. The second step further split the 
first category into the three modes of our own being. The third 
step led from immanence to Transcendence. In the fourth step, 
which is added in the structural elaboration set forth in Von der 
Wahrheit, reason (Vernunft) is introduced as the bond of the 
modes of the Encompassing and their appearances, as the means 
whereby unity is restored to their manifoldness. 

The term Encompassing becomes meaningful only through the 
manner in which Jaspers uses it, just as it was Kierkegaard's use 
of the term "Existenz" from which the latter derives its specific 
content. The concept itself, in its very elusiveness and ambiguity, 
in its resistance to a fixation by definition, is the ideal instrument 
which Jaspers has shaped himself for his purposes. If we under- 
stood Jaspers correctly, this concept appeals to the insight of 
Existenz more than to analytical reason. The Encompassing is 
that by which the things become more than they are on the 
surface, it is that added quality by which they assume their pe- 
culiar transparency, their depth. 

But how is the rich texture of the Encompassing properly 


known? Knowledge is, for Jaspers, basically unable to reach Being 
as such, but is primarily directed at the appearances. Whatever 
is to be known, therefore, must automatically be reduced to a 
determinate object of knowledge. Being thus eludes our thought: 
the moment in which we believe to grasp it conceptually, we 
have already falsified it by making it into that which it is, by 
definition, not: into a determinate content (bestimmter Daseinsin- 
halt). The problematic of Jaspers' conception of Being lies in the 
fact that it cannot be contemplated as a Platonic Idea. 

Yet there is a mode of knowledge proper to encompassing 
Being: we become directly "aware" of it. This becoming aware 
(Innewerden) is a bridge through which something by nature non- 
objective (ungegenstandlich) is thought in the form of an ob- 
jective entity, which, however, acts merely as a catalyst. Thus we 
become aware of the Encompassing in a reflexive thought, not 
comparable to objective knowledge, in which Being becomes lucid 
and transparent for us, announcing itself, but never taking on a 
determinate form. 

It seems that Jaspers here calls attention again to the forgotten 
fact that, at the root of all thought and as the basis for all knowl- 
edge, there must be a direct pre-rational givenness of Being. Were 
it not for this primal awareness, the particular could not be ra- 
tionally surpassed and metaphysics would thus be impossible. But 
awareness is inseparable from knowledge: Knowledge must be 
rooted in awareness and awareness in turn must be imbedded in 
knowledge; for without a deeper, intuitive awareness of Being all 
knowledge remains but a superficial collection of data, a Schein- 
wissen. Everything that is known objectively becomes pregnant 
with meaning only if it is melted into an awareness of Being, 
and the contents of knowledge then assume a new perspective 
and are seen in new relationships. But such an awareness of 
Being can only be reached indirectly; knowledge remains its 
necessary prerequisite. 

The Cipher. From this it is evident that for Jaspers meta- 
physics, which has as its proper object the realm of Transcendence, 
can only deal with symbols. Conceptual thought breaks down in 
view of the really real. Myth, theology, and philosophy in the 
specific interpretation of Jaspers are three separate, possible 
ways that point to Transcendence. 

But what is the manner of this pointing? A formal transcending 
directed at Being itself must cope with the difficulty that the 
object is a Being that must be thought as a Person remaining, 
however, forever hidden a dens absconditus. By means of the less 


direct manner of the 'existential' relationship, Transcendence is 
seen in suspension: at the very moment that it becomes an object 
it disappears, it dissolves. The relationship of Existence to Trans- 
cendence is never stable, but forever in process, in continuous 
flux. Jaspers' analysis of this relationship is one of the strongest 
points in his philosophy and touches on the deepest problems 
of philosophical anthropology. ^ 

In the ultimate situations we are confronted by the question as 
to why Being is and why there is not rather nothing, and also 
why it is such as it is. I can "reject" this givenness in a Promethean 
defiance, or else I can accept it in an act of religious surrender 
and confidence in the ground of Being. An 'existential' neutrality 
is impossible in regard to Transcendence. Existenz directed at 
Transcendence is lifted up, otherwise it declines. The possibility 
of leading a blind, vegetative, merely "vital" existence is not a 
real 'existential' possibility. Existenz is perpetually in suspension 
between two magnetic poles: the "Law of the Day," the principle 
of order, clarity, and loyalty, and the "Passion of the Night," the 
irrational urge to darkness, to the earth, to the mother, to the 
race, to ruin and the end of all order. A final decision for the 
one or for the other does not take place in Existenz; a synthesis of 
the two is equally impossible. The suspension remains unresolved. 

We have said that for Jaspers philosophy is essentially meta- 
physics; metaphysics in turn is the reading of the ciphers of Trans- 
cendence: it concerns itself with a universe of objects which are 
by nature ephemeral and unstable, disappearing as soon as they 
have spoken to Existenz. What experience is for consciousness-as- 
such, namely the link between object and subject, the cipher 
is for Existenz the link to Transcendence. The concept of the 
cipher (Chiffre; Chifferschrift) presupposes that reason cannot 
know the nature of the world directly, but that reality must be 
"read" in the secret language of the appearances. In this sense 
Kant already spoke of "the ciphers by means of which Nature 
speaks to us;" Goethe referred to the "alphabet of the Weltgeist;" 
Novalis and the German Romantics expressed themselves similar- 
ly. For Jaspers the ciphers are not identical with the appearances, 
but are the language spoken through them by Transcendence, not 
to consciousness-as-such, but to Existenz. The direct language of 
Transcendence is not a language that is universally intelligible. 
The incompleteness of the empirical world points above and be- 
yond every rational certitude; this pointing has the immediacy of 
the metaphysical experience. It does not follow a method; it is 
adventitious, as it were, a gift, and its realization can be forced 


by no plan and no will. In this sense metaphysics does not consti- 
tute an extension of knowledge, but is the process by which reality 
becomes transparent in time. Transcendence speaks to Existenz 
through the appearances in a process in which these are trans- 
formed, losing the nature of objects, and thereby their perma- 
nence and consistency. Being, never objectively determined, is 
given only in its appearances, namely in the world and in 'exist- 
ential' freedom. Transcendence is the substance of the world and 
of Existenz; they in turn are the appearances of Being. 

Do cipher and symbol, then, stand for one and the same thing? 
In a sense they do, if we distinguish with Jaspers two kinds of 
symbols: those, which can be interpreted (deutbare Symbole), and 
those that can only be intuited (schaubare Symbole). The first 
kind refer to a signatum in the world. A symbol may become a 
cipher, however, only if there is no determined signatum to which 
it refers, but, instead a reality different in kind. The signum points 
in this case to a signatum, which is not an object and can never 
become one. While the world speaks in its empirical dimension 
to consciousness-as-such, it assumes for Existenz the character of 
the symbol. In this sense the signum is not separable from the 
signatum; a deciphering or an analysis is no longer possible. Jas- 
pers speaks of the reading of Transcendence in the physiognomy 
of the things: as through the face of an individual, with whom I 
am in 'existential' communication, I penetrate to the non-objec- 
tive ground of freedom at the core of Existenz, I penetrate through 
world and Existenz to Being. What is thus given is not capable of 
further hermeneutic interpretation every interpretation must 
in the last analysis go back to the original language, namely to the 
immediate givenness of Transcendence, and thus become in turn 
a cipher of the second order. 

When Jaspers speaks of the historicity of the ciphers, he refers 
to their instability, their constant disappearance and regeneration. 
While the world presents itself to consciousness-as-such as a stable 
and consistent entity, capable of empirical exploration, it reveals 
itself at the same time as a cipher to Existenz in its very instability 
and unintelligibility. Thus the grasp of Being through the ciphers 
is never achieved once and for all, but is a constant movement, an 
incessant conquest and recurrent loss. The "truth" of the cipher 
is not universal, but as unique as the person who beholds this 
"truth." Its lack of clarity is not one which can be resolved by a 
perfection of the means at our disposal. Each of the infinite num- 
ber of ciphers can be read in infinitely many ways and each read- 
ing may in turn become a cipher; their endless ambiguity is their 
very essence. 


Philosophy. What is ineffable and inexpressible in the im- 
mediate language of Being becomes, in a certain sense, universal 
and thus the possible object of philosophic discourse in the 
myths and religions on the one hand and in the ontological sys- 
tems on the other. The language of Transcendence is taken up 
into the empirical world as a second universe of objects. The the- 
ory of the ciphers thus posits two opposite movements: One from 
the original cipher, the primal language of Transcendence, to the 
embodiment of these ciphers in the myths and philosophies, which 
Jaspers calls the language of man; and the second from the myths 
and philosophies to Being, which is revealed in them. The orig- 
inal experience of Transcendence takes place, historically and 
concretely, in the first language, whereas metaphysical reality 
realized in thought and symbols forms a second original language. 
The connection of the two languages takes place in the union of 
Transcendence and immanence, as well as of Exist enz and reason, 
which enlightens and makes intelligible the message transmitted. 

The language of the myths and religions mediates between the 
original cipher and reason; in the third, speculative language, the 
language of the classical ontological systems, the reading of the 
ciphers becomes metaphysical thought. This language is spoken 
to the philosopher by the philosophers of the past and by him to 
those of the future. The task of philosophy is, for Jaspers, to carry 
the original cipher, to lead back to the immediate language of 

Is it, in view of this theory, possible to regard the philosophy of 
Karl Jaspers as one would regard the philosophy of Plato, of Kant, 
of Hegel, in short, in line with the other philosophers which have 
found such a magnificent interpreter and reawakener in Jaspers? 
What is new and characteristic in the philosophy of Jaspers is this: 
that whereas other thinkers in the great philosophical tradition of 
the West, in propounding their ideas, believed somehow in their 
universal validity and, in spite of an awareness of the limitation 
imposed on human knowledge, in their truth, and whereas they 
refuted other, contradictory systems in order to establish their 
own, Jaspers at once accepts the core of truth, the "cipher," in all 
of the great philosophies with an unequalled openness and crit- 
ical penetration, while at the same time rejecting their claim to 
universality. Jaspers' philosophy is, if we may say so, a philosophy 
of philosophy. With Jaspers philosophy has reached self -conscious- 
ness. That Jaspers would consistently regard his own thought as 
one philosophical metaphor among others is both his weakness 
and his strength. 

T7 T 


at the same time, through its very unintelligibility, a cipher for 
Existenz. Only by virtue of its historicity is Existenz able to grasp 
Being intuitively in the continuous flux of its appearances. Hence 
certitude in regard to Transcendence must be forever reconquered 
and re-established. In the eyes of Jaspers the systematic coherence 
of a dialectic philosophy cannot serve as an instrument for the 
understanding of a language which appeals to the historicity of 
Existenz. A philosophical system may be viewed as a cipher, but 
no one system can claim, for Jaspers, to grasp the meaning of the 

Jaspers' philosophy is an attempt to come closer to an under- 
standing of the universal human possibilities through an investi- 
gation of the unique, exceptional and historical individual. His 
philosophy is neither an abstract universal system nor does it take 
the form of personal confessions; yet it bears certain resemblances 
to both: it is, in the truest sense, a philosophy, yet its basis is high- 
ly personal. This orientation on two poles makes for the peculiarly 
dynamic tension of Jaspers' philosophy. Jaspers is primarily con- 
cerned with two questions: That of the relation of Being to truth, 
and that of the connection between Existenz and Being. The first 
question is largely an epistemological one with an anthropological 
coloring; the second is a metaphysical one. The subjectivistic stress 
in regard to the first question is countermanded by the meta- 
physical purport of the second. Although Jaspers insists on the 
one hand that truth is personal and historical, he speaks on the 
other hand of Being as adventitious, as a "gift," a presence which 
reveals itself to me as that which I am not, as something not en- 
tirely different from Gabriel Marcel's mystere ontologique. Thus 
Existenz is in the last analysis not the source, but the witness of 

Jaspers' accent on the temporality and historicity of truth has 
been interpreted by some critics as constituting a complete lack of 
objective standards, as "an exasperated individualism," 12 as "justi- 
fying exactly everything." 13 It is true: Every philosophical inter- 
pretation of reality must, according to Jaspers, ultimately go back 
to the individual; no system of essences and universals, which does 
not take into account the uniqueness of the exception, may be 
called truly "philosophical." The infinite regression into which 
a purely subjectivistic philosophy would fall, is broken through, 
however, by Jaspers' assertion of a certitude of Being which acts 
as the foundation of a new objectivity. , 

12 Jean Wahl, in Revue de Metaphysique ft de Morale, 1934, 442, n.2. 

13 J. de Tonquedec, L'Existence d'apres K. Jaspers, Paris, 1945, 133. 


How does this new objectivity break into the circle of imma- 
nence? My own "truth" becomes shallow and absurd in view of 
the chasm revealed by the ultimate situations. I am aus mir, as 
Jaspers says, but not durch mich: the origin of my thinking and 
acting is immanent, but the ultimate ground of my being lies out- 
side. I am conscious not only of my own being, but of a Being, as 
well, which is adventitious, speaking through its appearances to 
him who will hear. 

Being and Existenz are the two polar concepts of Jaspers* philos- 
ophy. They are not connected systematically but loosely in the 
form of an Eros acting in both directions. Existenz, through the 
lan vital of the metaphysical urge, is directed to Transcendence, 
which surpasses the individuality of Existenz and of thought, ap- 
pearing only where the empirical and the intelligible orders fail. 
It is in this sense that Jaspers' assertion must be understood that 
foundering is the ultimate reality of human existence and at the 
same time the central cipher of Transcendence. Being encloses 
Existenz, which is aware of it and participates in it. Thus, for Jas- 
pers, individual historical truth is included in and enveloped by 
the truth of Being and its subjectivity resolves itself in the affirm- 
ation of a transcendent reality. The absoluteness of Existenz gives 
way in view of an ultimate non-subjective Being. 

World, Existenz and Transcendence are the three irreducible 
realms of Being. They are irreducible, it is true, yet ultimately 
bridged by the concept of historicity, which connects the world 
and the self: the world as the ground for the freedom of the self, 
and the self as accepting and assimilating the world. The concept 
of the "cipher" leads similarly from the world through its appear- 
ances to Transcendence. But Jaspers, the cool and impartial 
diagnostician of reality, resists the temptation of restoring to 
Being an ultimate unity, which does not take into account, in 
his eyes, the symptoms for the rupture in its different spheres. 
The reading of the primal cipher does not offer a sufficient 
ground for a permanent conciliation. 

* * * * * 

We have tried to make explicit some of the basic concepts in the 
thought of Karl Jaspers; this necessitated an examination of the 
place of the concept of that philosophy and of Jaspers' conception 
of philosophy itself. "Each philosophy creates its own concept; it 
has no higher criterion outside. To know, what philosophy truly 
is, I must live in it; I do not know it by a definition." 14 From this 

H Philosophic, 206. 


it follows that, for Jaspers, philosophical truth does not lie in valid 
assertions with a claim to universality, but in an 'existential' as- 
similation of Being through its appearances, resulting in an inner 
change, a turning-about in the sense of Plato's Allegory of the 
Cave. The aim of philosophy, for Jaspers, is not to arrive at a self- 
consistent closed system, but is rather an incessant drive to set 
free, to prepare for new modes of knowledge, to make felt the 
boundless space in which free thought can move. Thus philosophy 
itself is the Socratic thorn which drives on to wake hidden origins, 
to bring to realization what has been dormant, to penetrate into 
the profoundest depths of Being. Jaspers consciously leaves open 
all concrete decisions, but strives instead to raise the issues to the 
highest level of discussion, to shed light on them from all angles, 
to substitute for impersonal "truths" contents that carry the cipher 
of reality and meet in Transcendence, as parallel lines meet in 

It is evident that Jaspers must reject the question as to his point 
of view, that the philosopher for him must, as it were, seek out all 
points of view, occupying and leaving each in turn. For him the 
fact that there is no direct path to Being demands from the phil- 
osopher a constant mobility from one point of view to another. To 
take a position is for Jaspers an expression of an intellectual will 
to power. Each position can be disproved rationally and becomes 
unphilosophical in the very moment in which it substitutes a 
philosophical "knowing" for an 'existential' philosophizing. Every 
philosophical doctrine is but one interpretation. Each contains a 
grain of truth, but none represents the truth. The world is capable 
of infinite interpretations; all lead somehow and in some measure 
to an awareness of Being. Hence philosophy is based on the de- 
cision "not to seek reassurance in a satisfying Seinswissen, but to 
listen, in the open, horizonless space, which encloses all horizons, 
to all that speaks to me, to perceive the light-signals that point a 
direction, that warn, that entice and perhaps also announce 
that, which is . . ," 16 

Thus, what some critics would level against Jaspers as a criti- 
cism, he accepts as an integral part of his philosophy: the charge 
of not taking a position. "At the end we have no firm ground 
under us, no principle to hold on to, but a suspension of thought 
in infinite space without shelter in conceptual systems, without 
refuge in firm knowledge or faith. And even this suspended, float- 
ing structure of thought is only one metaphor of Being among 
others . . ." 16 

15 Wahrhcit. 1871. i Ibid., 185f. 


The question remains: what are the limits of relativism, to 
what extent, if at all, is it necessary for a philosophy to take a defi- 
nite position in order to be meaningful. Is it possible, in other 
words, to see all philosophies as ciphers, including the philosophy 
of the ciphers? The infinite regression must yield at some point to 
the firm ground from which alone a philosophizing is possible. 
Jaspers is aware of the problem: "The making relative, by which 
philosophical speculation frees itself again from its own results, is 
endless; it may decline to arbitrariness and assume the emptiness 
of a purely negating relativism. However, relativizing constitutes 
a meaningful movement only out of something positive, out of the 
one truth. But to make this one truth philosophically objective 
(philosophisch gegenstandlich) cannot be a meaningful aim. Phi- 
losophy seeks its enlightenment in thoughts which are themselves 
always still relative. The one truth is the truth of Existenz which 
moves in the ideas and finds its ground in Transcendence . . ," 17 

If the ultimate justification of a philosophy is seen to lie in the 
establishment of a logical or rational unity, then Jaspers' philos- 
ophy founders but it founders consciously and purposely by 
humbling itself, through a humiliation of reason which must give 
way to a "philosophical faith" in the ground of Being. 



17 ibid., 736f. 

James Collins 

HERE are several highways leading to the heart of Karl 
Jaspers' thought. One illuminating access to his mind is 
gained through a study of his distinction between science and phi- 
losophy. This central problem holds a prominent place in the 
two major statements of his doctrine: Philosophic and Von der 
Wahrheit. Jaspers is also careful to mention it in most of the 
popular summaries of his philosophy, written during the last few 
years. Hence an analysis of this doctrine is indispensable for ap- 
preciating his characteristic approach to philosophical issues. The 
present paper deals with four main points: the relation between 
philosophy and our age of science, the attitudes of Descartes and 
Nietzsche toward science, Jaspers' philosophical interpretation of 
the nature of science, and the relation between science and phi- 
losophy. In the final section, a brief critical comparison is made 
between Jaspers and the philosophies of naturalism and Thomism. 


One often comes away from a reading of Jaspers with the im- 
pression that he is not quite sure, in his own mind, concerning 
the precise relationship between science and philosophy. 1 For, at 
one moment, he defends the possibility of a separation of philos- 
ophy from the special sciences. He points to the profoundly phil- 
osophical remarks that emanate from a child, looking at the world 
in a pre-scientific way. At another time, Jaspers stresses the in- 
dissoluble bond uniting science and philosophy, such that the 
former provides a necessary preparation for the latter. Again, he 
seems to waver between praise for the pre-Socratic fusion of the 
two standpoints and a plea for their rigid, systematic differentia- 
tion. Thus, we are led to inquire whether or not there can be 
genuine philosophizing apart from a scientific formation of the 

i Cf., for instance, Existenz, lOf; Wisdom (New Haven, 1951) 8ff, 74ff, 168f; 
Reason, SOff. 



mind, and whether it is desirable to make a formal distinction 
between the scientific and philosophical approaches. 

This apparent indecision on so crucial a question can be re- 
moved, as soon as we attend to Jaspers' unobtrusive but highly 
significant use of the temporal qualifier: "today." He admits that, 
in primitive epochs, philosophical inquiries preceded scientific 
investigations, and that there are still transient gleams of pre- 
scientific philosophical insight on the part of children in our own 
time. But as far as the mature mind of today is concerned, phil- 
osophical inquiry cannot be carried on successfully, unless the 
methodology and meaning of the sciences are grasped, at least in 
their principal features. Similarly, it was quite possible for the 
early Greek thinkers to merge science and philosophy in a single 
vision of nature, and for the tradition of a "natural philosophy'* 
(coalescing philosophy and the sciences in a single whole) to 
flourish throughout the classical and medieval periods. Yet these 
conditions were only possible because science, in its typically 
modern articulations, had not yet developed. Now that this his- 
torical development of the sciences has transpired, however, we 
cannot close our eyes to it. In our era, the philosopher must recog- 
nize explicitly that his method and aim are quite distinct from 
those of the various modern sciences. 

As a rough anticipation of his more detailed distinction be- 
tween the two, Jaspers proposes that philosophy seeks the mean- 
ing of Being as such and of the world as a whole, whereas the 
modern sciences concern themselves about the particular objects 
and special aspects within the world. Why is it impossible today 
to ignore this basic contrast or to elaborate a philosophy, without 
formally attending to it? The fundamental answer is that philos- 
ophy is essentially a mode of praxis, an affair of inner activity, a 
deed in the form of thought. 2 That is why Jaspers prefers to speak 
of his work as an active philosophizing, rather than a static, fin- 
ished body of doctrine or a philosophy. Every practical activity or 
vital operation is bound up with the concrete conditions of life. 
In man's case, this means that the work of thought or philosophiz- 
ing is inextricably associated with, and deeply affected by, the 
prevailing historical situation. One of Jaspers' chief doctrines is 
that human existence and all its modes are involved in various 
situations. He applies this doctrine of situational existence to phil- 
osophical thinking, which is a supreme mode of existence and 
practical human operation. A man cannot engage in this activity, 

2 Philosophic (second ed., Berlin and Heidelberg, 1948), 279ff; Rechenschaft 
(Munich, 1951), 342. 


in complete abstraction from the situations of his temporal exist- 
ence. Man's total involvement in situational being would be 
called in question, were present-day philosophizing detachable 
from the historical conditions of modern life. 

In both of his extended accounts of the modern age Man in 
the Modern Age and The Origin and Goal of History Jaspers 
signalizes the paramount r&le of the sciences in the formation of 
post-Renaissance society. 3 He calls the scientific and technological 
achievements since the seventeenth century the "simply new" 
factor, injected into the mainstream of history. It is their presence 
which sets off the modern Western world, in a radical way, from 
previous Western civilization and from the entire Oriental de- 
velopment. The most general description of our historical situa- 
tion is: the age of science and technology. Hence philosophers 
cannot divorce themselves from this concrete scientific setting for 
all activity, and cannot evade the task of interpreting the scientific 
enterprise and differentiating it from their own. This supposes, 
however, that the philosopher has at his disposal a precise account 
of the characteristics of the modern scientific spirit. 

As a preliminary contribution toward such a description, Jas- 
pers proposes a distinction between the broad, neutral meaning 
of "science," and one that is sufficiently limited to convey the dis- 
tinctive features of the modern approach to nature and man. In 
the wider sense, scientific thinking is regulated by empirical re- 
spect for facts and a concern for rational communication of find- 
ings. The scientific mind proceeds in a deliberate, methodical 
way, and is fully aware both of the method being used and of its 
limitations. Constant questioning, fresh consultation of new situa- 
tions in experience, and openness to criticism, are hallmarks of 
the scientific attitude. Philosophy qualifies as scientific thought 
in this broad meaning. It welcomes searching questions and crit- 
icisms; it roots itself firmly in the soil of existence (Dasein), to 
which it must always return; it employs a methodic manner of 
investigation, and is fully aware of its methodological principles 
and their confines; it organizes its truths in the light of a unifying 
principle, so that rational communication among men will be 
promoted. To this extent, then, philosophy is scientific, without 
thereby being aggregated among the sciences. 4 

A profound caesura opens up, however, between the specifi- 
cally modern, Western approach in the sciences and the outlooks 
of the previous ages. There are several unique traits, marking off 

8 Age (new impression of English translation, London, 1951), 133ff; Origin, 83ff. 
4 Existenz, 9; Reason, 146f; Scope, 29f. 


this new conception of science. 5 (1) Scientific research is animated 
by the will to know all that is knowable. Consequently, there is 
nothing too insignificant for careful study, nothing unworthy of 
investigation. Modern science recognizes no limits to its activity. 
Every real thing and every sort of possibility provide proper ma- 
terials for analysis. A drive toward novelty and discovery impels 
scientific inquiry to explore all the corners of the universe. (2) 
Correlative to the unrestricted content of science is its unrestricted 
interrogation of all previous convictions. No belief is too sacred 
or too firmly established to forbid a radical questioning of its 
soundness. (3) There is something provisional about all scien- 
tific theories themselves. They must submit to the test of fresh 
experience and experiment, and hence must be prepared for con- 
stant revision and even replacement. The scientific attitude in- 
cludes a willingness to test new hypotheses, even those that seem 
to contradict facts or outstrip our sensuous intuition of the world. 
Hence the sciences are essentially incomplete and subject to the 
law of linear progress, in which each succeeding generation takes 
a measurable step beyond the position of its predecessors. 

(4) Nevertheless, the scientific movement aims at a certainty 
that is coercive and indubitable. The ideal of mathematical knowl- 
edge has exercised a strong attraction over scientific minds, buoy- 
ing them up with the hope that all fields of scientific work can be 
impenetrated with mathematical clarity and certainty. The aim 
of scientific inquiry in the several fields is to bring the objective 
evidence to a clear condition, where it imposes itself upon the 
impartial mind, with compelling force. (5) This purpose is pro- 
moted by the rigorous way in which scientific methods and cat- 
egories are applied. A sustained effort is made to universalize the 
method and categories of a given science, in order to test their 
scope and cast new light upon familiar situations. Universally 
valid knowledge is the lodestone guiding every construction of a 
scientific world of discourse. (6) Viewpoints are not proliferated 
for their own sake, however, since scientific explanation is also 
regulated by the requirements of economy and simplicity of 
means. In regarding an object from every side and with the help 
of all the scientific perspectives, the investigator intends to bring 
out its systematic connections with the rest of the universe. Even 
though the object can never be located definitively in respect to all 
its relations in the cosmos of being, still its position in the cos- 
mos of interrelated sciences can be ascertained. Although the 
sciences do not achieve a total unity, grounded in a comprehensive 

6 These characteristics are conveniently enumerated in Origin, loc.cit. 


knowledge of all reality, they do tend toward a systematic inter- 
connection of methods and categories. 

(7). Jaspers defends the speculative character of scientific knowl- 
edge. Whatever other ends it may serve, its primary function is to 
satisfy the will to know all that is knowable. This does not mean, 
however, that scientific knowledge is cut off from the practical 
control of nature, but only that such control depends upon the 
speculative soundness of the knowledge. Indeed, the practical 
orientation of knowledge is one of the indigenous features of the 
modern scientific outlook. There is no historical parallel to the 
success with which modern science has satisfied human needs. In 
subjecting so many aspects of nature to human dominion, scien- 
tific technology has not only changed the face of the world around 
us but also profoundly modified the inner life of man himself. 
Our relation with the natural world has been made more remote 
in one respect (due to the regimen of machines and the demands 
of industrial production schedules), and yet in another respect it 
has been made more intimate (due to increased leisure and per- 
fection of the means of communication and instruments of ob- 
servation). The tremendous potentialities of technological control 
over mass societies, for good and for evil, set off our way of human 
living in a scientific epoch. 


The impact of science and technology has been felt just as 
strongly in philosophy as in the other areas of human life. In sev- 
eral autobiographical sketches, Jaspers has outlined the condition 
of philosophical instruction at Heidelberg and other German uni- 
versities, around the turn of the present century. 6 Philosophy 
courses were generally confined to epistemology, psychology and 
history of philosophy. The latter discipline tended to be a sheerly 
"objective" recital of what had been taught by thinkers in the 
past, with no hint that the philosophical tradition was still living 
and relevant for the problems of modern life. The doctrinal 
courses were made as "scientific" as possible, in the hope of appro- 
priating to philosophy some of the great prestige of the sciences. 
Evidence, methods and proofs were tailored according to the 
model of the mathematical or biological sciences. Professors vied 
with each other in presenting philosophy as one science along 
with all the others or, at the very most, as the summation of the 
other sciences. For, unless philosophy were shown to be the meth- 

Existenz, 2ff; Rechenschaft, 170ff, 325f. 


odology of the sciences or their highest generalization, it could 
achieve no respectable standing in the university community. 

Jaspers himself remained unconvinced by the scientific pre- 
tences of the reigning philosophies, especially positivism and 
idealism. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, idealists like 
Lotze attempted to deal in a scientifically stringent way with the 
problems of God, the soul, freedom and moral responsibility. The 
shaky results of this effort to ape the sciences led many people to 
deny the spiritual nature of man and his freedom, simply because 
these latter were not susceptible of becoming objects of scientific 
demonstration. Positivism profited by this disillusionment with 
idealism by suggesting that the limits of real being coincide pre- 
cisely with the limits of scientific thinking. The practical advice 
was that man should not bother himself about such issues as 
God, the spiritual soul and freedom, since they lie beyond the 
possibility of confirmation or rejection through scientific method, 
and hence can be presumed to be mere fictions of the mind. Both 
idealism and positivism accepted a common platform: that all phil- 
osophical problems can be settled through use of the scientific 
method. Even Edmund Husserl allowed this fundamental pre- 
supposition to go unchallenged. 7 In announcing that phenom- 
enology provides a way of transforming philosophy into a strict 
science, he simply begged the question of the appropriateness of 
such a transformation. Jaspers' admiration for Husserl was quali- 
fied by the belief that philosophy loses its distinctive approach to 
reality just as effectively when its main task is to supply the found- 
ations of scientific knowledge as when it is treated as the system- 
atic summary of the other sciences. 

Jaspers reports that he wrote his work, Descartes und die Phi- 
losophic, mainly to bring out into the open the historical source of 
the modern confusion between science and philosophy. Whereas 
Husserl's Meditations Cartesiennes tried to execute the Cartesian 
project in a more rigorous and radical way, Jaspers' book casts 
doubt upon the way in which Descartes and Husserl conceive 
philosophical method and truth. Descartes was so impressed by the 
success of his analytic geometry, that he tried to reconstruct phi- 
losophy along the lines of a mathesis universalis. Although he dis- 
tinguished between ordinary mathematics and philosophy, he 
retained in philosophy the mathematical conception of evidence 
and certainty. To this extent, he absolutized one scientific method, 
so that he might revamp philosophy in the form of modern science. 
Having capitulated to the imperialism of scientism, Descartes was 

i For Jaspers' estimate of Husserl, cf. Rechenschaft, 327f. 


thereafter unable to do justice either to the sciences or to philos- 
ophy. Both were eventually the losers by the Cartesian adventure 
in interbreeding. 

Within a half-century after Descartes' death, most practising 
scientists had abandoned Cartesian physics. For, even though he 
recognized in advance most of the salient features of modern scien- 
tific research, Descartes perverted their meaning, due to his 
methodological prejudices. 8 For instance, he hailed the trend to- 
ward realizing the unity of science. But, at the same time, he arti- 
ficially imposed the ideal of a systematic deduction of all scientific 
truths from a few principles, instead of acknowledging that the 
idea of unity can be realized in different ways, in different sciences. 
Although Descartes accorded a definite role to experience and 
experiment in his theory of method, his actual construction of 
physics was excessively deductive and divorced from a direct test- 
ing of facts. The arbitrary results of his physical deductions were 
a steep price to pay for vindicating his monism of method and 
knowledge. Another unfortunate consequence was his lack of in- 
sight into the nature of historical knowledge. He was obliged to 
depreciate the humanities as constituting merely inexact bodies 
of opinion, since it was difficult to conform them to his mathe- 
matical notion of certitude. 

Although the consequences of Cartesianism for philosophy were 
less palpable, they were just as disastrous. In order to obtain clear 
and compelling evidence in philosophy, Descartes had to reduce 
the human self and God to the status of objects for scientific un- 
derstanding. The self or thinking thing was treated only in so far 
as it served as a counterpart of the body or extended thing. Despite 
Descartes' high respect for freedom, the latter was definitely en- 
dangered through his correlation between mind and body. Spinoza 
drew the inference that, if bodily states are strictly determined, 
then mental states are subject to an equally rigid determinism. 
Universal determinism is the condition under which alone both 
mind and body can become the objects of clear and cogent mathe- 
matical demonstration. If philosophy can deal with man's inner 
life only from the standpoint of what indifferently is evident to 
all observers, then there must be a methodic elimination of free- 
dom and 'existential' content from the thinking self. Descartes 
could not rescue freedom and Existenz by an apppeal to the self's 
relation to God, even though he made a strenuous effort to do so. 
For he admitted God into philosophy only in the degree that He 
supported a mathematically dominated body of knowledge. The 

8 Descartes (second ed., Berlin, 1948), 56ff; Rechenschaft, 364. 


Cartesian God was no longer the giver of Exist enz but the guar- 
antor of the criterion of clear and distinct knowledge. This sys- 
tematic adaptation of the doctrine on God to the exigencies of 
the unity of science undermined belief in His Transcendence and 
thus paved the way for subsequent theories of pantheistic imma- 

In Jaspers' view, then, Descartes was the main source of the 
typically modern over-evaluation of science. Jaspers refers to this 
scientism as the ' 'superstition of science/' It consists in a theoret- 
ical absolutizing of some area of scientific knowledge, which is 
confused with philosophy, and in a practical tendency to expect 
everything from science. 9 Since scientific research can pursue an 
endless course among objects in the world, the inference is made 
that there are no boundaries whatsoever to scientific knowledge, 
and that there can be a total scientific world-picture comprehend- 
ing all reality. On this basis, science is asked to ascertain all values, 
to decide upon what ought to be done in moral conduct, and to 
set the ultimate goals for human life. Within this scientistic per- 
spective, philosophy has no distinctive office of determining the 
norms and ends of our existence: the latter are exclusively imma- 
nent and relative ones, which fall completely within the range of 
the sciences. The only role allotted to philosophy is to supply the 
general logic of scientific method and of valuational judgments. 
Individual interpretation and free choice are no longer to be 
centrally important in either ethical theory or moral practice. 
Impersonal scientific inquiry and public evidence are to be the 
sole determinants of the hierarchy of values and actual conduct. 

Nietzsche's passionate attack upon the ideal of scientific truth 
can only be understood against the background of this modern 
surrender of philosophical functions to the superstition of science. 
Jaspers does not regard Nietzsche as an enemy of science itself 
but rather as a resolute foe of modern scientism. Science contains 
one mode of truth but it is not the truth, in an unconditional way. 
Behind our scientific inquiries lies the passion for knowledge, a 
drive that can be properly assessed only on philosophical grounds. 
Because the will to truth rests upon a non-scientific basis, science 
cannot pretend to attain to any absolute truth. Both the ends of 
scientific work and all its other valuational aspects stem from 
philosophical commitments, whose justification cannot be under- 
taken by the scientific method itself. The meaning of science can- 
not be fully apprehended from within the universe of science 

o Origin, 93f. Since scientism eliminates the dimension of Transcendence, Jaspers 
also regards the absolutizing of the finite world as a form of unbelief; cf. Scope, 119. 


Jaspers gives a metaphysical interpretation of Nietzsche's crit- 
ique of science. 10 Nietzsche detected something more stirring at 
the heart of scientific investigation than the scientific mind is 
aware of: a search after the meaning of Being as a whole. There is 
an essential incommensurability between the dynamism of the 
search for truth and the actual results obtainable through the 
scientific method. Science alone cannot quench the deep human 
thirst for metaphysical and absolute truth, which animates the 
scientific will to knowledge. Scientific method can yield an amount 
of certainty, within a limited sphere, but it can never bring to 
man an utter personal security, such as will eliminate the risk of 
interpretation and decision. Even were the scientific description 
of the world a complete one, man would still be faced with the 
question of what attitude he is to take toward a world so described. 
Even though he may desire to do so, man cannot transfer to an 
impersonal scientific process the responsibility for making a phil- 
osophical interpretation of the total meaning of being, and for 
determining his own individual relation to being. 

Yet Jaspers' ironical criticism is that Nietzsche himself is guilty 
of absolutizing one zone of scientific knowledge into a philosoph- 
ical whole. 11 Nietzsche has an elusive conception of philosophical 
truth. Fundamentally, however, he teaches that the scale of human 
values is to be determined by the relative ability of goals to 
heighten life itself. The increase of life means an increase in the 
vigor of the will to power. Jaspers stigmatizes this will to power 
as a will to illusion, and sets it in essential opposition to the will 
to truth. Nietzsche associates the will to power with his theory 
that the universe consists in a grand circle of becoming, which is 
incompatible with any stable order of transcendent being. But 
these metaphysical overtones derive from an identification of bio- 
logical categories with the meaning of Being as such. Nietzsche has 
his own unacknowledged absolute, although it is a totally imma- 
nent one. He himself falls victim to scientism, when he converts 
the biological view of process into an unconditioned account of 
the world, and when he states that sovereign becoming is man's 
substitute for the permanence of Being. 

Jaspers extends his analysis of the overevaluation of science into 
a study of contemporary tendencies. When the sciences are cut 
off from any unifying philosophical principle, they lack a guiding 
idea that can establish order and hierarchy among them. Conse- 
quently, each separate science tries to absolutize itself and impose 

10 Nietzsche (third ed., Berlin, 1950), 176-84. In the present paper, the historical 
accuracy of Jaspers' portraits of Descartes and Nietzsche is not discussed. 

11 Wahrheit, 595f. 


its perspective upon the other sciences. Jaspers singles out anthro- 
pology, psychoanalysis and Marxism as prime examples of scien- 
tistic imperialism. 12 The aberrations of racism in Nazi Germany 
are attributable to the false intermixture of science and philos- 
ophy, at the level of biology and anthropology. Unconditioned 
truth was claimed for the concept of a pure race, running in the 
face of both the empirical evidence and the essential boundaries 
of scientific generalization. Similarly, Freud and Marx mistook 
their own considerable scientific discoveries for total philosophical 
explanations. Hence they drew an unbalanced picture of man, as 
being determined ultimately by unconscious impulses or relations 
of economic production. On a purely scientific basis, there is no 
principle of integration which can take account of the findings of 
psychoanalytic and Marxist research, without erecting them into 
complete descriptions of the ultimate determinants of human 
existence. Human freedom and the goals of human life are at 
stake in the discussion about the relations between science and 


Jaspers does not believe that a cultural description of our scien- 
tific age and an immanent critique of the sciences are sufficient to 
establish the proper meaning and scope of science. For the sciences 
themselves are incapable of seizing upon the fundamental sig- 
nificance of their own form of thought. This is a task perform- 
able only by philosophy. The latter is sufficiently close to the 
sciences to be well-informed about their methods and contents, 
and yet sufficiently independent of them to take a comprehensive 
view of them. 

Unlike Nietzsche, Jaspers does not regard the will to knowledge 
as a variation of the will to power. Rather, the speculative quest 
of knowledge is an authentic and original impulse of human na- 
ture. Yet it does suppose the validity of the proposition that the 
world is knowable. This proposition can be taken in two ways: 
(1) objects in the world are knowable, or (2) the world as a 
single whole of being is knowable. 13 Jaspers agrees with the first 

12 For typical treatments of these three standpoints, cf. Age, 149-58; Reason, 8-37. 
See also Jaspers' warning against the social consequences of resurgent sclent ism, in 
his address at the reopening of the School of Medicine in Heidelberg University: 
"The Rededication of German Scholarship," The American Scholar, XV (1946), 

13 Wahrheit, 96. 


statement, but denies that the second one is true. The perversion 
of science into a substitute for philosophy is due precisely to a 
confusion between these two ways of interpreting the knowability 
of the world. Because the objects in the world are knowable 
through the scientific method, the conclusion is drawn that the 
truth about the world as such is also available to scientific under- 
standing. From here, it is only a short step to the further assertion 
that the real is coextensive with the totality of objects in the 
world and that, therefore, the only philosophical truth open to 
man is that supplied by the scientific method. 

(1) Jaspers construes in a strictly Kantian way the proposition 
that objects in the world are knowable. 14 Science (Wissen-schaft) 
is concerned only with knowledge (Wissen, Erkenntnis) or what 
is knowable (wissbar). "Knowledge" is not an indeterminate gen- 
eral term, covering every relation between the mind and things. 
Instead, it connotes one definite sort of thought: that in which a 
polar relation is set up between the subject and the phenomenal 
object. An object of knowledge is not being simply as such, but is 
some particular, empirical mode or appearance of being. Hence 
knowledge cannot extend to the being of things and must remain 
content with their objective appearances. Furthermore, knowl- 
edge always involves a presentation of the object to the subject. 
Knowing transpires within the context of the subject-object rela- 
tionship. This dichotomy governs what can be known about the 
subject, as well as the object. Knowledge embraces the subject 
only in so far as it is correlated with the object. It is only the mind 
as an empirical subject or appearance that enters into the field of 
knowledge. Just as knowledge is limited to the objective appear- 
ances of things in the world, so is it limited to the objective pa- 
pearances of the knowing subject itself. The latter can be held at 
arm's length from itself, as it were, and can thus become an object 
of knowledge for itself. But what is known, here as elsewhere, is 
nothing more than the objective appearance. Knowledge reaches 
to the object-being but not to being in an unqualified way, 
whether it be the being of our self or the being of the world. 

These general conditions of knowledge apply strictly to scien- 
tific investigation. Although every sort of empirical conscious- 
ness is faced with its object or counterpart (Gegenstand), the scien- 
tific mind lays down certain standards for reliable knowledge. The 
scientific interest is to secure the maximum clarity, logical neces- 

14 A summary of the Kantian basis of Jaspers' theory of knowledge is given in 
Scope, 8-9, 25-26. On the subject-object relationship, cf. Psychologic (third ed., Ber- 
lin, 1925), 21-28. 


sity, universality and communicability in its determinate object 
(Objekt). 16 Scientific inquiry is guided by the ideal of rational ob- 
jectivity, guaranteed by evidence that is universally valid and 
compelling in an impersonal way. Yet even the rational objectivity 
of scientific knowledge conforms to the general requirements of 
objects of knowledge. The categories and methods employed by 
the sciences to bring the empirical materials to the condition of 
reliable objects, known with indubitable certitude, can operate 
only within the sphere of the knowable. Consequently, they yield 
knowledge only of the appearances or object-being of things. 
Within this realm, scientific understanding can obtain some neces- 
sary and universal truths, along with many probable and statis- 
tical statements. Jaspers intends to show, however, that objectivity 
is not the sole mode of being and that scientific findings cannot, 
therefore, be taken as exhaustive of reality. 

(2) No limits can be assigned for scientific research, within the 
field of objects in the world. Endless progress can be made in the 
more precise and comprehensive knowledge of these objects. Yet 
there is a capital difference between progressively coming to know 
more about objects in the world and coming to know the world 
as such. There are no restraints or limits (Schranken) placed upon 
scientific research at the intramundane level, but there are essen- 
tial boundaries (Grenze) which it cannot trespass. 16 Although it is 
customary to speak about the scientific view of the world, Jaspers 
denies that science can furnish an image or system of the world 
as a whole. The latter is what Kant called a regulative idea, stimu- 
lating scientific investigations but never itself becoming an object 
of scientific knowledge. Because the world cannot present itself to 
our mind in the form of an object, it falls outside the region of 
the knowable and thus lies beyond scientific inquiry. 

If science can know things in the world and laws about the 
world, but never the total being of the world as such, then the 
unity of science cannot be realized through a single scientific 
method and body of doctrine. Jaspers offers several special argu- 
ments in favor of his thesis that the positivistic conception of the 
unity of science is impossible of fulfillment. 17 (a) From the fact 
that scientific thought is a mode of knowledge, it cannot avoid the 
bifurcation of subject and object. The cleavage between con- 
sciousness and its empirical objects cannot be overcome by means 

15 Philosophic, 4-5, 74-75. 

10 On this Kantian distinction, see Wahrheit, 96; Origin, 94. 

W Philosophic, 73-110; Wahrheit, 96-103; Descartes, 47-48; Anti-Reason, 27-30; 
Wisdom, 75-76. 


of scientific knowledge, which is unable to embrace the two poles 
within a higher unity. There is a scientifically unresolvable ten- 
sion between the private world of the knowing subject and the 
public world of objects. The empirical knower may himself be- 
come an object of knowledge and thus be included within the 
objective world studied by the scientific method, but this world 
still retains its otherness from consciousness-as-such. Even the 
maximum conceivable objective unification fails to bring all the 
factors in the world to a total unity of knowledge. This is not 
merely a factual limitation but an essential boundary of all scien- 
tific thought. 

(b) Jaspers regards scientific knowledge as something more 
than a pure methodology. Methods can be taken in isolation, but 
only for purposes of more exact and orderly analysis. At some 
point, this isolated consideration must give way, and methods 
must be restored to the concrete setting of the contents and ob- 
jects of scientific inquiry. Method is not cultivated in and for itself 
alone, but always for the more adequate exploration of the objec- 
tive structure and laws of empirical being. But objects are not 
homogeneous in their mode of being. Jaspers distinguishes four 
different domains of object-being in the world: matter, life, soul 
or consciousness, and spirit. Scientific knowledge is intentional, 
in the sense that it is directed necessarily toward these spheres of 
objective being, each one of which constitutes an irreducible 
world of its own. Because of the intentional character of scientific 
thought and the basic differences among the four objective orders 
to which it refers, scientific knowledge can never reach perfectly 
homogeneous unity, either in content or in method. Furthermore, 
there is something endless about scientific research into opaque 
matter and into the richness of the organism and consciousness. 
Since only the finite can be expressed in an objective concept, the 
scientific view remains essentially incomplete and open. The pro- 
gressive nature of scientific research would be violated, if its find- 
ings and methodological innovations could be expressed in a 
rounded-off image of the world. Such images are due to the desire 
to convert a science into a philosophical explanation. 

(c) Because the several realms of objects are mutually irreduc- 
ible, there must also be internal and irreducible differentiations 
in the methods fitted to study them. Inorganic matter, the organ- 
ism, inner consciousness and the rational spirit call for different 
scientific approaches. Each science assumes its own perspective on 
the world and develops its own proportionate method. Although 
the method proper to one science gives some insight into the struc- 


ture of another domain of objects, there remains a need for a 
method specially fitted to examine the latter domain in its charac- 
teristic features. The psychiatric method is not rendered super- 
fluous, for instance, by the physiological study of states of the brain 
which affect our mental states. Instead of following the tradition 
of Leibniz and the evolutionist in respect to the continuity be- 
tween the various objective spheres and scientific methods, Jaspers 
emphasizes the discontinuities and the need for a leap from one 
method to the next. Although he recognizes certain generic traits, 
common to all the sciences (the broader meaning of "science") , 
he points out that actual scientific work requires several specific 
scientific methods. There is an analogy between the various levels 
of meaning in the world, but intrinsic methodological adjustments 
must be made to pass from one to the other. 

The pluralism of scientific methods explains why a given scien- 
tific explanation can be universally valid and yet relative, rather 
than absolute. A proposition may be universally valid and correct 
within the perspective of a certain science, but its truth is limited 
to this determinate sphere. Hence it is relative to the method and 
objective standpoint of the science in question. Thus, while the 
general constructs of mathematical physics determine something 
about the structure of all material things, they do not yield an ex- 
haustive account of the nature of organic functions. Mathematical 
physics neither displaces nor assimilates Goethe's report on the 
world of immediate sensuous perception. And from his own ex- 
perience in psychiatry, Jaspers is aware of the need to keep the 
study of mental disorders free from the "nothing-but" arguments 
of philosophical scientism, which seeks to explain these disorders 
in terms of constructs drawn from other sciences. 

(d) The absolutization of any one scientific standpoint also 
breaks down in the face of the distinction in kind between the 
natural sciences and the humanities. This distinction is not abro- 
gated by observing that the methods of the natural sciences apply 
to man. The fact of their application is undeniable, but equally 
undeniable is their limited competence in dealing with human 
nature. Following Dilthey, Weber and Sirnmel, Jaspers underlines 
the differences between the explanatory and the Verstehen ap- 
proaches in psychology and psychiatry. The explanatory method 
seeks causal reasons and objective connections, based upon the 
constant operation of universal laws of cerebral and mental action. 
The attention of the method of Verstehen is focussed upon the 
genesis of subjective states of mind and connections of meaning, 
rather than causality. The natural sciences use the explanatory ap- 


proach, whereas the humane sciences use Verstehen. The latter is 
historically orientated. It calls attention to those ideal aspects of 
human development which cannot be stated in objective, univer- 
sal causal laws. The humane disciplines pay special attention to 
the unique correlations of meaning and the unrepeatable se- 
quences of events which actually shape individual and cultural 

Yet these arguments do not add up to the conclusion that the 
various sciences are totally discrete and unrelated to each other. 
It can only be concluded that the sciences are not united through 
a single method and mode of knowledge, and hence do not yield 
a total conception of the being of the world. In Jaspers' termi- 
nology, they fail to constitute a system of world-knowledge, even 
though they can be organized into a unified systematic of knowl- 
edge. 18 Whereas a system bases the unity of science upon the unity 
of the world as a given object and upon a single scientific method, 
a systematic appeals to the non-objective idea of the world and a 
multiplicity of methods in scientific research. The Cartesian ideal 
of the unity of science is legitimate, as long as it recognizes that, 
in our world, the pathos of unity needs to be reconciled with the 
actual multiplicity of scientific methods and determinate spheres 
of objectivity. The principle of unity for a systematic of knowl- 
edge is drawn from scientific understanding itself, rather than 
from its methods and objects. The understanding employs its 
categories universally and compares the meanings disclosed at 
various levels of knowability. Because it is regulated by the idea of 
the world. Although the world as a whole is never forthcoming 
as an objectively determined appearance, the idea of grasping its 
total reality provides a ceaseless stimulation to scientific research. 
An unending conflict exists between the understanding's demand 
for total unity of explanation and the pluralizing effect of actual 
research methods and findings. From this fruitful tension springs 
not only the drive toward further scientific inquiry but also the 
desire to gain a fuller acquaintance with the world's reality than 
the sciences can supply. 

There are two false routes by which the human mind seeks to 
fulfill the need for a deeper grasp on being. One is the way of 
scientism, which refuses to recognize the essential boundaries of 
scientific thought. The other is an appeal to sheer feeling and pur- 
is Philosophic, 144, 128ff, 232-40; Rcchcnschaft, 364-65. On the general conditions 
for a systematic of the sciences, cf. Psychologic, 17-20. The problem of a systematic 
of the sciences or total views dealing with man is examined in Allgcmcinc (fifth 
ed., Berlin and Heidelberg, 1948), 625-28. 


ported irrational sources of insight. Jaspers is just as strenuously 
opposed to the latter alternative as to the former. He grants that 
there are irrational and idiosyncratic aspects of empirical being, 
which the sciences overlook and which are added proof of the im- 
possibility of a complete scientific system of the world. But he 
denies that these aspects must be approached philosophically by 
means that are also irrational or purely sentimental. Reason is not 
only the heart of scientific understanding but also the proper 
medium of all philosophical insight. Philosophy moves beyond the 
sciences, but it does not abandon reason (at least in its Kantian 
meanings) as its principle of discovery. 


Scientism and irrationalism bear witness that the human mind 
seeks to apprehend more about being than the sciences can pro- 
vide. Truth is wider than the truth about being as such. To know 
objects is not the same as, and is something less than, to grasp 
being. But from Jaspers' critique of science, it is evident that our 
grasp on being cannot be an instance of knowledge, since the lat- 
ter is confined to the region of objects. We cannot know being as 
such, even though we may be able to use reason to apprehend it 
in some non-objective and non-knowing way. Jaspers must now 
present some evidence to bear out his contention that being is 
wider than object-being and that truth embraces something more 
than scientific knowledge. 

To do this, he returns once more to a salient point in the pre- 
vious analysis of knowledge: the dualism between subject and 
object. The two members of this polarity are not placed indiffer- 
ently upon the same plane. Descartes 1 mistake was precisely to 
think that the self which is correlated with the material thing and 
with the requirements of scientific objectivity, is the total self. This 
is the source of the naturalistic fallacy, which argues from the fact 
that man is one object along with others in the world, to the un- 
warranted conclusion that he is nothing else than such an object. 
But human reality displays itself as a ground of Existenz and free- 
dom, as well as an instance of empirical being or objective appear- 
ance. Free, 'existential' decision does not lie within the range of 
objective universality, necessity and certainty. It opens up a vein 
of being that is determined through the unique and free activity 
of the individual, who is confronted with moral conflict and un- 
certainty. Here is a dimension of reality that is present in the 


world, and yet is something other than the objective appearances 
of the world. 

We have some experience of the inner reality of freedom and 
human Existenz. Jaspers refers to this experience as an awareness 
of the being which man is. Whereas science provides knowledge 
of objects in the world, philosophy rests on an awareness of the 
being of man and the being of the world as a whole. 19 Since this 
awareness is a form of non-objective and non-knowing thought, it 
is not subject to the split between the objective and subjective 
factors in knowledge. Philosophical awareness synthesizes both 
factors within a single whole of being. We also recognize that 
man's freedom is not satisfied by a purely immanent union with 
the being of the world. It seeks to transcend the world and even 
the human self, in its search after the unconditioned being or the 
One. Human existence is oriented not only toward immanent con- 
tacts with being but also toward Transcendence. Thus, we grad- 
ually become aware of being as the Encompassing (Das Umgrei- 
fende). Philosophical thought is a non-knowing awareness of the 
Encompassing, considered as the being of the world, the being of 
man's inner activity, and the being of Transcendence or God. 

Since scientific thought remains wholly objective and finite, it 
cannot attain to the encompassing whole of Being. This accounts 
for the distinction in kind between science and philosophy, a dis- 
tinction which scientific progress is incapable of removing or at- 
tenuating. Philosophy draws its vital strength and truth from 
inner awareness rather than from any sort of knowledge. Hence 
philosophy has an origin that is intrinsically independent of sci- 
ence. For philosophy to return to its origins does not mean to 
return to scientific thinking as its source. The wellsprings of phil- 
osophizing lie deep within the individual man, in so far as he is 
a free existent, straining toward Transcendence. 

Scientific and philosophic progress do not have the same im- 
port. 20 . The former entails a displacement of previous views, in 
favor of ever more adequate explanations, whereas the latter leads 
to a renewal of the continuous tradition of perennial philosophy. 

19 On inner awareness of Innewerden, see Existenz, 18-24; Wahrheit, 155, 346-47. 
The contrast between man as a scientific object and as a free, existing subject is 
developed in: Scope, 54-62; Wisdom, 63-65; Existentialism, 68-69. One of the major 
epistemological questions raised by Jaspers' philosophy concerns the way in which 
"thought" and "reason" can serve as common foundations for both scientific knowl- 
edge and 'existential* awareness. 

20 Scope, 174-76; Wisdom, 140-41. Because of the sharp contrast, Jaspers some- 
times denies that progress applies in any way to philosophy. Philosophical reflection 
on the origins of Being is the heart of the ideal of a philosophia perennis. 


Gabriel Marcel expresses the difference as that between solving a 
problem and contemplating a mystery, and Jaspers would accept 
this as an apt contrast. There is no question about the improve- 
ment of modern physics over its Greek antecedents, which are now 
studied merely in the spirit of curiosity and historical exactness. 
But the Greek philosophers are still our masters, and we are priv- 
ileged to enter into a living dialogue with them and share in their 
abiding wisdom. Philosophical inquiry does move from point to 
point, but tries deliberately to capture the meaning of the source 
of freedom within us and the tendency of that freedom toward 
Transcendence. Every man, in every age, is capable of becoming 
aware of the Encompassing and thus of exploring the meaning of 
being in a philosophical spirit. Philosophizing aims at penetrating 
the origin of being within us and beyond us, rather than moving 
from one scientific construct to another. 

Once having vindicated the essential independence of philos- 
ophy, Jaspers is then required to harmonize it with his previous 
view concerning the practical character of philosophizing. Since 
the latter is a practical deed, it is indissolubly bound up with con- 
crete historical situations. Granted that our historical era is dom- 
inated by the sciences and their practical consequences in tech- 
nology, philosophy cannot now be dissociated from these dominant 
factors. Although he does not express himself with all desirable 
clarity on this issue, Jaspers is advancing a dual affirmation. In its 
abiding origin, philosophy is independent of science; nevertheless, 
in our historical situation, philosophy is closely connected with 
the sciences and even uses them as instruments of its own thought. 
There is no contradiction in maintaining both that philosophy 
has an autonomous origin within man's existence, and that it re- 
quires science today as its indispensable tool and condition of 
development. Jaspers complicates the discussion sometimes, how- 
ever, by stating that philosophy is science. 21 The precise sense in 
which this proposition is meant, must first be clarified, before 
considering both the dependence and the independence of philos- 
ophy in respect to science. 

As we have already established, philosophy can rightly be called 
"scientific," in the broader usage of that term, without confusing 
philosophy with any of the sciences. Given Jaspers' account of the 
nature of scientific thought, however, it is now possible to find an 
even more intimate connection between philosophy and science. 
Even when "science" is taken in the restricted sense of the scien- 

21 For a concise statement of Jaspers' position, see his essay on "Philosophy and 
Science/' included in Wisdom, 147-67. 


tific methods and objects of knowledge, philosophy can be said to 
be present in scientific thinking. The scientist, as a human indi- 
vidual, shares in the human spirit and reason. Hence his inves- 
tigations bear definite traces of the influence of spirit: they seek 
not only to reach the scientific goal of universal and cogent knowl- 
edge, but also to convey something more. This additional purpose 
is to obtain a total grasp upon being, and only philosophy can 
satisfy this tendency. Although the search for the One and for the 
totality of Being is a properly philosophical impulse, it finds ex- 
pression in the work of the scientist and thus lends plausibility to 
the claims of scientism. Because of the presence of a philosophical 
aim, the sciences respond to the rational idea of the world as a 
whole and lend themselves to exploitation by scientistic minds. 
Science cannot fully clarify its own significance, because part of its 
import is to be an outlet for the philosophical quest itself. 

Philosophy and science are distinct but indispensable for each 
other, especially within our historical era. 22 The greatest service 
rendered by philosophy to science is a clarification of the latter's 
structure, its limitations and its distinction from the philosophical 
enterprise. Nothing is thereby contributed by philosophy to the 
particular content of the sciences or to the correctness of scientific 
propositions. But science is enabled to carry on the work of self- 
criticism, and is saved from making futile inquiries into problems 
beyond its competence. With philosophy's help, science can re- 
strain the tendency toward absolutizing scientific knowledge and 
giving the hegemony to some one scientific approach. Jaspers 
criticizes the view that science is wertfrei or indifferent to values. 
It is wertfrei, indeed, in the sense that it cannot set the ultimate 
goals of moral life and cannot supply the norms for moral obliga- 
tion. Still, science is not wertlos or completely devoid of valua- 
tional factors. For, scientific work is sustained by the will to gain 
knowledge for its own sake. And in a negative way, its progress 
depends upon a resolute refusal to follow the path of a scientistic 
absolutization of knowledge. In both respects, philosophy co- 
operates by strengthening the will of the scientist, so that he may 
pursue speculative knowledge and avoid scientistic superstition. 

Nevertheless, the contribution of philosophy is not wholly dis- 
interested. For, philosophy itself stands to profit by the purification 
of the scientific attitude. There is a definite sense in which science 
is the condition and tool of philosophizing, even though the 

22. On their mutual service, cf. Philosophic, 272-82; Existenz, 7-10; Allgcmeine, 
641-44; Wahrheit, 156-57; Rechenschaft, 348-50. The question of whether science is 
wertlos, as well as wertfrei, is dealt with in Wahrheit, 322-23. 


source of philosophizing is autonomous. To appreciate the recip- 
rocal benefit conferred by science upon philosophy, however, some- 
thing further must be said about the philosophical search after 
Transcendence and the meaning of Being as a whole. Although 
this search characterizes philosophical thought, it can never wholly 
succeed in its purpose. When metaphysics tries to express the 
meaning of Transcendence and the Encompassing (Das Umgrei- 
fende) in the form of thought, it inevitably becomes entangled in 
antinomies. For, it becomes confronted with the decisive difference 
between being an existing center of freedom and being ordained 
toward transcendence, on the one hand, and expressing these con- 
ditions in human thought, on the other. The realities of Existenz, 
freedom and Transcendence are of a non-objective nature, where- 
as every attempt to give expression, in thought, to our experience 
of these modes of being must submit to the conditions of objec- 
tivity. Indeed, the various modes of the Encompassing do not seem 
to be real, as far as the human mind is concerned, unless they are 
related to the concrete milieu of empirical being or the world of 
objective appearances. 

Hence philosophical transcendence must be accomplished with- 
in the world of objective, empirical being rather than by a with- 
drawal from it. If the reference to empirical being must be re- 
tained in our philosophizing, then the interests of philosophy are 
promoted by the advance of scientific knowledge of the objective 
world. This accounts for the close alliance between philosophy 
and science. Philosophical thought cannot avoid using the cat- 
egories of objective understanding, so that it may communicate 
philosophical truth in a clear, universal and rational way. Hence 
the conditions of objectivity are fundamentally insurmountable 
for philosophy, which must avail itself of the most highly de- 
veloped forms of the scientific categories and methods. 

Jaspers has a favorite formula for bringing out the mutual dis- 
tinction and dependence of philosophy and science. 23 Although 
scientific knowledge is universally valid, it is also relative to some 
determinate sphere of objectivity; conversely, philosophical aware- 
ness is absolute in its origin but relative in its objective expression 
in thought. Scientific knowledge is not absolute, since it does not 
convey the total meaning of being and does not fill our lives with 
an unconditional value, for which we should be ready to die. On 
the other hand, philosophical awareness is not universally valid 
and coercive knowledge, since it does not belong intrinsically to 
the sphere of knowledge. Whereas scientific truths can be demon- 

23 Wahrheit, 733-38; Scope, 90-92. 


strated and used as principles of deduction, philosophical truths 
can only be elucidated or evoked in consciousness. The reality of 
the Encompassing cannot be demonstrated or deduced from some- 
thing else, since it signifies the origins of being and hence has 
nothing prior to it. Moreover, the reality of the Encompassing can- 
not be employed as a premise from which any necessary deduc- 
tions can be made: it provides no blueprint for the conduct of our 
lives. Freedom, uncertainty and risk remain the indelible marks 
of philosophizing. 

Given this contrast between coercive, objective, non-absolute, 
scientific knowledge and free, non-objective, absolute, philosoph- 
ical reflection, it follows that the philosophical use of scientific 
categories cannot consist in a direct and positive expression of 
philosophical truths through that medium. Jaspers' paradoxical 
view of metaphysics now comes into play, in order to deter- 
mine the ultimate sense in which science benefits philosophy. 24 
As scientific knowledge becomes more perfect, we can see more 
clearly that the systematic of the sciences cannot actually attain to 
a complete system of knowledge. This failure of the sciences to 
achieve a total system of the being of the world provides philos- 
ophy with a most significant clue, since it serves as a warning 
against any identification between object-being and Being as such. 
Out of his experience of the essential boundaries of scientific 
thought, the philosopher is led to cultivate a form of unknowing 
or non-knowledge: the inner awareness of Being or the Encom- 
passing. Simultaneously, he recognizes the fate to which he must 
submit. He cannot express his philosophical awareness of Being, 
apart from the objective conditions of thought. Philosophizing is 
an objectification of a non-objectifiable realityl This is the para- 
doxical situation of the philosopher. He must use objectifying 
thought and knowledge, in order to express that which surpasses 
all objectivity and knowledge: Existenz, Transcendence and free- 
dom. Hence he cannot treat the objects in the world and the sys- 
tematic of the sciences as direct means of expressing his aware- 
ness. From the philosophical viewpoint, the world and its objects 
are so many signs and ciphers, which are not the Encompassing 
and yet which are our only context and instruments for thinking 
the Encompassing as real being, and for communicating our 
insight in a rational way. 

In sum, science and philosophy are engaged in a friendly 

24 The entire third book of Philosophic (675ff.) is devoted to a study of meta- 
physical thinking, as an effort to express Transcendence within the sphere of em- 
pirical being. 


struggle between different but interwoven ways of thinking. Their 
conflict is not that between enemies but between brethren, who 
are engaged in an edifying contest to uncover the truth. Philos- 
ophy assists science to remain loyal to the truth about objects 
known in the world; science helps philosophy to concentrate upon 
the truth of Being, and the deliverances of our awareness. The phi- 
losopher maintains a threefold freedom, in respect to science. 25 
He must have freedom for the unrestricted study of scientific 
methods and findings. He must also secure his freedom from 
scientism and every plan to substitute an absolutized brand of 
scientific knowledge for philosophy. And above all, the philos- 
opher has to maintain his freedom to contemplate the being of 
the world, of free human existence, and of Transcendence. Al- 
though he can never bring his awareness of these modes of being 
to perfect conceptual formulation, he can give it his complete, 
absolute belief, and can freely shape his life in response to its 


One way of evaluating Jaspers' position is to compare it, on a 
few scores, with the views of American naturalism and Thomism. 
Jaspers* own thought can profit by such a comparison with other 
doctrines; it can also make valuable contributions of its own to 
the common themes of discussion. Perhaps an intensive study of 
Jaspers will help to break down barriers and initiate a much- 
needed dialogue between Kantianism, naturalism and Thomism. 
Jaspers and the naturalists give different descriptions of scien- 
tific knowledge. Jaspers* account fits in well with Newtonian 
physics and the Kantian philosophy of science. But it does not pay 
sufficient attention to other theories of science, based upon more 
recent developments in physics. Thus, whereas Jaspers highlights 
the ideal of cogent, certain and universally valid propositions, the 
naturalists stress the importance of probability and the use of 
statistical averages. Jaspers regards the latter as a failure to attain 
the scientific standard of knowledge, whereas the naturalists tend 
to revise the standard account itself, in the light of what can 
actually be attained by the human mind in this field. Again, Jas- 
pers defends the basically speculative character of scientific knowl- 
edge, even though he grants that its practical consequences in 
technology have shaped the world we live in. From an operation- 
alist standpoint, however, practice is something more than a con- 
as Wahrheit, 104-05; Rcchenschaft, 84$. 


sequence of scientific knowledge. The very meaning of the scien- 
tific concept or theory is located in the practical directions and 
operations to which the concept leads the investigator. Mutual 
benefit would result, if Jaspers paid more attention to the charac- 
teristic procedures of post-classical physics, and if the naturalists 
agreed to reconsider the question of the relation between specula- 
tion and control. 

Naturalism does not distinguish as sharply between science and 
philosophy, as does Jaspers. 26 This is in line with the Hegelian 
parentage of naturalistic thought, since Hegel claimed to over- 
come the Kantian distinction between science and philosophy, 
knowledge and faith or interior awareness. Hegel achieved this 
unification, however, only by universalizing his conception of a 
single scientific method. Although the naturalists take an em- 
pirical and non-dialectical view of scientific thinking, they do re- 
tain the Hegelian thesis of a single scientific method. Hence a 
head-on clash between Jaspers and the naturalists over this issue is 
unavoidable. Even when the naturalists employ Comte's distinc- 
tion between the one method and the several techniques or pro- 
cedures of science, they fall far short of Jaspers' sharp differentia- 
tion of methods among the sciences. His vision is directed toward 
the concretely different ways in which chemists, psychiatrists -and 
sociologists deal with the same empirical materials, whereas the 
naturalists look to a general logic of the sciences for confirmation 
of their monism of method. Jaspers presents a definite challenge 
to the naturalistic position, since he argues that the distinction 
between a broad, general meaning for scientific method and the 
more restricted meanings is no warrant for concluding to the 
singleness of the scientific method. He believes that the differen- 
tiations required by research in the various sciences affect scien- 
tific method itself in an intrinsic way, and cannot be relegated to 
the region of subordinate techniques and procedures. The ques- 
tions he raises for naturalism are: whether there is a sufficiently 
definite and significant content in the broad meaning of scientific 
method, and whether the procedures of the several sciences involve 
intrinsic differentiation of method itself. 

Jaspers, in turn, could profit by a serious consideration of the 
naturalistic program of combining a monism of method with an 
anti-reductionism of content. He has not made this study, because 
of his definition of naturalism as the identification of being with 
the object-being studied by the sciences an identification en- 

26 The naturalistic program was set forth in the symposium, Naturalism and the 
Human Spirit, edited by Y. H. Krikorian (New York, 1944). 


tailing a most radical sort of reductionism. There is a conflict here 
between opposing views of what actually constitutes a reductionist 
standpoint. Naturalism claims that reductionism is successfully 
avoided as long as one admits the emergence of new values and 
fuller realizations of natural traits, without resolving these emer- 
gents entirely into their genetic conditions and causes. But Jaspers 
lays down more stringent requirements for an anti-reductionist 
philosophy. It is one that refrains both from equating the real 
with the field of scientific objects and from holding a total evolu- 
tionary development of life, consciousness and spirit from matter. 
Naturalism would be unable to meet these conditions of anti- 
reductionism. For, it is suspicious of any claim that a zone of 
reality exists which is not accessible (at least in principle) to scien- 
tific inquiry, and which can be approached only in some interior 
and non-objective way. If the real is that which is accessible in 
principle to the scientific method, then the distinction between 
being and scientific object-being is broken down. Furthermore, 
naturalism regards mind as an evolutionary emergent from mat- 
ter. It attempts to avoid reductionism on this score, by castigating 
vulgar materialism in a very severe way. On the positive side, how- 
ever, naturalism does little more than endow matter with a vague 
dynamism for bringing forth whatever has to be brought forth. It 
also points to the progress already made in giving a scientific de- 
scription of religious, esthetic and moral states. Jaspers' contention 
is that successful description in terms of another science does not 
establish causal derivation of the reality under description from 
the purely material mode of being. 

Another area for mutual exploration centers around the prob- 
lem of values. Naturalists have done considerable work toward 
establishing a positive relationship between scientific inquiry and 
the realm of values. They have attempted to reduce normative to 
factual statements, as well as to furnish a purely naturalistic ac- 
count of moral obligation. Jaspers seems to be content with repeat- 
ing the Kantian dichotomy between what is and what ought to be, 
since this accords neatly with his distinction between scientific 
objects and modes of being that are grasped through philosophical 
awareness. In this respect, naturalism comes closer to the approach 
of metaphysical realism to the basis of moral obligation. There is 
pressing need for a synthesis between the naturalistic emphasis 
upon the reference of moral choice to factual situations, subject to 
scientific ascertainment, and Jaspers' equally valuable defense of 
the free individual, as the focal center of actual moral life. 

Contemporary Thomists will find Jaspers' distinction between 


science and philosophy quite instructive. His way of distinguish- 
ing them bears some resemblance to Maritain's distinction be- 
tween the empiriological and the ontological analysis of nature. 27 
For both thinkers, the crucial issue is whether or not the discipline 
is formally directed toward a grasp of being. Maritain maintains 
that the empiriological sciences deal with sensible being, but only 
in so far as it is observable and measurable; Jaspers allows that 
the sciences attain to object-being but refuses them any access to 
being as such and as a whole. Maritain's conception of empirio- 
logical science is more operational and less speculative than Jas- 
pers' view of scientific knowledge. Furthermore, Maritain regards 
the ontological approach to the world, self and God as capable of 
yielding genuine knowledge, not merely experiential awareness. 
But the question presents itself of whether the contrast between 
the empiriological and the ontological studies of nature can be 
rigorously established, apart from the Kantian distinction between 
appearances and the thing-in-itself. The decisive feature of Jas- 
pers' theory is that the difference in attitude between the scientist 
and the philosopher is regulated by a difference between objective 
appearances and the being of the world. 

There are two strains of thought discernible in Jaspers' specu- 
lations on this problem. One is the orthodox Kantian correlation 
between knowledge and phenomenal objects. But there is also a 
tendency to give a more metaphysical interpretation of the object 
of knowledge. Jaspers refers to the latter both as an appearance 
and as a mode of being. Yet, granted that what we know in the 
world is a determinate mode of being and not Being as such or in 
its fullness, there is no evident need to equate determinateness or 
particularity with phenomenality. From the fact that our initial 
knowledge is particularized, it does not follow that it must also be 
phenomenal and in no way manifestive of being. A determinate 
mode of being is still a mode of being and gives knowledge of 
being, under some particular aspect, and not merely knowledge 
of appearance. Such knowledge is not formally metaphysical, but 
it can provide a basis for the metaphysical judgment that separates 
being-as-such from any of its particular, sensible modes. Such 
knowledge is also not fully exhaustive of the reality of the actual 
thing, which contains unsounded depths that are not conveyed by 
our concept of the object or even by our existential judgment 
about it. Metaphysics is grounded, however, not in a pretended 
insight into reality as a whole but in the human mind's ability to 

27 Jacques Maritain, Philosophy of Nature (New York, 1951), 73-88. 


recognize that the existent thing is indeed an instance of being. 28 
Thomists can make constructive use of several features in Jaspers' 
notion of metaphysics. Thus, his remark about the indissoluble 
bond between metaphysical thinking and the context of empirical 
being need not issue in a doctrine of paradoxical assertions about 
the Encompassing. It can serve as a realistic reminder that meta- 
physics never ceases to be a human discipline, and hence never 
ceases to bear a vital reference to our experience of sensible things 
in the world. This is re-enforced by Jaspers' own observation that 
metaphysical transcendence does not abandon the world but oc- 
curs within the world. For Jaspers himself, this reference of meta- 
physical speculation to the world of objects leads to endless 
antinomies, since he phenomenalizes the object of knowledge. 
Yet, if the being of existent things is firmly retained, then the split 
between science and philosophy, knowledge and awareness, can 
be healed. Our grasp on being is not an instance of non-knowl- 
edge but an instance of knowledge, in which we recognize the act 
of being exercised by the sensible thing and also the presence of 
this act in nonsensible modes of being. The levels of analogical 
meaning of knowledge extend farther than Jaspers' phenom- 
enalism will allow. They reach from our particular sense expe- 
riences and the scientific knowledge of things to the metaphysical 
knowledge about being-as-such and its causes and principles. 


