Article

Mortality and Morality: A Search for Good After Auschwitz

Authors:
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the authors.

Abstract

"Hans Jonas (1903-93) was a German Jew, pupil of Heidegger and Bultmann, lifelong friend and colleague of Hannah Arendt at the New School for Social Research, and one of the most prominent thinkers of his generation. The range of his topics never obscures their unifying thread: that our mortality is at the root of our moral responsibility to safeguard humanity's future. Mortality and Morality both consummates and demonstrates the basic thrust of Jonas's thought: the inseparability of ethics and metaphysics, the reality of values at the center of being. "

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the authors.

... This is a shame, since he was one of the first scholars to address the dangers of technological development and climate change in great depth. 2 But in the heydays of postmodernism and discourse analysis, when much was destabilized through deconstruction, he was probably too metaphysical and "materialist," and now that the pendulum has swung towards new materialisms, he is perhaps too easily (and mistakenly) seen as anthropocentric. Like other students of Heidegger and post-Heideggerian thinkers (e.g., Arendt, Gadamer, Levinas), Jonas developed a moral philosophy based on the experiences of the Holocaust, partly as a reaction to what he saw as the lurking nihilism in Heidegger's existential phenomenology (Jonas, 1996). ...
... This is so because only humans are responsible for their lives and what they do. Jonas develops a philosophy of natural responsibility by first interpreting nature existentially (Jonas, 1966(Jonas, /2001 and then developing an account of human nature specifically that centers on a metaphysical grounding of our ethical obligations (Jonas, 1984(Jonas, , 1996. ...
Article
William James famously defined psychology as the science of mental life. Much ink has since been spilled over the concept of the mental, but less so over the notion of life. In this article, I argue that psychologists should address life as an equally important concept. First, I briefly articulate Aristotle’s idea of the soul (or mind) as a life principle. Second, I argue with reference to Wittgenstein that the division between the living and non-living is more basic and important than that between mind and matter. Third, I introduce the work of the philosopher Hans Jonas, who made the phenomenon of life central to his existential interpretation of biological facts and argued that nature should be seen as a source of value. My conclusion is that psychology as a science of life must be a biographical science—a science of what it is to live a life.
... 8 This is not to say that Jonas adopts a new kind of substance dualism between living and non-living being. On the contrary, his 'integral monism' [9] holds that 'right from the beginning matter is subjectivity in its latent form, even if aeons, plus exceptional luck, are required for the actualizing of this potential' [29]. artefacts and simple machines do not act in the organismic fashion outlined, modern technologies certainly do. ...
... 13 Rolston argues that there is one way in which all organisms value extrinsically, namely, their striving for continued existence: '[a] life is defended for what it is in itself, without necessary further contributory reference' [49]. Jonas concurs, suggesting that the fact that the organism maintains itself in being simply for itself means that this existence is valued 'beyond all instrumentality' [29]. entity to have intrinsic value. ...
Article
Full-text available
This article is concerned with two interrelated questions: what, if anything, distinguishes synthetic from natural organisms, and to what extent, if any, creating the former is of moral significance. These are ontological and ethical questions, respectively. As the title indicates, I address both from a broadly neo-Aristotelian perspective, i.e. a teleological philosophy of life and virtue ethics. For brevity’s sake, I shall not argue for either philosophical position at length, but instead hope to demonstrate their legitimacy through their explanatory power. I firstly argue that synthetic organisms differ in kind from natural organisms and machines, and differ only by degree from genetically modified organisms. I then suggest that this is nevertheless sufficient to give us specific ethical reservations about synthetic biology: namely, that more than any other widely used biotechnology, it is characterised by a drive to mastery that stands opposed to due appreciation of the giftedness of life.
... In our era we are presented with no such call. The philosopher Hans Jonas has put it in these terms (Jonas 1996): ...
Book
Full-text available
This book contributes to the current discussion on geoethics and global ethics within the geoscience and humanities communities. It provides new content and insights into developing convergent human actions in response to global anthropogenic changes, based on perspectives that make it possible to combine geoscience knowledge with humanities and social sciences approaches. Selected authors present their reflections, findings and insights regarding the vision of geoethics (ethics of responsibility towards the Earth) as global ethics from philosophical, humanities and social sciences perspectives. In addition, they discuss ethical frameworks from diverse cultural traditions, searching for points of intersection with geoethics. The goal: for global environmental problems to be managed via multi-perspective approaches that can more effectively accommodate complexity. Combining the strengths of the geosciences, humanities and social sciences can pave the way for a paradigm shift in how human societies develop adaptive, sustainable responses to environmental changes and societal inequalities.
