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

Volume 15, No.2, Fall 2020

Jaspers on Nietzsche

Index and Editor's Introduction

Augenblick, Agency, and Eternal Recurrence
Pierre Keller | University of California, Riverside

In developing Karl Jaspers' interpretation of the moment of decision (the Augenblick) and its relevance to eternal recurrence in Friedrich Nietzsche, I articulate the fundamental philosophical and historical importance of Jaspers' confrontation of Søren Kierkegaard's most fundamental thoughts on the subjects of time, agency, and the moment of decision with Nietzsche's conception of eternal recurrence. Jaspers argues that Nietzsche's conception of eternity and of the Augenblick is crucial to the philosophical significance of his conception of the eternal return. The eternal return involves a fundamental reflection for Jaspers not only on human beings' (existential) agency but also on being. Jaspers argues that Nietzsche's conception of eternity is displayed in the Augenblick that for Nietzsche brings past and future together in the eternity of one's choice. Jaspers maintains that the fundamentally new role eternity and eternal recurrence must play in his conception of agency and of being itself is ultimately unintelligible. Nietzsche's conception of the eternal return is purported to break apart into a rational scientific one, and a mythic and historical-philosophical one, neither of which is adequate on its own or in the end even intelligible when taken together. This is where I part company with Jaspers. I offer reasons to defend a less paradoxical and more intelligible interpretation of the fundamentally existential, and ontological, significance that eternal recurrence has for Nietzsche.

Keywords: Nietzsche, Friedrich; Jaspers, Karl; Kierkegaard, Søren; Plato's Parmenides; time; agency; eternal recurrence; being; history.


From Nietzsche's "Educational Institutions" to
Jaspers and MacIntyre and Newman on
"The Idea of the University"

Babette Babich | Fordham University and University of Winchester, UK

Friedrich Nietzsche's Basel lectures, Concerning the Future of Our Educational Institutions are here read alongside Karl Jaspers' The Idea of the University and Alasdair MacIntyre's "The Very Idea of a University." MacIntyre in turn focuses on John Henry Cardinal Newman's celebrated essay on the university in the context of the contemporary university. As Giorgio Agamben has cautioned that the digitalization via teleconferencing of the university has altered, effectively by fiat, our own educational institutions in the United States and elsewhere, this essay makes the case that it is worthwhile to read between Nietzsche, Jaspers, and MacIntyre on the future of the university, "our" educational institution. To this extent, we might need to begin to rethink the relevance of presence, including a reflection on listening and bodily presence with respect to hearing and encountering one another.

The author presents a version of this paper at YouTube.

Keywords: Hume, David; Illich, Ivan; Newman, John Henry Cardinal; St. Severus; STEM vs. humanities; acroamatic; classics; teleconferencing; Sense and Sensibility, Harry Potter.


Karl Jaspers and Miguel de Unamuno: On Reason in an Age of Irrationality
Rolando Pérez | Hunter College—City University of New York

In The Tragic Sense of Life, Miguel de Unamuno writes that one way for humans to respond to the tragedy of death was through the will to personal, carnal immortality, however irrational that could seem. This essay proposes that Karl Jaspers' post-Kantian notions of reason, of transcendence versus Unamuno's sense of tragedy, and of the way he articulates the Encompassing in terms of what human beings are as antinomical existents, presents one with a positive alternative view to Unamuno's dogmatic irrationality, in an age where the tragic forces of irrationalism surface once again.

The author presents a version of this paper at YouTube.

Keywords: Jaspers, Karl; Unamuno, Miguel de; Existenz; reason; irrationalism; immortality; death; tragedy; transcendence; the Encompassing.


Jaspers' Reading of Nietzsche's Antichrist
Dirk R. Johnson | Hampden-Sydney College

Published in 1938, Karl Jaspers' work Nietzsche und das Christentum responded exactly fifty years later to Nietzsche's polemical 1888 text, The Antichrist. Jaspers summarizes Nietzsche's appraisal of Christ and the rise of Christianity in it, but he does not address the textual strategies that animate Nietzsche's anti-Christian polemic. Jaspers' own view of historical Christianity arguably is strongly informed by Martin Heidegger's reading of Nietzsche, which I take it to have left its traces in Jaspers' critical assessment of Nietzsche's text. As a result, Jaspers' reading, alongside Heidegger's own, has perpetuated a line of interpretation long implicit in Nietzsche scholarship. This essay offers an alternative interpretation of The Antichrist that differs from the Jaspersian one. I agree with Jaspers' view on Nietzsche's assessment of Jesus and the historical rise of Christianity. However, rather than following Jaspers in his Heideggerian emphasis on the world-historical nature of Christianity, I advance an alternative reading focusing on the physiological foundation of Nietzsche's position. I argue that Nietzsche's brilliant polemical effects in The Antichrist become more transparent by distancing oneself from Heidegger's—and Jaspers'—metaphysical reading of Nietzsche.