28 For a more detailed Thomistic analysis of Jaspers' thought, cf. James Collins, 
Tue Existentialists: A Critical Study (Chicago, 1952), 80-114. 


Gerhard Knauss 



A DEVELOPMENT of the previous history of the concept 
of the Encompassing (das Umgreifende) will not be at- 
tempted here. For such purpose a separate study would be re- 
quired. Such a study would, indeed, contribute much interesting 
material, but very little new for an inner understanding of Jas- 
pers' philosophy. It would amount primarily to a comparison 
between latent meanings of the concept and Jaspers' use of it. 
This would lead into the thicket of problems of historical inter- 
pretation. For, in an historical approach, we would first have to 
distinguish between a history (or, more narrowly, a word history) 
and an actual anticipation of the essential hypothesis of the con- 
cept of the Encompassing. In this case interest would center on 
whether the concept appears in a relevant connection or whether 
it arises from an alien, accidental use of language. 

If, moreover, one considers all philosophizing as philosophizing 
from the Encompassing, as Jaspers does, then a historical repre- 
sentation of the Encompassing would necessarily have to remain 
sketchy, lest it become a total history of philosophy. For, where 
everything is thinking out of the Encompassing, the only mean- 
ingful approach would be to portray those formulations in which 
the thought achieves new lucidity. We shall, therefore, limit our- 
selves to indicate the most important earlier stages of the concep- 
tion, especially in view of the fact that a special study of the prob- 
lem is already available. 1 

Philosophizing is a thinking from out of totality. We speak of 
philosophy only where there is the intent to penetrate unity and 
totality. The teachings of the great Greek natural philosophers 

* Translated from the German by Matthew Cohen, as revised by Ludwig B. 

1 Cf. Mader, H. K.: Problemgeschichtliche Studie zur Periechontologie Karl Jas- 
pers', Dissertation, Vienna 1952. 



begin that way: Everything is; water, air, fire, spirit, etc. That is 
to say, thinking begins with the operation of embracing, of locat- 
ing in totality. This actually constitutes the beginning of phil- 
osophizing, by comparison to which the further interpretations of 
this "everything" appear accidental and optional, and very much 
bound to some particular time. In order for Being to be thought 
of as fire or water, everything must previously be thought of under 
the concept of Being. Thus, the beginning of philosophizing does 
not really lie in the first fragments which have been handed down 
to us, but in the thinking which preceded them. More detailed 
qualification of Being signifies, conversely, almost a decline in 
thinking. Only by means of its own reflection could thinking be 
led out of these limitations, into which, in its naivete, it had 
necessarily fallen. Perhaps there is something similar to this in 
Anaximander. Thought, with him, acquires a meaning related to 
Jaspers' conception, which may justify our introducing a short 
quotation here. In Anaximander we encounter the concept of Apei- 
ron, in connection with the formulation KCC! TTpix l v dxnocvTcc 
Kcci TTCCVTOC Kupspvfiv (which has, to be sure, been contested 
strongly recently). Notwithstanding the difficulty of whether the 
Apeiron is to be understood as infinite or as undetermined, this 
much seems certain: Anaximander thought of it in the manner 
of an Encompassing of all the elemental materials contained in 
it; and not, indeed, as a mere summation of all things, but as 
something that penetrates, rules and regulates everything. Being, 
therefore, is really thought of as Being and not as a mere heap of 
all existing things. 

When thought, after its first, great beginnings, began to split 
up, Plato re-united it once more and gave it its final unity in the 
concept of the Idea. This unity was no longer cosmological, but 
ideal, not one to be found directly in nature, but one still to be 
formed. The Ideas are not reality but belong to what we, since that 
time, have been calling ideality. This ideality is an encompassing 
unity of the perceivable. This was necessary because out of the 
multiplicity of the sensory emerged nothingness. By means of the 
Idea thinking, and thereby Being, were protected from the schisms 
of the Sophists. And the concept of the Idea has held our think- 
ing together ever since. But thinking in Ideas stood, for Plato, 
again under an Encompassing: the highest Idea of the One and 
the Good. This Idea of the Ideas is, to a certain extent, also an 
Encompassing of all Encompassings. To how great an extent the 
concept of the Encompassing is embedded in Platonic philosophy 
is shown not only by the frequent appearance of the concept of 


periechon, but also by the fact that this word, in Greek, signifies 
not only an encompassing but also a superiority of the encom- 
passing over the encompassed. The concept, therefore, implies not 
only a quantitative encompassing, but a qualitative gradation, 
which finally binds the Ideas, as in a hierarchy, to a highest. 

The concept of the Idea received such dignity through Plato 
that it became a fundamental idea of all later thinking, either in 
acceptance of the concept or in analysis and critical rejection of it. 
The history of the Idea in Western thought is, at the same time, 
a history of the idea of the Encompassing, which accompanies it. 
The two main stations on this road are Kant and Kierkegaard. 
These two are also, biographically speaking, the most important 
stations in the development of Jaspers' thought. Kant was his 
starting-point, and this explains his conscious emphasis on the 
significance of ideas in the whole of Kant's philosophy, as opposed 
to a Kant interpretation limiting itself to its categorical aspects 
(cf. the essay on Kant's theory of Ideas in the appendix to the 
Psychologic). Plato and the Pre-Socratics became only late, and 
only after Jaspers' own views had matured, the subject of years of 
systematic study. Thus, those beginnings, which might be re- 
called by the concept of periechontology in logic, were fragments 
of alien thought, in which the thinker recognized himself. 

The document in which Jaspers discusses this Kantian point of 
departure is the parenthetically mentioned work on the theory of 
Ideas. In this work the ruling principle of the formation of Ideas 
is expounded: to make the unconditional, or totality, the guide. 
Totality and non-limitation are the essence of the Idea. Totality 
and non-limitation are reciprocal ideas. The Idea is the uncon- 
ditional among the given conditions. The unconditional embraces 
within itself the totality of the developing conditions. As such a 
totality the Idea is simultaneously subjective and objective. The 
subject-object division, which forms the essence of intellect, has 
no absolute significance for the Idea. Ideas go beyond intellect, by 
embracing its boundaries together with intellect itself. 2 The Idea 
undergoes a subject-object division only to the extent that it 
operates methodologically in the medium of the intellect. 8 The 
Idea, therefore, is the final Encompassing of subject and object. 
Seen thus, the Idea forms the highest point in Kant's thought, and 
this significance of the Idea is stressed by Jaspers, expressly against 
the interpretation of Kant common at that time, in which Kant 
* was limited to the Transcendental deduction and the problems of 

2 Cf. Psychologic, (2nd and 3rd ed.), 477. 

3 Ibid., 484. 


the categories. Over against this, Jaspers pointed out, to be sure 
without much resonance at the time, that the distinctive feature 
of Kantian thought consists in the union and unity of all the 
faculties of man's nature. He found in Kant's theory of Ideas the 
representative achievement of this basic intention. Kant's concept 
of the Idea has remained representative for Jaspers to this very 
day, and it is the encompassing aspect of the Idea which Jaspers 
stresses from the beginning. The Encompassing is understood as a 
mutual encompassing even as early as the Kant essay. Thus: the 
intuitive (das Anschauliche), as something irrational, goes beyond 
the intellect, but is encompassed by concepts. Ideas go beyond the 
intellect by encompassing it. 4 The relationship of the Idea to the 
concrete individual reality is described by Jaspers as a surpassing 
(Uebergreijen)* His later philosophy, therefore, is already pre- 
pared, even to the point of the choice of words.* The basic Kant- 
ian conception of the subject-object division, his deduction of the 
basic unity of nature and freedom beyond all possibility of knowl- 
edge (at the beginning of Kant's Critique of Judgment), and his 
discourse regarding the common root of sensibility and intellect 
almost naturally call forth the concept of the Encompassing. Thus 
it is, perhaps, permissible to say that Jaspers' philosophy, after all 
the deviations from and misinterpretations of Kant, is the natural 
development of Kantian thought under contemporary conditions. 
What distinguishes the Idea in the Kantian sense from the con- 
cept of the Encompassing is the change which meanwhile has 
taken place in subjective consciousness. For Kant philosophy has 
the character of a possible science and its concepts (the Ideas, too, 
therefore) claim scientific exactitude. They are not achieved in 
the basic experience of transcending. Transcending does not be- 
come thematic in Kant's philosophy, although carried out by him 
at decisive points. The reduction of conceptuality, occurring by 
means of transcending, is, therefore, not recognized. The possible 
significance of a symbolically pregnant language (the "cipher," 
as Jaspers later calls it, using one of Kant's own terms) is always 
misjudged by a philosophy with "scientific" claims. 

This break with the scientific claim took place in Kierkegaard. 
He blasted the concept of philosophy as a rigidly organized dis- 
cipline as perhaps no one before him; but, in the final analysis, 
not against philosophy, but in its behalf. For philosophy experi- 
enced, in Kierkegaard, an equally unique enrichment. What Plato 

4 Ibid., 477. 5 Ibid., 460. 

Translator's Note: We translate the German "umgreifend" by encompassing, 
and the German "ubergreifend" by surpassing. 


had accomplished for objective consciousness with the concept of 
the Idea, Kierkegaard did for subjectivity with his concept of 
Existenz. Against the decline of the inwardness, once so charac- 
teristic of the Christian relationship to God and of Christianity's 
concept of the human soul, but now disintegrating into psycho- 
logical, sociological and metaphysical fragments, he set his own 
'existential' thinking. Although Kierkegaard still regarded it as 
Christian, this kind of thinking is actually a form of philosophiz- 
ing and, as such, separable from Christianity. 

Kierkegaard made up for the blasting of the traditional struc- 
ture of philosophy by making this deed the theme of his philos- 
ophizing. Through him occurs the thematization of the basic ex- 
perience of the limits of human Existenz, without which experience 
all modern philosophizing acquires the character of a mere anti- 
quarianism. Since Kierkegaard our thinking has, so to say, ac- 
quired a reverse side, which is able to give the lie to the front. 
He carried out the experiment, using himself as the object, of 
pursuing thought, out of its objectification in the Idea, back to its 
status nascendi, i.e., to the thinking person. With Kierkegaard, 
and, in a different sense, with Nietzsche, thought went back to 
before Plato in whom it had experienced its initial ideal objec- 
tification. The manner of existence in the Platonic Socrates was, 
for Kierkegaard, the first problem of philosophy (the predilection 
of modern thought for the pre-Socratics has its origin here). The 
Encompassing of thought, in which we have lived since Plato, in 
spite of the inroads of Christianity, has become problematic since 
Kierkegaard. The Encompassing must be achieved anew, but now 
no longer once and for all, uniformly binding for all people, but 
in the subjective adoption by each individual. And the conscious- 
ness that the truth of our subjective existence determines the 
truth of our objective thinking necessarily forced a new, more 
original understanding of truth. Just as the naive truth of physi- 
ologists became untrue when they discovered the spirit qua logos, 
so can objective truth become untrue as soon as thinking is con- 
fronted with its own existing. There are truths which can be un- 
true for me. Since Kierkegaard this is to be understood as follows: 
Truth is tied to our origins. From now on one can speak of truth 
only in an encompassing sense, in which is contained both the 
subjective and the objective. In the conception of the origin of 
truth the philosophy of the Encompassing remains tied to the 
thought of Kierkegaard. 

It can only be of biographical interest to know at which point 
in Jaspers' works the Encompassing is spoken of for the first time 


and mentioned expressly. The word is used occasionally in his 
Philosophic of 1931, but without his making any systematic use 
of it. But the university lectures of the following years were al- 
ready based on the concept of the Encompassing, under the title 
of Philosophical Systematics. It was a new onset of thought, after 
the first complete presentation of his philosophy. Reason and Ex- 
istenz, a series of lectures, originally delivered at Groningen, was 
the first publication using the new concept. The lectures were 
taken over, partly verbatim, into his Von der Wahrheit (Phil- 
osophische Logik, vol. I). The concept was fully developed already 
at its beginning. Between these two books are the small Exist enz- 
philosophic of 1938,7V* Perennial Scope of Philosophy (German 
edition 1948, American edition 1949), in which the concept is 
presented under the aspect of its relationship to revealed reli- 
gion, and the historico-philosophical work, The Origin and Goal 
of History (German ed. in 1949, American edition 1953), which 
introduces the idea of the Encompassing into historical thought. 


One basic thought commands every great and genuine philos- 
ophy. That thought forms the secret guide which thinking, on all 
its paths, obeys and which, whether strong or weak, sooner or 
later, aims at a few underlying concepts. Such a basic idea, how- 
ever, is not the property of one individual thinker. True ideas are 
the ideas of their time. They determine the thinking of their time. 
They agree, therefore, with the thinking of contemporaries. Thus, 
if one were to seek agreement between Jaspers and the early 
Heidegger, for example, one could, making allowance for their 
different inferences, formulate it thus: the philosophizing of 
both thinkers revolves around the difference between 'Being-in- 
itself (Sein an sich) and 'what is* (things) [Seiendes (Dinge)]. What 
Heidegger designates 'ontic-ontological difference' is as far as 
the difference is concerned, not the further interpretation of Be- 
ing, but the difference between Being-in-itself and the manner 
in which Being becomes an object to us. In this underlying 
thought, arising, perhaps, out of a mutual conviction as to the 
finitude of man, both philosophers find themselves together in 
opposing the idealistic attempt at an infinite extension of thought. 
The experience of the difference and the systematic formulation 
of this experience, however, lead them into different directions. 
They develop the two basic possibilities which can present them- 


selves in such a fundamental situation: a premature anticipation 
of Being by a renunciation of all objective being, or a philosophy 
of the Encompassing, which does not desire to pass over the objec- 
tive world. In Heidegger we have a philosophy which loses pa- 
tience and which, counter to its own trend, conjuringly tries to 
grasp Being. In Jaspers we have a philosophy of the "longer way," 
as Plato terms it, which utilizes knowledge in order to make faith, 
in the end, believable. Heidegger strides thereby on the paths of 
classical Western ontology; Jaspers has before him the great ex- 
amples of Plato and Kant, in a venture similar to theirs: in a 
situation where knowledge becomes too plentiful, to return to the 
simple basic possibilities of knowledge and, opposing both mean- 
ingless multiplicity and the surrender to one presumably abso- 
lute mode of knowledge, to point the way towards philoso- 
phizing in possibilities. The basic idea of the philosophy of the 
Encompassing is: always to hold all possibilities open as ways to 
possible truth, without losing the consciousness of the unity of 
Being. Jaspers himself has presented this basic concept in various 
ways. I shall attempt here to render one of them. 

All philosophy looks toward a totality of Being and makes basic 
divisions. Systematic philosophizing consists of the maintenance 
of one fundamental concept in all of the ramifications of these 
fundamental relationships. 

One of these fundamental divisions is that Being always appears 
to us divided into subject and object. Since Kant this idea has a 
permanent place in philosophy. Whenever we think we think 
something, and, indeed, something definite. Every intentional act 
has an intended object. The phenomenology of Brentano and 
Husserl, reaching back to medieval concepts, made the concept of 
intentionality the leitmotif of its thought. Every intentional act is 
a specific one and, therefore, a partial one. Thus we always know 
that there are many other objects besides this particular one. Our 
recognition of objects occurs always within an objective horizon. 
Thinking without an horizon would be infinite thinking. Hori- 
zons, however, depend on the position of the observer and are 
able to shift and broaden if this position changes. Thus, a horizon 
presents only the extent of all objects known to us from one point 
of view. But all objects together do not make up everything. 
There is something which we can never find among all objects and 
yet it is absolutely certain. It is we ourselves. It is the subject. But 
"subject" is merely a name for it which deceives us and leads us to 
believe that the subject is a nameable object like the rest of them. 
It is the basic insight of the Kantian transcendental philosophy 


that the subject can never become an object. What becomes an 
object is a detachment (A blosung), behind which the actual sub- 
ject withdraws further. That which thinks is never thought of, for 
everything that is thought of is thought of as an object. Every- 
thing which is to exist for us must somehow become an object for 
us. For the subject "being" is always being-object. This "being for 
us" (filr uns sein) of Being is what Kant terms "appearing" 
(erscheinen). This concept, since Kant, signifies a revolution in 
the consciousness of Being. Kant illuminates this consciousness in 
a new way, by leading us back from the things to which we were 
at first completely and blindly attached, to the consciousness of 
these things; from the representations (Vorstellungen) to the possi- 
bility of representations. We become aware that the things are 
imagined things (we imagine the things the way they appear to 
us), and that everything which appears to us as a thing is enclosed 
in transcendental forms of appearance, which are identical with 
the "basic faculties of our mind." In knowing them we take hold 
of the things and thus, as perceiving subjects, we become free to 
know, because we recognize that we determine the form in which 
the things come to us. Behind the things we look for the condi- 
tions of their being things. We become conscious of our knowl- 
edge; that is, in a real sense, we are just beginning to know. To be 
conscious of the subject-object division already signifies that we 
think from the Encompassing of both; for the concept drives at 
once beyond itself. We experience an insufficiency of the possi- 
bilities of being as they reach us in the subject-object division. 
Thought awakens within us the consciousness that precisely the 
essential, because of which we exist, cannot be grasped in this 
division, but that it precedes or follows the division. Thereby 
thought frees us for the second revolution in consciousness. A 
further insight leads to this. 

Whatever we perceive is for us always in the form of an object. 
But all object-being is not yet the totality of Being. The object is 
just one side of it. The insight that objects are there only for a 
subject makes possible, at times, the return to the subject. But the 
subject withdraws from customary thinking. If, now, Being is 
more than object, and if, in philosophizing, we always keep Being 
in mind as a totality, then the thinking of the Encompassing of 
subject and object can no longer be a thought with a definite ob- 
ject. If the turn from object to subject signifies a transformation 
of our direct consciousness, then the manner of our thinking must 
also be transformed. The way in which we think of the Encom- 
passing can no longer be the way in which we think of specific 


objects as objects. Thinking must acquire a new dimension, it 
must become movement, become dialectic. It must rise up against 
itself, contradict itself, and thereby revoke itself in its definiteness. 

The thinking which occurs in the reversal is termed "transcend- 
ing thinking" by Jaspers. All philosophical thinking is, according 
to Jaspers, basically transcending thinking. What is termed phil- 
osophical speculation is any leap from obvious facts and immediate 
convictions into the encompassing horizons of thought. This leap 
from the reality of the given does not signify the abandonment of 
finiteness; for the leaper falls back again and again to his point of 
departure. The flight into infinity is, in itself, a finite act. This 
means, for example, that in the attempt to grasp the Encompassing 
conceptually, we necessarily degenerate into false symbolization. 
It is the task of philosophy to illuminate the necessity of these 
falsifications which arise from the nature of our consciousness and, 
thereby, to bring about the unique transformation of conscious- 
ners of thinking. Transcending from the objective to the Encom- 
passing: even in the process of falling to perceive the fall, and by 
conscious logical operations to follow the tracks which we leave 
behind in the motion of transcending. 

What, in transcending to the Encompassing, occurs on the part 
of the thinker is an equivalent transcending of all customary man- 
ners of thinking. Transcending from the objective to the Encom- 
passing demands from the thinker a corresponding transcending 
of his intentionality. 

Customary thinking is discursive-progressive, because it por- 
trays. It portrays something momentarily unknown, which is to 
become known, in terms of something already known. We grad- 
ually approach the object to be recognized by taking every single 
step leading to it. We bring the criterion for the truth of some- 
thing new always with us from something already known. Because 
our thinking is always conditional, it always takes the direction 
from a condition to something conditioned. 

However, Being, the absolute as opposed to everything that is 
finite and relative, can no longer be conditioned by our thinking. 
It cannot rely on something outside itself for the principle of its 
truth and of its proof. It must contain, simultaneously, the truth 
and the criterion of truth. It must be the object of knowledge and 
the criterion of knowledge at the same time: the old Spinozistic 
concept of causa sui. In the thinking of the encompassing Being, 
thought itself would have to become encompassing. It would have 
to outstrip, in one leap, all the steps of the discursive develop- 
ment. This would mean, however, that thinking would no longer 


have any actual movement, no approach to Being. On the con- 
trary, the chain of discursivity must be broken where the En- 
compassing is concerned in order to attain an opening of con- 
sciousness for the Encompassing. Therefore, in transcending 
takes place really less of a movement of thinking than a counter- 
movement of Being, through which Being reveals itself. 

Jaspers has various terms for this openness of consciousness. He 
calls it "fundamental knowledge" (Grundwissen), "philosophical 
faith" (philosophischer Glaube), and "self-awareness" (Innesein). 

Philosophical faith, to be sure, is to be distinguished from the 
religious faith in revelation; but the two have this in common: 

the faith, by which I am convinced, and the content of faith, which I 
adopt, fides qua creditur and fides quae creditor , are inseparable. 
The subjective and objective aspects of faith constitute a whole. Were 
I to take only the subjective side, then faith would be something like 
credulity, a faith without an object of faith, which believes only itself, 
so to speak. ... If I take the objective side alone, all that remains is 
the objective content of faith, a "stock" of tenets and dogmas, some- 
thing that, in a sense, is dead. 

For this reason one can neither say that faith is an objective truth, 
which is not determined by believing, nor that faith is a subjec- 
tive truth, which is not determined by the object. Faith is one 
even in what we separate as subject and object, as faith from 
which and in which we believe. 

Faith is, therefore, a manner in which we conduct ourselves to- 
ward an Encompassing of subject and object. What is thus in- 
herent in the structure of faith can become, as philosophical faith, 
the actual philosophical manner of conduct. Faith does not bind 
us to a content as an object, nor does it allow us purely subjective 
arbitrariness. As a believer one can say neither what, nor whether 
one believes, nor does it depend simply on my will whether I want 
to believe. Faith, rather, is a simultaneous presence in these po- 
larities of subject-being and object-being. 

This presence Jaspers also designates self-awareness. For, we do 
not realize the Encompassing by the outer way of knowledge, but 
rather by an inner transformation of thinking, by means of which 
we do not move toward another object but toward the actual 
origin. But this way inward is to be distinguished from what is 
meant by the introspection (= Verinnerlichung) of the mystics. 
The mystic abandons, therewith, the realm of communicability. 
His language becomes obscure and incomprehensible and at last 
breaks off when the final stage is reached. Self-awareness, on the 
other hand, is to be understood as a philosophic act which aims at 


attaining clarity regarding itself, which wants to communicate and 
which strives, for this reason, to become comprehensible and to 
retain self-control even at its extreme limits. It does not wish to 
fuse with the other which, in submersion, is experienced as the 
godhead, but wants with an intensified consciousness to regain it- 
self. In self-awareness I become one with the Encompassing of 
myself also, with myself as I actually am. I experience my origin 
or ground because I am freed, by the awareness of the Encompass- 
ing, from the attachments to the definite being, which always 
places us under conditions and demands a definite countenance 
from us. Self-awareness, therefore, does not communicate itself by 
trying to convince, but by reminding us of our own ground, of 
the "pre-knowledge," as it were, which, as a secret unrest, protects 
us from all the trivialities of philosophizing. Jaspers himself re- 
minds us of Schelling's tenet of the ' 'secret co-knowledge with 
creation" (geheime Mitwisserschajt mit der Schopjung), which re- 
fers to the knowledge of Being, already basically present, that can 
be philosophically awakened, or of Plato's theory, that we can 
recall what we saw in our pre-earthly existence. Awareness com- 
municates itself also as an appeal to the freedom, which everyone 
is, even against his own will, and which, in its unconditionality, 
which it knows has been granted to it by Transcendence, can 
become the pointer to this Transcendence. In all these ways of 
philosophizing and communicating we are concerned with keep- 
ing our own basis attuned to the grounds of Being. 

For this reason Jaspers calls transcending consciousness also 
philosophical fundamental knowledge. Where I, in faith, realize 
the Encompassing, I know of it from my very foundations. This 
foundation is the basis of our being human. The certainty of our 
fundamental knowledge is not a scientific one, therefore, but an 
assurance. Its success involves the entire nature of man. It is the 
encompassing knowledge of knowing, before all particularized 
knowledge. This fundamental knowledge can therefore constitute 
a "secret guide for our thought, transforming the multitude of 
single, dispersed items of cognition into a knowledge of the basic 
general possibilities of being." It is a knowledge which directs us 
in all further ramifications of our thinking and willing. What we 
know basically in this way determines in what way we know every- 
thing else, what it means for us, what becomes essential to us and 
what remains merely secondary. From this basis of our knowledge 
no specific knowledge can be deduced, even as it, in itself, is not 
deducible. But it implies an advance decision from the conse- 
quences of which we cannot escape. 


As fundamental knowledge it forms, in its simplicity, a con- 
necting link. For, by becoming basically like oneself, one becomes 
like everyone else. It is that which "basically" we always know, 
and have always known, philosophically, not something newly 
acquired. What, to a consciousness trapped in objects, appears as 
an impossible concept, appears later as profoundly self-evident. 
Self-evident; yet in such a way that this knowledge, once awak- 
ened in man, demands new realizations, greater clarity, and new 
manners of self-representation. Thus Jaspers can designate his 
Philosophische Logik as a study in fundamental knowledge, for 
which he attempts to delineate possible and, in our present his- 
torical situation, practicable ways. 


The basic structure of the Encompassing is the simultaneity of 
subject-being and object-being. However we understand Being, it 
cannot be merely the subject or merely the object. To reach for 
Being always means to progress to the Encompassing from the 
limitation of one of the poles. 

If by Encompassing we mean what we call Being-in-itself, then 
there can be only one Encompassing. There cannot exist another 
Encompassing next to the Encompassing. For, in the change-over 
to the Encompassing we abandon precisely this multiplicity of 
objects. In transcending object-being we suspend the possibility 
of separation and variation. But from the manner of the tran- 
scending movement there arise for us various manners of the En- 
compassing. These manners are not the Encompassing itself, but 
the expression of our finite approach to the Encompassing. For 
finite thinking the One again and again assumes finite perspectives. 

Thus the Encompassing is, for us, in one sense the being that 
we are ourselves and, secondly, Being as Being-in-itself. From this 
basic formulation Jaspers develops a system of seven modes of the 
Encompassing (Weisen des Umgreifenden). These seven modes 

Exist enz; Transcendence; existence (Dasein); consciousness-as- 
such (Bewusstsein uberhaupt); spirit; world; reason. 

Jaspers has retained this seven-fold division since he first pre- 
sented it in Vernunft und Existenz; but, in the course of time, the 
systematics of the inner relationships have changed. We shall at- 
tempt, in our presentation, to limit ourselves to what has remained 
constant as underlying thought through all the various trans- 


formations, and of which all deviations may be considered exten- 

The being which embraces us is called "world" and "Tran- 
scendence." The being which we are is called "existence," "con- 
sciousness-as-such," "spirit," and "Existenz." The common medium 
of their realization is "reason." That we exist as existence, con- 
sciousness-as-such, spirit, and Existenz signifies that in them we 
become conscious of our being. 

We are existence. Like everything living, we are bound to our 
corporeal existence by our vital functions. We live with our 
bodies in environment, into which we reach by means of tools, 
forms of social intercourse, language, and our total conduct, there- 
by objectifying ourselves. The forms of our existential realizations 
become, when objectified, objects of scientific research, as physi- 
ological functions, psychological experiences and sociological 
manners of conduct. But what becomes, in this way, the subject 
of research, such as matter, life, soul or consciousness , is no 
longer the Encompassing of existence itself. We are conceived of 
as a type of being among other types, but not yet as actually hu- 
man. For, as humans, we always find ourselves encompassed by a 
vital existential mood, supported by an obscure basis, from out 
of which the conscious psychic occurrence arises only as a brief 
reflex , and embedded in a general behavior pattern, in which 
we exist as functioning parts of the body of humanity. Objectified 
from this Encompassing we become the world for ourselves, we 
encounter ourselves as objects in the world, objects which possess 
material and temporal existence and which appear to a living, 
feeling and observing subject with whom we, objectifyingly, iden- 
tify ourselves. 

Everything which exists for us must also become, in some sense, 
existentially real: as, for instance, the influences working on my 
body and the changes occurring in it constitute the manner in 
which I am conscious of it. Of everything which is not existence 
we know only insofar as we encounter it in the shell of corporeal 

We are consciousness-as-such. All life other than that of man is 
merely an existence in an environment. Human existence, on the 
other hand, appears so full and rich because the following modes 
of the Encompassing enter into it. Whereas as mere consciousness 
of existence we are a dull and undifferentiated part of our en- 
vironment, as consciousness-as-such we achieve a clarity of reflec- 
tion, in which everything appears in the subject-object division. 
Only what enters this division becomes for us unequivocal, objec- 


tive, fixed being. Consciousness-as-such is, so to speak, the receiving 
apparatus which in its categories provides for every objectivity a 
means for becoming objective. In this way everything that exists 
must manifest itself in an objective manner and, by means of this 
fixation, attain communicability. For only what is in an identical 
fashion valid for two consciousnesses is communicable. As living, 
individual existences we share a, more or less, similar conscious- 
ness. But, by entering into the unequivocation of reflection, we 
are, above and beyond this, consciousness-as-such. In conscious- 
ness-as-such we think of ourselves as aiming at Being not only 
along similar lines but in an identical manner. As compared to 
empirical consciousness, this forms the encompassing validity of 
consciousness-as-such, which, being true, can only be one. We 
penetrate our mere environment and break through to the idea 
of the one world, to which . . . environments belong. And, beyond 
the worldly being, we have before us the timeless meaning of one 
truth for all people throughout all time. 

Spirit is the third mode of the Encompassing. As spirit we 
participate in the world of the spirit which becomes, for us, the 
practical impulse of our empirico-temporal existence or of the 
theoretical directives of our research. Ideas are totalities of mean- 
ing which establish a context of understanding. We seek such 
totalities as objective ideas in reality. We examine reality by 
means of the guiding ideas of world, soul, life, etc. We seek unity 
and relationships before any experience and beyond all possible 
experience. And from out of the world something always meets 
us halfway which corresponds to our subjective ideas. We cannot 
prove this, but we have the totality of our increasing understand- 
ing and the dovetailing of new perceptions into old conceptions, 
i.e., the ability to secure, by comprehensive designs, something 
still unknown in basic possibilities, and this seems to confirm us. 
We do not investigate mere emptiness. We do not outline our 
practical plans blindly or without hope for success. We expect and 
receive answers which confirm or condemn us. The "idealist" is 
not the lost dreamer but the far-sighted planner. 

As spirits we participate in the "realm of the spirit." We take 
part in everything that has ever taken place in history, in lasting 
experiences, human wisdom, unique revelations, artistic visions, 
political destinies. Spirit is, therefore, a temporal occurrence, in 
contrast to the timeless abstraction of consciousness-as-such. Spirit 
is bound to contents, where it appears as the totality of compre- 
hensible relationships. It intends something temporal, occurring 
here and now and something manifest, even though elevated to 


reflection by knowing it. Nature, even in its power and sublimity, 
is "spiritless*' because what it is is not again contained in a knowl- 
edge of itself. Spirit is, to a certain extent, a second nature: nature 
elevated to reflection. We look at ourselves as natural beings, from 
without; we make ourselves explicable objects of investigation. As 
spirits we are in conscious relation with everything that is under- 
standable to us. We transform the world and ourselves into com- 
prehensible totalities. "From within ourselves we understand our- 
selves as all-encompassing being, to whom everything is spirit and 
spirit only." 

Existence, consciousness-as-such, and spirit are ways in which 
we find ourselves participating in the world, if we illuminate 
our being. What we are, and as what we objectively encounter 
ourselves in these modes of participation, we call, at the same 
time, world. But in this worldly being not all our possibilities are 
exhausted. This being is only what we are "in reality." But we 
are not merely reality but also potentiality. What we actually are 
as such potentiality Jaspers calls Existenz. We are never Existenz 
in the mode of reality but only in the mode of potentiality. Exis- 
tenz is our basis. It is always ahead of us because of the factuality 
of our existence, but we can catch up with it by attaining our 
authentic being. As Existenz we never become objects to ourselves, 
in contrast to the other modes of the Encompassing. Existenz does 
not become appearance. What appears, appears as reality. For this 
reason Existenz, for the kind of thinking which only knows reality, 
is as much as nothing, a fabricated illusion. Compared to all 
worldly being Existenz always remains unsettled, without clarity, 
without visible effect. It never advances to the side of the object. 
It is, in a sense, the absolute possibility of being subject. I under- 
stand myself it it, where I am I, completely as myself. Such modes 
of understanding, philosophically reflected as "illumination of 
Existenz" come to light in a consciousness of the unconditional, 
wherever it enters into life as absolute validity; wherever a total 
and unconditional decision is demanded; wherever our existence, 
our knowledge, our spiritual world, seem insufficient to us and a 
final dissatisfaction arises with everything worldly; in the con- 
sciousness of immortality as a timeless security in eternity. 

But inquiry into Being does not stop even with the return to 
the basis of our own Existenz. The Encompassing, which I am and 
which I know as existence, as consciousness-as-such, and as spirit, 
cannot be understood out of itself but points to something else. 
The Encompassing that we are is not yet Being itself, but appear- 
ance in the Encompassing of Being. 


The Encompassing, which we are, has its boundary, first of all, 
in actuality, in the fact. Even though we "produce" everything we 
perceive, as far as its form is concerned (since it must enter into 
the ways in which it becomes objectified for us), we do not produce 
the slightest speck as far as its existence is concerned. Thus Being 
is that which, though there are no limits to the investigability of 
its appearance, continually retreats as itself; it shows itself only 
indirectly, whether encountered in the guise of the definitely exist- 
ing or in the lawfulness of occurrences. This we call the world. 

World, therefore, is the Encompassing which we are not, al- 
though we participate in it. For the fact that there is a world is 
not identical with the fact that we exist. World is always more 
than we are, in the factuality of its existence (which is independ- 
ent of us), as well as by being, as an idea, always more than ema- 
nates to us from it as appearance. It is never an object, but the 
totality in which we encounter objects. Just the same the world is 
never the "entirely different" for us. This, the "different," is the 
second boundary we meet in being ourselves. Though the world 
in its existence is independent of us, it is still not the cause of our 
existence. It is the boundary we meet when transcending outward. 
If we transcend inward with the question as to our own cause, then 
we strike the "entirely different" of Transcendence. It is the funda- 
mental experience of our finite nature that we are not here be- 
cause of ourselves. In our empirical existence we are limited to a 
narrow temporal dimension. Where we, in consciousness of our 
freedom, experience ourselves as acting unconditionally and time- 
lessly, we know that precisely this freedom does not originate in 
ourselves. We cannot want to be free, just as we cannot want to 
be unfree. In certain "ultimate situations" freedom can become 
lost. "We can stay away from ourselves," as Jaspers says. The para- 
dox is that, in our freedom, we are given to ourselves. Where we 
most deeply experience ourselves as ourselves, we experience our 
origin from something else. This "else" Jaspers terms "Tran- 
scendence." Theologically speaking this Transcendence is the 
concealment of God, the consciousness of dependence, the con- 
cept of being created as a creature in the act of creation. 

Existenz never becomes producible objectivity for us, and 
Transcendence can never be mistaken for our own subject-being. 
The consciousness of origin and the yearning which never 
leaves us in spite of worldly security for security in the tran- 
scendent, is simultaneously always consciousness of the state of 
separation. Where this consciousness is lost, there arises self-deifi- 
cation or fanaticism; where Transcendence is absorbed in the 


world, there arises Pantheism; where the separation itself is de- 
nied, a pure cosmism. 

But Transcendence becomes just as empty when there is no re- 
turn to the basis of Existenz. It becomes an "indifferent unknow- 
able whose being, in its immanent insignificance, is as much as 
nothing." Or it becomes a rationally constructed greatness, an 
"etre supreme" to which one can ascend on a conceptual step- 
ladder. In these errors Transcendence is always misunderstood 
and, as a consequence, one's own being is brought into disorder. 
This always seems to occur out of an obstinacy, which claims to 
rely on itself and denies recognition; or because one forgets him- 
self and throws himself away, as the result of unadmitted despair 
and of an unreadiness to settle accounts with oneself. In both there 
is a lack of frankness, of honesty, of readiness for criticism which 
talks about everything and knows no reservation. It is, all in all, 
a lack of reason. 

Reason enters consciousness-as-such as intellect; it is also the 
capacity to extricate oneself, by reflection, from the narrow con- 
fines of the intellect. It is the "faculty of the ideas/' as Kant 
termed it, and, thereby, the way out of the particular into the 
general. Reason will not let us forget the totality and the essen- 
tial. It governs existence in the form of a reasonable attitude, 
which guides the physical-material organization of our life; it 
protects us from uncontrolled actions; maintains us between ex- 
cess and asceticism; lends our actions continuity in the totality of 
our lives by way of reasonable goals; balances the day and night 
sides of our nature; regulates our co-existence with others in a 
reasonable manner. It touches us, as love, at the very foundation 
of our Existenz and thereby becomes the language in which God 

Without reason Existenz, which rests upon feeling, experience, 
unquestioning impulsiveness, instinct and arbitrariness, would 
become wilful self-assertion, distance from the world and reserve 
in confronting Transcendence. Without reason Transcendence 
becomes demonic superiority, which attacks us as if from an am- 
bush (aus einer Hinterwelt); faith becomes superstition; love be- 
comes fear. The world becomes a chaos in which there are only 
isolated spots of clarity. Existence falls into disorder, loses its 
humanity, goes astray in asocial perversions. Spirit degenerates 
into ridiculous hypostasies, unworthy of belief. What had been 
living spirit becomes dead materialization. There arises the pic- 
ture of beautiful harmony, to be speculated about but not to be 
lived. Without reason consciousness-as-such is a mechanical think- 


ing device, on which we practice the large multiplication table of 
the world. 

In all of these manifestations reason is more of a negative thing, 
something which regulates and maintains order. It is most itself 
when it brings the other to itself. It is unrest where stagnation 
threatens, a forward drive where there is a standstill. Reason is: 
becoming transparent and causing to be transparent. It prevents 
popular and obvious absolutizations of one mode of the Encom- 
passing by demonstrating the significance of every mode in the 
totality of meaning. It makes every single mode of the Encompass- 
ing true, because it bears in mind the totality of all the modes. It 
knows that truth lies only in the whole. It is everywhere on guard, 
wherever anyone believes he is able to have a private rendezvous 
with truth. Reason is always insufficient when it is enclosed defin- 
itely in specific forms; it is always too much when it appears as its 
own substance. 

If we consider these seven modes of the Encompassing in a uni- 
fying survey, questions arise as to their systematic relationship and 
their order. As long as we are concerned with objects in the world, 
our knowledge always takes place by our seeking relationships. We 
attempt to derive things from each other. Our thinking always 
deals with conditions and the conditioned. We grasp relationships 
by understanding the circumstances of conditions. The fundamen- 
tal idea of the Encompassing, however, is that it does not occur as 
an object in the world and, therefore, cannot be derived from 
other objects. Especially, the Encompassing cannot be derived 
from one of its own parts. We do, indeed, transcend from the par- 
ticular to the Encompassing, but transcending is not deriving. We 
utilize special paths of thought to soar up to the Encompassing. We 
seek, in ultimate situations, to extend our experience of being to 
the Encompassing. But we still cannot demonstrate the Encom- 
passing thereby. For, we cannot derive thought itself from what is 
being thought. From something which is for us we cannot derive 
our being. From the many existing things we cannot derive Being. 

What happens in transcending is not that thought becomes con- 
vinced, but that we become consciously aware of something which 
we had previously only obscurely divined. It is not so much that 
thought is compelled by conclusive evidence; what happens is 
more a liberation from thought and an entering into a new kind 
of consciousness. 

It is equally impossible, however, to derive a specific being from 
the Encompassing. It is the old dream of philosophy to let every- 
thing else emerge from a highest being, step by step, by emanation, 


development, or causality. Even in modern scientific cosmologies 
this thought is dominant. But such attempts see reality always as a 
model, the step by step reconstruction of which they then carry 
out. They are therefore inadequate for everything which does not 
fit that model. The symbol of the inconceivable in the idea of cre- 
ation corresponds to the thought model of such attempts: man is, 
as if he were created in the image of God; the world is, as if it had 
emerged from a reasonable and order-creating will. 

There are attempts to derive all the categories of the conceivable 
from one highest principle of consciousness-as-such. But, such pro- 
cedures gradually introduce, with the principle of derivation, pre- 
cisely what is to be derived. For, before we derive the categories, 
we already use them in the derivation. At the root of all these at- 
tempts lies the misconception of regarding Being itself as some- 
thing conceivable, from the implications of which one can develop 
everything else. One confuses the Encompassing with objective 
being and commits the philosophical sin which perverts all philos- 
ophizing at its roots. For this reason philosophizing, which remains 
in the mode of transcending, does not derive the objective from 
itself but learns to see it correctly, in its place, and with its par- 
ticular significance in the whole. Such philosophizing constructs no 
systems but opens up possibilities, it creates elbow room for deduc- 
tions in particular sciences. 

Nor can the modes of the Encompassing ever be derived from 
each other. They do, indeed, refer to each other, but in each mode 
the Encompassing has its own origin. Their relationship is not one 
of mutual conditioning or of homogeneous, reciprocal effect, but 
of supplementation and intensification. There is no one Encom- 
passing from which we recognize all the others. Rather do we be- 
come conscious of the modes of the Encompassing by pursuing, fur- 
ther and further, the inquiry into Being. In every mode the ques- 
tion, whether the totality of Being has already been grasped, arises 
anew. Thus, the relationship between the modes of the Encom- 
passing cannot be one which emerges from a single one of them, 
nor can it be a logical relationship of condition and conditioned, 
of cause and effect, of higher and lower, etc. Moreover, the rela- 
tionship becomes apparent only if all the modes are visualized. It 
is, therefore, an interdependence with reference to one truth 
which, however, is never completely attainable. The system re- 
mains, therefore, provisional and experimental. 

The Encompassing is, in every form, a polarity of subject and 

I am as existence: Inner world and environment. 


I am as consciousness-as-such: Consciousness and object. 

I am as spirit: The idea within me and the objective idea ap- 
proaching me from the things. 

I am as Existenz: Existenz and Transcendence. 
The Encompassing that I am encompasses simultaneously the 
Encompassing which is Being itself, and is at the same time en- 
compassed by it. 

Existenz and Transcendence form the two extreme poles of the 
seven modes. They are quasi the equivalent of subject and object 
of the Encompassing itself: Existenz as that which I am in those of 
my possibilities which I realize; Transcendence as the absolutely 
different and the other-worldly. And just as it is true for objective 
relationships, that there is no subject without object, it is equally 
true that there is no Existenz without Transcendence. Between 
these two poles lies that being which includes our being and that 
being, which we are not. The world is, as existence, consciousness- 
as-such, and spirit, our own being and is, at the same time, as pure 
world-being, something else, in which we do not participate. The 
common, unifying bond of all the modes is reason. It must be pres- 
ent in all the modes before we can speak of them. 

If Existenz and Transcendence form the poles of Being itself, 
then there exists between Existenz and reason a polarity in that 
being, which we ourselves are. Reason has substance only through 
Existenz. Existenz is illuminated only through reason. Reason de- 
pends on something else. Without substance it would be mere in- 
tellect, hollow and groundless. "Existenz really comes into its own 
under the sting of the inquiry of reason." "Without reason it is in- 
active and dormant, as though not there." Thus reason and Exist- 
enz do not constitute mutually exclusive forces within the Encom- 
passing. The decision is not to be made between rationality and 
inwardliness, as for instance in the form of a choice between ideal- 
ism and vitalism. These simple alternatives are equally simple un- 
truths. Truth is neither solely in the clarity of reason, nor in the 
inwardliness of Existenz. Either extreme would amount to a denial 
of man's potentialities and thus would deny the truth of Being. 

To what extent Jaspers places the accent of his philosophizing 
on these two poles is evident from his first systematic presentation 
of the philosophy of the Encompassing, which bears the title 
Reason and Existenz. If one were to proceed further, it could be 
pointed out that, biographically, all of his philosophizing has taken 
place in this tension. It began as the philosophy of Existenz and 
wants to be understood today as the philosophy of reason. It once 
stressed the 'existential' out of opposition to the situation as it 


existed at that time, and now stresses the connection with the tra- 
dition of reason, out of a situation, which, in the meantime, has 

What appears here as the conditioning of the situation of the 
thinker, is valid for the philosophy of the Encompassing generally. 
In an existence, temporal in its innermost essence, there can be no 
rest. Repose in the truth signifies a completed truth. No temporal- 
ly finite being can ever attain completion. As long as we live, that 
is, as long as we have a future before us, there are advances and re- 
visions, improvements and criticism. Each moment can reveal new 
truths to us, and, just as permanently, there threatens the danger 
of falling prey to untruths. In the thinking of temporal existence, 
therefore, the modes of the Encompassing have always to be run 
through anew in an endless circle. 



In our everyday intercourse with worldly things we recognize 
that we are already placed in a large context, which determines the 
possible ways of our relations to these things. Always we already 
know meaning and purpose, and we adjust our actions accordingly. 
It is possible for us to name the things because we can determine 
their places in the system of co-ordinates of the concepts previous- 
ly known to us. In our scientific penetration into the relationships 
of the world we are always led by previously accepted ideas. With 
them we ascertain the extreme possibilities which we could en- 
counter. The fact that we look for continuity and totality is not a 
result of experience, because experience itself is only possible on 
the basis of continuity and totality. We bring these ideas with us 
when we begin to assemble scientific experiences. 

If, however, we attempt theoretically to achieve a unified picture 
of all available experience, we realize that we do not yet know all 
the possible data of experience and that our theory is only capable 
of giving us a temporary picture. A new experience may, at any 
time, prove the incompleteness of the theory. Precisely because 
the formation of our experience is guided by the idea of continu- 
ity, we know that there can be no point, from which no further 
experience would be possible. Experience, therefore, can never 
confront us as something complete. If we designate the totality of 


possible experiences as "world," we can say that the world can 
never be the object of a closed and complete experience. The 
world is, therefore, never an object of our research, although, in 
all our research, we aim at it as the epitome of all experience. We 
say then that the world is an idea and that our experience always 
occurs within this horizon of the idea of world. If we think of the 
spatial cosmos, we shall always find ourselves within a spatial di- 
mension. A cosmos limited in any way is inconceivable to us. Space 
is thus the horizon of all spatial experience. But, in the idea of 
world we overstep even space as such, for our idea of world is not 
limited to space. We ask: everything is in space, but what is space 
in? We know, since Kant, of the dependence of our representation 
of space on the peculiar make-up of the human consciousness. In 
pondering this question we seek to transcend this dependency. In 
a certain sense, this question is senseless, i.e., if, in using the words 
"what in," we are only inquiring after a new spatial dimension. 
But the question assumes a deeper meaning if it signifies our in- 
tention to soar, beyond all spatial limitations, into an Encompass- 
ing, which is no longer bound to our manner of representation. If 
we mean the world in this Encompassing, it is then no longer an 
object, because we are no longer capable of conceiving it. It is ob- 
ject and subject, because we ourselves are included in what we 
mean by it. It is not a goal of research to be determined qualita- 
tively. The world is not what we investigate but that we investi- 
gate. It is possible that there are things and qualities for us because 
we refer to them from out of the relationship of an encompassing 
world. Objects without a world to which they belong could not 
become a valid experience for us, for then we could not bring them 
into relationship with our remaining experiences. This is the 
meaning of the idea of world as the unity of our experience. 


When we think of the world as cosmos, time appears to us always 
in spatial form. We project time onto a spatial dimension. Time 
becomes a dimension which can, for instance, appear as a fourth 
dimension in a space-time continuum. In this mathematical form 
time has lost its particular character as a condition belonging to 
the essence of man. In history we seek this time as the temporality 
of man. For, in whichever way we understand history, it is always 
essentially human history, no matter how much we are concerned 
with the non-human conditions of historical occurrences. What is 
of primary interest to us is the form in which man appears in his- 


tory at different times. The unrepeatable, unique manifestations 
of his desires and feelings form the contours of history not what 
remains the same or develops according to laws. In history we 
search for freedom, where it breaks through nature and its lawful- 
ness. Wherever we encounter an action out of free conviction we 
face something that is inconceivable in terms of nature. Freedom, 
as one of man's temporal possibilities, opens up a dimension which 
remains hidden from us as long as we consider the world merely as 
cosmos. It is a new, the "historical," world which opens itself to us 

But, if we seek freedom in history, we realize that we can only 
find its manifestations. We find the tracks and the effects of what 
has occurred out of freedom, but not freedom itself. Whenever we 
are touched by the free nature of man in another era we know that 
we have already transcended history beyond the present. If we de- 
scend all the way into time we attain simultaneity. Wherever man 
becomes most real he becomes timeless in time. We aim at an En- 
compassing of all of man's temporal forms of appearance, because 
we are ultimately seeking man in history. We find freedom to be 
the same throughout the millenia. But this is not the sameness of 
a natural law but the binding force of human nature, true to itself. 
We have a common history because man is man and is able to re- 
main true to himself under the most extreme conditions. That 
there is one picture of man, in terms of which we can see every- 
thing, permits us to understand even his last deviations his de- 
cline into the animal and his ascent into the apparently super- 
human as possibilities belonging to him. There is no history of 
geniuses and of subhumans alongside that of man, analogous to a 
possible history of plants and animals for example. 

Thus it is from the one idea of man that the concept of history 
arises. But we do not in history seek only man as he is. We search 
for what he ought to be, how he yearns to see himself, how he 
understands himself, that is, we seek meaning in history. In con- 
trast to everything else in nature, man is not simply what he is. He 
is, in a more eminent sense, what he is not. Man is not a factum 
but a faciendum. His measure is not his reality but his potentiality; 
not the normal but the exceptional. 

Freedom is the way in which one is to conduct himself in view 
of his potentialities. Wherever man thinks and acts from freedom 
he indicates what he would like to be. What decisions he makes, 
as a free man, also means what he wants to be in the future. The 
future, in the final analysis, means his end; the end, as he sees it 
as the end of human history. Proceeding from this end, as the goal 


of human history, we give ourselves to understand what we take to 
be the meaning of our temporal existence. 

But our present actions decide not only our future but also our 
past. What I do today can transform the meaning of my entire life 
to date. In everything I do I make my past necessary. What was 
pure possibility becomes highest necessity, for I understand myself 
from my past as necessarily bound up with it. Although I am free 
in the direction of the future, I appear to myself bound to every- 
thing I have already been. That there is such a thing as "fate" is 
always true only for the past, not for the future. 

The question concerning man's origin is thus an unavoidable 
challenge because of his ending if being human is to have mean- 
ing. For this reason one always finds at the beginning of history 
the question concerning the origin of man. For what man is to be 
is determined by what he is capable of being. What he is capable 
of being is determined by the way he is constituted originally. 
Therefore history attempts to find an encompassing bond in its 
inquiry into origin and goal, for the meaning of history is at the 
same time the meaning of man. But the actual sphere of history is, 
thereby, again transcended, for origin and goal themselves do not 
belong to history (the beginnings are already set, the goal is still 
ahead of us) . Yet it is out of history that the demand arises to 
reach beyond it into the Encompassing. Purely historical knowl- 
edge remains always unsatisfying; it is never the end. History is 
encompassed by a horizon in which the temporal blends into the 
eternal and the relative is consummated in the absolute. 

The transcending of history takes place as a thinking to the end 
of historical perspectives. For history is incomplete in either direc- 
tion. It flows from the infinite to the infinite. From this fact arises 
the dissatisfaction with purely historical knowledge. Nor do we 
have any point of Archimedes outside of history. For this reason 
all flights into the Encompassing become delusions when they 
place themselves outside of history. "It remains the basic paradox 
that only in the world can we live beyond the world." In his phi- 
losophy of history Jaspers indicates the directions of such tran- 

The unhistorical-eternal speaks to us through the great and en- 
during works of man as he stands in history. In art there appears 
something in time which is more than time. The historical past 
becomes contemporary in everything great and absolute, some- 
thing which is beyond all times. 

In the steady change of history we begin to ask for its meaning, 
for the unity of origin and goal. This unity, in itself, is no longer 


history. It never becomes present. The meaning of history always 
remains open until the end. But in history we always aim at this 
meaning, whenever we attempt to give meaning to our lives. As 
individuals acting in history we overstep it in the unconditionality 
of our decisions, in the absoluteness of human ties. The transitori- 
ness of what is produced by action points back to a Being 
athwart of time , founded on freedom, in which we participate 
by being free. 

In everything the Encompassing of history remains man, who 
makes history and who attempts, through reason, to ascribe to him- 
self a meaning in history. But there is something beyond man. 
Something in man's origin, which is not historically derivable, 
points to Transcendence. He knows himself created by Transcend- 
ence, not as far as his mere existence is concerned, but in his hu- 
man dignity. 


If history opens up a new dimension as compared with all natu- 
ral occurrences, logic appears to be unlimited in its objective realm 
insofar as it is concerned with the pure possibilities of thought. 
If we consider only the possibilities of thought and disregard the 
possible actual existence of what is thought, the utmost breadth 
seems to have been reached. Logic could be considered the uni- 
versal science. But this universality of logic is only apparent. Pre- 
cisely where it pushes toward the boundary of the Encompassing 
it demonstrates its subjection to particular conditions. What logic 
thinks demands an Encompassing, but it is not yet the Encompass- 

The most fundamental operation of logic is the disjunction. It 
is concerned only with the simplest differentiation of objects. By 
means of a complete disjunction it must be possible to assign an 
unequivocable place to every conceivable object: the object must 
be able to be confirmed or denied. This is the minimum of deter- 
minateness that must be expected from an object of logic. Without 
this minimum it would escape from the grasp of logic, the first 
function of which always is determinateness in the direction of 
unequivocality. If one were to attempt to overstep this boundary 
an object would encompass both sides of the disjunction; both con- 
firmation and denial would be applicable to it. If logic is concerned 
with possibilities, we would here confront the presence of an im- 
possibility. Such an object would logically be an impossible object. 
It would overstep the possibilities of logic in so far as there would 


no longer be any rules to determine its logical treatment. Such 
"objects" have appeared in logic since antiquity, wherever there 
has been talk, in the proper sense, of logical paradoxes. The fun- 
damental pattern of all paradoxes consists of there being two cor- 
rect answers to an alternative question, i.e., a thing fulfills both 
possibilities of a disjunction, thereby encompassing the basic 
scheme of logic. If the minimum for a logical object lies in the 
condition of its disjunctive determinateness, then this Encompass- 
ing must be unconditionally, i.e., absolutely, valid. Wherever our 
thinking normally separates into discursive members, such as the 
condition and the conditioned of a syllogism, the extent and con- 
tent of a concept, etc., there, in the paradox, the members fall to- 
gether and are not to be differentiated. The movement of thinking 
suddenly gives way to an unstable condition of suspension. Thrown 
back upon itself it senses its own limit in that which lies beyond 
all determinateness. 

By analysis, it is possible to show how, in all known paradoxes, 
the absolute and unconditional appear, at some hidden point: as 
the quantity of all quantities; as unconditional truth without stat- 
ing a criterion of truth (Epimenides) ; as absolute condition, in 
which condition and conditioned fall together (Euathlus) ; as ab- 
solute concept, in which extent and content are no longer distin- 
guished (heterological) , etc. 

What, in antiquity, was discovered, almost accidentally, and be- 
came an odd sport, and what has appeared as a boundary problem 
in modern mathematics, becomes, in philosophical logic, a con- 
scious operation of transcending. Jaspers calls it "formal transcend- 
ing," in distinction to all contentual overstepping of boundaries in 
the reading of the immanent cipher-script of Transcendence. The 
distinguishing feature of this formal transcending is the fact that 
it is possible here, to some extent, to overstep logic by means of 
logic. All genuine speculation has, according to Jaspers, been such 
a formal transcending, in which thought, under extreme stress, 
found itself in an "ultimate situation in logic," and where, at the 
last moment in the speculative flight, it (thought) was discarded 
as an instrument which had become useless. All pure and reflec- 
tive speculation is conscious that it thus attempts, in a final exer- 
tion, a leap into an Encompassing where logic fails. Plato, Nicolaus 
von Cues and Schelling are the great stations of this Occidental 
speculation. But long before them the Rig- Veda knew such a way 
of thinking in questions concerning the origin of Being, and in 
Zen Buddhism the paradoxical questions of Koan belong to the 
methodical training as preparation for meditating submersion. 



Jaspers' philosophizing, too, originates in and aims at Being. 
The introductory chapter of his Philosophic states this expressly. 
No philosophy can get going without it. But, just as every form of 
philosophizing determines its nature in advance by the way it asks 
this question, so it is also true of Jaspers that his thinking in the 
Encompassing arises from the way in which he inquires into Being. 
All genuine ontology asks: What is Being? It expects a straight- 
forward answer in which an attempt is made to say what Being is 
in any given case. By asking "what," we ask for what can be said 
concerning certain things. The "what" asks for the concept of 
things. The presupposition of such asking is, however, whether 
the questioner consciously realizes it or not , the already definite 
pre-givenness of the things, of their being. To ask, "what is this?/' 
presupposes that it is already known how this thing is, what it is, 
in order to be able to be spoken of as such. If, then, the "what" 
(asking for the concept) always already presupposes the "how" of 
being, it is obviously not in a position to ask for being. "What" 
does not ask for the mode of being but for the distinguishing 
nature of a thing, i.e., not for existence but for essence. But if the 
"what" question cannot even ask for the being of things, it can 
even less ask for Being itself. 

We inquire into the mode of the being of things by asking 
"how?" For, the "how" asks for the "is," and the question appro- 
priate to being can only be that which first and foremost goes by 
the fact that it is. How a thing is what it is, constitutes its mode 
of being. 

It is precisely this latter question which is asked by Jaspers. 
Starting with the basic thought of Kantian philosophy, the 
separation of the thing-in-itself from appearance , his question 
always is how Being, as Being-in-itself, can become appearance 
for us. How Being is for us is, then, Jaspers' basic question. Be- 
yond asking: "What is Being?," he asks: "How can we and how 
must we think Being if we want to speak of Being?" 

The fundamental difference, thus, between "periechontology" 
and the ordinary form of ontology is that the former does not 
assert directly what Being is, but how Being could be for us. 
Whereas all ontologies are destined, from their very beginnings, 
to assume the form of a particular science, thinking in the En- 
compassing intends a new basic orientation, affecting all possible 
relations with what is. Where the early Philosophic began with a 


"world orientation/' that is with a survey and ordering of the 
ways of our knowledge in and about the world, thinking in the 
Encompassing unfolds as a comprehensive orientation in being. 
We are no longer concerned with the methodical ascertainment 
of scientific world investigation, but with the ways in which we 
can encounter what is. Not what it is can become object for us, but 
that it is is the original starting point from which arises the sys- 
tematic form of the seven modes of the Encompassing. For the 
same identical Being is encountered differently in the various 
modes; and in the quest for them we are spurred on by the ques- 
tion of how Being can appear to us in yet another manner. 

By knowing of the forms of appearance of the one Being, we 
are prevented from considering the various individual points of 
view, which the giant ferriswheel of the world presents to us as 
the only real ones in any given case. As soon as we know that we 
are turning, we believe that heaven and earth are standing still. 

No new knowledge is to be attained by thinking in the Encom- 
passing, no higher, no metaphysical knowledge. No rear-world or 
super-world is to be unlocked, and, finally, there is to be no peek- 
ing, by means of some logical trick, around the corner behind 
which Being is (supposed to be) hidden. Instead of all this a 
transformation in the consciousness of the thinker is to be brought 
about, by means of which he is to come into a different relation- 
ship to Being. What we are here concerned with is not to know 
Being but to know of Being, what we can know of it in its forms 
of appearance, and why we can know only this. If, in the con- 
sciousness of one who presses for knowledge, this not-knowing 
leaves a disappointing emptiness, then his consciousness attains, 
through the transformation, the strength to transform this empti- 
ness into fullness in view of the knowledge that not-knowing is 
the correct relationship to Being. For the logical operation of 
transcending leads us reliably to a point where it is clear that 
Being is of a "kind" which is not knowable. As concerns all 
worldly objects, it would be unsatisfying to remain in ignorance 
of them; but Being permits us to find rest in the fact that it re- 
mains unrecognizable. Only the inconceivable is a true non plus 
ultra for thought. 

The new relation to Being also takes in scientific cognition. 
Whereas every real ontology degrades the value of the specific 
sciences or even makes them superfluous (because it considers 
their discoveries either as derivatives of its own principles or as 
emanating from a false understanding of Being), such philosophiz- 
ing as Jaspers advocates utilizes scientific thinking as a necessary 


transitory stage. Without exact knowledge the Encompassing 
would become a mystical eccentricity, the systematic form of the 
seven modes a mere game. For, transcending, as the immanent 
approach to the Encompassing, always starts from a firm founda- 
tion, upon which one treads towards both the inner and the outer 

Today there is a conflict between a certain form of philosophy 
and a certain conception of the sciences, reminiscent of the scan- 
dal in which, according to Kant, philosophy found itself as long 
as it was unable to prove the existence of the material outer world. 
For, in the struggle between positivism, as a purely scientific 
world-view, and a meta-scientific existential ontology, nothing 
more or less than a reciprocal denial of the opposite type of think- 
ing is at stake. It concerns the meaning and significance of West- 
ern science, which is misunderstood, absolutized or damned by 
both sides. Kant, in his time, considered it to be the urgent mis- 
sion of philosophy to put an end to the scandal by means of a 
compelling proof of the reality of the outer world. To do this it 
was necessary to clarify what could be meant by the concept of 
reality. The distinction between the "thing-in-itself" and "appear- 
ance" was the means by which the different meanings of reality, 
for a human and for an absolute consciousness , were ex- 
plained. What is real in an empirical sense is not yet real in a 
transcendental sense. A similar distinction seems to be necessary in 
the present quarrel over the reality of scientific truth. The man- 
ners of thinking do not seem differentiated enough to do justice to 
the matter. Serious philosophy today must feel no less called upon 
to clarify a situation, in which, in a special sense, the very reality 
of what we consider valid reality, is at stake. For, to have doubt in 
the objective validity of the sciences, is basically to doubt the ob- 
jectivity of the objects of those sciences. 

It is in the very nature of quarrels among Weltanschauungen 
that the various conceptions become progressively more side- 
tracked in the pursuit of their own paths, and that a clarification 
becomes possible only when the problems are transferred to an- 
other level. It is to Jaspers' credit that he has opened up an en- 
compassing perspective which can assign to the embattled posi- 
tions their actual places in the order. In his own evolution from 
medicine to philosophy he outgrew the sober confines of the 
sciences and entered into the open expanse of all possibilities of 
thought. This outer evolution indicates that, biographically, he 
went through an inner struggle similar to that going on between 
positivism and metaphysics today. What was first indicated in his 


world orientation an orientation about the realm of scientific 
world investigation , grew into final formulation in the concept 
of the Encompassing. But, from this encompassing expanse his 
thinking today admonishingly points back to the indispensable 
condition of scientific research. 

The relationship between science and philosophy has become 
an ever more important issue for Jaspers, and he is one of the few 
who attempt to endure the tension between the two. The Encom- 
passing is the guiding idea under which both are to be united. 
Without the Encompassing philosophy would remain, as a science, 
one-eyed, incapable of looking into the dimension of depth. But, 
on the other hand, man does not have to overthrow science in 
order to save his being human. If some quarters desire a new 
"saving knowledge" alongside the pure "ordering knowledge" of 
science, we must reply that no truth can bypass the truth of sci- 
ence. For the evil consists precisely in the divisions of our modern 
consciousness and in the co-existence of truths. The task, rather, 
is to transform the scientific consciousness by a new ascertainment 
of Being. 

By means of the concept of the Encompassing Jaspers is able to 
revive all the old, great contents of philosophy. With this concept 
the history of Western metaphysics acquires meaning even under 
the conditions of our critical and historical knowledge. True, this 
history is not completed; but it begins to become comprehensible 
in a new, and authentic, sense. For, the coming to consciousness 
of the basic modes of the Encompassing brings us complete free- 
dom of thought by indicating the directions which lead out of the 
dead-end streets of rigid interpretations of Being. In the reversal 
thus consummated the limited meaning and value of all finite 
things is clarified by orientation on the encompassing totalities 
to which they belong. The logic of the Encompassing as the 
organon of Jaspers' philosophy is the attempted integration of 
our disintegrating consciousness of Being. Its idea is the union of 
all ways of knowledge on the basis of the limitless illumination of 
the sciences and of the integration of the basic experiences of all 
human history, from China and India to the Occident of the 
present , in order to achieve a new, encompassing consciousness 
of Being. It is, in a sense, the logic of an era of beginning planet- 
ary integration. It is an attempt which may provide a starting 
point, from which the logical consciousness of the present may 
continuously be developed. Completely new approaches to the 
Encompassing may be opened up precisely in the present state of 
analysis of scientific problems, such as in formalistic logic. To 


work on their development seems to be one of the fundamental 
concerns of present-day philosophizing. 

Kierkegaard saw his mission in reminding man of the simple, 
basic conditions of Existenz. Perhaps today's task is to appeal to 
the simple, basic possibilites of our being. That these possibilities 
long for realization makes of philosophy an "inner action," by 
which we practice our own possibilities of being. Jaspers under- 
stands his philosophical logic as such a "practice in basic knowl- 
edge," "whose seven liberal arts" are the seven modes of the En- 
compassing. This thinking, as Jaspers understands it himself, 6 is 
"the necessary and natural conclusion of Western thought to date, 
the unprejudiced synthesis by virtue of a principle which can ab- 
sorb, because of its breadth, everything which is true in any way." 
And it is "the point of departure for future thought, . . . for, far 
from being the final word, it opens realms where research and 
life, Existenz and history may enter without limitation." 


My criticism is not directed against the basic concept of the En- 
compassing, but against the systematic representation it is given 
by Jaspers. As concerns the basic concept of the subject-object 
division, which indeed finally calls forth the concept of the En- 
compassing, Jaspers is able to refer to the tradition of Kantian 
thought. In this respect the philosophy of the Encompassing ap- 
pears to be assured and secure for our future philosophical con- 
sciousness. One may also agree with Jaspers that his philosophy is 
the natural and necessary conclusion of Western thought to date. 
But the "origins," as he terms it, out of which he thinks of the 
Encompassing in the systematics of his seven modes, can no longer 
refer to such a tradition, even if Jaspers remarks occasionally that 
the Encompassing has repeatedly been conceived from certain 
standpoints. 7 This seems to be a risky backward projection of 
his own thought. Nor can the connection between the seven modes 
claim to be really systematic. Although I have attempted, in this 
presentation, to put in, on my part, several additional systematic 
points of view, I still cannot help but feel that the seven modes 
were taken up with a certain arbitrariness. 

Indeed, the number "7" seems very strange and recalls no 
previous philosophizing, neither the 4 of Plato, nor the 10 of 
Aristotle, nor the 4 and 1 2 of Kant. The asymmetry of the 7 corre- 

6 Wahrheit, 192. 7 Cf. Reason, 54. 


spends to the lack of equivalence of the individual modes. Tran- 
scendence, for example, is a mode distinguished from the others. 
In a certain sense it is the only genuine Encompassing, the En- 
compassing of all Encompassings. On the other hand, Existenz 
corresponds very poorly to the concept of an Encompassing. There 
are many Existenzen, but just one Transcendence. And there is 
likewise only one spirit, one consciousness-as-such, one world 
but many existences. And when Jaspers, in his The Perennial 
Scope of Philosophy* in describing the polarities in modes of the 
Encompassing, designates Existenz as an Encompassing of Existenz 
and Transcendence, he is using risky phraseology and cannot in- 
tend this to mean the same thing as the being encompassed of 
subject and object in consciousness-as-such. Systematics and con- 
ceptualization are really opposed to each other here. 

In general, there is Encompassing which we are and Encom- 
passing which we are not and Encompassing which simultaneously 
we are and are not. In making this division, however, the basic 
idea of an Encompassing of subject and object is almost invali- 
dated again. As a consequence thereof, the world appears twice 
within the system: As existence, consciousness-as-such, and spirit, 
and again as world. This "objective" world, would actually have 
to be understood, however, as the thing-in-itself, and therefore as 
Transcendence, if one accepts the basic Kantian postulate of the 
subject-object division, and of the phenomenal character of the 
world. Here comes to light a twofold understanding of the world: 
as Kantian subjective idea and as an objective, actual world 

Whereas Existenz and existence do not actually fit into the sys- 
tematics of the Encompassing, one misses the presence of other 
concepts, or, at least, a reference to them, e.g., space and time, or 
better, spatiality and temporality. Occasionally there is, quasi ex- 
perimentally, mention of other modes: Life, the idea, thinking. 9 
Or, certain subdivisions are used: Matter, living body, and soul, 10 
in connection, to be sure, with the idea of stratification. Final ap- 
praisal depends, of course, on Jaspers' doctrines of categories and 
methods, still to be published. But, in general, it may be said that 
the system, as it stands, does not establish the relationship of the 
modes. From a systematic point of view several modes might be 
missing and others could be accepted. The idea thus arises that 
the systematics of the seven modes is based on something pre- 
supposed and undiscussed. Whatever this ground is on which Jas- 
pers finds himself in the first place when he asks concerning the 
nature of Being, remains yet to be examined. For Being, as Being 

8 Scope, 15. 9 Reason, 69 ff. 10 Reason, 54. 


itself, is already thought of in a certain way (the concept of 
God); the Being which we are is already interpreted in a certain 
way (the idea of man); the nature of logic has already been de- 
cided in a pre-concept, if the inquiry into Being leads to such 
systematics. The concept of God and the picture of man are not 
developed in Jaspers' philosophy (perhaps, indeed, in no phi- 
losophy at all), but are brought into it and then, perhaps, clari- 
fied. That we have and when we have a consciousness of actual 
Being, that we understand, and how we understand the upsoar- 
ing to Being as our own truth, is already anticipated if, out of it, 
the origins are experienced as modes of transcending. 

Regarding the original inquiry into Being and its first turn, a 
second turn-around is really necessary now: as what must Being 
be pre-understood in order that it may be recognized in such forms 
of appearance? The answer would enable us to decide what 
among that which we encounter is to be understood as an ap- 
pearance of Being. 

Some will be deterred from agreeing with the philosophy of 
the Encompassing, beyond its initial thoughts, because the modes 
of Being are contentual interpretations from the start. There can 
be no argument regarding contents. One can deny that every- 
thing that exists has the character of being. One can deny that the 
objective spirit is more than a "flourish, which existence some- 
times allows itself." Whether thinking is more than argumenta- 
tion, whether to think contradicts the nature of man, depends on 
the logic which asserts this contradiction. 

Thus, our criticism seems to concentrate on the question of the 
valid logic of this kind of thinking. But the philosophy of the 
Encompassing recognizes no encompassing logic! Its idea of truth 
is that there is truth in every mode of the Encompassing and that 
no mode can replace another. Its concept of truth is always bound 
to content, and only one of these contents is the so-called formal 
logical one. The contentuality of this thinking indicates that, in 
the final analysis, it refers to basic experiences, which enter phi- 
losophizing as contents. I don't believe I misunderstand the phi- 
losophy of the Encompassing when I believe that the question 
concerning the basis for the justification of this kind of thinking 
would be answered by reference to final, basic experiences. It is 
part of the idea of philosophy that these experiences are reflect- 
ingly accepted into philosophizing and that philosophizing itself 
presses toward such experiences of Being. But, perhaps, they are a 
limitation in their factuality. Where they are lacking in the other, 
agreement is impossible. 

The demand for an encompassing, no longer contentual, logic 


signifies, within Jaspers' thinking, a gain in the importance of 
consciousness-as-such in all modes of the Encompassing. It is per- 
haps a just criticism that Jaspers remains unclear at this point. 
For, the presence of the subject-object division in all of the modes 
really means that consciousness-as-such has validity for every kind 
of truth. Thus Jaspers states that the "structure of our thinking, 
as (part of) consciousness-as-such, includes everything within 
itself." 11 But when this thought is not maintained, and conscious- 
ness-as-such is considered merely one mode among others, the 
reason lies, in my opinion, in the contentual understanding of 
this thinking. 

On the basis of Kantian philosophy, it really would have to be 
accepted that, in thinking, we always execute only formal struc- 
tures, but that the contents must be given to us in some other way. 
We do think contents, but we do not think contentually. There 
can be thoughtful agreement only about the formal aspects of 
thinking. Contents seem historically to come and go. What brings 
us together in them seems like an incomprehensible fate. 

