Philosophy of Existence [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 25 (3):557-557 (1972)
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One can only agree with Editor John R. Silber's observation on this little volume that it is "the finest introduction to Jaspers' own comprehensive philosophy...." Overshadowed in this country by the great attention currently given to Heidegger, the importance and power of Jaspers' thought has not yet been appreciated by English-speaking philosophers. Far from being opposed to the natural sciences, Jaspers-who began his intellectual life as a psychiatrist--says that without a grasp of science the philosopher is "like a blind man." The properly philosophical subject matter, however, is the realm that inevitably eludes and "transcends" the scientific approach to man and natural objects. This he calls the "encompassing." The three lectures which compose The Philosophy of Existence, which was written after the publication of the three volumes of Philosophie and the composition of most of Von der Wahrheit, range over the whole of Jaspers' philosophical work. The first lecture concerns "The Being of the Encompassing"; the second, "Truth," which like the Encompassing is a continually receding ideal and so incapable of definitive articulation. The last deals with "reality," an ultimate which is grasped only in "ciphers" or symbols which are always able to be replaced by more adequate symbols. The Introduction and translation by Richard Gradau are marvelously done. The lectures themselves, delivered in 1937, were Jaspers' last public appearance, made shortly after his dismissal from his post at Heidelberg by the National Socialists.--J. D. C.



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