Read The Phenomenon of Life: Toward a Philosophical Biology by Hans Jonas Free Online
Book Title: The Phenomenon of Life: Toward a Philosophical Biology|
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The author of the book: Hans Jonas
Edition: Northwestern University Press
Date of issue: February 28th 2001
ISBN 13: 9780810117495
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 325 KB
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One of the most prominent thinkers of his generation, Hans Jonas wrote on topics as diverse as the philosophy of biology, ethics, social philosophy, cosmology, and Jewish theology -- always with a view to understanding morality as the root of our moral responsibility to safeguard humanity's future. A classic of phenomenology and existentialism and arguably Jonas's greatest work, The Phenomenon of Life sets forth a systematic and comprehensive philosophy -- an existential interpretation of biological facts laid out in support of Jonas's claim that mind is prefigured throughout organic existence.
At the center of this philosophy is an attack on the fundamental assumptions underlying modern philosophy since Descartes, primarily dualism. Dissenting from the dualistic view of value as a human projection onto nature, Jonas's critique affirms the classical view that being harbors the good. In a brilliant synthesis of the ancient and modern, Jonas draws upon existential philosophy to justify core insights of the classical tradition. This critique transcends the historical limits of its phenomenological methodology and existential ethical stance to take its place among the most scientifically nuanced contemporary accounts of moral nature. It lays the foundation for an ethic of responsibility grounded in an assignment by Being to protect the natural environment that has allowed us to spring from it.
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Read information about the authorHans Jonas was a German-born philosopher who was, from 1955 to 1976, Alvin Johnson Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York City.
Jonas' writings were very influential in different spheres. For example, The Gnostic Religion, first published in 1958, was for many years the standard work in English on the subject of Gnosticism.
The Imperative of Responsibility (German 1979, English 1984) centers on social and ethical problems created by technology. Jonas insists that human survival depends on our efforts to care for our planet and its future. He formulated a new and distinctive supreme principle of morality: "Act so that the effects of your action are compatible with the permanence of genuine human life".
While The Imperative of Responsibility has been credited with catalyzing the environmental movement in Germany, his work The Phenomenon of Life (1966) forms the philosophical undergirding of one major school of bioethics in America. Murray Bookchin and Leon Kass both referred to Hans Jonas's work as major, or primary, inspiration. Heavily influenced by Heidegger, The Phenomenon of Life attempts to synthesize the philosophy of matter with the philosophy of mind, producing a rich existential understanding of biology, which ultimately argues for a simultaneously material and moral human nature.
His writing on Gnosticism interprets the religion from an existentialist philosophical viewpoint. Jonas was the first author to write a detailed history of ancient Gnosticism. He was also one of the first philosophers to concern himself with ethical questions in biological science.
Jonas's career is generally divided into three periods defined by the three works just mentioned, but in reverse order: studies of gnosticism, studies of philosophical biology, and ethical studies.