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

Volume 15, No. 2, Fall 2020


Jaspers on Nietzsche

Reading Nietzsche's "Educational Institutions" with Jaspers & MacIntyre on The Idea of the University—and Severus Snape
Babette Babich | Fordham University

Friedrich Nietzsche's Basel lectures, Concerning the Future of Our Educational Institutions are here read alongside Karl Jaspers' The Idea of the University and Alasdair MacIntyre's "The Very Idea of a University." MacIntyre in turn focuses on John Henry Cardinal Newman’s celebrated essay on the university in the context of the contemporary university. This essay makes the case that it is worthwhile to read between these three authors on the future of the university, "our" educational institution, as Giorgio Agamben has cautioned that the digitalization via teleconferencing of the university has altered, effectively by fiat, our own educational institutions in the United States and elsewhere. To this extent, we might need to begin to rethink the relevance of presence, including a reflection on listening and bodily presence with respect to hearing and encountering one another.

Keywords: Hume, David; Illich, Ivan; Newman, John Henry Cardinal; St. Severus; STEM vs. humanities; acroamatic; classics; teleconferencing; Sense and Sensibility, Harry Potter.

Jaspers' Reading of Nietzsche's Antichrist
Dirk R. Johnson | Hampden-Sydney College

Published in 1938, Karl Jaspers’ work Nietzsche und das Christentum responded exactly fifty years later to Nietzsche’s polemical 1888 text, The Antichrist. Jaspers summarizes Nietzsche’s appraisal of Christ and the rise of Christianity in it, but he does not address the textual strategies that animate Nietzsche's anti-Christian polemic. Jaspers' own view of historical Christianity arguably is strongly informed by Martin Heidegger’s reading of Nietzsche, which I take it to have left its traces in Jaspers’ critical assessment of Nietzsche's text. As a result, Jaspers’ reading, alongside Heidegger’s own, has perpetuated a line of interpretation long implicit in Nietzsche scholarship. This essay offers an alternative interpretation of The Antichrist that differs from the Jaspersian one. I agree with Jaspers with regard to his view on Nietzsche’s assessment of Jesus and the historical rise of Christianity. However, rather than following Jaspers in his Heideggerian emphasis on the world-historical nature of Christianity, I advance an alternative reading focusing on the physiological foundation of Nietzsche’s position. I argue that Nietzsche's brilliant polemical effects in The Antichrist become more transparent by distancing oneself from Heidegger’s—and Jaspers’—metaphysical reading of Nietzsche.

Keywords: Christ; Christianity; Heidegger, Martin; Platonism; ressentiment; décadence; nihilism.

Karl Jaspers and Miguel de Unamuno: On Reason in an Age of Irrationality
Rolando Pérez | Hunter College—City University of New York

In The Tragic Sense of Life, Miguel de Unamuno writes that one way for humans to respond to the tragedy of death was through the will to personal, carnal immortality, however irrational that could seem. This essay proposes that Karl Jaspers’ post-Kantian notions of reason, of transcendence versus Unamuno’s sense of tragedy, and of the way he articulates the Encompassing in terms of what human beings are as antinomical existents, presents one with a positive alternative view to Unamuno’s dogmatic irrationality, in an age where the tragic forces of irrationalism surface once again.

Keywords: Jaspers, Karl; Unamuno, Miguel de; Existenz; reason; irrationalism; immortality; death; tragedy; transcendence; the Encompassing.

Eternal Recurrence and the Blink of an Eye (Augenblick) of Temporal-Historical Agency
Pierre Keller | University of California, Riverside

In his Psychologie der Weltanschauungen, Karl Jaspers develops a conception of time that is oriented around the notion of the blink of an eye (Augenblick). Jaspers traces this conception back to Plato's Parmenides, but focuses on Søren Kierkegaard's account of the moment of decision and its relation to the eternal. Kierkegaard distinguishes three different ways in which the blink of an eye of agency can relate to the eternal: (1) the Greek form displayed by Plato's doctrine of recollection in which the eternal is manifest as past, (2) the eschatological form of thought in Judaism in which the eternal is future, and (3) the Christian form of thought in which the eternal is the future that returns as the past in the moment of decision as kairos (or fulfillment of time). In Nietzsche: Introduction to an Understanding of his Philosophizing, Jaspers argues that Nietzsche returns to this third (Christian) mode of thought in thinking of time and agency as eternal recurrence. I evaluate Jaspers' claim and his interpretation of eternal recurrence in Nietzsche. I then develop the fundamental philosophical and historical importance of Jaspers' confrontation of Kierkegaard's most fundamental thoughts on time, agency and decision with Nietzsche's conception of eternal recurrence and with its significance for human beings as temporal and historical agents.

Keywords: tba.

Two Views of Buddhist Art: Karl Jaspers and William Empson
Michael Lafferty | Malvern, United Kingdom

This essay aims to show how Karl Jaspers uses the Buddhist temple of Borobudur in Indonesia as an exemplar of his view of art as cipher-script. The temple relies heavily on what is not shown or is only partially-disclosed, which is an essential part of the way one can experience it, and as such it relates to Jasper’s idea of cipher-scripts. In contrast, William Empson’s view of Buddhist art takes on board his theory of ambiguity in literature and the consequential multiplicity of meaning. A viewer is faced with partial understanding as an inevitable consequence of ambiguity. Empson identifies asymmetry in the faces of the Buddha in the sculptures he studies and uses them as examples to highlight his theory of multiplicity of meaning. Both Jaspers and Empson rely on the concepts of ambiguity and partial-disclosure.

