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Title: A defence of Hans Jonas' critique of modernity and ethic of responsibility
Author: Coyne, Lewis David
ISNI:       0000 0004 7232 053X
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2018
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The present thesis is an original interpretation and qualified defence of Hans Jonas’ philosophy. Jonas’ thought constitutes a system, the purpose of which, I argue, is to rectify modernity’s most critical ills: nihilism, the ecological crisis, and the threats to human dignity posed by certain biotechnologies. While these might at first appear disparate, Jonas shows that they are in fact interconnected: all originated in the anti-Aristotelian turn taken by Western thought in the sixteenth century – a theoretical event Jonas seeks to overcome by synthesising Heidegger’s existentialism, Kant’s ethics, and Aristotle’s ontology. Previous commentators have tended to downplay Aristotle’s influence on Jonas’ system, and so I emphasise this aspect of his work. I argue that Jonas’ project is largely successful but fails in two key respects. Whilst he is able to develop a neo-Aristotelian ontology and a ‘biogenic’ axiology, his Kantian moral philosophy does not attain the sought-after objective status, while his political theory – as presented in The Imperative of Responsibility – is largely unpalatable. Jonas is, therefore, both unable to defeat nihilism and give his ethic a satisfactory political expression. As such, I uphold Jonas’ theory of responsibility on relativistic virtue ethical grounds, and argue that its implications for bioethics and environmental ethics remain of great significance. Finally, I attempt to bolster Jonas’ reputation as a political theorist by highlighting moments in his post-Imperative work which indicate that he was moving towards a republican conception of citizenship and the state, thus far overlooked by commentators. With his system so corrected, Jonas stands out as one of the most profound philosophers of the post-War period, and a valuable guide for understanding and tackling the crises of the present century.
Supervisor: Hauskeller, Michael ; Skidelsky, Edward Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available