... "symbolicum," he/she would not have developed into "sapiens" [3, p. 79, 82; see also 12]. 3 Finally, Jonas' reflections shed light on the mutual connections between human faculties and qualities-like imagination, reflection, and speech -, which characterize thinking. ...
... Before his death environmental philosopher Hans Jonas said "The latest revelation (...) is the outcry of mute things themselves that we must heed by curbing our power over creation, let we perish together on a wasteland of what was creation." (Jonas, 1996). ...
Book
This introductory chapter signposts the rationale, framework and case study contents of the book. Firstly, we offer an overview of the need for new more progressive business models than the mainstream which exists at present, identifying the current challenges facing business in Europe and beyond in its international ramifications. To remedy these challenges, we present our alternative vision of progressive business functioning, whose basic criteria comprise ecological sustainability, respect for future generations, and pro-socialness. Then, synopses of our case examples follow.
... In ethics the most advanced concept of responsibility was developed by German-American philosopher Hans Jonas (1984Jonas ( , 1996. He defines responsibility as a duty in caring for the beings 3 affected by one's actions and policies. ...
Chapter
It is a serious failure of business and management researchers when they solve the wrong problem precisely. This means that their problem formulation is inadequate which may lead to disastrous consequences for the well-being of the stakeholders. To avoid substantive failures in problem solving business and management scholars should reconsider the basic assumptions of the system under their study and include as many stakeholders’ views as possible. Appropriate problem solutions should address all the important dimensions of the problem in question (the scientific-technical, the interpersonal-social, the systemic-ecological, and the existential-spiritual), and create some optimal balance among them. The job of responsible business and management research is identifying the right problems and producing solutions for them that are substantively adequate and ethically acceptable in a broad socioeconomic context.
... It should be relatively easy to see that there would be both pragmatist and Wittgensteinian ways of cashing this idea out in terms of concepts such as human practice, form of life, and language game. 58 Consider, for instance, the ways in which Jewish philosophers like Hans Jonas have found it necessary to 'rethink God' after the Holocaust (Jonas 1996;cf. Pihlström 2014b). ...
... This may seem a long way removed from practical politics, but if the main barrier to action lies in the social/cultural sphere, then this may be precisely the register in which environmentalists need to talk. Note 1. Jonas (1996) makes a similar point regarding the impact of awareness of the potential for nuclear holocaust on the ability of people to believe in a vicarious immortality of name or influence. ...
Article
Full-text available
Despite the development of the environmental state, climate change is accelerating. The concept of the 'glass ceiling'-denoting an unexplained barrier, impeding the state from using its powers effectively to mitigate threats that it acknowledges should be addressed-has been put forward to account for this. Here, a structural account of this phenomenon is advanced, which suggests that environmental policies are generally outcompeted among government priorities wherever they threaten the capitalist growth imperative. In addition, social/cultural factors, based on the psychology of denial, provide a necessary contribution to our understanding. A threefold denialism is at work: of climate change itself, the measures required to tackle it (where these contradict a modern faith in material progress), and the potential incapacity of the state to protect society (discouraging close attention to the effectiveness of its climate policies).
... Jonas would later be more explicit about the his approval of a temporary suspending of individualistic ethics for the sake of survival: in the essay "Toward an Ontological Grounding of an Ethics for the Future" (Jonas, 1996), Jonas states that the faith in the resurfacing of a humanitarian humanity renders "permissible, for the sake of physical survival, to accept if need be a temporary absence of freedom in the external affairs of humanity" (Jonas, 1996, p. 112). This is a bold declaration that politically accepts tyranny and philosophically re-positions existence as prior to ethics. ...
Article
Full-text available
The primary concern of environmental ethics pushed to the limit is the question of survival. An ethic of survival would concern the possibility of morality in an environmental crisis that promises humanity immeasurable damage, suffering, and even the possibility of species extinction. A phenomenological analysis of the question of moral response to such future catastrophe reveals—in Heideggerian fashion contra-Heidegger—that the very question positions us in a relation of responsibility towards a world and a humanity that lies beyond one’s reach and extends into the future. Responsibility, then, arises as a constituting element that defines humanity and therefore cannot be bracketed away or suspended in a time of crisis. Through a reading of Hans Jonas’ notion of responsibility and a critique of some major notions of Environmental Ethics, this article argues that an ethic of survival is conditioned by the survival of humanity as a moral, responsible species. The main challenge of this responsibility is further suggested to be the clash between the autonomy and dignity of the individual and the vital needs of the larger community in the struggle for survival.
