Interpretation of Being and Transcendence

Posted by Ali Reda | Posted in | Posted on 8/20/2016


Jasper's philosophy has its foundation in an Existential transformation of Kantian philosophy, which reconstructs Kantian transcendentalism as a doctrine of a unique experience and spontaneous freedom, and emphasizes the constitutive importance of lived existence for authentic knowledge. Beginning with modern science and empiricism, Jaspers points out that as we question reality, we confront borders that an empirical (or scientific) method simply cannot transcend (Nietzsche's Nihilism). At this point, the individual faces a choice: sink into despair and resignation (Schopenhauer's nihilism), or take a leap of faith (Kierkegaard) toward what Jaspers calls Transcendence. In making this leap, individuals confront their own limitless freedom, which Jaspers calls Existenz, and can finally experience authentic existence.

What authentic knowing is, was expressed by both in the same way. It is, for them, nothing but interpretation. They also understood their own thought as interpretation. Interpretation, however, reaches no end. Existence, for Nietzsche, is capable of infinite interpretation. What has happened and what was done, is for Kierkegaard always capable of being understood in a new way. As it is interpreted anew, it becomes a new reality which yet is hidden; temporal life can therefore never be correctly understood by men; no man can absolutely penetrate through his own consciousness. In opposition to the philosophy which from Parmenides through Descartes to Hegel said, Thought is Being, Kierkegaard asserted the proposition, as you believe, so are you: Faith is Being. Nietzsche saw the Will to Power. But Faith and Will to Power are mere signa, which do not directly connote what is meant but are themselves capable of endless explication. [RAE] For we possess being only in its interpretations. To speak of it is to interpret it, and only that which is apprehended in speech falls under the head of the knowable. Interpretation implies that the text is not in itself the reality of being but a mode in which being is manifested. Absolute reality cannot be apprehended by any interpretation. Whatever we know is only a beam of light cast by our interpretation into being, or, we might say, the capture of an opportunity for interpretation. The power to make possible all these interpretations must lie in the very nature of being as a whole. To us all being in its interpretations is like a reflection spreading out in all directions. The method we apply to the study of texts may be taken as a parallel to our study of being. And the analogy is not accidental.[RTW]

The reality of the world as a whole is no object of knowledge. We approach the reality of the world from a different angle. Scientific knowledge can be included in the general proposition: All knowledge is interpretation, world systems represent merely relative perspectives; that knowledge has the character of interpretation. Seen in this way history has no meaning, no unity and no structure, but reveals only innumerable chains of causality and morphological organisms such as occur in the natural process (except that in history they can be defined with far less precision). We become aware of our helplessness when we seek to plan and organize history as a whole. The overweening plans of rulers, based upon a supposed total knowledge of history, have always ended in catastrophe. The plans devised by individuals in their restricted circles fail or else contribute to unleashing quite different, unplanned complexes of events. The historical process can be seen either as an irresistible mechanism or as an infinitely interpretable meaning which manifests itself by unexpected new events, which remains always equivocal, a meaning which, even when we entrust ourselves to it, is never known to us. Honesty must recognize the untruth both in the ideas of harmony of being and nihilistic chaos. Both embody a total judgment and that total judgment concerning the world and things rests upon inadequate knowledge. [RTW]

Philosophy between Science and Religion [POE]

It emphasized the task of philosophy that for a time had been almost forgotten: to catch sight of reality at its origin. People searched for the hidden reality; they wanted to know what was knowable; and they thought that by understanding themselves they could arrive at the foundation of their being.For God is not heard unequivocally out of freedom but only in the course of lifelong effort through moments when man is granted what he could never attain by thought. Men cannot always bear the burden of critical nonknowledge in mere readiness to listen at the proper moment. He desires definite knowledge of the ultimate. Once he has rejected faith, he abandons himself to the intellect as such, and from it falsely expects certainty in the decisive questions of life. But since thought cannot provide such certainty, his expectations can be fulfilled only by deceptions: the finite and determinate, sometimes this, sometimes that, and so on in endless variations, is absolutized into the whole. A particular category is taken for cognition as such. The continuity of persevering self-examination gives way to overweening trust in a definitive pseudo-certainty. Men claim absolute truth for opinions based on accident and situation, and in their pseudo-lucidity succumb to a new blindness. In its assertion that man can know and think everything on the basis of his own insight, such enlightenment is indeed arbitrary. It supports this impossible claim by undisciplined halfthinking. The rejection of philosophy usually leads to the unwitting development of a bad philosophy. [RTW]

Finally, they could say that they merely wanted objectively to understand the possible world-views and values, and yet again could claim at the same time to be giving the one true world-view: the scientific. Science is a process of thought involving precise and publicly verifiable concepts and methods. It views reality in terms of these constructions. Hence, it has definite limits. When reality is identified with what science alone can know, science itself becomes superstition. It becomes a narrow and unfounded philosophical position which turns everything, including man, into an object. Both being and human existence lose their depth. While they enormously extended the realistic knowledge of man, they still did not capture man. The limits of science become clear. They may be briefly indicated:

a) Scientific cognition of things is not cognition of being. Scientific cognition is particular, concerned with determinate objects, not with being itself (what being is = the grounds of being). The wonder of existence: things do not exist through themselves, so there is a difference between questions bearing on particular objects in the world and those bearing on our existence as a whole.

b) Scientific cognition can provide no goals at all for life. It establishes no valid values. Therefore it cannot lead. Science is a whore, said Lenin, for it sells itself to any class interest.

c) Science can give no answer to the question of its own meaning. The existence of science rests upon impulses for which there is no scientific proof that they are true and legitimate. The concrete work of the scientist is guided by his conscious or unconscious philosophy, and this philosophy cannot be the object of scientific method. It is impossible to prove scientifically that there should be such a thing as science. Science left to itself as mere science becomes homeless.

