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Екзистенциална комуникация и политически дискурс по време на глобални гранични ситуации

Петър Радоев Димков

Институт по философия и социология, Българска академия на науките, София

1. Introduction

Present-day mankind lives in turbulent times, which Karl Jaspers defined as “boundary situations” or, more specifically, “global boundary situations”. Such situations impact the actual existential possibilities of the being human and, therefore, its future destiny. They either lead to an aggravated crisis of identity/personality (boundary situation) or, when philosophically elucidated, guide one towards an ascension of one's genuine selfhood or Existenz (the metaphysical soul). They prepare one, through both creative solitude and readiness for free authentic self-expression and personal commitment, aiming at achieving freedom to exercise the required open-mindedness and courage for entering publicity in a search for authentic existential communication. Jaspers, therefore, considers entering publicity as essential for the realization and actualization of possible Existenz, resulting in the breakthrough of Existenz in the world and the manifestation of its freedom. Further involvement in publicity could lead one to enter politics, driven by solidarity and empathy to contribute to the well-being and the maintenance of freedom among his people.

The figure of the political leader is a classic example. Thus, the following question arises: Is it possible that Existenz can endure a career in politics at all? Finding the answer is the purpose of the current inquiry. In the literature, there are two oppositional viewpoints concerning the very possibility of establishing existential communication in political discourse: “for” (Jaspers 1958/1973; Walters 1988a, 1988b; Hinchman & Hinchman 1991; Salamun 2008; see Jaspers 1932/1970: 90-93; Thornhill 2002/2006, 2005, 2012) and “against” (Jaspers 1932/1970; Wallraff 1970; Schrag 1971; Young-Bruehl 1981; Huber 1988: 402, 407; Hinchman & Hinchman 1991: 448-450; Thornhill, 2002/2006). In this vein, there are some major problematic issues with the relation between Existenz and politics: Jaspers’ political philosophy views entering into politics, which is public par excellence, as directly destructive for Existenz. Because, instead of existential communication, in politics reign all its opposites, such as deception, falsehood and manipulation. Thus, Existenz faces many dangers and risks during its search for genuine communication, such as complete dissatisfaction and a complete communicative breach. In addition, Jaspers, as medical doctor and true “physician of culture” (Chatterjee 1988: 101), describes the dialectical dynamical life of Existenz in health and disorder. Politics, for Existenz, he concludes, is pathogenic.

The opposition Existenz – political life could be placed on a single continuum, in which existential communication and its means are placed as diametrically opposite to political discourse and its means: "Continuum – Concealment/Elucidation". Thus, while publicity is a prerequisite, political involvement and activity are strict contradictions for realizing and actualizing possible Existenz and its freedom.

Nonetheless, Jaspers defines a person as one who might achieve existential communication in politics. This person, however, is a highly exceptional one and, therefore, very rare. He is the great statesman. The great statesman, influenced to a great extent by Weber's charismatic personality in politics, achieves communication but also, by his very nature, makes a consciously aware use of Jaspers' conception of an Existential Reason (Thornhill 2005, 2012). Instead of formal education, he uses his natural giftedness to rule his people. He converts himself into a means: the great statesman personally and wholly existentially commits himself to the cause to succeed in his endeavors: the continuous processes of resolving social problems and crises. To this end, he educates the use of Existential Reason by his very example, always open to any critical feedback. Jaspers' conception of politics, viewed from his existential philosophy, still keeps its actuality and relevance today.


2. Global Boundary Situations

Despite the enormous technological progress, mankind is still facing multiple crises of different kinds at once, giving rise to a single all-encompassing global boundary situation. The life of man as a "being-in-a-situation" is, therefore, a situational life (Jaspers 1931/1957: 23-32; 1932/1970: 178; see Munier 1993: 75). A boundary situation is such one in which one finds oneself existentially pressed (threatened) from all sides, all personal values and the very essence of the meaning of life are questioned by an all-reaching doubt, resulting in the case, in which one's efforts are put into use to a full extent. The result is a reaching of an upper limit, above which any experience is impossible for man, as it is "a-presented"; a fact which points out towards an "incapacity" of ours, which is simultaneously also an opening or a non-disclosure of the being of man, thus revealing the limit, behind which faith in Transcendence is lies (Bornemark 2006: 57). The life of man, for Jaspers, is by definition an idiosyncratic boundary situation:


Awakening to myself, in my situation, I raised the question of being. Finding myself in the situation as an indeterminate possibility, I must search for being if I want to find my real self. But it is not till I fail in this search for intrinsic being that I begin to philosophize. This is what we call philosophizing on the ground of possible Existenz, and the method used is transcending (Jaspers, 1932/1969: 45; italics in the original; see Latzel 1957: 184-185, 195-196 and Jaspers 1919/1960).


Such situations are characterized by excessive psychic tension and represent largely negative experiences: "One's plan for how life should be fails utterly, or at least does so in some key aspect" (Fuchs 2013: 3). If used rationally, this tension could be constructive for the replacement of the foundering of one's worldview with a new one, but it could be destructive as well; it could make man fall apart. According to Munier, these situations lead to either a "dropout into the objective world or the subjective desert" (Munier 1993: 28; my translation and italics).

According to Jaspers, the worldview is a kind of "shell" under the incessant influence and impact of all changes in man's inner and outer world (Jaspers 1919/1960; see Bornemark 2006: 63-64). It contains a number of active mechanisms for psychic defense in the Freudian sense, which allow the securing of the existence of the individual in its continuous attempt to achieve temporary equilibrium with the world (Freud 1937/1983). If a decompensation occurs due to overload, the worldview, never being perfect in itself, suffers an inevitable foundering despite the frantic attempts of the individual to resist the attack: "[the] fundamental antinomical structure of Dasein [as well as the] contradictions of life that one cannot remove and can only speciously overcome, and which in the end one must simply live with" (Fuchs 2013: 2).