... Classical views justify evil as serving a greater purpose while retaining God's omniscience and omnipotence (Phillips 2001). In contrast, after the horrors of the Holocaust, Hans Jonas (1996) attempted to absolve God of any blame for evil and suffering, suggesting that God is no longer active in the worldhence blame falls on humans. 33 From the Buddhist perspective, evil is due to human attachment to a world of impermanent and changing things, including ego (Cobb, 2001;Varela 1999). ...
Article
Full-text available
A philosophy of management that incorporates the big picture of human experience, all levels, and degrees of awareness in relationship with the world, will better develop and sustain an environment conducive to creative contributions that meet organizational goals. Quantum physics reveals the nature of reality to be connection and creativity engaged in a process of actualizing possibilities. Human beings participate in this process of actualization, as both observer-creator and experiencer of the universe through multiple domains of knowing – a collaborator in Alfred North Whitehead’s panexperientialism. Whitehead’s God of process, the primordial field of creative possibilities, and the consequent nature which holds all the experiences of every actualization, supports human consciousness, as it self-actualizes by engaging and integrating the experience of external and internal events and their effects on awareness. Through understanding the participatory nature of consciousness with God and the world as experienced, deep meaning emerges for human life. Tapping into this deeper meaning through a philosophy of management that acknowledges the full human experience, including the embedded spiritual connection to the creative energy that is God, strengthens an organization’s vision, mission and contributions to a community. This brief overview traces a path toward a preliminary framework for a philosophy of management based on God and the ideas of connection, creativity and process.
... Before his death environmental philosopher Hans Jonas said "The latest revelation (...) is the outcry of mute things themselves that we must heed by curbing our power over creation, let we perish together on a wasteland of what was creation." (Jonas, 1996). ...
Book
This book presents and analyses exemplary cases of progressive business, understood as ecologically sustainable, future-respecting and pro-social enterprise. The authors present a number of companies following progressive business practices from a range of industries including ethical and sustainable banking, artisan coffee production and distribution, pharmaceutical products, clean technology, governance in retailing, responsible hospitality and consumer goods. With case studies from around Europe such as Tridos Bank in The Netherlands, Béres Co. in Hungary, Novo Nordisk in Denmark, Lumituuli in Finland, John Lewis in the UK and Illy Café from Italy, these progressive companies have global reach and an international impact. The collected cases aim to show the best to be expected from business in the 21st century in a structured accessible way, suitable for any readers interested in innovative ways of creating forward-looking sustainable business.
Article
Full-text available
In this essay I offer an outline of a theology of survival as it emerges from the writings of the three modern Marrano thinkers: Michel de Montaigne, Baruch Spinoza, and Jacques Derrida. I will argue that, in their thought which is deeply concerned with the apology of life, the Marrano choice of living on over the martyrological death becomes affirmed as the right thing to do despite the price of forced conversion—and that this choice, once reflected and accepted, modifies the Jewish doctrine of life (torat hayim), by adding to it a new messianic dimension. In my interpretation, the Marranos will emerge as the agents of the messianic inversion, leading from the tragic predicament of the victims of coercion to the radical hope of the “rejected stones” and capable of once again reinventing and rejuvenating the messianic message of the Abrahamic religions, conceived as God’s superior commandment to choose life. From Montaigne, through Spinoza, to Derrida, life understood primarily as survival becomes an object of a new affirmation: it begins to glow as a secret treasure of Judaism which the Marranos simultaneously left behind and preserved in a new messianic-universal form.
Article
O objetivo do presente ensaio é apresentar os principais pontos da crítica de Hans Jonas à concepção de natureza desenvolvida na modernidade, sobretudo pelas ciências naturais e pela matemática. A influência da matemática e da física, diz Jonas, projetou sobre a natureza e sobre o cosmos um olhar científico que, interessando em entender “apenas” seu funcionamento a partir das descobertas das leis que os regem, legou-nos um cosmos e uma natureza destituídos de valor intrínseco. Compreender essa análise de Jonas sobre a concepção de natureza na modernidade nos permite entender a preocupação do filósofo a respeito do modo como os seres humanos se relacionam e agem com/no mundo natural, tarefa importante para situar sua fenomenologia dentro de seu projeto ético.
Article
Throughout his career, Hans Jonas has reflected on the notion of the human soul and on the concept of man being created in God’s image. A careful analysis of his writings reveals that (approximately) from 1968 he changed his perspective on these topics. Before this year, Jonas used some Gnostic myths to speak about the image of man in relation to God and was concerned that referring to the immortality of the human soul or to the notion of imago Dei could lead to dualistic or pseudo-Gnostic interpretations of the natural world. From 1968 (when Jonas published an article for an American Jewish journal) he started to underline the importance of the Judeo-Christian notion of imago Dei (from the book of Genesis) for his ethical project. Subsequently, he used this concept (derived from the Bible rather than from Gnostic texts) in support of his ethical approach to show the special role that God assigned to humanity to act as a steward of His creation. This article presents the development of Jonas’s contributions on these issues over time, their importance in relation to his ethical project and how he was influenced in the development of his perspective on this subject.
