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Feb 24, Sarah Scheuer rated it it was amazing. In the context of post-WWII denazification in Germany, and in light of the Nuremberg trials, Jaspers attempts to objectively understand an essential question - "Are the German people guilty? He does so through the creation of a four-part philosophical framework of guilt that explores what it means to be held In the context of post-WWII denazification in Germany, and in light of the Nuremberg trials, Jaspers attempts to objectively understand an essential question - "Are the German people guilty?

He does so through the creation of a four-part philosophical framework of guilt that explores what it means to be held accountable for both action and inaction. His analyses ring chillingly relevant in today's political landscape. But even more went right on with their activities, undisturbed in their social life and amusements, as if nothing had happened. That is moral guilt. But the ones who in utter impotence, outraged and despairing, were unable to prevent the crimes took another step in their metamorphosis by a growing consciousness of metaphysical guilt.

Dec 29, Gal gilboa rated it it was amazing.

The Question of German Guilt | book by Jaspers | keestaikrypda.tk

The question on the responsibility of the civilians for their government acts Whether the Government was elected in a democratic manner or not is still applies today. In an era where countries still deny their responsibilities for genocide such as Turkey. In an era where Governments violently suppress their civilians such as Libya, Syria , the question of personal responsibility Remains relevant and exceed the Holocaust original context.

Jan 23, Nikolina Matijevic rated it it was amazing. Did you ever feel guilty because you belong to a group of people? Then this is a book for you Feb 14, Renxiang Liu rated it really liked it Shelves: primary-literature. This small book is obviously an occasional work, prompted by the uneasy relationship between Germans and the rest of the world after the War.

Competing voices were present at that time: on the one hand, the pervasive charge on the Germans' being "guilty", as a people , for the war crimes and the holocaust by the Third Reich; on the other hand, the lamentation on the Germans' part about their sufferings after the war and the great burden on their lives.


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Jaspers wanted to address both, but to avoid This small book is obviously an occasional work, prompted by the uneasy relationship between Germans and the rest of the world after the War. Jaspers wanted to address both, but to avoid their conflict by distinguishing among different level of consideration. The emphasis was not so much on the assessment of past crimes, or about deciding the just retribution, than about transforming the unique situation as an opportunity of fundamental inner-renewal of the Germans.

In other words, the book embodied a specific project of "healing", not by forgetting what had happened, but precisely by remembering them and genuinely appropriating their meaning - although some of Jasper's own convictions were smuggled into what eventually turns out to be that meaning. Jaspers saw the war memory as traumatic: people at the time tended to flee from what had happened, either by retreating into silence, or by simply reversing values of the Reich. Very few would give serious and patient consideration to the moral situation after the war.

Faced with this, Jaspers urges people to reach out and to talk with each other. The idea behind is that discourse helps heal the trauma; it was precisely lack of communication that was the most enduring legacy of the war. In order to do justice to the victims on the one hand and to reserve the possibility of recovery for the German people on the other, Jaspers distinguishes among four levels of guilt: the criminal, the political, the moral, and the metaphysical. The criminal guilt was derived directly from the trials after the war.

Jaspers noted that criminal guilt applied only to the individual criminals, not to the German people as a whole. This distinction was usually neglected, because the criminals were regarded as exemplary of the Germans in the Reich: "in their persons the people are also condemned" But, as it shall become clear, this condemnation belongs more properly to another level.

By contrast, the political guilt was laid on the German people as a while. They shared the duty of compensating for the wrongs done by the Reich, and of standing all the consequent material scarcity.

This judgment was supported by the idea of the pervasiveness of political affiliation. One could not simply claim zero participation in the crimes so as to exempt oneself from liability, because in a modern society, where technology links everyone together, it is simply impossible to stay aloof to the political situation. As everyone could have stopped the Nazi from seizing power, claiming to have been detached or impotent only betrayed a nihilistic pretense.

The third level, the moral guilt, was the locus of condemnation - and also of repentance. Instead of making it primarily public, however, Jaspers' version of moral guilt was primarily introvert: it arose in "the individual analyzing himself" We can recognize a small act of revolt here: first, the moral guilt was supposed to be based on conversation and a minimal sense of mutual respect, so that there was no obligation to morally repent towards a dogmatic accuser though political obligations held still ; second, external accusation was not enough for the initiation and persistence pf moral repentance; what lied at the core, however, was an internally inspired wish to renew one's personality.

There are several elements in this renewal. First, the duty to one's fatherland should be distinguished from the duty to someone who happened to seize the power of the state. The latter is characterized as blind obedience, for after all it is only "the German character" 59 , not any particular government, that matters. The inability to distinguish when hearing an "order" was part of the source of the tragedy.

Second, it is important not to be engaged in various kinds of self-deception. To wait until justice is done by whoever else, or to blame the allies so as to alleviate one's own moral burden, or worse to claim to have always been revolting despite every sign of obedience- there were symptoms of a generation that had been suffering under a totalitarian power. Self-deception had been a strategy of survival, but there was no point of retaining it when the war was over. If one flees when it is unnecessary to flee, she'll never face his own moral guilt, and hence cannot undergo the personal renewal.

The last kind of guilt was the metaphysical guilt. Jaspers defined it as "the lack of absolute solidarity with the human being as such" It was attached to the fact that the holocaust was not just an occasional crime carried out by an evil people, but rather resulted from a fundamental deficiency in humanity.

