The Life And Thought Of Hans Jonas

Overview

Hans Jonas (1903–1993) is one of the most important philosophers of the 20th century. Born in a German Jewish community in the Rhineland, Jonas’s mentors included Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, and Rudolf Bultmann. The committed Zionist fled Germany in 1933 for Jerusalem, fought in the British Army against Hitler, and then left Israel for North America in 1949. Much of Jonas’s philosophy responds to contemporary historical and political challenges: mass society, totalitarianism, the Holocaust, “nuclearism,” ...

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Overview

Hans Jonas (1903–1993) is one of the most important philosophers of the 20th century. Born in a German Jewish community in the Rhineland, Jonas’s mentors included Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, and Rudolf Bultmann. The committed Zionist fled Germany in 1933 for Jerusalem, fought in the British Army against Hitler, and then left Israel for North America in 1949. Much of Jonas’s philosophy responds to contemporary historical and political challenges: mass society, totalitarianism, the Holocaust, “nuclearism,” environmental devastation (Chernobyl), and, later, the risks of genetic engineering.

Wiese’s study examines how Jonas’s Jewish background influenced his intellectual development. Wiese shows how philosophical ethics and Jewish identity were two inseparable aspects of his thinking, with the fight against Nihilism as the most important link. Drawing on a wealth of unpublished material and exploring momentous encounters with major figures of 20th century life and letters like Gershom Scholem and Hannah Arendt, Wiese demonstrates how Jonas combined religious and philosophical elements in his thought, and offers new insights into the work of this eminent thinker.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A little known 20th century Jewish philosopher, Hans Jonas, is the subject of this fine attempt to combine Jonas's life story with his philosophical thinking." —Jewish Journal

"Wiese clearly and persuasively examines how Hans Jonas . . . strove to manage the inevitable tension between his religious, faith-based identity as a German Jew and a professional philosopher." —Choice

"Wiese... searches for underlying Jewish elements within Jonas's philosophical scheme without reducing it to 'Jewish philosophy' or insinuating its religious character."—New Testament Abstracts

"How did Jonas's Jewishness shape his life and his work? This is the question that Christian Wiese seeks to answer in his lucid, beautifully written, extremely perceptive, and deeply moving study . . . he eminently succeeds in making Jonas come alive for us and in portraying the vicissitudes of the terrible drama of German-Jewish life in the darkest times of twentieth century. A splendid achievement!"—Shofar

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Product Details

Meet the Author

CHRISTIAN WIESE is Director of the Centre for German-Jewish Studies and Professor at the History Department at Sussex University, Great Britain. He is the editor of Memoirs: Hans Jonas, also available from Brandeis University Press.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: “Philosopher and Jew”
The Fight for the Dignity of the Jews: The Impact of Zionism and the Holocaust on Jonas’s Biography and Thought
From the Rhineland to Jerusalem
Against the “Cult of Power and Contempt for Humanity”
Friendships and Conflicts among German-Jewish Émigré Scholars
“For a Time I Was Privileged to Enjoy His Friendship”: The Ambivalent Relation to Gershom Scholem
The Mystery of Jewish Existence and Contested Memories: Impressions of Jonas’s Friendship with Hannah Arendt
“Revolt against Escapism”: Jewish Dimensions of Jonas’s Ethics of Responsibility
The Value of Life: Philosophical Critique of Nihilism
Rotseh ba-hayyim—Creation and Responsibility for the “Sanctity of Life”
De-Messianized Tikkun—Human Responsibility for the
“Divine Adventure”
Epilogue: “There Is a Mystery in the World”
Appendix A – Our Part in This War: A Word to Jewish Men (1939)
Appendix B – From an Unpublished Fragment of Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain (15 August 1941)
Appendix C – Hannah Arendt, 1906–1975: Eulogy Delivered at the Funeral Service at Riverside Memorial Chapel, New York City (18 December 1975)
Appendix D. Letter to Hannah Arendt on Her Eichmann Book (1963)
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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