Karl Jaspers (1883–1969): Truth, Academic Freedom and Student Autonomy

  • Stephen BurwoodEmail author
Part of the Debating Higher Education: Philosophical Perspectives book series (DHEP, volume 2)


The tension between the public utility and accountability of the university on the one hand, and its core academic mission and the disinterested pursuit of truth on the other, lies at the heart of Jaspers’ reflections on the nature of this peculiar institution and his public falling out with Heidegger. Jaspers’ approach to this issue is to elaborate a normative ideal, with complete academic freedom at its core, that provides a goal that actual, real-world institutions can and should aim to realise. In a world where despotism and autocracy are very real threats to intellectual and academic freedom, and where the Humboldtian conception of the university is also threatened by populism and the ascendency of technocratic values in its heartland of the liberal democracies, Jasper’s idea of the university still has significance for us. In fact, or so I shall argue, an institution approximating Jaspers’ ideal is not one divorced from the state and society in which it resides, for it serves the interests of a particular kind of state and society precisely by being free of state control and having truth and knowledge as its aims.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of HullHullUK

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