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Book Title: Memoirs (Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry)|
The author of the book: Hans Jonas
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 735 KB
Edition: Brandeis University Press
Date of issue: May 1st 2008
ISBN 13: 9781584656395
Read full description of the books Memoirs (Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry):When Hans Jonas died in 1993 at the age of 89, he was revered among American scholars specializing in European philosophy, but his thought had not yet made great inroads among a wider public. In Germany, conversely, during the 1980s, when Jonas himself was an octogenarian, he became a veritable intellectual celebrity, owing to the runaway success of his 1979 book, The Imperative of Responsibility, a dense philosophical work that sold 200,000 copies. An extraordinarily timely work today, The Imperative of Responsibility focuses on the ever-widening gap between humankind's enormous technological capacities and its diminished moral sensibilities. The book became something of a cultural shibboleth; he himself became a celebrated public intellectual.
For Jonas, this development must have been enormously gratifying. In the 1920s, Jonas studied philosophy with Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger at the universities in Marburg and Freiburg, but the Nazi regime's early attempts at Aryanizing the universities forced Jonas to leave Germany for London in 1933. He emigrated to Palestine in 1935 and eventually enlisted in the British Army's Jewish Brigade to fight against Hitlerism. Following the Israeli War of Independence (in which he also fought), he emigrated to the United States and took a position in 1955 at the New School for Social Research in New York. He became part of a circle of friends around Hannah Arendt and Heinrich Blucher, which included Adolph Lowe and Paul Tillich.
Because Jonas's life spanned the entire twentieth century, this memoir provides nuanced pictures of German Jewry during the Weimar Republic, of German Zionism, of the Jewish emigrants in Palestine during the 1930s and 1940s, and of German Jewish emigre intellectuals in New York. In addition, Jonas outlines the development of his work, beginning with his studies under Husserl and Heidegger and extending through his later metaphysical speculations about -God after Auschwitz.-
This memoir, a collection of heterogeneous unpublished materials--diaries, memoirs, letters, interviews, and public statements--has been shaped and organized by Christian Wiese, whose afterword links the Jewish dimensions of Jonas's biography and philosophy.
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.
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