Thus, this "sincere" foundering, firstly, reaches the upper limit of the possible existential human experience, and, secondly, when the worldview disintegrates, the individual faces ultimate questions, as well as struggles, choices, and decision-makings to continue one's existence: "Boundary situations block me without me being able to control them [sic] they are walls, in which we crash [sic] the situation [however] appeals not towards an end, but to a leap, an adventure, a gamble" (Munier 1993: 40-41, 138; my translation and italics). In the struggle against the disintegration of the worldview, the individual mobilizes and actualizes, respectively, all powers at his disposal. Jaspers, nonetheless, is categorical in that the individual always founders (see Dimkov 2021: 140).

It is precisely due to the element of personal and unique variety that any boundary situation is not entirely understandable to every external individual because there is a subjective element of consciousness inherent to the experiencing individual himself, which is valid only through his commitment and from his perspective and worldview (Olson 1979: 21). This variety characterizes the types of outcomes from the experience of the boundary situation as well (Jaspers 1919/1960). Not all persons experience such situations (Jaspers, cited in Latzel 1957: 180, 185, 188; see Dimkov 2021: 139, 141, 456). According to Fuchs, only individuals with an inborn or acquired "existential vulnerability" could experience a boundary situation (Fuchs, 2013). In summary, these situations lead to an "expansion of awareness and self-awareness, a heightened sense of individual freedom and possibility that for Jaspers characterizes Existenz" (Michelman 2008: 196; italics and bold in the original).

Jaspers himself provides the following classification consisting of the "classical" boundary situations: struggle, suffering, death, guilt and chance (Jaspers 1932/1970: 190-217), as well as the so-called 1) "historical determinacy" and 2) "questionableness of all existence" (Wallraff 1970: 143-150, 158-162; see Crene 1947: 393 and Latzel 1957: 195-196). Other types include the following: "foundering" (Portuondo 2016: 55), "failure" (Ally 2000: 132), "time" (Campos-Winter 2020: 113), "Sosein" (Strenger 2011: 91, 93), "coincidence" (Schulz 2012: 176), "trauma" (Fuchs 2013: 3), "grief" (George 2017), "conflict" (Wallraff 1970: 150-158) and "neurosis" (Jaspers 1959/1997: 330).

In the secondary literature review, the term global boundary situation(s), as an elaborated conception, was not found. The same is true for Jaspers' oeuvres. Nonetheless, some authors use it, even if it is very implicitly, such as K. Salamun (Salamun 1990: 227). In principle, the individuals who experience such situations always founder because any success, even if present, is always a temporary and short-lived occurrence. Thus, foundering and success are conceived here as identical possibilities for a constructive but ephemeral "resolution" of a boundary situation. In this way, boundary situations themselves for Existenz are represented as a peculiar crossroad towards either an ascent or a fall. Only thus does one acquire and "achieve" one's selfhood (Existenz).

The same is true for Jaspers' conception of existential communication, in which two Existenzen act as stimuli for one another, thus appealing to a "phenomenological" manifestation of the self of the communicative partner, but also of their one. Jaspers is firm that such communication emerges exclusively from "communicative sparks" between personalities that have endured "enough" dissatisfaction and disappointment in their endeavors and communications, in addition to the sensitization/habituation to the current dynamics of one's contemporary life, as well as the limitations of the conditions of the environment.

Jaspers speaks of a "creativity" in communication (O'Conner 1988: 83, 85) and a "readiness" to enter into boundary situations (Schrag 1971: 133), as well as an initiation of existential communication after an experience of a boundary situation (Fuchs 2013). Today, the global boundary situations affect a big part of the population on Earth, giving rise to two intersubjective vs. global levels: ascension or fallenness. Such global crises are strongly dependent on the current status of economics and politics and the struggle for existence within the so-called world orientation; as such, they are classified as highly risky. Nonetheless, if one acquires conscious awareness of them and achieves an "overcome", they contain a seed of freedom, awareness, and authentic communication. They might lead to a higher stability of one's worldview.

As a personification of publicity and historicity, the political discourse should provide conditions for a successful struggle for selfhood, existential freedom, and self-awareness. Unfortunately, there is data that political discourse nowadays uses the means of sophistry, which is diametrically opposite to existential communication. Not only politics itself is compromised but people also have no conception of democracy as an idea of Reason and thus of existential freedom, which is prior to the political one. Therefore, they represented two opposites, which could be placed on a single continuum: Continuum of "Concealment-Elucidation". The location depends on the number of active psychic defenses at the given moment. Jaspers, however, concludes that, despite the high risk, the individual must seek publicity because it is theoretically defined as fundamental to the struggle for selfhood. If the risk is too high, then the struggle is senseless. The cases of the politician and the statesman are peculiar, as, according to Jaspers, politics is directly destructive to Existenz due to its falsehood, lack of existential freedom, and inauthenticity.

In what follows, I will sketch both situations: 1) publicity and 2) politics/political discourse. To this end, I will provide a short conceptual analysis of the dynamics of the life of Existenz and the conception of Existential Communication, as elaborated in Jaspers' philosophy. Jaspers himself devoted little space to the concept of the "great statesman", and at the end of my exposition, I will provide a perspective outline for its further elaboration and elucidation as a valuable conception for political philosophy, existential philosophy, phenomenological philosophy and philosophical pedagogy.


