Reviews Of Books -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 21:2 (May 1959)
Article: Reviews Of Books
Author: Anonymous


Reviews Of Books

ed. Paul Arthur Schilpp: The Philosophy of Karl Jaspers (The Library of Living Philosophers). New York: Tudor Publishing Co. 1957. xxvi, 918. $10.75.

Until recently the thought of Karl Jaspers was little known in this country. That is no reflection on his importance, however, for Jaspers was one of the rediscoverers of Søren Kierkegaard and one of the founders of the contemporary movement of Existentialism. Perhaps the only work available in English was his Man in the Modern World (1933). Since about 1950, however, an increasing number of translations, especially of his smaller works, have made him better known to us. And now the Library of Living Philosophers has devoted an entire volume to the presentation and study of his thought.

The arrangement of the book is that of the earlier volumes in the series. A philosophical autobiography (of about 100 pages) is followed by a substantial number of critical articles by prominent thinkers from America and abroad. A third section is devoted to Jaspers’ reply to his critics. Finally, there is a bibliography in chronological order of all the writings of Karl Jaspers up to 1957, and a glossary of terms prepared by Ludwig B. Lefebre, clarifying words difficult to translate from the German and explaining special usages in Jaspers’ terminology.

Since existential thinking is very closely related to the life history of the thinker, Jaspers’ autobiography is an important document for the understanding of his thought. It is, to my knowledge, the most detailed insight he has ever given into his life and his philosophical development. The critical essays, as is to be expected in such a volume, are of varying worth; but together they provide a mine of insights into Jaspers and a cross section of interesting discussion of vital issues in contemporary thought. Whatever his final evaluation of Existentialism may be, one can readily admit that it has reawakened a vital type of philosophizing, one that deals with life and death problems. A discussion on such a broad front of a leading Existentialist cannot help but be of vital interest to the thoughtful Christian. Considered from the point of view of his own position, Jaspers’ reply to his critics is a masterpiece, continually opening up fresh insights into his thinking. This volume is indispensable for one who is interested in the study of Existentialism, not of its lunatic fringe

but of its more solid representatives, of whom Jaspers is among the most important.

Karl Jaspers began his career as a successful psychopathologist, writing at that time what has continued to be an important textbook on the subject. He applied the hermeneutic metho...

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