The author presents a version of this paper at YouTube.

Keywords: Christ; Christianity; Heidegger, Martin; Platonism; ressentiment; décadence; nihilism.


Cheerful Creation of Words and Worlds: Nietzsche's The Gay Science in English Translation
Ruth A. Burch | Liceo Lugano at Savosa, Switzerland

The aim of this essay is to review Friedrich Nietzsche's The Gay Science in English Translation. It compares and contrasts the translations by Thomas Common, Walter Kaufmann, Josefine Nauckhoff, and R. Kevin Hill. First, I argue in favor of translating the work's title Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft as The Gay Science or perhaps more precisely as The Gay Knowledge. Nietzsche who is likely the greatest stylist in the German language wrote with philological precision and succinctness. This exactitude and awareness of the shaping influence of linguistic means on the contents expressed therefore needs to be reflected throughout in any kind of rendition of Nietzsche's artful texts and the evaluation and assessment thereof.

Keywords: Nietzsche, Friedrich; Common, Thomas; Kaufmann, Walter; Josefine Nauckhoff; Hill, R. Kevin; Die fröhliche Wissenschaft, The Gay Science; translation; style; philology.


Joyous Conquest? On Retranslating Nietzsche's Die fröhliche Wissenschaft
Duncan Large | University of East Anglia, UK

Friedrich Nietzsche's Die fröhliche Wissenschaft is a seminal text, yet Kevin Hill's welcome new English translation is only the fourth that there has been. This essay considers Hill's translation strategy and finds that his overall goal of combining accuracy with readability is largely achieved, resulting in a translation that emphasizes fluency over pedantically exact equivalence. Hill is sensitive to the poetic aspects of the original German, and rises to the challenge of translating Nietzsche's creative phrasings. The essay considers some of Hill's stylistic and syntactic translation choices, then focuses on how he translates three specific lexical items (Stern, Heerde, Mensch), before concluding with an analysis of Hill's paragraphing as an interpretative feature.

Keywords: Nietzsche, Friedrich; Hill, Kevin; The Joyous Science; The Gay Science; retranslation; accuracy; readability; creativity; colloquialism; paragraphing.


Two Views of Buddhist Art: Karl Jaspers and William Empson
Michael Lafferty | Malvern, UK

This essay aims to show how Karl Jaspers uses the Buddhist temple of Borobudur in Indonesia as an exemplar of his view of art as cipher-script. The temple relies heavily on what is not shown or is only partially-disclosed, which is an essential part of the way one can experience it, and as such it relates to Jaspers' idea of cipher-scripts. In contrast, William Empson's view of Buddhist art takes on board his theory of ambiguity in literature and the consequential multiplicity of meaning. A viewer is faced with partial understanding as an inevitable consequence of ambiguity. Empson identifies asymmetry in the faces of the Buddha in the sculptures he studies and uses them as examples to highlight his theory of multiplicity of meaning. Both Jaspers and Empson rely on the concepts of ambiguity and partial-disclosure.

Keywords: Empson, William; Jaspers, Karl; Borobudur Temple; asymmetry; Buddhist sculpture; cipher-scripts; Existenz; transcendence.


On Cheerfulness and Seriousness in Nietzsche and Jaspers
Ruth A. Burch | Liceo Lugano at Savosa, Switzerland

Cheerfulness and seriousness are an integral part of philosophizing in Friedrich Nietzsche and Karl Jaspers. The main reason for this lies in the fact that both regard philosophers as being inseparable from their respective philosophies. Yet also the fact that their respective philosophies have multiple meanings shifts the focus away from truth toward style and rhetoric, that is, from the true and false to mood and laughter as well as to passionate interpretation and playful conversation.

Keywords: Nietzsche, Friedrich; Jaspers, Karl; philosopher; polemic; honesty; cheerfulness; seriousness; mood; laughter; play.


Oedipus and the Riddle of Human Existence
Eva Cybulska | London, UK

Oedipus, as portrayed by Sophocles in Oedipus Tyrannus, is probably the most paradoxical and controversial character in Western literature. A hero who saved the ancient city of Thebes from the menacing Sphinx by solving her riddle is declared a polluter, responsible for the plague. Oedipus conducts the investigation in public, declares himself guilty and is sentenced to exile. In the process, not only does he discover his identity but he also creates it and becomes who he is. The figure of Oedipus is interpreted here as an answer to the riddle of existence: pain and suffering are not a punishment from the gods but the price humanity pays for consciousness, autonomy, compassion, and daring. A brief critique of Sigmund Freud's concept of Oedipus Complex is also presented. Dreadful deeds, as well as magnanimity of the spirit, are at the heart of man.

