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

Volume 14, No.2, Fall 2019


International Relations in a Global Age

Index and Editor's Introduction

Karl Jaspers on the Atomic Bomb and Responsibility
Mats Andrén | University of Gothenburg, Sweden

In his treatment of the atomic bomb, Karl Jaspers identified new dimensions for the concept of responsibility by relating it to the destructive potency of this new weaponry. The essay examines the concept of responsibility and its meanings in Jaspers' work by examining various contexts of intellectual history; furthermore, it addresses the discourses on the nuclear technology of the 1950s, the etymology of responsibility, as well as the concept of responsibility within politics and international relations. Jaspers ingeniously anticipated the increasing awareness of world responsibility of the 1970s and 1980s. At that time, philosophers pointed out the long-term global dimensions of responsibility, including nuclear proliferation and environmental threats. Today one can recognize in much nationalist and populist rhetoric an insurgency against world responsibility, which makes it timely to return to its origins.

Keywords: Jaspers, Karl; atomic bomb; nuclear proliferation; responsibility; world responsibility; peace; conceptual history; contexts.


Homebound: Hikikomori and the Phenomenology of Radical Social Withdrawal
Xi Chen | University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry

The increasing number of worldwide cases of hikikomori casts into doubt the traditional notion of hikikomori as being merely a culture-bound syndrome. The response from social psychiatry has been to push for defined diagnostic guidelines, transforming hikikomori into a psychiatric condition. This essay provides an existential account of radical social withdrawal; it specifically draws on the philosophies of Emmanuel Levinas and bioethicist Fredrik Svenaeus' Heideggerian concept of "unhomelikeness" in order to elucidate the relationship between hikikomori, solitude, time, and home. Thus, it introduces the possibility that in addition to external factors such as culture or mental illness, social withdrawal is an individual choice that occurs worldwide.

Keywords: Levinas, Emmanuel; Svenaeus, Fredrik; psychiatry; existentialism; withdrawal; culture; medicine; solitude; isolation.


Unsettling Jaspers: Historicizing Metaphysical Guilt
Devin Zane Shaw | Douglas College, Canada

My aim is to historicize metaphysical guilt in order to fight back against the rise of the far right and fascism in North America. Departing from Karl Jaspers' book The Question of German Guilt I draw on anti-colonial and Indigenous philosophy such as Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang's essay "Decolonization is Not a Metaphor." They debunk what they call "settler moves to innocence," which allow settlers to absolve themselves from guilt and responsibility and to establish and sustain structural racism and colonialism. I also borrow insights from W. E. B. Du Bois' and Aimé Césaire's work. Settler-colonial societies in North America and elsewhere breed fascism. This enabling of the spread of white supremacy is a further reason why epistemic, ontological, and cosmological violence perpetrated by settler invasion needs to be addressed and remedied.

Keywords: Jaspers, Karl; Indigenous philosophy; settlers; colonialism; guilt, political; decolonization; fascism; race philosophy; whiteness; cultural origin.


The Kantian Idea of Constitutional Patriotism
Part 1: Constitutional Patriotism and Revolution
Pierre Keller | University of California, Riverside

The notion of constitutional patriotism defended by Jürgen Habermas and Jan-Werner Müller is articulated here. It is argued that constitutional patriotism needs to be grounded in the Kantian idea of a constitutional republic especially as that Kantian idea is developed by Ernst Cassirer and Karl Jaspers. This conception of the Kantian idea of constitution gives rise to a distinctive reading of the foundations of the constitution and of constitutional patriotism. It is also grounded in a distinctive, fundamentally public and agent-based, as well as historical, reading of Immanuel Kant and of Kant's whole work including especially The Conflict of the Faculties. Kant's notion of a revolution in thought and politics in The Conflict of the Faculties is discussed in relation to Karl Jaspers' Die geistige Situation der Zeit, to Ernst Cassirer's Die Idee einer Republikanischen Verfassung, and to Michel Foucault's "What is Revolution?"

Keywords: Cassirer, Ernst; Foucault, Michel; Habermas, Jürgen; Jaspers, Karl; Jellinek, Georg; Kant, Immanuel; Meinecke, Friedrich; Müller, Jan-Werner; The Conflict of the Faculties; Constitutional patriotism; critique; republican constitution, idea of; Kantian idea; Die geistige Situation der Zeit; cosmopolitanism.


