NotaBene .

The Failed Attempt at Existential Communication between Martin Heidegger and Karl Jaspers as a Genuine Loss to Political Philosophy: Part I

59 (2023) Editor: Antoaneta Nikolova
Petar Radoev Dimkov, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Philosophy and Sociology,


As today we are living in multiple global boundary situations (Salamun 1990: 227; 1998/1999: 219), as man's existence in general is a boundary situation and as boundary situations could play the role of an "ascent" to authenticity, there is a serious and urgent need to examine both the history of our present-day situation (the "anamnesis" of contemporaneity) and the intellectual tradition, i. e. to study the results of the efforts of those before us in order to explain and ease the suffering of human beings in the present, i. e. to creatively "ameliorate" and "resolve" the global boundary situations we are living in at the moment. In this contextual frame of our contemporaneity in what follows I would like to direct the attention of the reader to the factual history of the Heidegger-Jaspers correspondence, their academic relationship and their personal friendship, but mainly from the perspective of Jaspers: "The association between Jaspers and Heidegger is an important instance of the understanding the link between philosophy and politics" (Rockmore 1994: 92) and "The relationship between Karl Jaspers and Martin Heidegger is probably one of the most frequently discussed relationships between two significant philosophers of the twentieth century" (Gorniak-Kocikowska 1994: 139). In the end, it was precisely and mainly politics, not philosophy, itself that was the major cause of their breach.

The current study will cover the interaction between Heidegger and Jaspers, a failed attempt of existential communication, the "great thinker" and the "noble scholar" (in H. Arendt terms; Olson 1994: 1), represented by their friendship and their academic relationship, in order to elucidate several points. The study will be divided into two parts: (1) the first part will introduce the reader to the historical facts, namely the genesis of their interaction, its particularities, how and why it ended, whereas (2) the second one will deal with the professional (academic) appreciation of the philosophical conceptions of one's communicative partner and subsequently provide a thorough analysis and my explanation of the events that occurred between Heidegger and Jaspers, as well as what could have happened, if things had developed in a different way. In the end, I will attempt to list and elaborate on the particularities of this lesson of failed communication and its relation and inherent value to present-day politics and political philosophy.

The study in its totality will cover the following: 1) How the communication between Heidegger and Jaspers suffered a severe "breach" and, as such, led to inauthenticity on both sides; 2) How their own existential "philosophies" correspond to each another; 3) The goals of their philosophies, as envisioned by their authors and 4) The results of their practical implementation, as every philosophy has political consequences, namely that "by definition" philosophy and politics are intimately related as acknowledged by experts in the field: "Philosophy has political consequences" (Jaspers 1957a: 70), "Philosophy which does not become political [...] is not genuine philosophy" (Jaspers, cited in Walters 2008: 125) and "[...] the political world is affected by the "unconditionality of Existenz and by ideas"" (ibid.: 128).

The Heidegger-Jaspers correspondence consists of 157 letters and covers the temporal period from 1920 to 1963 (Jaspers & Heidegger 1990/2003; see Schlipp 1981 and Olson 1994). Jaspers also collected notes of himself on Heidegger and his philosophy, published after his death as "Notizen zu Heidegger". As a matter of fact, Jaspers did also write a chapter on Heidegger for the publication of the Schlipp volume on his oeuvres (Schlipp 1957), but he decided that the manuscript was to be kept and published after the death of Heidegger and his own one. It was published in the second "augmented" edition of "The Philosophy of Karl Jaspers" (Schlipp 1981). Additional information can be found in the Arendt-Jaspers correspondence (1926-1969), consisting of 433 letters (Arendt & Jaspers, 1985/1992).

Great ideas are respected and given their due by one's peers and contemporaries, such as, for example, Martin Heidegger's project of a fundamental ontology, as elaborated in his magnum opus "Being and Time" (1927) and the reception it received from the philosophical community. There exists the "other" part of the equation as well, but it was veiled. Thus one has to sincerely affirm the fact that, in reality, up to the present moment, there is a "scant attention directed to the [academic and personal] association of Heidegger and Jaspers" (Olson 1994: 1). This fact is in addition to the major lack of an appropriate amount of attention toward Karl Jaspers' own philosophical project, namely Existenzphilosophie or Philosophy of Existenz. These two facts taken together might seem to one rather doubtful and suspicious, but they are indications for a disproportion.

In fact, Olson has suggested with a big emphasis that "one cannot underestimate the importance of this event of being "upstaged"" - the event being Heidegger's spreading fame in contrast to Jaspers' overshadowing. But Heidegger, "seven years his junior", had "beaten him to the punch", so to speak, and, as Gadamer observes, the potential influence of Jaspers' Philosophie was eclipsed by Sein und Zeit [Being and Time] "even before it went to press"" (1984: 393; emphasis in the original). After the Second World War, the received peer recognitions of Heidegger's and Jaspers' philosophical projects were markedly disproportionate: Jaspers was forced to take "the back seat", whereas Heidegger was virtually worshiped as the "Prophet of Being" and his work "Being and Time" was treated as "groundbreaking" in the philosophical academic realms (Olson 1994: 8).

