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Existenz, death and 'deathlessness' in Karl Jaspers' philosophy

Peach, F. (2004). Existenz, death and 'deathlessness' in Karl Jaspers' philosophy. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Karl Jaspers’ existential concept of death lies at the heart of this study. For Jaspers, a human being is not merely a physical entity but a being with a transcendent aspect, i.e. in some sense ‘deathless’. It is the connection between these two aspects of the human being that governs the structure of his work. This thesis is primarily concerned with the clarification and re-assessment of Jaspers’ concept of death and his claim that one’s transcendent self ‘knows no death’.

A major part of this study is the attempt to determine what it means for a human being to be ‘deathless’ within the Jaspersian framework. In this respect, some of Jaspers’ key philosophical terms and concepts are critically examined, and their relationship to death is clarified. Following a discussion of the concept of death in general terms, pertinent aspects of Jaspers’ existential philosophy are presented in order to provide the essential background to this investigation. Jaspers attempted to elucidate the transcendent aspect of the human being outside the boundaries of classical metaphysical and theological thought. A detailed discussion of his views on this particular aspect of humanity is undertaken and an analysis of his concept of ‘deathlessness’ is given. As will be shown, Jaspers developed his existential ideas regarding the transcendent realm under the influence of Plotinus and certain medieval thinkers. In support of Jaspers’ view, it is argued here that his existential concept of ‘deathlessness’ can be presented coherently in a non-theological framework. In order to substantiate this argument an alternative model is constructed, explained, and shown to be coherent.

Finally, in order to facilitate further clarification of Jaspers’ exegesis, some critical reflections on his assertions will be presented from a broader perspective. In the concluding remarks, Jaspers’ significant contribution to the understanding of the most fundamental features of humanity, namely human existence and death, is highlighted.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > School of Policy & Global Affairs Doctoral Theses
School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
Doctoral Theses
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