Also the chief defect of religion lies in its habit of objectifying transcendence in particularistic symbols which are claimed to be authoritative for all men. Each religion recognizes as adequate only its own representation of transcendence; it sets forth one ideal of humanity, one set of truths and rules for action, to which all men must conform. In this process of objectifying what lies beyond all objectivity, religion destroys human freedom and transcendence just as science does when its objective conceptions of reality are absolutized into a philosophical dogma.

Be that as it may, awareness of all this is the business of philosophical reflection. Philosophy is inherent in the actual sciences themselves; it is their inner meaning that provides the scientist with sustenance and guides his methodical work. Any specific object is the object of a particular science. Were I to say that the object of philosophy is the whole, the world, being, philosophical critique would answer that such terms do not denote genuine objects. The methods of philosophy are methods of transcending the object. To philosophize is to transcend. In philosophizing we must not fall under the spell of the object that we use as a means of transcendence. Philosophy must point out the defects and limits of both disciplines. Living thus at the boundaries of knowledge and religious faith. Philosophy deals with the sciences in such a way that their own meaning is brought out and set forth. Without philosophy, science does not understand itself. Philosophizing has the task of pointing out the nature of science and the limits of its application.

A Philosopher has respect for each science whose insights are binding but he condemns the scientific pride which imagines that everything can be known in its ultimate foundation or even goes so far as to suppose that it is known. He who believes that he understands everything is no longer engaged in philosophical thought. He who takes scientific insight for knowledge of being itself and as a whole has succumbed to scientific superstition. Because he humbly acknowledges the limits of possible knowledge the philosopher remains open to the unknowable that is revealed at those limits. Here cognition ceases, but not thought. By technically applying my knowledge I can act outwardly, but nonknowledge makes possible an inner action by which I transform myself. This is another and deeper kind of thought; it is not detached from being and oriented toward an object but is a process of my inner most self, in which thought and being become identical. Measured by outward, technical power, this thought of inner action is as nothing, it is no applied knowledge that can be possessed, it cannot be fashioned according to plan and purpose; it is an authentic illumination and growth into being. We can believe in it but not know it. To believe that we possess it is to have lost it.

At the same time as the limits of science became clear, the positive significance and indispensabilitg of science for philosophy also became clear. Science, having in recent centuries achieved methodological and critical purification, The road of science is indispensable for philosophy, since only a knowledge of that road prevents philosophizing from again making unsound and subjective claims to factual knowledge that really belongs to methodologically exact research. Only the sciences, which engage in research and thereby produce compelling knowledge of objects, bring us face to face with the factual content of appearances. Only the sciences teach me to know clearly the zuag things are. Philosophy must find paths of inquiry and verification that lie within reality as it is conceived today in all its manifestations. This reality, however, cannot be genuine and wholly present without science, so if the philosopher had no current knowledge of the sciences, he would remain without clear knowledge of the world, like a blind man.

Philosophy in General

Whatever becomes an object for me is always a determinate being among others, and only a mode of being. When I think of being as matter, energy, spirit, life, and so on every conceivable category has been tried, in the end I always discover that I have absolutized a mode of determinate being, which appears within the totality of being, into being itself. No known being is being itself. We always live, as it were, within a horizon of our knowledge. The world is no object, we are always in the world, we confront objects in it but never have the world itself as an object. Far as our horizons of methodical inquiry extend, particularly in our astronomical conceptions of the nebulae, of which our Galaxy, with its billions of suns, is only one among millions, and in the mathematical conception of universal matter, all that we see here is aspects of phenomena and not the foundation of things, not the universe as a whole. The universe is not self-contained. It cannot be explained out of itself, but in it one thing can be explained by another ad infinitum. No one knows to what limits future research may yet attain, what abysses will still open before it.[RTW]

In the world, we are concerned with things, contents, objects, but we never question in all this what we have, think, or will. We assert truths, but do not ask what truth itself is. We have to do with questions about the world, but do not ask about the questioner. Dominated by what is important in action or injury, as by something which is attainable and knowable, we never reach the limits from which this whole world of action, possession, and inquiry would become questionable, our knowledge of the world cannot be completed, the world cannot be apprehended through itself. It is the aim of his philosophizing, then, to call attention to the limits of knowledge, not with the sceptical purpose of disposing of knowledge altogether, but rather in order to let the truth which always lies just beyond those limits shine through for a moment.