They were defined as "philosophical rivals" or as the two "fathers of German existentialism"; the stories of their philosophizing and the creation of their genuine philosophical magnum opi are such, that both books treated similar questions, but Heidegger was focused on Being as such, whereas Jaspers followed the classical Kantian way of philosophical inquiry and his focus is on the Being of Man: "In short, the latter [Heidegger] emphasized Being, while the former [Jaspers] emphasized Becoming. Heidegger mourns something that is lost (Seinsvergessenheit) while Jaspers hopes for something yet to be attained (Transcendenz)" (Pavic & Buterin 1998: 330; my emphases). Jaspers was convinced that one has to build upon the (philosophical) tradition, whereas Heidegger wanted to go into the reverse direction and attempt to retrace the origin of Being and the original ideas (the original primordial meanings of words) hoping that in this way he would get a step closer to genuine Being. Thus, Jaspers relied on synthesis, whereas Heidegger in analysis (incl. hermeneutic interpretation and deconstruction of language).

In order to analyze the historical facts correctly, it is necessary to present Jaspers' approach to Heidegger, which was one of an innermost hope for an establishment of an existential communication, in which the fried is also a philosopher. Jaspers developed and elaborated the conception of "existential communication" as part of his Existenzphilosophie (Jaspers 1932/1969: 61, 70, 92, 154 - 156, 244, 246, 297; 1932/1970: 47 - 103, 360 - 382; 1951/1964: 25 - 27; Kaufmann 1957; Wallraff 1970: 140; Gordon 2000; Peach 2008: 38 - 39; Salamun 1988, 2008; Miron 2012: 109 - 125; Asakavičiūtė & Valatka 2019; for review see Dimkov 2021: 86 - 93). It is a phenomenon of a personal genuine friendship, in which two Existenzen are in a "loving struggle" (Jaspers' "analogue" of the "metaphysical soul", which he "borrowed" and elaborated further from S. Kierkegaard; Jaspers 1932/1970: 3) in the form of a communication that is both an emphatic feeling toward the other and an understanding of his language and behavior, but also a critical and "painful" struggle (in the case of the occurrence of breaches). In this way, loving and painful at once, but truthful, according to Jaspers, the phenomenon of "mutual self-realization" occurs on the arena, in which truth is discovered by the critical efforts of the two speakers in their hermeneutically processing of their first-person existential experiences in the form of a Socratic dialogue and the "higher-order thoughts" of Reason (in comparison to the Understanding or the Intellect). As Salamun clarifies - existential communication is the "highest and most valuable form of communication, where man realizes Existenz, [and it] can be elucidated only by philosophy and experienced in one's own private life. In this type of interaction [...] Jaspers sees a very intimate personal relationship between two human beings" (1988: 321). Salamun clarifies the important aspect, namely that of Jaspers' elaboration of EC as consisting, among all other properties, of a "set of moral attitudes", which are essential to EC itself (adapted from Salamun 1988: 321 - 322; emphases in the original):  


1.       Willingness and ability to bear loneliness and dignity of solitude ("will to solitude" or "dignity of loneliness").

2.       Kind of open-mindedness and frankness ("communication without prejudice and masked purposes").

3.       Intellectual integrity and truthfulness ("communicative or loving struggle").

4.       Real intention to accept the communication partner in his (her) own personal freedom and specific possibility of self-realization ("level of complete equality").

5.       Non-egoistic intention, to help the communication partner to realize his (her) Existenz without using the other as a mere instrument for one's own purpose of self-realization ("existential solidarity").


Personal Friendship and Political Activity

Personal Friendship and Existential Philosophies

In biographical analyses one can study the life of the author, as well as his oeuvres. According to Jaspers, only by doing both one could understand in depth both the author and his work and activities: "The philosophical thoughts had to be understood in relation to the behavior of the thinker" (Oliver 1994: 68). This stance is as opposed, for example, to P. Tillich's way of viewing things, who opinionates that "The true task is to participate in the creative process of their [great thinkers'] thinking, for this is the only way to be fair to them and to their work" (Tillich 1954/1994: 17; cf. Ehrlich 1994: 29 and Harries 1994). It must be emphasized that Jaspers himself introduced and elaborated the method of "pathobiography" in his psychiatric magnum opus "General Psychopathology" (1913), which he subsequently applied to his case studies of Strindberg, Van Gogh, Swedenborg and Hölderlin (Jaspers 1926), as well as to his interpretatively synthetic treatises constituting his selection of the "most important" philosophers and philosophies, respectively, from the history of philosophy, ordered according to the way of their influence upon the thought of the reader, as a "co-author" and a "co-creator" in the spirit of hermeneutics, namely a gigantic project, named "The Great Philosophers" (1957) - Jaspers' own project of a "World Philosophy", i. e. the one of Philosophia Perennis (Jaspers 1948/1950: 25, 77, 167; Ehrlich 1975: 25; see Ehrlich & Wisser 1998 and Wautischer, Olson & Walters 2012).

Jaspers met Heidegger at a birthday party of Edmund Husserl in the early 1920s. He was impressed by this young man and his way of thinking. Heidegger was a disciple of Husserl and initially he wanted to pursue a theological carrier, but subsequently was attracted to philosophy and switched to the latter. Heidegger was six years younger than Jaspers. Jaspers invited Heidegger to visit him in Heidelberg and they had multiple meetings and discussions: "[...] during his visits such influence emanated to an incomparably greater degree from me, while H. was silent a great deal of the time. I thought that I had been permitted the pleasure of having him understand me" (Jaspers 1986a: 502; my emphasis). The initial enthusiasm was somehow blissful for Jaspers, as he told his wife that "We are now hard at work philosophizing" (Kirkbright 2004: 129).

