Karl Jaspers (pronounced “Yaspers”) was born on 23 February 1883 in Oldenburg, Germany. After being trained in and practicing psychiatry, Jaspers turned to philosophical inquiry and attempted to discover an innovative philosophical system. He was often viewed as a major exponent of existentialism in Germany.
Among psychiatric patients, Jaspers began to formulate a link between psychology and philosophy. Psychoanalysis and existentialism were also linked in the works of philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre and analysts Viktor Frankl and Rollo May. Karl Jaspers asserted that people give meaning to their lives through their choices and actions. Karl Jaspers‘ role in existentialism is sometimes ignored, but he contributed significantly towards existentialism. He coined the term “Existenzphilosophie” — a forerunner of the term existentialism — and this alone makes his contribution unique. Jaspers viewed his philosophy as active, forever changing.
Jaspers's major work in three volumes, Philosophy (1932), gives his view of the history of philosophy and introduces his major themes. Jaspers identified philosophy with philosophical thinking itself, not with any particular set of conclusions. His philosophy is an effort to explore and describe the margins and limits of experience. He used the term das Umgreifende ("the encompassing") to refer to the ultimate limits of being, the indefinite horizon in which all subjective and objective experience is possible, but which can never be rationally apprehended.
Another important work is Existenzphilosophie (1938; Philosophy and Existence, 1971). The term Existenz designates the indefinable experience of freedom and possibility that constitutes the authentic being of individuals who become aware of the encompassing by confronting such limit-situations as chance, suffering, conflict, guilt, and death. Jaspers also wrote extensively on the threat to human freedom posed by modern science and modern economic and political institutions.
Among his political works is The Question of German Guilt (1946; trans. 1947)
DIMENSIONS OF MAN
The many different dimensions of man can be defined conceptually as being, pure consciousness, intellect and possible existence, without losing sight of his essential unity.
Man as pure consciousness: this term denotes man with the unique possibility of moving beyond his consciousness as an individual living creature and focusing that consciousness on the nature of being as such. This consciousness is the ‘locus of valid thinking of which only man is capable.
Man as intellect: i.e. man with the ability to ‘generate ideas‘ which create order among the confusing profusion of disparate knowledge that can be extended at will, which highlight the relationship between individual factors and whose aim is to establish unity among the diversity of phenomena
Man as existence: i.e man in his unconditional resolve to become himself. Existence is the sign that being, pure consciousness and the mind cannot be understood on their own and do not have their own reason, that man is not confined to immanence but remains essentially dependent on the transcendental.
However existence is impossible without being, pure consciousness and the mind. These are essential conditions if existence is to come into its own and become reality. ‘It is embodied in being, made clear by the pure consciousness and its content is revealed in the mind‘
JASPERS AS AN EXISTENTIALIST
Jaspers used Existenz to describe the state of freedom and possibility for authentic being of individuals who have become consciously aware of “the encompassing” and confront limiting situations in human life like guilt, conflict, and even death. Reason may create the boundaries for contemplating the objects in life, but Existenz creates the boundaries for contemplating the personal subject which does the contemplating.
The Transcendent is “pure personal experience,” something we can become aware of, as we also become aware of our finite natures. Awareness of the Transcendent produces awareness of the radical freedom in each person — the freedom to choose, the freedom to decide, and most of all the freedom to commit oneself to a particular course of action that brings meaning and purpose to life.
In this, Jaspers echoes the ideas of Kierkegaard where he emphasized the importance of a “leap of faith” which transcends rational, objective considerations. They shared, however, the basic idea that a person is ultimately faced with an either-or decision without the aid of objective proof or knowledge about what the right choice might be.
JASPERS ON EDUCATION
Jaspers discovered the special nature of education as distinct from making, shaping, tending and ruling.
By the process of ’making‘, something usable is manufactured from a material.
of a rational calculation; by ’shaping‘, man creates a work whose form is infinite and impossible to calculate in advance. In our modern technical world, ‘tending‘ or ‘rearing‘ have acquired an uncanny resemblance with ‘making‘; nevertheless, they can only succeed by listening to the living being which remains incalculable as an organism.