It is obvious that the question of the relationship of conscious- 
ness-as-such to the other modes of the Encompassing becomes de- 
cisive for every form of presentation. For in every presentation 
we subject ourselves to the conditions of a general consciousness 
in so far as we demand communicability. What cannot become 
universally valid can not become presentation. Criticism from 
this side would, therefore, have to demand elimination of every- 
thing contentual from the presentation. But, on the other hand, 
we always refer to contents. Indeed, everything formal aims, in 
the final analysis, at contents. Therefore, the contentual would 
have to be linked together in such a way as to remain the perma- 
nent contour of thought. The presentation would have to aim 
toward a certain empty form, in which the basic idea of the En- 
compassing and the forms of transcending are described. One can 
appeal to contents only by pointing to history and to the phil- 
osophical tradition. 

Jaspers' criticism of objectification would thereby become still 
more pointed. For, where thinking objectifies, it solidifies certain 
contents. In a certain sense the seven modes are still too objective, 
because they are too contentual. The remaining reproach is that, 
in Jaspers' logic, the criticism of objectification does not become 
a systematic operation. In its essence it remains (a form of) self- 
correction, which practically has to be done again and again. 

The objectlessness of the Encompassing does not yet neces- 

11 Wahrheit, 244. 


sarily signify a lack of systematics. Excluded by the systematics 
are the contentual interpretations. 

For the "derivation" of the modes of the Encompassing this 
criticism means that they may not be drawn from experience nor 
from historical self-interpretation but, rather, from a formal 
system, which then would in itself have to be suspended again. 
Only thus would every objectivity be removed from the concep- 
tion of the Encompassing. (The Platonic Parmenides seems to me 
to be a model of this.) Carrying the formalization further would 
also have to be extended to the concept of transcending. Of all 
the ways of transcending, Jaspers himself considers only the formal 
to be an actual philosophical consummation. Where Transcend- 
ence appears, in the ciphers of world-being and in the symbols of 
art, it is only in so far as it is translated into the structures of 
thinking. The silent language of the symbols always remains, as 
such, non-committal. It is restricted to content. 

That the formalization is going to be carried further and 
further would seem to be unavoidable. But this does not mean 
that the contents will be lost. For the contents do not come from 
philosophy. Philosophy cannot, therefore, invalidate them. It is 
my conviction, moreover, that any further thinking through of 
the idea of the Encompassing also aims at its formalizatioti; for 
the path to ever further formalization seems to be the path of 
thinking itself. 


Edwin Latzel 


"The meaning of philosophizing lies in a single thought, which as such is inexpres- 
sible: the awareness of Being in itself; each chapter of this work should make it 
accessible; each should represent the whole in smaller form, but at any given time 
one chapter leaves dark what will be illuminated only by the rest." 
(Karl Jaspers in the Foreword to his Philosophic) 

HE PHILOSOPHIZING of Karl Jaspers has as its goal the 
disclosure of the place of the authentically real. It is not con- 
cerned exclusively with the authentic being of man, although the 
latter is, of course, always kept in view. For, self-realization is re- 
garded as a prerequisite to our catching sight of the authentically 
real. "Catching sight of" is perhaps not quite the correct expres- 
sion. I cannot catch sight of authentic reality either of that 
which I myself am capable of being in my better hours, the after- 
glow of which lights up the reality of my every day, or of that 
which I myself am not in the way that I can catch sight of the 
things of the world. 

The latter stand over against me in objective clarity. They in- 
clude objects which I make use of every day e.g., clothing, 
household utensils as well as objects which, although they do 
not directly affect my everyday reality, arouse my impulse to know, 
and are rendered investigable and knowable in the various 

My everyday world and the multifariously articulated world of 
science are not the whole of reality; indeed, they are not authen- 
tically real. I feel lost in mere everyday activities; the everyday 
world tastes flat and dull. Science provides me with universally 
valid knowledge about things in the world, and this knowledge 
lifts me up. I am no longer lost in my everyday activities. However, 
I cannot really know any one thing completely. In the world which 
science discloses everything is related to everything else: every 
solution of a problem raises new problems. The more penetrating 

Translated from the German manuscript by George L. Kline. 



my scientific orientation in the world, the more profound are the 
enigmas which confront me. I should have to know the world as a 
whole in order to know any single thing completely. But the world 
as a whole is not an object of science; it is not given to me objec- 
tively. Rather, it is that within which all scientifically investigable 
objects are given. 

The world as the encompassing whole (umgreifendes Games) 1 
thus evades the grasp of the investigator, moving farther and 
farther away from him as he advances. The more exhaustive and 
intensive his investigation, the clearer and more articulated the 
objective world as it constitutes itself in his investigation, an in- 
vestigation guided by more or less conscious leading ideas the 
more forcibly is it brought home to him that the world of science 
possesses only an intermediate kind of reality and is not authentic 

The human beings with whom I come into contact are also a 
part of the environment which is disclosed to me in my everyday 
existence (Dasein). Such everyday human relationships can take on 
many forms, starting with indifferent co-existence, moving through 
relentless struggle for existence, to co-operative activity in the serv- 
ice of a common idea, e.g., that of an occupation or organization. 
To be part of such an idea-oriented community serves to discipline 
and stabilize my everyday existence which would otherwise 
readily fall into fragments. However, this common world, defined 
by ideas, is still not authentic reality. 

Thus, neither the world of everyday existence, 2 nor the world 
of science, represents authentic reality; indeed: "The reality of 
existence and the objective world of science are dependent upon 
each other for their being." 3 They are related to one another. We 
shall attempt to clarify this point by means of an example from 
Jaspers himself: 4 

As a living existence, I live at any given time in a landscape, in 
which I am embedded and firmly rooted. But I can free myself 
from it, set it over against me, in order to know it scientifically. 
What happens in this process? 

The landscape and I do not both remain the same. Previously 

1 Cf . Wahrheit, 85ff. 2 ibid., 53ff. 4 ibid., 64f. 

8 Philosophic, 2nd ed. (Berlin, Gottingen, Heidelberg, 1948), 64. (Page numbers 
without any other indication will be used in the sequel to refer to this second edi- 
tion of Jaspers' Philosophic. It is to be regretted that this new edition, which exact- 
ly reproduces the text of the three- volume first edition of 1932, does not give the 
page numbers of the first edition. Dr. Maria Salditt is to be heartedly thanked for 
providing a subject index to this new and technically more convenient one-volume 


I was firmly rooted in my landscape; no one else could have had 
exactly the same relationship to it. But now, if I want to know it 
scientifically and thus not as it is for me alone, but as it is "in 
itself" and for everyone else I must suspend all merely personal 
or private relationships. I must leave behind my unique, concrete 
existence, with its fullness of life, and my personal consciousness 
and become mere "consciousness-as-such" 5 which can be the same 
in every human being. 

What I, as consciousness-as-such, know and this can, in prin- 
ciple, be known in the same way by everyone else is no longer 
my landscape, but "nature in its determinateness. It is no longer 
animated as a landscape; it does not respond as the 'totality differ- 
ent' (from myself) but stands there as a mere object." 

This world of nature, which constitutes itself in consciousness- 
as-such, becomes accessible to and usable by me, when, having 
returned into my existence to my "full, irreplaceable life in space 
and time/' 6 1 relate it to my needs and purposes. 

All the other concepts of the world (the worlds of technology, 
society, economics, etc.) like that of the world of nature ac- 
crue to me "out of the realities of my existence. I place these reali- 
ties over against myself, removing them to the objective world 
as something other, without being able to cease to live in them 
as existence/' 7 

Where, then, is authentic reality to be found, if neither the 
world as "the immediate whole of existence/' 8 nor the objective 
world of science of consciousness-as-such represents such re- 

I cannot grasp the authentically real in the objective categories 
of consciousness-as-such; I can only grasp it in living experience, 
in the depths of my concentrating nature, through the process of 

If authentic reality cannot be grasped in the concepts of con- 
sciousness-as-such, since my every attempt to communicate with 
my fellowmen is bound up with these concepts, how can I com- 
municate my experience of authentic reality to others? How is 
philosophy as such possible, since philosophy has but one purpose 
to disclose the place of the authentically real? 

This question is of decisive importance for all of Jaspers' phi- 
losophizing. It must be clearly comprehended, for any correct un- 
derstanding of Jaspers' total philosophical work depends upon it. 
When this question is answered, the paradox that, in a philos- 
ophy which, both in its final intention and in fact, is concerned 

Cf. Wahrheit, 64ff. 6 Philosophic, 317. 7 ibid., 64. 8 ibid., 57. 


with the authentic reality of Being itself, and not of any partic- 
ular kind of being, there is a great deal of discussion about the 
being of man is resolved. 

If man cannot know authentic being through the objective 
categories of consciousness-as-such; if he can only experience this 
being in his own high moments moments in which he is more 
than mere existence, more even than a mind guided by ideas, 9 
then the philosopher, too, who has himself experienced this be- 
ing, cannot express it directly. He cannot absolve others from the 
experience of being, he cannot have this experience for others and 
then say directly to them: this is what being is like. Authentic 
reality, Being itself, must be experienced directly by every indi- 
vidual; the philosopher can only attempt to assist others in attain- 
ing their own experience of Being. 

For man, self-realization and the experience of Being coincide. 
When we philosophize we are seeking authentic being, by break- 
ing a trail toward self-realization for ourselves and for others, using 
philosophy as a means of communication. But fundamental diffi- 
culties immediately present themselves: 

1) If I make self-realization my direct goal, I shall be most cer- 
tain to fail to reach it. 

2) The inner performance in which I become my own authen- 
tic self are not objectively comprehensible, and hence cannot be 
directly communicated. 

3) These inner performances constitute what is most personal 
in me. In them I attempt to become myself, not a self as such. 
Quite apart from the question of commimicability, then, how can 
anyone else help me in my self-realization, since I am not attempt- 
ing to become himself, nor yet a self as such, but precisely myself? 

Let us examine this problem in greater detail. 

1) I cannot directly undertake to become myself, or, what 
amounts to the same thing, aim directly at authentic being, either 
in me or outside of me. "I cannot will what I really want/* 10 We 
can express this as follows: my becoming authentic is related to 
my becoming whole. But what does it mean to say I "become 

It does not mean that I realize everything which inheres in me, 
not even all of my positive potentialities. My finiteness forbids 
this: the span of my life is too short. But I cannot neglect any of 
the basic possibilities of my being as a man (Jaspers carefully dis- 
tinguishes the three forms of this being existence, consciousness- 
as-such, and spirit). I must entrust myself to the Encompassing, 

9 Cf. Wahrheit, 71ff. 10 Ibid., 180 (ito/tc5 mine). 


"to encompassing life out of the affirmative strength of my exist- 
ence to correctness as such, and to ideas of the spirit." 11 None 
of these basic possibilities should be permitted to become au- 
tarchic. As mere existence, I would be confined to the biological 
realm, I would not be essentially human. As mere consciousness- 
as-such, I should be replaceable at will, and wholly without indi- 
vidual reality. As mere spirit, I should be "rarified;" I would deny 
my finiteness and thus become false. Each of these kinds of being 
requires the other two, if their expression is to be pure. Only as a 
whole man, a human being who continually lives all three of 
these kinds of being all of which reciprocally condition, sup- 
port, and enhance one another can I become authentically my- 
self. 12 

2) I can turn not only things, but myself and other human 
beings into objects of investigation. And just as the world as a 
whole, as encompassing Being, eludes the apprehension of con- 
sciousness-as-such, so I, as consciousness-as-such, am able to grasp 
neither myself, nor the encompassing aspect of my full being as a 
man. I can experience myself concretely in the process of living 
as existence, as consciousness-as-such, as spirit. But I myself am 
always infinitely more than I can objectively know about myself. 
What I can objectively know about myself and about other human 
beings is no longer the encompassing aspect of our existence or of 
our being as spirit; it stands over against me, objectively, like the 
investigable things of the being of the world. Indeed, it belongs 
to this world itself. "World" is to be taken here not in the sense 
of an encompassing being, but rather as the objective world to 
which I am related as consciousness-as-such. (It is important to 
keep these two meanings of "world" distinct in Jaspers. 13 ) 

Since only in becoming my encompassing existence or my en- 
compassing spirit I can experience them, i.e., since, then, I cannot 
know objectively; and since, therefore, I cannot communicate this 
becoming directly to others in the categories of consciousness-as- 
such, becoming my authentic being myself must be even less 

3) Even if the philosopher could in some way communicate to 

11 Ibid., 181. "Correctness" means the truth of consciousness- as-such. Of. ibid., 67. 

12 Cf. IMd., ISOff. 

13 Cf. ibid., 141ff., for a diagram of the structure of being, and an interpretation 
of the diagram. I myself become a part of the objective world, which is there for 
consciousness-as-such, when I am objectified in the categories of this consciousness. 
But as encompassing existence, as encompassing spirit, and as the encompassing 
aspect of consciousness-as-such, I am not part of the World as encompassing Being, 
but am an autonomous Encompassing. 


us this experience of his own being himself, he would have to call 
upon us not to follow him. For, if our authentic self is what is 
deepest and most original in us, we should become false to the 
core, if each of us, instead of soaring upwards from his own origin 
toward authentic reality, should attempt to live from alien sources. 

Is a philosophy, then, which communicates itself in written 
works, meaningfully possible? First, we must clarify the problem 
of communicability, which is the basic presupposition of such 
possibility; and then we must ask what meaning such communica- 
tion could have, assuming that it is possible. This is the problem 
of the appropriation, or assimilation, of a philosophy by other hu- 
man beings. 

Now that we are aware of the goal of Jaspers' philosophy, we 
are in a position to exhibit the fundamental complex of problems 
which necessarily inheres in such philosophizing: these problems 
follow from his basic presuppositions. We do not wish to develop 
abstractly the answer to the question of the communicability, or 
the possible methods, of philosophizing, thus understood; or the 
second question whether such a philosophy is wholly bound up 
with the personality of the individual who philosophizes, or 
whether it can be meaningfully appropriated by others. Rather, we 
shall examine the philosophizing of Jaspers as it lies before us, 
and see how he philosophizes concretely; we shall follow the way 
in which he communicates a self-consistent train of thought. In 
the Foreword to his Philosophic, Jaspers writes: 

The meaning of philosophizing lies in a single thought, which as 
such is inexpressible; the awareness of Being in itself; each chapter of 
this work should make it accessible; each should represent the whole 
in smaller form, but at any given time one chapter leaves dark what 
will be illuminated only by the rest. 

We shall select from the second volume of the Philosophic, entitled 
"Illumination of Existenz" the chapter which deals with "ulti- 
mate situations" (Grenzsituationen). But, before we examine Jas- 
pers' method and achievement, we shall atttempt to sketch the 
history and the significance of the concept of ultimate situations 
in Jaspers' work as a whole, and thus at the same time justify our 
choice of this particular chapter. 


The concept of ultimate situation, like that of "foundering" 
(Scheitern), has entered into the vocabulary of a broad public, 
and, though it has often been re-interpreted and misinterpreted, 
it defines the general public's image of Jaspers' philosophy as a 


whole. If we examine Jaspers' philosophic work up to now, we 
find that this concept is today neither the most central nor the 
most profound; but perhaps it is still the most characteristic for 
the "climate," the whole atmosphere of this kind of philosophiz- 
ing. It represents, so to speak, the original philosophical intuition 
of the young Jaspers, which retains its fruitfulness even in his most 
recently published works. This concept thus permits us to view 
Jaspers' entire philosophic production in perspective. 

In 1919, Jaspers, who was then a Professor of Psychology at Hei- 
delberg, published his Psychologic der Weltanschauungen. In 
1941 he was to call this book "a rash work of my youth." However, 
he still acknowledged its content as his own, although he con- 
sidered its form unsatisfactory. Even in 1919, Jaspers' psychology 
had, without his being aware of it, taken on the character of what 
he was later to call an "illumination of Existenz." 1 * 

The Psychologic der Weltanschauungen was intended as a work 
of verstehende psychology. In reality it is already the work of Jas- 
pers the philosopher not only in the section on ultimate situa- 
tions, but also in its entire substance. Moreover, his later philo- 
sophical works are only a systematic development of what is sub- 
stantially present in the Psychologic, but which was developed, 
clarified, deepened, and at the same time brought to ever higher 
consciousness only in the greater tranquility of the subsequent 
great works. Anyone who has carefully studied Jaspers' chief phil- 
osophic works, works which were shaped with ever more conscious 
discipline 15 the Philosophic (1932), and Von der Wahfhcit (the 
first volume of the Philosophische Logik, 1948) and admired 
their masterly architectonic, must have become increasingly fond 
of the unruly philosophical fledgling of 1919 and the powerful 
elan of its spirited attack. 

We have called the concept of the ultimate situation Jaspers' 
original philosophical intuition. It provides him, in the Psychol- 
ogic, with the leading points of view for his characterization and 
classification of psychological types, and hence serves the purpose 
of the book as a whole. Let us recall the construction of this con- 

"When we speak of Weltanschauungen, we mean ideas, what is 
ultimate and complete in man, both subjectively, as experience, 
power, and conviction, and objectively as the formed world of 
objects." 10 Chapter I, which is called "Attitudes," considers various 
Weltanschauungen from the standpoint of the subject; Chapter 

14 Rechenschaft, 362, 334f. 15 Cf. ibid., 363. 

16 Psychologic, 2nd rev. ed (Berlin, 1922), 1. 


II, called "World-views," illuminates them from the objective 
standpoint. Chapter III carries out the synthesis; it inquires into 
the living totalities of the spiritual types. These types surpass the 
attitudes and world-views which in themselves are abstractions. 

The discussion of the phenomenon of ultimate situations, a 
phenomenon "whose fundamental significance goes beyond any 
psychology of 'attitudes' or 'world-views' " (as Martin Heidegger 
noted in 1927 17 ), is to be found in the Introduction to Chapter III. 
Of course, Jaspers was aware, in working out this section, that he 
was not speaking as a psychologist; he asserted that this exposi- 
tion "is not yet psychology/' 18 Even here, in the Psychologic, 
where Jaspers examines the phenomenon of ultimate situations 
for the first time, this phenomenon is so profoundly grasped and 
systematically thought out that the "systematic exposition of ulti- 
mate situations" in his Philosophic of 1932 although it repre- 
sents a new arrangement of the material introduces no substan- 
tial modifications. But of this later. Here it is sufficient to repro- 
duce the "definition" of ultimate situations from the Psychologic, 
and to make clear the function of this concept in that early work. 

The concept of ultimate situations is introduced in the context 
of general considerations concerning valuations, tables of values, 
and value-collisions, formulated in the immediately preceding 
section. 19 The infinitely multifarious, concrete, particular situa- 
tions in which man experiences the destruction of values and the 
constraint upon value-formation 

do not appear to the individual at first glance as absolutely necessary; 
they could have been otherwise. No matter how true this may seem to 
the acting human being, he stands beyond all particular situations in 
certain decisive, essential situations, which are related to man's being 
as such, a being which is unavoidably given with finite existence; situa- 
tions beyond which his vision does not carry, since his gaze is directed 
upon objective things within the subject-object dichotomy. These 
situations, which are felt, experienced, conceived, everywhere at the 
limits of our existence, we call "ultimate situations." What they have 
in common is that within the objective world as dichotomized into 
subject and object there is nothing firm or stable, no indubitable 
absolute, no enduring support for experience and thought. Everything 
is in flux, in the restless movement of question and answer; everything 
is relative, finite, split into opposites nothing is whole, absolute, 
essential. 20 

17 Martin Heidegger, Sein und Zeit, first half, 6th ed. (Tubingen, 1949), 249. 

18 Psychologic, 232. i Ibid., 220ff. 20 ibid., 229. 


The antinomian structure of existence, suffering, struggle, death, 
chance, guilt, are discussed in detail as ultimate situations. 

The concept of ultimate situations functions in Chapter III as 
"a vehicle of construction and systematic exposition . . . , when we 
attempt to pass from an intuitive grasp to a conceptual fixation of 
spiritual types." 21 "If we inquire as to the spiritual type, we ask 
from where man may receive his support." 22 

There are, of course, people who lack any conscious experience 
of ultimate situations. They live in the unquestioning security of 
a traditional world-order, recognizing no form of life except their 
own. For them, "a Weltanschauung is no longer a specific process 
in an individual human being" and "a consideration of this kind 
of W eltanschauungen is possible . . . only at the level of social 
psychology." 28 Jaspers does not discuss them further. 

However, where ultimate situations become consciously expe- 
rienced, a "vital process" 24 is released: 

The conscious experience of ultimate situations, situations which 
previously had been covered over with the hard shells of objectively 
self-evident forms of life, world-views, beliefs and ideas; and the move- 
ment of limitless reflection, of dialectic, initiate a process which ends 
with the dissolution of what was previously a self-evident shell. 25 

But man cannot live entirely without "shells" "any more than 
can a mussel from which the shell has been removed." "Thus in 
the life-process one shell is dissolved only to make room for a new 
one." 26 

The process of living thus includes both a dissolution and a forma- 
tion of shells. Without dissolution rigidity would set in; but without 
shells there would be destruction. Both dissolution and shells can, 
however, be detached, in a sense, from the living whole; the result is, 
on the one hand, nihilistic processes and, on the other, an ultimate 
crawling into one's shell. 27 

Thus we see in advance the organization of the chapter of spirit- 
ual types: after a consideration of the processes of dissolution 
("Skepticism and Nihilism" 28 ) comes the discussion of shells 
("Support by Limitation: Shells" 29 ). "With this we grasp aspects 
of the process whose core is life in its infinity; we shall describe 
this [process] in the third Section" ("Support in the Infinite" 30 ) . 

The Psychologie der W eltanschauungen thus provides the basis 
for an understanding and classification of spiritual types by dis- 

21 Ibid., 220. 24 ibid ., 280ff. 27 Ibid., 283. 

22 ibid., 229. 25 ibid., 281 . 28 ibid., 285ff. 

23 Ibid., 281. 26 ibid., 281f. 20 ibid., 304ff. 

, 325ff. 


cussing ultimate situations and the "vital process'* which is initi- 
ated by the experience of these situations; hence they are both of 
fundamental significance. 

The chapter on ultimate situations in the second volume of 
Jaspers' Philosophic is only one among eleven others, each of 
which is intended to represent the "whole in smaller form/' mak- 
ing us aware of authentic reality. The idea of ultimate situations 
is here deepened and rendered fruitful in new ways; but one 
would fail to recognize the "pathos" of the work of 1932 if one 
were to examine it solely with respect to this chapter. This chap- 
ter is indispensable in the general plan of the Philosophic, but it 
is not the decisive chapter. Jaspers' early prototypal intuition of 
ultimate situations is here overshadowed by the fundamental ex- 
perience of his mature philosophizing the experience of " 'exis- 
tential' communication." This was foreshadowed as early as in the 
Psychologic; 31 but it was the complete break-through of this fun- 
damental experience which finally changed Jaspers from a psy- 
chologist of W eltanschauungen to a philosopher a philosopher 
who had become aware of his true mission. 

In his Way to Wisdom, An Introduction to Philosophy (1949), 
Jaspers sees in the experience of ultimate situations (for example, 
in the Stoics) , together with the experience of wonder (Plato, 
Aristotle) and doubt (Descartes) one of the sources of traditional 
philosophizing. "But for us perhaps none of these is the most 
fundamental, absolute source": ". . . wonder, doubt, the expe- 
rience of ultimate situations, are indeed sources of philosophy, 
but the ultimate source is the will to authentic communication, 
which embraces all the rest." 82 "To experience ultimate situa- 
tions," he writes in the Philosophic, "and to exist is one and the 
same thing." 38 And again: "Our most luminous moments spring 
from communication; and the result of communication is the 
weightiness of life." 


We have given an introductory sketch of the complex of prob- 
lems inherent in Jaspers' philosophizing: this complex of prob- 
lems comes to a focus, on the one hand, in the question of the 
communicability or method of such philosophizing, and, on the 

31 Cf. Psychologic, 125ff: "a loving struggle of souls with one another." And in 
the chapter on ultimate situations in the Philosophic, 502ff: "a loving struggle for 

82 Wisdom, 19-27. For Jaspers the consciousness of ultimate situations is a deeper 
source than either wonder or doubt. 

88 Philosophic, 469. 


other hand, in the question as to whether this philosophy must 
remain wholly bound up in the personality of its creator. We shall 
now attempt to clarify these questions by reference to the way in 
which Jaspers works out the chapter on ultimate situations in his 

Jaspers takes as his point of departure the concrete reality of 
existence. The first section, entitled "Situation," offers us univer- 
sally valid knowledge, in the form in which it must appear to 
everyone, namely, in consciousness-as-such. "Every assertion which 
I encounter," he writes, "is . . . either testable by intellectual 
methods and hence is a cognitive assertion, proper to the inves- 
tigatory world-orientation, and laying claim to universal validity, 
or else it is a philosophical assertion." 34 But this still leaves us out- 
side the realm of authentic philosophizing. We must take account 
of the situation-bound character of human existence. 

"A situation is not merely something which conforms to natural 
law; it is a meaningful reality which is neither psychic nor phys- 
ical, but, as a concrete reality, is both together, and this reality 
means advantage or harm, opportunity or limitation for my 
existence." A whole series of sciences are concerned with this 
reality, investigating either universal, typical situations or histori- 
ically determined, non-recurrent situations. 

As existence I am so completely interfused with the situation in 
which I now find myself, in which "I act or let myself be acted 
upon," 35 that I can never know more than a few of its aspects. Only 
a person who stands outside of this situation someone else or I 
myself in retrospect can survey it more fully, though never, of 
course, in all of its possibilities. In retrospect I might recognize 
which possibilities I missed because I was not, in general, aware 
of them. But, at the moment when I recognized them, the situa- 
tion as a result of this knowledge would already have become 
different. On the basis of my knowledge of these possibilities I 
could have entered actively into the situation, thus modifying it. 

"Situations exist insofar as they change." But, although I can 
change the given situation, and can calculatingly introduce desired 
situations, I cannot "leave one situation without entering into 
another." Existence is a "being in situations." 87 

The second section, entitled "Situation and Ultimate Situa- 
tion," leads to the limit of what I and, in principle, everyone else 
as consciousness-as-such, can know; it completes a "philosophical 

34 Concerning the relationship of "science and philosophy" in Jaspers, see the 
references in the subject-index of the Philosophic. 

35 Ibid., 468. 86 ibid., 468. 37 ibid., 469. 


world-orientation/' Here "the limits are sought beyond which 
there does not have to be any further world, nor yet a nothing- 
ness." 38 

Situations such as the fact that I am always in situations, that I can- 
not live without conflict and suffering, that I unavoidably incur guilt, 
that I must die these I call ultimate situations. They do not change, 
except in their appearance; with respect to our existence they are ulti- 
mate. They are not surveyable; in our existence we see nothing else 
behind them. They are like a wall, we come up against, and upon 
which we founder. They can not be changed by us, only brought to 
clarity without our being able to explain or deduce them from any- 
thing else. They are a part of existence itself. 39 

"The word 'limit'* expresses the idea that there is something 
else, but at the same time that this something else is beyond the 
reach of consciousness in existence." Thus as a consciousness-as- 
such I am in principle unable to grasp the specific limiting char- 
acter of ultimate situations; I can only state as an objective fact, 
like any other, that I am always in situations, that there is death, 
struggle, suffering, guilt. This is all part of human existence: man 
lives and, like all other living creatures, is subject to death. He 
experiences joy and sorrow. Human existence in its everyday 
reality attempts to avoid those situations which it experiences as 
an encroachment upon its life-impulse; but it does not dare to 
admit that it cannot escape them, even though it sees itself in fact 
constantly delivered up to them. 

Authentic reality, the dual aspect of ultimate situations, be- 
comes palpable to me only when I am no longer mere existence, 
which experiences this reality only negatively, as a boundary, and 
hence as a source of suffering; nor yet a consciousness-as-such, 
which merely registers it externally but a potential Existenz. 

Just as situations are a part of consciousness-as-such, so "ulti- 
mate situation and Existenz" the title of Jaspers' third section 
belong together: "to experience ultimate situations and to 'exist' 
is one and the same thing/' 40 

In the first and second sections, to which we have just referred, 
Jaspers leads us step by step to a limit beyond which "there does 
not have to be any further world, nor yet a nothingness." Situa- 
tions are a reality which can be grasped by consciousness-as-such, 
and hence can be scientifically investigated from multifarious 
points of view. Ultimate situations as a reality sui generis can not 
exist for the mere intellectual understanding of consciousness-as- 

38 Ibid., 46. 89 ibid., 469. 40 ibid., 469. 

* Editor's Note: cf. glossary. 


such. Here intellect comes up against an absolute limit. For ulti- 
mate situations are not a mere sub-species of situations in general. 
In introducing the term "ultimate situation" and the related 
term "Existenz" Jaspers goes beyond the realm of the objec- 
tively knowable. "To experience ultimate situations and to exist 
is one and the same thing:" not only is this proposition not prov- 
able in any universally valid way; it is, for the pure intellect, 
wholly without meaning. "Ultimate situation" is not an intellec- 
tual concept, nor an objective category, but rather> as Jaspers calls 
it, a signum, a mere index, which points to the fact that given 
situations can attain a particular depth for me, a depth which is 
conceptually not exhaustible. The depth which slumbers in ulti- 
mate situations becomes palpable only to the depth which is in- 
herent in me as the potentiality for becoming authentically my- 
self, or to use Kierkegaard's expression authentically to 'exist.' 

Existence attempts to avoid ultimate situations; but in such 
situations self-being can become aware of authentic being by a 
leap. "Stages of the Leap taken in the Ultimate Situations in Be- 
coming Existenz" is the title of the fourth section. "But how does 
Existenz realize itself in ultimate situations?" Jaspers asks in this 
section. The answer is: In ultimate situations I accomplish in 
three stages by a conscious inner act the leap from existence 
to Existenz, and hence the birth of my authentic self. 41 What I 
have to do by acting purposively in my existence to avoid 
where possible ultimate situations, is something that I can make 
clear to everyone. Here intellect speaks to intellect, as in the case 
where a physician gives advice for saving human life. But the ac- 
tivity with which I react in authentic significance to ultimate 
situations situations in which I, as existence, must in the end 
founder is quite different, in that I release the profound 'exis- 
tential' fruitfulness of this activity. And when Jaspers attempts to 
describe this inner 'existential' action to us, he can no longer ap- 
peal merely to our intellectual understanding: the authentic real- 
ity of these inner fulfillments in which I realize myself remains 
inaccessible to this mere intellect and to all mere psychology. Here 
I understand only what I myself have the potentiality of being. 

Here, as elsewhere in 'existential 9 philosophizing, mere intellect 
no longer speaks to mere intellect, but potential Existenz speaks 
to potential Existenz, through the medium of the concepts of the 
intellect for these concepts can not be avoided. Where authen- 
tic human Existenz is involved psychology becomes an ''illumina- 
tion of Existenz." Long passages in the second volume of Jaspers' 

41 Ibid., 472. 


Philosophie which bears this title including the chapter on 
ultimate situations, can be read as psychology. However, to con- 
ceive them as psychology, as giving objective knowledge about 
man, is to misunderstand them in a radical way. They are not 
intended to provide definitive factual information as to what man 
is. In such seemingly psychological discussions one should listen 
closely for the 'existential' undertones; these undertones or, to 
express the point somewhat too sharply, what stands between the 
lines and cannot be said directly, because it cannot be captured 
in our concepts represent the real essence. 

I understand only that which I myself have the potentiality of 
being, 42 that which finds an answering echo in me. The illumina- 
tion of Existenz sets strings vibrating in me, strings which rigor- 
ously objective thought cannot touch; it speaks to potentialities 
in me which might otherwise have remained hidden from me, but 
which may be decisive for my authentic being as human. Illumi- 
nation of Existenz attempts to arouse and sharpen my sensitivity 
for what is essential, for what is genuine and what is false. It at- 
tempts to sensitize me to what is relevant in making my life a truly 
human life. 

Let us consider the three forms of the leap in which Existenz 
realizes itself in ultimate situations. 

If, in ultimate situations, I have touched upon the fragmentar- 
iness and doubtfulness of my existence and of that of the world in 
general, I can attempt to release myself from all ties, to set myself 
over against everything, including my own existence, to be only 
a disinterested and incorruptible eye: I wish to see and to know 
what may be the matter with the world and with my own exist- 
ence. The knowledge which I am able to obtain as a disinterested 
observer serves as my only secure point of anchorage: "I look 
imperturbably upon the positive which I validly know, secure in 
this knowledge of my being." The first form of the leap leads 
"from world-existence in view of the doubtfulness of everything, 
to the substantial solitude of the universal knower." 43 

But only for fleeting moments can I be a mere eye which wants 
to see only what is. I remain embedded in my existence; my ex- 
istence "contains the germ of my Existenz"** which enabled me 
already to complete the first leap. And as potential Existenz I sur- 
pass the knowledge which I have gained in the solitary point- 
likeness of consciousness-as-such. 

42 Thus I cannot understand God, nor can I understand an animal. All that I 
can authentically understand is the reality of man, and everything else only insofar 
as it enters into human reality. 

43 ibid., 472. 44 ibid., 472. 


The world cannot remain as a merely indifferent object of 
knowledge; my own being is involved in it. The experience of 
foundering in ultimate situations had disturbed me; I had at- 
tempted to entrench myself in consciousness-as-such as in an im- 
pregnable fortress. The surging atmosphere of the world around 
me had begun to divide itself up for me, as a consciousness-as- 
such, and had become surveyable realm by realm. As potential 
Existenz, which is concerned with becoming real, I seize this 
knowledge, without which I would remain entangled in the ob- 
scurity of world-existence; but it offers me no satisfaction. I sense 
that what authentically concerns me speaks to me only at the 
limits of what is objectively knowable in the being of the world. 
"Here being-world separates itself from Existenz for me; the 
former I can knowingly leave as a specific dimension of being. 
But I cannot escape from the latter by considering it; I can only 
either be it or not be it." 45 And the ultimate situations, from which 
I previously separated myself in my attempt as situationless 
knowledge as a disinterested observer, now become of decisive 
importance for me. I catch a glimpse of their depth, and grasp 
the fact that they compel me to decide whether I dare expose 
myself to their authentic reality and in so doing to realize myself. 
Ultimate situations become an object for my consideration. As 
potential Existenz, I examine them for their hidden potentialities. 
I cannot analyze them from a cool distance in a way which is uni- 
versally valid for consciousness-as-such. I know that I myself am 
affected by these potentialities and I attempt to make them clear 
to myself by "illuminating consideration/ 1 The second form of 
the leap thus leads "from a consideration of things in view of my 
necessary participation in the world of foundering, to an illumina- 
tion of potential Existenz."** By reference to potential Existenz, I 
illuminate for myself the possibility of my becoming authentically 
real, of existing in ultimate situations. 

No matter how deeply I, as potential Existenz, must become in- 
volved in order to complete this "illuminating consideration" 
"I am not yet what I know in philosophizing." 47 It is only the 
third and decisive leap that leads me "from existence as potential 
Existenz to real Existenz in ultimate situations." 48 "What I know 
paves the way for what I can become." 49 But Existenz which really 
stands in an ultimate situation no longer philosophizes. 

Here we must pause. Our consideration of the first section of 

45 ibid., 471. 46 ibid., 472. 47 ibid., 471. 48 ibid., 472. 

49 The three forms of the leap are bound up with one another, they are genuine 
only when they remain related to one another. 472f. 


the introduction to the chapter on ultimate situations has carried 
us far enough into Jaspers' complex of themes that we can now 
attempt to clarify the questions and difficulties which were 
raised at the beginning. Let us review them briefly: 

Jaspers is attempting in his philosophizing to reveal to us the 
place of the authentically real as such. Authentic reality is some- 
thing which I can grasp only in the living experience of self- 
realization. That authentic reality which I can myself become 
has, since Kierkegaard, been called " Exist enz." However, if I aim 
directly at such 'existential' becoming, I am most certain to fail 
to achieve it. In addition to this difficulty, which is present even 
for the person who does the original philosophizing, two further 
difficulties appear: How can the original philosopher tell others 
about the inner fulfillments in which he realizes himself, if they 
can not be grasped in the objective thought of consciousness-as- 
such? And: How can his self-realization be of any help to others 
in their self-realization? 

1) The Philosopher cannot aim directly at his own self -real- 

According to the philosophy of ultimate situations, to be in 
ultimate situations and to exist is the same thing. Hence, if I 
should set up 'existential' becoming as my direct goal, I should 
have to seek out ultimate situations for my existence to founder 
in, in order that I might at the same time realize myself. I should 
have to want to founder. Jaspers never tires of protesting against 
this fundamental misunderstanding. It is so important to become 
clear on this point that we shall quote at least one passage in 

To will this foundering directly would be to admit a perversion in 
which being itself would be wholly darkened into nothingness. We do 
not find genuine revelatory foundering in just any shipwreck, nor in 
every annihilation, self-surrender, renunciation, or refusal. The cipher 
of immortalization in foundering becomes clear only when I do not 
will to founder and yet dare to founder. I cannot plan the reading of 
this cipher of foundering. I can plan only that which provides perma- 
nence and stability. The cipher does not reveal itself when I will it, 
but only when I do everything to avoid its reality; it reveals itself in 
the amor fati. But fatalism would be false, if it gave in too early and 
hence failed to founder. 60 

Only if I do not seek out ultimate situations, if I do not attempt 
to founder, if I do everything to avoid this, can the inevitable 
foundering of my existence become a gateway to my authentic 

50 ibid., 867. 


being as a man. And I need not at all will to founder. The ulti- 
mate situations in which I inevitably find myself, continually 
confront me with the reality of necessary foundering and compel 
me to decide whether I dare, by actively suffering ultimate situa- 
tions, to "transform ruin into a function of Existenz." 61 

Hence in philosophizing I cannot aim directly at my own self- 
realization. But I may well arm myself for what Jaspers calls 
"genuine foundering," by reconnoitering and anticipating in 
thought, as potential Existenz, the potentialities of ultimate sit- 
uations, which remain for my active mastery of this necessary 
foundering. But the question remains as to whether this anticipa- 
tory insight into the necessity of foundering necessarily prejudices 
the originality and spontaneity of my active struggle against this 
foundering. And the danger of appropriating or assimilating Jas- 
pers' philosophy is that, in this process, philosophizing about ulti- 
mate situations, in complete opposition to his intention, could 
be turned into a kind of "shell," a covering which would hinder 
a really genuine, original, and spontaneous foundering. 52 

Authentic self-being "cannot be forced." 68 Man's situation as 
potential Existenz is paradoxical: he must will the impossible: 
only by so doing can he attain the possible, which he cannot will 
directly. Even as potential Existenz he must will to become whole 
in the world. He cannot overleap the reality of his existence. "In 
existence I am as a will to become whole (Ganzwerdenwollen)." 
The philosopher, according to Jaspers, "hungers for the world; 
he seeks to know it as nature and in the breadth of its historical 
objectivity, to experience it in the factual, historical concreteness 
of his own existence." 55 The philosopher's "incessant impulse 
presses forward as a will to become whole; nowhere does it find 
lasting rest." 56 In its attacks upon the reality of existence, the will 
to become whole is constantly being brought up short by the re- 
sistance of ultimate situations. In these situations it becomes clear 
that the goal has been placed too high ever to be attainable: man 
as a finite creature can never round out the reality of his existence 
into an encompassing and harmonious whole. He cannot become 
really whole. But he must repeatedly will the impossible, in order 
to achieve the possible, which "is not to be planned and becomes 
meaningless when it is desired, namely, to experience Being in 
foundering." 57 The ultimate situations constitute "a barricade of 
restraints for potential Existenz" in its "drive against them comes 

51 Wahrheit, 885. 52 See note 108 below. 53 Ibid., 865. 

54 ibid., 751. 55 ibid., 280. 56 ibid., 648. 

57 ibid., 879. (concluding sentence of the Philosophic.) 


to itself in existence/' 58 Without the will to become whole there 
is no authentic experience of my finiteness in ultimate situations, 
which hurl me back upon myself, no genuine foundering, and 
hence no becoming authentic. 

Jaspers* philosophy of ultimate situations illuminates in detail 
the necessity of foundering; but Jaspers is just as keenly aware of 
the necessity of the will to become whole as a presupposition of 
genuine foundering. He does not discuss the latter at equal length, 
but for Jaspers the impulse to become whole is, perhaps for that 
very reason, such a spontaneous, powerful and self-evident pre- 
supposition indeed, it supports his whole life's work 59 that in 
the creator of the philosophy of foundering there is no danger of 
any premature resignation. 

2) The Problem of Communication. The significance of this 
problem for Jaspers becomes evident from the fact that for large 
stretches his philosophy becomes a philosophizing about philos- 
ophizing, about its potentialities and its method. 

The way in which Jaspers introduces the idea of ultimate situa- 
tion is characteristic for his procedure. His point of departure is 
the concrete reality of my existence. As consciousness-as-such I 
separate myself from this reality and analyze it from changing 
points of view. But in so doing I never grasp the whole of my 
existence: Existence as the Encompassing evades objective knowl- 
edge; this knowledge is brought up short against ultimate limits. 
As potential Existenz I sense that it is precisely here, at the limits 
of the objectively knowable, that authentic reality awaits me. 

How does Jaspers succeed in communicating what is not ob- 
jectively conceivable? Let us now examine the further construc- 
tion and elaboration of his chapter on ultimate situations. 

The three principal parts of this chapter complete the "illumin- 
ation of Existenz" in the sense already mentioned. Jaspers thus 
reaches the point where he must be able to take the reader with 
him to the second leap, which leads from existence to potential 
Existenz. His desire to implicate the reader in this leap is prob- 
ably the chief reason why Jaspers rearranges the grouping of the 
ultimate situations in the Philosophic, as compared to the Psychol- 
ogie der Weltanschauungen. 

The Psychologie presents the following outline: 

58/6iU, 510. 

59 Cf. Rcchenschaft, 326: "a plan of life." This autobiographical sketch which 
impresses one by the parsimony of its tone, will soon be recognized as a classic 
(323ff). Concerning ultimate situations as the source of Jaspers' philosophizing, from 
the very beginning, cf . 330. 


I. The Antinomian Structure of Being 
II. Suffering 
III. Particular Ultimate Situations: 

1. Struggle 

2. Death 

3. Chance 

4. Guilt 

In the work of 1919 Jaspers, who is still, in intent, a purely 
descriptive psychologist, finds it convenient to start from what is 
most general, from the antinomian structure of being. "If this 
structure is a limit of the objective world-view, the suffering which 
is bound up with every life is its subjective correlate. " 60 Struggle, 
death, chance, guilt are "only special cases of something more 

The chapter in the Philosophie begins, on the contrary, with 
my fully concrete human existence. The fact that I am a man or 
woman; that I live in this time and in these surroundings, that I 
belong to this nation, this family; in short that I am not a "man 
in general," with all the potentialities of being as man, but am 
bound to the non-recurrent, concrete reality of my existence, and 
that as existence I always find myself in a specific situation: this 
discussion of the "ultimate situation of the historical determinate- 
ness of Existenz," as the first ultimate situation, follows naturally 
upon the introductory sections of the chapter, in which the ulti- 
mate situations are contrasted with situationality as such. It intro- 
duces the reader, who already knows something about the three 
leaps of self-realizing Existenz, to the fulfillment of the illumina- 
tion of Existenz. 

This is carried further in the illumination of "particular ulti- 
mate situations" which "confront everyone as a general feature of 
his otherwise specific historicity." 61 "Death" and "suffering" are 
ultimate situations to which I am exposed without any effort on 
my part; but I actively and inevitably help to give rise to "strug- 
gle" and "guilt" as ultimate situations. 

All of these ultimate situations point toward the fragmentari- 
ness and contradictoriness, not only of my existence, but of the 
total reality of the world. Thus, the illumination of the "uni- 
versal ultimate situation of all existence," as the most general and 
relatively most abstract ultimate situation, includes everything 
hitherto said and concludes the chapter on ultimate situations, a 
chapter whose systematic construction may be indicated in the 
following way: 

eo Psychologic, 232. 61 Philosophie, 474. 


I. The ultimate situation of the historical determinateness of 

II. Particular ultimate situations: 

1. Death 

2. Suffering 

3. Struggle 

4. Guilt 

III. The ultimate situation of the doubtfulness of all existence 
and the historicity of the real as such. 

Suffering is now treated, from a different point of view, as a 
particular ultimate situation. All of the ultimate situations which 
were introduced in the work of 1919 recur here, partly under dif- 
ferent names. 

Philosophie Psychologie der W eltanschauungen 

I == III, 3 

II, 1 = III, 2 

II, 2 = II 

II, 3 = III, 1 

II, 4 = III, 4 

III = I 

This entire chapter is impressively constructed and closely rea- 
soned: the illumination of particular ultimate situations is placed 
in a framework of illumination of the historicity of my human 
existence, and the illumination of the historicity of the reality of 
existence as such. This powerful equilibration is, however, only 
a "bonus," which is found, to be sure, in all of Jaspers' works. 
The organization of this chapter, however, is like that of the 
entire Philosophie, in which sensitivity and constructive power 
are held in a remarkable balance, not primarily determined by 
aesthetic considerations. Its sole and deliberate intention is to 
force the reader into a real fulfillment of 'existential' philoso- 

We have already made it clear that 'existential' philosophizing 
cannot be confined to intellectual operations alone. It is, how- 
ever, evident from the chapter which we are discussing that 'exis- 
tential' philosophizing does not proceed illogically, but implies a 
more than formal logic; that it is not "irrational" but super-ra- 
tional; that in Jaspers it is not unsystematic, but rather contains 
the most rigorous system conceivable. 

The systematic rigor with which Jaspers has thought through 
the chapter on ultimate situations becomes evident when one at- 
tempts to lift out its pervasive fundamental ideas. The leading 


points of view which recur in the illumination of every particular 
ultimate situation include the following: 

1) It is existentially disastrous to seek out the ultimate situa- 
tion directly. 

2) I inevitably find myself in ultimate situations. 

3) Every ultimate situation has a dual aspect: a negative char- 
acter with respect to my existence, and a potentially positive 
character for me as potential Exist enz. 

4) In the ultimate situation I achieve myself as Existenz. 

5) I can illuminate for myself the 'existential' necessity of the 
ultimate situation. 

We shall spell this out in detail, thus obtaining a vista of all 
three parts of the chapter: 

1) The senselessness of a direct seeking of the ultimate situa- 

I. The ultimate situation of the historical determinateness of 

This limits my freedom of action, and represents a re- 
straint upon and a resistance to the development of my 
existence. "Although this resistance may in part be over- 
come ... by rationally purposive activity, it is when the 
possibility of such action is grasped with all of one's 
strength, and only then, that the insurmountable ground 
of resistance reveals the ultimate situation." 62 

II. Particular ultimate situations: 

1) Death: 

"Death can have depth only if there is no flight toward 
it; it cannot be willed directly or externally." 63 

2) Suffering: 

The struggle with suffering is a condition of human 
existence: "Everyone takes some part in the struggle 
and demands of himself the highest effort in this 
struggle so long as he is honest and sees the situation 
clearly making use of every rational and empirically 
meaningful means." 84 

3) Struggle: 

If one should want to produce struggle and war in any 
form whatever, "they would be robbed of their essence 
as a possible appearance of Transcendence to Existenz. 
All planning and willing must aspire to exclude 
them." 65 
62 Ibid., 478. (Italics added.) 63 ibid ., 491 . 64 ibid., 492. 65 ibid., 616. 


4) Guilt: 

" Avoidable guilt should really be avoided in order to 
reach authentic, profound, unavoidable guilt but 
here, too, without finding any rest." 66 
III. The universal ultimate situation of all existence: 

We must "do everything possible to avoid and to im- 
prove upon that which, if it remains and overpowers 
us against our will not only may lead to annihilation 
but may also contain within itself a potential revela- 
tion of authentic Being." 67 
2) The unavoidability of the ultimate situation: 

I. The ultimate situation of the historical determinateness of 

Exist enz: 

"My inevitable dependence upon natural forces and 
upon the disposition of the will of others is a confining 
aspect of the ultimate situation." 68 

II. Particular ultimate situations: 

1) Death: 

"I must experience the end; but (as mere existence) 
I live by forgetting the inevitability of death and the 
end of everything." 69 

2) Suffering: 

"There are the greatest differences in the kind of suf- 
fering and in the degree of torment. But in the end 
the same thing may confront all men and everyone 
has his part to bear; no one is spared." 70 

3) Struggle: 

"If I want to live I must be a usufructuary of some 
application of violence; and I must therefore, suffer 
violence myself at some time or other." 71 "If I wish 
never to live at the expense of other life, I must re- 
nounce life." 72 

4) Guilt: 

"By actively participating in life, I take . . . (some- 
thing) from others." 73 "Every action has consequences 
in the world which the agent did not anticipate." 74 
"Whether I act or refuse to act, there will be conse- 
quences, and in either case I incur unavoidable guilt." 75 

eo ibid., 508. 69 ibid., 483. 72 ibid., 499. 

67 ibid., 511. 70 ibid., 492. 73 ibid., 507. 

68 ibid., 477f . 71 Ib id., 501 . 74 ibid., 506. 

75 ibid.. 507. 


III. The Universal ultimate situation of all existence: 

"In this ultimate situation value is seen to be bound 
up with conditions which are themselves value-negat- 
ing. Something undesirable must be accepted with 
every transaction/' 76 "The doubtfulness of all exist- 
ence indicates the impossibility of finding rest in it as 
such." 77 
3) The dual aspect of the ultimate situation. 

I. The ultimate situation of the historical determinateness 
of Existenz: 

"Determinateness, which seemed only resistance and 
constriction, assumes the impenetrable depth of the 
appearance of Existenz itself, when comprehended as 
an ultimate situation." 78 My origin, "as an ultimate sit- 
uation, is that which at the same time limits and fulfills 
me." 79 I feel myself a plaything of contingencies, and 
I experience myself "as at one with the chance which 
I have seized as my own."* I experience "Being 'exis- 
tentially' in what is objectively a limitation." 81 
II. Particular ultimate situations: 

1) Death: 

"Suffering, at the end, brings an awareness of Exis- 
tenz." 82 "Neither longing for death nor fear of death, 
but the disappearance of (outward) appearance as the 
presence of Existenz } becomes the truth." 83 

2) Suffering: 

Suffering annihilates factual being; but "the truth of 
happiness rises upon a foundation of foundering." 84 

3) Struggle: 

"Struggle and warfare, whatever form they may take, 
are equally dreadful in their consequences. . . . These 
occurrences . . . are a potential appearance of tran- 
scendent Being for the Existenz which reveals itself in 
danger and foundering." 85 

4) Guilt: 

"Exploitative usufruct obligates us to make some con- 
tribution. Impurity becomes the claim to will only in 
the most luminous reality, in order to bring the orig- 
inal volition to clear expression." 86 

76 ibid., 509. so ibid., 481. 84 ibid., 493. 

77 lbid. t 508. 81 ibid., 482. 85 ibid., 615. 

78 ibid., 478. 82 ibid., 483. 86 ibid., 508. 
70 Ibid., 479. 68ibid.,4S4. 


III. The universal ultimate situation of all existence: 

"Historicity, as an incessantly self-destructive creation, 
is the only phenomenon in which I become aware of 
myself and of transcendence/' 87 
4) The awakening of Existenz in the ultimate situation: 

I. The ultimate situation of the historical determinateness 
of Existenz. 

Potential Existenz arises "in those moments in which 
the particular and accidental that which could also 
be otherwise is freely taken over by me as belonging 
to me, or where the possibility of taking over this 
reality is rejected because of the danger of an eternal 
mulilation of my own being in this guilt." 88 
II. Particular ultimate situations: 

1) Death: 

"Whatever remains essential in the face of death has 
been ( existentially' fixed: whatever falls away is mere 
existence." Death is not an ultimate situation for po- 
tential Existenz if it "does not serve to awaken its 
potential depth, but merely serves to make everything 
meaningless." 89 

2) Suffering: 

"If all of existence were happiness, potential Existenz 
would remain dormant." "Only when Existenz has 
reached the stage which is required if it is to remain 
itself in happiness does happiness become the phenom- 
enon of Being, before which suffering, as stimulant, 
retreats." 90 

3) Struggle: 

Struggle is "a factor which helps to create man and 
leaves its mark upon him." 91 

4) Guilt: 

"Responsibility is the readiness to take guilt upon 
one's self. Because of it Existenz appears to stand under 
a pressure which is not to be abrogated." 02 
III. The universal ultimate situation of all existence: 

The ultimate situation of the antinomian structure of 
existence, constitutes a "barricade of restraints for 
potential Existenz;" in its "drive against them Existenz 
comes to itself in existence." 93 

87 ibid., 512. 90 ibid., 493. wi ibid., 510. 

88 Ibid., 478f. 91 Ibid.. 615. 
80 Ibid., 486. 92 Ibid., 507. 


5) The 'existential' necessity of the ultimate situation: 

1. The ultimate situation of the historical determinateness 
ot Existenz: 

"Only out of a historically determined origin in the 
ultimate situation is satisfaction a fulfillment, time a 
phenomenal realization, in which the soul marvels at 
its profound harmony with itself." 94 
II. Particular ultimate situations: 

1) Death: 

"If there were no passing away, I would be an infinite 
duration as existence and so would not exist/' 95 

2) Suffering: 

"It is curious that pure happiness appears empty." "If 
all of existence were happiness, potential Existenz 
would remain dormant." 96 

3) Struggle: 

"Absence of struggle . . . would produce an 'existen- 
tial' void together, perhaps, with manifold relations of 
existence with existence." 97 

4) Guilt: 

"... Guilt shatters most radically every trace of self- 
righteousness of Existenz which is in the process of 
realizing itself." 98 Jaspers here refers to the unavoid- 
able, objectively incomprehensible guilt, ignored by- 
rational morality, which consists in the fact that I can 
realize 'existential' communication with a few persons 
only. I cannot 'existentially' do justice to everyone I 
meet. 99 
III. The universal ultimate situation of all existence: 

"Since true Being is experienced either in the ultimate 
situation or not at all, a world without antinomies, in 
which enduring absolute truth would be something ob- 
jectively present, would be a world in which Existenz 
would cease to be, and with it that being in existence, 
to which Transcendence can become palpable." 100 
In what precedes we have laid bare the framework which under- 
lies the construction of the chapter on ultimate situations. After 
this it would have been relatively easy to transcribe the entire 
94 ibid., 479. 96 Ibid., 493. 98 Ibid., 507. 

5 ibid., 484. 97 Ibid. f 505. 99 Cf. ibid., 347. 

100 Ibid., 511. We were able to take almost all of the quotations used in our sys- 
tematic outline (notes 62ff.) from the chapter on ultimate situations; we have cited 
another chapter several times (notes 65, 85, 91) only in the cases of the ultimate 
situation of struggle. 


chapter so as to provide an outline of the complete, self-enclosed, 
and rigorous system of a philosophy of ultimate situations. But, it 
is precisely this which Jaspers did not wish to provide: he would 
see in any such attempt a fundamental falsification of the mean- 
ing of his philosophizing. Philosophizing, as he understands it, 
cannot result in any fixed or coherent system of knowledge. It 
wants to be something more, and more difficult, than that: the 
question is not one of increasing, ordering, and rounding off the 
area of my knowledge, but of modifying my whole conscious atti- 
tude. And our attempt to lay bare the systematic skeleton of the 
chapter was intended only to show concretely that it is not any 
lack of logic or system-building power which prevents Jaspers 
from producing a system. 

Logical clarity is an indispensable presupposition for the il- 
lumination of Existenz; but by itself it is insufficient. Indeed, by 
itself it is deceptive; for, where thought deals with authentic, 
'existential' reality, it "cannot demonstrate itself by giving reasons, 
but can only try to convince by a [non-logical] appeal." "Argu- 
ments do not run in a linear series, with truth standing as the 
result at the end/' 101 This proposition also applies to the illumina- 
tion of particular ultimate situations in Jaspers; hence, no sys- 
tematic outline can in any way replace a study of the original text. 

Jaspers himself, in his discussion of the methods of the illumina- 
tion of Existenz 2 formulates the supra-logical ordering-principle 
which lies at the basis of his work: "The ordering of questions, 
thought and perceptions is such that the spark of self-being, which 
cannot be directly communicated since everyone either lights it 
in himself or not at all, may be struck in the co-thinker/' In his 
foreword to a book by M. Dufrenne and P. Ricoeur, entitled Karl 
Jaspers et la philosophie de V existence Jaspers repeats what he 
had already said in the foreword to his Philosophie: that each 
chapter of the Philosophie was planned as a self-contained whole. 
Each chapter, he now adds, should be read at one sitting. Its truth 
does not reside in any single assertion; this truth can become 
manifest only in the movement which takes place in the reader 
who is inwardly swept along, compressing the whole into a single 

In the philosophizing of the illumination of Existenz potential 
Existenz wants to speak to potential Existenz. The illumination 
of Existenz, as expressed in a written work, is therefore an ana- 
logue of what Jaspers calls 'existential' communication: "In the 
expression of the universal, as the form of thought which illumi- 

101 ibid., 305. 102 ibi d. f 302ff. ios Paris, 1947. 


nates Exist em, potential Exist enz appeals both to itself and to 
others, in order to become fully itself in both/' 104 The "formula- 
tions which carry [this thought] constitute the unifying grip of 
the philosopher's potential Existenz, with its impulse to communi- 
cation/' 105 

The threefold function of universality 106 and objectivity, with 
which thought that enlightens Existenz like all thought re- 
mains bound up at every step, may also be shown in this chapter: 

1) Moving to the limit (or boundary): We recall Jaspers' sharp 
distinction between ultimate situations and situations in general. 

2) Objectification in psychological, logical, and metaphysical 
language: here we shall merely point once more to the possibility 
of misinterpreting thought which illuminates Existenz as mere 
psychology. Although it is true that 'Existenz cannot be under- 
stood psychologically, it is equally true that Existenz becomes 
clear to itself only in what is understandable, and realizes its own 
non-understandability only in a maximum of understandability. 107 
On the other hand, all inadequate reactions to ultimate situations 
are psychologically comprehensible. And here in particular, in 
his inexorable exposure of "apparent solutions," "deviations," 
"false concealments," and "possibilities of escape," in all ultimate 
situations, Jaspers reveals himself as a master of the "psychology 
of unmasking." Indeed, in our systematic presentation of this 
chapter we might very well have indicated the danger of false 
reactions as a sixth pervasive leading idea. 

3) The invention of a specific universal for the illumination of 
Existenz: words like "Existenz" and "ultimate situation," are 
signa, indices, which do not point directly to the reality of exist- 
ence (although as words they are derived from the latter), but 
point, on the basis of this reality, to 'existential' reality, and hence, 
like the psychological categories employed in language which 
illuminates Existenz, they can be understood only by a potential 
Existenz. Only in the latter do they find an answering echo and 
"a wholly personal fulfillment." 

Thus the forms of the universal, which are used as media by 
any illumination of Existenz at every stage of thought, can be ex- 
hibited. However, we cannot indicate how, by a combination of 
single steps, the philosopher can 'existentially' "charge" a self-con- 
tained train of thought so as to generate an 'existential' "poten- 
tial," from which a spark may leap into the soul of the adequately 
prepared reader. At most we can indicate certain specific pre- 
104 Philosophic, 303. 105 Ibid., 303f. On 'existential* communication see 338ff. 
ioe ibid., 304. 107 ibid., 305. 


requisites on the part of the philosopher: a steady gaze, a sensitive 
ear for the reader who is his potential partner in the illumination 
of Existenz, and whose possible mode of reaction must be sensed, 
as well as an unusual awareness and the most rigorous discipline, 
combined with uncommonly pliable and elastic thought. Further- 
more indeed, above all he must have his own spontaneous 
originality. 108 

3) The Problem of the Appropriation of Jaspers' Illumination 
of Exist enz 

Here we may be brief. We are not concerned once more to 
point out possible misunderstandings. Our question was formu- 
lated at the very beginning: How can anyone else help me in my 
self-realization, since I do not wish to become himself, nor yet a 
self-as-such, but precisely myself? 

The co-enactment on the part of the reader of trains of thought 
which illuminate Existenz is merely an analogue of 'existential' 
communication. As in the case of the latter when it is successful, 
it is the case here too that two persons do not become a self as such 
together, but each one becomes himself. And here we see that the 
dependence of thought which illuminates Existenz upon a uni- 
versal, objective language has its positive aspect as well. 

The person who does the original philosophizing cannot force 
the primordially personal process of becoming himself upon an- 
other directly. He must translate the 'existential' event which is 

108 This explains why it is so difficult, if not impossible, to imitate Jaspers' per- 
formance of thought as an illumination of Existenz difficult even to re-enact this 
thought in a genuine way, especially in the case of the illumination of ultimate sit- 
uations. Awareness can interfere with the 'existential' experience as well as intensi- 
fy it, and the danger of interference is much greater here than in the case of the 
original illumination. Anyone who re-enacts the illumination of ultimate situations 
must ask himself, at every moment, whether he still has the "right to philosophize" 
of which Jaspers speaks in Von der Wahrheit (1046): whether his (anticipatory) in- 
sight into the fragmentariness of all existence does not after all merely intensify his 
impulse toward unconditional realization in this same existence. He will have to be 
sensitive to the danger of premature anticipations as well as to that of going beyond 
himself; he will have to take heart what Jaspers says (Philosophic, 415ff) about 
everyday activities as a "preparation for and broadening of historical Existenz." 
The mere re-enactment of trains of thought which illuminate Existenz becomes 
authentically fruitful only when what has been read has long been "creatively for- 
gotten" that is, so deeply transformed into my own essence that I find my way in 
the concrete situation by means of my own original and spontaneous philosophizing. 
The task of "illumination of Existenz" would be complete only "after it had made 
itself superflous; when everything that it teaches had been 'creatively forgotten* 
again, that is, when one no longer talked about Existenz, but simply existed in a 
straightforward and self-evident way." (E. Latzel, "Bemerkungen zum Umgang mit 
Existenzphilosophie," Zeitschrift fur philos. Forschung, VI, 410). Concerning "crea- 
tive forgetting" cf. W. Metzger, Die Grundlagen der Erziehung zu schopferischer 
Freiheit (Frankfurt am Main, 1949), and G. Pf abler, Der Mensch und seine Ver- 
gangenheit (Stuttgart, 1950). 


taking place in him into a universal language, if he is to make 
himself universally intelligible. In this universal language, if it is 
successful, what is most personal in the philosopher literally 
vibrates along. The reader, on his part, must retranslate this uni- 
versal language into the primordially personal process of becom- 
ing himself. 

Thus, where there is a genuine illumination of Existenz, the 
potential Exist enz of the philosopher may kindle the potential 
Exist enz of the one who thinks with him, transmitting to the 
latter the impulse to become himself. But the distance between 
them remains. That which is primordially personal is not touched, 
precisely because no human being can simply transfer his inmost 
experience to another, but can only appeal to the other's own 
primordial 'existential' potentialities. Illumination of Existenz 
cannot create or transfer life; it works as a catalyst, arousing, re- 
leasing, enlivening, setting in motion my inherent 'existential' 

Jaspers himself says that his thought which illuminates Existenz 
is universally intelligible, but only for potential Existenz. 109 This 
statement must be further qualified if it is to be understood cor- 

Only human beings "who share the same potentialities of ful- 
fillment of being are able to say to one another what could not 
anywhere else be heard." 110 At just this point, where the historical 
restriction of philosophizing itself is discussed, we see the limita- 
tion, but, at the same time also the strength of Jaspers' philosophy 
of the illumination of Existenz> which is aware of this limitation 
and affirms it. 

Not all human beings have the same potentiality for fulfillment 
of being. In the first volume of his Philosophische Logik (Von der 
Wahrheit), Jaspers describes a fundamental human attitude for 
which there is no ultimate situation. In this passage Jaspers' lan- 
guage regains the plastic power of direct portrayal which we ad- 
mire in his Psychologic der Weltanschauungen. These passages 
are so important for us, who are hearing Jaspers say so much about 
the 'existential' fruitfulness, indeed, the 'existential' necessity of 
ultimate situations, that we may be permitted to reproduce them 

Out of our experience of ultimate situations in the shatteredness 
of being we are seized from time to time by a longing for the tran- 
quility of man in a world that protects him. The failure to see ultimate 

100 ibid., 308. no Philosophic, VI (foreword) 


situations does not appear to us in such moments as a lack; it seems 
rather like a heavenly happiness which we have lost. What for us 
would be an escape into untruthfulness was at one time truth beyond 

It is evident that the world is an enduring order; this order is eter- 
nal Being, and this Being is the corporeal presence of heaven and 
earth, and of man within them. Man knows himself to be safe within 
this order. Violations of this order are isolated and transient disturb- 
ances which can be restored to order again. Guilt, being avoidable and 
expiable, calls forth only a temporary and limited disorder. There is 
no despair. Man lives solidly in a solid and substantial reality. The 
world is not distinct from Transcendence. The divine is present, and 
what is present is divine. Order is both sensory and supersensory. In- 
deed, such distinctions are not yet made, since the tensions of a differ- 
ent fundamental experience, which might generate them, are lacking. 

The human being who appears in such an unquestioning state has 
a dignity of his own. He attains the high realization of a formed 
existence, of beautiful bearing of an ardent life. The turbulence of the 
instincts is disorderly, but it is still natural. Of course, uninhibited 
individuals, who destroy the order, occasionally appear, but even they 
remain bound, in the general view, to this order. The individual, from 
his place of safety in this encompassing order, is capable of heroic 
courage. He is able to die calmly, to develop a pure, childlike, un- 
affected humanity. His lament, though moving, is innocent of accusa- 
tion. Although he is without experience of the all-shattering ultimate 
situations, he can suffer deeply. But even in his lament there is an 
endurance of suffering which is contented and tranquil. His innermost 
oneness with the course of things, a course which is eternally and 
basically ordered and moves in endless cycles, holds his affirmation of 
being upright. 

This fundamental attitude is closely approximated by life in pre- 
Buddhist China, the records of which give us a glimpse of the in- 
comparable magic of a life without tragedy. A happiness which is not 
at all superficial speaks to us from this world, a world which was as 
full as any other of actual suffering. 111 

Our long quotation is a testimony to the inner breadth of Jas- 
pers' thought a breadth which has been increasing since the 
Psychologic and to the impartiality and profound sympathy with 
which he approaches even what is inwardly remote from him. He 
sees in it, not his own truth, but another truth. At the same time, 
this passage is evidence of the extreme honesty of Jaspers' self- 
awareness, which is perhaps his greatest strength. 

We shall leave the question open as to whether a true and full 
life is possible today without a complete experience of ultimate 

ill Wahrheit, 879f. 


situations. But even after experiencing ultimate situations, not 
everyone will recognize himself in the same way in Existenz- 
illuminating thought. 

Everyone will have to relate his own experiences to such 
thought. And, he will appropriate it in himself in accordance with 
his own human substance and his achieved inner maturity. 112 
Much he will not begin to see clearly until very late and much, 
perhaps, never. Perhaps he will inwardly oppose many of these 
things and their particular formulations in a decisive way. 
He may think that there is too much talk of "awakening: " "phi- 
losophy as a means of arousing people"! Perhaps he will forbid 
himself any repeated reading of particular passages, fearing for 
his own impartiality. In the chapter on ultimate situations there 
are particular passages which seem questionable when re-enacted 
by the reader. Perhaps many people will accept this kind of 
thought once, in order later to assert their own independent posi- 
tion over against it. And, perhaps, that in itself is the decisive test 
of the inner truth of this thought, the decisive test even for those 
who re-enact it: whether this Existenz-ilhiminating kind of think- 
ing succeeds in placing the reader at a critical distance even from 

Each chapter of Karl Jaspers' Philosophic is intended to repre- 
sent "the whole in smaller form, but at any given time one chapter 
leaves dark what will be illuminated only by the rest." We have 
attempted to understand one chapter, in its planned inner unity, 
and on its own merits, 113 and thus to exhibit the meaning and 
method of thought as the illumination of Existenz. 



112 Cf. note 108. 

113 We have deliberately refrained from expanding our treatment of ultimate 
situations to include other works (the subject indices of Philosophic and Von der 
Wahrheit provide convenient references to the relevant passages) but cf. footnote 
100. This restriction seemed reasonable. Many expositors and critics of Jaspers' phi- 
losophy are weak because they are not conscious of missing the point of his philoso- 
phizing when they bring together all the discussions of a given subject without 
regard for the special function of the particular discussions in their special contexts. 
Let us state emphatically that the idea of ultimate situation first demonstrates its 
full depth and fruitfulness in the third book of the Philosophic the Metaphysics. 
This idea was first disclosed to us through our appropriation, that is, real re-enact- 
ment, of Chapter III ("Existential Relations to Transcendence," 736ft) and the 
fourth (and last) part of Ch. IV of the Metaphysics ("The Passing away of Exist- 
ence and Existenz as a Decisive Cipher of Transcendence," 863ff). The first volume 


of the Philosophische Logik (Von der Wahrheit) justifies the result of the illumina- 
tion of reality negatively, by reference to ultimate situations. "Only through the 
latter is there movement, in which that which originally inspired me, the affirma- 
tion of being, may perhaps finally appear as free of deception." (872) The original 
intuition of the young Jaspers becomes fruitful once again, in a new way, in his 
interpretation of the tragic (Tragedy, 23f). 

The literature on our theme has grown to almost unmanageable proportions; we 
shall single out only four works: 

Gabriel Marcel: "Situation fondamentale et situation-limite chez Karl Jaspers." 

In: Du Refus a ^Invocation. (Paris, 1948) 
M. Dufrenne et P. Ricoeur: Karl Jaspers et la Philosophic de I'existence (Paris, 

1947), (see especially: "Situations- limites et historicity," 173ff). 
P. Ricoeur: Gabriel Marcel et Karl Jaspers (Paris, 1948), (see especially: "Les 

situations-limites" 122ff). 

B. Welte: "Der philosophische Glaube bei Karl Jaspers und die Moglichkeit 
seiner Deutung durch die thomistische Philosophic." In a symposium, Jb.f. 
Philos. Bd.2. (Freiburg i.Br. 1949). 

Fritz Kaufmann 



I. Ultimate Solitude 
II. Communication: Face-to-Face Relationship 

III. Existenz, Co-existence and Transcendence 

IV. Existential Truth 


V. The Approach: Criticism and Sympathy 
VI. The Intermedium of Communicative Language 
VII. Existenz and Nature 
VIII. A Plea for Cosmic Piety. The Artist's Communion 

with Nature 

IX. The Dialectics of Communication 
X. Universal Communication 
XI. Community of Creation and Creative Com- 
XII. Uni-versality and the Analogy of Being 

XIII. God as the Unmoved Mover? Eros vs. Charity? 

XIV. The Guidance by Transcendence vs. the Venture 

of the Absolute Will 

XV. Pure Transcendence or the God of the Covenant? 
XVI. Transcendence in Husserl and Transcendence in 


XVII. The Divine Thou and the Human Thou 
XVIII. Communication by virtue of Consanguinity 
XIX. Communication by virtue of Personal Devotion 
XX. Personal Community and Social Organization 
XXI. Communion with the Creative Ground 




PROBLEM of communication towers over Jaspers* phi- 
losophy, because it has stamped its mark on his own past life, 
and because the future of mankind will depend on its effective 

The historical timeliness of the problem needs no discussion. 
In a world interdependent as it never was, and torn by strife as 
never before, the "absolute will to communication/' including 
the honest and patient negotiation of even the most rending dif- 
ferences, has become a question of life or death. "In today's misery 
we have learned to recognize the crucial claim which communica- 
tion has upon us." This is the note on which The Perennial Scope 
of Philosophy concludes. 

But the central position of this problem in Jaspers' work bears 
witness not only to his sense of historical responsibility as a 
thinker; it is also the expression of an urge which pressed upon 
him since his youth. 

"Having its source in the solitude of self-communication, the 
search for truth pushes toward communication with others." 1 This 
is, on Jaspers' part, not merely an objective statement. It is the 
formulation of an inmost experience. It has both philosophical 
and autobiographical relevance. It marks one of those points 
where private matter issues in the realm of the personal, and the 
personal becomes the soul of philosophical theory. 

Existentialist and particularly 'existentiaV philosophy 2 suggests 
more than others do this type of intimate relation between a man's 
doings and his writings and makes their discrepancy a particularly 

1 Wahrheit, 644. 

2 Jaspers' philosophy is both or, rather, it is prior to either alternative: an 
analysis of existence which is, at the same time, an 'existential' expression. It repu- 
diates, therefore, an ontology which abstracts from the ontic ties and fetters of 
human life. 



grievous event. On the other hand (and much as this fact has been 
sinned against, for instance in the Kierkegaard interpretation), 
no philosophy can be understood in its positive meaning and not 
only in its shortcomings, and in the treatment of its problems as 
well as in their selection, by mere reference to the private predica- 
ments of its author. 