There always arises in thinking man that which passes beyond everything of which he thinks.[REA] We strive to get beyond every horizon which still surrounds us and obstructs our view. But we never attain a standpoint where the limiting horizon disappear and from where we could survey the whole, now complete and without horizon, and therefore no longer pointing to anything beyond itself. Nor do we attain a series of stand-points constituting a totality in which we arrive at absolute being by moving through the horizons as incircumnavigating the earth. For us, being remains open. On all sides it draws us into the unlimited. Over and over again it is always causing some new determinate being to confront us. By reflecting upon that course we ask about being itself, which always seems to recede from us, in the very manifestation of all the appearances we encounter. [POE] Being itself, the foundation of all things, the absolute, presses upon our consciousness in object form which, because as object it is inadequate, disintegrates, leaving behind the pure clarity of the presence of the Comprehensive. If we venture the thought that there might be nothing, and ask with Schelling: Why is there something and not nothing? we find that our certainty of existence is such that though we cannot determine the reason for it we are led by it to the Comprehensive, which by this very essence is and cannot not be, and through which everything else is.[RTW]

There is within us a hidden depth that we can feel in, exalted moments, something that permeates all modes of the encompassing and that becomes certain for us precisely through them. Schelling said that we are "privy to creation" as if in our ground we had been present at the origin of all things and then had lost this awareness in the confines of our world. In philosophizing, we are engaged in awakening the memory, through which we will return to our ground. Philosophizing is a process of thinking as inner action in which the thinker comes to an authentic awareness of himself and reality by pressing beyond or transcending everything objective. From the standpoint of the subjectivity of the thinker philosophizing can be described as the elucidationor clarification of Existenz. From the standpoint of the objects it is concerned with, philosophizing is the expression of an encounter with (intrinsic) being. This expression takes two directions: a reflection on the nature and limits of objective knowledge and a transcending thinking in which being itself comes to expression. Jaspers' philosophizing lives on the limits, turned both to what lies within and to what lies with out. It remains on these limits and does not pass into a new theory of what is in principle beyond theory. Philosophizing here is a movement of transcending; and it is a movement which each must enact for himself.

His Philosophy

The name for what is at last beyond the relativity of all our perspectives, horizons, and conceptual schemes, is "the Encompassing," das Umgreifende. This name is nothing but an index, or signum. It is not a word with a fixed, knowable connotation. It denotes the ultimate Being which is the foundation for our concepts but which can never be exhaustively grasped by them. Such a term, like all the key terms in Jaspers' philosophizing, has a clear use; but it has no clear, distinct, objective content. The Encompassing is the form of our awarness of being which underlies all our knowledge, but it can never become an object. Awarness of it comes rom refelcting on our situation, our knowledge (awarness of objects) is limited, yet it is part of a larger encompassing context. We can enlrage our knowledge but we can't escape that it is limited. The encompassing is not the horizon of our knowledge at any particular moment. Rather, it is the source from which all new horizons emerge, without itself ever being visible even as a horizon. The encompassing always merely announces itself—in present objects and within the horizons—but it never becomes an object. Never appearing to us itself, it is that where in everything else appears. We enter the widest realm of possibility. Everything that has being for us acquires a depth from its relation to this realm, from which it comes to meet us, announcing being without being identical to it. [POE]

Coniousness is always awarness of something, so every act of awarness is analyzable according to a model (modes) in which a subject is related to an object. The relationship has many forms, sensory awarness, though, feeling, action,and so on. so there are many variations for each relation. So the encompassing is all relations or all modes of awarness between subjects and objects. Each mode of the encompassing is an encompassing, that is an infintie dimension. We can't reduce the encompassing to a difinite set of objective relations between subjects and objects, there is always the possibility of further determinations of this relation. We must distinguish between an actual subject-object relation and the indefinite background of relations. the latter is the abstract form of the former, it trancends it, for it the creative source of new ways.

Modes of the Encompassing

There are three imanent modes of the subject in the subject-object relationship, each describes a particular way of being with a particular way of knowing, which is correlated with this way of being:

1) Man is an organic being who exists in a particular world in space and time. A thing amoung things. He has instincts, he has needs and drives to satisfy. The objects he is related to constitue the world of ordinary experience. Jasper calls this mode dasein (being there, or existence or empirical existence).

2) Consiousness in general (abstract rational and conceptual understanding by which he comprehends essential connections). The world here isn't that of ordinary experience, it is the world represented in sciences. The concepts and method employed by consciousness in general are public and verifiable, and its knowledge is universal and objective. This abstract level is common to all men, and is unique to no one. The development of a mass mentality and universal interchangeability of everything and everyone where no one seemed to exist any longer as himself.

3) The third immanent level is spirit (the single whole of coherent movement of consciousness as it is activated by Ideas), that aspect which strives to embrace all of his experience, life, and culture within certain ideal totalities. Borrowing the term from Hegel and the subsequent German idealist tradition, Jaspers often talks of spirit as a kind of synthesis of existence and abstract consciousness in general. Like existence, it is concrete and historical. Like consciousness in general, it is universal. It is, then, a concrete universal which Jaspers calls "idea." As men participate in this concrete universal, they are bound together into historic unities. Examples of such unities are: the nation, a church or religion, a cultural tradition, professional organizations, etc. Each of these is formed by an idea. Even viewed under the idea of spirit, men are not considered as individuals, but as members of totalities.

And there is only one imanent mode of the object or (Being as the Other) in the subject-object relationship, which is the world. The World is the indirect manifistaion of Being in-itself, which doesn't show itself directly. The world does not become an object for us, i.e., everything we can know is in the world never the world.

