A talk given at a meeting of the American Philosophical Association in Vancouver and offered as a commentary on Matthias Bormuth’s lovely study of the psychiatrist and philosopher Karl Jaspers:
In this briefest reverie on Matthias Bormuth’s Life Conduct in Modern Times, I attempt to evoke Karl Jaspers’ essential themes through a chorus of simpatico voices. I find Bormuth’s book hugely satisfying in its articulation of Jaspers’ philosophy—its grounding in Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche, and Jaspers’ growing skepticism before Freud. I am moved by Jaspers’ existence-philosophical meditations and broodings, finding there a pervasive sensibility with which I find myself in almost reflexive attunement. Jaspers on truth, vital lies, and metaphysical refuge; Jaspers on the respective places of biology and the humanities; Jaspers on hidden transcendence and the ethicization of faith; Jaspers’ championing of character over and above requisite training; Jaspers on the sanctity of the private realms (the life of the home and bona fide friendship) in a world that has arguably/publically seen better days. Most especially, perhaps, Jaspers on existential self-reflection and the craft of psychotherapy—an ongoing endeavour privileging the self-revelation, self-illumination of doctor and patient alike. These thoughts (with supplemental harmonies forthcoming from a compact gathering of kindred spirits and words) coalesce into the talking points of my thumbnail critique.
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