Philosophy Index

Karl Jaspers

Karl Jaspers (1883–1969) was a German psychiatrist and philosopher. He earned an MD at the University of Heidelberg in Germany where he later taught psychology and then philosophy (but was relieved of this position during Nazi power because his ideas opposed theirs).

Jaspers' philosophy centered around what he called the "encompassing". This transcendent reality, as he described, transcended that which we could percieve naturally, and contained within it human existence. Jaspers, like Kierkegaard, recognized the missing logic of his religious conclusion, but explained that his "leap of faith" was a choice—which is, of course, an expression of his right.

Jaspers also valued the scientific process, and felt that it was a necessary stage in coming to understand the encompassing. He saw understading the freedom of the individual in the concrete world—and the obvious limits to that freedom—as the most important part of existence, which led him to be classified as an existentialist (a classifcation he rejected due to its apparent limitations). Jasper's limits included mortality, conscience, conflict and chance.

Jaspers was also friends with Martin Heidegger, although they became distant due to differences of philosophy, as well as Heidegger's involvement with the Nazi party.


Name: Karl Theodor Jaspers
Born: February 23, 1883, Oldenburg, Germany
Died: February 26, 1969, Basel, Switzerland
Degrees: MD (Heidelberg, 1909)