The Need for Transcending

The modes of the encompassing illuminate a basic feature of man's possibility. We would like to see the human ideal. We would liketo recognize in our thoughts what we ought to be, andwhat we can be on the basis of our obscure ground. It is as if in the represented image we were to find a certainty of our essence through the clarity of the idea of ideal humanity.But every conceptual and every visible form of being human lacks universal validity. The form is only one aspect of historic Existenz, not Existenz itself. And every form of possible human perfection proves upon reflection to be defective and unachievable in reality. Like everything objectively known, ideals are fused with the encompassing. Philosophizing points beyond all ideals—though only by way of and in constant touch with them—to the abiding realm of the encompassing. [POE]

For, in Jaspers' view, not only is the world and Being itself an Encompassing, but man himself is an Encompassing. That is to say, man himself is always more than what he can know himself to be. In principle, he is never exhaustible by any conceptual or scientific knowledge. The theoretical identification of man with what man knows himself to be, has the inner effect of destroying precisely that freedom and authenticity which is the essence of man. For example: ethnology apprehends him in diverse racial types, psychoanalysis apprehends him in his unconscious and its workings, Marxism as a living creature producing by his labour, who by production dominates nature and achieves social progress and who can ostensibly achieve perfection in both these respects. Yet all such departments of knowledge apprehend something about man, some process which actually takes place, but never man as a whole. When these methods of inquiry lay claim to absolute knowledge of the whole manand this they have all done they lose sight of the real man and go far toward extinguishing their proponents' consciousness of man and even their own humanity, the humanity which is freedom and relation to God. The study of man is of supreme interest, and if pursued in a spirit of scientific criticism, rewarding. If this is done, we know methodically what and how and within what limits we know a thing and how little we know, in terms of what is possible, and how radically inaccessible to this knowledge authentic humanity remains. And we avert the danger of obscuring man by pseudo-knowledge of him. Once we know the limits of knowledge, we shall entrust ourselves all the more clearly to the guidance which freedom itself offers to our freedom, if it is oriented toward God.

The encompassing that I'm is objectified and thus becomes an object of research. But scientific knowledge about man isn't knowledge of the encompassing. Rather, it is knowledge of an appearance whose being is what we ourselves are or can be. All modes of the encompassing virtually collapse when they become objects of investigation and are supposed to be no more than that. They expire in what is left when they become visible and knowable objects of research. We cannot exhaust man's being in knowledge of him, we can experience it only in the primal source of our thought and action. Man is fundamentally more than he can know about himself. World systems are always a particular sphere of knowledge, erroneously absolutized and universalized. Different scientific ideas give rise to special perspectives. Every world system is a segment taken out of the world. The world itself cannot become a system.[RTW] No aesthetic theory can scientifically understand the intrinsic 'reality of art—that is, the truth that was experienced and created in art'. No science of religion (history, psychology, or sociology of religion) understands the reality of religion. Science can know and understand religions without the investigator's belonging to or having faith in any of them. Real faith is not knowable. Moreover, All practice on the basis of knowledge must rely on the unseen encompassing: medical treatmentmust rely on an understood life. [POE]

Trancedent Modes

In addition to these four, there are trancedent modes of Transcendining subjectivity (Existenz) , trancending objectivity (Transcendence). Emphasis upon them is a protest against the objectifying and dehumanizing tendencies in modern thought (philosophical as well as scientific) and against our increasingly technological and rationalized culture.

1) Existenz is a possibility in all men, it is absolutely unique, as he is authentic. In this sense Jaspers uses Existenz to refer to individual persons. He speaks of Existenz as doing or willing something. Secondly, Existenz is the ultimate source or ground of each individual self, the source from which all these modes of the Encompassing receive animation and for which they speak, the dark ground of selfhood. In this latter capacity, it is best thought of as a principle of freedom, creativity, or pure spontaneity. In addition, he almost always refers to it as "possible Existenz" rather than as an actuality, because in principle it can never be fully actualized. Every actualization of Existenz results in some concrete and determinate creation, that is, some objectification of itself. But Existenz remains an origin (Ursprnng), a limitless field of possibility. Without Existenz everything seems empty, hollowed out, without ground, because everything has turned into endless masks, mere possibilities. Consequently, man as Existen completely transcends all that he is, knows or does. Existenz is the primordial, spontaneous depth of each self, Never given, it must be actualized by each person. Yet there are no direct or immediate manifestations of Existenz. All knowledge and action must occur in the world in one or more of the three immanent modes. So Existenz seems to be a principle of spontaneity or creativity within them. It is man as Existenz who continually breaks out of established patterns to create new historical organizations at the level of existence, new knowledge and understanding at the level of consciousness in general, and new ideas in the realm of the spirit, as in morals, art, religion. Existenz only becomes clear through reason; reason only has content through Existenz. [REA]

2) Transcendence is the representation of being itself beyond all objectivity. The world is an immanent reflection of it. Thus, transcendence expresses the dual feature that within any level of the world one never fully articulates all possibilities, and that beyond objective determination is a background or horizon of being itself to which Existenz is related. Because transcendence is being-itself, Jaspers says that Existenz is aware of itself as given to itself by transcendence, If there were no transcendence, if the world were all there were to being, Existenz would not be possible, it is related to Transcendence through which it first becomes an independent cause in the world; for Existenz did not create itself. "I am Existenz only as I know Transcendence as the power through which I genuinely am myself, I come to encounter myself, I know myself before Transcendence. As he comprehends himself, in his freedom and authenticity standing before Transcendence. It is the ultimate ground, basis, or root of each historical self; it is not the content of any concept."[RAE]. Without Transcendence, Existenz becomes a sterile. Man would be a mundane being, describable in the concepts of the various immanent modes of the encompassing directly. At this higher level of consciousness, then, existence raises metaphysical questions about itself and its origin which it cannot begin to answer without an awareness that existence is, at an originary or authentic level, transcendent, and that its truth is metaphysical. What transcendence seems to say is always ambiguous. Its most decisive language is the one which speaks through my freedom. On the other hand, without Existenz the meaning of Transcendence is lost. Only through Existenz can Transcendence become present, real, without supersition, as the genuine reality which to itself never disappears.[RAE]