Article
Full-text available
The story of Noah is the story of a near-total biocide. And yet, in popular imagination, it appears as more of a floating petting zoo, a charming menagerie that follows the far more serious Edenic storylines of Genesis 1–5. In this paper, the ark, and midrash it inspired, acts as a guide for a set of speculations and arguments about the role Jewish philosophy might play during the present ecological disaster. These speculations are guided by the following claim: Jewish philosophy best responds to ecological crises when it does not attempt to provide an ecological ethics “out of the sources of Judaism”—making expansive normative and metaphysical claims—but instead explores enclosures and spaces; when it thinks about our relation to disasters, rather than trying to prevent or solve them. In other words, there is an element of Jewish thought which attempts to think enclosures and protect small but important things in the midst of disasters, and it is this I wish to highlight. My goal is to demonstrate that this kind of thinking presents viable possibilities for ecological thought. Specifically, I will argue that Mara Benjamin’s work gives us an indication of where such philosophy can go and how it might get there.
Article
Regarding the epistemological borderlines between science and philosophy, this article approaches the human mind and ethics from biological and philosophical theories. For this purpose, the Darwinian theory of evolution by natural selection provides a scientific foundation to understand the human mind and ethics. However, not only Charles Darwin has studied mental faculties and ethics, this is also a topic researched by eminent contemporary paleontologists and biologists. Prior to modern biology, going back to Greek philosophy, philosophers have traditionally studied the human mind and ethics, separating human beings and the rest of nature ontologically. Following modern biology, the philosopher Hans Jonas has developed a philosophical biology from the perspective of hermeneutical phenomenology to understand life. With the help of his hermeneutical phenomenology, Jonas has presented an ontological theory of organism-metabolism to understand the phenomenon of life from simple living beings to the human mind in relation to nature, based on the body. Recently, the evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala has proposed a coherent scientific and philosophical theory about biological and cultural roots for ethics, considering the evolution of human mental and intellectual capacities and the three conditions for ethical behavior as a part of human intellectual capacity, which scientifically complements and informs Hans Jonas’s philosophical biology and ethics of responsibility.
Article
Full-text available
Artikkelissa tarkastellaan uskonnonfilosofisen tutkimuksen ja keskustelun – ja siten laajemmin uskontoa koskevan akateemisen keskustelun – eettistä vastuullisuutta. Eräät keskeiset analyyttiset uskonnonfilosofit ovat kannattaneet konservatiivisia kristillisiä näkemyksiä, joihin saattaa sisältyä esimerkiksi yleisten ihmisoikeuksien kannalta ongelmallisia, toisia ihmisiä (kuten sukupuoli- ja seksuaalivähemmistöjä tai abortintekijöitä) syrjiviä ja loukkaavia käsityksiä. Artikkelissa ehdotetaan, että tällaisia ajattelutapoja tulee arvioida holistisen pragmatismin pohjalta: eettisesti ongelmallisia kantoja puolustavien filosofien ajattelun kokonaisuuteen sisältyvät teoreettisimmatkaan ideat eivät ole suojattuja eettiseltä kritiikiltä. Tarkasteltaessa uskonnonfilosofisen (tai minkä tahansa) ajattelujärjestelmän kokonaisuutta arvioitavana on aina sekä faktuaalisia että normatiivisia väitteitä ja uskomuksia, ja eettisin perustein saatetaan joskus joutua kyseenalaistamaan myös faktuaalisiksi katsottuja käsityksiä. Kun apologetiikan palvelukseen ideologisesti asettuva uskonnonfilosofinen argumentaatio alistetaan tällaiselle kritiikille, se osoittautuu eräänlaiseksi ”älylliseksi harharetkeksi” samaan tapaan kuin poliittisesti arveluttavien ideologioiden tueksi asettuneiden intellektuellien näkemykset. Erityisen ongelmallinen apologeettisen uskonnonfilosofian elementti on vain yhden uskonnon toiset poissulkevaan (pelastavaan) totuuteen uskova eksklusivismi (eri muodoissaan). Artikkelissa korostetaan, että ainoastaan uskonnollisen eksklusivismin hylkäävä uskonnonfilosofinen lähestymistapa kykenee eettisesti vastuulliseen keskusteluun uskonnosta. Tästä eettisestä kritiikistä avautuu kuitenkin myös metafilosofisia kysymyksiä siitä, mitä ylipäänsä merkitsee tarkastella filosofisesti eettisen ajattelun ja keskustelun rajoja tai tällaisten rajojen rikkomisia. Eettinen ja metafilosofinen taso kietoutuvat artikkelin argumentaatiossa näin erottamattomasti yhteen.