3. Existential Communication

The conception of "existential communication" as a function of Existenz plays a central role as early as Jaspers' "Philosophie" (1932), but it is discussed and elaborated in other oeuvres of his, as well as in the secondary literature (Jaspers 1951/1964: 25-27; 1957a: 77-106; 1932/1969: 61, 70, 92, 154-156, 244, 246, 297; 1932/1970: 47-103, 360-382; see Kaufmann 1957; Wallraff 1970: 114-140; Gordon 2000; Peach 2008: 38-39; Miron 2012: 109-125 and Asakavičiūtė & Valatka 2019).

About the general interdisciplinary theory of communication, Jaspers is one of the most authoritative authors who has elaborated on the problem and, at the same time, he is perhaps the most neglected one (see Koterski 1988: 134 and Gordon 2000: 106). Existenz's dialectical dynamics of life trend toward either solipsism or universalism (Jaspers 1932/1970: 56). In Jaspers, the "acquisition" of selfhood and freedom, respectively, is the primary goal of Existenz, and obeys a unique principle: one has to realize/actualize the best possibility from all "virtual" possibilities available, so, in this way, Existenz, as an existential entity, due to its transcendent essence, is phenomenologically manifested in the objective world as nothingness and as such it accompanies all genuine immanent manifestations. To this end, he places existential communication as a means of achieving such actualizations and realizations in the center of man's life (ibid.: 111).

Existential communication essentially represents an exclusively rare event in which the authentic and devoted dialogue between two friends leads to a qualitative leap or a transcending to a new state of conscious awareness and to the actualization of freedom, which provide potential possibilities for the actualization and realization, respectively, of potential Existenzen of both communicative partners. Transcending is sought for Existenz, after being summoned, to respond and perform a "breakthrough" into the phenomenological world, the result being the "phenomenological" manifestation of the transcendent freedom in the objective causally closed world. In this sense, Schrag elaborating on Jaspers, provides the following principle: "As philosophizing beings with wonder, and knowledge of the world beings with doubt, so illumination of Existenz begins with discontent in communication" (Schrag 1971: 133; italics in the original).

The presence of the unpredictable and currently unknown future becomes a perfect environment for the emergence of "communicative sparks" among men (Gordon 2000: 109). Nonetheless, a parallel alternative is always present: a full foundering, a breach, and a rupture of communication. Communication emanates from our origin, the free Existenz, whose foundation is Transcendence (see Jaspers 1953/2010: 221). Jaspers provides the following definition:


[sic] wonder, doubt, the experience of ultimate situations, are indeed sources of philosophy, but the ultimate source is the will to authentic communication, which embraces all the rest. This becomes apparent at the very outset, for does not all philosophy strive for communication, express itself, demand a hearing? And is not its very essence communicability, which is in turn inseparable from truth? Communication then is the aim of philosophy, an in communication all its other aims are ultimately rooted: awareness of being, illumination through love, attainment of peace" (Jaspers 1951/1964: 26-27; my italics; see Jaspers 1932/1970: 103).


Authentically truthful communication, as an idiosyncratic symphilosophizing, is an existential phenomenon. Existenz itself does not have direct access to the world and all other Existenzen, but it has an indirect one through the three immanent modes of the Encompassing that man, as a whole, is, namely: 1) existence (Dasein), 2) consciousness-as-such (Bewusstsein uberhaut/Verstand) and 3) spirit (Geist) (Jaspers 1932/1970: 61, 100; cf. Jaspers 1932/1970: 63, 102; see Dimkov 2021). This collective philosophizing consists exclusively of appealing to each Existenz, not only of the individual subject himself but also of his communicative partner. Thus, communication and freedom are intertwined: "To freedom pertains authentic communication, which is more than contact, compact, sympathy, community of interests and enjoyment" (Jaspers 1953/2010: 220). Therefore, the "acquisition" of selfhood or Existenz is identical to the manifestation of freedom or free will. Existential communication does not result in an objective and universal knowledge but rather in an alteration of subjective awareness in which one becomes not only conscious of his existential freedom, a peculiar sensual experience, a kind of spatiotemporal vortex, an "eternity in the present".


3. 1. Existential Communication and Existential Elucidation

Existential communication represents the collective analog of Jaspers' "existential elucidation" and an attempt for its "translation", sharing, and communication with others. Debate is positioned as the most authentic form of existential communication: "Possible Existenz enters into a debate to clarify the meaning of its own faith and will" (Jaspers 1932/1970: 89; my italics; see ibid.: 88ff). There are, however, "overpowering" prerequisites for its realization, such as the so-called "state of readiness" and "creative solitude" (Jaspers 1932/1970: 53-54, 56). According to Jaspers:


Wherever our philosophizing has touched the bottom of its reality [sic] The unobjectifiable measure of the truth of all philosophizing is always the communication which it effects and elucidates [sic] When everything breaks down for me, when I am stripped of whatever claimed to be valid and valuable, I keep the human beings I communicate with or can possibly communicate with. And only with them do I keep what to me is intrinsic being" (Jaspers 1932/1970: 103; italics in the original).


According to Gordon, these prerequisites are placed too high because "If either is unwilling or unable to sustain the inherent risks involved, a breach or rupture of interdependent existential communication will occur" (Gordon 2000: 114). When such a situation does occur, Jaspers speaks of a "loss of authentic Being" (Jaspers 1932/1970: 54-55, 97; see Gordon 2000 and Miron 2012: 17).


3. 2. Existential Communication: Truth and Creativity

In principle, selfhood or Existenz is "acquired" in existential communication (and also in boundary situations and the so-called reading of the cipher language of Transcendence). Truth is "forged" and realized solely in communication and, in this way, it directly provides life with meaning (Jaspers 1951/1964: 26; see Ehrlich 1988: 95, 97-98 and Gordon 2000: 112). Subsequently, one might reach an understanding that he needs the others in order to actualize and realize, respectively, the potential possibilities of his own Existenz and move from awareness to self-awareness (Jaspers 1953/2010: 171) and from consciousness to self-consciousness (Miron 2012: 117), respectively.