This does not exclude the mood in which a question is asked in 
life from being reflected by the tenor in which the philosophical 
answer appears. The very fact that communication is introduced 
by Jaspers as a break-through of individual solitude echoes a long- 
ing for it which actually haunted him even as a high-school boy 
and gave him early that experience of human finitude and of the 
cleavage of Being that was to pervade his whole philosophy. 3 

It was an authentic experience of lonely limitation different 
from the knowledge of the factual finiteness of life in time (Locke) , 
from the recognition of the finite intellect's dependence on the 
world of the things-in-themselves and their affection (Kant) , etc. 
Although Jaspers is inclined to see in it a result of and reaction to 
the unauthentic and conforming life of the middle classes in the 
German empire around 1900, it will not be awry to attribute this 
incommunicado attitude also to the Northern and German temper 
within and around him to inhibitions such as those of the North 
German figures in Thomas Mann. Conversely, this temper serves 
as the sounding-board for the single voices to which he himself can 
respond in the polyphony of human life. He selects as his peers, 
above all, writers such as Plato, Kant, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and, 
in his own Heidelberg, Max Weber. Max Weber was to Jaspers 
"the philosopher," the paragon of "human greatness." He and 
he almost alone "faced the agony of our time, diagnosed it on the 
strength of his comprehensive knowledge and, in a decaying world, 
rooted himself in his own ground." 4 

He rooted himself in himself. The miracle and blessing of hu- 
man communication is so great an event just because it is bound 
up with the process of personal emancipation and is, thus, in its 
climactic mood a beckoning from peak to peak of existence: 

massed around us arise 

the summits of time; 

and, neighbors, dwell, yet exhausted the dear ones 

on the most separate peaks. 5 
For Jaspers the truest, most intimate communication has this para- 

3 Cf. Rechenschaft, 323f; Wahrheit, S87f; Scope, 62f. 

4 Rechenschaft, 329f, 340; Philosophic I, viiif. 

5 From Hoelderlin's ode Patmos. 


doxical feature about it: that it respects, emphasizes and inten- 
sifies the differences between one existence and the other, instead 
of dwarfing, slurring and hiding them, as is the rule in the ano- 
nymity of average life. Hence, 'existential' contact is an unforesee- 
able occurrence and, as it were, a gift of grace. Its experience seems 
contingent to us who know the whole of Being only in its divi- 
sions, and to whom a true community of persons rests on the in- 
sularity of Selves. There is no genuine solidarity in the mode of 
the "We" except to those who are entitled to say "I," to endure 
the harshness of selfhood, subscribe to the principium individua- 
tionis and respect the distance of even the closest friend. Such con- 
tact in which each Self holds, reveals and cultivates its own ground 
such contact is always the delicate child of the favorable mo- 
mentthe Kcupoc;; it is always meeting and encounter at once a 
"loving struggle" between Self and Self and for their mutual mani- 
festation, in contrast with, and transfiguration of, the selfish strug- 
gle and competition in the flatlands of 'common* life. 

Conversely, since our God, being God, is also the God of our 
enemies, there ought to prevail just as in the Bhagavadgltd 
even in the hostile struggle of fated antagonists, the recognition of 
the common ground from which all existences originate. Such 
tragic conflict should be fought out in a spirit which does not ex- 
clude all possibility of a positive contact and communication at 
some time later 6 a postulate which echoes articles in the political 
philosophies of Grotius, Kant, et al. 

All genuine communication is in a kind of restless Heraclitean 
(lux. Each moment is unique, not to be arrested and not repeat- 
able. It is the fleeting contact of two poles whose polarity cannot be 
eradicated without annihilating the very possibility of communi- 
cation. It takes place between Selves 

which move toward each other out of their solitude, although it 
is just on account of their communication that they know of 
their solitude. ... In all suspense of solitude by virtue of com- 
munication, there grows a new solitude which cannot disappear 
without my ceasing to exist as a condition of such communica- 
tion. 7 

There is no 'existential' relationship without duality of the re- 
lated partners; and no duality without some degree of dualism 
between two Selves either one of whom realizes and validates his 

6 Wahrheit, 318f, 667, 977f. 

7 Philosophic 11,61. It must be added, however, that the delicacy of 'existential' 
relationships does not exclude either the continuity of a life in which a Self has 
chosen itself together with the other, or the solidarity of an interplay in which 
either partner can live faithful to the other just because he lives faithful to himself. 


own individual selfhood in this process of communication. To be 
sure, all communication points and strives beyond itself toward 
a perfect union in "sublime moments" which have the quality of 
the eternal; but they do not last, or else they prove illusory in 
time. 8 

The ultimate solitude of the Self is thus confirmed rather than 
suspended in the solitariness of the "festive night of communion" 
(die hohe Nacht. . . , die einsam war, obwohl die Nacht des 
Bunds.) 9 All this preserves and synthesizes the decisive experiences 
of Jaspers' youth. 10 

It countenances the absolute will to communication in unity with, 
and as the very action of, achieving selfhood. "The possibilities 
of communication (thus) become the principal question of man 
as he makes his way toward himself." 11 


Social contact, not contract. A pressureless touch of ardent, yet 
restrained powers, 12 a drawing of Exist enz toward Exist enz rather 
than a being together and sharing life in life's outer institutions 
and expressions. True co-Existenz in the consummation of face-to- 
face relationships is no less intensive and forceful for being un- 
obtrusive, a model of non-violence. 

This is the spiritual intensity of an 'existential' dialogue such as 
pictured in the penetrating look by which, for instance, the apos- 
tles and prophets on the chancel walls of the Bamberg cathedral arc 
interlocked in their mighty disputations; as it occurs at the height 
of a discussion about mankind's great objectives, man's ultimate 
concern in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure and in Dostoevski's 
and Thomas Mann's philosophical novels, or (to choose just one 
factual example from recent intellectual history) as it was alive in 
the highly charged controversy between Eugen Rosenstock and 
Franz Rosenzweig in 1913 and '16; "much to their own surprise 
the two partners found themselves reluctantly put under the com- 
pulsion to face up to one another in a struggle with no quarter to 
be given or asked for." "For only in this last extremity of a soul 

8 Wahrheit, 380. 

9 R. M. Rilke, Briefruechsel in Gedichten mit Erika Mittercr, 43. 

10 Hence the autobiographical flavor of such analyses as in Philosophic II, 59,73, 
et passim. 

11 Rechenschaft, 256. 

12 Cf. R. M. Rilke, the last section of the second of the Elegies of Duino. 


in self-defense is there hope to realize the truth in the questions 
of life/' 13 

Whereas the face-to-face relationship will not always be of this 
nearly convulsive tension, it will always need a vigorous impulse 
to break through the conventionalities of appearance and over- 
come the inhibitions that work against one's baring his soul to 
himself as well as to others. Beyond the tragedies of passion and 
disillusion, the human drama may thus reach an elevation and a 
composure which allow men to meet freely as members of a great 
family. Not similar as particular samples of human types, but re- 
lated as free and individual partners in the interplay of mankind, 
they may celebrate a holy day, as it were, of human brotherhood. 
This is what happens in Lessing's philosophical play, Nathan the 
Wise, which to Jaspers is full of God in its ' 'unfathomable sad- 
ness and its smiling calm." 14 

This pure fulfillment of true interpersonal Existenz hovers over 
the abysses of human life over all the deviations from truth by 
way of appearances and affectations, all the necessary and lazy com- 
promises, all the handicaps and breakdowns of 'existential' inter- 
course which are due to the general and individual limitations of 
language, to callousness or timidity, bad conscience and bad will, 
suspicion and prejudice, egotism and disappointment, over all the 
excommunications due to tribal hatred, but also over all the per- 
versions of communication in idle talk, trickery and lie, all the 
pseudo-communication in the medium of sentimental and diluted 
ideologies such as the protestations of love for humanity where 
there is no love for one's neighbor. 15 

The positive and deficient modes of communicative life on 
the levels of mere existence (Dasein), consciousness-as-such, spirit 
in the medium and order of ideas, Existenz in the realization of 
the Self these modes are carefully listed and examined in Jaspers' 
works. He acts with the eagerness of the 'existential thinker, at- 
tentive to the possibilities, painfully aware of the dangers and re- 
strictions of man, every man; with the mild and circumspect 
knowledge of a physician of the soul; with that uncanny refine- 
ment that penetrates into the most hidden secrets and all the 
different strata, structures and powers of the inner man with a 
perspicacity that has grown in the school of Kierkegaard and 

iSEugen Rosenstock in the Introductions to this correspondence, Franz Rosen- 
zweig, Brief c, 638. Cf. Philosophie II, 66, 116; Wahrheit, 48. 

14 Cf. Wahrheit, 951, Tragedy, 86. 

15 Cf., e.g., Philosophie 1,16; II, 59f, 81ff; Wahrheit, 428f, 543ff, 566ff, 661ff, 983ff; 
Rechenschaft, 350. 


It must be confessed that, to the reader, this method has its dark 
as well as its bright sides. The patient way in which Jaspers ac- 
cumulates a superabundance of observations, the way he surveys 
at each point each and every possibility, sometimes .taxes the pa- 
tience of the reader who loses sight of the woods for the trees. 
Jaspers' force, but also his apparent weakness, is in a mosaic style 
of agglomerating marvelous details in an often superb phrasing, 
full of a mellowed wisdom which is quite beyond compare in to- 
day's literature. Yet he proceeds without the artistic mise en scene 
which contributes to making Kierkegaard a breath-taking experi- 
ence, and without the dramatic and aggressive verve of the baroque 
yet forceful diction of a Heidegger so much his inferior not in 
intensity, but in prudence, originality, and true unity of thought. 

The lack of stirring effects is the price Jaspers chose to pay for 
speaking from the depth of incommensurable Exist enz to the 
depth of free Existenz in his readers, appealing to their self-con- 
cern rather than to their compliance with the author. To his whole 
philosophy, to philosophical communication as he understands 
and wills it, applies what he says with regard to a specific issue and 
to the objection that its treatment leaves the reader without any- 
thing to hold on to: "This form of discussion cannot be avoided 
if one wants to reach what is at stake in philosophy. Such discus- 
sions shall not result in obtaining and securing objective knowl- 
edge about a phenomenon, but rather help to open our soul more 
widely to the possible." The possible is in this case the possibility 
of the Kierkegaardian "exception." The very exception to the rule 
shows "what man can be," omnipresent as it is in all possible 
Existenz. It is no object of unambiguous appearance and knowl- 
edge. Still, "if I were to renounce this docta ignorantia, I would 
evacuate a domain of truth in which all other truth has still to 
present itself for me to verify itself in its true substance." 16 


We must stop at this point for some needed elaboration. To be 
sure, such an exposition cannot be complete. Within the scope of 
this particular essay, we cannot reproduce the whole network of 
communicative relations, their extent and their limits and, thus, 
practically the articulation of Jaspers' philosophy of Existenz. The 
problem of communication brings out, indeed, the problematic 
nature of human life as such, both in its defaults and in its essen- 
tial limitations. It is the mainspring of Jaspers' anxious inquiry. 

18 Wahrhcit, 758ff. 


"The experience of the shortcomings of communication engenders 
the mood of the philosophical enterprise." 17 

Communication thus becomes the cornerstone as well as the 
stumbling block of this type of existentialism. It is a necessary 
problem not-wendig, 'meeting a need' in the sense of 'necessary* 
which Nietzsche liked to play with: even where a problem cannot 
be solved without a remainder, we are helped by facing and recog- 
nizing it in its inevitability. 

I restrict myself now to this insoluble aspect of the problem. It 
is caused by the non-objective status of the two correlative, yet an- 
tipodean, terms: 'Existenz' in Kierkegaard's nomenclature and 
'Transcendence' proper in Jaspers' sense. 18 In this strict and ulti- 
mate sense 'Transcendence' combines the meaning of the Kantian 
concept 'that which is beyond the scope of human knowledge' 
with the religious overtones and the forbidding ring of the 
totaliter aliter of dialectical theology: that tremendous mystery of 
the one ground of Being which defies the grasp of "intentional 
consciousness"; that rock of absolute Being which gives no direct 
answer to our questions, but is like the voice of silence itself; the 
fixed star of Being in the night of Existenz. 19 

Transcendence speaks in its very silence. But it speaks only to 
Existen?? , to the free and attentive listening on the part of reason, 
i.e., the unobstructed Vernehmen der Vernunft (to employ the 
German expression in which, following the supranatural sensual- 
ism of Hamann, Herder and Jacobi, Jaspers profits from the pecu- 
liar wisdom of his native language). 21 Transcendence "speaks" in 
a not really and truly communicable way to absolute conscious- 
ness. It uses the cipher of some particular phenomenon in its over- 
whelming presence such as the spreading of the heron's white 
wings against the blue sky in the decisive youth experience that 
is reported of Ramakrishna. 

But this example is not taken from Jaspers and the sphere of 
personal co-Existenz, which he prefers. To him, revelation, the 

17 Rechenschaft, 351 . 18 Cf. Wahrheit, 108ff. 

19 All these metaphors are used to circumscribe an experience which cannot be 
communicated directly. Besides using Jaspers' own evocative language, they borrow 
from certain significant passages in Thomas Mann's writings. This is done to show 
the free convergence between the metaphysician and the artist as mouthpieces of 
the, perhaps, most intense experience of their generation. (Cp. Philosophic III, 
219ff, with Joseph der Erndhrer, 382, and Doktor Faustus, 285, 745). The same could 
be done with reference to R. M. Rilke where the Angels symbolize a similar tran- 
scendence; cf. also Rilke, III, 399: "Nichts ist so stumm / wie eines Gottes Mund" 

("nothing as mute / as of a god the mouth.") 

20 Cf. Wahrheit, 110. 21 Cf., e.g., Wahrheit, 115. 


incomprehensible and, therefore, ineffable presence of Transcen- 
dence, is a unique event which happens to a man in a single hour 
of human history and historical awareness. 22 Human language 
communicates but an echo of this absolute experience in the myth- 
ical accounts of religion and art and the speculative accounts of 
metaphysics. 23 

What really happens to Existenz in these experiences is the 
Icarus flight of reason into the sun of ultimate reality the as- 
surance and recognition of that unfathomable unity which trans- 
cends the unifying efforts of reason just as reason itself transcends 
the data and spheres of particular objects. Yet death is swallowed 
up in victory. Facing the eminent presence of the transcendent 
One and surrendering to it, man is granted in return that freedom 
of Existenz in which he grows beyond the conditions of his natural 
and historical worlds. 24 

It is, nevertheless, within the medium of his world that he grows 
beyond it, fulfills his mission and delivers his message. Although 
his work in the world is, on the one hand, nothing but the daily 
new fee he cannot help paying to the needs and claims of life in 
the flesh, it is also sanctioned as the avenue of communication in 
the co-Existenz of man with man, Self with Self. 25 

But, as the world ceases to be man's ultimate concern, as he 
ceases to cling to it and his position in it, it loses the pressure of 
its weighing on him and is reduced to appearance, seen as it were 
from afar and studied like a cryptogram. To use the favorite term 
Jaspers may have adopted from J. G. Hamann: man sees in the 
books of nature and history the "ciphers" of Being, whose presence 
they announce, but whose nature they do not disclose incom- 
municative as it is in this very communication. Or rather in a 
way such as followed out in Talmud-discussions and lately by 
Kafka in the analysis of his own parables infinite meanings sug- 
gest themselves since no definite reading of the ciphers can be 
established. One reading leads to the other, and one confirms the 
other insofar as the truth of the cipher does not lie in anything 

22 Wahrheit, 693. 23 Cf. Philosophic, III, 129ff. 24 Cf. Wahrheit, 104ff. 

25 The emphasis on the ultimate validity of Existenz and co-Existenz of indi- 
vidual Selves constitutes the decisive difference between Jaspers' teachings and those 
of Sarhkara as well as the Bhagavadgitd. Jaspers' way of having reality transfigured 
into the appearance of Transcendence is often reminiscent of the Hindu doctrine. 
But, whereas Jaspers confesses to the unity of absolute Transcendence (what the 
Hindus may call the nirguna Brahman), he sticks to the plurality of Selves (instead 
of the oneness of Atman). Hence he cannot fully subscribe to the identity between 
Brahman and Atman. Even though everything may originate from the same com- 
mon ground, the individual Self is more than the role which the person plays on 
the stage of this world and, still, it is not, ultimately, the Absolute 'in person/ 


apart from it but rather in the unambiguous, absolute presence 
which asserts itself in each attempt to penetrate into its nature. 
The manifest mystery of Transcendence is there not to be dis- 
pelled, but to be enhanced in the spirit of devotion and full ab- 
sorption. The cipher is the presence of the transcendent and the 
transcendence of the present.^ 

" Transcendence is not an object of (rational) proof, but one of 
witness." 27 It is both infinitely close to Existenz and infinitely 
distant from it. True Existenz is defined by its orientation toward 
Being qua Transcendence, the intimate awareness of its distance. 
This is done as early as in Plato "left to herself the soul strives 
toward and reaches contact with true Being" and has found its 
Christian sanction and version in the Augustinian tradition and 
recently, above all, in Kierkegaard. Still, there is a century and, 
literally, a 'world' between Kierkegaard's thesis: "The measure" 
(not of man, as in Plato, but) "of the Self is God" and Jaspers' 
saying: "The depth of my Self has its measure in the Transcend- 
ence before which I stand." 28 

It belongs to Jaspers' Christian heritage that this stand will dif- 
fer with each individual. "No Self is exchangeable, none expend- 
able in the economy of the whole. Each has to stand its own 
ground as it approaches and is approached by the All-Encompass- 
ing. Since there is no common platform on which the different 
Selves communicate apart from the unity of Transcendence by 
which they are encompassed, their communication will be both 
needful and painful. Even the absolute will to communicate can- 
not but recognize the radical differences amongst the various 
modes of being and the still more profound separation of one Self 
from the other in the very act of communicating which frees each 
Self for itself. 

In his interpretation of the Abraham-Isaac story, Kierkegaard 
emphasizes the impossibility of communicating in general and 
rational terms what is said to the 'single one/ to each individual 
one in a singular way. Hence each individuum est ineffabile: no 

26 Cf. Philosophic III, 144ff; Wahrheit, 896, 1030ff. 

27 Philosophic III, 204: "Die Transzendenz wird nicht bewiesen, sondern von ihr 
wird gezeugt." 

28 Cf. Plato, Phacdo, 65f, 79D; Kierkegaard, The Sickness unto Death (transl. by 
W. Lowrie), 12Gff: "Gradations in the consciousness of the Self (The Qualification 
"before God")." Cf. op. cit. also: "By relating itself to its own self and by willing to 
be itself, the self is grounded transparently in the Power which constituted it." A 
note in Kierkegaard's Journal of 1854 E.P. IX, p. 240 makes no sense in Dru's 
translation, p. 532. It should read: "The Existenz of a Christian is contact with Be- 
ing." As to Jaspers, see Philosophic II, 49; also Wahrheit, 541ff, 49, 104ff, 175, 631ff, 
639ff, 677, 1054 et passim; Scope, 17, 64f, 70ff. 


objective statement can ever convey the full truth about it and 
its calling. 29 This fact cannot be reduced to the incompleteness of 
all knowledge in the continuity of the process of scientific expe- 
rience. It belongs to a different dimension of problems: Existenz 
is no object of objective determination; 'existential' revelation of 
the Self, however incomplete, is qualitatively different from, and 
superior to, any appearance; and 'existential' truth is not a discov- 
ery of independent facts, but part and parcel of truthful Existenz, 
its recovery and performance. Hence the Self may be compared 
cum grano salis whh Kant's intelligible Ego which is alive as 
the source of free actions although we know only of the appear- 
ances it makes on the stage of time and space. 

The Self has its original being, its true actuality, only in what 
cannot be stated as an objective event: in acts which cannot be 
accounted for in a causal way, but in which it accounts for itself 
responsive and responsible acts in which the Self is actualized 
by choosing both itself and the Thou which it addresses, and 
whose claims it fulfills in its own way, in a devotion in which it 
finds its own fulfillment. 30 

The language of such productive and mutual communication is 
more eloquent than words may ever be. Communication may be 
crowned by silence just as well as it can die in it. 31 But it is never 
a communication which is objectively secured like that of two 
vessels through which the same water is channeled. Even in the 
case of the most intimate relationship and the most reliable soli- 
darity it resembles less such a lasting status than the flashing of 
sparks from one pole of a battery to the other. 32 

The precariousness of this relationship on the level of growing 
selfhood not in the gregariousness of animal life or in the com- 
mon fronts of the objective mind and in the fight tor common 
causes this lasting discontinuity between I and Thou in the 
midst of their impassioned struggle for one another, may tempt 
men to discontinue their relations altogether in a mood of des- 
pair or defiance. 33 

But such tendencies are counteracted not only by the pathological 
longing for close community, but above all by the resoluteness of 
the will to total communication a will to unity in co-Existenz, 
pervaded, sustained and directed, perhaps, by the unity of the all- 
encompassing Being. 34 Even in the case of what, with Kierkegaard 

29 Cf. already Psychologic, 358ff. 30 Cf., e.g., Philosophic II, 19ff., 182. 

31 Cf. Philosophic II, 74ff; Wahrheit, 416, 982. 

32 Cf., e.g., Philosophic II, 62. 33 Cf. Philosophic II, 81ff; Wahrheit, 983f. 
34 Cf. Philosophic III, 122ff; Wahrheit, 114ff, 321, 378, 971ff; Scope, 44ff. 


and Nietzsche, Jaspers calls "the exception" i.e., the man in 
whom singularity and loneliness have become so intensive as to 
exclude him from all others and effect a sort of ex-communication, 
even in the case of the man who writes 'white papers' in "invisible 
ink" even there the enforced silence is interrupted again and 
again by outbreaks from solitary confinement, by passionate out- 
cries to God and man or by the more artful contrivances of in- 
direct communication. 35 

But even under the most favorable conditions, my meeting and 
community with other Selves, above all with my 'predestined* 
alter ego? Q is as it were a gift of grace (a gratia cooperans) and 
constitutes the secret of an invisible church. There is a realm of 
the spirit. But "the idea of a realm of Existenzen as a totality, with 
me as one of its accredited members, is unfounded, if this idea 
pretends to be objective knowledge." 37 

Co-Existenz has its enactment and actuality not in terms of the 
world, not in a re-public of life interests, activities and institutions, 
in a cosmos of the objective mind, in any universal organization. 
It is not manifest in any embodiment as such. This does not free 
us from our social obligations in this world. 'Existential' commun- 
ity is not a matter of management. 38 Still, the right growth of the 
social body may prove indispensable to true co-Existenz as the 
work of the soul, to the realization of Selves in historical commun- 
ity and the consolidation of the "absolute will to communication" 
amongst men of all classes and races. 39 

The realm of communication is thus the middle realm that 
stretches between Existenz and Transcendence. It is the human 
world* of 'existential' relations. In it communication boundless 
communication appears as a postulate and perennial task. This 
claim is endorsed by an absolute will to communicate; and it is 
validated both by the common ground in which all Existenzen 
are rooted and by their common direction toward truth the one 
truth in its different realizations, in the different ciphers and 
cipher-readings through which it speaks to and through different 
human beings. 40 

35 Wahrheit, 748ff. 36 Cf. Philosophic II, 70ff. 

37 Philosophic II, 420. Cf. Origin, 228; Wahrheit, 741; Age, 222ff. 

38 Jaspers' religious individualism is liable to overdo the objections to world or- 
ganization and total planning and join ranks with 'liberals' who may have become 
the mouthpiece of powers with which he would hardly sympathize: cf. Philosophic 
II. 366; Age, passim.; Origin, 180ff, 281ff. 

39 Cf. Philosophic II, 69, 91ff, 426ff; Wahrheit, 615f, 965f; Origin, 269f. 

40 Cf., e.g., Philosophic II, 417ff, 427, 434; Wahrheit, 951; Tragedy, 87. 


It must be added, however, that the scope of communication 
does not reach any farther than the need for it, i.e., not beyond 
the realm of existence and Existenz. "Communication presup- 
poses the partition" (of the One) "into the many." 41 The One 
may serve as the ultimate warrant and locus of communication, 
but it does not enter it as a partner. It is not a unit of being which 
transcends towards others; it is unity and transcendence as such, 
all-encompassing, rounded off in itself and self-sufficient not in 
need of the approach of communication, whose necessity marks 
in itself a defect. Whereas Transcendence proper rests in itself, all 
other transcendence, every going beyond the particular, is ulti- 
mately transcendence toward the One which may direct our in- 
tentions and is thus intimately present, but can never be reached 
and is thus infinitely far away. "Communication is the organ 
through which in time we turn back toward the One." 42 

Our place is within the schism of being; our end is unity, but 
our way is union. It is unification through reason as the executive 
of the absolute will to communication. Reason is not unity, it is 
the restless search for the One in which everything comes to rest. 43 
The movement of the logos, therefore, the synthesis of communi- 
cation, is stilled in and by that unity of Being toward which we 
strive. Reason itself, logos as rational account, is an upward way, 
a process of synthesis rather than a finished system. "It is a delight 
for each spirit continuously to ascend toward the principle of life, 
however inaccessible it may prove. . . . Hence it comes to pass that 
the inaccessibility or incomprehensibility of the infinitude of His 
life is the most highly desired comprehension." 44 

All transcendental use of the logical categories, all attempts to 
submit Transcendence to the judgment of the finite are over- 
stepping the bounds of rational communication. To jaspers, even 
the sublime tautology of the Eheye asher Eheye, the Sum qui Sum 
("I am that I am") is, in the use of the first person, as inadequate 
an expression of the All-Encompassing as is the Est quod Est (the 
Being qua Being) in the Greek tradition from Parmenides to 
Plotinus. The categories creep even into this final tautology, 

41 Wahrheit, 380. 42 Wahrhcit, 381; cf. 387. 43 Cf. Wahrheit, 1 14ff f 118. 

44 Nicolaus disarms, Idiota de Sapientia, liber I: in Nicolaus von Cues, Philo- 
sophische Schriften I (Stuttgart, 1949), 304f. Cf. Philosophic III, 125f: "The despair 
at the nothingness of human life dissolves in the ascent. This that the Being of the 
One actually is, that is enough. What I am I, whose being vanishes without re- 
mainder, that is of little account, if only I persist in the ascent as long as I live." 
In the tenor and teaching of "learned ignorance," in the theory of the "complication 
in God" as the incomprehensible Encompassing, etc., Nicolaus is one of Jaspers' 
most important spiritual ancestors. 


whether it is pronounced in the mode of being an object ("it") or 
in that of a subject ("I") 45 whereas Transcendence proper thrones 
above the difference and the contrast between subject and object 
and, is, thus, beyond the grasp of human understanding, not to be 
couched in the terms of human language and communication. 
God is Being itself (ipsum esse) "without any subjective admixture 
by way of human apprehension. That is why he is the Being that 
is when man fades away/' 46 

But whereas in the literal sense there is no 'communication* 
between divine Transcendence and human Exist enz, which would 
explicitly let us know God and secure his assistance, we are as- 
sured of his presence in the act of our personal ascent: by the 
spur and directive power in our absolute will to communicate 
with our neighbors. 47 "The One is like an attractive force that 
works from an inaccessible distance, yet is present through reason 
and overcomes all separation." 48 It overcomes also the distraction 
within ourselves^ The flight of time is stopped in our inner con- 
centration, in the concreteness of the 'existential' moment, in the 
free and resolute fulfillment of its present claims. In this 'present- 
mindedness' the eternal, the metahistorical finds its historical 
realization. 49 In an 'existential' sense, eternal history is made wher- 
ever two people meet in this absolute spirit/In other words, wher- 
ever they meet in the spirit of unconditional presence for one 
another, there is the Absolute present in their midst. 
vMan's love for God has its proper actuality only in this loving 
communication with his actual Thou in a concrete situation of 
human life. Although this love evaporates if squandered in un- 
worldly reverie, it becomes substantial and productive in the ab- 
solute seriousness of the partnership between man and man, as 
sustained appeal to one another's self-hood. Such co-Existenz is, 
within the medium of this world, a kind of holy communion and 
divine service. To speak with Franz Kafka: "The relationship to 
our neighbor is the relation of prayer." Being founded in actuality 
proper and by it, being oriented by and towards its unity, all true 
communication has its locus in God is an amare in Deo (a lov- 
ing in God) even though there seems to be no communication 

45 Philosophic III, 67. 

46 Wahrheit, 702. Cf. my discussion of the problem in section XIV infra. 

47 Philosophic III, 123. Wahrheit, 987ff. 48 Wahrheit, 118. 

49 Cf., e.g., Philosophic II, 127; Wahrheit, 969f; Origin, 275. It is a characteristic 
tendency of Existentialism to enhance historicity to a point where the sense for the 
metahistorical content of the moment breaks through. 


with Him. 50 "Love in the communication amongst men who have 
become Selves is the highest possibility there is within this life." 51 


Truth and verification belong together, not only in the objective 
truth of the scientific method, but also in the personal truth of 
truthful Existenz. According to Jaspers, this truth has to be pro- 
duced and authenticated as it frees our Selves in the decisions even 
the fatal decisions of genuine life. It is the truth, the d-XrjGeicc, 
the revelation of (not only about) life a life which may come true 
even and precisely in its death. It is the truth of an individual Self 
which posits itself on its own ground but not in a selfish way. 
On the contrary, man can bare himself altogether only in an act 
of love in which he communicates with his alter ego. Our fellow 
being is our companion as partner in a common love for Being as 
such for Being as Transcendence proper. Transcendence is the 
ground not merely the sum total of all phenomena, the "com- 
mon depth" 52 which is not our habitation, and in which, never- 
theless, we live, move and have our particular being; it is the 
"other side of nature"; 53 and it is the only locus in which two lines 
of personal life, surpassing this world and independent in their 
original spring, can ultimately meet. 54 A philosophical thought is 
true as far as its actualization both needs and promotes communi- 
cation and community without losing, however, its root in in- 
dividual Existenz. 55 

'Existential' truth is alive only in this triadic relation Exist- 
enz, co-Existenz and Transcendence. Its realization is, therefore, 
at the same time the realization and manifestation of the individ- 
ual Self. Anchored in and individuated by this Self, it owes to the 
latter's authenticity and personal rootedness in its own ground 
that radical and absolute character which, in philosophical thought, 
takes the place of the universal validity of objective knowledge. 

Kierkegaard's famous dictum that "subjectivity is the truth" is 
thus renewed in the sense that 'existential' truth is individual. It 

50 Cf. Philosophic III, 123; 164ff; Wahrheit, 380f; 897- ideas which can be con- 
sidered as Jaspers' personal synthesis of Platonic and Kantian thoughts with 
thoughts of Max Scheler. 

51 Wahrheit, 1010. I have dealt with the never satisfied longing of Existenz for 
co-Existenz through communication in the model case of Anne Frank, The Diary of 
a Young Girl, (Judaism, I, 4; October 1952). 

52 Cf. Rilke, Sonnette an Orpheus II, XIV. 53 Cf. Rilke, W.W. IV, 281. 

54 Cf., e.g., Philosophic II, 50ff; Wahrheit, lOOlff; Origin, 156f. 

55 Philosophic II, 62, 70f, 110, 116; Scope, 45f; Wahrheit, 370ff, 546f, 587ff, 973ff. 


is a truth which has its concrete meaning as the truth of the in- 
dividual subject. It is animated, not conditioned by personal ap- 
propriation and propulsion. The individual truth, as the truth of 
the individual, causes neither indifferentism nor relativism. The 
truth of the second person concerns me deeply just as I am deeply 
concerned with and for this person himself. Such personal truth 
is not subjective and relative in the sense that it is a matter of 
taste which one, out of a medley of propositions, I select and em- 
brace. The truths of others have neither the same claim nor the 
same effect on us as has the one which "makes us free" because, in 
standing for it, we gain and stand our own ground. 

By sympathizing with others and their truths, i.e., the ways in 
which truth presents itself to them, I encourage them to be them- 
selves and may help their possibilities to 'come' actually 'true/ 
But, for all this, there is no import trade of personal truths: they 
do not become factors of my actual life; I do not witness them 
myself nor do I bear witness to them by my life. They express 
points of view which, to me, are grouped around the one and 
somehow unique point which I hold and may have to keep; they 
are not central to me, though from my viewpoint I can under- 
stand their centrality and vital meaning for others. The truth of 
others which I 'appresent,' recognize and respect can never take 
the place of the truth which presents itself to me and whose born 
representative I 'happen* to be. 

This concept of personal truth is the existentialist version of 
a phenomenological fact which has been set forth by Husserl with- 
in the framework of his "transcendental reduction." Husserl, too, 
starts from the sovereignty of an ego which can never be properly 
accounted for as part of its world. Its consciousness had its own 
kind of comprehensiveness, different from that of the world. 
Hence, all the other egos appear within the world of my conscious- 
ness. But they appear there as subjects of consciousness in their 
own right. Even so, as far as I am concerned, they are just as little 
co-ordinated with my own ego as they are merely objects and con- 
stituta of my mind. 

The incompatibility of the co-existence with me of the other 
ego within the world of my primordial consciousness vanishes 
when I see that my primordial ego apperceives of the other ego 
as another one in an appresentation which, in its own nature, 
can never be transmuted into, and verified by way of, authentic 

"I must first explicate what pertains to myself in order, then, to 
understand that, within this egological sphere, existential sense 


can accrue also to what does not properly belong to me and is 
present only by way of analogical appresentation," i.e., as a being, 
a subject, a personal agent like me, but always kept in a consti- 
tutive orientation toward me as the primordial ego of transcen- 
dental reduction. 56 

The ' existentially* irreversible relation of the ego to the alter 
ego leads to a communication in which the other person is both 
respected and challenged, wooed and questioned in its otherness. 57 
As the truth of the one evokes and encounters the truth of the 
other, one Existenz depends on the other for its realization (and 
its experience of reality) through support, complementation and 

An 'existential' truth, common to all, one in which the original 
schism amongst Existenzen did not assert itself as both the spur to 
communication and the ferment of individual thought, would be 
without the salt of life; it would belie our deepest experience. 

Obviously, this applies to Jaspers' own philosophy and he 
knows it. In the succession of Nietzsche, he speaks of the 'existen- 
tial* postulate: "Don't take after me; take to thyself. Selfhood 
awakes selfhood." 58 And, heeding this warning, he tries not to lead 
us into temptation by presenting us with a rigid homogeneous 
system whose alleged objective validity leaves no room for per- 
sonal experiences and decisions. Hence his philosophizing is in- 
tended to be an eye-opener rather than a systematization of im- 
personal data. It describes the different modes and dimensions of 
human life, but leaves and keeps this space open for the changing 
contents of personal historical experience. Following Kierkegaard, 
it draws attention to the possibilities of original Existenz and co- 
Existenz; it conjures up transcendence and appeals to the absolute 
will of communication. 59 

60 Cp. Philosophic II, 416ff; Reason, lOOf, with E. Husserl, Cartesianische Medi- 
tationen und Pariser Vortrdge (1950), 148, 176 et passim; Wahrheit, 741f. It de- 
serves to be noticed that the translation above of German "Seinssinn" by "existen- 
tial sense" follows the example set by "sens existentiel" in the French edition of the 
Meditations (1931), p. 128. This comparison does not deny the radical differences 
between Husserl's and Jaspers' positions. Husserl identifies the Absolute with the 
sphere of transcendental intersubjectivity. To Jaspers, Transcendence proper has a 
special relation to Existenz as the ground and tie of all modes of comprehension; 
but, as all-encompassing, it is beyond both world and consciousness as two specific 
and overcrossing modes of comprehensiveness. 

57 The ambivalence of this dynamics has its analogy in an ever recurrent theme 
of Thomas Mann's novels, though in Mann the "loving struggle" takes place not 
between Existenz and Existenz, but between spiritual existence and naive life. 

58 Philosophic II, 437. Cf. Reason, 41. 

50 Cf Philosophic II, 117; Wahrheit, 5ff; Rcchenschaft, 123, 290ff. 


He thus summons man to see for himself and take his own stand 
on his own ground: "no man can help the other in the essential 
issues of life"; 00 nobody can make up the other fellow's mind in 
those decisions in which freedom and selfhood come into being. 
Even so, Jaspers* own philosophy cannot but plead its own cause. 
As far as it is true to itself, it cannot be presuppositionless. It does 
not leave "everything in suspense," as the saying goes. It rests (or 
it ought to rest) on a primary and ultimate decision. And it can- 
not help inviting us to make an analogous decision and even in 
the same spirit, in the spirit of self-responsibility qua responsibil- 
ity for the making of our Selves. 

To Jaspers each Self is rooted au fond in the will to be itself. 
Jaspers' thought thus embodies the Greek ethos of self-realization 
together with the Jewish-Christian concept of the Self and, 
hence, with all the structural changes which have turned the clas- 
sical ethos into Christian self-concern (though without the obses- 
sion by the idea of salvation as the unum necessarium of the 
individual soul). 


It is now time for a somewhat different 'existential' emphasis 
to assert and vindicate itself in a cautious and modest attempt to 
re-arrange some of the lines in Jaspers' great design. I shall try to 
restate his position in such a way that certain ideas can evolve in 
reply. In their tentativeness these proposals are certainly no match 
to what has actually been done in his life-work; they are, however, 
the only way in which I am able to thank him for his work. 

If taken as a criticism, this will be a sufficiently immanent criti- 
que not to run the risk of subjecting Jaspers' philosophy to a 
measurement by quite incommensurate standards. On the other 
hand, it ought not to be restricted to problems of mere logical 
consistency a consistency which is never seriously impaired in 
a thinker of Jaspers' rank, resoluteness and strength of vision. The 
discussion which follows ought to penetrate into the dimension of 
the original impulses of his thought and Existent. It is here and 
here only that minds can meet in productive concurrence and 

The questions I am going to ask do not challenge the right of 

60 Wahrhcit, 846. 


a philosophy such as Jaspers' to declare against a definite and uni- 
fied system of ontology. If Being, as it represents itself to us, is 
not of a piece, but divided into heterogeneous modes of being, 
how could it be adequately represented in thought by such a sys- 
tem? The transcendent whole within which these forms of being 
and transcendence are supposed to appear and figure may provide 
a firm ground for faith (pistis, emunah) , but its recognition (in a 
"Periechontology" 61 ) cannot be implemented by systematic cogni- 
tion. It is Jaspers' contention that the desideratum of communica- 
tion results from the multiplicity and even disunion of the utter- 
ances of the transcendent unity of Being. The state of affairs with 
which we are thus confronted is "borne out in ever other and still 
analogous ways by logical elucidation as well as practical and philo- 
sophical orientation within this world, and by the processes of the 
illumination of Exist enz as well as by those of a metaphysical 
transcending" toward the One of Being. 62 Clearly, it would be 
meaningless to discuss a philosophy without some share in its basic 
experiences in Jaspers' case without a sympathetic understand- 
ing of the motives which make a strictly systematic account of 
Being impossible. Still, we may venture a few suggestions to give 
'communication' a broader and even more positive sense than it 
has in Jaspers and to move in this way a few steps closer if not to 
a system, then at least to a syndesmos, a b'rith, a covenant of Being. 
This will be expressed in terms of a guarded dialectic which 
goes somewhat beyond Jaspers' listing of the mutual references 
and relations amongst the modes of being, beyond his recognition 
of an interplay, through animation and incarnation, immersion 
and convergence, of tendencies within and between the world and 
ourselves. 63 


Jaspers' vision of Being shows it as both internally torn and in- 
terrelated in its modes ("eine in sich bezogene Zerrissenheit"). His 
method is, therefore, to move cautiously in the open realm of hu- 
man thought, between the extremes of absolute monism on the 
one hand and absolute pluralism on the other. 64 The original 
schism lies in the difference of origin (i.e., origination) of the 
heterogeneous modes of being and transcendence. 

The German language allows us to interpret these differences 
of Ur-sprung (1) as a breaking forth from the ground in different 

61 Wahrheit, 158ff. 62 Wahrheit, 261. 

63 Cf., e.g., ibid., 130ff. 64 ibid., 261. 


directions, caused (2) by a break, a cleavage (Sprung), by such a 
rending of the globe of Being into continents that no continuous 
way, but only (3) a leap (Sprung in this sense) can lead from one 
to the other. 65 

The irreducibility to one another of the encompassing modes 
of being the being which we are, that which the world is and 
that which is absolute in absolute Transcendence reminds us of 
the essential irreducibility of the three primeval elements in Franz 
Rosenzweig's existential philosophy "the mythical Greek God, 
the statuesque Greek world, and man as the tragic Greek hero." 60 

In Rosenzweig these potencies are separate as far as their ideas 
are concerned; and they remain separate in the paganism of the 
past, but are drawn into a circuit of universal communication in 
the epoch of actuality proper the Jewish-Christian age: in the 
historical egress of the elements from their solitude; their con- 
crescence in the manifest works of Creation, Revelation and in 
that configuration of the "Star of Redemption" which becomes, in 
the end, the shining forth of the face divine. 

Jaspers' "philosophical faith," however, does not admit of any 
such absolute communion. Despite its evocative character, its 'mu- 
sic of abstraction/ it never belies its indebtedness to Kant's sober 
and critical thought. Transcendence remains to him, as to Kant 
an a-logon, both ineffable and incommunicative, the strictly un- 
known and silent God, the Ain Soph of Jewish mysticism. Its pres- 
ence may be experienced; but it cannot be personally addressed 
and revered in its 'proper name'. 07 And to this silence corresponds, 
at the bottom of the scale, even in the dark recesses of our own 
animal lives, the muteness of nature. Nature's physiognomic ex- 
pression, eloquent and fascinating as it may prove, is not com- 
municative language, it is not empirically controllable and neither 
responsive nor responsible in itself. 68 

Communication as such may also serve as expression and symbol 
of Being; it may do so even unintentionally: each of our utter- 
ances can be considered a symptom and symbol of our own being, 
of our historical situation, etc. But not vice versa: a symbol such 
as the swastika is not necessarily communicative, does not bring 
true selves together, even where it serves as tie or is made the idol 

65 Cf., e.g., Wahrheit, 124ff, 163ff, 217f. The idea of the "leap," presupposing as 
it does a chasm between the Finite and the Infinite may have its origin in Tertul- 
lian's De Praescriptionibus, and from there found its way to Lessing, and, through 
him to F. H. Jacobi, Schelling, Kierkegaard and their successors. 

66 F. Rosenzweig, Der Stern der Erlosung, I, 109. 

67 Cf., e.g., Wahrheit, 64Sf. 68 Cf. Philosophic III, 142ff; also 643f, 897f. 


of a community or rather of a Bund. In this case it becomes the 
signum of a blind, fanatic exclusiveness which claims the monopo- 
ly of an absolute status for its blatant historical particularity 00 and 
chokes the actualization of selfhood as well as of personal co-Exist- 
enz in the only true Bund in the all-comprehensive One. 

The imminent triumph in 1932 of a fetishistic cult of racial 
symbols may have contributed to Jaspers' insistence on the quali- 
tative differences between one mode of language and the other. 
But it was only a reminder of the early and fundamental experi- 
ence: the radical contrast between animal growth in gregarious 
life and self-making in co-Exist enz a contrast within the contrast 
between the being that we are and the being which we are not. 
Here is the source of his strict opposition to a naturalism of con- 
tinuous evolution. 

Hence the term ' 'communication* ' proper is restricted to the 
human realm a realm that, in a way and despite its specific com- 
prehensiveness, is only an enclave within the universe of Being. 
Communication is the distinctive and "universal condition of 
man's being. It is so much his comprehensive essence that both 
what man is and what is for him are in some sense bound up with 
communication/' 70 He communicates communicability to them. 
They are actually present in the meaning which they have in his 
world and which is expressed in terms of his language, in the 
meaning of words. "The Encompassing which we are is, in every 
form, communication; the Encompassing which is Being itself" 
(i.e., Being in the modes of the world and Transcendence) exists 
for us only insofar as it achieves communicability by becoming 
speech or becoming utterable." 71 Since, having the logos, man is 
communicative, things become communicable through him. 

Again, although there are many "communicative situations," 
communication in its truest sense takes place only in Existenz and 
co-Existenz, in the free and full expression of Selves who "selve 
themselves" (in the language of Gerard M. Hopkins) in the proc- 
ess of their mutual self-revelation. Notwithstanding their original 
"otherness and ultimate solitariness," they "mean" to one another 
what no thing can mean to them, they owe one another impulses 
that no thing can convey. The single Self communicates with the 
other single Self by communicating to it an incentive to selfhood. 
The evocative power of this appeal from Self to Self creates in the 
world a community of inwardly grounded Selves that is not of 
this world the existentialist counterpart to Husserl's "transcen- 

69 Philosophic III, 25: a warning (1932 I) against totalitarian rites. 

70 Reason, 79. 71 Ibid. 


dental intersubjectivity" or "community of monads." 72 Although 
they remain apart as individuals, none of them appears to the 
other merely as a mute and distant image; in all such communi- 
cation men speed one another in their different ways toward the 
One of Transcendence in which alone they find and love each 
other in truth. 73 

It bears repeating that, while being restricted to the human 
sphere and grounded in the relation between I and Thou, true 
communication aims at an expansion beyond any historical limits. 
Its horizon is kept open, by the absolute will to communication, 
to a universum of mankind. And the idea of this historical univer- 
sality is historically authorized by the fact that the historical birth 
of man as we know him now man who sees himself, his chances 
and his limitations within the universe of Being that this birth 
took place more or less independently in China, India and Greece 
at approximately the same time: the "pivotal age" of universal 
history about 500 B.C. 74 The origin and end, retrospect and pros- 
pect of history belong together. The possibility of 'existential' self- 
hood is not the prerogative of any particular tradition. This means 
an appeal to each of us to verify a common historical possibility 
by realizing it in ourselves and through ourselves, entering human 
communication and working for a human community which may 
never become all-inclusive, but excludes all exclusiveness. 

On the other hand, communication, according to Jaspers, has its 
legitimate place in the human realm as such. We have seen that it 
does not extend upward to God or downward to nature. When- 
ever the tendencies of the German language tempt and lead him 
to trespass beyond the boundaries, he is anxious to stress the mere- 
ly figurative sense of these expressions. His philosophical criticism 
shows not only in a metaphysics which declares the doom of all 
human striving, its being wrecked on the rock towards which it 
cannot but steer; it shows also in the way he discredits a "Sprach- 
denken" which is highly favored in contemporary German phi- 
losophy. I.e., he warns against relying so much on the wisdom of 
language as guide to the mysteries of life that, under this dictate, 
philosophy may forsake the directives and responsibilities of 
thought. 75 

In this combination of bold metaphysical synopsis and cautious 
criticism, he gives the word 'language* itself a universal sweep, 
while emphasizing the merely metaphorical character of this 
broader use. Language proper, human language is, with him, dis- 

72 Cf. E. Husserl, Cartesianische Mcditationen, 55f. 74 Cf. Origin, Iff. 

73 Cf ., e.g., Philosophic II, 109; Wahrheit, 979. 75 Cf. Wahrheit, 434ff. 


tinguished by the specific difference ' 'communicative" it is com- 
municative language. 76 As will be seen later on (especially in sec- 
tion X), I shall deviate from this terminology by giving the specific 
difference the status of the genus. This will make a real difference 
in interpretation, because it may allow us to point out the funda- 
mentum in re of Jaspers' figurative speech and sketch the outlines 
of a philosophy of communication in which a philosophy of hu- 
man language will have its proper place. 


Jaspers' restriction of the meaning of 'communication* is, of 
course, more than a philosophical expediency. It is the outcome 
of a philosophical decision made on the strength of that most deep- 
seated experience of his early life, from which the present essay 
takes its bearings. Whether or not the light in which Jaspers sees 
his youth now is quite the same as that in which once he saw him- 
self, there is no doubt that his interpretation is authentic as re- 
gards the inner growth and motivating power of those childhood 
impressions. They actually were to set the mood of his life and 
thought. Hence the problem of communication was and remained 
for him (and in more than one sense) an exclusively personal 
and interpersonal problem. Such a communication with and 
within nature as we sense and enjoy through the senses as organs 
of our communication with the sensory world early became ques- 
tionable to him for 'existential' reasons, i.e., in view of the obliga- 
tions of personal and interpersonal Existenz. "All intimacy with 
nature in a lovely world became problematic to me if it does not 
lead back to human community and serves this community as 
background and medium of expression." 77 

Inasmuch as human reason (Vernunft), the distinctive gift of 
human beings, has its proper fulfilment and climax in the prac- 
tical reason of the conscientious and responsible Self, listening to 
the voice of conscience may deafen man's ears to the Vernehmen 
of nature, to the listening to what may appear as mere siren song. 

It must be granted that, similar to Rilke, Jaspers deplores the 
modern displacement ot pure and primitive nature by nature as 
material for managerial contrivances. 78 Occasionally he conjures 

76 Cf. Philosophic III, 142ff. 

77 Rechcnschaft, 351f. Cf. Philosophic III. 180ff. Led as they are by a specific in- 
terest and purpose, the following thoughts cannot pretend to do full justice to the 
richly faceted concept of nature in the section "Nature" in Philosophic III, 173-186. 

78 Cf. Age, 57; cf. Rilke, Sonctte an Orpheus, I, 18, 22, 23, 24; II, 10. 


up in passionate words the passionate mood of the elements raging 
over his native country, the land bordering the German Ocean; 
here he has an experience of infinity, which connects him with the 
very mainspring of things a lasting ground on which to stay. 79 
More often, however, he speaks as a conscientious trustee of 
selfhood, enhancing its status of responsibility over against the 
"nuggatory character of mere natural events." Where nature is 
loved, it is actually God who is loved in her. 80 More often than 
not, nature appears as mere "empirical matter/ 1 

being there to be dominated and moulded, or as an object of 
loving contemplation, yet without responsibility on our part 
and without response on hers, or to be destroyed in those of her 
appearances that prove annoying and confining, and without 
proper significance even where she succeeds in getting the up- 
per hand. 81 

Utterances like these cannot but evoke an attitude somewhat 
derogatory to nature and that 'cosmic piety' which I consider as 
an aspect of religion that cannot be despised and is not to be re- 
duced to admiration of nature as God's handiwork. Similarly, the 
message of art at least as communication to the second power, 
i.e., communication of a communication with nature becomes 
truly significant to him not for what it says, but only for what it 
does not really say, not as creation as such, but as the creation of 
ciphers for Transcendence, i.e., only insofar as it speaks to us 
qua Selves. 82 

Consequently, the enthusiastic not necessarily mystic expe- 
rience of a union with nature in which we "lose ourselves" is under 
the verdict of being somehow unsubstantial, distracting and de- 
tracting as it may prove from the realization of selfhood. In any 
case, says Jaspers, the immediate awareness of the life of nature 
through the natural life within us, this "mysticism of a union 
with nature is known today only in dim reflection as, for in- 
stance, in the mood of being married to the landscape around 



It may be possible to give a somewhat more positive account of 
what happens to man here (and not only as a vanishing mode of 

79 Wahrheit, 897. The same experience has been stressed by Thomas Mann. 

80 Wahrheit, 112f; per contra, 271: the world is not only cipher; it has its own 
"depth and width." 

81 Wahrheit, 743; cf. 78, 88; but cf. 146f, where it remains an open question 
"whether there is from nature a friendly advance in which the spirit may recognize 

82 Cf. Philosophic III, 192ff. 83 Wahrheit, 1006. 


experience) and of the productivity that rises from this communi- 
cation with nature. It may also be asked whether Jaspers' appraisal 
of this experience gives nature its proper due with regard to 
Existenz. Although in Jaspers' Existenz is not unworldly, it is 'un- 
natural' in the sense that, in its personal decisions and activities, 
Ex-sistenz proper 'stands outside' of the course of natural events 
an alien to the natural order. This alienation of the Self from na- 
ture is in line with Christian dualism such as is still alive in the 
extreme conclusions drawn by Jaspers' intellectual ancestors, Kant 
as well as Kierkegaard Kant who removes intelligible, moral ex- 
istence from the life and world of the senses, and Kierkegaard, 
who even in his own personal equipment feels "in almost every 
physical respect deprived of the conditions for being a whole man," 
of the "animal side of humanity." 84 


It is not my intention to deny the qualitative differences in the 
dynamics of nature, conscious life as such, spirit and Existenz, but 
to plead for a qualification of the "transcendental contrast" be- 
tween two main modes of being and representation a contrast 
which has been almost a German Credo from Kant to Jaspers and 
from Schiller to Mann. 85 

This is the German version of a European movement to which 
both Greek Idealism and Christian contempt of the world have 
contributed. It proves man's superiority to the outer world not in 
unworldly asceticism but in the technique of mastering and ex- 
ploiting nature in a reckless way. It seems to me that here for once 
Jaspers fails to check or, at least, to keep in check the peculiar 
assumptions of the technical civilization of our Western world. To 
declare nature in itself as "essentially foreign and impenetrable 
to us," 8C something that becomes my world only through my work, 

84 Kierkegaard, Journals, etc., quoted from Reason, 41. 

85 Just as in Jaspers man is subject to both the "law of the day" (Gesetz des 
Tages) and the "passion for the night*' (Leidenschaft zur Nacht) and, thus, pays 
tribute to two modes of Being between which no synthesis can be achieved, so does 
Thomas Mann's Hans Castorp decide for life while keeping faith to death; and his 
Joseph a Gilgamesh nature lives in the City of the Dead: his is a sympathy in 
which veneration for death and friendliness to life meet without being synthesized. 
Since Kierkegaard, the wretched conditions of life have led men to see a mere euphe- 
mism in all dialectical synthesis a la Hegel. With regard to modern sciences as such 
and the contribution of Biblical religion to its growth, a different and complemen- 
tary aspect has to be acknowledged the loving, yet realistic interest in God's crea- 
tion: cf. Origin, 90f. 

86 Wahrheit, 88; cf. Philosophic III, 173. 


runs counter to an experience of nature which is not restricted to 
children and so-called primitive peoples, but is enhanced, above 
all, by the high cultures of the East. The Stoic teaching of univer- 
sal sympathy, the Confucian doctrine of the consonance between 
the orders of Heaven and Earth, moral design and physical nature, 
are experiences of faith which are not a monopoly of the creature 
to the exclusion of the Self (even though the concept of the Self 
differs from that of the Augustinian tradition) . The Chinese "un- 
broken love for the world/' 87 the deep Eastern feeling of unity 
with the "aesthetic continuum" (Northrop) , with nature in the 
delicacy and unreduced richness of her qualitative features and 
changes, a "nature that is ours" and with which we are in tune, 
has its own right and truth. When we read the I-Ching, it does not 
seem to us that "the cipher of nature as such ceases to be the real 
thing when Existenz steps forth." 88 An inner awareness and careful 
control of nature's situational changes seems here to convey to 
personal action their own touch of responsiveness and responsi- 
bility. They provide cautious tact and serene composure in com- 
munication with men and things. The underlying mood can be 
given a sort of phenomenological justification in the wake of phi- 
losophies such as Whitehead's. 

Jaspers accentuates communication as an action of human life 
and ultimately an act of Existenz proper, as the drama of self- 
realization in the dialogue between Selves who struggle together 
to free themselves in and for themselves. In this emphasis on in- 
terpersonal communication the communication with nature is 
somehow discarded. According to Jaspers, nature as such is below 
communication, just as Transcendence is above it. 89 Whereas im- 
personal life does not really and freely communicate with nature, 
but may be absorbed in a loving union with the life of the whole 
in which the individual is drowned, personal Existenz appears 
often as estranged from nature. 90 

Yet, is it entirely true even for modern man that he knows the 
"marriage with nature" only as a faint echo of former days? 91 If so, 
the art of a Cezanne would be an atavism of merely romantic and 

87 Wahrheit, 112. 88 Philosophie III, 182. 89 Cf. Philosophic ITT, 181 . 

00 In view of Jaspers' native country, it may not be wrong to point to Rilke's 
three poems on an island in the North Sea, whose inhabitants are silent and lonely, 
since there can be no communication between them and the vast space around 
them: "nah ist nur Innres; alles andre fern": "near is but what is inside; far away 
the rest." ( Werke, III, 93ff). 

01 It would not be fair to point to this passage (Wahrheit, 1006) once more with- 
out acknowledging, even in the same work, passages of a much more positive tenor: 
cf., e.g., 91, 897, 1037. Also Philosophie III, 176f, 179f, 196f. 


sentimental interest, not the presentation of a new truth and a 
new and more intensive presence of Being. In the loving struggle 
with his motif, Cezanne feels how he penetrates to the roots of 
things, how he germinates with their seeds and comes to light 
again in their growth. In performing his own marriage with the 
landscape (such an intimate union that he fears his eyes may bleed 
when he tears them away from it) he feels empowered to fulfill 
the inmost longing and secret of nature for a perfection of her 
appearance in the marriage he performs between color and color. 92 
Nature becomes "more truly being" in this union in which both 
the artist and nature are one as visions. The face of the universe 
(its "Gesicht") and the face and sight of the artist (his Gesicht) co- 
incide with one another like the hands of a clock in the midnight 
hour. 93 

Highly imaginative as the artist's account of his experience is 
likely to be, dependent on certain philosophical prefigurations as 
it is in cases such as in Flaubert's, Cezanne's, Claudel's or Proust's 
it is not merely imaginary and derivative. It is an adequate 
and authentic expression which communicates a communion. It 
breathes the mood of what, with the artist himself, the philosopher 
ought to recognize as a real communication with nature, a funda- 
mental mode and consummate fulfilment of human prehension 
a perfectio cognitionis sensitivae quae tails. 94 This is so because 
the artist acts somehow as the executor of intentions that are in- 
herent in sensory perception. 95 They are recognized in phenomen- 
ological analysis, but remain mostly undeveloped or suppressed in 
practical life and are methodically suspended for scientific pur- 
poses. Wherever perception reaches a state of immanent perfec- 
tion and fruition, a mutual osmosis and concentration takes place: 
our whole being is absorbed and as it were colored by a qualita- 
tive content which, on its part, seems to achieve a new, con- 
densed and deeper presence from the depths in which it is received. 

I point to these facts, not to blame Jaspers for not sufficiently 
acknowledging the function and significance of aisthesis (sense- 
impression) and aesthetic experience, but to extend to them the 
recognition as organs of 'communication' in a somewhat broader 
sense: as a circulation of energies and the transfer of a 'telling' 
mood in the circuit from nature to the artist and the spectator. 

92 Cf. Joachim Gasquet, Ctzannc, 61, 83, 101. 

93 Cf. R. M. Rilke, "Der Tod des Dichters," "Der Magier" (Gesammelte Werke, 
(1927) III 30, 431). Cf. also Jaspers himself, Wahrheit, 917; Origin, 275. 

94 Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, Aesthetica I, p. 14. 

95 See below, p. 41. 


Since he reserves 'communication' to the sphere of human life 
and, above all, personal co-Existenz, Jaspers himself is inclined to 
see in beauty only a more or less spectacular surface phenomenon 
presenting itself to the living creature for its enjoyment and the cel- 
ebration of its festivals. 96 And art is given real significance and (not 
quite convincingly) even an indispensable role as a mediator be- 
tween mere life and personal Existenz and, hence, in orientation 
toward the latter. According to Jaspers, artistic expression achieves 
a contact with potential Existenzen other than the artist's in their 
search for Being as such. It discloses the space of authentic possi- 
bilities to aesthetic contemplation. But to see new possibilities 
of Existenz has not yet the resoluteness of an 'existential' reply to 
them. Contemplation does not transform possibilities into actual- 
ities of our personal life. Even so, experienced in its true great- 
ness, the great work of art is something "like" (1) communication: 
it speaks and, perhaps, appeals to us in the language of another 
Existenz; 97 and through the concentration and intensity of its ap- 
pearance it objects to the distractedness and deformity of our 
present state: "Da ist keine Stelle,/ die dich nicht sieht. Du musst 
dein Leben andern." ("There is no spot that does not spot thee. 
Thou must change thy life.") 98 

It may be possible, however, to see in this appeal the highest 
but not the only function of art. It may be possible to assign to 
art an even fuller meaning in what it does for the totality of our 
human being. The work of art may co-ordinate, in a symbol, the 
antagonistic factors which Jaspers calls "law of the day" and "pas- 
sion for the night/' 99 the passionate lure of the abyss; i.e., rough- 
ly, the rational working for the One of Transcendence and the 
irrational, intoxicated headlong fall into it la morale de se 
perdre et meme de se laisser ddpMr. 100 

However, art as communication may imply even more than a 
likeness of actual communication with the positive or negative 
form of other Existenz. In fact, the title "passion for the night" 
seems to stand for many irrational phenomena of entirely different 
nature and origin. The irrationality of the demonic mode of ex- 
istence or of the Kierkegaardian 'exception' is the polar opposite 

96 Cf. Philosophie III, 110. 97 Cf. Philosophic III, 192ff. 

8 R. M. Rilke, "Archaischer Torso Apollos," Werke, III, 117. 

99 Cf., above all, Philosophie III, 102ff. 

100 I quote from the carnival scene in Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain, just be- 
fore Hans Castorp's 'fall/ when he forsakes Settembrini's "order of the day" and 
succumbs to the "passion for the night." Jaspers' section on these two forms of 
Existenz is as it were a philosophical commentary to Thomas Mann. See below, n. 


to the irrational of mere and pure elemental passion. That does 
not mean that the extremes cannot meet. They do in all the Lu- 
ciferic existences which show man riding a bare-backed beast. But 
the elemental can have its own depth, consummation and bliss. It 
need not serve as symbol for the 'existential' intercourse between 
the soul and her bridegroom, as in the medieval interpretations 
of the Song of Songs. The flesh is its own mystery. And without 
any spiritual allegorization, art may just embody in its medium 
the dynamics of bare organic and even inorganic nature. It may 
initiate us (as, in its way, surrealism wanted to do) to the secrets 
of our own animal and subliminal being and have only the crea- 
ture, not the person in us, as its sounding board. Or all this could 
go together and in the truly classical works of art does go to- 
gether. The artistic mood ("Stimmung") in this sense would be a 
"tuning" and stirring of both our lower and higher powers of 
'representation* 101 a fugue in which they all may have a voice. 

Within the realm and by virtue of imagination, art may antici- 
pate the fulfilment of an infinite task that of the integration of 
human being in actual life. This is part of art's 'blessing/ The 
periodical rhythms of organic life may co-operate toward a total 
impression in their conflux with the free rhythms of personal Exist- 
enz. In the straits of active and competitive life a pointed and even 
one-sided response to the challenge of a situation may prove neces- 
sary. And, in fact, the individual artist cannot help reverberating 
the particular needs and tendencies of his age. It is however, the 
privilege of great, magnanimous art and a token of its greatness 
to be a symphony of nature and of historical life, but so that the 
personal tone of the artist himself vibrates through the chorus in- 
toned by his class and age and that of many ages and genera- 
tions. 102 Art thus discloses if not the sum total, so at least the 
complex structure and dynamics of our natural as well as personal, 
historical being. It provides a broadened, sympathetic understand- 
ing of the pluriverse of nature, man and men. 103 

The mood ("Stimmung") of artistic communication thus has 
different dimensions of meaning: and just as in this experience we 

101 This is Kant's concept of the artistic mood (Stimmung): cf. Critique of Judge- 
ment 21 et passim. Jaspers, too, refers to this experience and its Kantian interpre- 
tation by qualifying it as a playful prefigurement or reminiscence of actual, but 
actually never perfect, unity: cf. Wahrheit, 701. 

102 See also below, footnote 117. 

103 In this function art may serve a purpose not dissimilar to that of Jaspers' 
philosophy: as a panorama of human possibilities the latter, too, makes us ready to 
recognize and respect otherness and to co-exist with others in the communication 
of 'heterogeneous* selfhood. 


are tuned to things, give them an ear and a voice, so, according to 
Kant, things seem strangely tuned to us as they chime in "with the 
free play of our cognitive faculties in apprehending and judging 
nature's appearance/' 104 This is the aesthetic variety of that ontolog- 
ical movement in which the mind functions as a final cause rather 
than as an efficient cause (in an idealistic sense). It is as if nature 
had aimed at man and communication with and through him. 

In artistic communication we have a traffic with things that 
yields returns to either party. 105 "Grateful to nature, who brought 
him into being, the artist renders her a second nature but a felt 
one, a thought one, a nature perfected by the work of man." 108 
The ontological function of art in creating a new mode of pres- 
ence bears out art's androgynous nature, the unity of receptivity 
and productivity in the artistic process. But the artist acts here 
only as a representative and mouthpiece of man. He continues and 
brings to a specific consummation a movement of consciousness in 
general and of aesthetic consciousness in particular. It is not only 
the artist, it is man who experiences with Rilke how "all these 
things . . . strangely concern us." 107 The entreaty to which the 
artist responds in his medium has its (moral and) religious repre- 
sentation in the feeling that, somehow, we are counted upon, that 
"the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifesta- 
tion of the sons of God," "the delivery from the bondage of cor- 
ruption." 108 (A unison of the artistic and religious versions of this 
experience is in Cezanne's longing to become in his painting the 
redeemer of the vacillating universe. 109 ) The message of things 
and the mission of man belong together. This overcoming of mere 
juxtaposition, this universal communication of things and with 
them will be intensified by that communication which Jaspers em- 
phasizes above all: the communication amongst Selves in the 
boundless concern for personal Existenz and co-Existenz. lw 

104 Kant, Critique of Judgement, Bernard tr., 67 (286). 

105 Mutatis mutandis, this applies to non-representational as well as representa- 
tional arts. "Traffic with things" means here each contact with Being. 

106 Goethe, Note to "Diderots Versuch fiber die Malerei." 

107 Rilke, Duineser Elegien, Ninth Elegy, Gesammelte Werke, 297. The German 
words are: "Alles das Hicsige, . . . das seltsam uns angeht." In a profound ambiguity 
"angeht" implies three things: "all this affects, concerns and entreats us." Our con- 
cern with things becomes our concern for them, our heeding of their demand. 

108 Epistle to the Romans, 8:19, 21. 

loo Cf. J. Gasquet, Cezanne, 82, 93. In Rilke's poems, cf., e.g., Sonnette an Orphe- 
us I, xi and II, xxviii the complementation of the natural order by the human 
one. We shall meet a similar conviction in Paul Claudel (see below, 61f). 

HO Cf. Wahrheit, e.g., 114f, 134, 978, 979. Every thing with which we are con- 
cerned has its true significance with regard to life and Existenz in human commu- 
nity: cf. op. cit. t 378. Cf. also Origin, 21 8f. 


The artist thus does not embark on a new and strange enterprise 
of his own, and the experience he undergoes and creates is not 
unrelated to human experience as such. Even in his own line he 
brings to perfection only what is in stain nascendi in all percep- 
tion. It is his privilege to show the indefiniteness and transitoriness 
of phenomena in the glory of a definite and lasting expression. But 
the artistic figure has its prefigurement in the perceptions of aver- 
age life. Perception is as it were an interplay of question and 
answer, a sort of primitive communication between man and the 
outer world. Merleau-Ponty defines "sensation as co-existence or 
communion," as a real give and take. A sense-datum becomes a 
definite color only through my co-operation. I must give it the 
right reception in the right bodily attitude 111 for it to adopt the 
character, e.g., of a sky-blue which gathers in the space I provide 
for it. "The sense-datum presents to my body a sort of confused 
problem. And I must find the right comportment which will en- 
able it to determine and declare itself as blue; I must find the right 
answer to a badly formulated question." 112 

In its way, perception has a defining power analogous to that of 
conception. Certainly, not each perception has the idiomatic 
strength of artistic expression; but each contains potentially what 
is actualized in the style of a work of art; each can be the germ- 
cell of such a definition of style as the famous homo additus rebus. 
The power of perception has found nowhere a more eloquent and 
subtle formulation than in Rilke. I quote (in translation) a few 
striking lines from a posthumous poem (though this is not the 
place to bring out all of its profound implications): 

We live translating things which we transcend. 
To give a tree true presence we extend 
Space from within to it and let it be 
Surrounded by surrender. Our abstention 
Defines the measure of its full extension. 
We are the land. Within us grows the tree. 118 


Psychological analysis and artistic wisdom thus confirm one an- 

111 Cf. the general problem of "Einstellung" in phenomenological analysis. Greek 
TTioraa6ai may have meant originally: "to place oneself in the attitude required 
for ... " 

112 M. Merleau-Ponty, Phtnomtnologie de la Perception, 274f. Reference is made 
to gestalt- psychological investigations, particularly by Heinz Werner. What is said 
here about vision applies equally to other spheres of sensation. 

113 R. M. Rilke, Spate Gedichte, 150; cf. 84. 


other in considering perception and even sensation a co-operative 
process between man and nature in their communication and 
communion. The same holds from the point of view of epistemol- 
ogy in its classical pattern as well as in some of its modern scien- 
tific forms. We can still subscribe to Thomas* saying that "all that 
is received in another medium is received in accordance with the 
nature of the receiver. " 1U That "truth superadds something to 
Being" 115 thus applies already to the "manifestative and declara- 
tive being" of the object of perception. 

Similarly, the universe of modern science appears as the product 
of a co-operation of subject and object in an electro-magnetic field 
wherein they communicate. And, looking down from the concept- 
ual plane of statistical mechanics, the physicists may be inclined 
to consider the Gestalten of conscious perception as being based 
(to speak with Leibniz) on petites perceptiones discrete units 
which sensory apprehension integrates to bring about the homo- 
geneity and continuity of our visible world. 116 

It may be profitable to extend the reference to Thomistic meta- 
physics and epistemology from the discussion of the phenomenon 
of perception to that of conception. This does not imply a com- 
plete identification with Thomism. Nor does it deny an element 
of the metaphorical in the Thomistic analyses of the process of 
knowledge. But to see them in this light will not detract from 
their merit; the farther we go both in abstraction itself and in its 
description, the more must we move in a realm of figures, and the 
question is only how striking they are as reminders of 'the real 
thing/ In our context unable as we are to write here a whole 
theory of knowledge the Thomistic doctrine will help to focus 
attention on our central point, that of communication. This is, 
however, no mere pragmatic advantage. The Thomistic theory is 
perhaps the most thorough-going in classical philosophy. And it 
has the additional value of pointing to depths of experience of 
which we must take some soundings for the purpose of this paper. 
This is ground which, in our days, has born fruit again in French 
writers such as Paul Claudel and Gabriel Marcel and in that Ger- 
man synthesis of Phenomenological and Thomistic Existentialism 

114 Thomas Aquinas, Commentarius in 1. de Anima 11, lect. 24: Similarly Jas- 
pers, Wahrheit, 124: It is so that in the process of comprehensive awareness "each 
sphere of comprehension reveals as it were its peculiar light, its color, its main char- 

115 Acquinas. Quaestiones Disputatiae de Veritate. Qu. I, a.l. ad resp.: "Truth is 
superadded to Being." 

lie Cf. e.g., Hermann Weyl, Philosophic der Mathematik und Naturwissenschaft, 


for which Hedwig Conrad-Martius has paved the way and Edith 
Stein found a clear and impressive formulation. 117 In spite ol his 
personal decision against the absolute systems of thought of an 
Aristotle, Thomas, and Hegel, 118 Jaspers is so close to what is here 
at stake that the following remarks will not be out of place. 

We have seen that in the communication between senses and 
sensory things our receptivity defines but does not create the sense 
in which sense-data appear. We do not make the blue come 'from 
the blue,' rather we follow out suggestions that are offered to us 
by way of affection. It is the same way with cognition: things 'make 
sense 1 both to us and through us; Sinngebung and Smnfindung, 
the founding and finding of sense in the understanding go hand in 
hand; cognition is always re-cognition of what we owe to things 
(to "think 1 ' and to "thank" belong together) . Disclosure on the 
part of things and discovery on our part, penetration into their 
secrets and opening of our mind to their manifestations, intu-ition 
and at-tribution, ex-plication and de-termination are complemen- 
tary aspects of each process of knowledge, even though sometimes 
one, sometimes the other aspect may prevail. As the very word in- 
dicates, there is an element of receptivity in conception just as 
there is an element of productivity in perception. Knowledge I 
shall come back to that is a refined way of consciousness, and 
consciousness (con-scientia) an apprehensive way of 'co-existence' 
(not merely in Jaspers' sense) and communication in a commer- 
cium of give and take. 119 

In his Psychology, Aristotle has described the growth of human 
life as it reaches higher and higher levels of assimilation and 
appropriation. We can consider knowledge as appropriation on 
the intellectual level appropriation of the present we receive 
through the self-presentation of things to our senses. Compresence 
is of the nature of the subject as well as of the object of conscious- 
ness. 120 Just as intentionality (objective reference) belongs to con- 

H7 Cf. my review of Edith Stein's Endliches und Ewiges Sein, in Philosophy and 
Phenomenological Research, XII, 4. 

118 Cf. Wahrheit, 965 these names represent a kind of triad in Jaspers' mind 
and appear repeatedly in this conjunction. 

no Even where we are givers in establishing new meaning and relations, this may 
be felt as a gift that is granted to us. That is just what happens in the most 'in- 
spired' moments of human life, so that Sinngebung, founding of new sense, would 
seem an absolute process which goes on through us rather than by us. (There was 
something of this religious ethos in Husserl's speaking of noesis in absolute con- 
sciousness.) See also below, p. 294. 

120 Although the whole of the present essay ought to give, some plausibility to 
this thesis, I must forego, at this point, its detailed systematic and historical dis- 
cussion its comparison, for instance, with Samuel Alexander's epistemology. 



sciousness, so realitas objectiva (its position as an object of repre- 
sentation and hence, a reference to the subject) belongs to the 
realitas formalis (the substantive status which a thing has in it- 
self). The transformation of one mode of being (of realitas) into 
the other takes place through the in-formation of the mind: the 
mental concept bears out the re-spect in which the mind receives 
the intellectual a-spect of the thing, the intelligible species. 