Heidegger expressed his "rebellious" ideas of the transformation and the conception of the university that Jaspers met with deep delight and understanding: "[...] he [Jaspers] became optimistic about a friendship developing. But Jaspers was hesitating, as he stated that: "We both don't know what we want ourselves [...] It is our fate: A new world reveals itself to us, and were wretched human being who can manage to 'notice' it, but not to give it a philosophical, or more importantly, a poetic expression" (Hanh 2002/2005: 134). For Jaspers, Heidegger's presence meant enjoying the companionship he had sought since student days. Yet the contact between the two thinkers, formed through the compatibility of their work, became strained when Jaspers began to wonder whether he could rely upon Heidegger" (ibid.; see ibid.: 130). Jaspers acknowledged with sadness that the "'mass' system had overtaken Humboldt's ideals" and that "[...] intellectuals preferred to rest upon their laurels, without caring about what it meant to appropriate tradition in practice [...] the decline of Germany's scientific tradition was not because of the nation's political or military defeat, but because of an absence of leadership" (ibid.: 134; my emphasis). The problem was that Jaspers expressed a "dislike of the increasing politicization of university life and he [Jaspers] sought to defend he institution against the intrusion of party politics" (ibid.: 135).

Jaspers saw Heidegger as a "challenge" to him in the sense of a stimulus for philosophizing in a "battle for hearts and minds" (Kirkbright 2004: 133). Jaspers thought that "Heidegger alone addressed himself to complexes of questions that appeared to me the most profound" (Oliver 1994: 66). Heidegger was also rather serious about their friendship and academic relations: "In the philosophical wilderness of our time it is good to experience that we may trust in one another" (ibid.: 130). The fact that their conceptions of "philosophy" were different in the object of focus (Heidegger - Being as such; Jaspers - Man's Being), but falling into one and the same category, was not of such a big importance, rather it was the constructive criticism that Jaspers as being both a philosopher and an author sought for. Jaspers saw Heidegger also as a "kind of shaman with mystifying, seductive powers regarding the "magic of the extreme"" (Olson 1994: 3).

Jaspers had ideas of working jointly, of a mutual inspiring co-work, with Heidegger, for the better - even establishing their own journal, called "Philosophy of Our Time" - "Critical journals by Martin Heidegger and Karl Jaspers" (ibid.: 130). Heidegger also had own suggestions for a mutual work between the two of them: "Heidegger proposed that he and Jaspers inaugurate what he called a 'community of contest' (Kampfgemeinschaft), for the similarities of their project were such that each was concerned with the status of mankind and, hence, they remained, in terms of their work, close counterparts" (Kirkbright 2004: 132). Jaspers accepted the "spirit of Heidegger's offer" and wanted to "test what the idea of their friendship meant in practice. Indeed, he warned Heidegger that he intended to take his proposal seriously" (ibid.).

Firstly, Jaspers was impressed by Heidegger, but soon there occurred a "strange isolation" between them; secondly, "feelings of astonishing aversion" and that "something "was not right" with their relationship" followed (ibid.: 392). Jaspers found what the cause of this phenomena was - there was a "hidden discrepancy" between the author's text, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the author's behavior (ibid.: 393); it was "Heidegger's "actions" and not his "books and words" that were the barrier" (ibid.: 394). Jaspers was continuously affected by "something undefinably devious and two-faced" about his colleague, "as if a demon had crept into him" (ibid.: 393). Heidegger's avoidance of communication actually made Jaspers develop a "kind of strange obsession" with him (ibid.: 388). As Jaspers himself confessed: "I did not introduce Heidegger to my friends, and Heidegger did not introduce his to me. In neither case was this deliberate. Yet it was a sign of a defect, as if neither of us wanted the other to enter into his substantial world" (Oliver 1994: 66 - 67). In what followed, "Jaspers refused to entertain a deeper level of dialogue with Heidegger. But Heidegger was persistent" (Kirkbright 2004: 132); later they changed their roles, as Jaspers was the one who wanted to give a second chance to his dream of having an existential communication with a person, a friend, who is also a philosopher.  

Nonetheless, Jaspers sent his "Psychology of Worldviews" (1919) for a review to Heidegger, long before the latter published his magnum opus "Being and Time" (1927) and it seems that Jaspers' main psychological work, which was undeliberately half-philosophical, had an influence on Heidegger's thought (Jaspers 1919/1960; Heidegger 1927/2008, 1967/1998). But Jaspers was offended, as Heidegger's review "showed less mercy than all the other critics combined" (Olson 1984: 392). Jaspers evaluated Heidegger's review as a "boring" and an "untruthful" one; more precisely: "It was unclear whether he [Jaspers] was interested in intensifying their dialogues, for he [Jaspers] was disturbed by an aggressive tone to Heidegger's review that he considered a sly misappropriation of truth" (Kirkbright 2004: 131). Latter, Jaspers was presented with information about the negative commentaries of Heidegger toward Jaspers' book "The Idea of the University" (1923; revised in 1946), as well as the somewhat more positive one on his "Philosophy" (1932). It was Hannah Arendt that, I suggest, functioned as a "supposed" indirect connection between the two big founders of German existentialism (see Arendt 1944/1994, Arendt & Jaspers 1985/1992 and Flakne 2002).

The fact that, concerning their philosophical systematic oeuvres in totality, Heidegger overshadowed Jaspers in terms of academic recognition, support and influence, and even "fame", is still implicit and in need of a clarification: "[...] one might ask why Jaspers did not enjoy the recognition accorded to Heidegger and Sartre, either during his lifetime or after. One obvious answer would be that in the "Kingdom of the Absurd" Jaspers was not an absurdist, being much more positively disposed to the history of philosophy than either Sartre or Heidegger" (Olson 1984: 387). Nonetheless, I suggest that Heidegger's simpler version of existentialism was easier for comprehension and thus admiration by the young students of philosophy, especially its "mystic" sensation: ""Jaspers is not well known" to the present generation of philosophers, especially younger philosophers. "Because of the vastness of his output" Jaspers is rarely "studied in his own right, and such a study is very demanding and requires an investment of time which few are willing to make"" (Ehrlich, cited in ibid.: 387).