This communication represents exchange and a discussion of personal existential elucidations and truths, but ones which are subjective and unique, having meaning only from within the perspective of the first-person subjectivity; they demand one's entire personal commitment to the "procedure" of "self-determination": "[sic] the communication of truth that draws the individual into the realization of Existenz" (Ashman & Lawler, cited in Asakavičiūtė & Valatka 2019: 133; my italics). As such, these truths are not characterized as bearing any universal "objective" value and validity; they have somewhat an enormous existential and philosophical significance to the individual because they elucidate the subject-object relation and lead to an increase of sensitivity, resulting in a "greater sense of Being" (Gordon 2000: 110). Jaspers defines existential communication also as a "loving struggle" (Jaspers 1932/1970: 59-61; see Asakavičiūtė & Valatka 2019: 133): "In communication I am revealed to myself, along with the other" (ibid.: 58; see ibid.: 50, 52-55, 58-59, 71; cf. Schrag 1971: 133).

It is a struggle, but one motivated by love, because in every possible momentum, in each of us, there lurks the danger of degradation of one's personality into the experience of the everyday world, where the antagonists of existential communication, namely self-deception and self-forgetfulness, reign ultimately. Thus, one struggles continuously against an appearance of any eventual sabotage in both himself and the other, which might lead to degradation into the world of Dasein (or existence), while simultaneously loving him. In this way, Jaspers derives the following regularity: "[a] thought is philosophically true to the extent to which its thinking promotes communication" (Jaspers 1932/1970: 97; italics in the original).

According to O'Conner, existential communication is characterized by a creative element (O'Conner 1988: 83, 85). The latter relates to the available possibilities for self-actualization and self-realization of potential Existenz. They result in a "coming to oneself" (coming to Existenz, grounded in Transcendence): "Communication is "transformational" in that it acts-out the core creational act of birthing formlessness into symbolic and material form [sic] In this sense communication could be said to be synchronous with the creative force of Being" (Gordon 2000: 110; my italics; see Schrag 1971: 134).


3. 3. Dangers That Any Existential Communication Faces

In principle, existential communication is always risky. The first danger is the manifestation and the presence of existential freedom, which usually leads to unrest, disquietude, and anxiety (Angst) (Jaspers 1932/1970: 57; see Jaspers 1953/2010: 211). The second one is related to the fact that, in order to actualize and realize one's selfhood, man must take risks; he must exit his comfort zone to enter the public world to search for potential existential communication; and all related dangers, as well as the failure of such endeavors, stem from this fact (Jaspers 1932/1970: 58-59, 63; see ibid.: 74; 1951/1964; 1971: 133). Thirdly, communication itself is apparently "without a direct goal" and is characterized by an "incessant insufficiency" (Jaspers 1932/1970: 93). These dangers, according to Jaspers, lead to two kinds of nihilism, of which only the positive one might eventually be transformed into a stimulus for a re-evaluation and a self-criticism of one's life, a procedure of catching up to the present moment (Olson 1988: 372), not aiming at disappointment and helplessness, but at perspectives for learning from one's mistakes during a process of a complete revision of one's current worldview.

Jaspers speaks of deficits, raptures, withdrawals, failures, negations, and impossibilities, but the most critical negative side of existential communication represents the fear of communicative breach (Jaspers 1932/1970: 66-82; see ibid.: 74-82, 95-97; Kaufmann 1957: 214-216 and Wallraff 1970: 114-140). Wallraff, for example, has provided a relatively detailed list of the means through which the rupture or the breach in communication occurs, the ways, which it could take towards the deceiving, the dishonest, the false and the inauthentic: "Everything is artificial, affected, contrived, false, and misleading [sic] if he represses all such awareness he leaves himself open to the possibility of a shattering catastrophe" (Wallraff 1970: 120; see ibid.: 114-140). All these perverted apparitions disappear before the "lucidity of will" and the "faith in freedom" which essentially treat the question of the "[sic] readiness to renunciation and compromise, to mutual sacrifice, to the self-limitation of power" (Jaspers 1953/2010: 211-212; see ibid.: 169-170 and Jaspers 1957b: 786).


4. Existential Communication and Political Discourse

4. 1. Politics and Philosophy

Jaspers was a prolific author; he analyzed the problems of political philosophy, crucial to the times he lived in, by elucidating the relation, the interdependence, and the interpenetration between politics and philosophy (Jaspers 1931/1957; 1932/1969; 1932/1970; 1946/2000; 1948; 1952; 1953/2010; 1957a; 1957b; 1958/1973; 1963; 1966; 1967). Jaspers was inspired mainly by Max Weber, a German sociologist and his friend, and his supplementary conceptions of the "ethics of responsibility" and the "charismatic political leader" about the formation of Jaspers' conception of the "great statesman" (Jaspers 1957a: 55-57; 1964; Young-Bruehl 1981: 41-42; Aron 1988: 226-229; Walters 1988b: 248; Derman 2008; Dege 2020).

According to Jaspers, each man is heavily dependent and, subsequently, significantly influenced by the current state of international global politics and economics (Jaspers 1957b: 753; 1986: 402-403). Additionally, he was firmly convinced that there exist intimate relations between politics and philosophy:


1) "[Sic] philosophy is not without politics nor without political consequences [sic] No great philosophy is without political thought" (Jaspers 1957a: 70).

2) "Philosophy which does not become political is not genuine philosophy" (Jaspers, cited in Walters 2008: 125).

3) "[Sic] the political world is affected by the "unconditionality of Existenz and ideas"" (ibid.: 128; my italics).

4) "Only political freedom can make authentic human beings of us" (Jaspers, cited in Young-Bruehl 1981: 69; see Huber 1988: 403).