It is the leap from the encompassing that we are as existence, consciousness, spirit, to the encompassing that we can be, or authentically are, as Existenz. And it is thus also the leap from the encompassing that we know as world to the encompassing that being in itself is. This leap is decisive for my freedom. For freedom exists only with and by transcendence. It is the resolution in which I determine whether I relax in a ,satisfying knowledge of being, or whether, instead,in an open, horizonless realm encompassing all horizons,I hear what speaks to me and perceive the flashing signals that point, warn, tempt and perhaps reveal what is. I become aware that the sole basis at the foundation of the possible Existenz which I am is the transcendence that supports me. It is of the essence of being human to attain consciousness of this breadth, because the encompassing keeps us alert to our own possibility. we can conquer the despair of nothingness only through the self-assertion which transcends the reality of the world, which stands alone before God and exists out of God. In order to gain our independence we seek an Archimedean point outside of the world. This is an authentic quest, but the question is: Is this Archimedean point an outsideness which makes man a kind of God in his total independence or is it the outside point where he truly meets God and experiences his only complete independence, which alone can make him independent in the world? Our independence itself requires help. We can only do our best and hope that something within usinvisible to the worldwill in some unfathomable way come to our aid and lift us out of our limitations. The only independence possible for us is dependence on transcendence. I see my limitations, yet I know that there is more to me than it meets the I, which I depend on transendence, I depend on the source of infinite possipilities. The awareness of the breadth causes unlimited capacity of vision and unlimited readiness. In the light of what we have said of God and existence, we may sum up our experience of the world in the proposition: The reality of the world subsists ephemerally between God and existence. Everyday life seems to teach us the contrary: that we men take the world or something in the world as an absolute.[RTW]

Whatever does not reach transcendence seems forlorn; it merely runs its course and is either unconscious of it-self or conscious of itself as nothingness. The moment I allow being to be absorbed without remainder in what is known, transcendence has vanished from me and I amopaque to myself. This irresponsible type of independence is an irresponsible playing with contradictions permits such a man to take any position he finds convenient. He is a Proteus, wriggling and changing, you cannot grasp hold of him, he actually says nothing but seems to be promising something extraordinary. He exerts an attraction by vague hints and whisperings which give men a sense of the mysterious. No authentic discussion with him is possible but only a talking back and forth about a wide variety of "interesting" things. Conversation with him can be no more than an aimless pouring forth of false emotion. A little, superficial philosophy leads away from reality, but a complete, deep philosophy leads back to it.[POE]

Limits of Thought and Language

Ontology clarified the meaning of statements about being by referring back to a first being; philosophizing clarifies the encompassing in which 'everything that can be met in statements has its source and ground'. Kant said, "this unity which precedes a priori all synthesizing concepts is not at all the category of unity." This he had to do since he wanted to touch the origin of all objectivity which itself could not be objective. Thus, I must think a non-objectivity objectively, that which grounds the categories, including that of unity, under the category of unity. But The structure of our thought forces us to make whatever we want to know into a determinate object, to talk about them is to bring them within the domain of consciousness and its subject-object structure. If we want to think about the encompassing, we must immediately make even it into something objective, by necessity we make objects out of them, such as: the encompassing is the world, is our own existence, is consciousness in general. The process of thinking about it we cannot avoid using determinate concepts of being or the ontological model of meaning which is an ordered table of static categories. We can not think otherwise to grasp something which does not fall under the categories. So when we think clearly about the encompassing, we thus do precisely what thinking about the encompassing is supposed to transcend. Neither Existenz nor transcendence are objects. They are sources from which everything else springs. The authentic idea of the Encompassing disappears with every attempt to establish, isolate, and absolutize it. An Encompassing which has become objective is no longer the true Encompassing[REA].

The situation is as though we stood in a small pool of light encompassed by the vast darkness. Someone calls attention to the encompassing darkness; where is it, the others cry, turning their torches out to light up and see the darkness, but of course they see nothing but more and more illuminated areas. Nevertheless, can we not be aware of this darkness as the limits of our light? The eye cannot literally see the dark, but is it not aware of it? And, Jaspers would insist, we must be aware of that darkness if we are not to forget what light means. Our sciences become corrupt in their own line of clarity if they become absolute. And now, what if our small pool of light were itself darkness, and the encompassing darkness, the real light? The fall from absolutes which were after all illusory becomes an ability to soar; what seemed an abyss becomes space for freedom; apparent Nothingness is transformed into that from which authentic being speaks to us.

