The Karl Jaspers Society of North America is a philosophy organisation founded in 1980 to promote study and research on the ideas of Karl Jaspers (1883-1969), a German-Swiss psychiatrist and philosopher. As her teacher and life-long friend, Jaspers was a big influence on Hannah Arendt and her ideas.

In May 2022 the KJSNA organised a session in the series ‘Author Meets Critics’ and invited Professor Mattias Desmet, author of The Psychology of Totalitarianism, to discuss the ideas in his book. However, shortly before the online meeting Desmet cancelled his attendance without giving much explanation.

Our best guess is that Desmet had not done his research into the KJSNA and that once he realised the level of expertise he was up against, he got cold feet and withdrew at the last minute. It’s not the first time this has happened. In Belgium he also cancelled his debate with Maarten Boudry, a Belgian philosopher who is very sceptical about Desmet’s theory, at the last minute.

As the meeting was already set up, the KJSNA decided to go ahead anyway and changed the format into a book discussion.

You will find a shortened edited version here.

The speakers featuring in this edited version are in order of appearance:

Helmut Wautischer, Senior philosopher lecturer at Sonoma State University, California and moderator of this group discussion.

Nassir Ghaemi, Professor of Psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine and Lecturer on Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He also is the Director of the Psychopharmacology Consultation Clinic at Tufts Medical Center. Beside the MD degree, and psychiatry residency, he holds a M. A. degree in philosophy from Tufts, and a M.P.H. degree in clinical effectiveness from the Harvard School of Public Health. He has published over 300 scientific articles, has edited two books, and has written six other books, including a text on statistics (published by Cambridge University Press). His textbook of psychopharmacology (published by Oxford University Press) received the 2020 PROSE Award from the Association of American Publishers for Excellence in Biological and Life Sciences. His expertise includes Karl Jaspers’ work on psychopathology and Jaspers’ subsequent philosophical output, including Hannah Arendt. His three-decade long activity in clinical research and his familiarity with statistics provides an additional angle by which to assess the statistical claims presented in Desmet’s book.

Michael Schwartz, Joint Professor of Psychiatry and Humanities in Medicine (retired) at the Texas A&M College of Medicine in Round Rock. Dr. Schwartz is board certified in psychiatry, and he is a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He is also co-founding editor of the journal Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine. Author of nearly 200 peer-reviewed papers, book chapters, monographs and edited volumes, he has served as founding president of the Association for the Advancement of Philosophy and Psychiatry and, since its inception, he is associate editor of the journal Philosophy, Psychiatry, Psychology. His expertise includes person- and people-centered approaches to psychiatric assessment, care, and treatment, which adds a valuable perspective with regard to claims about crowd- or mass-formation.

Edward Mendelowitz, faculty member at Saybrook University in Los Angeles, California. He also lectures in the department of psychiatry at Tufts School of Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts. Dr. Mendelowitz sees clients for individual therapy focusing, especially, on existential-humanistic themes. He serves on the Board of Editors for the Journal of Humanistic Psychology and is Associate Editor of The Humanistic Psychologist, published by the Society for Humanistic Psychology, APA Division 32. In 2016, he received the Rollo May Award. He is one of the world’s foremost contemporary practitioners of existentially-oriented psychotherapy. He has written on a variety of humanistic themes, related to the arts, film, music, literature, philosophy, religion, and the broader humanities, and has authored a column for years on psychology and the broader humanities and arts called Humanitas.

Vicky Iakovou, faculty member at the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of the Aegean, in Mytilene, Greece. Dr. Iakovou received her PhD in Political Science from the University of Paris 7—Denis Diderot in 2001 with a dissertation on Arendt and Critical Theory, and she continued to research and publish about Arendt’s political theory ever since. Her publications are in Greek language, French, and English language are on a variety of topics, including the Frankfurt school, contemporary political and social philosophy, Michel Foucault, Martin Heidegger, and Arendt, Arendt, Arendt. In addition, she has translated books by Paul Ricoeur, Jacques Ranciere, Miguel Abensour, Jean-Luc Nancy, Slavoj Žižek, and several other distinguished philosophers. Dr. Iakovou offers unrivaled expertise on the subject matter of totalitarianism with regard to Hannah Arendt.

If you prefer to watch the whole recording, you will find it here on Youtube.

If you want to read the papers mentioned in the recording you will find those here:

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