Jaspers criticized Heidegger that his claim of having founded an existential fundamental "ontology" is false, because there cannot be any such knowledge due to the fact that man's being is being in situations and he does not have access to the whole or the totality of himself and the totality of the world from the point of view of an unbiased observer; thus Jaspers termed his existential philosophy "Periechontology", from the Greek "periech" meaning "encompassing", and it is only a guiding and fluid scheme (Jaspers 1935/1996: 51 - 76; 1938/1971: 15 - 29; 1947; 1951/1964: 28 - 38; 1953/2010: 138, 214, 258 - 259; 1962/1967: 61 - 69, 75ff; 1986b: 137 - 210). It is necessary to remind that Jaspers elaborated in his work "On Truth" ("Von der Wahrheit", 1947) a large-scale philosophical system, called Perichontology (see Jaspers 1986b) and not ontology, was comprising several realms: immanent realms (world, existence (Dasein), consciousness-as-such (scientific thinking) and spirit, and transcendent realms - Transcendence (God) and Existenz or the individual soul; Existenz reads the chiffers of God in the manifestations of existence, consciousness-as-such and spirit. Reason in the existential scheme of Periechontology aims at Being as not split, as existing before the subject-object split (which is divided into the Kantian Sensibility and Understanding), and as such it is not a system, but a bond. It provides formal frameworks to categorize all incoming and all past information into a coherent ordered whole (man as a whole or man in totality), which is always in "becoming" and never finished as project.

The second charge was that Heidegger's project was at the same time lacking potential "matching" points with science, because it simply did not care about it (e. g. Rockmore 1994: 99). Instead, Jaspers devoted titanic efforts to delineate the boundary of philosophy and science. Both thinkers were interested in the "renewed experience of philosophy" (Pavic & Buterin 1998: 329). Heidegger wanted to get rid of tradition, as it leads to the famous "forgetfulness of Being", to go back to the origin of language as expressing Being in a richer way. Jaspers has a concept of "forgetfulness" related to his "Dasein" or "Existence", one of the immanent modes of existence of man that represents inauthenticity, passiveness and objectification of man, in which he is degraded to a mere "observer". Heidegger's way can be viewed as a way down (descent, involution, i. e. reversion) of man to Being, whereas Jaspers' way - as a way up (ascent) of man to Transcendence/Encompassing/God. What is common is that their interest lies in being as such, i. e. the moment and place where thought disappears ("virtualization") in order being to appear ("materialization").

Ironically, Heidegger's search ended into a "metaphysical intoxication", a kind of a "philosophical psychosis", in which there are no values, there is no worldview, as the latter has crashed, but only a megalomaniacal collection of anonymous first-person experiences that can be interpreted and reinterpreted ad infinitum, experiences that appear and reappear in an endless number of different ways. But these interpretations aim at different nuances of inherent meaning (being a strict ontology), rather than on their ethico-moral value aspect (the ethical and moral meaning). The search for Being is in accord with the statement "the goal justifies the means". Heidegger's heroic feat of a continuous searching for Being (the Being of Being) has fallen prey to Being's seduction of value, namely: 1) a "self-exempted removal of the thinker from the moral and ethical considerations", 2) a "deconstruction of the privatization of philosophizing" and 3) a "higher but functionally useless purpose of "letting Being be"" (Olson 1994: 2). Therefore, Heidegger's fundamental ontology separated itself from any "value theory".

Thus, Heidegger's way is a moment, but one without purpose, without direction. Heidegger gets lost in his hermeneutico-deconstructing activities on language, as everything is a symbol of everything, a kind of state that resembles the psychopathological phenomenon of "catatonic excitation" - a kind of purposeless/disordered behavior, in which psychic contents are not integrated into a synthetic whole, but coexist in a complete disorder, there is no unitary core, i. e. ordered, subjective mentality that normal consciousness represents. It was a "perversion of reason": the dialectics between value and Being was "sundered" (Olson 1994: 13). Having no criteria for estimating values, the fundamental ontology of Heidegger separated Reason from the "sense of measures", i. e. the space-time continuum and the five human senses that the world is characterized by for us. Thus the first-person human experiences were no longer confined and assessed according to a spectrum of the statistical norm. There was a lack of a grading criterion for "authenticity" of greatness (ibid.: 12) or "the normative element and criteria for judgment" (Tillich 1954/1994: 24). 

If Intellectus and Ratio are the capacities to perceive the world as an ordered and meaningful whole, Heidegger's hermeneutico-phenomenological, in its reverse movement toward Being, in fact disturbed the order of Reason, causing it to lose "touch with reality", that is, with fixed objects and the meaning of the words used to denote them; yet, as in a thought experiment, it arrived at "its destination" of no-directedness - the homelessness of a thoughtless being/existence - the experience of "pure consciousness" or mere existence, in which there is no subject-object dichotomy and no distinction of thought from existence as there are no contents of consciousness present - an experience called internal mystical experience that is often described with words, such as the following ones: "Eternal Light", "dazzling", "obscurity", "darkness", "emptiness", "nothingness", "silence", "nakedness", "nudity", "desert" and "radiance" (Stace 1960/1961: 94, 97, 100, 112, 115; Dimkov 2015: 90-103; see Dimkov 2017).

