Existenz Menu
An International Journal in Philosophy, Religion, Politics, and the Arts
ISSN 1932-1066

Volume 11, No.2, Fall 2016


The Great Philosophers—Foreword and Introduction
Karl Jaspers| 1883 - 1963

The 1957 English translation by Ralph Mannheim and Hannah Arendt of Jaspers' Die Grossen Philosophen and all ist subsequent editions did not include the Foreword and Introduction. The translation offered here corrects this omission.

Keywords: History of philosophy; human greatness, greatness of philosophers.

A Short Introduction to Jaspers' Einleitung to The Great Philosophers
Florian Hild | Würzburg/Fort Collins, Ridgeview Classical Schools

In offering a translation now, it is my sole object to fulfill Karl Jaspers' request to see his Einleitung published. It is indeed a whole in itself and it expresses eloquently the purpose of studying great philosophy and also the mood in which to undertake this study. Jaspers' Einleitung serves as a call to get to know ourselves by getting to know those who have achieved self-knowledge and greatness before us. The conversation with the great philosophers can even elevate us to their level. Karl Jaspers can be our guide as we begin this timeless conversation.

Keywords: Jaspers, Karl; Arendt, Hannah; human greatness.

On Depression: A Geneaology
S. Nassir Ghaemi | Tufts University School of Medicine

In this book, I argue against the two most common views on depression: first, depression seen through the DSM diagnostic lens as a disorder to be treated by clinicians, and second, depression seen through the postmodernist lens as a social construct. My view is that there are kinds of depression that represent disease, and kinds that do not. In the former case, a biological approach is legitimate; in the latter case an existential approach is best. The general approach to psychiatry that can maintain this insight I call biological existentialism. I try to explain that existential approach, through the ideas of various thinkers and teachers of that school, and I also critique both the DSM-centric approach of the psychiatric establishment and the postmodernist nihilism of their critics.

Keywords: Jaspers, Karl; Kraepelin, Emil; happiness; depression; psychiatry; existentialism; postmodernism; biology; despair; diagnosis.

Uncovering the Cause of Depression: A Medical or a Humanistic Approach?
Alina Marin | Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

In his book On Depression, Dr. Nassir Ghaemi, Professor of Psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine, looks to philosophy and the history of psychiatry to explain the complexity of understanding depression, both clinically as a medical disease, and existentially as part of normal human experience. Citing the philosophical works of Aristotle and Karl Jaspers, among others, as well as the work of prominent contributors to the field of psychiatry, including Emil Kraepelin and Viktor Frankl, Ghaemi examines the complex causality of depression, the potential benefits of experiencing depression, and the drawbacks of living a life unexamined. This essay discusses some of the author's insightful observations and analyses.

Keywords: Jaspers, Karl; General Psychopathology; Ghaemi, Nassir; depression; despair; psychiatry; neuroscience; causality; ontological; existential.

Reflections On Depression
Casimiro Cabrera Abreu | Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

The professional and research trajectory of Nassir Ghaemi are reflected in his book On Depression. What follows is an attempt to highlight those salient aspects of his thinking that are clinically useful to the author of this brief review who is a practicing clinician. Ghaemi's masterful synthesis is clear and offers a meaningful blueprint to psychiatrists and other clinicians who are currently trapped by a sterile nomenclature. His insights, founded on rigorous epistemological and scientific grounds, are a wake-up call to many who wish to bring back rigor and humanism to their work with patients.

Keywords: Ghaemi, S. Nassir; psychiatry; psychopathology; phenomenology; depression; evidence-based psychiatry.

Ambiguity and Nihilism: Comments on Nassir Ghaemi's On Depression
Daniel Adsett | Marquette University

This response to Nassir Ghaemi's On Depression develops some of the tensions Ghaemi highlights in contemporary debates concerning the efficacy of psycho-pharmaceuticals and the role of science in deciphering mental illnesses. I argue that both relativism and positivism share the same commitment to resisting ambiguity: relativism in psychiatry tries to eliminate ambiguity by reducing the relationship between pharmaceutical companies and patients to a pure relation of power; similarly, positivism tries to eliminate ambiguity with its belief that the human mind and human experience be understood ultimately in purely bio-chemical terms. Against both positions, Ghaemi emphasizes the importance of ambiguity in psychiatry: depression is not necessarily an evil, something to categorically resist. In many cases, the experience of depression reveals something true about the human condition and a subject's own response to the world.

Keywords: Jaspers, Karl; Ghaemi, S. Nassir; Havens, Leston; nihilism; ambiguity; relativism; positivism.

Reflecting on On Depression: The Trap of The Happy Mean
Elena Bezzubova | University of California, Irvine

This reflection on Nassir Ghaemi's On Depression: Drugs, Diagnosis and Despair in the Modern World first touches upon the author's personal, clinical, historical, and theoretical facets of depression and despair as well as mania and happiness as a cogent demonstration of how seriously psychiatry needs philosophy. Ghaemi proposes biological existentialism for the role of such philosophy. This essay compares biological existentialism with an earlier conception of existential biology as attempts to resolve Cartesian anxiety inside of the methodological trap of psychophysiological parallelism. I outline three sovereign levels of addressing presentations of human life: biological facticity, clinical phenomenology, and existential authenticity to clarify the difference between the human and existential categories of happiness and despair; the clinical categories of depression and mania; and the biological categories of neurometabolic patterns. On Depression reveals how the needed integration of philosophy into psychiatry remains problematic

Keywords: Jaspers, Karl; Kraepelin, Emil; biological existentialism; biological facticity; clinical phenomenology; existential authenticity; depression; despair; mania; happiness.


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