The study of this connubium between things and man may lend 
some higher precision to earlier statements (pp. 230f). Perhaps, it is 
not so that it is up to human communication to provide for the 
communicability of things and convey meaning to them. But the 
mind grasps specific meanings by abstracting them from particular 
phenomena. The contribution of the mind would be, above all, in 
its liberating function: it frees and defines the obtuse meaning of 
things. The contribution of things, on the other hand, is in the 
potentialities of the communicable forms which they embody. The 
views of Parmenides and Plato complement one another: Reason, 
says Parmenides, is pronounced in the rationality of Being. 121 But 
it is also as Plato's Phaedo has it: the eidos shows in the explicit- 
ness of the logos. The meaning of things is their manifest essence; 
i.e., this essence as it comes to the fore in the meaning of words 
and in their definition. 

The communication (symbiosis) with things thus leads to the 
promulgation of their essence by the communication of their 
meaning. The classical tradition tries, however, to deepen the 
meaning of communication itself by rounding off a golden chain 
of communication which has its beginning in God and leads back 
toward him. It leads toward him: the language of abstraction re- 
turns to the ideas the status beyond matter and (maybe) the uni- 
versality which they originally enjoyed in God; it 're-presents' them 
to him. 122 And communication has also its beginning in God who 

121 Parmenides, fr. 8, 35 (Diels). 

122 That this conception of the work of thought and language is no mere reli- 
gious philosophism but rather the outgrowth of a general and basic experience be- 
comes probable by artistic parallels such as the following lines from Rilke's Stun- 
denbuch. They show God coming again into his own by the return of his songs 
through the mouth of man: 

Er mochte sich wiedergewinnen 
aus seinen Melodien. 
Da komm ich zu seinen Knien. 
Und seine Lieder rinnen 
rauschend zuruck in ihn. 

"He wants himself back as he spent 
himself in his melodies. 
So I come to nest at his knees. 
And his songs return in the end, 
ringing and rich, to his peace." 

Similar ideas may be found from the time of the Bible to the novels of Mann 
and Joyce. 


communicates to all things that share in being which is appor- 
tioned to them. 

It is not for me to endorse the literal truth of these statements. 
But I recognize in them the thoughtful expression of two deep- 
rooted experiences. First of all, they bear witness to man's trustee- 
ship in the economy of the universe they are, thus, a particular 
version of the responsible trust which gives human life its, per- 
haps, greatest strength and deepest significance: that we are count- 
ed upon, and that our accomplishment or failure will be of uni- 
versal consequence. Secondly, this metaphysical doctrine bears out 
what is implied in the nature of finite and temporal being: it is 
always out of hand as it always passes away in the passage of time. 
Temporal being is balanced precariously on the needle-point of 
the one present, yet vanishing moment. 123 Vita mancipio nulli da- 
tur. As far as we have part in Being, it seems given, communicated 
to us and by whom else (so man asks) if not by the One who 
has Being actually at his disposal and can dispose of it as he pleases. 
This is the Possest of Cusanus, the "Lord of Being" of his and 
therewith all Being in Schelling. 124 In its analysis of Being, phi- 
losophy may redeem the simple wisdom of Job: "the Lord gave, 
and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." 

The ideas of creation and perpetual re-creation have their ori- 
gin in the experience of being as something communicated to us; 
all particular being is felt to spring from a creative source; it is, in 
one way or the other, enjoyed as long as the communication with 
this source lasts. 125 "God is the place of the world, but the world 
is not his place," this adage is the theistic counterpart of the idea 
of Transcendence in Jaspers the Transcendence which is present 
to absolute consciousness, and to which we owe the gift of our true 
Selves, since this consciousness frees us from slavery to the world. 126 

To take a few more steps in this way of thought: the actus essen- 
di (the act of being, being in its actuality), in which things orig- 
inate, communicates to them both their Quod, the facticity of 
their being, and their Quid, the specific nature which is their part 
and hence, the peculiar role they play, the place they occupy in 
relation to other things. The space of Being is, as it were, parceled 

123 For a profound phenomenological evaluation of this aspect of time, cf. H. 
Conrad-Martius, "Die Zeit" (Philosophischer Anzeiger, 1927/28). This does not ex- 
clude other, seemingly contradictory, characters to appear on other levels of consid- 
eration of this most puzzling of all phenomena time. 

124 Schelling, Werke, I, x, 260; II, iii, 295. 125 More details below, 287ff. 

126 Cf., e.g., Wahrheit, 173; cf. also ibid., 109, 594, 677, 988, 1036; Philosophic 
III, 192ff. 


out to all the particular beings which represent the whole in a lim- 
ited and qualified manner. They restrict and define each other in 
the How and What of this representation, in the qualities and 
functions which they enact and exhibit. 127 Each of them is aliquid 
(something) , i.e., an aliud quid (something different) , a being 
holding its own ground in its own way. And each substantive be- 
ing (in difference from a mere phantasm) is what it is in the dis- 
tributive unity of the whole in actualizing its both specific and 
individual essence. None of these entities is self-contained, none 
can be defined apart from the system of forms and things with 
which it communicates. 128 This applies first of all to the dialectical 
system of ideal forms, the community of ideas (the Platonic eidos 
already is considered a meros, a part subsumed under the all-sur- 
passing One). But it applies also to the space-time field of actuality in 
which each point is virtually the whole field. Each is endowed with 
a power of communication and is, thus, absorbed in an all-perva- 
sive community of being in which a principle of the 'all-together* 
(omnia in omnibus) prevails and 'simple location* proves a fallacy. 
The reference to Whitehead's term is intended to give some jus- 
tification to the language of the preceding paragraph which sounds 
too peremptory partly because, within the present essay, it has to 
be allusive and cannot fully justify itself. In fact, if it has any 
truth, it is only that of a first approximation. The picture it gives 
has still too much the character of an objective survey of a total 
configuration and seems, therefore, more adequate as a description 
of an ideal structure or of objective events than of personal deci- 
sions and actions. As it stands, it would seem to neglect the his- 
toricity of all being, the peculiar historicity of ours and of our 
position and the limitations of our finite knowledge. But it may 
appear even more dogmatic than it is, if measured by the stand- 
ards of Kant's metaphysics of scientific experience. (The ghost of 
Kant rises here because actually we are moving now within a realm 
of Kantian transcendent 'ideas' rather than of Kantian objects of 
knowledge. 129 ) 

127 This conception might account for a religious experience of man's being on 
earth the feeling that he is installed in his office, given a place in the order of 
being, not only as Heidegger had it thrown into the whirl of this world: cp. 
Heidegger, Sein und Zeit, 175ff, with my Philosophic des Graf en Paul Yorck von 
Wartenburg, 94. 

t28 Cf. Paul Claudel, Art Poetique, 101: "I am as far as I am limited by the ob- 
jects that surround me, as far as I experience this limitation and am informed by 

129 More specifically we move in the orbit of problems discussed in Kant's in- 
genious chapter on the "Transcendental Ideal:" Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 


My excuse is twofold. First, the scientific situation has shifted 
since Kant's time to a point where certain metaphysical assertions 
which would have been anathema to Kant have become meaning- 
ful again and represent, at least, a fair risk. I take this risk because 
and this is the second excuse I try to envisage "communica- 
tion" as a point of affinity between scientific, religious and artistic 
experiences. To be sure, this is an imaginary center from which no 
system of metaphysical propositions can be derived. The unity of 
experience exists only in its variations. But as variations they point 
back to a plastic substrate or, rather, to a fundamental, yet chang- 
ing dynamics whose change we see reflected in that of the meaning 
of "communication." In these dialectical turns "communication" 
seems not deprived of each and every identity; it is not degraded 
to a mere homonym. It will show a similar controllable ambiguity 
as Leibniz's otherwise antipodean term "representation" or 
"expression," which undergoes significant variations of meaning 
in its application to the different levels of the monadic scale. 


In all these considerations and, indeed, in my whole approach to 
philosophical problems, I am guided by an interest in a general 
metaphysics, that does not deny the difference and even discrepan- 
cy between our being above all Existenz in Jaspers' sense and 
worldly being, but that would like to have this difference vaulted 
over by slightly more positive determinations than the reference to 
mighty, yet evasive Transcendence. I do not belittle indeed, I 
emphasize Jaspers' distinction between the "mute language of 
being'', (such as the physiognomic expression of nature) on the one 
hand, and on the other "communicative human language," 
the more or less true and honest ("redliche") intercourse amongst 
idealiter responsive and responsible human beings. 130 But I 
want to 'formalize* the idea of communication so much that the 
affinity between both languages comes out, and that even the Bib- 
lical concept of the Universe as a vast responsory may find a certain 
'response.' (The objective determination of things is for instance 

in Genesis 1 the outgrowth of their personal designation, their be- 

B599ff. Jaspers' own characterization of Transcendence as the "ground of all actu- 
ality" (Wahrheit, 90, 92, 107, etc.) looks very much like a metamorphosis of Kant's 
description of the Transcendental Ideal as "underlying all things as their ground 
and not their sum total:" op. cit., 607. 

180 Cf. Philosophic III, 142ff; and somewhat modified Wahrheit, 546ff. 


ing both called into being and given a specific calling to which 
they respond.) 

No doubt, we modify the meaning of the word when we first use 
it simply the way one speaks of two vessels which 'communicate/ 
then with regard to their content declare that they communi- 
cate it to one another, and when we finally deal with the 'commu- 
nication' with and amongst people about a certain issue. But the 
second communication is made possible by the first one the 
establishment of some contact; and the two latter ones are con- 
nected as modes of exchange: the second communication to 
others gives them a share in something, just as the third com- 
munication qua Mit-teilung makes others participants in our 
knowledge and personal understanding of things and lets them 
take part in our life in the light of this understanding. 

This unification of life in the communion of men will not blind 
us to the complementary fact of polarization in personal co-Exist- 
enz. Here communication is no longer mere flux from one vessel 
to the other. No positivistic import-theory will ever do justice to 
the polar relationship between I and Thou in which intimacy and 
tension are one. Here is nothing transferred that is not received 
and assimilated. (There are, of course, mass epidemics of public 
opinion, etc.; but they are just forfeitures of personal status and 

Jaspers is perfectly right in stressing the inner independence of 
either partner in personal communication and relationship. This 
independence is a constituent of true personal correlation; it adds 
to the latter's intensity rather than weakening it. It has one of its 
expressions in that (not impersonal, but impartial) objectivity 
only man can afford in every regard. First 'with regard to* the 
world (which thus and thus only will be thrown into relief 
and appear as a self-contained context of being). The same holds 
true with regard to my fellow-being (who will be closer to me in 
due distance, i.e., when I release and respect him in the otherness 
of an alter ego); and finally even with regard to myself (who can 
thus become an object of my own concern and a product of my 
own making) , 131 

This character of correlation is maintained and enhanced in the 
covenant of Biblical religion, where both distance and intimacy 
are given their maximum values. 132 The paradoxical independence 

131 In contemporary German philosophy, these features of Existenz and co-Exist- 
enz have been delineated not only by Jaspers, but also by writers such as Max 
Scheler and particularly Martin Buber from Ich und Du on to his more recent 
booklet Urdistanz und Beziehung (1951). 

132 This point has been made first, perhaps, by Adolf Reinach and then by Kurt 


of finite man face to face with infinite God is brought out for in- 
stance in Abraham's pleading for Sodom and Gomorrah and the 
post-Biblical commentaries that extol Abraham for walking before 
God, not merely with him as Noah did. 

There are, thus, different shades of meaning, and qualitative 
leaps involved in the use of the word 'communication* as we as- 
cend from nature to the personal level. But the inner connection 
of these different meanings can also be seen in religious experi- 
ence. A genetic relation may prevail between interpersonal com- 
munication in the intensity of 'existential' partnership, in the 
covenant between I and Thou, and that prestage or remnant of 
personal relationship that may appear as cosmic piety, most elo- 
quently in William James: 

We with our lives are like islands in the sea, or like trees in the forest. 
The maple and the pine may whisper to each other with their leaves 
and Conanicut and Newport hear each other's fog horns. But the trees 
also commingle their roots in the dark underground, and the islands 
also hang together through the ocean's bottom. Just so there is a con- 
tinuum of cosmic consciousness, against which our individuality builds 
but accidental fences, and into which our several minds plunge as into 
a mother-sea or reservoir. 133 

Is it only our natural being as Jaspers has it 134 that communi- 
cates quasi bodily with nature at large and is by Einsfiihlung 1 
connected with the very ground of all things? Is it here not often 
our whole being, including our personal one, that enjoys a peace 
beyond understanding, because it realizes a ground beneath the 
ramification and divergency of our modes of life beneath the 
opposition of creaturely life in the shelter of nature, and personal 
Existenz in the exposure to the unfounded freedom of decision? 
In and through the enjoyment of nature, in the communication 
of aesthetic and artistic experience we feel a quasi heavenly bliss 
not exclusively that of the children and favorites of nature. Here 
even a naturalist such as Dewey speaks in a tone of higher comfort 
than that of an organism however well-adjusted to its environ- 

Stavenhagen, two pioneers of a phenomenology of religion, Cf. Adolf Reinach, 
Gesammelte Schriften, xviiiff; and K. Stavenhagen, Absolute Stellungnahmen (1925). 

133 James, "Final Impressions of a Psychical Researcher" (1909), Memories and 
Studies, (1911), 204. 

134 Cf. Wahrheit, 1006, 897. 

135 The term 'Einsfiihlung means 'feeling one with* and is contrasted with 'Ein~ 
fiihlung,' (empathy, feeling oneself into another person or thing) by Max Scheler in 
his Wesen und Formen der Sympathie, 16ff. 


ment: "Through the phases of perturbation and conflict, there 
abides the deep-seated memory of an underlying harmony, the 
sense of which haunts life like the sense of being founded on a 
rock." 136 And it is not merely Chinese conformity with nature or 
aesthetic gourmandise that is expressed in Kuo-Jo Hsu's (around 
1075 B.C.) account of how he enjoys the paintings of his collec- 
tion "in a quiet communion, blissfully unaware of the extent of 
Heaven and Earth and all the myriad complications of exist- 

ence." 137 

The system of knowledge is an outgrowth of the real context of 
forms and things and men in their mutual 'definition* and delim- 
itation. Our intellection is an inter-legere or (as Thomas has it) 
an intus legere trying to penetrate into things toward their essence 
(usque ad essentiam rei): it is or was, at least, intended to be an 
"intimate penetration of truth," in some aspect or other. 138 Its sys- 
tem is an ectypal, a synthetic and tentative reconstruction of the 
original (archetypal) structure. I.e., it is not, as in Neo-Kantian- 
ism, a pure construction in its own autonomous style, but even in 
the boldest, most abstract ventures of constructive imagination it 
remains somehow guided and is certainly controlled by the nature 
of things, is confronted with their objections, supported by their 
concurrence, and exploits a previous familiarity with them. Alto- 
gether, that "free engagement" of ours of which Sartre speaks is 
preceded by a rootedness in being which he denies; I find myself 
engaged owing to what Marcel calls "an anterior encompassment 
of myself on the part of Being." (In Marcel, 'engagement' the 
word and the idea has an overtone of religious betrothal. 139 ) 

At this point, i.e., in the account of the nature of knowledge, the 
lines which I try to draw converge again with those of Jaspers. 
Whereas he reserves the word 'communication,' German 'Mittei- 
lungy to information in the medium and tradition of language, 
and uses 'Teilnahme' for that participation in being which takes 
place in knowledge, his description of knowledge comes very close 
to that presented with the help of my formalized concept of com- 

In the simile of participation is stated that the subject takes in, as 
it were, something of the object not, to be sure, its material reality, 
but its essence. Whereas in the outer world things and organisms af- 

136 John Dewey, Art as Experience, 17. 

187 Kuo Jo-Hstt, Experiences in Painting, 1; cf. 127, n. 180. 

138 Thomas Acquinas, Summa Theologica, 2-2ae, VIII, 1, c; XLIX, 5, 3m. 

180 Cf. G. Marcel, e.g., Eire et Avoir, 13, 16, 56, 60ff, 159, 203f, 254; Du Refus 
d I'Invocation, 44, 94. 


feet, touch, destroy, devour each other, knowledge represents the en- 
tirely different relation ... of a boundless expansion of the thinking 
subject without being eo ipso an extension of its power over things. 
Participation is the simile for compresence, assimilation ... this 
puzzling phenomenon of being together with all things of this world 
and, at the same time, transcend them as a thinking being. 140 

There is religio in Jaspers' acknowledging not only, as the 
Marxists and other sociologists do, the Seinsgebundenheit of all 
thought, i.e., its conditionedness by being, but above all, the 
Seinsverbundenheit of true thought, its connection with and obli- 
gation to Being. 141 Here I am in full and grateful agreement with 
Jaspers. Indeed, knowledge grows from communication with Be- 
ing and beings; it is a superior form of it, able both to utilize 
and to deepen this relationship. 


In this sense knowledge is "recollection" and is acknowledged 
as such by Jaspers himself. Platonic teaching and Goethian senti- 
ment blend when he speaks of the high moments in which we 
seem to be let into the secret and to enjoy the knowledge of by- 
standers of the creation itself a Mitwissenschaft mit der Schop- 
fung a mood "as if au fond we had been witnesses to the origina- 
tion of all things, and as if this knowledge had been veiled to and 
forgotten by us in the narrowness of our world/' 142 

It is thus in the profoundest depth of myself that I feel at one 
with the ground of this world. This happens in the absorption by 
philosophical meditation and speculation as well as when I am 
surrounded by the spectacle of nature. 

"When the soul of the landscape speaks, that is nothing in objective 
terms; as an experience, however, it is the bodily presence of some- 
thing (!) known to a Rembrandt and Shakespeare. It is something 
like (!) a revelation of Being . . . Something (!) emanates from there 
that makes me independent (of the world of appearances) because it 
keeps me in contact and communication (Verbindung) with the ground 
of things." 

Without actually being a believer, I thus become a brother to 
those who enjoy this connection with the Infinite in the holy 
communion, in the reception of the Eucharist. 143 

140 Wahrheit, 238. 141 Ibid., 262ff, 314. 

142 The phrase "Mitwissenschaft mit der Schopfung" is taken from Schelling; cf., 
e.g., Werke, II, III, 303. It is a favorite term with Jaspers: see, e.g., Philosophic III, 
209; Scope, 15. Wahrheit, 104, 112, 175f, 217, 1046. The quotation is from pp. 175f. 

143 Wahrheit, 698, 897. (The exclamation marks are mine.) 


Passages like this have their own 'existential' significance in the 
way they express experiences of such significance: they have it be- 
cause they are no precise objective statements, but, by all sorts of 
'if and 'quasi/ protected from being mistaken for definite asser- 
tions of an impersonal truth. This guardedness shows Jaspers' hon- 
esty and his critical sobermindedness prevailing even in the tran- 
scendent flight of "absolute consciousness/* the Icarus-flights in 
which the Infinite is ascertained by its imperviousness to the finite. 
But this attitude is also the result of Jaspers' primal experience 
which is, of necessity, the Alpha and Omega of our discussion 
the partition of the modes of being and the ultimate solitude of 
the Self. Although the Self may relate itself to the transcendent 
One, though it may exist on the strength of faith in it, it will never 
enjoy a perfect union or grasp the absolute unity. We understand 
only manifoldness within a unity we do not understand. 

That is why man's will to communication can never be fully sat- 
isfied, and why the feeling of communication between the ground 
within us and the ground of the world the Mitwissenschaft mit 
der Schopfung remains in the state of an "as if" or, at best, a 
matter of indistinct divination, merging in silence. 

Jaspers, the moralist and critic, moves but warily toward a posi- 
tion such as is confidently held and proclaimed by the poet, Paul 
Claudel. Claudel's famous plays on the words "connaissance" and 
" co-naissance" (cognition and recognition) , "connaissance and 
reconnaissance" genesis and gnosis, causer (to cause) and causer 
(to converse) , etc., are the result of artistic introspection as well 
as metaphysical thought and the linguistic musings of a master of 
language and have added significance due to this co-operation. Co- 
existence is co-naissance because to exist together means "to be 
born together/' to originate from the same source (though accord- 
ing to specific intentions intentions and forms that complement 
each other in the one act of creation). All things conspire thanks 
to the unity of the creative spirit. 

This universal sympathy and correspondence has only a more 
discerning expression in human con-sciousness and con-science, in 
human knowledge and communication, in philosophy, science and 
art. Just as Leibniz speaks of universal representation, Whitehead 
of universal prehension as the organ of universal nexus ("actual 
entities involve each other by reason of their prehensions of each 
other") 144 , so does Claudel assume a mutual knowledge amongst 
all things: "Nature knows by way of its oceans and mountains, its 
mines and volcanoes, and by the minute points of its leaves of 

144 A. N. Whitehead, Process and Reality, 28. 


grass, just as we know by way of equation, theorem, syllogism and 
metaphor." 145 

The particular artistic ingredient in Claudel's account consists 
in the conviction that the knowledge which is communicated to 
us, in our co-existence and cognation, is in return communicated by 
us through the creative word. This word is, so to speak, the final 
procreation of the creative word in the beginning; a product of 
the synergism of the human poet with the poeta mundi: the pres- 
entation of an eternal presence, in the form of the word, to things 
which pass and, therefore, need to be represented. 146 

Proferant de chaque chose le nom, 

Comme un pere tu I'appelles mysterieusement dans son principe, et 

selon que jadis 
Tu participas a sa crdation, tu coo per es a son existence. 147 

The artist realizes, intensifies and communicates a communication 
which is founded in the configuration of things; he consolidates 
the "liquid tie" amongst all creatures, including himself: 

Je connais toutes choses, et toutes choses se connaissent en moi. 
J'apporte a toute chose sa delivrance. 
Par moi 

Aucune chose ne reste plus seule mats je I'associe a une autre dans 
mon coeur. 1 * 6 

Calling things to universal consecration, 149 the artist does not 
cause but restores the engagement and performs the marriage of 
things. 150 That is, at least, what he feels in heeding his mission. 

145 p. Claudel, Art Poetique, 65 (Mercure de France). 

146 p. Claudel, op. cit., 150. 

147 p. Claudel, Les Muses, 24: "Stating of each thing its name, like a father you 
call it mysteriously according to its principle and, just as of yore you participated in 
its creation, you now co-operate in its existence" the same motif which we met 
before in Cezanne, Rilke and other artists. Cf. also Claudel, La Ville, 425. 

148 Paul Claudel, Cinq Odes, (L'esprit et I'eau): "I know all things and all things 
know themselves in me./ I come to every thing's rescue./ Through me/ No thing 
remains lonely any longer. No, I connect it with another one in my heart." 

I must refrain from accumulating evidence by extended quotations from Rilke's 
poetry in confirmation of Claudel's experience. I restrict myself now to referring to 
pp. 237 and 243 above, and to such poems as Rilke, Ausgewdhlte Werke I, 404; 
Spate Gedichte, 23, 84; Aus Tagebuchern und Merkblattern, 25. There is, how- 
ever a difference which should not be overlooked: the profound resignation, both 
modest and full of loving pride, in which the later Rilke restricts the realm of the 
poet to the human realm. This may be compared with Jaspers' emphasis on the 
limitations of 'existential' communion. 

149 Goethe, Faust, v. 148. 

150 Cf. Gasquet, Cdzanne, 80, 93; Paul Claudel, Connaissance de I'Est, 163. 



The purpose of the preceding section has not been to subscribe 
to the words of the poetic account of the artist's function, but to 
substantiate Jaspers' allusion to a Mitwissenschaft mit der Schop- 
fung by reference to the testimony of some who know creative 
communication better than most of us, because they participate in 
it more actively. 151 To take this evidence seriously seems to me one 
of the main demands on a philosophy which is not an ancilla sci- 
entiarum but in the ramifications of experience tries to show their 
origin in, and 'working out' of, a common ground. 

For this reason, and without detracting from the qualitative dif- 
ferences of the modes of being on which Jaspers insists, I am in- 
clined to use "co-existence," "community," and "communication" 
in the universal sense to which the artists confess as "the real thing." 
This means to ground the objective and measurable external rela- 
tions amongst phenomena the residue of methodical abstraction 
on the part of the scientist in internal relationships such as they 
are experienced and set forth by, e.g., the artist. 

Such a philosophical account will be necessarily couched in 
somewhat personalistic terms. But we should not be overly afraid 
of the bogy of anthropomorphism. As, so to speak, a penultimate, 
the heterogeneity of natural and personal being is not to be ques- 
tioned. Still, general metaphysics cannot describe certain universal 
features of being without using, in a formalized and neutral sense, 
terms which are psychological when applied to the realm of human 
consciousness. In other words: we do not indulge in Einfiihlung 
(empathy) in Theodor Lipps' sense, we do not project ourselves 
into things when assigning to certain data of outer experience 
names that have a specific meaning and familiar ring in and 
through inner experience. 

We had already occasion to point to such indispensable meta- 
physical categories as the practically equivalent "expression," "rep- 
resentation" or "prehension." Other instances would be orexis and 
mimesis in Aristotle, which mean "desire" and "imitation" proper 
only in their application to the animal realm. There is also the 
conatus concept of Hobbes and Spinoza who certainly cannot be 
accused of confusing the "order of things" and the "order of ideas:" 
in Spinoza conatus as such, as a neutral term, means "impulse;" it 

151 This will not blind us to the fact that, from the point of view of inter-per- 
sonal life, the artist and artistic communication have their own problems and short- 


means "will" with regard to the mind and "appetite" with regard 
to the whole of mind and body. 152 

We treat "communication" and "relationship" in a similar way, 
i.e., without imputing consciousness to all things that communi- 
cate with and are turned toward each other. The only implications 
are those of actual intercourse in a shared existence and of a 
positive or negative attitude toward one another, both pull and 
tension in a universe of forces. It is in this dynamic sense (not 
in the well-worn of merely objective relation and reference) that 
Rilke uses for the fugue of being the word "Bezug" a noun 
which derives from "ziehen" ("to draw," "to pull.") 153 There is 
tension in this draw and draw in this tension. 154 "Bezug" implies 
"intention" and, therefore, "tension" between two that "mean" 
one another, tend toward one another (in German meinen to 
mean and minnen to love have the same root) and, never- 
theless are not one. 155 This tendency which draws things together, 
towards the unerhorte Mitte toward the fabulous center ap- 
pears thus as inclination: 

Inclination: word abundant with truthful meaning! 

Young one the one of the heart that still silently pines; 

no less the bent of the hill whose softest leaning 

toward the lawn which receives it inclines, 

let it also be ours to add to our essence; 

or let the bird's overflowing flight 

draw the space of our heart, displace future by presence. 156 

There are 'intentions* that are alive in a landscape as a whole 
of experience, not merely a sum of objects. But it is only in man 

152 Spinoza, Ethics, Part III, propositions 7 and 9, schol. 

153 Rilke uses the term in many linguistic combinations. Cf. Werke, III, 324, 
356, 386, 417, 453, 454, 463; Aus dem Nachlass II, 49; III, 5, 22; Briefe an seinen 
Verleger, 393; Briefe aus Muzot, 196. Cf. also M. Heidegger, Hohwege, 260ff; O. F. 
Bollnow, Rilke, 190ff. 

154 Rilke, Werke, III, 324; Aus dem Nachlass, III, 25. 

155 Cf. Rilke, Werke, III, 365, 366. 

156 Rilke, Nachlass III, 67. 

NEIGUNG: wahrhaftes Wort! Doss wir JEDE empfanden, 

nicht nur die neuste, die uns ein Herz noch verschweigt; 

wo sich ein Hiigel langsam, mit sanften Gelanden 

zu der empfanglichen Wiese neigt, 

set es nicht weniger unser, sei uns vermehrlich; 

oder des Vogels reichlicher Plug 

schenke uns Herzraum, mache uns Zukunft entbehrlich. 


hat these intents of nature are realized in the new presence they 
cquire through the 'intentionality' of consciousness. 157 

That this approach to things is not merely the outcome of 
oetic sentimentalism on the part of unthinking dilettantes, can 
>e shown, for instance, by reference to metaphysicians of the 
ist hundred years from Fechner to Bergson and Whitehead. I 
[note from the latter and his characterization of "physical 
oirposes:" "The subjective forms of these physical purposes are 
ither 'ad versions' or 'aversions/ The subjective forms of physical 
>urpose do not involve consciousness unless these feelings acquire 
ntegration with conscious perceptions or intuitive judgments/' 158 

Above all, however, considerations like these are not at all 
oreign to Jaspers' own thought. They give them only some more 
ssertive weight and a slightly stronger 'monistic' tenor. We saw 
hat Rilke's "Bezug" meant partnership in uni-versal communica- 
ion and communion, compliance with the pull toward the center 
f gravitation. This may be compared with the significant pas- 
ages in which Jaspers speaks in a quite similar vein of "infinite 
elatedness" and the One of Transcendence: "This One present 
s it is, by virtue of reason, as if from inaccessible distance is the 
ttraction which overcomes all schism." 159 


"On this principle, then," to speak with Aristotle, "depend 
he heavens and the world of nature." As giving direction to all 
triving, Transcendence is, thus, both an ideal limit, infinitely 
emote and an immediate presence, the inmost stimulant and 
ruide of reason and love. Its function resembles that of Aristotle's 
Jnmoved Mover, "who produces motion just by being loved." 

157 The universalization of the concept of intentionality would, in my opinion, 
stablish the proper frame of reference in which Husserl's claim of the absoluteness 
> intentional consciousness could be endorsed. Cf. my article, "Art and Phenom- 
nology" in Philosophical Essays in Memory of Edmund Husserl (edited by Marvin 

158 A. N. Whitehead, Process and Reality, 406; cf., e.g., 124; 173: "The datum" 
ays Whitehead in criticism of Kant "includes its own interconnections, and the 
irst stage of the process of feeling is the reception into the responsive conformity 
>f feeling whereby the datum, which is mere potentiality, becomes the individual- 
zed basis for a complex unity of realization." 

one of the references to "Zugkraft" on 118; cf. 109; 681: "It is 
ilways the One which moves us to produce the unity which insinuates itself to us." 
Ate feel the "infinite relatedness" of all things and "experience the One as the all- 
pervasive attraction which, from the realm of Transcendence, keeps together what 
o us is scattered and threatens to slip into chaos." (My italics!) 


Whereas, in Jaspers, reason is not the One itself, but a reflection 
of its splendor, the "bond" of all unity, the organ of loving 
union and communication, the One 'in person' is unity pure 
and simple and, therefore, beyond reason, beyond love and truth. 
It is beyond all the restlessness of our actions which only shows 
the vanity of our projects, the nothingness of our 'achievements/ 
the fragmentariness of this life, the discordances and contradic- 
tions of this world through which we needs must go to fulfill 
ourselves and recognize, at the depth of all struggle, the lasting 
peace of the One and acquiesce in it. 160 

Transcendence is not really the truth which will set us free, 
according to Jaspers. "To speak of truth with regard to it, would 
mean to apply to it possibilities of immanent (i.e., worldly) 
being and imply the possibility of falsity. We can speak of it in 
this way only figuratively, confounded as we are when all ques- 
tions come to an end/' 161 

According to Jaspers, Transcendence is not itself the love which 
animates our will to communication, though, as the Infinite, it 
may be the locus where the parallel developments of all Selves 
can meet. "In the beloved one I love the lover: I love in him 
what we love in common: Being itself." 162 "Although it is through 
love that God can be felt, God is not love/' It is only by way of an 
edifying symbol that I can speak of Him as "love." Taken in a 
strict sense, such language would "impute to Deity that move- 
ment, imperfection and striving that inhere in the nature of 



It is obvious that this (Aristotelian) one-way conception of 
love which removes God from correlation, correspondence, and 
communication with man, abrogates the idea of the covenant 

160 Cf. Wahrheit, 328. The Beyond seems here even more radical than in Brad- 
ley's Absolute that harmonious system in which all the contradictions of the phe- 
nomena are transmuted and absolved. Obviously, the difference between the being 
of Transcendence and that of the world (like the Greek distinction between Being 
and Non-Being, etc.) is largely a difference of value. The reality of things and the 
world as their transcendent unity is not denied. They are rated as appearances (not 
as phantoms) because, in their transitoriness, etc., they point beyond themselves to 
the integral being of Transcendence. "Le monde existe, . . . il est, puisqu'il est ce 
qui n'est pas. . . . Dieu seul est cela qui est" ("The world exists; it is since it is 
just that which is not . . . God alone is the Being that is", (Claudel, L'Art Poetique 
(Mercure de France), 145.) This interpretation of the Eheye accords, by the way, 
with Hermann Cohen's interpretation of the unity of God as his uniqueness. 

161 Wahrheit, 638; cf. 981. 

162 Wahrheit, 1001. This idea, which originates in Plato's Symposium, has found 
its classical Christian expression in Augustine's ipse amor amatur, "it is love itself 
that is loved" (Civitas Dei, XI, 28). 

163 Cf., e.g., Origin, 242; Wahrheit, 1012. 


just as Spinoza did, though not in Spinoza's way. Jaspers' idea 
of love is moulded after the demon Eros in the Symposium rather 
than in the image of Jewish zedakah, hesed and ahawah, of Greek 
agape and Latin caritas. Whereas the latter terms apply to both 
God and man, whereas in the New Testament as well as in the 
Old, God's antecedent love encourages finite man to lift his eyes 
up to Him in the gratitude of responsive love "we love Him, 
because He first loved us" 164 , Jaspers sees in love only the human 
striving for union in God through communication with man, 
hence in the need for communication a mark of our finiteness, 
of the particularity which, in the return to the One, we try to 
overcome. And he has little respect for charity, which he does not 
take in the sense of the foremost of the theological virtues, but 
preponderantly in the degraded sense of a social expediency. It 
is to him not the condescendence in God's love for needy man 
and man's imitation of God in compassionate love for the poor. 

Since this terminology is not accidental, a detour will prove 
necessary to show its symptomatic meaning as to the relations 
between man and man as well as between God and man. For 
it is well to remember that "all modes of love are interrelated: 
each one has its actuality and consummation only in and through 
the other." 165 The depreciation of charity will reflect upon social 
as well as religious community. "God is present to us only through 
man, man through God. Man and God are lost to us only one 
with the other;" 166 and an attenuation in one way of relationship 
will be indicative of an estrangement in the other. 

Charity is to Jaspers mostly the condescendent attitude of man 
toward man incompatible with true love, which is a noble 
love among peers, a mutual summons to truthful selfhood. Char- 
ity, on the other hand, is to him a mere compensation, on the 
part of the State or the Church, for the most dangerous inequali- 
ties in the economic order, "without neighborhood of one's own 
self to that of the other. It goes together with the maintenance of 
class-levels and lacks the unconditionedness" of free communi- 
cation. 187 

The emphasis on the neighborhood of free Selves on the peaks 

John, 4:19. As to the Jewish teaching, cf., e.g., Franz Rosenzweig, Kleinere 
Schriften, 364f. 

l5 Wahrheit, 1005. l Wahrhcit, 1002. 

167 Philosophic II, 383. A milder expression 278f: "There is love in charitative 
assistance; yet in its decline it becomes self-gratification in indiscriminate compas- 
sion." Cf. also Age, passim this harsh aristocratic document of 1931 with too lit- 
tle productive sympathy for man in the gigantic struggle and experiment of modern 


of Exist enz prevents Jaspers from fully realizing the power of 
compassionate love in which men meet "in the valleys of human 
needs, in those extremities in which we all are naked and poor," 
in which we " 'render the deeds of mercy' for which we pray," 
that "disillusioned yet not discouraged love" in which we bear 
with one another and show that patience without which human 
community is doomed, but with whose help we may be able to 
do something to heal the wounds caused in our time by impatience 
and passions. 168 

What is in question here, are not only the dehors of social man- 
ners, the inevitable compromises and appeasements in the exter- 
nal organization of life on the biological level. As an 'existential' 
motor, social conscience enters and surpasses all "security admin- 
istration of the outer life of the masses (Massenordnung in Da- 
seinsfilrsorge) that provides for the satisfaction of their needs." 109 
Social equity is a holy task before it becomes a matter of expedi- 
ency. Social care would not work, and the wheels of social legis- 
lation would not turn, were it not for the prophetic passion and 
compassion of those without whom all social politics would be 
soulless indeed. It is not enough to put in control of the apparatus 
of social organization "a metaphysically founded basic attitude 
revealed in ethos that guides the organizational plans," 170 if this 
is the exclusive ethos of self-realization. What is needed is less a 
policing of social and socialist activities by an ethos that is alien 
to them than their inspiration by a trustworthy and congenial 
moral faith. 171 

Jaspers' ethics of self-realization through self-communication is 
not quite of this type. Certainly, only a quack could offer a pana- 
cea for all the sufferings of our time. And an ideal of life is not 
discredited by the fact that it appeals only to an aristocratic 
minority among men. 172 A philosophy has a right to be esoteric. 
It is courageous and honest to stand, without compromise, against 
the falsification of ultimate human truth, against a much propa- 
gandized progress toward the abyss. But it seems an objection 

188 Cf. my Geschichtsphilosophie der Gegenwart (1931), 41f; and my paper, "Re- 
ality and Truth in History," Perspectives in Philosophy (Ohio State University, 
1953), 43-54. 

169 Situation, 27 (my own translation above, because the translation in Age, 33, 
completely fails to render the telling phrase, Massenordnung in Daseinsfursorge); 
cf. still the more cautious version in Origin, 172ff (with the partly justified warning 
against a "total planning" at the price of totalitarianism). 

170 Origin, 192. 171 See below, 283f. 

172 Cf., e.g., Age, 220ff. The problems of that little book are treated in a some- 
what more academic fashion in Philosophic II, 363ff. 


to a social philosophy as responsible social action , if it helps 
to undo what little can be done, and, after 1918, could be done 
for human communication even under the most adverse circum- 
stances; and if it helps to bring about the very opposite to its 
professed (and sincere) purpose. 173 It is sadly ironical that Jaspers 
admired no one more highly than Max Weber, the democrat 
and had no faith in democracy. 174 And it is tragic that his plea in 
1931 to "save," in the time of the revolution of the masses, 
"the efficiency of the best who are the fewest" 175 had its direct 
reply in the overthrow of social democracy by national socialism, 
the most vicious blend of tyranny and ochlocracy. 176 

This much had to be said though sotto voce and in grief, 
not to rub salt into the wounds of the past nor to detract from 
the respect for one of the few sages of our time; but because it 
may help us to go to the root of this problem which is not only 
the problem of an individual philosophy. 


Why this lack of sympathy, i.e., of compassion for the 'masses? 
Why this undervaluation of charity, which over against com- 
passion had been endorsed even by the Stoics? Why the almost 
exclusive concern with and for the "happy few,' 1 the Self and 
the Selves? 

The answer cannot be as simple as to see the cause in a mere 

173 if this was the effect of Age, highly advertised and widely read as volume 
1000 of the Goschen Library it must be remembered that in 1931 the democratic 
process was at a low ebb in national and international affairs, and that even its most 
ardent defenders could not but almost despair of its workability. Even then Jaspers 
spoke out against the pseudo-authority that prevailed in the totalitarian movements 
of both Fascism and Bolshevism: op. cit., lOOf. 

174 Age, 106f. It may be conjectured that it was just Weber's failure to win a 
candidacy in the Democratic party that added to Jaspers' skepticism as to the 
chances of democratic government. Cum grano salis, his case can be compared with 
that of a Plato who was a deadly foe of tyranny while despairing of a republic in 
which a Socrates was doomed. 

175 Age, 221 (Jaspers' italics in the German edition only). 

176 in fairness to Jaspers, it ought to be stated (1) that, obviously, his advocacy 
of the best, the KccAAoi K* dyocGoi* had nothing to do with a defense of privileged 
classes; (2) that the problems of Fiihrer, nobility and mass were no longer political 
problems to him. He did not want for his 'noblemen' any distinctive position on 
the political scale. He did not believe in the possibility or desirability of a minority 
rule; he wanted for them only elbow space for their self-realization as anonymous 
workers in the order of the whole, the inevitable "mass order"; and he saw in them 
the torch-bearers who could carry the light of selfhood through the dark of our 
decaying world into the world of the future: cf. Age, 227, 229f. 


intoxication by the idea of the Self. Nor can it be given on 
strictly Christian ground, viz. that 'after all,' at the 'last judgment,' 
it is the individual self that counts and will have to account for 
itself. To Jaspers, this would be only the mythical garb of the 
'existential' truth. 

It is of the nature, at least, of Jaspers' philosophy that the first 
root and the final reason is to be found in a very personal 
sentiment in his thirst for and insistence on a truly personal 
communication with truly personal Selves, i.e., with men whdj 
were not products of circumstances and parrots of conventional) 
phrases, but makers of themselves and free to communicate thej 
genuine truth of authentic experience. This longing for free 
communion in a covenant of personal greatness is not likely to 
find quick and frequent response and was more likely to find it 
in the dialogue with his brothers in destiny, his 'contemporaries' 
in the past than in the converse with people on today's main- 
street. The following sentence has a strong autobiographical 

If practically everybody whom the individual now encounters in 
life seems to lack value and distinction, if disillusionment is heaped 
upon disillusionment, then it becomes the measure of man's own 
stature how far he succeeds in breaking through, in finding indica- 
tions for his path amid the dispersed embers of the true, and in 
becoming certain where it is that man really is man. 177 

'The individual against the masses' will become the watchword 
particularly in a mass-civilization like ours, which represents a 
menace to the independence of the Self and the spiritual dignity 
of life. It is on the way of this reaction that Jaspers has found 
succor first in Nietzsche and his critique of our time to some 
degree even in his concept of the "superman" (though not as 
the "blond beast") and, since 1913, in Kierkegaard and his 
fight for the "individual" as the "exception," against the tyranny 
of "the masses, the numbers, the public." 178 

."And yet, to be the Exception under polemical conditions . . . 
is in one sense so frightful, almost deadly. Not only is it the 
greatest possible, almost superhuman exertion; but the attitude 
of opposition to others, and such a degree of opposition, is deadly 
to all human sympathy." 179 It must be asked, however, whether 

177 Age, 217 (in a slightly revised translation). 

178 The Journals of S0ren Kierkegaard (translated by Alexander Dru), 207. 
170 Kierkegaard, op. cit. f 517. Jaspers, too, recognizes in the unconditioned Self a 

"quasi-unnatural severity . . . and violence" but, strangely enough, only "against 
itself," Age, 219. 


this position is as unavoidably Christian as it appeared to Kierke- 
gaard. Christianity preaches, after all, the brotherhood of men 
and not only the neighborhood of a few individual Selves in 
their diaspora in the world 180 (a phenomenon whose value I 
certainly do not want to underrate) . But even the bearer of 
Christian election and predestination cannot be equated with 
(somewhat maliciously phrased) 'the exceptional Self.' 

Still, there must be in the Protestant tradition, from which 
Jaspers as well as Kierkegaard and Nietzsche rose, an element 
which favored their extreme reaction to the time. I see it in the 
inwardness of the Protestant man, a deep and absorptive self- 
concern, in comparison to which all social concern, concern for 
the outer welfare of man, is liable to appear shallow and second- 
rate. It is this attitude which prompted Luther's stand in the 
Peasant's War, determines Nietzsche's understanding of religion 
("a religious man thinks only of himself") 181 and has an echo 
throughout Thomas Mann's work, first of all in his Reflections o/ 
an Unpolitical Man. Despite his disowning of Christian unworld- 
liness and his strong sense of social justice, there seems a residue 
of this feeling in Karl Jaspers. 

Although religious and theological problems enter this paper 
only as far as they involve, and are involved in, the problem of 
communication, it is pertinent to point to the contrast between 
Protestantism of the type mentioned and Judaism in the question 
of social ethics and religion. The Jewish God is, emphatically, 
the God of the needy, the stranger, the widow, the orphan and 
the poor. And there is Kierkegaard's stirring interpretation of 
the Akedah (the Abraham-Isaac story) notwithstanding no 
such thing in Judaism as the "teleological suspension of the 
ethical" by virtue of the religious. To the Jews, the covenant 
between God and man is itself a moral contract binding on either 
partner: they are defined by their positions on it. God is the God 
of the covenant and, thus, the God of man, just as man is not the 
animal rationale or the homo faber, but the man of God. 'Ze- 
dakah' (justice seasoned by charity) of both God and man means 
their standing the test in a common trial, in a correlation (b'rith) 
of mutual responsiveness and responsibility. 

That to the Jews correspondence in co-operation belongs to 
the very nature of God as well as man is to be emphasized over 
against the Augustinian Neo-Platonism in the interpretation of 
God's name in Exodus 3:i2ff, the translation of Eheye asher 

181 Nietzsche, Werke (Kroners Taschenausgabe) vol. 77, 281. 


Eheye by the Sum qui Sum. It is no overstatement on Gilson's 
part to call this formula the very cornerstone of Christian philo- 
sophy. 182 One feels the trembling of Augustine's heart in the 
exclamation: "Behold! This is the great Is, the great Is/' 183 And 
we have quoted (pp. 222f, 228f) reverberations of this Christian 
Leitmotif in Jaspers' own thought. It is not possible at this place 184 
to analyze in detail what has happened to the holy name by as- 
similation into the medium of hellenistic and scholastic philosophy. 
Suffice it to say that the promise that is implied in the name: "I 
shall be with you the way I shall decide to be with you whenever 
you seek me in your need" has completely disappeared in Philo 
as well as in its Latin version and, therefore, also in the English 
"I am that I am." The phrase is rendered into Latin not only in 
the tense of the eternal present to designate the Immutable Being 
(Esse est nomen incommutabilitatis); it is also said to denote the 
self-sufficiency, self-containedness, the inner absoluteness of Being 
as such, apart from any relations: "I am that I am this is the 
name I own as my proper name; that I am the God of Abraham, 
the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob this is what you may 
own," since "it is both true and comprehensible to you." 185 

Seen in this way, God is no longer essentially the God of the 
Covenant. In Jaspers, "Bezug" the being drawn of things toward 
one another and, thus, toward the ultimate ground 186 may have 
its reward, but it has no authorization, has no response and is 
none. In responsible action, we may answer for ourselves by 
answering the claims of our fellow beings; but 'in this respect/ 
i.e., in our respect for them, we do not answer a question of 
which they are the carriers rather than the authors. The irrever- 
sibility of a relation which is no mutual and personal relationship 
gives it the character of Schleiermacher's "absolute dependence" 
on the Ab-solute which, as such, is under no personal com-mit- 
ment to us. 187 

182 . Gilson, L f Esprit de la Ptiilosophie Mtditvale 2, 51. 

183 Augusdnus, Enarrationes in Psalmos 101:8. 

184 This will be done in an article "Eheye asher Eheye vs. Sum qui Sum" 
185 Augusdnus, Enarrationes in Psalmos, 134:6. 
ise See above, pp. 253f. 

187 Jaspers' concepdon of divine Transcendence has much in common with 
Schleiermacher's idea of God as the absolute One, the living yet impersonal and 
transcendent ground which excludes all contradictions just as the world in its tran- 
scendence includes them all; and which in contrast with worldly transcendence, can- 
not be approximated as the terminus ad quern of progressive knowledge. Cf. par- 
ticularly Schleiermacher's Dialcktik, 218-227; also Appendix B (Jonas), pp. 152ff; 
D 475; E. 525ff. Bradley's concept of the Absolute is also of this type. 


This is, indeed, what seems to follow from the "Sum qui Sum." 
But it has dangerous implications. It threatens both the personal 
and creative nature of Deity. A person belongs into a social con- 
text. In the social grammar it is a first, second or third person. 
"Personality," says Jaspers, "is that mode of being oneself which, 
in its very nature, cannot be alone; it is something related, must 
have something else apart from it: persons and nature." As per- 
son, "Deity would be in need of man for the sake of communica- 
tion." 188 But this would be a violation of divine majesty. It is 
only consistent with this consideration that Jaspers substitutes 
an incommunicado Transcendence for God qua person, God in 
loving communication with his creatures. At the same time, he 
points at the idea of Trinity only as a way of Theism to extricate 
itself from the dilemma brought about by the 'needless* insistence 
on a personal God: the communication amongst the three persons 
is supposed to place God's personal being beyond the dependence 
on beings outside. 189 

Yet is it not obvious that, in this way of arguing, personal 
relatedness, which seems not unworthy of an infinite Being, is 
reduced to mere relativity and objective conditionedness, which 
is, indeed, contradictory to the very idea of the Absolute? Some- 
how Jaspers is still committed to the original Greek idea of the 
true and supreme Being as unmoved and immutable (for what 
should cause it to move and to act? "The circumstances of action 
would appear trivial and unworthy of the Divine." 190 ) Under the 
present aspect, at least, this appears the reason for his exempting 
Deity from all relation and giving it the status of anonymous, 
absolute Transcendence. 

But the absoluteness of the Divine need not be interpreted 
literally as unrelatedness. Nor is monotheism compelled to give 
way to the monism of an "all-encompassing" substance which 
cannot tolerate any substance besides itself without being limited 
and, therefore, deprived of its boundless infinitude. The Absolute 
would not be mediatized nor would any status of being be com- 
promised by free relations with other beings. The substantiality 

188 Philosophic III, 166. 

189 A similar reflection, but in faithful adherence and justification of the Catholic 
dogma, appears in Edith Stein's Endliches und Ewiges Sein, 324: eternal creation, 
the circle of creative love within Deity is necessary because the mere correlation of 
love between Creator and creature would make God in his love dependent on the 
creatures and their love. (This circle of eternal creation within God is as it were, 
the Christian counterpart of the noesis noescds the thinking on thinking in the 
God of Aristotle.). 

190 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, X, 8. 1178 b 17f. 


of a being would even be enhanced wherever it entertains a rela- 
tion that implies an element o the creative, i.e., wherever it 
posits another being either altogether or by giving it an entirely 
new role and status. A person, for instance, would not be its true 
Self, did it not give and were it not given recognition as a fellow 
being. Thanks to this relation it is not merely another subject 
or object. As to God, there is no competition of things with divine 
Transcendence since, in the ontological order, Transcendence 
would not be at par with the beings with which it deigns to 
communicate. They are not founded in and by themselves, but 
taken to owe their actuality to an act of communication of being, 
their nature to their calling in the distribution of parts within 
the whole, and even their freedom, perhaps, to a sort of divine 
self-restraint which entrusts the creature with an active and re- 
sponsible function in the process of creation. 191 Divine excellence 
would not be impaired by this relation to beings that depend 
with all they are on God not, indeed, as a first cause but as a 
ruling and creative power in this sense on divine authorship, 
so that the primary initiative and ultimate merit would remain 

Is it not enough, then, to secure for God that position of abso- 
lute sovereignty which makes him, for instance in Augustine, the 
"Lord of the Soul?'* "Est Dens in nobis" "God is within us," 
declares Kant in his Opus Postumum, "not as an eternal substance, 
but as a moral relation within me;" i.e., the Absolute is present 
in my unconditional respect for the moral law and, therefore, 
my recognition of the moral agent in my fellow beings. The Holy 
is here revered as the spirit that creates true human community 
and rules in it: "where two or three are gathered in my name, 
there am I in the midst of them." 192 

From a more universal point of view (from which the difference 
of the moral and the natural orders does not disappear, but seems 
somehow provided for in the ordinance of the whole and vaulted 
over by it) , God would be the power of powers, the binding and 
ordering power, which gives things a hold in their own concrete- 

191 In German 'to relate oneself (sich verhalten) has a meaningful ambiguity 
which has been exploited by Rilke and is relevant in this context. The relationship 
to others is here maintained by containing oneself (sich verhalten qua restraint) and 
setting them free. (See above, the poem on p. 240.) The Self-containedness of God 
would thus be an act of supreme resignation rather than a spurning of all relations 
by virtue of absolute transcendence. In one of its aspects, his Transcendence would 
be a product of this abdication so that he appears absent thanks to the discre- 
tion of his presence and is present in the terror of his absence. 

l2 Matthew, 18:20. 


ness and in the concrete universe of subservient powers to which 
they belong and in which they have a chance to establish them- 
selves for a time. 103 It is this conception that of the power of 
powers which, according to the tradition, underlies such names 
of God as Elohim and Shaddai. A monotheism of this type in- 
cludes, therefore, rather than excludes a host of subaltern powers 
the gods and goddesses of polytheism. That is to say, it can 
recognize the spirits of the different spheres and outlooks of life, 
but adds the faith in a unity of the spirit which relates them all 
with one another as constituents of the concrete unity of the 
world and of all mankind. 

Newton's famous scholium to the Principles lodges the nature 
of Deity in precisely this relation (not relativity) of Lordship. 
'God' is to Newton a vox relativa: Deltas est dominatio Dei. And 
Schelling has most eloquently commented on this concept of 
God as, at once, "the Lord of Being" and the Lord of the Cove- 

one could say: God is actually nothing in himself. He is nothing 
but relation, pure relation. For he is nothing but the Lord. What- 
ever we attribute to him over and above this, makes him mere 
substance. . . . Just because he is not concerned with and for him- 
self, but sui securus (secured in and not burdened by his existence), 
He can be engrossed in the care for other things. He is, so to speak, 
altogether ecstatic, hence free from self-concern and devoted to the 
liberation of everything else. 194 

It is true that Schelling himself did not stop at the idea of God 
as the creator of the world nor even at that of the intimate rap- 
port of man and Deity. In this rapport man is God's paramount 
concern, since man is the vinculum of divine unity and realizes 
the unity of the divine aspects (just as, in Jaspers, man's reason 
is the tie of all modes of transcendence). God's absoluteness is 
not properly accounted for, according to Schelling as well as 
Jaspers, by a concept which still contains as creation does 
the correlation with something extra Deum, or at least, praeter 
Deum. Creation it seems to Schelling, though we would ques- 
tion two of these equations creation is causality, causality is 
correlation, correlation is relativity. Hence, he moves towards 
that Absolute Voluntarism in which the divine Will ceases to 
appear "transitive and to move a Being apart from itself: it is 
an immanent Will that moves nothing besides itself/' 195 

l3 Cf., e.g., Plato, Philebus, 27A. 
104 Schelling, Werke, I, X, 260. 
195 Schelling, op. cit. f 277. 


The detailed reference to Schelling has been necessary because 
this Absolute Voluntarism, characteristic as it is of the German 
philosophical tradition, finds a new and most radical representation 
in contemporary Existentialism, above all in Heidegger's Holz- 
wege. But, thanks to the early and close relationship to Schelling, 
the common inheritance from Nietzsche, this tendency, though 
less conspicuous, may still have its sway even in Jaspers' thought. 

In reformulating Nietzsche's will to power, Heidegger insists 
on that immanent Will that wills but itself. "The substance of 
Being is Will." The Will is the immanent nature of every one 
thing as each thing gathers and collects itself in itself. In this 
concretion each has its being as a self-willed entity. This and 
not the love of Christian faith is taken to be the actual and 
active principle of the present world. 196 

Jasper's agnosticism as to the inner nature of ultimate Tran- 
scendence does not allow him to indulge in any such outright 
statement. He even denounces the dogmatism of Nietzsche's 
principle of the Will to Power as "the ultimate substrate and 
substance of everything." 197 And there are decisive differences 
between him and Heidegger indicated, for instance, in Jaspers' 
enthusiastic praise of both reason (the archvillain in Heidegger's 
show) and love. But, for all this, reason is to Jaspers but the 
will to unification, 198 not transcendental unity itself; and love in 
its highest sense is restricted to the never secured, distinctly human 
sphere of co-Existenz. All correlation and, therefore, all love is 
banished from the icy heights of pure Transcendence. 

Under these circumstances, what can it mean to call Transcend- 
ence "the power through which I am myself," the One "that 
attracts us and gives us hold?" 199 What is it actually that gives 
reason the confidence to disclose the substance of Being? Accord- 
ing to Jaspers, the substance of thought is will. What, then, is 
the inmost nature of that one actuality which is illustrated by 
each true, i.e., well-founded act of thought? Is it also will - but 
the absolute, absolutely self-assertive Will (not the wilfulness of 
the selfish individual nor the particularity of a will which still 
lives in the never satisfied intention of union with the One) ? 
Is the unifying power of reason this reflected splendor of pri- 
meval Unity , is reason's will to total communication, after all, 
but the Absolute Will itself, whose light, broken in the manifold- 
ness of human Existenzen, converges again towards its original 

i Cf. Heidegger, Holzwege, 216, 234, 256f. This does not mean that Heidegger 
identifies himself with this conception of the Will. 

WT Wahrheit, 272. i8 Cf. ibid., 701. 190 ibid., 79, 111. 


source? If so, this may, to some extent, hold of all modes of true 
thought. Indeed, says Jaspers, "the identity of Being and thinking 
has, perhaps, to be sought eventually in the identity between the 
actuality of the Will as it prevails in thought, on the one hand, 
and of pure Being, on the otfier." 200 

Somewhat wary hints like this one seem few and far between 
in Jaspers* writings. But they may help to explain the 'existential' 
analogue to the stoic amor fati concept, for instance in the last 
pages of Philosophic. Our love in God would be the community 
we find in the acceptance of common historical destiny. Instead 
of both dreading and enjoying the correlation and communication 
with the Divine, we would freely join in the free surge of the 
Absolute Will which may throw us high and throw us away 
without husbanding care. To become Selves before Transcend- 
ence would include becoming free from the fear for our particu- 
larity, free and ready for the great venture and sacrifice of Exis- 
tenz; it would mean to obtain composure in the active suffering 
of our nothingness, to be able to fulfill ourselves in the very ship- 
wreck of our intentions, in which Being proves its Transcendence 
to finite man. 

This is, I suppose, a fair resum of the famous concluding lines 
of Philosophic, but given in a tenor which slightly accentuates 
the dynamics of those pages so as to give them a more deliberate 
slant toward absolute voluntarism. Read this way, Jaspers would 
insist on a bold 'going with' natura naturans, 1 with the creative 
will in which ours is absorbed and carried beyond itself. We 
would have a heroic variety to the Bible's "not what I will, but 
what thou wilt" heroic, because man would not be supported 
by confidence in a power of love as the ruler of that movement 
to which he is to confide his life. 

The recognition of such an undercurrent in Jasper's thought, of 
a metaphysics of the Will that wills itself would go far in explain- 
ing the self-containedness and all-encompassing, even from the 
human perspective the recklessness of Transcendence, in which 
correlation and communication are left behind. In German tra- 
dition, the denial not of God, but of a God "to hear our 
lamentations" goes back to the Spinozism of Goethe's youthful 
storm and stress poem "Prometheus." And the cruel harshness 
of the world regime to which we have been subject during our 
lifetime cannot but lend strength to such a philosophical faith. 

201 This is the way Heidegger interpreted (Holzwegc, 255ff) Rilke's poem, "Wie 
die Natur ____ ," Spate Gedichte, 90. Cf.. e.g., Wahrheit, 997. 


There is, weirdly familiar to us, something demoniacal in the 
absoluteness of such an irresponsive and irresponsible Will, 
whether our own wills are sparks from it or not, whether en- 
throned in silence its unity transcends the unifying efforts of 
our reason altogether, or reason tries to draw us back into the 
current and dynamics of an absolute, absolutely self-willed move- 
ment. In any case, and in tune with the original mood of Jaspers' 
thought, the unity in question would be beyond duality as well 
as dualism. It would seem to be an absolute, monolithic unity 
rather than the unity of the spirit in an absolute relation. But 
it may be submitted that, in the long run, an interpretation of 
Deity in terms of sit venia verbo a more constitutional mon- 
archy will not only be milder, but may be farther-seeing and do 
better, and may thus carry the day even if only the day after 


In fact, there are in Jaspers himself strong, though carefully 
qualified indications of a more parliamentary procedure, of a 
dialogue of life that does not leave out even the Highest. The 
main trend of Jaspers' philosophy and, on the whole, his concept 
of Transcendence run actually counter to an excessive voluntar- 
ism. The mystery of Transcendence cannot be simply equated 
with the incomprehensibility of an absolute, absolutely uncom- 
mitted Will. Jaspers is loath to read into Transcendence the 
dynamics of human life. To the "eternal peace which all strug- 
gling and striving find in God, the Lord" 202 corresponds to be 
even, somewhat ambiguously, identified with it the "stillness 
of pure Being itself." 203 

Similarly ambiguous as the "calm in God" seems, at first, the 
"guidance" granted by Transcendence to Existenz and faith. 204 
To clarify the sense it has in Jaspers will help to determine the 
proper locus of his theory of Transcendence in comparison with 
monotheism. Now, "guidance" partly means, in voluntaristic 
terms, that the Absolute Will guides ours just as one movement 
takes the other in tow, or as in a machine the particular motion 
is regulated by the working principles of the whole with the 
difference, however, that we freely entrust ourselves to the order 
of the One. Aware of it in an ultimate certitude (Grundgewiss- 

202 Wahrheit, 328 (a quotation from Goethe). My italics. 

203 ibid., my italics. Cf. op. cit. t 180f. 204 Cf., e.g., Scope, 17. 


heit) and contact, we are in a kind of "permanent dialogue (1) 
with Transcendence/' But there are no certainties in this certi- 
tude. There are no clear-cut prescriptions to be gained from this 
"dialogue," but only challenges to try and risk and to leap into 
an opaque situation. It is only owing to this resoluteness on our 
part that the "hints and signs awaken" to the significance they 
can have for us. 205 Hence, the "guidance" which Transcendence 
gives, means often not more than this: that our trust in it sets 
us free free from identifying ourselves with our worldly projects 
and with the state and course of worldly affairs. 

In any case, the Zugkraft (attraction) of Transcendence, to 
which Jaspers frequently refers, seems the attractive force which 
draws reason in us toward the center of unity rather than the 
tractive power which draws us along. 206 As the "fountainhead of 
strength," Transcendence is the independent value in its relation 
to Exist enz, as the dependent one dependent even and just when 
the Self realizes and asserts itself: "The 'I am' combines the weight 
of my being irreplaceable and unique with the defect of existing 
only owing to, and in view of, Transcendence which gives me to 
myself; I thus experience the most radical dependence in the 
most authentic act of being my Self." 207 

While thus maintaining its superiority, Transcendence seems 
turned toward us in a way which gives to its "guidance," after 
all, much of the flavor of personal correlation in what Jaspers 
himself compared with a personal "dialogue." Not only Existenz 
is oriented towards Transcendence; Transcendence is also ori- 
ented towards Existenz. "Without Existenz the meaning of Tran- 
scendence would fall away." 208 However qualified this correlation 
proves to be Transcendence is present only to Existenz, whereas 
Existenz is altogether due to Transcendence still, it seems as 
if we were counted upon and can count on Transcendence: "It 
is only to Transcendence that I can surrender unconditionally." 209 
It is on its guidance that I can rely. Love transcends everything 
in a move toward Being itself. "There is working within us from 
our depth something that fills us with longing and hope. It is the 
ground of confidence that it will speak whenever we are in need. 
It connects us with Being prior to creation, with fathomless 
(abgriindige) Transcendence." 210 

Utterances like these and there are many are animated by 
a personal warmth such as seems adequate only in communica- 

205 Wahrheit, 698f. 208 Ibid., 79. 

206 Cf., e.g., ibid., 111. 209 ibid., 110. 

207 ibid., 621; cf., e.g. 110, 164. 210 ibid., 991. 


tion with a personal element in Transcendence: "as far as we are 
personally affected as individuals, as far as we enter qua persons 
a relation to Transcendence qua person, we call it God." 211 'God* 
is a name that is not merely "sound and smoke" as the vague 
sentimentalism of the young Goethe called it, 212 but it does not 
cover the whole of Transcendence either. God may be said to be 
personal, but qua Transcendence, he is no person no-body to 
communicate with. Communication is and remains "what makes 
men human." 213 Being in its fullness, the being of an intellectus 
archetypus for instance (seinsursprungliches Denken), is beyond 
the schisms of subject and subject as well as subject and object, 
with no need for bridging the gap between them through Meinen 
und Beziehung, i.e., intentions and intentionalities of will and 
perception, through any contrivances of communicative language 
or other means of communion. 214 

Hence finitum incapax infiniti (the finite cannot grasp the 
infinite) Transcendence, according to Jaspers, cannot be grasped 
in the categories of either subject or object. But does the Sum 
qui Sum for this reason have no preferential status at all over the 
Est quod Est? 215 If not, how could Transcendence affect us, as 
person to person? How could it assume the role of a guide? How 
could reason appear as "the reflected splendor of the One?" 216 
Does not Jaspers* own analysis suggest that Transcendence lies 
beyond both subject and object, but perhaps as absolute Will 
in the direction of the former rather than the latter? (Just as, 
for instance, Descartes' creative substance, although being above 
res cogitans as well as res extensa, is more closely related to the 
former and its freedom.) And, if we may come back to our ex- 
panded use of 'communication,' would it not be possible to speak 
of communication on three levels the impersonal one, that 
of things, the inter-personal one between man and man, and the 
suprapersonal as the way in which being superpersonal itself 
Transcendence speaks to us? The transition from the first to the 
second level would consist in our giving a hearing to the entreaty 
and a voice to the meaning of things. 217 The transition from the 
second to the third would be our listening to what, in an ascending 
scale, may be called the Voice' of reason, conscience, the Super- 
Ego, God; and also that communication in which we lay ourselves 

211 /bid., 111. 215 See above, pp. 222f . 

212 Goethe, Faust, v. 3457. 216 Wahrheit, 185. 

213 Wahrheit, 6f; cf. Scope, 79f. 217 See above, sect. VIII. 

214 Wahrheit, 387. 


open (whether in prayer or not) to powers which strengthen us 
to make up for our failures. 

These suggestions are tentative. They are not simply true or 
false. They are more or less adequate interpretations of what 
we would like to call 'uncurtailed' experience. They represent 
a mode of "absolute Empiricism." They are 'existential' pro- 
posals, not demonstrable propositions. Still, they have a sort of 
pragmatic verification in what they can do for us. They may 
give us a deepened feeling of life and seem to illumine the world's 
depth in their own, slightly magic way as reminders in which 
something like that Mitwissenschaft mit der Schopfung, that 
original familiarity with the creation, wakes up of which Schel- 
ling and Jaspers speak. I am not tempted to overrate the strict 
validity of these interpretive formulas. But they have their value 
in the inner concentration and the meditative mood from which 
they spring, and which they may create an intellectual atmos- 
phere which keeps the avenues open for new experiences and 
their account, or for the renewal of old ones which we forgot 
or, finally, for decisions which philosophy may bring into sight, 
but which it cannot make on anybody's behalf. This attitude 
certainly does not go against the grain of Jaspers' own philosophiz- 
ing. It is also a "faith in communication," wider (though, per- 
haps, less firm) than Jaspers' "philosophical faith." 218 


Although not quite satisfied with Jaspers' account of incom- 
municable 219 and incommunicative Transcendence, I do appreci- 
ate his reasons. His position may be partly clarified by a brief 
comparison with a significant passage in Husserl's Ideas concern- 
ing a pure Phenomenology and Phenomenological Philosophy. 
Husserl speaks there of the stream of pure consciousness and the 
transcendence, with regard to it, of God, of the Ego and of the 
world. But transcendence means something different in each 
case. God's absolute Transcendence would be, as it were, "the 
polar opposite*' to the merely relative transcendence of the world. 
And it would also differ from the status of every ego of pure 
consciousness: my ego shares in the absoluteness of consciousness 
and transcends it only in the sense of being not a part of the fleet- 

218 Cf. Scope, 45f. 

219 Cf., e.g., Philosophic I, 58: "Existenz is related to what it is not the other 
which appears incommunicable in its decisive presence and always garbled in philo- 
sophical expression." 


ing experiences through which I live. It is the subjective pole 
flanking consciousness on one side, whereas the object of inten- 
tional experience flanks consciousness on the other. 220 

Although at this point he is Husserl's equal in the cautiousness 
of his distinctions, Jaspers has the merit of locating Transcendence 
more precisely by characterizing it in two ways. First, he correlates 
it to Existenz, whereas the world is the correlate, "the other," to 
consciousness-as-such. 221 Secondly, the Divine does not only have 
to him a transcendence that differs from those of the subject 
as well as the object; it is Transcendence pure and simple. Hence, 
being absolutely unlike any object, it can never become an object 
of knowledge; falling not under the specific category of 'subject/ 
it cannot be of the nature of a person, an individual Self. It 
plays no part in that communication which constitutes inter- 
personal life; and its presence is not communicable in positive 
terms, but only by the neti, neti of negative theology. Everything 
has its being from and toward it: but being all-comprehensive 
Transcendence is not comprehensible in itself. 222 


These formal arguments, somewhat in the style of the Neo- 
Kantian school with which Jaspers was familiar through its repre- 
sentatives at Heidelberg, carry enough weight with the philoso- 
pher Jaspers not to be neglected in the statement of his position. 
Yet he did not reach this position because of them. 

We have traced the sources of his philosophical faith in the 
decisive experiences of his life, including the productive inter- 
course with those thinkers who helped him to understand himself 
and articulate his ideas. His way through Kierkegaard in reacting 
to the general 'intellectual situation of the time* explains his 
opposition to the positivistic as well as dialectical schemata of 
evolution. As concerns the problem of Transcendence, this way 
leads to a marked affinity of his thought with that of the 'theology 
of crisis.' They are contemporaries in position and opposition 
despite all the differences between his struggling for 'existential' 
truth (increasingly under such auspices as Lessing's 223 ) and the 
reliance on revealed truth in the sophisticated 'fundamentalism' 
of the Barthians. 

220 Cf. E. Husserl, Ideen zu einer reinen Phanomenologic und phanomcnologi- 
schen Philosophic, 51 and 58. 

221 Wahrhcit, 79. 222 Cf., e.g., ibid., 1050. 
228 Cf., e.g., Wahrheit, 119, 853, 918, 949ff; Tragedy, 83ff. 


In the paradoxical union between intimate closeness and infinite 
distance of the Divine this signum of the religious phenomenon 
Jaspers stresses the numinous character of Transcendence, 
though not to such an extent that the immensity of the mystery 
overshadows the confidence felt in the presence of the One. This 
is not a short-range confidence and security. The ruling of the 
One is revered in the very wreckage of our projects. Self-realiza- 
tion confronting Transcendence may need (and triumph in) 
the freedom of self-abdication for the sake of possibilities which 
are not ours, and the freedom of self-sacrifice which knows of "infi- 
nite hope even though not for us" (Franz Kafka). In the ship- 
wreck of their own world, in the face of nothingness, men may 
still be able to endorse the claims incumbent on man for a world 
yet to be. 224 

Communication with the past is thus complemented by the 
communication with the future, the reverent devotion to the 
former by sacrificial devotion to the latter. The inner freedom 
of this historical attitude rests on a religious ground which 
mutatis mutandis may still be the ground of the religion of 
our fathers though it is no child's faith. 

It is equally far from panicky fright of the unknown as from 
nai've familiarity with it. Precisely in exploring things and extend- 
ing the realm of comprehension and communication we may learn 
to revere the One in silence. Transcendence is strictly a dimen- 
sion of its own. For Jaspers to deny it the status and attributes of 
a person and urge restraint in 'thouing' God is, however, not 
only to assert, as a metaphysical recognition, the absolute disparity 
between God and man; nor is it, so to speak, a mere postulate of 
'taste' in tune with a time which brings this otherness home to 
us, a time of agony, a time full of incomprehensible suffering on 
the part of millions of innocent people; it seems to him also a 
postulate of the moral life. "Communication with the Deity tends 
to obstruct communication amongst men . . . Communication 
from Self to Self as the true actuality in which Transcendence can 
have a voice, will be crippled by a direct and obtrusive approach 
to Transcendence as a Thou/' 225 

It must be said, however, that this last point which concerns 
us here particularly is not beyond doubt. There is, on the one 
hand, a non sequitur in the contention that to love God first will 
stand in the way of loving our fellow man. Christian doctrine 

224 Age, 230. A somewhat similar ethos of religious rather than heroic resignation 
in Hermann Hesse. 

225 Philosophic III, 166f; cf. II, 272f. * 


such as we have it in Bernard of Clairvaux's "Sermon on the 
Song of Songs" or in Luther's The Liberty of the Christian Man 
has it that the filiatio from God engenders the imitatio of God 
in the love for his children: "from the love for God flows a free, 
willing, cheerful life of gratuitous service to man." 226 From the 
human point of view, this order of love has the great advantage 
of giving the imperative of love a universal scope. It cannot 
be narrowed down by racial definitions or class distinctions as 
to which men have a title to my love or even as to which of 
God's children I may consider my fellow beings. Is Jaspers' 
position equally well protected against the creeping in of danger- 
ous discriminations? 

It could be, if it were on equal ground with the Jewish teaching 
for instance of a Hermann Cohen: "The correlation between 
man and God can become an actuality only through the correla- 
tion which it implies that between man and man." 227 In the 
Bible, this latter love is kindled by compassion compassion 
which is so little in evidence in Jaspers' writings (even as it is 
fought in those of Nietzsche) . There is, however, compassion in 
all human love, since there is suffering in all human beings. It 
is through compassion, according to Cohen, that the 'other' being 
becomes my 'fellow' being with whom I bear and for whom I 
live. This is religious socialism which is not contrary, but com- 
plementary, to religious individualism. Co-Existenz is here largely 
communication in suffering with and for my fellow creatures. 

