Existenz Menu
An International Journal in Philosophy, Religion, Politics, and the Arts
ISSN 1932-1066

Volume 13, No.2, Fall 2018


The Indispensability of Complete Openness for the Future of Humanitas
Helgard Mahrdt | University of Oslo, Norway

In my essay I first turn to the correspondence between Hannah Arendt and Karl Jaspers; I will then examine Jaspers' model of communication more closely; and third I shall indicate the direction that Arendt's thinking takes in order to overcome a limit inherent in Jaspers' way of thinking.

Keywords: Existenz; real dialogue; friendship; truth and existential communication; boundary situations; action and speech.

The Logic of Karl Jaspers as an Intercultural Basic Knowledge
Albrecht Kiel | University of Konstanz, Germany

The philosophical logic of Karl Jaspers is contrary to all approaches deriving from systems philosophy and ontology. Its aim is to combine the different directions of philosophy's history (especially after Kant) synoptically. In this synopsis we find the four modes of encompassing (Weisen des Umgreifenden) in which human practice is unfolding: being, consciousness in general, spirit and existence, standing in a tension between world and transcendence. That means to differentiate the indispensable psychological fundamental functions—and with this Jaspers delivers a contribution to the integrated anthropology. The general significance of this logic is that it is distinguished from theories of methods, categories and sciences, which should be treated in separate volumes regarding philosophical logic as an overall concept. It wants to be considered as underpinning an intercultural basic knowledge in contrast to that special knowledge as it is presented by the afore mentioned theories. From the practical point of view this logic can be utilized for religious dialogues founded on modern metaphysics, a differentiated treatment of anthropology and an adequate social theory. This practical point of view (Karl Jaspers' clavis clavium) is essential for understanding his works, issued after 1935.

Keywords: tba.

The University and Civil Society
Stephen A. Erickson | Pomona College

What are and ought the dynamics of an authentic University be with respect to discussion and dialogue? Is there any legitimacy to be found in imposing constraints on open communication (a) within the University; (b) within civil society; and (c) between the two? What are the most problematic tensions and conflicts between truth seeking, solidarity building, and compromise forging? These issues will be explored though reference to some contemporary implications of Jaspers' ideas regarding freedom and inquiry, both within and beyond University life.

Keywords: tba.

A Virtue-Theoretic Approach to the Concept of a University
M. Ashraf Adeel | Kutztown University

This paper looks into the questions about the role of a university in contemporary times. Obviously, basic epistemic abilities and skills as well as intellectual virtues need to be taught at the school level. Such instruction and training at the school level is foundational. However, higher abilities to conduct inquiry in any field and to conduct it in an intellectually conscientious manner are to be inculcated by the university. Insofar as inquiry is the only way through which we generate knowledge and understanding of nature and society, the central role of a university is twofold: to produce conscientious inquirers and to produce practitioners who can use the fruits of inquiry for socio-economic growth. The former role, however, is more basic because without innovative conscientious inquiry, there can be no fruits of inquiry to be put into practice. This is what Karl Jaspers underscored when he argued that the future of our universities lies in the "renewal of their originative spirit." Hence, a virtue theoretic approach to the goals of education ends up giving us a Jaspers-style humanistic rather than simple utilitarian/technical understanding of the role of university in contemporary times.

Keywords: tba.

The Idea of the University in Practice: Karl Jaspers, Heinrich Blücher, and the Common Course at Bard College
Maxim Botstein | Harvard University

