Jaspers_photo_library  Karl Jaspers, Way to Wisdom (1951)  





Karl Jaspers, Way to Wisdom (1951) 

(With slight changes from Yale University Press, 1954, pp. 121-122)

The desire to lead a philosophical life springs from the darkness in which the individual finds himself, from his sense of forlornness when he stares without love into the void, from his self-forgetfulness when he feels that he is being consumed by the busy-ness of the world, when he suddenly wakes up in terror and asks himself: What am I, what am I failing to do, what should I do?

(…) But man as such is inclined to self-forgetfulness. He must snatch himself out of it if he is not to lose himself to the world, to habits, to thoughtless banalities, to the beaten track.

Philosophy is the decision to awaken our primal source, to find our way back to ourselves, and to help ourselves by inner action.

True, our first duty in life is to perform our practical tasks, to meet the demands of the day. But if we desire to lead a philosophical life, we shall not content ourselves with practical tasks. We shall look upon the mere work in whose aims we immerse ourselves as in itself a road to self-forgetfulness, omission, and guilt. (…) And to lead a philosophical life means also to take seriously our experience of human beings, of happiness and hurt, of success and failure, of the obscure and the confused. It means not to forget but to possess ourselves inwardly of our experience, not to let ourselves distracted but to think problems through, not to take things for granted but to elucidate them.

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