5) "Political thinking is that is tied to existential elucidation and metaphysics is of a scope similar to that of what Nietzsche called "great politics"" (Young-Bruehl 1981: 40).


In this vein, according to Freeman, "[sic] a politics of authenticity presupposes the communication to another the nature of one's Existenz" (Freeman 1983: 310; emphasis in the original). This exact relation Jaspers justifies with, politically speaking, what he defines as a "supra-political element", one which consists of the "philosophical" element in politics (see Jaspers 1958/1973 and Huber 1988: 407). Jaspers links politics and philosophy, the primary existential freedom, and the derivational secondary political freedom. Therefore, each political discourse is existential by definition (see Young-Bruehl 1981: 69). For Jaspers, however, Existenz and its existential freedom are the fundamental primes compared to politics and political freedom (Walters 1988a: 159; 1988b: 238).

Political discourse in Jaspers is part of the world orientation and the struggle for existence representing the core of politics; they could be elucidated by an explicit political analysis (Young-Bruehl 1981: 44). Mere existence (Dasein) is indifferent to truth. In contrast, Existenz is the struggle for selfhood, truth, and freedom. This dyad – a struggle for existence versus a struggle for selfhood – has to remain exact so that the ideal of democracy might be implemented and realized empirically (Jaspers 1953/2010: 198). The struggle for existence in the face of politics should not become an end in itself but has to remain a prerequisite or a transition towards the struggle for selfhood; otherwise, it would undergo a metamorphosis into a struggle by force instead of the so-called "loving struggle" between Existenzen (Walters 1988b: 242-243). Therefore, to initiate such a struggle, Existenz must become public and creative (O'Conner 1988: 116).

The actualization of the struggle by force within the framework of the struggle for existence is its counterpart. The intellect (Verstand) operates within this struggle for existence, whereas Reason (Vernunft) – is within the struggle for selfhood (Aron 1988: 234). Jaspers, however, is not straightforward and provides two diametrically opposite conceptions of what happens when Existenz enters publicity and politics, respectively (Hinchman & Hinchman 1991: 447). The first stance is in Kantian spirit: politics is disastrous for Existenz. The second stance is in Hegelian spirit: potential Existenz must become public to find possibilities for self-actualization and self-realization. These two complement each other so that, for Jaspers, publicity is mandatory, whereas any inclination toward politics is discouraged. In this vein, Thornhill argues that the later Jaspers actually encouraged political involvement and activity as well (Thornhill 2002/2006; see Thornhill 2005, 2012).


4. 2. Politics and its Perversions

According to Jaspers, the involvement and the participation of Existenz in the so-called "old", "dishonest" or "bad" politics, in contrast to the so-called "new" or "grand" politics, is destructive. The only possible outcome is the degradation of Existenz into one of the immanent (everydayness) modes of the Encompassing, particularly existence (Dasein). This type of an old politics is characterized by: cheating, dishonesty, manipulation, concealment, taking the opposite stance, purposeful sophist argumentation, guilt, inauthenticity, untruth, falseness, et cetera – all of which lead to a situation of an "inescapable guilt of untruthfulness" (Jaspers 1932/1970: 91; see ibid.: 90-93, 328-329; 1932/1971: 198-199 and 1958/1973: 6, 13, 17, 20, 23, 26, 30, 44, 108, 152-154, 188, 211-212, 237-240, 312, 332, 334).

Even nowadays, politics does use such forms of sophistry, which Jaspers described at length in his "Man in Modern Age" (1931): incessant perversion, veiling of connections, aiming at the nothingness and lively faith in this fact, radical dissatisfaction, non-existential irony, lack of a solid personal character and mercy, dishonesty, intellectualism, self-forgetfulness, irresponsibility, a complete metamorphosis into the opposite, a passion for empty discussion, playing oneself as an enemy of this very self, manipulative changing of perspectives, moving the debate on another plane, rationalization, purposeful transformation of everything unsatisfactory into its very antithesis, use of the self-forgetfulness of the other person, et cetera (Jaspers 1931/1957: 182-185; see Jaspers 1932/1970: 97-100 and Baehr 2013: 20).

Nonetheless, besides this fact, politics must leave the door open for any existential readiness for communication (ibid.: 90) because, if not, then "[sic] spirit becomes impotent, the power evil" (Jaspers 1953/2010: 172). If politics does degrade, if the struggle for existence becomes an end in itself, then it is transformed into a mere "spiritless struggle for power – in self-assertion through the breaking-off of communication with 'irreducible' demands – in the urge to destruction" (ibid.: 211).

According to Schrag, political discourse provides excellent examples of breaches elucidating authentic communication among particular and individual Existenzen. He describes and defines them by three main capacities: cleverness, maneuvering, and compromise (Schrag 1971: 139). Sophistry here is dominating completely. In reality, however, to ""Existenz" which, of course, involves sincerity, autonomy, honesty, and authenticity, this is insupportable" (Wallraff 1970: 122; my italics), because any genuine and authentic political discourse is permeated by antinomity (Thornhill 2012: 315; see Thornhill 2005, 2012).

Jaspers is categorical that "In the face of might and force there must be no self-deception" because "Without faith we are left with the understanding, mechanistic thinking, the irrational and ruin" (Jaspers 1953/2010: 171, 220).

As mentioned, all these "tricks" or "formal procedures" of the old politics are unbearable to Existenz. In the worst-case scenario, they lead to a genuine disintegration of language, a complete breach in communication and dialogue (Hegel 1952/1977: 560; see Wallraff 1970: 122). Thus, in authentic politics, on the contrarily:


The end of genuine politics suspends the interest for politics; but real politics is possible only if the result is effectuated through the persuasion of others by discourse pro and con, in which the education of public consciousness takes place by means of a free combat of minds" (Jaspers 1957a: 57).