It is noticeable that amongst the ' existentials' of Heidegger as 
well as of Jaspers, the 'living with' also co-Existenz in the 
literal sense has a conspicuous place, whereas the 'living for' 
is somehow discredited. The care for the other Heidegger 
argues tends to put him under tutelage instead of helping him 
to become free to care for himself, for his Self. Exemplary ex- 
sistence (Vorausspringen), not compassionate as-sistance (Ein- 
springen) is the watch-word. 228 

In the same vein, and for the same reasons, Jaspers had to 
deny that anybody can help the other in the essentials of Exis- 
tenz 22 * The essential thing is self-realization, not devotion. No- 
body can 'leap' for the other. Communication with others is, after 
all, only a means for self-realization, the relation to others only 
a means for that relation to oneself which is one half of Exist enz 

226 Luther, Von der Freiheit eines Christenmenschen, 36 W; cf., e.g., 38 W. 

227 Hermann Cohen, Religion der Vernunft aus den Quellen des Judentums, 133. 

228 Cf. M. Heidegger, Sein und Zeit, I, 122. 

229 Wahrhei t f 846. 


(in Kierkegaard's definition) , and which as faithfulness to one's 
demon, angel, entelechy I do not wish to deny, as Buber does. 230 
The contact with others elicits selfhood. As the vehicle of this 
appeal communication is indispensable to concrete Existenz. 
Indubitable as this may be, it is more emphatically asserted than 
convincingly shown. 231 Communication "seems (!) to produce . . . 
that which is communicating: independent selves." Hence, my 
freedom is not without that of the other, my Thou. 232 No argu- 
ment is needed where decisive experience speaks once more, 
the experience of Jaspers' youth: the insufficiency of the lonely 
individual, a life without adequate response, in this sense an 
'ex-communicated' and frustrated existence. Finite existence is 
in search of co-Existenz. ("It is not good that man should be 
alone.") E contrario, the Infinite, the self-sufficient Being, seems 
beyond the need of communication. 233 

The way toward my Self thus goes through my Thou. The 
absolute will to communication is for Jaspers an 'existential' 
imperative. But, whereas this will make us ready to welcome or, 
rather, to re-cognize the friend when he comes, he may fail to 
do so. His appearance is a datum, a gift not a factum, an achieve- 
ment. 234 And, inasmuch as love in communication with free 
Selves "personal love is the first and original one in which 
all love for Being finds its consummation," 235 there remains an 
element of metaphysical chance in our Self-realization as well as 
in our love for God in whom the lines of love meet and the 
union between Self and Self is performed. When philosophy 
has said all it can, there remains for the individual thinker the 
possibility of Atheism which the philosopher, faithful to his 
ground, may reject but whose menace he cannot ignore as the 
human being he is. 236 Life is never exclusively true or untrue, 
faithful or faithless. 

230 M. Buber, Between Man and Man, 167. As to the different angles of the prob- 
lem of self-realization, see below, section xix. 

231 "The questions: 'why is communication?', 'Why am I not alone?' can be just 
as little answered in a positive understanding as the question about selfhood:" Phi- 
losophie II, 50. 

232 Reason, 92; Philosophic II, 57; cf. Origin, 154f. 

233 This corresponds to the Greek idea of the Good as the Self-Sufficient; hence 
the Aristotelian praise of the self-sufficient contemplative life. It is in adaptation to 
this concept that one of the Hebrew names for God El Shaddai has occasionally 
been interpreted as "The Self-Sufficient Being." It will be better to translate El 
Shaddai, in accordance with the original meaning of Eheye asher Eheyc, as "the 
Power of Powers," "the almighty power that suffices to satisfy all needs," "sufficient 
to bring into being and keep alive" whatever it wants: cf. Maimonides, More Ne- 
bukhim, Book I, ch. 61. 

234 Cf. Philosophic II, 59, 71. 285 Wahrheit, 1002. 286 Cf. Reason, lS7ff. 


Jaspers takes exception to the worldlessness of Kierkegaard's 
Christianity. Yet, however excruciating Kierkegaard's solitary 
existence may have proved to be, his worldlessness, his failure to 
communicate with others as the 'exception' he was, was com- 
pensated for by the fact that, 'after all,' he was not threatened 
by godlessness; the one communication with the divine Thou 
seemed always open to him: "It costs exertion! But how blessed 
to be so near to the source as I am. If thou, O God, art like the 
source, I am the man at the source. No one can help me, and in 
a sense I understand no one. But I have the source so near, oh, 
so near." 237 

This exacting comfort may not be ours. I for one am siding 
with Jaspers in seeking a way through the world toward a God 
who often seems so far away that the most we can do seems to 
expect (and expect in vain) his message like that in Kafka's 
parable "a message from a dead man. But you sit at your win- 
dow when evening falls and dream it to yourself." 238 

Or is it no death message, after all? The correlation of Existenz 
and Transcendence implies (in personal terms) that God is alive 
if he is alive in us and our living faith, even in our struggle for 
faith. 239 That he is dead does not mean that he does not exist 
(such an objective statement has no place in the syntax of reli- 
gious experience). It may mean that our soul has become dumb, 
and that the circulation between Existenz and God has ceased 
to function. 'Tor who will give thanks ere he receives, and answer 
ere he has heard the calling?" 240 The very term 'Transcendence' 
which Jaspers uses seems to indicate for God a state pending, 
as it were, between life and death. A correlation with strict 'Tran- 
scendence' as one of its partners is not only paradoxical like the 
covenant between the Infinite and the Finite but paralytic. Yet, 
is all silence that of death? Perhaps, the Nietzschean news of the 
death of Great Pan was not altogether verified by the fact that 
nobody seemed to care: maybe, some people did not care because 
they knew it was not altogether true. Transcendence is absence in 
presence. And one of its forms may correlate to the state of ex- 
pectancy of a presence which we do not, or do no longer, enjoy and 
the feeling of a void and a need which is not, or is no longer, satis- 
fied. Transcendence is like the other half, the dark half, of the 

237 Kierkegaard, Journals, 521. 

288 Franz Kafka, "An Imperial Message," in Parables. 

239 "Faith" says Kierkegaard "is an infinite anxiety as to whether one has 
faith and, behold, just that anxiety is faith": cf. Journals, 243. 

240 From H61derlin, "Der Mutter Erde": "Wer will auch danken, eh' er empfangt. 
Und Antwort geben, eh' er gehort hat?" 


moon, which is nevertheless there for us there as the comple- 
ment of the one we see; or, to speak with Rilke, 241 it is like the 
"other opposite" of the swing the half circle which we cannot 
'swing/ and which is familiar to us as that which, in turning us 
down, directs our ascent. 


But the way of this ascent, the rise to Transcendence may be 
if not less steep, then at least less narrow than it appears under 
Jaspers' presuppositions: it need not lead exclusively through 
self-realization; and, above all, this realization itself will not be 
restricted to communication with our peers and the loving strug- 
gle with our predestined Thou. To argue this point will help us 
to recapitulate some of the principal issues of the present paper; 
and, again, it may be helped by looking, in the following sections, 
at man to use expedient terms as creature, as creator, and 
as both. 

It is the creaturely feeling which prevails in the 'cosmic piety' 
not only of primitive religions but of most of the pagan creeds, 
and in combination with social piety for instance in the 
teaching of a Kungfutse. Cosmic piety can be found even in the 
nai'vete achieved by sceptics such as Montaigne the feeling 
that, through our whole bodily being, we are in contact and 
communication with the life-giving powers of 'mother* nature, 
on a much broader front and in a greater depth than in the 
pointed way of our juvenile intellect: "the simplest way of giving 
oneself up to nature is the wisest way of doing it/' 242 From this 
half indulged and half affected ignorance the faith of a naturalist 
may branch out in many directions, for instance in that of a 
scientific naturalism such as Spinoza's. The element of the crea- 
tural is retained here in the subordination of man to the universal 
order, the rejection of his claims to a privileged status within the 
whole. The religious reverence consists here of the feeling that 
we are rooted in a deeper ground than that of nntura naturata, 
the phenomenal world; we confess to a nature which we cannot 
understand in the infinitude of its infinite attributes. The "face 
of the whole physical universe" gives not the full expression of 
natura naturans. In the "union of the mind with the whole of 
nature" we have the fruition of the One sui communicabile , i.e., 
the One which, thanks to its own goodness, communicates to us 

241 Rilke, "Schaukel des Herzens," in Neue Literarischc Welt, January 10, 1952. 

242 Montaigne, "De l f Experience." 


its eternity of joy, and which kindles in our souls the desire to 
communicate to others and share with them the same happiness. 243 

I refer to this well known example of scientific ethos for two 
reasons. First, it shows the making of a Self which does not take 
place directly within the medium of co-Existenz. ('Existential' 
communication appears here as a result rather than as a means 
of self-realization.) Moreover, it represents devotion to a ground 
of being in which man and world, and, again, the series of things 
and that of ideas, the Encompassing which we are and that which 
we are not, are grounded as different expressions of the same 
order and do not form a transcendental contrast. But, whereas 
the peace in God-Nature may still seem immanentism to a Kierke- 
gaardian Self in its confrontation with divine Transcendence, I 
submit that this Deus sive Natura has become both an abstract 
part and a necessary aspect of every image in which Deity may 
appear to us today. 244 

The second reason is that the philosophical ethos of an amor 
intellectualis, in which nature is embraced rather than mastered, 
is kindred, on the one hand, to the love of Existenz for Tran- 
scendence ("he who loves God, cannot attempt to make God love 
him in return" 245 ) . And it is akin, on the other hand, to that 
ethos of the artist which, in the rehabilitation of Spinozism, was 
extolled by Herder and K. Ph. Moritz and incarnated in Goethe. 
It is noteworthy that from Spinoza Goethe derived, together with 
the unselfishness of devotion to the order of Being, an idea of 
art which sees art as congenial to nature in the inner necessity 
and purposelessness of communication which distinguish both. 
Goethe's gratuitous spending to men of his art as a gift of nature 
was thus to be kept apart from the complementary handling of 
things in practical life and in the service of human ends. 246 

It has been said of Goethe that he made himself, "out of a 
dark product of nature a clear product of himself." 247 He thus 
verified the incorrect, yet revealing etymological definition of 
person as per se una. But he did it in three media: not only as 

243 Spinoza, Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione, Opera, ed. Gebhardt, II, 5ff. 

244 in other words: whereas Jaspers leans toward a negative theology, in which 
the categories of the personal and the impersonal are equally inapplicable, I see in 
Transcendence a Beyond in which the personal and the impersonal are both emi- 
nently actual and far (but not equally far) surpassed. 

245 Spinoza's Ethics, V, 19. 

246 Cf. Goethe, Dichtung und Wahrheit, Books XIV and XVI. Also Herder, Gott, 
especially 3r4 Dialogue, and K. Ph. Moritz, Von der bildenden Nachahmung des 

247 F. W. Riemer, Mitteilungen iiber Goethe (ed. Pollmer, 135). 


persona dramatis, as an actor and agent on the stage of inter- 
personal relations, but also, and above all, through the study of 
nature and in the concentration, integration and composure his 
life gained in the medium of art, the composition of his work. 
Art was the center-piece, the outcome of empathy, communication 
and communion with nature (including man) . It was the fruit 
ripened in this communication to be communicated again to 
the reader and spectator and to convey to them a similar freedom 
of unbiased, impartial outlook, a similar katharsis from the pas- 
sions. Art was thus believed to be a service to nature, 248 but also 
one to man. And, indeed, its human mission should not be 
slighted for being indirect, through the mediation of the work, 
not in personal intercourse of immediate action and reaction 
within a concrete situation. Suum cuique. 

While being a child of productive solitude, the making of the 
Self in the work of art may thus provide for new possibilities 
of communication amongst Selves in their self-constitution, co- 
Ex istenz and relationship. Conversely, communication in life as 
well as through art may not be less intensive and, in a way, pro- 
found, for being not altogether, nor even predominantly, on the 
level of proper selfhood. 

Nature, also nature in man, has its own heights and depths 
which, in fact, Jaspers does not overlook. 249 He is also eager to 
point out, over against the tornness of Being, the interrelations 
and even the interpenetration of every mode of being and com- 
prehension with every other. Still, Existenz always enjoys a pre- 
ferential status. The orientation toward it is responsible for the 
unilinear hierarchy of these modes which seems to prevent Jaspers 
from doing always full justice to forms of intercourse different 
from communication amongst Selves. 

For this reason, I take the liberty of using another reference to 
Goethe to The Elective Affinities and the ruling there, within 
the human sphere and in competition with the moral order, of 
an analogue to the natural law of gravitation. The attraction is 
not simply toward the other sex, but it is just as little that which 
elicits communication between one Self and its Thou it is a 
blessed and fatal being drawn and "flowing out" of one being 
towards the other, for them to enjoy perfect peace in "purely 
being together," "without need for either glance or word or 
gesture or touch." Edward and Ottilie have their beings con- 
centrated in a relationship whose speechless happiness is not 
that of eloquent silence beyond communication, i.e., "in view of 

248 See above, 239ff. 249 Cf., e.g., Wahrheit, 271. 


the ineffable, but an effortless and delightful calm in one another's 
presence. It is like the fitting together of two halves of one lovely 
fruit. 250 This is a perfection such as cannot be found in the un- 
ending struggle of personal life, and gives a glance into mysteries 
of Nature and the dynamics of universal rapports, a glance 
which adds to indications we found in previous sections (XI, XII) 
under the titles of co-naissance , in-tention, in-clination, ad-version, 
etc., there from the point of view of cognition and a general 


Let us now move from a self-realization whose organ is not di- 
rectly inter-personal communication, and from a communication 
which is not properly an organ for the realization of personal 
selfhood, to self-realization by way of communication among 
individual Selves. This leads to the problem of the ethical status 
of the two factors self-realization and communication in rela- 
tion to one another. For reasons which should be evident from 
previous statements (sections XIV-XVII) I give preference 
though both are inseparable to an ethics of free devotion, an 
ethics of self-giving over against one of self-realization. That 
means, in a way, a conversion of the means-end relation in 
question. From the moral and, perhaps, the metaphysical 
viewpoint, self-realization would become a factor in the order 
of communication, communion and community among free 
Selves. An indispensable factor since the individual Self would 
be a constituent of this order; and since, without being somebody 
myself, I cannot possibly be anything to anybody. Even so, the 
shift of emphasis will make a practical difference. 251 

250 Jaspers himself deals with these problems in discussing what he considers two 
types of Existenz "the law of the day and the passion for the night." Relevant are 
particularly the thoughtful though enigmatically phrased paragraphs on eroticism 
in Philosophic III, 105f, 187ff. But with him the profundity and transparence of the 
erotic depends on its becoming a human cipher to Existenz: "Eroticism becomes a 
cipher in the sensualization of the intercourse of human beings in the state of abso- 
lute communications" (189). But is this the key to the mystery of a love such as 
Romeo's and Juliet's? 

251 Here, as so often, it is important to distinguish between the axiological, ethi- 
cal and metaphysical perspectives. Axiologically in objective evaluation there 
may be no act superior to the making of the Self by itself. But this making will not 
normally be the moral objective. It seems an offshoot rather than the aim of human 
striving. The moral spirit is one of loving respect for man; moral action is to be a 
contribution to an order of life in which this spirit prevails and as an action of 
love and respect it is devoted to my fellow being and true fellowship rather than to 


It will make me less dependent on meeting my predestined 
Thou, together with my peers and contemporaries of all ages 
the supreme challenge which may yield me the supreme profit 
of gaining myself. Freed from the preoccupation by paramount 
religious self-concern, I ought to be ready to recognize my Thou 
in everybody with whom and for whom I can do the works of 
love, who, in his sufferings, is the object of brotherly charity 
for we, too, have been in 'the land of bondage' , and who as a 
free personal agent commands our respect and is our ally in 
establishing a 'kingdom of ends.' It is true that the concrete situa- 
tion will exercise a selective function as to who can actually 
figure in this role of the present Thou. But this Thou will then 
step forth from a space of Thouhood, i.e., as an individual repre- 
sentative of an order to which I belong as a person and constitu- 
tive member. 252 This order is alive in my responsible response 
to the claims which the Thou presents, and which I have to 
recognize in attending and making myself available to whatever 
or whoever speaks to me and lays hold of me through them. As 
human claims, they have a holy right and place me confronting 
the Holy, even though they may be arbitrary and illegitimate as 
to their special contents and objectives. This openness and pres- 
ent-mindedness, both in respect to and respect for the other 
human being as my fellow being in the personal realm, recognizes 
the other as both second person and alter ego, an agent like me, 
and in his own right. And this rootedness in common ground and 
readiness for communion and 'community service* is the best 
guarantee of that unqualified will to total (i.e., complete) and 
boundless (i.e., universal) communication which, in Jaspers, is 
Vernunft itself as the gift of Vernehmen, reason as attention to 
the voice of the One in the claims of the many. 

The need for such a warrant, for a representative of universal- 
ity, has been acknowledged by Jaspers himself. This is evidenced 

myself (even though, in fact, it adds to my growth). And metaphysically the Holy, 
the Absolute, may be experienced in just this sacramental spirit, as the highest ex- 
pression of that unity in actu, i.e., that power of unification through which the uni- 
verse is permanently renewed. It transcends, it seems to me, the unifying power of 
reason in us not as a sort of monolithic unity in static perfection; it transcends it 
only in the sense that our reason respects and tries to join it in its universal sweep 
in which we are given a distinguished co-operative part. 

252 Over against the nihilism of a 'love* for everything and nothing a mere and 
empty declamation, the warmth of humanitas, philanthropy (just as that of the love 
for nature) has its own right and is not to be disposed of as condescendingly (as in 
Philosophic II, 279) as mere "extenuation" of true and ardent love. Cf. also Max 
Scheler, Wesen und Formen der Sympathie (1923), 115ff in contradistinction to 
Scheler's earlier writings. 


by the fact that (1) the introduction and rehabilitation of reason 
as a major term, (2) its intimate connection with Existenz and 
(3) the decree, as it were, which equates reason with the will 
to absolute communication date only from 1935. They appear 
in the lectures on Reason and Existenz, given at the University 
of Groningen two years after the appeal of reason and to it and 
the will to such communication had been abrogated by Adolph 
Hitler. 253 Hence the change of terminology is somewhat of a 
conversion; it is, at least, of more than terminological relevance. 
Although communication remains even now a vehicle of self- 
realization, "the historical narrowness of communication" is no 
longer played off, as an inescapable guilt, against a superficial 
and "imaginary universal possibility" of doing justice to all 
others. And it seems now left to reason to give the secure con- 
fidence that intensive communication in small circles will lead 
into the "historical width of a possible unity with all mankind." 254 
What I would call the formal equality of men as personal 
agents, which vaults over the material differences of the individ- 
uals, 255 is thus intensified to kinship by reason. In this way, reason 
now serves in Jaspers once more to define man not, however, as 
a rational animal, but rather in his existence as a unique personal 
Self, living with other Selves in unique historical communication, 
in relations of his and their own making. 


The authorship and authenticity of man in these inter-personal 
relationships shows communication in our sense on the distinctive 
human level of personal response and responsibility. It is by way 
of communication of all sorts social and political, artistic and 
philosophical that man realizes himself as a "second maker." 

253 A pre-stage of the recognition of the quasi super-rational function of reason 
can be seen in the Appendix on "Kant's Theory of Ideas" to the Psychologic der 
Weltanschauungen (cf. also Reason, 49). The three volumes of Philosophic (1932), 
however, fail to assign reason a distinctive and a distinguished r61e. They speak, e.g., 
(II, 116) with regard to objective and empirical knowledge of 'the rationality of 
mere life/ of 'reasonable consciousness-as-such' two functions which are heteroge- 
neous, according to Wahrheit: only a leap can lead from the comprehensiveness of 
"consciousness-as-such" to reason as the bond of all modes of comprehension. 

254 Philosophic II, 60; III, 123, in contrast with Wahrheit, 837: "In the genesis 
of man by way of reason, the One of Transcendence is felt by the One of actual his- 
torical Existenz: the unity of Existenz appears together with the emergence of the 
unity of all history." 

255 "Our respect is due to the human being as such and has no degrees" (Simone 
Weil, L'Enracinement, 20). 


Die Mitwissenschaft um die Schopfung, the recollection in which 
he proves privy to creation, is translated into life and 'worked 
out' in the creation of social, moral, political order and com- 
munity, in education and in all communications via language 
and art. In all these realms not only Being as such seems com- 
municated to us from the source of all being, but also and in 
particular creative being, that spark of creativity which Jaspers 
calls reason. The image is Plato's: the spark seems transmitted 
to us from an ever turning "wheel of fire," the creative spirit that 
animates the whole. 250 Don't we thus partake in that "formation, 
transformation" in which "the eternal meaning is eternally enter- 
tained?" 257 

But (reads the counter-question) are these not merely high- 
sounding phrases, rejected not only by the cynicism of our age, 
but contrary to any sober appraisal of our condition? They will 
have to be qualified indeed. They appear completely meaning- 
less, however, only to a life which has lost its meaning completely. 

It was not mere hybris on Michelangelo's part to represent, in 
the Sistine Chapel, the Creator in the image of the artist himself. 
It is through his own creativity that man becomes aware of the 
creativity in which he participates. The narcissism in contempo- 
rary art, a poiesis poieseos which adores itself in its own mirror, 
is caused by the mechanization of an age in which the creative 
impulses have atrophied in most other realms. This accounts 
for art's functioning today often as a religious substitute, a rem- 
nant of fuller religious experience: "The relation of art to life," 
says Wallace Stevens, "is of the first importance in a sceptical 
age since, in the absence of a belief in God, the mind turns to 
its own creations and examines them, not alone from the aesthetic 
point of view, but from what they reveal, for what they validate 
and invalidate, for the support they give." 258 

But to repeat an earlier quotation "man and God are lost 
to us only one with the other." 259 To the average estrangement 
from God correspond self-alienation and man's alienation from 
man. That is why "alienation" has become so important a philo- 

256 Something of this Platonic feeling and Christian Neo-Platonism is still alive 
in Jaspers' descriptions of reason as deriving from and working toward the One of 
Transcendence: cf., e.g., Wahrheit, 116ff. 

257 "Gestaltung, Umgestaltung, / Des ewigen Sinnes ewige Unterhaltung" . . . 
Goethe, Faust II, vv. 6287f. 

258 Quoted from William Van O'Connor, The Shaping Spirit: A Study on Wal- 
lace Stevens, 58. 

259 Wahrheit, 1003. 


sophical category particularly, but not only in Hegelianism and 

'Self-alienation' that means, first of all, with regard to the 
individual Self a lack of true individuality and authenticity, a 
lack of rootedness in his own ground: and it is against this robot 
existence that thinkers like Kierkegaard and Nietzsche as well 
as Jaspers remonstrate. Jaspers' zealous insistence on the need 
for roots (enracinement) is not a completely timeless demand. 
In its urgency it is to him, just as for instance to Simone Weil, a 
countermovement to the growing uprootedness of the masses. 
"Misery is deracination" 260 as an, at once, personal and social 

As a matter of fact and paradoxical as it is almost as a 
matter of course, Jaspers has not only been antagonistic to this 
state of estrangement, but was also subjected to it as its child 
and, at one time, its victim. 

Jaspers could not fail to see this alienation of man from man 
and that between man and world as a product of the inhuman 
conditions of human life in the factory world of the igth century 
a world in which man became an object among objects to be 
employed and exploited instead of being respected as speaker and 
hearer in interpersonal communication. But he may have re- 
signed too easily to this state of affairs as the ultimate fate of 
modern man. He felt and feels the obligation to stand for Existenz 
and the community of free selves metaphysically destined as 
they are for one another against the technique and routine of 
mere existence (Dasein), society and mass civilization. 261 German 
social philosophy ran along the lines of these alternatives between 
community and society, culture and civilization; and people like 
Tonnies and Spengler seemed to be vindicated by the social and 
technical developments all around. In view of all this, Jaspers' 
deep concern for the inner freedom and the culture of the soul 
could not but paralyze the zeal for reform and deepen the feeling 
of the abyss between the two ways of life. 262 

260 Simone Weil, L'Attente de Dieu, 181. 

261 The new technical age of mass civilization has led not only to a decline of 
inter-personal communication proportionate to the growing shallowness of personal 
life and to a partial disruption of direct communication with nature; it has not 
only invented new means of social intercourse; it has even created mechanical sub- 
stitutes for social communication robots which behave more and more like per- 
sons, whilst persons behave more and more like robots. This technical development 
confronts a philosophy of communication today with problems that lie outside of 
the range of the present paper. 

262 The lasting difference between an inter-personal community of love and a 
more or less impersonal organization of society in the management of individual in- 


It is only in his reaction to Hitler, i.e., in his more recent 
writings especially in The Origin and Goal of History that, 
in spite of the old dualisms, the will to an order of existence 
worthy of human beings, the will to a social democracy has as- 
serted itself more strongly. It has issued in constructive proposals 
which try to liquidate the phenomenon of the masses rather than 
to perpetuate it in a spirit of aristocratic despair. Higher liberal 
education and responsible partnership in the social and political 
enterprise are to free the potential Self in all men and make 
democracy a working concern rather than a form on paper. 263 

But this order of inner political freedom will do away with 
the strict separation of outer and inner life. This order will be 
an ordre du coeur in which the interest of our whole existence 
is engaged and alive it is not only an organization of selfish 
interests and powers or, neutral in itself, a mere protective shell 
for the "high goods of inner liberty, of faith, and of the spirit." 264 
True democratic politics is more than a "lower plane of human- 
ity/' more than a conditio sine qua non for the free existence of 
the Self. 265 Justice can be the sword of love. And, although the 
institutional separation of Church and State will prove desir- 
able, 206 Jaspers may agree that the energies though not the 
tenets of faith ought to contribute to an earthly city after the 
dream and in humble imitation of a City of God. Our deviations 
and shortcomings will always provide material for the distinction 
between loving community and organization of bodily interests, 
but it may be a less thorough dichotomy than it appears in Jaspers 
even now. The uniqueness of the Self will remain a matter of 
deepest concern and respect. It shall not be sacrificed on the altar 
of the body politic. In the attempt to bring both sides closer to- 
gether, I may find a common denominator with Jaspers in this 
sentence by Martin Buber: "True community and a true com- 
monwealth will be actualized only to the extent to which those 
Single Ones will be actually present out of whose responsive and 
responsible existence the res publica is renewed." 267 

tercsts, class interests, etc., is not to be denied. The question is only whether nothing 
can be done to diminish their distance and tension and turn hostility into mutual 
aid. To accept lovelessness as the inescapable law of social organization may be grist 
for the mill of a theology which surrenders sinful man to God and his love and 
mercy; yet it is almost suicidal in a philosophy in which divine Transcendence 
speaks only to individual Existenz but not even to it in the voice of love. 

263 Cf. Origin, 129f, 151ff. 265 ibid. 

264 Ibid., 164. 266 Ibid. 

267 Martin Buber, Dialogisches Leben, 255. 



What applies to man's relation to himself and his fellow-beings, 
applies a fortiori to his relation to God. We consider it partly an 
outcome of the torn conditions of modern life, of its decline into 
mechanical dependencies, of its estrangement from the creative 
source of life that, with soth century theology, Jaspers stresses 
more God's distance from man than God's proximity to him. 
He speaks of God rather in the anonymous term of Transcendence 
than in the personal confession to God the Father. 

And yet, however remote the Deity my appear to our intellectus 
quaerens fidem, to an intellect in search of faith in the process 
of what Jaspers calls "formal transcending" 268 God does not 
cease to be intimately close to us, according to Jaspers, in the 
guidance, support and security we experience in that free adven- 
ture which is at once the making of a Self and the ascent toward 
Transcendence. (And, let me add, we may feel this presence also 
in an encounter with stern objection when we deviate from per- 
sonal truth.) 

There is, then, a creative element which sustains the surge of 
man's self-realization and self-renewal to speak with Leibniz, 
the 'monadizing' of the monad. And of the same or a similar 
order are the creations of the State, of a work of ajrt, but also a 
philosophical authorship which "consists in working back from 
the intellectual and social plane to a point in the soul from 
which there springs an imperative demand for creation." 269 We 
move almost in a circuit of mutual demand and supply, in which 
we are granted powers which we need and use not only for our- 
selves. This is the basic religious experience of which we spoke 
before the feeling of being counted upon for co-operation with 
the Divine, for continuing the work of creation and translating 
it into a new language on a new level of being. Even the machine 
and its products can serve to exhibit the purity and beauty of an 
order which has been latent before in the products of nature, 270 
and can thus become an inspiration to modern art. Hence crea- 
tion may well appear to the philosopher "as God undertaking 
to create creators" and, thus, "join to himself beings worthy of 
his love." 271 

Strong and vague as it is, the deep-seated feeling of such a con- 
geniality and communication with creative impulses that are at 

268 Philosophic III, 36ff. 

260 H. Bergson, The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, 242. 

270 Cf. Origin, 1161. 271 H. Bergson, op. cit, 243. 


work in the universe would tend to reveal this world as their 
fabric. It gives nature somehow the transparency of creation and 
justifies to some extent the anthropomorphism of speaking of 
Transcendence as God qua poeta mundi, in whose likeness and 
to whose likeness we are made and make ourselves as far as we 
free the creative elan in our souls and others. Conversely, in 
a technical age, which may still be inventive, but in which creative 
inspiration is on the point of expiring, "Transcendence" will be 
just as taboo and obsolete a term as the name of God. 272 And 
nature will appear mute, a mere material to be moulded and 
managed. It will be left to the 'quixotism* of the philosopher and 
the 'old-fashioned romanticism* of the poet to entertain a thou- 
like intercourse with kindred powers in nature. Only "to him who 
in the love of Nature holds Communion with her visible forms, 
she speaks a various language." 273 Even now, however, this lan- 
guage is not dead. Although it is not the language of modern 
technology (or is not always audible in it), it has remained fa- 
miliar to us in our life with things or is murmured to us in mysteri- 
ous words when we bend over the fountains of this earth: 
"Still we know the enchantment of Being. Creation 
still wells up in a hundred springs. A play of pure forces 
none can touch but who kneels in profound admiration." 274 
In its scientific aspects, ours is a "disenchanted world" of objects, 
leveled down and classified as mere specimens of species and 
genera, easy substitutes for one another just as even individual 
man has become an easily replaceable and expendable commodity. 
But things as factors of our personal world are no mere manu- 
factures, identical samples of the same make. To speak with 
Peirce, everyone of them has its "Firstness." 275 Even without 
individual selfhood, they are individual creatures to be told 
from each other the way the shepherd can tell his sheep apart. 
If the Leibnizian omne individuum sua iota entitate individuatur 

272 it will be understood that my own doubts, as far as the terminology is con- 
cerned, do not apply to the transcendence of God but to God as Transcendence. I 
agree with Jaspers, above all, in the contention that, in his own nature, God is 
always more than my God and our God namely, God. 

273 w. C. Bryant, Thanatopsis. 

274 Aber noch ist uns das Dasein verzaubert; an hundert 
Stellen ist es noch Ursprung. Ein Spielen von reinen 
Kraften, die keiner beruhrt, der nicht kniet und bewundert. 

Rilke, Sonette an Orpheus II, 10. A similar, more strictly Christian, statement in 
Simone Weil, L'Attente de Dieu, 181: "Each human being has his roots here below 
thanks to a certain terrestrial poetry, this reflection of celestial light which is his 
link, more or less consciously, with his universal fatherland." 

275 Cf. Charles S. Peirce, Collected Papers I, 303ff. Similarly William James. 


("each individual is individuated through its own whole na- 
ture") is true as I think it is it would be so as the product 
of a unique art and a unique 'principle* through which it has 
its 'beginning' "in the beginning was the Word," 276 and 
through which it is endowed with its entelechy, the individual 
law of its being. Now, this is just what we understand by 'crea- 
tion/ It has its religious expression in such a saying as that of 
the Talmud: "Man coins with one and the same mold many 
similar coins. God's creation consists in the fact that each of 
his coins, each of his creatures is produced in a mold which is 
new and different for each of them." This is the lasting distinction 
between God as creator and man as worker. 277 

To speak of man as a second maker is not to deify him: it only 
attests to man's peculiar communication with the ground of all 
particular being and individuality. I have tried to show the 
actuality of this experience somehow in the spirit of Bergson. 
And I have followed his method even more extensively than he 
did, prolonging the lines of all sorts of prehension and pursuing 
them all toward the point of their eventual intersection. (As is 
well known, Bergson had concentrated on giving scientific know- 
ledge a meaning through which it confirms, and is confirmed by, 
the claim of mystic intuition the claim to lead beyond a com- 
munity of tradition and learning to a direct getting "into touch 
with a transcendent principle," 278 I'amor ehe move il sole e Valtre 

But even in the highest moments of productive communion 
man participates in creation only as both creature and creator. 
To enter into communication with Transcendence and partake 
in the work of creation is, therefore, an elating and strengthening 
experience, but also an humbling one. It elates us by making us 
co-workers with the Deity: we try to be 'on God's side' in our 
small section of universal history, to follow the dictate of reason 
such as is audible in the historical moment, and to empower Deity 
in this world by furthering, on our part and under the particular 
conditions of our lives, the life-giving powers of the whole. Thus 

276 TO speak of the "word of God" need not and, e.g., in Augustine, does not 
show that anthropomorphic naivete which Jaspers attributes to prophetic religion 
and tries to overcome in his own philosophical faith: cf. Scope, 81. 

277 The above quotation from Seder Elijahu Rabba II is given in the version 
of Leo Baeck's admirable essay "Individuum Ineffabile" in Eranos Jahrbuch (1947), 
p. 387. 

278 Bergson, op. cit. t 236. 


only do we become, in our finite way, 'creative mirrors' of the 
Infinite as the source of all creation. 279 

(Co-operation with God and men thus becomes the primary 
directive of human Existenz and co-Existenz. And it may be said 
in parenthesis that, to the present writer, co-operation seems a 
worthier and more promising procedure especially in economic 
life than the free play in the competition of individuals of which 
Jaspers makes the most 280 a strange and dubious parallel, in 
the sphere of business life, to the 'loving struggle* in the com- 
munication of free Selves on the way to themselves and on the 
level of Existenz.) 

We are strengthened by this communication. It gives us the 
confidence of drawing, in our own creative attempts, from eternal 
and inexhaustible resources for the formation of ourselves as 
well as our works. 281 It is a sobering thought, however, that the 
power of self-productivity and productive communication is not 
at our sovereign disposal: it is communicated to and can be 
withdrawn from us. Through concentration or distraction, de- 
votion or selfishness, we can open or close the floodgates to the 
waters of life: but we cannot smite the rock and cause water to 
come out of it. The productive spirit feels in need of the grace 
of 'inspiration/ 282 The poet is not altogether, as the stage-director 
in Faust wants him to be, in command of his poetry. 

And as to the making and remaking of ourselves it seems 
only the personal form of what had been organic communication 
of ever new life in the creaturely world: that re-covery and re- 
creation which represents an ever recurrent phase in the universal 
periods of "Die and Rise." Goethe's Faust shows the unique con- 
creteness of his experience in this regard also. 

All the spheres of being are passed through as we are led, in a 
sequence of resurrections, from the revival of nature in the 
rhythms of day and night and of the seasons to the rebirth and re- 

2TO These words may be reminiscent of Max Scheler; but they could also be used 
as a rendition of the main tenets in the historical philosophy of religion of Ernst 
Troeltsch another former member of the University of Heidelberg with whom 
Jaspers is connected in various ways. Cf., e.g., Scope, 72. 

280 This does not mean that Jaspers indulges in the ideas of liberalistic laisser- 
aller politics. With detailed references to writers such as Walter Lippmann, F. H. 
Hayek and J. Wilhelm Ropke, he defends a very liberal socialism in Origin, 172ff, 

281 Just as in Hebrew boro, "to create," originally means "to cut out of a whole; 
to clear a wood," so German "schaffen" ("create") is originally the same as "schopf- 
en" ("draw"): a fact which has been sagaciously exploited by Paul Natorp in his 
Praktischc Philosophic (1925). 

282 See also above, 242. 


juvenation of man. The revival at Easter in the imitatio Christi 
has something like a hellish travesty in Faust's being restored to 
youth in the kitchen of the witch and a sort of pagan counterpart 
in his re-awakening in the morning glory of a new day after a 
night of despair: the powers of life are renewed in the dance of 
the hours and through the refreshing balsam of nature's spirits. 
And there follows, for instance, the renaissance of a past historical 
world Helena's union with Faust and finally his redemption 
from the grave thanks to the victory of divine love. 

This example is intended to illustrate what accrues to man's 
whole being through wholesome communication with all the 
formae formantes of his world. But even on the strictly personal 
level of Existenz and co-Existenz I am inclined to give communi- 
cation still more credit than Jaspers does. To him, personal 
intercourse seems to be, above all, of the nature of an evocation 

a challenge for each partner, to realize, perhaps to transform, 
his own Self in the face of the other and in loving struggle with 
him. But does it not also belong to the mission of such relation- 
ships to be a transmission of historical possibilities which are not 
originally ours, even though the capacity of receiving such a 
message, of appropriating such a communication, must be presup- 
posed? (The universality of such communication is not actually, 
but basically secured, first of all, by the community of human 
pathos, i.e., by the same raw material of basic experiences, the 
exposure to the same elemental powers, in all of us.) In this 
growth and plasticity of our own being, in this enrichment of 
our own historical heritage by foreign tradition, lies what hope 
there is for the formation of the One World without which man 
is lost, but which cannot be enforced by arms or bought by money. 
The fundamental possibility of such a personal exchange is less 
evident in the relative homogeneity of the German people among 
whom Jaspers spent most of his life. But should it not have pre- 
sented itself more convincingly now from the Swiss perspective 

just as we see it, in all its precariousness, more clearly in the 
British Commonwealth and the United States? 

The fact that the process of self-realization takes place in an 
inter-personal medium does not detract from its uniqueness as 
a not negotiable task for each individual person. In this regard, 
there is no bartering down of Jaspers' terms. There is no voting 
by proxy in the choice of our Existenz. But this birth of the Self 
in the crucial decisions of life, and his always possible and even 
necessary rebirth in backing, renewing, revising and even over- 
throwing them this permanent status nascendi of selfhood shows 


how the Self is always in suspense between being and non-being, 
never fully and definitely realized in the acts of its self-creation. 
Our finitude as individual Selves appears precisely in our falling 
short of perfect and definite selfhood; and our need of a Thou 
shows our need of his loving faith in us. 283 In this faith and love he 
holds up to us a mirror to see ourselves in our true being, our 
native possibilities which belie our actual status. He confirms and 
goads us on in this truth and restores our confidence in and 
respect for ourselves. 284 

The urge for self-realization grows precisely from the feeling 
of tension that we are not in fact what we properly are, and 
are in fact what we are not in proper truth. The love and faith 
of others may help us to bring and keep ourselves on the right 
way. But we only can go this way. There may be a wider range 
for men to help one another than Jaspers and Heidegger admit. 
But there are, indeed, limits to human assistance as there are 
limits to the intimate communication between two Selves: 

"Can ever on earth a man be as much ours 

As longing has him be?'* 285 

Hence, there will also be limits to the purity of the image in 
which we are seen by our next friend. Although we enjoy the 
benefit of true communication and learn to 'know us as we are 
known' by the eyes of human love, we may still yearn for the 
grace of that perfect knowledge which no man can have or bestow. 
And we try to convince ourselves (I dare not speak in more 
positive terms) that this longing cannot be in vain. The religious 
feeling that we are counted upon seems to imply that, in order 
really to count, we must really be known. 

The demand for self-realization through self-renewal appeals 
from the creature to the creator in us. It is the humble status of 
the creature given to inertia, endangered by staleness, distracted- 
ness and inauthenticity of life and it is the corrupt state of 

283 In so far, Jaspers is justified in attributing the necessity of communication to 
a defect (Wahrheit, 380, 387). Only the finite being is in need of communication and 
discussion in order to make itself understood and to understand itself. But this does 
not exclude a completely free communication on the part of Transcendence and 
were it only to provide for our needs. Only the Sum qui Sum is, by definition, in- 

284 Cf. Wahrheit, 372ff. The tension between my Self and its realization has its 
moral expression in Kant's Categorical Imperative: it elates us through its content 
the respect which it demands for humanity in man; and it humiliates us in its im- 
perative form, which is an objection to the status quo of human life. 

285 "Kann auch ein Mensch des andern auf der Erde 

Gam wie er mochte, sein?" 
Eduard Morike, "Neuc Liebe." 


narrow selfishness in lieu of communicative selfhood which make 
renewal necessary. On the other hand, it is the creative spark in 
man, his personal power of re-collection and re-integration which 
make renewal possible as an honorable charge. Like the demon 
Eros of the Symposium, man has his being in the perennial 
counterworking of opposite trends and their unstable and uneasy 
equilibrium. Integral selfhood in unswerving, unrelaxing devo- 
tion to the One is for us within hail (otherwise reason could 
not respond to its claim) , but it seems beyond our reach, an un- 
attainable goal. 

This constitutive weakness, which delays us on our way to 
ourselves and to our brothers, is felt as the default of our being 
none of us is all right (dans le vrai) as the sin of estrangement 
from our Selves, from others, from the creative ground of all 
being. 286 Heaven is the state of gracious communication; Hell is, 
to quote Dostoevski, the condemnation to lovelessness. Sin is 
isolation of the selfish individual; at-onement is communication 
of the individual Self. The turning, returning toward the One 
is the orientation man can give himself in the hour of crisis, the 
Ent-scheidung, i.e, decisions between an old and a new way of 
life: this is the belief, at least, behind the Hebrew teshuvah 
("turning" less of a spectacular break than "conversion," more 
of a total and wholesome human movement than a too subjective 
"repentance") . But the strength of persevering in this ascent 
and overcoming all that draws us down must be given to us by 
the sustaining grace which is alive in true communication as 
such. 287 Biblical wisdom 288 knows of either part of life's renewal 
one in God's appeal and summons to man, one in man's appeal 
to God: "Return ye ... and make you a new heart and a new 
spirit." 280 But also: "Create me a clean heart, O God; and renew 

288 Cf. Wahrheit, e.g., 531f, 667. 

287 The complementary aspect of this religious experience is the consciousness of 
man's responsibility as a partner in a universal enterprise. The importance of his 
r61e in this co-operation seems by far greater than what little energy he can invest 
in it. Conversely, the failure of his mission would appear to be more than a minor 
accident in some corner of the universe. Properly understood, i.e., from the angle of 
religious conscience and consciousness, it would assume universal proportions. See 
above, 244. 

288 Obviously, I have recourse only to this profound human wisdom of the Bible, 
not to any miraculous revelation of which philosophy does not and cannot know. 
My references to religious experience and expression are in keeping with the phe- 
nomenological principle which I followed before, e.g., in taking examples from phil- 
osophical poetry: without committing ourselves unconditionally to any particular 
approach, we try to profit from each type of experience, i.e., to respect its peculiar 
evidence and relate it to insights won from other and complementary aspects. 

289 Ezekiel 18: 30f. 


a steadfast (!) spirit within me." 290 Such prayer is answered by 
the divine assurance that man's stony heart shall be enlivened 
and his spirit grow strong in the vigor and strength of this com- 
munication: "A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will 
I put within you . . . and cause you to walk in my statutes, and 
ye shall keep my ordinances and do them/' 201 And finally, the 
concise expression of reciprocity, but in recognition of the divine 
precedence; man responds to God's claim and his coming to our 
rescue: "Turn me, O Lord, that I may turn." 292 

"To all that draw near to me I draw near" 293 : the phenomenon 
of turning and renewal is another instance of the power of cor- 
relation and correspondence experienced in the responsory of 
communicative existence. 294 But in our context this example may 
serve still a second purpose to open up another vista in which 
the heterogeneousness of animal life and personal existence loses 
the character of an ultimate. The self-renewal of man in com- 
munication with the transcendent power meant that a sparklet 
from the ground of absolute creativity has been communicated 
to man and is kept alive and grows if this communication with 
the ground is revived again and again. Now, this renewal of 
man in which God co-operates appears as only one phase in the 
permanent recreation of the world in which man has his tiny, 
but unique part. This holds true if the idea of perpetual creation 
has any fundamentum in re as it actually seems to be founded 
in the experience that finite and temporal things are not per se; 
their being is somehow communicated to them, and they are 
kept above the abyss of non-being as they pass from one passing 
moment to the other. 295 The prayer to God to "renew our days 
as of old" is not a sentimental longing for the good old days; 
it is rooted in that faithful conviction in which God is praised 
for "renewing . . . continuously each day the work of the begin- 

In this way, renewal appears as not only a human possibility 
but as a universal fact. It is more than mechanical re-currence, 
it is re-petition in a new key, rebirth from a creative ground 
and, therefore, in a new and individual occurrence. From this 

290 Psalms 51:12. 291 Ezekiel 36: 26f. 

292 Lamentations 5:21. 

293 Isaiah 57:19 (in a midrashic reading). Conversely, our turning away from God 
and men is reciprocated by their estrangement from us: God is dead to us when our 
approach to the Thou has died away in the exploitation of the It. 

294 This point has been stressed, e.g., by Will Herberg, Judaism and Modern 
Man, 121ff. 

295 See above, 244f . 


point of view, the articulation of Being 296 (though not caught in 
an all-encompassing system of understanding) tends to prevail 
over the opposite aspect the disruption of being, which has 
haunted Jaspers from his youth. The opposition between nature 
and history (and, therefore, the necessary difference between 
the methods of natural and historical sciences) appears subdued 
in the recognition of the course of nature as (broadly) a historical 
process and the process of history as part of that creation which 
in a different, unreflected form goes on in nature. The rivers 
of creation flow asunder, but come from the same mountain; it 
is from the same source that their waters are supplied and re- 
newed. "I shall be who I shall be, that is it was my compassion 
in which I created the world, am sustaining and guiding it now, 
and in which someday I shall renew it again." 297 

Before the creator we are all equally creatures. We feel some- 
thing like this in the equanimity of the great works of art where 
the natural and the personal trends of life are interwoven in a 
perfect texture, 298 and where, in a way, we have the same sympathy 
for lago as for Othello: as Shakespeare's creations they are there 
all right: it is his blood that is communicated to them all and 
runs in all of them. 

'Existentially,' there is tension between the two main forms 
of being creaturely being and selfhood a difference which is 
decisive because it calls for decision. Anthropologically, there is 
complementation and even pervasion between them Exist enz 
will be incarnated, vitality may overflow to serve Existenz. I 
refer, once more, to the similar allurement for one another of 
the opposites in Thomas Mann's novels. But they remain op- 
posites in life. Art, metaphysics, and religion, however, may lead 
to a divination, at least, of that "Holy of Holies" to which they 
are all drawn, and "where in eternal and original unity burns 
as it were in one flame what is separate in nature and history, 
and what in life and action as well as in thought cannot but 
perennially flee each other." 800 

296 As I acknowledged before, this aspect is by no means neglected by Jaspers 
(cf., e.g., Wahrheit, 127ff, 672ff); but it is not the dominant one from his 'existential' 
viewpoint and experience. 

27 Quoted from the Talmud by Adolf Jellinek, Bet ha Midrash III, 25. This is 
another confirmation of the true nature of the Eheye asher Eheye, not as self-con- 
tained, loveless Transcendence, but as the communicative and compassionate love of 
the God of the covenant. 

298 See above, 237ff. 299 Cf. Wahrheit, 123ff, 672ff, 704ff. 

800 Schelling, System des Transzendentalen Idealismus (Werke, III, 628). This is 
no doubt in the spirit of Jaspers' own thought, e.g., in Wahrheit, 695; and else- 


I, too, have yielded to this attraction by the center toward 
which everything gravitates, because it is the spring of all com- 
munication in the still growing community of being in which 
we believe I have yielded to it in this communication which I 
would like to consider a dialogo d'amore, a struggle of love in 
Jaspers' sense: out of different origin, but in search of the One. 



Johannes Thyssen 


ON ACCOUNT of the many difficulties which will perhaps 
be realized more easily towards the end it is with some 
hesitation that I have undertaken to write this essay. Jaspers' 
treatment of the subject of * 'foundering" (Scheitern) forms the 
climax of his Philosophic, a work in three volumes and 1000 
pages. 1 Owing to the closely knit fabric of this existentialist 
system, the concept of foundering cannot be dealt with in isola- 
tion but must be interpreted in the light of the whole. Even the 
basic concepts of "Existenz" and "Transcendence" present such 
difficulties to the reader that it would be impossible to interpret 
them adequately within the limited scope of an essay such as 
this. Due to the close relationship between our concept and 
Jaspers' over-all philosophy, foundering inevitably appears fre- 
quently throughout the work. There would be little point in 
collating philologically all the passages where Jaspers speaks of 
foundering, in order to "distill" a clear-cut concept. Foundering 
is in no way a mere concept; it represents an ultimately irrational 
experience. So we can only try and understand the emergence 
of this complex of problems in relation to the whole body of 
Jaspers' philosophy. In order to do this we shall restrict ourselves 
to his main work, Philosophic. Before embarking on the (ap- 
parently) modest task of interpreting the final section, it will be 
necessary to review the major presuppositions. The basic concepts 
of "Existenz" and "Transcendence" and a few other indispensable 
elements will be dealt with briefly in Part I. Inasmuch as founder- 
ing is regarded as a symbol or "cipher" (Chiffre) of Transcendence 
and as Jaspers' metaphysics reaches its climax in the deciphering 
or "reading" of such ciphers, these will form the topic of Part II. 
Finally we can devote ourselves to our subject proper in Part III. 

I called the present interpretation an "apparently" modest task: 
its object permits of conceptual elucidation only to a limited 

I 1 quote from the three volume edition published in 1932. 



degree, on grounds of principle. There is a danger of over- 
rationalization which we must try and avoid. Nobody, surely, 
can interpret except by using thought, and all we can do is to 
put in a reminder here and there that for Jaspers himself his philo- 
sophical account means a rationalization of what is in essence 
irrational. There are additional difficulties for those who like 
the author of this essay start from different assumptions. We can 
only follow the text closely and do our best to come to an under- 
standing. The significance of such an attempt will be touched 
upon at the conclusion of the essay. 

I. Existenz and Transcendence 

As is natural, we look for an initiation into the basic notions 
in the introduction to the main work. It is typical for this type 
of philosophy that we "take our own situation as a starting 
point of inquiry." The great philosophical problem is the quest 
for Being. Jaspers does not take this up in an abstract way, like 
the usual ontology, but by inquiring after Being in our own 
situation. Our own situation will never surrender to a complete 
and objective survey. I do not know the whence and the whither 
of my existence either my origin or my ultimate destination. 
It becomes apparent also that my situation involves anguish 
(Angst), an anguish about the future in which I might not be, 
or in which death threatens me. Thus we look for a more com- 
plete and profound Being than is dealt with in ontology in the 
form of abstract reasoning. To allay my quest for Being, "I want 
an answer which gives me support," which frees me from that 
anguish; I require a Being "which is not elusive." 2 Evidently, 
the quest for Being takes on a certain value aspect here. Being, 
about which otherwise ontological statements of general validity 
might be made, is deflected towards myself and my particular 
situation, and a peculiar solution comes into sight: I can find the 
Being I am seeking only by seizing it, i.e., by freely deciding and 
by acting. "I find myself searching for Being, and this I do by 
doing something in the world of events." 3 This is, at first sight, 
quite unintelligible. It becomes somewhat clearer if, borrowing 
from the next section, the close relationship to Kantian philo- 
sophy is realized. In searching for Being I search, of course, for 
Being-in-itself, not for an apparential being. In the Kantian divi- 
sion of appearance and thing-in-itself all appearances have an un- 

2 Philosophic I, 2. 8 ibid., 3. 


knowable thing-in-itself behind them. Only in one instance we 
come closer to it, viz., in ourselves (in our "intelligible egos") . 
The idea is that this final unknowable Being is in our grip in so 
far as we decide for free action. This may be sufficient here to 
indicate that ultimate Being in its profundity is sought in myself. 
It cannot be known, but may be effected (getan). Obviously, this 
is the place that will be assigned to Existenz. It should be empha- 
sized at once, however, that Being, as that which provides security 
or support for me, has its place not only within me. I have not 
created myself but have been thrown into the world (to use 
Heidegger's term "geworfen"), so that the transcendent being 
within me has the closest connection with Transcendence-as-such, 
with Being as such. This close connection between Existenz and 
Transcendence is a major point. First, however, let us try and 
obtain a somewhat clearer idea of the difficult concept of Existenz. 

For Jaspers, too, cognition gives only appearance. The in-itself 
of an object "is not accessible to me because, in seizing it, I 
would objectify it and thus make it an appearance, a 'being for 
me'/' 4 Because I can make myself an object of consciousness 
psychologists do this systematically the following is true: "If 
I objectify myself as empirical existence I am then not what T 
am myself (was "Ich" an sick selbst ist). Inasmuch as I am an 
object to myself I do not know what I am in myself." 5 In the next 
sentence, this leads on to the idea of an T that can not be objecti- 
fied, Existenz. Jaspers continues: "I should be capable of a self- 
awareness (Innesein) which is no cognitive knowing." 6 Here the 
problem of the two following paragraphs comes into view: the 
idea of a basic dichotomy within the T and correspondingly a 
dichotomy of self-awareness. On the one hand we have empirical 
consciousness (comprising a number of phenomena) , on the 
other there stands Existenz, connected with Transcendence in a 
special way which will concern us later. 

On the first issue, empirical consciousness, only a few remarks, 
indispensable to our present purpose, can be made here. 7 The 
concrete physio-psychological individual is called "existence" 
(Dasein); as to its type of consciousness, the emphasis is mainly 
on feeling and instincts I say "mainly" because within an em- 
pirical individual another important subject factor, closely con- 

4 Ibid., 5. 5 Ibid. 6 ibid. 

7 In his much later work, Von der Wahrheit (1947), Jaspers has developed a 
properly systematization of the different modes of Being, postulating seven modes of 
the Encompassing (das Umgreifcndc). When I speak subsequently of Jaspers' "sys- 
tem," I do not want to imply a "closed system" in a sense deprecated by Jaspers but 
simply mean an orderly, organized sequence of ideas. 


nected with the cognitive function, is discernible, viz., "conscious- 
ness-as-such" (Bewusstsein uberhaupt). This is not a metaphysical 
absolute ego in Fichte's or Hegel's sense, but the vehicle homo- 
geneous throughout all individual egos of universally valid 
knowledge and meanings. 8 Precisely with reference to our prob- 
lem it is important to realize that Jaspers' relativism to what 
extent such exists will become clear later is not universal. The 
entire volume I of the main work is set apart for the subject of 
"world-orientation" (Weltorientierung) finding your way about 
the world which rests on consciousness-as-such; more particu- 
larly, there are sciences of universal validity, among them psychol- 
ogy, etc. 

Opposed to these modes of consciousness stands Existenz. It is 
essential to realize that Existenz is no objective status of being 
(Bestand) but rather potential being effecting itself in freedom. 
(Being as status and being as freedom is an important distinction 
of Jaspers) . 9 That depth of my own being which I cannot discern 
in cognition comes to light when I prehend myself in action. I 
acquire the certainty that this particular action is not a wilful 
and accidental choice of mine but is in fact an already con- 
scious expression of that depth of my personality which is not 
strictly capable of consciousness. 

Existenz is naturally "just mine" in the same way as my T is 
just mine. It is, so to speak, the depth of my empirical I. It would 
not be correct to see the main feature of existentialist philosophy 
(not only Jaspers') in the emphasis placed on the singleness and 
individuality of [any specific] man as opposed to general human 
qualities shared by all. Of importance rather is the dimension of 
depth which Heidegger has very impressively contrasted with 
"the everyman" (das Man) or inauthenticity, constituting some- 
thing like a surface-ego. On the other hand, as to "contents" 
also, my Existenz in fact does not coincide with that of other 
human beings. My being comes to light only in freedom, and 
another Existenz might very well assume actions contrary to mine 
(cf. Jaspers on the nature of "exceptions" and the "passion for 
the night:" Leidenschaft zur Nacht). 

Before we contemplate the "totally different" other side of 
Existenz, i.e., Transcendence, a few features may be discussed 

8 The problems connected with consdousness-as-such as far as the historical 
and Jaspers' use of the term are concerned cannot be analyzed here. According to 
Von der Wahrheit, this mode of consciousness is an Encompassing, with its own ori- 
gin but without a content of its own. (The "prehension" of generalities is naturally 
dependent on the contents of individual perceptions, etc.) 

Philosophic I, 18. 


which are essential to Jaspers' system. In spite of their differences 
and their unknowable essences, the individual Existenzen are not 
barred from all relationships: they can understand and disclose 
their "contents" (Gehalt) to each other. This, for Jaspers' philo- 
sophy fundamental, relationship between Existenzen is called 
"communication." In the same way as I can experience somebody 
else's essence in a non-objectifying approach, historical phenom- 
ena can also be understood and appreciated. A good illustration 
is the fact that somebody may not only know about a metaphysical 
view held in the past but may make it a part of himself and 
"seize" it as his own "possibility." But Existenz is historical not 
only in this particular sense, it is historical as such. The fact that 
its essence is freedom, i.e., future formation, does not mean that 
it decides willfully, disconnected from its past. It means rather 
that I decide as someone who has developed into a particular 
person and who lives in a specific environment and situation. 
And Jaspers discloses here one of the most peculiar tenets of his 
teaching: namely, that "within time, decisions are made for 
eternity." 10 This does not mean that Jaspers is talking of a life 
to come where my actions earn their reward and punishment 
respectively. Nor does eternity mean "abstract timelessness" as 
assigned to mathematical entities. It means that "I, within time, 
stand above it, though not outside of it." 11 The 'existential' reach- 
ing out into the future and past is understandable as a point of 
departure for Jaspers, but it is peculiar that eternity is introduced 
here at all: eternity is said to come into play inasmuch as I "act 
unconditionally in time, love unconditionally." 12 

It is such absoluteness which makes Jaspers speak of eternity 
here. He is wise to state at once that my understanding cannot 
grasp this and that it is at best in short glimpses that the mystery 
is illuminated. In this view, eternity is neither timelessness nor 
everlasting duration but "the depth correlated to time as the 
historical form of Existenz/' 13 What Jaspers means here can 
perhaps be made somewhat clearer if one remembers that for 
Kant time is a subjective form of intuition behind which lies 
that "depth" where a free decision originates, timelessly or to 
use Jaspers' term "athwart of time" (in Querstellung zur Zeit). 
For Kant too, such a decision will become manifest empirically 
in certain conscious experiences. Jaspers' 'historical being' 
which may, e.g., mean my being determined by a traditional 
Weltanschauung is also "appearance" for consciousness. In 
Kant's view, however, temporal-historical existence rests on the 

10 Ibid., 16. 11 Ibid. 12 ibid., 17. 18 Ibid. 


time-less (the noumenal ego decides freely) . For Jaspers (on the 
other hand) the strictly "historical" aspect of Existenz is timeless 
and "eternal" in the depth of 'existential' deciding. Doubtlessly 
there is an historical relation to Kant's timeless freedom (we shall 
return to this point below) . Toward an understanding a limited 
understanding only, to be sure, as Jaspers expressly states of 
what Jaspers means here, however, an earlier thought may con- 
tribute more, viz., that the "unconditional" refers to that Being 
which contains no "negation," no limit, which would mean in 
this case: it doesn't contain the limited temporality of the histori- 
cal moment in which the unconditional is claimed to show itself. 

Contrary to Kant this "certainty," which involves uncondition- 
ally, is not one of knowing but one of experiencing (Erleben). 1 * 
Similarly the "eternity" of the moment is experienced though 
not understood. (Jaspers notes the parallelism with the "eternal 
now" of the mystics; we will have to return to this theme later.) 

Let us now consider that other difficult concept which is a 
prerequisite for the understanding of Jaspers' metaphysics and 
also of this essay: the concept of Transcendence. As with the 
previous concepts, I want to introduce it in concurrence with 
Jaspers' own account in Vol. I of Philosophic. I shall also draw 
on the Introduction to Vol. III. In the latter passages Transcend- 
ence is on the one hand bound up with Existenz, on the other it 
is its opposite pole, so that the emergence of "foundering" is 

In Jaspers we find three levels of transcending: (1) the step 
from the world of objects as they appear to us towards Being-in- 
itself of which they are appearances. It is possible only as a nega- 
tive awareness of the boundary reached. In a way it would corre- 
spond to the Kantian transcensus from the world of appearances 
to that which renders them possible, granting that objects are 
to be considered mere appearances. (In Vol. I Jaspers turns 
against the belief of science and certain philosophical doctrines 
in [the possibility of] final and total attainment of knowledge 
about the world.) (2) Transcending belongs to Existenz, i.e., to 
that Existenz which is mine alone. Transcendence is included in 
the essential definition of Existenz: "Existenz is what never be- 

14 We use "experience" in the usual contradistinction to "knowing." It is to be 
noted, however, that for Jaspers not all 'existential' experience is fully conscious ex- 
perience. For the act of "touching on Transcendence" (Beruhrung der Transzendenz) 
he uses the term Erfahren, whereas Erleben takes the meaning of conscious empiri- 
cal experience. We use "experience" in the following without this differentiation, 
though we do not want to imply that "transcending" in its entire content is a con- 
scious act. 


comes object, the origin from which issues my thinking and act- 
ing, that whereof I speak in ideas which discern nothing; Existenz 
is what has reference to itself and thus also to its Transcend- 
ence/' 15 This means: my experiencing of Existenz does not simply 
"give" me Transcendence; rather is Transcendence the deepest 
basis within me to which I have reference in this experience. 
Transcendence "inheres" in the performance of the experience, 
so to say. If we remember that we have access to Being-in-itself 
only in the I although no cognitive account is possible , it 
becomes clear that Transcendence is this deepest I (or the un- 
fathomable depth within it) to which I have reference when I 
make a decision, etc. But Jaspers claims immediately afterwards 
that and this brings us to (3) it would be wrong to limit 
Transcendence to this depth in the I. 

Existenz is indeed not the only thing; just as basic is the fact 
that the I confronts objects. "Because we cannot in any sense 
derive the world from Existenz, Existenz cannot be all there is 
of Being, Being as such/' 16 We then have two kinds of appear- 
ances: Existenz as experiencer, as which it can be observed psy- 
chologically, is appearance of the depth behind itself qua appear- 
ance. Then again, along with the principle discussed earlier, ob- 
jects are also appearances. If we realize this, the following passage, 
which introduces Transcendence as something other than Exis- 
tenz, will be sufficiently clear: 

We think of all being under the category of appearance . . . precisely 
when we search for the Being. But Being, as far as it appears, retains 
irreconcilable with temporal existence a duplicity, viz., the inacces- 
sible Being-in-itself of Transcendence which cannot be rationalized as 
the objective basis, and the self-present being of Existenz which is not 
identical with consciousness of existence. Existenz and Transcendence 
are heterogeneous but have reference to each other. Their relationship 
appears in existence too. 17 

We saw under (2) that Transcendence belongs to Existenz 
as its own unfathomable depth. This can now be seen to agree 
with the last passage quoted in that this ultimate reach within 
the I has in turn to be assigned to inaccessible transcendent 
Being-in-itself. But, for Jaspers, to assert this would already con- 
stitute an overconceptualization. In my transcendence [in the 
sense of (2) 1 a contact with absolute Transcendence [in the sense 
of (3) ] is supposed to take place. We shall have to clarify Tran- 

15 Philosophic I, 15. As far as I can see this is the passage in Jaspers' main work 
where the concept of Transcendence is introduced for the first time. 
ie ibid., 26. IT Ibid., 20. 


scendence in this latter sense, and also the resulting relationship 
between Exist enz and Transcendence, from the material of Vol. 
III. 18 

Before we turn to this volume which bears the name Meta- 
physik, it should be noted that we must pass over all of Vol. II, 
called Existenzerhellung (illumination of Existenz). We thus 
miss details of doctrine we can hardly do without. We are thinking 
particularly of Jaspers' account of "ultimate situations" (Grenz- 
situationen) and of "absolute consciousness." All we can do here 
is to give some indication of what is meant.* 

If Existenz is, as it were, the locus of contact with the absolute 
which is at the root of all appearances, of all objects in causal 
order and of any objects as such, then it is decisive, in order that 
man's attention be caught and this depth made accessible, that 
he should come up against the limits of his empirical existence 
"as against a wall:" he must suffer death, must contract guilt and 
suffering. In general, man finds himself always in situations, 
entangled in irremovable restrictions ( as, for example, to be man 
or woman) . This mysterious "That," called fate or the like, 
cannot be accounted for within the realm of the visible and con- 
trollable; it is its limit. An heroic decision in the face of death, 
coming from deep down within me, may contain an experience 
of absolute certainty transcending the knowable and may con- 
stitute a contact with non-temporal Being. Such are the modes 
of "absolute consciousness." Without embarking here on an 
analysis of the many different modes described in Vol. II, we note 
that 'existential' freedom with its experiences of absoluteness is 
not restricted to so-called decisions in choosing a certain action. 
It operates in any self-determination of man, especially in basic 
and "fulfilling" ways of conduct such as love and faith. 

To be trapped in ultimate situations, to search for the Being 
from within the isolation and scatteredness of worldly existence, 
and lastly, to touch the in no way scattered absolute, i.e., Tran- 
scendence, in absolute consciousness, all this belongs intimately 
together and constitutes different sides or aspects of Existenz. 
And the "wall" Existenz comes up against is Transcendence, the 
absolute which surpasses the I's own transcendent depth. 

Let us call attention to two points in the opening paragraphs 

18 in the rigorously systematic work, Von der Wahrheit, the multiplicity of mean- 
ing of Transcendence is made explicit to such a point that to signify the one Being 
(3) Jaspers speaks of the "Transcendent of the Transcendent." It will be remem- 
bered that the transition from existence to Existenz (2) also discloses "a" transcend- 
ent aspect. 

Ed.'s Note: Cf. Latzel's essay for a detailed discussion of these. 


of Vol. Ill which have a significant bearing on Existenz and Tran- 
scendence. Here will be found the most rational, i.e., comprehen- 
sible account of absolute Transcendence, that "wall" or fate we 
have been speaking about. Prefacing it here will also shed some 
light on the notion of freedom with which we want to deal later. 
It is asked, "what is the reality of the incalculable, if it cannot 
be known?" 19 This question leads to the quasi-ontological analysis 
which concerns us here. All events can be traced to their causes. 
The natural laws indicate potentialities which materialize in 
events. Through such laws future events can be predicted as 
potentialities and, if not predictable, they are at least known to 
be possible. In quite a different sense I, qua Existenz, am potential- 
ity too: I am the potential prehension of a particular decision. 
In contingency or accident, however, I find out that, in spite of 
all conformity to natural laws the actual occurrence of events, 
hie and nunc, cannot be concluded from a law. Here I encounter 
"absolute reality." This idea now serves to define Jaspers' notion 
of Transcendence. All empirical realities are particular and, as 
it were, retranslatable into potentialities given in natural laws or, 
in my own case, into the possibilities I face before my decision 
is taken. In the encounter with chance, however, we become 
aware of a reality devoid of potentiality, we encounter a reality 
which is not retranslatable into potentiality, i.e., "absolute real- 
ity," Transcendence. 

The reality of Transcendence is inaccessible to retranslation into 
potentiality; therefore it is non-empirical. It lacks potentiality 
which would make it real and comprehensible to us [by furnishing the 
terminus a quo] not because of a deficiency but because the separa- 
tion of potentiality and reality is constitutive of empirical reality, a 
reality requiring something outside itself. Nor is the reality of Tran- 
scendence identical with Existenz: it lacks the possibility of deciding, 
not because of a deficiency but, on the contrary, because the possibility 
of deciding is an expression of the deficiency of Existenz due to its 
temporal existence. Wherever I encounter reality and it is not trans- 
formed into potentiality I meet Transcendence. 20 

Here we are clearly in closest proximity to the ontological 
idea of God: that Being to whose essence belongs Existenz or 
which can be thought of only as existing, but not merely as po- 
tential. Jaspers, of course, knows of this historical parallel; but 
for him all rationalizations like this proof of God's existence are 
forbidden solidifications. But the, so to say ontological, account 
of metaphysical objectivity given in our passage is indicative of 

19 Philosophic III, 8. 20 ibid., 9. 


the aim of the whole doctrine, as we already know it: Transcend- 
ence is conceived of as ens realissimum, the One which is not 
split up into juxtaposed entities; which is this and that, A and 
B in conjunction. It is to be noted at once that this philosophical 
elaboration as we shall show in greater detail claims to be no 
more than an ''illumination/' i.e., a rational paraphrase. It only 
wants to express in abstract terms what in 'existential' experience, 
barred from knowledge and proof, is supposed to become evident. 
In the present version this experience is so far objectified that 
astonishment at the absolute contingency of the empirical world 
becomes, by reaction as it were, possible. The empirical world 
becomes "transparent/* 

"Becoming transparent" is a well-known concept of Jaspers. It 
implies the view that empirical being can let Transcendence 
"shine through/' as a screen transmits rays, so that individual 
entities turn into code entities, ciphers for Being. Let us for a 
moment ignore the endowment of Transcendence with particular 
contents and dwell on the mere "That" of Transcendence. 

I have started with the quasi-ontological characterization of 
the "That" in order to prepare for the second important point 
I am to deal with now. The freedom of Existenz pushes through 
to a depth where it ceases to be my freedom and my decision; 
where, though still freedom, it knows itself "granted" (geschenkt) 
by that surpassing Transcendence which is neither freedom nor 
compulsion. 21 From the point of view of this absolute "That" 
even my freedom is "fate." The fact that in my freedom I am 
given possibilities originates within that sphere which is no 
longer potentiality but absolute reality and where 'existential' 
freedom touches my own freedom. 

Let us consider more closely how Jaspers comments on this 
profound connection between Existenz and Transcendence. It 
becomes more noticeable that Existenz, which was often enough 
described as "origin" and "self-creative," is, in the end, not self- 
sufficient. Actually this is already known from what has gone 
before. If Existenz had created itself it would be God; it is crea- 
tivity but at the same time it is given, is "historical" or, in Heideg- 
ger's term, "thrown" into the world. Jaspers declares that Existenz 
would have to fall into "despair" if it were left to rely entirely on 
itself and that it can be true Existenz only if it knows itself 
grounded in some other, in Transcendence. 

To rely on itself entirely is certainly the truth of the absoluteness 
21 Ibid., 5. 


amid temporality of Existenz, but it also brings about its despair. 
[Existenz] is aware that as an absolutely self-sufficient entity it would 
fall into the void. If it is to become real it must depend on something 
that meets it halfway and fulfils it. Whenever it fails in its realization 
it is not itself; it takes itself as if it were granted to itself. It proves its 
potentiality only if it knows itself grounded in Transcendence. It 
loses its openness for its own becoming if it takes itself for authentic 
Being. 22 

In this "dissolution of potential self-sufficiency" can "lie final 
fulfilment in temporal existence," precisely in that I, as empirical 
consciousness and as Existenz, am doomed to "founder." 

This final stage, this "letting Transcendence be granted to us," 
involves for Jaspers yet another factor which we will have to 
take into account before reaching our more specialized subject. We 
are not left with naked Transcendence, with the mere certainty 
of contact with it; it "speaks" to us, if only in symbols or ciphers. 
This means that the bare "That" takes on material content. This 
is our next problem. 

II. Interpretation of the Ciphers of Transcendence 

If empirical consciousness and its world are, so to speak, the 
surface of the one Transcendence, then it is truly omnipresent. 
Jaspers holds accordingly that this presence of Transcendence in 
different entities can be experienced as their background. Psycho- 
logically speaking, what Jaspers has in mind are experiences like 
sensing the sublimity of the sea through its immensity or, e.g., the 
fact that in looking at a landscape by Van Gogh 23 we do not only 
pass from the mere color and formal arrangement to a realization 
of beauty values, but that these seem to express something deeper 
and impalpable. Such an intuitive perception of what lies be- 
neath signifies for Jaspers a becoming transparent of the empiri- 
cal; the landscape, e.g., admits the shining through of the under- 
lying absolute Being. This is thus not always tangible in the same 
way, but may become so in infinite ways, depending on the 
reality expressing it. But, on the other hand, it must be noted that 
none of the empirical realities expresses Transcendence as it is 
in itself this would mean that objects or appearances coincide 
with non-objectifiable, unknowable Being-in-itself. All appear- 
ance is simply a code-entity, a cipher. A cipher in this sense does 

23 Both illustrations occur in Jaspers' work. Van Gogh had attracted the atten- 
tion of Jaspers, the psychopathologist, at an early date. Cf. Strindberg. 


not work like a mathematical sign: for that it would have to 
refer to some intentional content which eventually could be iso- 
lated or deduced. The cipher, however, leaves us merely with 
the experience that this or that individual entity is more than 
itself, that it is transparent for Transcendence. 