Chapter
Full-text available
Sam Harris (2010) argues that, given our neurology, we can experience well-being, and that seeking to maximize this state lets us distinguish the good from the bad. He takes our ability to compare degrees of well-being as his starting point, but I think that the analysis can be pushed further, since there is a (non-religious) reason why well-being is desirable, namely the finite life of an individual organism. It is because death is a constant possibility that things can be assessed as “for” or “against” one (Champagne 2011a; Smith 2000). Such an account lets us objectively adjudicate moral questions, as Harris desires. However, by anchoring itself in the mortal body as a whole and not just the brain, such an account dampens the claim that neuroscience would have all the answers. Moreover, it pivots on an affirmation of one’s life that can seem mysterious by regular scientific standards. This chapter thus explains why the trade-off is worthwhile.
Article
The aim of the article is to reconstruct Hans Jonas’ vision of ethics for the technological civilization and to highlight the challenges that are faced in the attempt to provide an ontological grounding for such ethics. The attempt to develop the ethics of responsibility is inseparable from the affirmation of paternalistic political positions, which leads towards apologetics of total governmental control. In the face of dangers created by modern technology, Jonas argues that attempts to safeguard the existence of humanity are best served by a government that controls all aspects of life. Jonas maintains that in the face of various dangers created by modern technologies, a relationship with them, which is based on fear, becomes pragmatic and rational. A positive evaluation of fear leads towards reactionary political tendencies. Philosopher’s imperative is based on the duty to protect „genuine” human life, however, his vision of total technocratic government could lead to an absolute dehumanization of humanity. It is therefore concluded that Jonas‘ vision of ethics is incompatible with the political ethics of liberal democracy.
Article
Full-text available
El propósito del artículo es justificar la crítica de Francis Fukuyama a la concepción bioliberal del ser humano y a su propuesta de modificarlo (mejorarlo) tecnológicamente para convertirlo en un posthumano (con las consecuencias que ello acarrea, especialmente en lo concerniente a la posible convivencia entre humanos y posthumanos). Fukuyama fue, en efecto, una de las primeras y más resonantes voces que se pronunció en contra de la utopía bioliberal. Eso le convirtió en blanco de numerosas críticas. El presente trabajo se enfoca en los dos argumentos que, a mi juicio, mejor sintetizan la diversidad de objeciones lanzadas contra Fukuyama, e intenta demostrar que ninguno de ellos logra desmontar su crítica. Consiguientemente, sugiere que las tesis de Fukuyama sobre el tema continúan vigentes (al menos en sus postulados fundamentales) y que ameritan ulteriores análisis y desarrollos. Palabras clave: Francis Fukuyama; posthumano/posthumanismo; transhumanismo; Factor X; derechos posthumanos.
Article
O objetivo do presente ensaio é apresentar os principais pontos da crítica de Hans Jonas à concepção de natureza desenvolvida na modernidade, sobretudo pelas ciências naturais e pela matemática. A influência da matemática e da física, diz Jonas, projetou sobre a natureza e sobre o cosmos um olhar científico que, interessando em entender “apenas” seu funcionamento a partir das descobertas das leis que os regem, legou-nos um cosmos e uma natureza destituídos de valor intrínseco. Compreender essa análise de Jonas sobre a concepção de natureza na modernidade nos permite entender a preocupação do filósofo a respeito do modo como os seres humanos se relacionam e agem com/no mundo natural, tarefa importante para situar sua fenomenologia dentro de seu projeto ético.
Article
Full-text available
Paul Draper argues that the central issue in the debate over the problem of suffering is not whether the theist can offer a probable explanation of suffering, but whether theism or naturalism can give a better explanation for the facts regarding the distribution of pain as we find them. He likewise maintains a comparison of relative probabilities considering the facts of suffering; atheological naturalism is to be preferred. This essay proceeds in two phases: (a) It will be argued that mainstream positions in naturalistic philosophy of mind make it difficult to take pain as anything but epiphenomenal and therefore not subject to evolutionary explanation. While the distribution of suffering is a difficulty for the theist, the naturalist has equal difficulty explaining the fact that there is any suffering at all in the first place. Thus, the facts of suffering offer no advantage to the atheist. (b) Phenomenologists suggest that there is an intrinsic connection between animal life, pain, and normativity (including a summum bonum). The mere occurrence of life and normativity are, at least prima facie, more likely on the assumption of theism than atheism, so the theist may have a probabilistic advantage relative to the atheist. Phases (a) and (b) together support the overall conclusion that the facts of pain as we find them in the world (including that there is any pain at all) are at least as great, if not greater, a challenge for the atheist as they are the theist.
