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

Volume 12, No.1, Spring 2017

10-Year Anniversary Issue
Karl Jaspers and Greatness


Index and Editors' Introduction

Translating Karl Jaspers on Greatness
Ruth Burch | Lugano-Paradiso, Switzerland
Helmut Wautischer | Sonoma State University

Translations of Karl Jaspers' work into the English language have so far not been uniform in their choice of technical terminology. This scholarly rendition of Jaspers' Introduction to his seminal work The Great Philosophers stays as true as possible to the original German text by upholding its idiomatic cultural expressions, complex sentence structure, and nuanced particularities provided that clarity of communication could be maintained. The substantive contents and the significance of this text, whose principal topic is greatness, are outlined here. Communication with the great philosophers can bring insight into their thought and can enable humans to transcend toward possible authentic Existenz.

Keywords: Jaspers, Karl; history of philosophy; translation; greatness; philosophia perennis; realm of philosophy; reason; truth; existence; Transcendence, Encompassing; freedom; communication; language.


Preface to the American Edition of The Great Philosophers
Karl Jaspers | Basel, 1960

On the occasion of publishing the English translation of his book, The Great Philosophers, Karl Jaspers addresses the American readership to describe his motives and reasons for writing this study about what constitutes a great philosopher and what differentiates philosophy from science.

Keywords: Philosophical thinking; reason; science; self-reflection; greatness; philosopher; truth; intellect.


Preface to The Great Philosophers
Karl Jaspers | Basel, 1956

Karl Jaspers introduces the idea of a timeless realm of the great philosophers and provides a brief rationale why a mere history of philosophy cannot do justice to the greatness of these pivotal philosophers. Jaspers explains that an objectifying historical account of philosophy will not transmit the depth and wisdom of the great philosophers, since philosophizing requires subjective involvement with the goal of challenging oneself for the purpose of becoming a fellow human being who strives to attain philosophical knowledge and to live by it.

Keywords: History of philosophy; philosophers; philosophizing; greatness; existence; liberty; love; language; communication; subjectivity; objectivity.


Introduction to The Great Philosophers
Karl Jaspers | 1883 - 1963

Karl Jaspers explores the criteria for recognizing human greatness in general and in philosphers in particular. He comments on the historical process related to the selection and grouping of great philosophers. Jaspers acknowledges the questionable aspect of greatness, yet he affirms that such distinction is indispensable. The 1957 English translation by Ralph Mannheim and Hannah Arendt of Jaspers' Die Grossen Philosophen and all its subsequent editions did not include this Introduction. The translation offered here redresses this omission and is the first ever published English translation of Jaspers' extended Introduction.

Keywords: Jaspers, Karl; human greatness; philosophers; history; criteria for grouping philosophers.


A Short Introduction to Jaspers' Einleitung to The Great Philosophers
Florian Hild | Loveland Classical Schools, Colorado

In addition to his academic writings, Karl Jaspers also wrote popular books for educated laypersons about the importance of philosophy. He explains that studying the great philosophers well allows us to be in communication with the best company there is. I share Jaspers' tenet that the great philosophers become our contemporaries as we read and discuss them. They become teachers and companions, we live our lives with them, and they provide guidance for us to find and develop one's authentic self. My motivation for participating in this translation was to make Jaspers' illuminating and persuasive insights available to a broader English-speaking readership.

Keywords: Jaspers, Karl; Arendt, Hannah; Wolff, Kurt; great philosophers; greatness; studying philosophy; sense of philosophizing; communication; history of philosophy.



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Boston, MA

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