If I say we are left with mere experience this is not an adequate 
statement. As it stands it only indicates the essential difference 
from any cognitive grip on Transcendence. We have to add now 
following Vol. Ill, ch. 4 that we do not stop with the mere 
experience of absolute consciousness, but that this presence of 
Transcendence, originally only in some way "perceptible" to 
individual Existenz, finds a more universal "language." This "im- 
mediate language of Transcendence" is made communicable to 
other Existenzen through illustrative symbols, e.g., myths, a reli- 
gious revelation of a world to come, or a mythical reality (such as 
transmitted in a landscape by Van Gogh) , 24 In addition, philo- 
sophical or speculative thought produces a rational account, in- 
terpreting Transcendence "as if" it were empirically existing like 
myself and the world. Such interpretation will never attain a 
true knowledge of Transcendence, but constitutes in itself another 
cipher-script (Chiffreschrift). All forms of cipher-reading gain 
their weight and though undemonstrable certainty only from 
that unmediated presence which animates every cipher experi- 
enced by absolute consciousness. Ciphers in general constitute that 
type of reality which "brings Transcendence into presence." 25 
This unmediated experience is the foundation on which, in turn, 
rests the reading of it in terms of the "second language," that of 
myths, etc., and, eventually, the speculative reading. (The lan- 
guage of art is yet another level of ciphers, placed between the 
mythical and the speculative. It cannot be dealt with here) .* 

Inasmuch as, without a deeper understanding of the essence 
of ciphers, we cannot continue to the cipher of foundering, I want 
to portray Jaspers' views on the matter and their outspoken para- 
dox in two ways, which are closely linked with each other. 

1. Since transcendent Being is always experienced through 
ciphers, and since Existenz is always an historical individuality, 
not every cipher is intelligible to every Existenz. The myths of 
the aborigines, e.g., may for the members of such a society 
be genuine ciphers, experienced by each 'existentially;' but this 
will not be so for members of a higher civilization. Similarly, 
dogmas and also metaphysical systems are only historical ciphers. 

24 Ibid., 133. v&lbid., 137. 

* Ed.'s Note: This subject is treated in the essay by Johannes Pfeiffer. 


In one word: Ciphers do not only give no knowledge of Tran- 
scendence but the experience of Transcendence through ciphers 
varies along with the historical habitat of a given Existenz. 
("Historical habitat" is used here in a wide sense. Thus, e.g., 
it certainly depends also on the intellectual gifts and the educa- 
tion of a given person whether, say, a painting by Van Gogh 
achieves metaphysical significance as a symbol of Transcendence.) 
The significance of the "definition," that Transcendence is 
reality without potentiality, emerges here again: It is claimed that 
the impulse of fundamental metaphysical experience is exactly 
to reach this point beyond the isolated experiences of potential- 
ities, viz., Transcendence, the nothing but real which is Being as 
such. 26 It is significant that this quasi-ontological account of 
Transcendence appears here, where the concept of the "direct 
language of Transcendence" is introduced. This is apparently 
the content of Transcendence which is common to all ciphers, 
which belongs to their essence. (Their amazing variety is treated 
in a second part of Philosophic, Vol. Ill, chapter 4: The World of 
Ciphers.) The following question could now be asked: is Trans- 
cedence, thus qualified, not already touched upon in 'existential' 
decisions or in absolute consciousness? Why then ciphers? The 
answer is that, beyond the experience of finality, there is in, and 
because of, 'existential' experience a "presence" of Transcendence, 
something that corresponds to objectivity: the transparency of 
the world of objects, i.e., the ciphers. Transcendence, as it were, 
does not remain hidden, as in the experience of finality, but 
assumes "perceptible language" in ciphers. Expounding Jaspers 
one might say: Existenz constitutes the depth of the total empirical 
I and it can live its part only in the form of empirical conscious- 
ness and within an empirical world. The necessary condition of 
Existenz: to be here one might also say, the essential character- 
istic of consciousness: to partake in the cleavage between subject 
and object as co-extensive with intentionality (in Husserl's sense) 
requires that Transcendence be represented in quasi-objective 
form, if there is to occur an authentic experience of Transcend- 
ence going beyond the impalpable experience of finality. I say 
"quasi-objective" because Transcendence can, of course, not take 
on an object character (which would only mean appearance over 
again) . The idea is rather that empirical objects may become 
symbols of Transcendence in the way indicated. This happens 
only in 'existential' conduct. Here Transcendence can, beyond 
the experience of finality, manifest itself in the different mode of 

26/fefU, 131. 


the empirically given, as its transcendent background as it were, 
and this manifestation is quasi-objective. (We have omitted the 
intermediate chapter 3: 'Existential relationships to Transcend- 
ence, which connects the notion of Exist enz as such with the read- 
ing of ciphers by Existenz. We shall return to this chapter briefly 
in another context.) 

2. Another question suggests itself: Is the difference between 
individual ciphers due to the empirical element in them, so that 
their divergent contents do not infringe upon the unity of the 
one Being conceived along the lines of the quasi-ontological analy- 
sis of Transcendence? This is not Jaspers' view. "A bare 'beyond* 
would be empty and might just as well not exist." 27 Paradoxically, 
"there is totality and unity in every symbol qua appearances of 
Transcendence," "every symbol remains one individual aspect of 
Transcendence." 28 * One is reminded of the coincidentia opposi- 
torum of Nicolaus Cusanus. While existence "is constituted in 
relationships between itself and others" by mutual implication 
as it were this antithetical relationship does not hold for the 
different aspects of the one Transcendence: the One is at the 
same time manifold. There is one point, however, which distin- 
guishes Jaspers from such a coincidentia oppositorum: Transcend- 
ence in its aspects is not separable from the Existenz experiencing 
it; Transcendence is only accessible in the "obviously paradoxical" 
form of "immanent Transcendence." The access to Transcendence 
is not separable from the character of a particular Existenz. 29 This 
non-Cusanian element, the inclusion of a subject, suggests the 
idea that the differences or even contradictions of the ciphers 
among each other mi^ht all be explained by the different subjects 
experiencing them. But this is not Jaspers' view. Precisely this 
separability of Existenz and Transcendence is rejected, and the 
differences cannot therefore be attributed solely to the different 
Existenzen but belong also to Transcendence itself, even though 
it is the One. 

We have arrived at a main manifestation of Jaspers' irrational- 
ism. In the last resort it is to safeguard this inseparability, to 
formulate it and to bring it into relief, that the great later work, 
Von der Wahrheit, was written. 80 

27/foU, 136. 28 Ibid., 138. 

* Ed.'s Note: Jaspers uses the terms "symbol" and "cipher" interchangeably here. 
Cf. Kurt Hoffman's essay in this volume. 

M Ibid., 136. 

30 1 have given a short analysis of this work, together with a criticism of its main 
epistemological problem in an article, "Karl Jaspers' Buch Von der Wahrheit," Ar- 
chiv fur Philosophie, Vol. V, Nr. 2 (1954), I70ff. 


The unity of Transcendence becomes eloquent in true, though 
occasionally contradictory, aspects which are experienced ' exist en- 
tially* and which are expressed symbolically in the quasi-objective 
language of ciphers. 

1 'The standard to apply is no longer that of scientific and 
methodical inquiry aiming at a final result; the issue is: 'existenti- 
ally true and ' existentially' ruinous symbolism. What broke down 
in its cognitive claim remains as a symbol for a mode in which 
self-being knew its Transcendence." 31 

We are left with the ambiguity of ciphers in the sense that 
different Existenzen will adopt the one Transcendence in a num- 
ber of ways. Any interpretation will be unequivocal for a parti- 
cular Existenz precisely at the moment of adoption; the inter- 
pretation will "at the moment of historical presence become un- 
ambiguous for Existenz, unexchangeably and unknowably so 
[even] for itself" ("unknowable" because speculative interpre- 
tation gains its certainty only from the "direct language" of 
Transcendence) . 32 Not only the individual Existenz but also "the 
Transcendence giving fulfilment to this particular Existenz" is 
"non-interchangeable" and only in this sense unambiguous. It is 
even possible that the same person will, at different "high mo- 
ments" of his life, experience as true different symbols and 
speculative interpretations, even new symbols. In this sense am- 
biguity belongs to the essence of ciphers. If any one cipher would 
be "final" it is argued "perfection," absoluteness would enter 
the realm of finite being, i.e., the realm of the existence of 
Existenz. If one wanted to outtheorize Jaspers and separate the 
factors involved, one might say that the ambiguity of ciphers is 
due to finiteness; conclusiveness and absence of ambiguity, in 
turn, is due to the in each case historical attainment of 
Transcendence. Both factors are, for Jaspers, inseparably one 
in the reading of ciphers. (It is characteristic of the ambiguity 
in question that a mutually elucidating exchange among all 
ciphers, including the mythical ones, is possible. 33 ) 

In view of the ambiguity of ciphers it will be well to look back 
to our starting-point. The unifying factor which reduces am- 
biguity at every historical jucture to conclusiveness is the One, 
Transcendence, which is experienced as reality without potenti- 
ality. In this sense Jaspers will say "it is sufficient that Transcend- 
ence is;" but this Transcendence will, perceptible through its 
particular cipher-language, be "granted" to individual Existenz 

31 tbid., 148. 32 ibid. 33 ibid., 150. 


in its transcending experience of certainty and yet, at the same 
time, according to what we said above, be prehended in freedom. 

III. The Cipher of Foundering 

In the context of Jaspers' main work the concept of "foundering" 
comes as the last great theme, unifying the whole in a new climax. 
It would have been of little value to discuss foundering in isola- 
tion; our main task was rather to outline Jaspers' whole account 
of Being which finds a precise expression in this concept. It is 
not true, however, that an understanding of foundering is de- 
rived automatically from the views stated previously. It involves 
a new element. 

Foundering signifies the fruitlessness of all endeavors to reach, 
from a finite basis such as consciousness-as-such or even from self- 
sufficient Existenz, a satisfactory access to Being, i.e., to arrive at 
the absolute. More will have to be said about this presently. 
For the moment it may suffice to say that in Jaspers' explicit 
treatment of foundering towards the end of the work it takes 
on another sense or function: foundering itself comes to be a 
cipher, a cipher determining all other ciphers. Therefore it was 
unavoidable to speak not only about the basic concepts of Existenz 
and Transcendence but also to deal with the idea of ciphers of 
Transcendence. In spite of the limitations of this essay, we had 
to look into this particular language of metaphysics. 

Let us consider the explicit treatment of foundering in Vol. Ill, 
ch. 4, part 4. We find a division: Factual foundering (faktisches 
Scheitern) is, as it were, simply the consequence of all fruitless 
endeavors to reach ultimate Being. Turning his attention to this 
failure, Jaspers then asks in what way foundering itself is inter- 
pretable, in what way it can be a cipher for something and have 
a referential character: factual foundering is understood 'existen- 
tially' as a cipher. 

This dichotomy reflects the division of the above-mentioned 
passage. A peculiar thing happens to the latter alternative, i.e., 
the interpretation of foundering as a cipher: Foundering admits 
of interpretation, of reading it as a cipher, but there are also 
remainders so to say of foundering, remainders encountered 
in the world, in regard to which not even that kind of an inter- 
pretation is meaningfully possible. This is then the actual diffi- 
culty: foundering may remain an uninterpretable cipher. One 
may ask (with Jaspers) if this whole system of metaphysics is 


not thus doomed to founder. In what sense this is not supposed 
to be the case will be our final problem. 

Let us first remember clearly that for Jaspers foundering does 
not emerge only at this juncture, but that for him all the various 
ways of transitoriness and all vain attempts to remodel them 
cognitively or actively into "enduring being as such" (Sein schlecht- 
hin als Bestand) 3 * are types of human foundering. Naturally, 
therefore, the concept of foundering occurs already in early 
passages of the work; as a matter of fact, on the very first page 
where Jaspers reflects on the breakdown of any attempt to obtain, 
by way of ontology, durable Being as something objective, inde- 
pendent of my situation. 35 Similarly, the concept occurs in the 
introduction to Vol. Ill, the "Metaphysics," not as related to con- 
sciousness-as-such (which is the vehicle of universally valid know- 
ledge and also of ontology) , but as related to Existenz. The oc- 
currence in passages acting as preludes either to the work as a 
whole or to Vol. Ill may be an indication of the paramount signi- 
ficance of foundering. In accordance with the dimensions of the 
work, it is small wonder that the concept is made to cover the 
different factual forms of foundering as they occur. There would 
be little use in making a list of all these; because something may 
be a case of foundering even if the term has not been used (e.g., 
in a number of descriptive analyses where Jaspers declares that 
it is impossible for positivism as well as for idealism to arrive 
at a comprehensive conception of the world) . Nevertheless we 
may hint at two uses of the term which are of particular impor- 
tance to the concluding section and thus have a significance for 
Jaspers' views as a whole. 

What I have in mind is, first of all, so-called "formal transcend- 
ing*' which, in demonstrating the contradictions of ontological 
reasoning and the absurdity of any claim to understand God, Be- 
ing, naught, etc., keeps the way open for the positive 'existential 9 
metaphysics of ciphers. 87 It became apparent, in Vol. I, that philo- 
sophical "world-orientation" cannot arrive at an all-embracing, 
closed system like those of Aristotle, Hegel, positivism or idealism. 
In Vol. Ill, where we concentrate on Transcendence and the di- 
vine, the dialectic of foundering in thought appears: It is already 
a case of "transcending" if human speculative thought (which is 
never superfluous but always an inevitable attempt to comprehend 
the transcendent) tries and concentrates on its own antinomies and 
contradictions, viz. on the attempt to objectify and contemplate 
what is non-objective, Transcendence. Through this failure of 

34 ibid., 222. 88 Cf. also I, 58. 86 HI, 3. 87 ibid., ch. 2. 


consciousness-as-such with regard to a rational comprehension of 
Transcendence, philosophy comes to realize the limits of its think- 
ing. If this means that fundamentally the way is cleared for a non- 
objective contact with Transcendence, then even this merely "for- 
mal" transcending indicates something positive: to touch on a 
boundary means to touch on something else beyond that bound- 
ary. "Contemplating the non-absolute I touch indirectly on abso- 
lute Being." 38 And again: "Philosophical thinking of God which 
gains certainty in the foundering of thought prehends thus the 
'that' not the 'what' of the godhead." 39 

If foundering is a metaphor for thwarted endeavor, then the 
ontological attempt mentioned at the beginning of the work 
to arrive at a conclusive account of Being by way of thinking or 
of consciousness-as-such is the thwarted endeavor. As in III, 43 and 
54, foundering serves, here too, to characterize the rejection of the 
traditional, ever-repeated approaches of metaphysics; thus the way 
for the existentialist approach is cleared. Foundering is to become 
the great symbol for all endeavors not only those in terms of 
thought bent on Transcendence. It is not by accident, however, 
that the notion comes into prominence in connection with the 
rejection of what used to be the via regia to Transcendence: 
thought and reasoning. But it is significant that foundering is not 
restricted to a negative function but appears here in the positive 
one intimated by the last two quotations. The simile of "coming 
up against a wall" makes this even clearer. 

It would be tempting to pursue the ways of formal transcend- 
ing which exemplify foundering in the sense indicated above. 
Within the scope of this essay, however, I can only say that Jaspers' 
analysis of the great antinomies of being is meaningful also for a 
metaphysics more sceptical than his. He who does not "believe" in 
Jaspers' fulfillment (of which we shall talk at once) will probably 
stop short of the discovery of such worldly contradictions, because 
they are the last stage metaphysics can reach. But this is only a 
marginal comment from outside of Jaspers' system. 

We must go on to the second important aspect of foundering. 
We can deal with it briefly because in this connection foundering 
is treated in line with the previous idea that foundering on a bar- 
rier makes me aware of just this barrier. It is here that the simile 
of "coming up against a wall" reveals the true meaning of foun- 

39 Ibid., 39; I refer readers to a helpful passage from Jaspers' Von der Wahrheit, 
136: "The result of such 'somersaulting* thinking (sich ftberschlagcndcn Denkcn) is 
not a stable knowledge of God; but: that we can and must think in this manner is 
a pointer towards Transcendence." 


dering. 40 We do not mean the failure of speculative thought to 
solve the rational antinomies, but the fact that Existenz sympto- 
matically finds itself in ultimate situations in which it fails. To 
experience ultimate situations and to exist are in fact called one 
and the same thing. They exhibit, in a certain parallelism with 
the antinomies of thought, the antinomical structure of our total 
being, as Existenz not consciousness-as-such experiences it. To 
the few details given above (p. 305) I can add here but little 
from part 3 of the chapter on ultimate situations, e.g., the idea 
that "the valuable is tied up everywhere with conditions which 
are, as such, of negative value." 41 Life is tied up with death, free- 
dom goes with compulsion to choose only a limited possibility, 
etc.; a state of affairs which, following Heidegger, is labeled 
* 'guilt." 42 Before we turn to the concluding section of Jaspers' 
work let us simply note that in the part of Vol. II which deals with 
ultimate situations Jaspers has succeeded in giving descriptions 
which convey a very clear picture of the concept of foundering, in 
its double meaning of "coming up against a wall" and of "tran- 
scending the wall existentially." I particularly want to point out 
here the 'existential' conquest of death as contrasted to all the 
"faulty proofs of immortality." We may, e.g., see such mastery in 
heroic courage in the face of death, where it would manifest itself 
as certainty of super-apparitional Being. 43 

Now we come at last to the passages in the final chapter which 
deal explicitly with foundering. It has been mentioned before that 
Jaspers begins with modes of actual foundering. The heading 
reads "The multiple meaning of actual foundering," and we find 
first (1) an enumeration of these different modes; (2) subsequent- 
ly the multiplicity of meaning of these different modes is com- 
mented upon. 44 

The first point, the enumeration of modes of foundering, sub- 
divides into the above-mentioned dichotomy of failure of thought 
and failure of Existenz. Here we should note the following: The 
"World-Orientation" demonstrated already the foundering of all 
life in death, that of history in progress (down to the menacing 
annihilation as a result of new weapons). The attempt to escape 
into thought, into the world of timeless validity of values and 
standards, and of absolute truth, fails too. These topics point to 
important tenets within the system as a whole with which we could 
not deal. We saw, while discussing ciphers, that there can be world- 
immanent objective truth, but that the ultimate truth is one of 

40 ibid., II, 203. 41 Ibid., 250. 

42 ibid., 247. 43 ibid., 220ff. 44 ibid., Ill, 219ff. 


Existenz, not one of universal validity (therefore formulations such 
a ' 'failure of logic in relativity/ 1 "emergence of non-rational truth 
as surpassing knowledge"). 45 Quite generally, timeless objectivity, 
i.e., universally valid standards and ideas, such as ethical values, 
are regarded as "not only unreal but void." 46 Jaspers confronts 
such timelessness which he calls duration with 'existential' 
reality which has access to eternity in quite another way: eternity 
is athwart of time (cf. above, pp. 30 if) . 

Next in the enumeration of modes of foundering follows the 
discussion of foundering of Existenz: "the in-itself of Existenz" 
fails; "wherever I am authentically myself, I am not only myself." 47 
Finally there is a mode of foundering where Existenz has express 
reference to Transcendence and yet founders: foundering in the 
face of Transcendence. In the passage under discussion it is illus- 
trated briefly in this way: "In the face of Transcendence thought 
fails because of the passion for the night." 48 On the basis of what 
we have said so far about Jaspers' system this passage cannot be 
understood. We have to add that the "Metaphysics" has three 
parts: between the chapter entitled "Formal Transcending" and 
the one called "Reading of the Cipher-Script" stands one called 
"Existential Relationships to Transcendence;" ['passion for the 
night' is one of these relationships]. In the whole chapter on "rela- 
tionships" the attitude of Existenz before Transcendence is treated 
in its subjective aspects, so to say; its likewise antinomical 
structure is revealed and interpreted as "defiance and surrender," 
"uplift," etc. The level of discussion lies beyond illumination of 
Existenz and thus metaphysical and religious attempts at solutions 
begin to appear, e.g., the attempt at a theodicy, or the different 
God-concepts. Cipher-reading is here "search" for Transcendence 
through certain antithetic 'existential attitudes. Volume III (apart 
from the disposition and Introduction) is divided into three parts: 

(1) Formal Transcending; it "keeps the way open" for (2) the 
quest for Transcendence (the 'existential' relationships), and for 

(3) the only form of finding Transcendence, viz., the reading of 
the ciphers in which Transcendence attains "presence." Here, 
then, is mentioned the third among four antithetic relationships 
to Transcendence: the "passion for the night." It is impossible to 
give an account here of this profound paragraph. Just to comment 
on the suggestive title: We would mistake Jaspers' intentions if 
we claimed that he rejects order in the human domain as brought 

47 ibid., 220; to be interpreted in the sense of what we discussed on pp. 302ff. 


about by reasonable rules and conceptions. 49 Without reasonable 
order, without the 'law of the day* (Gesetz des Tages), man, who 
is not only Existenz but necessarily existence also, could not live. 
The 'passion for the night* appears as the antithesis to reason 
(which Jaspers tends to emphasize strongly in Von der Wahrheit); 
it is, so to speak, an ultimate and insurmountable experience, not 
assimilable to order, though justified as "exception" in the eyes 
of Existenz. It appears in a variety of ways: as passion for death, 
with its well-known connection with Eros, 50 but also as unavoid- 
able "inhumanity" such as that which forced itself on the mind of 
a statesman like Cromwell. 51 A mythological interpretation of 
these opposite worlds is the belief in a good and a bad world- 
power (e.g., in the ancient Persian religion). But in reality every 
attempt at a "synthesis of both worlds" fails. 52 

This may be sufficient to indicate what, in our enumeration of 
forms of foundering, may be the meaning of foundering in the 
face of Transcendence. It is foundering of Existenz inasmuch as 
Existenz has express reference to Transcendence (this is why it 
comes under metaphysics and not under illumination of Existenz); 
it is foundering because a compromise or adjustment between 
the opposing orientations, each of them experienced and justified 
by Existenz, cannot be obtained. We will have to ask in what re- 
spect there could be another form of foundering before Tran- 

After the enumeration of the forms of foundering we now turn 
to the second point: the multiple meaning of foundering (we shall 
return to the previous discussion presently and we shall also have 
more to say on the foundering of Existenz). Jaspers considers it 
necessary to discuss the multiple meaning of foundering because 
the variety of forms of foundering is "confusing" if the meaning 
of foundering in each of them is left undifferentiated. Jaspers 
starts by saying that foundering happens only to man, not to 
animals, being a response to the "ambiguous" or "equivocal" 
(nicht Eindeutiges). After the above-mentioned antithesis of 
failure of thought and failure of Existenz we should expect these 
two kinds to appear as the main varieties of meaning. This is quite 

40 Cf. especially the chapter on "Subjectivity and Objectivity" in vol. II, where 
Jaspers demands participation in the state and its rational order which, however, 
constitutes an inexorable "tension" in relation to Existenz, the ultimate court of de- 
cision. In the more recent Origin and Goal of History Jaspers goes so far as to ac- 
knowledge principles of natural law. As an example of foundering we might mention 
that the attempt to establish an everlasting world-order in terms of unlimited prog- 
ress betrays in a significant way the failure of consciousness-as-such, the faculty of 
order. Cf. the references mentioned above. 

so Philosophic III, 105. 51 Ibid., 107. 52 lbid. t 113. 


true. But we are surprised to find that failure in ultimate situa- 
tions and even failure in the 'existential' relations to Transcend- 
ence are grouped together with the first of these kinds. All these 
forms of foundering are supposed to have a meaning similar to 
that of foundering in consciousness-as-such and the whole group 
is contrasted with foundering "on a different plane," i.e., founder- 
ing of Existent, which exhibits the second main variety. That 
means obviously that also in the experience of the antinomic 
structure of ultimate situations and in those futile attempts at a 
"synthesis" of the 'existential' responses to Transcendence, rational 
compromise is being sought. This group, therefore, comprises the 
ways by which man, qua existence, "unavoidably" tries to win 
the upper hand over those "real" antinomies through thinking. 
It is indeed a fact that man lives not merely as Existenz, but that 
he exists also and that, even in his 'existing,' he also thinks; he 
even thinks in reading ciphers. This then, viz., thinkability, is the 
aspect under which foundering in the 'existential' relations to 
Transcendence is to be understood first of all: Those kinds of 
'existential' experience which cannot be mastered in thought, i.e., 
foundering of 'existential' experience itself, cannot be understood 
in this fashion and thus form a natural contrast to those which 
can. Here come now the other forms of foundering set out above: 
the experience of freedom in which Existenz learns that it cannot 
absolutely rely on itself; the 'existential' "guilt" of having to 
choose; furthermore the realization that truth is in the last resort 
not demonstrably valid for everybody, but is variable in relation 
to Existenz, as we discovered when discussing ciphers an ob- 
servation which applies equally to the field of ethics (here used in 
a wide sense) where truth is supposed to surpass all attempts at 
general validity. 

Here we might mention that, in accordance with his style 
which is actually not our concern Jaspers does not, as might 
appear from our account, give a complete list of all forms of 
foundering and then divide them carefully according to their 
meanings. He does make a distinction between mere enumeration 
(or "representation" as he has it) and elucidation of the meaning, 
but his way of handling the problems is more labile; the differ- 
ences between the individual phenomena are not clearly marked. 
I mention this with an eye both to the preceding part of this essay 
and to what is to follow. In an important concluding passage Jas- 
pers introduces a new aspect which brings the previous forms of 
foundering into a new light. 

It may look like an exacerbation of a, by now familiar, idea 


when we hear that Exist enz, as it fails in its craving for self-suffi- 
ciency, comes up against its limits and thus becomes open to 
Transcendence. This would mean the "success" both of Existenz 
(which is said to be authentic only in its reference to Transcend- 
ence) and of its contact with Transcendence. A new feature, how- 
ever, now comes to light: The authentic self as well as Transcend- 
ence may remain in abeyance (sich ausbleiben) and, since to force 
the issue is impossible, I will not know to what extent I am to 
blame. This leads to the most astonishing formulation of founder- 
ing: "Even if all honesty and readiness seem to be there, I may 
fail, with neither philosophical confidence, nor God's word, nor 
religious security being of any use to me." 53 This puts into nega- 
tive language the familiar idea that Existenz, in spite of its free- 
dom, "is granted to itself" inasmuch as it is rooted in Transcend- 
ence. We can detect here a somewhat new meaning which calls 
for our attention. The idea of Existenz as something bestowed does 
not only mean that it is not causa sui, but also that Existenz may 
be denied, in spite of all good will, to become Existenz in a full 
sense, i.e., to experience itself in relation to Transcendence. We 
should note that this does not refer to a lasting state of affairs, as 
if there were a predestination of those who might never be called 
to authentic Existenz. What is meant is that the depth of experi- 
encing may vary: what I am being granted now may be withheld 
at some other time. This consideration will be of importance 
when we come to deal with the notion of "ultimate foundering." 
The note of potential ultimate foundering has been struck and 
the section now under review 54 continues with the question which 
seems to lead from an account of actual (or mere, non-symbolic) 
foundering to its interpretation. Is foundering really annihilation 
or can "Being be revealed" through it; can foundering be coinci- 
dent with eternalization? This section is called "Scheitern und 
Verewigen" (foundering and eternalization), therefore. Inasmuch 
as the second section following thereafter has the title, "Deutung 
der Notzuendigkeit des Scheiterns" (interpretation of the necessity 
of foundering), 55 one might wonder if the section preceding it 
does not in fact contain an "interpretation," or if the above divi- 
sion is wrong. We should recall that Jaspers has a peculiar vague- 
ness jn contrast to our, necessarily systematic, interpretation. In 
the present section, "Foundering and Eternalization" foundering 
is claimed to be a cipher, 66 where we are no longer dealing with 

, 227. ce/Wd.,223. 


actual foundering in isolation but with foundering as transparent 
for something, introducing us to something. 57 

Turning now to foundering as access to eternity, the theoretical 
elements are already known to us. If "foundering is the end" 
this is the result of the previous considerations and if the escape 
into the realm of timeless validities leads into the void, the only 
authentic being we are left with, following the earlier argument, is 
"the concrete and present reality of the being-itself of Existenz." 68 
And here lies a positive answer to the above question whether 
foundering is coincident with eternalization. I have picked out 
two views which, brought together, give this result. First, the 
essence of Existenz is freedom, and ruin and destruction can there- 
fore also freely be taken on in contrast to mere accidental tran- 
sitoriness and subjection to it we can, so to speak, "adopt" foun- 
dering; the corresponding cipher is "amor fati" Secondly, in the 
free prehending of foundering we are supposed to experience or, 
past all conscious experiencing, have access to that timelessness 
which is eternity within time, "athwart of time." In it Transcend- 
ence, which is not tied to our apparential time, will shine through. 

It would be a mistake to see in this free adoption a will to fail. 
It is a feature of man as a unity comprising existence not to will his 
foundering but to promote, say, reasonable order. The positive 
attitude towards foundering which Jaspers has in mind is "dar- 
ing," courage to take foundering upon myself. If I do what is in 
my power, regardless of the possibility or eventual necessity of 
foundering, I live in a certainty of action surpassing the temporal 
and actual. After such daring "activity" I may well fail. 

Penetrating more deeply, there is a difficulty in these words: 
The cipher of foundering becomes "manifest" (offenbar) to "Exis- 
tenz which, perishing qua existence, produces it [this meaning- 
ful cipher] qua freedom; which founders qua Existenz and thus 
finds its ground in Transcendence." 59 One could be led to think 
that Existenz fails only in its apparential component, namely as 
existence only. Here, however, Existenz itself founders. The dif- 
ference is that with the word "foundering" (Zerschellen) is linked 
a positive feature: foundering on the rock of Transcendence.* 
Existenz, whose "body" is its realization in existence, experiences 

57 On the other hand, let us realize that the subsequent section does not read 
"Interpretation of Foundering" but "Interpretation of the Necessity of Foundering." 
We have, so it appears, levels or aspects of interpretations and, on the whole, our 
main division seems to be justified. 

58 Philosophic III, 222. 59 Ibid., 223. 

* Ed.'s Note: Here Jaspers uses Zerschellen the literal translation of "founder- 
ing" in the narrow, nautical sense as a metaphor. 


the shipwreck of this reality. Existenz possesses, however, a non- 
apparential depth, its root in Transcendence, and from there will 
come the echo that it dared rightly. The free daring of Existenz 
has Transcendence for its basis, and even in its ultimate founder- 
ing it can assure itself of that. Existenz can read this assurance in 
a cipher which it "produces while undergoing annihilation qua 
existence." "The cipher of eternalization in foundering appears 
only if I do not want to founder but dare to." 60 Judging merely 
from appearance, the "contradiction" involved will stand but 
foundering becomes a cipher with regard to Transcendence. In 
genuine foundering Existenz touches Transcendence and therein 
lies eternalization. In this sense foundering itself is cipher. 

It will be clear from this that Jaspers' foundering is far removed 
from any mystical "other-worldliness," if this should have any 
quietistic significance. The following section can be taken as an 
appeal for action irrespective of inevitable failure. I cannot dwell 
here on all the important points of this section, "Verwir kitchen 
und Nichtverwirklichen" (realization and non-realization) . Let 
me mention only one which could have been listed among the 
forms of actual foundering. In passing we remarked on page 301 
that for Jaspers communication between individual Existenzen 
belongs to the 'existential essence of man, whereas universal 
validity is only a matter of consciousness-as-such. E.g., I cannot 
possess truth in isolation, but only through exchange with others 
can I be sure of my truth. Similarly, in the part I play in model- 
ling the world, I must allow for the freedom of others and exercise 
consideration. But and this brings us to the kind of foundering 
we want to outline here in communication with others, too, 
I will eventually fail, and yet in doing so "Being will be re- 
vealed." 61 

We come now to what I have called another level of interpre- 
tation, the "Interpretation of the Necessity of Foundering." 62 
Here we expect an answer to the question whether there must 
be foundering. We might say we are dealing with something like 
a theodicy of foundering. Such an interpretation would mean, 
of course, the creation of a new cipher in terms of existentialist 
philosophy. Before dealing with that, however, we must mention 
that, at the end of these justifications for foundering, appears 
something new, an ultimate level of cipher-reading: the uninter- 
pretable. It leads to the point where interpretation passes into 
silence, i.e., it leads to what may be called Jaspers' mysticism. 

In the following section 68 the basic elements are arranged in 

eo ibid. i Ibid., 226. 2 ibid., 227ff. Ibid. 


antitheses in such a way that foundering appears as a necessary 
consequence. (1) The timelessness of "ideal being" (universal 
truths, etc.) and the duration of everything factual are lumped 
together as a kind of inert permanence, whereas, in comparison, 
profound transcendent Being is accessible only in those moments 
when that entirely different eternity, athwart of time, is percep- 
tible. Inert eternity is set against a, quasi living, eternity which 
freedom can prehend for an instant at a time. There is no way 
in which freedom can aspire to Transcendence, unless it fails in 
its obedience to those inert kinds of eternity; that is, unless their 
claim for totality is broken. (2) The second antithesis is that 
between freedom and "nature;" they cannot be reconciled with- 
out foundering. Freedom can find realization only in the world, 
in nature. Existenz is real only in the form of existence, not as 
pure Existenz; it can realize itself only against the resistance of 
nature. Nature, however, on its part, is not only resistance to be 
mastered by Existenz, but is itself rooted in the quite other realm 
of Transcendence, and it "revolts" therefore against that mastery 
which is Existenz' task. This is why Jaspers speaks of an "antinomy 
of freedom." "To become one with nature" (not trying to master 
it but submitting to it as to being-as-such) "brings about the 
annihilation of Existenz qua freedom; to offend against it pre- 
cipitates its breakdown qua existence." It holds, therefore, also 
for this second antithesis that foundering is a necessary corollary 
to freedom. (3) Existenz must fail because it exists and realizes 
itself only as finite existence, and yet it must by its essence "sur- 
pass, in its absoluteness, the bounds of finiteness." The world of 
existence, in this view, is constituted as a world of restrictions, of 
compromises, etc. Existenz in its boundlessness offends against 
this stability by disturbing it. For this "guilt of absoluteness 
Existenz must do penance and founder. It founders because it 
aspires to things infinite," because it wants to impose its un- 
conditional absoluteness on the conditional world of existence. 
This offense against the constitution of the world is seen on 
one hand as an "exception" 64 cf. Jaspers' illustration of Crom- 
well on the other hand, however, this offending and consequent 
foundering is considered essential to Existenz as such, a conse- 
quence of its true being. This is one of those "oscillations" which 
seem to belong to Jaspers' style. A similar one is noticeable in 

4 We should note in passing that this is a particularly relevant passage about 
Jaspers' ethics: The two types of ethics, that of universally valid standards and that 
of the unconditional 'existential' "exception" stand in opposition to each other, thus 
each relativizing the other. 


the following point (4) . What I have in mind is this: under 
points (2) and (3) we were dealing with that sort of foundering 
which Existenz incurs through its realization in nature and in 
the world of history, i.e., qua its alliance with existence. It was 
to such finiteness that absolute Existenz stood in opposition. Now 
finiteness is claimed not only for Existenz qua thrown into nature 
and the world, without its consent, but and this is the new 
point (4) finiteness holds also for Existenz qua individual. 
Contrary to Schopenhauer, the multiplicity of individuals cannot, 
for Jaspers, be a matter of appearance only; Existenzen are always 
just this or that Existenz. This squares with Kant's assumption 
of numerous intelligible egos. One might therefore ask if, irrespec- 
tive of its necessary failure qua existence each Existenz will fail, 
purely by itself, as such. This cannot be, inasmuch as Existenz lives 
only in the form of existence, is not "here" (da) by itself. Never- 
theless, we find here a philosophical motif which could be called 
the idea of "primordial foundering: " to become finite, to separate 
from comprehensive Being, is seen as a kind of apostasy, a kind of 
primordial guilt. 65 

Jaspers calls this a "mythical conception;" but we know that 
such a conception is a cipher also and may contain truth, though 
it will not be true in the sense of objective, unequivocal knowl- 
edge. The primordial guilt of finiteness (as I would like to call 
it) cannot strictly be experienced as such by Existenz. Existenz 
finds itself allied to an antecedent will to survive as existence. 
Existenz can master this blind force (e.g., in a heroic attitude 
towards death) and surpass the bounds of finiteness [in the sense 
of (3) ]. "Only then, at this absolute level, is unavoidable guilt 
realized." If "guilt" refers here to that mythical conception above 
viz., that finiteness or individuation, though unavoidable, con- 
stitute an apostasy we have, strictly speaking, an oscillation. 
According to (3) there was an experienceable "guilt" of founder- 
ing at the world-order of existence, and then, secondly, there is 
that primordial "guilt" which is experienced in foundering: the 
metaphysical apostasy incidental to individuation is the basis for 
(1) the guilt that can be experienced in existence, and (2) for 
foundering in the world of existence. 66 

The following paragraph 67 refers back to foundering in exist- 

65 Cf. Anaximander's gnomon about the penance the things have to do in atone- 
ment for their separate existence, lately revived by Heidegger in his Holzwege. 

66 I remind readers of "original Nothingness" (Ur-Nicht) in Heidegger's concep- 
tion of guilt (cf. Sein und Zcit), which is claimed to be the basis of all guilt in the 
customary sense. Cf. also the theological antithesis of original sin and factual sins. 

67 Philosophic III, 230. 


ence: "In existence Being is not only veiled but reversed." As 
Existenz is compelled to realize itself, to "create" itself in the 
world, it looks as if existence is the only thing there is. This is 
the "fundamental fallacy with regard to Being, to believe that 
it is identical with existence." Only through the experience of 
foundering can this fallacy be resolved. With this statement 
Jaspers returns to the main trend of thought, that of a justification 
for foundering. He continues to the concept of ultimate, i.e., 
uninterpretable foundering. 

With point (5) of the present section (Interpretation of the 
Necessity of Foundering) we reach the turning point: There 
are conditions where this interpretation of ciphers breaks down, 
too, because thought is no longer met by a "matching content." 
Foundering becomes uninterpretable. Jaspers mentions three 
varieties: (a) Ruinous destruction as opposed to constructive 
annihilation (the prototype is mental disease which, unlike an- 
nihilation in death, cannot be prehended by my freedom) . (b) 
Premature destruction of potentialities already apparent. I will 
pass over the loving description of human beings living in the 
"lonely torment" of non-realization in "unknown heroism." Such 
persons may win a kind of new "substantiality" which will again 
admit of meaningful interpretation. Over and above such non- 
realization of embryonic potentialities, claim is made for cases 
where "potentiality as such is ruined" and all that remains is 
"uninterpretable Nothingness." (c) Jaspers considers the possi- 
bility of the annihilation of historical continuity through the loss 
of documents and of all evidence telling of valuable human 
activity. This would be "the ruin of oblivion" which also defies 
meaningful interpretation. 

We have now arrived at the concluding and most difficult sec- 
tion of Jaspers' work, "Die Chiffre des Seins im Scheitern" (foun- 
dering as cipher for Being) . It occupies a key position of such 
nature that, admittedly, with its acceptance or rejection the whole 
system will stand or fall. The uninterpretable annihilation of 
which we have just spoken is such that not only "will all existence 
fail us," but "foundering itself is only the presence of Nothing- 
ness, not a cipher any longer." 68 Through ciphers Transcendence 
was to be made present; intuition or thought were to find a 
(though merely symbolical) content. Here now such a content 
is no more available and all transcending, therefore, so far confi- 
dent to gain a "hold in Being," is "like a delusion." "To live 
without transcending, however, is to live in radical despair, with 


only Nothingness left." Therefore we must ask if this ultimate 
uninterpretable foundering might not, beyond all interpretation, 
become a " potential cipher." If at this stage foundering is to be 
considered a cipher in apparent contradiction to the previously 
stated collapse of any cipher-reading it will have to be in a 
sense quite different from the ordinary conception of cipher- 

Before we go into detail, let us try and give a provisional answer 
to the last question. It is not in a quasi-objective understanding 
but only in a peculiar experience that this ultimate uninterpret- 
able foundering can win a hold in Being. In Jaspers' description, 
an "incomprehensible leap" from anguish in the face of Nothing- 
ness to calm is possible, establishing contact with Transcendence 
without meaningful interpretation. Since without interpretation 
"no determinable content" is given, such an experience must be 
simply "silence." We can here talk of a cipher only in the sense 
that this muteness becomes in turn an "ultimate cipher" which 
is "no longer definable;" "it remains open, therefore it is silent." 

This is a preliminary sketch of Jaspers' most important views 
which lead from quasi-objective experience in cipher-reading to 
that pure non-objective experience parallel to the unio of the 
mystics, where similarly all objectifying understanding ceases. We 
will realize that this is the climax of Jaspers' irrationalistic doc- 
trine. It is so important that we must look more closely. 

Before we study Jaspers' account of the problem we must direct 
our attention to another oscillation in the passage on the "un- 
interpretable cipher." 69 First, a merely "contemplative" approach 
to foundering is set over against genuine foundering as an experi- 
ence, without which we would "fall back into finite existence." 
This means, if we performed the foregoing analyses with their 
justification only as rational analyses, we would make of them a 
complete system of speculative knowledge about the world. Inter- 
pretable foundering, too, will establish contact with transcendent 
Being only if it is experienced as foundering. Then, however, 
Jaspers returns to the discussion of non-interpretable foundering 
to which no contemplation can do justice. Jaspers gives short 
comments on the three varieties of uninterpretable foundering 
which we mentioned in the preceding paragraph. 70 The transition 
from ordinary foundering to such "ultimate foundering" is not 
facilitated but rather blurred by a passage inserted before the 
reference to these three ultimate varieties, not really referring 
to them but to another example of cipher-reading: "No one can 


know why the world exists; perhaps it can be experienced in 
foundering, but it cannot be told." For this famous problem 
there are certainly legitimate ciphers, take e.g., the theological 
analogy of God's creative will, for one. It is true, if one tries to 
transform a cipher into objective knowledge, a statement, a "tell- 
ing" of its content will certainly be impossible. But this limitation 
is not identical with that silence to which the next sentence re- 
verts; the silence before that which lies beyond interpretation, 
which has no meaningful cipher. 

We shall turn to this oscillation (or, if one prefers, contradic- 
tion) presently. In any case, the following remarks refer to that 
silence which results when we are face to face with the uninter- 
pretable. Above we have explained in what sense it is "silence." 
We will now have to see in what way something can be asserted 
about it. Let us bear in mind, too, that many religions accept the 
concept of a "holy silence." 71 

He who wants to give an answer (or a meaning) to this silence 
can merely "speak without saying anything." "Face to face with 
meaningless ruin" (that first type of ultimate foundering) "an 
answer may be the plain awareness of Being," the "conceptually 
empty," simple "it is." It is interesting that Jaspers compares 
Being with matter here. "In all the transitoriness of world-patterns 
matter remains the downright other, but indifferent, being." The 
likeness lies in the indeterminacy of both, transcendent Being and 
matter. Being, however, is not indifferent: "... it is intrinsic 
Being in whose dark meaning essence shines." This basic essence 
is inaccessible, incomprehensible in its meaning; but this obscur- 
ity to which no clarifying determination can do justice is an in- 
dication of the indeterminate One which shines through it. This 
indeterminate obscurity is not a nothing, it is lit, as it were, by 
the great positivity of Being. 72 

If matter in this comparison is also "one," qua indeterminate, 
transcendent Being on the other hand, contrary to the indifference 
of matter, is the essence, the supporting basis of all determinate, 
apparential being, it is the Being. 

This point, which Jaspers just hints at, I have enlarged on a 
little. It lies in the direction of negative theology. We should, 
however, remember that such considerations differ from those of 
negative theology in that they may not be taken as accomplished 
knowledge but only as symbolic circumlocutions of what will 

71 Cf. G. Mensching: Das heilige Schweigen (1926). 

72 in Von der Wahrhcit the idea of the one "Encompassing" is brought into 


remain: even in the face of ruin, Being, transcendent to ruin, will 
be experienced. 

In the light of this inaccessible Being, the two other varieties 
of ultimate uninterpretable foundering the unexploited poten- 
tialities and the ruin of oblivion can also refer to temporal 
being only; only within temporal being are potentialities wasted 
and achievements forgotten. They do not infringe on transcendent 
Being which is not subject to temporality. All three are varieties 
of the same empty formula, called "being." 

Next, before we reach the leap from anguish to calm, 73 follows 
quite a different reflection. In it, unexpectedly, this uninterpret- 
able silence is raised to universal significance in that all previous 
ciphers are made dependent on it for their meaning. Foundering 
comes to be the encircling foundation (umspannender Grund) 
of all ciphers. What does this mean? If worldly existence or indi- 
vidual Existenz were self-sufficient and did not, as in ultimate 
situations, come up against the wall of Transcendence, there 
would not occur that "presence" of Transcendence which the 
ciphers effect. Our passage does not emphasize so much the aspect 
of the diversified quasi-objective contents to be accorded to the 
ciphers, as that of contact with Transcendence which gives such 
contents meaning and life. Foundering, with its twofold function, 
the positive: to connect with Transcendence, the negative: to 
precipitate destruction, is this contact. 

All ciphers consisting of an interpretation of the different 
forms of foundering are "called in question" from the standpoint 
of this uninterpretable foundering. If foundering in its purest 
form, incapable of any meaningful interpretation of symbolic 
content, cannot be accounted for satisfactorily, are not all the 
other, richer experiences of foundering untenable? In this sense 
our attitude towards that universal foundering decides the valid- 
ity of all ciphers. From here they derive their "resonance," their 
confirmation. The uninterpretable itself becomes an "ultimate 
cipher," not filled with content but "open," inconclusive. 74 

Truly we have here the fulcrum of Jaspers' metaphysical doc- 
trine as he himself admits. The question is: can this doctrine as- 
similate ultimate foundering, come to terms with it? What has 
been said on it in the way of assertions was only "empty" speaking 
about what is intrinsically silence. In fact, on this central point 

78 Philosophic m,2S4. 

74 The transition from uninterpretable to universal foundering resonant in all 
ciphers (and the dependence of the former on the latter) may supply the solution 
of the oscillation referred to on pp. S25f, above. 


it is difficult to say more than what has been said above. The 
answer lies in the leap from anguish to calm which is the "most 
enormous," "the most difficult and incomprehensible" step man 
can succeed in making. It is not to be explained or expressed in 
concepts, it can only be experienced. Jaspers, however, does say 
a number of things about the "a quo" and the "ad quern" of this 
leap from anguish to calm, and also on the totality of this experi- 
ence and its effects on the life of man in the world. So we must 
try and bring out a few points. 

As is well known, anguish (Angst) has a prominent place in 
existentialist philosophy, beginning as early as Kierkegaard. Its 
significance open to criticism which we shall here not under- 
take to make -is to reveal man intrinsically. This would be a 
large subject on its own account, which we could not raise here 
even if we restricted the discussion to Jaspers.* Anguish is ex- 
perienced in ultimate situations (e.g., anguish before death); in 
them Existenz comes up against the limits on which it founders. 
So much for a brief account of anguish. But where we speak of 
uninterpretable foundering, anguish is carried to extremes: "ulti- 
mate anguish" corresponds to "ultimate foundering;" "intrinsic 
anguish . . . considers itself ultimate and there is no way out of 
it." In this anguish we realize we cannot leap over the abyss and 
yet, incomprehensibly, this leap into calm can succeed. 

This leap presupposes dread before the abyss, fear of sinking 
into Nothingness; but it does not presuppose such anguish as a 
cause. Causal inference is a matter of objective knowledge about 
the world. The leap that is meant here is unknowable spontaneity. 
Existentialist freedom occurs here in Jaspers in an extreme and 
incomprehensible form, as a leap over the abyss revealed through 
anguish. If we take a glimpse at other existentialists, "dread before 
freedom" signifies the response to the fact that I have to choose, 
spontaneously, in a leap as it were, one and only one of my pos- 
sibilities. "Nothing," e.g., will keep me from jumping down a 
real precipice. 75 In any case, dread in this connection seems to 
signify something of a more general nature than the anguish of 
which our passage speaks, viz., anguish before Nothingness in 
the experience of uninterpretable foundering, "ultimate an- 

Ed.'s Note: Cf. on this the definition and reference given in the Glossary at the 
beginning of this book. 

75 This formulation refers to Sartre. In Part I of U&tre et le neant dread (angois- 
se) before a real precipice is used as a central illustration for the essence of freedom. 
For Heidegger, too, dread and Nothingness are, however differently, yoked together 
a centra] feature of his "system." Cf. particularly his Sein und Zeit and Was ist 


guish."* Bearing in mind what has been said on the resonance 
the ciphers derive from universal foundering, this ultimate 
anguish should not be taken in a too limited sense: it is founda- 
tion, it constitutes, together with our leap into calm, "the basic 
fact of our Existenz in existence." Down to the last pages of 
Jaspers' work it is emphasized that anguish is a "most mysterious 
turning-point" where "even the language of Transcendence can 
be dispensed with." But then again its general significance is 
visible in the fact that the ultimate experience of a leap from 
anguish to calm is a prerequisite for "facing the real world un- 

This is subsequently elaborated. "Mere anguish" without ven- 
turing the leap "conceals from itself its own nature by clinging 
to pieces of knowledge that put it at rest." Empirical existence 
is thus made to believe that it can grasp its own nature completely 
and shape it accordingly. This would be "mere" calm, fallacious 
because it endeavors to overlook the fact that existence is not 
the whole. (A problem is touched here which, in my view, has 
found no satisfactory answer either in Sartre or Heidegger: How 
can anguish keep itself at bay, how can it avoid being experienced 
all the time? How can it have a central significance if it is such 
a rare phenomenon?) Both, mere anguish and mere calm "con- 
ceal" the "real world" which is disclosed, so to say, only on the 
basis of that being which belongs to it. It is through venturing 
the leap that the world will become visible on this foil. The leap 
does not, like "mere" anguish, blur the issue of foundering, but, 
with "authentic" anguish at its root, it is coincident with founder- 
ing, made possible by it. Ultimate anguish plunges the whole 
finite world into the light of Nothingness; the leap, however, 
which, in a way, reaches the firm ground of Transcendence, re- 
turns a positive meaning to the finite world; it does not let it 
fall into Nothingness but re-attaches it to the reality. 

This process in which "self-being is bound up with utmost 
proximity to reality" is never complete. A final (irrevocable) 
reality would founder no more (would no longer be called into 
question by foundering) , and thus would be incompatible with 
the finiteness of man and Existenz. The leap is, so it appears, 
reserved to "high moments." To bridge this gap, as it were in 
psychological terms, Jaspers introduces another attitude or re- 

* Ed.'s Note: To distinguish the two interpretations, "anguish," in preference to 
"dread," was chosen as translation of Angst. Usually Angst and angoisse are trans- 
lated with "dread." Cf. Existence and Being, excerpts from Heidegger's works, with 
an introduction by W. Brock, Chicago, 1949; and Existential Psychoanalysis, ]. P. 
Sartre, N.Y., 1953. 


sponse, that of endurance (Dulden), as "the way preceding ac- 
complished calm." He constrasts "passive endurance," a mere 
letting-things-be or non-resistance, to "active endurance," endur- 
ance in the realization of foundering. There will not always be 
enough strength to realize foundering; which is the same as saying 
that active endurance will not always fulfill its function of pre- 
cipitating calm through foundering. But, once foundering has 
resulted in a leap, that kind of endurance is possible of which 
Jaspers says: "Endurance will hold on to Being in spite of foun- 
dering in which the cipher remained in abeyance." (Here "ci- 
pher" comprises the uninterpre table cipher which can, like the 
others, be lost sight of; even then, however, endurance, patience, 
equanimity are possible.) This incongruity, not always to be able 
to perform the leap, produces that great virtue of the mystics, 

Dependent on the experience of the leap which is also de- 
cisive for all elevation through thought and interpretation en- 
durance, with its varying power to bring about contact with 
Transcendence, is seen as a kind of permanent attitude which 
determines the relationship of man towards himself and his 
world. But this is perhaps saying too much in view of the follow- 
ing paragraph. 

The assurance of Transcendence gives, even if the "language" 
of cipher-reading breaks down, a security, a hold, an infallible 
calm in the midst of existence. But "this certainty, dependent 
on the presence of Exist enz, cannot in time be constituted as an 
objective guarantee, but must disappear again and again. How- 
ever, when it is present, nothing can prevail against it. It is suffi- 
cient that there is Being." 76 It may be well not to link this passage 
too closely with the reflections on endurance. As the work draws 
to a close, in two final paragraphs the emphasis is on those "ac- 
tive" experiences of Transcendence which are possible at the 
turning-point of uninterpretable foundering. If a permanent pos- 
session of certainty is not possible, this need not exclude that 
there is, based on the experience of certainty, permanent equa- 
nimity, distinct from the "objective guarantee" which is rejected 
a frame of mind for which "it is sufficient that there is Being." 
"Truth is where foundering Existenz is capable of translating the 
ambiguous language of Transcendence into the plainest certainty 
of being." We know that the wealth of interpretative ciphers have 
their significance and value in making Transcendence "present" 
and we realize that they are ambiguous. Even if, as in ultimate 

76 Philosophic III, 236. 


foundering, no significant cipher is left, there may still remain 
that leap into calm which, in itself silent, purports "Being" and 
has its hold in transcendent Being that surpasses the world. 

We come to the concluding paragraphs which survey, as from 
a summit, the whole work. Only if the world of existence becomes 
transparent (for the underlying Transcendence) , that is, only 
through the adoption of foundering can Exist enz be truly world- 
open: "The world becomes unspeakably beautiful in its abun- 
dance rooted in Transcendence." This realization leads to investi- 
gation (world-orientation) and an active contribution towards 
the shaping of the world. This absolute calm may "afford in fleet- 
ing moments a vision of perfection;" but it is only a "vision" 
with the significance of a cipher (e.g., it would be fallacious to 
cherish the idea of a perfect world-wide welfare state as a con- 
crete aim) . The world with all its beauty and 

with its co-existent terror [remains] a question which, for temporal 
existence, will never be conclusively answered once and for all, even 
though individuals have the power to endure [it] with a clear mind 
and [are able to] find rest . . . Not through intoxication with perfec- 
tion but following the ways of suffering, with our eyes fixed on the 
inexorable face of worldly existence, in absoluteness of self-being and 
of communication, Existenz may achieve that which cannot be planned 
and whose meaning is perverted if it is desired: in foundering to ex- 
perience Being. (End of volume III.) 

In connection with these last pages of Jaspers' metaphysics, 
one more thing may be added: in his analysis of the incompre- 
hensible leap from anguish to calm, we may detect a kind of 
"argument" for the existence of God. It is not objective proof; 
but like all other metaphysical assertions, it falls into the realm 
of speculative ciphers. I need but quote one sentence to give an 
idea of the kind of "argument:" That man succeeds in the "enor- 
mous leap must have its reason beyond the existence of the self; 
his faith connects him indeterminably with the being of Tran- 
scendence" 77 (similarly two paragraphs further on). Not proof 
but faith is the link with Transcendence. The "proof argument" 
just cited and its "must" I take to be a reflection on the immediate 
experience of the leap. The reflection is not intended as proof 
with a claim to universal validity, but as an elucidation of the 
immediate experience of the leap. It belongs to this experience 
in the same way as the innermost core of Existenz, as given in 
'existential' consciousness, always has an admixture of reflection. 78 

77 ibid., 235. 78 Stated expressly, e.g., in the later Way to Wisdom, 56. 


It would be a new problem to go into Jaspers' concept of faith 
and to investigate the "doctrinal faith" which he gave in his book, 
The Perennial Scope of Philosophy. Essential to it are the dich- 
otomy and yet the intimate unity of immediate experience and 
cipher-reading, of which we have spoken. In our case the unity 
is one of leap, "proof argument," and faith. The proof argument 
is a covering cipher, an interpretation of the leap, it is "philo- 
sophical faith," elucidating immediate experience. 

Regarding the interpretive reflection, it is certainly as a philos- 
opher that Jaspers tries to elucidate an experience which cannot 
be self-evident in its import; but it is not as a philosopher work- 
ing with scientific methods in search of universally valid truths, 
but as one who derives faith from his Existenz. His experience of 
faith is offered to other human beings in communication, wonder- 
ing if they, too, have this experience and can believe this way. 
Such philosophy is in its entirety illumination and indirect com- 
munication of immediate experience, it is not psychological ob- 
jectifying of such experience or argument for God's existence. 
Indirect in Kierkegaard's sense: everybody must himself make 
the experience, a direct transmission of the experience or of the 
accompanying belief is impossible. 

With this comment we find ourselves plunged into a conclud- 
ing appreciation which cannot altogether avoid striking a critical 
note. If we survey the complex network which we have tried to 
present and interpret, the relationship between Existenz and 
Transcendence is twofold: (1) the immediate experience of 
contact with Transcendence and (2) the "language" of Tran- 
scendence, the ciphers. What separates Jaspers from myths or 
dogmatic convictions of religion as well as from the speculative 
systems of Hegel and others is this: The latter take all their as- 
sertions to be objectively true, i.e., as reflecting existing facts 
correctly, independent of man, and with a claim to universal 
validity. Jaspers, on the other hand, takes the same assertions to 
be merely ciphers. Objective knowledge exists for him only in the 
realm of empirical existence. Now that another approach to 
superempirical Being, i.e., the immediate experience of Tran- 
scendence, exists (or rather, can be achieved by Existenz again and 
again) , those assertions become, if not for everybody in the same 
way, symbolic representations of this immediate relationship re- 
flecting Transcendence, however divergent, or contradictory, the 
symbols may turn out to be. We dealt with this aspect on page 


310 above. Here we must point out something else: The security 
afforded by the objective claim of the old teachings is, in Jaspers, 
replaced by the virtual opposite, foundering. The very fact that 
all quest for perfection and security in the realm of finite things 
is doomed to failure gives the certainty that " there is" Transcend- 

We shall not repeat here the individual stages of foundering 
and their interpretation but merely suggest the following: foun- 
dering becomes the new great cipher for the philosophical ex- 
perience of Transcendence. But it is not only a cipher. Rather 
is it the experience of foundering which is fundamental. This 
became particularly apparent when we spoke of ultimate founder- 
ing before the abyss of Nothingness. 

What separates Jaspers from the old teachings is, thus, not the 
opinion that genuine contact with Transcendence cannot be 
established through the medium of their dogmas they may very 
well be the expression of genuine experience but (1) the em- 
phasis is placed on the experience of foundering as a key experi- 
ence (the experience of foundering occurs, of course, elsewhere 
also, especially in Christianity) ; (2) the reduction of all objec- 
tifying assertions to mere ciphers. From the key experience of 
foundering is obtained the new key cipher of foundering, first 
that of interpretable (meaningful, significant) foundering, and 
eventually that of uninterpretable, mute, complete foundering. 

After this reminder, the points most liable to criticism can be 
stated. (1) Will all these experiences really establish contact with 
Transcendence? In view of the facts it will, for example, not be 
denied that there is something like a leap from anguish to calm 
this must have been one of Jaspers' basic experiences. But will 
Transcendence, divine Being, really be "touched" in this leap? 
Much could be said about this point, 79 particularly in comparison 
with mysticism. If Jaspers did see in the contact with Transcend- 
ence an ecstasy, a union of man with God, and an extinction of 
everything finite, we would be treading on old paths. The con- 
tact with Transcendence, however, keeps the distinction between 
the individual Existenz and the one Transcendence intact 80 but 

70 I have attempted a detailed analysis of this contact with Transcendence in an 
article mentioned above. Cf. fn 30. 

80 It is interesting to note that Jaspers, in Von der Wahrheit, places the unto 
mystica as another kind of transcending beside the existentialist ones already known 
to us. As far as I can see, Jaspers himself has not accomplished the change-over to 
mysticism (he retains the non-dissolution of individual Existenz), but has recognized 
the "approach of mysticism" as something "the experience of which cannot be de- 
nied." (Wahrheit, 137; cf. Ill and 187). 


at the same time denies it, because such clear-cut opposites belong, 
for Jaspers, exclusively to the world of objects. This would be a 
coincidentia oppositorum, in which a merging not only of aspects 
of God, but of God and man is envisaged (cf. above, page 310) . 
From this follows (2) : If we add to our misgivings about the 
consequences of the experience of contact [with Transcendence] 
our doubts about the idea of the coincidentia oppositorum, our 
criticism will have to start right at the beginning of Jaspers' sys- 
tem, at his epistemology. We must raise the question whether 
objective knowledge will give objects only in relation to an ex- 
periencing subject, or whether it could also lay hold of what is in 
itself. In this respect Jaspers is closely connected with Neo-Kant- 
ianism, but differs from it in assuming an accessible in-itself, 
the transcendent of Transcendence. Incidentally, the hostility 
towards objective knowledge (if we may put it that way) , a 
basic character of irrationality, is not only a feature of Jaspers, 
but is shared generally by existentialism and other current trends. 
We cannot here enlarge on this problem and its current-day 

Let us formulate briefly the following misgivings: (1) Does 
foundering involve coming up against a wall of Transcendence 
which is thus experienced as existing with certainty? (2) If so, 
will I not, at one with my Existenz, experience a genuine non-I, 
the surpassing Transcendence, i.e., something opposite me, other 
than I? Or is the difference of I and non-I a characteristic of 
"object knowledge*' in Jaspers' sense, so that it belongs exclusively 
to the empirical world? 

For all who like the author of this essay cannot agree with 
Jaspers on these questions, his metaphysics is an interpretation 
of experiences of conviction which owe their character, as con- 
nectives between Existenz and Transcendence, only to philosophi- 
cal thinking. To take these interpretations for more, for ultimate 
truth, is indeed a matter of faith. To give reasons why philoso- 
phers who, like myself, do not share Jaspers' views, nevertheless 
follow him with keen interest, would take too long. It is better, 
in conclusion, to restrict ourselves to a few remarks. In an age 
which has largely lost its belief in the Christian dogmas, and 
which in its uncertainty and anxiety in the face of the future 
looks out for a new "hold," such a hold in divine Being is offered 
here in a doctrine that retrieves the basic religious values without 
a sacrificium intellect. In this sense Jaspers practices a far-reach- 
ing "demythologizing" (Cf. Bultmann's Entmythologisierung) 
and he says with regard to myths and revelations that his philos- 


ophy tries to retain their contents, though their claim to validity 
cannot stand. 81 This endeavor, the sincerity and difficulty of which 
we have witnessed, is in fact an appeal to all who seek a spiritual 
hold and have access to philosophy. It leads the way to undog- 
matic religion by means of philosophy (in some respects compar- 
able to the young Schleiermacher) . We have attempted to reach 
an understanding of this way in its relationship to the key-note of 
the doctrine, foundering. So we have at least complied with 
Jaspers' demand for "communication." Whether it will be pos- 
sible really to go this way and seize this "hold on Being" through 
experience and philosophy, is another question. 




Eduard Baumgarten 


ASPERS tells what often happens to him when engaged with 
the history of philosophy: for a time he is charmed by the ra- 
diant clarity of the Greeks. Yet it is impossible to tarry with 
them: inevitably he feels himself drawn away from them to the 
profundity of St. Augustine. But there again, when the radicalism 
of conscience finally threatens to obscure and do violence to the 
intellect, the urbane brilliance of Athens beckons anew. As 
against this, it is noteworthy that, in an area some centuries 
closer to us, Jaspers no longer permits himself the same freedom 
of happy alternation I refer to the contrast between Goethe 
and Kant. True enough: the respective contrasts are hardly com- 
parable; and yet, Kant and Goethe seem also to represent two 
worlds in juxtaposition, each complete in itself. To the reader 
Jaspers' inclination and capacity of alternately attending to each 
appears positively immense. Yet, philosophical duty demands a 
return from so superficial a pleasure which would indulge itself 
equally joyfully and persistently in both worlds to concentra- 
tion on "the one thing needful/' At times one thinks to have 
struck a central point in Jaspers' philosophy by asserting that 
one of its essential convictions is the necessity of coming to a 
decisive choice between Kant and Goethe. If one persists on this 
path, the highest possible reach for truth reveals itself, indeed, to 
be connected with such a decision and it then appears compul- 
sory to cast the decisive vote in favor of Kant. One has the feeling 
that this philosophy, which rejects the external form of a system, 
here congeals into an internal system of its own; that all the wide- 
open vistas beyond the horizons together with these horizons 
themselves on which they depend actually revolve around a 
hidden, yet fixed center. 

Jaspers' decision in favor of Kant and against Goethe stems 

* Translated from the original German by Stanley Hubbard and Paul A. Schilpp 



from a deep-seated point of experience and reflection: from the 
experience of Evil and from the inquiry into its nature. 

"On the basis of long experience and of fundamental con- 
viction I have come to the conclusion that only by testing one's 
own, supposedly 'ultimate' attitude against his conduct in the 
face of sharply put and entirely concrete problems, can the in- 
dividual's real desire become clear to him." This statement of 
Max Weber might well occur to anyone who believes he has come 
to a genuine understanding of Jaspers' basic philosophy by letting 
himself be lured by its conspicuous 'attitude' towards so sharply 
put a problem as that of 'Evil' to an examination aimed at investi- 
gating no more than precisely this attitude. But, is 'Evil' (or: 
'Radical' Evil) , in that case, really such an 'entirely concrete' 
problem, in the sense of the passage cited from Max Weber's 
letter? 1 Is it not, rather, highly abstract? Or is the relation per- 
haps reversed in philosophy, so that what is the most abstract 
conceivable (Evil) would then be, for it, the most concrete? In 
Jaspers' view, 'Philosophy' philosophy-as-such serves virtually 
as a definition of man as man; and, of it I believe he would say 
(although only under certain conditions) that in reality and in 
essence it lives from this inversion: what to the common man is 
most abstract, for philosophy is the most concrete, i.e., what is 
originally given to its type of experience. 

As over against this, however, Max Weber seems to insist upon 
the everyday sense of this statement and he seems to do this, 
not as an advocate of 'common sense,' but rather by virtue of 
that philosophical potency which Jaspers has taught us to see in 
Max Weber's life and work. Weber's statement retains its naive 
sting. In circumambulating Evil - Radical Evil philosophically, 
Jaspers finds himself obliged, as it were in the name of 'philos- 
ophy/ to decide against Goethe, and proclaims this decision to 
be a philosophically unconditional or necessary one by no 
means as an 'objective* philosophical truth, to be sure, but never- 
theless as the indispensable condition for the very possibility of 
primal philosophical truthfulness. This rather looks like an 
'ultimate' position. Max Weber's statement diverts our attention 
from such ultimate positions to the superficies, where differences 
of concrete behavior expose motivations of choice which, insofar 
as he is right, are also still effective even in 'supposedly ultimate' 
positions. It is not philosophy-as-such which, for the sake of some 

i Max Weber, Political Writings (Correspondence Appendix), 474. 


possible highest and only truthfulness, constrains us to decide 
between Kant and Goethe; rather, a concrete and specific philos- 
ophy has made its decision between the two in terms of acts of 
genuine, i.e., personal choice. Max Weber demanded that such 
personal choices declare themselves in science (and, for that mat- 
ter, in philosophy too, I suppose) by way of a discussion of the 
objective possibilities of those various modes of conduct, from 
among which the acting subject (in our case, Jaspers) sacrifices 
the one by choosing the other. According to Max Weber's con- 
viction and claim, such an impartially comparative "discussion 
of values" would mean, in complete transparency, to assume re- 
sponsibility, both in behalf of one's self and of others, for the 
hidden emotions of him who makes the sacrifice, for the hidden 
struggle inhering in the choice, as well as for the hidden pathos 
of the evaluations and devaluations effected thereby. 

In his philosophical view of Radical Evil we find a definite, 
deeply rooted aspect of Jaspers' philosophy ending up at a distance 
from and in tension with Max Weber's philosophy, both in meth- 
od and in content. 

Regarding Method: 

In order that, in dealing with the problem of Evil, he may 
advance straightway to the philosophically ultimate, Jaspers skips 
the 'discussion of value' between the positions which Kant and 
Goethe had taken in the matter. Within limits there is indeed 
an extremely fine weighing of positions, but no fully carried out 
discussion of values in Max Weber's sense. To the extent that 
such a discussion takes place, it leads to a view of opposed possi- 
bilities of human conduct; to choose between them is an affair 
of the person philosophizing, no longer one of philosophy as it 
appears in Jaspers. 

Regarding Content: 

Max Weber's philosophy was interested in the ethical conse- 
quences which religious experience and fantasy have in the be- 
havior of the respective believers in their everyday or extraordi- 
nary, inner situations. He traced, so to speak, the return-Right of 
ideas: the landing operations of religious and philosophical specu- 
lation on the fields of mundane (everyday-practical) existence. 
Proceeding with his inquiry in the exact opposite direction, 
Jaspers seizes on Kant's view Radical Evil. In approximation to 
the Kierkegaardian hierarchy and order of rank as it rises from 
the aesthetic by way of the ethical to religious existence, Jaspers 


shows that the Kantian ethic which, he is convinced, under- 
stood the essential depth of Evil possesses infinite religious 
significance precisely insofar as its practical value (as a regulatory 
instrument of human conduct) is trifling, is, indeed, rendered 
available, as it were, only by way of misunderstanding its philo- 
sophical import. Here Jaspers' philosophizing deviates not merely 
from Max Weber's trend of interest, but deviates, to some degree 
at least, also from Kant himself whom he interprets. In the course 
of this interpretation, Radical Evil takes on a significance quite 
surpassing in extent and import its significance in Kant. On the 
strength of Kierkegaard's belief in human Existenz from an 
absolute origin, Jaspers inflates the already highly demanding 
claims of Kant's ethics. Such a central idea, which illustrates this 
most clearly, is, for example, determined by the very points 
where, in Jaspers' agreement with Kant's concept of Radical Evil 
surpassing that of Kant one sees the appropriation of Kierke- 
gaard's thought and belief shining through. Here the "integrity 
of philosophizing," which Jaspers perceived in Kierkegaard's life 
and works, emerges as a controlling factor, which also played its 
part in his agreement with and surpassing of Kant. For Max 
Weber "integrity" (as 'intellectual honesty') was epitomized 
chiefly by the pathos of Nietzschean unmasking analyses (in him- 
self this pathos persevered even less prejudiced, less masked than 
in Nietzsche) . But, Nietzsche distrusted every kind of belief and 
thought which encompasses and contains the concept of Radical 
Evil: he fought this concept out of "integrity." And, as it seems 
to me, Max Weber, in order to clarify matters of fact in question, 
again demands a recognition and investigation of this hidden 
struggle between Nietsche's and Kierkegaard's [use of] integrity 
(using his technical language, he again demands a "discussion of 
values") . For the sake of the unity of ultimate philosophical 
truth, Jaspers was inclined to let the differences in content be- 
tween Kierkegaard's and Nietzsche's modes of belief cancel each 
other out; he was of the opinion that the radical integrity com- 
mon to both was the medium in which a deeper "resolution" of 
their comparatively non-essential differences could be seen to be 
effected. Did this inclination perhaps lead him to overlook the 
fact that the radical differences in the attitudes of both to "sharply 
put, entirely concrete problems" was so great that they broke 
through the form of a "general" integrity (common to both) , 
that they led to an integrity in the one totally different from that 
in the other? At this point Jaspers by his taking the thought and 
existence of the two as "exception" was evidently diverted from 


kindling a discussion of values in Max Weber's sense. The prob- 
able result of such a discussion would have been the revealing 
of an irreconcilable, natural and substantial (subjective and ob- 
jective) conflict between Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, affecting 
even the essential differences of form. 

In Jaspers' eyes, for anyone who thinks and philosophizes as 
an "exception," the content which could easily be distinguished 
(and is worthy of being distinguished) and learned is not impor- 
tant, but rather the appealing form, which precisely puts totally 
and thus, so to speak, without making distinctions in question 
what is established in all assumptions which relate to content. 
To his general concept of the exception (as over against "author- 
ity" in life and philosophizing) Jaspers has given a specific stamp 
by attaching it to the lodestar of Kierkegaard's self-interpretation. 
For Kierkegaard, being exceptional meant existing in the eminent 
sense. However, existing in the eminent sense signified to him 
martyrdom, suffering, the perishing of happiness. Nietzsche, on 
the other hand, decisively refused to be exceptional in this sense 
or to "exist eminently" in this sense, just as he also "disenchanted" 
and "unmasked" suffering, martyrdom and perishing (once again, 
in sharpest contrast to Kierkegaard) . And at this point too we 
now see Max Weber following Nietzsche in substance as well. 
Indeed, at all the intimated points in question: Radical Evil, 
suffering, exception, integrity, I see Max Weber siding substan- 
tially with Nietzsche and, at the same time, together with Nietz- 
sche siding with Goethe against Kant and Kierkegaard. If, then, 
Jaspers 'opts* in favor of Kant's concept of Radical Evil and thus 
at heart in favor of Kierkegaard, and if moreover he expresses 
and articulates his option everywhere as a carrying out of the 
choice in Weber's sense, the extent of the sacrifice involved in 
this option must reveal itself forthwith: by dint of it there is 
sacrificed not merely a great part of Goethe but also of Nietzsche 
and, above all, important (and, as I believe, decisive) aspects of 
the views, thought, and philosophizing of Max Weber. 