Article
Time can only be understood within physics as a special dimension of a four-dimensional reality given “all at once” in its totality. There seems to be no way that a special moment (“now”) can be distinguished. Within human experience, however, the feel of time is vivid: now is intensely present, and time flows from one now to another. This dramatic difference, between the realm of personal experience and the realm of material existence, raises doubt about the unity of the concept of nature and thus about the attraction of naturalism. Following the thought of Abraham Joshua Heschel, I explore whether a solely physical universe can serve as an appropriate whole of an existence that also includes persons. Heschel argues that the whole of existence needs to have a personal character as well, in other words God.
Article
Full-text available
The article explores Kant’s notion of the human being as the ultimate end of nature, presenting an ethical interpretation of this notion. The author of this article believes that the analysis of Kant’s assumptions will allow a deeper understanding of our own hermeneutical situation, in which ecological problems force us to rethink our relationship with nature and the meaning of human existence. Analyzing Kant’s early texts on Lisbon earthquake and his reflection on the sublime in the Critique of Judgement, the author asks how the experience of an uncontrolled natural element complements Kant’s ethical vision of nature’s teleology. Emphasizing the importance of insight into human vulnerability for the implementation of moral purpose in nature, the article outlines guidelines for interpretation that allow the relevance of Kant’s position in the context of contemporary environmental ethics.
Article
A comprehensive analysis of the evolving conditions that provided for the emergence and autonomization of the field of bioethical inquiry, as well as the social, cultural and political background against which its birth can be set, should enlighten us about the problematic nature that characterises it from its very onset. Those conditions are: abuses in experimentation on human subjects, availability of new biomedical technologies, the challenging of prevalent medical paradigms and the ultimate meaning and purpose of medical care, new scientific and social fields of concern dealing with ecology and environmental health, genetic engineering and biotechnologies, demographics, behavioural manipulation, reproductive medicine, etc., the upsurge of social movements raising issues of medical importance, and the need for an ethics for the technological age. The scope and meaning of bioethics is best defined by the overriding questions that open up the field of both theoretical and practical bioethical inquiry rather than by the individual responses given to such questions by the most prominent spokesmen in bioethics.
Article
Full-text available
The Anthropocene is a term described by Earth Systems Science to capture the recent rupture in the history of the Earth where human action has acquired the power to alter the Earth System as a whole. While normative conclusions cannot be logically derived from this descriptive fact, this paper argues that law and philosophy ought to develop responses that are ordered around human beings. Rather than arguing for legal rights or extending rights to nature, this paper focuses on obligations. Drawing on Hans Jonas, it argues that obligations are a more appropriate tool for cultivating human plurality, restraining human action and protecting future generations.
Article
The burgeoning field of economic theology constitutes primarily a critical device against the Nachleben of medieval providential theology in modern economic governance. Especially Agamben has highlighted the role of the notion of oikonomia in providential and modern economic thought to promote humble acceptance in light of the problem of evil. I show how economic theology can also be a vantage point for affirmative critique. I discuss Negri’s interpretation of the Book of Job and the Italian feminist appreciation of the Virgin Mary as responses to the problem of evil. Both emphasize the ineradicable potential for resistance to oikonomia in human life instead of merely lamenting humanity’s submission to God’s providential economy, like Agamben. For Negri, this potential is located in humankind’s capacity to protest against God-given evil and re-appropriate God’s potential for creating the world, while the feminists point toward the human ability to care for the vulnerable.
Article
Full-text available
Analytic theodicy commonly suggests an overarching reason why a benevolent, omniscient and omnipotent deity permits the quantity and intensity of suffering in our world. This is often couched in terms of freedom of belief or action, or some other variation of the claim that suffering is “worth the price.” I argue that not even the hope of post-mortem consolation could adequately compensate any individual for the inevitable loss of everything which makes, or might have made, life in this world worth living. By contrast, transformational theodicy argues that suffering is an unfortunate by-product of our evolving world. All living things are connected to other living things by means of networks, symbolised for John Hick by Indra’s Net. Divinity is both the force which brought about the beginning of the universe and sustains its continued existence and an objectively existing standard of goodness which is manifested in varying degrees throughout our world, metaphorically conceived in terms of non-binary personhood. It casts light on human endeavours and provides a source of power on which humankind may draw by means of prayer or meditation to influence the networks of living things in order to prevent or alleviate suffering and promote the flourishing of living beings.
