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Quotes of the day: Karl Jaspers

Published Tuesday, February 23, 2016 @ 12:50 AM EST
Feb 23 2016

Karl Theodor Jaspers (February 23, 1883 – February 26, 1969) was a German-Swiss psychiatrist and philosopher who had a strong influence on modern theology, psychiatry and philosophy. 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, though he did not accept this label. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


A scientific approach means knowing what one knows and what one doesn't. Absolute or complete knowledge is unscientific.

Conflicts may be the sources of defeat, lost life and a limitation of our potentiality but they may also lead to greater depth of living and the birth of more far-reaching unities, which flourish in the tensions that engender them.

I discovered that the study of past philosophers is of little use unless our own reality enters into it. Our reality alone allows the thinker's questions to become comprehensible.

Imminent seems the collapse of that which for millennium has constituted man's universe. The new world which has arisen as an apparatus for supply of the necessaries of life compels everything and everyone to serve it.

It is the search for the truth, not possession of the truth which is the way of philosophy. Its questions are more relevant than its answers, and every answer becomes a new question.

Less than ever, perhaps, is it possible for a man to transcend the limitations imposed by his social origins.

Man is always something more than what he knows of himself. He is not what he is simply once and for all, but is a process...

Man, if he is to remain man, must advance by way of consciousness.

Only a development of thought achieved through the self-education of the whole man can prevent any body of thought whatsoever from becoming a poison; can prevent enlightenment from becoming an agent of death.

Only in those moments when I exercise my freedom am I fully myself.

Our questions and answers are in part determined by the historical tradition in which we find ourselves.

Reason is like an open secret that can become known to anyone at any time; it is the quiet space into which everyone can enter through his own thought.

The 'public' is a phantom, the phantom of an opinion supposed to exist in a vast number of persons who have no effective interrelation and though the opinion is not effectively present in the units.

The masses are our masters; and for every one who looks facts in the face his existence has become dependent on them, so that the thought of them must control his doings, his cares, and his duties.

The moment is the sole reality.

The soul of a landscape, the spirits of the elements, the genius of every place will be revealed to a loving view of nature.

The teacher of love teaches struggle. The teacher of lifeless isolation from the world teaches peace.

We must learn to talk with each other, and we mutually must understand and accept one another in our extraordinary differences.

What makes us afraid is our great freedom in the face of the emptiness that has still to be filled.

When in our isolation we see our lives seeping away as a mere succession of moments, tossed meaninglessly about by accidents and overwhelming events; when we contemplate a history that seems to be at an end, leaving only chaos behind it, then we are impelled to raise ourselves above history.


(February 23 is also the birthday of W.E.B. DuBois.)

Categories: Karl Jaspers, Quotes of the day


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