In his famed and so extremely well nuanced lecture on Goethe 
(in Frankfurt, 1947), Jaspers spoke, among other things, of 
Goethe's limitations, as was certainly most appropriate in view 
of the German habitual penchant for blind idolatry (Ftihrer- 
verehrung). Even though Jaspers himself would never formulate 
it thus, except conditionally and even then only by using explicit 


remonstrations one might simplify it by saying that Goethe's 
limitations are revealed, for example, in a near angry or even 
outspokenly angry rejection in the figure of Newton of mod- 
ern natural science as a method of procedure. They are revealed 
too, perhaps, where there has been talk for the most part unjust 
and of a moralizing nature of Goethe's [so-called] 'fickleness in 
love/ Revealed, finally, where, in view of the tragedy or of the 
frightfulness of world history, he either averts it or withdraws 
behind mollifying interpretations. This last point concerns our 
theme. Jaspers probes this limitation of Goethe also with greatest 

Goethe mastered his horror of world-events not by self-deception 
but by aloofness. He sees and touches the terrible. But the closer he 
comes to this unfathomable, the more hesitant his words become. In 
the end he hides behind silence. But, on his way there, he now and 
then utters desperate phrases. On the other hand, he rejects it when- 
ever the cleft in existence is, with philosophical decisiveness, openly 
maintained by a thinker. Thus he indignantly rejects Kant's knowl- 
edge of Radical Evil. 

A passage from one of Goethe's letters is cited as evidence of 
the 'indignation' with which Goethe repulsed Kant's (conclusive) 
"knowledge" in the matter in question: Kant had "slobbered his 
philosopher's gown" with his doctrine of Radical Evil. But that 
Goethe did not remain 'aloof to Kant's alleged 'knowledge,' but, 
on the contrary, reacted with plain aggressive anger and felt it 
to be a 'sacrilege' this fact does not appear in the passage quoted, 
nor does it appear later in Jaspers' further discussion of their 
differences. 2 

At the end of his lecture Jaspers sums up: 

Although we ourselves are infinitely less than Goethe it is pre- 
cisely Goethe's limitations that we have pierced .... In breathing his 
atmosphere, we must not let ourselves be prevented from doing what 
he himself concealed: looking into the abysses. In Goethe we find, as 
it were, recovery and encouragement, but not release from the burden 
placed upon us, nor guidance through the world that is ours and 
which Goethe did not know. 

2 In the letter cited, Goethe had written to Herder and his wife (from the en- 
campment at Marienborn near Mainz, June 7, 1793): Kant too, "after having em- 
ployed an entire lifetime in cleaning sundry nasty prejudices from his philosopher's 
gown, has sacrilegiously slobbered it with the stain of Radical Evil in order that 
Christians, too, might be enticed into kissing the hem." In Jaspers' address on 
"Kant's Radical Evil," this passage is fully cited, i.e., inclusive of the 'sacrilegiously,' 
and is even supplemented by reference to Schiller's similar indignation. This ap- 
pears characteristic of Jasper's sense of justice: in the address on Goethe, Kant, as 


What is this incredibly new kind of a world which Goethe did 
not know but which Kant, on the other hand, in his philosophical 
insight, is supposed to have anticipated and seen through? What 
kind of knowledge is it which Goethe blindly rebuked and blas- 
phemed? Was it really "knowledge?" Or were these, perhaps, 
merely Kantian interpretations, comprising his choices within 
them? But how, then, could Jaspers accept and impart them 
as "conclusive?" Let's see. What was it that caught Goethe's eye 
when he received the April 1792 issue of the Berliner Monats- 
schrift with Kant's article "On Radical Evil?" Kant begins with 
statements and then develops his interpretation. He states that 
Evil manifests itself in man on three levels of his nature: 

1. In his predisposition to animality, i.e., in the realms of self- 
preservation, reproduction, and natural sociality: three areas 
which man has in common with the beast. 

2. In his predisposition to humanity, i.e., on the level of the 
exercise of his intellect and in the realm of man's ability to think 
of himself as "I," an ability which elevates him infinitely above 
all other living beings on earth. 

3. In his predisposition to personality, i.e., in the realm of the 
fact that man can experience himself as free, subject only to the 
law of his own reason. 

1. In the predisposition to animality, in the realm of the in- 
stincts of self-preservation, reproduction and gregariousness, Evil 
appears in the form of the vice of bestiality: in the brutality of 
the struggle for existence, in the ravages of lust, in "negative 
association," i.e., wild lawlessness towards others. Here Kant 
scarcely offers interpretation; he simply states the general experi- 
ence of natural drives in their evil effects, i.e., the manner in 
which they are generally felt to be so by the doers as well as by 

the opponent, is given preponderance. In the recital of Kant's views, his opponents 
express themselves, conversely, by the more forceful quotations. Nevertheless, even 
here the impartiality, at the decisive point, does not prevail. Their words are not 
taken up, receive no weight in the issue itself, which is subsequently treated with- 
out their participation. In Jaspers' opinion, their argument cannot be valid in the 
matter: they portray Evil it is summarily maintained in an "aesthetic grandeur" 
which as such affords no real access to it but rather "veils" it, since it does not lend 
itself to direct presentation. On the theme of poetic "veiling," Thornton Wilder, on 
the other side of the Atlantic, proposed his counterpoint to Jaspers' German Goethe 
lecture: he sees Goethe, in contrast to Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Carlyle, Emerson and 
Browning, as "proof against anxiety." "Goethe was not afraid. One may almost say 
that Goethe gained his confidence by having deep insight into the very things which 
caused consternation in others." (Our translation from Thornton Wilder'* "Eine 
Rede wShrend der Goethetagung in Aspern, Colorado, 1949," in Perspektiven #1, 
Frankfurt, 1952). 


those affected. Nowhere did Goethe object to this knowledge. 
Anyone may check and see that the strange lack of perceptivity 
in Kant's oddly telling, brief and dry enumerations is, at each of 
the points mentioned thus far, in full concreteness verified in 
Goethe's poems, reflections and maxims, not merely incidentally 
but with the full power of his soul. Thus the horrors of the 
French Revolution the savage struggle for existence, the per- 
verted lust, the gregarious frenzy of the abasement and annihila- 
tion of fellowmen affected Goethe more directly and far more 
violently than they did Kant; because Kant's immediate feelings 
were sheltered and toned down by his will to believe ( his belief 
in the idea of freedom, which he thought he recognized in the 
Revolution) , with which we are all familiar. Goethe, not Kant, 
was capable of suffering much as we suffer from the "cleft" in 
existence of which Jaspers speaks, at least where naked evil is 
concerned, a sphere which is indeed decisive for "our" experience 
and world. If, as Jaspers believes, our world were actually severed 
as if by a total abyss from that world which had no knowledge of 
what has "caused us, in terrible anxiety, to lay aside all books, 
even Aeschylus, Shakespeare and the Bible," then our world 
would seem to be more radically severed from Kant than from 
Goethe. 3 

2. Within the predisposition to humanity, Kant ascertained that 
evil appears in the form of the vice of intellect, whenever man 
uses his intellect as a means of comparing, with evil zeal, his own 
T with the T of others. Envy, jealousy and ingratitude crop up. 
Kant calls them vices of culture. Goethe liked to quote these 
Kantian statements and concepts, agreed completely with them, 
and offered detailed illustrations of them. Unlike Kant, who from 
a certain architectonic love for his classifications tended to stop 

8 It is known that Goethe was extremely vulnerable to terror. In such a situation 
he experienced that not only could he not read books, but also that he no longer 
could talk with anyone. 

Concerning his experience of the French Revolution, cf. Goethe's "scheme" for 
the 2nd and 3rd parts of his trilogy, "The Natural Daughter:" 

I. ... Absolute despotism, without any actual sovereign. Fear of nothing. In- 
trigue and violence. Rage for pleasure. Dispersal downwards. 

II. Subordinate despotism. Fear of higher ranks. Ganglia governments by proxy. 

III. Obscure, dawning situation. Fomentation from below. The lawyer's trick. 
Aspiring soldiers. Bestiality practiced everywhere. 

IV. . . . Loosened bonds of the last form. 

The mass becomes absolute. 

Banishes those who falter. 

Quashes those who resist. 

Debases what is high, elevates what is low in order to debase it again. 

Cotta Anniversary Ed'n, 12, 366. 


short of their boundaries, Goethe remarked that what is penetrat- 
ingly 'wicked* originates above all when the vice of egocentric 
comparing fuses with the vices of brutality to produce a total ef- 
fect sometimes merely bizarre, but sometimes also dreadful in char- 
acter. Omitting the many bizarre ('malicious') aspects of the mat- 
ter, 4 I shall cite only one example of the dreadful type. Once, when 
someone accused him of being a pagan, Goethe replied: "I, pagan? 
But I permitted Gretchen to be executed and Ottilie to starve 
to death; isn't that Christian enough for the people?" The cruelty 
of man as a Christian which Goethe had in mind here is, to be 
sure, too complex a phenomenon to admit of adequate compre- 
hension in terms of the predispositions to animality and human- 
ity, even when these are considered together. This cruelty is 
practiced in the name of higher perspectives transcending both 
animality and humanity. With this we reach the point, however, 
where Kant and Goethe part company; because here no longer 
mere assertions and 'knowledge,' but interpretations and vari- 
ously pointed evaluations come into play. 

3. In the realm of man's predisposition to personality, Kant sees 
Evil as consisting in man's infidelity to his destination for free- 
dom. The vice of personality is one and only one. It consists in 
the partial or entire and voluntary surrender of the performance 
of duty for the sake of duty alone (an act which is free from all 
natural impulses) in favor of an act performed from natural in- 
clinations and for worldly purposes. This vice has three aspects: 
frailty, insincerity, and wickedness. Man is incapable of ade- 
quately meeting the claim of pure duty in any act, he relapses 
into his inclinations and natural purposes: frailty. Unintention- 
ally or furtively he mingles natural propensities with his pre- 
tended pure motives: insincerity. He offers defiance in the name 
of his pretended right to guidance by aims promising happiness 
and frankly orients his actions towards these; he deliberately 
spurns the duty which bids him make respect for the law of pure 
reason the sole impetus of his actions: wickedness. 

Kant interprets Biblical passages as follows: "Love God above 
all" that is, do your duty for the sake of duty alone. 

"All that does not stem from this belief" (from the belief in 
the possibility of pure duty) "is sin." 

But inasmuch as, where the fulfillment of duty is concerned, 
"every man has his price (as a candid Englishman admitted in 
Parliament) , "for which he sells himself" (to mundane goals, 
market values, and inclinations) , what the Apostle says may be 

4 For examples cf . Cotta Anniversary Ed'n, 22, 77. 


generally true of man: "There is no difference here, they are all 
sinners there is none that doeth good (in the spirit of the law) , 
no, not one." (Cf. Rom. 3, 12) 

For Kant this is the rotten stain of mankind: this is "Radical 
Evil." This Kantian interpretation of primal Evil was what 
aroused Goethe's ire and what he emphatically rejected (not 
merely in 1794, but throughout his life) . On the publication of 
the Critique of Practical Reason and of all writings pertaining 
to it, Goethe had deemed Kant's foundation of ethics upon uni- 
versally valid and binding principles to be a salutary procedure as 
over against the coddling of men by the customary enlightened 
ethics oriented on narrow or even on shabby calculations of hap- 
piness. However, the positing and utilization of strict principles 
ought, in his opinion, to serve only as means to a loftier choice 
of the natural and for the disciplining and elevation of the sen- 
sory and spiritual impulses, not as a goal for transcending nature 
as such nor as any elimination of natural propensities and worldly 
intentions from the range of dutiful motives. 

To his annoyance Goethe saw that destructive sacrifice and 
self-sacrifice which occasionally may occur and may even be 
requisite (which then automatically achieves equilibrium again) 
was raised by Kant to an absolute canon and thereby spoiled. 

As if nature were not so arranged that the individual's aims do not 
conflict with the whole, yes, even serve his preservation; as if anything 
could happen without (vital and interested) motives, and as if these 
motives could lie outside the acting being and not, on the contrary, in 
his innermost self; yes, as if I could promote the welfare of the other 
person without its reacting on me, by no means to my loss or to my 
sacrifice, which is not always required and which can occur only in 
certain cases. 5 

If one inquires into the decisive key points of the agreement, 
as far as it goes, and of the contrast which presently arises, as they 
obtain from Goethe to Kant, one will instinctively look for them 
at the point where Goethe showed himself most shocked: e.g., in 
his tragedy, "The Natural Daughter." And, indeed, here we find 
everything we need. There are two pivotal points: The first, of 
a severity comparable to Kant's: 

" 'tis base to live beneath the yoke of lust, 
The noble man aspires to higher laws." 8 

5 In a letter to Riemer, February 3, 1807. 

6 "Nach seinem Sinne leben 1st gemein, 
Der Edle strebt nach Sitte und Gesetz." 


But the second [furnishes] a diametrically opposed justification 
and interpretation thereof: 

"Life's pledge is life, reposing solely on 
Itself, its own last guarantor and instance." 7 

Kant's ethics and his interpretation of Radical Evil were in- 
compatible with Goethe's fundamental views. The Kantian ac- 
knowledgement of duty within the framework of an unworldly 
autonomy of the merely inner person (reduced to pure reason) , 
seemed to Goethe a specific instance of the misconstrued, "Know 
Thyself." In the radical turn of the Kantian ethics toward pure 
inwardness and transcendence, Goethe detected a piece of in- 
verted priestliness, "confusing man with unattainable demands 
and diverting him inwards." Goethe declares: "Man knows him- 
self only in knowing the world, of which he becomes aware only 
in himself and of himself only in it." In the domain of ethics 
Kant averred exactly the opposite: in order to know his duty one 
need know nothing of the world. "Quod petis in te est ne tu 
quaesiveris extra." 6 Or the Lutheran saying: "Watch o'er thy 
heart with all diligence, for from it stems life." From experience 
and on principle Goethe distrusted all protestations [upholding] 
the blessings of a onesidedly cultivated inwardness. 

Kant and Goethe are so diametrically opposed at this point 
that, where Goethe finds the origin of profound confusion in the 
principle of absolute duty, i.e., one directed against nature, Kant 
finds the source of all possible human freedom and purity. Goethe 
felt that "confusion" to be directed against all rules of his own 
life. (In Goethe's opinion,) no sooner had Kant peremptorily 
denatured duty than he proceeded to his concept of Evil which, 
if he were right, would condemn all channels by which Goethe 
fashioned and confined freedom and personality to be examples 
of "insincerity," if not flatly illustrations of "intrinsic wicked- 
ness," in short, of the "rotten stain of humanity." 

It appears certain that Goethe detected the shocking result 
which this publication of Kant's old age had for his own life and 
work. His indignation, therefore, ranged from his current exist- 
ence down to the most obscure memories for, despite his alert, 
open and grim eye for the dimensions of potential cruelty in the 
power-structure and world-set-up of the Christian tradition, there 
was hidden in him a vulnerable Christian faith all his own. Simple 
attitudes in him were on terms too faithfully friendly with the 

7 "Das Leben 1st des Lebens Pfand, es ruht 

Nur auf sich sclbst und muss sich selbst verbiirgen." 

8 Inscription under his silhouette in Kant's own handwriting. 


truth of Christianity with the Gospel to react otherwise than 
in anger against the Kantian identification of that truth with an 
ethics which declared its (supernatural) autonomy vis-a-vis God's 
love and mercy on earth. 9 

In his second Goethe-speech, in the movingly beautiful 1949 
address, delivered in Basel's Minster, on "Goethe's Humaneness," 
Jaspers closely portrays Goethe's "Philosophy of Evil." Almost 
everything we have, in the foregoing, thrown into sharp relief, he 
himself there touches upon lightly or distinctly. Other, equally 
important, data he adds. He points up Goethe's severe judgment 
on Faust: Faust's course of conduct was (even for Goethe) to the 
very end restlessly ruinous. "Unconditioned activity, of whatever 
kind it may be, finally leads to bankruptcy." Despite this, Goethe 
is finally placed in that line of thinkers Plotinus, Nicolaus of 
Cues, Spinoza and Hegel "for whom Evil amounted to Naught." 
In Goethe and in all these men "Evil loses its acuteness;" "it 
possesses no independent power." In support of this Jaspers cites 
Goethe's utterances: "The world is an organ whose bellows are 
being tread by the devil." "The demonic is to be considered as the 
instrument of a higher government of the world." But, does the 
spacious portrayal of Goethe in this address really make it credible 

9 Unfortunately, there is no space here for details. Under what specific circum- 
stances had Goethe been so startled by Kant against Kant? It was between 1788 and 
1794, a particularly critical period of his artistic career and human development. 
The turmoil passed; the antagonism against Kant lost much of its emphasis and 
fighting edge. But the principles arrived at during that period quietly remained 
with him even when "Kantianism" now entered his life most intimately in the form 
of his friendship with Schiller. 

At least this much of Goethe's Christian indignation against Kant must be noted 

One may, in this matter, entertain some doubt about Goethe's "Christianity." 
One might ask what Goethe could, in seriousness, have meant when he said that, 
although he was a "decided non-Christian" in matters of scientific research, philoso- 
phy and curiosity about the world, he was nonetheless "perhaps the only true Chris- 
tian in the way Christ meant it." (Conversations, IV, 261.) From the many possible 
examples [one might choose] in answer to this question, we select one which may 
well serve to conclude the present discussion of this dispute, all the more since it 
simultaneously abandons it. In 1816, in retrospect on the two preceding years, 
Goethe wrote to Zelter: "I shall not deny that I realize that, during those few sum- 
mers along the Rhein and the Main, I labored well; for, after all, I merely preached 
John's Gospel: 'Children, love one another, and if that won't do, at least tolerate 
one another.' " This piece of Christian freedom designates an area where Goethe 
and Kant soon approach each other again. Kant's second Categorical Imperative 
(respect for the other person), Goethe admiringly, always and unqualifiedly held in 
high esteem. 


that for him Evil "amounts to naught" say, in the statements 
just cited, or even more so in this one: "Pure humaneness atones 
for all our human frailties"? 

For Jaspers, too, the "thrust into Evil is the goad to the flight" 
into pure Being hence Evil is not an ultimate but a turning 
point. The divergence of views appears by no means to lie in a 
greater or lesser degree of realism or measure of spiritual courage 
towards Evil, but in the goal to which the horror of Evil drives 
us, and in the means of flight away from it. Only at this point 
choice confronts choice. So heartfelt and passionate was Goethe's 
faith in and sensitivity to man's unbroken relationship to God 
and to all God's creatures, that, in the "unconditional" imputa- 
tion of "pure" attitudes (meaning, for him, in the Kantian con- 
text: "extra-natural") , he could only see a gratuitous and useless 
over-exertion on the part of man in wanton offense to his hu- 
man nature, indeed, in arrogant presumption above God's will. 
Instinctively Goethe tendered the Kantian moral law a high de- 
gree of respect insofar as it remains comprehensible and applic- 
able as a beneficently stern "regulative principle in empirical 
use." But, in raising it to the rank of a "constitutive principle" 
of the "one true Good" in the world and of an exclusive human 
dignity, he felt, not the splendor of freedom radically thought 
through, but the sacrilege of detached philosophical reasoning 
which soars ruinously beyond "what is godly and what is human, 
as these are revealed in the truth of religion and of poetry." 

As Kant had done, Jaspers places man's "purity" in the abso- 
lute and unconditioned. By so doing he chose differently from 
Goethe and has, accordingly, made many different evaluations. 
Jaspers takes this option not as a choice liable to be called to 
account, but rather as the mandatory assumption of the one and 
only possible freedom. In Goethe's parry against Kant, Jaspers 
sees an "aesthetic escape" rather than a peer's opposition. No- 
where does he see or show the real acuteness of Goethe's counter- 
position. He fails to see (or does not take seriously) that Goethe 
rebelled with "fiendish malice" (in the precise Kantian sense) 
against Pure Reason and against its kind of freedom as principles: 
against them as such. In the strict sense of the Augustinian and 
Kantian "perversion," which we shall presently discuss , Goethe 
"reversed" the Categorical Imperative into a principle from which 
the "gravity of the Either-Or" is deliberately excluded, because 
it is a misguided and misguiding gravity. God's designs can be 
fulfilled only "if we, in being obliged on the one hand to realize 
ourselves, do not fail on the other hand to cast loose from our- 


selves in regular pulsations/' 10 "Radical Evil," the reversal of the 
subsumptive relationship of nature to reason, is here commended 
as a "turning and re-turning" which is "good," basically and be- 
cause of God. 



Jaspers' philosophical determination to use the experience of 
absolute Evil not so much as an ethical-practical stimulus as for 
the flight into pure Transcendence and for therein gaining one's 
selfhood (as a person) , is brought to insurpassably sharp expres- 
sion in his 1935 lecture, "On the Radical Evil in Kant." 

What does "radical" mean? Evil is radical is supposed to mean 
that it is absurd and impossible to attempt to disclose a causal 
genealogy of Evil by psychological or sociological, historical or 
biological-phylogenetic research; rather, we must investigate its 
"origin." And, "origin" is a transcendental-philosophical category. 
True, as Jaspers uses the term, it has many meanings (compare, 
for example, Reason and Existenz, 27ff) , designates, however, 
above all, in Jaspers as in Kant, the presupposition of a phenom- 
enon that must be thought if it is to be possible in its fully 
experienced sense. Impelled by this method, Jaspers flatly de- 
clares: "for psychological experience there is no such thing as 
Evil." That Evil is "radical" means: it has its origin in the psy- 
chologically unanalyzable ideas of freedom and reason. 

Man has two incentives: because of his origin in reason which 
Kant calls intelligible he obeys the law; because of his origin in 
time, as a psychologically knowable natural being, he obeys his in- 
clinations and passions, desires his happiness (or what he takes to be 
such) in the world. 

The incentive by way of the moral law, which irresistibly forces 
itself upon his predisposition to reason (his intelligible nature), would 
govern him, if no other incentive would counteract it; he would be 
morally good without a struggle. The incentive by way of his inclina- 
tions is his natural disposition (his empirical nature); this he would 
obey without a struggle and, like the animals, would not be evil, if 
the other incentive were not at work in him. 11 

10 Cotta, op. cit., 23, 167. 

11 It is not clear whether Jaspers is merely reporting this statement, or whether 
he also considers it correct. In any case, there is no criticism whatsoever of it. But 
this statement is based on a simply erroneous assumption, namely, that the configu- 
ration of impulses (allegedly) devoid of conflict and struggle, in a merely animal 
volition is, in human beings analogously considered, correlative to the "infallibility" 
of animal instincts. On the fiction of an "infallible instinct of animals" Kant erected 
his renowned argument: for the regulation of his activity man does not require rea- 


Inasmuch as man admits both incentives (the one by way of the 
moral law, and the other in his craving for happiness) into the forma- 
tion of his will, and since, furthermore, he would find each, taken by 
itself, sufficient for its formation, he would simultaneously be both 
good and evil, the one by virtue of the one incentive, and the other 
by virtue of the other , if the state of being good or evil lay in the 
incentives as such. Such a contradictory simultaneity is, however, im- 
possible. Man is confronted by the question of being good or evil. 
Simultaneity would extinguish both. The gravity would have disap- 
peared: the Either Or. Good and evil, therefore, does not lie in the 
difference of the incentives, but in the manner of their subordination 
to one another. 

That will is good which makes obedience to the law the con- 
dition for the fulfillment of the craving for happiness. But the 
will turns evil, when it makes the satisfaction of his craving for 
happiness "the condition for obedience to the law/' 

To choose the one or the other order (of subordination) is a 
voluntary act within the province of reason. Evil is the freely 
chosen inversion of the right order and subordination; it is the 
will to be good (to follow the law of reason) only on condition of 
being happy. This inversion is the primal act of evil, i.e., an act 
which has its origin in the nature of human freedom. 

Radical Evil lies indeed in a depth of my Reason which first spawns 
all specific sorts of Evil, but itself cannot once and for all be known 
with objective certainty. The decisively basic characteristic of Radical 
Evil is that I cannot envision it as an object before my eyes. 

In support of this Jaspers cites the following sentence of Kant's: 
We can no more account for the fact that "Evil corrupted in us 

son; a dozen animal instincts would serve the purpose better. Nietzsche's insights 
already rectified these and other equally erroneous Kantian presuppositions; more 
recently even: William James, John Dewey, Max Weber; on the biological side to- 
day above all Konrad Lorenz and N. Tinbergen (author of Social Behavior in Ani- 
mals; Die Instinktlehre); also Gehlen on speech and human drive- structures in Der 
Mensch; further, "Der Gegenwartige Stand der anthropologischen Forschung," Mer- 
kur, 195 1/54. Just as I do not understand the statement, "for psychological experi- 
ence there is no such thing as Evil," so I cannot believe that it is possible thus neat- 
ly and absolutely to divorce causal research from inquiry into origins that the one 
may remain indifferent to whatever the other has learned in the meantime, and 
vice versa. Nowhere and at no time has Jaspers ever declared this to be admissible. 
Rather, he teaches again and again that, where "correct and false" are concerned, 
philosophy may never act as if it were independent of science. If this is so, do Kant 
and modern adaptations of Kant enjoy immunity at this point? For, in the immedi- 
ately following passage of the above text, the fiction we have mentioned continues 
to operate undiminished, while at the same time all that follows rests precisely on 
this section of key importance. 


precisely the supreme principle, although this deed is our very 
own, that we can [account] for any basic characteristic belonging 
to our nature." 

Jaspers compares the voluntary corruption of the supreme prin- 
ciple, the reversal of inversion of the proper order of nature and 
reason as Kant sees it, with the perversio as St. Augustine, the 
Christian, sees it: there love of God (frui Deo) constitutes man's 
nobility of faith and being. In that case the inversion consists 
of making God the means and the world the end. "All human per- 
version, also called vice, consists in wanting to use what is there 
for enjoyment and wanting to enjoy what is meant for use." 12 

Liberation from Evil, then, is return or re-inversion. The will 
to this [return], which does not imply a reform in detailed spe- 
cifics but rather, in the Kantian sense, a "revolution of the heart" 
and "immutable decision," allows man to penetrate to bedrock, 
beyond which nothing more exists for him, by which he can be- 
come his true self. The rigor, the seriousness with which we then 
realize our existence and find our happiness on condition, 
namely, that we at all times obey the law of lawfulness of our 
behavior, out of respect for the law for its own sake is identical 
with the rise of this tireless reversal, which as effort is always at 
once questionable, imperilled or fragile, in which we experience 
ourselves as our selves. 

There is a difference, however, between Christian conversion 
and the Kantian revolution of the heart from the ground of Evil 
back to Reason. The Christian is dependent on grace and on 
God's help. As one who is redeemed he may rejoice in and be 
sure of God, but not really in (and of) himself. For Kant, a 
person cannot have done good without having wanted it purely 
(for the sake of its sheer lawfulness) and thus deliberately. In the 
Christian view, however, knowing one's own purity would pre- 
cisely be corruption: superbia. "No good deed remains intact if I 
love myself in it." For Kant, on the other hand, an analogue to 
the divine joy in purity is possible. There can never be certainty 
that one's own will was or is pure. Yet there can be the joy over 
an increasing independence from inclinations and requirements. 
There remains a genuine similarity to the Christian position, after 
all: that "immutable decision" can be maintained only if there is 
no fixation on an over-all knowledge. 

12 Omnis itaque humana perversio est, quod etiam vitium vocatur, fruendis uti 
velle, atque utendis frui. 


At this juncture there appears a discrepancy between Kant's 
opinion and Jaspers' exposition. The fact that nescience holds 
sway at the beginning of our reversion is for Jaspers the source 
of the steady movement of our possible rising or falling. As evi- 
dence Jaspers cites the statement: "The depth of the heart (the 
subjective primary basis of his "maxims") is always impenetrable 
to man's scrutiny." But, for Kant this statement does not have 
the Jaspersian import of a foundering [faculty of] reason. In no 
case does the statement mean that the law to which man rises is 
imperceptible to him. It only means that, in judging any particular 
action of his, man is always uncertain as to whether respect for 
the pure law was actually the primary basis of his "maxims" (i.e., 
of his objectively statable motives for acting) , or whether there 
was not, after all, possibly some hidden inclination or substantial 
interest, etc., also mixed in with pure respect for the law. What 
reason demands is not enigmatic for Kant; enigmatic (in the 
simple sense of "uncertain") is merely what man really desires or 
has desired at any given time not, however, what he ought to 
desire. The Ought is completely translucent in the application of 
the reasoning power of the Categorical Imperative: Can you wish 
what you wish purely?, that is, in such a way that it can be 
objectified into an universal law without contradicting or abrogat- 
ing itself? Whatever you can thus wish, you ought to wish; that 
you may, unequivocally, regard as your duty. But: who has ever 
been capable of purifying his true maxims (motivations) to such 
a strict, transparent degree of the nature of law? The heart of man 
is too deep, not his reason too enigmatic or too opaque. 

Jaspers is of the opinion that the directive force of Kant's teach- 
ings concerning human behavior is disappointing to anyone who, 
here and now, expects practical guidance in his everyday conduct. 
Jaspers does not care to see purification from Evil in the direc- 
tion of practical unequivocalness (towards which Kant's inten- 
tion definitely seems to point) ; but rather in its significance for 
"inner conduct:" in the transformation of non-knowledge into a 
soaring flight in the encompassing of a riddle. The inadequacy 
of Reason, as revealed in Radical Evil, invites him to entrust him- 
self exclusively to that Reason, in order that, at its limits, he may 
become aware of the Encompassing. 

This is already an important discrepancy. Kant sees Reason 
foundering on the resistance of the heart's depth; Jaspers has the 
heart foundering on the incomprehensibility of Reason and, at 
the same time, Reason foundering on itself. It matters very much 
to Jaspers that the instances which drive towards the leap into 


the absolutely unknowable of Transcendence shall be enhanced. 
This, finally, reveals itself in that still sharper differentiation 
from Kant which arises from the gradation of steps by which 
Jaspers lets the Encompassing arise out of Kant's doctrines con- 
cerning Radical Evil. 

In this connection Jaspers sees the Encompassing emerging in 
three dimensions: 

1) His world and its content always reveal themselves to man 
as phenomenal only (as what is able to appear to his finite con- 
stitution) . Thus the thought is offered (though expressly men- 
tioned by neither Kant nor Jaspers) : that the insoluble discrep- 
ancy, inhering in the contention that man can desire either his 
happiness or the good, is no ultimate reality, but only appear- 
ance; that the above described reversion, his Radical Evil, where 
man adheres to his desire for the good only on condition of his 
personal happiness , is only an evil phenomenon, not any evil 
reality subsisting of and for itself. 

2) An Encompassing is disclosed as the idea of the highest 
good: the postulate of God, who, in the future, will lead man's 
pure will which here can and dare produce only an inconse- 
quential worthiness to happiness but no claim on actual happi- 
ness to the realization of happiness after all, and thus, finally 
and justly, will grant to man what must (and should) seem evil 
to him here below if he himself desires it. In Kant this marks 
the necessary transition from philosophy to religion. But, whereas 
in Kant this idea of the highest good and the postulate of God 
stands as the last wondrously reconciling word on the prob- 
lem of Radical Evil, Jaspers assigns it an only subordinate and 
dispensable significance. Instead, what is for Kant the human 
penultimate Jaspers elevates to the ultimate and highest. 

3) The Encompassing shows itself in the actual thrust at the 
irrepealable Radical Evil itself. For Jaspers this constitutes Kant's 
proximity to Christianity: "to the incurable rupture with the 
world." It is this rupture and cleft which, encompassingly, affects 
us as an absolute enigma. By contrast Kant's God-postulate is 
only more like a "reservation" a tempering of the necessary 
thrust into an absolute enigma. It would seem that .the greater 
severity would have to be turned against this reservation in Kant 
himself, a severity which Jaspers expresses as follows: Wherever 
in clearest conduct there still is any kind of reservation (any 
desire for happiness, any anxiety concerning existence, any striv- 
ing for worth or power-interest) , there "what is decidedly moral 


becomes, by this surreptitious inversion, sophistical and radically 
evil/ 118 

This thrust into Radical Evil is, for Jaspers, the genuine 'Kan- 
tian goad/ rousing in me the innermost motive by which I will 
and which yet I can not will: to want, that is, not something, but 
to be myself. 

In Jaspers' eyes the Kantian formalism of the Categorical Im- 
perative is either degraded to a mere regulatory function, or 
else it is understood only and exclusively as the illumination of 
this enigmatic origin; only in this case can it be 'constitutive' for 
the reversion to the good: "Everything good, all love springs from 
the counter-movement which the goad of Radical Evil releases 
this scarcely surpassable demand on man's inwardness." 

In the portrayal of this third Encompassing one seems almost 
at once to sense Kierkegaard's influence: 

1. It is as if Kierkegaard finally impelled Jaspers to proceed 
more like Kant than Kant himself, unless we are mistaken in 
taking the sentence concerning "the reservation of any sort of 
desire for happiness" to be directed against Kant. But, how other- 
wise should one understand it? Insofar as the Kantian God-postu- 
late does in fact permit "still one last" regard for the idea of 
happiness, the consequences for Jaspers provided he takes Kier- 
kegaard's Either-Or seriously must be the subsumption of this 
consideration under the concepts of "sophistry" and "Radical 
Evil/' 1 * 

13 This sentence would, indeed, seem to have to count against Kant. 

i* That Jaspers must assume this attitude towards Kant's God-postulate lies (as 
our text will presently demonstrate) in his final and central (religious) position. 
Superficially considered, one might find this attitude to be quite in accord with the 
stream of German philosophy since Fichte, in which it has been customary to act 
condescendingly towards enlighteners and free-thinkers. Thomas Jefferson, that apos- 
tle of the Enlightenment, promised the world in 1776 that Americans intended, in 
the future Constitutional regulation of their community life, to proceed from the as- 
sumption that, as regards a three-fold craving all men are equal: (1) they want 
to live; (2) as individuals they want to assure to their life ample scope for freedom; 
(3) and they want to live life in such a way that, individually and collectively, they 
may deem it a happy one. Germans (by contrast) seem always to have striven to be 
an exception to the third instance of this "equality of all men." In the manifold 
directions this attempt has taken, there have not merely resulted forms of self-decep- 
tion; but there was achieved so much loyalty to work, dutiful obedience, upright- 
ness and calm inwardness of attitude that even Nietzsche finally conscious of this 
mastery uttered that aggressively vehement word which declared the exception to 
be the rule and the rule the exception: "Man does not desire happiness; only the 
Englishman does that." To this John Dewey gave the answer which Nietzsche him- 
self could very well have given to some third party (meaning Nietzscheans) who 
might have tried to pin him down to the one-sided and incidental caprice of that 
remark: "When Nietzsche says: 'Man does not desire happiness; only the English- 
man does that/ we smile at the fair thrust. But persons who profess no regard lor 


2. Kant had often and expressly given voice to his pleasure over 
the fact that the principle of the Categorical Imperative discov- 
ered by him could, by virtue of the purity of its formal quality 
as a law, act constitutively for [producing] a good will, and was 
at the same time capable of proving this constitutive power in 
concrete behavior by dint of its fitness as a regulative and orient- 
ing instrument. 15 Jaspers, on the other hand, holds that the 
Kantian attempt, as concerns precisely this practical-moral aspect, 

happiness as a test of conduct have an unfortunate way of living up to their princi- 
ple by making others unhappy. I should entertain some suspicion of the complete 
sincerity of those who profess disregard for their own happiness, but I should be 
quite certain of their sincerity when it comes to a question of my happiness." (Ger- 
man Philosophy and Politics, 1915) By the same token one might take Jaspers' dep- 
recatory classification of Kant's postulates of happiness and of God as part and par- 
cel of this German tradition. But, however motivated, Jaspers' above noted reading 
of the Kantian text, though apparently altering it only slightly, had a two-fold 
effect: 1) the traditional German prejudice had, in any case, no longer any reason to 
speak of Kant's compliance with the commonness of the craving for happiness; 2) 
but more significantly that there is no longer any transition from philosophy 
to religion. Philosophy now has the last word. But, was it really 'compliance' in 
Kant on which Jaspers has improved? Or was it not rather humble and generous 
philosophical candor? Humility in confronting that "innate equality of all men" 
and candor with reference to the cardinal thesis and deepest basis of his own phi- 
losophy. He had pronounced his word in this matter to be a penultimate one only. 
He carried out the "necessary transition to religion" by means of the God-postulate, 
who guaranteed, after all, the very happiness he, Kant, had chided. The evil Kant 
had imputed to the human aspiration to happiness (whenever it gives itself priority 
or delegates to itself the role of judge and commander) God lifts again from his 
creatures insofar as (according to Kant) God in the end transforms what unfortu- 
nately must be 'evil' in them into the good of his grace and mercy towards them. 
In Jaspers' interpretation this Kantian inversion loses its force as a result of the 
above mentioned arrangement of the stages of the Encompassing which Jaspers in- 
troduced into his presentation: here the last, decisive stage is what Kant took to be 
only a provisional one, to be compensated for by religion. Thus deprived of its phil- 
osophical force, the happiness- and God-postulate as Jaspers takes it, can scarcely 
function any longer as the stimulus for effecting an immanent rectification and cri- 
tique which the Kantian God exercised on the Kantian concept of happiness i.e., 
an express and direct criticism of Kant himself , directed above all against the in- 
adequacy of Kant's discussion of the foundering conceits of the aspiration to hap- 
piness. In fact, Jaspers now appropriates these discussions for his own use even 
exaggerating them against Kant. Instead of explaining that the modes of foundering 
of any concept or phenomenon (here that of 'happiness') can furnish no serious 
argument against the properly understood truth of the same (proper: that is, with- 
in its natural limits), he welcomes them all alike as justification for the 'salto mor- 
tale' from the "nothingness of happiness" into the "purity of the law." 

is Cf., for example, this footnote in Kant's Preface to his Critique of Practical 
Reason: "A reviewer who wanted to find some fault with this work has hit the 
truth better, perhaps, than he thought, when he says that no new principle of 
morality is set forth in it, but only a new formula. . . . But whoever knows of what 
importance to a mathematician a formula is, which defines accurately what is to be 
done to work a problem, will not think that a formula is insignificant and useless 
which does the same for all duty in general." (p. 93 of 6th 1923 ed'n of Abbott's 
translation of Second Critique). 


is emphatically doomed to foundering. Yet, in this foundering 
Jaspers sees the purity of the Kantian law actually enhanced and 
transformed into the purity of pure spirit. Accordingly, the 
ethical disjunction happiness : duty becomes the religious disjunc- 
tion 'natural life' : 'existing in the spirit.' Thus Jaspers anticipates 
Kierkegaard in Kant. Not, in the first instance, the Kierkegaardian 
Either-Or, but rather the Kantian disjunction reveals already the 
rupture between the spirit and the world to be incurable. Kierke- 
gaard's definition applies already to Kant (as Jaspers understands 
Kant) : ''What is spirit? (and Christ is indeed spirit, his religion 
that of the spirit) . Spirit is: to live as thought dead (in the 
process of passing away) ." 16 

3. By "happiness" Kant in the last analysis always meant only 
the sum of all inclinations insofar as they may be thought of as 
reaching their goal, but which, in their character as natural 
inclinations, must, taken all together, also be thought of as "bar- 
riers to morality" (to "duty") , 17 Analogously, but altered and 
radicalized, Kierkegaard linked "happiness" (and "unhappiness") 
with the merely "aesthetic" attitude to life and pitted against this 
kind of "happiness" the "existential pathos" of the religious life: 
suffering. 18 Suffering means to die to all happiness and at the same 
time to love for the love of God. This, evidently, is the pathos of 
that almost incomparable and practically unheard-of final sentence 
in Jaspers, which we quoted from his paper on "The Radical Evil 
in Kant": that "... all love springs from the counteraction which 
the goad of Radical Evil releases/' True enough, for man's "good 
will" (as the only unqualified good in the world) Kant had as- 

10 Kierkegaard's Journals, Haecker ed'n, II, 405. 

Despite the submersion of the Kantian ethics in this depth of transcendence, 
Jaspers nevertheless (or now more than ever serving as a reminder from somewhere) 
kept some recollection of the worldly (practice-regulatory) intent of the Kantian 
Imperative: the possibility of orienting everybody's conduct on a law capable of be- 
ing valid for everyone. As concerns this unforgettable point, however, Kierkegaard's 
life of the spirit does not seem adaptable to the Kantian intention. It appears to 
the reader, therefore, that Jaspers accepted and fully articulated the passionate self- 
interpretation, which Kierkegaard himself gave of his spiritual Existenz, also in 
order to fit it into the unity of the Kantian world of ideas: Jaspers did this by plac- 
ing Kierkegaard's doing and thinking as "exception" side by side with Kant's uni- 
versal law. For, to be an "exception" in Kierkegaard's sense does not, after all, im- 
ply mere wilfulness, it is not an empty, merely obstinate rebellion against universal 
standards; but it is, rather, a suffering from these, it is correction, illumination, and 
finally (indirect) confirmation of the universal. Only law and exception together 
constitute the "truth" of the law. Only Kant and Kierkegaard together (one could 
almost say) constitute for Jaspers the whole truth of the Kantian philosophy. 

17 Cf., for example, Critique of Pure Reason, A 808f. 

18 Cf., for example, his Concluding Unscientific Postscript, II, 112ff. 


sumed a pure "origin in freedom;" but never and nowhere did he 
think of vindicating "all of man's love" in such an origin in free- 
dom. It remained for Kierkegaard to do this. A few days before his 
death, Kierkegaard, talking with his friend Boesen, uttered a sen- 
tence, euphorically exalted to be sure, yet showing, nonetheless, 
in the image he used that Kierkegaard, too, throughout his entire 
conscious life conceived of love as originating not in nature, but 
in something opposed to nature: as a "counteraction to the whole 
of Evil." The aim of his Existenz as an exception, he said, was to 
be as if "put away," but then finally to sing the "Hallelujah" en- 
gendered in suffering; "everything else is evil. I don't mean that 
what I said (against 'Christians' or Christendom, against bishop 
and brother) was evil; but I said it in order to clear Evil away, 
and then to attain to the Hallelujah." 19 


The "integrity of philosophy" against "philosophy as system" 
and against philosophy as "reasonable reconciliation" (as a sub- 
stitute for the Christian-theological story of redemption) was the 
general war-cry of Feuerbach, Bauer and the left-wing Hegelians 
against Hegel and against the Hegelians of the right. Kierkegaard 
as well as Nietzsche wanted to radicalize this integrity to the last 
degree. However, in both this spiritual exertion and task ran, as it 
were, on tracks which certain childhood impressions seemed to 
have etched upon their respective modes of thinking. As children 
both had the profound experience of a Christian atmosphere 
but in radically different ways. To the child Kierkegaard his 
father, who was a guilt-conscious sinner and "penitent," said: 
"You must be Christian, i.e., 'believe.' (You dare not curse God 
as I once did as a child.) " The child Nietzsche was taught in 
unbroken and simple Christian faith: "In life's difficulties you 
cannot rely on people, but only on God." 

This is why Kierkegaard, later on, put the question of integrity 
thus: How can I be a Christian in a conscientious way? (For, a 
Christian he ought and had to be.) 

Nietzsche, on the other hand, later on put the question: Is the 
belief that God is trustworthy a sincere belief? 

Kierkegaard with his question, in the last analysis, prohibited 
any expression of scepticism in religion. He assigned to scepticism 
an existentially subordinate place. He demanded obedience and 

i Quoted by Chr. Schrempf, Soren Kierkegaard, II, 327. 


subjugation to the "paradox" of (an historically and dogmatically 
fixed) faith. The degree of integrity he perceived in the degree 
of rigor of both the prohibition and the command. 20 

In exactly the opposite way, Nietzsche, out of integrity, set his 
scepticism especially the scepticism with reference to histor- 
ically transmitted theology and dogma, but also with reference 
to God himself no bounds at all, except the limit of the native, 
nai've, and still uninitiated pious souls. Here he asked: is scepti- 
cism as a mode of behavior finally beneficial to life i.e., is it 

These two kinds of integrity in questioning and of the [over- 
all] attitudes they entail lead among other things to two 
totally different kinds of readiness to suffer. 21 

For Kierkegaard, suffering as subjection was connected with 
the idea of absolute obedience it was, thus, goal and end in 

For Nietzsche, suffering was worthy of affirmation only insofar 
as it enhanced life, insofar as it was beneficial to the whole of life 
(encompassing both vitality and spirituality) , 22 

20 Kierkegaard writes: "Savonarola says somewhere that the genuine convert does 
not care what people say of him, but takes courage and says: thus I desire that one 
should live in my house. This reminds me of the words with which my father 
used to cut off other people's objections to his way of living: 'such is the custom in 
my house'." (Journals, II, 250.) 

(Nietzsche, out of regard for hierarchy and for the power to command and, on 
the other hand, also for discipline and obedience, would have approved of these 
sentences as being 'sincere.' But the ones we have already quoted must be taken to- 
gether with the following, which are, for Kierkegaard, the really essential ones:) 

"They would have us believe that objections to Christianity arise from doubt. 
This is entirely mistaken. Objections to Christianity arise from insubordination, 
from aversion to obedience, from rebellion against any authority. This is why thus 
far they have been fighting windmills with objections, because they have fought 
doubt intellectually, whereas rebellion must be fought ethically." (Book of the 
Judge, 128.) 

Summarizing: Man should in absolute obedience meaning: in unconditional 
and absolutely valid suffering proceed to "perish" (viz., die) to his scepticism as 
well as to his reason: at least insofar as he wants to be a sincere Christian. (Such 
a will Nietzsche rejected as being both humanly and philosophically dishonest [in- 
sincere] .) 

21 It is probable that this statement could just as well be reversed, perhaps even 
must be reversed: innate or early "impregnated" differences in the fighting instinct, 
in the instinct to flee or to attack with reference to suffering, resulted, on the part 
of the two, in their working over their childhood impressions into the above named, 
diametrically opposed forms of intellectual interrogation. 

22 Nietzsche oriented his attitude towards suffering and consciously disciplined it 
on the model of Emerson. For almost all of Nietzsche's vital existential attitudes, 
his 'magnificent' Emerson was, in every decisive epoch of his life, his companion, 
and encouraging and guiding 'friend* and lode-star - so also in the way he mastered 
and interpreted grief and suffering. In Emerson's essay, "Compensation," Nietzsche 
ran across the following passage (in the poor Fabritius translation which he read): 


Statements by Kierkegaard and by Nietzsche, supporting now 
one and now the other thesis, are to be found everywhere in their 
thought and output. Here I shall offer only a tiny selection 
(chosen without intentional bias) : 

1. Kierkegaard writes: "Between man and the truth lies 
dying/' 23 Not to suffer, not to want to perish, is for Kierkegaard 
the all-embracing i.e., absolute and final negative token. It 
says that: 

a) a person is "evil" (see p. above) , and 

b) inextricably, therefore, he is "untrue." 24 

Evil is essentially or "originally" evil as a cleaving to exist- 
ence, so far as existence partly hems in and partly dissipates the 

"The indignation which arms itself with secret forces does not awaken until we 
are pricked and stung and sorely assailed. . . . When (a great man) is pushed, tor- 
mented, defeated, he has a chance to learn something; he has been put on his wits, 
on his manhood; he has gained facts; learns his ignorance; is cured of the insanity 
of conceit; has got moderation and real skill. The wise man throws himself on the 
side of his assailants. It is more his interest than it is theirs to find his weak point. 
The wound cicatrizes and falls off from him like a dead skin, and when they would 
triumph, lo! he has passed on invulnerable. . . . Every lash inflicted is a tongue of 
fame; every prison, a more illustrious abode; every burned book or house enlightens 
the world; every surpressed or expunged word reverberates through the earth from 
side to side. ... In general, every evil to which we do not succumb is a benefactor." 
(Modern Library ed'n of The Complete Works . . . of R. W. Emerson, 184f.) 

This and other passages Nietzsche condensed for his own (following) reflec- 
tion, penned on the fly-leaf of his copy of the Essays: 

"The capacity for pain is an excellent preserver, a sort of insurance on life; and 
this is what has preserved pain: it is just as useful as pleasure to put it mildly. I 
laugh at those enumerations of pain and misery by which pessimism would prove 
itself Hamlet and Schopenhauer and Voltaire and Leopardi and Byron. Life all 
of you say is something that ought not to be if this is the only way it can main- 
tain itself. I laugh at this 'ought* and take a position to life in order to help, in 
order that from pain life may emerge as mature as possible; security, caution, pa- 
tience, wisdom, variety all its bright and sombre colors, bitter and sweet in 
everything we are suffering's debtor, and a whole canon of beauty ... is possible 
only in a world of deep and changing and various sorrows. What prompts you to 
pass judgment on life can not be justice for justice would know that pain and 
evil are our friends. We must multiply pain in the world if we wish to increase art 
and wisdom." (Only this last, outrageous imperative is to be charged against Nietz- 
sche; in Emerson there is no thought of such a thing.) 

It would seem possible to assert the thesis that the depth and tension effective 
in the difference between the thought and Existenz of Nietzsche and the thought 
and Existenz of Kierkegaard could be measured by the resp. content of Emerson's 
philosophy: "Nietzsche a absorb^ la pense"e (d'Emerson) jusqu'a ne plus ton jours la 
distinguer de la sienne" (Charles Andler, Nietzsche, sa vie et sa pensec, Vol. I, les 
precurseurs, 340.) Kierkegaard, on the other hand, could never have followed Emer- 
son, even at a great distance: of necessity he would have denounced Emerson's 
literary work as the ruinous doings of a 'free-thinker' and child of the world lost 
to Christianity. 

28 Journals, II, 197. 

24 Throughout the section on Evil of his work, Von der Wahrheit t Jaspers makes 
an assumption which at first astounds the reader: Evil is viewed as a source and 


breadth or the unity of truth. Kierkegaard writes: "The difference 
between whether the unconditional concord is in me or not, I 
recognize at once in this/' whether I "have let go of the here and 
the there, of the particular" or not. 25 To carry this thought radi- 
cally, inexorably and uncompromisingly to its consequences seems 
to have been the condition on which the integrity of Kierke- 
gaard's life and thought depended. 

The integrity of the Nietzschean radicalism, on the other hand, 
lay utterly disregarding idealistic convictions (which he un- 
masked as "habits of thought" and "prejudices") in raising the 
attachment to life (in the sense of life's intensification through 
its own nature and strength) to the status of "duty;" duty born 
of innate honor and the honesty of those who "turned out well" 
(well-bred) . Thus Nietzsche writes: "It is probable that in ... 
well-bred people the most sensuous functions are ultimately 
transfigured by a symbolical intoxication of the highest spiritual- 
ity; they sense in themselves a kind of deification of the body and 
are farthest removed from the ascetic philosophy of the saying, 
'God is Spirit/ It thus becomes clear that it is the ascetic who is 
the 'ill-bred man/ who calls a something in himself and pre- 
cisely the judging and condemning something good and calls 
it 'God'." 20 

Inasmuch, however, as Nietzsche too probably knew that life 
and body die, how did his integrity measure up to a specific 
(surviving) honor of the spirit? As if to the Kierkegaard in him- 
self to the radical honesty and honor of suffering, understood 
perhaps as the voluntary and sovereign anticipation of death he 
declared: quite understandable and worthy of esteem is the pride 
which the human 'spirit* may take in anticipating death. But, 
because in the final analysis it remains empty, he refuses to 
recogni/e in this capacity the real function, honor and truth of 

kind of untruth but not the other way around, untruth as a source and kind of 
evil (this latter would terminate in Pragmatism). A comparison with the text above 
shows that this is the assumption which Kierkegaard makes also. The logical dubi- 
ousness of the category of 'origin* (or of 'source'), which also, almost constantly dis- 
quiets the reader of the work mentioned, is revealed in the case of 'Evil' in this 
way: despite the continual suggestion of an antecedent- and-consequence relation- 
ship (from Evil to untruth), which, for the train of thought and its presentation in 
the chapter under consideration, is essential (here it appears, moreover, as an irre- 
versible relationship), both appear again as being equally original, and then the 
"origin" of both of Evil as well as of untruth is defined in exactly the same 
way: as the discrepancy (inability-to-be-one) of the modes of the Encompassing 
within the whole. 

25 Journal, II, 181. 

20 Nietzsche, The Will to Power, Aphorism 1051. 


philosophizing. He declares that men are, in any case, inclined 
enough to unite in a "brotherhood of death/* He praises men 
that en masse they nevertheless manage to avoid such a union. 
Even as a philosopher he recommends, as over against the brother- 
hood of death, the far more exacting brotherhood of life: "It fills 
me with happiness to see that men do not at all want to think 
thoughts about death. I should like to do something to make 
thinking about life a hundred times more worthy for them to 
think about." 27 

2. Kierkegaard writes: "... the unconditional obedience to 
being trampled on, as if one had accomplished nothing, surely 
is and remains the highest." This is Jaspers' thought-form of 
"foundering" in its entirely severe and extreme Kierkegaardian 
original form. There is no need to introduce evidences for the 
fact that, against the Christian attitude exemplified by this state- 
ment of Kierkegaard's, Nietzsche directed his integrity to the two- 
sided effort: 1) to demonstrate the innately masochistic or (caste- 
determined) servile origin of this faith; and 2) to concede its 
"value for life" in the sense of breeding a more cunning and 
interesting (Christian-priestly) type of man. 

At this point we break off arbitrarily. Meaning and direction 
of Kierkegaard's and Nietzsche's "integrity" appear to be incom- 
patible. It is not possible that both simultaneously "open our 
eyes to the plain truth" ("uns die Augen offnen und den Star 
stechen" Jaspers) . One can become genuinely "seeing" accord- 
ing to the bent of the one or of the other only if one shares their 
pathos, their faith. Whoever sees through the eyes of the one, 
offends those of the other. Methodologically, this is Max Weber's 
'ceterum censeo.' 

As far as content goes, I believe that Max Weber's substantial 
and personal pathos aimed in the direction in which Nietzsche 
tried to open Kierkegaard's eyes not, however, vice versa. For 
this latter he would have had to be a devout Christian (or, in a 
related sense, "religio-musical") . 28 

27 Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Book 4: Sanctus Januarius, 278. 

This Nietzsche-passage is of some interest for the history of philosophy; and this 
not merely because of its divergence from Schopenhauer. Heidegger too, for in- 
stancewith probably explicit reference to this passage, to which he at first had 
promised adherence cast his option (1923-25) in favor of "conscience" as a "Being 
to death" (Sein zum Tode), amassing its forces by way of concentrating in this di- 
rection towards "Nothing." 

28 in his Psychologic der Weltanschauungen (c. "Ultimate Situations," sc. "Suf- 
fering"), the book of his young manhood, Jaspers had sharply emphasized the an- 
tagonism between Nietzsche and Kierkegaard: "From Kierkegaard's standpoint, 


In Reason and Existenz Jaspers characterized Kierkegaard's 
"being exceptional" by the following phrases: "Nobody actually 
loved him;" "a shattered existence in the abandonment of one's 
age;" "standing helplessly in nothingness;" "pure mentality;" 
"indifference of all worldliness." 29 

In connection with his criticism of Kant (the vehemence of 
which increased with the increasing liveliness of his extolling 
of Goethe and praise of the high capacities for happiness in 
Goethe's life) , Nietzsche attempted a number of trenchant analy- 
ses and definitions of happiness. 30 One of them runs: "For ascend- 
ing life happiness is instinct." Nietzsche certainly would not have 
wanted to see this sentence applied to the interpretation of 
Kierkegaard's "ascent" to religious Existenz and exception on 
the contrary, he would have interpreted this process as "deca- 
dence." Meanwhile, we may (for our purpose) appropriately pass 
over this Nietzschean "prejudice" and place Jaspers' description 

Nietzsche is a-religious. From Nietzsche's standpoint, Kierkegaard is hostile to life. 
In any case, Kierkegaard professes to be a Christian, Nietzsche an anti-Christian." 

In a certain way these sentences represent the point of greatest methodical prox- 
imity of Jaspers to Max Weber. Were one to look for a sentence later on: after 
the accomplished transformation from the psychologist of many Weltanschauungen 
to the philosopher of the one and only Occidental philosophy and to the announcer 
of the one philosophical truth which would be similarly representative of the 
greatest distance from Max Weber, the following one might well be the most im- 
pressive: "I see in my thinking the natural and necessary conclusion of Occidental 
thought up till now, the ingenuous synthesis by virtue of a principle, which in its 
breadth is capable of taking in everything which is, in any sense of the word, true." 
(Wahrheit, 192) - 

As concerns this exciting, immeasurably rich philosophical relationship to Max 
Weber, it seems to the author that Jaspers behaved towards Max Weber just as 
Nietzsche desired of a genuinely philosophical disciple: "You go East: then I shall 
go West without this sensibility every friendship, every discipleship, every pupil- 
ship at some time or other becomes hypocrisy." The author of these pages desires 
nothing more than that Mr. Jaspers would respond to this 'attack* on him in such a 
way that he would show why and in how far he was forced, in the progress of his 
philosophizing, to depart from Max Weber's positions. As, for example: (for the 
sake of 'Truth*) to replace Weber's discussion of value aiming at the clarification 
of the struggle among irreconcilable gods (i.e., ultimate spiritual possibilities) by 
the construction of a much more peaceful Pantheon. With such a critique of Max 
Weber, Jaspers would help the author and many others in their own attempt to 
love the great man with that kind of complete freedom which at one time was his 
own gift to us. 

29 Compared with the portrayal of Kierkegaard in Reason and Existenz (1935), 
the presentation in Rechenschaft und Ausblick (1951) seems very different, much 
simpler and more human. In this latter the category of "exception" does not even 

30 The vehemence of Nietzsche's attacks on Kant (in his later works) shows a 
surprising structure. One catches in it the formal aspect of a process, intensified and 
precipitated as if pathologically. But, if one traces this increase in irritability from 
beginning to end, the process is seen to be enmeshed with a calm, even maximal 


of Kierkegaard's just mentioned ''exceptional existence" under 
the light of this definition of "happiness" just as Nietzsche on 
his part explained and bore the courage and high significance of 
his own life (as an exception) from the point of view of this 
same concept of happiness. If we carry out this attempt, if we 
interpret Kierkegaard's 'being exceptional' by Nietzschean stand- 
ards, every one of Jaspers' characterizations quoted above is at 
once shown to be no longer cogent. Kierkegaard the "exception" 
is now revealed to be animated by certainty of instinct and by 
happiness. A plethora of information (above all from his Jour- 
nals) is available to show the powerful support which Kierkegaard 
had: 1) in his innate (emotional) modes of movement (flight: 
attack; leading : following; rivalry as a "fight for rank" and as 
"fight for territory" (meaning field of competence) , etc.) ; 2) in 
the masterpieces of his many-faceted endowments; 3) in his 
ability to transform melancholy almost ad libitum into conver- 
sation and thus abolish it; 4) in his inner "clock:" in the tension 
of reserving himself and the course of his life for an (at least to 
himself) incontestably "authentic deed" (which was to be more 
than merely "interesting") ; and thus 5) to die in the harness of 
his "exceptional existence" (but, at the same time, in the hospital, 
while confessing thus returning home to the "universal") . 

steadiness of substantial motivation. Even in the very last climaxes of vehemence, 
the substance of these attacks on Kant is still the same as the content of Nietzsche's 
Kant-criticism in his youth and in his "middle phase" (Dawn; Gay Science). 

During the time of his Schopenhauer veneration, Nietzsche educated and schooled 
himself philosophically in Kant; he studied Kant with particular philological thor- 
oughness (in contrast to other philosophers, whom he often did not know in detail). 
His criticism, unvarying in content, began already at the time of his enthusiastic 
veneration of Kant. The substantial motives of his Kant-criticism develop into defi- 
nite points of view, always adhered to and always present, which are central and 
fundamental to all the constancy that may be found in his own philosophy: 

(1) Against Kant's "poor concept" of happiness, Nietzsche achieves recognition and 
philosophical respectability for the idea of happiness stemming from Goethe. 

(2) Nietzsche criticizes the validity of the "Categorical Imperative" for everyone 
from a (religiously unembarrassed) concept of "exception," which every individual 
deserving of the name 'individual' represents. 

(3) Nietzsche contrasts Kant's ethics and metaphysics, on the one hand with percep- 
tions of Goethe's, and, on the other, with Darwin's viewpoints. Partly influenced by 
Goethe and partly by Darwin, he criticizes above all the wilful conceptions of "ori- 
gins" out of "freedom," and conceives as over against it the idea of a "natural his- 
tory of morality." 

(4) (Even very early, but later on with increasing fervor) Nietzsche sees in Kant the 
"great retarder" of psychological analysis and of the unwarped view of 'homo na- 
tura' in all its wealth of phenomena and (later), the retarder of "intellectual in- 
tegrity" as such. 

(5) In Kant's confusion of every kind of "egoism" with "Evil," Nietzsche sees an 
utmost contrast to Goethe's "far truer knowledge." He takes Goethe and Kant to be 
the great "antagonists of the German spirit." 


Which interpretation of Kierkegaard's exceptional being car- 
ries the greater truth: Kierkegaard's self-interpretation (which 
is also Jaspers') , or the interpretation seen through Nietzsche's 
eyes? 81 

Once again methodologically , Max Weber would insist on 
demonstrating, in the struggle of these interpretations with each 
other, their irreconcilable nature. And again we see him inclining, 
substantially, towards the Nietzschean interpretations (and causal 
analyses) as against the Kierkegaardian Jaspersian (idealistic) 
interpretations (concerned with * 'origin") . 

Let us return to our theme at its point of departure; viz., to 
the Jaspers-Kierkegaardian convictions concerning Evil's origin 
in freedom as well as the origin of the good and of love in the 
freedom of a counteraction to Evil. We think that together with 
Nietzsche Max Weber is here, for numerous reasons, in agree- 
ment with Goethe in Goethe's rejection of this doctrine concern- 
ing the origin of Evil and good (insofar as he encountered it in 
its Kantian form) , as being an ungrateful or impious speculation 
contrary to the nature of the world and of man. 32 

In his old age (1824) , Goethe partly retracted his harsh judg- 
ment of Kant's idea of a Radical Evil in man. Since his friendship 
with Schiller he had remained inclined to call himself a "Kant- 
si Socrates, the third great historical "exception" placed by Jaspers alongside 
Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, could be properly understood by neither of the two in- 
terpretations. In the Introduction to his chapter on Socrates, in his History of Phi- 
losophy, II, Hegel discusses him in a magnificent way. Also in the chapter on the 
"Doctrine of Law," in his Niirnberger Propadeutik (par. 77) he writes: "The good- 
ness of God consists therein that single individuals even as single epochs may culti- 
vate their one-sided viewpoints to arrive at their own consciousness of justice and, 
at the same time, participate in the universal (higher and progressive) Righteous- 
ness through the honor of being guilty before it and of falling victim to it." In 
sharp contrast to the magnificence of these Hegelian portrayals stands the profound- 
ly differing Section, entitled, "Ausnahme" in Jaspers' work, Von der Wahrheit (745- 
766), as the magnificent counter-pole. 

32 The sad upshot thus seems to be that of devoutness scolding devoutness. 
Representative of Kantian devoutness is Kierkegaard's statement: "Authentic 
earnestness reposes solely in the thought that God is looking upon men." (Works, 
VIII, 63); and this other one: " 'But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he 
himself is judged of no man.' (I Cor. 2:15) In other words, the spiritual man has 
the power and the key with which to explain all lower forms of existence. To that 
extent he can be judged by no one except by whatever is higher than he." (Jour- 
nals, II, 95) 

Against all that, Goethe's devoutness in this single remarkable sentence: "To 
subordinate oneself is no achievement at all to be marvelled at but: in downward 
movement, in descent, to recognize as above oneself something which stands beneath 


ian." Only the following still seemed "blasphemous" to him in 
that [Kantian] thought (and we would have liked to have 
avoided the severity of that earlier word) : that Kant had fixed the 
experience of Evil in such a way that, as absolute Evil, it could 
be resolved only by a leap into a state of pure redemption only 
by the acquisition of citizenship in a completely different (intelli- 
gible) world; and, furthermore, as follows from the foregoing, 
that Kant, at the same time, gave us to believe that Evil in man 
is a more radical phenomenon than is the good in him, such that, 
by dint of this negative constitution of man, morality and ethics 
are for ever justified in their proceeding in categorical opposition 
to man's nature, instead of proceeding, according to both possibil- 
ity and the ideal, in co-operation with it. 

The aging Goethe made it his concern to mediate between 
Kant and himself, and thus to remove the necessity of a choice, 
of an Either-Or, between himself and Kant. He wrote: 

Piety, until now a virginally chaste word in German, since our puri- 
fiers have rejected it and put it aside, fortunately, as being foreign. 
'Pietas gravissimum et sanctissimum nomen,' says a noble forebear and 
concedes to it that it is the fundamentum omnium virtutum. Time 
and place preclude our digressing on it now; let only this much be 
briefly said, therefore: 

If certain aspects of human nature, looked at from the viewpoint of 
morality, require us to ascribe to it a kind of Radical Evil, an original 
sin, other manifestations of human nature require us likewise to admit 
an original virtue in it an innate goodness, uprightness, and espe- 
cially an inclination to reverence. This fountainhead, insofar as it is 
cultivated in man, insofar as it becomes active and reaches life and 
public opinion, we call piety, as did the ancients. 

It shows itself powerfully from parents to children, somewhat more 
weakly from children to parents. It diffuses its beneficent influences 
from brothers and sisters to relatives by blood, clan, and nation. It 
proves effective with princes, benefactors, teachers, patrons, friends, 
protgs, servants, menials, beasts and consequently with land and soil, 
with country and state. It encompasses everything and, since the world 
is its province, it bestows its last and best on heaven. It alone holds 
the wiles of selfishness in check. If, by some miracle, it were to appear 
instantaneously in all men, it would cure the earth of all those evils 
from which she presently and perhaps incurably suffers. But we have 
already said too much and yet would, even with the greatest fulness 
of details, always still be saying too little . . . , 38 

83 Goethe in his review of Don Alonzo, ou I'Espagnc, in Cotta Anniversary ed'n, 
37, 283. 



An expert on Max Weber and the modern world-quarrels may 
well ask in astonishment: How can one write a discourse on evil 
(where, of all things, emphasis and guidance are placed in Max 
Weber's hands) , without as concerns the subject-matter en- 
tering into politics, and without as concerns persons mention- 
ing Marx. Indeed: the problem would really have only begun to 
interest Max Weber being the impassioned politician of his 
nation and time that he was at the point where we stopped. 
And rightly: in the debate over good and evil in this his own 
peculiar field, he could exclaim against all the classics, from Kant 
to Kierkegaard, from Goethe to Nietzsche: "Into the corner with 
that old trash!" with one exception: Marx. However, the author 
wanted to save a discussion of the mechanics of evil in politics 
and of Max Weber and Marx for some later occasion. 


Ernst Moritz Manasse 

WHAT MAX WEBER means to Jaspers is rooted in the 
communication which existed between the two. Commu- 
nication designates an 'existential relation and therefore cannot 
be the object of a cogent rational analysis. But some light may be 
thrown upon it if one uses a dialectical approach. The following 
discussion is to be understood as an attempt in this method. It will 
be centered about the thesis that the communication with Max 
Weber has been the living spring from which Jaspers' thinking 
has taken its origin. But the truth of the thesis is counterbalanced 
by the possible truth of an opposite thesis. This opposite thesis or 
antithesis says that everything which is here traced back to Jaspers' 
communication with Max Weber can also be explained differ- 
ently. The antagonism of the antithesis will be particularly felt 
in the second section of this paper, where the communication 
with Max Weber is interpreted as the 'existential' basis of Jaspers' 
relation to Kant, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. But, although the 
second section is more dialectical than the first one, it is still 
written from the point of view of the thesis. 

In a dialectical discussion of this sort the antithesis does not 
have the function of canceling the truth of the thesis. Neither is 
it to be assumed that both are surpassed by the truth of a synthe- 
sis. Rather it ought to be understood that the truth of the thesis 
is not final and has to be defended against the antithesis in a 
never ending debate. The following discussion, therefore, presents 
only the first half of an argument, the second part of which (that 
is, the actual debate against the antithesis) is always to be felt 
as present even though it remains unwritten. 

I. The Idea of Max Weber's Philosophical 
Existence in Jaspers' Work 

For Jaspers Max Weber was like Socrates. 

In the monograph, Max Weber? first published in 1932, Jaspers 

1 Max Weber, Monograph, 3rd ed. f 1948. 



compares the spiritual situation of our time with that of declining 
Antiquity. At that time the Stoic philosophy offered spiritual 
support to the single individual whose fate was an ever growing 
isolation. Stoicism was prepared to furnish such support, because 
it was inspired by the example of Socrates who "as a real person 
had been, had done, and had suffered what philosophy tried to 
comprehend for centuries afterwards/' 2 Ours is a time again, 
Jaspers believes, when individuals who are concerned about 
spiritual truth may turn to philosophy. This does not mean that 
they ought to become the partisans of any of the philosophical 
schools of the day. But the true flame of philosophy may be 
kindled in them through the "manifest mystery" 3 of an extra- 
ordinary man. The appearance of Max Weber is a challenge to 
the present generation as the appearance of Socrates was a chal- 
lenge to the Ancients. 

The first who tried to comprehend the philosophical meaning 
of Socrates' existence were his pupils, foremost among whom was 
Plato. Jaspers does not compare his relation to Max Weber to 
Plato's relation to Socrates. Perhaps this is due both to his modesty 
(Jaspers has repeatedly asserted that he does not consider himself 
as the originator of a new philosophy but rather as a renewer and 
preserver of the philosophia perennis)* and to be a certain dis- 
tance which he has felt towards Plato. It may be necessary to 
state this in order to escape misunderstandings. On the other 
hand, the comparison of the relations of the two ancient and the 
two modern thinkers is so suggestive that to omit it would mean 
to deprive the interpretation of a unique instrument. It will be 
used in the following pages, therefore, whenever it appears help- 
ful to clarify the issues. 5 

For Plato Socrates was a puzzle and a paradox. In Socrates' 
appearance Plato perceived a combination of obvious simplicity 
with unfathomable depth. Whatever Socrates expressed seemed 
to be down to earth, simple and precise. When, in an attempt to 
solve a problem, he ran into intricacies, he often confessed his 
ignorance and left the problem unsolved. Yet there was something 
in the admission of his ignorance which carried the spell of 
mystery. One spoke of Socrates' irony. But Socrates tried neither 
to hide anything nor did he want to mystify his partners. At any 
rate, Plato was convinced that this irony had another meaning. 
For Plato, Socrates' ignorance was not something merely negative 

2 Monograph, 57. 3 Ibid. * Cf ., for instance, Wahrheit, 192. 

5 The same comparison was made by Julius Stenzel in his review of Jaspers' Phi- 
losophic; cf. Logos, vol. 22 (1933), 85ff. 


but a docta ignorantia. Instead of pointing to the pure nothing 
(and even less to a nothing clad with the garment of mystery) , 
it seemed to point to a reality of a different order. On the level 
of discussion, this reality remained ineffable (<3cppT)TOv) . Perhaps 
it was something inherent in the speaker's person. Plato could 
not evoke it, for a long time, except by portraying Socrates. Little 
by little, he found other ways of expressing it. It would be one- 
sided, but probably not altogether wrong, were one to maintain 
that the theory of Ideas and the dialectics of the later dialogues 
were Plato's final attempt of unfolding the mystery which had 
appeared to him in Socrates' person. 

Max Weber's words are distinguished by a similar directness 
and lack of pretense as Socrates'. To be sure, in the scientific 
age philosophy cannot appear in the simple forms of a conversa- 
tion in which it had come to ancient Athens. Socrates needed not 
to acknowledge any certainties other than those at which he 
could arrive any moment by agreement with his partners. A 
modern dialectician is at once confronted by a vast amount of 
scientific knowledge which has been ascertained by methodical 
research. But this difference does not exclude the possibility of 
a basic similarity. 

As Plato saw it, Socrates emphasized the limits of non-dialectical 
thinking in order to make room for the docta ignorantia which is 
the beginning of true philosophy. As Jaspers sees it, Max Weber 
pointed out the limits of empirical science in order to protect 
the 'existential' freedom of the individual from the encroach- 
ments of the cogent. Weber's negations, as do Socrates', have a 
positive aim. Instead of stopping the flight of the spirit they are 
to stimulate it. Weber's determined separation of the scientifically 
knowable from what belongs to the realm of personal evaluation 
aims at more than the contrast between the rational and the 
irrational which leaves the latter without light and responsibility. 
On the contrary, Weber's whole energies were directed at nar- 
rowing the sphere of the irrational. In a gigantic effort he at- 
tempted to gather all the light which reason provides and to focus 
it on the secret sources of our choices and decisions. Thus he 
pointed to the true freedom while engaging his whole strength in 
the service of the un-ending rational analysis. Weber's example, 
like Socrates', inspired those who were susceptible to the greatness 
of such an undertaking. In no one did it produce a more pro- 
found effect than in Jaspers. Just as Plato's philosophy could 
be interpreted as his attempt to say what he had experienced 
through Socrates, so it is possible to consider Jaspers' thinking 


as his way of expressing what he had experienced through Max 

On two occasions Jaspers tried to evoke Max Weber's personal- 
ity directly. In the immediate grief over Weber's death he ad- 
dressed the students of the University of Heidelberg in a com- 
memorative assembly. 6 What he had then said he later re-inter- 
preted and expanded in a little monograph. The occasion for this 
second publication was the rise of National Socialism in Germany. 
Reminding his readers of the man whom he considered as the 
greatest among the contemporaries, he spoke against the rising 
confusion. 7 But Address and Monograph are only the two most 
explicit references to Max Weber within Jaspers' work. One may 
say without exaggeration that Max Weber's personality appears 
in each