This is an attempt to "translate the untranslatable", as man cannot conceive of something outside the subject-object dichotomy or the space-time continuum (Gancheva 2012: 92); this "something" is for Jaspers the Transcendence of the All-Encompassing, but also Existenz and Reason - all of them are transcendental or supersensible. Any attempt to objectify the Supersensible leads to a "perversion of reason" (Kantian "Dialectical Illusion") with the additional means of imagery. Thus any transcendental experiences can be thought only through symbols or metaphors (but not taking them as literal) through Jaspers' conception of speculative metaphysics and the interpretation of the ciphers of God/Transcendence. Jaspers was not content with this "attempt at the impossible" and critically comments the following: "Are you about to appear as prophet who, possessing hidden knowledge, shows the supersensible, as a philosopher who leads away from reality? Who trades the chance for what is possible for fiction?" (Harries 1994: 62). In this vein, Harries comments "Philosopher speaks without authority. When he claims authority he betrays philosophy as he betrays his humanity. Philosophy so understood harbors within itself the temptation of the self-elevation of the lonely thinker into a demigod, a leader or prophet, a temptation to which Jaspers thought Heidegger had succumbed. And because of this temptation, philosophy must be willing to develop and test itself - in dialogue" (ibid.). Ehrlich asks: "Isn't it ironic that Heidegger's labor of deconstruction, which was to have redeemed Being from its subjectivistic anthropologization, has become a strategy for having things mean anything the clever strategist wants them to mean?" (1994: 44); then he answers: "There is no alternative to the anthropologization of Being, much less is there a choice between anthropologization and Being" (ibid.: 45).

But this "this" was a pure negativity (as in Sartre's conception of consciousness as a negativity, elaborated in his magnum opus "Being and Nothing" published in 1943), as it had no properties that characterized it, thus it had no essence, no parts; it was just nothing, a pure naked timeless and space-less "state" (not even existence) of "virtuality", in which being and thought are identical, they are one unitary whole of nothing (i. e. the so-called coincidencia oppositorum), which, at the same time is everything (in an unknown and unconceivable to us way). It is from here, the "point" of arriving to Being that Heidegger wanted to describe in a satisfactory way, that Jaspers' methodology of ascent just begins, namely the experience of Existenz being grounded in Transcendence or The All-Encompassing: "Jaspers offers a new orientation in asking the question about the meaning of Being, in which possible Existenz, and not simply Dasein as Dasein, is brought into the foreground [...] the question is not merely that of the meaning of Being and truth, but of the way in which man directs himself toward Being and truth as possible Existenz" (Pavic & Buterin 1998: 330).

This is contrasted with Heidegger's nearly pathological passion for Being or the Being of Being - which, as I suggest, is just a question that is asked in the wrong way. It is not a question, but a procedure that can lead man to the fundament (thus fundamental ontology) of existence, but nothing more. It is a one-way street to virtualization (for us Being can be only "virtual" or supersensible) or a being-towards-death. Thus Heidegger's approach is pessimistic: it teaches us only that there is something like a Being - a fundamental ground of everything (which always eludes us that we tend to forget about) and that we will die for sure. In the returning to the "beginning" (through a reversal of thought), one finds a kind of state, akin to death, because he degrades and dissolves into the Nothingness, as if thought and life as such were a nightmarish dream. Therefore the question of Being is not a question, but it is a tautology - the Being of Being is Being. Thus, "The question cannot be answered, otherwise Being would be treated as a being among being, and not the Being that is equally the Being of all Beings" (Ehrlich 1994: 42). Being is supersensible and thus can be never made intelligible to us in any of its appearances. This simple linguistic clarification undermines all efforts of Heidegger. The Being of Being is endlessly "immobilized" into a "state of nothingness" - it is not "animated" or put into a "practical use"; it turns into its opposite - the nothingness - and they are then revealed as identical in the phenomenon of coincidencia oppositorum.

Nonetheless, the "feat" was that the "space created by Heidegger's thinking is resonantly both larger and more empty. For this reason his sound has attracted more concern and a greater following, if only because the chamber in which it has echoed has allowed for greater movement and a more fulsome vibration" (Erickson, cited in Carr 1996: 455; my emphasis). The common moment is that Heidegger leads us to this empty "thing", but told nothing about what happens afterwards. Jaspers, on the contrary, sees the bottom empty "thing" as a confirmation or an ascertainment of the most inner essence of man, Existenz (the soul), which is freedom that is a gift by and which is grounded in Transcendence. In this vein, in contrast to Heidegger's one-way journey to Being, Jaspers instead argued for a definition of man's life as an endless dialectical movement to Being, but also back again, characterizing the state of becoming of man and he clarified that "We must be able to stay suspended and learn to leave the firm ground of unequivocal definition. We must take our leap into the reciprocity of life. We must always accept the opposite, risk it, let it become a thorn, of distress, and include it as a factor in all movements [...] When we expose ourselves to the reciprocal, dialectic movement and risk, life expands its meaning [...] Our ideas, everything that is comprehensive, intellect, Existenz, all take this circular course and as the moving cycles are broken under, fresh ones form" (Jaspers 1913/1997: 345 - 346; see Jaspers 1932/1970: 82, 333 and Jaspers 1913/1997: 301, 303, 305 - 313, 325 - 330, 332, 341 - 343, 345, 347 - 349, 351, 353 - 354, 370 - 371, 428, 430 - 431, 433 - 434, 439, 769 - 777). This is so, because "No perfect end-state can ever be attained in the human world, because man is a creature that constantly strives to thrust out beyond itself, and is not only imperfect, but imperfectible" (Jaspers 1953/2010: 213).