4. 3. The Dialectical Life of Existenz: Health and Disorder

In his psychiatric magnum opus, "General Psychopathology" (1913), Jaspers discusses the dynamics of the life of Existenz from the perspective of medicine and health. He argues: "The person wants a transparent vision of what he really is in his concrete reality" (Jaspers 1959/1997: 329). In this vein, he conceives of the dialectical life of Existenz as consisting of the following:


The pure soul can truly live in this tension: to be tirelessly active in the world on behalf of what is possible in the face of total destruction [sic] But what is true in the face of death, in extremity, turns into a dangerous temptation if fatigue, impatience, despair drive man to plunge into it prematurely (Jaspers 1986: 408).


He also provides a "methodology of existential risk-taking" in the search for the trinity of true Being, truth, and freedom: "[sic] we must not flinch from struggle [sic] we must risk failure [sic] we must always have the will to achieve the reality and not to fail" (Jaspers 1932/1970: 333). This search is necessitated 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; my italics).

Continuity and stability, according to Jaspers, lead apodictically to foundering, that is, to boundary situations; life and reality as such are struggles. Men search for adventures, even when facing the constancy of change. Life, for Jaspers, is a boundary situation; conflicts are inevitable; struggle is inevitable; suffering is inevitable; guilt is inevitable; death is inevitable. The struggle is a "creative factor in this restless process, a factor by which man is made and molded" (Jaspers 1932/1970: 327).

Therefore, the essential characteristic of man is his "ability to confront nihilism to envisage the outlines of what might be termed a post-nihilistic world" (Olson 1988: 375; see ibid.: 376). Nonetheless, the situation of the individual man, in principle, life itself, is a struggle, an encounter, a creation; situations of struggle are a "breaking against the world, adapting to it, learning and getting to know it [sic] Life is realisation through the process of creation and adaptation, through struggles and resignations, compromise and fresh efforts at integration" (Jaspers 1959/1997: 325-326; my italics). The life of man represents, therefore, a dialectical fusion and a movement of opposites (Jaspers 1959/1997: 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):


Opposites are bound to each other and thus become the source of constant [dialectical] movement [sic] Synthesis [sic] Here the dialectical mode leads to the whole [sic] Middle way [sic] opposites may be linked together for the construction of further wholes [sic] we cannot accomplish such a synthesis [sic] In abnormal circumstances one of these tendencies [choice or synthesis] becomes independent [sic] or else integration does not occur" (ibid.: 341-343; my italics).


Each unity, in turn, dissolves to give life to new unities, new totalities. This process is a never-ending one. Jaspers defines "health" as an equilibrium and a harmony of the whole, that is, the unity of opposites; disharmony is a symptom of a disorder or an illness. Health, in turn, is a function of the unity of opposites. There exist a multitude of individual varieties.

Jaspers relies on the method of "self-reflection". The method of self-reflection was skillfully elaborated, among others, by S. Kierkegaard. Jaspers adopted the terminology and the methodology. It consists in: 1) division of that, which has been connected; clarification of anything unconscious or unclear; 3) freeing of psychic content with a risk of "cutting off the ground from our feet"; and 4) division of subject and object (Jaspers 1959/1997: 347-355; see 1981/1995: 239-254). Jaspers conceived of habits and all types of routinization as being "killers" of the spontaneity of the psyche, the dialectical movement, and the processes of actualization and desactualization of psychic contents. Health is therefore straightforwardly identified with the relation between intention and occurrence.

It appears, however, that Jaspers goes too far, even in the very opposite direction:


In this situation, unable to know the outcome, not knowing what either victory or defeat will ultimately mean, I must fight for my existence; but I cannot seek the fight as such, because even an evil that might have results I desire must not be sought for that reason, and also because no knowledge can tell me beforehand when a fight is sheer evil, and when it is a chance to realize my Existenz. I have no standards to go by and no possibilities of appraisal, since existentiality has no objective, generally valid character. It lies outside the realm of planning. I can plan my fight only as I fight it. No technically calculated action based on knowledge can envision what becomes of man, only a transcendently related sense of fate in the medium of all that is knowable" (Jaspers 1932/1970: 327).


If the risk is too high, the disadvantages would overcome the advantages. Moreover, because one might never be sure about an occurrence of a possibility for self-realization and self-actualization of one's genuine self, one must risk himself many times by entering publicity so that when the chance does occur, he might be able to benefit from it: "But existential philosophy has to keep consciousness free for possibilities. It must call for space and see to it that there will be no loss of tension" (ibid.: 342). Jaspers, in fact, draws one's attention to the following single condition consisting in the prerequisite that only an enduring harmonic and disciplined personality could allow itself to risk entering the realm of politics, being aware of the cost. He defines such an individual as the "great statesman", contrasted with the "professional politician" and the "political leader". Natural giftedness characterizes this man's essence, allowing him to perform the titanic quest of successfully keeping his potential Existenz actualized and realized within political life without suffering a breakdown.


5. Existenz, Existential Communication and Political Discourse

For its safety, it is recommended to Existenz to not enter into politics at all: "[sic] there is no greater tension to which possible Existenz can be subjected as it appears in existence [sic] political intercourse demands specific means [sic] which threaten to overwhelm the realization of possible Existenz at any time" (Jaspers 1932/1970: 91). Politics, therefore, is revealed as a genuine menace to Existenz, as it might cause its degradation to Dasein exclusively, its veiling and making it vanish under a "tranquillized and regulated existence" (ibid.: 93; my italics). In this vein, for Jaspers, there is no delineation line between moral and political guilt (Jaspers 1986: 403). That is why, in principle, Existenz naturally tends to take upon itself any inherent falsehood and guilt resulting as a byproduct of discourse activity.