Keywords: Empson, William; Jaspers, Karl; Borobudur Temple; asymmetry; Buddhist sculpture; cipher-scripts; Existenz; transcendence.

Oedipus and the Riddle of Human Existence
Eva Cybulska | London, United Kingdom

Oedipus, as portrayed by Sophocles in Oedipus Tyrannus, is probably the most paradoxical and controversial character in Western literature. A hero who saved the ancient city of Thebes from the menacing Sphinx by solving her riddle, is declared a polluter, responsible for the plague. Oedipus conducts the investigation in public, declares himself guilty and is sentenced to exile. In the process, not only does he discover his identity but he also creates it and becomes who he is. The figure of Oedipus is interpreted here as an answer to the riddle of existence: pain and suffering are not a punishment from the gods but the price humanity pays for consciousness, autonomy, compassion, and daring. A brief critique of Sigmund Freud’s concept of Oedipus Complex is also presented. Dreadful deeds, as well as magnanimity of the spirit, are at the heart of man.

Keywords: Oedipus; Sophocles; Jaspers, Karl; Sartre, Jean-Paul; Nietzsche, Friedrich; Camus, Albert; boundary situation; existential freedom; consciousness; plague.

Nietzsche's The Joyous Science
R. Kevin Hill | Portland State University


Keywords: tba.

Cheerful Creation of Words and Worlds
Ruth A. Burch | Liceo cantonale di Lugano a Savosa, Lugano, Switzerland


Keywords: tba.

Joyous Conquest? On Retranslating Nietzsche's Die fröhliche Wissenschaft
Duncan Large | University of East Anglia, UK


Keywords: tba.

The Dialectics of The Gay Science
Matthew Meyer | Scranton University


Keywords: tba.

Truth, Loneliness, and Eternal Recurrence: On Hill's Translation of The Joyous Science
Justin Remhof | Old Dominion University

This brief commentary on R. Kevin Hill’s translation of Nietzsche’s The Joyous Science focuses on Hill’s interpretation and translation of section 341, where Nietzsche discusses the concept of eternal recurrence. Hill holds that Nietzsche intends eternal recurrence to be a true account of the way the world is. Alternatively, I suggest that one should read the passage as a mere thought experiment that is meant to motivate self-transformation.

Keywords: Nineteenth Century Philosophy; Nietzsche, Friedrich; The Joyous Science; eternal recurrence; truth; metaphysics; self-transformation.

Reframing Jaspers' Nietzsche: A Study of Shared Modality in the Philosophies of Karl Jaspers and Friedrich Nietzsche
Julia B. Ely | Melbourne, Australia

Against the claim that Jaspers appropriates Nietzsche's thought, this article seeks to highlight a natural affinity that exists between the two thinkers in their modal appreciation of human existence. Superimposing their philosophies, I will show that both strive for an honest accounting of human existence by registering the way we live through multiple, irreconcilable modal frameworks. Using Jaspers' limit-inducing thought experiments and his model of the Encompassing, I argue that Nietzsche holds a meta-modal awareness of the tensions that exist between scientific world-viewing and the aesthetic/spiritual modes through which we understand our selves and our world. Specific attention will be paid to the mode of Existenz, with Jaspers' study of Nietzsche on truth revealing Nietzsche's appreciation of the way cognition terminates in the self-reference paradox. Finally, this insight will be used to interpret Nietzsche’s claims that play is fundamental to philosophy and that error is fundamental to life.

Keywords: Jaspers, Karl; Nietzsche, Friedrich; truth; existence; Existenz, Encompassing; modality; self-reference paradox.

Structural Exploitation and Total Domination: Notes on The Psychology of Totalitarianism
Leila Faghfouri Azar | University of Amsterdam, The Netherlandsy

This review essay offers a critical reflection on Desmet’s analysis of the foundations of modern forms of totalitarianism. It argues that the role of political institutions and the structural domination they produce is insufficiently addressed in his book. The essay focuses on the example of relations of labour in connection with two chapters of the book. Particularly, it examines the role of political structures to enforce alienation and exploitation for the purpose of efficient functioning and survival of totalitarian regimes.

Keywords: Arendt, Hannah; ideology; hegemony; political structures; alienation; exploitation; domination.

On The Psychology of Totalitarianism
Vicky Iakovou | University of the Aegean, Mytilene, Greece


Keywords: tba.

Postmodern Anti-Science Ideology: The Real Source of Totalitarianism
S. Nassir Ghaemi | Tufts University School of Medicine


Keywords: tba.

The Reinstatement of the Vague: Anti-Totalitarian or Literary Reverie
Edward Mendelowitz | Saybrook University

Mattias Desmet is an author with whom the present writer shares overlapping interests and themes albeit contrasting sensibilities and means of pursuit. In my sympathetic response, I point especially to the place of the broader humanities in evoking what may be called a "literary psychology." Such a collage-like approach is essayistic rather than didactic, with considerations of literature and art oftentimes disclosing profoundly insightful, eloquent, ironical, even humorous reveries upon freedom and cooptation: the vagaries of human nature and being during a menacing moment in world time. "Only in the chorus," muses Kafka in his notebooks, "may be a certain truth."

Keywords: Arendt, Hannah; Benjamin, Walter; Kafka, Franz; James, William; Melville, Herman; May, Rollo; Fromm-Richmann, Frieda; Camus, Albert; totalitarianism; anxiety; literature; mythology.

Commentary on The Psychology of Totalitarianism
Michael Schwartz | The Texas A&M College of Medicine


Keywords: tba.

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