Chapter
This chapter seeks to demonstrate the necessity of a serious metaphysical discussion on the nature of modern materialism, backed by the use of sophisticated theological concepts. While practically all branches of contemporary philosophy define themselves as materialistic, they are often grounded in premises which undermine the very existence of matter and make them, more or less implicitly, nihilistic. Here I concentrate mostly on Slavoj Žižek who, despite all his explicit use of theology, appears strangely unaware of his Gnostic bias: his system of ‘transcendental materialism’ is trapped in the major aporia which consists in its inherent inability to affirm the emergence of the material universe. I also juxtapose Žižek with Derrida. The ironic outcome of this confrontation is that while Žižek explicitly declares himself to be a materialist, he ultimately engages in the Gnostic negation of being as an error, whereas Derrida, often accused by the former of the idealist leanings, manages to affirm the status of the emergent material being as ‘something proper’: something in the existence of which we, the subjects, can believe.
Article
What does it mean to suffer? How are we to understand the sufferings we undergo? Etymologically, to suffer signifies to undergo and endure. Is there a sense, a purpose to our sufferings or does the very passivity, which they etymologically imply, robs them of all inherent meaning? In this paper, I shall argue against this Levinasian interpretation. My claim will be that suffering, exhibits a meaning beyond meaning, one embodied in the unique singularity of our flesh. This uniqueness is, in fact, an interruption. It signifies the suspension of all systems of exchange, all attempts to render good for good and evil for evil. It is in terms of such suspension that suffering – particularly as found in selfless sacrifice – finds its »use«. This »use« involves the possibility of forgiveness.
Article
Full-text available
The aim of this essay is to give a general and accessible overview of the so called “post-secular” turn in the contemporary humanities. The main idea behind it is that it constitutes an answer to the crisis of the secular grand narratives of modernity: the Hegelian narrative of the immanent progress of the Spirit, as well as the enlightenmental narrative of universal emancipation. The post-secularist thinkers come in three variations which this essay names as Enlightenmental, Traditional, and Revolutionary. The first camp wishes to reconceptualize the place of religion in the seemingly secularized modern paradigm and see if revelation can cooperate with enlightenment, that is, if it can support the modern emancipatory values in the dangerous moment of their “crisis of legitimation.” The second one emphasizes the need to recover the institutional aspect of Christian theology which must be reinstated once again as the “queen of the sciences,” or as the true “invisible hand” operating behind social theories. And the third party, which simultaneously opposes both, enlightenment and tradition, revolves mostly around the “revolutionary figure” of Saint Paul and constitutes a radically leftist answer to the crisis of Marxism with its scientific insight into the objective laws of history.
Article
This article examines why Günther Anders, one of the 20th century’s most formidable critics of technology, deemed a critique of technology necessary at all. I argue that the radical philosophy of industrialism in Die Antiquiertheit des Menschen (The Obsolescence of Human Beings) and related texts is a response to what Anders’s work presents as inadequacies of traditional Marxism, with its focus on class struggle and property relations. In effect, his critique of technology, which is more attentive to forms of domination emergent with mechanization, would come to supplant classical Marxist thought. The piece concludes with some thoughts about how Anders’s ‘post-Marxist’ perspective provides insights for contemporary Marxism and, in turn, how the latter can throw light on problems in Anders’s philosophy of the machine.
Chapter
Foreseeing a technologically produced disaster on the horizon, Hans Jonas proposes an ethics of care. Caring consists in accepting and then discharging one overarching responsibility—to act to ensure that the world does not become uninhabitable for human beings and other organisms. Why do we have such a responsibility? How did we get to this point of crisis? How far can we go in sacrificing current human interests to secure future human welfare? Is this Jonasian approach too individualistic to deal with current and future challenges? Is Jonasian caring really a form of responsibility, or have we again substituted accountability for responsibility?
Article
This paper considers what may be taken to be a hitherto somewhat neglected issue in political theology: how should the division, or dichotomy, between two rather different responses to the problem of evil and suffering – that is, the theological and the secular ethico-political approaches – be understood and (possibly) overcome? It is suggested that pragmatism can utilize the theory of recognition in bridging this gap between two apparently very different discourses on evil and suffering. It is further argued that an antitheodicist approach to the problem of evil and suffering ought to be developed across the board, both theologically and politically.
