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Karl Jaspers (1883 – 1969)


German psychiatrist and philosopher.
Karl Jaspers
Man, if he is to remain man, must advance by way of consciousness. There is no road leading backward. ... We can no longer veil reality from ourselves by renouncing self-consciousness without simultaneously excluding ourselves from the historical course of human existence.
Jaspers quotes
"There is no God," cry the masses more and more vociferously; and with the loss of God man loses his sense of values — is, as it were, massacred because he feels himself of no account.
Jaspers
The possibility of peace, on whose behalf many are working, might perhaps become actual because the technical advances in offensive weapons make the prospect of a European war so disastrous, and because, if the nations were at grips again, even the victorious aggressor would be ruined. But there still remains open the possibility of a new war which, more dreadful than any that have preceded it would make an end of contemporary Europeans.




Jaspers Karl quotes
I approach the presentation of Kierkegaard with some trepidation. Next to Nietzsche, or rather, prior to Nietzsche, I consider him to be the most important thinker of our post-Kantian age. With Goethe and Hegel, an epoch had reached its conclusion, and our prevalent way of thinking — that is, the positivistic, natural-scientific one — cannot really be considered as philosophy.
Jaspers Karl
Der Lehrer der Liebe lehrt den Kampf, der Lehrer der lieblosen Isolierung von aller Welt aber die Ruhe.
Karl Jaspers quotes
At the parting of ways in the life-order, where the question is between the new creation or decay, that man will be decisive for new creation who is able on his own initiative to seize the helm and steer a course of his own choosing — even if that course be opposed to the will of the masses. Should the emergence of such persons become impossible a lamentable shipwreck will be inevitable.
Karl Jaspers
The vicious circle of dread of war which leads the nations to arm themselves for self-protection, with the result that bloated armaments ultimately lead to the war which they were intended to avert, can be broken in either of two conceivable ways. There might arise a unique world power, brought into being by the unification of all those now in possession of weapons, and equipped with the capacity to forbid the lesser and unarmed nations to make war. On the other hand, it may arise by the working of a fate to us still inscrutable which, out of ruin, will disclose a way towards the development of a new human being. To will the discovery of this way would be blind impotence, but those who do not wish to deceive themselves will be prepared for the possibility.
Jaspers Karl quotes
Nietzsche, driven by the absolute demand of his existential truthfulness, could not abide the bourgeois world, even when its representative had human nobility.
Jaspers
Auch das gesteigertste psychologische Verstehen ist kein liebendes Verstehen.
Jaspers Karl
Our questions and answers are in part determined by the historical tradition in which we find ourselves. We apprehend truth from our own source within the historical tradition.
The content of our truth depends upon our appropriating the historical foundation. Our own power of generation lies in the rebirth of what has been handed down to us. If we do not wish to slip back, nothing must be forgotten; but if philosophising is to be genuine our thoughts must arise from our own source. Hence all appropriation of tradition proceeds from the intentness of our own life. The more determinedly I exist, as myself, within the conditions of the time, the more clearly I shall hear the language of the past, the nearer I shall feel the glow of its life.
Karl Jaspers
In the life of the mass-order, the culture of the generality tends to conform to the demands of the average human being. Spirituality decays through being diffused among the masses when knowledge is impoverished in every possible way by rationalisation until it becomes accessible to the crude understanding of all.




Karl Jaspers quotes
We cannot avoid conflict, conflict with society, other individuals and with oneself. Conflicts may be the sources of defeat, lost life and a limitation of our potentiality but they may also lead to greater depth of living and the birth of more far-reaching unities, which flourish in the tensions that engender them.
Karl Jaspers
For any community and those living in it, only that is true which can be communicated to all. Hence universal communicability is unconsciously accepted as the source and criterion of those truths that promote life through communal means. Truth is that which our conventional social code accepts as effective in promoting the purposes of the group. … This community will condemn as a “liar” the person who misuses its unconsciously accepted, and therefore valid, metaphors. … Community members are obliged to “lie” in accordance with fixed convention. To put it otherwise, they must be truthful by playing with the conventionally marked dice. To fail to pay in the coin of the realm is to tell forbidden lies, for, on this view, whatever transcends conventional truth is a falsehood. To tell lies of this kind is to sacrifice the world of meanings upon which the endurance of his community rests. Conversely, there are forbidden truths: This same threat to the continuance of the community is also counteracted by relentlessly preventing anyone from thinking and uttering unconventional but authentic truths.
Jaspers quotes
The masses are our masters; and for every one who looks facts in the face his existence has become dependent on them, so that the thought of them must control his doings, his cares, and his duties.
Even an articulated mass always tends to become unspiritual and inhuman. It is life without existence, superstitions without faith. It may stamp all flat; it is disinclined to tolerate independence and greatness, but prone to constrain people to become as automatic as ants.
Jaspers Karl
The 'public' is a phantom, the phantom of an opinion supposed to exist in a vast number of persons who have no effective interrelation and though the opinion is not effectively present in the units. Such an opinion is spoken of as 'public opinion,' a fiction which is appealed to by individuals and by groups as supporting their special views. It is impalpable, illusory, transient; "'tis here, 'tis there, 'tis gone"; a nullity which can nevertheless for a moment endow the multitude with power to uplift or destroy.
Jaspers Karl quotes
The would-be climber must be able to make himself liked ... please his superiors — avoid showing independence except in those matters wherein independence is expected of him by his chiefs... the winners in the race have qualities which disincline them to allow others to be their true selves. Hence the winners snub all those who aim at adequate self-expression, speaking of them as pretentious, eccentric, biased, unpractical, and measuring their achievements by insincere standards.
Karl Jaspers
Today war seems to have undergone a change of meaning, insofar as it is not a war of religion but a war of interests, not a war of conflicting cultures or civilizations but a war of national areas, not a war of human beings but a technical struggle of machines one against another and all against the non–combatant population.
Karl Jaspers quotes
Man is always something more than what he knows of himself. He is not what he is simply once and for all, but is a process...
Karl Jaspers
… Nietzsche’s ideas and plans: for example, the idea of giving up the whole wretched academic world to form a secular monastic community.
Jaspers Karl
With the disintegration of all that [Nietzsche] had revered, existence, to him, had become a desert in which only one thing remained, namely that which had relentlessly forced him into this path: truthfulness that knows no limits and is not subject to any condition.


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