Keywords: Oedipus; Sophocles; Jaspers, Karl; Sartre, Jean-Paul; Nietzsche, Friedrich; Camus, Albert; boundary situation; existential freedom; conscience; plague.


In Lieu of the Author
Helmut Wautischer | Sonoma State University

This report describes the circumstances leading to the scheduling of an author meets critics session on Mattias Desmet's book The Psychology of Totalitarianism (2022) and details a surprising turn of events. In lieu of the author's reply to the critiques, the program chair introduces and thanks the critics for upholding their commitment.

This Book Review session is viewable at YouTube.

Keywords: Desmet, Mattias; The Psychology of Totalitarianism; politics; freedom of speech; science; action.


On the Misuse of the Concept of Totalitarianism
Vicky Iakovou | University of the Aegean, Greece

This review essay discusses Mattias Desmet's book The Psychology of Totalitarianism. Given that Desmet claims to be drawing upon Hannah Arendt, I briefly present major aspects of her theory of totalitarianism that he disregards. My claim is that the author misuses both the concept of totalitarianism and Arendt's theory, and that, consequently, the book under discussion contributes to the misinterpretation of the predicament of current times instead of illuminating it.

Keywords: Arendt, Hannah; Desmet, Mattias; Montesquieu; Enlightenment; forms of government; institutions; politics; totalitarianism.


Postmodern Anti-Science Ideology: The Real Source of Totalitarianism
S. Nassir Ghaemi | Tufts University School of Medicine

In this review essay I take issue with the author's understanding and role of science as presented in the book The Psychology of Totalitarianism. I argue that his postmodern point of departure leads him into a direction from which he is fostering rather than opposing totalitarian aims.

Keywords: Arendt, Hannah; LeBon, Gustave; Desmet, Mattias; science; COVID-19; vaccine efficacy; postmodernism; Enlightenment; totalitarianism, Nazism.


Structural Exploitation and Total Domination
Leila Faghfouri Azar | University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

This review essay offers a critical reflection on Mattias Desmet's analysis of the foundations of modern forms of totalitarianism that he presents in his book The Psychology of Totalitarianism. It provides evidence that the role of political institutions and the structural domination they produce is insufficiently addressed in Desmet's book. To this end the essay focuses on the example of relations of labor in connection with two chapters of the book. Particularly, the role of political structures in enforcing alienation and exploitation for the purpose of the efficient functioning and survival of totalitarian regimes is being examined.

Keywords: Arendt, Hannah; Desmet, Mattias; totalitarianism; ideology; hegemony; political structures; alienation; exploitation; domination.


The Reinstatement of the Vague: Anti-Totalitarian or Literary Reverie
Edward Mendelowitz | Saybrook University

Mattias Desmet is an author with whom the present writer shares overlapping interests and themes albeit contrasting sensibilities and means of pursuit. In my sympathetic response to his book, I point especially to the place of the broader humanities in evoking what may be called a "literary psychology." Such a collage-like approach is essayistic rather than didactic, with considerations of literature and art oftentimes disclosing profoundly insightful, eloquent, ironical, even humorous reveries upon freedom and cooptation: the vagaries of human nature and being during a menacing moment in world history.

Keywords: Arendt, Hannah; Benjamin, Walter; Kafka, Franz; James, William; Melville, Herman; May, Rollo; Fromm-Reichmann, Frieda; Camus, Albert; Desmet, Mattias; The Psychology of Totalitarianism; anxiety; literature; mythology.


COVID-19 Vaccination—Facing a Dilemma: Restoring Trust in Public Health
Michael Alan Schwartz | Texas A&M School of Medicine

This essay engages critically with Mattias Desmet's book The Psychology of Totalitarianism. I argue that Desmet's notion of "mass formation" has some validity, yet it needs to be refined, differentiated, and complemented with further aspects that contribute to the emergence of a totalitarian mindset. By doing so—alluding to present COVID-19 vaccination issues—I also explore how to advance public health in the United States so that people can maintain faith in the system and trust its decisions that infringe upon liberty. An honest and respectful discussion is needed in order to overcome polarization of individual positions in these matters.

Keywords: Desmet, Mattias; Jaspers, Karl; Arendt, Hannah; The Psychology of Totalitarianism; public health; scientific debate; healthcare; ideology; technocracy.


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