Article
The Holocaust has provoked a wide variety of Jewish religious responses, some of which include the claim that, ultimately, historical analysis is incapable of explaining the Nazi genocide. Other Jewish religious thinkers have argued that they can trace God’s providential action and revelation in history, often drawing heavily upon historical resources including survivor testimonies, court transcripts and other accounts of atrocities. Several have concluded that religious Jews must acknowledge the historical impact of the event, and shed any lingering assumptions about an unchanging essence of Judaism. This article will explore the engagement with history among religious commentators on the Holocaust such as Eliezer Berkovits, Arthur Cohen, Emil Fackenheim, Irving Greenberg, Hans Jonas, Ignaz Maybaum, Melissa Raphael, Richard Rubenstein and Elie Wiesel, as reflected in their writings about the uniqueness of the Shoah, its challenge to Judaism and the covenant, its connection to the State of Israel, and the problem of evil.
Article
In the sociology of the emotions, it has been common to approach emotions as socially constructed. Researchers have rightly asked how society and social processes shape emotional life, and this approach has generated many valuable insights. In this article, I argue that we should also approach the relation between emotions and society from a complementary perspective and ask how society itself is constituted through specific emotional processes. Social researchers of existential leanings have argued along these lines, pointing out how the human fear of death is crucial for the constitution of society. I argue that an equally fundamental emotion for the constitution of society is grief. I take up Tony Walter’s claim that grief underlies the very constitution of society and seek to develop it into a broader understanding of how human social life presuppose practices of grief and mourning, which enable collectives to move into the future on the basis of their past. I end with a brief discussion of how the current pathologization of grief may impact societal processes and our views of human beings.
Article
Hans Jonas’ philosophy of responsibility is a major contribution to environmental ethics and political theory, but aspects of it have proven controversial. Jonas’ critics, in particular Richard Wolin, have argued that his thought is deeply reactionary. By contrast, Nathan Dinneen has sought to show that Jonas’ apparent eco-authoritarianism is misunderstood. I argue here that Dinneen’s interpretation is too probably too generous, but also that Wolin’s wholesale critique is fundamentally misguided. Rather, the vast majority of Jonas’ thought is of enduring value, including a nascent ecological republicanism which has thus far been overlooked by commentators.
Article
Full-text available
This paper explicates how we might positively understand the distinctive, nonconceptual experience of our own actions and experiences by drawing on insights from a radically enactive take on phenomenal experience. We defend a late-developing relationalism about the emergence of explicit, conceptually based self-awareness, proposing that the latter develops in tandem with the mastery of self-reflective narrative practices. Focusing on the case of human newborns, Sect. 1 reviews and rejects claims that the capacities of actors to keep track of aspects of themselves—e.g. their bodies, body parts, movements, activities, actions and experiences—when coordinating what they do equates to or is best explained by positing minimal, tacit awareness of their experiences as their own. Section 2 then considers and resists more familiar arguments, based on the so-called reflexivity thesis, that take such minimal self-awareness to be implied wherever there is any kind of phenomenal experience. In place of these ideas, we promote an alternative proposal of what is involved when agents keep track of aspects of themselves, drawing on a radically enactive conception of basic experience. Section 3 concludes by proposing that our first conceptual, explicit sense of self is something that only arrives on the scene once we become able to hold our own—through the support of others—in discursive, narrative practices that give us a conceptual grip on what it is to be a temporally extended self that persists over time.
Thesis
Full-text available
In the context of a short dissertation, the aim of this research is to present a thorough critical study of the principle of responsibility in Hans Jonas’ work in order to better measure its impact on the contemporary evolution of philosophical debates in environmental ethics. First, it is necessary to present the fundamental arguments of the principle of responsibility in its historical context (marked by intellectual references to the work of Martin Heidegger, Immanuel Kant and Ernst Bloch). Important questions in our work examine the Jonassian reflections on technology toward the limits of moral anthropocentrism. The second part of our dissertation will be focused more on the contemporary literature of environmental ethics. Numerous scientific studies show that the most important transnational environmental issues, including climate change, are the result of human technological interventions. How can we trace Jonas’s philosophical heritage in the context of these contemporary debates on environmental ethics? First, the ethics of responsibility gave rise to the notions and language of the precautionary principle against “risks” (Beck, 2002). Similarly, the concept of the “value of nature” has given rise to a formidable debate between defenders of the intrinsic value of nature (Callicott, 2010) and defenders of a more pragmatic approach to moral anthropocentrism (Norton, 2010). Lastly, the precedence of our responsibilities towards others has given rise to a certain conception of intergenerational ¬justice in the light of environmental issues. The purpose of this thesis is to better understand Jonas’s philosophical heritage using these three illustrations of contemporary debates in the field of environmental ethics.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.