Subsequently, such guilt could be subjected to elucidation, and then it is regarded as a symbol of growth and overcoming; the process of purification of guilt is the "way of man as man", and leads to freedom (ibid.: 406). In reality, however, Jaspers warns us that it also leads to the awareness that "in everything we are dependent" (Jaspers 1959/1997: 326). Those, who have undergone such a degradation into a "tranquillized and regulated existence", are a mass of people, which maintains and assists the reproduction and the maintenance of both mutual deceptions and self-deceptions, as well as forgetfulness and self-forgetfulness. The "fallen" or "degraded" ones are genuine enemies of Existenz, which is perceived as a disturber of the status quo and, for that reason, is "marked for destruction" (Jaspers 1932/1970: 339).

Strong Freudian mechanisms for psychic defense are functional here, such as denial of objective reality and self-deception, leading to a withdrawal from reality and society, as well as self-isolation tendencies (Jaspers 1959/1997: 328-329; see Dimkov 2019). The result is an escape from reality into the realm of fantasy and imagination, where the individual provides an imaginary satisfaction of his needs and wishes; alternatively, the will as power becomes evil (Jaspers 1953/2010: 172). The conclusion of Jaspers, at this stage, is a definite one; it is based on the complete differentiation between the diametrically opposite goals and motivations of, on the one hand, politics as a struggle for existence and, on the other, Existenz as a struggle for selfhood.

Nonetheless, "[sic] being an existential affair, philosophy is expected to have important effects on the environment both in an ethical and a political sense" (Huber 1988: 405). Moreover, as citizens, human beings (the potential Existenzen) have the continuous task to "find how to be truly human even on the plane of embattled concerns of existence" (ibid.) because "Selfhood [is] trying to achieve orientation – the root of what takes place [here in the world and myself]" (Jaspers 1950/1952). Consequently, man is "recruited" to inquire about "form that can make him aware of his innate, transcendently related being [sic] This struggle is a necessary part of individual existence in human society. Without the threat of it, life is not serious" (Jaspers 1932/1970: 333, 341).

Jaspers also accentuates the role of patience in politics in the form of an "ethical attitude that does not succumb to personal mortifications, that keeps the objective whole always in view, that appraises and distinguishes the essential from the inessential" (Jaspers 1953/2010: 205). In turn, the publicity of the statesman is such that "[sic] the actions of the statesman also stand in need of illumination" (Jaspers 1986: 410). He gives credit to the fact that, in the case of an authentic personality, the personal, as well as the public life is not divided, but rather integrated into a single whole; therefore, when a division occurs, it is because "The splitting of the ethos into private and political morality annuls them both" (ibid.: 417). Man remains what he is, in all the times, without a relevance to a given situation: "[sic] the tenor of political life depends on the choice of responsible, existentially aware individuals about whether or not to participate. If they do, they can raise the level of public discourse and action" (Hinchman & Hinchman 1991: 447; my italics; see Jaspers 1932/1970: 309).

Therefore, politics has its cost, which the individual always pays: "Political freedom always costs something, and sometimes a great deal [sic] Liberty of the self is not curtailed by losses of politically determined justice, as long as a struggle for justice is legally possible" (Jaspers 1953/2010: 166; my italics). In the end, Jaspers, in his analysis, touches upon the role and the importance of creativity in consideration of the essence of our human world: "For it is never perfected; it is always in mutation. New decisions and enterprises are called for. The manner in which the position reached will give birth to fresh situations requiring mastery cannot be foretold" (ibid.: 211; my italics). There is only one prospective outlook ahead – the one of a complete "conversion in our whole way of life" (Winter, cited in Walters 1988b: 249).


6. Continuum "Concealment-Elucidation"

Hypothetically, if the contact with the source of selfhood is inactive, man degrades into the everyday realm of existence (Dasein), the world of self-deception and self-forgetfulness. This state of "fallenness" is identical to the negation of the volition and the freedom of Existenz. Such individuals lead inauthentic lives devoid of any creative and free self-expression. The fallenness and the personal negation are related to the so-called Freudian mechanisms for psychic defense.

A. and S. Freud conceived of the ego as containing defense mechanisms used to maintain the "psychic homeostasis" in norm (Freud 1937/1983; see Boag 2014: 2 and Dimkov 2019). A stable long-term equilibrium is never reached due to the constant interaction of the psyche with increasingly ever-new endogenous and exogenous stimuli. These mechanisms protect the conscious part of the psyche from both strong/excessive or disturbing stimuli/experiences and psychic contents of consciousness, respectively. Their function is twofold: 1) concealment and 2) transformation. The described "strategy" and methods of the ego, therefore, could be situated onto a single continuum: Continuum "Concealment-Elucidation" (see Dimkov 2021).

According to S. Freud, one is considered as healthy in relation to the function of the quantity and the quality (effectiveness) of actual operating psychic defenses. The goal of psychoanalysis is to uncover such hidden contents to clarify them, which, accordingly, is considered the root of all psychic disturbances. Jaspers, himself, a big critic of Freud, is, actually, in line with Freud here because, according to him, existential elucidation and existential communication share the same goal as depth psychology, namely the clarification/elucidation of what is ambiguous in the subjective experience (Jaspers 1963/1964: 43).

According to Jaspers, before attempting to realize one's full potential as potential Existenz, one passes through a series of falsehoods, ambiguities, concealments, and, most notably, terminal foundering. They are used in existential elucidation and existential communication as material for elucidation, which does not yield concrete knowledge but somewhat heightened awareness/conscious awareness and self-awareness. By dissolving, desactualizing, and understanding such illusions, prejudices, ambiguities, falsehoods, deceptions, et cetera, man, in his struggle for selfhood, discovers his unconditional origin – Existenz grounded in Transcendence.