Reason, through the pre-eminence of thought, can bring all the modes of the Encompassing to light by continually transcending limits. Reason of itself is no source; but, as it is an encompassing bond, it is like a source in which all sources first come to light. It is the unrest which permits acquiescence in nothing; it forces a break with the immediacy of the unconscious in every mode of the Encompassing which we are. The question does not stop with the limits of our knowledge of things, nor in the inwardness of the limiting consciousness of the Encompassing which we are. It pushes on continually. The failure of thought does not result in nothingness. It points to that which resolves into an inexhaustible, forever-questioning, Comprehensive consciousness of God. This Encompassing which I am and know as empirical existence, consciousness as such, and spirit, is not conceivable in itself but refers beyond itself. The Encompassing which we are is not Being itself. This Being itself which we feel as indicated at the limits, and which therefore is the last thing we reach through questioning from our situation, is in itself the first. It is not made by us, is not interpretation, and is not an object. Rather it itself brings forth our questioning and permits it no rest. There are roads of thought by which we come to limits at which the consciousness of God suddenly becomes a natural presence. The reality that God is, does not manifest itself abstractly, but descends into the existence of the world, and only here manifests itself at the limit. By passing through the whole process of these modes of thinking the Encompassing, we can transcend them and push to their source which is no longer an object. Being itself opened up to us through reason. It must always reason in order to perceive that which is more than reason.[RAE]

If we seek the ground of everything in the encompassing, we may no longer take any object for the encompassing. Thinking should perceive its limits and seek to clarify the absolute ground by trancending itself. Philosophizing encounters being indirectly in transcending thinking. These should disappear in the execution of the thought, when we become aware of that being itself which is no longer a determinate being. Thats why every proposition referring to the encompassing thus contains aparadox. The error lies in trying to secure as a content for knowledge what is true only as a limit for consciousness and a demand of the self. Hence, talking about them is always liable to misunderstanding. We always have something which the understanding can not grasp but which is decisive for our certainty of being, which is less before us than present in our thought.[POE] We apprehend its meaning only as we transcend, as we pass beyond the world of objects and through it discover authentic reality. Hence the climax and goal of our life is the point at which we ascertain authentic reality, that is, God.[RTW]

If, for example, a materialist explains the external world as a creation of our physiological organization, more particularly our brain, still the brain, including his own, is a part of the external world which can be observed under local anesthesia, with a trepanation and mirrors. Thus the brain becomes a creation of the brain—formally the same mode of thought which describes God as causa rui. It is an interesting and stimulating investigation to follow the circles and other logical difficulties in philosophy and to notice how absurd stupidities have the same logical form for the understanding as a deep contact with the limits. We arrive thus in formal logic either at a circle: unity is explained through unity; or at a contradiction: unity is not unity. In all genuine philosophies we find such circles and contradictions at the decisive point, whether it is metaphysics, transcendental philosophy, or the clarification of Existenz. The difficulties of formal logic with respect to self-reflexivity must arise. We only grasp the A-logical in transcending. Through reason, I catch sight of something which is only communicable in the form of contradiction and paradox. Here a rational A-logic arises, a true reason which reaches its goal through the shattering of the logic of the understanding. The truth of the non-rational is impossible unless reason is pushed to its limit.[RAE]

The stillness of the being of truth in Transcendence, not by abandoning the modes of the Encompassing, but in surpassing their worlds—such is the boundary where what the Whole is beyond all division can momentarily flash out. But this illumination is transitory in the world and, although of decisive influence upon men, incommunicable; for when it is communicated it is drawn into the modes of the Encompassing where it is ever lacking. One can speak out of this experience, but not of it. The ultimate in thinking as in communication is silence.[RAE] A clear consciousness seeking to penetrate the infinite can never attain the fullness of that source. We can speak only of that which takes on object form. All else is incommunicable.[RTW]

The experience of God's absolute transcendence over the world: the hidden God recedes farther and farther into the distance if I attempt to seize and apprehend Him universally and forever. Yet we do not experience eternal being outside of that which is empirically manifested to us in time. Since that which is for us must be manifested in the temporality of the world, there can be no direct knowledge of God and existence. There can only be faith. God is not only invisible but also inconceivable, unthinkable. No symbol or metaphor can describe Him and none may take His place. Since every image conceals as much as it discloses, we come closest to God in the negation of images. It is the silence in the face of being. Speech ceases in the presence of that which is lost to us when it becomes object. This ultimate can be attained only in the transcending of all thought. It cannot itself be transcended. Here thought must dissolve into radiance. Where there is no further question, there is also no answer. In the philosophical transcending of question and answer we arrive at the limit, at the stillness of being. God's glory is not absolute unless it is grounded in the One. The fundamental attitude toward God means: Bow down before that which defies understanding, confident that it is situated above and not below the understandable. Reflection on God is typical of all significant philosophical thought: it does not bring secure knowledge, but to authentic self-hood it gives a free area for decision; the whole emphasis is on love in the world, on the reading of the symbols of transcendence, on the depth and breadth of that which is illumined by reason.[RTW]

Thus, for Jaspers, the most essential thing men have to say to one another cannot quite be said; or rather, its comprehension cannot be forced, nor can its truth be objectively established. Nevertheless, it remains the most important thing, and it remains true. Such ex-pressions are corrigible only in existential communication, by authentic Existenz. To give "definitions" of these terms would be to contradict the intent of his philosophy. Nor, for this reason, are they "meaningless"; their meaning arises only at the extreme limits of reason. Does reason have this power of touching its own limits for a moment and "feeling" that which lies beyond? Can it transcend itself? Consequently, one must read Jaspers in such a way as to perform the inner action of transcending thought along with him. Until one takes his sentences and concepts as signs, or pointers, Jaspers' philosophy evades him. Only when it is appropriated inwardly by the reader does it take on its full meaning and become free of misunderstanding which itself is a cipher of transcendence.


