Karl Jaspers: biography of this German philosopher and psychiatrist

Existentialist philosophy constitutes a model of thought centered on the study and reflection of the human condition, on the freedom of persons and their responsibilities as individuals; as well as in the emotions and the meaning of life.

This current was born in the 19th century and lasted until the second half of the 20th century, Karl Jaspers being one of its creators and a great supporter of it. Besides being one of the great proponents of existentialism, this German philosopher and psychiatrist greatly influenced both psychology and philosophy as well as theology. This article will focus precisely on the story of his life, the biography of Karl Jaspers, As well as in their contributions to the various disciplines of knowledge.

    Who was Karl Jaspers? Biography and trajectory

    Born in Oldenburg on February 23, 1883, Karl Theodor Jaspers was a famous psychiatrist and philosopher the influence on psychiatry and modern philosophy has led it to appear in all books of the history of both disciplines.

    This popular German thinker studied and received his MD at his hometown University in 1909. His beginnings in the world of work began at the Heidelberg University Psychiatric Hospital, known to have been the workplace of psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin a few years earlier.

    But Jaspers didn’t like the way the scientific society of the day treated mental illness research, so his goal now would be to change the perspective of that research. This need led him to settle temporarily as a professor of psychology at the same university. Eventually he became permanent and never returned to clinical practice.

      Exiled by war and returned to Germany

      When the rise of Nazism came, Jaspers had to step away from university managementAs his opposition to the system and to the Jewish origin of his wife cost him the expulsion from the field of education, without being able to return before the end of Hitler’s mandate. After the fall of Nazi domination, the doctor-turned-teacher was able to regain his place and also collaborate in the recovery of German education.

      At that time, he could enjoy a public life well integrated into German society. In 1947 he was awarded the Goethe Prize, And in 1959 he received the Erasmus Prize for his contribution to the revival of Europe.

      Last years of life and death in Basel

      During his stay in Heidelberg, Karl Jaspers was extremely disillusioned by the German political context and left in 1948 for the University of Basel. Finally, in 1961, he retired from teaching because of his advanced age.

      Jaspers questioned the democracy of the Federal Republic of Germany in his book The Future of Germany, written in 1966. Due to the poor reception of this work in the political class, Jaspers he was forced to adopt Swiss nationality in 1967, Dying in the same city of Basel a few years later.

      He received the title of doctor honoris causa in various universities, including the University of Paris, Heidelberg and Basel. In addition, he has been an honorary partner of several scientific communities, even in Spain where he participated in the Society of Forensic Medicine of Madrid.

        Jaspers’ contributions to psychology and psychiatry

        As mentioned above, Jaspers was never completely okay with medical society’s understanding of mental illness, creating an ongoing discussion about whether the diagnostic criteria and clinical methods used in psychiatry really were. the same.

        Also in 1910, he developed a transformative essay in which he considered the possibility that paranoia was the product of biological alterations or if it was another shade of personality. Although he did not contribute much to this problem, it did lead to the creation of a new procedure for the study of human psychology.

        This new change is in reviewing and recording patient biographies and how the patient noticed and felt their own symptoms. This new working formula became known as the biographical method., A method which is currently still preserved in psychological and psychiatric practice.

        Karl Jaspers and the study of delusions

        One of Jaspers’ most famous quotes was: “The study of the psychic being requires explanatory psychology, complete psychology, and a description of existence.” From this point of view, psychology had to answer several fronts of questions related to mental life.

        Likewise, Jaspers believed that the diagnosis of delusions should be followed in the same way. considering how the patient held onto these beliefs and not just the content of these. From there, he distinguished two types of delusions: primary delusions and secondary delusions:

        1. Primary delusions

        These have arisen for no apparent reason, making them indecipherable under normalcy and no reasonable argument after them.

        2. Secondary delusions

        these delusions they seemed to be related to the person’s life story, With their context in the present moment or with their mental state.

        Form-centered psychiatry

        finally Jaspers reflected his view of mental illness in the work General Psychopathology (1913), a work that has become a classic in the psychiatric literature and diagnostic guidelines have served as inspiration for modern diagnostic procedures.

        The most relevant aspect of this work was the idea that opinion in psychiatric diagnosis should be based more on form than content. A valid example is that when diagnosing a hallucination, the way in which this hallucination is presented (visual, auditory, etc.) is more important than its content.

        Contributions to philosophy

        Jaspers’ thought has generally been incorporated into existentialist philosophy. The reason is that at the base of his ideas is the philosophy of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, being the reflections on personal freedom very characteristic of his work.

        In his three-volume work Philosophy (1932), Jaspers describes his view of the history of philosophy, including his most relevant theses. In them he establishes that when we doubt the reality we cross the border that the scientific method cannot cross. Upon arriving there, the person has two alternatives: resign or embark on what Jaspers calls “transcendence.”

        For Jaspers, “transcendence” is what the person finds beyond time and space. In this way, the person examines his own will, which Jaspers calls “ExistenZ”, and thus manages to actually experience true existence.

        As for religions, Jaspers censored all religious dogma, which even encompasses the existence of a God. But also he left an important imprint on modern theology through his philosophies of transcendence and the frontiers of human experience.

        Jaspers also reflected on the impact that modern science, politics, and economics have posed as a challenge to people’s freedom. It is a debate that is still relevant today.

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