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Reason and Existenz: Five Lectures (Marquette Studies in Philosophy) Paperback – May 1, 1996
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These public lectures were given in the spring of 1935 at the University of Groningen, Holland, as public lectures. He said in the first lecture, "Quietly, something enormous has happened in the reality of Western man: a destruction of all authority, a radical disillusionment in an overconfident reason, and a dissolution of bonds have made anything, absolutely anything, seem possible. Work with the old words can appear as a mere veil which hid the preparing powers of chaos from our anxious eyes. This work seemed to have no other power than that of a long continued deception. The passionate revivifying of these words and doctrines, though done with good intentions, appears as without real effect, an impotent call to hold fast. Philosophizing to be authentic must grow out of our new reality, and there take its stand." (Pg. 23)
He states, "We always live and think within a horizon. But the very fact that it is a horizon indicates something further which again surrounds the given horizon. From this situation arises the question about the Encompassing. The Encompassing is not a horizon within which every particular horizon is enclosed as in something absolutely comprehensive which is no longer visible as a horizon at all." (Pg. 52)
He observes, "Any philosopher who is not lost in the perspective of the conceptual but wishes to push toward genuine Being feels a deep dissatisfaction looking at all the hitherto mentioned modes of the Encompassing... He cannot find Being itself in all the dimensions of an Encompassing so conceived. HE is liberated into a vastness where Being becomes void. The Transcendent seems to be merely an unknowable which makes no difference, and the spirit comes to seem like a sublime whole, but one in which each individual in his deepest inwardness almost seems to have disappeared. The central point of philosophizing is first reached in the awareness of potential Existenz." (Pg. 60)
He outlines, "We have seen as modes of the Encompassing: a) Being as the Other, which was either World... or Transcendence (as Being in itself). b) The Being of the Encompassing which we are, which was either our empirical existence... or consciousness as such ... or spirit (the single whole of coherent movement of consciousness as it is activated by Ideas." (Pg. 64)
He suggests, `The purpose and therefore the meaning of a philosophical idea is not the cognition of an object, but rather an alteration of our consciousness of Being and of our inner attitude toward things. Understanding the meaning of the Encompassing has the significance of creating a possibility. The philosopher therefore says to himself: preserve the open space of the Encompassing! Do not lose yourself in what is merely known! Do not let yourself become separated from Transcendence!" (Pg. 75)
He observes, "The power of the absolute in man tested in every possibility of struggle and questioning no longer needs the power of suasion, hatred, and cruelty in order to become active; not the intoxication of magniloquent words and unintelligible dogmas in order to be believed in. And in such ways it would only become rough, harsh, and disillusioned. Only thus can self-deception disappear without man also being destroyed the generation of his vital lies. Only thus does the genuine Ground reveal itself unmasked out of the depths."(Pg. 102)
He acknowledges, "The stillness of the being in truth of Transcendence---not by abandoning the modes of the Encompassing, but in surpassing their worlds---such is the boundary where what the Whole is beyond all division can momentarily flash out. But this illumination is transitory in the world and, although of decisive influence upon men, incommunicable; for when it is communicated it is drawn into the modes of the Encompassing where it is ever lacking. Its experience is absolutely historical, in time and beyond time. One can speak out of this experience, but not of it. The ultimate in thinking as in communication is silence." (Pg. 105-106)
He summarizes: "I become bound to the depths of Being in its individual-universal character, become existentially `historical,' only if I enter into and accept the restrictions of my empirical existence. I am only genuinely in communication if I can be alone before Transcendence in my limits and bases. There are innumerable corresponding clarifications of Existenz which can be crystallized in the following: In action, I truly accomplish something out of potential Existenz only if I am consciously prepared to accept its shipwreck. I am genuinely rational only if my whole reason factually and for my knowing is grounded upon unreason. I believe only through doubting whether I believe." (Pg. 118)
He explains, "The concepts of existential philosophy are such that I can not think them without being in them; scientific comments on the other hand are such that I can know them while I myself live in wholly different categories; what I am is irrelevant to scientific knowledge." (Pg. 121)
This is excellent explanation of Jasper's existential philosophy, and will be of great value to anyone studying his philosophy.
Second, Jaspers' typically contorted language seems somehow worse in this book. Jaspers has always been heavy on jargon (Existenz, Transcendenz, the Encompassing, Dasein, etc.), but, to his benefit, he typically counters the confusing aspect of the jargon with a well-structured (and well outlined) argument. His careful structuring struck me as less prominent in this work. Again, Philosophy of Existence offered more bang for the buck on this one.
Third, my understanding of this work is that Jaspers intends to focus specifically on the problem of reason and how it relates to one's task (or act) of transcending. This is a fairly narrow topic within Jaspers' overall work. I think that to begin studies of Jaspers with this book might lead one to a mis-understanding of Jaspers' overarching philosophy. A more digestible approach to studying Jaspers is found in Ehrlich, Ehrlich, and Pepper's volume entitled (I think) "The Basic Writings of Karl Jaspers."
In summary, Reason and Existenz will be useful to the reader with a background in Jaspers -- especially if the reader has an interest in Jaspers' arguments for reason's place in mediating between the immanent and the transcendent. For most others, though, this may not be the best place to start.
Given that the author coins his own phrases and makes up his own definitions as he proceeds (on the fly, as it were), a great deal of the writing here appears (at least to an untutored reader such as myself) as a bit context-less. Like a blind man, one has to feel his way around the dark features of the walls (with only intuition and Sartre as guides) to navigate his way thorough the maze that is the Jasperian "featureless" reality and "relativity-based" philosophical landscape.
That said, some solid and enduring ideas, and surely a new philosophical structure of consciousness if not a new novel picture of reality, do seem to fall out. Existence beyond ordinary awareness (Jaspers' Existenz), in the end is not just a featureless terrain. It does indeed have a well-defined structure.
By my way of thinking, the structure is that of a Mobius strip with transcendence being the diving line between (Sartre's) "Being in itself," and (Jaspers' own) "all Being within which we are." The strip itself is Jasper's "all encompassing," with reality at various times being on the outside of it, and then at others, (or at least it seems), on the inside.
Clearly, Jaspers crowning embedded concept is that existence pivots around transcendence, with awareness and lack of awareness being on opposite sides. And (again, in the Sartrian sense), only full authentic awareness can brings us into Existentz, or fully to an authentic life.
In Jaspers phenomenological scheme, awareness (the authentic form of Existentz) comes in three relativity-based flavors: empirical, as consciousness, and as (the Hegelian "free") spirit. Reason is the guiding light of the first two, and intuition or "unreason" is the touchstone of the third. It is this tripartite universe that makes us whole. But it is not something that we can apprehend or witness (other than academically), for as is the case in the Quantum split view experiment, observation itself, destroys the Existenz.
This is taken just from the first lecture, the others are equally deep, and require time to soak-in. I rented this book from Chegg's thinking that I did not want to buy it, but now I think I will keep it and pay the rental default price. Five stars