Karl Joel (March 27, 1864 – July 23, 1934) was a German philosopher and professor. Joel was born in Hirschberg, Silesia, and died in Walenstadt, Switzerland. One reason he became particularly well known is that C G Jung quoted him in the Psychology of the Unconscious [London 1919] as he described a spiritual experience – and we have this as the observation.
Joel came from a family of rabbis in Hirschberg (Silesia). His uncle, David and Manuel Joël, were both well-known researchers of Jewish religion and philosophy.
His father R. Herman Joel, had been a pupil of Schelling and apparently had a great influence on his son's attitude toward philosophy. Joel spent some time in Berlin (1887–92), where he became a friend of Georg Simmel. The influences of Georg Simmel and Arthur Schopenhauer are clearly recognizable.
Joel attended high school in Hirschberg, where he received a classical education. At the age of 18 he began his studies of philosophy in Breslau, where Wilhelm Dilthey taught. After two semesters Joël moved to Leipzig. There he received his doctorate in 1886 with a study into the intellectual development and literary motifs of Plato. After graduation, he went to the University of Strasbourg and dealt more with ancient philosophy.
In 1893 he qualified as a professor at the University of Basel. He applied five times in vain for a chair in Germany. His first major work, about Socrates, found a supporter in the Basel classical philologist Ferdinand Dümmler. This led to Joël being appointed in 1897 to the University of Basel as an extraordinary professor and in 1902 as a full professor. In 1913 he was elected rector of the University of Basel. He was there until his death.
The rise of Nazism hit him hard as a Jew. In 1934, Joël died of a stroke and was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Basel. He left most of his library at the University of Jerusalem.
It is clear from the descriptions of his philosophy today that few understand what he meant, but it is almost eastern in its conceptual thinking.
The existence of form is an illusion, the physical world is a dynamic process, a system producing results rather than a fixed entity. He was certainly no supporter of the materialistic approach. In Soul and World, Joel incorporated a number of new scientific ideas such as the theory of evolution, experimental psychology and electrodynamics.
Joel called his philosophical system "New Idealism." He defended the completeness of philosophy against the attempts to divide it up into "specialized" branches and compartments, and he emphasized the necessity of an all-embracing philosophy a sort of synthesis of understanding.
In his Basler time he treated not only ancient philosophy, but also other issues, and “his philosophical approach showed a clear tendency to vitalism”. In other words he recognised the existence of spirit. The titles of all his books reflect this deep understanding of the underlying dynamic of the world. Thus arose in 1912 his masterpiece Soul and world, in which his life’s philosophical approach is most evident.
After the appearance of Soul and World his philosophy showed different trends. His 1917 the Philosophy of History was written whilst under the influence of the events of the First World War. His later works History of ancient philosophy and Belief changes are based on the philosophy of history.
- Wandlungen der Weltanschauung, 2 Bde., 1928–34 Belief changes
- Nietzsche und die Romantik, 1905 - Nietzsche and Romanticism
- Ursprung der Naturphilosophie aus dem Geiste der Mystik, 1906 Origin of natural philosophy in the spirit of mysticism, 1906
- Seele und Welt: Versuch einer organischen Auffassung, 1912 Soul and world: an attempt at organic considers 1912
- Geschichte der antiken Philosophie, 1. Bd., 1921 History of ancient philosophy
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