Truth is not a simple idea. For Jaspers the term 'truth' has a special meaning within each mode of the encompassing.
1) At the level of existence truth is what works, what leads to the satisfaction of our vital needs and interests
2) For consciousness in general truth is a function of rational tests and methods, and is universal and compelling for all.
3) At the level of spirit the truth of an idea is its power to establish and to secure spiritual totalities.

We only remain true, then, when we are really conscious of the modes of knowing and their limits. The truth of each primordial, free and creative Existenz is an exception in relation to universal truth. No universal truth or historical tradition encloses Existenz. The truth of Existenz is unique, particular and historic. It breaks out of all objectivities and demands the right to establish its own truth creatively. It makes no claim at all to universality and objectivity, but because it is the basis of Existenz, the truth by which one lives, so to speak, it is absolute for the Existenz who accepts it. The exception demands recognition as an exception, not on the basis of any arbitrary will-to-power, but in the interest of the truth of transcendence which evades objectification even while it permeates all the other modes. The truth can only be "pointed out," "elucidated" by a chain of reasoning, "recalled to mind."

If the exception exhausted the idea of truth, there would be a danger of its degenerating into mere willfulness. So Jaspers pairs it with another form of truth which he calls authoritg, Authority is based upon transcendence. Because all appearances at all the modes of the encompassing are symbols of transcendence, they have authority for men. An example of authority is the cultural tradition in which every person lives and matures. Without this tradition he would be nothing but an aggregate of purely biological and psychological drives, His tradition gives him substance and form. But at the same time this tradition is limited; it is historical, partial and only one among many traditions. It contains possibilities which Existenz is free to realize and tendencies it must resist. But when the exception resists authority, it should be done in a spirit of seriousness and respect for authority, There is no final resolution of the opposition between exception and authority. Creative life itself is the dialectical process of their interplay and history is the outcome of this interplay. Because the creative process is performed by concrete Existenzen, its results can not be foreseen, nor can techniques be developed to control it. The exception is thus the servant of transcendence, or, as Jaspers says, the universal. He preserves the freedom of man and the transcendence of being in his exceptional status. Here truth is a function of faith or commitment. It is Kierkegaard's idea of truth as subjectivity.

In spite of the fragmentation of truth into the truths within the modes of the encompassing and the truth of Existenz into the pluralities of Existenz, there is a sense in which truth is one: the truth of being itself. But this one truth is only an ideal; it is never realized. Jaspers sees each authentic truth at the other levels as a symbol which points to the one truth which binds everything together and which yet is inaccessible, for every actual truth is an historic achievement in a concrete situation. This "Truth gives courage: if I have grasped it at any point,the urge grows to pursue it relentlessly. Truth gives support: here is something indestructible, something linked to being". Moreover, the truth of Existenz springs from the freedom and creativity of each Existenz. For Jaspers the one truth of being remains a matter of existential faith which he takes to be the pre-suppositfon of all thought and action. But nothing definite is or can be said about this truth, "It could be that the truth that matters is by its very nature not amenable to univocal and unanimous statement".


Following Kant, he carefully distinguishes reason from the understanding:

1) The understanding is precisely identical with consciousness-in-general. The domain of the understanding is the domain of objective, scientific, compelling knowledge. It is directed towards determinate objects and thinks about them discursively in terms of testable concepts.

2) Reason, on the other hand, seems to be a motive within Existenz. Jaspers speaks of it as will - a will to unity and a will to communication. Reason not only respects but actively seeks out what is foreign to it in order to communicate with it and to project an encompassing unity which includes everything and lets nothing sink into oblivion. It seeks to go beyond all limits, all separations, all animosities, to present a total picture of being itself. Throughout history reason has been most adequately manifested in philosophy, which Jaspers calls "one great hymn to reason." But by making claims to absolute truth, philosophy has also corrupted reason into an intellectual grasp of objects, For Jaspers everything depends upon our preserving the sense of reason as a radical openness, a binding force and a total will to communication. There is no total picture. There is no way of exposing all the modes of the encompassing, all historical periods and traditions, all Existenzen and their particular truths and values into one harmonious whole. He was insistent that truth can only be interpreted as reason's experience of its own limits. So reason as a frame of mind or existential attitude which is aware of the horizonal character of all our thought and action, it continually upsets the putatively complete pictures and theories that claim to be adequate analyses of all reality and presses on to further unity. It is a vision of the one transcendent reality beyond all finite interpretation that emerges from the self-awareness of Existenz in the presence of transcendence. There is only the will to communicate with everyone and everything; there is only the spirit of honesty and openness. There is only a posture of reason, or an atmosphere of reason, based upon a faith in transcendence and the unity of all things in it.

Enlightenment demands an unlimited striving for insight and a critical awareness of the quality and limit of every insight, it imposes a limit upon questioning, is aware of the factual limit. For it not only elucidates prejudices and common beliefs which were hitherto unquestioned but also elucidates itself. It is a fallacy of false enlightenment to suppose that the understanding by itself alone can know truth and being. The understanding is dependent on something else. As scientific cognition, it is dependent on sensory experience. As philosophy, it is dependent on contents of faith. The purest enlightenment recognizes that it cannot dispense with faith.