Jaspers on Death
Kiki Berk | Southern New Hampshire University

This essay offers an analytic engagement with Karl Jaspers' philosophy of death. One of the central ideas in Jaspers' philosophy of death is that the way in which one confronts one's mortality and responds to the existential Angst it generates has profound existential significance. Particularly, Jaspers holds that one can achieve genuine authenticity only by facing up to one's mortality and by confronting it with courage. This essay situates Jaspers' philosophy of death within the current analytic philosophy of death and presents Jaspers' answers to its main questions including whether death is bad, whether one should fear death, whether death can be survived, and whether immortality is desirable.

Keywords: Jaspers, Karl; death; mortality; Angst; authenticity; philosophy of death; analytic existentialism.


Jaspers on the Question of Free Will
Joshua Tepley | Saint Anselm College

This essay offers a novel interpretation of Karl Jaspers' philosophy of freedom. Central to this interpretation is the claim that Jaspers' account of freedom has three main motivations (phenomenological, existential, and therapeutic), which lead Jaspers to identify and articulate two distinct but closely related concepts of freedom: existential freedom and authentic freedom. In addition to defining these two concepts of freedom, this essay explores how these concepts are related to the traditional notion of free will (the ability to do otherwise) and how they fit into the contemporary analytic debate over the compatibility of free will and determinism.

Keywords: Jaspers, Karl; freedom; existential freedom; authentic freedom; free will; authenticity; phenomenology; existentialism; determinism; compatibilism; incompatibilism; analytic philosophy.


Open Sky—Open Society: Zhuangzi and Jaspers
Jörn W. Kroll | San Francisco, California

This essay advances an intercultural dialogue between Jaspers and Zhuangzi. Their arguments, rhetorical devices, and suggested perspectives serve transformative rather than principally epistemological functions. In his monograph on Laozi-Zhuangzi Daoism, Jaspers idolizes Laozi but denigrates Zhuangzi. The present intercultural discourse contrasts Jaspers' insensitive critique of Zhuangzi with both Zhuangzi's substantive views and Jaspers' own tenets, which are not only compatible with but essentially align closely with Zhuangzi's. Jaspers' uncharacteristically biased assessment can be explained on the grounds of starkly opposed philosophical styles and temperaments. Jaspers is perplexed by Zhuangzi's lighthearted multi-genre virtuosity and also oblivious to his skillful rhetoric that de-reifies cognitive patterns in favor of effective strategies of self-transformation. The apparent contradiction between Zhuangzi's relativistic perspectivism and his privileging of oneness can best be resolved by a hermeneutics of omnicentric holism.

Keywords: Zhuangzi; Jaspers, Karl; Laozi; Daoism; existentialism; truth; transcendence; innerworldliness; relativism; perspectivism; omnicentric holism; intercultural philosophy.


On Philosophical Foundations of War and World Peace
Fidel J. Gutiérrez Vivanco | World Philosophical Forum, Peru

The essay builds upon Karl Jaspers' understanding of the correlation between inner peace and freedom and truth. Today as ever, it is necessary to define and analyze the foundation of truth. In order to achieve this objective, humans need to utilize a new philosophical method. To interpret and find the solution to global problems, it is necessary to address their universal foundations. Indeed, in this essay I will analyze war and peace by using my philosophical method Princonser, namely the principle of conservation of being. In my view, all events occurring in the universe have two foundations, namely the principle of conservation and the principle of destruction.

Keywords: Jaspers, Karl; war; peace; freedom; truth; principle of conservation; Princonser.


Daimonic Disclosure in Arendtian Action: A Response to Critics
Trevor Tchir | Algoma University, Canada

This essay begins with a personal account of how I came to explore Arendt's theory of disclosive political action via earlier research on the work by Charles Taylor, who presents a different notion of the way that praxis reveals dimensions of the self and the world. Alongside this biographical narrative, I articulate the core intention and argument of my book, Hannah Arendt's Theory of Political Action, where I discuss Arendt's performative and non-sovereign theory of freedom and political action, with special focus on action’s disclosure of the unique "who" of each agent, along with disclosing aspects of the shared world. Arendt proposes that in pluralistic, secular public spheres as no metaphysical idea can authoritatively validate political actions or opinions absolutely. At the same time, she sees action and thinking as revealing an inescapable existential illusion of a divine element in human beings, a notion well represented by the daimon metaphor that appears in Arendt's own work and in key works by Plato, Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers, and Immanuel Kant, with which she engages. While striving to provide a post-metaphysical theory of action and judgment, Arendt ends up performing evidence to the fact that many of the legitimating concepts of contemporary secular politics retain a residual vocabulary of transcendence. The essay concludes with my response to the commentaries of three critics of my book.