Jaspers connects self-consciousness in the form of self-reflection with freedom and clarity of thought. He speaks of "numerous gradations in freedom" (Jaspers 1953/2010: 199). These gradations or degrees, in accordance with the postulated Continuum, correspond to the degree of conscious awareness, that is, to the lack of ambiguity and the presence of full clarity of thought, as well as the experience of volition as a "feeling of freedom/being free". Thus, they are interrelated and interdependent. Freedom and mental clarity, in turn, are risks for realizing and actualizing selfhood. The experiences of falsehood, unfreedom and inauthenticity might lead to a "fallenness" or a "degradation" into the everyday existence or, conversely, they might serve as a material for exposing of ambiguities, leading in this way to their very diametrically opposites, namely truth, freedom and authenticity.

Falsehood, lack of freedom, and inauthenticity lead to guilt. Guilt, in turn, must be purified, understood, and accepted, as only in this way man could remain true to his genuine self (Existenz). Due to the split nature of man (immanence vs. transcendence) in the form of the so-called subject-object dichotomy/split – the "confusion of the objective world of knowable object with "being as such"" – man is confronted with the question of truth vs. untruth" (Jaspers, cited in Walters 1988b: 234; see Ehrlich 1983). Nonetheless, man is predestined to founder each time, and the cipher of foundering, according to Jaspers' speculative metaphysics and the language of Transcendence, symbolizes to a maximum extent the very mystical essence of man and the ineffability of Transcendence.

Therefore, unaware of the "dynamics of becoming of truth", one eventually ends up struggling with life and finally foundering. Falsehood, in Jaspers, has the positive role of serving as a contrast in man's quest for truth. According to Ehrlich, foundering presents man as "being inadequate to the realization of transcendent truth, and thus as being dependent on the vehicle of untruth" (Ehrlich 1983: 431; see ibid.: 436). In this way, through the process of foundering, the attempt to establish a unity of truth is turned into a "task of self-realization through exercising a will to total communication" (ibid.: 435). If reached, existential communication becomes rational communication in the form of a "loving struggle" for truth and mutual actualization and realization of selfhood. Thus, living adequately, for man, is identical to being free and creative in self-expressing oneself. Jaspers is definitive: man becomes and is what he has made himself.

Foundering is, therefore, not necessarily a negative event. Existential anxiety and existential fear, analogically to falsehood and the confrontation with global boundary situations, might be conceived as an "opportunity to work towards a resolution to the problem" (Jaspers, cited in Walters 1988b: 238-239) and an idiosyncratic "creative fear" – a catalyzer for change (Jaspers 1958/1973: 328). Therefore, for Jaspers, it is necessary to be a founder to win (temporarily). In the end, in seeking actualization and realization, Existenz has to enter publicity and contribute to society at large, even by taking into consideration the risks of failing to establish authentic existential communication, that is, to experience communicative breaches, as well as falling prey to falsehood, lack of freedom, inauthenticity, degradation, and fallenness. Such seeking requires one to continuously elucidate one's own experiences to maintain clarity of thought and the presence of freedom.

For Jaspers, philosophy has political consequences. Furthermore, philosophy as a struggle for selfhood and politics as a struggle for existence co-exist within the figure of the politician and the statesman, respectively. The existential aspect of man must serve and sustain the public one; the existential aspect, therefore, has primacy over the political one. Thus, the private life of the politician/statesman and publicity/politics are intertwined. The lack of morality in political decisions and actions is an indicator of an inherent inner dissociation, which, in the end, leads to "bad" politics. In line with the Continuum, the fate of the statesman is such that he will be subjected to incessant questioning about his doings. The knowledge of his activity and comportment should be available at any time. The elucidation procedure here is twofold: 1) external and 2) internal (personal). It excludes any inner dissociation. In addition, he must also fully commit himself and his time to the tasks of the day. He converts himself into a means to serve socially significant goals. To this end, the statesman marches confidently and directly ahead of everyone, holding the flame of Reason.


7. Conclusion and Outlook: The Future of Mankind

The current analysis concludes that if Existenz remains fixed in the "concealment" sector of the Continuum "Elucidation-Concealment", it founders by necessity, degrades/falls into the immanent everydayness; it ends entrapped and immobilized. Engagement in politics is viewed as destructive to Existenz. Publicity is encouraged, but political involvement is strongly suggested to be avoided as it is directly destructive to Existenz. That is why, according to Jaspers, Existenz is motivated to come back again and again, in its search for selfhood, to publicity to look for a positive outcome of its struggle for selfhood.

The personage of the great statesman is a peculiar case in which existential communication is exerted within the political struggle itself. In this way, Jaspers, as a metaphysician of tolerance, conceives of the middle way as the most adequate for such an endeavor. In this vein, politics as such, as Gatta accentuates, is a boundary situation itself (Gatta 2015). Therefore, the great statesman, by his very natural giftedness of operating with Reason and the methodology of existential elucidation, contrary to his sophistical and demagogical opponents, might not only actualize and realize his Existenz within the struggle for existence, which politics is, but also provide the favorable conditions for the emergence of "communicative sparks", manifestation of existential freedom and eventually – existential communication as a "loving struggle": sincerity, truth, and empathy characterize his speech and attitude.

The great statesman converts himself into a means to achieve socially significant successes. He is an example and indirectly an educator of his people: he educates the use of Reason for establishing existential communication and the breakthrough of the existential freedom of Existenz by providing concrete examples from his praxis. He is an awakener: he awakes in people the idea of democracy, which is itself an idea of Reason. Jaspers is definitive: only existential freedom provides the understanding of the idea of democracy and its subsequent implementation in the world as political and other freedoms.   


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