It is generally accepted that Karl Jaspers’ intensely idealistic vision of the university would pose tremendous difficulties to anyone attempting to put such pedagogy into practice. Jaspers himself acknowledged that his ideal of a socratic, interdisciplinary university—without examinations, grades, or syllabi, and devoted wholeheartedly to pure scholarship—would be impossible to realize fully in an actual institution. This was all the more true because of the intense pressure modern society placed on the university to produce technical knowledge and a body of skilled professionals. For that reason, scholars have seldom believed that Jaspers' work on the university had much practical influence, even as a regulative ideal. This paper examines one serious attempt to produce such a socratic educational program influenced by Jaspers' philosophy, from 1953 to 1968 at Bard College. Heinrich Blücher, Hannah Arendt’s husband and a professor at Bard, created and directed the Common Course, an ambitious program for Freshmen to introduce them to, as he put it, the "philosophical attitude" and their "capacities for human freedom." Drawing on original research in the Bard Archives, this paper shows how Blücher, adapting and modifying Jaspers' philosophy, attempted to meet the crisis of modern life and provide his students and the university an alternative to Cold War technocracy. His project sheds light on the seldom-discussed influence Karl Jaspers exerted in certain circles across the Atlantic.

Keywords: tba.

Philosophy with Children and Jaspers' Idea of the University: Resisting Instrumental and Authoritarian Thinking
Senem Saner | California State University at Bakersfield

Jaspers' ideal of a university as an institution devoted to the search for truth through communication requires not only academics that uphold those values but also students that are open and able to collectively take on an open and free inquiry. I argue that such desire as well as capacity for participation in the university’s mandate must be cultivated in students in an early age: The desire for such open inquiry assumes that economic and instrumental considerations for education do not exhaust the students' reasons for seeking a university education and such a desire for truth for its own sake is best cultivated by retaining children’s natural curiosity about big questions, such as the beginning of the universe, identity, meaning of life, or nature of friendship. The capacity for participation in a community of learning and research requires that the virtues of open debate, intellectual empathy, and responsible intellectual conversation are familiar to students—that their relation to adults are not merely as authority figures and disciplinarians but also as fellow inquirers and thinkers. I argue that these two goals of a university—(1) the open inquiry for truth and (2) communication as the method for such inquiry—are best supported if philosophical thinking is introduced to students at an early age.

Keywords: Jaspers, Karl; higher education; public philosophy; philosophy for children; truth; communication.

Existenz and Nothingness: Jaspers and Sartre on the Ontology of Truth
Dane Sawyer | University of LaVerne

With the emergence of fake news, combined with the circulation and promotion of hatred, bigotry, and racism clothed or guised in the costume of truth, philosophers are called to consider afresh what is meant by "truth" in a potentially post-truth era. Sartre and Jaspers, I argue, provide an instructive lens through which to view such a crisis. Sartre shows us where we utilize truth to escape freedom, a form of self-deception embodied by bad faith; Jaspers focuses our discussion on encompassing boundaries and limits located in science, religion, and philosophy. As Jaspers rightly claims, truth embodies tension between exception and authority, a relationship that is currently fragile, in question, and under attack. In short, both Jaspers and Sartre argue we must confront and engage the non-rational as a component of our existenz in the exceptional times in which we currently live.

Keywords: tba.

Selbsterhellung Beyond Academia and the Unexplored Potential of Philosophical Education
Jörn Kroll | Institute of Noetic Sciences

The controversies surrounding the current executive branch of the United States government reveal the urgent need and an unprecedented opportunity for philosophy to demonstrate its epistemic and ethical efficacy. Jaspers' philosophizing offers several pathways to arrive at individual and collective Selbsterhellung in philosophical education and national politics. This presentation indicates how basic philosophical reflection can illuminate, and defend against, the roots of (self-) destructive behavior (such as violence or drug abuse) and political intolerance.

Keywords: tba.

From the Axial Age to the Moral Revolution
Eugene Halton | University of Notre Dame


Keywords: tba.

Context and Meaning of the Axial Age Concept: Comparing the Formulations of John Stuart-Glennie and Karl Jaspers
Victor Lidz | Drexel University

John Stuart-Glennie's concept of the Moral Revolution of the sixth century BCE is compared with Karl Jaspers' concept of the Axial Age of 800 to 200 BCE. I praise Eugene Halton's revival of Stuart-Glennie's work, but hold Jaspers' treatment, built on the scholarship of Max Weber, to be the rightful source of much contemporary research on the development of world civilizations. Like Weber, Jaspers underscored differences among the developmental paths of the great civilizations of China, India, Classical Antiquity, Islam, and the Modern West; Stuart-Glennie treated them as basically similar, deriving from a Moral Revolution fundamentally alike across civilizations.