This Author meets Critics session is viewable at YouTube.

Keywords: Arendt, Hannah; the daimon; political action; the "who"; divine; transcendence.


Political Freedom: Human not Divine
Frederick M. Dolan | University of California, Berkeley

Trevor Tchir explores Hannah Arendt's invocation of the daimon, the spirit of ancient Greek religion that possessed both divine and human characteristics and could sometimes confer special qualities on individuals that allowed them to perform feats that went beyond what would be expected of ordinary human abilities and fallibilities. Tchir suggests that in this move, Arendt betrays the insurmountable difficulty of accounting for the qualities she attributes to free human action. If only the image of divine intervention can explain how action rises to the heights that Arendt likes to celebrate, then perhaps combating the ills of modernity cannot do without the transcendental. Tchir's argument deserves careful consideration, but I am not persuaded that Arendt's religious images are anything more than metaphors for human abilities. Her account is better understood as a "this-worldly" phenomenology of human freedom.

Keywords: Arendt, Hannah; freedom; political action; modernity; the self; natality; the daimon; individuality.


Aesthetics and Politics in Hannah Arendt
Karin Fry | Georgia Southern University

Trevor Tchir argues that Hannah Arendt's use of the daimon concept helps one to gain insight into how the "who" is disclosed in political action. For Tchir, the daimon is used in aesthetic as well as in transcendent ways. My commentary focuses on various discussions of aesthetics and politics in Arendt's work and on her understanding of the concept of genius in order to illustrate that her position on these matters is not straightforward. It is my view that the overarching argument of Tchir's book would be stronger if first, Arendt's hesitancy with understanding politics aesthetically and if second, her suspicions about the concept of genius were addressed fully.

Keywords: Arendt, Hannah; aesthetics; politics; genius; the daimon; action.


The Daimon as Metaphor: Naming the Ground of the “Who” in Arendt’s Theory of Political Action
Jennifer Gaffney | Loyola University Chicago

In Hannah Arendt's Theory of Political Action, Trevor Tchir highlights what he perceives to be a tension in Arendt's theory of political action. Tchir argues that Arendt's appeal to the daimon reveals a divine or transcendental element at the basis of this theory that stands in conflict with her post-metaphysical, existential account of the "who" that action discloses. This commentary deepens and challenges Tchir's thesis by considering Arendt's claim that her use of the daimon is metaphorical. Turning to Arendt's later writings on metaphor, I consider whether this figure of the divine may be interpreted not as forming the transcendental ground for her theory of action but rather as a basis for her insights into the impossibility of naming such a ground. In view of this, I suggest that we might treat Tchir's inquiry into the daimon as a platform for developing Arendt's contribution to such fields as negative theology, which seeks to navigate the very tension that Tchir identifies.

Keywords: Arendt, Hannah; Heidegger, Martin; Tchir, Trevor; the daimon; action; metaphor; negative theology.


The Kantian Idea of Constitutional Patriotism
Part 2: The Very Idea of a Constitutional Republic
Pierre Keller | University of California, Riverside

It is argued that constitutional patriotism needs to be grounded in the very Kantian idea of a republican constitution, especially as that Kantian idea is developed by Ernst Cassirer, Karl Jaspers, and Hans Saner. The account of Kantian constructivism by Onora O'Neill and the conception of Kantian constitutionism and its relation to Plato's Republic developed by Christine Korsgaard are discussed. It is argued that the Kantian idea of a constitution and of constitutional patriotism gives rise to a distinctive reading of the foundations of the constitution and of constitutional patriotism. That idea is also grounded in a distinctive, fundamentally public and agent-based, as well as historical, reading of Immanuel Kant and of Kant's whole work including especially the Critique of Pure Reason and its principle of the original synthetic unity of apperception. Kant's notion of a public and historical revolution in thought and politics is discussed in relation to Michel Foucault's conception of enlightenment and revolution; a conception of Kant's agent-based revolutionary thought is defended that also includes and is not juxtaposed to an analytic philosophy of truth, as it is for Foucault. The fundamental role of the public sphere in the understanding of the revolutionary Kantian basis of the very idea of the constitution and of constitutional patriotism is developed and defended.

Keywords: Jaspers, Karl; Kant, Immanuel; Korsgaard, Christine; O’Neill, Onora; Rawls, John; Saner, Hans; The Critique of Pure Reason; The Conflict of the Faculties; Constitutional patriotism; critique; republican constitution, idea of; the public sphere; Kantian idea; cosmopolitanism.



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