The Shoah rendered human being as a whole ashamed before God. In this sense, we should not just blame the German people, as if in this way we exempt ourselves from any kind of guilt. Rather, we should be aware that radical evil is inherent in human being, especially in a technocratic age. The metaphysical guilt is universal and inescapable. Lying behind this distinction of levels of guilt was Jaspers' ambition to internalize the moral situation of German people after the war: instead of passively accepting the situation or dodging into self-deception, Jaspers urged the Germans to actively re-appropriate their identity.

This, as he says, was "a common inspiring task - of not being Germans as we happen to be, but becoming German as we are not yet but ought to be, and as we hear it in the call of our ancestors rather than in the history of national idols. The whole project resonated the existentialist notion of authenticity, of truly becoming oneself when one has always already lost oneself.


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Interestingly, Jaspers made the case by a comparison to the slave in Hegel's master-slave dialectics. He wrote: "the decision to stay alive in impotence and servitude is an act of life-building sincerity. It results in a metamorphosis that modifies all values. Jaspers saw in this choice a positive opportunity: "it is the servant rather than the master who bears the spiritual future" , because the servant's character is more introvert and reflective. This is directly opposed to vengence, which "keep[s] reacting to every attack with a counterattack" By distancing oneself from attacks and accusations, whether just or unjust, and by carrying out a self-examination of conscience, the slave makes her situation harmless and even productive.

This, however, is where Jaspers had his own Christian input. That "humility and moderation" he proposed was actually a silent revolt, because external accusations were degraded to a mere means to reflection, and hence trivialized: regardless of whether there were accusations or not, the reflection would go on anyway - "we" need them only to the extent that "they enable us to check up on our own thought" Here we find the Christian defiance of political values: it wouldn't even react to them, but instead only recreates them anew, making the original claim superfluous.

To every "you should" it replies with an "I was about to". One might doubt whether such recreated value was faithful to the call of the time, as well as whether the tonality of a revival of German tradition run a risk of detachment from the rest of the world. At any rate, genuine communication was handicapped, not enhanced, by this introversion. That being said, it remains true that Jaspers' observation of the psychology of post-war reactions had its intrinsic value, which could not be undermined by the occasional character of the whole book.

For example, he talked about the "zeal to have the other admit guilt", about "the feeling of guiltlessness" which "holds itself entitled to hold others guilty" The zeal arose from an escape from genuine repentance, because in this accusation, or in "an urge to confess" , the lustful will to power was all the more present. Confession in this case always carried with it an unjustified moment of empowerment. Sep 24, Joseph Sverker added it Shelves: philosophy.

This book was most certainly interesting and often insightful, but I might not find it profound. Jaspers, according to the introduction by JW Koterski, came out of WWII with not guilt in association with the Nazi party and as such maybe he could have avoided the question of guilt, or taken some high road and blame for example Heidegger for his association with the Nazi party.

However, Jaspers delineates four different types of guilt, criminal guilt, political guilt, moral guilt and metaphysical This book was most certainly interesting and often insightful, but I might not find it profound. However, Jaspers delineates four different types of guilt, criminal guilt, political guilt, moral guilt and metaphysical guilt. The first type is related to breaking of laws and in this particular case, Jasper points out, the law is decided by the Allies and not by the Germans.

An Analysis of The Question of German Guilt by Karl Jaspers.docx

That makes this a very strange situation and Jaspers sees the Nuremberg trials as a test to see if the Allies will attempt to judge the war criminals "fairly" or with a focus on retribution. Jaspers kind of leaves it at that, but I think Hannah Arendt has a more insightful analysis about the issue of criminal guilt in a totalitarian society in that the very law is immoral according to her. That, to me, is a very relevant question in terms of the German situation after WWII, and it is a question that muddles Jaspers' distinctions. They sound very clear cut in tho book, but with Arendt's question it is obvious that for example criminal and moral quilt are not necessarily easily divided.

Secondly, political guilt is a more wide spanning and communal. It has to do with the fact that all actions are in a way political in a modern society.


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  4. Jaspers argues that it is no longer possible as it might have been in the age of the dessert fathers for example to completely alienate oneself from the society. And as such whether one wish or not one's actions will have a political consequence. In that, Jaspers argues that in a way the whole of the German people have some guilt in allowing the Nazi party to power. However, this might also include other European nations. Jaspers points out that even Churchill wrote in positive terms about Hitler in the 30s, even though, according to Jaspers, it was obvious from the start what Hitler was up to.

    Thirdly, moral guilt is how one judge oneself according to one's conscience. Here, one could let oneself go free of course, but it might come back to haunt you. And Jaspers encourage soul searching and honesty. Fourthly, metaphysical guilt is a rather surprising category coming from a philosopher, but the book gives evidence of Jaspers close association with theology or even faith?

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    But metaphysical guilt is associated with a idea of a God judging what is right and wrong in a metaphysical sense. But, this is not as abstract for Jaspers as it might sound. What he wants to capture with this category is the sense, that is found among many human beings, of guilt that one can feel with the knowledge or awareness of human wickedness and the victims from that.

    This is a kind of feeling of co-responsibility for simply being human. These categories are helpful and the book is a very interesting read, particularly as a historical document, being written so close to the end of the war as it is.