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The Phenomenon of Life: Toward a Philosophical Biology

4.39  ·  Rating Details  ·  57 Ratings  ·  6 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 303 pages
Published February 28th 2001 by Northwestern University Press (first published January 1st 1966)
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Aug 20, 2008 Carl rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Jonas attempts to create an "existential biology" which adopts the existential analysis of subjectivity created by Heidegger, but reads subjectivity as a fundamental feature of all living things.

I find this somewhat difficult to accept fully -- I can accept gorillas, fish, and spiders as subjects in some attenuated sense, but can't do so for mosses and fungi, as Jonas requires. Jonas wants to be both a Darwinian and an Aristotelian, and this puts irresolvable tensions on his characterization of
Bob Nichols
Dec 17, 2013 Bob Nichols rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this series of twelve essays, Jonas critiques a Western philosophy of mind and a Western philosophy of the organism. His main argument runs something like this: Descartes separated the human mind from its body; the mind then ascends in Western science,the body floats away to insignificance, and modern-day existentialism and nihilism is the result. There is now a "reduction of the formal essence of life to the vanishing point of a mere vital momentum without specific original content...." Noth ...more
Aug 17, 2013 Amanda rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. Jonas belongs among the great 20th century political theorists/scientists/philosophers like Voegelin, Strauss, and Arendt. In this book, he weaves together his "existential interpretation of biological facts" with reflections on the senses, gnosticism, nihilism, ontology, ethics, dualism, Darwinism, and more.
Feb 09, 2008 samantha rated it it was amazing
Recommended to samantha by: read it in Yaffe's Metaphysics class
Hans Jonas' elegantly written and, I would say, spiritually moving argument against Descartes' dualism and the worldview of a purely mathematical and mechanical universe. I can't seem to get away from thinking about this book and will be re-reading it soon!
Jan 26, 2009 Shane rated it it was amazing
Jonas changed that ways that I think and feel about life and living organisms. This number here opens your eyes to a new perspective on creatures that metabolize. If you think Continental philosophy is for guys with ugly mustaches -- give this one a try. His arguments against Descartes are awesome, to the max.
A difficult read, but it was very thought-provoking.
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Hans 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
More about Hans Jonas...

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