Keywords: Stuart-Glennie, John S.; Jaspers, Karl; Weber, Max; axial age; moral revolution; modern West; civilization.

Reflections on Axiality: Evolutionary Legacy or Historical Consciousness?
Christopher Peet | The King's University, Canada

Eugene Halton's book makes a significant contribution to scholarship on the Axial Age. Halton provides a summary of the alternative formulations of the Axial Age thesis by John S. Stuart-Glennie, Lewis Mumford, and D. H. Lawrence that considerably corrects the current Jaspers-centric bias of scholarship. Halton's consideration of Stuart-Glennie's articulation of panzooinism opens up a more nuanced and differentiated appreciation of the human evolutionary legacy that precedes the Axial Age. However it is unclear how this evolutionary legacy is effectively active within historical consciousness. Further, in conceptualizing this legacy Halton overlooks the degree of violence of hunter-gatherer tribalism, and overestimates the viability of their life-style as modeling sustainability. Insofar as the world religions overvalue the Axial Age, Halton's laudable goal of contributing to a sustainability revolution will prove ineffectual by comparison to Jaspers' thesis, the difference between them turning on the question of evolutionary legacy vis-à-vis effective historical consciousness.

Keywords: Halton, Eugene; Jaspers, Karl; Axial Age; evolution; world history; sustainability; ecology; panzooinism; effective historical consciousness.

Should the Axial Age be Renamed?
Benjamin Schewel | University of Virginia

The recent popularization of the term "axial age" has stimulated a debate about whether scholars should develop a more precise, way of describing the socio-spiritual parallelisms of the first millennium BCE. This essay evaluates Eugene Halton and John Torpey's recent contributions to this debate. Both authors agree on the basic problem with the term "axial age"—it falsely suggests that history displays one spiritual pivot—yet they reach quite different conclusions regarding terminological alternatives. Halton suggests abandoning "axial age" and speaking instead of a "moral revolution." Torpey recommends keeping "axial age" but simply applying it to several other periods of transformation. This essay ultimately rejects both suggestions and recommends instead that scholars continue using the term "axial age" in the same, heuristically vague way that they tend to employ other world-historical periodizing terms such as "antiquity," "medieval," or "modernity."

Keywords: Halton, Eugene; Jaspers, Karl; Torpey, John; axial age; social theory; philosophy of history; historiography.

John Stuart Stuart-Glennie versus Karl Jaspers: A Quixotic Quest?
Bryan S. Turner | Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, and Potsdam University, Germany

Theories of an Axial Age (800-200 BCE) in which humanity, moral consciousness, ethics and religious sensibility came into existence have been connected to Karl Jaspers as the principal originator of them. Such theories claim that nothing new has been added to human culture since that Achsenzeit. This academic wisdom has been challenged by Eugene Halton who shows convincingly if repetitiously that the idea of an Axial Age was developed by John Stuart Stuart-Glennie some seventy-five years before Jaspers under the heading of the Moral Revolution. Halton also claims that similar ideas were put forward by Lewis Mumford and D. H. Lawrence. As an academic detective story, Halton's book is successful, but what is the intellectual reward of such an exercise? One answer is that the focus on nature and technology in both Stuart-Glennie and Mumford provides the basis for an inquiry into a new technological transformation that is post-axial. Such an inquiry is found in Halton's concluding chapter on The Moral Revolution and the Modern Revolution Today. Halton argues that Stuart-Glennie has been neglected for his theories were too complicated and he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Keywords: Jaspers, Karl; Stuart-Glennie, John S.; Axial Age; core and peripheral civilizations; Moral Revolution; technology.


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