Jaspers, Karl (Theodor)

Jaspers, Karl (Theodor)

biographical name


Karl Jaspers, 1968.—Horst Tappe

(born Feb. 23, 1883, Oldenburg, Ger.—died Feb. 26, 1969, Basel, Switz.) German-Swiss philosopher and psychiatrist. As a research psychiatrist, he helped establish psychopathology on a rigorous, scientifically descriptive basis, especially in his General Psychopathology (1913). He taught philosophy at the University of Heidelberg from 1921 until 1937, when the Nazi regime forbade him to work. From 1948 he lived in Switzerland, teaching at the University of Basel. In his magnum opus, Philosophy (3 vol., 1969), he argued that the aim of philosophy is practical; its purpose is the fulfillment of human existence (Existenz). For Jaspers, philosophical illumination is achieved in the experience of limit situations, such as conflict, guilt, and suffering, that define the human condition. In its confrontation with these extremes mankind achieves its existential humanity. He is one of the most important figures of existentialism.

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