Jaspers and Heidegger had some strict academic relations, but it was when Jaspers invited Heidegger to join him in with the desire for an eventual unfolding of an existential communicative discussion, with all its positive consequences (Olson 1984: 388, 394), for a journey into metaphysics and back again, that Heidegger rejected or, more precisely, avoided and rather sunk into silence forever and in personal suffering. Having rejected the reception of the authentic critique of his colleague, Heidegger thus received it indirectly: Jaspers wrote a very short, but devastating review of Heidegger's fundamental ontology project in his journal with notes, which he wanted to be published after Heidegger's death and his own one (Jaspers 1978/1989, 1986a; Olson 1984). In this way, Heidegger caused what is termed by Jaspers a "loss of authentic Being" (Jaspers 1932/1970: 54-55, 97) and a "rejection of reason itself" (Jaspers 1950/1952: 43). But Jaspers' dream was doomed, probably from the very beginning, but it was masked by the high hopes that beginnings tend to suggest: "Jaspers was 36 at this first meeting and Heidegger just 29, and together, he thought, they might be able to "renew the Gestalt of philosophy" in Germany to the grandeur of its previous existence" (Olson 1984: 391) and to achieve a "repristination of philosophy" (Oliver 1994: 70). Thus, both thinkers were interested in "the "renewed experience of philosophy" (Pavic & Buterin 1998: 329).

In short, the outcome was that "Jaspers' "Kantian investment" in creating an educated and communicative commonwealth makes him the more conservative thinker, dependent on prudent, cautious assertion, fearful of radical speculation. Heidegger, on the other hand, is a wilderness prophet, one of the last of Nietzsche's "last men". His philosophizing is an experiment, a revolution, a "grand undertaking". If he offers us no evaluative criteria, it is because he wants us to form them for ourselves. If Jaspers is Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor, handing out soothing truths to relieve the masses of their burden of freedom, Heidegger is the One who "came softly, unobserved, and yet, strangely, recognized by all" [...] Of the two, he [Heidegger] is the more studied philosopher because the more profound, deeper, darker; his vision is more commensurate with the experience of a people for whom conventional answers fail to satisfy" (Carr 1996: 454 - 455; my emphases).



Political Activity and Political Philosophy

The consequence of ignoring the ethico-moral aspect of values is seen clearly in Heidegger's attempt to put his philosophy into practice through his position of a rector of the University of Freiburg that he was to appointed shortly the ascent of National Socialism into power that in fact promoted a scientific research with no moral obligations (for review, see e. g. Rockmore 1991 and Wolfson 2018). However, Heidegger conceived of Nazi Socialism as a potential vehicle for the implementation in practice of his philosophy precisely because the lack of moral obligations was equal to more "freedom" in research: Heidegger's fundamental ontology had both political and social implications; in short, it was "negative and morally destructive" (Olson 1994: 7). Heidegger "saw in the regime [Nazism] of the now-empowered Nazi movement the condition and the momentum for reawakening of the German nation's spirit to a forgotten but merely slumbering openness to Being" (Ehrlich 1994: 30). Many scholars view this move of Heidegger as an erroneous one. Ehrlich elaborates the issue, which is a "serious question", and offers two alternatives: 1) "either one says that his thought is one thing, his personal actions another", a "misstep of innocence" due to a political naïveté or 2) "one disregards Heidegger's political misstep not by exposing oneself to those who raise the issue or even by discrediting them, by sidestepping the issue when faced with it, or by urging the overriding importance of Heidegger" (ibid.: 29).

Shortly after the coming to power of National Socialism, Heidegger was appointed as a rector of the University of Freiburg. Initially, Jaspers "praised" Heidegger's address in a letter dated to August 23, 1933 (Ehrlich 1994: 32). But in reality, "Jaspers' faltering acknowledgment of Heidegger's acceptance of the Rectorship in Freiburg in April 1933 concealed his growing mistrust of the intellectual basis and actuality of Heidegger's decision" (Kirkbright 2004: 136) and, as a matter of fact, Jaspers' response was not a genuine one due to lack of courage. At this point, however, Jaspers "had [already] by then ceased to trust Heidegger, had come to understand him as the mouthpiece of a ruinous, destructive power" (Harries 1994: 55). German universities were to be "self-asserted" and the University of Freiburg had to be the pioneering model that the others were to follow. In his rectoral address, he outlined his conception of philosophy and its relation to both university and the Nazi ideology: a "revival of the university" and a "revival of philosophy" (Gorniak-Kocikowska 1994: 146; see Ehrlich 1994: 38). But Heidegger's vision, although productive, had a major flaw: it lacked morality, a criterion of value.

Heidegger confessed latter that "[...] his rectorial address was understood neither by the academic community, which was the intended audience, nor by the Nazis, who, as Heidegger knew, would take a keen interest in what much-heralded philosopher-rector would have to say, nor by those later critics who would hear in it only what aligned him with the Nazis, not his opposition - misunderstood, because all missed the mood communicated by its very deliberate style" (Harries 1994: 54). Nonetheless, he also confessed that the rectorate was a "miscarriage" (Oliver 1994: 72). "Heidegger's thought, including Being and Time, is intrinsically political in a profound sense [...] fundamental ontology does not intend merely to comprehend authenticity for human being, but to bring it about, to promote an authentic gathering of German people" (Rockmore 1994: 94; emphasis in the original). Ehrlich lists the two of the four major points in his rectoral address: 1) "The grounding of sciences in the experience of the essential area of their subject matter" and 2) "The essence of truth as the letting be of what is, as it is" (1994: 35; my emphasis).

