Encountering the Encompassing


PHIL 1050, MWF @ 1:00pm, Monday 19 Sep 2016

My young friends were asked to read Jaspers chapter on das Umgreifende, the Encompassing or as Ralph Mannheim translates the term in Way to Wisdom, the Comprehensive. Not an easy thing to talk about or think about. My hope was that our reading the Dào 1 for our last class might give them a good example of how other thinkers have attempted to talk about the background of all reality. Similarly, the Chaos of Hesiod, the Good of Plato, the Brahman of the Upanishads, the “before before” of the Big Bang theory, etc et al., provide other attempts to get at the process of To-Be from which all else comes-to-be.

Of course, this is “officially” hard stuff. We are taking it slow for the rest of the semester in order to move from what we (believe ourselves) to know quite well to that which refuses to be simply named and then treated like any other thing.

For Jaspers, consideration of the Encompassing begins with recognition of how the intentionality of consciousness is always already structured along the subject/object dichotomy, how this dichotomy reveals everything as in relation to all else, and how we can discover our own relation to the immanence of the World and the transcendence of the Divine. This includes recognizing how any attempt to talk about the Source–the Encompassing–can only be accomplished in something like hieroglyphics or to use his more familiar notion, Ciphers.

This chapter sets up the “modes of the Encompassing” which we are–Dasein (being-here in the world), Consciousness-at-large (subject/object knowledge), Geist (spirit or mind), and possible Existenz (unfortunately translated as “existence” in Mannheim’s English version)–as well as the modes that surround us: the Being-World (immanent nameable reality) and Transcendent-Being (the divine, nameless “God”).

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