The process of ’ruling‘ means subjecting the other, be it nature or a human being, to an extraneous will and purpose.
Karl Jaspers touches on the decisive dimension of education when he defines it as ‘helping the individual to come into his own in a spirit of freedom and not like a trained animal‘ .
‘Education is accomplished when contents are freely acquired; but it fails when it is authoritarian‘
Hence it follows that ‘from an early age, children must be called upon to act of their own free volition; they must learn through personal insight into the need for learning and not out of mere obedience‘
The unique nature of Jaspers‘ reflection on education becomes remarkably clear when he speaks of love as the driving force and true authority as the source of genuine education. He does not believe that these two factors are mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they are inseparable. Love protects education from the will to dominate and shape pupils for finite purposes, and makes it a personal encounter instead:
‘Loving communication between individuals embraces all love of things, of the world and of God.
Different strokes of education
Education is not a uniform process. It changes in the course of history and assumes different forms in different societies. Jaspers perceives three recurrent basic forms.
Scholastic education of the kind that prevailed in the Middle Ages is confined to the transmission of a fixed subject matter, compressed into formulae and simply dictated with an accompanying commentary.
Education by a master is a different form in which a dominant personality is honoured as an unimpeachable authority by students who are totally submitted to him.
Socratic education contains the deepest meaning since it involves
‘no fixed doctrine, but an infinity of questions and absolute unknowing‘ (1947, p. 85). The teacher and his pupil are on the same level in relation to ideas.
According to Jaspers ’Education is maieutic, i.e. it helps to bring the student‘s latent ideas into clear consciousness; the potential which exists within him is stimulated, but nothing is forced upon him from outside‘. Here education is understood as ‘the element through which human beings come into their own through interpersonal contact by revealing the truth that is latent in them‘.
AIMS OF EDUCATION :
Total Human Being:
Education, as an aid to becoming a total human being, takes place by allowing for the existence of the whole man. Education that is directed at the indivisible human being is conceptually articulated into different modes when it concerns man as a being, man as pure consciousness, man as intellect and man as possible existence. Particular items of knowledge must be brought together within a conceptual unity. Education has the supreme task of helping man to achieve his selfness.
The other aims of education must necessarily be integrated into that task within their own limits. Setting out from this highest goal, the indispensable nature of the individual ‘phases‘ becomes apparent in their own relative right and according to their own limited laws.
If man is understood as being, education appears to consist of, concern for, and protection of, growing life which is to be developed, enhanced and brought to maturity. Education seeks to consolidate physical strength and mental health. It enhances vital energy through competition, encourages the individual to attain ever-higher levels of performance, arouses pleasure in aesthetics and secures the frame for natural enjoyment of life. It takes care of weak and endangered life, tends and cures illness. But education is not confined to the preservation, enhancement and safeguarding of vitality as such. Education is more than mere biological upbringing.
If man is understood as pure consciousness, education means leading him on to clear perceptions, imparting usable knowledge, training in vital thinking and disciplining him to take part in an orderly dialogue with others. It puts across modes of thought which help to gain a conceptual mastery of the world in its manifold manifestations. It seeks restrained speech, clear reasoned thinking, accurate judgments and acute conclusions.
Social aim of education - Since man as a being always lives with other beings, education involves process integration into the forms and structures, groups and institutions of the society. Individuality is enhanced through this integration into the social structure. Education imparts familiarity with forms of social intercourse, with morals and customs, with rules and laws. It associates the ability to adapt with the courage to resist. Education seeks to safeguard the individual citizen in his profession and in politics, but it is not confined to imparting familiarity with forms of public behaviour, to the acquisition of professional expertise and to the generation of an understanding of politics. Education extends beyond integration into society.
Education facilitates critical thinking, using methods skillfully and reliably to guide objective action. It sharpens the ability to distinguish and creates a potential for objectivity that does not preclude personal involvement. However, education is more than the creation of an ability to behave rationally.