Unfortunately, Heidegger was forced to resign as a rector just ten months after he was appointed as such. Heidegger had not any political activities before and after this short period of time, but in the early 1930s Heidegger remarked that "he himself knew about politics and had a deeper insight into the reality of what was happening [...] Heidegger suggested that Jaspers was oblivious to politics" (Kirkbright 2004: 136). After the Second World War, in 1945, Heidegger excused himself and acknowledged his Nazi involvement as a "misstep" (Olson 1994: 6; Ehrlich 1994: 37; see Ehrlich 1994: 35, 37). As several authors have discussed, in fact, Heidegger saw nothing wrong in his Nazi involvement, but he was looking from his idealistic viewpoint. In fact, he did not understand himself as genuinely guilty (Harries 1994: 57), so that "his commitment to ideal Nazism was a permanent component in his later thought" (Rockmore 1994: 99); but it is important to emphasize that "Heidegger's thought apparently lacks the resources to comprehend Nazism, which he merely assimilated to modernity" (ibid.: 107).

Heidegger's approach was philosophical and idealistic, but not political; he "dreamed" of having the power of regulating or "governing" the function of the university at large scale, of being a leader in accordance to the Nazis' ideological Führerprinzip, the principle of leadership (see Olson 1994: 8; Ehrlich 1994: 33 - 34, 39 and Rockmore 1994: 102). Thus, it is not a surprise that the Nazis put down Heidegger when they did not need him anymore, as they did not want rebels, but subordinated men to realize their ideological goals. Jaspers acknowledged Heidegger's "profound dissatisfaction with what German university had become [...] He, too, had become convinced by the need for radical renewal [of the university] [and confessed that] He, too, was fascinated by the Führer principle" (Harries 1994: 55). The difference was that Heidegger's conceiving of the Führerprinzip was one of "authority as being absolute", whereas Jaspers' conceiving was one of the leader being regulated by something outside himself, a "disinterested authority", in order to "prevent a misuse of freedom" (Ehrlich 1994: 34; see ibid.: 38 - 39).

In fact, Heidegger believed that the ideal of National Socialism in correlated with his fundamental ontology was the right way for one to pursue, but this philosophical naivety masked the complete incompetence of Heidegger of political affairs. After Heidegger's "misstep" in politics, a "process of 'disenchantment' was in motion" between Heidegger and Jaspers (Kirkbright 2004: 137). This was due to "Heidegger's personal and political irresponsibility, and of Heidegger's turning toward Nazism as founded in Heidegger's philosophy" (Rockmore 1994: 101). His critics, in this vein, saw this event as a grand "inauthenticity" and a "loss of touch with reality": an "act of cowardice" (L. Ehrlich) and something "demonic" (P. Tillich) (Carr 1996: 453).

In contrast, Jaspers was critical of the Nazis, but remained politically not involved until the end of the Second World War in 1945: "Jaspers was no longer a philosophical outsider, but had become the 'Preceptor Germaniae' of a new postwar Germany, the public advocate of moral reversal and a repudiation of the 'national state thinking' that had characterized previous generations of German philosophers" (Rabinbach 1996: 16). After that, Jaspers underwent a metamorphosis and switched to political affairs and political philosophy. He wrote several books on political philosophy (Jaspers 1946/2000, 1948, 1952, 1957a, 1957b, 1958/1973, 1963, 1966, 1967), participated in radio and television broadcasts: "[...] Jaspers continued to lead by example. He taught philosophy seminars, gave public lectures, and published essays and books on important issues such as political freedom. In reward for all his services to German intellectual and political life, Jaspers received the 1947 Goethe Prize, a highly prestigious award" (Clark 2002: 214). He was a "conventional moralist" (Olson 1994: 7; my emphasis). After the war, he was appointed by the Americans as honorary senator of the University of Heidelberg. Jaspers believed in communication as truth, as well as in humanism and democracy. He focused on two major issues: German guilt and the renewal and "metamorphosis" of the university; Jaspers was unequivocal that "[...] Germany can only return to itself when we Germans find each other in communication" (Rabinbach 1996: 16, 20; my emphasis).

Jaspers became a "German Patriarch": "This realm, in which Jaspers is at home and to which he has opened the ways for us, does not lie in the beyond and is not utopian; it is not of yesterday nor of tomorrow; it is of the present and of this world. Reason has created it and freedom reigns in it. It is not something to locate and organize; it reaches into all the countries of the globe and into all their pasts. And although it is worldly, it is invisible. It is the realm of humanitas, which everyone can come to out of his own origins. Those who enter it recognize one another, for then they are "like sparks, brightening to a more luminous glow, dwindling to invisibility, alternating and in constant motion. The sparks see one another, and each flames more brightly because it sees others" and can hope to be seen by them" (Arendt 1955/1968: 80; emphasis in the original). However, his efforts to transform the university as a realization of the idealistic form of Humboldt's definition of knowledge as an end in itself and not as mere means, were not fruitful: "It was not the acrimony of the first few months, but the apathy with which the majority of Germans responded to their guild - especially after 1946 - that most disturbed Jaspers [...] he was also beginning to sense a fundamental unwillingness among his countrymen to undertake the necessary re-examination [...] he was still concerned about the inability or refusal of Germans to confront the past, to accept responsibility for the catastrophe and to undergo a fundamental moral renewal" (Clark 2002: 213, 215).

