Judaism and the Phenomenon of Life: The Legacy of Hans Jonas

>Hans Jonas (1903-1993) was one of the most original, insightful, prescient Jewish thinkers of the 20th century. He was a student of Martin Heidegger, but like other German-Jewish intellectuals had to flee Germany with the rise of Nazism. He migrated to Palestine in 1933 and fought in WW II in the Jewish Brigade of the British Army (1943-1945) and then in the War of Independence (1948) of the nascent State of Israel. His combat experience changed his outlook on life: from a historian of ancient religions, especially Gnosticism, he shifted his interest to philosophy of nature and bioethics, extending his existential philosophy and phenomenological analysis to include all forms of life. Unique among 20th-century Jewish philosophers, Jonas argued for the possibility of a genuinely symbiotic relationship between humanity and nature, which he believed had been suppressed by modern technology. On the basis of Jewish religious sources he spoke against the human domination of nature and he was among the first to articulate the ethical challenges that modern technology poses to humanity. He was critical of genetic engineering and cloning because he believed that life itself has the capacity for moral responsibility. Jonas was one of a handful of Jewish philosophers who systematically incorporated evolutionary biology into his philosophical and ethical reflections.

This conference, organized by Prof. Hava Tirosh-Samuelson of ASU's History Department, will bring to ASU some of Jonas' students, historians of German Jewry, theologians, philosophers of biology, environmental philosophers, and Judaica scholars to reflect on the significance of Jonas' legacy for the challenges that face us in the 21st century. This inter-disciplinary conference is part of ASU's commitment to the dialogue of science and religion which includes a faculty-seminar, "Being Human: Science, Religion, Technology, and Law," also held under the auspices of the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict. The conference will involve discussions of pre-distributed papers and a public lecture delivered by Prof. Richard Wolin.

Steven M. Wasserstrom "Hans Jonas in Marburg: 1928"
Christian Wiese "Zionism, the Holocaust, and Judaism in a Secular World: New Perspectives on Hans Jonas' Friendship with Hannah Arendt and Gershom Scholem"
Ben Lazier "Overcoming Gnosticism"
Micha H. Werner "Jonas, Buber and Levinas on Nature and History"
Strachan Donnelley "Hans Jonas and Ernst Mayr: On Organic Life and Human Responsibility"
Bernard G. Prusak "When My Body's Not Nobody's But Mine: Jonas' 'Biological Engineering - A Preview' Today"
Lawrence A. Vogel "Natural-Law Judaism?: The Genesis of Bioethics in Hans Jonas, Leo Strauss, and Leon Kass"
Martin Yaffe "Reason and Feeling in Hans Jonas' Existential Biology, Arne Naess' Deep Ecology, and Spinoza's Ethics"
Lawrence Troster "Caretaker or Citizen: Hans Jonas, Aldo Leopold and the Development of Jewish Environmental Ethics"
Manfred Laubichler "Hans Jonas and Ernst Cassirer: Theoretical Biology, Philosophical Anthropology, and the Search for an Integrated Theory of Life and Culture"
Rabbi Sol Tanenzapf "Does Hans Jonas’ Concept of God Serve Religious Needs?"
Sandra Lubarsky "Jonas on God After the Holocaust"
William R. LaFleur "Jonas and the Japanese: Ancestors, Progeny, and Bioethics"
Kalman P. Bland "The Significance of Hans Jonas"
Heidi Morrison Ravven "The Significance of Hans Jonas"
Sara Klein-Braslavy "The Significance of Hans Jonas"