Jaspers was very critical of revelation theology on a number of quite separate counts. First, he argued that the centre of religion is always formed by a falsely objectivized or absolutized claim to truth, which fails to recognize that transcendence occurs in many ways, and that transcendent truths cannot be made concrete as a set of factual statements or narratives. Religious world views are therefore examples of limited mental attitudes, which seek a hold in uniform doctrine in order to evade a confrontation with the uncertainty and instability of transcendence. In positing transcendence as a realized element of revelation, religion in fact obstructs the capacity for transcendence which all people possess; religion claims to offer transcendence, but it actually obstructs it. Second, then, as the foundations of dogma and doctrinal orthodoxy, revealed truth-claims eliminate the self-critical and communicative aspect of human reason, and they undermine the dialogical preconditions of transcendence and existential self-knowledge. Jaspers thus viewed orthodox religion as an obstruction to communication, which places dogmatic limits on the common human capacity for truthfulness and transcendence. If faith results in dogmatism, it immediately undermines its claims to offer transcendent knowledge.


Reality is identical with being-itself beyond all its finite appearances. Reality is being beyond all possibility, it is historicity and it is unity. Reality so conceived is reached by an act of transcending thought (reason) in which one leaps out of the realm of the finite and stands before being itself. Man is infinitely open by virtue of its reason, sees what is and reads the symbols of transcendence in the realities of the world. Access to being can be had only through the world. Only as one participates in the levels of existence, consciousness in general and spirit in an attitude of reason, can one interpret his historical situation and his daily task as appearances of being, his acts of knowing as revelations of being, and his spiritual creations as its symbols. All these things become ciphers of ultimate reality which must be interpreted by each Existenz. Everything can be seen as a cipher pointing to being itself. Being seems to reveal itself in this mythical thinking, which is a kind of speculative poetry. A sense of Existenz and transcendence develops in our experience of the great philosophers, artists and scientists. In their systems of thought and representations one senses something more than thought, some source of which their creations are symbols or ciphers. "Only the language of imagination touches reality that evades all objective investigation. Only by attending to the ciphers of being can one perceive this indubitable reality; it is as if in the act of attending a transformation occurs: not only into transparency, but into the ungrounded necessity"[POE]. Everything and anything can be a cipher of transcendence. It has only to be viewed in the correct way, and the correct way is from the viewpoint of Existenz and its freedom. To believe in God means to live by something which is not in the world, except in the polyvalent language of phenomena, which we call the hieroglyphs or symbols of transcendence. Thus the believer lives in the enduring ambiguity of the objective, in enduring willingness to hear. He listens patiently and yet he is unswerving in his resolve.[RTW]

Philosophy or the process of philosophizing, is an inner action whose result is not knowledge of any object, or a theory about objects, but a vision of authentic reality in its symbolic appearances, by allowing all things to open themselves to being and become its symbols. Reality can be grasped only historically in terms of particular symbols. Hence there can be no adequate interpretation of it. Unlike religion. which makes transcendence into a supernatural determinate object, philosophizing brings all things into the domain of reason and regards them as transparent ciphers pointing to being. "Philosophy in principle recognizes all phenomena as relevant to it only insofar as they can serve as symbols of the Transcendence. The ciphers mean something for it insofar as they point to what is hidden as the final authentic Being which they can not unveil."[RAE] Everything is united in the One. When this state of mind is reached, an attitude emerges which Jaspers in another place calls absolute consciousness. Here, in the vision which perceives being in all finite things, the quest finds an ultimate rest. One senses that being is and stands silent before the ultimate mystery. This vision is at the same time an awareness of one's own authentic being. This attitude of mind and thought which transcenls everything finite and objective, allowing being itself to reveal itself in its appearances. As existence we are oriented toward God transcendence and this through the language of things, which existence uses as hieroglyphics or symbols. Neither our understanding nor our vital sensualism apprehends the reality of this symbolism. God as object is a reality only for us as existence; He is situated in an entirely different dimension from the empirical, sensible objects susceptible to compelling knowledge.

How to Live [RTW]

To philosophize is then at once to learn how to live and to know how to die. To learn to live and to learn how to die are one and the same thing, we must learn how to die in order to lead a good life. Because of the uncertainty of temporal existence life is always an experiment. Let us acquire the power to learn from all the past by making it our own; let us listen to our contemporaries and remain open to all possibilities; let each of us as an individual immerse himself in his own historicity, in his origin, in what he has done; let him possess himself of what he was, of what he has become, and of what has been given to him; Consequently only by rising from the chains that bind us to our emotions, not by destroying them, do we come to ourselves.

In this being of the godhead he sees the realities of the world, and in such a way that speculation opens the path to empirical and mathematical insights which become the instruments of the intuition of God. His is an all-embracing thought, lovingly close to reality and yet transcending it. The world is not circumvented but itself shines in the light of transcendence. This is a metaphysics which is still indispensable. The time spent in exploring it may be counted among the happy hours of the philosopher. Have knowledge of the limits and believes in the supreme. Dare to stand at the limits and face the unfathomable, without speaking of it.   By thorough study of one sublime lifework I find a center, from which and toward which everything else may be illumined.   And the very essence of philosophical thought is openness to the truth as a whole, not to barren, abstract truth but to truth in the diversity of its supreme realizations. Hence the very nature of philosophy forbids us to say that it is at an end.

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