And, after several years of hard work, Jaspers realized that "this would not work", as people themselves did not want to change so dramatically and acknowledge their personal guilt. Thus, perhaps deeply disappointed and saddened by his German people, he departed from his fatherland and moved in 1948 to Basel, Switzerland, from where he continued to be politically active, even from a distance: "He also continued to keep up with and comment publicly on the situation in Germany, but the intense period of engagement was over" (ibid.: 215). It became clear that despite his heroic efforts, he failed to achieve a solution for either of the two major problems - the accepting of German guilt (accompanied by a "purification of the soul") and the transformation of the university à la Humboldt. And, instead of respect and acknowledgment for his efforts, as "He had done what he could in Germany, given his age, health and reputation" (ibid.: 215), after his emigration to Switzerland critical voices started to appear: "Many in German press accused him of being a 'traitor' and, now, a 'deserter'. He had claimed to represent the 'better Germany'. Now he was abandoning the misery of current German situation for the easier life in Switzerland. He had given the German youth a glimpse of what Germany could be; now this 'praeceptor Germaniae' was leaving them to fend for themselves" (ibid.: 216; emphasis in the original).

Concerning the abrupt breach of communication between the two thinkers in 1933, Jaspers wrote the following: "When in 1945 the danger of National Socialist censorship had passed, I waited for a letter from you that would explain what I could not comprehend. Since in 1933, without explanation, you stopped meeting me and finally broke off all communication with me, I hope that you would initiate a completely open exchange that had only now become possible" (Harries 1994: 56 -57; my emphasis). Jaspers dreamed of a "rare philosophical friendship" (Rockmore 1994: 96).The outcome of their communication ended into a bitter dissatisfaction for Jaspers, who wrote that "What was unbearable, objectively and humanly, was that after 1945, like a coward, he [Heidegger] simply absented himself" (ibid.: 57). Later, in 1950, Heidegger confessed that "I did not visit your house since 1933, not because a Jewish woman lived there, but because I was simply ashamed" (Harries 1994: 61; Oliver 1994: 73). Jaspers compares Heidegger with a "dreaming boy who didn't know what he was doing, who replaced reality with wishful thinking and then faced a rubble heap and allowed himself to drift" (ibid.). However, in his attempt to understand Heidegger Jaspers made a mistake so that "[...] it was his negative judgment on Heidegger as a person that precluded his full access to Heidegger's thought" (Oliver 1994: 69).

In contrast, Heidegger fell silent after the war and only acknowledged his political "misstep", but did not get involved into politics at all: "In postwar Germany Heidegger's silence was a political statement: that Heidegger chose silence, while Jaspers spoke often, and to as broad a public as possible, is of enormous political significance" (Rabinbach 1996: 15 - 16; my emphasis). In fact, the more he continued to be silent, the more his fame of philosopher grew. Here it is important to mention that Jaspers contributed to a "decisive report on Heidegger, which was the basis for the decision to remove Heidegger from the university" [because of his involvement with the Nazis during his rectorship at the University of Freiburg] (Rockmore 1994: 98). The opposite was true for Jaspers' Existenzphilosophie.  "If mentioned [at all today], Jaspers tends to be treated as a marginal figure in twentieth century existentialism. This was not always the case. During the 1960s, Jaspers was the most widely read philosopher in Germany - exceeding Heidegger and Adorno. He contributed and often initiated public debates concerning pressing issues including the question of German guilt, the atomic bomb, reunification and the rebuilding of the University system [...] This political engagement might have contributed to Jaspers's image of being a popular writer and public intellectual rather than an original philosopher" (Wenning 2020: 153).    



            Our recent past and present are characterized by the phenomenon of global boundary situation, namely a state of affairs in the world the consequences of which affect and challenge us all to one degree or another. Therefore, the present moment is such that boundary situations are no longer confined only to a particular individual, but now they encompass the whole of mankind and are thus characterized by the multiplicity of all individuals, possessing additional properties, i. e. this is a relatively new phenomenon. The old saying that "new problems require new solutions" is thus confirmed. This phenomenon is an urgent and fateful problem, which is in a need of a complete resolution. Insofar as it is global, its discussion is performed at an international level through political discourse. The approach applied to a discussion significantly contributes to the final outcome.

In this paper, I used the Heidegger-Jaspers friendship and professional academic relationship as an example of a failure in existential and philosophical communication that undermined the possibility to create a common political philosophy by these two giants of thought, as well as the possibility of a constructive critical and intimate dialogue on the subject of political philosophy. Both thinkers failed in their endeavors, which were individualistic, and they did not benefit from their personal friendship and professional academic relationship as a possibility to improve and to augment their ideas and thus alter the results of the practical implementation of these very ideas. By being "philosophical rivals" they did not put sufficient efforts in order to achieve an existential communication and philosophical sincerity. The result was that they did not create a common truth in the sense of Jaspers through mutual and sincere efforts aimed at a single goal. Therefore, they failed three-fold, once in their personal communication, once in the comprehension of their existential philosophies and once in their political involvement.

Albeit being titans of thought, Heidegger and Jaspers were also human beings just like us and therefore were subjected to all weaknesses of man's essence; it could be said that they were "defeated by destiny" in their predestination. In the second part of this paper, I will present the professional (academic) appreciation of their own philosophical projects by the two philosophers and provide additional discussion on their political involvement. The second part will be concluded with a hypothetical explanation of how their communication failed and the perspectives of what could have been accomplished in both politics and philosophy, if the circumstances had unfolded differently.     



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