Against Solitude

Martin Jay

  • Karl Jaspers, a Biography: Navigations in Truth by Suzanne Kirkbright
    Yale, 352 pp, £25.00, November 2004, ISBN 0 300 10242 9

Who now still reads Karl Jaspers? Compared to the other still influential giants of 20th-century German philosophy – Husserl, Heidegger, Gadamer, Adorno, Habermas, Arendt, Cassirer and Wittgenstein (I’m including Austrians) – he has faded from the canon. At least in the English-speaking world, Jaspers is now remembered more for his writings on other thinkers, such as Nietzsche or Weber, and his complex friendships with figures like Heidegger and Arendt, than for his own work. A flurry of primers appeared around the time of his death in 1969 but their impact has not withstood the tests of time and fashion. There remain, to be sure, active Karl Jaspers Societies and conference sessions continue to be scheduled, but this is true of practically every intellectual of note who wrote in German and was widely translated.

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