Hans Jonas’s Ethic of Responsibility
From Ontology to Ecology
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: State University of New York Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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A central concern, perhaps the central concern in ethical theory is the question of foundation: Upon what grounds must a theory of ethics rest if it is to persuade us of its rightness, its truth? The questioning of the roots of ethics originates with Socrates and extends throughout the history of moral philosophy, yet today this questioning seems to have lost ...
Part One Origins
1 The Philosophical Genesis of the Ecological Crisis
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In his essay “Philosophy at the End of the Century,” Hans Jonas describes the crisis he sees arising from “the threat we pose to the planet’s ecology,” one that forces us to look anew at “one of the oldest philosophical questions, that of the relationship between human being and nature, between mind and matter—in other words, the age-old question of dualism.”1 ...
Part Two Groundwork
2 A Philosophy of the Organism
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In his seminal text, The Phenomenon of Life, Jonas develops a philosophy of biology using a phenomenological approach. The “testimony of life” provides the basis for his observations, and his researches lead him to two important conclusions: humans are not separate from and other than nature, and nature is not devoid of intrinsic value. These findings ...
3 Nature and Value
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The thinking that separates the human being from nature results, Jonas claims, in nihilism because when nature is understood as mere matter, indifferent and blind, the human being is thrown into a meaningless and unresponsive world (PL, 233). To begin to address the crisis created through the use and misuse of technology in the natural world,...
4 The Good, the “Idea of Man,”and Responsibility
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As I noted in the last chapter, Jonas bases his conception of the good on the biological evidence that shows that all organisms harbor purposes. They desire the end that is the continuation of their lives, and they strive toward that continuation in their activities. A good is understood, philosophically, to be that end which a being pursues because it is valued....
Part Three Potentialities
5 Technology, Nature, and Ethics
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The subtitle to The Imperative of Responsibility is In Search of an Ethics for the Technological Age, reflecting Jonas’s claim that modern technology has fundamentally changed the scope and extent of human action, necessitating a new ethical understanding and approach. In an essay titled “Technology as a Subject for Ethics,” he states that technology...
Conclusion The Ethic of Responsibility and the Problem of the Future
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Responsibility for, and to, the future is the central tenet of Jonas's ethical philosophy, the end at which his theoretical work aims. He argues, first, that as a result of the great success of the human technological capacity and its resultant increase in power, human beings are burdened with the very serious long-term responsibilities that accompany that power. ...
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Page Count: 246
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: SUNY series in Environmental Philosophy and Ethics